Twenty-Fourth Chapter: Dhammapada | Madhu Bazaz Wangu
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Twenty-Fourth Chapter: Dhammapada

Twenty-Fourth Chapter: Dhammapada

Twenty-Fourth Chapter: Dhammapada
Compulsive Cravings

334. The cravings of a thoughtless man grow like a creeper. Like a monkey he jumps from one life to another, looking for fruit in the forest.

335-36. When a man’s cravings overcome him, his sorrows increase like the entangled creeper. But when a man overcomes his cravings his sorrows fall away like drops of water from a lotus flower.

337-38. Therefore cut off the bonds of desire like the creeper is cut from its fragrant roots, if you don’t want Mara to crush you as the stream crushes reeds on its banks. Just as a tree, though cut down, grows again and again if the roots of compulsive urges are not extinguished, sorrows will come to you again and again.

339-40. Whenever the thirty-six streams of desire flow from the mind toward pleasures, its current carries away the unfortunate man. The creepers of passion grow everywhere. Whenever you see a craving growing cut off its roots with the power of wisdom.

341-43. Attachment and lust flow everywhere. Seeking gratification of cravings human beings are caught in the cycle of birth and death. Driven by this thirst they run around frightened like a hunted hare, suffering again and again. Overcome this thirst and be free.

344. Some manage to come out of the forest of cravings, but once freed from one they are driven into another. Though free, they run back into prison.

345-46. Fetter made of wood, rope, or even iron is not as strong as the fetter of passion for wealth and family. Such fetters drag a man down and are hard to undo. Break them by overcoming selfish desires. Renounce the life of sensory pleasures without a backward glance.

347. Like a spider caught in its own web is a person driven by cravings. Break out of the web, and leave behind the world of sensory pleasure and sorrow.

348. Leave the past, present and future behind. Set your mind free and go beyond a life that ends in death.

349-50. If you want to reach the other shore, don’t let doubts, passions and cravings strengthen your fetters. Meditate deeply and discriminate what is merely pleasant and what is permanent and thus break off from Mara’s claws.

351. One who is free from fear, cravings and has removed all thorns of his life; this is his last mortal body.

352. He who is free from urges and attachments and understands the meaning of words is supremely wise; this is his last mortal body.

353. I have conquered myself, and living in purity I know all. I have left everything behind and I am free. I taught myself, whom should I call a teacher?

354. There is no gift better than the gift of the dharma, no gift more sweet or joyful. It puts an end to cravings and the sorrows they bring.

355. Wealth destroys the greedy but not those who seek Nirvana. With little understanding the greedy harm themselves and those around them.

356. Greed harms the mind as weeds harm the fields. Honor those who are free from greed.

357. Lust ruins the mind as weeds harm the fields. Honor those who are free from lust.

358. Hatred ruins the mind as weeds harm the fields. Honor those who are free from hatred.

359. Selfish desires ruins the mind as weeds harm the fields. Honor those who are free from selfish desires.

As I Understand It:
The Buddha achieved stupendous spiritual feats by his own efforts and taught his followers how to overcome suffering.

The Buddha’s First Noble Truth says that suffering is inherent in human experience. And the Second Noble Truth says that the cause of all human suffering is craving, thirst for selfish desires. Cravings are so powerful that they drive people to seek satisfaction of their urges at any cost, even at the expense of harming others. But it doesn’t end there, when one craving is satisfied it forces one to seek gratifications of more and endless cravings. Gratifying cravings is like fueling the fire of desire; more it is fed higher the flames.

But this blaze can be extinguished. When a craving urges an individual for its gratification, he has a choice. He can ignore the urge or he can yield to it. It is painful to ignore a craving. It wants to be gratified. Once one yields to it another follows that is more intense than the previous one. But if one ignores a craving, once, twice and the third time, the mind will gradually learn to quiet down. One will begin to experience longer and longer intervals of calm between the waves of desires. Ultimately the burning will be replaced by pleasurable repose.

At first one feels that the Second Noble Truth denies everything that makes life worth living. But ignoring cravings does not mean that we ignore all desires such as creative dreams and selfless desires. The Buddha was desirous of finding a path to Nirvana. Having experienced enlightenment he received great joy in teaching the way of compassion, wisdom and wellbeing. He was free from the torment of cravings and conditioning of rebirth.

The progress on the Eightfold Path is a desire too. But it is a desire for spiritual growth by self-effort. It is not a raw selfish craving that can only hurt. Selfless desires help build better lives. The desire to follow Buddha’s way helps dissolve egotism and self-aggrandizement. Spiritual desire does not crush basic human desires but transforms them.

Suggested Reading:
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.

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