The Buddha's Path of Wisdom

Version by Acharya Buddharakkhita


1 The Pairs
2 Heedfulness
3 The Mind
4 Flowers
5 The Fool
6 The Wise Person
7 The Arahat
8 The Thousands
9 Evil
10 Violence
11 Old Age
12 The Self
13 The World
14 The Buddha
15 Happiness
16 Affection
17 Anger
18 Impurity
19 The Just
20 The Path
21 Miscellaneous
22 The State of Woe
23 The Elephant
24 Craving
25 The Monk
26 The Holy Person

The Dhammapada
The Buddha's Path of Wisdom


The Dhammapada is the best known and most widely esteemed text in the Pali Tipitaka, the sacred scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. The work is included in the Khuddaka Nikaya ("Minor Collection") of the Sutta Pitaka, but its popularity has raised it far above the single niche it occupies in the scriptures to the ranks of a world religious classic. Composed in the ancient Pali language, this slim anthology of verses constitutes a perfect compendium of the Buddha's teaching, comprising between its covers all the essential principles elaborated at length in the forty-odd volumes of the Pali Canon.

According to the Theravada Buddhist tradition, each verse in the Dhammapada was originally spoken by the Buddha in response to a particular episode. Accounts of these, along with exegesis of the verses, are preserved in the classic commentary to the work, compiled by the great scholiast Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa in the fifth century C.E. on the basis of material going back to very ancient times. The contents of the verses, however, transcend the limited and particular circumstances of their origin, reaching out through the ages to various types of people in all the diverse situations of life. For the simple and unsophisticated the Dhammapada is a sympathetic counsellor; for the intellectually overburdened its clear and direct teachings inspire humility and reflection; for the earnest seeker it is a perennial source of inspiration and practical instruction. Insights that flashed into the heart of the Buddha have crystallized into these luminous verses of pure wisdom. As profound expressions of practical spirituality, each verse is a guideline to right living. The Buddha unambiguously pointed out that whoever earnestly practises the teachings found in the Dhammapada will taste the bliss of emancipation.

Due to its immense importance, the Dhammapada has been translated into numerous languages. In English alone several translations are available, including editions by such noted scholars as Max Muller and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. However, when presented from a non-Buddhist frame of reference, the teachings of the Buddha inevitably suffer some distortion. This, in fact, has already happened with our anthology: an unfortunate selection of renderings has sometimes suggested erroneous interpretations, while footnotes have tended to be judgemental.

The present translation was originally written in the late 1950's. Some years earlier, while consulting a number of English-language editions of the Dhammapada, it was observed that the renderings were too free and inaccurate or too pedantic, and it was therefore felt that a new translation avoiding these two extremes would serve a valuable purpose. The finished result of that project, presented here, is a humble attempt by a practising follower of the Buddha to transmit the spirit and content, as well as the language and style, of the original teachings.

In preparing this volume I have had access to numerous editions and translations of the Dhammapada into various languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Sinhala, Burmese and Nepali. I particularly benefited from the excellent translations of the work by the late Venerable Narada Mahathera of Vajirarama, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Professor Bhagwat of Poona, India; to them I acknowledge my debt. A few verses contain riddles, references or analogies that may not be evident to the reader. The meanings of these are provided either in parenthesis or notes, and for their interpretation I have relied on the explanations given in Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa's commentary. Verses discussed in the notes are indicated in the text.

A first edition of this translation was published in 1959 and a second in 1966, both by the Maha Bodhi Society in Bangalore, India. For this third edition, the translation has undergone considerable revision. The newly added subtitle, "The Buddha's Path of Wisdom," is not literal, but is fully applicable on the ground that the verses of the Dhammapada all originate from the Buddha's wisdom and lead the one who follows them to a life guided by that same wisdom.

I am grateful to the editors of the Buddhist Publication Society for their helpful suggestions, and to the Society itself for so generously undertaking the publication of this work.

I make this offering of Dhamma in grateful memory of my teachers, parents and relatives, departed and living. May they find access in the Buddha's Dispensation and attain Nibbana!

May all beings be happy!

Acharya Buddharakkhita

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From ancient times to the present, the Dhammapada has been regarded as the most succinct expression of the Buddha's teaching found in the Pali Canon and the chief spiritual testament of early Buddhism. In the countries following Theravada Buddhism, such as Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand, the influence of the Dhammapada is ubiquitous. It is an ever-fecund source of themes for sermons and discussions, a guidebook for resolving the countless problems of everyday life, a primer for the instruction of novices in the monasteries. Even the experienced contemplative, withdrawn to forest hermitage or mountainside cave for a life of meditation, can be expected to count a copy of the book among his few material possessions. Yet the admiration the Dhammapada has elicited has not been confined to avowed followers of Buddhism. Wherever it has become known its moral earnestness, realistic understanding of human life, aphoristic wisdom and stirring message of a way to freedom from suffering have won for it the devotion and veneration of those responsive to the good and the true.

The expounder of the verses that comprise the Dhammapada is the Indian sage called the Buddha, an honorific title meaning "the Enlightened One" or "the Awakened One." The story of this venerable personage has often been overlaid with literary embellishment and the admixture of legend, but the historical essentials of his life are simple and clear. He was born in the sixth century B.C., the son of a king ruling over a small state in the Himalayan foothills, in what is now Nepal. His given name was Siddhattha and his family name Gotama (Sanskrit: Siddhartha Gautama). Raised in luxury, groomed by his father to be the heir to the throne, in his early manhood he went through a deeply disturbing encounter with the sufferings of life, as a result of which he lost all interest in the pleasures and privileges of rulership. One night, in his twenty-ninth year, he fled the royal city and entered the forest to live as an ascetic, resolved to find a way to deliverance from suffering. For six years he experimented with different systems of meditation and subjected himself to severe austerities, but found that these practises did not bring him any closer to his goal. Finally, in his thirty-fifth year, while sitting in deep meditation beneath a tree at Gaya, he attained Supreme Enlightenment and became, in the proper sense of the title, the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Thereafter, for forty-five years, he travelled throughout northern India, proclaiming the truths he had discovered and founding an order of monks and nuns to carry on his message. At the age of eighty, after a long and fruitful life, he passed away peacefully in the small town of Kusinara, surrounded by a large number of disciples.

To his followers, the Buddha is neither a god, a divine incarnation, or a prophet bearing a message of divine revelation, but a human being who by his own striving and intelligence has reached the highest spiritual attainment of which man is capable- -perfect wisdom, full enlightenment, complete purification of mind. His function in relation to humanity is that of a teacher- -a world teacher who, out of compassion, points out to others the way to Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana), final release from suffering. His teaching, known as the Dhamma, offers a body of instructions explaining the true nature of existence and showing the path that leads to liberation. Free from all dogmas and inscrutable claims to authority, the Dhamma is founded solidly upon the bedrock of the Buddha's own clear comprehension of reality, and it leads the one who practises it to that same understanding--the knowledge which extricates the roots of suffering.

The title "Dhammapada" which the ancient compilers of the Buddhist scriptures attached to our anthology means portions, aspects, or sections of Dhamma. The work has been given this title because, in its twenty-six chapters, it spans the multiple aspects of the Buddha's teaching, offering a variety of standpoints from which to gain a glimpse into its heart. Whereas the longer discourses of the Buddha contained in the prose sections of the Canon usually proceed methodically, unfolding according to the sequential structure of the doctrine, the Dhammapada lacks such a systematic arrangement. The work is simply a collection of inspirational or pedagogical verses on the fundamentals of the Dhamma, to be used as a basis for personal edification and instruction. In any given chapter several successive verses may have been spoken by the Buddha on a single occasion, and thus among themselves will exhibit a meaningful development or a set of variations on a theme. But by and large, the logic behind the grouping together of verses into a chapter is merely the concern with a common topic. The twenty-six chapter headings thus function as a kind of rubric for classifying the diverse poetic utterances of the Master, and the reason behind the inclusion of any given verse in a particular chapter is its mention of the subject indicated in the chapter's heading. In some cases (Chapter 4 and 23) this may be a metaphorical symbol rather than a point of doctrine. There also seems to be no intentional design in the order of the chapters themselves, though at certain points a loose thread of development can be discerned.

The teachings of the Buddha, viewed in their completeness, all link together into a single perfectly coherent system of thought and practice which gains its unity from its final goal, the attainment of deliverance from suffering. But the teachings inevitably emerge from the human condition as their matrix and starting point, and thus must be expressed in such a way as to reach human beings standing at different levels of spiritual development, with their highly diverse problems, ends, and concerns and with their very different capacities for understanding. Thence, just as water, though one in essence, assumes different shapes due to the vessels into which it is poured, so the Dhamma of liberation takes on different forms in response to the needs of the beings to be taught. This diversity, evident enough already in the prose discourses, becomes even more conspicuous in the highly condensed, spontaneous and intuitively charged medium of verse used in the Dhammapada. The intensified power of delivery can result in apparent inconsistencies which may perplex the unwary. For example, in many verses the Buddha commends certain practices on the grounds that they lead to a heavenly birth, but in others he discourages disciples from aspiring for heaven and extolls the one who takes no delight in celestial pleasures (187, 417).1  Often he enjoins works of merit, yet elsewhere he praises the one who has gone beyond both merit and demerit (39, 412). Without a grasp of the underlying structure of the Dhamma, such statements viewed side by side will appear incompatible and may even elicit the judgement that the teaching is self-contradictory.

The key to resolving these apparent discrepancies is the recognition that the Dhamma assumes its formulation from the needs of the diverse persons to whom it is addressed, as well as from the diversity of needs that may co-exist even in a single individual. To make sense of the various utterances found in the Dhammapada, we will suggest a schematism of four levels to be used for ascertaining the intention behind any particular verse found in the work, and thus for understanding its proper place in the total systematic vision of the Dhamma. This fourfold schematism develops out of an ancient interpretive maxim which holds that the Buddha's teaching is designed to meet three primary aims: human welfare here and now, a favourable rebirth in the next life, and the attainment of the ultimate good. The four levels are arrived at by distinguishing the last aim into two stages: path and fruit.

(i) The first level is the concern with establishing well-being and happiness in the immediately visible sphere of concrete human relations. The aim at this level is to show man the way to live at peace with himself and his fellow men, to fulfill his family and social responsibilities, and to restrain the bitterness, conflict and violence which infect human relationships and bring such immense suffering to the individual, society, and the world as a whole. The guidelines appropriate to this level are largely identical with the basic ethical injunctions proposed by most of the great world religions, but in the Buddhist teaching they are freed from theistic moorings and grounded upon two directly verifiable foundations: concern for one's own integrity and long-range happiness and concern for the welfare of those whom one's actions may affect (129-132). The most general counsel the Dhammapada gives is to avoid all evil, to cultivate good and to cleanse one's mind (183). But to dispel any doubts the disciple might entertain as to what he should avoid and what he should cultivate, other verses provide more specific directives. One should avoid irritability in deed, word and thought and exercise self-control (231-234). One should adhere to the five precepts, the fundamental moral code of Buddhism, which teach abstinence from destroying life, from stealing, from committing adultery, from speaking lies and from taking intoxicants; one who violates these five training rules "digs up his own root even in this very world" (246-247). The disciple should treat all beings with kindness and compassion, live honestly and righteously, control his sensual desires, speak the truth and live a sober upright life, diligently fulfilling his duties, such as service to parents, to his immediate family and to those recluses and brahmins who depend on the laity for their maintenance (332-333).

