2:8  A Boat

Although often lost in translation, the overall structure of this poem is clearly articulated in the Pali. The first seven verses—coming under the “because” (yasmā)—state reasons, while the last verse, under the “so” (tasmā), draws the conclusion: Find a good teacher and practice the Dhamma.


When you honor

—as the devas, Indra—

one from whom

you might learn the Dhamma,

he, learned, honored,

confident in you,

shows you the Dhamma.

You, enlightened, heedful,

befriending a teacher like that,

practicing the Dhamma

in line with the Dhamma,


giving it priority,





But if you consort with a piddling fool

who’s     envious,

hasn’t come to the goal,

you’ll go to death


having cleared up

the Dhamma right here,


your doubts unresolved.

Like a man gone down to a river—

turbulent, flooding, swift-flowing—

and swept away in the current:

How can he help others across?

Even so:

He who hasn’t

cleared up the Dhamma,

attended to the meaning

of what the learned say,

crossed over his own doubts:

How can he get others

to comprehend?

But as one who’s embarked

on a sturdy boat,

with rudder & oars,

would—thoughtful, skillful,

knowing the needed techniques—

carry many others across,

even so

an attainer-of-knowledge, learned,

developed in mind,1 unwavering

can get other people to comprehend—

when the conditions have arisen

for them to lend ear.


You should befriend

a person of integrity—

learned, intelligent.

Practicing so

as to know the goal,

when you’ve experienced the Dhamma,

you get bliss.

vv. 316–323


1. According to MN 36, “developed in mind” means able to experience painful feelings without their invading and remaining in the mind.

See also: MN 22; SN 35:197; Sn 4:1