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The sayings of the Buddha
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes
Siddhartha Gautama was a 5thCentury-BC Nepalese sage who renounced his aristocratic lifestyle to teach a system of understanding which aims to bring an end to all suffering by liberation from ignorance and craving. Gautama is now known as 'The Buddha' (enlightened one), and his teachings form the basis of the non-theistic religion of some half-a-billion people.
Abridged; GH, from the 1881 translation by Friedrich Max Müller
Chapter I: The Twin-Verses
1 All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox.
2 All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.
3 "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"- in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.
5 For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.
6 The world does not know that we must all come to an end here;- but those who know it, their quarrels cease at once.
13 As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.
16 The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work.
Chapter II: On Earnestness
21 Earnestness is the path of immortality (Nirvana), thoughtlessness the path of death. Those who are in earnest do not die, those who are thoughtless are as if dead already.
25 By rousing himself, by earnestness, by restraint and control, the wise man may make for himself an island which no flood can overwhelm.
30 By earnestness did Maghavan (Indra) rise to the lordship of the gods.
Chapter III: Thought
33 As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought.
36 Let the wise man guard his thoughts, for they are difficult to perceive, very artful, and they rush wherever they list: thoughts well guarded bring happiness.
40 Knowing that this body is (fragile) like a jar, and making this thought firm like a fortress, one should attack Mara (the tempter) with the weapon of knowledge, one should watch him when conquered, and should never rest.
41 Before long, alas! this body will lie on the earth, despised, without understanding, like a useless log.
43 Not a mother, not a father will do so much, nor any other relative; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.
Chapter IV: Flowers
44 Who shall overcome this earth, and the world of Yama (the lord of the departed), and the world of the gods? Who shall find out the plainly shown path of virtue, as a clever man finds out the (right) flower?
47 Death carries off a man who is gathering flowers and whose mind is distracted, as a flood carries off a sleeping village.
58, 59. As on a heap of rubbish cast upon the highway the lily will grow full of sweet perfume and delight, thus the disciple of the truly enlightened Buddha shines forth by his knowledge among those who are like rubbish, among the people that walk in darkness.
Chapter V: The Fool
60 Long is the night to him who is awake; long is a mile to him who is tired; long is life to the foolish who do not know the true law.
63 The fool who knows his foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a fool who thinks himself wise, he is called a fool indeed.
66 Fools of little understanding have themselves for their greatest enemies, for they do evil deeds which must bear bitter fruits.
Chapter VI: The Wise Man (Pandita)
76 If you see an intelligent man who tells you where true treasures are to be found, who shows what is to be avoided, and administers reproofs, follow that wise man; it will be better, not worse, for those who follow him.
78 Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.
80 Well-makers lead the water (wherever they like); fletchers bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; wise people fashion themselves.
89 Those whose mind is well grounded in the (seven) elements of knowledge, who without clinging to anything, rejoice in freedom from attachment, whose appetites have been conquered, and who are full of light, are free (even) in this world.
Chapter VII: The Venerable (Arhat)
90 There is no suffering for him who has finished his journey, and abandoned grief, who has freed himself on all sides, and thrown off all fetters.
95 Such a one who does his duty is tolerant like the earth, like Indra's bolt; he is like a lake without mud; no new births are in store for him.
97 The man who is free from credulity, but knows the uncreated, who has cut all ties, removed all temptations, renounced all desires, he is the greatest of men.
Chapter VIII: The Thousands
100 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.
103 If one man conquer in battle a thousand times thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors.
106 If a man for a hundred years sacrifice month after month with a thousand, and if he but for one moment pay homage to a man whose soul is grounded (in true knowledge), better is that homage than sacrifice for a hundred years.
111 And he who lives a hundred years, ignorant and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is wise and reflecting.
Chapter IX: Evil
116 If a man would hasten towards the good, he should keep his thought away from evil; if a man does what is good slothfully, his mind delights in evil.
121 Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gather it little by little.
122 Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gather it little by little.
125 If a man offend a harmless, pure, and innocent person, the evil falls back upon that fool, like light dust thrown up against the wind.
126 Some people are born again; evil-doers go to hell; righteous people go to heaven; those who are free from all worldly desires attain Nirvana.
Chapter X: Punishment
129 All men tremble at punishment, all men fear death; remember that you are like unto them, and do not kill, nor cause slaughter.
131 He who seeking his own happiness punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death.
132 He who seeking his own happiness does not punish or kill beings who also long for happiness, will find happiness after death.
133 Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are spoken to will answer thee in the same way. Angry speech is painful, blows for blows will touch thee.
