Dhammapda – Concise Dhamma Instruction
The Pali Canon is a three-book volume that contains and maintains in the first two books the extant teachings of Siddhartha Gotama, the historical Buddha. The first book is the Vinaya Pitaka. (Pitaka means “basket” or “collection.” The Vinaya contains rules for behavior within the original sangha and commentary form certain individuals. The Vinaya is a useful study developing an understanding of early Buddhist practitioners and how the Dhamma itself influenced Dhamma practice within the daily lives of the Buddha and his associates.
The third book of the Pali Canon is the Abhidhamma. It contains an intricate and distracting analysis and fabrication of ordinary and mundane phenomena and theoretical and purely speculative psychological and mystical teachings. The Abhidhamma developed after the Buddha’s death beginning with the Second Buddhist Council and cannot be considered authentic and direct teaching of the Buddha.
Much of the confusion, contradictions, misunderstandings, and misapplications common in modern Theravadin Buddhism can be traced to reliance on the Abhidhamma for informing and structuring Dhamma practice rather than the fully developing a direct understanding of the Suttas themselves.
The Abhidhamma has also influenced the fabrication of modern Buddhist sutras never taught by the Buddha, such as the Lotus, Heart, Platform, and Diamond sutras and all of the magical and mystical speculative assumptions now incorporated as “dharma” common to all forms of modern Buddhism.
The first two “baskets,” the Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka, were established during the Buddha’s teaching career and then recorded through an established oral tradition at the First Buddhist Council about one month after the Buddha’s passing.
The Dhammapada is a twenty-six-chapter book in the fifth collection 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 four volumes. The Dhammapada is a collection of teachings of the Buddha that provides clear instruction and the encouraging direction of an awakened human being’s teachings. The Dhammapada has been traditionally used as a study guide for novice practitioners and serves as such very well when seen in the context established by the Buddha. This context is established in the Paticasamuoada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, and the Dhammaccakkappavatthana Sutta, the first sutta taught by the Buddha establishing Four Noble Truths as the framework and purpose of his Dhamma.
The Dhammapada is loosely formatted by topic. Most modern translations present the entire Dhammapada as one verse. It is unlikely these individual topics for study were homogenized into one long and confusing poetic narrative. Presenting the Dhammapada in this manner is not a skillful way to teach the Dhamma and has led to the common practice of fabricating Buddhism-By-Popular-Quote from a line or two of this long verse.
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.
References in the original translations to “monks” and “nuns” (or Bhikkus and Bhikkunis) have been changed here to “skillful disciples” and “Arahants,” clearly defining those developing the Dhamma and those that have developed awakening – full human maturity. I have made these contextual changes for three reasons:
- A “disciple” is one who has committed to a discipline. Here a disciple is one who has committed to the Buddha’s Dhamma and the Eightfold Path as the framework for their Dhamma practice. An Arahant has achieved the goal.
- The Buddha taught an equalitarian dhamma, for all women and all men. Gender or social class or formal vows have no relevance to the Dhamma or a skillful disciple.
- Throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma, he references different levels of Dhamma practitioners that is inferred by the text but often without the clear distinction the Buddha intended. Using both terms allows for this clarity and will not inadvertently or intentionally present the Buddha’s teaching as “special” or elitist in any way. A “skillful disciple” is one who has generated the mindful conviction for developing the Buddha’s Dhamma as intended. An “Arahant” refers to a disciple that has established the refined mindfulness that holds in mind the Heartwood of The Dhamma – the Eightfold Path – as their internal reference for their moment-moment life.
I will use the word “disciple” when there is no practical reason to distinguish between a skillful disciple or an Arahant.
My comments within the suttas are italicized.
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Chapter One: Yamakavagga - Pairs
The Yamakavagga is the first chapter of the Dhammapada. It teaches the importance of developing the Heartwood of the Dhamma – the Eightfold Path. It is the Eightfold Path that establishes the refined mindfulness necessary to develop profound Right View.
The Buddha teaches a very specific application of mindfulness. In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha teaches the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness to support ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption.
The ever-deepening concentration developed through Right Meditation is the sole purpose of meditation practice. Once concentration is established, the remaining themes presented in the Satipatthana Sutta can be developed and integrated.
The Buddha taught the Anapanasati Sutta using awakened monks as examples of a properly developed Dhamma practice established in Refined Mindfulness as the governing principle.
The quality of mind precedes all mental states. Mind is the governing principle. Mind defines all phenomena. If a person speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering will follow like a wheel following an oxen’s hoof.
The quality of mind precedes all mental states. Mind is the governing principle. Mind defines all phenomena. If a person speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness will follow like a constant shadow.
Harboring thoughts of being abused, robbed, injured, or overpowered does not still hatred. Those who harbor such thoughts will remain agitated.
Abandoning thoughts of being abused, robbed, injured, or overpowered always stills hatred.
Understanding the complete impersonal nature of life allows one to abandon confusion, anger, and frustration through Right Mindfulness.
Hatred always continues hatred. Non-hatred alone ends hatred. This law is timeless.
Many ignore the fleeting nature of life. The wise who understand impermanence do not quarrel with others.
Just as a strong wind will fall a weak tree, ignorance will consume those living for sensual pleasures, lacking restraint, gorging on food, and being lazy.
Just as a strong wind does not affect a rocky mountain, ignorance will never cling to those who are mindful of the defilements, wise in restraint, moderate with food, with conviction for the Dhamma and tireless in their efforts.
Those ignorant, depraved, lacking restraint, dishonest, though wearing a disciple’s robe, are not worthy of respect.
Those who have abandoned ignorance and depravity, in control of their senses, established in virtue, they alone are worthy of respect, they are Dhamma practitioners.
Those that crave for and cling to what is worthless, and ignore what is priceless, mindful only of what is rooted in ignorance, will never realize the Dhamma. Those that know the Heartwood to be Heartwood, and sapwood to be sapwood, established in Refined Mindfulness, they will realize the Dhamma.
Heartwood always refers to the Eightfold Path.
Just as rain will rot a poorly-roofed house, passion will rot a poorly developed mind.
Just as rain will not rot a properly roofed house, passion will never destroy a properly developed mind.
The ignorant, hurtful in thoughts, words, and deeds, suffers endlessly. Afflicted with regret, always mindful of misdeeds.
Mindfulness means to recollect or hold in mind. Distracted by self-reference due to unrefined mindfulness and resulting unskillful behavior, one is afflicted with regret.
The wise, pure in thought word, and deed rejoice endlessly. They are at peace, always mindful of the benefits of restraint.
Having developed the Eightfold Path the mind rests in equanimity and ever-deepening Jhana.
The ignorant, hurtful in thoughts, words, and deeds, suffers endlessly. Mindful of misdeeds, constantly tormented.
The virtuous aspects of the Eightfold Path – Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood – are taught to mindfully recognize and abandon hurtful thoughts, words, and deeds.
The wise, pure in thought word, and deed are always delighted. Mindful of their purity, they are constantly delighted.
This is a mind free of self-reference.
Much though they read sacred texts but acting poorly, overcome by greed, they do not gain the benefits of the Heartwood.
Little though they read sacred texts but putting the Dhamma into practice, abandoning greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, with true wisdom, their mind free from ignorance, clinging to nothing in this world or any other, this one has gained the benefits of the well-integrated life.
These last two lines in this section emphasize a common theme of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha taught his Dhamma is to be practiced and developed as presented while being mindful to avoid compulsively adapting, accommodating, or embellishing the Buddha’s teaching out of the self-referential need for “more” that is common in modern Buddhism By Common Agreement.
Chapter Two: Appamadavagga - Refined Mindfulness
This text is from the second chapter of the Dhammapada. This is called the Appamadavagga and teaches the importance of Right Mindfulness. Many translations substitute heedfulness for mindfulness. The Buddha used the more direct term mindfulness to signify the importance of knowing what to hold in mind and what to recognize as fabricated and abandoned. This is the purpose of the Eightfold Path and requires the singular meditation method taught by the Buddha in order to develop Jhana.
By developing Right Mindfulness a disciple learns the wisdom of restraint and avoids the self-inflicted pain of identifying with, and reacting to, ordinary phenomena.
The Buddha taught Four Foundations Of Mindfulness that are the foundation for Jhana and Right Meditation. This Refined Mindfulness is developed to then be mindful of the Heartwood Of The Dhamma – The Eightfold Path, and other supportive themes of the Buddha’s Dhamma.
Mindfulness is the path to cessation. Those mindful do not suffer. Those mindful have gone beyond suffering.
Clearly knowing the excellence of mindfulness, the wise, exulting in mindfulness and the refuge of Noble Ones.
The wise ones, established in Jhana, steadfast in the Heartwood, they alone are released, freedom beyond compare.
Glorious are those energetic, pure, discerning rightly, restrained, always mindful.
Mindful of Right Effort, a disciple of Heartwood, the wise are an island unto themselves that no flood can overwhelm.
Here again, the Buddha is emphasizing the importance of maintaining focus and direction on the Eightfold Path and avoid the distraction of adapting, accommodating, and embellishing his Dhamma in any manner.
The foolish and ignorant crave mindlessness, the wise know this one treasure.
Mindlessness is holding in mind false and distorting ‘dharmas’ and maintaining any self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Refrain from mindlessness. Refrain from sensual pleasures. Only those established in Jhana and Refined Mindfulness attain lasting calm.
The wise, looking down from the mountaintop of wisdom, having abandoned mindlessness, established in mindfulness, this peaceful sage observes the foolish and suffering multitude.
Mindful among the mindless, awake among those asleep, the wise advance like a swift horse.
By mindfulness is one exalted. Mindfulness is always praised by the wise, mindlessness always despised.
The Dhamma practitioner who delights in mindfulness and is fearful of mindlessness advances like fire burning away all fetters.
The Buddha offers encouragement knowing the courage needed to abandon foolish entanglements and focus only on his Dhamma.
The Dhamma practitioner who delights in mindfulness and is fearful of mindlessness will not lose the way. They are close to release.
Established in Right Mindfulness a Dhamma practitioner becomes unbound from wrong views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and avoids the many common distractions prevalent in modern Buddhism By Common Agreement and maintains the clear and direct path to understanding.
Chapter Three: Cittavagga - A Well-Restrained Mind
The Cittavagga reveals the suffering that follows from a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the peaceful mind developed through the Eightfold Path.
