Dhammapada 3: Mind

Translated by Ven Nārada

33. The flickering, fickle mind, 1 difficult to guard, difficult to control - the wise person straightens it as a fletcher straightens an arrow.

34. Like a fish that is drawn from its watery abode and thrown upon land, even so does this mind flutter. Hence should the realm of the passions be shunned. 2

35. The mind is hard to check, swift, flits wherever it listeth: to control it is good. A controlled mind is conducive to happiness.

36. The mind is very hard to perceive, extremely subtle, flits wherever it listeth. Let the wise person guard it; a guarded mind is conducive to happiness.

37. Faring far, wandering alone, 3 bodiless, 4 lying in a cave, 5 is the mind. Those who subdue it are freed from the bond of Māra.

38. He whose mind is not steadfast, he who knows not the true doctrine, he whose confidence wavers - the wisdom 6 of such a one will never be perfect.

39. He whose mind is not soaked (by lust) he who is not affected (by hatred), he who has transcended both good and evil 7 - for such a vigilant 8 one there is no fear.

40. Realizing that this body is (as fragile) as a jar, establishing this mind (as firm) as a (fortified) city he should attack Māra 9 with the weapon of wisdom. He should guard his conquest 10 and be without attachment. 11

41. Before long alas! this body will lie upon the ground, cast aside, devoid of consciousness, even as a useless charred log. 12

42. Whatever (harm) a foe may do to a foe, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind 13 can do one far greater (harm).

43. What neither mother, nor father, nor any other relative can do, a well-directed mind 14 does and thereby elevates one.

End Notes

1 Citta is derived from the root cit, to think. The traditional interpretation of the term is "that which is aware of an object" (cinteti = vijānāti). Actually it is not that which thinks of an object as the term implies. If it could be said "it thinks" as one says in English "it rains", it would be more in consonance with the Buddha’s teaching. From an ultimate standpoint citta may be defined as the awareness of an object, since Buddhism denies a subjective agent like a soul. According to Buddhism no distinction is made between mind and consciousness, terms which are used as equivalents for citta.

2 Pahātave is used in the sense of pahātabba = should be shunned.

3 Because no two thought moments arise at a particular time.

4 The imperceptible mind is immaterial and colourless.

5 Guhāsayaṃ - i.e., the seat of consciousness. It is clear that the Buddha has not definitely assigned a specific basis for consciousness as He had done with the other senses. It was the cardiac theory (the theory that the heart is the seat of consciousness) that prevailed in His time, and this was evidently supported by the Upanishads. The Buddha could have adopted this popular theory, but He did not commit Himself. In the Paṭṭhāna, the Book of Relations, the Buddha refers to the basis of consciousness in such indirect terms as yaṃ rūpaṃ nissāya, dependent on that material thing. What the material thing was the Buddha did not positively assert. According to the views of commentators like the Venerables Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha the seat of consciousness is the heart (hadayavatthu).

One wonders whether one is justified in presenting the cardiac theory as Buddhistic when the Buddha Himself neither rejected nor accepted this popular theory.

6 Namely: spiritual wisdom or insight.

7 The deeds of an Arahant, a perfect Saint, are neither good nor bad because he has gone beyond both good and evil. This does not mean that he is passive. He is active but his activity is selfless and is directed to help others to tread the path he has trod himself. His deeds, ordinarily accepted as good, lack creative power as regards himself in producing Kammic effects. He is not however exempt from the effects of his past actions. He accumulates no fresh kammic activities. Whatever actions he does, as an Arahant, are termed "inoperative" (kiriya), and are not regarded as Kamma. They are ethically ineffective. Understanding things as they truly are, he has finally shattered the cosmic chain of cause and effect.

8 It should not erroneously be understood that Arahants do not sleep. Whether asleep or awake they are regarded as sleepless or vigilant ones, since the five stimulating virtues - namely confidence (saddhā), energy (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (pa¬ñ¬ñā) are ever present in them.

9 The passions.

10 By conquest is here meant the newly developed insight (vipassanā).

11 For the Jhānas (absorptions or ecstasies) which the aspirant has developed. The Jhānas are highly developed mental states obtained by intensified concentration.

12 Kaḷingaraṃ, a rotten log which cannot be used for any purpose.

13 That is, the mind directed towards the ten kinds of evil - namely: 1. killing, 2. stealing, 3. sexual misconduct, 4. lying, 5. slandering, 6. harsh speech, 7. vain talk, 8. covetousness, 9. ill-will, and 10. false belief.

14 That is the mind directed towards the ten kinds of meritorious deeds (kusala) - namely: 1. generosity, 2. morality, 3. meditation, 4. reverence, 5. service, 6. transference of merit, 7. rejoicing in others’ merit, 8. hearing the doctrine, 9. expounding the doctrine, and 10. straightening one’s right views.