Buddha and Buddhism
One of the greatest literary works of early Buddhism is the Dhammapada, which was placed among the smaller sayings in the first basket of sutras although it contains 423 stanzas in 26 chapters. Put together from highlights of Buddha's ethical teachings it was in existence by the time of Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC. It begins with the idea that we are the result of our thoughts, impure or pure.
Those who harbor resentful thoughts toward others, believing they were insulted, hurt, defeated, or cheated, will suffer from hatred, because hate never conquers hatred. Yet hate is conquered by love, which is an eternal law. Those who live for pleasures with uncontrolled senses will be overthrown by temptation. Those who cleanse themselves from impurity, grounded in virtues, possessing self-control and truth are worthy of the yellow robe. Those who imagine truth in untruth and see untruth in truth follow vain desires.
Passion enters an unreflecting mind like rain comes into a badly roofed house. Wrong-doers suffer and grieve in this world and the next, but the virtuous find joy and happiness in both. The second chapter is on awareness and begins:
Awareness is the path of immortality;
thoughtlessness is the path of death.
Those who are aware do not die.
The thoughtless are as if dead already.
The wise having clearly understood this delight in awareness
and find joy in the knowledge of the noble ones.
These wise ones, meditative, persevering,
always using strong effort,
attain nirvana, the supreme peace and happiness.5
It is good to control the mind, but thought is difficult to guard and restrain. Yet a tamed mind brings happiness. A wise person, who shows you your faults, may be followed as though to hidden treasures. The wise, who teach, admonish, and forbid the wrong, will be loved by the good and hated by the bad. The wise mold themselves, as engineers of canals guide water and carpenters shape wood. The path of those who have stilled their passions and are indifferent to pleasure, perceiving release and unconditional freedom, is difficult to understand like that of birds in the sky.
Whoever conquers oneself is greater than the person who conquers in battle a thousand times a thousand people. In regard to punishment this text warns that those who inflict pain on others will not find happiness after death. Self is the master of the self, and a person who is self-controlled finds a master few can find. By oneself wrong is done and suffered, and by oneself one is purified.
In regard to the world the Buddha recommended not following a bad law any more than a wrong idea or thoughtlessness. He advised us not to be attached to the world but to follow the path of virtue, for the world is like a bubble or mirage. Most of the world is blind, but the wise are led out of it by conquering temptation. The teaching of the awakened ones is not to blame nor strike, but to live alone and restrained under the law, moderate in eating, and practicing the highest consciousness.
Joy is the natural state for those who do not hate those who hate them. Craving is the worst disease and disharmony the greatest sorrow. Health and contentment are the greatest wealth, trusting the best relationship, and nirvana the highest joy. Grief comes from pleasure, attachment, greed, lust, and craving. Anger may be overcome by love, wrong by good, avarice by generosity, and a liar by truth. The wise hurt no one and always control their bodies.
There is no fire like lust, no chain like hate;
there is no snare like folly, no torrent like craving.
The faults of others are easy to see;
our own are difficult to see.
A person winnows others' faults like chaff,
but hides one's own faults,
like a cheater hides bad dice.
If a person is concerned about the faults of others
and is always inclined to be offended,
one's own faults grow
and one is far from removing faults.6
Anyone who tries to settle a matter by violence is not just. The wise consider calmly what is right and wrong, proceeding in a way that is nonviolent and fair. For the Buddhist one is not noble because of injuring living beings; rather one is noble, because one does not injure living beings. Whoever realizes that all created things suffer, perish, and are unreal transcends pain. There is no meditation without wisdom and no wisdom without meditation, for in meditating one becomes wise; but in not meditating wisdom is lost. Whoever has wisdom and meditation is close to nirvana.
Lift up your self by yourself;
examine your self by yourself.
Thus self-protected and attentive
you will live joyfully, mendicant.
For self is the master of self;
self is the refuge of self.
Therefore tame yourself,
like a merchant tames a noble horse.
Joyful and faithful in the doctrine of the Buddha,
the mendicant finds peace,
the joy of ending natural existence.7
No one should hurt a holy one, but no holy one should strike back. The sooner the wish to injure disappears, the sooner all suffering will stop. The holy are free of all attachment, anger, and lust. Though having committed no offense the holy bear reproach, ill treatment, and imprisonment. They are tolerant with the intolerant, peaceful with the violent, and free from greed among the greedy, speaking true words that are useful and not harsh. The holy call nothing their own, letting go of attachment to humans and rising above attachment to the gods. Eventually a holy one knows one's former lives, perceives heaven and hell, and reaches the end of births, having attained perfection.