Stainless – Malavagga – Dhammapada 18


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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]

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.  [4]

My comments below are in italics.

Stainless – Malavagga

Dhammapada 18

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 [5]

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 wise Dhamma practitioner 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. [2]

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. Wise Dhamma practitioners are free of worldly entanglements.

There is no hidden path or other understanding. All fabrications are impermanent. Awakened minds are stable. [4]

End Of Chapter


  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Fabrications
  5. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga 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, 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 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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