Home Page     Next Chapter

Chapter 1

Yamaka 1 Vagga
The Twin Verses
(Text and Translation by Ven. Nàrada)


1. Manopubbaïgamà dhammà 2 Þ
            manoseññhà manomayà
Manasà ce paduññhena Þ
            bhàsati và karoti và
Tato na§ dukkhamanveti Þ
            cakka§'va vahato pada§. 1.


1. Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. 3 Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox. 1.


    A middle-aged devout person, named Cakkhupàla, became a monk and was energetically leading a contemplative life. As a result of his strenuous endeavour he realized Arahantship, 4 the final stage of Sainthood, but unfortunately went blind.

One day as he was pacing up and down the ambulatory he unintentionally killed many insects. Some visiting monks, noticing the blood-stained ambulatory, complained to the Buddha that he had committed the offence of killing. The Buddha explained that the monk had killed them unintentionally and that he was an Arahant.

The monks then wished to know the cause of his blindness.

The Buddha related that in a past birth, as a physician, that particular monk had given an ointment to a poor woman to restore her eyesight. She promised that, with her children, she would become his servants if her eyesight was restored. The physician's remedy proved effective, but the woman, not willing to keep her promise, pretended that her eyes were getting worse. The cruel physician, yielding to a wicked thought, retaliated by giving her another ointment which blinded her eyes. In consequence of his past evil action the Arahant became blind.

*                     *                     *

This is the retributive aspect of the law of Kamma, the other being the continuative aspect, that is - the transmission of individual characteristics, impressions, tendencies, etc. throughout one's wanderings in Sa§sàra.

An Arahant, though free from all impurities, has to reap the fruit of the seed he himself had sown in the remote past.

The Buddhas and Arahants do not accumulate fresh Kamma as they have eradicated the roots - ignorance and craving- but, as every other being, they are not exempt from the inevitable consequences of both good and bad past actions.

2. Manopubbaïgamà dhammà 5 Þ
            manoseññhà manomayà
Manasà ce pasannena Þ
            bhàsati và karoti và
Tato na§ sukhamanveti Þ
            chàyà'va anapàyinã. 2.


2. Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, because of that, happiness follows one, even as one's shadow that never leaves. 6 2.


    Maññakuõóali, the only son of a stingy millionaire, was suffering from jaundice and was on the verge of death because his father would not consult a physician lest some part of his money should have to be spent. The Buddha perceiving with His Divine Eye the sad plight of the dying boy, appeared before him. Seeing the Buddha, he was pleased and dying with a pure heart, full of faith in the Buddha, was born in a heavenly state.

3. Akkocchi ma§ avadhi ma§ Þ
            ajini ma§ ahàsi me
Ye ta§ upanayhanti Þ
            vera§ tesa§ na sammati. 3.
4. Akkocchi ma§ avadhi ma§ Þ
            ajini ma§ ahàsi me
Ye ta§ na upanayhanti Þ
            vera§ tesåpasammati. 4.


3. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased. 3.

4. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased. 7 4.


    The Venerable Tissa, proud of being a cousin of the Buddha, did not pay due respect to the senior monks. When they resented his improper conduct, he took offence and, threatening them, went up to the Buddha and made a complaint. The Buddha, who understood the position, advised him to apologize, but the Venerable Tissa was obstinate. The Buddha then related a story to show that Tissa had done likewise in a previous birth. Later, the Venerable Tissa was compelled to seek pardon from the senior monks.

5. Na hi verena veràni Þ
            sammantã'dha kudàcana§
Averena ca sammanti Þ
            esa dhammo sanantano. 5.


5. Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love 8 alone they cease. This is an eternal law. 9 5.


    A husband had two wives, one barren, the other fruitful. The former, actuated by jealousy, mixed a drug in her rival's food and caused two successive abortions. On the third occasion the potion caused the death both of the mother and of the child. The dying woman willed vengeance on her rival and her offspring, and she carried out her resolve. The other too did likewise. Thus both women avenged themselves in the course of two successive births. In their third birth circumstances, however, compelled both to meet the Buddha, who pacified them by advising them not to retaliate.