A large number of verses pertaining to this first level are concerned with the resolution of conflict and hostility. Quarrels are to be avoided by patience and forgiveness, for responding to hatred by further hatred only maintains the cycle of vengeance and retaliation. The true conquest of hatred is achieved by non-hatred, by forbearance, by love (4-6). One should not respond to bitter speech but maintain silence (134). One should not yield to anger but control it as a driver controls a chariot (222). Instead of keeping watch for the faults of others, the disciple is admonished to examine his own faults, and to make a continual effort to remove his impurities just as a silversmith purifies silver (50, 239). Even if he has committed evil in the past, there is no need for dejection or despair; for a man's ways can be radically changed, and one who abandons the evil for the good illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds (173).

The sterling qualities distinguishing the man of virtue are generosity, truthfulness, patience, and compassion (223). By developing and mastering these qualities within himself, a man lives at harmony with his own conscience and at peace with his fellow beings. The scent of virtue, the Buddha declares, is sweeter than the scent of all flowers and perfumes (55-56). The good man, like the Himalaya mountains, shines from afar, and wherever he goes he is loved and respected (303-304).

(ii) In its second level of teaching, the Dhammapada shows that morality does not exhaust its significance in its contribution to human felicity here and now, but exercises a far more critical influence in moulding personal destiny. This level begins with the recognition that, to reflective thought, the human situation demands a more satisfactory context for ethics than mere appeals to altruism can provide. On the one hand our innate sense of moral justice requires that goodness be recompensed with happiness and evil with suffering; on the other our typical experience shows us virtuous people beset with hardships and afflictions and thoroughly bad people riding the waves of fortune (119-120). Moral intuition tells us that if there is any long-range value to righteousness, the imbalance must somehow be redressed. The visible order does not yield an evident solution, but the Buddha's teaching reveals the factor needed to vindicate our cry for moral justice in an impersonal universal law which reigns over all sentient existence. This is the law of kamma (Sanskrit: karma), of action and its fruit, which ensures that morally determinate action does not disappear into nothingness but eventually meets its due retribution, the good with happiness, the bad with suffering.

In the popular understanding kamma is sometimes identified with fate, but this is a total misconception utterly inapplicable to the Buddhist doctrine. Kamma means volitional action, action springing from intention, which may manifest itself outwardly as bodily deeds or speech, or remain internally as unexpressed thoughts, desires and emotions. The Buddha distinguishes kamma into two primary ethical types: unwholesome kamma, action rooted in mental states of greed, hatred and delusion; and wholesome kamma, action rooted in mental states of generosity or detachment, goodwill and understanding. The willed actions a person performs in the course of his life may fade from memory without a trace, but once performed they leave subtle imprints on the mind, seeds with the potential to come to fruition in the future when they meet conditions conducive to their ripening.

The objective field in which the seeds of kamma ripen is the process of rebirths called samsara. In the Buddha's teaching, life is not viewed as an isolated occurrence beginning spontaneously with birth and ending in utter annihilation at death. Each single lifespan is seen, rather, as part of an individualised series of lives having no discoverable beginning in time and continuing on as long as the desire for existence stands intact. Rebirth can take place in various realms. There are not only the familiar realms of human beings and animals, but ranged above we meet heavenly worlds of greater happiness, beauty and power, and ranged below infernal worlds of extreme suffering.

The cause for rebirth into these various realms the Buddha locates in kamma, our own willed actions. In its primary role, kamma determines the sphere into which rebirth takes place, wholesome actions bringing rebirth in higher forms, unwholesome actions rebirth in lower forms. After yielding rebirth, kamma continues to operate, governing the endowments and circumstances of the individual within his given form of existence. Thus, within the human world, previous stores of wholesome kamma will issue in long life, health, wealth, beauty and success; stores of unwholesome kamma in short life, illness, poverty, ugliness and failure.

Prescriptively, the second level of teaching found in the Dhammapada is the practical corollary to this recognition of the law of kamma, put forth to show human beings, who naturally desire happiness and freedom from sorrow, the effective means to achieve their objectives. The content of this teaching itself does not differ from that presented at the first level; it is the same set of ethical injunctions for abstaining from evil and for cultivating the good. The difference lies in the perspective from which the injunctions are issued and the aim for the sake of which they are to be taken up. The principles of morality are shown now in their broader cosmic connections, as tied to an invisible but all-embracing law which binds together all life and holds sway over the repeated rotations of the cycle of birth and death. The observance of morality is justified, despite its difficulties and apparent failures, by the fact that it is in harmony with that law, that through the efficacy of kamma, our willed actions become the chief determinant of our destiny both in this life and in future states of becoming. To follow the ethical law leads upwards--to inner development, to higher rebirths and to richer experiences of happiness and joy. To violate the law, to act in the grip of selfishness and hate, leads downwards--to inner deterioration, to suffering and to rebirth in the worlds of misery. This theme is announced already by the pair of verses which opens the Dhammapada, and reappears in diverse formulations throughout the work (see, e.g. 15-18, 117-122, 127, 132-133, Chapter 22).

(iii) The ethical counsel based on the desire for higher rebirths and happiness in future lives is not the final teaching of the Buddha, and thus cannot provide the decisive program of personal training commended by the Dhammapada. In its own sphere of application, it is perfectly valid as a preparatory or provisional teaching for those whose spiritual faculties are not yet ripe but still require further maturation over a succession of lives. A deeper, more searching examination, however, reveals that all states of existence in samsara, even the loftiest celestial abodes, are lacking in genuine worth; for they are all inherently impermanent, without any lasting substance, and thus, for those who cling to them, potential bases for suffering. The disciple of mature faculties, sufficiently prepared by previous experience for the Buddha's distinctive exposition of the Dhamma, does not long even for rebirth among the gods. Having understood the intrinsic inadequacy of all conditioned things, his focal aspiration is only for deliverance from the ever-repeating round of births. This is the ultimate goal to which the Buddha points, as the immediate aim for those of developed faculties and also as the long-term ideal for those in need of further development: Nibbana, the Deathless, the unconditioned state where there is no more birth, ageing and death, and no more suffering.

The third level of teaching found in the Dhammapada sets forth the theoretical framework and practical discipline emerging out of the aspiration for final deliverance. The theoretical framework is provided by the teaching of the Four Noble Truths (190-192, 273), which the Buddha had proclaimed already in his first sermon and upon which he placed so much stress in his many discourses that all schools of Buddhism have appropriated them as their common foundation. The four truths all centre around the fact of suffering (dukkha), understood not as mere experienced pain and sorrow, but as the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of everything conditioned (202-203). The first truth details the various forms of suffering--birth, old age, sickness and death, the misery of unpleasant encounters and painful separations, the suffering of not obtaining what one wants. It culminates in the declaration that all constituent phenomena of body and mind, "the aggregates of existence" (khandha), being impermanent and substanceless, are intrinsically unsatisfactory. The second truth points out that the cause of suffering is craving (tanha), the desire for pleasure and existence which drives us through the round of rebirths, bringing in its trail sorrow, anxiety, and despair (212-216, Chapter 24). The third truth declares that the destruction of craving issues in release from suffering, and the fourth prescribes the means to gain release, the Noble Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration (Chapter 20).

If, at this third level, the doctrinal emphasis shifts from the principles of kamma and rebirth to the Four Noble Truths, a corresponding shift in emphasis takes place in the practical sphere as well. The stress now no longer falls on the observation of basic morality and the cultivation of wholesome attitudes as a means to higher rebirths. Instead it falls on the integral development of the Noble Eightfold Path a means to uproot the craving that nurtures the process of rebirth itself. For practical purposes the eight factors of the path are arranged into three major groups which reveal more clearly the developmental structure of the training: moral discipline (including right speech, right action and right livelihood), concentration (including right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration), and wisdom (including right understanding and right thought). By the training in morality, the coarsest forms of the mental defilements, those erupting as unwholesome deeds and words, are checked and kept under control. By the training in concentration the mind is made calm, pure and unified, purged of the currents of distractive thoughts. By the training in wisdom the concentrated beam of attention is focused upon the constituent factors of mind and body to investigate and contemplate their salient characteristics. This wisdom, gradually ripened, climaxes in the understanding that brings complete purification and deliverance of mind.

In principle, the practice of the path in all three stages is feasible for people in any walk of life. The Buddha taught it to laypeople as well as to monks, and many of his lay followers reached high stages of attainment. However, application to the development of the path becomes most fruitful for those who have relinquished all other concerns in order to devote themselves wholeheartedly to spiritual training, to living the "holy life" (brahmacariya). For conduct to be completely purified, for sustained contemplation and penetrating wisdom to unfold without impediments, adoption of a different style of life becomes imperative, one which minimizes distractions and stimulants to craving and orders all activities around the aim of liberation. Thus the Buddha established the Sangha, the order of monks and nuns, as the special field for those ready to dedicate their lives to the practice of his path, and in the Dhammapada the call to the monastic life resounds throughout.

The entry-way to the monastic life is an act of radical renunciation. The thoughtful, who have seen the transience and hidden misery of worldly life, break the ties of family and social bonds, abandon their homes and mundane pleasures, and enter upon the state of homelessness (83, 87-89, 91). Withdrawn to silent and secluded places, they seek out the company of wise instructors, and guided by the rules of the monastic training, devote their energies to a life of meditation. Content with the simplest material requisites, moderate in eating, restrained in their senses, they stir up their energy, abide in constant mindfulness and still the restless waves of thoughts (185, 375). With the mind made clear and steady, they learn to contemplate the arising and falling away of all formations, and experience thereby "a delight that transcends all human delights," a joy and happiness that anticipates the bliss of the Deathless (373-374). The life of meditative contemplation reaches its peak in the development of insight (vipassana), and the Dhammapada enunciates the principles to be discerned by insight-wisdom: that all conditioned things are impermanent, that they are all unsatisfactory, that there is no self or truly existent ego entity to be found in anything whatsoever (277-279). When these truths are penetrated by direct experience, the craving, ignorance and related mental fetters maintaining bondage break asunder, and the disciple rises through successive stages of realisation to the full attainment of Nibbana.

(iv) The fourth level of teaching in the Dhammapada provides no new disclosure of doctrine or practice, but an acclamation and exaltation of those who have reached the goal. In the Pali Canon the stages of definite attainment along the way to Nibbana are enumerated as four. At the first, called "Stream-entry" (sotapatti), the disciple gains his first glimpse of "the Deathless" and enters irreversibly upon the path to liberation, bound to reach the goal in seven lives at most. This achievement alone, the Dhammapada declares, is greater than lordship over all the worlds (178). Following Stream-entry come two further stages which weaken and eradicate still more defilements and bring the goal increasingly closer to view. One is called the stage of Once-returner (sakadagami), when the disciple will return to the human world at most only one more time; the other the stage of Non-returner (anagami), when he will never come back to human existence but will take rebirth in a celestial plane, bound to win final deliverance there. The fourth and final stage is that of the Arahat, the Perfected One, the fully accomplished sage who has completed the development of the path, eradicated all defilements and freed himself from bondage to the cycle of rebirths. This is the ideal figure of early Buddhism and the supreme hero of the Dhammapada. Extolled in Chapter 7 under his own name and in Chapter 26 (385-388, 396-423) under the name brahmana, "holy man," the Arahat serves as a living demonstration of the truth of the Dhamma. Bearing his last body, perfectly at peace, he is the inspiring model who shows in his own person that it is possible to free oneself from the stains of greed, hatred and delusion, to rise above suffering, to win Nibbana in this very life.

