Just like a fish which quivers when thrown out of water onto dry land, even so the mind throbs and quivers when it is taken out of the sensual world to escape from the domain of Mara (Moral defilements).
Related story: The Story of The elder Meghiya
While residing on the Calika Mountain, the Buddha uttered Verses 33 and 34 with reference to Thera Meghiya. On one occasion, after Thera Meghiya returned from alms-round, he noticed a pleasant and beautiful mango grove, which he thought was an ideal spot for meditation. He asked the Buddha's permission to let him go there but as the Buddha was alone at that time, he was told to wait for awhile until the arrival of some other monks.
However thera Meghiya was in a hurry to go and he repeated his request again and again, until finally the Buddha told him to do as he wished. Then Thera Meghiya set out for the mango grove, sat at the foot of a tree and tried to practice meditation. He stayed there the whole day, but his mind was filled with unwholesome thoughts and he could not concentrate.
So he returned in the evening and reported to the Buddha that he was assailed by thoughts associated with the sensual desires, ill will and cruelty (kama vitakka, byapada vitakka and vihimsa vitakka).
At that moment, Buddha told him that as the mind is easily excitable and fickle, one should control one's mind. Buddha further taught him the five things conducive to the maturing of insight: having a good friend, restraint by the Pāṭimokkha, suitable talk, energy, and wisdom. In addition, one should contemplate the repulsive (a decayed body) to dispel lust, loving kindness to dispel ill-will, mindfulness of breathing to overcome distraction and the perception of impermanence to establish the perception of not-self and eradicate the conceit “I am.”
In other words, it is true that our minds are fickle and difficult to control but we should train and practice to guard our minds.
The mind is hard to control, swiftly and lightly landing on whatever it desires. It is good to train the mind as a tamed mind leads to happiness.
Related story: A Certain Bhikkhu
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 35 with reference to a certain bhikkhu. On one occasion, 60 moks after obtaining a subject of meditation from the Buddha, went to Matika village, at the foot of a mountain. There, Matikamata, mother of the village headman, offered them alms-food; she also built a monastery for them, so that they could stay in the village during the rainy season. One day she asked the group of bhikkhus to teach her the practice of meditation. They taught her how to meditate on the thirty-two constituents of the body leading to the awareness of the decay and dissolution of the body. Matikamata practised with diligence and attained the three Maggas and Phalas together with Analytical Insight and mundane supernormal powers, even before the bhikkhus did. Rising from the bliss of the Magga and Phala she looked with the Divine Power of Sight (Dibbacakkhu) and saw that the bhikkhus had not attained any of the Maggas yet. She also learnt that those bhikkhus had enough potentiality for the attainment of arahatship, but that they needed proper food. So, she prepared good, choice food for them. With proper food and right effort, the bhikkhus developed right concentration and eventually attained arahatship. At the end of the rainy season, the bhikkhus returned to the Jetavana monastery, where the Buddha was in residence. They reported to the Buddha that all of them were in good health and in comfortable circumstances and that they did not have to worry about food. They also mentioned about Matikamata who was aware of their thoughts and prepared and offered them the very food they wished for. A certain bhikkhu, hearing them talking about Matikamata, decided that he, too, would go to that village. So, taking a subject of meditation from the Buddha he arrived at the village monastery. There, he found that everything he wished for was sent to him by Matikamata, the lay-devotee. When he wished her to come she personally came to the monastery, bringing along choice food with her. After taking the food, he asked her if she knew the thoughts of others, but she evaded his question and replied, "People who can read the thoughts of others behave in such and such a way." Then, the bhikkhu thought, "Should I, like an ordinary worldling, entertain any impure thought, she is sure to find out." He therefore got scared of the lay-devotee and decided to return to the Jetavana monastery. He told the Buddha that he could not stay in Matika village because he was afraid that the lay-devotee might detect impure thoughts in him. The Buddha then asked him to observe just one thing; that is, to control his mind. The Buddha also told the bhikkhu to return to Matika village monastery, and not to think of anything else, but the object of his meditation only. The bhikkhu went back. The lay-devotee offered him good food as she had done to others before, so that he might able to practise meditation without worry. Within a short time, he, too, attained arahatship.
In other words, if you train your mind removing the defilements, a well trained tamed mind will result in eventual bliss.
The mind is extremely subtle and difficult to see, landing on what it pleases. Let the wise one guards it, for a guarded mind brings happiness.
Story related : A Certain Disgruntled Bhikkhu
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 36 with reference to a young disgruntled bhikkhu who was the son of a banker.
In Savatthi, a young man, son of a banker, asked the bhikkhu (monk) who used to come to his house for alms, what he should do to be liberated from the ills of life. The bhikkhu instructed him to divide his property into three parts; one part to for his business, one part to support the family and one part to give to charity. He did as he was told and again asked what else should he do next. Then he was instructed to firstly take refuge in the Three Gems and to observe the five precepts; then secondly to observe the ten precepts and thirdly to renounce the world and enter the Monks Order. The young man complied with all these instructions and became a bhikkhu.
