Dhammapada – Chapter 18 – Impurity

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.


Chapter 18 – Impurity

Before you know it you’ll be like a withered leaf close to falling from the tree of life. How have you prepared yourself for the journey?

Be your own island. Work diligently. Become wise. Free of flaws and passions you will enter the heavenly realms.

Your life is closing in on its end. Death’s presence is at your door. There is no place to rest. How have you prepared yourself for the journey?

Be your own island. Do your spiritual work! Become wise! Free of flaws and passions you will be free from the cycle of birth and death. The wise woman removes her flaws little by little, one by one, in the same way that a good silversmith removes the impurities from silver.

Just as rust, once started, corrodes iron, unskilful deeds and violations of moral law destroy us slowly but surely. Not reciting scriptures leads to rusty understanding. Not taking care of our homes leads to their falling apart. Laziness destroys beauty and heedlessness rots our meditation.

Adultery destroys marriages and greediness rusts generosity. Bad qualities are stains that taint us, not only in this world but in the next one as well.

The worst stain is ignorance. Abandon this. I beg you. Life is so easy for someone who has no shame, who is impudent as a crow, who is a gossip, vain, intrusive, and corrupt.

Life is hard for people who quietly decide to follow the Dharma and seek purity. Life is hard for people who are cheerful without bragging, live cleanly, and practice moderation.

The person who destroys the lives of other people, speaks falsehood, takes what is offered, commits adultery, is addicted to drugs or alcohol — this person harms herself deeply. She is digging up her own roots even now.

Remember this, friend: People who have no control over themselves harm themselves and others. Do not let anger, greed, and wickedness drag you down with their false promises.

People are generous for different reasons and in different ways. Finding fault with someone else’s generosity will only cause you to lose your own peace of mind.

The ones who have given up the habit of finding fault in others will know peace, day and night.

There is no fire like desire, no vice like hatred, no trap like delusion, no undertow like craving.

It is easy to see others’ faults, and so hard to see our own. We expose the flaws of others quickly and easily and then hide our own like a person who cheats on a losing throw.

Those who look for others’ faults and are quick to take offense only multiply their own wrongdoing. Watching for others’ faults only pushes us farther and farther away from the destruction of our own impurities.

There are no footsteps in the sky, and saints have no signs. Yet most people want both footsteps and signs. They delight in them. Meanwhile, the enlightened ones transcend both. No footsteps. No signs.

The one who has given up the habit of finding fault in others will know peace, day and night.