The Arahat ideal reaches its optimal exemplification in the Buddha, the promulgator and master of the entire teaching. It was the Buddha who, without any aid or guidance, rediscovered the ancient path to deliverance and taught it to countless others. His arising in the world provides the precious opportunity to hear and practice the excellent Dhamma (182, 194). He is the giver and shower of refuge (190-192), the Supreme Teacher who depends on nothing but his own self-evolved wisdom (353). Born a man, the Buddha always remains essentially human, yet his attainment of Perfect Enlightenment elevates him to a level far surpassing that of common humanity. All our familiar concepts and modes of knowing fail to circumscribe his nature: he is trackless, of limitless range, free from all worldliness, conqueror of all, the knower of all, untainted by the world (179, 180, 353). Always shining in the splendour of his wisdom, the Buddha by his very being confirms the Buddhist faith in human perfectibility and consummates the Dhammapada's picture of man perfected, the Arahat.

The four levels of teaching just discussed give us the key for sorting out the Dhammapada's diverse utterances on Buddhist doctrine and for discerning the intention behind its words of practical counsel. Interlaced with the verses specific to these four main levels, there runs throughout the work a large number of verses not tied to any single level but applicable to all alike. Taken together, these delineate for us the basic world view of early Buddhism. The most arresting feature of this view is its stress on process rather than persistence as the defining mark of actuality. The universe is in flux, a boundless river of incessant becoming sweeping everything along; dust motes and mountains, gods and men and animals, world system after world system without number--all are engulfed by the irrepressible current. There is no creator of this process, no providential deity behind the scenes steering all things to some great and glorious end. The cosmos is beginningless, and in its movement from phase to phase it is governed only by the impersonal, implacable law of arising, change, and passing away.

However, the focus of the Dhammapada is not on the outer cosmos, but on the human world, upon man with his yearning and his suffering, his immense complexity, his striving and movement towards transcendence. The starting point is the human condition as given, and fundamental to the picture that emerges is the inescapable duality of human life, the dichotomies which taunt and challenge man at every turn. Seeking happiness, afraid of pain, loss and death, man walks the delicate balance between good and evil, purity and defilement, progress and decline. His actions are strung out between these moral antipodes, and because he cannot evade the necessity to choose, he must bear the full responsibility for his decisions. Man's moral freedom is a reason for both dread and jubilation, for by means of his choices he determines his own individual destiny, not only through one life, but through the numerous lives to be turned up by the rolling wheel of samsara. If he chooses wrongly he can sink to the lowest depths of degradation, if he chooses rightly he can make himself worthy even of the homage of the gods. The paths to all destinations branch out from the present, from the ineluctable immediate occasion of conscious choice and action.

The recognition of duality extends beyond the limits of conditioned existence to include the antithetical poles of the conditioned and the unconditioned, samsara and Nibbana, the "near shore" and the "far shore." The Buddha appears in the world as the Great Liberator who shows man the way to break free from the one and arrive at the other, where alone true safety is to be found. But all he can do is indicate the path; the work of treading it lies in the hands of the disciple. The Dhammapada again and again sounds this challenge to human freedom: man is the maker and master of himself, the protector or destroyer of himself, the savior of himself (160, 165, 380). In the end he must choose between the way that leads back into the world, to the round of becoming, and the way that leads out of the world, to Nibbana. And though this last course is extremely difficult and demanding, the voice of the Buddha speaks words of assurance confirming that it can be done, that it lies within man's power to overcome all barriers and to triumph even over death itself.

The pivotal role in achieving progress in all spheres, the Dhammapada declares, is played by the mind. In contrast to the Bible, which opens with an account of God's creation of the world, the Dhammapada begins with an unequivocal assertion that mind is the forerunner of all that we are, the maker of our character, the creator of our destiny. The entire discipline of the Buddha, from morality to the highest levels of meditation, hinges upon training the mind. A wrongly directed mind brings greater harm than any enemy, a rightly directed mind brings greater good than any other relative or friend (42, 43). The mind is unruly, fickle, difficult to subdue, but by effort, mindfulness and unflagging self-discipline, one can master its vagrant tendencies, escape the torrents of the passions and find "an island which no flood can overwhelm" (25). The one who conquers himself, the victor over his own mind, achieves a conquest which can never be undone, a victory greater than that of the mightiest warriors (103-105).

What is needed most urgently to train and subdue the mind is a quality called heedfulness (appamada). Heedfulness combines critical self-awareness and unremitting energy in a process of keeping the mind under constant observation to detect and expel the defiling impulses whenever they seek an opportunity to surface. In a world where man has no saviour but himself, and where the means to his deliverance lies in mental purification, heedfulness becomes the crucial factor for ensuring that the aspirant keeps to the straight path of training without deviating due to the seductive allurements of sense pleasures or the stagnating influences of laziness and complacency. Heedfulness, the Buddha declares, is the path to the Deathless; heedlessness, the path to death. The wise who understand this distinction abide in heedfulness and experience Nibbana, "the incomparable freedom from bondage" (21-23).

As a great religious classic and the chief spiritual testament of early Buddhism, the Dhammapada cannot be gauged in its true value by a single reading, even if that reading is done carefully and reverentially. It yields its riches only through repeated study, sustained reflection, and most importantly, through the application of its principles to daily life. Thence it might be suggested to the reader in search of spiritual guidance that the Dhammapada be used as a manual for contemplation. After his initial reading, he would do well to read several verses or even a whole chapter every day, slowly and carefully, relishing the words. He should reflect on the meaning of each verse deeply and thoroughly, investigate its relevance to his life, and apply it as a guide to conduct. If this is done repeatedly, with patience and perseverance, it is certain that the Dhammapada will confer upon his life a new meaning and sense of purpose. Infusing him with hope and inspiration, gradually it will lead him to discover a freedom and happiness far greater than anything the world can offer.

Bhikkhu Bodhi

1. Unless chapter numbers are indicated, all figures enclosed in parenthesis refer to verse numbers of the Dhammapada.

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Homage to Him, the Blessed One, the
Perfected One, the Supremely
Enlightened One!

Chapter One -- The Pairs

  1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind
    is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If
    with an impure mind one speaks or acts,
    suffering follows one like the wheel that follows
    the foot of the ox.

  2. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind
    is their chief; they are all mind wrought. If
    with a pure mind one speaks or acts, happiness
    follows one like one's never-departing shadow.

  3. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered
    me, he robbed me"--those who harbour such
    thoughts do not still their hatred.

  4. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered
    me, he robbed me"--those who do not harbour
    such thoughts still their hatred.

  5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this
    world; by non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
    This is an Eternal Law.

  6. There are those who do not realize that one
    day we all must die, but those who realize this
    settle their quarrels.

  7. Just as a storm throws down a weak tree,
    so does Mara overpower the person who lives for
    the pursuit of pleasures, who is uncontrolled in one's
    senses, immoderate in eating, indolent and dissipated.

  8. Just as a storm cannot throw down a rocky
    mountain, so Mara can never overpower the person
    who lives meditating on the impurities, who is
    controlled in one's senses, moderate in eating, and
    filled with faith and earnest effort.

  9. Whoever being depraved, devoid of self-control
    and truthfulness, should don the monk's yellow
    robe, that person surely is not worthy of the robe.

  10. But whoever is purged of depravity, well
    established in virtues and filled with self-control
    and truthfulness, that person indeed is worthy of the robe.

  11. Those who mistake the unessential to
    be essential and the essential to be unessential
    dwelling in wrong thoughts, never arrive at the essential.

  12. Those who know the essential to be
    essential and the unessential to be unessential,
    dwelling in right thoughts, arrive at the essential.

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

  14. Just as rain does not break through a
    well-thatched house, even so passion never
    penetrates a well-developed mind.

  15. Evil-doers grieves here and hereafter;
    they grieve in both worlds. They lament and are
    afflicted, recollecting their own impure deeds.

  16. Doers of good rejoice here and hereafter;
    they rejoice in both worlds. They rejoice
    and exult, recollecting their own pure deeds.

  17. Evil-doers suffer here and hereafter;
    they suffer in both worlds. The thought, "Evil
    have I done," torments them, and they suffer even
    more when gone to realms of woe.

  18. Doers of good delight here and hereafter;
    they delight in both worlds. The thought,
    "Good have I done," delights them, and they delight
    even more when gone to realms of bliss.

  19. Much though one recites the sacred texts,
    but acts not accordingly, that heedless person is
    like a cowherd who only counts the cows of
    others--one does not partake of the blessings
    of a holy life.

  20. Little though one recites the sacred texts,
    but puts the Teaching into practice, forsaking
    lust, hatred and delusion, with true wisdom and
    emancipated mind, clinging to nothing in this or
    any other world--one, indeed, partakes of the
    blessings of a holy life.

v.7. Mara: the Tempter in Buddhism, represented in the scriptures as an evil-minded deity who tries to lead people from the path to liberation. The commentaries explain Mara as the lord of evil forces, as mental defilements and as death.

v.8. The impurities (asubha): subjects of meditation which focus on the inherent repulsiveness of the body, recommended especially as powerful antidotes to lust.

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Chapter Two -- Heedfulness

  1. Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless,
    heedlessness is the path to death. The
    heedful die not, the heedless are already dead.

  2. Clearly understanding this excellence of
    heedfulness, the wise exult therein and enjoy
    the resort of the Noble Ones.

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

  4. Ever grows the glory of one who is energetic,
    mindful and pure in conduct, discerning and self-
    controlled, righteous and heedful.

  5. By effort and heedfulness, discipline and
    self-mastery, let the wise one make for oneself
    an island which no flood can overwhelm.

  6. The foolish and ignorant indulge in heedlessness,
    but the wise one keeps one's heedfulness
    as one's best treasure.

  7. Do not give way to heedlessness; do not
    indulge in sensual pleasures. Only the heedful
    and meditative attain great happiness.

  8. Just as one upon the summit of a mountain
    beholds the groundlings, even so when the wise
    person casts away heedlessness by heedfulness and
    ascends the high tower of wisdom, this sorrowless
    sage beholds the sorrowing and foolish multitude.

  9. Heedful among the heedless, wide-awake
    among the sleepy, the wise person advances like a
    swift horse leaving behind a weak nag.

  10. By heedfulness did Indra become the overlord
    of the gods. Heedfulness is ever praised,
    and heedlessness ever despised.

  11. The renunciate who delights in heedfulness
    and looks with fear at heedlessness advances
    like fire, burning all fetters small and large.

