The Dhammapada

How much do I want to read more? 7/10

Hmmm. So this would be the closest of Buddha's teaching. Which is fascinating as such.
The verses are surprisingly simple and easy to "understand", and yet, I wish there would be some commentaries, as the truth behind is not easy to grasp.


The Dhammapada is one of the best-known and best-loved works of Buddhist literature.
It forms part of the oldest surviving body of Buddhist writings, generally known as the Canon. This means that it is regarded as part of the authentic teaching of the Buddha himself, spoken by him in his lifetime, memorized, and compiled for oral transmission shortly after his death.

The name ‘Dhammapada’ means a word or verse of the Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha.


The Bodhisatta, or Buddha-to-be, was born in a royal family from the Sākiya clan of north-east India, and was given the names Siddhattha and Gotama.
Despite the efforts to shelter him from the suffering (dukkha) of life, the young prince came to see it all around him in the form of old age, sickness and death. Seeking to make an end of suffering, he left his wealth and status to become a wandering holy man.

the young man sought out renowned meditation masters: first Āḷāra Kālāma, and then Uddaka Rāmaputta.
But, although their meditation techniques could provide a temporary peace, they did not lead to complete freedom from suffering, so the Bodhisatta moved on.

He now undertook severe asceticism, deliberately subjecting his body to extremes of heat and cold, and starving himself nearly to death. This proved just as useless for his quest as the indulgence of his former princely life had been, so he gave it up and began once more to eat in moderation.
He travelled on to Gayā, in modern Bihar state. There, on the full-moon night of Vesākha (April–May), he sat beneath a pipal tree, making a determination to achieve liberation there, or die in the attempt. The Bodhisatta had remembered an occasion in his childhood when he had experienced a peaceful meditative state (jhāna) through observing his breath. He realized that this was the key to the practice that he needed: through the jhānas he could still his mind in order to penetrate to the cause of suffering.

By the end of that night he had understood the reality of suffering, and achieved the ultimate freedom, bodhi, often translated as ‘enlightenment’, but more accurately ‘awakening’.
Because of that, Gayā is now called Bodh (= Bodhi) Gaya, and18 the tree under which he sat is called the Bodhi (or Bo) tree. He had now won the title of Buddha (‘Awakened One’). He was thirty-five years old. From this point he is regarded as an enlightened being, free from suffering of the mind – though while he lived his body was still subject to old age, illness and eventual death.

he gave his famous first teaching, the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dhamma. He taught the Four Noble Truths, of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
The Buddha had lived to the age of eighty when, feeling the effects of old age, he went to a grove of sal tree.
His last words to his followers were ‘Conditioned things are by nature perishable. Attain your goal through awareness!’


Pali is descended from Sanskrit, just as Italian, French, Spanish etc., are descended from the vernacular Latin spoken in the Roman Empire.
As an educated man from an aristocratic family, the Buddha may well have known Sanskrit too; but if so he seems to have deliberately avoided using it as a teaching medium, presumably so that his teachings could reach the widest possible audience.


To get a flavour of the Commentary, it is worth seeing what the commentator has done with the two famous verses with which the Dhammapada begins:

Fore-run by mind are mental states,
Ruled by mind, made of mind.
If you speak or act
With corrupt mind,
Suffering follows you,
As the wheel the foot of the ox.

Fore-run by mind are mental states,
Ruled by mind, made of mind.
If you speak or act
With clear mind,
Happiness follows you,
Like a shadow that does not depart.

This is a clear statement of the law of kamma, as it is understood in the Buddhist tradition: that it is the intention with which an act is performed that causes its consequences.

One day as he walks he is seen to be crushing many small insects under his feet; but because of his blindness he does not realize it. His fellow monks complain to the Buddha that he has committed the severe offence of taking life – enough to warrant expulsion from the Order. But the Buddha explains that, as there was no intention to kill, the monk has committed no fault.


Fore-run by mind are mental states,
Ruled by mind, made of mind.
If you speak or act
With corrupt mind,
Suffering follows you,
As the wheel the foot of the ox.

Fore-run by mind are mental states,
Ruled by mind, made of mind.
If you speak or act
With clear mind,
Happiness follows you,
Like a shadow that does not depart.

‘He insulted me, he struck me,
He defeated me, he robbed me’:
For those who get caught up in this,
Hatred does not cease.

‘He insulted me, he struck me,
He defeated me, he robbed me’:
For those who do not get caught up in this,
Hatred ceases completely.

For never here
Do hatreds cease by hatred.
By freedom from hatred they cease:
This is a perennial truth.

Others do not understand
That we must control ourselves here:
But for those who do understand this –
Through it, their quarrels cease.

If you live contemplating the fair,
Unrestrained in senses,
Not knowing moderation in food,
Dull, of weak effort,
Māra overthrows you
As the wind an ill-rooted tree.

