The Dhammapada is one of the best known and best loved Buddhist texts, a sequence of verses traditionally said to have been spoken by the Buddha himself to help people on the path to liberation. In her version for Penguin Classics, Valerie J Roebuck seeks to translate the Pali into modern English verse that will keep the beauty and clarity of the original.

A New Year Resolution?

Posted on: December 31st, 2011 by admin 2 Comments


Whatever an enemy can do to an enemy,
Or a rival to a rival,
A wrongly directed mind
Will do worse to you than that.

What mother or father cannot do,
Or any other kin,
A rightly directed mind
Will do better for you than that.

Dhammapada 42-3

These are some of my favourite verses from the Dhammapada, though in their apparent simplicity they are particularly difficult to translate. (The original Pali is given below.)

The verses are not downplaying the power of what family or friends can do for you, or the harm that an enemy can cause. Indeed, they are addressing a society in which there was little social help of any kind, and people were far more dependent on their families for everything than they tend to be today. And this of course was in addition to what mothers and fathers do in every society: giving life, feeding, nurturing, educating and so on. Even so, the verse says, there is something that no one else can do for you, however much they love you, and that is to free you from suffering. Only a well-directed mind can do that.

The turn of the year is a traditional time to make resolutions. Often we make resolutions and break them very quickly, because we are trying to force ourselves to become completely different people all at once. Such forcing rarely works, at least for very long. So my suggestion for a New Year’s resolution is that we should try to follow the advice given in these verses and direct our minds rightly – in the direction of freedom. We can try to bring a bit more awareness into our lives, in everyday actions as well as in any form of meditation we may do. Then gradually we will find our way to freedom, something that no friend can give us and no enemy can take away.

Wishing you a very happy and peaceful New Year for 2012. – Valerie

diso disaṃ yan taṃ kayirā verī vā pana verinaṃ
micchāpaṇihitaṃ cittaṃ pāpiyo naṃ tato kare.

na taṃ mātā pitā kayirā aññe vāpi ca ñātakā
sammāpaṇihitaṃ cittaṃ seyyaso naṃ tato kare.

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2 Responses

  1. Oxana says:

    Well said, well said indeed! Toward freedom we go!

  2. Lynww says:

    Excellent verses, beautifully translated – and sublimely relevant, to me, and presumably to all with whirling or fixated minds.

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