Dhammapada – Chapter 11 – Old Age

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.

Of the many renditions of the Dhammapada, 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.

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Chapter 11 – Old Age

How can there be laughter? How can there be joy when the world is ablaze with craving and clinging? Laughter and joy are hidden by the darkness of ignorance. When we realise this truth, the wise among us seek enlightenment.

You can just look at a beautiful person who has died — now a heap of bones — and see nothing lasts. Nothing.

The body wears out, a nest of disease. Fragile, disintegrating, dying. Like gourds discarded at the end of summer are these bones. What pleasure is there in looking at them?

Bones are simply a frame for our body. Flesh and blood are the glue that holds them together. Inside? Conceit, hypocrisy, decay, and death.

Everything man-made wears out. So do our bodies. But the Dharma does not change. Shining truth and lovingkindness live on while virtue builds virtue.

The ignorant grow like oxen. Their muscles grow but their wisdom does not. How many lives, how many rounds of rebirth have I experienced without finding the builder of this body, this house of suffering?

Sorrowful it is to be born again and again. But, spiritual practice matured, you will build no more houses for me, builder! The rafters of ignorance are broken, the main posts shattered. The fever of craving is past. My mind has attained the unconditional.

Those who do not lead a spiritual life in their youth will look back with regret in their old age, pining away like herons beside a fishless pond.

Not having attained the higher life of the seeker, they will lie like spent arrows that have missed their mark, bewailing a misspent past.

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