Dhammapada 19: The Just Or Righteous

Translated by Ven Nārada

256. He is not thereby just because he hastily arbitrates cases. The wise man should investigate both right and wrong.

257. The intelligent person who leads others not falsely but lawfully and impartially, who is a guardian of the law, is called one who abides by the law (dhammaṭṭha).

258. One is not thereby a learned man merely because one speaks much. He who is secure, without hate, and fearless is called "learned".

259. One is not versed in the Dhamma merely because one speaks too much. He who hears little and sees the Dhamma mentally, 1 and who does not neglect the Dhamma, is, indeed, versed in the Dhamma.

260. He is not thereby an elder (thera 2) merely because his head is grey. Ripe is he in age. "Old-in-vain" is he called.

261. In whom are truth, 3 virtue, 4 harmlessness, restraint 5 and control, that wise man who is purged of impurities, 6 is, indeed, called an elder.

262. Not by mere eloquence, nor by handsome appearance, does a man become good-natured, should he be jealous, selfish, and deceitful.

263. But in whom these are wholly cut off, uprooted and extinct, that wise man who is purged of hatred, is, indeed, called good-natured.

264. Not by a shaven head does an undisciplined man, 7 who utters lies, become a monk. How will one who is full of desire and greed be a monk?

265. He who wholly subdues evil deeds both small and great is called a monk because he has overcome all evil.

266. He is not thereby a bhikkhu 8 merely because he begs from others; by following the whole code (of morality 9) one certainly becomes a bhikkhu and not (merely) by such begging.

267. Herein he who has transcended both good and evil, whose conduct is sublime, who lives with understanding in this world, he, indeed, is called a bhikkhu.

268. Not by silence (alone) does he who is dull and ignorant become a sage; but that wise man who, as if holding a pair of scales, embraces the best 10 and shuns evil, is indeed a sage.

269. For that reason 11 he is a sage. He who understands, both worlds 12 is, therefore, called a sage.

270. He is not therefore an Ariya (Noble) in that he harms living beings; through his harmlessness towards all living beings is he called an Ariya (Noble).

271-272. Not only by mere morality and austerities, 13 nor again by much learning, 14 nor even by developing mental concentration, nor by secluded lodging, (thinking) "I enjoy the bliss of renunciation not resorted to by the worldling" 15 (not with these) should you, O bhikkhu, rest content 16 without reaching the extinction of the corruptions. 17

End Notes

1 Kāyena — that is, nāmakāyena, through the mental body, or, in other words, through self-realization.

2 Thera — a term applied to those bhikkhus who have counted at least ten years in the Order from the date of their higher ordination. Thera, literally, means one who is firm or stable.

3 Saccaṃ — the four noble truths.

4 Dhammo — the nine supramundane states.

5 Saññamo — morality and sense-restraint.

6 By means of the four Paths.

7 He who does not practise higher morality (sīla) and austerities (dhutāṅga).

8 Bhikkhu, literally, means "he who begs" but bhikkhus do not beg. They silently stand at the door for alms. They live on what is spontaneously given by the supporters. See note on v. 31.

9 Vissaṃ dhammaṃ = visamaṃ dhammaṃ, vissaṃ gandhaṃ vā kāyakammādikaṃ dhammaṃ (Commentary). Vissaṃ has two meanings (1) whole or all, and (2) bad smell. The Commentary gives only the latter in this case.

“He is not a mendicant simply because he begs others (for alms). He who adopts the whole law is a mendicant, not he who adopts only a part”. —Radhakrishnan.

The context makes the verse clear. The brahmin who had adopted the ascetic life claimed the right to be called a bhikkhu simply because he begged his food as is the custom of the disciples of the Buddha although he did not observe the other practices of a bhikkhu.

Vissaṃ dhammaṃ could therefore be interpreted as "the whole code of morality pertaining to the life of a bhikkhu".

10 Such as morality, concentration, wisdom, etc.

11 That is, for having embraced the best and abandoned evil.

12 Internal and external Aggregates.

13 The four kinds of higher morality observed by bhikkhus and the thirteen kinds of higher ascetic practices (dhutāṅga) (Commentary).

14 That is, the Tipitaka (Commentary).

15 Anāgāmi stage (Commentary).

16 Faith in existence (Commentary). "Have a care" , Mrs. Rhys Davids.

17 That is, Arahantship.