A deep read. Again, I find myself comparing an uninterrupted reading of this text with reading, say, the book of Matthew in the New Testament in one sitting, versus spending a lifetime poring over and going back to individual passages.
The verses in the Dhammapada, attributed to the Buddha, are dated to about 500 BC. There are 423 verses in 26 short chapters. The word "dhamma," while without an exact English equivalent, can be roughly translated to "the law," and the word "pada" to "the path." The Dhammapada is a major text in the Theravada canon - Theravada being the type of Buddhism especially found in southeast Asia, versus Mahayana, the type of Buddhism most prevalent in north and northeast Asia.
A few verses to return to (and a few thoughts in red):
I. Contrasting Pairs
1. Preceded by mind are phenomena led by mind, formed by mind. If with mind polluted one speaks or acts, then pain follows, as a wheel follows the draft ox's foot.
3. "He berated me! He hurt me! He beat me! He deprived me!" For those who hold such grudges, hostility is not appeased.
5. In this world hostilities are never appeased by hostility. But by the absence of hostility are they appeased. This is an interminable truth.
7. Living with an eye to pleasure, unrestrained in the sense faculties, immoderate in eating, indolent, and idle - Mara (Death) overcomes such a person, as the wind overcomes a weak tree.
8. Living without an eye to pleasure, well restrained in the sense faculties, moderate in eating, faithful, and energetic - Mara does not overcome such a person, as the wind, a rocky hill.
21. Diligence is the path to the deathless. Negligence is the path of death. The diligent to not die. Those who are negligent are as the dead.
25. With energy, diligence, restraint, and control, the wise person should make an island which no flood can overflow.
Here again is that Eastern theme of mustering up one's own strength - relying on oneself only (see also verse 103 in chapter VIII). As with the Bhagavad Gita, I wonder about the possible seepage of ideas between the east and the west, between this kind of restrained centeredness and, say, Emersonian Self-Reliance (we know he was a reader of "The Geeta"). Whatever the case: self-control and self-mastery, those virtues that humans everywhere have discovered and admired.
33. Trembling and quivering is the mind, difficult to guard and hard to restrain. The person of wisdom sets it straight, as a fletcher does an arrow. I wonder again how Plato and the Buddha arrived at such similar insights at around the same time.
45. A seeker will master this earth, this world of death and radiant beings. A seeker will gather a well-taught verse on the way, as a skilled gardener gathers a flower.
50. Look not at the faults of others, nor at what they leave undone; but only at your own deeds and deeds unachieved. .
VI. The Skilled Person
76. Regard the person who sees your faults as a revealer of treasures. Associate with that skilled person as one who is wise, who speaks reprovingly. Keeping company with such a person, things get better, not worse.
81. As a rock of single solid mass cannot be moved by the wind, so are the skilled unshaken by praise and blame.
82. As a deep pond, clear, calm, so do the teachings become serene, having heard the teachings. Unshaken, pure, and at peace: the center of the Buddha's teachings.
VII. The Accomplished Person
94. His senses serene like horses well tamed by the charioteer, the person who has let go of haughtiness, who is free from impulses - even the radiant ones are envious of one such as that.
100. Better than a thousand statements composed of meaningless words is a single meaningful word which, having been heard, brings peace.
103. Though one might conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, the one who conquers himself alone is supreme in battle.
112. Better than living a hundred years lethargic, low in energy, is a single day lived exerting steadfast vigor.
121. One should not think slightly of injury... With drops of falling water even a water pot is filled. The childish person is full of injury gathered day by day.
XIV. The Awakened
186-187. Not through a torrent of money or in sensual enjoyment can satisfaction be found. The skilled person, knowing that sensual enjoyment is painful, yielding but little pleasure, does not take delight even in divine enjoyments. A person who delights in the dissolution of craving is a disciple of the perfectly awakened.
188. People who are anxious with fear often go for refuge to mountains and forests, to tree shrines in pleasant groves...
190-191. But whoever has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and Sangha sees with thorough understanding the four noble truths: pain the arising of pain, the overcoming of pain, and the noble eightfold path leading to the stillness of pain.
