This lovingly made, non-literal, contemporary translation of the Dhammapada is provided for you as a free service. For those of you who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha on meditation, concentration, discipline and even the morals and ethics of Buddhism but who are turned off by “Religious Buddhism”, it is my hope that this more proverbial, even somewhat humanist translation will be of use to you. For others, who were leery of it such an old writing could be pertinent to them today, I hope this more modern translation will show you that it still is. For those who already know this text well, and even live by it, it is my hope that this may either challenge you to think of it anew, or at the very least may it refresh your spirits.
CHAPTER ONE: TWIN VERSES
As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with impure thoughts and suffering follows, as the wheel of a wagon follows the ox which pulls it.
As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with a pure thought and happiness follows, as a shadow follows a traveler on a sunny day.
“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Holding onto these thoughts only keeps the pain alive.
“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Letting go of these thoughts releases you from suffering further.
For hating those who wronged you will not release you from hate, it will only create further suffering. The cycle of hatred will only be broken by non-hatred. This is an ancient truth.
Most do not live in the realization that life is short. For those who fully realize this, quarrels become unimportant.
One who lives for self gratification, is over-indulgent, uncontrolled, unrestrained, full of laziness and apathy, is easily broken by hard-times and temptations, just as a small storm can easily break a weak tree.
One who lives for a higher purpose, is moderate, controlled, restrained, not afraid of hard work and devout, cannot be easily broken by hard-times and temptations, as even a great storm still cannot move a mountain.
The robe does not make the monk. If the one wearing the robe lacks self-control and honesty, they have defiled it.
One who is free from inner defilements, having self-control, and honesty, standing strong in the precepts, only such a person is worthy of a monk’s robe.
Those who consider the unimportant things in life to be important and the truly important as unimportant will never find that which is important, for they were looking in the wrong place all along.
However, those who correctly see the important as important and the unimportant as unimportant will find the important, rightfully discerning where to begin their search.
As rain will always find the crack in a poorly-made roof, so Want will find its way into an undisciplined mind.
As rain cannot find a way through a well-made roof, so Want cannot find its way into a well-disciplined mind.
For those who do wrong to others it will only end in grief, grief in the present, grief in the future. In both states the wrongdoer grieves; from the initial seed, to seeing the seed come to bear fruit.
For the doer of good there is much rejoicing, rejoicing in the present, rejoicing in the future. In both states there is joy; seeing one’s own pure acts bear good fruit brings joy and delight to everyone.
Those who do wrong suffer in the present, suffer in the future. In both states there is suffering. Tormented today by the thought, “I have done wrong”, tormented tomorrow, having fallen into the cycle of suffering.
Those who do well to others delight in the present, delight in the future. In both states there is delight. Here they are delighted knowing, “I have treated others well”, and tomorrow for they have entered into the cycle of bliss.
One, who studies the teachings, memorizes them, quotes them often, but doesn’t do what they say, is like a banker, surrounded by other people’s wealth, counting it as their own, deluding themselves into thinking that they are now rich. Such a person does not gain any real benefit from their studies.
One, who knows little of the teachings, but still lives according to them, free of grasping, hate, and delusions; revering and discerning what truth they find, not clinging to this life or the next, such a person, will gain the benefits of the contemplative life.
CHAPTER II: DILIGENCE
Diligence is the path of liberation; negligence the path to bondage. The vigilant can never be truly bound; the negligent can never be truly free.
The wise, knowing this to be true, develop their diligence; consider it a joy to do so, having found their happiness in the wisdom of the noble ones.
Now awakened, dedicating themselves to meditation, striving forward with firm minds, they find the ultimate liberation.
The glory of a virtuous person is their reputation, and for one who is active in pursuing that which is good, diligent, pure and considerate to others, it is ever increasing.
The wise, by much effort, discipline, restraint and self-control, make for themselves an island which no flood can submerge.
The foolish surrender themselves over to negligence; while the one who is wise carefully guards their discipline as their most valuable possession.
Don’t give in to negligence; don’t look for pleasure in temporal desires — for it is the disciplined, who having absorbed themselves in meditation find true happiness.
The wise, drives out negligence with discipline, like a climb up a tall mountain; now free from sorrow, they see the sorrow of the masses in the valley from which they came.
The disciplined among the negligent, the awake among the sleeping — so the wise advance, like a well-trained racehorse surpasses the weak and untrained.
Even in the fable of Indra, it was through diligence that he became king of the gods, for even these gods praised diligence, and looked down on negligence with contempt.
A monk who delights in diligence and sees the danger in negligence advances like a fire, burning the ropes which bound them both great and small.
A monk who delights in diligence and sees danger in negligence is bound to never fall astray and is close to liberation.
CHAPTER III: THE MIND
As a skilled arrow maker knows to shape the arrow straight so that it will not waver, so does a skilled meditator know they must shape their wavering mind.
Like a fish when lured of its watery home thrashes about on dry land, so a mind thrashes about from thing to thing when lured into the land of pleasing the senses.
It is difficult to wrestle with the mind; it is hard to pin down, nimble and quick — wishing to wander wherever it pleases. Difficult but worth it, for a well disciplined mind brings much happiness.
The wise should pay close attention to what tries to slip into their minds, for its enemies are subtle and can be difficult to perceive. A mind well guarded brings much happiness.
The mind like a ghost is bodiless, strays far and wide, and can hide itself alone in secret chambers; however those who learn to restrain it will be freed from their bonds.
For a person with an unsteady mind, not knowing the true Dharma will be incapable of recognizing it until their mind and wavering faith has settled.
For the one who is awake, whose mind is calm and steady, having abandoned the dualities of good and evil, there is no more fear or danger to perplex their hearts.
Aware that this body is fragile like a clay jar, and that it is the mind which we must make strong like a fortress; fortify your mind, and then battle the enemy with the sword of truth, protecting the spoils you have won, knowing never to let your guard down, even in victory.
For soon this body will simply lie on the ground, lifeless, deprived of this consciousness, to be cast aside like a useless scrap of wood.
Think of two people who hate each other, or two mortal enemies locked in combat, then realize that your mind if not under your control can cause you more difficulties than either of these.
Think or a loving mother, father, or any friend or relative who cares for you, then realize that your mind if well-centered can do you more good than any of these.
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