Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 318-319:
avajje vajjamatino vajje cā’vajjadassino |
micchādiṭṭhisamādānā sattā gacchanti duggatiṃ || 318 ||
vajjaṃ ca vajjato ñatvā avajjaṃ ca avajjato |
sammādiṭṭhisamādānā sattā gacchanti suggatiṃ || 319 ||
318. Faults they see where fault is not but where is fault they see it not, so by embracing evil views beings go to an evil birth.
319. A fault they understand as such, they know as well where fault is not, so by embracing righteous views beings go to a happy birth.
The Story of the Disciples of Non-Buddhist Teachers
While residing at the Nigrodārāma Monastery, the Buddha spoke these verses, with reference to some disciples of the Titthīs (non-Buddhist ascetics).
The disciples of the Titthīs did not want their children to mix with the children of the followers of the Buddha. They often told their children, “Do not go to the Jetavana Monastery, do not pay obeisance to the monks of the Sākyan clan.” On one occasion, while the Titthī boys were playing with a Buddhist boy near the entrance to the Jetavana Monastery, they felt very thirsty. As the children of the disciples of Titthīs had been told by their parents not to enter a Buddhist monastery, they asked the Buddhist boy to go to the monastery and bring some water for them. The young Buddhist boy went to pay obeisance to the Buddha after he had a drink of water, and told the Buddha about his friends who were forbidden by their parents to enter a Buddhist monastery. The Buddha then told the boy to tell the non-Buddhist boys to come and have water at the monastery. When those boys came, the Buddha gave them a discourse to suit their various dispositions. As a result, those boys became established in faith in the Three Gems i.e., the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
When the boys went home, they talked about their visit to the Jetavana Monastery and about the Buddha teaching them the Three Gems. The parents of the boys, being ignorant, cried, “Our sons have been disloyal to our faith, they have been ruined.” Some intelligent neighbours advised the wailing parents to stop weeping and to send their sons to the Buddha. Somehow they agreed and the boys, as well as their parents, went to the Buddha.
The Buddha, knowing why they had come recited the stanzas to them.
At the end of the discourse, all those people came to be established in faith in the Three Gems, and after listening to the Buddha’s further discourse, they subsequently attained sotāpatti fruition.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 318)
avajje: what is not wrong; vajjadassino [vajjadassina]: they take as wrong; vajje ca: in what is wrong; vajjadassino [vajjadassina]: they see the wrong; micchādiṭṭhisamādānā: embracing such false beliefs; sattā: those beings; duggatiṃ [duggati]: to woeful states; gacchanti: depart
Those who take what is correct as incorrect, and those who take what is not correct as correct, both of these go to woeful states when they depart because of their false beliefs.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 319)
vajjaṃ ca vajjato ñatvā, avajjaṃ avajjato ca
sammādiṭṭhisamādānā sattā suggatiṃ gacchanti
vajjaṃ [vajja]: what is wrong; vajjato [vajjata]: as wrong; ñatvā: having known; avajjaṃ [avajja]: what is not wrong; avajjato [avajjata]: as not wrong; sammādiṭṭhisamādānā: those who take right views; sattā: beings; suggatiṃ [suggati]: to heaven; gacchanti: go
They regard error as error, and what is right as right. Those people who embrace right views go to heaven.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 318-319)
The social environment of the Buddha’s day saw an intricate mix of various religions and spiritual systems. Some of these systems were led by people who were antagonistic to the Buddha. The incident that gave rise to these verses shows how non-Buddhist parents tried to prevent their children from entering Jetavana Monastery. Another note on religious leaders who were the contemporaries of the Buddha.
There are frequent references in Buddhist literature to some six senior contemporaries of the Buddha, for instance, in the Dīgha-Nikāya (the Sāmaññaphala-Sutta and its counterpart in Sanskrit). It appears from the context of these references that Ajātasattu, the king of Magadha, met a number of these teachers and asked them each separately to state in clear and unambiguous terms the result of their ascetic practices. All of them were well known in the country as founders of religious schools with a large following. Their names and the special doctrines they held are briefly stated in the text. It is possible, however, that the information supplied is prejudiced as it emanates from their opponents; in fact, the mis-statements they make are partly due to design and partly to ignorance. All the same, it is interesting to study their views in order to understand correctly as well as to appreciate the views of the founder of Buddhism.
There were several individuals who were leading religious lives according to their respective convictions in quest of the truth. Among them there were six religious teachers who were well known in several kingdoms of North India, and who had considerable followings.
These six teachers were,
- Pūrana Kassapa,
- Makkhali Gosāla,
- Ajita Kesakambali,
- Pakudha Kaccāyana,
- Samjaya Bellaṭṭhiputta and
- Nigaṇṭha Nāthaputta.
Besides these six teachers, there were other teachers such as Nanda Vaccha and Kisa Samkicca.