192. This is the secure refuge. This is the best refuge. Arriving at this refuge, a person is released from all pain.
XV. Being at Ease
197. Oh, with what ease we live when peaceful amid the hostile! Amid hostile people we live peacefully.
199. Oh, with what ease we live when relaxed amid the anxious! Amid anxious people we live relaxed.
201. Victory begets hostility: the defeated person lives ill at ease. Giving up both victory and defeat, the peaceful person lives at ease.
204. Health is the finest possession. Contentment is the ultimate wealth. Trustworthy people are the best relatives. Unbinding is the supreme ease.
205. Having drunk the sap of solitude and the savor of peace, one is free of distress, free from wrongdoing, enjoying the delightful flavor of the teaching.
215. Sorrow springs from sensual pleasure. Fear springs from sensual pleasure. For the person freed from sensual pleasure there is no sorrow. From where could fear emerge?
241. The rust of religious texts is nonrepetition. The rust of houses is lack of repair. Lethargy is the rust of personal appearance. Negligence is the rust of the watchman.
244-245. It is easy to live a life without scruples or shame, boldly and offensively, boastfully, recklessly, corruptly. But it is difficult to live as a person with scruples, longing always for purity, with a simple lifestyle, open, careful, and perceptive.
251. There is no fire like passion. There is no seizure like hatred. There is no snare like delusion. There is no river like craving.
252. It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's own. The faults of others you sift like a husk, but conceal your own, like a deceitful gambler conceals a bad roll of the die.
XIX. Firmly on the Way
258. A person is not skilled just because he talks a lot. Peaceful, friendly, secure - that one is called "skilled."
260-261. A person is not venerable just because his head has gray hair. His age ripened, he is called "one who has grown old in vain." But a person in whom there is truthfulness, morality, gentleness, restraint, and self-control - that person, toxins dispelled, wise, is called "venerable."
270. A person who harms living beings is not noble. By being gentle to all living beings one is called "noble."
XX. The Path
280. A person who is listless when it is time for exertion, who is young and strong, though filled with torpor, mind possessed of depressing thoughts, inactive, lethargic, does not find the path to insightful knowledge.
282. From practice springs expansive understanding; from lack of practice, its loss. Being aware of this divided pathway to cultivation and decline, conduct yourself so that understanding increases.
285. Tear out your self-regard as you would an autumn lily with your hand. Foster only the path to peace, to unbinding, taught by the one who traveled it well.
320. As an elephant in battle bears the arros shot from a bow, I will endure insult; for many people have poor self-control.
327. Delight in diligence! Watch over your mind! Pull yourself out of misfortune like an elephant, sunk in mud.
335-336. Whomever this miserable craving, this entanglement in the world, overcomes, his sorrows grow, like grass well rained upon. But whoever overcomes this miserable craving, in this world so hard to overcome, sorrow falls away from him, like a drop of water from a lotus blossom.
348. Let go of the past! Let go of the future! In the present, let go! Gone to the other shore becoming, mind released entirely, you will never again undergo birth and old age.
349. For the person who is agitated by thoughts, whose passions are severe, who searches for the pleasurable, craving grows all the more. This person makes the bondage strong.
350. The person who delights in the calming of thought, meditates on the unpleasant, constantly mindful - this one will remove, this one will cut, the bond of Mara.
XXV. The Practitioner
375. This is primary for an insightful practitioner: guarding the sense, contentment, restraint in line with the discipline, association with friends who are encouraging, who live a pure and vigorous life.
XXVI. The Superior Person
406-408. The person who is harmonious amid the hostile, peaceful amid the violent, free from grasping amid the greedy, that one I call superior. The person whose passion and aversion, pride and pretense have fallen like a mustard seed off a sharp point, that one I call superior. The person who would speak in a way that is gentle, instructive, and honest, speech with which he would offend no one, that one I call superior.
410. The person for whom there are no expectations concerning either this world or the world beyond, who is without wishing, free, that one I call superior.
418. Having renounced likes and dislikes, cooled, without a foundation for further existence, a hero who has overcome the entire world, that one I call superior.