Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 423:
pubbenivāsaṃ yo vedī saggāpāyañca passati |
atho jātikkhayaṃ patto abhiññā vosito muni |
sabbavositavosānaṃ tam ahaṃ brūmi brāhmaṇaṃ || 423 ||
423. Whoso does know of former lives and sees the states of bliss and woe and then who’s reached the end of births, a sage supreme with wisdom keen, complete in all accomplishments, that one I call a Brahmin True.
It is the Giver that makes the Gift
This verse was spoken by the Buddha while He was in residence at Jetavana, with reference to a question asked by Brāhman Devāhita.
For once upon a time the Buddha suffered from disorder of the humors and sent Venerable Upavana to Brāhman Devaṅgika for hot water. The venerable went to the brāhman, told him the Buddha was suffering from disorder of the humors, and asked him for hot water. When the brāhman heard the Buddha’s request, his heart was filled with joy. “How fortunate for me,” he exclaimed, “that the Buddha should send to me for hot water!” The brāhman gave the venerable hot water and a jar of molasses, ordering one of his men to carry the hot water on a pingo. The venerable caused the Buddha to bathe himself in hot water and then, mixing the molasses with hot water, gave it to the Buddha to drink. The Buddha’s ailment immediately abated.
The brāhman thought to himself, “To whom should one give alms to obtain a great reward? I will ask the Buddha.” So he went to the Buddha and asked him about the matter, giving this stanza:
To whom shall one give alms?
To whom must alms be given to get a great reward? How, for the giver, does the reward become a great one?
Said the Buddha to the brāhman, “The alms of such a brāhman as this, yield abundant fruit.” And proclaiming his conception of the true brāhman, He gave the stanza.
EXPLANATORY TRANSLATION (VERSE 423)
yo pubbenivāsaṃ vedī saggāpāyaṃ ca passati,
atho jātikkhayaṃ patto abhiññā vosito munī
sabbavositavosānaṃ taṃ ahaṃ brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi
yo munī: if some sage; pubbenivāsaṃ [pubbenivāsa]: former births; vedi: knows; saggāpāyaṃ ca: heaven and hell; passati: perceives;atho: besides; jātikkhayaṃ [jātikkhaya]: to the ends of existence; patto [patta]: has reached; abiññā: seeing with supreme wisdom; vosito [vosita]: accomplished all; munī: a sage;sabbavositavosānaṃ [sabbavositavosāna]: who has completed the life of the truth seeker, by attaining the highest; tam: that perfect person; ahaṃ: I; brāhmaṇaṃ brūmi: declare a brāhmana.
He knows his former existences. He has the capacity to see heaven and hell—states of ecstasy and states of woe. He has ended the cycle of existences. He has his higher awareness. He has reached the state of a sage. He has achieved the final perfection. Him, I describe as a brāhmana.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 423)
The story of Venerable Upavāna: According to the story that gives rise to this stanza, the Buddha sent Venerable Upavāna to Brāhmin Devaṅgika. This is the story of Venerable Upavāna:
The story of his past life occurred after the passing away of Padumuttarā Buddha. The occasion was the enshrining of the relics. A mighty dāgoba was being built by beings–human and divine. He was a poor man who had a shawl as a part of his dress. He got this shawl thoroughly cleaned. He honoured the relics by planting the same as a banner on a long bamboo, by the side of the dāgoba.
An evil spirit chief called Abhisaṃmathaka had the shawl secretly planted on the top of the dāgoba. When he saw what had happened, his joy knew no bounds. By reason of this merit, he never failed to have a following, wherever he was born. He was always a leader. He was born many times as Sakka, king of deities, or as a powerful king (chakravarthirāja). Thereafter, he was born in this dispensation, in a brāhmin’s family. He was named Upavāna.
He, too, became well-versed in Vedic lore. He was an attendant of the Buddha before Venerable Ānanda took up the task. Upon the Buddha falling ill, Upavāna went to a lay supporter, or dāyaka, and extolled the virtue of the Buddha. He procured from him warm water and suitable medicine and rendered medical aid to cure the Buddha. Thereafter, he applied himself to the monk’s life so incessantly that in no time he became an arahat.
There was a notable incident in connection with the passing away of the Blessed One. While he was standing by the couch, fanning, the Buddha requested him to leave. All present were struck by the remark. The elder Ānanda, who was as usual the spokesman, inquired as to the reason. The Buddha told Ānanda how hundreds and thousands of the invisible world, powerful devās and evil spirits, were hunting for every inch, and often pin-points, of available space to have a last look at the Buddha. It is no secret that, unlike in the case of worldings who were transparent to the gaze of devās and all, arahats were not. Therefore, Venerable Upavāna had to allow them a way to see.
He was one of the eighty arahats of the noble Sangha.