BuddhaSasana Home Page
English Section

Khuddaka Nikaya

The Dhammapada Stories

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association (1986)

Source: http://www.nibbana.com

Chapter III: The Mind (Cittavagga)


Verses 33 and 34

III (1) The Story of Thera Meghiya

While residing on the Calika Mountain, the Buddha uttered Verses (33) and (34) of this book, with reference to Thera Meghiya.

At that time, Thera Meghiya was attending upon the Buddha. On one occasion, on his return from alms-round, the thera noticed a pleasant and beautiful mango grove, which he thought was an ideal spot for meditation. He asked the Buddha's permission to let him go there, but as the Buddha was alone at that time, he was told to wait for awhile until the arrival of some other bhikkhus. The thera was in a hurry to go and so he repeated his request again and again, until finally the Buddha told him to do as he wished.

Thus, Thera Meghiya set out for the mango grove, sat at the foot of a tree and practised meditation. He stayed there the whole day, but his mind kept wandering and he made no progress. He returned in the evening and reported to the Buddha how all the time he was assailed by thoughts associated with the senses, ill will and cruelty ( kama vitakka, byapada vitakka and vihimsa vitakka).

So, the Buddha told him that as the mind is easily excitable and fickle, one should control one's mind.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 33. The mind is excitable and unsteady; it is difficult to control and to restrain. The wise one trains his mind to be upright as a fletcher straightens an arrow.

Verse 34. As a fish quivers when taken out of its watery home and thrown on to dry ground, so does the mind quiver when it is taken out of the sensual world to escape from the realm of Mara (i.e., kilesa vatta, round of moral defilements).

At the end of the discourse Thera Meghiya attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Verse 35

III (2) The Story of a Certain Bhikkhu

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (35) of this book, with reference to a certain bhikkhu.

On one occasion, sixty bhikkhus, after obtaining a subject of meditation from the Buddha, went to Matika village, at the foot of a mountain. There, Matikamata, mother of the village headman, offered them alms-food; she also built a monastery for them, so that they could stay in the village during the rainy season. One day she asked the group of bhikkhus to teach her the practice of meditation. They taught her how to meditate on the thirty-two constituents of the body leading to the awareness of the decay and dissolution of the body. Matikamata practised with diligence and attained the three Maggas and Phalas together with Analytical Insight and mundane supernormal powers, even before the bhikkhus did.

Rising from the bliss of the Magga and Phala she looked with the Divine Power of Sight (Dibbacakkhu) and saw that the bhikkhus had not attained any of the Maggas yet. She also learnt that those bhikkhus had enough potentiality for the attainment of arahatship, but that they needed proper food. So, she prepared good, choice food for them. With proper food and right effort, the bhikkhus developed right concentration and eventually attained arahatship.

At the end of the rainy season, the bhikkhus returned to the Jetavana monastery, where the Buddha was in residence. They reported to the Buddha that all of them were in good health and in comfortable circumstances and that they did not have to worry about food. They also mentioned about Matikamata who was aware of their thoughts and prepared and offered them the very food they wished for.

A certain bhikkhu, hearing them talking about Matikamata, decided that he, too, would go to that village. So, taking a subject of meditation from the Buddha he arrived at the village monastery. There, he found that everything he wished for was sent to him by Matikamata, the lay-devotee. When he wished her to come she personally came to the monastery, bringing along choice food with her. After taking the food, he asked her if he knew the thoughts of others, but she evaded his question and replied, "People who can read the thoughts of others behave in such and such a way." Then, the bhikkhu thought, "Should I, like an ordinary worldling, entertain any impure thought, she is sure to find out." He therefore got scared of the lay-devotee and decided to return to the Jetavana monastery. He told the Buddha that he could not stay in Matika village because he was afraid that the lay-devotee might detect impure thoughts in him. The Buddha then asked him to observe just one thing; that is, to control his mind. The Buddha also told the bhikkhu to return to Matika village monastery, and not to think of anything else, but the object of his meditation only. The bhikkhu went back. The lay-devotee offered him good food as she had done to others before, so that he might able to practise meditation without worry. Within a short time, he, too, attained arahatship.