As a bhikkhu, he was taught the Abhidhamma by one teacher and the Vinaya by another. He felt that there was too much to be learnt and the disciplinary rules were too strict and too many, so much so that there was not enough freedom. He thought that it might be better to return to the life of a householder (lay person). Because of his doubt and discontent, he became unhappy and neglected his duties; he also became thin and emaciated.
When the Buddha came to know about this and told the young bhikkhu, "if you can only control your mind, you will have nothing more to control; so guard your own mind." In other words, we should always guard our mind so that it doesn't wander and land wherever it desires.
Verse 37 (Freedom from Mara)
Dūraṅgamaṃ ekacaraṃ, asarīraṃ guhāsayaṃ Ye cittaṃ saṃyamessanti, mokkhanti mārabandhanā.
The mind which is formless wanders far and moves about alone, lying in a cave. Those who subdue the mind will be free from the bonds of Mara.
Story related to Dhammapada Verse 37 : Elder Samgharakkhita's nephew
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 37 with reference to the nephew of Thera Samgharakkhita.
In Savatthi, there was a senior bhikkhu called Samgharakkhita. When his sister gave birth to a son, she named the child after the monk whose name was Samgharakkhita Bhagineyya. The nephew Samgharakkhita in due course also entered the monks Order.
When the young monk was staying in a village monastery, he was offered two sets of robes for which he intended to offer one to his uncle. But his uncle declined to accept the robe despite repeated request by his nephew. The young bhikkhu (monk) felt disheartened and thought that since his uncle was so unwilling to share the requisites with him, it would be better for him to leave the Order and becme a layman. From that point, his mind wandered off and a train of thoughts followed. He thought that after disrobing he would sell the robe and buy a female goat which can breed quickly and soon he would make enough money to enable him to marry. Then his mind continued to imagine when his wife would give birth to a son then he would bring them in a small cart to visit his uncle at the monastery.
The young monk's mind continued to imagine how along the way, he would have an argument with his wife and in the end his child would drop on the cart-track and the wheel would pass over the child. He would get so furious with his wife that he would strike her with the goading-stick.
At that time when his mind wandered off, the young monk was fanning the thera (senior monk) with a palmyra fan and he absentmindedly struck the head of the thera with the fan. The thera knowing the thoughts of the young bhikkhu, said, "You were unable to beat your wife, why have you beaten an old bhikkhu(monk)?" Young Samgharakkhita was very much surprised and embarrassed at the words of the old bhikkhu and he became extremely frightened. So he fled. Young monks and novices of the monastery chased him and finally took him to the presence of the Buddha.
When told about the whole episode, the Buddha said that the mind has the ability to think of an object even though it might be far away and that one should strive hard for liberation from the bondage of passion, ill will and ignorance. In other words, we need to control our wandering mind so that it will be free from defilements (Mara).
Verse 38-39 : The vigilant has no fear
Anavaṭṭhitacitassa, saddhammaṃ avijānato Pariplavapasādassa, paññā na paripūrati
One who has unsteady mind, does not know the true doctrine. If his faith wavers, his wisdom does not attain perfection.
A man's mind which is free from craving, ill-will, transcended both good and evil; If he is vigilant, for such a man there is no fear.
Story related to dhammapada verse 38-39: Thera Cittahattha (mind-tossed elder)
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses 38 and 39 of this book, with reference to Thera Cittahattha.
A man from Savatthi felt very hungry as he searched for his lost ox in the forest. He went to a village monastery, where he was given the remains of the morning meal. While taking his food, he thought t it might be a good idea to become a monk to get fed easily. So he asked the bhikkhus to admit him into the Order.
Soon he became lazy and fat as he ate a lot. After some time, he got weary of going round for alms-food and returned to the life of a lay man. A few days later, he felt that life at home was too strenuous and he went back to the monastery to be admitted as a bhikkhu for a second time. This shuttling process of disrobing and re-ordaining went on for six times. Because of how he acte, the other monks called him the mind-tossed elder (Thera Cittahattha).
While he was going back and forth between his home and the monastery, his wife became pregnant. Seeing his wife snoring while asleep and saliva was trickling down her mouth. Seeing the unattractiveness of the body, he instantly came to perceive the impermanent and unpleasant nature of the body. He decided to go back to the monastery for the seventh time. As he went along he repeated the words "impermanence" and "unpleasantness" (anicca and dukkha) and thus attained Sotapatti Fruition (stream entry) on the way to the monastery.