136 A fool does not know when he commits his evil deeds: but the wicked man burns by his own deeds, as if burnt by fire.
145 Well-makers lead the water (wherever they like); fletchers bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; good people fashion themselves.
Chapter XI: Old Age
146 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?
147 Look at this dressed-up lump, covered with wounds, joined together, sickly, full of many thoughts, which has no strength, no hold!
152 A man who has learnt little, grows old like an ox; his flesh grows, but his knowledge does not grow.
Chapter XII: Self
157 If a man hold himself dear, let him watch himself carefully; during one at least out of the three watches a wise man should be watchful.
158 Let each man direct himself first to what is proper, then let him teach others; thus a wise man will not suffer.
160 Self is the lord of self, who else could be the lord? With self well subdued, a man finds a lord such as few can find.
161 The evil done by oneself, self-begotten, self-bred, crushes the foolish, as a diamond breaks a precious stone.
162 He whose wickedness is very great brings himself down to that state where his enemy wishes him to be, as a creeper does with the tree which it surrounds.
163 Bad deeds, and deeds hurtful to ourselves, are easy to do; what is beneficial and good, that is very difficult to do.
164 The foolish man who scorns the rule of the venerable (Arahat), of the elect (Ariya), of the virtuous, and follows false doctrine, he bears fruit to his own destruction, like the fruits of the Katthaka reed.
165 By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.
Chapter XIII: The World
167 Do not follow the evil law! Do not live on in thoughtlessness! Do not follow false doctrine! Be not a friend of the world.
170 Look upon the world as a bubble, look upon it as a mirage: the king of death does not see him who thus looks down upon the world.
178 Better than sovereignty over the earth, better than going to heaven, better than lordship over all worlds, is the reward of the first step in holiness.
Chapter XIV: The Buddha (The Awakened)
180 He whom no desire with its snares and poisons can lead astray, by what track can you lead him, the Awakened, the Omniscient, the trackless?
183 Not to commit any sin, to do good, and to purify one's mind, that is the teaching of (all) the Awakened.
190 He who takes refuge with Buddha, the Law, and the Church; he who, with clear understanding, sees the four holy truths:-
191 Viz. pain, the origin of pain, the destruction of pain, and the eightfold holy way that leads to the quieting of pain;-
192 That is the safe refuge, that is the best refuge; having gone to that refuge, a man is delivered from all pain.
193 A supernatural person (a Buddha) is not easily found, he is not born everywhere. Wherever such a sage is born, that race prospers.
Chapter XV: Happiness
197 Let us live happily then, not hating those who hate us! among men who hate us let us dwell free from hatred!
202 There is no fire like passion; there is no losing throw like hatred; there is no pain like this body; there is no happiness higher than rest.
204 Health is the greatest of gifts, contentedness the best riches; trust is the best of relationships, Nirvana the highest happiness.
Chapter XVI: Pleasure
209 He who gives himself to vanity, and does not give himself to meditation, forgetting the real aim (of life) and grasping at pleasure, will in time envy him who has exerted himself in meditation.
211 Let, therefore, no man love anything; loss of the beloved is evil. Those who love nothing and hate nothing, have no fetters.
212 From pleasure comes grief, from pleasure comes fear; he who is free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear.
213 From affection comes grief, from affection comes fear; he who is free from affection knows neither grief nor fear.
214 From lust comes grief, from lust comes fear; he who is free from lust knows neither grief nor fear.
217 He who possesses virtue and intelligence, who is just, speaks the truth, and does what is his own business, him the world will hold dear.
219 Kinsmen, friends, and lovers salute a man who has been long away, and returns safe from afar.
220 In like manner his good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other;- as kinsmen receive a friend on his return.
Chapter XVII: Anger
223 Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!
231 Beware of bodily anger, and control thy body! Leave the sins of the body, and with thy body practise virtue!
Chapter XVIII: Impurity
237 Thy life has come to an end, thou art come near to death (Yama), there is no resting-place for thee on the road, and thou hast no provision for thy journey.
238 Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay.
239 Let a wise man blow off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of silver.
241 The taint of prayers is non-repetition; the taint of houses, non-repair; the taint of the body is sloth.
242 Bad conduct is the taint of woman, greediness the taint of a benefactor; tainted are all evil ways in this world and in the next.
243 But there is a taint worse than all taints,- ignorance is the greatest taint.
251 There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.
253 If a man looks after the faults of others, and is always inclined to be offended, his own passions will grow, and he is far from the destruction of passions.
