Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 38-39:
anavaṭṭhitacittassa saddhammaṃ avijānato |
paripalavapasādassa paññā na paripūrati || 38 ||
anavassutacittassa ananavāhatacetaso |
puññapāpapahīṇassa natthi jāgarato bhayaṃ || 39 ||
38. One of unsteady mind, who doesn’t know True Dhamma, who is of wavering confidence wisdom fails to win.
39. One of unflooded mind, a mind that is not battered, abandoning evil, merit too, no fear for One Awake.
The Story of Monk Cittahattha
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke these verses, with reference to the monk Cittahattha. A certain youth of a respectable family, a herdsman, living at Sāvatthi, went into the forest to look for an ox that was lost. During midday, he saw the ox and released the herds, and being oppressed by hunger and thirst, he thought to himself, “I can surely get something to eat from the noble monks.” So he entered the monastery, went to the monks, bowed to them, and stood respectfully on one side. Now at that time the food which remained over and above to the monks who had eaten lay in the vessel used for refuse. When the monks saw that youth, exhausted by hunger as he was, they said to him, “Here is food; take and eat it.” (When a Buddha is living in the world, there is always a plentiful supply of rice-porridge, together with various sauces). So the youth took and ate as much food as he needed drank water, washed his hands, and then bowed to the monks and asked them, “Venerable, did you go to some house by invitation today?” “No, lay disciple; monks always receive food in this way.”
The youth thought to himself, “No matter how busy and active we may be, though we work continually both by night and by day, we never get rice-porridge so deliciously seasoned. But these monks, according to their own statement, eat it continually. Why should I remain a layman any longer? I will become a monk.” Accordingly he approached the monks and asked to be received into the Sangha. The monks said to him, “Very well, lay disciple,” and received him into the Sangha. After making his full profession, he performed all the various major and minor duties; and in but a few days, sharing in the rich offerings which accrue in the Buddha’s Dispensation, he became fat and comfortable.
Then he thought to himself, “Why should I live on food obtained by making the alms-round? I will become a layman once more.” So back he went and entered his house. After working in his house for only a few days, his body became thin and weak. Thereupon he said to himself, “Why should I endure this suffering any longer? I will become a monk.” So back he went and re-ordained. But after spending a few days as a monk, becoming discontented again, went back to lay-life.
“Why should I live the life of a layman any longer? I will become a monk.” So saying, he went to the monks, bowed, and asked to be received into the Sangha. Because he had been with them, the monks received him into the Sangha once more. In this manner he entered the Sangha and left it again six times in succession. The monks said to themselves, “This man lives under the sway of his thoughts.” So they gave him the name Thought-Controlled, elder Cittahattha.
As he was thus going back and forth, his wife became pregnant. The seventh time he returned from the forest with his farming implements he went to the house, put his implements away, and entered his own room, saying to himself, “I will put on my yellow robe again.” Now his wife happened to be in bed and asleep at the time. Her undergarment had fallen off, saliva was flowing from her mouth, she was snoring, her mouth was wide open; she appeared to him like a swollen corpse. Grasping the thought, “All that is in this world is transitory, is involved in suffering,” he said to himself, “To think that because of her, all the time I have been a monk, I have been unable to continue steadfast in the monastic life!” Straightaway, taking his yellow robe, he ran out of the house, binding the robe about his belly as he ran.
Now his mother-in-law lived in the same house with him. When she saw him departing in this way, she said to herself, “This renegade, who but this moment returned from the forest, is running from the house, binding his yellow robe about him as he runs, and is making for the monastery. What is the meaning of this?” Entering the house and seeing her daughter asleep, she knew at once, “It was because he saw her sleeping that he became disgusted, and went away.” So she shook her daughter and said to her, “Rise, your husband saw you asleep, became disgusted, and went away. He will not be your husband henceforth.” “Begone, mother. What does it matter whether he has gone or not? He will be back again in but a few days.”