With reference to this bhikkhu, the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 35. The mind is difficult to control; swiftly and lightly, it moves and lands wherever it pleases. It is good to tame the mind, for a well-tamed mind brings happiness.

At the end of the discourse, many of those assembled attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Verse 36

III (3) The Story of a Certain Disgruntled Bhikkhu

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (36) of this book, with reference to a young disgruntled bhikkhu who was the son of a banker.

Once, there lived in Savatthi, the son of a banker. This young man asked the bhikkhu, who used to come to his house for alms, what he should do to be liberated from the ills of life. The bhikkhu instructed him to divide his property into three parts; one part to do business with, one part to support the family and one part to give in charity. He did as he was told and again asked what else should be done next. So he was further instructed; first to take refuge in the Three Gems* and to observe the five precepts; secondly, to observe the ten precepts; and thirdly, to renounce the world and enter the Buddhist religious Order. The young man complied with all these instructions and became a bhikkhu.

As a bhikkhu, he was taught the Abhidhamma** by one teacher and the Vinaya by another. Being taught in this way, he felt that there was too much to be learnt, that the disciplinary rules were too strict and too many, so much so that there was not enough freedom even to stretch out one's hands. He thought that it might be better to return to the life of a householder. As a result of doubt and discontent, he became unhappy and neglected his duties; he also became thin and emaciated. When the Buddha came to know about this, he said to the young bhikkhu, "if you can only control your mind, you will have nothing more to control; so guard your own mind."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 36. The mind is very difficult to see, very delicate and subtle; it moves and lands wherever it pleases. The wise one should guard his mind, for a guarded mind brings happiness.

* Three Gems: The Three Gems are the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha, (i.e., the Buddha, the Teaching of the Buddha, and the Buddhist religious Order).

** Abhidhamma: the third great division of the Pitaka comprising the Buddha's philosophical exposition of ultimate realities.

At the end of the discourse, the young bhikkhu and many others attained arahatship.

Verse 37

III (4) The Story of Thera Samgharakkhita

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (37) of this book, with reference to the nephew of Thera Samgharakkhita.

Once, there lived in Savatthi, a senior bhikkhu by the name of Samgharakkhita. When his sister gave birth to a son, she named the child after the thera and he came to be known as Samgharakkhita Bhagineyya. The nephew Samgharakkhita, in due course, was admitted into the Order. While the young bhikkhu was staying in a village monastery he was offered two sets of robes, and he intended to offer one to his uncle, the thera.

At the end of the vassa he went to his uncle to pay respect to him and offered the robe to the thera. But, the uncle declined to accept the robe, saying that he had enough. Although he repeated his request, the thera would not accept. The young bhikkhu felt disheartened and thought that since his uncle was so unwilling to share the requisites with him, it would be better for him to leave the Order and live the life of a layman.

From that point, his mind wandered and a train of thoughts followed. He thought that after leaving the Order he would sell the robe and buy a she-goat; that she-goat would breed quickly and soon he would make enough money to enable him to marry; his wife would give birth to a son. He would take his wife and child in a small cart to visit his uncle at the monastery. On the way, he would say that he would carry the child; she would tell him to drive the cart and not to bother about the child. He would insist and grab the child from her; between them the child would drop on the cart-track and the wheel would pass over the child. He would get so furious with his wife that he would strike her with the goading-stick.

At that time he was fanning the thera with a palmyra fan and he absentmindedly struck the head of the thera with the fan. The thera, knowing the thoughts of the young bhikkhu, said, "You were unable to beat your wife; why have you beaten an old bhikkhu ?" Young Samgharakkhita was very much surprised and embarrassed at the words of the old bhikkhu; he also became extremely frightened. So he fled. Young bhikkhus and novices of the monastery chased him and finally took him to the presence of the Buddha.

When told about the whole episode, the Buddha said that the mind has the ability to think of an object even though it might be far away, and that one should strive hard for liberation from the bondage of passion, ill will and ignorance.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 37. The mind wanders far and moves about alone: it is non-material; it lies in the cave (chamber) of the heart. Those who control their mind will be free from the bonds of Mara

At the end of the discourse the young bhikkhu attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Verses 38 and 39

III (5) The Story of Thera Cittahattha

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses (38) and (39) of this book, with reference to Thera Cittahattha.

