Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 77:
ovadeyyanusāseyya asabbhā ca nivāraye |
sataṃ hi so piyo hoti asataṃ hoti appiyo || 77 ||
77. Let him exhort, let him instruct, and check one from abasement. Dear indeed is he to the true, not dear is he to the false.
The Story of Venerables Assaji & Punabbasuka
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Venerables Assaji and Punabbasuka.
These monks, we are told, were two pupils of the chief disciples, but in spite of that fact were shameless and wicked. While they were in residence at Kītāgiri with their retinues of many monks, they planted and caused to be planted flowering trees and were guilty of all manner of misconduct besides. They violated homes and procured thence the monastic requisites on which they lived. They rendered the monastery uninhabitable for the amiable monks.
Hearing of their doings, the Buddha was determined to expel them from the Sangha. For this purpose he summoned the two chief disciples, together with their retinues, and said to them, “Expel those who will not obey your commands, but admonish and instruct those who will obey. He who admonishes and instructs is hated by those that lack wisdom, but is loved and cherished by the wise.” And joining the connection and instructed them in the Dhamma.
Sāriputta and Moggallāna went there and admonished and instructed those monks. Some of them received the admonitions of the Venerables and corrected their behaviour, others returned to the house-life while still others were expelled from the Sangha.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 77)
ovadeyya anusāseyya asabbhā ca nivāraye
so hi sataṃ piyo hoti asataṃ appiyo hoti
ovadeyya: (if a good friend) reproaches; anusāseyya: warns; asabbhā ca: from anti-social actions; nivāraye: safeguards; so hi: that good friend; sataṃ [sata]: for the virtuous; piyo hoti: is appealing; asataṃ [asata]: to evil people; appiyo hoti: is repulsive
The wise and good person who reproaches and warns, and prevents a person from getting into anti-social behaviour, is liked by virtuous individuals–and disliked by those who are evil.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 77)
ovadeyya, anusāseyya: Reproaches and warns. In some commentaries, the distinction between ovāda and anusāsanā is carefully established. ‘Reproach’ (ovāda) is described as telling a person about what is good and what is bad, in terms of what has already been done. Telling a person about what is likely to ensue, if one did either this or that, in the future, is referred to as “anusāsanā” (warning). ‘Reproach’ (ovāda) is made when one is physically present before the reproacher. But, if the two persons are not physically present together, and one’s communications are conveyed to the other, that is described as ‘warning’ (anusāsanā). Again, telling once only is ‘ovāda’ (reproach). Repeated telling is “anusāsanā (warning).
asabbhā ca nivāraye: prevents one from resorting to anti-social action: makes him abstain from anti-social actions. It is abstinence from the wrong actions: killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. It inculcates compassion to all living beings; the taking only of things that are given; and living a pure and chaste life. By such moral conduct one gives others fearlessness, security and peace. All morality, or the good life, is founded on love and compassion, mettā and karunā. A person without these two salient qualities cannot be called a man of morals. Verbal and physical acts not tinged with love and compassion cannot be regarded as good and wholesome. Surely, one cannot kill, steal and so forth with thoughts of love and a good conscience, but it can be done only when one is driven by thoughts of cruelty, greed and ignorance.
It is necessary to cultivate a certain measure of mental discipline, because the untamed mind always finds excuses to commit evil in word or deed. ‘When the thought is unguarded, bodily action also is unguarded; so are speech and mental action’.
Conduct builds character. No one can bestow the gift of a good character on another. Each one has to build it up by thought, reflection, care, effort, mindfulness and introspection. Just as in the mastery of an art one has to labour hard, so to master the art of noble conduct on which a good and strong character depends, one must be diligent and on the alert.
In the training of character the first thing necessary is to practice self control. If, instead, a man gives himself up to sense pleasures, his good social conduct and character will fall away–on this all teachers of religion and psychology agree. Those who are intoxicated with pleasures and are driven by the urge to enjoy themselves, cannot be properly educated until they have learned to admit their faults.
Regarding high moral conduct the Buddha advised thus:
“Evil can be abandoned. If it were not possible to give up evil, I would not say so. Since it can be done, I say unto you: ‘Give up evil.’”
The Buddha continues,
“Good can be cultivated. If it were not possible to cultivate good, I would not say so. Since it can be done, I say unto you: ‘Cultivate the good.’”
This is the kind of guidance that a good advisor should provide to make a person abstain from unacceptable, immoral and anti-social (asabbhā) behaviour.