Buddha’s words of wisdom, the Dhammapada

The Dhammapada is one of the most esteemed sacred scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.  Originally written in Pali, the verses in this text were spoken by Buddha and preserved in the classical commentary by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa in the fifth century C.E.  

This beautiful and timeless masterpiece presents a clear vision of life; its goals, structure and challenges. It presents practical wisdom in guiding us to Nibbana, the eternal state of non attachment.    

Translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita, copyright 1985, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka

The verses are presented by the author in groupings of similar content.  Although the complete text consists of 423 verses, I have here presented just a few of them.

The Pairs:

The mind precedes all mental states.  Mind is their
chief; they are all mind wrought.  If with a pure
mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows
him like his never departing shadow.

Just as rain breaks through an ill thatched house,
so passion penetrates an undeveloped mind.

Heedfulness:

The wise ones, ever meditative and steadfastly
persevering, alone experience Nibbana, the
incomparable freedom from bondage.

The Mind:

Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so
difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever
it desires.  A tamed mind brings happiness.

Flowers:

Like a beautiful flower full of color and also
fragrant, even so, fruitful are the fair words of
one who practices them.

As from a great heap of flowers many garlands
can be made, even so should many good deed be
done by one born a mortal.

The Fool:

Long is the night to the sleepless; long is the
league to the weary.  Long is worldly existence to
fools who know not the Sublime Truth.

Should a seeker not find a companion who is better
or equal, let him resolutely pursue a solitary
course; there is no fellowship with the fool.

The Wise Man:

He who drinks deep the Dhamma lives happily
with a tranquil mind.  The wise man ever delights
in the Dhamma made known by the Noble One
(the Buddha).

The Arahat: The Perfected One:

The fever of passion exists not for him who has
completed the journey, who is sorrow less and wholly set free,
and has broken all ties.

Calm is his thought, calm his speech. and calm
his deed, who, truly knowing, is wholly freed,
perfectly tranquil and wise.

The man who is without blind faith, who knows
the Uncreated, who has severed all links,
destroyed all causes (for karma, good and evil), and
thrown out all desires – he, truly, is the most
excellent of men.

The Thousands:

Better than a thousand useless verses in one useful verse,
hearing which one attains peace.

Though one may conquer a thousand times a
thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest
visitor who conquers himself.

Better is to live one day virtuous and meditative
than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled.

Evil:

Hasten to do good; restrain your mind from evil.
He who is slow in doings good, his mind delights
in evil.

Just as a trader with a small escort and great
wealth would avoid a perilous route, or just as
one desiring to live avoids poison, even so should
one shun evil.

Neither in the sky nor in mid-ocean, nor by entering
into mountain clefts, nowhere in the world is
there a place where one may escape from the
results of evil deeds.

Violence:

One who, while himself seeking happiness,
oppresses with violence other beings who also desire
happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.

Speak not harshly to anyone, for those thus spoken
to might retort.  Indeed, angry speech hurts,
and retaliation may overtake you.

Just as a cowherd drives the cattle to pasture with
a staff, so do old age and death drive the life force
of beings (from existence to existence).

Irrigators regulate the waters, fletchers straighten
arrow shafts, carpenters shape wood, and the
good control themselves.

Old Age:

This city (body) is built of bones, plastered with
flesh and blood; within are decay and death, pride
and jealousy.

Through many a birth in samsara have I wandered
in vain, seeking the builder of this house (of life).
Repeated birth is indeed suffering!

The Self:

The evil a witless man does by himself, born of
himself and produced by himself, grinds him as a
diamond grinds a hard gem.

Easy to do are things that are bad and harmful to
oneself.  But exceedingly difficult to do are things
that are good and beneficial.

The World:

Lead a righteous life; lead not a base life.  The
Righteous lie happily both in this world and the
next.

He, who by good deeds covers the evil he has
done, illuminates this world like the moon freed
from clouds.

The Buddha:

Those wise ones who are devoted to meditation
and who delight in the calm of renunciation –
such mindful ones, Supreme Buddha’s, even the
gods hold dear.

Hard is to be born a man; hard is the life of
mortals.  Hard is to gain the opportunity of
hearing the Sublime Truth, and hard to encounter
is the arising of the Buddhas.

He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha,
the Teaching and his Order, penetrates with
transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths –
suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the
Nobel Eightfold Path leading to the cessations of
suffering.

