Sayings of Buddha: The Dhammapada

Here are 20 selected passages from two of my favorite translations of The Dhammapada, which compiles the wisdom of Buddha. This short, spiritually potent book was my doorway to Buddhism over thirty years ago. It is a book to return to again and again.

Prayer flags. Photo by JT

Prayer flags at Buddhist stupa, Nepal

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.

We are but guests
visiting this world,
though most
do not know this.
Those who see the real situation,
no longer feel inclined to quarrel.

Perform those actions
you will never regret:
actions that will ripen into
future joy and delight.

The fragrance of holiness
travels even against the wind.
The influence of the holy ones
extends everywhere.

One who drinks deeply of the Dharma
with a clear and open mind
rests well.

On the air they rise
and fly an invisible course,
gathering nothing, storing nothing. …
Joyous and clear like the lake,
still as the stone at the door,
(they are) free from life and death.

Senseless talk brings suffering,
for it is thrown right back to you.
But if you stay like a broken gong
and never speak a word,
the cycle of idle talk will break,
and you will pass from sorrow.

Sad is the man who in his youth
loved loosely and squandered his fortune—
sad as a broken bow,
and sadly is he sighing after
all that has arisen and has passed away.

The world is in darkness.
How few have eyes to see!
How few the birds who escape the net
and fly to heaven!

Greater than having universal powers,
is the fruit of Entering the Stream.

The rain could turn to gold,
and still your thirst would not be slaked.
Desire is unquenchable
or it ends in tears.

He who shelters in the way,
and travels with those who follow it,
comes to see the four great truths
concerning sorrow, the beginning of sorrow,
the eightfold way, and the end of sorrow.
Then at last he is safe.
He has shaken off sorrow.
He is free.

Not ever grasping at pleasure,
you will never be bound by its chains.

You are like a yellow leaf.
The minions of the Lord of Death await you:
You stand in the jaws of death
with no provisions for your journey.
Make of yourself an island—
quickly become vigorous and wise.
Clear away your impurities and faults,
and you will reach the heavens of the saints.

Beings are caught in
the strands of desire and attachment;
they are caught like spiders in their own webs.
The wise cut through these bonds and …
slip out of all their suffering,
without a backward look.

If you subdue desire,
your sorrows shall fall from you
like drops of water from a lotus flower.

The followers of Gautama’s teachings
are always awake. …
Day and night,
they take great joy
in genuine kindness.

O Monks, empty the boat!
When it is empty
you will quickly reach your destination.
Throw overboard all attachment and hatred,
and you will obtain nirvana. …
Monks who transcend the five obstructions are called:
‘Those who have crossed the waves.”

Live in joy,
without possessions,
like the shining ones.

The seeker who
sets out upon the way
shines bright over the world.
Like the moon,
come out from behind the clouds!


About The Dhammapada: “The Dhammapada is the best known and most widely esteemed text in the Pali Tipitaka, the sacred scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. … This slim anthology of verses constitutes a perfect compendium of the Buddha’s teaching, comprising between its covers all the essential principles elaborated at length in the forty-odd volumes of the Pali Canon.”

A.   Dhammapada: Translation of Dharma Verses with the Tibetan Text, Translated into Tibetan from the Pali by dGe-‘dun Chos-‘phel; translated into English from the Tibetan by Dharma Publishing Staff, Berkeley, CA, Dharma Publishing, 1985.

B.   Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha, Translated by Thomas Byrom (Shambhala Publications, 1993).

1.    1:1, Byrom, Shambhala Publications
2.    1:6, Dharma Publishing
3.    5:8-9, , Dharma Publishing
4,    4:11, Dharma Publishing
5.    6:4, Dharma Publishing
6.    7:3, 4, and 6, Byrom, Shambhala
7.    10:5 and 6, Dharma Publishing
8.    11:11, Dharma Publishing
9.    13:8, Byrom, Shambhala
10.  13:12, Dharma Publishing
11.  14:8, Byrom, Shambhala
12.  14:12 and 13, Byrom, Shambhala
13.  16:3, Dharma Publishing
14.  18:1 and 2, Dharma Publishing
15.  24:14, Dharma Publishing
16.  24:3, Byrom, Shambhala
17.  21:11, Dharma Publishing
18.  25:10 and 11, Dharma Publishing
19.  15:4, Byrom, Shambhala
20.  25:23, Byrom, Shambhala


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