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Selections from The Dhammapada by Eknath Easwaran, founder and director of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, copyright 1985. Reprinted by permission of Nilgiri Press, Tomales, California. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"The Buddha says later (290), 'If a man who enjoys a lesser happiness beholds a greater one, let him leave aside the lesser to gain the greater.'"

Eknath Easwaran, 
The Dhammapada
, Part 1

The Sutras or discourses of the Buddha preserved in the Buddhist Pali canon were largely aimed at the monks and nuns of the Buddhist order. But the Dhammapada was meant for everyone. Its 423 verses are much more than wise aphorisms to be read and reflected over. They contain that part of the Buddha's teaching which can be grasped and put into practice by the greatest number of people, by following the disciplines of the Eightfold Path. Every reader knows that one book which becomes part of one's life means more than a thousand others. The Dhammapada was meant as such a book, and its method for transforming our lives is given right in the first chapter.

The title "Twin Verses" gives the cue: chapter 1 presents pairs of possibilities for human conduct, each leading to a different kind of destiny. There are ten verse pairs, and usually it is the negative possibility, the kind of conduct catering to conditioned human wants, that is presented first. Then comes the positive one, which runs contrary to human nature. The first alternative usually is easily accomplished and temporarily satisfying. The second, however, goes against the conditioning of the pleasure principle, and to implement it requires hard effort on the Eightfold Path. But in the long run, the sweet and easy way leads to more suffering; the hard way, to nirvana. The Buddha can only point the way (276); the hard choice we must make ourselves, again and again, until it becomes part of our personality.

The Buddha says later (290), "If a man who enjoys a lesser happiness beholds a greater one, let him leave aside the lesser to gain the greater." This is the "greater happiness" the second, more difficult path which will come to any human being who recognizes the choice he has in every action, even in every thought, and has the will and discrimination to choose wisely. Robert Frost's famous lines from "The Road Not Taken" provide a model for the crossroads at which every human being stands:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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