Commentaries to a Chapter of the Dhammapada
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
It is a privilege to have the chance to apply
the teachings of the Masters to each day of one’s life
The quotations in the following text are from
“The Dhammapada”, Theosophy Co. edition, Los
Angeles, 1955, 140 pages, chapter 15. The numbers
of aphorisms are indicated at the end of each quotation.
After discussing the reality of the great Sages of all
time, the Dhammapada examines the process of Happiness.
Having said that “he who pays homage to the Fearless
and Peaceful Ones” has a merit which cannot be measured
by any, the book makes an invitation to the student.
1. Develop the Power to Heal
“Let us, then, free from hate, live happily among those who hate; among men who hate let us dwell free from hate.” (197)
Hate and fear are often born as twin brothers.
However, hostilities cannot heal the bipolar disorder of fear and hate, or the other diseases of the soul. Justice, goodwill and discernment do the healing – in due time. Hard work and patience are needed.
If people around you give up reason and discernment and adhere to unbalanced feelings, you must strengthen your own common sense and the contact with your spiritual soul.
There is an effective way to help people who suffer and live in desperation; – but it does not consist in becoming a sadomasochist yourself. One must tread the path of inner contentment instead, and show the path to the sufferers, so that they can realize that there is a gradual way out of pain.
2. See Beyond Short Term Events
“Let us, then, free from the disease of longing, live happily among those who suffer that disease; among men with disease of longing let us dwell free from that disease.” (198)
What’s the meaning of being compassionate? Compassion is not the same as joining unhappiness, or partaking in the ignorance of the outward world. Solidarity is preserving wisdom and bliss, in the first place, and then bringing them into the world, as long as possible.
And happiness does not mean having one’s petty desires fulfilled. It results instead from two factors:
1) Transcending personal desire; and
2) Dwelling in the universal law of equilibrium.
3. Renounce Haste
“Let us, then, free from anxiety, live happily among those who are careworn; among the anxious, let us dwell free from anxiety.” (199)
Life organizes itself by the power of affinity. Live peace, and peace will come to you. Renounce haste, and you will have time enough. As we accept the peace of the soul, a feeling of contentment transforms existence. If you ignore hatred, hatred ignores you. Act upon the principle of universal harmony, and harmony will become available. Remember: contentment is mainly inner, not outward. The right kind of self-sacrifice, combined with wisdom, produces lasting happiness.
4. Transcend Personal Possessions
“Let us, then, live happily, we who possess nothing. Let us live like the Shining Ones nourished on joy.” (200)
Life is an open process. How long can we possess the things and circumstances we think we possess? In the long run we own nothing. To those who are aware of this fact and don’t lie to themselves by denying it, the Dhammapada makes an invitation to live happily. Life is a tree whose roots are on the sky, not on Earth. True treasures belong to the soul. Material illusions can only express our ignorance: happiness is in cherishing physical life while transcending it.
5. Be Stronger than Circumstances
“Victory breeds hatred; the vanquished dwell in suffering; but the tranquil man disregarding both victory and defeat lives happily.” (201)
External victory breeds hatred. The victory we should try to obtain is an invisible success that defeats no one.
Naïve people wish to change external circumstances so as to make them easy in the short term; and this they call “triumph”.
The Wise One knows that real victory consists in being stronger than the uncertain tides of circumstances. Aphorism 179 says: “His victory nought can undo. None of this world can undo that victory”.
The Sage works for humanity. He sows the best and does not forget that the corresponding harvest will take place in due time. He is humble in triumph and receives every defeat as a lesson in how best to prepare the next – invisible, silent – victory.
6. Accept Internal Contentment
“There is no fire like lust; no ill like hatred; there is no sorrow like personal existence; there is no peace higher than tranquility.” (202)
Pain is concentrated in the lower self or “personal existence”. Bliss and contentment belong to the higher self, and to those levels of the lower self which are in harmony with the immortal soul. There is no [outward] peace higher than [inner] tranquility.
7. Understand the Highest Bliss
“Hunger [desire] is the worst of diseases, personal existence [or living limited to the lower self] the worst of sufferings. To him who has known this truly, Nirvana is the highest bliss.” (203)
“Health is the greatest of gifts; contentment is the greatest wealth; trust is the best of relationships; Nirvana is the highest happiness.” (204)
What is the actual meaning of Nirvana? The highest contentment consists of detachment in union.
8. Live in the Realm of the Spiritual Soul
“He who has tasted the sweetness of solitude and the flavour of tranquility, he becomes free from sin and fearless, and enjoys the ambrosia of the Good Law.” (205)
Anxiety is the door to pain and the very substance of suffering. As the pilgrim renounces attachment, he gives up unhappiness. By leaving lower-self issues, we start living in the realm of higher self.
9. Practice the Art of Being Invisible
“Beneficent it is to catch sight of the Noble Ones; to live with them is continuous happiness. A man is happy if luckily he escapes the sight of fools.” (206)
Living in harmony with the Noble Ones is granted if we live in harmony with Their Philosophy of Life. While the true sages are few, their Classical Teachings are not so difficult to obtain. However, if we live in a materialistic society, it may be wise to preserve a degree of invisibility.
10. Learn from the Wise Ones
“He who consorts with fools experiences great grief. The company of fools is like company of enemies – productive of pain. Company of the wise is like meeting of real kinsfolk – it brings happiness.” (207)
Avoiding multitudes allows us to attain a more direct experience in wisdom and brotherhood.
Fools are not those who know less than us: foolishness belongs to those who do not want to learn, to those who despise truth and pretend to know all things. Every pilgrim has deep goodwill regarding those of his brothers who may be more ignorant than he is. He tries to help them, he is happy to see them learn.
“Therefore, even as the Moon follows its path among the stars, so should one follow the wise, the discerning, the learned, the steadfast one, the dutiful, the noble. One should follow such.” (208)
The practice of silently reading sacred teachings and ancient scriptures provides us with much of the company of the immortal sages, especially in its essential aspects.
It is a privilege to have the chance to apply the teachings of the Masters to each day of one’s life. This can only be done with equilibrium. One must follow the voice of his own consciousness and humbly accept his limitations, while firmly reducing failures and expanding victory.
An initial version of the above text, which has no indication as to the name of the author, is part of the July 2019 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, pages 3-6.
The article “Lasting Happiness in Eastern Wisdom” was published as an independent item at the associated websites on 31 January 2021.
Helena Blavatsky (photo) wrote these words: “Deserve, then desire”.