Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 360-361:
cakkhunā saṃvaro sādhu sādhu sotena saṃvaro |
ghāṇena saṃvaro sādhu sādhu jivhāya saṃvaro || 360 ||
kāyena saṃvaro sādhu sādhu vācāya saṃvaro |
manasā saṃvaro sādhu sādhu sabbattha saṃvaro |
sabbattha saṃvuto bhikkhu sabbadukkhā pamuccati || 361 ||
360. Right is restraint in the eye, restraint in the ear is right, right is restraint in the nose, restraint in the tongue is right.
361. Right is restraint in the body, restraint in speech is right, right is restraint in the mind, everywhere restraint is right. The bhikkhu everywhere restrained is from all dukkha free.
The Story of Five Monks in Sāvatthi
Once, there were five monks in Sāvatthi. It appears that each of these five monks guarded one of the five doors of the senses. One day they met and began to argue with each other, saying, “It is I who guard the door which is difficult to guard! It is I who guard the door which is difficult to guard!” Finally they said, “We can learn the truth of this matter by questioning the Buddha.” So they approached the Buddha and asked him the following question, “Venerable, each one of us is guarding one of the five doors of the senses, and each one of us imagines that the particular door which he is guarding is the door, of all other doors, which is the most difficult to guard. Now we should like to have you tell us which one of us is guarding the door that is the most difficult to guard.”
The Buddha carefully avoided placing any one of the monks in a position inferior to that of his fellows and said in reply, “Monks, all of these doors are difficult to guard. But this is not the first time you have failed to control yourselves in these five particulars. In a previous state of existence also you failed to exercise restraint over your senses, and because you failed to exercise restraint over your senses, and because you refused to comply with the admonition of wise men, met destruction.” “When was that, Venerable?” asked the five monks.
Story of the Past: Takkasilā Jātaka
Complying with their request, the Buddha related in detail the Takkasilā Jātaka, telling them how, in the distant past, after the household of a king had been destroyed by female evil spirits, the Buddha, having received the ceremonial sprinkling of a king, seated on the royal throne under the white parasol, surveying his own majesty and glory, thinking to himself, “Men should exert the power of their will,” spoke the following solemn utterance:
Because with firm courage I abode steadfast in the admonition of the good, because I showed not fear nor dread, I did not come under the power of the female evil spirits. From great peril, I came steadfast.
Having recited this stanza, the Buddha summarized the Jātaka as follows: “At that time you were the five men who, when the great being went forth to take the kingdom of Takkasilā, stood round about him with weapons in your hands, guarding the road. But when, as you journeyed by the way, the female evil spirits tempted you with objects pleasing to the senses of sight and sound and smell and taste and touch, then you threw off all restraint, then you disregarded the admonitions of the wise man, then you yielded to the seductions of the female evil spirits; and they devoured you, and you were utterly destroyed. The wise man who restrained himself and yielded not to their temptations, who paid no attention to the ogress of celestial beauty that followed close upon his heels, and who reached Takkasilā in safety and became king, was I myself.”