  12. The renunciate who delights in heedfulness
    and looks with fear at heedlessness will not fall.
    That person is close to Nibbana.

v.21.The Deathless (amata): Nibbana, so called because those who attain it are free from the cycle of repeated birth and death.

v.22.The Noble Ones (ariya): those who have reached any of the four stages of supramundane attainment leading irreversibly to Nibbana.

v.30.Indra: the ruler of the gods in ancient Indian mythology.

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Chapter Three -- The Mind

  1. Just as a fletcher straightens an arrow
    shaft, even so the discerning person straightens one's
    mind--so fickle and unsteady, so difficult to
    guard and control.

  2. As a fish when pulled out of water and cast
    on land throbs and quivers, even so is this mind
    agitated. Hence one should leave the realm of passions.

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

  4. Let the discerning person guard the mind,
    so difficult to detect and extremely subtle, seizing
    whatever it desires. A guarded mind brings happiness.

  5. Dwelling in the cave (of the heart), without
    form, the mind wanders far and moves alone.
    Those who subdue this mind are liberated from
    the bonds of Mara.

  6. When one's mind is not steadfast, when
    one knows not the Good Teaching and one's
    faith wavers, one's wisdom will not be perfected.

  7. There is no fear for an Awakened One,
    whose mind is not sodden (by lust) nor afflicted
    (by hate), and who has gone beyond both merit
    and demerit.

  8. Realizing that this body is as fragile as a
    clay pot, and fortifying this mind like a well
    fortified city, fight out Mara with the sword of
    wisdom. Then, guarding the conquest, remain unattached.

  9. Before long, alas! this body will lie upon
    the earth, unheeded and lifeless,
    like a useless log.

  10. Whatever harm an enemy may do to an
    enemy, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind
    inflicts on oneself a greater harm.

  11. Neither mother, father, nor any other
    relative can do one greater good than one's
    own well-directed mind.

v.39. The Arahat is said to be beyond both merit and demerit because, as one has abandoned all defilements, one can no longer perform evil actions; and as one has no more attachment, one's virtuous actions no longer bear kammic fruit.

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Chapter Four -- Flowers

  1. Who shall overcome this earth, the worlds
    of misery and this sphere of men and gods? Who
    shall bring to perfection the well-taught path of
    wisdom as an expert garland-maker would a floral design?

  2. A striver-on-the-path shall overcome this
    earth, the worlds of misery and this sphere of
    men and gods. The striver-on-the-path shall bring
    to perfection the well-taught path of wisdom,
    as an expert garland-maker would a floral design.

  3. Realizing that this body is like froth,
    penetrating its mirage-like nature, and plucking
    out Mara's flower-tipped arrows (of sensuality),
    go beyond sight of the King of Death!

  4. As a mighty flood sweeps away the sleeping
    village, so does death carry away the person of
    distracted mind who only plucks the flowers (of pleasure).

  5. The Destroyer brings under his sway the
    person of distracted mind who only plucks the
    flowers (of pleasure), insatiate in sense desires.

  6. As a bee gathers honey from the flower
    without injuring its colour or fragrance, even so
    the sage goes on alms-rounds in the village.

  7. Let none find fault with others; let none
    see the omissions and commissions of others.
    But let one see one's own acts, done and undone.

  8. Like a beautiful flower full of colour but
    without fragrance, even so, fruitless are the fair
    words of one who does not practice them.

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

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

  11. Not the sweet smell of flowers, not even
    the fragrance of sandal, tagara or jasmine blows
    against the wind. But the fragrance of the virtuous
    person pervades all directions with the fragrance
    of that virtue.

  12. Of all the fragrances--sandal, tagara,
    blue lotus and jasmine--the fragrance of virtue
    is by far the sweetest.

  13. Faint is the fragrance of tagara and sandal,
    but the fragrance of the virtuous is excellent,
    wafting even among the gods.

  14. Mara never finds the path of the truly
    virtuous, who abide in vigilance and are freed by
    perfect knowledge.

  15. Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side
    ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.

  16. Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded
    mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened
    One shines resplendent in wisdom.

v.45. The Striver-on-the-Path (sekha): One who has achieved any of the first three stages of supramundane attainment: a Stream-enterer, Once-returner, or Non-returner.

v.49. The "sage in the village" is the Buddhist monk who receives food by going silently from door to door with an almsbowl, accepting whatever is offered.

v.54. Tagara: a fragrant powder obtained from a particular kind of shrub.

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Chapter Five -- The Fool

  1. 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.

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

  3. The fool worries, thinking, "I have sons,
    I have wealth." Indeed, when he himself is not
    his own, whence are sons, whence is wealth?

  4. A fool knows his foolishness is wise
    at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks
    himself wise is called a fool indeed.

  5. Though all his life a fool associate with a
    wise person, he no more comprehends the Truth
    than a spoon tastes the flavour of the soup.

  6. Though only for a moment a discerning
    person associate with a wise person, quickly
    he comprehends the Truth, just as the tongue
    tastes the flavour of the soup.

  7. Fools of little wit are enemies unto themselves
    as they move about doing evil deeds, the
    fruits of which are bitter.

  8. Ill done is that action doing which one
    repents later, and the fruits of which one reaps,
    weeping with tearful face.

  9. Well done is that action doing which one
    repents not later, and the fruits of which one reaps
    with delight and happiness.

  10. So long as an evil deed has not ripened,
    the fool thinks it as sweet as honey. But when the
    evil deed ripens, the fool comes to grief.

  11. Month after month a fool may eat his
    food with the tip of a blade of grass, but he still
    is not worth a sixteenth part of those who have
    comprehended the Truth.

  12. Truly, an evil deed committed does not
    immediately bear fruit, like milk that does not
    turn sour all at once. But smouldering, it follows
    the fool like fire covered by ashes.

  13. To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for
    it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness.

  14. The fool seeks undeserved reputation,
    precedence among renunciates, authority over monasteries,
    and honour among householders.

  15. "Let both laypersons and renunciates think that
    it was done by me. In every work, great and
    small, let them follow me"--such is the ambition
    of the fool; thus his desire and pride increases.

  16. One is the quest for worldly gain, and quite
    another is the path to Nibbana. Clearly
    understanding this, let not the renunciate, the disciple
    of the Buddha, be carried away by worldly acclaim,
    but develop detachment instead.

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Chapter Six -- The Wise Person

  1. If one finds a person who points out faults
    and who reproves, one should follow such a wise
    and sagacious person as one would a guide to
    hidden treasure. It is always better, and never
    worse, to cultivate such an association.

  2. Let the person admonish, instruct and shield
    one from wrong; this person , indeed is dear to
    the good and detestable to the evil.

  3. Do not associate with evil companions;
    do not seek the fellowship of the vile. Associate
    with good friends; seek the fellowship of noble people.

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

  5. Irrigators regulate the waters; fletchers
    straighten the arrow shaft; carpenters shape the
    wood; the wise control themselves.

  6. Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the
    storm, even so the wise are not affected by
    praise or blame.

  7. On hearing the Teachings, the wise
    become perfectly purified like a lake deep,
    clear and still.

  8. The good renounce (attachment for) everything;
    the virtuous do not prattle with a yearning
    for pleasures. The wise show no elation or depression
    when touched by happiness or sorrow.

  9. They are truly virtuous, wise and righteous,
    who neither for their own sake nor for the sake of
    another (do any wrong), who do not crave for
    sons, wealth or kingdom, and do not desire
    success by unjust means.

  10. Few among people are those who cross to
    the farther shore. The rest, the bulk of people,
    only run up and down the hither bank.

  11. But those who act according to the perfectly
    taught Dhamma will cross the realm of
    Death, so difficult to cross.

87-88.  Abandoning the dark way, let the
wise person cultivate the bright path. Having
gone from home to homelessness, let one yearn
for that delight in detachment, so difficult to enjoy.
Giving up sensual pleasures, with no attachment,
the wise person should cleanse oneself of
defilements of the mind.

  1. Those whose minds have reached full
    excellence in the factors of enlightenment, who,
    having renounced acquisitiveness, rejoice in not
    clinging to things--rid of cankers, glowing with
    wisdom, they have attained Nibbana in
    this very life.

v.89. This verse describes the Arahat, dealt with more fully in the following chapter. The "cankers" (asava) are the four basic defilements of sensual desire, desire for continued existence, false views and ignorance.

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Chapter Seven -- The Arahat

  1. The fever of passion exists not for one
    who has completed the journey, who is sorrowless
    and wholly set free, and has broken all ties.

  2. The mindful ones exert themselves. They
    are not attached to any home; like swans that
    abandon the lake, they leave home after home behind.

  3. Those who do not accumulate and are
    wise regarding food, whose object is the Void,
    the unconditioned freedom--their track cannot
    be traced, like that of birds in the air.

  4. One whose cankers are destroyed and who
    is not attached to food, whose object is the Void,
    the unconditioned freedom--one's path cannot be
    traced, like that of birds in the air.

  5. Even the gods hold dear the wise, whose
    senses are subdued like horses well-trained by a
    charioteer, whose pride is destroyed and who are
    free from the cankers.

  6. There is no more worldly existence for
    the wise one, who, like the earth, resents nothing;
    who is as firm as a high pillar and as pure as a
    deep pool free from mud.

  7. Calm is one's thought, calm one's speech and
    calm one's deed, who, truly knowing, is wholly,
    freed, perfectly tranquil and wise.

  8. The person who is without blind faith,
    who knows the Uncreate, who has severed all
    links, who has destroyed all causes (for kamma,
    good and evil), and who has thrown out all desires
    --that person truly is the most excellent of people.

  9. Inspiring, indeed, is that place where
    Arahats dwell, be it a village, a forest,
    a vale or a hill.

  10. Inspiring are the forests where worldlings
    find no pleasure. There the passionless will
    rejoice, for they seek no sensual pleasures.

v.97. In the Pali this verse presents a series of puns, and if the "underside" of each pun were to be translated, the verse would read thus: "The person who is faithless, ungrateful, a burglar, who destroys opportunities and eats vomit--that person truly is the most excellent of people."

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Chapter Eight -- The Thousands

  1. Better than a thousand useless words is one
    useful word, hearing which one attains peace.

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

  3. Better than reciting a hundred meaningless
    verses is the reciting of one verse of Dhamma,
    hearing which one attains peace.

  4. Though one may conquer a thousand times
    a thousand people in battle, yet one indeed is
    the noblest victor who conquers oneself.
104-105.  Self-conquest is far better than the
conquest of others. Not even a god, an angel,
Mara or Brahma can turn into defeat the victory
of such a person who is self-subdued and ever
restrained in conduct.
  1. Though month after month for a hundred
    years one should offer sacrifices by the thousands,
    yet if only for a moment one should worship those
    of developed mind, that honour is indeed better
    than a century of sacrifice.

  2. Though for a hundred years one should
    tend the sacrificial fire in the forest, yet if only
    for a moment one should worship those of
    developed mind, that worship is indeed better
    than a century of sacrifice.

  3. Whatever gifts and oblations one seeking
    merit might offer in this world for a whole year,
    all that is not worth one fourth of the merit gained
    by revering the Upright Ones, which is truly excellent.