It is through wise restraint that an ever-grasping, continually distracted ego-personality is subdued and the disciple gains the ability to “think what they want whenever they want and does not think what is unskillful. This practitioner has severed craving and has brought an end to suffering and stress.”
Through Right Meditation, the disciple develops Refined Mindfulness resting on ever-deepening Jhana.
A Well-Restrained Mind
The mind, fickle, unsteady, difficult to restrain. Even so, the disciple straightens the mind like a skilled fletcher straightens an arrow.
A mind ruled by Mara is agitated, like a fish out of water, gasping and flopping here and there.
Metaphor is often used by the Buddha to describe troubled and distracted mind states. Throughout the Pali Canon, the malevolent god Mara is a metaphor for a troubled mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
The mind is difficult to restrain, ever-changing, always clinging to objects of desire. The highest knowledge is restraint. A restrained mind dwells in peace.
A grasping mind is subtle, hard to recognize. The wise restrain the mind. A well-restrained mind brings lasting happiness.
Dwelling in distraction, the mind, disjointed from the body, wanders aimlessly. When subdued, this mind is freed from the bonds of Mara.
Wisdom is never developed in a mind that is ignorant of the Heartwood, listless, not established in Jhana.
Where there is desire there is fear. There is no fear of an awakened one free of greed and aversion, free of gaining and losing.
The wise understand the impermanence of form while fortifying the mind to abandon Mara. Established in Right View, Mara conquered, now free of worldly entanglements.
In no time this body is dust, mindless, lifeless, a useless stump.
An unrestrained mind brings greater harm than any enemy or hater.
No one and no thing brings greater benefit than a mind well-restrained.
It is through the Heartwood of the Dhamma, the Eightfold Path, that the disciple develops the concentration necessary to support the Refined Mindfulness to finally gain control of the Mind.
Chapter Four: Pupphavagga - Heartwood And Flowers
The fourth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Pupphavagga. This chapter uses the metaphors of Mara and death to describe the ongoing suffering rooted in ignorance and the living death of ongoing ignorance of Three Marks Of Existence. Flowers are used as a metaphor for the constant craving for sensory indulgence and distraction that arises from misunderstanding what constitutes a “person” within an ever-changing environment.
Heartwood And Flowers
Who will overcome this realm of death with all its gods? Who will perfect the well-taught Eightfold Path of wisdom as an expert garland-maker perfects their floral designs?
Notice the Buddha’s reference to “gods” as part of the realm of death rather than beings to idolize and worship. The underlying intent of this type of speculative “dharma” practice has been a common distraction from the Buddha’s Dhamma for 2,600 years.
The well-focused Dhamma practitioner will overcome this realm of death with all its gods. The well-focused Dhamma practitioner will perfect the well-taught Eightfold Path of wisdom as an expert garland-maker perfects their floral designs.
Realizing that form is like foam on the water, a mirage, they deflect Mara’s flower-tipped arrows of sensuality and go beyond the grasp of death.
A flood sweeps away a village as ignorance sweeps away a person distracted by only picking flowers of pleasure.
Mara directs the person whose mind is distracted towards insatiable craving for flowers of pleasure.
A sage seeking alms is like a bee gathering honey. Both sustain themselves with moderation, always harmless.
Always mindful of one’s own acts, unconcerned with others.
The words of those lacking Heartwood are like a beautiful flower with no fragrance.
The Buddha here is referencing teaching “dharma” without any understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma – like a flower with no fragrance – mere distraction.
The words of those established in Heartwood are skillful like a beautiful and fragrant flower.
Established in Heartwood, though mortal, one does many good deeds just as many fine garlands can be made from a heap of flowers.
The sweet smell of flowers is lost to the wind. The fragrance of true virtue pervades all directions.
The Buddha refers to the Eightfold Path as a timeless path that does not need the constant adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments compulsively altering the Buddha’s Dhamma to fit unskillful views and continue ignorance of Three Marks Of Existence (The sweet smell of flowers is lost to the wind).
Of all fragrances, the fragrance of virtue is sweetest.
The fragrance of sandalwood and jasmine is faint. The fragrance of virtue touches all.
Mara can never distract one from the Eightfold Path when they abide in (refined) mindfulness and Right View.
A lotus, fragrant and pleasing, grows in a heap of road-side rubbish.
Even so, the disciple shines resplendent in their wisdom on the rubbish heap of mortals buried in ignorance.
Chapter Five: Balavagga - Wisdom And Foolishness
In the Balavagga, the fifth chapter in the Dhammapada, the Buddha strongly emphasizes the fundamental importance of knowing and practicing his Dhamma.
To some the translated word to describe those ignoring the Buddha’s Dhamma as “fools” may seem overly harsh. The reader should be mindful of the setting and particular situation of the Buddha. Just as today, there were many competing “dharmas” all claiming to be superior to any other “spiritual” teaching including the Buddha’s Dhamma.
The Buddha showed great courage in clearly teaching the purpose and scope of his Dhamma while avoiding the compulsive view rooted in ignorance of providing an all-inclusive, everyone should feel good “dharma” lacking wisdom and Heartwood. During his teaching career, the Buddha spent as much Right Effort clearly teaching what his Dhamma was, and what “dharmas” were distractions from his path
Teaching all-inclusive all-religions-are-one dharma may gain many “followers” but cannot achieve the single purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma: To recognize and abandon individual ignorance of Four Noble Truths and develop a well-concentrated mind that supports the refined mindfulness able to hold in mind the Eightfold Path.
In a remarkably direct and courageous manner, he consistently presented his Dhamma as a single Eightfold Path that would be greatly diminished by adapting, accommodating, or embellishing his Dhamma in any manner.
Here the Buddha emphasizes the foolish strategies that a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths will engage with to continue to ignore t ignorance.
Of Fools And Foolishness
The night is long for the sleepless. The road long for the weary. Suffering in ignorance is long for fools ignoring the Dhamma.
A true seeker should be resolute in their solitary path if an equal or wiser companion cannot be found. There can be no true fellowship with the foolish.
A common theme throughout the Dhamma is establishing wise associations with those who have actually developed the Buddha’s Dhamma.
The fool worries, distracted, “I have sons, I have wealth” not knowing Heartwood.
The disciple’s thoughts are framed by refined mindfulness of the Eightfold Path. The fool continues distracted thinking clinging to self-reference.
The fool who thinks themselves wise is foolish indeed. The fool who knows their foolishness has the beginning of wisdom.
Just as a spoon cannot taste soup the fool cannot gain wisdom through association with the wise.
The heartwood cannot be developed by mere association. The Dhamma must be developed individually with the guidance and support of wise associations.
Just as the tongue tastes the flavor of the soup those discerning wisely quickly learn the Heartwood through wise associations.
Witless fools harm themselves and others. The fruits of their deeds are always bitter.
The fool’s unskillful acts are as a fruit that ripens in tears.
The wise one’s skillful acts are as a fruit that ripens in peace and happiness.
When foolish views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths are recognized and abandoned through the Eightfold Path craving and clinging cease and a calm and peaceful mind prevails.
The fool whose deeds have yet to ripen delights yet when ripened the fool always grieves.
Wandering endlessly in ignorance taking sustenance with a blade of grass, the fool never gains a speck of truth of the wise.
Foolish acts ripen slowly like sour milk but cling to the fool like smoldering ash.
The fool gains knowledge that only leads to ruin by obscuring reality and their own innate potential.
The fool seeks reputation and underserved honor among monks, nuns, and householders.
Through desire, greed, and continued I-making the fool thinks “Let monks, nuns, and householders know that great works are done by me. Let them follow me as their savior.”
The fool seeks worldly gain. The wise seek Heartwood. Through Right View, the disciple abandons worldly entanglements and develops release from all views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.
The most effective and loving act anyone can undertake is to abandon foolishness and gain the peace and wisdom developed through the Buddha’s Dhamma.
Chapter Six: Panditavagga - Heartwood For The Wise
In the Panditavagga, the sixth chapter of the Dhammapada, the Buddha emphasizes the importance of developing true wisdom of how ignorance is established from misunderstanding Three Marks Of Existence.
Rather than clinging to rituals and practices, the Buddha teaches that the wise simply follow the path of wisdom taught by an awakened human being. Having developed Right View guided by the framework of the Eightfold Path, disciples engage with the Dhamma and abandon distracting “dharmas.”
With great courage and profound wisdom, the Buddha understood the cruelty of taking a position of authority and teaching “dharma” simply due to common agreement and to gain followers by teaching rituals and practices that can only distract one from recognizing and abandoning their own ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Heartwood For The Wise
It is always beneficial to associate with a wise person who has the courage to point out faults and foolish actions. Follow them as one follows a path to hidden treasure.
The wise who teach the truth, admonish foolishness, and provide true refuge, are criticized by the ignorant. The wise who teach the truth, admonish foolishness, and provide true refuge, are held dear by those seeking Heartwood.
Abandon ignorant associations. Avoid fellowship with fools. Associate with the wise and seek fellowship with noble ones.
The wise are immersed in the Dhamma and live with happiness and tranquility. The wise delight in the Dhamma taught by the Buddha.
A common underlying theme throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma is the singular importance of associating with those that are actually developing the Buddha’s Dhamma and avoiding associating Dhamma practice with those that do not understand or practice the Dhamma.
Irrigators direct rivers, fletchers straighten arrows. Carpenters shape wood. The wise restrain themselves.
Modern “dharma” practice has devolved in a way predicted by the Buddha. Most of modern Buddhism is now compulsively developing a “one-size-fits-all” dharma that each individual is encouraged to pick and choose what “feels good” or “feels right” and self-creating, with the encouragement of charismatic dharma teachers, “lineage holders,” and social associations, an individual (self-referential) Buddhist ” practice. The resulting “dharma” practice ignores the very foundations of the Buddha’s Dharma and avoids gaining skillful insight into Three Marks Of Existence.
A rock lies undisturbed by the wind. The wise remain unmoved by praise or blame.
Like a deep and pure lake, the wise hear the true Dhamma and are perfectly purified.
The wise renounce all clinging. The wise do not talk foolishly of their desires. The wise remain calm through happiness or sorrow.
