Dhammapada verses 167-169

Do not follow an inferior way;
Don’t live with negligence.
Do not follow a wrong view;
Don’t be engrossed in the world.

Rouse yourself! Don’t be negligent!
Live the Dharma, a life of good conduct.
One who lives the Dharma is happy
In this world and the next.

Live the Dharma, a life of good conduct.
Don’t live a life of bad conduct.
One who lives the Dharma is happy
In this world and the next. (translated by Gil Fronsdal)

These are the opening verses of a chapter called The World, and they present us with a choice between living a negligent life and living the Dharma. In particular, the idea of being “engrossed in the world” implies that we don’t understand that there is an alternative to using only the physical world, and our likes and dislikes in that context, as our guide. Unless we meet with the Dharma (in some form) and are open to hearing this alternative perspective, we will be “negligent”.

What would “living the Dharma life” look like? There’s no way to tell what framework people are working from unless we observe them over a long period of time and in different situations. While their exteriors may vary wildly, people who are living the Dharma are essentially living with Right Intention, as described in the Buddha’s eightfold path. What are right intentions?

    1. Intention of renunciation (generous, limiting our greed)
    2. Intention of good will (countering attitudes of anger or hatred)
    3. Intention of harmlessness (substituting kind/compassionate words or deeds for cruel ones)

Do we recognize these intentions in ourselves? Can we think of a recent example from our own lives when we let go of a greedy intention, not because it was frustrated but because we could see that it would be better that way, for ourselves and others?

Have we purposely spoken kindly to someone who usually irritates us? Can we reliably call up kind or compassionate motivations when we’re presented with a situation that upsets us? Do we intentionally remind ourselves that it is preferable to speak and act kindly (or at least respectfully) to others, and and also to ourselves?

If we don’t undertake these intentions as a practice, it’s quite likely that we’ll be swept away with selfish concerns. The path of the Dharma, in this case the Buddha’s eightfold path, requires turning away from the seduction of being primarily or exclusively concerned with ourselves. Most of the cultures we live in promote making oneself happy, spoiling oneself, getting the “best life has to offer” for ourselves. It’s the objective of a commercial world to make us all rabid consumers rather than virtuous or patient. Have we deliberately chosen one path or the other?

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Causes and results, Dhammapada, Karma, Mindfulness, The 8-fold path and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dhammapada verses 167-169

  1. Ted Conwell says:

    Dear Lynn; this passage was quite meaningful to me for this reason. During maybe the first couple years of last (US) administration, I would get angry at the president for what he said and did. Often I would yell at the television or radio when I saw/heard something that he did which I didn’t like. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t following the Dharma. After some thought, I decided that I needed to have compassion for the man because it was obvious that he wasn’t a happy or healthy person. Throughout the rest of the administration, I followed that path, and I was more content for it. Thank you for the teaching, Lynn. With much metta, Ted

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