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The Dhammapada (Pāli; Prakrit: धम्मपद Dhammapada; Sanskrit: धर्मपद Dharmapada) is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form and one of the most widely read and best known Buddhist scriptures. The original version of the Dhammapada is in the Khuddaka Nikaya, a division of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.
The Buddhist scholar and commentator Buddhaghosa explains that each saying recorded in the collection was made on a different occasion in response to a unique situation that had arisen in the life of the Buddha and his monastic community. His commentary, the Dhammapada Atthakatha, presents the details of these events and is a rich source of legend for the life and times of the Buddha.
The title, Dhammapada, is a compound term composed of dhamma and pada, each word having a number of denotations and connotations. Generally, dhamma can refer to the Buddha's "doctrine" or an "eternal truth" or "righteousness" or all "phenomena"; and, at its root, pada means "foot" and thus by extension, especially in this context, means either "path" or "verse" (cf. "prosodic foot") or both. English translations of this text's title have used various combinations of these and related words.
According to tradition, the Dhammapada's verses were spoken by the Buddha on various occasions. "By distilling the complex models, theories, rhetorical style and sheer volume of the Buddha's teachings into concise, crystalline verses, the Dhammapada makes the Buddhist way of life available to anyone...In fact, it is possible that the very source of the Dhammapada in the third century B.C.E. is traceable to the need of the early Buddhist communities in India to laicize the ascetic impetus of the Buddha's original words." The text is part of the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka, although over half of the verses exist in other parts of the Pali Canon. A 4th or 5th century CE commentary attributed to Buddhaghosa includes 305 stories which give context to the verses.
Although the Pāli edition is the best-known, a number of other versions are known:
Comparing the Pali Dhammapada, the Gandhari Dharmapada and the Udanavarga, Brough (2001) identifies that the texts have in common 330 to 340 verses, 16 chapter headings and an underlying structure. He suggests that the three texts have a "common ancestor" but underlines that there is no evidence that any one of these three texts might have been the "primitive Dharmapada" from which the other two evolved.
The Dhammapada is considered one of the most popular pieces of Theravada literature. A critical edition of the Dhammapada was produced by Danish scholar Viggo Fausbøll in 1855, becoming the first Pali text to receive this kind of examination by the European academic community.
|I.||The Twin-Verses (Yamaka-vaggo) (see excerpt below)|
|II.||On Earnestness (Appamāda-vaggo)|
|V.||The Fool (Bāla-vaggo)|
|VI.||The Wise Man (Paṇḍita-vaggo)|
|VII.||The Venerable (Arahanta-vaggo)|
|VIII.||The Thousands (Sahassa-vaggo)|
|X.||Punishment (Daṇḍa-vaggo) (see excerpt below)|
|XI.||Old Age (Jarā-vaggo)|
|XIII.||The World (Loka-vaggo)|
|XIV.||The Buddha — The Awakened (Buddha-vaggo) (see excerpt below)|
|XIX.||The Just (Dhammaṭṭha-vaggo)|
|XX.||The Way (Magga-vaggo) (see excerpt below)|
|XXII.||The Downward Course (Niraya-vaggo)|
|XXIII.||The Elephant (Nāga-vaggo)|
|XXIV.||Thirst (Taṇhā-vaggo) (see excerpt below)|
|XXV.||The Mendicant (Bhikkhu-vaggo)|
|XXVI.||The Brāhmana (Brāhmaṇa-vaggo)|
The following English translations are from Müller (1881). The Pali text is from the Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) edition.
Ch. I. Twin Verses (Yamaka-vaggo)
|1.||All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.||Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā|
Manasā ce paduṭṭhena bhāsati vā karoti vā
Tato naṃ dukkhamanveti cakkaṃ'va vahato padaṃ.
|2.||All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.||Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā|
Manasā ce pasannena bhāsati vā karoti vā
Tato naṃ sukhamanveti chāyā'va anapāyinī.
|5.||For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an eternal rule.||Na hi verena verāni sammantīdha kudācanaṃ|
Averena ca sammanti esa dhammo sanantano.
Ch. X. Punishment (Daṇḍa-vaggo)
|131.||He who seeking his own happiness punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death.||Sukhakāmāni bhūtāni yodaṇḍena vihiṃsati|
Attano sukhamesāno pecca so na labhate sukhaṃ.
|132.||He who seeking his own happiness does not punish or kill beings who also long for happiness, will find happiness after death.||Sukhakāmāni bhūtāni yodaṇḍena na hiṃsati|
Attano sukhamesāno pecca so labhate sukhaṃ.
|133.||Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are spoken to will answer thee in the same way. Angry speech is painful, blows for blows will touch thee.||Mā'voca pharusaṃ kañci vuttā paṭivadeyyu taṃ|
Dukkhā hi sārambhakathā paṭidaṇḍā phuseyyu taṃ.
