April 6, 2012 full moon

Dhammapada 13, translation and commentary

Dhammapada 13

yathagaram ducchannam
vutthi samativijjhati
evam abhavitam cittam
rago samativijjhati
Just as rain fully penetrates
A house that has been poorly roofed,
So passion fully penetrates
A mind that’s poorly developed
yathagaram succhannam
vutthi na samativijjhati
evam subhavitam cittam
rago na samativijjhati ti
Just as rain cannot penetrate
A house that has been well roofed,
So too no passion penetrates
A mind that is well developed.


The notion of developing the mind lies at the heart of the Buddhist tradition. Development (literally “causing to be”) has to do with strengthening the ability to focus, to stabilize, and to direct the mind, rather than allowing it to be carried off by whatever breezes waft in upon it from the senses or from its own unconscious. The question is whether your mind controls you or you control your mind. If your intention is to keep your attention on the breath, but it wanders off at the slightest provocation, then your ability to focus the mind is undeveloped. Yet remaining focused on a chosen object is a skill that can be learned, like any other, by practice, patient repetition, and gradual development.


In this case the skill developed is the ability to resist or deflect the influence of passion (raga), a word used more or less synonymously with desire, craving, attachment, etc. and thus the core cause of suffering. The effectiveness of a well-thatched roof (as they all were in those days) lies in its ability to deflect moisture and protect the contents of the house from getting soaked. By analogy, a well-developed mind will be aware of an unwholesome emotion that has arisen, for example, or a provocative sense input, but will allow these to roll off the mind and not penetrate into ensuing mind moments to drench the mind with clinging. A similar image often used in early Buddhist literature is of water rolling off a lotus leaf or the feathers of a duck.

When mindfulness of the body is well developed, conceptual thoughts will not penetrate; when loving kindness is well developed, aversion will not penetrate; when insight is well developed, ignorance and confusion will not penetrate. In short, when the mind is well developed, all its functions will be well shielded from the intrusion of suffering.

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Here is a brief audio file of Andrew Olendzki speaking Dhammapada 13 in Pali.

This is an image of the Pali with full diacriticals.

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