6. Pare ca na vijànanti Þ
            mayamettha yamàmase
Ye ca tattha vijànanti Þ
            tato sammanti medhagà. 6.


6. The others 10 know not that in this quarrel we perish; 11 those of them who realize it, have their quarrels calmed thereby. 12 6.


    A trivial incident led to an unfortunate dispute amongst the monks in the city of Kosambi. The quarrelsome monks did not listen even to the Buddha. In the end the Buddha retired to a forest and spent the rainy season there. Owing to pressure brought on them by the laity, the monks approached the Buddha and, imploring His pardon, invited Him to the city. The Buddha then admonished them.

7. Subhànupassi§ viharanta§ Þ
            indriyesu asa§vuta§
Bhojanamhi amatta¤¤u§ Þ
            kusãta§ hãnavãriya§
Ta§ ve pasahati màro Þ
            vàto rukkha§'va dubbala§. 7.
8. Asubhànupassi§ viharanta§ Þ
            indriyesu susa§vuta§
Bhojanamhi ca matta¤¤u§ Þ
            saddha§ àraddhavãriya§
Ta§ ve nappasahati màro Þ
            vàto sela§'va pabbata§. 8.


7. Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, 13 with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Màra 14 overthrows, as the wind (overthrows) a weak tree. 7.

8. Whoever lives contemplating "the Impurities", 15 with senses restrained, in food moderate, full of faith, 16 full of sustained energy, him Màra overthrows not, as the wind (does not overthrow) a rocky mountain. 17 8.


    Two brothers became monks, the elder by conviction and the younger without any faith. The faithless younger monk, constantly thinking of material pleasures, succumbed to the temptations of his former wives and left the Order. The devout elder monk strove hard and attained Arahantship. His former wives tried to entrap him but failed.

9. Anikkasàvo kàsàva§ Þ
            yo vattha§ paridahessati
Apeto damasaccena Þ
            na so kàsàvam arahati. 9.
10. Yo ca vantakasàv'assa Þ
            sãlesu susamàhito
Upeto damasaccena Þ
            sa ve kàsàvam arahati. 10.


9. Whoever, unstainless, without self control and truthfulness, should don the yellow robe, 18 is not worthy of it. 9.

10. He who is purged of all stain, is well-established in morals and endowed with self-control and truthfulness, is indeed worthy of the yellow robe. 10.


    On a majority vote people presented a costly robe to the Venerable Devadatta, in Preference to the Venerable Sàriputta, the first chief disciple of the Buddha. Some devout followers, seeing him wearing it, remarked that he was not worthy of it. Buddha pointed out that in a previous birth too he had done likewise and explained who was worthy of wearing the emblem of the saintly disciples.

11. Asàre sàramatino Þ
            sàre cƒsàradassino
Te sàra§ nƒdhigacchanti Þ
            micchàsa§kappagocarà. 11.
12. Sàra¤ ca sàrato ¤atvà Þ
            asàra¤ ca asàrato
Te sàra§ adhigacchanti Þ
            sammà sa§kappagocarà. 12.


11. In the unessential they imagine the essential 19, in the essential they see the unessential - they who entertain (such) wrong thoughts 20 never realize the essence. 11.

12. What is essential they regard as essential, what is unessential they regard as unessential - they who entertain (such) right thoughts 21 realize the essence. 12.


    The Venerable Sàriputta and Moggallàna mentioned to the Buddha that they could not persuade their former teacher to see the Buddha and hear His Dhamma as he was attached to his followers. The Buddha then explained the difference between those who think rightly and those who think wrongly and the inevitable results of such thinking.

13. Yathà'gàra§ ducchanna§ Þ
            vuññhi samativijjhati
Eva§ abhàvita§ citta§ Þ
            ràgo samativijjhati. 13.
14. Yathà'gàra§ succhanna§ Þ
            vuññhi na samativijjhati
Eva§ subhàvita§ citta§ Þ
            ràgo na samativijjhati. 14.