One is indeed virtuous, righteous, and wise who refrain from any wrong-doing for themselves or others. One is indeed virtuous, righteous, and wise who do not crave for sons, wealth, power, or undeserved success.
Few people will complete the path and cross the farther shore. Most will run up and down the near shore.
Common during the Buddha’s teaching career and today are “seekers” practicing only what feels good, is encouraged by common agreement, and allows for ignorance to continue by “running up and down the near shore.”
The wise practicing the perfectly taught Heartwood will cross the realm of death – so difficult to cross.
Heartwood refers to the Eightfold Path. “The realm of Death refers to living a human life in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Living in ignorance of the reality of Four Noble Truths ignores life itself.
The wise cultivate the Eightfold Path and abandon the dark paths born of ignorance. Leaving behind entanglements with the world the wise delight in their freedom. Abandoning sensual pleasure, free of clinging, the wise cleanse themselves of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.
In general, modern Buddhism is enthralled with, and teaches the Bodhisattva path that substitutes a salvific path for the Eightfold Path. The Bodhisattva path when looked at from the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path encourages entanglements with the “world” and encourages continuing the three defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.
Those who have fully developed the Heartwood, who have renounced craving, who now rejoice in pure detachment, free of the fetters, brilliant in their wisdom, they are called Rightly Self-Awakened right here and now.
“Right here and now” refers to the immediate nature of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that brings awakening – full human maturity – in the present lifetime.
Chapter Seven: Arahantavagga - The Qualities Of An Arahant
This chapter is the Buddha’s description of an arahant. An arahant is a person who has developed a profound level of concentration. From a well-concentrated mind, a mind resting in Jhana, a person is able to integrate the Eightfold Path as the framework for developing profound wisdom and true compassion and has recognized and abandoned greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.
Notice that there is nothing supernatural or superhuman regarding an arahant. Anyone who whole-heartedly engages with the Buddha’s Dhamma can awaken in this present life through the only path taught by an awakened human being.
This chapter concludes with a description of the benefits that an Arahant has in the world and how true Arahant’s inspire others toward the Buddha’s Dhamma while having the refined mindfulness and inner calm to avoid adapting, accommodating, or embellishing the Buddha’s Dhamma to fit contradictory views.
The Qualities Of An Arahant
The arahant, the perfected one, who has completed the (Eightfold) Path, who is free of disappointment, who is free of all worldly entanglements, has abandoned the fever of passion.
The Buddha’s third discourse was the Fire Discourse where he teaches that confusion, delusion, and suffering arise from “the flames of passion.”
Mindful of Right Effort they are not attached anywhere. Like swans who abandon a lake, they leave home after home behind.
A mind well-concentrated through Right Meditation is always at peace.
Those who abandon clinging do not accumulate and do not overindulge with regards to food, whose purpose is understanding and unbound freedom, they cannot be tracked like the birds in the air.
Those whose fetters are destroyed and are not attached to food, whose purpose is understanding and unbound freedom, even their path cannot be tracked like the birds in the air.
The Buddha’s Dhamma is a True Refuge from the uncertainty of human life.
All beings hold dear the wise who know restraint like a charioteer restrains a horse. All beings hold dear the wise who has destroyed pride, greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.
The wise, the Arahant, like the earth itself, resents nothing, is resolute as a stone pillar in the Dhamma, their mind pure, concentrated, refined, is free of all worldly entanglements.
Calm thoughts, calm speech, calm deeds, the Arahant, truly knowing the Four Truths, is perfectly tranquil and wise.
The Arahant is free of blind faith and knows the end of Karma. Having abandoned the fetters the cause for suffering has ceased. This one is the most excellent of people.
Inspiring indeed is the Arahant’s dwelling whether village, forest, or mountain.
Inspiring are the quiet spaces where worldlings find no pleasure, only peace. Inspiring is where Arahant’s, free of passion, rejoice from abandoning chasing sensual pleasure.
An Arahant’s presence in the world provides true inspiration to others. An Arahant, knowing the results of a mind rooted in ignorance does nothing to confuse, contradict, or distract from the Buddha’s Dhamma.
An Arahant has abandoned all fabrications including ignorant views that would result in “dharmas” that includes rights and rituals not taught by the Buddha but appeal to an un-awakened mind’s passion and need for continual sensory distraction.
Chapter Eight: Sahassavagga - Simple Dhamma Is Best
The eighth chapter of the Dhammapada teaches the immediate benefits of an authentic Dhamma practice and the foolishness and constant distraction of following unskillful “dharmas.”
The Buddha spent nearly as much time and effort teaching what his Dhamma was not as he did teaching his distinct and pure Dhamma. He did this for a very specific reason that lies at the very foundation of his Dhamma.
Siddartha Gotama “awakened” to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that leads to all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and distracting experiences. He understood that a mind rooted in ignorance will constantly seek distraction from recognizing and abandoning ignorance. The Eightfold Path is taught by the Buddha to provide the framework and guidance to recognize and abandon ignorance and the fabricated views that are formed and attached to that can only continue stress and suffering.
Simple Dhamma Is Best
Hearing one skillful word of true Dhamma that brings calm is better than a thousand foolish words.
Hearing one skillful verse of true Dhamma that brings calm is better than a thousand foolish verses.
Reciting one skillful verse that brings calm is better than reciting a thousand foolish verses.
Defeating thousands of people in battle is meaningless to the wise who have defeated ignorance in themselves.
A person well-restrained remains untouched by gods and devas.
This shows the foolishness of wishing that disincarnate imaginary “beings” have any effect on Dhamma practice is simply more craving rooted in ignorance.
Respect toward those of perfected minds for just one moment brings calm and understanding. Offering trinkets and sacrifices for hundreds of years brings continued ignorance and suffering.
Wholehearted engagement with an awakened human being’s Dhamma brings swift and effective understanding.
Respect toward those of perfected minds for just one moment brings more calm and understanding than tending sacrificial fires for hundreds of years.
Another common distracting practice is devotion to imaginary doctrines and disincarnate beings – “tending the sacrificial fires” is the intentional substitution of devotion for actually developing the Eightfold Path.
Respect for the excellent teaching of the wise brings true merit. Offerings in this world seeking merit brings none.
A powerful statement by The Buddha and a clear teaching on the nature of Karma and Rebirth.
All of the good deeds that one may attempt in hope of gaining favor with a god-like Buddha or other “higher beings” is simply rooted in ignorance and will bring nothing but future distraction.
Better to live one day well-concentrated and virtuous than to live a hundred years distracted and uncontrolled.
Better to live one day well-concentrated and wise than to live a hundred years distracted and foolish.
Better it is to live one day Well-Intentioned with Right Effort than to live a hundred years distracted and lazy.
Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of all phenomena than to live a hundred years never knowing the impermanence of all things.]
Better it is to live one day free of ignorance than to live a hundred years dying in ignorance.
The Buddha often refers to ignorance of Four Noble Truths as “death.” Living life in ignorance of reality is a living death. The “deathless” refers to having recognized and abandoned ignorance and living life moment-by-moment free of the need for anything to be different.
Better it is to live one day knowing the Four Truths than to live a hundred years in ignorance.
Chapter Nine: Papavagga - Remaining Harmless
The ninth chapter of the Dhammapada is known as the Papavagga. In this chapter, the Buddha provides simple and direct teaching on the importance of recognizing and abandoning wrongdoing in all ways and to integrate the Eightfold Path as the framework for developing a life free of conflict within oneself and towards others.
Be quick to act wisely and restrain your mind from delusion. The mind delights in delusion for those who are slow to act wisely.
Acting quickly with skill requires a well-concentrated mind able to practice wise restraint at the six-sense-base.
Should a person commit harm to themselves or others let them not repeat the harm over and over. Let them find no pleasure in wrongdoing as wrongdoing always brings pain.
Be mindful of skillful acts and repeat these over and over again. Find pleasure in the well-integrated life and calm and peace will prevail.
Wrongdoing can be ignored but the pain that eventually follows cannot.
Skillful actions will always bring peace and understanding.
These last two lines are a teaching on the true meaning of Karma and Rebirth.
Ignorance of the results of wrongdoing is not protection from pain. A drop at a time fills the pot just as pain fills the wrongdoer.
The painful results of ignorance of Four Noble Truths are cumulative and unavoidable.
Understanding the value of virtue guides one’s actions. A drop at a time fills the pot just as virtue fills one with peace and calm.
The peace that results from developing an understanding of Four Noble Truths are also cumulative and unavoidable.
Just as a trader with little protection avoids a dangerous route, and one desiring long-life avoids poison, the disciple avoids wrongdoing.
A person who has developed a well-concentrated mind supporting the refined mindfulness necessary to hold in mind the EightfoldPath as the framework of living one’s life is able to avoid hurtful actions.
A hand with no wounds can carry even poison. The disciple avoids (self-inflicted) wounds and remains free of dis-ease.
Understanding suffering as the Buddha teaches understanding is to recognize and accept the suffering inherent with human life and the self-inflicted suffering that can be recognized and abandoned.
Like dust thrown into the wind, pain will return to the fool who offends another.
Born of the womb the wicked suffer forever. The pious enter heaven. The disciple abandons ignorance.
Having a human life is a common experience. Individual behavior determines life experience. Wrongdoers always suffer. Blind faith distracts the mind towards self-establishment in imaginary non-physical realms. The Eightfold Path brings understanding and individual release from suffering.
Neither in the heavens or deep-water or a mountain sanctuary can hide the wrongdoer from the results of their actions.
Neither in the heavens or deep-water or a mountain sanctuary can hide the wrongdoer from the living death of ignorance.
Seeking self-establishment in imaginary non-physical reals or hiding from the physical world can end the confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disputing and unsatisfactory experiences.
Chapter Ten: Dandavagga - Abandon Violence
The tenth chapter of the Dhammapada describes the pitfalls of hurtful and aggressive behavior and the liberation found in developing restraint of thought, word, and deed.
The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path to develop recognition and abandonment of self-referential behavior that results in harm toward others and ourselves.
Everyone fears violence and death. Understanding thus the disciple does not harm others or cause others to harm.
Everyone fears violence and holds dear life. Understanding thus the disciple does not harm others or cause others to harm.
One cannot attain happiness while oppressing others with violence.
One will find happiness who does not oppress others with violence.
Angry speech causes harm, retaliation can overcome the mind. Avoid speaking harshly and remain free from harsh retort.
