Piyavagga – Skillful Desire – Dhammapada 16


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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 sixteenth chapter of the Dhammapada is the Piyavagga. As with all of the Pali language, an inflective 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.

My comments below are in italics.

Piyavagga – Skillful Desire

Dhammapada 16

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. [4]

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. [5]

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 wise Dhamma practitioner who has established virtue and skillful insight, who has realized the truth, and does what must be done.

The wise Dhamma practitioner, 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 wise Dhamma practitioner’s own good deeds welcome them having left the world behind. [6]

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. Becoming Explained
  6. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

For All Who Reside In The Dhamma - Agantuka Sutta

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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.

Becoming-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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