13. Even as rain penetrates as ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind. 13.

14. Even as rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed 22 mind. 14.


    Prince Nanda, the step-brother of the Buddha, was admitted by the Buddha into the Order on his wedding day. As he was constantly thinking of his bride-elect instead of meditating the Buddha employed an effective means whereby the Venerable Nanda renounced his former lustful thoughts and attained Arahantship. The Buddha compared his former state of mind to an ill-thatched house and his changed pure mental state to a well-thatched house.

15. Idha socati pecca socati Þ
            pàpakàrã ubhayattha socati
So socati so viha¤¤ati Þ
            disvà kammakiliññham attano. 15.


15. Here he grieves, 23 hereafter he grieves. 24 In both states the evil-doer grieves. He grieves, he is afflicted, perceiving the impurity of his own deeds. 15.


    A pork-butcher named Cunda, who lived by killing pigs throughout his lifetime, was subject to much suffering in his last days. Before dying, he rolled on the floor actually squealing like a pig. After death he was born in a woeful state.

16. Idha modati pecca modati Þ
            katapu¤¤o ubhayattha modati
So modati so pamodati Þ
            disvà kammavisuddham attano. 16.


16. Here he rejoices, 25 hereafter he rejoices. 26 In both states the well-doer rejoices. He rejoices, exceedingly rejoices, perceiving the purity of his own deeds. 27 16.


    A devout person, named Dhammika, who led a religious life, lying on his death-bed, 28 saw happy visions, and after a peaceful death, was born in a celestial plane. 29

17. Idha tappati pecca tappati Þ
            pàpakàrã ubhayattha tappati
Pàpa§ me katan ti tappatiÞ
            bhiyyo tappati duggati§ gato. 17.


17. Here he suffers, hereafter he suffers. In both states the evil-doer suffers. "Evil have I done" (thinking thus), he suffers. Furthermore, he suffers, having gone to a woeful state. 30 17.


    The Venerable Devadatta made an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Buddha. In his old age he repented and desired to see the Buddha. While he was being carried on a litter to see the Buddha, he died on the way under tragic circumstances.

18. Idha nandati pecca nandati Þ
            katapu¤¤o ubhayattha nandati
Pu¤¤a§ me katan ti nandati Þ
            bhiyyo nandati suggati§ gato. 18.


18. Here he is happy, hereafter he is happy. In both states the well-doer is happy. "Good have I done" (thinking thus), he is happy. Furthermore, he is happy, having gone to a blissful state. 18.


    Sumanà the youngest daughter of Anàthapiõóika, the chief supporter of the Buddha, lying on her death-bed, addressed her father as "young brother" and passed away peacefully. The father was grieved to hear his devout daughter utter such incoherent words at the moment of death. When he mentioned this matter to the Buddha He explained that she addressed him thus because she had attained the second stage of Sainthood - Sakadàgàmi (Once-Returner) while the father had attained only the first stage Sotàpatti (Stream Winner).

19. Bahum pi ce sahita§ bhàsamàno Þ
            na takkaro hoti naro pamatto
Gopo'va gàvo gaõaya§ paresa§ Þ
            na bhàgavà sàma¤¤assa hoti. 19.
20. Appam pi ce sahita§ bhàsamàno Þ
            dhammassa hoti anudhammacàrã
Ràga¤ ca dosa¤ ca pahàya moha§ Þ
            sammappajàno suvimuttacitto
Anupàdiyàno idha và hura§ và Þ
            sa bhàgavà sàma¤¤assa hoti. 20.


19. Though much he recites the Sacred Texts, 31 but acts not accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts others' kine. He has no share in the fruits 32 of the Holy Life. 33 19.

20. Though little he recites the Sacred Texts, but acts in accordance with the teaching, forsaking lust, hatred and ignorance, truly knowing, with mind well freed, clinging to naught here and hereafter, he shares the fruits of the Holy Life. 20.


