Dhammapada – Chapter 1 – Contrasting Pairs

The Dhammapada contains the solution to all our sufferings. Within this much-loved text are pearls of wisdom and nuggets of practical advice on how we can reduce and remove the suffering we cause to ourselves and others. 

Altogether there are twenty-six chapters. You will soon notice as you go through all the chapters that training the mind is the solution to end all suffering and it forms the basis of our spiritual cultivation, practice, and sadhana. From thought flows behaviour which then shapes our character. The Buddha’s fundamental teaching is that we are what we think. And all suffering comes from not knowing how to use our minds properly.

There are many renditions of the Dhammapada and I have decided to share the one from The Still Point Dhammapada by Geri Larkin. I find it to be the most relevant to the struggles we face in our complicated contemporary lives especially when we live in a city where chances are we build walls more than relationships. People matter and how we behave towards them begins with what goes on in our mind and heart. The only way out of our own suffering is actually to be inclusive. A heart big enough for all.


Chapter 1 – Contrasting Pairs aka Twin Verses

Our minds create everything. If we speak or act with an impure mind suffering is as certain as the wheel of a bike that moves when we start to pedal.

In the same way if we speak or act with a pure mind happiness will be ours – a shadow that never leaves.

“He abused me; he beat me; he defeated me; he robbed me.” If we cling to such thoughts we live in hate.

“She abused me: she beat; she defeated me; she robbed me.” If we release such thoughts our hate dissolves.

Hatred has never stopped hatred. Only love stops hatred. This is the eternal law.

So many people fail to realise that in quarreling we ourselves are destroyed.

Those who recognise this truth restrain their quarrels.

If we live our lives obsessing about pleasant things, our senses unrestrained – eating too much, being lazy – temptations will destroy us even as the wind uproots a weak tree.

On the other hand, if we are heedful, restrain our senses, keep our consumption moderate, have faith in the Dharma – and in ourselves – if we are humble and abide in our spiritual path, temptation cannot destroy us any more than the wind can overturn a mountain.

A person without integrity, who has no self-control, who cannot be truthful, is not worthy of wearing the yellow robe of a monk.

Yet one who keeps his word, who practises self-control and lives truthfully, is worthy of wearing the monk’s robe.

If we mistake the unessential for the essential and the essential for the unessential we can never realise enlightenment.

Only when we see the essential as essential and the unessential as unessential can we fall into awakeness.

Even as rain penetrates a poorly roofed house so does lust for things, people, and experiences penetrate an untrained mind. But rain cannot penetrate a well-roofed house, and desire cannot penetrate a well-trained mind.

The person who gives in to impure thoughts suffers in this lifetime and beyond. She suffers greatly when she sees the mistakes she has made.

But if she does good deeds she is joyful in this life and beyond. Seeing the purity of her deeds she rejoices greatly.

Evildoers suffer now and later. Realising that they have been evil, they suffer. Even later evildoers suffer from remorse and wave upon wave of woe.

Those who perform good deeds do not experience remorse and woe. Instead they are happy now and they are happy later – in this world and the next they know bliss.

You can recite all the sacred texts you want but if you do not act accordingly how will you benefit? Without actions we are like accountants who count the wealth of others but have little of their own. We will not share the fruits of a holy life – not ever.

Those who act from compassion and wisdom – however many holy texts they read – those who let go of greed, hatred, and delusion, those who let go of all clinging, who are able to follow the path to freedom and know peace; these are the ones who will share the fruit of the holy life.