On arrival at the monastery he asked the bhikkhus to admit him into the Order. They refused at first as he had ordained and disrobed so many times. Still, he entreated them to admit him into the Order just once more and they complied. Within a few days, the bhikkhu Cittahattha attained arahantship (enlightenment) together. Other bhikkhus were surprised and they asked him the reason why. He replied. "I went home when I still had attachment in me, but now that attachment has been cut off".
The bhikkhus did not believe him and they approached the Buddha to report this matter. The Buddha said, "Thera Cittahattha was speaking the truth; he shifted between home and monastery before because at that time, his mind was not steadfast and he did not understand the Dhamma. But at this moment, Thera Cittahattha is already an arahant (enlightened being); he has discarded both good and evil." In other words, an unsteady mind that still has cravings and attachments, will not understand the real teachings (dhamma). But one who has discarded craving, hatred, transcended good and evil will progress and his wisdom will grow.
Verse 40 (Fortify the Mind and Be Non-attached)
Kumbhupamam kayamimam viditva nagarupam cittamidam thapetva yodhetha maram panna vudhena jitanca rakkhe anivesano siya
Realizing that this body is as fragile as a jar, fortify the mind like a city and defend Mara with the sword of wisdom. After defeating Mara, one should continue to guard the mind and be unattached to what's been gained.
Story related to Verse 40: 500 monks
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 40 with reference to five hundred bhikkhus (monks). Five hundred bhikkhus from Savatthi, after obtaining a subject of meditation from the Buddha traveled to a large forest grove, a suitable place for meditation practice. The tree-deities dwelling in that forest thought that if those bhikkhus were staying in the forest, it would not be proper for them to live with their families in the trees. The tree deities thought at first that the Bhikkhus will only stay for one night but the bhikkhus were there for a fortnight and then it occurred to them that the bhikkhus might be staying there till the end of the vassa. In that case, the tree-deities and their families would have to be living on the ground for a long time.
So, they decided to frighten away the bhikkhus by making ghostly sounds and frightful apparitions. They showed up with bodies without heads, and with heads without bodies etc. The bhikkhus were very upset, left the place and returned to the Buddha, to whom they related everything. after hearing what happened, the Buddha taught them the entire Karaniya Metta Sutta (discourse on Loving-Kindness) beginning with the following stanza:
Karaniyamattha kusalena Yanta santam padam abhisamecca Sakko uju ca suhuju ca Suvaco c'assa mudu anatimani.
(The above stanza may be translated as: "He who is skilled in what is good and beneficial, aspiring to attain Nibbana should act thus: He should be efficient, upright, perfectly upright, compliant, gentle and free from conceit.")
The bhikkhus were instructed to recite the sutta from the time they came to the outskirts of the forest grove and to enter the monastery reciting the same. The bhikkhus returned to the forest grove and did as they were told. The tree deities upon receiving loving-kindness from the bhikkhus reciprocated by readily welcoming and not harming them. There were no more ghostly sounds and ungainly sights. Thus left in peace, the bhikkhus meditated on the body and came to realize its fragile and impermanent nature. From the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha knew about the progress of the bhikkhus and sent forth his radiance making them feel his presence. To them he said, "Bhikkhus just as you have realized, the body is, indeed, impermanent." and he uttered this verse 40.
At the end of the discourse, the five hundred bhikkhus attained arahantship.
In other words, a well guarded mind can defeat defilements.
Verse 41 (Without the mind, the body if worthless)
Before long, this body which is devoid of consciousness, will be cast aside on the ground like a useless log.
Story related : The Elder Pūtigatta Tissa
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 41 with reference to Thera Tissa.
After taking a subject of meditation from the Buddha, Thera Tissa was diligently practising meditation when he was afflicted with a disease. Small boils appeared all over his body and these developed into big sores. When these sores burst, his upper and lower robes became sticky and stained with pus and blood, and his whole body was stinking. For this reason, he was known as Putigattatissa, Tissa the thera with stinking body.
As the Buddha surveyed the universe, he saw the sorrowful state of the thera, who had been abandoned by his resident pupils because of his stinking body. At the same time, Buddha also knew that Tissa would soon attain arahatship. So Buddha went to where the thera was staying. Buddha told the resident pupils to carry the thera to the fire-shed, where he was washed and bathed with clean water boiled by Buddha. While he was being bathed, his robes were washed and dried. After the bath, the thera became fresh in body and mind and soon developed one-pointedness of concentration. Standing at the head of the couch, the Buddha said to him that this body when devoid of life would be as useless as a log and would be laid on the earth (the nature of the body). The elder attained Arahantship and passed away.