One approaches nibbana who restrains the tongue and abandons harmful speech.
As a cowherd drives cows with a staff, so too does aging and death drive the lives of people.
The fool does wrong while ignorant and is yet tormented by their hurtful thoughts, words, and deeds, like being burnt by a fire.
Inflicting violence on the innocent will bring one of ten states:
Sharp pain – injury – illness – derangement – subjugation – incarceration – loss of family – loss of wealth – loss of shelter – ongoing wandering in ignorance.
Nakedness, matted hair, filth, fasting, smearing oneself with ashes, nor self-torture, cannot purify one’s mind rooted in doubt and uncertainty.
This last refers to any ascetic or ritualistic practice. These are all aspets of self-violence and are practices Siddartha engaged with and abandoned as “not leading to knowledge.”
Moderate in clothing, food, shelter, and medicine, poised, calm. well-concentrated, established in the Eightfold Path, and having completely abandoned violence towards all beings, this one is a true Dhamma practitioner.
This last describes behavior guided by the Eightfold Path.
As rare as a thoroughbred avoiding the whip is a person restrained by modesty and beyond reproach.
Authentic and well-focused Dhamma practitioners were just as rare during the Buddha’s teaching career as they are today.
Like a thoroughbred driven by the whip, be strenuous and diligent while developing understanding. The disciple, well-concentrated, harmless, mindful of the Four Truths, will destroy suffering.
Irrigators guide rivers. Fletchers straighten arrows. Carpenters shape wood. The disciple controls themselves.
Chapter Eleven: Jaravagga - Impermanence, Not-Self, Suffering
The eleventh chapter of the Dhammapada is the Jaravagga. This chapter is a profound and concise teaching on the Three Marks Of Existence.
The opening statement referencing the fires of passion reflects the Buddha’s view of the world as he describes immediately post his awakening in the Loka Sutta.
Impermanence, Not-Self, Suffering
The world is always ablaze with the fires of passions yet fools laugh with delight. Your mind is shrouded in darkness – will you not see?
The body is a painted image, a mass of injury and disease, always craving. Understand, all this is impermanent.
When spent the body is sick and fragile. Upon death, this foul heap breaks up as death is the end of life.
Only fools delight in bleached-bones scattered here and there.
Fools are enamored with the body while remaining ignorant of its fleeting nature.
The body is a frame of bones plastered with flesh and blood hiding decay, death, pride, and greed.
There is nothing personal regarding any of the six properties that constitute a “person.”
The finest chariots wear out, as does this body. My Dhamma is timeless and the wise make it known to others.
The Buddha taught a singular timeless path for individuals to develop and then make known to others.
The fool grows old in bulk alone while continued ignorance obscures wisdom.
Nothing of any useful substance can be gained by a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
I too wandered in vain not knowing the builder of my house (individual life). This is indeed suffering!
Not knowing Four Noble Truths is indeed suffering.
Ignorance, the house-builder, you are now seen! Ignorance will no longer build my house. Your rafters are broken, your ridgepole destroyed. My mind is free of ignorance. Craving has ended.
Developing a profound understanding of Four Noble Truths through the Eightfold Path is the Dhamma.
Ignoring the Heartwood of my Dhamma there is nothing of value gained. Fools languish in ignorance like old cranes in an empty pond.
Those who waste their lives clinging to ignorance gain nothing of value. Like worn out arrows, they can only sigh over the past.
Chapter Twelve: Attavagga - Self-Care
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.
If one truly cares for themselves they will diligently practice restraint. The disciple 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 disciple learns to cease attempting to continue to establish a fabricated self and take refuge in reality.
The disciple 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.
The disciple acts as they teach others to act. The disciple 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 disciple protects themselves – who else could do so? Fully controlled, the disciple achieves what is difficult to 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 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.”
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 disciple 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 disciple 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.
Chapter Thirteen: Lokavagga - The World
This chapter is similar to the Loka Sutta and the meaning of Becoming in the Buddha’s Dhamma. This points to the immediacy of authentic Dhamma practice and meaning free of worldly entanglements.
This chapter has been restored by John to the Buddha’s original focus and intent: ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths
Do not associate with what is offensive. Do not live mindlessly. Abandon fabricated views. Do not dwell in the world.
Be mindful, not mindless!
Live with virtue. The virtuous live happily always.
The living death of ignorance does not touch the wise who know the world is a bubble, like a mirage.
Look at the world. It is like a decorated royal chariot. Here fools wander aimlessly. The wise remain detached.
Those who were once mindless and now are mindful illuminate the world like the moon freed from clouds.
Those who were once hurtful and are now helpful illuminate the world like the moon freed from clouds.
The world is blinded by ignorance. Like birds escaping a net, very few have true insight and develop nibbana.
It is the nature of a mind – and a world – rooted in ignorance to fabricate subtle and powerful strategies to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path to provide the framework and guidance to recognize and abandon this very specific ignorance.
Swans follow the sun’s path. Worldly people hope to pass through the air by psychic powers. The wise overcome Mara and the world.
The Buddha here is teaching the foolishness of mindlessly following the worldly “flock” of ignorant views hoping to establish “special” or “mystical” states of existence. The wise understand this foolishness arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The malevolent god Mara is a common metaphor for the stress and suffering that follows ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
The liar who has violated this one law is scorned forever. There is no evil they won’t do.
Misers are bound to the world. Fools scoff at generosity. The wise share freely. This alone brings lasting happiness.
Better than being sovereign over the earth and the heavens is the completion of the Eightfold Path.
Chapter Fourteen: Buddhavagga - The Restraint Of A Buddha
The fourteenth chapter of the Dhammapada is known as the Buddhavagga. Here the Buddha emphasizes a common theme throughout the Sutta’s of wise associations and the importance of developing wise restraint – restraint informed by the Eightfold Path.
The Restraint Of A Buddha
This chapter has been restored by John to the Buddha’s original focus and intent: ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths
Whose knowledge is unsurpassed? How would you distract him?
Who has abandoned craving and further becoming? Who has cut all entanglements?
Those Rightly Self Awakened, established in Jhana, delighted with a calm mind resting in renunciation, remaining free and mindful. The wise hold these dear.
Human life is rare. Human life is difficult. The chance to hear authentic Dhamma is rare. Awakening is difficult.
Abandon all that is hurtful. Develop what is skillful. Concentrate the mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha.
Patient endurance is the foremost skill. Unbinding the foremost achievement. Those who mislead or hurt others have lost the Dhamma.
Practice the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. With wise restraint do not disparage others, be moderate with food, dwell in seclusion, develop jhana.
Understanding stress the disciple knows that a lake of gold coin does not satisfy. The disciple delights in the end of craving. This one is a disciple.
Escaping to mountains, caves, forests, or shrines brings no protection from ignorance. The supreme refuge of my Dhamma brings release from all confusion, delusion, stress, and suffering.
The Triple-Refuge of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and a well-focused Sangha brings an understanding of Four Noble Truths. The supreme triple-Refuge brings release from all confusion, delusion, stress, and suffering.
The truly pure person is uncommon. It is a lie that one “is everywhere.” The Rightly Self-Awakened one brings true wealth and happiness to their family.
The common misunderstanding, prevalent in modern Buddhism, of “unity consciousness,” “cosmic consciousness,” interdependence, interconnection, and inter-being all contradict the Buddha’s understanding of the conditions that confusion, delusion, and stress and suffering are dependent on for their origination. (as taught in the Patticcasamupada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination.)
Fortunate we are for those awakened. Fortunate we are for those teaching the authentic Dhamma. Fortunate we are for a well-informed and well-focused Sangha. Fortunate we are for wise restraint.
Fortunate we are for those that follow those awakened through my Dhamma. disciples who have abandoned self-identification, greed, and aversion, those fearless and unbound, have abandoned measuring “merit.”
This last shows that the common and prevalent belief in performing certain rituals hoping to gain “merit” from disincarnate beings somehow influencing future events to be favorable is the essence of continued I-Making and only obscures continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Chapter Fifteen: Sukkhavagga - Profound Contentment
The fifteenth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Sukkhavagga. Sukkha is a state of profound contentment. The Buddha taught that Dukkha, the state of ongoing confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfying experiences is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
In this sutta, the Buddha compares the profound contentment established through developing the Eightfold Path to those whose minds are ignorant of Four Noble Truths and the suffering that follows.
This chapter has been restored by John to the Buddha’s original focus and intent: ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths
The wise live content within a hostile world. Within a hostile world, the wise remain free of hatred.
The wise live content within a world afflicted by craving. Within an afflicted world, the wise remain free of affliction.
The wise live content within a world afflicted by greed. Within an insatiable world, the wise remain free of greed.
The wise live content possessing nothing. The wise are sustained by peace and understanding.
The fires of passion burn the hottest. Hatred is the highest crime. There is no suffering like the Five Clinging-Aggregates. There is no higher peace than understanding.
The Buddha consistently described the ongoing personal experience of Dukkha as “Five Clinging-Aggregates.
Craving is the worst disease. Conditioned thinking brings the worst suffering. Knowing this as it really is, the wise awaken.
Conditioned thinking is thinking “conditioned” by ignorance and fabricated views.
Good health is highly esteemed. Contentment is the greatest wealth. A trustworthy person is the best friend. Ending ignorance is the highest joy.
Having savored the taste of solitude and release, free of distress, free of greed, aversion, and delusion, the disciple drinks deep the taste of Truth.
Association with the Noble Ones is blissful. Encountering fools is stressful.
Association with fools brings constant craving. Association with fools is as painful as partnering with an enemy.
Therefore follow the Noble One who is steadfast, wise, learned, arduous, a person of high integrity. Follow only such a person who is truly pure and wise as the moon follows the stars.
Association with disciples – a well-informed and well-focused Sangha – is of paramount importance.
Chapter Sixteen Piyavagga - Skillful Desire
The sixteenth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Piyavagga. As with all of the Pali language, an inflected language, context and intent must be understood in order to interpret the text accurately. Piya literally means “to hold dear.” We “hold dear” that which we have an affection for. Seeing the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, the root cause of affection or holding an object dear is desire or craving.
The Piyavagga teaches the hurtful results of unskillful desire rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the liberation from stress and suffering developed through the skillful desire or true affection or “holding dear” the Buddha’s Dhamma.
