One should not be considered worthy of respect
because of birth or background, or any outer sign;
it is purity and the realisation of truth
that determine one’s worth.
Dhammapada v. 393
What personal attributes do we hold as truly worthy? From the content of everyday conversation, it sometimes appears that it is things like who we know or where we have travelled which define us. If we move in spiritual circles, it might be the teachers with whom we have sat on retreat who really seem to matter. In this verse the Buddha points out that taking any outer sign as an indicator of worthiness is a mistake. Although burnishing outer appearances can indeed impress others, what impresses them is unreliable. What is truly reliable is a heart freed from the distortions of greed, hatred and delusion.