Attavagga: Self-Care Dhammapada 12


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For a complete understanding of this sutta in the context intended by an awakened human being please read the linked suttas at the end of this article. ([x])

The Dhammapada is a twenty-six chapter volume in the fifth book of the Sutta Pitaka known as the Khuddaka Nikaya. The Khuddaka Nikaya is a fifteen-book collection of short texts difficult to classify within the other volumes. The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse that can be read as a concise though thorough presentation of an awakened human being’s teachings. [1]

The Dhammapada is loosely formatted by topic. The individual topic(s) presented in each chapter mostly stand on their own with the understanding that everything the Buddha taught can only be understood and developed skillfully within the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths. [2,3]

The twelfth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Attavagga. When the sole purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma is clearly understood, the remarkable compassion Siddartha Gotama held for others becomes apparent and no more so than in this Chapter.

Rather than teach a nihilistic modern dharma that insists on denying the very existence of a person, the Buddha teaches that if one truly cares for themselves they will integrate his authentic dhamma and recognize and abandon false dharmas that can only lead to further ignorance and suffering. [4,5]

My comments below are in italics.


Attavagga: Self-Care

Dhammapada 12

If one truly cares for themselves they will diligently practice restraint. The wise Dhamma practitioner is always mindful of thoughts, words, and deeds.

The Dhamma is practiced most effectively at the point of contact with the six-sense-base. It is here that the wise Dhamma Practitioner learns to cease attempting to continue to establish a fabricated self and take refuge in reality. [6]

The wise Dhamma practitioner avoids reproach and understands the Dhamma before they instruct others.

The Buddha’s profound understanding of the consequences of continued ignorance is reflected here. All of the contradictions, confusion, delusion, all of the adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments common to modern Buddhism could be avoided simply by actually develop the Buddha’s Dhamma before “teaching” others. This is a primary aspect of Right Speech and the entire Eightfold Path. [7,8]

The wise Dhamma practitioner acts as they teach others to act. The wise Dhamma practitioner controls themselves. Self-control is indeed difficult.

Compare this statement to the sexual predators prevalent in nearly every modern Buddhist “lineage” and modern Buddhism By Common Agreement and it becomes clear that there is no Dhamma in their dharma.

The wise Dhamma practitioner protects themselves – who else could do so? Fully controlled, the wise Dhamma practitioner achieves what is difficult o achieve.

The suffering a fool does by themselves, from themselves, and produced by themselves, grinds themselves  down as a diamond grinds a lesser stone.

Just a a single creeper strangles a tree. The depraved fool harms themselves as an enemy would.

Hurtful thoughts, words, and deeds are easy to do. Difficult is remaining harmless and helpful.

In the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma the most hurtful action anyone can do is to misrepresent the Dhamma from a lack of understanding. This only contributes to they suffering in the world and within modern “dharmas.” [9]

Those with fabricated views who scorn the Dhamma and the teachers of the Dhamma, this fool produces their own destruction.

The fool does harm, the fool is defiled. The wise Dhamma practitioner abandons hurtful thoughts, words, and deeds and makes themselves pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself and no one can purify another.

Do not neglect one’s own welfare for the sake of another, however enticing. Knowing clearly one’s own welfare first, the wise Dhamma practitioner can now be intent on calm.

This last re-emphasizes the Buddha’s admonition to develop and integrate the authentic Dhamma and then, from a quality of mind rooted in peace and wisdom, one can be truly helpful to others.

End Of Chapter


  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Nothing Personal – A Buddha’s Analysis Of Self
  5. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  6. Wisdom Of Restraint
  7. Fabrications
  8. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  9. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths. and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


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