(Numbers refer and link to verses)
1-2: The fact that the word mano is paired here with dhamma would seem to suggest that it is meant in its role as “intellect,” the sense medium that conveys knowledge of ideas or mental objects (two possible meanings for the word “dhamma”). However, the illustrations in the second sentence of each verse show that it is actually meant in its role as the mental factor responsible for the quality of one’s actions (as in mano-kamma), the factor of will and intention, shaping not only mental events but also physical reality (on this point, see SN 35:145). Thus, following a Thai tradition, I have rendered it here as “heart.”
The images in these verses are carefully chosen. The cart, representing suffering, is a burden on the ox pulling it, and the weight of its wheels obliterates the ox’s track. The shadow, representing happiness, is no weight on the body at all.
All Pali recensions of this verse give the reading, manomaya = made of the heart, while all other recensions give the reading manojava = impelled by the heart.
7-8: Focused on the foul: A meditative exercise in focusing on the foul aspects of the body so as to help undercut lust and attachment for the body (see MN 119). AN 3:16 gives a standard definition for restraint with the senses: “And how does a monk guard the doors to his sense faculties? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or particulars by which–if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye–evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the eye. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye. (Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body & intellect.) This is how a monk guards the doors to his sense faculties.”
11-12: Wrong resolves = mental resolves for sensuality, ill will, or harmfulness. Right resolves = mental resolves for freedom from sensuality, for freedom from ill will, and for harmlessness.
17-18: “Destination” in these two verses and throughout the text means one’s destination after death.
21: The Deathless = Unbinding (nibbana/nirvana), which gives release from the cycle of death and rebirth.
22: “The range of the noble ones”: Any of the four stages of Awakening, as well as the total Unbinding to which they lead. The four stages are: (1) stream-entry, at which one abandons the first three mental fetters tying one to the round of rebirth: self-identity views, uncertainty, and grasping at habits and practices; (2) once-returning, at which passion, aversion, and delusion are further weakened; (3) non-returning, at which sensual passion and irritation are abandoned; and (4) arahantship, at which the final five fetters are abandoned: passion for form, passion for formless phenomena, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. For other references to the “range of the noble ones,” see 92-93 and 179-180.
37: “Lying in a cave”: According to the Dhp Commentary (hereafter referred to as DhpA), “cave” here means the physical heart, as well as the four great properties–earth (solidity), water (liquidity), fire (heat), and wind (motion)–that make up the body. Sn 4:2 also compares the body to a cave.
39: According to DhpA, “unsoddened mind” means one into which the rain of passion doesn’t penetrate (see 13-14); “unassaulted awareness” means a mind not assaulted by anger. “Beyond merit & evil”: The arahant is beyond merit and evil in that he/she has none of the mental defilements–passion, aversion, or delusion–that would lead to evil actions, and none of the attachments that would cause his/her actions to bear kammic fruit of any sort, good or bad.
40: “Without settling there, without laying claim”: two meanings of the word anivesano.
42: AN 7:60 illustrates this point with seven ways that a person harms him/herself when angry, bringing on results that an enemy would wish: He/she becomes ugly, sleeps badly, mistakes profit for loss and loss for profit, loses wealth, loses his/her reputation, loses friends, and acts in such a way that–after death–he/she reappears in a bad rebirth.
44-45: “Dhamma-saying”: This is a translation for the term dhammapada. To ferret out the well-taught Dhamma-saying means to select the appropriate maxim to apply to a particular situation, in the same way that a flower-arranger chooses the right flower, from a heap of available flowers (see 53), to fit into a particular spot in the arrangement. “The learner-on-the-path”: A person who has attained any of the first three of the four stages of Awakening (see note 22).
48: According to DhpA, the End-maker is death. According to another ancient commentary, the End-maker is Mara.
53: The last line of the Pali here can be read in two ways, either “even so, many a skillful thing should be done by one born & mortal” or “even so, many a skillful thing should be done with what’s born & mortal.” The first reading takes the phrase jatena maccena, born & mortal, as being analogous to the flower-arranger implicit in the image. The second takes it as analogous to the heap of flowers explicitly mentioned. In this sense, “what’s born & is mortal” would denote one’s body, wealth, and talents.
54-56: Tagara = a shrub that, in powdered form, is used as a perfume. AN 3:79 explains the how the scent of a virtuous person goes against the wind and wafts to the devas, by saying that those human and celestial beings who know of the good character of a virtuous person will broadcast one’s good name in all directions.
