by Ven. Weagoda Sarada Maha Thero | 1993 | 341,201 words | ISBN-10: 9810049382 | ISBN-13: 9789810049386
This page describes Admonition to Five Hundred Monks which is verse 328-330 of the English translation of the Dhammapada which forms a part of the Sutta Pitaka of the Buddhist canon of literature. Presenting the fundamental basics of the Buddhist way of life, the Dhammapada is a collection of 423 stanzas. This verse 328-330 is part of the Nāga Vagga (The Great) and the moral of the story is “If you can get a wise, blameless companion, keep his company joyfully, overcoming all troubles.” (first part only).
Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 328-330:
sace labhetha nipakaṃ sahāyaṃ saddhiṃ caraṃ sādhuvihāridhīraṃ |
abhibhuyya sabbāni parissayāni careyya ten'attamano satīmā || 328 ||
no ce labhetha nipakaṃ sahāyaṃ saddhiṃ caraṃ sādhuvihāridhīraṃ |
rājā'va raṭṭhaṃ vijitaṃ pahāya eko care mātaṅg'araññe'va nāgo || 329 ||
ekassa caritaṃ seyyo natthi bāle sahāyatā |
eko care na ca pāpāni kayirā appossukko mātaṅg'araññe'va nāgo || 330 ||
328. If for practice one finds a friend prudent, well-behaved and wise, mindful, joyful, live with him all troubles overcoming.
329. If for practice one finds no friend prudent, well-behaved and wise, like king be leaving conquered land, fare as lone elephant in the wilds.
330. Better it is to live alone for with a fool’s no fellowship, no evils do, be free of care, fare as lone elephant in the wilds.
If you can get a wise, blameless companion, keep his company joyfully, overcoming all troubles.
In the absence of a fitting companion, lead a solitary life like a king in exile.
Lonely, easy life, like a lordly elephant in the forest, avoiding evil, is better than evil company.
Admonition to Five Hundred Monks
This religious instruction was given by the Buddha while he was in residence at Protected Forest near Pārileyyaka, with reference to a company of monks. The story occurs in the Yamaka Vagga beginning with the words, ‘The others do not understand.’ For there it is said:
It became known all over the Land of the Rose-apple that the Buddha was residing in Protected Forest, attended by a noble elephant. From the city of Sāvatthi, Anāthapiṇḍika, Visākhā, the eminent female lay disciple, and other such great personages sent the following message to the Venerable Ānanda, “Venerable, obtain for us the privilege of seeing the Buddha.” Likewise five hundred monks residing abroad approached the Venerable Ānanda at the conclusion of the rainy season and made the following request, “It is a long time, Ānanda, since we have heard a discourse on the Dhamma from the lips of the Buddha. We should like, brother Ānanda, if you please, to have the privilege of hearing a discourse on the Dhamma from the lips of the Buddha.”
So Venerable Ānanda took those monks with him and went to Protected Forest. When he reached the forest, he thought to himself, “The Buddha has resided in solitude for a period of three months. It is therefore not fitting that I should approach him all at once with as many monks as I have with me.” Accordingly he approached the Buddha alone. When the elephant Pārileyyaka saw the Venerable, he took his staff and rushed forward. The Buddha looked around and said to the elephant, “Come back, Pārileyyaka; do not drive him away. He is a servitor of the Buddha.” The elephant immediately threw away his staff, and requested the privilege of taking the Venerable’s bowl and robe. Venerable Ānanda. refused. The elephant thought to himself, “If he is versed in the rules of etiquette, he will refrain from placing his own monastic requisites on the stone slab where the Buddha is accustomed to sit.” Venerable Ānanda placed his bowl and robe on the ground. (For those who are versed in the rules of etiquette never place their own monastic requisites on the seat or bed of their spiritual superiors.) After saluting the Buddha, he seated himself on one side.