The monks asked the Buddha what the elder had done in previous lives to die in that way with body filled with boils and pus. The Buddha explained that in a previous life he had made a living by selling birds. He would break the wings and legs of any birds that were unsold at the end of the day to prevent them from escaping and then sell them the next day. One day he wished to atone for his evil deeds, he offered the fragrant food prepared for himself to the monk who was an arahant, wishing to attain the fruit that he had attained. Due to his intentional cause of injury to the birds, he died a painful death this life. Thanks to his wish for Arahantship, he finally attained it and put an end to suffering. In other words, one must understand that the body is just a vessel that will be left behind decomposed after death. Only when we train our mind then can we end suffering.
Verse 42 (An ill-directed mind can do greater harm)
Diso disam yam tam kariya veri va pana verinam micchapanihitam cittam papiyo nam tato kare
Whatever harm a foe may do to a foe, a hater to a hater , A wrongly directed mind can do greater harm to oneself Story related : Nanda, the Herdsman
While on a visit to a village in the kingdom of Kosala, the Buddha uttered Verse 42 with reference to Nanda, the herdsman. Nanda was a herdsman who looked after the cows of Anathapindika. Occasionally, he would go to the house of Anathapindika where he met the Buddha and listened to his discourses. Nanda requested the Buddha to pay a visit to his house but the latter replied hat it was not the time yet.
One day while travelling with his followers, Buddha went off his route to visit Nanda, knowing that the time was ripe for Nanda to receive his teaching properly. Nanda offered alms food to Buddha and his followers for seven days. On the last day, after hearing the discourse given by the Buddha, Nanda attained Sotapana Fruition (first stage of enlightenment). As the Buddha was leaving that day, Nanda carried the bowl of the Buddha and followed him for some distance before heading home.
At that instant, a hunter who was an old enemy of Nanda shot him down. The bhikkhus who were following the Buddha, saw Nanda lying dead. They reported the matter to the Buddha, saying, "Venerable Sir, if you had not visited Nanda he could have escaped death?" The Buddha replied the monks: "Bhikkhus, whether I came here or not, there was no escape from death for him due to past evil kamma that he did in his previous life. Hence a wrongly directed mind can do oneself much greater harm than an enemy or a thief can." In other words, whatever harm an enemy may do to oneself foes not cause more harm than a mind that is ill directed (filled with greed, hatred and delusion).
Verse 43 (A Well-directed Mind is of Great Benefit )
Na taṃ mātā pitā kayirā, aññe vā pi ca ñātakā Sammā panihitaṃ cittaṃ, seyyaso naṃ tato kare
Neither mother nor father, nor any other relative, can do more for the well-being of one than a perfectly directed mind.
Story related to Dhammapada Verse 43: Soreyya
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse 43 with reference to Soreyya, the son of a rich man of Soreyya city.
On one occasion, Soreyya accompanied by a friend and some attendants was going out in a luxurious carriage for a bath. At that moment, Thera Mahakaccayana was adjusting his robes outside the city before alms round. The youth Soreyya, seeing the golden complexion of the thera, thought, "How I wish the thera were my wife or else may the complexion of my wife be like his." When this lustful wish arose in him, his sex changed and he became a woman. Very ashamed, he ran away to Taxila. His companions could not find him.
Soreyya, who now became a woman married a young rich man in Taxila and had two sons. One day, a rich man's son from the city of Soreyya came to Taxila with five hundred carts. Lady Soreyya recognizing him to be an old friend invited him over to ask about the health of her family and other people in Soreyya city. The friend told her about the rich man's son who disappeared mysteriously while going out for a bath. Then the Lady-Soreyya revealed her identity and related all that had happened including the wrongful thoughts with regard to Thera Mahakaccayana, the change of sex, and her marriage to the young rich man of Taxila.
The friend then advised the lady-Soreyya to ask pardon of the thera. Thera Mahakaccayana was accordingly invited to the home of Soreyya and alms-food was offered to him. After the meal, the friend explained to the thera how Soreyya was turned into a female on account of his wrongful thoughts towards the respected thera. Lady-Soreyya then respectfully asked for forgiveness. The thera then said, "Get up, I forgive you." As soon as these words were spoken, the woman was changed back to a man. Soreyya felt very weary and repulsive of all these things, he decided to become a monk under the thera.
After that, he was often asked, "Whom do you love more, the two sons you had as a man or the other two you had as a wife?" To them, he would answer that he had more affection for those two sons of whom he was the mother. He felt annoyed and ashamed being asked the same question so many times. So he went into solitude and with diligence, he contemplated the decay and dissolution of the body. He soon attained arahantship together with the Analytical Insight. When the old question was next put to him he replied that he had no affection for any one in particular. Other bhikkhus thought he was lying and reported to Buddha on this matter. The Buddha said,"He is not telling lies, he is speaking the truth. His answer is different now because he has now realized arahantship and so has no more affection for anyone in particular. By his well-directed mind, he has brought about in himself a well-being which neither the father nor the mother can bestow on him." In other words, a rightly directed mind can be more beneficial than any relatives.