Dhammapada 1: The Twin Verses

(Yamakavaggo 1)

Translated by Ven Nārada

1. Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. 2 Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.

2. Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states. 3 Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, because of that, happiness follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves. 4

3. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.

4. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased. 5

5. Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love 6 alone they cease. This is an eternal law. 7

6. The others 8 know not that in this quarrel we perish; 9 those of them who realize it, have their quarrels calmed thereby. 10

7. Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, 11 with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Māra 12 overthrows, as the wind (overthrows) a weak tree.

8. Whoever lives contemplating "the Impurities", 13 with senses restrained, in food moderate, full of faith, 14 full of sustained energy, him Māra overthrows not, as the wind (does not overthrow) a rocky mountain. 15

9. Whoever, unstainless, without self control and truthfulness, should don the yellow robe, 16 is not worthy of it.

10. He who is purged of all stain, is well-established in morals and endowed with self-control and truthfulness, is indeed worthy of the yellow robe.

11. In the unessential they imagine the essential 17, in the essential they see the unessential — they who entertain (such) wrong thoughts 18 never realize the essence.

12. What is essential they regard as essential, what is unessential they regard as unessential — they who entertain (such) right thoughts 18a realize the essence.

13. Even as rain penetrates as ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.

14. Even as rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed 19 mind.

15. Here he grieves, 20 hereafter he grieves. 21 In both states the evil-doer grieves. He grieves, he is afflicted, perceiving the impurity of his own deeds.

16. Here he rejoices, 22 hereafter he rejoices. 23 In both states the well-doer rejoices. He rejoices, exceedingly rejoices, perceiving the purity of his own deeds. 24

17. Here he suffers, hereafter he suffers. In both states the evil-doer suffers. "Evil have I done" (thinking thus), he suffers. Furthermore, he suffers, having gone to a woeful state. 25

18. Here he is happy, hereafter he is happy. In both states the well-doer is happy. "Good have I done" (thinking thus), he is happy. Furthermore, he is happy, having gone to a blissful state.

19. Though much he recites the Sacred Texts, 26 but acts not accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts others’ kine. He has no share in the fruits 27 of the Holy Life. 28

20. Though little he recites the Sacred Texts, but acts in accordance with the teaching, forsaking lust, hatred and ignorance, truly knowing, with mind well freed, clinging to naught here and hereafter, he shares the fruits of the Holy Life.

End Notes

1 Yamaka means a pair. This Dhammapada is so named because it consists of ten pairs of parallel verses.

2 "Things are forerun by mind" -Mrs. Rhys Davids. "(The mental) natures are the result of what we have thought" -Radhakrishnan. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought" -Irving Babbit.

Dhamma is a term of many meanings. Here it is used in the sense of Kamma or Karma which denotes volition (cetanā) and the other accompanying mental states found in any particular moral or immoral type of consciousness. In this verse the term Dhamma refers to evil mental states (cetasikas). Without a mind or consciousness no such mental states arise. Hence mind is the forerunner of all good and bad mental states. Cetanā or volition is the most important of all mental states. It is this volition that constitutes Kamma, for the Buddha says — "I declare that cetanā (volition) is Kamma".

Mind precedes all actions and serves as the principal element both in performing and in assessing deeds. It is mind that rules and shapes action. Words and deeds are also produced by mind.

In this pair of parallel verses the Buddha emphasizes the great part the mind plays in man’s life, and then explains how deeds become good or evil according to the pure and impure state of the mind. Lastly He speaks of the inevitable consequences of such deeds, giving two homely illustrations.

3 In this particular verse dhamma refers to good Kamma (action).

4 These two parallel verses were uttered by the Buddha on two different occasions to show the inevitable effects of evil and good Kamma respectively.

Man reaps what he has sown in the past or in the present. What he sows now he reaps in the present or in the future at the opportune moment. Man himself is mainly responsible for his own happiness and misery. He creates his own hell and heaven. He is the architect of his own fate. What he makes he can unmake.

Buddhism teaches self-responsibility and the inevitability of the law of cause and effect. What one reaps accords with what one has sown but one is not bound to reap the effects of all that one has sown. If one were, emancipation would become an impossibility.

5 The Buddha’s constant advice to His followers is not to retaliate but to practise patience at all times, at all places, even under provocation. The Buddha extols those who bear and forbear the wrongs of others though they have the power to retaliate. In the Dhammapada itself there are many instances to show how the Buddha practised patience even when He was severely criticised, abused, and attacked. Patience is not a sign of weakness or defeatism but the unfailing strength of great men and women.

