Home  |  Minor Stories Index

Verse 100: The Story of Tambadathika

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (100) of this book, with
reference to Tambadathika, the executioner of thieves.

Tambadathika served the king as an executioner of thieves for fifty-five years; he had just
retired from that post. One day, after preparing rice gruel at his house, he went to the river
for a bath; he had intended to take the specially prepared rice gruel on his return. As he was
about to take the rice gruel, Thera Sariputta, who had just arisen from sustained absorption
in Concentration (jhana samapatti), stood at his door for alms-food. Seeing the thera,
Tambadathika thought to himself, "Throughout my life, I have been executing thieves; now I
should offer this food to the thera." So, he invited Thera Sariputta to come in and
respectfully offered the rice gruel.

After the meal, the thera taught him the Dhamma, but Tambadathika could not pay attention,
because he was so agitated as he recollected his past life as an executioner. When the thera
knew this, he decided to ask Tambadathika tactfully, whether he killed the thieves because
he wished to kill them, or because he was ordered to do so. Tambadathika answered that he
was ordered to kill them by the king and that he had no wish to kill. Then the thera asked, "If
that is so, would you be guilty or not ?" Tambadathika then concluded that, as he was not
responsible for the evil deeds, he was not guilty. He, therefore, calmed down, and requested
the thera to continue his exposition. As he listened to the Dhamma with proper attention, he
came very close to attaining Sotapatti Magga, and reached as far as anuloma nana.* After
the discourse, Tambadathika accompanied Thera Sariputta for some distance and then
returned home. On his way home a cow (actually a demon in the guise of a cow) gored him to

When the Buddha came to the congregation of the Bhikkhus in the evening, they informed him
about the death of Tambadathika. When asked where Tambadathika was reborn, the Buddha
told them that although Tambadathika had committed evil deeds throughout his life, because
he comprehended the Dhamma after hearing it from Thera Sariputta and had already
attained anuloma nana before he died, he was reborn in the Tusita deva world. The Bhikkhus
wondered how such an evil-doer could have such great benefit after listening to the Dhamma
just once. The Buddha told them that the length of a discourse is of no consequence, for
one single word of sense can produce much benefit.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 100. Better than a thousand words that are senseless and unconnected with the
realization of Nibbana, is a single word of essence, when hearing it, one is calmed.

* anuloma nana: Knowledge conforming to the real & true = Vipassana Insight, which causes
the nama-rupa process of the yogi to become fully adapted for Magga Insight.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.

Saved: 24 December 2016  https://What-Buddha-Said.net/Canon/Sutta/KN/Dhammapada.Verse_100.story.htm