On Self-Mastery

Here's one of my favorite passages from The Dhammapada, the collected sayings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is popularly known as The Buddha:

A single wise word bringing peace to the listener
Is worth more than a thousand speeches
Full of empty words.

A single verse full of meaning
Bringing peace to the listener
Is worth more than a thousand verses
Full of empty words.

One may recite a hundred verses full for vain descriptions
But a single verse bringing peace to the listener
Is worth far more.

One may conquer a million men in a single battle;
However, the greatest and best warrior
Conquers himself.

Conquest of one’s self is the greatest victory of all.
Neither a god nor a heavenly musician
Nor a mischievous angel
Of the highest of the six heavenly abodes -
The Paranimmita-heaven, where sensual pleasures prevail -
Can deprive the self-vanquished, restrained person of victory.

The honor paid to the one who has achieved self-mastery
For one single instant
Is worth more than monthly offerings
Of a thousand pieces of gold.

Honoring the one who has achieved self-mastery
For one single instant
Is worth more than living in the forest,
Tending the sacred fire for a hundred years.

Making offerings for glory and recognition
Is not one-quarter as worth as honoring the upright.

Whoever shows reverence and respect for the aged
Is rewarded fourfold…
With long life, beauty, happiness and strength.

Even a single day of a life lived virtuously and meditatively,
Is worth more than a hundred years lived wantonly and
Without discipline.

A single day’s life of a wise and contemplative man
Is worth more than a hundred years lived wantonly and
Without discipline.

A single day’s life of one who puts out great effort
Is better than a life of a hundred years
Lived in idleness and sluggishness.

A single day’s life lived by a man who grasps
The impermanence of all conditioned things
Is worth more than a hundred years lived
In blindness and ignorance.

A single day’s life of one who sees the deathless state
Is worth more than a hundred years
Lived without perceiving it.

A single day’s life of one who sees the truth
Is worth more than a hundred years
Of not seeing the truth.


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Published: February 19, 2007Last updated: February 19, 2007

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