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Dhammapada: Chapter 1 commentary

Discussion in 'Religious Books and Scriptures' started by Xavier Graham, Sep 30, 2022.

  1. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    Introduction

    I've started memorizing the Dhammapada. It is a Buddhist text. It is a sermon from the Buddha himself.

    With each chapter I memorize i would like to post my personal commentary on the verses. Nothing scholarly from me, just the scripture viewed through my lens. When I practice memorizing, I spend time meditating on them simultaneously. Not that I have anything special to say on the book.

    As I have the first chapter memorized, I will begin this thread.

    Feel free to add your own comments.

    Chapter 1: Twin Verses

    (1)1 All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.

    Quite a thought expanding opening sentence! Every moment in time we think. Every moment we are adding a layer to our selves, for better or worse.

    You do reap what you sow. Negativity always yields pain.
     
    #1 Xavier Graham, Sep 30, 2022
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2022
  2. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    Dhammapada 1 really needs to be considered in pairs:

    Dhammapada 1:1 & 2

    1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

    2. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
    An impure mind (tainted by the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion) leads to suffering.
    A pure mind (untainted by the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion) leads to happiness.

    The wheel reminds me of the cause and effect of karma.
    The shadow reminds me of the purified unconscious mind.
     
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  3. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (2)2 All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.

    It is both simple and difficult to have this shadow. We have the power to act pure at any moment, yet I don't always. Acting positively creates positive vibes and draws good people to you, bringing happiness.

    A pure thought is a thought with no selfish intention. It is a selfless thought.
     
  4. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (3)3 "She abused me, he beat me, she defeated me, he robbed me": in those who harbor such thoughts, hatred will never cease.

    Hard to digest. I've been abused, defeated, and robbed. Should I forget the abuse I receive? Is it truly hatred to harbor these thoughts? One processes abuse in different ways. It is hard to forget for some. Yet there is a willingness in me to hold on to the negative past and feed the flame in my mind that results in the hatred.
     
  5. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    See verse 1:1
    Dwelling on it only prolongs the suffering. Instead, process the hurt, embrace it, feel it, know it, understand it, let it pass, then move on, keeping what you have learned handy for the future instead of dwelling on the past.
     
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  6. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (4)4 "She abused me, he beat me, she defeated me, he robbed me": In those who do not harbor such thoughts, hatred will cease.

    Liberating words. A simple solution to a complex problem.

    Is forgiveness the same as not harboring these thoughts? I don't know. But I know a life full of hatred to those who wronged you is terrible.

    To be free from the hatred is definitely work. For some, they may be able to let go of these thoughts quite easily. But not all. I have to constantly catch myself harboring these thoughts and stopping them. A life without hatred is more valuable than holding on to these thoughts, I must not forget.
     
  7. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (5)5 For never does hatred cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases by love. This is an eternal law.

    Law as in dharma.

    This week at work, I forgave on old friend. We were best friends in high school, and roommates and coworkers after high school. Life happened and I filled my heart full of hate towards my former friends. Hatred drives a man to do terrible things.

    I landed a new job this past year and he happened to be my coworker again. I was cold with him and super friendly with absolutely everyone else, it made me sad. But I held onto my anger.

    However, meditating on these words, I have found it in my heart to forgive.

    So I went to him, reaffirmed that we were once the best of friends. We talked for a little. As I decided to peacefully approach and talk to him, my feelings of hate went away. When he talked, I instantly remembered the feeling of our brotherhood and friendship. The love we had for each other. It is better I have love for this man, than hate. Such an experience born out of love makes a grown man weep after.

    Since I acted out of love and made peace, my hate for him is gone. It is true what the Buddha says. The hatred in my heart was continually fed, until I quelled that flame with love.
     
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  8. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (6)6 Everyone in this world does not know that we must all come to end here, but those who do know, their quarrels cease at once.

    This is the verse from this chapter that befuddles me the most.

    Perhaps wise ones can see the bigger picture. One who is on the path towards enlightenment has a singular focus. They are not troubled by this world as they are above this world.
     
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  9. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist

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    Yes, I think you're correct. To say it another way, those who know thei end is here have no reason to quarrel?
     
