Chapter One: Dhammapada
Chapter One: Dhammapada
“Choosing the Right Path”
1. Our life is the reflection of our thoughts. Suffering follows an evil mind as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that hauls it.
2. What we are today is shaped by what we thought yesterday. Joy follows a man with pure mind as his own shadow.
3. “He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.” Those who think thus will never be free from hatred.
4. “He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.” Those who do not think such thoughts will be free from hatred.
5. Hate cannot conquer hate; love can. This is the eternal law.
6. ‘All lives come to an end,’ those who remember this will end quarreling.
7. Mara, the Tempter overwhelms the one who frantically pursues personal pleasures–eats carelessly and is lethargic. He is like a weak tree blown by a strong wind.
8. But he, who does not live for selfish pleasures, is self-disciplined and full of faith cannot be moved by temptations. He is like a mountain that cannot be shaken even by the strongest wind.
9. A monk, having an impure mind, lacking truthfulness and self-control, is not worthy of the saffron robe.
10. But a man, who has purified his mind, is truthful and self-disciplined is worthy of the holy robe.
11. The deluded confuse frivolous as essential. They follow their fancies frantically and get lost in the wrong path.
12. But the wise knows the difference between frivolous and essential. He sets his mind on the right path and achieves the highest knowledge.
13. Passion breaks through an untrained mind as the rain breaks through an ill-thatched hut.
14. Passion cannot break through a well-guarded mind as rain cannot break through a well-thatched hut.
15. A selfish man suffers in this world and in the next world. He suffers as a result of his own actions.
16. A selfless man is happy in this world and in the next world. He rejoices as a result of his own actions.
17. The selfish man suffers in this life and in the next. Seeing the results of the evil he has done, he laments. More suffering awaits him in the next life.
18. But the selfless man rejoices in this life when he sees the good that he has done. More good awaits him in the next life.
19. The man who recites from scriptures but fails to practice their teachings is like a cowherd who counts someone else’s cows.
20. But the man, who practices the teachings of the scriptures, overcomes lust, hatred and delusion. He enjoys a spiritual life and shares its joy with others.
As I Understand It
These verses underline the fact that our present life is the result of the choices we have made until now. We make choices, trivial and vital, every day and throughout our lives. When we confront a problem we grab onto the first answer that comes to our mind. The first answer is usually a selfish one, an impulsive one. But if we give ourselves time to think–a minute, an hour or a day–the answer we come up with would be a hard choice but a thoughtful one, and almost always the right one. The first decisions are quick but their solutions are temporary. Quick and impulsive decisions fill our life with suffering. Whereas thoughtful decisions make our life joyful. No regrets or resentments. Blaming others for our present situation is a cop out.
One is not wise because of the outer trappings-the “saffron colored” monk’s robe. Whatever one wears can be a monk’s robe if the heart is kind and mind pure. The mind is purified by truthfulness, introspection, selflessness and self-discipline. A pure mind can see the difference between trivial and vital. One may intellectually understand this teaching but until it is put to practice, it is meaningless.
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.