Happiness:

Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile.
Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.

Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain.
Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory
and defeat.

Health is the most precious gain and contentment
the greatest wealth.  A trustworthy person is the
best kinsman, Nibbana the highest bliss.

Indeed, he who moves in the company of fools
grieves for longing.  Association with fools is
ever painful, like partnership with an enemy.  But
association with the wise is happy, like meeting
one’s own kinsmen.

Affection:

From attachment springs grief, from attachment
springs fear.  From him who is wholly free from
attachment there is no grief, whence then fear?

People hold dear him who embodies virtue and
insight, who is principled, has realized the truth,
and who himself does what he ought to be doing.

Anger:

One should give up anger, renounce pride, and
overcome all fetters.  Suffering never befalls him
who clings not to mind and body and is detached.

Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the
wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity;
overcome the liar by truth.

Impurity:

Like a withered leaf are you now; death’s messengers
await you.  You stand on the eve of your
departure, yet you have made no provision for
your journey!

One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a
wise man should remove his own impurities, as a
smith removes his dross from silver.

Easy for life is the shameless one who is impudent
as a crow, who is backbiting and forward,
arrogant and corrupt.

Difficult is life for the modest one who always
seeks purity, is detached and unassuming,
clean in life, and discerning.

Easily seen is the fault of others, but one’s own
fault is difficult to see.  Like chaff one winnows
another’s faults, but hides one’s own, even as a
crafty fowler hides behind sham branches.

The Just:

He who does not judge others arbitrarily, but
passes judgment impartially according to the
truth, that sagacious man is a guardian of law and
is called just.

One in whom there is truthfulness, virtue, inoffensiveness,
restraint and self mastery, who is free from
defilements and is wise, he is truly
called an Elder.

The Path:

Of all the paths the Eightfold Path is the best; of
all the truths the Four Noble Truths are the best;
of all things passionlessness is the best: of men
the Seeing One (the Buddha) is the best.

You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only
point the way.  Those meditative ones who tread
the path are released from the bonds of Mara.

“All things are not self,” when one see this
with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.
This is the path of purification.

Wisdom springs from meditation; without meditation
wisdom wanes.  Having known these two
paths of progress and decline, let a man so conduct
himself that his wisdom may increase.

Miscellaneous:

Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken happily
whose minds by day and night delight in the
practice of non-violence.

The State of Woe:

The liar goes to the state of woe; also he who,
having done (wrong), says, “I did not do it.”  Men
of base actions both, on departing they share the
same destiny in the other world.

An evil deed is better left undone, for such a deed
torments one afterwards.  But a good deed is better
done, doing which one repents not later.

Those who discern the wrong as wrong and the
right as right, uphold right views, they go to
realms of bliss.

The Elephant:

Not by these mounts, however, would one go to
the Untrodden Land (Nibbana), as one who is
self tamed goes by his own tamed and well
controlled mind.

Formerly this mind wandered about as it liked,
where it wished and according to its pleasure, but
now I shall Thoroughly master it with wisdom as
a mahout controls with his ankus (sic) an
elephant in rut.

Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is
steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and
good is the avoidance of evil.

Craving:

Just as a tree, though cut down, sprouts up again
if its roots remain uncut and firm, even so, until
the craving that lies dormant is rooted out, suffering
springs up again and again.

Beset by craving, people run about like an entrapped
hare.  Therefore, one who yearns to be
passion free should destroy his own craving.

Those who are list infatuated fall back into the
swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its
self spun web.  This, too, the wise cut off.  Without
any longing, they abandon all suffering and
renounce the world.

Let go of the past, let go of the future, let go of
the present, and cross over to the farther shore of
existence.  With mind wholly liberated, you shall
come no more to birth and death.

The Holy Man:

When a holy man has reached the summit of two
paths (meditative concentration and insight), he
knows the truth and all his fetters fall away.

The sun shines by day, the moon shines by night.
The warrior shines in armor, the holy man shines
in meditation.  But the Buddha shines resplendent
all day and all night.

Not by matted hair, nor by lineage, not by birth
does one become a holy man.  But he in whom
truth and righteousness exist – he is pure, he is a
holy man.

He who, having cut off all fetters, trembles no
more, who has overcome all attachments and is
emancipated – him do I call a holy man.

§§

May the reading of this wonderful text inspire your spiritual journey.

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