Ekacaraṃ in Dhammapada 37 parallels


I have a question for anyone here who knows Chinese and has a few minutes to spare. Or maybe half an hour.

Sutta Central has five Chinese parallels for Dhammapada 37:

Dūraṅgamaṃ ekacaraṃ, asarīraṃ guhāsayaṃ;
Ye cittaṃ saṃyamessanti, mokkhanti mārabandhanā.

The mind travels far, wandering alone;
incorporeal, it hides in a cave.
Those who will restrain the mind
are freed from Māra’s bonds.
(Ven. Sujāto)

My question is, how do the Chinese translators handle the phrase ekacaraṃ … cittaṃ? Do they all use something more or less similar to the “mind wandering alone” found in most English Dhammapada translations, or do any of them offer anything unexpected?


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The 法句經 (T210) has a parallel verse (at T210.4.563a8) that reads:


Traveling alone, going far away,
Hidden away without form,
The controlled mind approaches the way
And is freed from Mara’s bonds.

To answer your question 獨行 = ekacara, which literally means “going alone” or “solitary travel.”

The 出曜經 (T212) also has a parallel verse (at T212.4.774a24), too:


Going far away travelling alone,
Hidden away without form,
Controlling what’s hard to control,
One is called a Brahmin.

Here, the C. trans. is 獨遊 for ekacara, which has the same basic meaning, but 遊 has more of a sense of wandering or “going for a walk” without a particular destination.

The commentary that follows says that the mind is said to “travel alone” because it only abides in a single kind of sensory object at any given time. But it moves freely from one thing to another like a bird flying or a king who travels with servants who have every provision that he might need. This was answering a question about the mind possessing the ten mahābhūmika dharmas, which was an early Sarvastivada Abhidharma model of mind. The servants in the King metaphor represent these mahābhūmikas. (There’s a list of them at this Wikipedia page on mental factors.)

SuttaCentral says 法集要頌經 (T213) has a parallel at Chapter 31, verse 8 (if I’m understanding the numbers used correctly), but I don’t see anything close to the Dhammapada verse in that chapter. However, the parallel listed in Chapter 33 (at T213.4.799a27), is nearly verbatim the verse in the 出曜經. The translator is using five-syllable lines instead of four, so he’s inserted a fifth character into the lines, but the changes (bolded below) are superficial.


In the third line, 自調 means “to tame oneself,” so the line would translate to “Taming what’s hard to control oneself.” The other additions are superficial.

There’s also evidence of a Gandhari version in John Brough’s The Gandhari Dharmapada (p.139), but it’s only a fragment of part of the first line:

duragama eka …

Hope that helps!

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Thank you very much indeed! :+1:

This is particularly interesting to me. What prompted my question was curiosity as to whether the Dhammapada Atthakathā’s highly abhidharmic interpretation of ekacaraṃ cittaṃ

Sattaṭṭhacittāni pana ekato kaṇṇikabaddhāni ekakkhaṇe uppajjituṃ samatthāni nāma natthi. Uppattikāle ekekameva cittaṃ uppajjati, tasmiṃ niruddhe puna ekekameva uppajjatīti ekacaraṃ nāma jātaṃ.

… is an understanding held in common with other ancient schools or merely a peculiarity of the Theravāda.

Would you happen to know anything more about this Chinese commentary, like its date, school affiliation and which text it’s a commentary to?

Willemen, who had spent quite a bit of time studying the Chinese Dharmapada texts and Sarvastivada history in general, says 出曜經 is a Sautrantika (i.e., Sarvastivadin) commentary on the Udanavarga that was composed by Dharmatrata (~ 2nd c. CE). The underlying collection of verses were the Sarvastivada equivalent of the Dharmapada, but it was somewhat larger, so it was likely a compilation of older sources. The Chinese version was translated at the end of the 4th c. CE by Sanghabhadra and Chu Fonian, both of whom were Central Asian monks who had been involved in the translation of the Dirgha Agama and Ekottarika Agama.

Willemen summarizes his views about the different Chinese Dharmapada texts in the introduction to his A Collection of Important Odes to the Law, which is his translation and study of a later Chinese translation of the Udanavarga (T213 法集要頌經) that was made during the Song dynasty (10th c. CE).

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