57: “Right knowing”: the knowledge of full Awakening.
71: “Doesn’t–like ready milk–come out right away”: All Pali recensions of this verse give the verb muccati–“to come out” or “to be released”–whereas DhpA agrees with the Sanskrit recensions in reading the verb as if it were mucchati/murchati, “to curdle.” The former reading makes more sense, both in terms of the image of the poem–which contrasts coming out with staying hidden–and with the plain fact that fresh milk doesn’t curdle right away. The Chinese translation of Dhp supports this reading, as do two of three scholarly editions of the Patna Dhp.
79: “Drinking the Dhamma, refreshed by the Dhamma”: two meanings of the word, dhammapiti. “Clear … calm”: two meanings of vipasannena.
83: “Stand apart”: reading cajanti with DhpA and many Asian editions.
86: The syntax of this verse yields the best sense if we take param as meaning “across,” and not as “the far shore.”
89: Factors for self-awakening = mindfulness, analysis of qualities, persistence, rapture, serenity, concentration, and equanimity.
92-93: “Having understood food …. independent of nutriment”: The first question in the Novice’s Questions (Khp 4) is “What is one?” The answer: “All animals subsist on nutriment.” The concept of food and nutriment here refers to the most basic way of understanding the causal principle that plays such a central role in the Buddha’s teaching. As SN 12:64 points out, “There are these four nutriments for the establishing of beings who have taken birth or for the support of those in search of a place to be born. Which four? Physical nutriment, gross or refined; contact as the second, consciousness the third, and intellectual intention the fourth.” The present verses make the point that the arahant has so fully understood the process of physical and mental causality that he/she is totally independent of it, and thus will never take birth again. Such a person cannot be comprehended by any of the forms of understanding that operate within the causal realm.
94: “Such (tadin)”: an adjective used to describe one who has attained the goal of Buddhist practice, indicating that the person’s state is indefinable but not subject to change or influences of any sort. “Right knowing”: the knowledge of full Awakening.
95: Indra’s pillar = a post set up at the gate of a city. According to DhpA, there was an ancient custom of worshipping this post with flowers and offerings, although those who wanted to show their disrespect for this custom would urinate and defecate on the post. In either case, the post did not react.
97: This verse is a series of puns. The negative meanings of the puns are on the left side of the slashes; the positive meanings, on the right. The negative meanings are so extremely negative that they were probably intended to shock their listeners. One scholar has suggested that the last word–uttamaporiso, the ultimate person–should also be read as a pun, with the negative meaning, “the extreme of audacity,” but that would weaken the shock value of the verse.
100: According to DhpA, the word sahassam in this and the following verses means “by the thousands” rather than “a thousand.” The same principle would also seem to hold for satam–“by the hundreds” rather than “a hundred”–in 102.
108: “Doesn’t come to a fourth”: DhpA: The merit produced by all sacrificial offerings given in the world in the course of a year doesn’t equal even one fourth of the merit made by paying homage once to one who has gone the straight way to Unbinding.
121-122: “(‘It won’t amount to much’)”: reading na mattam agamissati with the Thai edition. Other editions read, na mantam agamissati, “It won’t come to me.”
126: Heaven and hell, in the Buddhist view of the cosmos, are not eternal states. One may be reborn on one of the various levels of heaven or hell as the result of one’s kamma on the human plane, and then leave that level when that particular store of kamma wears out.
143: Some translators have proposed that the verb apabodheti, here translated as “awakens” should be changed to appam bodheti, “to think little of.” This, however, goes against the sense of the verse and of a recurrent image in the Canon, that the better-bred the horse, the more sensitive it is even to the idea of the whip, to say nothing of the whip itself. See, for example, AN 4:113.
The question raised in this verse is answered in SN 1:18:
Those restrained by conscience
those who go through life
Having reached the end
of suffering & stress,
they go through what is uneven
go through what is out-of-tune
152: Muscles: This is a translation of the Pali mansani, which is usually rendered in this verse as “flesh.” However, because the Pali word is in the plural form, “muscles” seems more accurate–and more to the point.
153-154: DhpA: These verses were the Buddha’s first utterance after his full Awakening. For some reason, they are not reported in any of the other canonical accounts of the events following on the Awakening.
The word anibbisam in 153 can be read either as the negative gerund of nibbisati (“earning, gaining a reward”) or as the negative gerund of nivisati, altered to fit the meter, meaning “coming to a rest, settled, situated.” Both readings make sense in the context of the verse, so the word is probably intended to have a double meaning: without reward, without rest.
