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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.
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 a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me"—in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me"—in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love—this is an old rule.
The world does not know that we must all come to an end here; but those who know it, their quarrels cease at once.
He who lives looking for pleasures only, his senses uncontrolled, immoderate in his food, idle, and weak, Mâra (the tempter) will certainly overthrow him, as the wind throws down a weak tree.
He who lives without looking for pleasures, his senses well controlled, moderate in his food, faithful and strong, him Mâra will certainly not overthrow, any more than the wind throws down a rocky mountain.
He who wishes to put on the yellow dress without having cleansed himself from sin, who disregards also temperance and truth, is unworthy of the yellow dress.
But he who has cleansed himself from sin, is well grounded in all virtues, and endowed also with temperance and truth: he is indeed worthy of the yellow dress.
They who imagine truth in untruth, and see untruth in truth, never arrive at truth, but follow vain desires.
They who know truth in truth, and untruth in untruth, arrive at truth, and follow true desires.
As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.
As rain does not break through a well-thatched house, passion will not break through a well-reflecting mind.
The evil-doer mourns in this world, and he mourns in the next; he mourns in both. He mourns and suffers when he sees the evil result of his own work.
The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work.
The evil-doer suffers in this world, and he suffers in the next; he suffers in both. He suffers when he thinks of the evil he has done; he suffers more when going on the evil path.
The virtuous man is happy in this world, and he is happy in the next; he is happy in both. He is happy when he thinks of the good he has done; he is still more happy when going on the good path.
The thoughtless man, even if he can recite a large portion of the law, but is not a doer of it, has no share in the priesthood, but is like a cow-herd counting the cows of others.
The follower of the law, even if he can recite only a small portion of the law, but, having forsaken passion and hatred and foolishness, possesses true knowledge and serenity of mind, he, caring for nothing in this world or that to come, has indeed a share in the priesthood.CHAPTER 2
EARNESTNESS is the path of immortality (Nirvana), thoughtlessness the path of death. Those who are in earnest do not die, those who are thoughtless are as if dead already.
Having understood this clearly, those who are advanced in earnestness delight in earnestness, and rejoice in the knowledge of the elect.
These wise people, meditative, steady, always possessed of strong powers, attain to Nirvana, the highest happiness.
If an earnest person has roused himself, if he is not forgetful, if his deeds are pure, if he acts with consideration, if he restrains himself, and lives according to law—then his glory will increase.
By rousing himself, by earnestness, by restraint and control, the wise man may make for himself an island which no flood can overwhelm.
Fools follow after vanity. The wise man keeps earnestness as his best jewel.
Follow not after vanity, nor after the enjoyment of love and lust! He who is earnest and meditative, obtains ample joy.
When the learned man drives away vanity by earnestness, he, the wise, climbing the terraced heights of wisdom, looks down upon the fools: free from sorrow he looks upon the sorrowing crowd, as one that stands on a mountain looks down upon them that stand upon the plain.
Earnest among the thoughtless, awake among the sleepers, the wise man advances like a racer, leaving behind the hack.
By earnestness did Maghavan (Indra) rise to the lordship of the gods. People praise earnestness; thoughtlessness is always blamed.
A Bhikshu (mendicant) who delights in earnestness, who looks with fear on thoughtlessness, moves about like fire, burning all his fetters, small or large.
A Bhikshu (mendicant) who delights in reflection, who looks with fear on thoughtlessness, cannot fall away from his perfect state—he is close upon Nirvâna.CHAPTER 3
As A FLETCHER makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought, which is difficult to guard, difficult to hold back.
As a fish taken from his watery home and thrown on the dry ground, our thought trembles all over in order to escape the dominion of Mâra, the tempter.
It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness.
Let the wise man guard his thoughts, for they are difficult to perceive, very artful, and they rush wherever they list: thoughts well guarded bring happiness.
Those who bridle their mind which travels far, moves about alone, is without a body, and hides in the chamber of the heart, will be free from the bonds of Mâra, the tempter.
If a man's faith is unsteady, if he does not know the true law, if his peace of mind is troubled, his knowledge will never be perfect.
If a man's thoughts are not dissipated, if his mind is not perplexed, if he has ceased to think of good or evil, then there is no fear for him while he is watchful.
