Help With My Favorite Dhammapada Verse!

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;
Hatāvakāso vantāso,
sa ve uttamaporiso.

English (not from suttacentral):

The man
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.


I was once at Brickfields Mahavihara in KL, having a cup of tea with Chief Rev K Sri Dhammananda. In the main yard to the temple, which is visited by hundreds of people every day, there’s a sign showing random Dhammapada verses. Anyway, someone came in complaining about this verse. What kind of impression are we giving people? The Chief just said, “Well, maybe it’ll make them think.” And that was that!

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That’s awesome. Maybe a verse for the front page of suttacentral? :stuck_out_tongue:

Also, I didn’t know that about the verse numbers, clearly, but that makes things easier, thank you.


It certainly does do that!

I think this is a comment on nourishment ahara, in the dhamma- those things that keep the body (and the mind) going, but also prolong dukkha simultaneously. So they are consumed as there is no choice but to consume them. Hence this simile that gives rise to revulsion (nibbida). Also see SN12.63 -not for the faint of heart or …the digestive system: don’t say I didn’t warn you! :scream:!

with metta


Haha yeah, that’s actually my favorite sutta on the nutriments; but that does make sense, that’s probably what it’s talking about.