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Best 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:

Chapter 1

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”

Hatred does not cease by hatred.”

“He who lives looking for pleasures only, his senses uncontrolled, immoderate in his food, idle, and weak, Mara (the tempter) will certainly overthrow him, as the wind throws down a weak tree.”

“As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.”

Chapter 2

“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.”

Chapter 3

“It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth. A tamed mind brings happiness.”

Chapter 8

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

“Without meditation, wisdom wanes.”

Chapter 10

“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.”

Chapter 14

“To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”

Chapter 17

“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.”

Chapter 21

“If by leaving a small pleasure one sees a great pleasure, let a wise man leave the small pleasure, and look to the great.”

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