I posted about this before, but I didn’t post the original pali, which I think is totally necessary to show the real wit and genius of the buddha. It’s interesting to think about whether an arahant or buddha can have a sense of humor, but I think they totally can, especially if they think it will help teaching. This is by far my favorite verse in the dhammapada. The buddha’s word play and pun work is at its peak with this one. I believe it’s Dhp97, but unfortunately they aren’t numbered on there. Little side note, it would be pretty cool if the numbers were added, just so we can find them more easily. Also I feel like both aspects of this verse should be shown, otherwise you don’t really get the full meaning and genius of it.
Assaddho akataññū ca,
sandhicchedo ca yo naro;
sa ve uttamaporiso.
English (not from suttacentral):
faithless / beyond conviction
ungrateful / knowing the Unmade
a burglar / who has severed fetters
who’s destroyed his
opportunity / future rebirths
who eats vomit / has disgorged expectations
the ultimate person.
You can see how each phrase can be translated in two ways. So with the first way it sounds like you’re describing some awful person, and yet it ends with “the ultimate person.” But if you take a closer look, you see that the person is “faithless” because they’ve achieved arahantship and don’t need faith anymore. They are ungrateful because they no longer have a sense of self that would be grateful. They are a burglar, or more specifically, a breaker of chains, because they’ve broken the chains of suffering. They’ve destroyed their opportunities or are hopeless, because they have no future, or more important, no future rebirth, they don’t need hope. Lastly, and I’m going to need some help with this one, but I assume the pali words for eating vomit can somehow be reinterpretated as someone who’s abandoned all craving.
If someone has a better way to translate this that better illustrates the word play, I would love to hear it. I am interpreting it the best way I can with the knowledge that the whole thing is definitely meant to be a pun, but I am sure someone who can understand pali will be able to produce a much better understanding.