September 18, 2009
Sixteenth Chapter: Dhammapada
209. Don’t run after transient pleasures or neglect the practice of sitting quietly. Those who forget the aim of life and sink into the worldly pleasures, come to envy those who put meditation first.
210. Not seeing what is pleasant brings pain; seeing what is unpleasant brings pain. Therefore go beyond pleasure and pain.
211. Don’t get selfishly attached to anything, for its loss will bring you pain. When you have neither likes nor dislikes, you are free.
212. Selfish attachment brings suffering. Selfish attachment brings fear. Be detached, and you will be free from suffering and fear.
213. Selfish bonds cause sorrow. Selfish bonds cause fear. Be unselfish, and you will be free from sorrow and fear.
214. Selfish enjoyments lead to frustration; selfish enjoyments lead to fear. Be unselfish, and you will be free from frustration and fear.
215. Selfish desires give rise to anxiety; selfish desires give rise to fear. Be unselfish, and you will be free from anxiety and fear.
216. Cravings bring pain; craving brings fear. Don’t yield to cravings, and you will be free from pain and fear.
217. Those who have character and discrimination, who are honest and good and follow the dharma with devotion, win the respect of the entire world.
218. If you long to know what is hard to know and can resist the temptations of the world, you will cross the river of life.
219-220. As your family and friends welcome you with joy when you return from a long journey; so will your good deeds receive you when you go from this life to the next, where they will be waiting for you with joy like your relatives and friends.
As I Understand It:
Buddha taught loving others without selfish attachment. He recognized suffering as human dilemma and concluded that the only way to lead a peaceful life was to stay away from cravings. Self-centered bonds with people, things and places lead to sorrow and pain. Love is not an obstacle to spiritual growth but possessiveness is.
Pleasant and unpleasant feelings are obverse and reverse of life. In time, what is fresh, withers. What was once delightful becomes melancholy. All the things that please are fleeting. Addiction to pleasurable things blocks spiritual growth because we desire only for one side of the coin. How is that possible?
We can lose ourselves in pleasant things and abandon our quest for life’s true aim. And when the time comes to face the inevitable unpleasantness of life–and sooner or later it will–we suffer all the more. Be aware that pleasant things are bound to change. If we want to be free from fear and frustration, free from pain and sorrow, we must learn to be selfless and detached.
In our daily lives when we sense outer stimuli our nervous system is emotionally charged. We react positively or negatively to them. They make us happy or unhappy. But if we choose not to react to the stimuli, they would loosen their hold over us.
If we face life’s sorrows or pleasures without the emotional response of attachment or aversion–with equanimity, we will experience what is beyond pain and pleasure, beyond dualities. Living beyond dualities frees us from life’s suffering.
Only good deeds remain. Good deeds and spiritual practice are closely related.
The Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection, Translation and Introduction by Juan Mascaro, Penguin Books. 1973. Penguin Group, England.
The Dhammapada, Translated for the Modern Reader by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press. 1985. Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, California.