Jaravagga: Impermanence, Not-Self, Suffering Dhammapada 11


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

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

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

The eleventh chapter of the Dhammapada is the Jaravagga. This chapter is a profound and concise teaching on the Three Marks Of Existence. [4]
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. [5]

My comments below are in italics.


Jaravagga: Impermanence, Not-Self, Suffering

Dhammapada 11

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? [5]

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.” [6,7]

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. [8]

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 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.

End Of Chapter


  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  5. Becoming Explained
  6. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  7. Nothing Personal – A Buddha’s Analysis Of Self
  8. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

For All Who Reside In The Dhamma

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

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

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

Creative Commons LicenseBecoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


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