As Cittahattha proceeded on his way, repeating the words, “All that is in this world is transitory, is involved in suffering,” he obtained the fruit of conversion (sotāpatti phala). Continuing his journey, he went to the monks, bowed to them, and asked to be received into the Sangha. “No,” said the monks, “we cannot receive you into the Sangha. Why should you become a monk? Your head is like a grindstone.” “Venerable, receive me into the Sangha just this once.” Because he had helped them, they received him into the Sangha. After a few days he attained arahatship, together with the supernatural faculties.
Thereupon they said to him, “Brother Cittahattha, doubtless you alone will decide when it is time for you to go away again; you have remained here a long while this time.” “Venerables, when I was attached to the world, I went away; but now I have put away attachment to the world; I have no longer any desire to go away.” The monks went to the Buddha and said, “Venerable, we said such and such to this monk, and he said such and such to us in reply. He utters falsehood, says what is not true.” The Buddha replied, “Yes, monks, when my son’s mind was unsteady, when he knew not the good law, then he went and came. But now he has renounced both good and evil.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 38)
anavaṭṭhitacittassa saddhammaṃ avijānato
pariplava pasādassa paññā na paripūrati
anavaṭṭhitacittassa: of wavering mind; saddhammaṃ [saddhamma]: the true doctrine; avijānato [avijānata]: ignorant of; pariplava pasādassa: of flagging enthusiasm; paññā: wisdom; na paripūrati: does not grow
If the mind of a person keeps on wavering, and if a person does not know the doctrine, if one’s enthusiasm keeps on fluctuating or flagging, the wisdom of such a person does not grow.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 39)
anavassuta cittassa ananvāhatacetaso
puññapāpapahīnassa jāgarato bhayam natthi
anavassuta cittassa: (to the one) with mind undampened by passion; ananvāhatacetaso [ananvāhatacetasa]: mind unaffected by hatred; puññapāpapahīnassa: gone beyond both good and evil; jāgarato [jāgarata]: wide awake; bhayam natthi: fear exists not
For the person whose mind is not dampened by passion, unaffected by ill-will and who has risen above both good and evil, there is no fear because he is wide-awake.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 38-39)
anavaṭṭhitacittassa: for a person with an unsteady or unstabilised mind. The ordinary people all have minds that are unsteady. Their minds are not constant and consequently lack one-pointedness. A person possessing such a mind will find it difficult to progress in the Path to Liberation.
saddhammaṃ avijānato: a person who is not aware of the well-articulated Teaching of the Buddha.
pariplava pasādassa: with fluctuating devotion. An individual whose devotion and confidence are fluctuating will not be able to make steady progress.
anavassuta cittassa: this is a positive quality. The person whose mind is not dampened by lust is referred to here. This implies the contaminating inflow of defilements via sensory reactions (i.e. responding to sights, sounds, smells etc.).
ananvāhatacetaso: the person whose mind remains unassailed (by greed, hatred etc.). As the mind is perfectly intact, he can utilize it for his spiritual progress.
natthi jāgarato bhayam: for the wide-awake there is no fear. He is always alert, observing defilements that are likely to affect his mind. Because of this alertness the wide-awake person is not at all afraid. It should not erroneously be understood that Arahants do not sleep. Whether asleep or awake they are regarded as sleepless or vigilant ones, since the five stimulating virtues–namely, confidence (saddhā), energy (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā) are ever present in them.
puññapāpapahīnassa: one who transcends the notions of good and bad deeds with no particular attachment to the rewards. This implies a very high degree of moral equanimity, as it indicates ego-less detachment. There is no attachment to the act of giving, to the one who receives, or to the gift. The Arahats, however, having transcended all life–affirming and rebirth–producing actions, are said to be ‘beyond merit and demerit.’
The deeds of an Arahant: a perfect Saint, are neither good nor bad because he has gone beyond both good and evil. This does not mean that he is passive. He is active but his activity is selfless and is directed to help others to tread the path he has trod himself. His deeds, ordinarily accepted as good, lack creative power as regards himself in producing Kammic effects. He is not however exempt from the effects of his past actions. He accumulates no fresh kammic activities. Whatever actions he does, as an Arahant, are termed “inoperative” (kiriya), and are not regarded as Kamma. They are ethically ineffective. Understanding things as they truly are, he has finally shattered the cosmic chain of cause and effect.