Chapter XIX: The Just
256, 257. A man is not just if he carries a matter by violence; no, he who distinguishes both right and wrong, who is learned and leads others, not by violence, but by law and equity, and who is guarded by the law and intelligent, he is called just.
258 A man is not learned because he talks much; he who is patient, free from hatred and fear, he is called learned.
260 A man is not an elder because his head is grey; his age may be ripe, but he is called 'Old-in-vain.'
261 He in whom there is truth, virtue, love, restraint, moderation, he who is free from impurity and is wise, he is called an elder.
Chapter XX: The Way
273 The best of ways is the eightfold; the best of truths the four words; the best of virtues passionlessness; the best of men he who has eyes to see.
276 You yourself must make an effort. The Tathagatas (Buddhas) are only preachers.
277 'All created things perish,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way to purity.
278 'All created things are grief and pain,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.
279 'All forms are unreal,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.
283 Cut down the whole forest (of lust), not a tree only!
285 Cut out the love of self, like an autumn lotus, with thy hand!
Chapter XXI: Miscellaneous
290 If by leaving a small pleasure one sees a great pleasure, let a wise man leave the small pleasure, and look to the great.
304 Good people shine from afar, like the snowy mountains; bad people are not seen, like arrows shot by night.
Chapter XXII: The Downward Course
306 He who says what is not, goes to hell; he also who, having done a thing, says I have not done it. After death both are equal, they are men with evil deeds in the next world.
311 As a grass-blade, if badly grasped, cuts the arm, badly-practised asceticism leads to hell.
Chapter XXIII: The Elephant
320 Silently shall I endure abuse as the elephant in battle endures the arrow sent from the bow: for the world is ill-natured.
322 Mules are good, if tamed, and noble Sindhu horses, and elephants with large tusks; but he who tames himself is better still.
323 For on these animals does no man reach the untrodden country (Nirvana)
327 Be not thoughtless, watch your thoughts! Draw yourself out of the evil way, like an elephant sunk in mud.
331 If an occasion arises, friends are pleasant; enjoyment is pleasant, whatever be the cause; a good work is pleasant in the hour of death; the giving up of all grief is pleasant.
333 Pleasant is virtue lasting to old age, pleasant is a faith firmly rooted; pleasant is attainment of intelligence, pleasant is avoiding of sins.
Chapter XXIV: Thirst
334 The thirst of a thoughtless man grows like a creeper; he runs from life to life, like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest.
343 Men, driven on by thirst, run about like a snared hare; let therefore the mendicant drive out thirst, by striving after passionlessness for himself.
345 Wise people do not call that a strong fetter which is made of iron, wood, or hemp; far stronger is the care for precious stones and rings, for sons and a wife.
347 Those who are slaves to passions, run down with the stream (of desires), as a spider runs down the web which he has made himself.
348 Give up what is before, give up what is behind, give up what is in the middle, when thou goest to the other shore of existence; if thy mind is altogether free, thou wilt not again enter into birth and decay.
349 If a man is tossed about by doubts, full of strong passions, and yearning only for what is delightful, his thirst will grow more and more, and he will indeed make his fetters strong.
356 The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by passion: therefore a gift bestowed on the passionless brings great reward.
Chapter XXV: The Bhikshu (Mendicant)
360 Restraint in the eye is good, good is restraint in the ear, in the nose restraint is good, good is restraint in the tongue.
362 He who controls his hand, he who controls his feet, he who controls his speech, he who is well controlled, he who delights inwardly, who is collected, who is solitary and content, him they call Bhikshu.
382 He who, even as a young Bhikshu, applies himself to the doctrine of Buddha, brightens up this world, like the moon when free from clouds.
Chapter XXVI - The Brahmana (Arhat)
393 A man does not become a Brahmana by his platted hair, by his family, or by birth; in whom there is truth and righteousness, he is blessed, he is a Brahmana.
397 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who has cut all fetters, who never trembles, is independent and unshackled.
400 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who is free from anger, dutiful, virtuous, without appetite, who is subdued, and has received his last body.
402 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who, even here, knows the end of his suffering, has put down his burden, and is unshackled.
405 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who finds no fault with other beings, whether feeble or strong, and does not kill nor cause slaughter.
412 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who in this world is above good and evil, above the bondage of both, free from grief from sin, and from impurity.
423 Him I call indeed a Brahmana who knows his former abodes, who sees heaven and hell, has reached the end of births, is perfect in knowledge, a sage, and whose perfections are all perfect.
● Copyright © 2014 Glyn Hughes.
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