A man from Savatthi, after looking for his lost ox in the forest, felt very hungry and went to a village monastery, where he was given the remains of the morning meal. While taking his food, it occurred to him that even though he worked hard every day he could not get such good food and that it might be a good idea to become a bhikkhu. So he asked the bhikkhus to admit him into the Order. At the monastery, he performed the duties of a bhikkhu and as there was plenty of food he soon gained weight. After some time, he got weary of going round for alms-food and returned to the life of a lay man. A few days later, he felt that life at home was too strenuous and he went back to the monastery to be admitted as a bhikkhu for a second time. For a second time, he left the Order and returned to home-life. Again, he went back to the monastery for a third time and left it. This shuttling process went on for six times, and because he acted only according to his whims he was known as Thera Cittahattha.

While he was going back and forth between his home and the monastery, his wife became pregnant. One day, during his last stay at home, he happened to enter the bedroom while his wife was asleep. She was almost naked as the clothes she was wearing had partially fallen off. She was also snoring loudly through her nose and mouth and saliva was trickling down her mouth. Thus, with her mouth open and her bloated stomach, she looked just like a corpse. Seeing her thus, he instantly came to perceive the impermanent and unpleasant nature of the body, and he reflected, "I have been a bhikkhu for several times and it is only because of this woman that I have not been able to remain as a bhikkhu." Hence, taking the yellow robe with him he left his home for the monastery for the seventh time. As he went along he repeated the words "impermanence" and "unpleasantness" (anicca and dukkha) and thus attained Sotapatti Fruition on the way to the monastery.

On arrival at the monastery he asked the bhikkhus to admit him into the Order. They refused and said, "We cannot admit you as a bhikkhu. You have been shaving your head so often that your head is like a whetting stone." Still, he entreated them to admit him into the Order just once more and they complied. Within a few days, the bhikkhu Cittahattha attained arahatship together with Analytical Insight. Other bhikkhus, seeing him staying on for a long time in the monastery, were surprised and they asked him the reason why. To this, he replied. "I went home when I still had attachment in me, but now that attachment has been cut off" The bhikkhus, not believing him, approached the Buddha and reported the matter. To them, the Buddha said, "Thera Cittahattha was speaking the truth; he shifted between home and monastery before because at that time, his mind was not steadfast and he did not understand the Dhamma. But at this moment, Thera Cittahattha is already an arahat; he has discarded both good and evil."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 38. If a man's mind is unsteady, if he is ignorant of the true Dhamma, and if his faith is wavering, then his knowledge will never be perfect.

Verse 39. If a manes mind is free from passion, if he is free from ill will, if he has abandoned both good and evil, and if he is vigilant, for such a man there is no danger.

Verse 40

III (6) The Story of Five Hundred Bhikkhus

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (40) of this book, with reference to five hundred bhikkhus.

Five hundred bhikkhus from Savatthi, after obtaining a subject of meditation from the Buddha, travelled for a distance of one hundred yojanas [yozana: a measure of length about twelve miles] away from Savatthi and came to a large forest grove, a suitable place for meditation practice. The guardian spirits of the trees dwelling in that forest thought that if those bhikkhus were staying in the forest, it would not be proper for them to live with their families in the trees. So they descended from the trees, thinking that the bhikkhus would stop there only for one night. But the bhikkhus were still there at the end of a fortnight; then it occurred to them that the bhikkhus might be staying there till the end of the vassa. In that case, they and their families would have to be living on the ground for a long time. So, they decided to frighten away the bhikkhus, by making ghostly sounds and frightful apparitions. They showed up with bodies without heads, and with heads without bodies, etc. The bhikkhus were very upset and left the place and returned to the Buddha, to whom they related everything. On hearing their account, the Buddha told them that this had happened because previously they went without any weapon and that they should go back there armed with a suitable weapon. So saying, the Buddha taught them the entire Metta Sutta (discourse on Loving-Kindness) beginning with the following stanza:

Karaniyamattha kusalena
Yanta santam padam abhisamecca
Sakko uju ca suhuju ca
Suvaco c'assa mudu anatimani.

