The Dhamma Pāda or the Truthful Way is one of the most popular Buddhist scriptures, and well worthy of attention. Buddhanet has a PDF version that is easy to read, and theosociety.org has a good translation. Thanissaro’s translations are more recent, and provides a new look at the Buddhist Pali scriptures. These are on his website accesstoinsight.org
I have selected some verses from the Dhamma Pada, and condensed and summarised these considerably. This is to give a very brief taste of this scripture, and Buddhist themes in general, as an introduction.
Desire or tanhā.
Chap 24 is about desire or tanhā. From verses 334, 335, 339, 343, 349, 359 :
Misdirected desire is agile like a monkey. It is strong, and ensnares us in much suffering. It invades our life like weeds that invade the vegetable garden. Misdirected desire is fed by agitation in the mind.
Verses 350, 351 : So direct the mind away from harmful desire, and so reach the Goal.
From Chap 6 verses 87, 88, 89 :
Wisdom moves from confusion to clarity, properly directs desire, let’s go of defilement to purify the mind, cultivates the spiritual Qualities, moves towards Freedom (nirvāna,) and enjoys the Silent mind.
Karma. Chapter 9 has verses about karma. This includes thought, word and deed, and includes attitudes, beliefs, habits, judgements, opinions.
From Verses 117, 118, then 121 and 122 :
Repeat helpful and wholesome karma over and over again. The unhelpful and unwholesome is not to be repeated. For the consequences of helpful and unhelpful karma accumulate over time.
123 : Wisdom will avoid unhelpful karma, like a merchant avoids paths infested by bandits.
127 : Consequences of our unhelpful karma will always pursue us.
269 : Understanding the helpful and the unhelpful brings wisdom, not just the silent mind.
281 : Be attentive to all three levels of karma : thought, word, and deed, and purify all three.
Chapter 18 is about the defilements. Verses 236, 239, 243, 248, 250, all repeat the essential theme : the need to let go of defilements, not let them take over, and thus purify heart and mind. This essential theme is repeated in many other verses too.
Verses 242, 243 : Defilements are the chief cause of our troubles, both now and in the future. Ignoring, concealing and denying them only makes them worse.
252, 253 : It’s easier to see faults in others than oneself. So do not be finding fault in others, for this will misdirect your desire.
Chapter 20 is about the spiritual Path or the Way to be Free
274, 275 : The spiritual Path leads to purity, insight and the end of suffering.
277 – 279, 281 : On it, we understand that defilements are impermanent, not our true Nature, and are suffering. We purify thought, word and deed (karma).
276 : The Buddha points the Way, and we need to make effort to follow it.
282 : Be aware of the other path that leads to suffering.