If you live contemplating the foul,
Well restrained in senses,
Knowing moderation in food,
Confident, raising effort,
Māra does not overthrow you,
As the wind a rocky mountain.

If someone who is not freed from stain
Puts on the yellow robe,
Devoid of self-control and truthfulness,
He’s not worthy of the yellow robe.

But if someone has got rid of the stains,
Well established in the precepts,
Endowed with self-control and truthfulness,
He indeed is worthy of the yellow robe.

Those who imagine value where there’s none,
And don’t see value where there’s value,
Do not understand value –
Dwellers in the realm of wrong thought.

Those who perceive value where there’s value,
And no value where there’s none,
Understand value –
Dwellers in the realm of right thought.

As rain penetrates
An ill-roofed house,
Passion penetrates
An undeveloped mind.

As rain does not penetrate
A well-roofed house,
Passion does not penetrate
A well-developed mind.

He is sorry here; after death he is sorry;
In both places the evil-doer is sorry.
He is sorry, he is tormented,
Seeing his own action was defiled.

He is happy here; after death he is happy;
In both places the doer of good is happy.
He is happy, he is joyful,
Seeing his own action was pure.

He suffers here; after death he suffers;
In both places the evil-doer suffers.
He suffers, thinking, ‘I have done wrong’;
And going to a bad place he suffers even more.

He rejoices here; after death he rejoices;
In both places the doer of good rejoices.
He rejoices, thinking, ‘I have done right’;
And going to a good place he rejoices even more.

Though you recite much scripture,
If you are unaware and do not act according
You are like a cowherd counting others’ cattle,
Not a sharer in the wanderer’s life.

Though you recite little scripture,
If you go from dhamma to dhamma,
Abandoning passion, hatred and delusion,
Rightly knowing, with well-freed mind,
Not clinging either here or in the other world,
You are a sharer in the wanderer’s life.


Awareness is the place of the deathless;
Unawareness is the place of death.
The aware do not die;
The unaware are as though dead already.

Knowing this especially
About awareness, the wise
Delight in awareness,
Taking pleasure in the realm of the Noble Ones.

Those who constantly practise meditation,
Ever firm in their endeavour,
Those wise ones touch nibbāna,
The unsurpassed peace of yoga.

If you’re effortful and mindful,
Pure in deed, acting with consideration,
Controlled, living by the Dhamma,
And aware, your fame will increase.

By effort, awareness,
Restraint and self-control,
The wise one should make an island
Which the flood will not overwhelm.

Foolish, unwise folk
Indulge in unawareness.
The wise one guards awareness
As the finest treasure.

Do not indulge in unawareness,
Or closeness with sense-pleasures.
For aware, meditating,
You’ll gain great happiness.

When a learned one
By awareness wards off unawareness,
He ascends the palace of wisdom,
And, sorrowless, observes the sorrowful folk,
Wise watching fools, as one on a mountain
Sees those on the ground.

Aware among the unaware,
Fully awake among the sleeping,
The wise one goes, leaving them behind
As a swift horse leaves a weak horse behind.

By awareness Maghavan
Became the chief of the gods.
Folk praise awareness.
Unawareness is always blamed.

The monk who delights in awareness,
Seeing the danger in unawareness,
Moves like a fire,
Burning up fetters small and great.

The monk who delights in awareness,
Seeing the danger in unawareness,
Not liable to fall back,
Is close to nibbāna.


The wise one makes straight
The trembling, fickle mind –
So hard to guard, so hard to control –
As the fletcher makes straight the arrow.

Like a fish thrown on land,
Drawn out of its watery home,
This mind thrashes around
To escape the rule of Māra.

The mind is hard to restrain, light,
Flying where it will.
Control of it is good.
Mind controlled brings happiness.

Mind is most hard to see, most subtle,
Flying where it will.
The wise one should guard it.
Mind guarded brings happiness.

Mind is far-travelling, a solitary mover,
Bodiless, a cave-dweller.
Those who restrain it
Will get free of Māra’s bonds.

If your mind is unsteady,
If you do not know the true Dhamma,
If your composure is disturbed,
Your wisdom will not become complete.

If your mind is not troubled,
If your thought is not perturbed,
If you’ve left behind good and evil,
Wakeful, you’ll have no fear.

Knowing that this body is like a pot,
Fortifying the mind like a city
You should fight Māra with the weapon of wisdom.
You should guard your territory without resting.

Soon, alas, this body
Will lie on the earth,
Abandoned, consciousness departed,
Like a useless log of wood.

Whatever an enemy can do to an enemy,
Or a rival to a rival,
A wrongly directed mind
Will do worse to you than that.

What mother or father cannot do,
Or any other kin,
A rightly directed mind
Will do better for you than that.