How to actually understand Dhammapada 23 verse?

:joy: I read this as literally like the 3 Vehicles to Nirvana. It seemed a later added verse really referring to that. Or just body or it means wrong Paths?

Na hi etehi yānehi gaccheyya agataṁ disaṁ,
Not by these vehicles can one go to the place beyond destinations,

yathattanā sudantena, danto dantena gacchati.
as one through training himself well, being trained by the training, goes.

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What’s the commentary story?

Dear @Upasaka_Dhammasara

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Verse 323 follows on from the previous, so that etehi here (“those”) refers back to the mules, horses, and elephants of the previous that. That verse points out that even excellent conveyances such as those are not as worthy as one who has tamed themselves.

323 then explains why this is so: because a horse (etc.) will never take you to Nibbana, whereas an arahant can lead you there. The verses play on the contrast between a tamed animal and one who is spritually “tamed”, i.e. an arahant.

The translation offered is a little unclear, here is my version:

Well-tamed mules,
thoroughbreds from Sindh,
and giant tuskers are all excellent—
but those who have tamed themselves are better.

For those mounts will never take you
to the untrodden place,
where, by means of a self well-tamed,
go those who’ve been tamed by the tamed.

The “untrodden place” (agataṁ disaṁ) is Nibbana; literally, the “not-gone quarter”, i.e. the place you’ve never been before.

As for “Place beyond destinations”, I’m not sure if it’s quite a mistranslation, but I feel its a little off-base. It reads gata as gati, i.e. “a place of rebirth”. It might just be possible, but I think the phrase just means somewhere you have “not gone”, i.e. Nibbana.


I felt something was not right. :joy: thanks. :pray:t4::pray:t4::pray:t4:

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Looking at it, the imagery is a bit hard to follow. I think it may be because we don’t rely on the well-tamedness of beasts for transport, so it seems odd to compare an arahant with a beast of burden. Perhaps the lines could be reordered to bring out the sense more clearly.

I also notice a couple of mistakes in my translation, I misread Yathāttanā as Yatthāttanā, and more importantly, the functions of the various “tamed” in the second verse, as indicated by the parallel usage of the instrumental case.

Worth noting that KR Norman adopts the gati reading here, although i still think it’s unlikely.

Looking at the various translations, I feel that none of them really capture the sense of this verse very well. Which means that maybe it is me who has got it wrong!

I think the underlying metaphor is one goes to a place by means of (instrumental) the (tamed) beasts, and in the same way one goes to the untrodden place by means of (instrumental) the one self-tamed (i.e. the arahant, perhaps the Buddha.) In other words, the sense of the verse is not that a well-tamed self leads you to Nibbana (although obviously that is true), but that the guidance of an awakened person leads you to Nibbana.

I’m currently reading the verse literally as:

Na hi etehi yānehi,
For not by means of those mounts
gaccheyya agataṁ disaṁ;
would one go to the untrodden place,
Yathāttanā sudantena,
as, by means of one whose self is well tamed
danto dantena gacchati.
one goes, tamed by the tamed.

More eloquently perhaps:

For those mounts will never help you
go to the untrodden place;
whereas, with the help of one whose self is well tamed,
you go there, tamed by the tamed.


Wow. That gave me goosebumps. I think you almost got it right Bhante. Because this sounded to a question I had. This interesting. Because it seems predictions from a Buddha of your own Enlightenment was a lesson used before. It removes the conceit from us that it’s all by ourselves. I read a study that was done about the Solitary Buddhas avadanas. And the stories gives an example on the blessings of a prediction in past from a full Buddha is reason a solitary Buddha become a Buddha. So there is a tradition on the dependence on a Buddha in past to bless you let’s say. In theragathas I noticed the predictions. I always thought it was a very later tradition. But seems early. Have Bhante study about this tradition?

And btw it’s seems Bhante made the translation sound ancient why don’t Bhante make a New Dhammapada?

I have! In fact I have completed translations of the Dhammapda and the Itivuttaka, and am currently working on the Udana. These will be published on SuttaCentral in due course. I’m in no hurry, as there are plenty of good translations of these already. I’m mainly doing it for completeness and consistency (and because I like it!)


Nice. Looking forward. :hugs:

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