Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 391:
yassa kāyena vācāya manasā natthi dukkataṃ |
saṃvutaṃ tīhi ṭhānehi tamahaṃ brūmi brāhmaṇaṃ || 391 ||
391. In whom is no wrong-doing by body, speech or mind, in these three ways restrained, that one I call a Brahmin True.
The Story of Venerable Nun Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to Venerable Nun Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī.
For prior to the occasion of the public promulgation of the Eight Cardinal Precepts, the Buddha proclaimed them privately, and Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepted them by bowing her head, just as a person accustomed to the wearing of ornaments accepts a garland of fragrant flowers by bowing her head. So, likewise, did all the members of her retinue. No preceptor or teacher did she have other than the Buddha himself. Thus did she receive admission to full membership in the Sangha.
On a subsequent occasion the members of her retinue commented on the manner in which this nun was admitted to full membership in the Sangha, saying, “Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has no teacher or preceptor; by herself alone and with her own hand she received the yellow robes.” On hearing this, the other nuns were dissatisfied and thenceforth refused to keep Fast-day or to celebrate the terminal festival with her. And going to the Buddha, they reported the matter to him. The Buddha listened to what they had to say and then replied, “I myself conferred the eight cardinal precepts on Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. I alone am her teacher; I alone am her preceptor. They that have renounced the sins of act and speech and thought, they that have rid themselves of the evil passions, such persons should never entertain feelings of dissatisfaction.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 391)
yassa kāyena vācāya manasā dukkataṃ natthi tīhi
ṭhānehi saṃvutaṃ taṃ ahaṃ brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi
yassa: who; kāyena: through the body; vācāya: through speech; manasā: through the mind; dukkataṃ natthi: has done no sin; saṃvutaṃ [saṃvuta]: guarded; tīhi ṭhānehi: in these three areas; tamahaṃ [tamaha]: that individual; brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi: I call a brāhmaṇa
If an individual is well guarded in body, in speech, and in mind, and has done no wrong in these three areas, who is well restrained, I call that kind of person a true brāhmaṇa–the noble saint.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 391)
Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: The present stanza was occasioned by a discussion that pivoted round Nun Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was the youngest sister of King Suppabuddha. Her elder sister was Queen Māha Māyā. Both were married to King Suddhodana. She had a daughter named Nandā and a son named Nanda. Later, both of them entered the Sangha. When Mahā Māyā died she adopted her sister’s son, Prince Siddhattha, entrusting her own son Nanda to the charge of nurses. Her family name was Gotami, and she was named Mahāpajāpatī because soothsayers predicted that she would be the head of a large following. When the Buddha visited the palace and preached the Dhammapāla Jātaka to His father she attained the first stage of sainthood. After the death of King Suddhodana, as both Princes Siddhārtha and Nanda had renounced the world, she also decided to enter the noble Sangha and lead the Holy Life. When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu to settle a dispute between the Sākyas and Koliyas with regard to the irrigation of channels from the river Rohini, and was residing at the Nigrodha park, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī approached the Buddha and, begging Him to grant permission for women to enter the Sangha, pleaded thus: “It would be well, Lord, if women should be allowed to renounce their homes and enter the homeless state under the doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha.” Without stating His reasons, the Buddha straightaway refused, saying: “Enough, O’ Gotamī, let it not please you that women should be allowed to do so.” For the second and third time, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī repeated her request, and the Buddha gave the same reply. Later, the Buddha, having stayed at Kapilavatthu as long as He liked, journeyed to Vesāli, and arriving there in due course, resided at the Mahāvana in the Kūṭāgāra Hall.
Resolute Pajāpati Gotamī, without being discouraged by her disappointment, got her hair cut off, donned yellow garments, and surrounded by a great number of Sākya ladies, walked from Kapilavatthu to Vesāli, a distance of about 150 miles, experiencing many a hardship. With swollen feet, her body covered with dust, she arrived at Vesāli and stood outside the porch of the Pinnacled Hall. Venerable Ānanda found her weeping and, learning the cause of her grief, approached the Buddha and said, “Behold, Lord, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī is standing outside the porch, with swollen feet, body covered with dust, and sad. Please permit women to renounce home and enter the homeless state under the doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha. It were well, Lord, if women should be allowed to renounce their homes and enter the homeless state.” “Enough, Ānanda, let it not please you that women should be allowed to do so!” was the Buddha’s reply. For the second and third time, he interceded on their behalf, but the Buddha would not yield.
So Venerable Ānanda made a different approach and respectfully questioned the Buddha: “Are women, lord, capable of realizing the state of a stream-winner (sotāpanna), once-returner (sakadāgāmi) never-returner (anāgāmi) and an arahat, when they have gone forth from home to the homeless state under the doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha?” The Buddha replied that they were capable of realizing saintship. Encouraged by this favourable reply, Venerable Ānanda appealed again, saying, “If then, Venerable, they are capable of attaining saintship, since Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī had been of great service to the Buddha, when as aunt and nurse she nourished Him and gave Him milk, and on the death of His mother suckled the Buddha at her own breast, it were well, Lord, that women should be given permission to renounce the world and enter the homeless state under the doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha.” “If, Ānanda, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts the eight chief rules, let that be reckoned to her as the form of her ordination,” said the Buddha, finally yielding to the entreaties of Venerable Ānanda.