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  10. The Sum of Awe

    The Sum of Awe Brought to you by the moment that spacetime began.

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    That's pretty much how I read it. Did the Buddha just say "YOLO, there ain't no time for hate"?

    Interesting thread, Xavier. I think I will buy a copy of this myself next week and read it myself, hope to see more of your commentary.
     
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  11. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    There are not 72 virgins waiting for you in the afterlife as a reward for committing evil acts. Hatred does not end hatred. Put an end to the hatred now so you can enjoy the benefits of a hate-free life, as per verses 1 & 2.
     
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  12. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (7)7 One who lives looking for pleasures only - uncontrolled sensually, immoderate in diet, idle, and weak - this one Mara will surely overthrow , as the wind blows down a feeble tree.

    Mara ("destroyer, death causer") is an evil tempter, a supernatural being carried over from Hindu to Buddhist cosmology. He appeared mentally to the Buddha during his enlightenment and tried to thwart it. Mara represents bondage to the phenomal world of pleasure and pain. He is the "death causer" because it is only due to this bondage that one experiences death.

    Uncontrolled sensually
    I have witnessed and personally experienced what uncontrolled sensuality does.
    How does it lead to death? For many humans, sex is the ultimate desire. Unrestrained sexual behavior will bind you to the cycle of death. The reason is due to it's extreme emotional stimulation. This stimulation is like a spiders web and we are the fly. Mara keeps us through this stimulation.
    Practically, lust can and will occupy the thinking parts of your brain, both in your conscious and subconscious thoughts. This lens you now have will delude you. Your priorities will calibrate you towards misfortune. You lose sight of and can no longer prioritize the ultimate goal: nirvana.
    Also, sexual satisfaction becomes so much harder to attain once you start the path of unrestrained sexual behavior. This slippery slope leads you to have an inability to experience your sensuality in a healthy manner. Without a healthy outlet, sensual desire will be that much harder to control.

    Immoderate in diet
    Viewing this in the most literal sense, an unhealthy diet will lead you to death. I eat unhealthy all the time and never eat healthy. This quite literally pumps toxins into my brain rather than healthy stuff, which effects the ability to think. Being unhealthy affects your brain matter, and your brain is what leads you to enlightenment. Your brain is an extremely advanced receiver, and enlightenment requires you to find the right frequency. With an unhealthy diet, you are throwing the radio around in the dirt. Also, the reduced lifespan shortens the time you have to free yourself from Mara's bondage, and time is a person's most valuable resource.

    Idle
    Like immoderate in diet, this could be viewed in a literal sense. If you are idle all the time, it is unhealthy. Someone who walks everyday will outlive someone who doesn't.
    If you mind is idle, this will lead to spiritual death. Mara occupies the unused portions of your brain. You have to use your brain actively in order to guard it from Mara. Failing to do so will allow Mara to guide you in whichever direction, all leading away from enlightenment.

    Weak
    Again, from a literal point of view, being physically weak will lead to an early death.
    Being weak minded will lead to spiritual death. Willpower is a prerequisite to enlightenment. Forsaking our free will through lack of will power makes us forfeit the right to spiritual benefits. Drifting in whichever direction life pushes them, such a person never arises above their circumstances. Their circumstances dictate them and their thoughts.

    It does not take a strong wind to blow down a feeble tree.
     
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  13. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (8)8 One who does not live looking for pleasures only - well controlled sensually, moderate in diet, diligent, and strong - this one Mara will surely not overthrow, anymore than the wind blows down a mountain of stone.

    Well controlled sensually

    Sex can be the most powerful motivating force in ones life. Sex is not inherently bad; this is apparent because it is through sex that the human species propagates. If one can learn how to beneficially experience sensuality, that probably means they have a partner who is healthy for them. The path towards nirvana is easier to traverse when your partner has a like mind. Two minds are better than one. Learning how to control your sensuality does not mean abstaining from it. Rather, it implies that you have a partner is which you are of single mind with. Understand the potency of such a relationship. Lust has no part in such a relationship.