Having thus summed up the Jātaka, the Buddha said, “A monk should guard all the doors of the senses, for only by guarding the doors of the senses can he obtain release from all suffering.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 360)
cakkhunā saṃvaro sādhu sotena saṃvaro
sādhu ghāṇena saṃvaro sādhu jivhāya saṃvaro
cakkhunā saṃvaro [saṃvara]: eye discipline; sādhu: is good; sotena saṃvaro [saṃvara]: ear discipline; sādhu: is good; ghāṇena saṃvaro [saṃvara]: nose discipline; sādhu: is good; jivhāya saṃvaro [saṃvara]: tongue discipline
It is good to be disciplined in the eye. It is good to be disciplined in the ear. It is good to be disciplined in the nose. To be disciplined in the tongue is good.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 361)
kāyena saṃvaro sādhu vācāya saṃvaro sādhu manasā
saṃvaro sādhu manasā sabbattha saṃvaro sādhu
sabbattha saṃvuto bhikkhu sabbadukkhā pamuccati
kāyena saṃvaro [saṃvara]: bodily discipline; sādhu: is good; vācāya saṃvaro [saṃvara]: discipline in the use of words; sādhu: is good; manasā saṃvaro [saṃvara]: discipline of mind; sādhu: is good; sabbattha: everywhere; saṃvaro [saṃvara]: discipline; sādhu: is good; sabbattha saṃvuto [saṃvuta]: disciplined in everything and every way; sādhu: is good; bhikkhu: monk; sabba: of all; dukkhā: suffering; pamuccati: gets freed
It is good to be disciplined in body. It is good to be disciplined in words. It is good to be disciplined in mind. The monk who is disciplined in all these areas will achieve freedom from all suffering.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 360-361)
In these verses, the Buddha admonishes the monks to be disciplined by guarding all ‘doors of perception’. The only means of achieving this aim is meditation (bhāvanā).
Meditation by means of mind development is called bhāvanā. Unlike other technical terms, bhāvanā is used to denote only the practical methods of mental training. It embraces in its vast connotation the whole system, together with the practices that have been developed from it. When the term bhāvanā occurs in the Scriptures, it generally indicates the practice or cultivation of meditation and the verb bhāveti is used to denote the act, ‘to practice’, or ‘to cultivate’:
Mettaṃ, Rāhula, bhāvanaṃ, bhāvehi.
Rāhula, practice the meditation upon friendliness.
Asubhāya cittaṃ bhāvehi.
Cultivate the mind by the meditation upon impurities.
Unlike jhāyati, (which is only used to indicate thinking upon a mental object, or holding a mental image taken from an external object), bhāveti is used of any form of mental development: Kusalaṃ cittaṃ bhāveti, he cultivates or increases moral consciousness; “Jhānaṃ bhāveti, Saṃādhiṃ bhāveti, Vipassanaṃ bhāveti, maggaṃ bhāveti,” “he practises jhāna, samādhi vipassanā or the path.”
The term bhāvanā is to be found compounded with words implying the subjects of meditation, as, jhāna-bhāvanā, samādhi-bhāvanā, metta-bhāvanā, and so on, in order to distinguish the different kinds of meditation.
Buddhaghosa Thera defined the verb bhāveti as a derivation from the root bhu–to be or to become and compares it with janeti (begets), uppādeti (produces or causes to rise), vaḍḍheti (increases or develops). He quotes passages from the Scriptures to show that bhāveti is used in the sense of producing, (uppādana) and increasing (vaddhana).
Bhāvanā has a meaning that is stronger and more active than that of the English word meditation. The word has various renderings, such as producing, acquiring, mastering, developing, cultivating, reflection and meditation. Here, we shall use the word in the sense of practice and cultivation, translations which bring out more clearly than the word ‘meditation’ its connection with the root to be or to become.
It is true that in bhāvanā there is a certain thought process, similar to that involved in mental prayer, and also the repetition of some particular words or phrases in different practices, such as be happy, be happy in the practice of mettā; or earth, earth, (in Kasiṇa practice), as in verbal prayer. But bhāvanā is more than that. It is thinking in a special manner, to edify something in oneself, something which is always good. The essential thing, therefore, in bhāvanā is its productive factor, that which produces or manifests the essential quality or truth that is contained in the object of thought, within one’s character. For example, when one practises mettā bhāvanā, one not only thinks upon friendliness but also makes it come into being, and grow stronger and stronger in his mind, so as to eradicate thoughts of enmity, malice, aversion and the like; and finally, the aspirant becomes friendly towards all living things. In this sense, it is becoming.
In conclusion, let it be said that the word bhāvanā means the accumulation of all good qualities within oneself, to become apt and fit for the attainment of Nibbāna. Moreover, bhāvanā is the popular, current expression for meditation as a part of religious life in the Theravāda school.