The Self and Brahman in the Dhammapada

Bhattacharya reinforces the truth that the Buddha brought to fulfillment the Brahmaic Truth that was the New Ātman, the Arahant; this was most clearly presented in the Dhammapada.

According to the Dhammapada, the Brahman or Arahant is the one who is liberated from all the bondages of existence,  who is “appeased” (sītibhūta), “extinguished” (nibbuta), free of all individuality (niropadhi), who is “awakened”, “who knows the Uncreated” (akatannu, “who is immersed in the Immortal” (amatogadham Annuppatta), beyond good and evil (puññan ca pāpan ca ubho saṅgaṃupaccagā), in other words, who knows brahman, who has become brahman.  (Kamaleswar Bhattacharya, The Ātman-Brahman in Ancient Buddhism, pg. 127)

For a very good treatment of Brahman in the Dhammapada, read the blog Agni and the Brahman, which reveals Masefield’s take on the New Brahman. Included in that blog is a fine translation of the Brahman chapter (XXVI), Brāhmaavvagga, in the Dhammapada (from The Authentic Dhammapada of the Buddha, The Law of Illumination, by Ven. Shakya Aryanatta). Another excellent translation of the chapter is provided by the Pali Text Translation Series No. 46 (2000) by K.R. Norman in his The Word of the Doctrine (Dhammapada). This English translation adheres as closely as possible to the original; its style is most laconic. It is submitted for your perusal here in full:


