Eighteenth Chapter: Dhammapada
Purifying the Mind
235-36. You are like an autumn leaf, knowing you’ll someday fall and travel far away. Have you prepared for the long journey? Light the lamp within; be your own island and strive hard to attain wisdom. Free of flaws and impurities you’ll enter the realm of light.
237-38. You’re at the end of your life; death is at your door. There is no place to rest. How can you be so unprepared? Light the lamp within; be your own island and strive hard to attain wisdom. Free of flaws and impurities you’ll be free from cycles of birth and death.
239. Wise remove their flaws from their mind like a good silversmith who removes impurities from silver: little by little, one by one, again and again.
240-42. Just as rust, once started, corrodes iron, evil deeds destroy those who do them. Careless repetition of the sacred verses rusts their understanding; Lack of repair rusts houses, lethargy rusts health, non-vigilance rusts the watchman. Adultery rusts marriages; greed rusts generosity. Selfish actions are flaws in this world and in the next.
243. But there is no greater flaw than ignorance. Remove ignorance through wisdom and you will be able to remove the rest of impurities.
244-45. Life seems easy for the one who has no shame and is as insolent as a crow. Life is hard for the one who quietly follows Dharma, who is humble, neither self-seeking nor assertive and who tries to live in moderation.
246-48. He who kills, lies, steals, gets drunk, or commits adultery, digs up his own roots, his own grave. He who lacks self-control harms himself and others. Know this and do not let greed, anger or vice bring you lingering pain.
249-50. People are generous for different reasons. Do not find faults with those who give or envy those who receive the gifts. You’ll lose peace of mind. Those who have destroyed the roots of jealousy have peace of mind day and night.
251. There is no fire like desire, no fetter like hatred, no snare like delusion and no torrent like craving.
252-53. It is easy to see the faults of others; we winnow them like chaff in the wind. It is hard to see our own faults; we hide them like a gambler hides a losing draw. Those who keep dwelling on others’ faults, multiply their own impulses making it harder to overcome them.
254. There are no footsteps in the sky; saints have no signs. Yet people with desires look for footsteps and signs. There is no refuge in the world for such people. Our world keeps changing, but the disciples of the Buddha are never shaken. They live in freedom because they have found the inner path.
As I Understand It:
Whether we are in spring, summer or fall of our life it is never too late to ask, have I prepared for my final journey? Starting right now, we must begin to eliminate the stains of mind that taint our personality. The Buddha says to eliminate the impurities of mind, “one by one, little by little,” the way a good silversmith removes dross from silver.
Impurities such as cravings, hatred, jealousy and delusion corrupt us “like rust corrodes iron.” Resentment, anger, fixation on others’ faults brews in the unconscious until we lose control over ourselves. The worst impurity of all is ignorance because it prevents us from seeing other flaws that eat us up from inside.
If we do not remove the impurities they will foster and grow stronger. When faced with provocative situations we’ll react with irresistible impulses. We’ll have no protection against making wrong judgments. Serious lapses in good judgment will gradually drain away our physical vigor and mental vitality.
When our speech and action are right the flaws wash off, impurities are eliminated and mind purified. We become islands unto ourselves that can’t rust. As we follow the inner path we experience boundlessness.
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.