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The Dhammapada, which literally means foot, tool, saying, or path (Pali: pada) of experience (Pali: dhamma), is a collection of sayings about the Middle Way, the Path of Awakening which leads to Nirvana and which is embodied by the Buddha, and also about its opposite, the path of unskillful living which leads to a hellish life and which is embodied by the devilish figure of Mara.

Each of us must choose which of these two paths to follow. We cannot avoid choosing: even if we do not choose, we will become subject to forces outside ourselves (media, advertisement, family, friends, enemies, lovers), and so will have chosen the path of unskillful living by default. Only by consciously choosing the Path of Awakening, and by training our minds so that everything we do is free of unhealthy desire, aversion, and delusion, can we be truly enlightened and happy.

The Dhammapada gives voice to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism: that suffering exists, that there is a cause to suffering, that suffering has an end, and that there is a means to this end, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. But the Dhammapada focuses mostly on the Noble Eightfold Path, and specifically on the choices we face, at many junctures in our lives, between two starkly contrasting possibilities. It is a message of hope that if we choose wisely, and if we choose now rather than later, we shall find relief for both our own suffering and the suffering of others.

Thus the Dhammapada is similar to other great works of life philosophy, such as Epictetus Enchiridion. Both focus on the fact that we must choose between two radically different kinds of lives. Both advocate a life of virtue and spiritual practice in order to make progress in life. Both regard training oneself to be mindfully aware of everything one does, and mindfully present at all times, as means for acquiring and exercising virtue, enlightenment and happiness.

I am not a Buddhist, yet I recognise good wisdom when I see it. This gives me a new perspective on my actual beliefs, and enhances them.

This work was recommended to me by a self improvement guru, and the Dhammapada proves that real wisdom is timeless. Dating back 2,500 years, it compares with other classic works I have read such as Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, and, of course the Bible, and more recent works such as The Prophet.

When I was reading quotations on wisdom, I was very impressed by the wisdom of Buddha. There are some common themes running through these works.

Some quotes:

The way is in the heart, not in the sky.

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Hate does not conquer hate. Only love can conquer hate, that is a universal law.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

A wise man, recognising, recognising the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering.

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

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