    Moderate in diet
    It is no wonder that the religious philosophies of the world emphasize good health. Like with strong, this emphasis on physical health should not be lost on us. Being healthy not only extends our lifespan but it improves our quality of life while we are here. This improvement of quality is no trivial thing; rather, it is quite encompassing. For example, if one drinks only water as opposed to soda, their emotional state will be more balanced because there won't be chemical imbalances caused by the choice of beverage. A clear emotional state is useful for spiritual practice. Eating unhealthy is like setting up traps in front of us while we travel the good path.
    Another way to look at this is to consider vegetarianism and veganism. Eating meat causes negative karma. The process of turning a live cow into hamburger steak on your plate is a violent one. It is a testament of self control to abstain from meat. Being moderate in this way reduces the negative energy you produce and the overall negative energy in the world. Good vibes will shield you from Mara.

    Diligent
    Be diligent when it comes to your responsibilities.
    Be diligent about traveling the good path. Read, meditate, pray, and exercise regularly. Don't fall into laziness.

    Strong
    Being physically strong is healthy. A smoker will have a physically weaker heart than a non smoker.
    Being strong minded is the stalwart against Mara. You reinforce your mind with spiritual practice and selfless service. Having a strong will, you can change the world. Often times, in the face of failure, if one only had the courage to take a step further, they would realize that their "failure" was life's way of telling them to reevaluate the course of action. You must be strong enough to never fail. Such a feat is possible, to be above failure. Whatever you set your mind to you can achieve.
     
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  14. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist

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    This is my current challenge. As I have become more disspassionate/moderate which is a good thing, it's difficult for me to get motivated towards action. Plus, the couch is so cozy :)

    Anyway, thanks again for working on this. Hopefully there will be more guidance on laziness.
     
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  15. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    See "Right Effort" of the Eightfold Path.
     
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  16. The Sum of Awe

    The Sum of Awe Brought to you by the moment that spacetime began.

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    Can I ask which translation or specific Dhammapada version you have?
     
  17. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    Translation by Max Muller :)
     
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  18. The Sum of Awe

    The Sum of Awe Brought to you by the moment that spacetime began.

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    This is all actually happening. What the heck???
    Thank you! I just bought a copy :D
     
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  19. The Sum of Awe

    The Sum of Awe Brought to you by the moment that spacetime began.

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    I would like to contribute, if that's okay. (anyone can expand on my own interpretations)

    (9) He who wishes to put on the yellow dress without having cleansed himself from sin, who disregards temperance and truth, is unworthy of the yellow dress.



    (10) But he who has cleansed himself from sin, is well grounded in all virtues, and regards also temperance and truth, he is indeed worthy of the yellow dress.

    Yellow dress is what a monk wears, a follower of Buddhist monasticism. One who has not cleansed themselves of sin, who has no control over themselves and doesn't care for the truth, is not a monk - and also is likely to be blown by the winds of Mara.
     
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  20. Xavier Graham

    Xavier Graham Your local anarchist. God is Love is Love is Love

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    (9)9
    One who wishes to don the saffron robe while still impure, intemperate, and untruthful is unworthy to do so.

    We will see at the end of the chapter the standards and rebuke the Buddha has for the layman, which is perhaps more rigorous than the standards and rebuke the Buddha has for the aspiring monk.

    Impure
    Purity, or the lack of it, is all encompassing. Actions and thoughts that you make that create negative karma taints you. Negative thoughts lead to negative action, which leads to impurity. Negative thoughts alone also creates an impure spirit. A negative person radiates negativity. Such a person has no foundation in which they can even begin spiritual practice, let alone be a monk.

    intemperate
    It is important to be in control of your emotions, or else your emotions will be in control of you. Intemperance is a sign that one lacks self control. Intemperance can lead to lustful actions, anger, indifference, and feelings of depression. A person not in control of their emotions can never reach enlightenment, as they will have emotional attachment to their thoughts and actions.

    untruthful
    It is important to be honest with others, but also it is important to be honest with yourself. A person who is not honest with themselves will repeat a lie in their head until it is real enough to be comfortable with. Such a lie can be “I am a holy man”. An unholy man who thinks himself as holy is most untruthful with himself. If one cannot recognize their own impurities, how can they progress to work on the purities of the world, which is a natural result of spiritual practice?
     
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