01: The Mind Precedes

Estimated time to read: 3 minutes
David Bowman
Dhammapada: The Mind Precedes
David Bowman Dhammapada: The Mind Precedes

The Dhammapada – Session 01:

Thank you very much for joining us on our adventure to better understand the Classical work of the Dhammapada.  Together, we will meet every Friday at 9:00 p.m. EST on Twitch <https://www.twitch.tv.projectmindfulness> and Discord <https://discord.gg/FKWFeYq>.

Introduction:

The Dhammapada is a short treatise written by the Buddha.  In particular, this book is fascinating as its style of writing differs extraordinarily from that of the other works in the Pali Cannon.  Whereas the other works are generally discourses or excerpts from the Oral Tradition (e.g. The Buddha traveled here and spoke to so-and-so about such-and-such), this work is complete within its own nature.  Together, we’ll attempt to discover both the simplistic and deeper meanings behind the text.

Book I: Pairs:

When evaluating any system of thought, one should first evaluate the assumptions within that thought.  For the Dhammapada it’s, “The mind precedes all mental states.”  This is rather instructive as it is the mind from which all other thought stems from.  Whether mental states or physical sensations, everything is privy to the mind.  Should the mind or its perceiver be flawed in any way, then truth remains misleading.  Therefore, the Buddha begins by suggesting methods for purifying the mind, ultimately leading the practitioner to a greater understanding, and possibly the truth.  

For example, one should avoid hatred, quarrels, pursuit of pleasures, uncontrolled senses, immoderate eating, indolence, dissipation, depravity, lack of self-control and falsity.  Such individuals are not yet “worthy of the robe” and unprepared for the methodology of purification of the mind.  Although, the Buddha offers advice for those not yet worthy but eager.  He recommends truth-seeking and avoiding passion; as they corrupt the truthfulness of our experience.  Instead, he recommends, “Those who know the essential to be essential and the unessential to be unessential, dwelling in right thoughts, do arrive at the essential.”  He recommends taking action over the recitation of sacred tests; ultimate putting teachings into practice. Therefore, the Buddha begins by suggesting methods for purifying the mind, ultimately leading the practitioner to a greater understanding, and possibly the truth.  

For example, one should avoid hatred, quarrels, pursuit of pleasures, uncontrolled senses, immoderate eating, indolence, dissipation, depravity, lack of self-control and falsity.  Such individuals are not yet “worthy of the robe” and unprepared for the methodology of purification of the mind.  Although, the Buddha offers advice for those not yet worthy but eager.  He recommends truth-seeking and avoiding passion; as they corrupt the truthfulness of our experience.  Instead, he recommends, “Those who know the essential to be essential and the unessential to be unessential, dwelling in right thoughts, do arrive at the essential.”  He recommends taking action over the recitation of sacred tests; ultimate putting teachings into practice.  

Book II: Heedfulness:

Book II opens with a concept of a moral cosmology, “Heedfulness is the path to the deathless.  Heedlessness is the path to death.  The heedful die not.  The heedless are as if dead already.” The heedful listen to the wise ones and practice steadfast.  They’re energetic, mindful, pure in conduct, discerning, self-controlled, and righteous.  The heedless are foolish and ignorant; indulging on sexual pleasures and other nonsense.  Although, one can become wise through their learning and cast away heedlessness by practicing heedfulness and ascending into wisdom.  They become aware, happy and closer to Nibbana.

Conclusion: 

Mind precedes all mental states and physical sensations; therefore, to understand the truth of our perception and the world around us, we begin by purifying and understanding the mind.  To do this, we try to improve our character traits and be heedful towards the wise ones.

Suggested Readings: 

  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

Special thanks to Reddit users: /u/buddhiststuff and /u/temicco for correcting our translation and my understanding of the text in a few areas.  

David Bowman
Dhammapada: The Mind Precedes
David Bowman Dhammapada: The Mind Precedes
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David Bowman
David's teaching style is direct, clear, and to the point. With over 8 years of experience in the field of meditation, his work is both accessible as well as pragmatic. Having worked in think tanks, financial institutes, rabbinical and graduate schools, David’s personal philosophy is deeply informed by his eclectic past.

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