157: “The three watches of the night”: this is the literal meaning of the verse, but DhpA shows that the image of staying up to nurse someone in the night is meant to stand for being wakeful and attentive throughout the three stages of life: youth, middle age, and old age. The point here is that it is never too early or too late to wake up and begin nurturing the good qualities of mind that will lead to one’s true benefit. On this point, see AN 3:51-52, where the Buddha counsels two old brahmans, nearing the end of their life span, to begin practicing generosity along with restraint in thought, word, and deed.
162: DhpA completes the image of the poem by saying that one’s vice brings about one’s own downfall, just as a maluva creeper ultimately brings about the downfall of the tree it overspreads. See note 42.
164: A bamboo plant bears fruit only once and then dies soon after.
165: “No one purifies another. No other purifies one.” These are the two meanings of the one phrase, nañño aññam visodhaye.
166: AN 4:95 lists four types of people in descending order: those devoted to their own true welfare as well as that of others, those devoted to their own true welfare but not that of others, those devoted to the true welfare of others but not their own, and those devoted neither to their own true welfare nor that of others. SN 47:19 makes the point that if one is truly devoted to one’s own welfare, others automatically benefit, in the same way that an acrobat maintaining his/her own balance helps his/her partner stay balanced as well.
How does one view the world
so as not to be seen
by Death’s king?
View the world, Mogharaja,
to have removed any view
This way one is above & beyond death.
This is how one views the world
so as not to be seen
by Death’s king.
178: The fruit of stream entry is the first of the four stages of Awakening (see note 22). A person who has attained stream entry–entry into the stream that flows inevitably to Unbinding–is destined to attain full Awakening within at most seven lifetimes, never falling below the human state in the interim.
183-185: These verses are a summary of a talk called the Ovada Patimokkha, which the Buddha is said to have delivered to an assembly of 1,250 arahants in the first year after his Awakening. Verse 183 is traditionally viewed as expressing the heart of the Buddha’s teachings.
191: The noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
195-196: Objectification = papañca. Alternative translations of this term would be proliferation, elaboration, exaggeration, complication. The term is used both in philosophical contexts–in connection with troubles and conflict–and in artistic contexts, in connection with the way in which an artistic theme is objectified and elaborated. Sn 4:14 states that the classifications of objectification begin with the perception by which one objectifies oneself–“I am thinker”–and then spread to objectify the rest of experience around the issues caused by that perception. MN 18 explains how this leads to conflict: “Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives [labels in the mind]. What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye. [Similarly with the other senses.] …. Now, with regard to the cause whereby the perceptions & categories of objectification assail a person: if there is nothing there to relish, welcome, or remain fastened to, then that is the end of obsession with passion, irritation, views, uncertainty, conceit, passion for becoming, & ignorance. That is the end of taking up rods & bladed weapons, of arguments, quarrels, disputes, accusations, divisive tale-bearing, & false speech. That is where these evil, unskillful actions cease without remainder.”
209: This verse plays with the various meanings of yoga (task, striving, application, meditation) and a related term, anuyuñjati (keeping after something, taking someone to task). In place of the Pali reading attanuyoginam, “those who kept after themselves,” the Patna Dhp reads atthanuyoginam, “those who kept after/remained devoted to the goal.”
219-220: The Pali in these verses repeats the word “comes” three times, to emphasize the idea that if the results of meritorious actions await one after death, one’s going to the next world is more like a homecoming.
231-233: Bodily misconduct = killing, stealing, engaging in illicit sex. Verbal misconduct = lies, divisive speech, harsh speech, idle chatter. Mental misconduct = covetousness, ill will, wrong views.
235: Yama = the god of the underworld. Yama’s minions or underlings were believed to appear to a person just prior to the moment of death.
236: Impurities, blemishes = passion, aversion, delusion, and their various permutations, including envy, miserliness, hypocrisy, and boastfulness.
240: “One who lives slovenly”: As DhpA makes clear, this refers to one who uses the requisites of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine without the wisdom that comes with reflecting on their proper use. The Pali term here is atidhonacarin, a compound built around the word dhona, which means clean or pure. The ati- in the compound could mean “overly,” thus yielding, “one overly scrupulous in his behavior,” but it can also mean “transgressing,” thus, “transgressing against what is clean” = “slovenly.” The latter reading fits better with the image of rust as a deficiency in the iron resulting from carelessness.