  4. To one ever eager to revere and serve
    the elders, these four blessings accrue: long life
    and beauty, happiness and power.

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

  6. Better it is to live one day wise and meditative
    than to live a hundred years foolish and uncontrolled.

  7. Better it is to live one day strenuous and
    resolute than to live a hundred years sluggish
    and dissipated.

  8. Better it is to live one day seeing the rise
    and fall of things than to live a hundred years
    without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.

  9. Better it is to live one day seeing the
    Deathless than to live a hundred years without
    ever seeing the Deathless.

  10. Better it is to live one day seeing the
    Supreme Truth than to live a hundred years without
    ever seeing the Supreme Truth.

v.104. Brahma: a high divinity in ancient Indian religion.

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Chapter Nine -- Evil

  1. Hasten to do good and restrain your
    mind from evil. One who is slow in doing good,
    one's mind delights in evil.

  2. Should a person commit evil, let one
    not do it again and again. Let one not find pleasure
    therein, for painful is the accumulation of evil.

  3. Should a person do good, let one do
    it again and again. Let one find pleasure therein,
    for blissful is the accumulation of good.

  4. It may be well with the evil-doer as long
    as the evil ripens not, but when it does ripen, then
    the evil doer sees (the painful results of) one's evil deeds.

  5. It may be ill with the doer of good as long
    as the good ripens not, but when it does ripen
    then the doer of good sees (the pleasant results of)
    one's good deeds.

  6. Think not lightly of evil, saying, "It
    will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water
    pot filled; likewise, the fool, gathering it little by
    little, fills oneself with evil.

  7. Think not lightly of good, saying, "It
    will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water
    pot filled; likewise, the wise person, gathering it
    little by little, fills oneself with good.

  8. 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.

  9. If on the one hand there is no wound, one
    may even carry poison in it. Poison does not
    affect one who is free from wounds, and for one
    who does no evil, there is no ill.

  10. Like fine dust thrown against the wind,
    evil falls back upon that fool who offends an
    inoffensive, pure and guiltless person.

  11. Some are born in the womb; the wicked
    are born in hell; the devout go to heaven; the
    stainless pass into Nibbana.

  12. 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.

  13. Neither in the sky nor in mid-ocean,
    nor by entering into mountain clefts, nowhere
    in the world is there a place where one will not
    be overcome by death.

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Chapter Ten -- Violence

  1. All tremble at violence, all fear death.
    Putting oneself in the place of another, one should
    not kill nor cause another to kill.

  2. All tremble at violence, life is dear to all.
    Putting oneself in the place of another, one should
    not kill nor cause another to kill.

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

  4. One who, while oneself seeking happiness,
    does not oppress with violence other beings who
    also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.

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

  6. If, like a broken gong, you silence yourself,
    you have approached Nibbana, for vindictiveness
    is no more in you.

  7. 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).

  8. When fools commit evil deeds, they
    do not realize (their evil nature). Witless
    persons are tormented by their own deeds, like one
    burnt by fire.

  9. Those who use violence against those who
    are unarmed, and offend those who are inoffensive,
    will soon come upon one of these ten states:
138-140.  Sharp pain, or disaster, bodily
injury, serious illness, or derangement of mind,
trouble from the government, or grave charges,
loss of relatives, or loss of wealth, houses destroyed
by a ravaging fire, and upon dissolution of
the body those ignorant persons will be born in hell.

  1. Neither going about naked, nor matted
    locks, nor filth, nor fasting, nor lying on the
    ground, nor smearing oneself with ashes and
    dust, nor sitting on the heels (in penance) can
    purify a mortal who has not overcome mental wavering.

  2. Even though one be well-adorned, yet if
    one is poised, calm, controlled and established
    in the holy life, having laid aside violence towards
    all beings--one, truly, is a holy person, a renunciate.

  3. Only rarely is there a person in this world
    who, restrained by modesty, avoids reproach, as
    a thoroughbred horse the whip.

  4. Like a thoroughbred horse touched by
    the whip, be strenuous, be filled with spiritual
    yearning. By faith and moral purity, by effort
    and meditation, by investigation of the truth, by
    being rich in knowledge and virtue, and by being
    mindful, destroy this unlimited suffering.

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

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Chapter Eleven -- Old Age

  1. When this world is ever ablaze, why
    this laughter, why this jubilation? Shrouded in
    darkness, why don't you seek the light?

  2. Behold this body, a painted image,
    a mass of heaped up sores--infirm, full of
    hankering, with nothing lasting or stable.

  3. Fully worn out is this body, a nest of
    disease, and fragile. This foul mass breaks up,
    for death is the end of life.

  4. These dove-coloured bones are like
    gourds that lie scattered about in autumn; having
    seen them, how can one seek delight?

  5. The body is a city built of bones, plastered
    with flesh and blood, containing within decay and
    death, pride and jealousy.

  6. Even gorgeous royal chariots wear out,
    and indeed this body too wears out. But the
    Dhamma of the good does not age; thus the good
    make it known to the good.

  7. Persons of little learning grow old like
    a bull: they grow only in bulk, but their wisdom
    does not grow.

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

  9. O house-builder, you are seen! You
    will not build this house again. For your rafters
    are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My
    mind has reached the Unconditioned:
    I have attained the destruction of craving.

  10. Those who in youth have not led the
    holy life, or have failed to acquire wealth, languish
    like old cranes in a pond without fish.

  11. Those who in youth have not led the
    holy life, or have failed to acquire wealth, lie
    like worn-out arrows (shot from) a bow, sighing
    over the past.

vv.153-154. According to the commentary, these verses are the Buddha's "Song of Victory," his first utterance after his Enlightenment. The house is individualized existence in samsara, the house- builder craving, the rafters the passions and the ridge-pole ignorance.

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Chapter Twelve -- The Self

  1. If one holds oneself dear, one should
    diligently watch oneself. Let the wise person keep
    vigil during any of the three watches of the night.

  2. One should first establish oneself in what
    is proper; then only should one instruct others.
    Thus the wise person will not be reproached.

  3. One should do what one teaches others
    to do; if one would train others, one should be
    well-controlled oneself. Difficult, indeed is

  4. One truly is the protector of oneself,
    who else could the protector be? With oneself
    fully controlled one gains a mastery
    which is hard to gain.

  5. The evil a witless person does by oneself,
    born of oneself and produced by oneself, grinds
    one as a diamond grinds a hard gem.

  6. Just as a jungle creeper strangles the tree
    on which it grows, even so a person who is exceedingly
    depraved harms oneself as an enemy might wish.

  7. Easy to do are things that are bad and
    harmful to oneself, but exceedingly difficult to
    do are things that are good and beneficial.

  8. Whoever, on account of perverted views,
    reviles the Teaching of the Arahats, the Noble
    Ones of righteous life--that fool, like the bamboo,
    produces fruits only for self-destruction.

  9. By oneself is evil done, by oneself is
    one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone, by
    oneself is one purified. Purity and impurity depend
    on oneself--no one can purify another.

  10. Let one not neglect one's own welfare for
    the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding
    one's own welfare, let one be intent upon the good.

v.164. Certain reeds of the bamboo family perish immediately after producing fruits.

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Chapter Thirteen -- The World

  1. Follow not the vulgar way; live not in
    heedlessness; hold not false views; linger not
    long in worldly existence.

  2. Arise! Do not be heedless! Lead a life
    of good conduct. The righteous live happily both
    in this world and the next.

  3. Lead a life of good conduct. Lead not a
    base life. The righteous live happily both in this
    world and the next.

  4. One who looks upon the world as a
    bubble and a mirage, that person the
    King of Death does not see.

  5. Come! Behold this world, which is like
    a decorated royal chariot. Here fools flounder,
    but the wise have no attachment to it.

  6. One who having been heedless is heedless
    no more, illuminates this world like the moon
    freed from clouds.

  7. One who by good deeds covers the evil
    one has done, illuminates this world like the moon
    freed from clouds.

  8. Blind is this world; here only a few
    possess insight. Only a few, like birds escaping
    from a net, go to the realms of bliss.

  9. Swans fly on the path of the sun; people
    pass through the air by psychic powers; the wise
    are led away from the world after vanquishing
    Mara and his host.

  10. For liars who have violated the one
    law (of truthfulness), who hold in scorn the
    hereafter, there is no evil that they cannot do.

  11. Truly, misers fare not to heavenly realms;
    nor, indeed, do fools praise generosity. But
    wise persons rejoice in giving, and by that
    alone do they become happy hereafter.

  12. Better than sole sovereignty over the
    earth, better than going to heaven, better even
    than lordship over all the worlds is the fruition
    of Stream-entry.

v.178. Stream-entry (sotapatti): the first stage of supramundane attainment.

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Chapter Fourteen -- The Buddha

  1. By what track can you trace
    that trackless Buddha of limitless range,
    whose victory nothing can undo,
    whom none of the vanquished defilements
    can ever pursue?

  2. By what track can you trace that
    trackless Buddha of limitless range, in
    whom exists no longer the entangling and
    embroiling craving that perpetuates becoming?

  3. Those wise ones who are devoted to
    meditation and who delight in the calm of
    renunciation--such mindful ones, Supreme
    Buddhas, even the gods hold dear.

  4. Hard is it to be born a human, hard is the
    life of mortals. Hard is it to gain the
    opportunity to hear the Sublime Truth, and hard
    indeed, to encounter the arising of the Buddhas.

  5. To avoid all evil, to cultivate good,
    and to cleanse one's mind--
    this is the teaching of the Buddhas.

  6. Enduring patience is the highest austerity.
    "Nibbana is supreme," say the Buddhas.
    One is not a true renunciate who harms another, nor a real
    renunciate who oppresses others.

  7. Not despising, not harming, restraint according
    to the code of monastic discipline, moderation in
    food, dwelling in solitude, devotion to meditation--
    this is the teaching of the Buddhas.

186-187.  There is no satisfying sensual desires
even with a rain of gold coins, for sense pleasures
give little satisfaction and entail much pain. Having
understood this, the wise person finds no delight even
in heavenly pleasures. The disciple of the Supreme
Buddha delights in the destruction of craving.

  1. People, driven by fear, go for refuge to many
    places--to hills, woods, groves, trees and shrines.

  2. Such, indeed, is no safe refuge; such
    is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such
    a refuge is one released from all suffering.

  3. 190-191.  Those who have gone for refuge to the
    Buddha, his Teaching and his Order, penetrate
    with wisdom the Four Noble Truths--suffering,
    the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering,
    and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to
    the cessation of suffering.

    1. This indeed is the safe refuge, this is the
      refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge,
      one is released from all suffering.

    2. Hard to find is the thoroughbred person
      (the Buddha). One is not born everywhere. Where
      such a wise person is born, that clan thrives happily.

    3. Blessed is the birth of the Buddhas;
      blessed is the enunciation of the sacred Teaching;
      blessed is harmony in the Order; and blessed is
      the spiritual pursuit of the united truth-seekers.