Entangled with what is not their task, ignoring what is their task, having dismissed the goal of understanding to grasp after what is desired, the fool envies the wise who followed the Dhamma.
To stay disentangled with what is not an authentic Dhamma practitioner’s task the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice.
Never join with what is desired or undesired. It is painful to do so.
The Buddha teaches that, due to ignorance of Four Noble Truths, one self-identifies or joins with stressful and painful objects, events, views, and ideas.
Do not make anything the focus of desire. It is always painful to be separated from what is desired. No bonds are found for one who has overcome craving.
From what is desired is born grief. From what is desired is born fear. Released from desire there is no grief. Released from desire there is no fear.
Attachment brings grief. Attachment brings fear. Free of attachment, grief and fear cease.
Lust brings grief. Lust brings fear. Free of craving, grief and fear cease.
People hold dear the disciple who has established virtue and skillful insight, who has realized the truth, and does what must be done.
The disciple, intent on release (from wrong views) dwells in profound wisdom, free of all sense desires. This Dhamma practitioner is in the stream of my Dhamma.
When a person returns after a long absence, family and friends welcome them home.
In the same manner, the disciple’s own good deeds welcome them having left the world behind.
Chapter Seventeen: Kodhavagga - Abandon Anger
The Kodhavagga is the seventeenth chapter of the Dhammapada. This chapter teaches the importance to recognize and abandon anger. Anger with ourselves, with other’s, or with the world, is an easily identified manifestation of self-identification with impermanent phenomena arising and passing away. Anger is the immediate manifestation of ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Abandon anger and its root, conceit. Go beyond greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. When clinging to “Name and Form” is abandoned completely, no stress or suffering arises.
“Name and Form” is ongoing self-identification with ordinary phenomena arising and passing away eg: attaching “my” name to any physical or mental form. This is ongoing fabrication.
As a strong charioteer controls their charge the disciple controls anger as anger arises. This is a true charioteer – others only hold tight to the reins.
Overcome anger by being free of anger. Overcome evil by skillful behavior. Overcome miserliness with generosity. Overcome lies rooted in ignorance with Four Noble Truths.
Do not give in to anger. Always speak the Truth. Be generous with little. These three are praised by the Noble Ones.
The disciple, harmless, well-restrained, abandons the living death of ignorance. Confusion, delusion, and suffering cease.
Always vigilant and well-focused, ever-mindful of the goal, their defilements fade away.
Ignorance is an ancient practice. Rooted in ignorance they blame those who remain silent as well as those who talk too much and even those who speak with moderation. For the ignorant, there is no one who is not blamed.
There never was and there will never be a person who can be wholly blamed or wholly praised.
But, there are those who are praised by the wise who, observing others from Right View day after day, know them to be flawless in character, wise, virtuous, knowing the Four Truths.
These are as worthy of praise as a coin of refined gold. They are praised everywhere.
Always guard against angry speech. Always remain in control of speech. Abandon verbal misconduct and practice Right Speech.
Always guard against angry thoughts. Always remain in control of thoughts. Abandon mental misconduct and practice Right Intention.
The disciple, well-concentrated, remains mindful and restrained in thought, word, and deed. They are well-controlled and free of anger.
Chapter Eighteen: Malavagga - Stainless
In the Malavagga the Buddha teaches the importance of wholehearted engagement with his Dhamma. The Buddha taught a Dhamma to develop awakening – full human maturity – in this present life. Once the true nature of stress and suffering is understood, the underlying condition of ignorance is overcome by true wisdom.
Aged like a withered leaf death awaits. You are near your departure yet you are unprepared for your journey.
Be an island unto yourself so says the wise sage. Engage in Right Effort and become wise! Become rid of all impurities and become stainless. Enter the abode of awakened ones!
“Right Effort” refers to wholehearted engagement with the Eightfold Path.
Life is fleeting and you are now at the end. Death rules the ignorant. There is no rest along the way yet you are unprepared for your journey.
Be an island unto yourself so says the wise sage. Engage in Right Effort and become wise! Become rid of all impurities and become stainless. End the pain of birth and constant t decay.
Moment by moment, one by one, a little at a time, the disciple removes impurities as a skilled smith removes dross from silver.
Rust devours its own base just as misdeeds devour the mind of fools.
Neglect destroys the home. Sloppiness destroys personal appearance. Mindlessness destroys the guard. Non-Repetition destroys the Dhamma.
Unchastity stains men and women. Miserliness stains the giver. Stains are indeed always evil things.
A worse stain than these is the stain of ignorance. Destroy this one stain and become stainless!
This last is the most fundamental teaching of the Buddha. He awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that results in all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences.
Easy it is for fools, stubborn as cows, backbiting, unrestrained, arrogant and corrupt.
Difficult it is for the truly humble one who seeks the stainless, to be free of entanglements, unassuming, pure, and wise.
Fools take lives, utter lies, steal, take another’s spouse, and are addicted to drink and drugs. They dig themselves up by the root here and now.
Know this, friends! Evil is difficult to control. Do not let greed and wickedness bring you ongoing misery.
People respond to worldly events based on their mindfulness. Those upset by others’ fortune cannot develop concentration.
Those whose discontent has been destroyed completely will develop concentration.
Mindfulness means to hold in mind. Holding in mind views ignorant of Four Noble Truths causes a distorted and reactive quality of mind. Holding in mind views developed through the Eightfold Path brings wisdom and a mind resting in Jhana.
Nothing burns hotter than lust. Nothing grips harder than hatred. Nothin entangles like delusion. Nothing continues ignorance like craving.
Other’s faults are obvious, one’s own are difficult to see. The fool ignores their own faults and can only see the faults of others.
Always seeking other’s faults, the fool’s defilements grow. They are far from cessation.
There is no hidden path or other understanding. Fools delight in the things of the world. disciples are free of worldly entanglements.
There is no hidden path or other understanding. All fabrications are impermanent. Awakened minds are stable.
Chapter Nineteen: Dhammatthavagga - Judgment and Wisdom
The sutta below is from Dhammapada 19. It teaches the importance of developing the Heartwood of the Dhamma – the Eightfold Path – if one is to safely judge one’s own Dhamma practice and judge and teach others. It also presents the Buddha’s caution against incorporating confusing and unskillful common “dharma” practices such as forced silent retreats, mindless rituals, meditation practices that encourage distraction and continued self-reference, and anything that dismisses or negates the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path.
Judgment and Wisdom
Judging mindlessly does not define a judge.
The wise one knows both right judgment and wrong.
The wise judge others impartially, mindfully, and consistent with the Dhamma.
The wise guard the Dhamma and are guarded by the Dhamma.
The refined mindfulness taught by the Buddha is framed by the Eightfold Path. This refined mindfulness develops Right View. Right View is a completely impersonal view of one’s self and others always consistent with the Dhamma.
Established in RightView, intelligent, this one can be called a judge.
Simply talking often does not define wisdom.
Secure in knowledge, free of fear and aversion, this one can be called wise.
Simply talking often does not maintain the Dhamma.
Common during the Buddha’s time, and certainly today, is the compulsion to over-emphasize “topical” discussions while avoiding actually learning the Buddha’s Dhamma. Social interaction and social rituals become a commonly agreed upon substitution for Dhamma practice. This is a pervasive strategy that modern Buddhism By Common Agreement employs to continue to ignore the ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Hearing little but integrating Heartwood is one mindful of the Dhamma
and they are one who maintains the Dhamma.
Grey hair does not define an elder or a teacher.
Advanced in years, lacking Heartwood, one remains foolish.
One who knows the (Four) truths, mindful of restraint,
of good character, gentle,
in control of thoughts, words, and deeds,
the defilements vanquished, awakened,
this one can be called an elder and a teacher of those fit to be taught.
Nothing determines an authentic Dhamma teacher except knowledge and understanding developed from studying and practicing the Heartwood of the Dhamma.
Not by sophisticated rhetoric, or the donning of colored robes,
does an envious and miserly impostor become a sage at peace.
Only one who has uprooted arrogance and hatred, abandoned ignorance,
and developed wisdom, can one be called a sage at peace.
A shaven head, does not equal concentration.
Dismissing the Heartwood, consumed by greed, there is no concentration.
One who abandons greed, aversion, and deluded thinking through non-distraction,
established in jhana moment by moment,
this one can be called well-concentrated, a true contemplative.
This last shows the singular importance that the Buddha placed on Right Meditation – Jhana Meditation – engaged with for the sole purpose of developing Jhana.
Seeking alms, donning robes, mindless rituals,
does not define a sincere Dhamma practitioner.
Only those that abandon both gaining merit and the three defilements,
living always with restraint, with wisdom, this one abides.
This one can be called a Dhamma practitioner.
I declare: It is not by silence does the confused and deluded,
the ignorant, become a sage at peace.
A disciple knows how to judge skillful Dhamma practice. Here the Buddha is clearly and directly teaching that avoiding his Dhamma by commonly agreed upon forced silence will only continue confused and deluded thinking and will only continue becoming further ignorant of Four Noble Truths.
Rather than encourage the pain of asceticism and aversion, the Buddha taught that wisdom is developed by practicing wise restraint at the six-sense-base. He certainly did not teach to develop and practice aversion and avoid developing refined mindfulness.
But the wise one, able to discern the ordinary from the excellent rejects what is evil,
and becomes a sage at peace.
Those who are able to discern both sides of the world,
the foolish and the Heartwood, can be called a sage at peace.
Remaining harmless to all living things on becomes noble.
Remaining gentle to all living things one becomes noble.
Friends, don’t be fooled by your practices or habits,
by your sophisticated rhetoric, by your meditative superiority, or a quiet dwelling.
Friends, don’t be fooled by the thought that you teach those that don’t know.
When you are complacent where greed, aversion, and delusion continue,
here is where the Heartwood is forgotten.
The Buddha, having developed the wisdom to judge appropriately, consistently encourages Dhamma practitioners to avoid the common adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments to his Dhamma and remain focused on the Heartwood.
Chapter Twenty: Maggavagga - The Path
The Maggavagga, the twentieth chapter of the Dhammapada is remarkable in its clarity and directness of the Buddha’s words and his well-focused single path to the cessation of craving rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
This single chapter, when understood in the proper context, provides the ongoing gentle guidance necessary for fully developing the Buddha’s Dhamma through a calm and well-concentrated mind supporting the refined mindfulness that brings profound wisdom of the Three Marks Of Existence.
