Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 320-322:
ahaṃ nāgo’va saṅgāme cāpāto patitaṃ saraṃ |
ativākyaṃ titikkhissaṃ dussīlo hi bahujjano || 320 ||
dantaṃ nayanti samitiṃ dantaṃ rājā’bhirūhati |
danto seṭṭho manussesu yo’tivākyaṃ titikkhati || 321 ||
varaṃ assatarā dantā ājānīyā ca sindhavā |
kuñjarā ca mahānāgā attadanto tato varaṃ || 322 ||
320. Many folk are ill-behaved but I shall endure abuse as an elephant on the battlefield arrows shot from a bow.
321. The tusker tamed they lead in crowds, the king he mounts the tamed, noblest of humans are the tamed who can endure abuse.
322. Excellent are mules when tamed and thoroughbreds from Sindh, noble the elephants of state, better still one tamed of self.
On Subduing Oneself
While residing at the Ghositārāma Monastery, the Buddha spoke these verses, with reference to the patience and endurance manifested by himself when abused by the hirelings of Māgaṇḍiyā, one of the three queens of King Udena.
Once, the father of Māgaṇḍiyā, being very much impressed by the personality and looks of the Buddha, had offered his very beautiful daughter in marriage to Gotama Buddha. But the Buddha refused his offer and said that he did not like to touch such a thing which was full of filth and excreta, even with his feet. On hearing this remark both Māgaṇḍiyā’s father and mother, discerning the truth of the remark, attained anāgāmi fruition. Māgaṇḍiyā, however, regarded the Buddha as her arch enemy and was bent on having her revenge on him.
Later, she became one of the three queens of King Udena. When Māgaṇḍiyā heard that the Buddha had come to Kosambi, she hired some citizens and their servants to abuse the Buddha when he entered the city on an alms-round. Those hirelings followed the Buddha and abused him, using such abusive words as thief, fool, camel, donkey, one bound for niraya. Hearing those abusive words, the Venerable Ānanda pleaded with the Buddha to leave the town and go to another place. But the Buddha refused and said, “In another town also we might be abused and it is not feasible to move out every time one is abused. It is better to solve a problem in the place where it arises. I am like an elephant in a battlefield; like an elephant who withstands the arrows that come from all quarters, I also will bear patiently the abuses that come from people without morality.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 320)
hi bahujjano dussīlo saṅgāme cāpāto patitaṃ
saraṃ nāgo iva ahaṃ ativākyaṃ titikkhissaṃ
hi: as; bahujjano [bahujjana]: a majority; dussīlo [dussīla]: are unvirtuous; saṅgāme: in the battle: cāpāto [cāpāta]: released from the bow; patitaṃ [patita]: shot; saraṃ [sara]: like an arrow; nāgo iva: like an elephant; ahaṃ: I will; ativākyaṃ [ativākya]: abuses–words that go beyond the limits of propriety; titikkhissaṃ [titikkhissa]: endure
I will endure the words of the unvirtuous who make statements that go beyond the limits of decency. This is just as the elephant that endures arrows in battle. The unvirtuous, of course, are the majority in the world.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 321)
dantaṃ samitiṃ nayanti dantaṃ abhirūhati yo
ativākyaṃ titikkhati danto manussesu seṭṭho
dantaṃ [danta]: the disciplined (elephant or horse); samitiṃ [samiti]: to a gathering; nayanti: is led; rājā: the king; abhirūhati: mounts; yo: if someone; ativākyaṃ [ativākya]: harsh words; statements that go beyond the limits of decency; titikkhati: endures; danto [danta]: disciplined; so: he; manussesu: among men; seṭṭho [seṭṭha]: is great
It is the disciplined animal (elephant or horse) that is led to a gathering. The king mounts a disciplined elephant or horse. Among men the disciplined one is the greatest. He endures the harsh words of the people.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 322)
varaṃ assatarā ājānīyā ca sindhavā mahānāgā
kuñjarā dantā varaṃ tato attadanto varaṃ
varaṃ [vara]: are noble; assatarā: the mules; ājānīyā: the thoroughbreds; sindhavā: the Sindhu horses; mahānāgā kuñjarā: the great tusked elephants; dantā: when tamed; varaṃ [vara]: are noble; tato: more than all those; attadanto [attadanta]: the person who has disciplined himself
When well trained, mules are useful. Sindhu thoroughbreds are outstanding among horses. Of great elephants those of the Kuñjara breed are the greatest. But, of all, the best is the person who has tamed himself.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 320-322)
Virtues of the Buddha: These verses extol the virtues of the Buddha. The Buddha himself declares that he will endure the unvirtuous words of indecent people. The Buddha is described as possessing nine intrinsic virtues. They are:
(1) arahaṃ: The Buddha is depicted as an arahat in five aspects, namely:
(a) he has discarded all defilements;
(b) he has suppressed all the enemies connected with the eradication ofdefilements;
(c) he has destroyed the spokes of the wheel of existence;(d) he is worthy of being given offerings and paid homage, and
(e) he withheld no secrets in his character or in his teachings.
The Buddha was the greatest figure in human history, perfect, infallible, blameless and spotless. At the foot of the Bodhi-tree He conquered all evil and attained the highest stage of sanctity. He put an end to all sufferings with His attainment of Nibbāna. He was the world honoured one so worthy of homage in all respects. His teaching contains no mysteries or secrets and is like an open book for all to come and see.
