Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.3.0
(Right Thoughts: Mind Precedes All Phenomena)

Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā…

Mind precedes all phenomena, mind matters most, everything is mind-made...

These well-known, famous verses are selected to open this chapter, because they express a genuine truth which becomes evident for every serious meditator of longer practice. With a mind resplendent with wholesome thoughts and goodwill it will be difficult to perform unwholesome actions,however with mental states filled with unwholesome thoughts it will be easy to perform such actions (see lesson 1.3.9):

“Sukaraṃ sādhunā sādhu, sādhu pāpena dukkaraṃ
Pāpaṃ pāpena sukaraṃ, pāpamariyehi dukkaran”ti [1]

Whoever observes himself with an open heart and with honest sincerity will understand that his actions, verbal or physical, ensue from the thoughts he has developed and dwelled upon and mostly give rise to consequential - often direct visible – results. Even if these outcomes may not be directly perceivable, long practice of meditation along with the automatically deriving development of the above attitudes ascertains the truth of the Buddha’s words: Cetanampi, yathāha‘‘cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi, cetayitvā kammaṃ karotī’’ti.

[2] pana cetanā kammanti vuttā? Cetanāmūlakattā kammassa. – To speak of volition – “I say, O’ Bhikkhus, volition is kamma, volition makes kamma!”. And how is it, it is said that volition is kamma? Volition is the root and doer of kamma! (see also lesson 2.1.3)

These verses open the first chapter of the Dhammapada, the Yamakavaggo. Yamaka means pair and thus this first chapter of the Dhammapada presents pairs of verses. The Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā portrays and depicts the meaning of these verses with illustrating, inspiring stories to prompt faithful readers to realize their meaning and put into practice the Buddha’s teaching. This present respective pair, the two general conditions of the mental dispositions, cetasika: ‘manasā ce pasannena’ and ‘manasā ce paduṭṭhena’ associate these with the overall results that may occur therefrom – even if they may be not visible in this direct life – with the effects they carry to a next existence.

The Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā relates for the first verse how even an Arahant by the name of Cakkhupāla, although fully enlightened has to suffer the outcome of an action he had performed in a previous life with wicked intentions. In that life he had been a physician with the ability to ail illness. After he had been betrayed by a woman whose eyesight he had restored, but after he found out that she intended not to fulfill a promise she had given to him in case of regaining her health, in revenge he gave her a prescription which blinded her. Therefore even during the process of his endeavors for Arahantship in his present life he lost his own eyesight. He was given effective ointment by a skilled physician that he did not apply properly, which resulted in his own blindness, hence his name: Cakkhupāla – Guardian of the Eye. The commentary concludes this account with the following summarizing words of the Buddha: ‘Pāpakammañhi nāmetaṃ dhuraṃ vahato balibaddassa[3] padaṃ cakkaṃ viya anugacchatīti’ - ‘Because the evil deed done follows thus for a long time like the wheel (follows) the hoof of the ox yoked to the plough’

The second verse is illuminated by the story of a miser, who, in spite of his great love for his sick son does not provide the necessary medicine for him out of fear it would turn out too costly. The Buddha, seeing the predicament of the dying son named Maṭṭhakuṇḍali, out of compassion visits the boy on his death-bed, who full of joy and elation with folded hands pays his respects to the Enlightened One and thus passes away with a serene mind full of devoted faith. - ayaṃ māṇavo mayi cittaṃ pasādetvā kālaṃ katvā tāvatiṃsadevaloke tiṃsayojanike kanakavimāne nibbattissati[4] – and finds himself reborn in the heavenly worlds of the Tāvatiṃsadevaloka in a golden mansion. Perceiving the reasons for this happy destiny he decides to appear in front of his father to change his miserly character by presenting him certain challenges. Again the Buddha concludes this elucidation with the following synopsis: - ‘Atha nesaṃ kusalākusalakammakaraṇe manova pubbaṅgamo, manova seṭṭho[5]. Pasannena hi manena kataṃ kammaṃ devalokaṃ manussalokaṃ gacchantaṃ puggalaṃ chāyāva na vijahatī ti’ [6]– ‘Our actions, whether wholesome or unwholesome, are proceeded and dominated by the mind, mind is foremost. Because an action performed with a mind full of purity like a shadow never leaves a man, whether gone to the heavenly fields or to the world of humans.’

May everyone realize this genuine truth and be enabled to cultivate wholesome states of mind, to develop sammāsaṅkappo!


[1] Easy for the good to do what is beneficial, Difficult for the wicked to do what is good,
Easy for the wicked to do what is bad, For the Noble it is difficult to do what is bad.

[2] Kasmā: abl. of ko: what, of what sort?

nāmetaṃ: nāma + etaṃ: indeed, certainly + thus

[3] balibaddassa/ balivaddassa: an ox yoked to the plough

[4] nibbattissati: nibbattati (fut.): to be reborn, spring up, be reborn

[5] seṭṭho: eminent, supreme

[6] vijahati: leave, forsake


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.3.0

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Last modified: Monday, 4 March 2019, 12:40 PM