Of all paths, the Eightfold Path is unsurpassed. Of all truths, the Four Noble Truths are incomparable. The noblest attainment is dispassion. The One Who Knows (The Buddha) is foremost among teachers.
There is only one path – the Eightfold Path. There is no other path for the purification of insight. Develop this path and you will abandon ignorance.
Most translations have this last line as “Develop this path and bewilder Mara.” The malevolent god Mara is a common metaphor for ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
The Eightfold Path is the path leading to the full understanding and cessation of (individual contributions to) suffering (Dukkha). I have made known the path I discovered for removing the thorn of craving.
Awakened One’s describe the path but you alone must walk. Those well-concentrated who walk this path are released from the bonds of Mara. (Ignorance)
Understand this: All conditioned things that arise will pass away. Understanding this, the disciple ends clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths) and turns away from disappointment. This is my Path To Purification.
Understand this: All conditioned things are not-self. Understanding this, the disciple ends clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths) and turns away from disappointment. This is my Path To Purification
Understand this: All conditioned things are disappointing. Understanding this, the disciple ends clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths) and turns away from disappointment. This is my Path To Purification
These last three lines refer directly to the three Marks Of Existence – Impermanence, The Not-Self Characteristic, and Dukkha.
Though young and strong they waste their lives through laziness and vanity. Such a person remains blind to the Path.
A person well-concentrated and mindful of thoughts, words, and deeds, avoids hurting themselves and others. Purifying themselves (through the Eightfold Path) they complete the Path taught by this Great Sage.
Wisdom rests on Jhana. Without Jhana wisdom fades. I have known these two paths, one of progress, one of decline. Develop Jhana and increase wisdom.
Jhana means concentration. The sole purpose of meditation is to establish and increase Jhana The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path. The eighth factor of the Eightfold Path is “Right Meditation.” He taught that any skillful and useful meditation practice must have two components: A method for developing concentration and an overarching framework that supports skillful and useful insight. As seen earlier, the very specific insight the Buddha taught is insight into There Marks Of Existence.
Cut down the forest of craving and the underbrush but not the tree of truth. The forest of desire brings fear. Clearcut desire, fear, and delusion. Dispassion is Nibbana!
In the Loka Sutta, the Buddha describes the process rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that establish desire and gives rise to fear.
As long as the underbrush of desire is maintained the most subtle form of this stress, the stress of physical craving remains. This one’s mind is in bondage (to ignorant views) like a sucking pig.
The underbrush of desire is a metaphor for clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that can only continue self-identification with impermanent phenomena arising and passing away.
Abandon craving as one would remove an autumn lotus. Remain mindful and cultivate only one path to Nibbana, the one made known by me.
The fool plans for the seasons while ignoring the danger of a living death.
The Buddha consistently emphasized the nature of impermanence and uncertainty as a gentle warning to prioritize the Dhamma and end ignorance as soon as possible in this present lifetime.
Death carries away the person clinging to worldly entanglements just as a great flood carries away a sleeping village.
No friends or family can save one from death.
The wise understand and hasten to clear the Path To Awakening.
The disciple uses the Dhamma to recognize and abandon all obstacles or hindrances to fully developing the Buddha’s Dhamma.
Chapter Twenty-One: Pakinnkavagga - Greater And Lesser Happiness
The Pakinnakavagga is a broad presentation of the Buddha’s Dhamma with a common emphasis on recognizing and abandoning unskillful “dharmas” while recognizing and skillfully developing the Heartwood Of The Dhamma.
Greater And Lesser Happiness
It is by releasing the bond to lesser happiness that the wise develop the greater happiness. The wise, understanding the greater, renounce the lesser.
Those entangled by the bonds of hate, seeking happiness while hurting others, can never be released from hatred.
The defilements only increase for the arrogant and mindless who avoid what is skillful and join with what is unskillful.
The defilements cease for those with refined mindfulness who clearly understand (Four Noble Truths), who practice Jhana, abandon what is unskillful, and develop what is skillful.
The disciple, having slain mother and father, two warrior-kings, a tiger, and conquered a country, travel in peace.
Month and father represent craving rooted in I-making (conceit). Two warrior kings represent extreme views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. A tiger represents the Five Hindrances. A country represents the six-sense-base.
The disciple, having slain mother and father, two warrior-kings, a tiger, and conquered a country, travel without regret.
The disciple always happily awakens who constantly take refuge in the Buddha.
The disciple always happily awakens who constantly take refuge in the Dhamma.
The disciple always happily awakens who constantly take refuge in a well-focused Sangha.
These last three references establishing a true refuge in the Buddha, his Dhamma, and a well-focused and well-informed Sangha.
The disciple always happily awakens who constantly delight in Metta.
The disciple always happily awakens who constantly practices Jhana.
The life of the disciple is difficult and hard to delight in. The living death of ignorance is difficult and full of sorrow. Association with the un-wise brings suffering. Wandering in confusion and delusion is suffering. Do not wander aimlessly maintaining the distraction of suffering.
The Eightfold Path is not intended to be an escape from reality through continued fabricated views. Right Effort, the sixth factor of the Path guides and informed wise and content engagement with the entire Path.
With conviction, the disciple is endowed with virtue, good repute, and knowledge. They are always respected.
The disciple shines from a great distance like the Himalaya Mountains. Fools are not seen, like an arrow at night.
The disciple, having established seclusion, with Right Effort restrains themselves alone, delights in solitude.
Seclusion is the quality of a mind resting in Jhana and remaining secluded from entanglements with worldly events. Seclusion is established in Right meditation and continues off-cushion and framed by the refined mindfulness of the Eightfold Path.
Chapter Twenty-Two: Nirayavagga - Hell And Nibbana
The Nirayavagga is the twenty-second chapter of the Dhammapada. It describes the living hell that follows ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the release from greed, aversion, and deluded thinking developed through the Heartwood Of The Dhamma. Nibbana means that the “fires of passion” (hell) rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths have been extinguished through the development of the Eightfold Path. Nibbana describes the release from stress and suffering developed through the Eightfold Path.
Hell And Nibbana
Liars and wrongdoers always suffer now and in the future.
Many uncontrolled and evil people wear saffron robes. By their deeds, they will continue the living death of ignorance.
A powerful statement by the Buddha from 2,600 years ago even more relevant today with many wearing “Buiddhist” robes while practicing and teaching false dharmas and causing great suffering for others.
It is better to swallow a red-hot iron ball than to accept alms while living mindlessly and hurtfully.
The mindless, consorting with another’s spouse, continuing ignorance, whose sleep is disturbed, who is of ill-repute, will give birth to ongoing stress and suffering.
Such a person suffers now and in the future. The pleasure is brief for those ruled by passion and kings impose harsh punishments. The wise restrain themselves.
This is an important reference to Karma and Rebirth as the Buddha teaches Karma and Rebirth.
Just as kusa grass cuts the mindless handler, so to a contemplative life wrongly lived brings confusion, delusion, and suffering.
Again the Buddha is cautioning that just donning Buddhist robes – fabricating the mere appearance of practicing the Dhamma – will only continue a confused and deluded mind and continue the stress and suffering of a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Any mindless act or fabricated view, any corrupt act will bear much (disappointing) fruit.
Another reference to Karma and Rebirth.
Engage with the Dhamma with joyful enthusiasm and mindful diligence. Lazy practitioners constantly stir the dust of passion.
Abandon evil as evil continues to torment the wrongdoer. Cultivate the Dhamma and abandon torment.
Always guard yourself within and without just as a border city is well-guarded. The opportunity to develop my Dhamma is fleeting. Ignore the opportunity and regret will follow.
The Buddha’s Dhamma is practiced by developing Wise Restraint at the point of contact with phenomena arising and passing away.
The fool who maintains and defends false views is ashamed at what is skillful and is not ashamed at what is unskillful, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.
A clear example of a confused mind lacking the concentration and refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path.
The fool maintains and defends false views who fear the truth and embraces ignorance, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.
The fool maintains and defends false views who see the truth as evil and does not see evil, they are always in a state of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress.
The disciple knowing what is right and what is wrong upholds Right View and maintains a calm and peaceful mind.
It is by developing profound Right View an authentic Dhamma Practitioner is able to establish jhana – unwavering concentration – that supports the refined mindfulness necessary to hold in mind the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice.
Chapter Twenty-Three: Nagavagga - Wisdom Of Restraint
The Nagavagga is the twenty-third chapter of the Dhammapada. The Buddha uses the metaphor of a well-trained elephant to describe the wisdom of developing wise restraint if one is to develop the Eightfold Path and a calm and well-concentrated mind..
Wisdom Of Restraint
Like an elephant remaining calm in battle, I will remain calm when falsely accused. Many in the world are ignorant of Four Noble Truths.
The tamed elephant, well restrained, can be mounted by a king and ridden in a crowd
Foremost are tamed mules, thoroughbreds, and tuskers, all well-restrained. Foremost among people are those well-restrained.
Not by tamed mounts does one reach Nibbana. Those self-restrained, having regained control of their minds, always do.
The Eightfold Path is an individual path supported by a well-informed and well-focused sangha. Nothing external can “carry one” to awakening.
A tusker deep in rut is difficult to control. Bound to a post, they won’t eat longing for freedom.
This is a profound reference to basic ignorance. Views ignorant of Four Noble Truths bind one to relentless greed while conditioned to ignore the self-fabricated stress of craving. The Buddha recognized this feedback look of circular thinking as he had a “breakthrough of understanding” leading to his awakening.
A person, lazy, over-fed, wallowing like a pig, gives birth again and again to ignorance.
A skillful understanding of Karma and Rebirth shows that what is held in mind determines the practical experience of life as life unfolds.
In the past, my mind wandered mindlessly where it wished, always seeking satisfaction. Now I have thoroughly tamed my mind as the trainer controls an elephant in rut.
Take your pleasure in mindfulness. Guard your own thoughts. Lift yourself out of the mire of ignorance like an elephant from the mud.
Overcome any obstacles to find a wise and prudent friend established in the Dhamma. Keep their company with mindfulness and joy.
If no wise and prudent friend established in the Dhamma can be found it is better to go your own way like a king leaves a conquered village or a lone elephant in the forest.
