Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 394:
kiṃ te jaṭāhi dummedha kiṃ te ajinasāṭiyā |
abbhantaraṃ te gahaṇaṃ bāhiraṃ parimajjasi || 394 ||
394. Dimwit! What’s the coiled hair for? For what your cloak of skins? Within you are acquisitive, you decorate without!
The Story of the Trickster Brāhmin
What is the use of your matted locks? This religious instruction was given by the Buddha while he was in residence at Pagoda Hall, with reference to a certain trickster Brāhmin who imitated a bat.
This brāhmin, so the story goes, used to climb a certain kakudha tree that grew close to the gate of the city of Vesāli, grasp a branch with his two feet, and swing himself from the branch, head downwards. And hanging thus, he would cry out, “Give me a hundred kapilas! Give me pennies! Give me a slave-woman! If you don’t give me what I ask for, I will let myself drop from this tree and kill myself and make this city as though it had never been a city!”
As the Buddha, accompanied by the congregation of monks, entered the city, the monks saw this Brāhmin hanging from the tree, and when they departed from the city, still they saw him hanging there, just as he hung when they entered the city. The residents of the city thought to themselves, “This fellow has been hanging thus from this tree ever since early morning; should he fall, he is likely to make this city as though it had never been a city.” And because of fear that their city might be destroyed, they complied with all of his demands and gave him all that he asked for. “We have given you all that you asked for,” said they. Thereupon he descended from the tree and departed with the spoils.
The monks saw the trickster brāhmin wandering about in the neighborhood of the monastery, bellowing like a cow, and immediately recognized him. “Brāhmin,” they asked, “did you get what you asked for?” “Yes,” replied the Brāhmin, “I got what I asked for.” The monks reported the incident to the Buddha within the monastery. Said the Buddha, “Monks, this is not the first time this Brāhmin has been a trickster and a thief; he was a trickster and a thief in a previous state of existence also. But while in his present state of existence he deceives the simple-minded, in his previous state of existence he failed to confound the wise.” Complying with a request of the monks, the Buddha related the following story of the past about the false ascetic and the king of the lizards.
Once upon a time a certain ascetic lodged near a certain village of farmers, and this ascetic was a hypocrite. Now there was a certain family that used to look after his needs: by day, of the food, whether hard or soft, they always gave a portion to the ascetic just as they did to their own children; and in the evening they would set aside a portion of the food prepared for their supper, and give it to him on the following day.
Now not far from his leaf-hut, in a certain anthill, dwelt the king of the lizards, and it was the custom of the king of the lizards from time to time to call upon the ascetic and pay his respects to him. But on that particular day this ascetic said to himself, “I will kill that lizard,” and concealing a stick in a fold of his garments, he lay down quite near that ant-hill and pretended to be asleep. When the king of the lizards came out of his ant-hill and approached the ascetic, observing the peculiar attitude in which the ascetic lay, he said to himself, “I don’t like the way my teacher acts today,” and turning around, wriggled off in the opposite direction. The ascetic, noticing that the lizard had turned around, threw the stick at him, intending to kill him, but the stick went wide of the mark. The king of the lizards crawled into the ant-hill, and poking his head out and looking around, said to the ascetic, “All this time I vainly imagined you to be an ascetic, but when just now you threw your stick at me, desiring to kill me, at that moment you ceased to be an ascetic. What is the use of matted locks to a man like you, who utterly lacks wisdom? What is the use of your skin, all furnished with claws? For there is a jungle within you; it is only the exterior that you polish and cleanse.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 394)
dummedha te jaṭāhi kiṃ te ajinasāṭiyā kiṃ te
abbhantaraṃ te gahaṇaṃ bāhiraṃ parimajjasi
dummedha: O, unwise man; te: yours; jaṭāhi: matted hair; kiṃ: of what use; te: your; ajinasāṭiyā: the leopard skin; kiṃ: of what use; te abbhantaraṃ [abbhantara]: your inside; spirit; gahaṇaṃ [gahaṇa]: is replete with blemishes; bāhiraṃ [bāhira]: what is outside; parimajjasi: you decorate.
Of what use are your exterior sights of asceticism: your matted hair; your leopard skin garment? Your outside you keep clean and bright, while inside you are filled with defilements.