[The above stanza may be translated as follows: He who is skilled in (acquiring) what is good and beneficial, (mundane as well as supra-mundane), aspiring to attain Perfect Peace (Nibbana) should act (thus): He should be efficient, upright, perfectly upright, compliant, gentle and free from conceit.]

The bhikkhus were instructed to recite the sutta from the time they came to the outskirts of the forest grove and to enter the monastery reciting the same. The bhikkhus returned to the forest grove and did as they were told. The guardian spirits of the trees receiving loving-kindness from the bhikkhus reciprocated by readily welcoming and not harming them. There were no more ghostly sounds and ungainly sights. Thus left in peace, the bhikkhus meditated on the body and came to realize its fragile and impermanent nature.

From the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha, by his supernormal power, learned about the progress of the bhikkhus and sent forth his radiance making them feel his presence. To them he said, "Bhikkhus just as you have realized, the body is, indeed, impermanent.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 40. Knowing that this body is (fragile) like an earthern jar, making one's mind secure like a fortified town, one should fight Mara with the weapon of Knowledge. (After defeating Mara) one should still continue to guard one's mind, and feel no attachment to that which has been gained (i.e., jhana ecstasy and serenity gained through meditation).

At the end of the discourse, the five hundred bhikkhus attained arahatship.

Verse 41

III (7) The Story of Tissa, the Thera with a Stinking Body

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (41) of this book, with reference to Thera Tissa.

After taking a subject of meditation from the Buddha, Thera Tissa was diligently practising meditation when he was afflicted with a disease. Small boils appeared all over his body and these developed into big sores. When these sores burst, his upper and lower robes became sticky and stained with pus and blood, and his whole body was stinking. For this reason, he was known as Putigattatissa, Tissa the thera with stinking body.

As the Buddha surveyed the universe with the light of his own intellect, the thera appeared in his vision. He saw the sorrowful state of the thera, who had been abandoned by his resident pupils on account of his stinking body. At the same time, he also knew that Tissa would soon attain arahatship. So, the Buddha proceeded to the fire-shed, close to the place where the thera was staying. There, he boiled some water, and then going, to where the thera was lying down, took hold of the edge of the couch. It was then only that the resident pupils gathered round the thera, and as instructed by the Buddha, they carried the thera to the fire-shed, where he was washed and bathed. While he was being bathed, his upper and lower robes were washed and dried. After the bath, the thera became fresh in body and mind and soon developed one-pointedness of concentration. Standing at the head of the couch, the Buddha said to him that this body when devoid of life would be as useless as a log and would be laid on the earth.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 41. Before long, alas, this body, deprived of consciousness, will lie on the earth, discarded like a useless log.

At the end of the discourse Thera Tissa attained arahatship together with Analytical Insight, and soon passed away.

Verse 42

III (8) The Story of Nanda, the Herdsman

While on a visit to a village in the kingdom of Kosala, the Buddha uttered Verse (42) of this book, with reference to Nanda, the herdsman.

Nanda was a herdsman who looked after the cows of Anathapindika. Although only a herdsman, he had some means of his own. Occasionally, he would go to the house of Anathapindika and there he sometimes met the Buddha and listened to his discourses. Nanda requested the Buddha to pay a visit to his house. But the Buddha did not go to Nanda's house immediately, saying that it was not yet time.

After some time, while travelling with his followers, the Buddha went off his route to visit Nanda, knowing that the time was ripe for Nanda to receive his teaching properly. Nanda respectfully received the Buddha and his followers; he served them milk and milk products and other choice food for seven days. On the last day, after hearing the discourse given by the Buddha, Nanda attained Sotapatti Fruition. As the Buddha was leaving that day, Nanda carrying the bowl of the Buddha, followed him for some distance, paid obeisance and turned back to go home.