Live carefree like an elephant in the forest. Establish seclusion and abandon harm. There is no fellowship with fools. Better it is to live alone.
Fortunate are wise friends when needed. Fortunate is contentment with what occurs. Fortunate it is to end ignorance before death. Fortunate it is to end suffering and awaken.
In this world, it is skillful to serve one’s parents. In this world, it is skillful to serve monks and nuns and disciples.
Skillful it is to develop virtue. Skillful it is to persevere. Skillful it is to restrain mindlessness. Skillful it is to develop wisdom (through the Eightfold Path).
Chapter Twenty-Four: Tanhavagga - Abandon Craving
The twenty-fourth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Tanhavagga. Tanha means “thirst,” “craving,” “desire,” and constantly grasping-after satisfying life experiences.
It is through the development of restraint that the disciple is able to clearly recognize the individual clinging to all manifestations of craving.
In this way, the Tanhavagga describes in practical detail the scope and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha taught a single path, the Eightfold Path, to develop a profound understanding of Four Noble Truths so to recognize and abandon all views rooted in ignorance of these Four Noble Truths and live free of the stress of constant craving.
My comments below are italicized.
The craving of mindless people grows like a creeper. Like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest, they leap from moment to moment tasting the fruits of their Karma.
Those unrefined, clinging to craving, are overcome in the world. Their sorrow grows like grass after the rains.
Those refined, having overcome the world, released from craving, difficult to escape, their sorrow rolls away like water beads off a lotus.
The Buddha does not teach a “mindfulness of all things” Dhamma. This is a modern strategy used to continue distraction and continue ignorance. He taught a refined mindfulness which means engaging in Right Meditation for the sole purpose of increasing concentration. A well-concentrated mind can then support the refined mindfulness necessary to be mindful of – to hold in mind – the Eightfold Path as the framework and ongoing guidance for developing an unwavering calm and peaceful mind.
I say to all of you: You are all fortunate indeed. As you would uproot medicinal herbs you should uproot craving! Do not let Mara destroy you as a raging river continually destroys reeds.
Mara is a common metaphor used throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma that describes the ongoing suffering resulting from ignorance of Four Noble Truths as being manipulated and distracted by the malevolent god Mara.
Just as a tree will rise again if its roots are not cut, any craving not rooted out will arise again and again.
The mindless person, the currents of craving flowing unrestrained, are always grasping after pleasure and are swept away by the flood of their own passionate thoughts.
Everywhere the currents of craving flow, the creeper grows and grows. Understanding, the disciple cuts craving at its root!
The root of craving, as shown in the Paticcasamuppada Sutta, is ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Flowing in from all phenomena and sustained by craving, feelings of pleasure arise in all beings. Grasping after pleasure and satisfaction people succumb to impermanence and decay.
Overwhelmed by craving, the fool chases pleasure like a caged rabbit looking for escape. Bound to the world by greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, they give rise to suffering forever.
It is craving for and clinging to sensory experience that results in ongoing greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. In the Bhava Sutta the Buddha uses a metaphor in a most beautiful and insightful manner: “Karma is the field, consciousness the seed and craving the moisture” that sustains ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Overwhelmed by craving the fool chases pleasure like a rabbit caught in a snare. Those that strive to abandon passion will destroy craving.
There are those that abandon worldly entanglements and turn to my Dhamma and, though free, run back to that bondage. Look at this person! Once free they run back to the same old chains.
The wise know that clinging to iron, wood or hemp is easier to cut than an infatuation with jewels, ornaments, children, or spouses. This is the bond that is elastic, constraining, hard to cut!
It is the nature of a deluded mind to valuer arbitrary and impermanent objects – some more than others. The more value (clinging) one places on an object the more potential for continued distraction and stress is present.
The wise cut even these bonds. The wise abandon sensual pleasures and calmly renounce the world.
Those infatuated by desire are stuck in the swirling river current of ignorance like a spider stuck in its own web. The disciple cuts this off at its root. Having abandoned craving they abandon all suffering and are free of worldly entanglements.
Release the past! Release the future! Release the present! Cross over to the farther shore of existence. With a mind wholly liberated you will no longer give birth to another moment rooted in the living death of ignorance.
For a person who is tormented by their own deluded thoughts, overcome by passion for the pursuit of pleasure, their craving only grows stronger, indeed.
Those who delight in overcoming delusion, who is always mindful, who abandons greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, will end craving by (recognizing and) abandoning ignorance.
Those fearless, free of craving, having overcome passion for the world, who has plucked the thorns of ignorance, there will be no further becoming.
Those free of craving and clinging, perfectly understanding the truth of my Dhamma and the proper context will indeed be free of ignorance. They are profoundly wise, a great person.
Through (right) knowledge, I have conquered the world. I am free of clinging. Through abandoning ignorance I am free of craving. I have comprehended this by myself, who would I call my teacher?
True “Buddhist” refuge is found in the human Buddha, his Dhamma, and a well-informed and well-focused sangha and not in adapted, accommodated, and embellished modern Buddhist practices and lineages.
The gift of the Dhamma is foremost. The taste of the Dhamma is foremost, Delight in the Dhamma is foremost. Free of craving ends all suffering.
Riches ruin only the fool not the disciple seeking Nibbana. The fool ruins themselves as well as others.
“Nibbana” means “extinguished” as in extinguishing the fires of craving.
Weeds destroy fields as craving ruins humanity. Therefore, what is offered to others free of craving yields abundant fruit.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Bhikkhuvagga - Wise Restraint
Bhikkhuvagga means “a teaching for a monk.” I have changed the reference to “a monk” with “disciple” to be generic. The Buddha intended his Dhamma for all with no “special” Dhamma based on gender or for those who have left home life and taken formal vows. Often lost in the modern hierarchy of the many modern “Buddhist lineages” is the pure, direct, and accessible authentic equalitarian Dhamma.
The Bhikkhuvagga is the twenty-fifth chapter of the Dhammapada. This chapter teaches wise restraint as the defining characteristic of the wise Dhamma practitioner. As one develops the Buddha’s Dhamma, wise restraint at the point of contact with objects, events, views, and ideas, with all impermanent phenomena, becomes possible from a mind and the body united through Jhana meditation practiced within the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path.
Good is restraint over the eye. Good is restraint over the ears. Good is restraint over the nose. Good is restraint over the tongue.
Good is restraint in the body. Good is restraint in speech. Good is restraint in thought. Restraint is always good. The disciple, well-restrained, is free of all suffering.
The Dhamma practitioner, in control of the six-sense-base, delights in developing the Dhamma. They are established in Jhana, free of worldly entanglements, content. This one is called wise, indeed.
Jhana, Right Meditation, means concentration. The Buddha taught a single meditation method with a single purpose – to deepen Jhana. A well-concentrated mind is able to develop the refined mindfulness necessary to hold in mind the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice.
The six-sense-base is the five physical senses and consciousness- ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
The disciple, restrained in speech, moderate and unassuming, explains the Dhamma with wisdom and understanding. Their words are always skillful.
The disciple, established in the Dhamma, who delights in the Dhamma, well-concentrated, who hears the authentic Dhamma, will not lose their way.
The Buddha taught a Dhamma that self-regulates. This means that by following the Heartwood of the Dhamma, the Eightfold Path, the disciple will not be distracted towards false “dharmas.”
The disciple is free of bitterness for what others receive. Those who despise the gains of others will never develop Jhana.
The disciple, content with what they have received, even very little, pure in livelihood and persistent in their Right Effort, is praised by wise beings.
Those free of clinging to sensual attainments, free of regret over what is not, they are truly known as a disciple.
As shown in the Paticcasamuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, the essence of mindfulness is to support wise restraint at the point of contact with phenomena arising and passing away so to recognize and abandon clinging to ignorant views that always manifest as craving.
The disciple, virtuous, well-concentrated, devoted to the Dhamma, will attain the peace of Nibbana and, the pure joy of the cessation of all conditioned things.
This single line references the scope and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma and the Three-Themed Eightfold Path, a path of wisdom, virtue, and concentration.
“All conditioned things” refers to the mental formations -wrong views – fabricated from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
An empty boat sails effortlessly. Empty of greed and aversion, empty of ignorance, this disciple, will gain final release from all views (ignorant of Four Noble Truths).
Despite the prevalence in modern Buddhism, the Buddha’s Dhamma does not encourage a goal of achieving establishment in an imaginary realm of “nothingness” or “emptiness.” The Buddha used the word Shunyata, emptiness to refer to the simple and profound purpose of his Dhamma: to empty oneself of ignorance.
Uproot the five lower fetters. Abandon the five higher fetters. Conquer the five bonds. Cultivate the five pure qualities. The disciple crosses to the far shore.
The metaphor of ignorance as a “river of suffering” is common and shows the importance to recognize that without an empty boat one cannot cross to the “far shore” of liberation.
The five lower fetters to be uprooted (by the disciple) are delusion, doubt, belief in rites and rituals, lust, and ill-will. The five higher fetters to be abandoned are craving for imaginary and speculative self-establishment in non-physical realms whether “heavenly” or simply “formless”, conceit, restlessness, and ongoing ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The five bonds to be conquered are greed, aversion, delusion, ignorant views, and continued self-identification with impermanent and fabricated objects, events, views, and ideas.
This last refers to encountering phenomena from a mind still rooted in ignorance or a mind liberated through the Heartwood of the Dhamma. What is held in mind will determine the experience of any impermanent phenomena. This points to the importance of a well-concentrated mind, and a Dhamma that encourages Jhan meditation, to be able to apply refined mindfulness with what is occurring as life unfolds.
Establish Jhana! Do not be mindless! Do not be distracted by sensual pleasures! Mindless, do noty swallow a red-hot ball or you will cry out “this is painful”!
There is no Jhana for those who lack insight. There is no insight for those lacking concentration. Those established in Jhan, developing insight, they are close to Nibbana, indeed.
The disciple who has established seclusion and calm, who understands the Dhamma with true insight, is delighted, a delight that transcends all ordinary delights.
The disciple who has gained insight into the arising and passing away of the Five Clinging-Aggregates is full of joy. This one knows the death of ignorance.
The Buddha teaches a very specific insight. It is insight into Three Marks Of Existence that a wise disciple avoids the common modern distraction of “Mindfulness of all things.”