Knowing that this body is fragile like a jar, and making his thought firm like a fortress, one should attack Mâra, the tempter, with the weapon of knowledge, one should watch him when conquered, and should never rest.
Before long, alas! this body will lie on the earth, despised, without understanding, like a useless log.
Whatever a hater may do to a hater, or an enemy to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do him greater mischief.
Not a mother, not a father, will do so much, nor any other relatives; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.CHAPTER 4
WHO SHALL overcome this earth, and the world of Yama, the lord of the departed, and the world of the gods? Who shall find out the plainly shown path of virtue, as a clever man finds the right flower?
The disciple will overcome the earth, and the world of Yama, and the world of the gods. The disciple will find out the plainly shown path of virtue, as a clever man finds the right flower.
He who knows that this body is like froth, and has learnt that it is as unsubstantial as a mirage, will break the flower-pointed arrow of Mâra, and never see the king of death.
Death carries off a man who is gathering flowers, and whose mind is distracted, as a flood carries off a sleeping village.
Death subdues a man who is gathering flowers, and whose mind is distracted, before he is satiated in his pleasures.
As the bee collects nectar and departs without injuring the flower, or its color or scent, so let a sage dwell in his village.
Not the perversities of others, not their sins of commission or omission, but his own misdeeds and negligences should a sage take notice of.
Like a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent, are the fine but fruitless words of him who does not act accordingly.
But, like a beautiful flower, full of color and full of scent, are the fine and fruitful words of him who acts accordingly.
As many kinds of wreaths can be made from a heap of flowers, so many good things may be achieved by a mortal when once he is born.
The scent of flowers does not travel against the wind, nor that of sandal-wood, or of Tagara and Mallikâ flowers, but the odor of good people travels even against the wind; a good man pervades every place.
Sandal-wood or Tagara, a lotus-flower, or a Vassikî, among these sorts of perfumes, the perfume of virtue is unsurpassed.
Mean is the scent that comes from Tagara and sandal-wood; the perfume of those who possess virtue rises up to the gods as the highest.
Of the people who possess these virtues, who live without thoughtlessness, and who are emancipated through true knowledge, Mâra, the tempter, never finds the way.
As on a heap of rubbish cast upon the highway the lily will grow full of sweet perfume and delight, thus among those who are mere rubbish the disciple of the truly enlightened Buddha shines forth by his knowledge above the blinded worldling.CHAPTER 5
LONG IS THE night to him who is awake; long is a mile to him who is tired; long is life to the foolish who do not know the true law.
If a traveller does not meet with one who is his better, or his equal, let him firmly keep to his solitary journey; there is no companionship with a fool.
"These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me," with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth?
The fool who knows his foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a fool who thinks himself wise, he is called a fool indeed.
If a fool be associated with a wise man even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon perceives the taste of soup.
If an intelligent man be associated for one minute only with a wise man, he will soon perceive the truth, as the tongue perceives the taste of soup.
Fools of poor understanding have themselves for their greatest enemies, for they do evil deeds which bear bitter fruits.
That deed is not well done of which a man must repent, and the reward of which he receives crying and with a tearful face.
No, that deed is well done of which a man does not repent, and the reward of which he receives gladly and cheerfully.
As long as the evil deed done does not bear fruit, the fool thinks it is like honey; but when it ripens, then the fool suffers grief.
Let a fool month after month eat his food (like an ascetic) with the tip of a blade of Kuagrass, yet is he not worth the sixteenth particle of those who have well weighed the law.
An evil deed, like newly-drawn milk, does not turn suddenly; smouldering, like fire covered by ashes, it follows the fool.
And when the evil deed, after it has become known, turns to sorrow for the fool, then it destroys his bright lot, nay, it cleaves his head.
Let the fool wish for a false reputation, for precedence among the Bhikshus, for lordship in the convents, for worship among other people!
"May both the layman and he who has left the world think that this is done by me; may they be subject to me in everything which is to be done or is not to be done," thus is the mind of the fool, and his desire and pride increase.