Of these six thinkers, Nigaṇṭha Nāthaputta, who is none other than Mahāvīra, the founder, or according to the Jaina tradition, the last prophet of the present world cycle, seems to have been slightly older than the Buddha. He preached ethical doctrines without apparently knowing that similar ideas had been held by an incomparably senior ascetic, Pārsva. The latter is now acknowledged to be Mahāvīra’s predecessor and is believed to have lived two hundred and fifty years before Mahāvīra. Pārsva’s ethical code consisted of four rules, whereas that of Mahāvīra consisted of five. Of these, the first three, viz., not to kill living things, not to take articles of use unless they are given, and not to tell a lie, are common to the schools of both Pārsva and Mahāvīra. The fourth rule in Pārsva’s teaching, that of aparigraha, not to have any worldly possessions including a wife, was split up into two by Mahāvīra to make up his code of five. Not to take a wife or to lead a celibate life, which is the fourth rule in Mahāvīra’s code, and not to have worldly possessions except clothes, which is the fifth rule in Mahāvīra’s code, seem to constitute jointly the fourth rule of Pārsva. The main difference in the practical or external aspects of Pārsva’s and Mahāvīra’s code of conduct thus seems to have been that while Pārsva and his followers were acelakas or naked, Mahāvīra and his followers wore white garments, but refused to have any other paraphernalia. In other words, the Jaina faith as preached by Mahāvīra is the same as Pārsva’s, but somewhat more modern. It was natural therefore that these two schools should have become one as they actually did some two hundred fifty years after the death of Pārsva, when the disciples of Pārsva and those of Mahāvīra met at Srāvasti and brought about the union. Later, the Jainas explained this fusion of schools differently by adding twenty-two prophets to precede Pārsva, thereby making Pārsva the twenty-third and Mahāvīra the twenty-fourth of their prophets. It would, however, be quite correct to hold that Pārsva and Mahāvīra independently evolved a philosophy and a religious system which had identical tenets.
In the Sāmaññaphala-sutta Nigaṇṭha Nāthaputta is mentioned as having held the doctrine of four-fold restraint; restraint from the use of cold water as it contains life, and from sinful activities such as killing and sexual intercourse. He was free from all sins and had purified himself. In the Udumbarika-sīhanāda-sutta the restraints ascribed to him are different, but identical with the four vows of Pārsva.
The next important contemporary of the Buddha was Makkhali Gosāla. He belonged to the sect of the Acelakas or Naked Ones, and, as the first part of his name indicates, carried a staff of bamboo (maskarin). It is said that he was for some time a disciple of Mahāvīra, but later broke away from him. Afterwards, he probably founded an independent school known as the Ājīvika school. Later writers mention two predecessors, Nanda Vaccha and Kisa Samkicca, thus giving this school three prophets. This sect is now extinct, but seems to have enjoyed popularity and even royal patronage. The doctrine advocated by Gosāla is styled saṃsāra-visuddhi or the doctrine of attaining purity only by passing through all kinds of existence. Gosāla did not believe that there was any special cause for either the misery of human beings or for their deliverance. He did not believe in human effort, and held that all creatures were helpless against destiny. He maintained that all creatures, whether wise or foolish, were destined to pass through saṃsāra, and that their misery would come to an end at the completion of the cycle. No human effort would reduce or lengthen this period. Like a ball of thread, saṃsāra had a fixed term, through which every being must pass.
Makkhali Gosāla was born in a cattle shed (Gosāla). One day he was following his master with a pot of oil on his head on a muddy ground, and was told (Mā Khali) ‘Do not fall’, but he slipped and fell down. In fear he took to his heels, but the master held him by his cloth. However, leaving the cloth in the hands of the master, he ran away, and in the village enjoyed the same reception as Pūrana Kassapa.
The remaining four teachers, who are mentioned as contemporaries of the Buddha, did not leave their mark on posterity as did Mahāvīra and, to a lesser degree, Gosāla.
Pūrana Kassapa’s clan name was Kassapa, and he was called Pūrana (one who completes) as he completed the list of one hundred slaves in a house, with his birth. As he was ill-treated in that house, he escaped from there only to be robbed of his clothes by thieves. As he did not know how to cover himself with anything else, such as grass or reeds, he entered a village without any clothing on. People who saw him thought that he was a sanctified ascetic, who had no attachment to anything and began to offer him food, and look after him. Though he received garments later, he did not want them, as the people honoured him for his non-attachment to clothes. Such was the beginning of his asceticism, and he in due course had a following of five hundred ascetics.
Ajitha Kesakambali was so known as he used to wear a garment made of human hair which was cool in the cold season, and warm in the hot season, and which smelt foul and was uncomfortable to the body.
Pakudha Kaccāyana always avoided cold water. When he crossed a river or a stream, he considered his precepts violated, and would put up a stūpa of sand to restore his precepts.
Saṃjaya Bellaṭṭhiputta was the son of Bellaṭṭha. Nigaṇṭha Nāthaputta was the son of Nātha, and claimed to have no attachment to anything, and never wore any garments.
Long before the enlightenment of the Buddha, these six teachers had been travelling in various kingdoms and preaching their religious tenets. They had established themselves as recognized religious teachers, and were well known among the people.
When they arrived at Sāvatthi, in the course of their wanderings, their followers went and told King Pasenadi of the arrival in their city of these teachers and that they were enlightened. The king said:
“You yourselves may invite and bring them to the palace.” The people went and informed them that the King invited them to meals at the palace. However, they showed no interest in accepting the invitation. As the people requested them repeatedly to come to the palace, they consented, out of courtesy to their followers, and went to the palace together.
The King offered them seats, but they did not sit on expensive seats, and sat on benches and on the floor. The King, knowing from their conduct that they could have no substance in their minds, offered them no food, but asked at once whether they were enlightened ones. They knew that if they professed to be enlightened, the King would question them as to their enlightenment, and on their failure to satisfy him he would inflict bodily injury on them. Therefore, in their own interest, they confessed that they were not enlightened. The King sent them out of the palace. As they were coming out of the palace, their followers asked:
“Did the King ask questions, and did he treat you well?” They said: “The King asked us whether we are enlightened, but as the King would be unable to understand what we say as enlightened ones, and would be displeased towards us, out of sheer sympathy for him, we said that we are not enlightened. As for us, we are enlightened, indeed, and our enlightenment cannot be washed out even with water.”