Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 6:
pare ca na vijānanti mayamettha yamāmase |
ye ca tattha vijānanti tato sammanti medhagā || 6 ||
6. Still others do not understand that we must perish in this world, those who understand this, their quarrels are allayed.
The Story of Kosambi Monks
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi, the Buddha uttered this verse, with reference to the monks of Kosambi.
The monks of Kosambi had formed into two groups. One group followed the master of Vinaya and the other followed the teacher of the Dhamma. Once they were quarrelling among themselves over a minor Vinaya rule. Even the Buddha could not stop them from quarrelling; so he left them and spent the vassa, religious retreat in the monsoon season, all alone in Rakkhita Grove near Pārileyyaka forest. There, the elephant Pārileyya waited upon the Buddha.
The lay disciples of Kosambi, on learning the reason for the departure of the Buddha, refused to make offerings to the remaining monks. This made them realize their mistake and reconciliation took place among themselves. Still, the lay disciples would not treat them as respectfully as before, until they owned up their fault to the Buddha. But the Buddha was away and it was in the middle of the vassa; so the monks of Kosambi spent the vassa in misery and hardship.
At the end of the vassa, the Venerable ânanda and many monks approached the Buddha and gave the message from Anāthapiṇḍika and other lay disciples imploring him to return. In due course the Buddha returned to the Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi. The monks followed him there, fell down at his feet, and admitted their fault. The Buddha rebuked them for disobeying Him. He told them to remember that they must all die some day and therefore, they must stop their quarrels and must not act as if they would never die.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 6)
ettha pare mayaṃ yamāmase na ca vijānanti tattha
ye ca vijānanti tato medhagā sammanti.
ettha: in this place; pare: those others; mayaṃ [maya]: we; yamāmase: die; na vijānanti: do not know; tattha: here; ye ca: some; vijānanti: know (it); tato: due to that (awareness); medhagā: conflicts and disputes; sammanti: subside.
Most of us are not willing to face the reality of impermanence and death. It is because we forget this fact that our lives are transitory, that we quarrel with each other, as if we are going to live for ever. But, if we face the fact of death, our quarrels will come to an end. We will then realize the folly of fighting when we ourselves are doomed to die. Excited by emotions our thought being clouded, we cannot see the truth about life. When we see the truth, however, our thoughts become free of emotions.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 6)
The essence of Buddhism is facing the reality of death and impermanence. Why we suffer is because we run away from reality, carried away by emotions. Emotions are in conflict with reality; therefore, they are bound to be thwarted by reality. Not only anger but all self-centred emotions come to an end when we face the reality of death. It is a realistic thought that ends all unhappiness. Those who do not face reality in this Buddhist way, continue to be frustrated and angry, and suffer in consequence.
Generally, people are not aware that death will overtake them one day. They act unmindful of this universal truth. Both monks and laymen, unmindful of death and considering themselves as immortals, are often heedless in cultivating virtues. They engage themselves in strife and arguments and are often dejected, with their hopes and aspirations shattered. At times, they postpone their work with the hope of doing it on a grand scale in the future, and end up without being able to do anything. Therefore, it is only proper that one should daily reflect on death.
Being mindful of death is central to the Buddhist way of understanding the real nature of life. There are people in this world, people in various walks of life, who resent the very word ‘death’, let alone reflect on it. Infatuated by long life, good health, youth and prosperity, they completely forget the fact that they are subject to death. Immersed in the evanescent pleasures of the five-fold senses, they seek only material satisfaction in this world, completely disregarding a future life, and indulging in vice through the mind, body and speech. They regard this impermanent and evanescent life as permanent and everlasting. It is to arouse a sense of dissatisfaction in such blind and ignorant people, to allay the pangs of sorrow caused by the separation of parents and children, and from wealth and property, to inculcate the doctrine of impermanence in all beings, and thereby convince them of the unsatisfaction of life, and direct them towards the attainment of everlasting peace, that the Buddha preached these words.
A person who has not comprehended the doctrine of the Buddha is infatuated by long life and considers himself as immortal, even though he may see many deaths around him; he is infatuated by good health and considers himself free from disease even though he may see countless diseased persons around him; he is infatuated by youth even though he may see many aged persons and considers himself as one who is not subjected to old age; he is infatuated by wealth and prosperity even though he may see countless persons rendered destitute through loss of wealth; and he never thinks for a moment, that he too, might be subjected to such a state.