Ch. XII: Self (Atta-vaggo)
|157.||If a man hold himself dear, let him watch himself carefully; during one at least out of the three watches a wise man should be watchful.|
|158.||Let each man direct himself first to what is proper, then let him teach others; thus a wise man will not suffer.|
|159.||If a man make himself as he teaches others to be, then, being himself well subdued, he may subdue (others); one's own self is indeed difficult to subdue.|
|160.||One is one's own refuge, what other refuge can there be?? With self well subdued, a man finds a refuge such as few can find.|
|161.||The evil done by oneself, self-begotten, self-bred, crushes the foolish, as a diamond breaks a precious stone.|
|162.||He whose wickedness is very great brings himself down to that state where his enemy wishes him to be, as a creeper does with the tree which it surrounds.|
|163.||Bad deeds, and deeds hurtful to ourselves, are easy to do; what is beneficial and good, that is very difficult to do.|
|164.||The foolish man who scorns the rule of the venerable (Arahat), of the elect (Ariya), of the virtuous, and follows false doctrine, he bears fruit to his own destruction, like the fruits of the Katthaka reed.|
|165.||By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.|
|166.||Let no one forget his own duty for the sake of another's, however great; let a man, after he has discerned his own duty, be always attentive to his duty.|
Ch. XIII: World
|167.||Rouse yourself, be diligent, in Dhamma faring well. Who dwells in Dhamma’s happy in this birth and the next.|
Ch. XIV: The Buddha (The Awakened) (Buddha-vaggo)
|183.||Not to commit any sin, to do good, and governance of one's mind, that is the teaching of (all) the Awakened.||Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ kusalassa upasampadā|
Sacittapariyodapanaṃ etaṃ buddhāna sāsanaṃ.
Ch. XX: The Way (Magga-vaggo)
|276.||You yourself must make an effort. The Tathagatas (Buddhas) are only preachers. The thoughtful who enter the way are freed from the bondage of Mara.||Tumhehi kiccaṃ ātappaṃ akkhātāro tathāgatā|
Paṭipannā pamokkhanti jhāyino mārabandhanā.
|277.||'All created things perish,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way to purity.||Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā'ti yadā paññāya passati|
Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.
|278.||'All created things are grief and pain,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.||Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā'ti yadā paññāya passati|
Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.
|279.||'All forms are unreal,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.||Sabbe dhammā anattā'ti yadā paññāya passati|
Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.
Ch. XXIV: Thirst (Taṇhā-vaggo)
|343.||Men, driven on by thirst, run about like a snared hare; let therefore the mendicant drive out thirst, by striving after passionlessness for himself.||Tasiṇāya purakkhatā pajā parisappanti saso'va bādhito|
Tasmā tasiṇaṃ vinodaye bhikkhu ākaṅkhī virāgamattano.
|350.||If a man delights in quieting doubts, and, always reflecting, dwells on what is not delightful (the impurity of the body, &c.), he certainly will remove, nay, he will cut the fetter of Mara.||Vitakkupasame ca yo rato asubhaṃ bhāvayati sadā sato|
Esa kho vyantikāhiti esa checchati mārabandhanaṃ.
|This section may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (September 2010)|
The literary merits of the Dhammapada are a matter of disagreement. Pali scholar K.R. Norman notes that some readers have claimed that the Dhammapada is a "masterpiece of Indian literature", but that this assessment is not universally shared. John Brough, who wrote extensively on the subject of the related Gāndhārī Dharmapada, believed that the text had largely been composed from a patchwork of cliches, and that while it contained a few novel and well-constructed verses, suffered from an "accumulation of insipid mediocrity." While he believed that the Dhammapada did not warrant the high praise sometimes lavished upon it, Brough did note that it contained "small fragments of excellent poetry", and that the Dhammapada fared well when considered alongside other, similarly composite works. Several scholars have noted that much of the Dhammapada consists of vague moral aphorisms, many of them not clearly specific to Buddhism at all.
In a similar vein, Hinüber (2000), p. 45, para. 90 remarks: "The contents of the [Dhammapada] are mainly gnomic verses, many of which have hardly any relation to Buddhism."
More than half the verses may be found also in other canonical texts. The compiler of the [Dhammapada] however certainly did not depend solely on these canonical texts but also made use of the great mass of pithy sayings which formed a vast floating literature in India.
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