Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 401:
vāri pokkharapatte’va āragger’iva sāsapo |
yo na lippati kāmesu tamahaṃ brūmi brāhmaṇaṃ || 401 ||
401. Like water on a lotus leaf, or mustard seed on needle point, whoso clings not to sensual things, that one I call a Brahmin True.
The Story of Nun Uppalavaṇṇā
This religious instruction was given by the Buddha while He was in residence at Jetavana, with reference to the nun Uppalavaṇṇā. The story has been related at length in the Commentary on the Stanza beginning with the words, ‘As sweet as honey thinks a fool an evil deed.’ For it is there said:
Some time later, the throng in the hall of truth began the following discussion: “To be sure those that have rid themselves of the Depravities gratify their passions. Why should they not? For they are not Kolapa-trees or ant-hills, but are living creatures with bodies of moist flesh. Therefore they also like the pleasures of love.” At that moment the Buddha drew near. “Monks,” He inquired, “what is the subject that engages your attention now as you sit here all gathered together?” “Such and such,” was the reply. Said the Buddha, “No, monks, they that have rid themselves of the depravities neither like the pleasures of love nor gratify their passions. For even as a drop of water which has fallen upon a lotus-leaf does not cling thereto or remain thereon, but rolls over and falls off, even as a grain of mustard-seed does not cling to the point of a needle or remain thereon, but rolls over and falls off, precisely so two-fold love clings not to the heart of one that has rid himself of the depravities or remains there.” And joining the connection, He preached the Dhamma with a stanza.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 401)
pokkharapatte vāri iva āragge sāsapo iva so
kāmesu na limpati taṃ ahaṃ brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi
pokkharapatte: on the lotus leaf; vāri iva: like the water; āragge: on the tip of a needle; sāsapo iva: like a mustard seed; so: if someone; kāmesu: in sensual pleasures; na limpati: is not attached; taṃ: him; ahaṃ: I; brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi call a brāhmaṇa
The water does not get attached to the surface of the lotus leaf. The mustard seed does not get attached to the point of a needle. In the same way, the wise one’s mind does not get attached to sensual pleasures. Such a non-attached person I describe as the true brāhmaṇa.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 401)
Story of Nun Uppalavaṇṇā: Uppalavaṇṇā was born in a wealthy family and was named after the lotus flower–Uppala-Vaṇṇā.
When she came of age, proposals for marriage came from all quarters and the harassed father did not wish to offend any suitor by a refusal. To the father, ordination in the noble Sangha was the only solution.
The daughter, true to her destiny, agreed. Upon being ordained she was kept in charge of the convocation room where the nuns assembled for the confession of lapses. She had to tend the lamps. She observed that the light was sustained by the wick and the oil.
Sometimes, the light goes out by going short of either or by a gust of wind. So life was due to kammic force. This kept her thinking till she became an arahat. She remembered her former lives.
It was while living alone in a forest, a young shepherd named Nanda, a kinsman of hers, got infatuated with her and committed a sexual offence as soon as she returned from a round of alms. Coming from the noon day glare to the dark cave where her abode was, she could not see and hence, she was taken by surprise despite her protests. He committed the dire deed and was immediately born in the hell (niraya) when the earth yawned and swallowed the foolish young man. He was, however, dead before the yawning of the earth.
It was after this incident the Blessed One prohibited the female disciples of the noble Sangha from living in isolation in the forest.
Not long afterwards, the Buddha, addressing the monks, declared Uppala Vaṇṇā Mahā Theri was foremost for psychic power as Venerable Mahā Moggallāna was among the Mahā arahats.