The Downward Path
306. He who says what is not true, he who denies what he has done, both go towards downward path. After death these two become partners in falsehood.
307-08. Those who put on saffron robe but remain undisciplined and ill mannered are dragged down by their evil deeds. It is better for an undisciplined monk to swallow red-hot iron rather than to live on the charity of good people.
309-10. Adultery leads to loss of sleep, loss of merit, condemnation and suffering. What pleasure can there be in the embrace of frightened couple fearing punishment? Therefore do not commit adultery.
311. Just as a blade of kusha grass can cut the finger when it is wrongly held, the life of a monk without discrimination can send one on the downward path.
312-13. An act of devotion when carelessly performed, when a vow is broken, a code of chastity not strictly observed–no fruit can come from such a life. If anything is worth doing do it with all your heart. A half-hearted ascetic covers himself with more and more dust-the dust of dangerous desires.
314-15. Better to do nothing than to do something that causes pain later. Perform good deeds that cause no suffering, for good deeds never bring pain. Guard yourself well, both within and without, like a well-defended fort. Don’t let a moment pass by, for wasted moments send you on a downward path.
316. Those who are ashamed of deeds they should not be ashamed of, and not ashamed of things they should be ashamed of, follow false doctrine on the downward path.
317. Those who fear what they ought not to fear, and do not fear what they ought to fear, follow false doctrine on the downward path.
318. Those who see wrong where there is none, and do not see wrong where there is, follow false doctrine on the downward path.
319. But those who see wrong where there is wrong, and see no wrong where there is none, follow true doctrines on the upward course.
As I Understand It:
In the later Buddhist scriptures the descriptions of hell are gruesome. But the Buddhist hell is unlike the hells of other religions. The concept of impermanence extends to it as well. Nothing is everlasting, neither this life nor hell nor heaven. The hell is not vengeful. A person remains in hell until his karma from his previous birth is exhausted. Then he is reborn as a human. With a new life he gets a fresh opportunity to avoid harmful actions that contain the seeds of their punishment and improve his life style.
The hell is not in a location somewhere there where you go after death. It is a mental state caused by the content of a person’s own thoughts and actions. The pain of having committed a serious mistake, such as adultery, can be so excruciating that the person involved feels as if he is in hell here on earth.
People think that pleasure can be pursued without pain. But the wise knows that suffering is inherent in human experience. Selfish actions bring their own punishment. They damage one’s hard earned spiritual progress.
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.