    4. 195-196.  They who revere those worthy of
      reverence, the Buddhas and their disciples, who
      have transcended all obstacles and passed beyond
      the reach of sorrow and lamentation--they who
      revere such peaceful and fearless ones, their merit
      none can compute by any measure.

v.190-191. The Order: both the monastic Order (bhikkhu sangha) and the Order of Noble Ones (ariya sangha) who have reached the four supramundane stages.

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Chapter Fifteen -- Happiness

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

  2. Happy indeed we live, unafflicted amidst
    those afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted
    people we dwell free from affliction.

  3. Happy indeed we live, free from avarice
    amidst the avaricious. Amidst avaricious people
    we dwell free from avarice.

  4. Happy indeed we live, we who possess
    nothing. Feeders on joy we shall be, like the
    Radiant Gods.

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

  6. There is no fire like lust and no crime
    like hatred. There is no ill like the aggregates
    (of existence) and no bliss higher than the
    peace (of Nibbana).

  7. Hunger is the worst disease, conditioned
    things the worst suffering. Knowing this as it
    really is, the wise realize Nibbana,
    the highest bliss.

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

  9. Having savoured the taste of solitude
    and peace, pain-free and stainless they become,
    drinking deep the taste of the bliss of Truth.

  10. Good it is to see the Noble Ones, to
    live with them is ever blissful. One will always
    be happy by not encountering fools.

  11. Indeed, they who move in the company
    of fools grieve for long. Association with fools
    is ever painful, like partnership with an enemy.
    But happy is association with the wise, like
    meeting one's own kin.

  12. Therefore, follow the Noble One, who
    is steadfast, wise, learned, dutiful and devout.
    One should follow only such a person, who is truly
    good and discerning, even as the moon follows
    the path of the stars.

v.202. Aggregates (of existence) (khandha): the five groups of factors into which the Buddha analyzes the living being--material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

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Chapter Sixteen -- Affection

  1. Giving oneself to things to be shunned
    and not exerting oneself where exertion is needed,
    seekers after pleasures forsake their own true
    welfare and will come to envy those intent
    upon their welfare.

  2. Seek no intimacy with the beloved and
    also not with the unloved, for not to see the
    beloved and to see the unloved, both are painful.

  3. Therefore, hold nothing dear, for separation
    from the dear is painful. There are no bonds
    for those who have nothing beloved or unloved.

  4. From endearment springs grief, from
    endearment springs fear. For those who are
    wholly free from endearment there is no grief,
    whence then fear?

  5. From affection springs grief, from affection
    springs fear. For those who are wholly free
    from affection there is no grief, whence then fear?

  6. From attachment springs grief, from
    attachment springs fear. For those who are wholly
    free from attachment there is no grief,
    whence then fear?

  7. From lust springs grief, from lust springs
    fear. For those who are wholly free from lust
    there is no grief, whence then fear.

  8. From craving springs grief, from craving
    springs fear. For those who are wholly free from
    craving there is no grief, whence then fear?

  9. People hold dear one who embodies
    virtue and insight, who is principled, has realized
    the Truth, and who oneself does what one ought
    to be doing.

  10. One who is intent upon the Ineffable
    (Nibbana) and dwells with mind inspired (by
    wisdom), such a person--no more bound by sense
    pleasures--is called "One Bound Upstream."

  11. When, after a long absence, a person safely
    returns home from afar, relatives, friends and
    well-wishers welcome the person home on arrival.

  12. As kinspeople welcome a dear one on arrival,
    even so one's own good deeds will welcome the doer
    of good who has gone from this world to the next.

v.218. One Bound Upstream: a Non- returner (anagami).

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Chapter Seventeen -- Anger

  1. One should give up anger, renounce
    pride, and overcome all fetters. Suffering never
    befalls those who cling not to mind and body and
    are detached.

  2. Those who check rising anger as a charioteer
    checks a rolling chariot, those I call true charioteers;
    others only hold the reins.

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

  4. Speak the truth; yield not to anger;
    when asked, give even if you only have a little.
    By these three means can one reach the presence
    of the gods.

  5. Those sages who are inoffensive and
    ever restrained in body, go to the Deathless State,
    where they grieve no more.

  6. Those who are ever vigilant, who discipline
    themselves day and night, ever intent upon
    Nibbana--their defilements fade away.

  7. O Atula! Indeed, this is an old pattern,
    not one only of today: they blame those who remain
    silent, they blame those who speak much,
    they blame those who speak in moderation.
    There is none in this world who is not blamed.

  8. There never was, there never will be,
    nor is there now, a person who is wholly
    blamed or wholly praised.

  9. But the person whom the wise praise,
    after observing the person day after day, is one
    of flawless character, wise, and endowed with
    knowledge and virtue.

  10. Who can blame such a one, as worthy
    as a coin of refined gold? Even the gods
    praise the person; by Brahma, too is
    the person praised.

  11. Let a person guard against irritability
    in bodily action; let a person be controlled
    in bodily deed. Abandoning bodily misconduct,
    let a person practice good conduct in deed.

  12. Let a person guard against irritability
    in speech; let a person be controlled in speech.
    Abandoning verbal misconduct, let a person
    practice good conduct in speech.

  13. Let a person guard against irritability
    in thought; let a person be controlled in mind.
    Abandoning mental misconduct, let a person
    practice good conduct in thought.

  14. The wise are controlled in bodily deeds,
    controlled in speech and controlled in thought.
    They are truly well-controlled.

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Chapter Eighteen -- Impurity

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

  2. Make an island for yourself! Strive hard
    and become wise! Rid of impurities and cleansed
    of stain, you shall enter the celestial abode
    of the Noble Ones.

  3. Your life has come to an end now;
    you are setting forth into the presence of Yama,
    the King of Death. No resting place is there for
    you on the way, yet you have made no provision
    for your journey!

  4. Make an island for yourself! Strive hard
    and become wise! Rid of impurities and cleansed of
    stain, you shall not come again to birth and decay.

  5. One by one, little by little, moment by
    moment, a wise person should remove one's own
    impurities, as a smith removes the dross of silver.

  6. Just as rust arising from iron eats away
    the base from which it arises, even so their own
    deeds lead transgressors to states of woe.

  7. Non-repetition is the bane of scriptures;
    neglect is the bane of a home; slovenliness is
    the bane of personal appearance, and heedlessness
    is the bane of a watchman.

  8. Unchastity is the taint in a person, and
    niggardliness is the taint in a giver. Taints,
    indeed, are all evil things, both in this world
    and the next.

  9. A worse taint than these is ignorance,
    the worst of all taints. Destroy this one taint
    and become taintless, O renunciates!

  10. Easy is life for the shameless one who is as
    impudent as a crow, back-biting and forward,
    arrogant and corrupt.

  11. Difficult is life for the modest one who
    always seeks purity, is detached and unassuming,
    clean in life, and discerning.
246-247.  One who destroys life, utters lies,
takes what is not given, goes to another person's
spouse, and is addicted to intoxicating drinks--such
a one digs up one's own root even in this very world.

  1. Know this, O good person: evil things are
    difficult to control. Let not greed and wickedness
    drag you to protracted misery.

  2. People give according to their faith or
    regard. If one becomes discontented with the
    food and drink given by others, one does not
    attain meditative absorption, either by day or by night.

  3. But one in whom this (discontent) is fully
    destroyed, uprooted and extinct, that person attains
    absorption, both by day and by night.

  4. There is no fire like lust; there is no grip
    like hatred; there is no net like delusion; there is
    no river like craving.

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

  6. One who seeks another's faults, who is
    ever censorious--that person's cankers grow.
    That person is far from the destruction of the cankers.

  7. There is no track in the sky, and no recluse
    outside (the Buddha's dispensation). Mankind
    delights in worldliness, but the Buddhas are
    free from worldliness.

  8. There is no track in the sky, and no recluse
    outside (the Buddha's dispensation). There are
    no conditioned things that are eternal, and
    no instability in the Buddhas.

v.254-255. Recluse (samana): here used in the special sense of those who have reached the four supramundane stages.

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Chapter Nineteen -- The Just

  1. Not by passing arbitrary judgements does
    a person become just; a wise person investigates
    both right and wrong.

  2. One who does not judge others arbitrarily,
    but passes judgement impartially according
    to truth, that sagacious person is a guardian
    of law and is called just.

  3. One is not versed in Dhamma because
    one speaks much. One who, after hearing even a
    little Dhamma, does not neglect it but personally
    realises its truth, that person is truly versed
    in the Dhamma.

  4. A monk is not an Elder because his
    head is gray; he is but ripe in age, and he is called
    one grown old in vain.

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

  6. Not by mere eloquence nor by bodily
    beauty does a person become accomplished, should
    one be jealous, selfish and deceitful.

  7. But one in whom these are wholly destroyed,
    uprooted and extinct, and who has cast out
    hatred--that wise person is truly accomplished.

  8. Not by shaven head does a person who is
    undisciplined and untruthful become a renunciate.
    How can one who is full of desire and greed be
    a renunciate?

  9. One who wholly subdues evil both small
    and great is called a renunciate, because that
    person has overcome all evil.

  10. One is not a renunciate just because one lives
    on other's alms. Not by adopting outward form
    does one become a true renunciate.

  11. One here who lives the holy life and
    walks with understanding in this world,
    transcending both merit and demerit--that
    person is truly called a renunciate.
268-269.  Not by observing silence does one
become a sage, if one be foolish and ignorant. But
that wise person who, as if holding a balance-scale,
accepts only the good and rejects the evil--that person
is truly a sage. Since both (the present and future)
worlds are comprehended, that person is called a sage.

  1. One is not a Noble One who injures living
    beings. One is called a Noble One because one is
    harmless towards all living beings.

  2. You should not rest content merely by
    following rules and observances, nor even by
    acquiring much learning; nor by gaining
    absorption, nor by a life of seclusion;

  3. Nor by thinking: "I enjoy the bliss of
    renunciation that is not experienced by the
    worldling." O renunciates, you should not rest content
    until the utter destruction of the cankers
    (Arahatship) is reached.

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Chapter Twenty -- The Path

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

  2. This is the only way: there is none other
    for the purification of insight. Tread this path,
    and you will bewilder Mara.

  3. Walking upon this path you will make an
    end of suffering. Having discovered how to pull
    out the thorn of lust, I expound the path.

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

  5. "All conditioned things are impermanent"
    --when one sees this with wisdom one
    turns away from suffering. This is the
    path to purification.

  6. "All conditioned things are unsatisfactory"
    --when one sees this with wisdom one
    turns away from suffering. This is the
    path to purification.

  7. "All things are not self"--when one sees
    this with wisdom one turns away from suffering.
    This is the path to purification.

  8. The idler who does not exert oneself
    when one should, who though young and strong is
    full of sloth, with a mind full of vain thoughts--
    such an indolent person does not find the
    path to wisdom.

  9. Watchful of speech, well controlled in
    mind, let a person not commit evil with the body.
    Let one purify these three courses of action,
    and win the path made known by the Great Sage.

  10. Wisdom springs from meditation, without
    meditation wisdom wanes. Having known these
    two paths of progress and decline, let a person
    so conduct oneself that one's wisdom may increase.

