Dhammapada Chapter 12: The Path to Skillful Understanding

Introduction

The seventeen verses of the Dhammapada chapter named ‘The Way’ cover some of the most profound teachings in just a few words.Müller versionhttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0020

  1. `All created things perish,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way to purity.
  2. `All created things are grief and pain,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.
  3. `All forms are unreal,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

All sentient beings are born, grow old, and soon pass away. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

All sentient beings experience sorrow and discomfort. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

All things exist because of prior causes/conditions. We fail to perceive their true essence correctly. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

Practice

    1. Old age, sickness, and death is a practice that we along with others have or soon will experience. Can we learn its lessons without having emotional and mental preconceptions? Can we treat others experiencing the same thing with compassion? Or will we push them away in disgust?
    2. The teachings in the later Dhammapada chapters have transitioned from discussing individual moments to seeing things as part of an unending cycle. Even if rebirth does not occur, there are many transformations in just one lifetime for better or worst.

    The concept of Samsara is used to explain this phenomenon of ongoing suffering and rebirth. You can look at it one of two ways.  It can viewed as a process that is so impersonal, cruel, and repetitive. Or it can be seen as a wakeup call in this life. “I need to break the pattern today. By meditating on alleviating the suffering of others, so I begin to reduce my own. I need to think just as I grow old, age, and die, so do all others that share this life. May all of us be truly free of this cycle of suffering and live liberated lives.”

    1. If these teachings resonate with you, then take the time to understand how the Buddha and his followers

    – view the self

    – view objects

    – view this world

    – view our lives

    – view what the concept of nothingness is and is not.

    Some teachings may appear to be contradictory, or too broad or unclear to take in one sitting. Ingest the lessons in small bites. Reflect. Place into action. See what works or not. Read, listen, or watch other Buddhist teachers on the same topic. Repeat as often as needed. And a light of clarity should begin to grow within you.

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