The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of stress and suffering.
Restraint at the six-sense-base, content, pure and helpful in the sangha, this is the foundation of a life well-integrated with the Heartwood.
Heartwood always refers to the Eightfold Path.
The disciple associates with noble friends. They are enthused with the pure life. They are cordial and refined with others. Joyful in the Dhamma, they will end ignorance.
Another common theme emphasized by the Buddha is the importance of wise associations with others who are actually practicing authentic dhamma.
As the jasmine creeper sheds withered flowers, the disciple sheds greed and aversion!
The disciple, restrained in thought, word, and deed, composed, disentangled from the world, is truly a sage at peace.
The disciple must examine and censure themselves. Well-restrained, this one lives in happiness.
The Eightfold Path is taught to provide a benchmark for evaluating individual development of the Dhamma. The four levels of meditative absorption, of Jhan, are taught by the Buddha to provide an impersonal and dispassionate measuring-stick for evaluating increasing concentration.
One is one’s own protector, one’s own refuge. The disciple controls themselves as horseman controls their steed.
Full of joy and conviction in the Dhamma, The disciple attains the peace of cessation of all conditioned things.
The disciple who devotes themselves to the Dhamma throughout their life illuminates the world like a full moon on a clear night.
Chapter Twenty-Six: Brahmanavagga - Culmination Of The Path
The twenty-sixth chapter of the Dhammapada is known as the Brahmanavagga. This concluding chapter is direct and concise teaching on what is to be developed through a well-focused Dhamma practice and the profound benefits of practicing the Dhamma as intended and originally taught.
The Brahmanavagga provides clear and profound guidance on how to distinguish between ordinary abstract views and confusing and contradictory “dharmas” rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and useful and authentic Dhamma practice. The Buddha defines the result of a confused (or non-existent) “dharma” practice and his Dhamma by showing the practical and observable attainments developed by a skillful disciple of the Dhamma.
A Brahman refers to Vedic priests of the highest religious class during the Buddha’s life. The Buddha rejected the common Vedic-based religions but he often used the word “Brahman” to refer to Arahants, those who awakened through the Eightfold Path.
Most translations use “monks” referring to a person developing the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha never intended his Dhamma to be only accessible and useful only to men who took vows. He presented his Dhamma without restrictions or bias of any kind, a truly equalitarian Dhamma unique in his time and today. Also, by adhering to only one word to describe those committed to developing the Dhamma does not provide a means to distinguish between “skillful disciples” and skillful disciples that have reached the culmination of the Eightfold Path, Arahants, as intended by the Buddha.
Culmination Of The Path
Engage in Right Effort! Root out the constant stream of craving! Abandon sense desires! Know the destruction of all conditioned things. Know the cool, calm peace of cessation.
This initial paragraph describes the effort and focus necessary to develop the Buddha’s Dhamma and the results that will be gained.
When an arahant has developed profound concentration and skillful insight they know the Four Noble Truths and have abandoned all fetters.
The Buddha taught to develop Jhana – increasing concentration – that provides a calm focus for gaining insight into the relationship between Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha – Three Marks Of Existence.
The skillful disciple is carefree and unfettered. They have abandoned craving and the objects of their craving. This one I call an Arahant.
Most translations use the metaphor of a near and far shore to represent sense-based craving as the “near shore” and the object desired as the “far shore.” The near shore is the immediate continuation of I-making and the far shore is the fabricated identity created by craving and resulting in clinging to the self-created, self-imposed “me” that now must be continually defended.
Those who are established in Jhana, free of the defilements, passions cooled, calm, the task complete, liberated from ignorance, having reached the goal, these I call Arahants.
The single purpose of meditation as one factor of the Eightfold Path is to develop Jhana – increasing concentration – that provides the calm focus for gaining insight into the relationship between Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha – Three Marks Of Existence.
The sun illuminates the day, the moon illuminates the night. The warrior shines in their armor, the skillful disciple shines in Jhana. Arahants illuminate day and night.
The Arahant has abandoned all unskillful behavior, their mind concentrated and serene. Having renounced all of their impurities they are true renunciates.
A disciple should not be struck. If they are struck they should renounce anger. Shame on those who injure anyone, or gives in to anger.
Nothing is superior for the skillful disciple than wise restraint. To the extent that anger and ill-will is abandoned is the extent that suffering will subside.
Practicing wise restraint at the point of contact with phenomena arising and passing away is the essence of a well-informed and well-concentrated skillful Disciple’s Dhamma practice.
Those restrained in thought, word, and deed, I call skillful disciples.
Just as a Brahman priest revere’s his sacrificial fire, so should a skillful disciple revere the Dhamma taught by me.
It is not by matted hair, or lineage, or birth does one become a skillful disciple. Those that know the (Four Noble) Truths and are free of conflict are skillful disciples.
What is the use of your matted hair or antelope hide, foolish one? Within you is the tangle of passion! It is only outwardly that you cleanse yourself.
These last three paragraphs reflect the ongoing caution the Buddha emphasizes against engaging in speculative rites and rituals seeking magical intervention or magical self-establishment in fabricated and speculative non-physical realms. An obvious aspect of grasping after magical self-establishments is the common practice of fabricating the appearance of a Dhamma disciple without actually practicing the Dhamma.
The person who wears robes made of rags, lean, veins showing everywhere, who develop Jhana in seclusion, this one can be called a skillful disciple.
I do not call a person a skillful disciple because of their lineage or their birth. If they continue to cling to worldly entanglements, they are just arrogant. Those who are free of craving and free of clinging (to false Dhammas) I call skillful disciples.
Here again is the Buddha’s emphasis on recognizing the foolishness of clinging to any fabricated hierarchy. The only lineage-relevant to the Buddha’s Dhamma is the “lineage” of the Dhamma itself as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon.
The concluding section of this chapter describes in clear detail the entirely attainable qualities of a disciple who has completed the Eightfold Path, an Arahant.
A person who has abandoned all fetters and clinging, (to wrong views) liberated from ignorance, trembles no more. I call this person an Arahant.
The Buddha consistently described the quality of mind of an Arahant as calm and released from clinging to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.
A skillful disciple who has cut the bonds of hatred and craving, abandoned all wrong views, abandoned all defilements, released from ignorance, I call them an Arahant.
As described in the Paticca Samuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, the Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance Four Noble Truths that is the condition that all manner of stress, confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointing life experiences, Dukka, Originates in and is Dependent on.
A skillful disciple without ill will, who endures abuse and beatings and punishment, whose real power is patience. I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who is free from anger, devoted to the dhamma, virtuous, free of craving, well restrained, unprovoked by ignorance, I call them an Arahant.
Like water on a Lotus leaf or a mustard seed on the point of a needle, the skillful disciple who is free of clinging to sensual pleasures, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who in this very lifetime realizes the end of suffering, who has put down the burden (of self-referential views) and became liberated, I call them an Arahant.
Though most modern Buddhist religions that present awakening as nearly impossible, and often beyond any human capability, the Buddha taught that anyone who wholeheartedly engages with his Dhamma could awaken in the here and now. In fact, awakening here and now is the only possible culmination of wholehearted engagement with the Dhamma.
A skillful disciple with profound knowledge, wise, skilled in understanding the right and the wrong path, who has reached the highest goal, I call them an Arahant.
Here again is the Buddha’s emphasis on developing his Dhamma and recognizing and abandoning false dharmas. The compulsive notion, then and now, rooted in greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, is to ignore the Buddha’s Dhamma for adapted, accommodated, and embellished “dharmas.” This 2,600 year long continual re-establishment of ignorance is the most accurate and most troubling example of the ignorance described in Dependent Origination.
A skillful disciple who is disentangled from householders and ascetics alike, who wanders freely with no fixed abode, wanting little, I call them an Arhant.
A skillful disciple who has abandoned violence towards all living beings, whether weak or strong, who neither kills nor causes others to kill, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who remains friendly in a hostile world, peaceful in the midst of violence, free of clinging amongst a clinging world, I call them an Arahant.
A timeless caution from an awakened human being with remarkable relevance to the modern “engaged Buddhism” movement seeking “social justice” through targeted ideological hatred.
A skillful disciple whose lust, hatred, pride, and hypocrisy, have fallen away like a mustard seed from the point of a needle, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who speaks with gentle, useful, and truthful words, free of ill-will, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who takes nothing not freely given to them, free of grasping, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who grasps after nothing in this world or any other world, free of desire, liberated, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who has developed perfect insight and is free of clinging to wrong views, free of doubt, free of the living death of ignorance, I call them an Arahant.
This last points to the primary importance of “Perfect insight” into Three Marks Of Existence and a caution against grasping after wrong views and a broad and fabricated view of “all impermanent phenomena.”
A skillful disciple who has abandoned the yoke of grasping after merit or clinging to demerit, free of sorrow and regret, stain-free and pure, I call them an Arahant.
The skillful disciple who is as spotless, pure, clear, and serene as a full moon on a cloudless night, taking no delight in a fabricated existence, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who is no longer mired in this perilous and deluded world, who has crossed over the swamp of ignorance, their minds free of all doubt, resting in Jhana, their passions extinguished, who have reached the goal, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who has abandoned sensual pleasures and the continuation of clinging to ignorance in any (speculated and imaginary) realms, free of all worldly entanglements, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who has cast off the yoke of I-making in this world and in all fabricated realms, free of ignorance, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who has abandoned likes and dislikes, greed and aversion, who has abandoned all conditioned beliefs, who has established a calm mind through Jhana, a conqueror of all worlds, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who understands impermanence and the arising and passing away of all beings, free of all clinging, truly fortunate and liberated, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who does not chase gods, angels, devas, or human ideology, who has overcome all defilements, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who does not cling to the past, present, or future, who is not holding onto or grasping after anything of the world, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple, Nole, heroic, excellent, passionless, pure, a true conqueror of the world, totally liberated from ignorance, I call them an Arahant.
A skillful disciple who knows the arising and passing away of all phenomena, who understands pleasure and pain, who has gained true insight into Three Marks Of Existence, who can no longer give birth to even a moment of ignorance, who has reached the highest goal of understanding and calm, I call them an Arahant, indeed.
This closing statement again points to gaining insight into Three Marks Of Existence as the focused purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma – the highest goal.
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