    There were two monks - one a worldling but well-versed in the Dhamma, the other an Arahant though not so erudite. The worldling did not practise what he knew; the one who knew little practised the Dhamma and, realizing Nibbàna, enjoyed the fruits of the Holy Life. The scholarly monk desired to embarrass the other by putting some intricate questions in the presence of the Buddha. Knowing well his base motive, the Buddha raised some questions connected with the realization of the Dhamma. The Arahant answered them all from personal experience, but the other could not as he had not attained to any Paths of Sainthood. Thereupon the Buddha praised the Arahant who had practised His teaching, though possessing less knowledge of the Dhamma.

End Notes

1 Yamaka means a pair. This chapter is so named because it consists of ten pairs of parallel verses.

2 Dhamma is a term of many meanings. Here it is used in the sense of Kamma or Karma which denotes volition (cetanà) and the other accompanying mental states found in any particular moral or immoral type of consciousness. In this verse the term Dhamma refers to evil mental states (cetasikas). Without a mind or consciousness no such mental states arise. Hence mind is the forerunner of all good and bad mental states. Cetanà or volition is the most important of all mental states. It is this volition that constitutes Kamma, for the Buddha says - "I declare that cetanà (volition) is Kamma".

Mind precedes all actions and serves as the principal element both in performing and in assessing deeds. It is mind that rules and shapes action. Words and deeds are also produced by mind.

In this pair of parallel verses the Buddha emphasizes the great part the mind plays in man's life, and then explains how deeds become good or evil according to the pure and impure state of the mind. Lastly He speaks of the inevitable consequences of such deeds, giving two homely illustrations.

3 "Things are forerun by mind" - Mrs. Rhys Davids. "(The mental) natures are the result of what we have thought" - Radhakrishnan. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought" -Irving Babbit.

4 Arahant, literally, means a Worthy One or a Pure One who has destroyed all passions. He accumulates no more fresh Kamma to condition a future rebirth as he has eradicated ignorance and craving. He has put an end to both birth and death. He may reap the effects of his past good and bad Kamma till the expiration of the life-term of his last existence.

5 In this particular verse dhamma refers to good Kamma (action).

6 These two parallel verses were uttered by the Buddha on two different occasions to show the inevitable effects of evil and good Kamma respectively.

Man reaps what he has sown in the past or in the present. What he sows now he reaps in the present or in the future at the opportune moment. Man himself is mainly responsible for his own happiness and misery. He creates his own hell and heaven. He is the architect of his own fate. What he makes he can unmake.

Buddhism teaches self-responsibility and the inevitability of the law of cause and effect. What one reaps accords with what one has sown but one is not bound to reap the effects of all that one has sown. If one were, emancipation would become an impossibility.

7 The Buddha's constant advice to His followers is not to retaliate but to practise patience at all times, at all places, even under provocation. The Buddha extols those who bear and forbear the wrongs of others though they have the power to retaliate. In the Dhammapada itself there are many instances to show how the Buddha practised patience even when He was severely criticised, abused, and attacked. Patience is not a sign of weakness or defeatism but the unfailing strength of great men and women.

8 Avera, literally, means non-anger. Here it means the virtue opposed to the vice of anger, that is, loving-kindness (Mettà).

9 Sanantana an ancient principle followed by the Buddha and His disciples. (Commentary).

10 The quarrelsome persons.

11 Yamàmase; derived from yam, to perish, or to restrain.

12 The first line may also be rendered thus: Others do not know that here we must restrain ourselves. "The world does not know that we must all come to an end here" - Max Muller, "People do not discern that here we straitened are in life, in time" - Mrs. Rhys Davids.

13 Desiring pleasurable sensual objects.

14 According to Buddhism there are five kinds of Màras - namely: i. the five Aggregates (khandha), ii. moral and immoral activities (abhisaïkhàra), iii. death (maccu), iv. passions (kilesa), and v. Màra the deity (devaputta). Here the term Màra is used in the sense of passions.

15 The thirty-two impurities of the body such as hair, hair of the skin, nails, teeth, skin, etc. To overcome lust, meditation on the impurities of the body is recommended.