6 Avera, literally, means non-anger. Here it means the virtue opposed to the vice of anger, that is, loving-kindness (Mettā).

7 Sanantana an ancient principle followed by the Buddha and His disciples. (Commentary).

8 The quarrelsome persons.

9 Yamāmase; derived from yam, to perish, or to restrain.

10 The first line may also be rendered thus: Others do not know that here we must restrain ourselves. "The world does not know that we must all come to an end here" — Max Muller, "People do not discern that here we straitened are in life, in time" — Mrs. Rhys Davids.

11 Desiring pleasurable sensual objects.

12 According to Buddhism there are five kinds of Māras — namely: i. the five Aggregates (khandha), ii. moral and immoral activities (abhisaṅkhāra), iii. death (maccu), iv. passions (kilesa), and v. Māra the deity (devaputta). Here the term Māra is used in the sense of passions.

13 The thirty-two impurities of the body such as hair, hair of the skin, nails, teeth, skin, etc. To overcome lust, meditation on the impurities of the body is recommended.

14 Saddhā is faith in the Buddha (the Teacher), the Dhamma (the Teaching) and the Sangha (the Order), based on knowledge. There is no blind faith in Buddhism. One is not expected to accept anything on mere unreasoning faith.

15 These two verses are meant exclusively for Bhikkhus who lead the Holy Life. The first verse indicates the worldly path of sense-gratification; the second, the spiritual path of sense-control and asceticism. It should be noted that Buddhism offers one way of life to the monks and another to the laity.

16 Kasāva means stains of passion. Kāsāva means a dyed robe, the outward symbol of renunciation. Robes of monks are dyed to make them valueless. Here is a play on words. External mark of the Holy Life is of no consequence without internal purity. On another occasion the Buddha remarked that a pure person is indeed an ideal recluse or Bhikkhu, irrespective of his external apparel. See v. 142.

17 Sāra means the core or essence. Asāra are the unessentials like the necessaries of life, false beliefs, etc. Sāra are the essentials like right beliefs, (sammā diṭṭhi) morality (sīla), concentration (samādhi), wisdom (paññā), etc. The essence of the Holy Life cannot be achieved by caring for unessentials.

In the Mahā Sāropama Sutta (Majjhima Nikāya, No. 29) the Buddha has compared the leaves and branches of a tree to gain and fame, the bark to morality, the greenwood concentration, the fruits to the five kinds of super-intellect (abhiññā) and the core to Arahantship.

18 Such as lust (kāma), illwill (vyāpāda), and harmfulness (vihiṃsā).

18a Such as renunciation or non-attachment (nekkhamma), loving-kindness (avyāpāda), and harmlessness (avihiṃsā). These pure thoughts constitute the second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.

19 Bhāvitaṃ, lit., made to become, i.e., trained, cultivated, developed. Mind is trained by concentration, which leads to one-pointedness of the mind and mental purification, and by contemplation, which leads to the understanding of things as they truly are. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is achieved by these two stages of mental development. As physical exercise is to the body, so is meditation to the mind. A well-developed mind is not easily dominated by passions.

20 Repenting over his evil deeds, he suffers mentally.

21 Experiencing the effects of his evil deeds.

22 Reflecting on his good action.

23 Reaping the desirable results of his good deeds.

24 According to Buddhism the subsequent birth is determined by the thought process at the moment of death. Buddhists do not believe that the earth is the only habitable plane and that human being are the only beings. Planes are numerous and beings are innumerable. After death one may be born as a human being or in a subhuman state or in a celestial plane according to one’s actions. The so-called being in the subsequent life is neither the same as its predecessor (as it has changed) nor absolutely different (as it is the identical stream of life). Buddhism denies an identical being but affirms an identity in process.

25 Duggati is a woeful state and Sugati is a blissful state. Rebirths in all such states are temporary.

26 Sahitaṃ = saha + hitaṃ, is that which is associated with what is beneficial. Commentary states that sahitaṃ is a synonym for the Tipiṭaka, the three Baskets, taught by the Buddha, namely: Vinaya Piṭaka, the Basket of Discipline, Sutta Piṭaka, the Basket of Discourses, and Abhidhamma Piṭaka, the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine.

27 The blessings of a monk are the four stages of Sainthood — namely: Sotāpatti, Stream Winner, Sakadāgāmi, Once-Returner, Anāgāmi, Never-Returner, and Arahanta, the Worthy.

28 Sāmaññassa = lit. the state of a monk or ascetic, i.e., the Holy life. According to Buddhism learning is of no avail without actual practice.

As such Buddhism is not a mere philosophy, but a unique Path of Enlightenment.