At that instant, a hunter who was an old enemy of Nanda, shot him down. The bhikkhus who were following the Buddha, saw Nanda lying dead. They reported the matter to the Buddha, saying, "Venerable Sir, because you came here, Nanda who made great offerings to you and accompanied you on your return was killed as he was turning back to go home." To them, the Buddha replied, "Bhikkhus, whether I came here or not, there was no escape from death for him, as a wrongly directed mind can do oneself much greater harm than an enemy or a thief can."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 42. A thief may harm a thief; an enemy may harm an enemy; but a wrongly directed mind can do oneself far greater harm.

Verse 43

III (9) The Story of Soreyya

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (43) of this book, with reference to Soreyya, the son of a rich man of Soreyya city.

On one occasion, Soreyya accompanied by a friend and some attendants was going out in a luxurious carriage for a bath. At that moment, Thera Mahakaccayana was adjusting his robes outside the city, as he was going into the city of Soreyya for alms-food. The youth Soreyya, seeing the golden complexion of the thera, thought, "How I wish the thera were my wife, or else that the complexion of my wife were like that of his." As the wish arose in him, his sex changed and he became a woman. Very much ashamed, he got down from the carriage and ran away, taking the road to Taxila. His companions missing him, looked for him, but could not find him.

Soreyya, now a woman, offered her signet ring to some people going to Taxila, to allow her to go along with them in their carriage. On arrival at Taxila, her companions told a young rich man of Taxila about the lady who came along with them. The young rich man, finding her to be very beautiful and of a suitable age for him, married her. As a result of this marriage two sons were born; there were also two sons from the previous marriage of Soreyya as a man.

One day, a rich man's son from the city of Soreyya came to Taxila with five hundred carts. Lady-Soreyya recognizing him to be an old friend sent for him. The man from Soreyya city was surprised that he was invited, because he did not know the lady who invited him. He told the lady-Soreyya that he did not know her, and asked her whether she knew him. She answered that she knew him and also enquired after the health of her family and other people in Soreyya city. The man from Soreyya city next told her about the rich man's son who disappeared mysteriously while going out for a bath. Then the Lady-Soreyya revealed her identity and related all that had happened, about the wrongful thoughts with regard to Thera Mahakaccayana, about the change of sex, and her marriage to the young rich man of Taxila. The man from the city of Soreyya then advised the lady-Soreyya to ask pardon of the thera. Thera Mahakaccayana was accordingly invited to the home of Soreyya and alms-food was offered to him. After the meal, the lady-Soreyya was brought to the presence of the thera, and the man from Soreyya told the thera that the lady was at one time the son of a rich man from Soreyya city. He then explained to the thera how Soreyya was turned into a female on account of his wrongful thoughts towards the respected thera. Lady-Soreyya then respectfully asked pardon of Thera Mahakaccayana. The thera then said, "Get up, I forgive you." As soon as these words were spoken, the woman was changed back to a man. Soreyya then pondered how within a single existence and with a single body he had undergone change of sex and how sons were born to him, etc. And feeling very weary and repulsive of all these things, he decided to leave the household life and joined the Order under the thera.

After that, he was often asked, "Whom do you love more, the two sons you had as a man or the other two you had as a wife?" To them, he would answer that his love for those born of the womb was greater. This question was put to him so often, he felt very much annoyed and ashamed. So he stayed by himself and with diligence, contemplated the decay and dissolution of the body. He soon attained arahatship together with the Analytical Insight. When the old question was next put to him he replied that he had no affection for any one in particular. Other bhikkhus hearing him thought he must be telling a lie. When reported about Soreyya giving a different answer, the Buddha said, "My son is not telling lies, he is speaking the truth. His answer now is different because he has now realized arahatship and so has no more affection for anyone in particular. By his well-directed mind my son has brought about in himself a well-being which neither the father nor the mother can bestow on him."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 43: Not a mother, nor a father, nor any other relative can do more for the well-being of one than a rightly-directed mind can.

At the end of the discourse many attained Sotapatti Fruition.

End of Chapter Three: The Mind.


Top | Story Index | Alphabetical Listing

[Back to English Index]

updated: 18-03-2002