16 Saddhà is faith in the Buddha (the Teacher), the Dhamma (the Teaching) and the Sangha (the Order), based on knowledge. There is no blind faith in Buddhism. One is not expected to accept anything on mere unreasoning faith.

17 These two verses are meant exclusively for Bhikkhus who lead the Holy Life. The first verse indicates the worldly path of sense-gratification; the second, the spiritual path of sense-control and asceticism. It should be noted that Buddhism offers one way of life to the monks and another to the laity.

18 Kasàva means stains of passion. Kàsàva means a dyed robe, the outward symbol of renunciation. Robes of monks are dyed to make them valueless. Here is a play on words. External mark of the Holy Life is of no consequence without internal purity. On another occasion the Buddha remarked that a pure person is indeed an ideal recluse or Bhikkhu, irrespective of his external apparel. See v. 142.

19 Sàra means the core or essence. Asàra are the unessentials like the necessaries of life, false beliefs, etc. Sàra are the essentials like right beliefs, (sammà diññhi) morality (sãla), concentration (samàdhi), wisdom (pa¤¤à), etc. The essence of the Holy Life cannot be achieved by caring for unessentials.

In the Mahà Sàropama Sutta (Majjhima Nikàya, No. 29) the Buddha has compared the leaves and branches of a tree to gain and fame, the bark to morality, the greenwood to concentration, the fruits to the five kinds of super-intellect (abhi¤¤à) and the core to Arahantship.

20 Such as lust (kàma), illwill (vyàpàda), and harmfulness (vihi§sà)

21 Such as renunciation or non-attachment (nekkhamma), loving-kindness (avyàpàda), and harmlessness (avihi§sà). These pure thoughts constitute the second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.

22 Bhàvita§, lit., made to become, i.e., trained, cultivated, developed. Mind is trained by concentration, which leads to one-pointedness of the mind and mental purification, and by contemplation, which leads to the understanding of things as they truly are. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is achieved by these two stages of mental development. As physical exercise is to the body, so is meditation to the mind. A well-developed mind is not easily dominated by passions.

23 Repenting over his evil deeds, he suffers mentally.

24 Experiencing the effects of his evil deeds.

25 Reflecting on his good action.

26 Reaping the desirable results of his good deeds.

27 According to Buddhism the subsequent birth is determined by the thought process at the moment of death. Buddhists do not believe that the earth is the only habitable plane and that human beings are the only beings. Planes are numerous and beings are innumerable. After death one may be born as a human being or in a subhuman state or in a celestial plane according to one's actions. The so-called being in the subsequent life is neither the same as its predecessor (as it has changed) nor absolutely different (as it is the identical stream of life). Buddhism denies an identical being but affirms an identity in process.

28 According to Buddhism the subsequent birth is determined by the thought process at the moment of death.

29 Buddhists do not believe that the earth is the only habitable plane and that human being are the only beings. Planes are numerous and beings are innumerable.

After death one may be born as a human being or in a subhuman state or in a celestial plane according to one's actions. The so-called being in the subsequent life is neither the same as its predecessor (as it has changed) nor absolutely different (as it is the identical stream of life). Buddhism denies an identical being but affirms an identity in process.

30 Duggati is a woeful state and Sugati is a blissful state. Rebirths in all such states are temporary.

31 Sahita§ = saha + hita§, is that which is associated with what is beneficial. Commentary states that sahita§ is a synonym for the Tipiñaka, the three Baskets, taught by the Buddha, namely: Vinaya Piñaka, the Basket of Discipline, Sutta Piñaka, the Basket of Discourses, and Abhidhamma Piñaka, the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine.

32 The blessings of a monk are the four stages of Sainthood - namely: Sotàpatti, Stream Winner, Sakadàgàmi, Once-Returner, Anàgàmi, Never-Returner, and Arahanta, the Worthy.

33 Sàma¤¤assa = lit. the state of a monk or ascetic, i.e., the Holy life. According to Buddhism learning is of no avail without actual practice.

As such Buddhism is not a mere philosophy, but a unique Path of Enlightenment.