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Dhammapada contains 423 verses said by the Buddha in different contexts. Most of the verses have been taken from the discourses of the Buddha. It has been noted that more than two-thirds of the verses are taken from the discourses contained in the two collections of the Buddha’s discourses known as the Samyutta Nikāya and Anguttara Nikāya. The 423 verses are divided into 26 chapters or Vaggas each with a particular heading. The twenty-sixth chapter is named “Brāhmana Vagga” meaning the chapter on “The Brāhmana,” which contains 41 verses said by the Buddha. The background story of the 405th verse, which is the 23rd verse of the Brāhmana Vagga, is about an Arahant monk during the time of the Buddha who was severely beaten up by an angry man but did not develop any anger towards the attacker.

The background story of verse 405

At one time, the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatti, which was donated to the Buddha by the chief benefactor Anāthapindika.

At one time, the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatti, which was donated to the Buddha by the chief benefactor Anāthapindika.

At that time, a certain monk received instruction on a subject of meditation from the Buddha, and went away to stay in a forest and practise meditation. Having mediated on the chosen subject of meditation with diligence as advised by the Buddha, he gained enlightenment as an Arahant. Having become an Arahant, he decided to visit the Buddha in Sāvatti to pay homage and to show his gratitude to the Buddha. So one day, the Arahant monk began his journey, and on his way, he happened to walk through a certain village.

As he was walking through the village, a certain woman had a quarrel with her husband and decided to leave the house and return to her parents’ village. When the husband was out of the house, she left the house and began walking towards the village where her parents lived. As she was walking, she happened to see the Arahant monk who was also walking in the same direction and began walking closely behind him. The Arahant monk did not even look back at the woman.

When the husband returned home, he discovered that his wife has left and knew that she had left to go to her parents’ village. He decided to follow her and as he walked a certain distance, he saw his wife walking closely behind the Arahant monk. Thinking that the monk is taking his wife away, he shouted and threatened to beat the monk. His wife pleaded with him not to harm the monk saying that the monk has not spoken to her or even looked at her. This plea made the man become even more furious, and he gave a severe beating to the monk who received severe bruising to his body. The man then took his wife and left to return to their house.

The Arahant monk continued his journey and eventually arrived at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatti where the Buddha was residing. The other monks at the monastery noticed the severe bruising all over his body and having attended to the bruises, asked how he got them. When the Arahant monk gave the details of how he was beaten up, the monks asked him whether he did not get angry with the man who beat him up so severely. The Arahant monk said he did not have any anger at all towards the man, but the other monks did not believe him. They went to the Buddha and said:

“Venerable Sir, this monk says he was severely beaten up by a certain man, and when we asked him whether he got angry towards the man, he claims he did not get angry. He is lying to us and is not telling the truth.”

The Buddha listened to what they said and replied:

“Monks, Arahants have laid aside the stick and the sword.

They do not get angry, even if they are beaten.”

Thus, the Buddha confirmed to the monks that the monk had, indeed, become an Arahant.

The Buddha then recited the following verse, recorded as the 405th verse of the Dhammapada.

Nidhāya dandaṁ bhūtesu,

tasesu thāvaresu ca,

yo na hanti na ghāteti,

tamahaṁ brūmi brāhmanaṁ.”

“Whoever has laid down the stick,

against fearful and fearless beings,

who neither hurts nor kills,

him I call a brahmana.”

The serenity of an arahant is incredible. He is assaulted, and not a single thought of hatred arises in their mind. Because of our distorted perceptions, we cannot even imagine such a state of mind. These deep-rooted defilements, from beginningless times, make us believe that it is impossible to achieve a mind free from all defilement. Even many bhikkhus at the time of Lord Buddha did not believe it was possible. Lord Buddha had to persuade them that this was the case. By understanding the Dhamma, one concludes that it is indeed possible to arrive at the undefiled mind. This story confirms Mr. Lal’s recent publications on vedana

Note: An Anagami is also free of all anger.

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