Old Age

Old AgeVainly I sought the builder of my house
Through countless lives.
I could not find him…
How hard it is to tread life after life!
But now I see you, O builder!
And never again shall I build my house.
I have snapped the rafters,
Split the ridgepole
And beaten out desire.
Now my mind is free.1


Through many a birth I wandered in samsara,2 seeking, but not finding, the builder of the house. Sorrowful is it to be born again and again.

O house-builder! Thou art seen. Thou shalt build no house again. All thy rafters are broken. Thy ridge-pole is shattered.

My mind has attained the unconditioned. Achieved is the end of craving.3,4

Footnotes

  1. The Dhammapada, The Sayings of the Buddha, a new rendering by Thomas Byrom, A. A. Knopf, New York, 1976, p. 56 []
  2. These two verses, the first paean of joy (udana) uttered by the Buddha immediately after His Enlightenment, are not found elsewhere. As the Venerable Ananda heard them from the lips of the Buddha they have been inserted here. Here the Buddha admits his past wanderings in existence which entails suffering, a fact which evidently proves the belief in rebirth. He was compelled to wander, and consequently to suffer, as long as he could not discover the architect who built this house, the body. In His final birth He discovered by His own intuitive wisdom the elusive architect dwelling not outside but within the recesses of His own heart. The architect was Craving or Attachment (tanha) a self-created force, a mental element latent in all. The discovery of the architect is the eradication of craving by attaining Arahantship which, in this utterance, is alluded to as the end of craving. The rafters of this self-created house are the defilements (kilesa). The ridge-pole that supports the rafters is ignorance (avijja), the root cause of all defilements. The shattering of the ridge-pole of ignorance by wisdom results in the complete demolition of the house. The ridge-pole and the rafters are the material with which the architect builds this undesired house. With their destruction the architect is deprived of the wherewithal to rebuild the house which is not wanted. With the demolition of the house the mind attains the uncondition which is Nibbana. []
  3. The Dhammapada, PALI text & translation with stories in brief & notes, Narada Thera, Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala Lumpur, 1978, p. 140 []
  4. Dhammapada 153-154 []

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