"One is the road that leads to wealth, another the road that leads to Nirvâna"—if the Bhikshu, the disciple of Buddha, has learnt this, he will not yearn for honor, he will strive after separation from the world.CHAPTER 6
THE WISE MAN
IF YOU SEE A man who shows you what is to be avoided, who administers reproofs, and is intelligent, follow that wise man as you would one who tells of hidden treasures; it will be better, not worse, for him who follows him.
Let him admonish, let him teach, let him forbid what is improper!—he will be beloved of the good, by the bad he will be hated.
Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.
He who drinks in the law lives happily with a serene mind: the sage rejoices always in the law, as preached by the elect.
Well-makers lead the water wherever they like; fletchers bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; wise people fashion themselves.
As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, wise people falter not amidst blame and praise.
Wise people, after they have listened to the laws, become serene, like a deep, smooth, and still lake.
Good men indeed walk warily under all circumstances; good men speak not out of a desire for sensual gratification; whether touched by happiness or sorrow wise people never appear elated or depressed.
If, whether for his own sake, or for the sake of others, a man wishes neither for a son, nor for wealth, nor for lordship, and if he does not wish for his own success by unfair means, then he is good, wise, and virtuous.
Few are there among men who arrive at the other shore (become Arhats); the other people here run up and down the shore.
But those who, when the law has been well preached to them, follow the law, will pass over the dominion of death, however difficult to cross.
A wise man should leave the dark state of ordinary life, and follow the bright state of the Bhikshu. After going from his home to a homeless state, he should in his retirement look for enjoyment where enjoyment seemed difficult. Leaving all pleasures behind, and calling nothing his own, the wise man should purge himself from all the troubles of the mind.
Those whose mind is well grounded in the seven elements of knowledge, who without clinging to anything, rejoice in freedom from attachment, whose appetites have been conquered, and who are full of light, they are free even in this world.CHAPTER 7
THERE is no suffering for him who has finished his journey, and abandoned grief, who has freed himself on all sides, and thrown off all fetters.
They exert themselves with their thoughts well-collected, they do not tarry in their abode; like swans who have left their lake, they leave their house and home.
Men who have no riches, who live on recognized food, who have perceived void and unconditioned freedom (Nirvâna), their path is difficult to understand, like that of birds in the air.
He whose appetites are stilled, who is not absorbed in enjoyment, who has perceived void and unconditioned freedom (Nirvâna), his path is difficult to understand, like that of birds in the air.
The gods even envy him whose senses, like horses well broken in by the driver, have been subdued, who is free from pride, and free from appetites; such a one who does his duty is tolerant like the earth, or like a threshold; he is like a lake without mud; no new births are in store for him.
His thought is quiet, quiet are his word and deed, when he has obtained freedom by true knowledge, when he has thus become a quiet man.
The man who is free from credulity, but knows the uncreated, who has cut all ties, removed all temptations, renounced all desires, he is the greatest of men.
In a hamlet or in a forest, on sea or on dry land, wherever venerable persons (Arahanta) dwell, that place is delightful.
Forests are delightful; where the world finds no delight, there the passionless will find delight, for they look not for pleasures.CHAPTER 8
EVEN THOUGH a speech be a thousand (of words), but made up of senseless words, one word of sense is better, which if a man hears, he becomes quiet.
Even though a Gâthâ (poem) be a thousand (of words), but made up of senseless words, one word of a Gâthâ is better, which if a man hears, he becomes quiet.
Though a man recite a hundred Gâthâs made up of senseless words, one word of the law is better, which if a man hears, he becomes quiet.
If one man conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors.
One's own self conquered is better than all other people; not even a god, a Gandharva, not Mâra (with Bráhman), could change into defeat the victory of a man who has vanquished himself, and always lives under restraint.
If a man for a hundred years sacrifice month by month with a thousand, and if he but for one moment pay homage to a man whose soul is grounded in true knowledge, better is that homage than a sacrifice for a hundred years.
Excerpted from Wisdom of the Buddha by F. Max Müller. Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted April 30, 2001
The Dhammapada is one of the most popular and accessible books in all of Buddhist literature. In it are the words of Shakyamuni Buddha, which teach that all suffering stems from desire and that the way to attain freedom is to purify the heart and follow the way of truth. This version is rendered by Thomas Byron. His style uniquely captures the Buddha's teachings with both simplicity and lyricism.
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