Wise Restraint – Bhikkhuvagga – Dhammapada 25


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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 and 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

Bhikkhuvagga means “a teaching for a monk.” I have changed the reference to “a monk” with “wise Dhamma Practitioner” to be generic. The Buddha intended his Dhamma for all with no “special” Dhamma based on gender or for those who have left the 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. [4]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

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. [5] Wisdom Of Restraint

My comments below are italicized. 


Wise Restraint – Bhikkhuvagga

Dhammapada 25

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 wise Dhamma practitioner, 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 increase 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. [6] Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

The six-sense-base is the five physical senses and consciousness – ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The wise Dhamma practitioner, restrained in speech, moderate and unassuming, explains the Dhamma with wisdom and understanding. Their words are always skillful.

The wise Dhamma practitioner, 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 wise Dhamma practitioner will not be distracted towards false “dharmas.” [7] Right Mindfulness And Authentic Dhamma

The wise Dhamma practitioner is free of bitterness for what others receive. Those who despise the gains of others will never develop Jhana.

The wise Dhamma practitioner, 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 wise Dhamma practitioner.

As shown in the Patticca Samuoada 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.  [2] Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

The wise Dhamma practitioner, 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.  [8] A Three-Themed Path


“All conditioned things” refers to the mental formations -wrong views – fabricated from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [9] Fabrications

An empty boat sails effortlessly. Empty of greed and aversion, empty of ignorance, this wise Dhamma practitioner, 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, emotions, to refer to the simple and profound purpose of his Dhamma: to empty oneself of ignorance. [10]  Shunyata – Emptiness

Uproot the five lower fetters. Abandon the five higher fetters. Conquer the five bonds. Cultivate the five pure qualities. The wise Dhamma practitioner 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 wise Dhamma practitioner) 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.  [6] Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

Establish Jhana! Do not be mindless! Do not be distracted by sensual pleasures! Mindless, do not swallow a red-hot ball or you will cry out “this is painful”!  [11] Hell And Nibbana

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 wise Dhamma practitioner who has established seclusion and calm, who understands the Dhamma with true insight, is delighted, a delight that transcends all ordinary delights.

The wise Dhamma practitioner 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 application of insight. It is insight into Three Marks Of Existence that a wise Dhamma practitioner avoids the common modern distraction of “Mindfulness of all things.” [12] Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of stress and suffering.  [13] Five Clinging-Aggregates

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 wise Dhamma practitioner 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. [14] An Admirable Sangha – Upaddha Sutta

As the jasmine creeper sheds withered flowers, the wise Dhamma practitioner sheds greed and aversion!

The wise Dhamma practitioner, restrained in thought, word, and deed, composed, disentangled from the world, is truly a sage at peace.

The wise Dhamma practitioner 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.  [15] Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

One is one’s own protector, one’s own refuge. The wise Dhamma practitioner controls themselves as horseman controls their steed.

Full of joy and conviction in the Dhamma, The wise Dhamma practitioner attains the peace of cessation of all conditioned things.

The wise Dhamma practitioner who devotes themselves to the Dhamma throughout their life illuminates the world like a full moon on a clear night.

End Of Chapter


For Further Study:

  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  4. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  5. Wisdom Of Restraint
  6. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  7. Right Mindfulness And Authentic Dhamma
  8. A Three-Themed Path
  9. Fabrications
  10. Shunyata – Emptiness
  11. Hell And Nibbana
  12. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  13. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  14. An Admirable Sangha – Upaddha Sutta
  15. 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 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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