  11. Cut down the forest (of lust), but not
    the tree. From the forest (of lust) springs fear.
    Having cut down the forest and the underbrush
    (of desire), be passionless, O renunciates!

  12. For so long as the underbrush of desire,
    even the most subtle, of a person towards another
    is not cut down, one's mind is in bondage, like
    the sucking calf to its mother.

  13. Cut off your affection in the manner
    a person plucks with one's hand an autumn lotus.
    Cultivate only the path to peace, to Nibbana,
    as made known by the Exalted One.

  14. "Here shall I live during the rains, here
    in winter and summer"--thus thinks the fool.
    One does not realize the danger
    (that death might intervene).

  15. As a great flood carries away a sleeping
    village, just so death seizes and carries away a
    person with a clinging mind, doting on one's
    children and cattle.

  16. For one who is assailed by death there is
    no protection by kinsmen. None there are to save
    one--no sons, nor father nor relatives.

  17. Realizing this fact, let the wise person,
    restrained by morality, hasten to clear the
    path leading to Nibbana.

v.283. The meaning of this injunction is: "Cut down the forest of lust, but do not mortify the body."

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Chapter Twenty-One -- Miscellaneous

  1. If by renouncing a lesser happiness
    one may realize a greater happiness, let the wise
    person renounce the lesser, having regard
    for the greater.

  2. One who seeks one's own happiness by
    inflicting pain on others, entangled by the
    bonds of hate, will never be delivered from hate.

  3. For those who are arrogant and heedless,
    who leave undone what should be done and do
    what should not be done--for them the
    cankers only increase.

  4. Those who always earnestly practise
    mindfulness of the body, who do not resort to
    what should not be done, and steadfastly pursue
    what should be done, mindful and clearly
    comprehending--their cankers cease.

  5. Having slain mother (craving), father
    (ego-conceit), two warrior kings (eternalism and
    nihilism), and destroyed a country (sense organs
    and sense objects) together with its treasurer
    (attachment and lust), ungrieving goes the holy person.

  6. Having slain mother, father, two brahmin
    kings (two extreme views), and a tiger as the
    fifth (the five mental hindrances), ungrieving
    goes the holy person.

  7. Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken
    happily who day and night constantly practise
    the recollection of the Buddha.

  8. Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken
    happily who day and night constantly practise
    the recollection of the Dhamma.

  9. Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken
    happily who day and night constantly practise
    the recollection of the Sangha.

  10. Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken
    happily who day and night constantly practise
    mindfulness of the body.

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

  12. Those disciples of Gotama ever awaken
    happily whose minds by day and night delight in
    the practice of meditation.

  13. Difficult is life as a renunciate; difficult
    is it to delight therein. Also difficult and
    sorrowful is household life. Suffering comes from
    association with unequals, suffering comes from
    wandering in samsara. Therefore, be not an
    aimless wanderer, be not a pursuer of suffering.

  14. One who is full of faith and virtue, and
    possesses good repute and wealth--that person is
    respected everywhere, in whatever land one travels.

  15. The good shine even from afar, like the
    Himalaya mountain. But the wicked are unseen,
    like arrows shot in the night.

  16. One who sits alone, sleeps alone and walks
    alone, who is strenuous and subdues oneself
    alone, will find delight in the solitude of the forest.

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Chapter Twenty-Two -- The State of Woe

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

  2. There are many evil characters and
    uncontrolled people wearing the yellow robe. These
    wicked people will be born in states of woe because
    of their evil deeds.

  3. It would be better to swallow a red-hot
    iron ball, blazing like fire, than as an immoral
    and uncontrolled renunciate to eat the
    almsfood of the people.

  4. Four misfortunes befall the reckless person
    who consorts with another's spouse: acquisition
    of demerit, disturbed sleep, ill-repute and
    (rebirth in) states of woe.

  5. Such a person acquires demerit and an
    unhappy birth in the future. Brief is the pleasure
    of the frightened people, and the king
    imposes heavy punishment. Hence, let
    no person consort with another's spouse.

  6. Just as Kusa grass wrongly handled cuts
    the hand, even so a recluse's life wrongly lived
    drags one to a state of woe.

  7. Any loose act, any corrupt observance,
    any life of questionable celibacy--none of
    these bear much fruit.

  8. If anything is to be done, let one do it
    with sustained vigor. A lax monastic life stirs up
    the dust of passions all the more.

  9. 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.

  10. Guard yourself closely like a border
    city, both within and without. Do not let slip
    this opportunity (for spiritual growth). For those
    who let slip this opportunity grieve when
    consigned to states of woe.

  11. Those who are ashamed of what they
    should not be ashamed of, and are not ashamed
    of what they should be ashamed of--upholding
    false views, they go to states of woe.

  12. Those who see something to fear where
    there is nothing to fear, and see nothing to fear
    where there is something to fear--upholding
    false views, they go to states of woe.

  13. Those who imagine evil where there is
    none, and do not see evil where it is--upholding
    false views, they go to states of woe.

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

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Chapter Twenty-Three -- The Elephant

  1. As an elephant in the battlefield withstands
    arrows shot from bows all around, even so shall
    I endure abuse. There are many, indeed,
    who lack morality.

  2. Tamed elephants can be led into a crowd,
    and the king mounts a tamed elephant. So too,
    best among people is the subdued one who
    endures abuse.

  3. Excellent are well-trained mules,
    thoroughbred Sindhu horses and noble tusker
    elephants. But better still is the person
    who has subdued oneself.

  4. Not by these mounts, however, can
    one go to the Untrodden Land (Nibbana), as one
    who is self-tamed goes by one's own tamed and
    well-controlled mind.

  5. Musty during rut, the tusker named
    Dhanapalaka is uncontrollable. Held in captivity,
    the tusker does not touch a morsel, but only
    longingly calls to mind the elephant forest.

  6. When a person is sluggish and gluttonous,
    lazy, rolling around in bed like a fat pig--that
    sluggard undergoes rebirth again and again.

  7. Formerly this mind wandered about as
    it liked, where it wished, according to its pleasure,
    but now I shall thoroughly master it with wisdom,
    as a mahout controls an elephant in rut.

  8. Delight in heedfulness! Guard well your
    thoughts! Draw yourself out of this bog of evil,
    even as an elephant draws oneself out of the mud.

  9. If for company you find a wise and
    prudent friend, one who leads a good life, you should
    overcome all impediments and keep this person's
    company, joyously and mindfully.

  10. But if for company you cannot find a wise
    and prudent friend, one who leads a good life,
    then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered
    kingdom or a lone elephant in the elephant forest,
    you should go your own way alone.

  11. Better it is to live alone, there is no
    fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil;
    be carefree like an elephant in the elephant forest.

  12. Good are friends when need arises; good
    is contentment with just what one has; good is
    merit when life is at an end; and good is the
    abandoning of all suffering (through Arahatship).

  13. Good it is to serve one's mother; good
    it is to serve one's father; good it is to serve
    the Sangha; and good it is to serve the holy people.

  14. 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.

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Chapter Twenty-Four -- Craving

  1. The craving of one given to heedless
    living grows like a creeper. Like the monkey
    seeking fruits in the forest, one leaps from life
    to life (tasting the fruit of one's kamma).

  2. Whoever is overcome by this wretched and
    sticky craving, that person's sorrows grow like
    grass after the rains.

  3. But whoever overcomes this wretched
    craving, so difficult to overcome, from that
    person sorrows fall away like water from
    a lotus leaf.

  4. This I say to you: Good luck to you all
    assembled here! Dig up the root of craving,
    like one in search of the fragrant roots of birana
    grass. Let not Mara crush you again and again,
    as a flood crushes a reed.

  5. 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.

  6. The misguided person in whom the thirty-six
    currents of craving
    rush strongly toward pleasurable
    objects, is swept away by the flood of his
    passionate thoughts.

  7. Everywhere these currents flow, and the
    creeper (of craving) sprouts and grows. Seeing
    that the creeper has sprung up, cut off its
    root with wisdom.

  8. Flowing in (from all objects) and watered
    by craving, feelings of pleasure arise in beings.
    Bent on pleasures and seeking enjoyment, these
    people fall prey to birth and decay.

  9. Beset by craving, people run about like
    an entrapped hare. Held fast by mental fetters,
    they come to suffering again and again
    for a long time.

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

  11. There is one who, turning away from
    desire (for household life) takes to the life of the
    forest (i.e. of a monk). But after being freed from
    the household, one runs back to it. Behold that
    person! Though freed, one runs back to that very bondage!
345-346.  That is not a strong fetter, the wise
say, which is made of iron, wood or hemp. But
the infatuation and longing for jewels and ornaments,
children and spouses--that, they say, is a far
stronger fetter, which pulls one downward and,
though seemingly loose, is hard to remove. This
too the wise cut off. Giving up sensual pleasure,
and without any longing, they renounce the world.

  1. Those who are lust-infatuated fall back
    to 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.

  2. 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.

  3. For a person tormented by evil thoughts,
    who is passion-dominated and given to the
    pursuit of pleasure, one's craving steadily grows.
    One makes the fetter strong indeed.

  4. One who delights in subduing evil thoughts,
    who meditates on the impurities and is ever mindful
    --it is that person who will make an end of craving
    and rend asunder Mara's fetter.

  5. One who has reached the goal, is fearless,
    free from craving, passionless, having plucked out
    the thorns of existence--for that person this
    is the last body.

  6. One who is free from craving and attachment,
    perfect in uncovering the true meaning of the
    Teaching, and knows the arrangement of the
    sacred texts in correct sequence--that person,
    indeed, is the bearer of a final body. One is
    truly called the profoundly wise one, the great person.

  7. A victor am I over all, all have I known,
    yet unattached am I to all that is conquered and
    known. Abandoning all, I am freed through the
    destruction of craving. Having thus directly
    comprehended all by myself,
    whom shall I call my teacher?

  8. The gift of Dhamma excels all gifts;
    the taste of Dhamma excels all tastes; the delight
    in Dhamma excels all delights; the Craving-freed
    vanquishes all suffering.

  9. Riches ruin only the foolish, not those in
    quest of the Beyond. By craving for riches the
    witless person ruins oneself as well as others.

  10. Weeds are the bane of fields, lust the bane
    of mankind. Therefore what is offered to those
    free of lust yields abundant fruit.

  11. Weeds are the bane of fields, hatred the
    bane of mankind. Therefore what is offered to
    those free of hatred yields abundant fruit.

  12. Weeds are the bane of fields, delusion
    the bane of mankind. Therefore what is offered
    to those free of delusion yields abundant fruit.

  13. Weeds are the bane of fields, desire the
    bane of mankind. Therefore what is offered to
    those free of desire yields abundant fruit.

v.339. The thirty-six currents of craving: the three cravings--for sensual pleasure, for continued existence, and for annihilation--in relation to each of the twelve bases--the six sense organs, including mind, and their corresponding objects.

v.344. This verse, in the original, puns with the Pali word vana, meaning both "desire" and "forest."

v.353. This was the Buddha's reply to a wandering ascetic who asked him about his teacher. The Buddha's answer shows that Supreme Enlightenment was his own unique attainment, which he had not learned from anyone else.

