Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 65:
muhuttampi ce viñgñu paṇḍitaṃ payirupāsati |
khippaṃ dhammaṃ vijānāti jivhā sūparasaṃ yathā || 65 ||
65. Though briefly one intelligent might wait upon the wise, quickly Dhamma he can sense as tongue the taste of soup.
The Story of Thirty Monks from Pāṭheyyaka
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to thirty monks from Pāṭheyyaka.
Thirty monks were taught the Dhamma by the Buddha in the Kappāsika Grove. Thirty youths from Pāṭheyyaka were, on one occasion, enjoying themselves with a prostitute in a forest. Then the prostitute stole some of their valuable ornaments and ran away. While searching for her in the forest, they met the Buddha. At that time all of them obeyed the command of the Buddha, “Come, monks!” and they received bowls and robes created by supernatural power. Taking upon themselves the thirteen pure practices, they returned after a long time to the Buddha, hearkened to his discourse on the beginningless, and before leaving their seats, attained arahatship.
The monks began a discussion in the Hall of Truth: “On how short a time did these monks perceive the Dhamma!” The Buddha, hearing this, said to them, “Monks, this is not the first time these thirty companions committed sin. They did the same thing in a previous state of existence. But hearing the religious instruction of Venerable Tuṇḍila in the Tuṇḍila Jātaka, they perceived the Dhamma very quickly and took upon themselves the five precepts. It was solely through the merit acquired by this act that they attained arahatship immediately, even as they sat in their seats.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 65)
viññū ce muhuttaṃ api paṇḍitaṃ payirupāsati
khippaṃ dhammaṃ vijānāti yathā jivhā sūparasaṃ
viññū: the wise; ce muhuttaṃ api: even for a moment; paṇḍitaṃ [paṇḍita]: the man of mature wisdom; payirupāsati: associates; khippaṃ [khippa]: instantly; dhammaṃ [dhamma]: the doctrine; vijānāti: learns; yathā: just as; jivhā: the tongue; sūparasaṃ [sūparasa]: (relishes) the taste of various dishes
If a wise person were to associate with a wise person, even for one moment, he will quickly understand the Teaching. This is very much like the tongue being able to discern the subtle flavours of soup. This stanza could be further appreciated when you contrast it with the previous one. In the previous one the image used is the spoon. Though it serves tasty food endlessly, it just cannot appreciate how food tastes, very much like a foolish individual being unable to appreciate the teaching even when he keeps company with the wise. An intelligent man, even though he is associated with a wise man only for a moment, quickly understands the Dhamma, just as the tongue knows the taste of the soup.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 65)
jivhā sūparasaṃ yathā: like the tongue knows the flavour of food. The image of food-flavour is continued here as well. Food-flavour is a universal human experience. Therefore an image that is associated with the taste of food can be appreciated universally. In this stanza the Buddha compares the wise person to the tongue. The tongue keeps the company of much food. But, with alacrity it can discuss various flavours, in total contrast to the spoon that does not know how the food tastes, in spite of the fact that it spends its whole lifetime in food. Just like the tongue, the wise person knows the ‘flavour’ of the virtuous person the instant he comes into contact with one.
viññū: one who possesses viññāna (cognition). Here viññāna implies intelligence. Cognition is one of the five aggregates; one of the four nutriments; the third link of the dependent origination; the fifth in a sixfold division of elements. Viewed as one of the five groups, it is inseparably linked with the three other mental groups (feeling, perception and formations) and furnishes the bare cognition of the object, while the other three contribute more specific functions. Its ethical and karmic character, and its greater or lesser degree of intensity and clarity, are chiefly determined by the mental formations associated with it. Just as the other groups of existence, consciousness is a flux and does not constitute an abiding mind-substance; nor is it a transmigrating entity or soul. The three characteristics, impermanence, suffering and not-self, are frequently applied to it in the texts. The Buddha often stressed that “apart from conditions, there is no arising of consciousness”: and all these statements about its nature hold good for the entire range of consciousness, be it past, future or presently arisen, gross or subtle, in one’s self or external, inferior or lofty, far or near.
According to the six senses it divides into six kinds, viz. eye- (or visual) consciousness, etc. About the dependent arising of these six kinds of consciousness, “Conditioned through the eye, the visible object, light and attention, eye-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the ear, the audible object, the ear-passage and attention, earconsciousness arises. Conditioned through the nose, the olfactory object, air and attention, nose-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the tongue, the gustative object, humidity and attention, tongue-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the body, bodily impression, the earth-element and attention, body-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the subconscious mind, the mind-object, and attention, mind-consciousness arises.” The Abhidhamma literature distinguishes eighty-nine classes of consciousness, being either karmically wholesome, unwholesome or neutral, and belonging either to the sense-sphere, the fine-material or the immaterial sphere, or to supermundane consciousness.