It is a bit of riddle that sounds like a non-dual type of transcendence.
It’s tough to translate from Chinese because it’s using pronouns without any indication of what they refer to. So, a reader, and especially a translator, ends up using guesses to form a basis for an understanding of it.
It also reads differently than Pali, and I think it’s a good example of Indic words changing meanings because they were pronounced differently in one Indic language compared to another. We can piece some of it together by looking at the Indic parallel, the Chinese translation, and what we know about Gandhari today. (Gandhari was likely the language that was being translated to Chinese.)
Here’s the Pali parallel in the Dhammapada (with Sujato’s translation):
Yassa pāraṁ apāraṁ vā,
pārāpāraṁ na vijjati;
tamahaṁ brūmi brāhmaṇaṁ.
One for whom there is no crossing over
or crossing back, or crossing over and back;
that’s who I call a brahmin.
So, Gandhari doesn’t have long vowels. Words that are distinguished by long/short vowels in Pali or Sanskrit are homophones in that language. In the first two lines, P. pāra means “go beyond, cross over.” P. apāra is the negation of that, which Sujato is translating as “crossing back.” P. na vijjati means “not found” or “not exist.” Presumably, the verse is referring to crossing over the flood.
Now, let’s look at the Chinese translation by comparison:
He who is at ease with other and no-other;
For whom [both] other, [not] other, are avoid;
He who gives up sensual craving;
Is indeed a brāhmaṇa.
Instead of “crossing over” (P. pāra), the first two lines have a demonstrative pronoun (彼) that means “that, there, him, her, them, etc.” When it’s used for a place, it means “there” rather than “here.” So, it’s often used for the “other” shore in the Buddhist metaphor for liberation.
So, what happened here? I think because there are no long vowels in Gandhari, the word being translated would have been G. para, which means “other” just as it does in Pali and Sanskrit, rather than to “cross over.” Based on this, I’d say that in the first two lines, 彼 is the “other shore.”
Dhammajoti translates the verb 適 as “to be at ease.” It’s a tough word to translate without context because it can mean lots of things. But, if its object is a place, then it probably means “to go to” or “to reach.”
The next strangeness is that the three places in the Chinese are 彼, 無彼, and 彼彼, which would be something like “the other shore,” “no other shore,” and “other shore-other shore” (?). This perhaps is also caused by Gandhari lacking long vowels. P. pārāpāra can be read as pāra-apāra because the shared vowel in the compound becomes long. But in Gandhari it would be parapara, which looked like para-para, “other-other.” I suppose this might be read to mean another shore beyond the other shore.
The last bit of the Chinese, “空”, is yet another mystery. It can mean “empty,” “space,” “sky,” or “in vain/fruitless.” How did we end up with this instead of “not found/exists”? I’m not sure. P. vijjati would convert to G. vijadi, and I can’t see any words that begin with G. vi- that be confused in this way. However, G. navi means “not at all.” If P. na vijjati were compressed into G. navi by losing the final syllables (as sometimes happened in Gandhari), then that might explain the Chinese translation. Seems like a stretch, but it’s possible. It could also be the Chinese translator deciding to say “nothing” instead of “to not exist.”
This is what we deal with all the time when we really dig into these Chinese translations of Gandhari. Scholars for a long time thought Chinese translators were just terrible at translating Sanskrit, but the troubles probably began with the translation of Buddhist texts between different Prakrits. There’s far less confusion between Pali and Sanskrit than there is between Gandhari and those languages.
So, then, a revised translation of the Chinese might be:
“There’s no going to the other shore,
No shore, or a shore beyond at all.
The one who abandons lust,
He is called a brāhmaṇa.”