254-255: “No outside contemplative”: No true contemplative, defined as a person who has attained any of the four stages of Awakening, exists outside of the practice of the Buddha’s teachings (see note 22). In DN 16, the Buddha is quoted as teaching his final student: “In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first… second… third… fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants.” (On the noble eightfold path, see note 191.)
On “objectification,” see note 195-196.
256-257: The sense of the verse, confirmed by DhpA, suggests that the Pali word dhammattho means “judge.” This, in fact, is the theme tying together the verses in this chapter. The duty of a judge is to correctly determine attha, a word that denotes both “meaning” and “judgment,” these two senses of the word being connected by the fact that the judge must interpret the meanings of words used in rules and principles to see how they correctly apply to the particulars of a case so that he can pass a correct verdict. The remaining verses in this chapter give examples of interpreting attha in an appropriate way.
259: “Sees Dhamma through his body”: The more common expression in the Pali Canon (e.g., in AN 6:46 and AN 9:45) is to touch Dhamma through or with the body (phusati or phassati, “he touches,” rather than passati, “he sees”). The Sanskrit recensions and the Patna Dhp all support the reading, “he would touch,” but all Pali recensions are unanimous in the reading, “he sees.” Some scholars regard this latter reading as a corruption of the verse; I personally find it a more striking image than the common expression.
265: This verse plays with a number of nouns and verbs related to the adjective sama, which means “even,” “equal,” “on pitch,” or “in tune.” Throughout ancient cultures, the terminology of music was used to describe the moral quality of people and acts. Discordant intervals or poorly-tuned musical instruments were metaphors for evil; harmonious intervals and well-tuned instruments, for good. Thus in Pali, samana, or contemplative, also means a person who is in tune with the principles of rightness and truth inherent in nature. Here and in 388, I’ve attempted to give a hint of these implications by associating the word “contemplative” with “consonance.”
268-269: This verse contains the Buddhist refutation of the idea that “those who know don’t speak, those who speak don’t know.” For another refutation of the same idea, see DN 12. In Vedic times, a sage (muni) was a person who took a vow of silence (mona) and was supposed to gain special knowledge as a result. The Buddhists adopted the term muni, but redefined it to show how true knowledge was attained and how it expressed itself in the sage’s actions. For a fuller portrait of the ideal Buddhist sage, see AN 3:23 and Sn 1:12.
271-272: This verse has what seems to be a rare construction, in which na + instrumental nouns + a verb in the aorist tense gives the force of a prohibitive (“Don’t, on account of x, do y”). “The renunciate ease that run-of-the-mill people don’t know,” according to DhpA, is the state of non-returning, the third of the four stages of Awakening (see note 22). Because non-returners are still attached to subtle states of becoming on the level of form and formlessness, DhpA drives home the message that even non-returners should not be complacent by paraphrasing a passage from AN 1:329 (202 in the Thai edition; at the end of Chapter 19 in the PTS edition) that reads, “Just as even a small amount of excrement is foul-smelling, in the same way I do not praise even a small amount of becoming, even for the extent of a fingersnap.”
275: “I have taught you this path”: reading akkhato vo maya maggo with the Thai edition, a reading supported by the Patna Dhp. “Having known–for your knowing”: two ways of interpreting what is apparently a play on the Pali word, aññaya, which can be either be the gerund of ajanati or the dative of añña. On the extraction of arrows as a metaphor for the practice, see MN 63 and MN 105.
285: Although the first word in this verse, ucchinda, literally means “crush,” “destroy,” “annihilate,” I have found no previous English translation that renders it accordingly. Most translate it as “cut out” or “uproot,” which weakens the image. On the role played by self-allure in leading the heart to become fixated on others, see AN 7:48.
288: Ender = death.
293: Mindfulness immersed in the body = the practice of focusing on the body at all times simply as a phenomenon in & of itself, as a way of developing meditative absorption (jhana) and removing any sense of attraction to, distress over, or identification with the body. MN 119 lists the following practices as instances of mindfulness immersed in the body: mindfulness of breathing, awareness of the four postures of the body (standing, sitting, walking, lying down), alertness to all the actions of the body, analysis of the body into its 32 parts, analysis of it into its four properties (earth, water, fire, wind), and contemplation of the body’s inevitable decomposition after death.
294: This verse and the one following it use terms with ambiguous meanings to shock the listener. According to DhpA, mother = craving; father = conceit; two warrior kings = views of eternalism (that one has an identity remaining constant through all time) and of annihilationism (that one is totally annihilated at death); kingdom = the twelve sense spheres (the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation, together with their respective objects); dependency = passions for the sense spheres.
