Maggavagga – The Eightfold Path – Dhammapada 20

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Introduction

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]  Pali Canon

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]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta  | Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

The Maggavagga, the twentieth chapter of the Dhammapada is remarkable in its clarity and directness of the Buddha’s words and his singular path to the cessation of craving rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [4]  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

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. [5]  Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

My comments below are in italics.

 

Maggavagga – The Path

Dhammapada 20

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. [6]  Mara And Metaphor

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.  [7]  The Personal Experience Of Ignorance – Dukkha Sutta  

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)  [8]  Ehipassiko – Come And See For Yourself

Understand this: All conditioned things that arise will pass away. Understanding this, the wise Dhamma practitioner ends clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths) and turns away from disappointment. This is my Path To Purification.  [4]

Understand this:  All conditioned things are not-self. Understanding this, the wise Dhamma practitioner 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 wise Dhamma practitioner 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.  [5]

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.  [9,10]  Yuganaddha Sutta  |  Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

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.  [11]  Becoming Explained

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. [12]  Mindfulness Of Bahiya

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 wise Dhamma Practitioner uses the Dhamma to recognize and abandon all obstacles or hindrances to fully developing the Buddha’s Dhamma.  [13]  Sustenance For Awakening – Feeding And Starving The Five Hindrances

End Of Chapter

 

  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  5. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  6. Mara And Metaphor
  7. The Personal Experience Of Ignorance – Dukkha Sutta
  8. Ehipassiko – Come And See For Yourself
  9. Yuganaddha Sutta
  10. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  11. Becoming Explained
  12. Mindfulness Of Bahiya
  13. Sustenance For Awakening – Feeding And Starving The Five Hindrances

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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.

 

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