Dhammapada 23: The Elephant


Translated by Ven Nārada

320. As an elephant in the battlefield withstands the arrows shot from a bow, even so will I endure abuse; verily most people are undisciplined.

321. They lead the trained (horses or elephants) to an assembly. The king mounts the trained animal. Best among men are the trained who endure abuse.

322. Excellent are trained mules, so are thoroughbred horses of Sindh and noble tusked elephants; but far better is he who has trained himself.

323. Surely never by those vehicles would one go to the untrodden land (Nibbāna) as does one who is controlled through his subdued 1 and well-trained 2 self.

324. The uncontrollable, captive tusker named Dhanapālaka, with pungent juice flowing, eats no morsel; the tusker calls to mind the elephant forest.

325. The stupid one, when he is torpid, gluttonous, sleepy, rolls about lying like a great hog nourished on pig-wash, goes to rebirth again and again.

326. Formerly this mind went wandering where it liked, as it wished and as it listed. Today with attentiveness I shall completely hold it in check, as a mahout (holds in check) an elephant in must.

327. Take delight in heedfulness. Guard your mind well. Draw yourselves out of the evil way as did the elephant sunk in the mire.

328. If you get a prudent companion (who is fit) to live with you, who behaves well and is wise, you should live with him joyfully and mindfully, overcoming all dangers.

329. If you do not get a prudent companion who (is fit) to live with you, who behaves well and is wise, then like a king who leaves a conquered kingdom, you should live alone as an elephant does in the elephant forest.

330. Better it is to live alone. There is no fellowship 3 with the ignorant. Let one live alone doing no evil, care-free, like an elephant in the elephant forest.

331. When need arises, pleasant (is it to have) friends. Pleasant is it to be content with just this and that. Pleasant is merit when life is at an end. Pleasant is the shunning of all ill.

332. Pleasant in this world is ministering to mother. 4 Ministering to father too is pleasant in this world. Pleasant is ministering to ascetics. Pleasant too is ministering to the Noble Ones. 5

333. Pleasant is virtue (continued) until old age. Pleasant is steadfast confidence. Pleasant is the attainment of wisdom. Pleasant is it to do no evil.

End Notes

[1] Dantena by sense-control.

[2] Sudantena by the development of the Noble Path.

[3] Sahāyatā. By this term are meant morality, austere practices, insight, Paths, Fruits and Nibbāna. (Commentary) See v. 61.

[4] Matteyyatā does not mean motherhood or "to have a mother". The Commentarial explanation is good conduct (sammā-paṭipatti) towards the mother, that is, ministering to the mother. The other terms are similarly explained.

[5] The Buddha, the Arahants, and so on.