The contents of this document are copyright 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, India. You may make a digital copy or printout of this text for your personal, non-commercial use under the condition that you copy this document without modifications and in its entirety, including this copyright notice.
He who puts on the yellow robe while he is yet impure, lacking in self-control and lacking in loyalty, truly he is unworthy to wear the yellow robe of the monk.
Of course, the yellow robe, in the literal sense, is the robe of the Buddhist monks; it became the robe of all who practised asceticism. But this is not what the Dhammapada truly means to say, because there is no lack of men who wear the yellow robe but are not purified of their taints. The yellow robe is taken as the symbol of consecration to the spiritual life, the external sign of renunciation of all that is not an exclusive concentration upon the spiritual life.
What Buddhism means by "impurities" is chiefly egoism and ignorance; because, from the Buddhist standpoint, the greatest of all taints is ignorance, not ignorance of external things, of the laws of nature and of all that you learn at school, but the ignorance of the deepest truth of things, of the law of the being, of the Dharma.
It is noteworthy that the two defects insisted upon here are lack of self-control and lack of layalty. Loyalty means here sincerity, honesty; what the Dhammapada censures most severely is hypocrisy: to pretend that you want to live the spiritual life and not to do it, to pretend that you want to seek the truth and not to do it, to display the external signs of consecreation to the divine life -- here symbolised by the yellow robe -- but within to be concerned only with oneself, one's selfishness and one's own needs.
It is interesting to note the insistence of the Dhammapada on self-control, for according to the Buddhist teaching, excess in all things is bad. The Buddha always insisted on the Middle Path. You must not be too much on one side nor too much on the other, exaggerate one thing or the other. You must have measure, balance in all things, the balance of moderation.
Therefore the qualities that make you worthy of leading the spiritual life are to have an inner balance, a balance in your action, and to be moderate in everything, to be sincere, honest, loyal.
Balance, moderation, loyalty, honesty: this is the subject of our meditation.
8 November 1957
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Last modified on Aug 11, 1995