295: DhpA: two learned kings = views of eternalism and annihilationism; a tiger = the path where the tiger goes for food, i.e., the hindrance of uncertainty, or else all five hindrances (sensual desire, ill will, torpor & lethargy, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty). However, in Sanskrit literature, “tiger” is a term for a powerful and eminent man; if that is what is meant here, the term may stand for anger.
301: “Developing the mind” in terms of the 37 Wings to Awakening: the four frames of reference (ardent, mindful alertness to body, feelings, mind states, and mental qualities in & of themselves), the four right exertions (to abandon and avoid evil, unskillful mental qualities, and to foster and strengthen skillful mental qualities), the four bases of power (concentration based on desire, persistence, intentness, and discrimination), the five strengths and five faculties (conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment), the seven factors for self-awakening (see note 89), and the noble eightfold path (see note 191). For a full treatment of this topic, see The Wings to Awakening (DhammaDana Publications, 1996).
303: DhpA: Wealth = both material wealth and the seven forms of noble wealth (ariya-dhana): conviction, virtue, shame, compunction (at the thought of doing evil), erudition, generosity, discernment.
324: DhpA: Dhanapalaka was a noble elephant captured for the king of Kasi. Although given palatial quarters with the finest food, he showed no interest, but thought only of the sorrow his mother felt, alone in the elephant wood, separated from her son.
329-330: DhpA: The bull elephant named Matanga, reflecting on the inconveniences of living in a herd crowded with she-elephants and young elephants–he was pushed around as he went into the river, had to drink muddied water, had to eat leaves that others had already nibbled, etc.–decided that he would find more pleasure in living alone. His story parallels that of the elephant in AN 9:40 and elephant the Buddha met in the Parileyyaka Forest (Mv.X.4.6-7).
337: This verse provides a Buddhist twist to the typical benedictions found in works of kavya. Instead of expressing a wish that the listeners meet with wealth, fame, status, or other worldly forms of good fortune, it describes the highest good fortune, which can be accomplished only through one’s own skillful kamma: the uprooting of craving and the resulting state of total freedom from the round of death and rebirth. A similar twist on the theme of good fortune is found in the Mangala Sutta (Khp 5, Sn 2:4), which teaches that the best protective charm is to develop skillful kamma, ultimately developing the mind to the point where it is untouched by the vagaries of the world.
339: 36 streams = three forms of desire for each of the internal and external sense spheres (see note 294)–3 x 2 x 6 = 36. According to one sub-commentary, the three forms of desire are desires focused on the past, present, and future. According to another, they are craving for sensuality, for becoming, and for non-becoming.
340: “Every which way”: Reading sabbadhi with the Thai and Burmese editions. The creeper, according to DhpA, is craving, which sends thoughts out to wrap around its objects, while it itself stays rooted in the mind.
341: This verse contains an implied simile: the terms “loosened & oiled,” here applied to joys, were commonly used to describe smooth bowel movements.
346: “Elastic”: The usual translation for sithilam–“slack”–does not fit in this verse, but all the Pali recensions are unanimous on this reading, so I have chosen a near synonym that does. The Patna Dhp renders this term as “subtle,” whereas the Tibetan commentary to the Udanavarga explains the line as a whole as meaning “hard for the slack to untie.” Both alternatives make sense, but may be attempts to “correct” a term that could well have originally meant “elastic,” a meaning that got lost with the passage of time.
350: “A focus on the foul”: A meditative exercise in focusing on the foul parts of the body so as to help undercut lust and attachment for the body. See note 7-8.
352: “Astute in expression, knowing the combination of sounds–which comes first & which after”: Some arahants, in addition to their ability to overcome all of their defilements, are also endowed with four forms of acumen (patisambhida), one of which is acumen with regard to expression (nirutti-patisambhida), i.e., a total mastery of linguistic expression. This talent in particular must have been of interest to the anthologist(s) who put together the Dhp.
“Last-body”: Because an arahant will not be reborn, this present body is his/her last.
353: According to MN 26 and Mv.I.6.7, one of the first people the Buddha met after his Awakening was an ascetic who commented on the clarity of his faculties and asked who his teacher was. This verse was part of the Buddha’s response.
354: This verse contains several terms related to aesthetics. Both dhamma (justice) and dana (gift/generosity) are sub-types of the heroic rasa, or savor. (See the Introduction.) The third sub-type of the heroic–yuddha (warfare)–is suggested by the verb “conquer,” which occurs four times in the Pali. Rati (delight/love) is the emotion (bhava) that corresponds to the sensitive rasa. In effect, the verse is saying that the highest forms of rasa and emotion are those related to Dhamma; the highest expression of the heroic Dhamma rasa is in the ending of craving.
