The Dhammapada translated by Gil Fronsdal, 2005

Neither mother nor father,

Nor any other relative can do

One as much good

As one’s own well-directed mind (43)

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The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings attributed to Buddha.  It is one of the most popular Buddhist religious texts.  Each saying is arranged like a small poem, and though the verses are related, there is no direct connection between them, and—as far as I can tell—reading them in a random order would be fine.

There are a few central points made in the text: the mind is the arbiter of experience; everything is impermanent; attachment leads to suffering; it is very, very good to become enlightened.  There is little discussion of the steps one might take to see the truth of impermanence or not-self, and even less about the concrete steps to enlightenment (presumably covered in other Buddhist texts).

Many of the verses are redundant, obsessed with the fact that enlightenment is superior to ignorance: by becoming enlightened and surrendering attachments, one becomes free from suffering.  Freedom from suffering and eternal rebirth is vastly superior to eternal rebirth and the suffering it entails.

Although I wish similar verses could have been combined or eliminated, there were many useful verses (quoted below).  It was also interesting to see prohibitions against violence, lying, and sexual misconduct, as in other texts from other religions.  The Dhammapada is also very focused on the behaviors of the reader—with little mention of god or particular religious figures.  Enlightened people are seen as examples, but not as messiahs.  The individual is responsible for their own pursuit of enlightenment.  Minds can only be truly changed from the inside.  It was also notable how this book contained no violence.

I would be interested in reading more about the Buddhist prescription for how to actually make progress toward enlightenment described in specific steps; essentially a self-help book.  I’ve read about meditation and attended meditation retreats, but looking at the primary sources would also be interesting.

Ideas per Page:1 3/10 (low)

Related Books: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Recommend to Others: Only with pre-existing interest

Reread Personally:  No, read quotes below, then read other related books


…the overall message is not to avoid the world, but rather to avoid being attached.  XXIX

Note: I am going to use the verse number (instead of the page number) to identify the quotes taken from the text, as you might with bible verses

Do not consider the faults of others

Or what they have or haven’t done.

Consider rather

What you yourself have or haven’t done.  (50)


A fool suffers, thinking,

“I have children! I have wealth!”

One’s self is not even one’s own.

How then are children? How then is wealth? (62)


Better than one hundred years lived

Without seeing the arising and passing of things

Is one day lived

Seeing their arising and passing. (113)


Having done something meritorious,

Repeat it,

Wish for it:

Merit piled up brings happiness.  (118)


Oneself, indeed, is one’s own protector.

What other protector could there be?

With self-control

One gains a protector hard to obtain.  (160)


Don’t give up you own welfare

For the sake of others’ welfare, however great.

Clearly know your own welfare

And be intent on the highest good.  (166)


Ah, so happily we live,

We who have no attachments.

We shall feast on joy,

As do the Radiant Gods.  (200)


Health is the foremost possession,

Contentment, the foremost wealth,

Trust, the foremost kinship,

And Nirvana, the foremost happiness.  (204)


Therefore, do not turn anything

Into something longed for,

For then it’s dreadful to lose.

Without longing or dislike,

No bonds exist.  (211)


“All created things are impermanent.”

Seeing this with insight,

One becomes disenchanted with suffering.

This is the path to purity.  (277)


“All things are not-self.”

Seeing this with insight,

One becomes disenchanted with suffering.

This is the path to purity.  (278)


As long as even the slightest underbrush of desire

Between man and woman is not cut away,

For that long, the mind is bound

Like a suckling calf is to its mother.  (284)


If, by giving up a lesser happiness,

One could experience greater happiness,

A wise person would renounce the lesser

To behold the greater.  (290)


Just as a felled tree grows again

If the roots are unharmed and strong,

So suffering sprouts again and again

Until the tendency to crave is rooted out.  (338)

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.





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