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Chapter Twenty-Five -- The Monk

  1. Good is restraint over the eye; good is
    restraint over the ear; good is restraint over the
    nose; good is restraint over the tongue.

  2. Good is restraint in the body; good is
    restraint in speech; good is restraint in thought.
    Restraint everywhere is good. The monk restrained
    in every way is freed from all suffering.

  3. One who has control over one's hands,
    feet and tongue, who is fully controlled, delights
    in meditation, is inwardly absorbed, keeps to
    oneself and is contented--such a one people call a monk.

  4. That monk who has control over the
    tongue, is moderate in speech, unassuming
    and who explains the Teaching in both letter and
    spirit--whatever that one says is pleasing.

  5. The monk who abides in the Dhamma,
    delights in the Dhamma, meditates on the Dhamma
    and bears the Dhamma well in mind--that one does
    not fall away from the sublime Dhamma.

  6. One should not despise what one has
    received, nor envy the gains of others. The
    monk who envies the gains of others does
    not attain to meditative absorption.

  7. A monk who does not despise what has been
    received, even though it be little, who is pure
    in livelihood and unremitting in effort, that one
    even the gods praise.

  8. One who has no attachment whatsoever
    for the mind and body, who does not grieve for
    what one has not--that one is truly called a monk.

  9. The monk who abides in universal love
    and is deeply devoted to the Teaching of the
    Buddha attains the peace of Nibbana, the bliss
    of the cessation of all conditioned things.

  10. Empty this boat, O monk! Emptied, it
    will sail lightly. Rid of lust and hatred,
    you shall reach Nibbana.

  11. Cut off the five, abandon the five, and
    cultivate the five. The monk who has overcome
    the five bonds is called one who has
    crossed the flood.

  12. Meditate, O monk! Do not be heedless.
    Let not your mind whirl on sensual pleasures.
    Heedless, do not swallow a red hot iron ball,
    lest you cry when burning, "O this is painful!"

  13. There is no meditative concentration for
    one who lacks insight, and no insight for one
    who lacks meditative concentration. One in whom
    are found both meditative concentration and
    insight, that one indeed is close to Nibbana.

  14. The monk who has retired to a solitary
    abode and calmed the mind, who comprehends
    the Dhamma with insight, in that one there arises
    a delight that transcends all human delights.

  15. Whenever one sees with insight the rise
    and fall of the aggregates, one is full of joy and
    happiness. To the discerning one this reflects
    the Deathless.

  16. Control of the senses, contentment,
    restraint according to the code of monastic
    discipline--these form the basis of the holy
    life for the wise monk here.

  17. Let one associate with friends who are
    noble, energetic and pure in life; let one be
    cordial and refined in conduct. Thus, full of
    joy, one will make an end of suffering.

  18. Just as the jasmine creeper sheds its
    withered flowers, even so, O monks, should
    you totally shed lust and hatred!

  19. The monk who is calm in body, calm in
    speech, calm in thought, well composed and who
    has spewn out worldliness--that one, truly,
    is called serene.

  20. By oneself one must censure oneself and
    scrutinize oneself. The self-guarded and mindful
    monk will always live in happiness.

  21. One is one's own protector, one is one's
    own refuge. Therefore one should control oneself
    even as the trader controls a noble steed.

  22. Full of joy, full of faith in the Teaching of
    the Buddha, the monk attains the Peaceful State,
    the bliss of cessation of conditioned things.

  23. That monk who while young devotes oneself
    to the Teaching of the Buddha illuminates
    this world like the moon freed from clouds.

v.370. The five to be cut off are the five "lower fetters": self-illusion, doubt, belief in rites and rituals, lust and ill-will. The five to be abandoned are the five "higher fetters": craving for the divine realms with form, craving for the formless realms, conceit, restlessness and ignorance. Stream-enterers and Once-returners cut off the first three fetters, Non-returners the next two and Arahats the last five. The five to be cultivated are the five spiritual faculties: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. The five bonds are: greed, hatred, delusion, false views and conceit.

v.374. Aggregates (of existence) (khandha): the five groups of factors into which the Buddha analyzes the living being--material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

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Chapter Twenty-Six -- The Holy Person

  1. Exert yourself, O holy person! Cut off the
    stream (of craving) and discard sense desires
    Knowing the destruction of all conditioned things,
    become, O holy person, a knower of the Uncreate (Nibbana)!

  2. When a holy person has reached the summit
    of the two paths (meditative concentration and
    insight), that person knows the Truth and all fetters
    fall away.

  3. One for whom there is neither this shore
    nor the other shore, nor yet both, one who is free of
    cares and is unfettered--such a one do I call
    a holy person.

  4. One who is meditative and stainless, settled
    and whose work is done, free from cankers, having
    reached the highest goal--such a one do I call
    a holy person.

  5. The sun shines by day, the moon shines by
    night. The warrior shines in armour, the holy
    person shines in meditation. But the Buddha shines
    resplendent all day and all night.

  6. Because one has discarded evil, one is called
    a holy person. Because one is serene in conduct,
    one is called a recluse. And because one has
    renounced one's impurities, one is called a renunciate.

  7. One should not strike a holy person, nor
    should a holy person, when struck, give way to
    anger. Shame on one who strikes a holy person,
    and more shame on one who gives way to anger.

  8. Nothing is better for a holy person than
    when one holds one's mind back from what is endearing.
    To the extent that thoughts of harming
    wear away, to that extent does suffering subside.

  9. One who does no evil in deed, word and
    thought, who is restrained in these three ways--
    such a one do I call a holy person.

  10. Just as a brahmin priest reveres his sacrificial
    fire, even so should one devoutly revere the
    person from whom one has learned the Dhamma
    taught by the Buddha.

  11. Not by matted hair, nor by lineage,
    nor by birth does one become a holy person.
    But one in whom truth and righteousness exist
    --such a one is pure and is a holy person.

  12. What is the use of your matted hair,
    O witless person? What of your garment of antelope's
    hide? Within you is the tangle (of passion),
    only outwardly do you cleanse yourself.

  13. The person who wears a robe made from
    rags, who is lean, with veins showing all over the
    body, and who meditates alone in the forest--
    such a one do I call a holy person.

  14. I do not call one a holy person because of
    one's lineage or one's high-born mother. If one has
    impeding attachments, one is just a supercilious
    person. But one who is free from impediments and
    clinging--such a one do I call a holy person.

  15. One who, having cut off all fetters, trembles
    no more, who has overcome all attachments and is
    emancipated--such a one do I call a holy person.

  16. One who has cut off the thong (of hatred),
    the band (of craving), and the rope (of false views),
    together with the appurtenances (latent evil
    tendencies), one who has removed the crossbar
    (ignorance) and is enlightened--such a one do I call
    a holy person.

  17. One who without resentment endures
    abuse, beating and punishment, whose power,
    real might, is patience--such a one do I call a holy person.

  18. One who is free from anger, devout,
    virtuous, without craving, self-subdued, bearing
    one's final body--such a one do I call a holy person.

  19. Like water on a lotus leaf or a mustard
    seed on the point of a needle, one who does not
    cling to sensual pleasures--such a one do I call a holy person.

  20. One who in this very life realizes for oneself
    the end of suffering, who has laid aside the burden
    and become emancipated--such a one do I call a holy person.

  21. One of profound knowledge, wise, skilled
    in discerning the right or wrong path, who has
    reached the highest goal--such a one do I call a holy person.

  22. One who holds aloof from householders
    and ascetics alike, and wanders about with no
    fixed abode and but few wants--such a one do I call
    a holy person.

  23. One who has renounced violence towards
    all living beings, weak or strong, who neither kills
    no causes others to kill--such a one do I call a holy person.

  24. One who is friendly amidst the hostile,
    peaceful amidst the violent, and unattached amidst
    the attached--such a one do I call a holy person.

  25. One from whom lust and hatred, pride and
    hypocrisy have fallen off like a mustard seed from
    the point of a needle--such a one do I call a holy person.

  26. One who utters gentle, instructive and truthful
    words, who imprecates none--such a one do I call a holy person.

  27. One who in this world takes nothing that
    is not given to one, be it long or short, small or
    big, good or bad--such a one do I call a holy person.

  28. One who wants nothing of either this world
    or the next, who is desire-free and emancipated--
    such a one do I call a holy person.

  29. One who has no attachment, who through
    perfect knowledge is free from doubts and has
    plunged into the Deathless--such a one do I call a holy person.

  30. One who in this world has transcended the
    ties of both merit and demerit, who is sorrowless,
    stainless and pure--such a one do I call a holy person.

  31. One who, like the moon, is spotless and
    pure, serene and clear, who has destroyed the
    delight in existence--such a one do I call a holy person.

  32. One who, having traversed this miry, perilous
    and delusive round of existence, has crossed
    over and reached the other shore, meditative,
    calm and free from doubt, clinging to nothing,
    attained to Nibbana--such a one do I call a holy person.

  33. One who, having abandoned sensual pleasures,
    renounced the household life and become a
    homeless one, has destroyed both sensual desire
    and continued existence--such a one do I call a holy person.

  34. One who, having abandoned craving, renounced
    the household life and become a homeless
    one, has destroyed both craving and continued
    existence--such a one do I call a holy person.

  35. One who, casting off human bonds and
    transcending celestial ties, is wholly delivered of
    all bondages--such a one do I call a holy person.

  36. One who, having cast off likes and dislikes,
    has become tranquil, rid of the substrata of
    existence and like a hero has conquered all the
    worlds--such a one do I call a holy person.

  37. One who, in every way, knows the death
    and rebirth of all beings, and is totally detached,
    blessed and enlightened--such a one do I call a holy person.

  38. One whose track no gods, no angels, no
    humans trace, the Arahat who has destroyed all
    cankers--such a one do I call a holy person.

  39. One who clings to nothing of the past,
    present and future, who has no attachment and
    holds on to nothing--such a one do I call a holy person.

  40. One, the Noble, the Excellent, the Heroic,
    the Great Sage, the Conqueror, the Passionless,
    the Pure, the Enlightened--such a one do I call a holy person.

  41. One who knows one's former births, who
    sees heaven and hell, who has reached the end of
    births and attained to the perfection of insight,
    the sage who has reached the summit of spiritual
    excellence--such a one do I call a holy person.

v.383. "Holy person" is used rather than Buddharakkhita's "holy man" as a gender neutral term. "Holy man" was used as a makeshift rendering for brahmana, intended to reproduce the ambiguity of the Indian word. Originally men of spiritual stature, by the time of the Buddha the brahmins had turned into a privileged priesthood which defined itself by means of birth and lineage rather than by genuine inner sanctity. The Buddha attempted to restore to the word brahmana its original connotation by identifying the true "holy man" as the Arahat, who merits the title through his inward purity and holiness regardless of family lineage. The contrast between the two meanings is highlighted in verses 393 and 396. Those who led a contemplative life dedicated to gaining Arahatship could also be called brahmins, as in verses 383, 389 and 390.

v.385. This shore: the six sense organs; the other shore: their corresponding objects; both: I-ness and my-ness.

v.394. In the time of the Buddha, such ascetic practices as wearing matted hair and garments of hides were considered marks of holiness.

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