I have started reading Dhammapada in the later part of this year, when I borrowed the book from Madison Library. The treatise Dhammapada is a compilation of Buddha’s teachings during his life time giving instructions to his disciples, advice on meditation, guidelines for moral conduct for monks and householders, cautions and guards against pitfalls in Sadhana, and many other topics on spiritual path and dhar(m)a for a seeker after truth.
Buddha is an embodiment of renunciation and compassion and he pointed out the Path of Morality (Sila), Concentration or Meditation (Samadhi) and true wisdom or Insight (Panna) for attaining freedom from Samsara. The Dhammapada encapsulates all these three topics in-depth and provides a guiding light for an aspirant.
In the introduction to Dhammapada by Ven K. Sri Dhammananda, I found the following lines:
“The BhagavadGita and Thirukural are Hindu works in Sanskrit and Tamil languages of great antiquity. The former is an ancient work of literature and the latter was composed just before the christian era. Both these works contain many truths which are expressed in Dhammapada.”
Pali language, which is the spoken language during Buddha’s time and the language of Dhammapada, is very close to Sanskrit since Sanskrit is Pali’s source. I found that with little effort, I could understand what the Pali verses meant since most of the words were similar with some changes. However I borrowed another book which presents the same verse in sanskrit so I can exactly know what word was meant in the verse.
Dhammapada is divided into Vagga or Sections, each one focusing on one aspect:
- 1. Yamaka Vagga – The Twin verses
- 2. Appamada Vagga – Heedfulness
- 3. Chitta Vagga – Mind
- 4. Puppha Vagga – Flowers
- 5. Bala Vagga – Fools
- 6. Pandita Vagga – The Wise
- 7. Arahanta Vagga – The Worthy
- 8. Sahassa Vagga – Thousands
- 9. Papa Vagga – The Evil
- 10. Danda Vagga – The Punishment
- 11. Jara Vagga – Old Age
- 12. Att(m)a Vagga – The Self
- 13. Loka Vagga – The World
- 14. Buddha Vagga – The Buddha
- 15. Sukha Vagga – The Happiness
- 16. Piya Vagga – Affection
- 17. Kodha Vagga – Anger
- 18. Mala Vagga – Impurities
- 19. Dhammattha Vagga – The Just or Righterous
- 20. Magga Vagga – The Way or The Path
- 21. Pakinnaka Vagga – Miscellaneous
- 22. Niraya Vagga – Woeful State
- 23. Naga Vagga – The Elephant
- 24. Tanha Vagga – Craving
- 25. Bhikku Vagga – The Mendicant
- 26. Brahmana Vagga – The Knower Of The Truth
I have completed reading only the first three sections. I liked them very much for their simplicity and profoundity. Each verse is followed by a story and a context during Buddha’s time. It is a worthwhile effort to try to memorize some important verses so they can act as reference in our daily life. Many of the teachings resonate with what we learn in Sri Sankara’s Viveka Chudamani, Bhartrihari’s Vairagya Satakam etc, and other works.
Quoting one verse below:
Bahumpi ce samhita bhasamano
na takkaro hoti naro pamatto |
gopova gavo ganayam paresam
na bhagava samannassa hoti || (19)
Though he recites much of the Sacred Texts, but is negligent and does not act accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts the cattle of others, he has no share in the benefits of the Holy Life.
Appampi ce samhita bhasamano
dhammassa hoti anudhammacari |
raganca dosanca pahaya moham
sammappajano suvimuttacitto ||
anupadiyano idha va haram va
sa bhagava samannassa hoti || (20)
Though he recites only a little of the Sacred Texts, but acts in accordance with the teaching, eradicating passion, ill will and ignorance, clearly comprehending, with his mind freed from moral defilements and no longer clinging to this world or to the next, he shares the benefits of the Holy Life.
Aparna & Hari.