(2) sammā-saṃbuddho: The Buddha was designated as SammāSaṃbuddho because He comprehended the existence of the world in its proper perspective and He discovered the four noble truths through His own comprehension. Born a prince, He renounced the world and strove for six long years seeking enlightenment. During this period, He approached all the renowned teachers of the day and tried all the methods His teachers could teach Him. Having achieved the attainment even equivalent to that of His teachers. He still could not find the elusive goal of enlightenment. Finally, through His research and rational understanding and treading a middle path, thus departing from the traditional way of legendary religious beliefs and practices, He found the final solution to the universal problems of unsatisfactoriness, conflict and disappointments (dukkha). He discovered the law of dependent origination–the law of cause and effect which He assessed as the reality of the world, thereby becoming the supreme Enlightened One.
(3) vijjā–carana saṃpanno: This term vijjā–carana saṃpanno, meant that the Buddha was endowed with perfect clear vision and exemplary good conduct. It has two significant aspects as indicated in the threefold knowledge and eight-fold wisdom.
The three-fold knowledge is listed as follows:
(a) Firstly, the Buddha could recall His past birth and trace back Hisprevious existences as well as those of others.
(b) Secondly, apart from being able to recount the past He had theunique foresight of being able to see into the future and visualise the whole universe at any single moment.
(c) Thirdly, He had that deep penetrating knowledge pertaining toarahathood.
On the eightfold wisdom, the Buddha was listed as having the unique gift of insight, the power of performing supernormal feats, a divine ear, the power of reading other’s thoughts, various physical powers, ability to recollect past births, a divine eye, and exquisite knowledge pertaining to a life of serene holiness.
With regard to the word carana or good conduct, this aspect is divided into fifteen different categories or types of virtues which were fully imbued in the Buddha. These additional virtues are classified as restraint in deed and word, restraint in the absorption of sense effects, moderation in the consumption of food, avoidance of excessive sleep, maintenance of crystal clear vision in faith, realisation of shame in committing evil, realisation of fear in committing evil, thirst for knowledge, energy, mindfulness and understanding–the four trends pertaining to the material sphere. Paññā and karunā are reflected as wisdom and compassion, both of which are the basic twin virtues of the Buddha. Paññā endowed him with wisdom whilst karunā bestowed him with compassion to be of service to mankind. He realised through his wisdom what is good and what is not good for all beings and through His compassion He led His followers away from evil and misery. The great virtues of the Buddha enabled Him to show in His dispensation the highest degree of brotherhood and the sterling qualities to be found in all beings.
(4) sugato: The Buddha was also designated as sugato, which means that His path is good, the destination is excellent and the words and methods used to show the path are harmless and blameless. The Buddha’s path to the attainment of bliss is correct and pure, straight, direct and certain.
His words are sublime and infallible. Many well-known historians and great scientists have commented that the only religious teaching which has remained unchallenged by science and free-thinkers is the Buddha’s Word.
(5) lokavidū: The term lokavidū is applied to the Buddha as the one with exquisite knowledge of the world. The Buddha had experienced, known and penetrated into all aspects of worldly life, physical as well as spiritual. He was the first to make the observation that there were thousands of world systems in the universe. He was the first to declare that the world was nothing but conceptual. In His words, it is regarded as pointless to speculate on the origin and the end of the world or universe. He taught that the origin of the world, its cessation and the path to the cessation thereof is to be found within the fathom long body–the human being with its perceptions and consciousness.
(6) anuttaro purisa–damma–sārathī: Anuttaro means matchless and unsurpassed. Purisa–damma refers to individuals to whom the gift of the Dhamma is to be endowed whereas sāratī means a leader. These three terms taken together imply an incomparable leader capable of bringing wayward men to the path of righteousness. Amongst those who were persuaded to follow the path of the Dhamma and to shun evil were notoriously evil men like Angulimāla, Ālawaka and Nālāgiri; robbers, cannibals and recalcitrants such as Saccaka. All of them were brought into the fold of the Dhamma, and some even attained sainthood within their life-time. Even Devadatta, the arch-enemy of the Buddha, was rehabilitated by the Buddha through His great compassion.
(7) satthā deva–manussānaṃ: The translation of this term is that the Buddha was a Buddha of devās and men. It is to be noted that devās, as used in this context, refers to beings who by their own good kamma have evolved beyond the human stage, which is not regarded as the final stage of biological evolution. Devās in the Buddhist context have no connection with ancient traditional theological myths. The Buddha was a remarkable Buddha who was flexible and capable of devising diverse techniques suited to the calibre and different mentalities of devās and human beings. He instructed everyone to lead a righteous way of life. The Buddha was indeed a universal Buddha.
(8) Buddho: This particular term, Buddho, would appear to be a repetition of the second in this category, although it has its own connotation. Buddho means that the Buddha, being omniscient, possessed the extraordinary power of being able to convince others of His great discovery through His exquisite art of teaching others His Dhamma. His techniques were unsurpassed by any other Buddha. The term Buddho has its secondary meaning translated as awakened, since the ordinary state of man is perpetually in a state of stupor. The Buddha was the first to be awakened and to shake off this state of stupor. Subsequently He convinced others to be awake and to steer clear from the stage of lethargic samsaric sleep or stupor.
(9) bhagavā: Of all the terms used to describe the Buddha, the words Buddho and bhagavā, used separately or together as Buddho bhagavā meaning the blessed one, are the most popular and commonly used.
Deserving awe and veneration, Blessed is His name. Therefore, the world bhagavā has various meanings as suggested by some commendations. The Buddha was termed bhagavā or the blessed one because He was the happiest and most fortunate amongst mankind for having managed to conquer all evils, for expounding the highest Dhamma and for being endowed with supernormal and superhuman intellectual faculties.