360-361: See note 7-8.
363: “Counsel”: In the context of Indian literary theory, this is the meaning of the word manta, which can also mean “chant.” The literary context seems to be the proper one here.
368: “Stilling-of-fabrications ease”: the true ease and freedom experienced when all five aggregates are stilled.
369: DhpA: The boat = one’s own personhood (atta-bhava, the body-mind complex); the water that needs to be bailed out = wrong thoughts (imbued with passion, aversion, or delusion).
370: DhpA: Cut through five = the five lower fetters that tie the mind to the round of rebirth (self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at habits & practices, sensual passion, irritation); let go of five = the five higher fetters (passion for form, passion for formless phenomena, conceit, restlessness, ignorance); develop five = the five faculties (conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, discernment); five attachments = passion, aversion, delusion, conceit, views.
383: This verse, addressed to a member of the brahman caste, is one of the few in Dhp where the word brahman is used in its ordinary sense, as indicating caste membership, and not in its special Buddhist sense as indicating an arahant.
384: DhpA: two things = tranquility meditation and insight meditation.
385: DhpA: This verse refers to a person who has no sense of “I” or “mine,” either for the senses (“not-beyond”) or their objects (“beyond”). The passage may also refer to the sense of total limitlessness that makes the experience of Unbinding totally ineffable, as reflected in the following conversation (Sn 5:6):
He who has reached the end:
Does he not exist,
or is he for eternity free from dis-ease?
Please, sage, declare this to me
as this phenomenon has been known by you.
One who has reached the end has no criterion
by which anyone would say that–
it doesn’t exist for him.
When all phenomena are done away with,
all means of speaking are done away with as well.
389: The word “anger” here is added from DhpA, which interprets the “letting loose” as the act of retaliating with anger against one’s assailant. Some translators read “brahman” as the subject not only of the second line, but also the first: “A brahman should/would not strike a brahman.” However, this reading is unlikely, for a brahman (in this context, an arahant) would not strike anyone at all. If a brahman retaliates with anger to being struck, that is a sign that he is not a true brahman: thus more shame on him for having assumed a status not truly his. On the topic of how to react to violent attack, see MN 21 and MN 145.
390: “What’s endearing & not”: In the phrase manaso piyehi, piyehi can be read straight as it is, as “endearing,” or as an elided form of apiyehi, “not endearing.” The former reading is more straightforward, but given the reference to “harmful-heartedness” in the next line, the latter reading serves to tie the stanza together. It is also consistent with the fact that DhpA takes this verse to be a continuation of 389. Given the way in which kavya cultivated a taste for ambiguities and multiple interpretations, both readings may have been intended.
392: “Brahman” here is used in its ordinary sense, as indicating caste membership, and not in its special Buddhist sense as indicating an arahant.
393: “He is a pure one”: reading so suci with the Thai edition, a reading supported by the Chinese translation of the Dhp.
394: In India of the Buddha’s day, matted hair, etc., were regarded as visible signs of spiritual status.
396: “Bho-sayer”–Brahmans addressed others as “bho” as a way of indicating their (the brahmans’) superior caste. “If he has anything” (reading sa ce with the Burmese edition) = if he/she lays claim to anything as his/her own.
398: DhpA: strap = resentment; thong = craving; cord = 62 forms of wrong view (listed in the Brahmajala Suttanta, DN 1); bridle = obsessions (sensuality, becoming, anger, conceit, views, uncertainty, ignorance).
402: “For himself, on his own, his own ending of stress”: three different ways that the one word attano functions in this verse.
411: According to DhpA, “attachments/homes (alaya)” = cravings. “Knowing”: the knowledge of full Awakening (añña). “He has gained a footing”: The image here derives from a standard analogy comparing the practice to the act of crossing a river. According to AN 7:15, the point where the meditator gains footing on the river bottom, but before getting up on the bank, corresponds to the third stage of awakening, the attainment of non-return. To reach the fourth stage, becoming an arahant, is to go beyond the river and stand on firm ground.
423: The forms of mastery listed in this verse correspond to the three knowledges that comprised the Buddha’s Awakening: knowledge of previous lives, knowledge of how beings pass away and are reborn in the various levels of being, and knowledge of the ending of the effluents that maintain the process of birth.