Curriculum Lectionary
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GilgameshGenesisBiblical prophetsGospelsQur'anRumi and Kabir
Bhagavad GitaUpanishadsDhammapadaHeart and Lotus SutrasTao Te ChingAnalects


Training the MindThe House of ImpermanenceThe Fetter of DesireJoy Like the Bright Gods

Dhammapada/Training the Mind

Meditation and Reading taken from The Dhammapada, trans by Eknath Easwaran

All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1 - Historical Introduction -
Today's Themes

The Dhammapada begins with the statement that “Our life is shaped by our mind” – a foundational tenet throughout the text. We set out toward the goal of self understanding and enlightenment but get sidetracked by our cravings and selfish attachments because our thoughts are not focused. In today’s reading, we hear about training the mind, which is a central goal of the Buddhist practice of meditation. Only a clear mind is able to perceive the truth and hold onto it long enough to move toward enlightenment; the unclear mind – muddled with desires, foggy with delusion – simply loses focus. Train the mind with meditation, we are told, not so that we may come to certain beliefs or learn to want spiritual rather than material things, but rather so that the truth which is most often hidden from our clouded vision can be seen.


Words used in this session:

dharma - teachings of the true nature of things

Mara (the Tempter) – the demon who tempted the Buddha with earthly pleasures during his search for enlightenment; he is used as a metaphor for all temptations that pull people away from the path of dharma

Call To Worship

Your mind is a bow, with wood that is strong and supple from being cared for well,
     or wood that is weakened and falling into disrepair.

Your thoughts are arrows that fly to their destination swift and fixed,
     or arrows that swing wide and wobble, missing the mark.

But supple and swift or weakened and wobbling,
your mind and thoughts have brought you to a gathering
where we tell the tales
and listen to the words
of wisdom.

In this space, amongst these gathered friends and strangers and fellow seekers,
lift the bow of your mind
and aim the arrow of your thoughts

as we move into worship together.


Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

Dhammapada 1.1-2


As an archer aims his arrow, the wise aim their restless thoughts, hard to aim, hard to restrain…

Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants. But a trained mind brings health and happiness. The wise can direct their thoughts, subtle and elusive, wherever they choose: a trained mind brings health and happiness.

Those who can direct thoughts, which are unsubstantial and wander so aimlessly, are freed from the bonds of Mara.

They are not wise whose thoughts are not steady and minds not serene, who do not know dharma, the law of life. They are wise whose thoughts are steady and minds serene, unaffected by good and bad. They are awake and free from fear...

More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-disciplined mind does greater good… 

Dhammapada 3.33, 35-39, 42-43


What wisdom you gained here today, let it add to the wisdom of your mind.
What happiness you gained here today, let it add to the happiness of your heart.
What health you gained here today, let it add to the health of your spiritual life.

For the wisdom of your mind allows you to see the world with truth,
     the happiness of your heart tells you to fill the world with love,

     and the health of your spiritual life gives you strength to mold the world with compassion.