Chapter Eight: Dhammapada
Chapter Eight: Dhammapada
“One Against Thousands”
100-103. Better than a speech of thousand useless words is one thoughtful word, which brings peace to the mind. Better than a poem of thousand vain verses is single thoughtful verse, which brings peace to the mind. Better than a hundred useless poems is one single verse, which brings peace to the mind.
103-105 A man who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on battlefields. Be victorious over yourself and not over others. When you attain victory over yourself, not even gods can turn it into defeat.
106. Better than performing a thousand rituals month by month for a thousand years is reverence for a man who has conquered the self.
107. Better than worshiping or tending sacrificial fires in the forest for thousands of years is a moment’s homage to one living in wisdom.
108. Offering gifts in worship for a whole year to earn merit is not worth a fraction of the honor paid to the wise.
109. To those who honor and revere the wise four treasures will surly come: long life, health, beauty and happiness.
110. Better to live in virtue and contemplation for one day than a hundred years in vice and with undisciplined mind.
111. Better to live in goodness and wisdom for one day than to lead an ignorant life with undisciplined mind for a hundred years.
112. Better to live in vitality and good judgment for one day than to lead an idle and weak life for a hundred years.
113. Better to live in freedom and wisdom for one day than to live a conditioned life of bondage for a hundred years.
114. A day’s glimpse of the deathless state is better than a hundred years of life without it.
115. A single day’s glimpse of dharma is better than a hundred years of life without it.
As I Understand It:
The eighth chapter emphasizes the benefits of a disciplined mind, conquering oneself, quality over quantity and following the wise ones.
In fact, this chapter has helped me understand many aspects of writing. Such as clear thinking comes from disciplined mind and clear writing from clear thinking. And its obverse, cluttered writing reflects a cluttered mind. I have become deeply conscious of how I write. I choose my words with care.
Another point this teaching makes (for writers) is to strip down masks and pretentions. To conquer yourself. To be yourself. To simplify (writing) and strive for order. Carefully chosen words reflect writer’s personality. They help create original writings that beat fluent works.
The chapter sings praises of worth over meaninglessness. Above all, it admires the individual who is victorious over himself because the one who is his own master, the way a writer must be, brings peace of mind to the world.
As I write the first draft of my second novel I have taped the following lines to the edge of my computer screen:
Better than ten meaningless words is one meaningful word.
Better than a hundred meaningless stanzas is one meaningful sentence.
Better than a thousand meaningless paragraphs is one meaningful page.
Better than ten thousand writers of “fifteen minutes fame” is a single writer of a meaningful book.
Lao Tzu wrote one volume, Tao te-Ching. Even after 2, 500 years the book continues to have beneficial affect on generations of people around the world. Harper Lee’s only book, To Kill A Mocking Bird that she wrote in 1960, is still considered a masterpiece.
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.