Dhammapada Chapter 6: Our Transitory World and Bodies


In this chapter, we look at some words the Buddha said about the world and the bodies that we inhabit ever so temporarily. We learn whether or not if either is something to rely on. Verses from two different chapters of the Dhammapada are being used here to illustrate the ties between these two topics.

Müller version — Old Age — The World

  1. How is there laughter, how is there joy, as this world is always burning? Why do you not seek a light, ye who are surrounded by darkness?
  2. This body is wasted, full of sickness, and frail; this heap of corruption breaks to pieces, life indeed ends in death.
  3. After a stronghold has been made of the bones, it is covered with flesh and blood, and there dwell in it old age and death, pride and deceit.
  4. This world is dark, few only can see here; a few only go to heaven, like birds escaped from the net.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

How can you enjoy temporary delights in a world caught in the flame of self-suffering? Why do you stay sheltered in the shadows when the light of clarity is so nearby?

Our bodies are always in some state of decline. Illness is the unwanted guest that we can keep away only for so long. A weakened state and the death’s arrival is guaranteed at the end.

Some incorrectly view their body as a fortress. But our skin and bones are unreliable guardians to keep out aging, illness, and our eventual demise. Our hardy physical frames will not protect us from our raging emotions and thoughts.

In a world where so many are locked into their own minds and emotions, few are free from self-suffering. Far fewer will live awakened here and beyond.


Many of the suggestions above may apply here as well.
1. During the week I wrote this, I listened to a wonderful talk from Dharma teacher Bill Weber on “Getting Back of the Eightfold Path”.  Play at the link

But it also deals with aging. The Gay Buddhist Fellowship talks are funny, honest, insightful, and a good use of time for any planetary resident.

2. Recognize that Old Age, Sickness and Death are just another spiritual teacher and practice.

3. Lovingkindness meditation, Dedication of Merit, and tonglen practice allows us to recognize the suffering of ourselves and others. And offer love and light to help others that are suffering from any human condition or situation.

4. One of the freeing realizations that you can have is finding out that you are not alone with your situation. So perhaps doing a meditation dwelling on the following may be liberating.

Just as I am suffering, others are also suffering. May all beings be free from suffering.

Just as I am ill, others are also ill. May all beings be free from suffering while ill

Just as I am aging, others are also aging. May all beings be free from suffering while aging.

Just as I am dying, others are also dying. May all beings be free from suffering while dying.

5. There is a saying, “pain is a given, but suffering is optional”. We will always endure some form of physical and mental pains. But how we react to them is up to us. Wishing you and yours a meaningful, full, and mindful life journey.