Dhammapada, Stanza 12

Version 1:

Having known the essential as the essential,
And the superficial as the superficial,
They attain the essential
Who are in the pastures of proper intentions.

Version 2:

But those who know
essence as essence,
and non-essence as non-,
get to the essence,
ranging about in right resolves.

Version 3:

Those who know the essential to be essential and the unessential to be unessential, dwelling in right thoughts, do arrive at the essential.


Knowing the essential as the essential is not enough – we must play in the pastures of right intentions!  But playing in the pastures of right intentions is not enough – we must know the essential as the essential!

These verses make me think of the following Japanese proverb I recently saw posted (click here) by James Ford over at Monkey Mind: Vision without action is a daydream. And, action without vision is a nightmare.

(Note: Version 1 is from the John Ross Carter and Mahinda Palihawadana translation. Version 2 is from the Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation. Version 3 is from the Acharya Buddharakkhita translation.)

3 thoughts on “Dhammapada, Stanza 12”

  1. I confess to being totally (well, near totally) baffled by this passage (in all three translations). Guess I’m dwelling in the realm of the nonessential.

    1. That’s funny – when I first read these passages I instantly thought of your comment about direction the other week. It didn’t strike me then, but it did this week.

      I have to admit to confusion too, though. Your posts this week on certainty seem relevant to all of this – here’s to watching it unfold!

      Thank you for the response…

  2. Hi Barry,
    I’m a huge fan of the Anada Maitreya version of the Dhammapada, though it’s not open source. Here’s his version of verse 12:

    On the other hand, those who correctly perceive
    The essential as the essential
    And the nonessential as nonessential
    Will, in feeding on right thoughts,
    Attain the essential.

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