Dhammapada Chapter 3: The Thousands


Two of the sixteen verses in the chapter are presented below. There is currently no Wikisource translation. I tried to do a paraphrase that included more of the intent behind the words based on other Buddhist teachings.

Müller version

  1. Even though a speech be a thousand (of words), but made up of senseless words, one word of sense is better, which if a man hears, he becomes quiet.
  2. If one man conquer in battle a thousand times thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

During each day, we can hear thoughtless and harmful words in our conversations from ourselves and others. Our lives involve confronting clear falsehoods, disruptive vocabularies, hateful speech, and meaningless gossip. Far better is to hear just one word supportive of others, loving in nature, and offering a welcome sense of calm. On encountering this, the mind becomes more silent.

A general winning hard-fought battle after battle pales in stature next to one that has vanquished the greatest foe, their own mind.


There are many places to check what the Buddha said on Right Speech. This includes but is not limited to: — Right Speech— Satipatthana Suta (Foundations of Mindfulness)

What has worked for me is the following:

  1. Before speaking, observe what is driving the need to communicate:

– Is it coming from a place of feeling threatened, hurt, or wanting to heal and help?

– Am I thinking this because I am mentally and physically exhausted? Do I  need to instead sleep, drink, or eat?

– Am I trying to make myself look clever, funny, and the like?

– Do I have an urgent need to share news about a certain situation or  someone?

– Do I want to control or take possession of someone/something?

– Am I sure of the facts in what I am saying?

– Is this a result of my socio-economic/identity worldview?

Once I understand the motivation of the need to discuss, does it grow or  get weaker? Typically, the latter is the case.

Sometimes I start writing something. And on completion, I delete it or look at it again the next day. Then more or not delete/rewrite it.

In doing this, a sense of spaciousness grows over time and one becomes more reactive.

  1. By making our primary aim to help and support others rather than breeding an adversarial relationship, the motivations of our talking or writing changes. One starts to listen more and appreciate others’ viewpoint. They will start to think more in terms of ‘We’ instead of ‘I’.
  2. Monitoring our thoughts even before it bubbles up to words can be a useful tool in vetting our desire to pass on our inner conversations.
  3. If you do need to speak or write, do we make sure that it is a right time in the conversation? Because timing can make a big difference.
  4. Offer thoughts and actions of appreciation, gratitude, giving and love often. It will achieve more than a multitude of ego-driven equivalents.
  5. Many of us are afraid to have silence. But sometimes a pause in a discussion can help all to calm down, reflect, and determine what really needs to be said.