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.

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.