  1. Cut across the stream, making an effort; drive away the sensual pleasures, o brahman. Knowing the termination of conditioned things, you know the uncreated, o brahman.
  2. When the brahman has reached the far shore in the two-fold things, then for him, knowing all bonds disappear.
  3. For whom there is neither the far shore nor the near shore nor both, him, free from distress and without connections, I call a brahman.
  4. Whoever is meditative, free from defilement, seated, whose work is done, is without āsavas, and has attained the highest goal, him I call a brahman.
  5. The sun shines by day, the moon is bright by night; the warrior shines when his armour is fastened on, the brahman shines when meditating, but the awakened one shines all day and night by his radiance.
  6. Having put aside evils he is a brahman. Because of living in equanimity he is called an ascetic. Making his impurity go forth therefore he is called one who has gone forth.
  7. A brahman should not strike a brahman, nor should he release (angry words) against him. Woe to the killer of a brahman, and woe to him who releases (angry words) against him.
  8. This is no advantage for a brahman, when there is restraint of mind from pleasant things. The more his mind turns away (from such things), the more suffering is calmed indeed.
  9. By whom no evil is done in body, mind (and) voice, him, restrained in these three respects, I call a brahman.
  10. From whom one might learn the doctrine taught by the fully-awakened one, him one should worship reverently, as a brahman worships the sacrificial fire.
  11. Not by matted locks, not by clan, not by birth, does one become a brahman. In whom is truth and righteousness, he is pure and he is a brahman.
  12. What is the use to you, o fool, of matted locks, what is the use of a garment of goat skins? There is a thicket inside you, you clean the outside.
  13. A creature wearing clothes from a dust heap, thin, with is veins showing, meditating alone in the forest, him I call a brahman.
  14. But I do not call one born in a (brahman) womb a Brahman, having his origin in a (brahman) mother. He is called “who says ‘bho’”, if he has possessions. One without possessions and without attachments, him I call a brahman.
  15. Whoever indeed has cut off every fetter does not tremble, him, gone beyond attachment, without connections, I call a brahman.
  16. Whoever having cut the strap and the thong, the fastening with appurtenances, has thrown up the bar (got rid of the obstacles), is awakened, him I call a brahman.
  17. Whoever, (although he) has committed no offence, bears patiently abuse and flogging and imprisonment, him, with endurance for his force, and force for his army, I call a brahman.
  18. Whoever is without anger, has taken a vow, is virtuous, in undefiled, is tamed, with his last body, him I call a brahman.
  19. Whoever does not cling to sensual pleasures, just as water does nor cling to a lotus leaf, or a mustard seed to the point of an awl, him I call a brahman.
  20. Whoever in this very place knows the termination of his own suffering, him, with burden aside, without connections, I call a brahman.
  21. Whose knowledge is profound, who possesses wisdom, knows right and wrong way, has attained to the highest goal, him I call a brahman.
  22. Whoever does not mingle with householders, or the houseless, both, who does not frequent houses, and has few desires, him I call a brahman.
  23. Whoever, having laid aside violence with regard to creatures moving and still, neither kills nor causes to kill, him I call a brahman.
  24. Whoever is not hostile among the hostile, at rest among those who are violent, not clinging among those who are clinging, him I call a brahman.
  25. Whose passion and hatred, pride and hypocrisy have been made to fall, like a mustard seed from the point of an awl, him I call a brahman.
  26. Whoever would utter speech which is not harsh, informative, pleasant, by which he would offend no one, him I call a brahman.
  27. But whoever does not take in the world what is not given, be it long or short, small or large, pleasant or unpleasant, him I call a brahman.
  28. Whoever has no desires of this world or the next, him, without desire, without connections, I call a brahman.
  29. Whoever has no desires, is without doubt because of his knowledge, him, arrived at the firm foundation of the death-free, I call a brahman.
  30. But whoever has passed beyond good and evil, both attachments, him, without grief, without defilement, pure, I call a brahman.
  31. Whoever is spotless and pure like the moon, serene, not defiled, with joy and existence exhausted, him I call a brahman.
  32. Whoever has gone beyond this difficult path, journeying-on, delusion, crossed over, arrived at the far shore, meditative, without desire, without doubts, has gained nibbāna without grasping, him I call a brahman.
  33. But whoever, giving up sensual pleasures, would wander about without a house, him, with sensual pleasures and existence exhausted, I call a brahman.
  34. But whoever, giving up craving, would wander about without a house, him, with craving and existence exhausted, I call a brahman.
  35. Giving up human connection, he has (also) gone beyond divine connection. Him, disconnected from all connections, I call a brahman.
  36. Whoever giving up pleasure and non-pleasure, has become cold, without acquisitions (which lead to rebirth), having overcome all the world, a hero, him I call a brahman.
  37. Whoever knows in every way the passing away and uprising of living creatures, him, unattached, a well-farer, awakened, I call a brahman.
  38. Whose (place of) rebirth gods, gandhabbas and men do not know, him, with āsavas extinguished, an arahant, I call a brahman.
  39. For whom there is nothing, before and after and in the middle, him, having nothing, without grasping, I call a brahman.
  40. Whoever is a bull of a man, outstanding, a hero, a great sage, a conqueror, without desire, cleansed, awakened, him I call a brahman.
  41. Whoever knows his previous abodes, and perceives the heavens and hells. And has reached the cessation of births, is a sage perfected in knowledge, him, having perfected all perfections, I call a brahman.

Akin to Brahman is the Self in the Dhammapada. Bhattacharya cites a verse from the Dhammapada illustrating the different usages of the word ātman we’ve been covering in this series via a single verse:

attā hi attano nātho ko hi nātho paro siyā |
attan āhi sudantena nāthaṃ labhati dullabhaṃ ||

The ātman is the refuge of the self.
What other refuge can there be?
When the (phenomenal) ātman is properly subdued,
a refuge, difficult to find, is obtained.

Dhammapada 160 (ibid, pg.31)

The above is also reinforced by the following passage:

Goad yourself by the ātman; examine yourself by the ātman.
Protected by the ātman and attentive, you will live, O Bhikṣu,
In happiness.
The ātman is the refuge of the self; the ātman is the destination
of the self. Therefore, control your [phenonmenal] ātman
as the merchant does a good horse.

Dhammapada 379-380 (ibid)

*A footnote from Bhattacharya further helps to clarify and thus conclude this series:

The idea is this: For the man who has conquered his phenomenal ātman by means of the authentic ātman, the phenomenal ātman has become the means by which the authentic ātman actualizes i.e., “the lower self has been turned into a willing and ardent ministrant to the purpose of the higher,” Hiriyanna, The Quest after Perfection, p.57 (ibid, 105)

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