meditation and spiritual growth

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.