Selections From the Dhammapada
The Dhammapada (“Verses of the Dharma”) contains teachings of the Buddha compiled many hundreds of years after his death. It contains short chapters that are full of wisdom sayings.
When it comes to the importance of this text, the translator Eknath Easwaran says, “If all of the New Testament had been lost, it has been said, and only the Sermon on the Mount had managed to survive these two thousand years of history, we would still have all that is necessary for following the teachings of Jesus the Christ. … Buddhist scripture is much more voluminous than the Bible, but … if everything else were lost, we would need nothing more than the Dhammapada to follow the way of the Buddha.” Others may argue that such a view is an oversimplification, but what is certain is that the Dhammapada contains many of the most essential aspects of Buddhism.
Here are some of the best selections from the text:
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.
‘He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me’ — those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred.
‘He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me’ — those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred.
For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law.”
“People forget that their lives will end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end.”
“As a strong wind blows down a weak tree, Mara the Tempter overwhelms weak people who, eating too much and working too little, are caught in the frantic pursuit of pleasure.”
“The deluded, imagining trivial things to be vital to life, follow their vain fancies and never attain the highest knowledge.”
“Those who are selfish suffer here and hereafter.”
“As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.”
“Mindfulness is the path of Nirvana, mindlessness the path of death. Those who are mindful do not die; those who are mindless are as if dead already.”
“As an archer aims an arrow, the wise aim their restless thoughts.”
“As a fish hooked and left on the sand thrashes about in agony, the mind being trained in meditation trembles all over.”
“It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth. A tamed mind brings happiness.”
“The wise live without injuring nature, as the bee drinks nectar without harming the flower.”
“Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.”
“If you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone.”
“If you see someone wise, who can steer you away from the wrong path, follow that person as you would one who can reveal hidden treasures. Only good can come out of it.”
“As irrigators lead water where they want, as archers make their arrows straight, as carpenters carve wood, the wise shape their minds.”
“As a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, the wise are not shaken by praise or blame.”
“Better it is to live one day wise and meditative than to live a hundred years foolish and uncontrolled.”
“Without meditation, wisdom wanes.”
“Hasten to do good; refrain from evil. If you neglect the good, evil can enter your mind.
If you do what is evil, do not repeat it or take pleasure in making it a habit. An evil habit will cause nothing but suffering. If you do what is good, keep repeating it and take pleasure in making it a habit. A good habit will cause nothing but joy.”
“Do not speak harshly to anyone; those who are spoken to will answer you in the same way. Indeed, angry speech is painful and retaliation may overtake you.”
“To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”
“Conquer the hateful man with love; conquer the bad man with goodness; conquer the miser with generosity; conquer the liar with truth.”
“Give, even if you only have a little.”
“If by leaving a small pleasure one sees a great pleasure, let a wise man leave the small pleasure, and look to the great.”