Sutra Excerpts, Sutras

The Dhammapada: If One Knew Oneself to be Precious

Buddhist teachings put a lot of emphasis on compassion and caring for others, but we must also remember that that care needs to start with ourselves. This verse from the Dhammapada – one of the most popular and widely read Buddhist scriptures – reminds us that ‘oneself is one’s own protector. What other protector could there be?’.  The Dhammapada is thought to have been compiled as a succinct summary of Buddha’s teachings for laypeople not trained in reading the longer, more complex scriptures, and this excerpt comes from Gil Fronsdal’s translation.

 

Oneself

If one knew oneself to be precious,
One would guard oneself with care.
The sage will watch over herself
In any part 
Of the night. 

In first establishing himself
In what is proper
And only then teaching others,
The sage will not be stained. 

As one instructs others,
So should one do oneself:
Only the self-controlled should restrain others.
Truly, it’s hard to restrain oneself. 

Oneself, indeed, is one’s own protector.
What other protector could there be?
With self-control
One gains a protector hard to obtain. 

 By oneself alone is evil done.
Born of oneself, produced by oneself,
It grinds down those devoid of wisdom,
As a diamond grinds down a gem.

They who cover themselves with their own corrupt conduct,
Like a creeper covers a tree,
Do to themselves
What an enemy wishes for them. 

It’s easy to do what is not good
And things that harm oneself.
It’s very difficult to do
Things beneficial and good.

It’s easy to do what is not good
And things that harm oneself.
It’s very difficult to do
Things beneficial and good.

The unwise who rely on evil views
To malign the teachings of the noble arahants
Who live the Dharma
Produce fruit that destroys themselves,
Like the kathaka reed that dies upon bearing fruit. 

Evil is done by oneself alone;
By oneself is one defiled.
Evil is avoided by oneself;
By oneself alone is one purified.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself;
No one can purify another. 

Don’t give up your own welfare
For the sake of others’ welfare, however great.
Clearly know your own welfare
And be intent on the highest good.

 

Translated by Gil Fronsdal
From: The Dhammapada