The Buddha asked him, “Did you come alone?” The Venerable informed him that he had come with five hundred monks. “But where are they?” asked the Buddha. “I did not know how you would feel about it, and therefore I left them outside and came in alone.” “Tell them to come in.” The Venerable did so. The Buddha exchanged friendly greetings with the monks. Then the monks said to the Buddha, “Venerable, the Exalted One is a delicate Buddha, a delicate prince. You must have endured much hardship, standing and sitting here alone as you have during these three months. For of course you had no one to perform the major and minor duties for you, no one to offer you water for rinsing the mouth or to perform any of the other duties for you.” The Buddha replied, “Monks, the elephant Pārileyyaka performed all of these offices for me. For one who obtains such a companion as he may well live alone; did one fail to find such, even so, that life of solitude is better.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 328)
nipakaṃ saddhiṃ caraṃ sādhuvihāriṃ dhīraṃ sahāyaṃ sace labhetha
sabbāni parissayāni abhibhuyya tena attamano satīmā careyya
nipakaṃ [nipaka]: wise; saddhiṃ caraṃ [cara]: associates with one; sādhuvihāri: lives virtuously; dhīraṃ [dhīra]: firm and intelligent; sahāyaṃ;companion; sace labhetha: if you can have; sabbāni parissayāni: all evil; every danger; abhibhuyya: overcoming; tena: with him; attamano [attamana]: with a happy mind; satīmā: with mindfulness; careyya: live
If you come upon a wise, mature companion whose ways are virtuous, you must associate with him as you can then lead a happy and alert life, overcoming all dangers.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 329)
nipakaṃ saddhiṃ caraṃ sādhuvihāri dhīraṃ sahāyaṃ ce no labhetha
vijitaṃ raṭṭhaṃ pahāya rājā iva araññe mātaṅgo nāgo iva eko care
nipakaṃ [nipaka]: wise; saddhiṃ caraṃ [cara]: associates with one; sādhuvihāri: lives virtuously; dhīraṃ [dhīra]: firm and intelligent; sahāyaṃ [sahāya]: companion; sace no labhetha: if you cannot have; vijitaṃ [vijita]: defeated; lost; raṭṭhaṃ [raṭṭha]: kingdom; pahāya: abandoning; rājā iva: like the king; araññe: in the forest; mātaṅgo nāgo iva: like the elephant Mātanga, alone in the forest; eko: all alone; care: go about
If you cannot come upon a wise, mature companion whose ways are virtuous, you must go about life all alone like a king who, abandoning his conquered kingdom, lives in exile, or like the elephant Mātanga, who roams about the forest living in solitude.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 330)
ekassa: the lone person’s; caritaṃ [carita]: behaviour; seyyo [seyya]: is great; bāle: with the ignorant; natthi sahāyatā: no companionship; araññe: in the forest; mātaṅgo nāgo iva: like the elephant Mātanga; appossukko [appossukka]: with limited needs; eko care: go about alone; pāpāni na ca kayirā: doing no evil
Leading a solitary life is more commendable. One cannot keep company with ignorant ones. With only a limited number of needs, let one lead a life of solitude, doing no wrong, like the elephant Mātanga.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 328-330)
While residing in the Pārileyyaka Forest, where the elephant Pārileyyaka waited on him, the Buddha spoke these verses with reference to the monks from Kosambi.
The Buddha was dwelling in the ninth year of His ministry, at the Ghositārāma, the monastery built by Ghosita in Kosambi. A certain monk who had committed a disciplinary offence considered it an offence, whereas the other monks considered it to be otherwise, Subsequently, the monk who committed the offence did not consider it so, whereas the other monks by this time held the opinion that he was guilty.
The alleged offence was of leaving some water in the pot without emptying it after the monk had used the lavatory. The monk who was alleged to have committed the offence then admitted his fault when he was questioned by the other monks. So the other monks got together and pronounced an expulsion order against him.
That monk was learned, scholarly, versed in the discourses and the discipline, and was well accomplished in knowledge and conduct. He went to his friends and well wishers in the order, and explained to them what took place, and convinced them of his innocence. These monks went to see the monks who pronounced the expulsion order against their friend, and entered into an argument with them, but the matter did not end happily.
