Nineteenth Chapter: Dhammapada
256-57. Those who do not follow Dharma resort to violence to achieve their purpose. But those who lead others through nonviolent means, knowing right and wrong, may be called guardians of Dharma or Dharmic.
258. One is not wise because he is articulate. One is wise because he is patient, free from hate and fear.
259. Dharma is not upheld by talking about it. Dharma is upheld by living in harmony with it even if one is not learned.
260-61. Gray hair does not make an elder; one can grow old and still be immature. A true elder is the one who is truthful, virtuous, gentle, self-controlled and pure in mind.
262-63. Neither pleasant words nor a pretty face can make a man handsome. A person is not beautiful if she is jealous, selfish or deceitful. Only those who have uprooted such impurities from their mind are fit to be called beautiful.
264-265. Shaving one’s head cannot make a monk of one who is undisciplined, untruthful and driven by selfish desires. He is a real monk who has extinguished all selfish desires, large and small.
266-267. Begging alms do not make a bhikshu; one must follow the dharma. He is a true bhikshu who is chaste and beyond the reach of good and evil, who passes through the world with detachment.
268-69. Observing silence cannot make a sage of one who is ignorant and immature. He is wise who chooses the good and avoids the bad.
270. One is not noble who injures living creatures. One is noble who hurts no one.
271-272. Not by rituals and resolutions, nor by much learning, nor by celibacy, nor even by meditation can you find the supreme, immortal joy of nirvana. You find it when you have extinguished your ego.
As I Understand It:
In the previous “Readings” we have repeatedly come across the concept of the cosmic interdependence between man and nature. The Sanskrit word Dharma conveys a similar meaning. Dharma is that which supports cosmic order and assures underlying unity of all life. The goal of human life is to live in harmony with it. People’s external appearance, eloquence, advanced age; social or religious position does not necessarily make them dharmic.
This chapter eulogizes the individuals who are free from human flaws and have passed beyond categories of good and evil. They do not hesitate to decide between what is right and wrong. Acting in the way of dharma is as natural to them as breathing. Their authority emanates from their true spiritual attainment. Such individuals have extinguished their desires.
One can achieve dharmic way of life through hard, long and deep meditation. For the Buddha nothing was more important than meditation, nothing could replace its direct experience. What is experienced in meditation is to be repeated over and over until the cosmic unity becomes more real than the passing reel of life. The Buddha wanted his disciples to practice hard and experience for themselves this cosmic unity.
The selfless action rises from direct and personal experience and knowledge of dharma in meditation and not from moral code or social pressure.
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.