Revised May 2, 2020
“Na jaccā vasalo hoti,
Na jaccā hoti brāhmaṇo;
Kammunā vasalo hoti,
Kammunā hoti brāhmaṇo”ti.
When I started writing this post, I erroneously assumed that the above verse is from Dhammapada. But it turned out that it is actually from the Vasala Sutta. (It is the last verse of the Sutta.) However, I decided to put the post in the Dhammapada section. It is a succinct verse providing insight into the core message of the Buddha.
Let us look at the meaning of different key terms:
- “Ja” means birth and “jaccā” means “by birth” or “related to birth”.
- “Vasala” (or “vasalayā” in Sinhala) is a derogatory term identifying someone as an “unworthy” person. Not merely “useless” but “someone not to be associated with”, as if the person has a communicable disease. Even today, there are such “untouchables” in India even though their conditions have improved since 1995: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalit.
- In those days, a Brahmin was supposed to be the opposite of a vasalayā, having the highest social rank. Of the 31 realms of existence, Brahmā live in the highest 20 realms. They have the highest level of mental states (greedy or hateful thoughts normally do not arise in them.) Thus a Brahmin (who lives like a Brahma) is supposed to be of the highest moral values.
- Kamma is of course action, and kammunā means according to one’s actions.
So, the meaning of the verse is clear:
“It is not the birth that makes a noble person or an ignoble person, but it is one’s actions (the way one lives one’s life) that determines whether one is a noble person or an ignoble person”.
- Here one could substitute a Noble Person with a Brahmin and ignoble person with an untouchable, AND that does not come about by birth but by one’s moral values.
We can make the following deductions using Buddha Dhamma:
- One is determined to be a Noble Person not by birth but by one’s character.
- One change from being an ignoble person to a noble person and even a Noble Person (Ariya) by changing one’s character (gati). There are several posts on how to change habits; use the “Search” box on right to find the posts (just search for “habit” or “gati“). This search box is a good resource to find relevant posts using a keyword.
- Sometimes a noble person can change to an ignoble person too, but a Noble Person (Ariya) never (even in future lives) changes to an ignoble person.
- Some people are very high-minded because of their birth, wealth, beauty, fame, among many other possibilities. But we need to be always aware of the fact that we have been born much worse than even the poorest human. We all have been born animals and worse. There is no reason to be high-minded for a span of 100 years in a rebirth process that has no beginning!
- Contemplating the “bigger world view” with the 31 realms (with four realms of much suffering) can make one humble, and compassionate. See, “Implications of the Rebirth Process in Daily Life and Society“. During the hard-to-comprehend time scale of saṃsāra, we have been born in almost all of the 31 realms, good and bad.
- Also, we need to remember that even a lowly worm may have a potent kamma seed that could make it in its next life a king. (Even though chances are extremely low.) See, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma“), and if we do not act with wisdom we could have a rebirth worse than a worm. Actually, high-mindedness (uddacca; pronounced uddachcha) can make one be born in a lower realm.
Next, “Arogya Parama Labha“, …….