The monks got divided into two camps, and the matter reached the ears of the Buddha. The Buddha remarked that dissension had arisen in the fraternity of monks, and went up to the monks who pronounced the expulsion order. He explained to them the folly of their act as it would lead to dissension among the fraternity of monks. Next, the Buddha went to the followers of the other group, and disapproved of their conduct as that, too, could lead to unexpected dissension among the monks.
After the admonition of the Buddha, the monks who pronounced the expulsion order continued to conduct their disciplinary rites within the precincts of the monastery, whereas the other faction began to conduct their rites outside the limits of the monastery. When the attention of the Buddha was drawn to this situation, He found nothing wrong with it.
However, the matter did not end there. The monks of Kosambi were divided into two camps, and they kept on quarrelling among themselves in the village, in the alms-hall, and wherever they met. The people in the villages were displeased at this conduct of the monks, and began to rebuke and revile them.
Some monks invited the Buddha to intervene in this matter and put an end to these disputes and dissensions in the fraternity of monks. Hence the Buddha came to the assembly of monks, and admonished them against their dissension. Then the Buddha preached to them the story of King Brahmadatta of Kāsi, and of King Dīghiti of Kosala, and the conduct of prince Dīghāyu to illustrate the evils of quarrels and the advantages of forbearance.
Referring to the forbearance and mildness of the kings themselves, the Buddha exhorted the monks to sink their differences and be patient since they were already leading the lives of monks. However a spokesman of one faction of the quarrelsome monks said that the Buddha should keep out of their disputes and leave them alone.
The Buddha left the assembly, remarking: “These foolish people have lost control of themselves. It is difficult to admonish and convince them.”
Next morning the Buddha, after His round for alms in Kosambi, took the mid-day meal and spoke in the midst of the fraternity of monks of the evils of enmity and disunity, and the advantages of solitude where one cannot find good company.
After speaking to the fraternity of monks, the Buddha left the city of Kosambi all alone, proceeded to the village of Bālakalonakārāma (Bālaka, the salt maker), and was received by the Venerable Bhagu. Thence, He proceeded to Pācina Vaṃsa park, where the Venerable Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimbila were staying.
The watcher of the park tried to stop the Buddha coming to the park but the three monks rushed to receive the Buddha in reverence. After hearing that they were living in great unity and regard for one another, the Buddha admonished them, and left the grove for the Pārileyyaka forest.
The Buddha all alone, left to Himself, was feeling very happy and relieved, as He was away from the disputing and quarrelsome monks of Kosambi who were in the habit of coming to Him with their complaints.
An elephant, a leader of a herd, who was sick of the herd in that forest, thought of solitary life. For branches of trees brought by him were eaten up by others in the herd and his body was rubbed against by sheelephants as they were coming out of water. The elephant came up to the place where the Buddha was seated, and began to attend on the Buddha by cleaning up the place and bringing food and drinks with his trunk. Thus he, too, took delight in his life of solitude. Then the Buddha spoke forth a solemn utterance of joy on the advantages of solitude.
After spending three months at the Pārileyyaka forest, the Buddha came back to the Jetavana Monastery. Now the citizens of Kosambi were displeased with the quarrelsome monks and refused to give them alms or pay other respects. Then the monks told the lay devotees that they would go to see the Buddha and settle all their differences under Him.
The Venerables Sāriputta, Moggallāna, Mahā Kassapa, Rīvata, Anuruddha, Upāli, Ānanda, and Rāhula heard of the intended visit of the quarrelsome monks, and sought the advice of the Buddha as to how they should be treated. The Buddha instructed them on the principles of discipline.
Similarly, Mahā Pajāpati Gotami, Anāthapiṇḍika, and Visākhā sought the advice of the Buddha as to what attitude to be adopted towards the two factions of quarrelsome monks. The Buddha admonished them to treat both factions with alms, etc., and to listen to both factions, but to follow the righteous side.
The two factions of monks settled their disputes, and went up to the Buddha and apologised to Him. The Buddha delivered them further admonitions and instructions on discipline.
Said the Buddha: “The elephant Pārileyyaka had been looking after me all this time. If one has such a good friend one should stick to him. But, if one cannot find a good friend, better to stay alone.”