(Last Updated on : 18/02/2011)
Dhammapada is a Buddhist scripture that is considered to be the manual of Buddhist teaching. Besides the followers of Buddha, Dhammapada has gained importance in the non-Buddhist countries as well because of its doctrines. Dhammapada contains the moral and philosophical teachings of Lord Buddha and it is believed that it is compiled by Buddha himself. Apart from its philosophical importance, Dhammapada is a significant part of Buddhist literature
that belongs to the Theravada school. According to this canon the verses included in Dhammapada were originally spoken by Lord Buddha himself. The title of the book, "Dhammapada" consists of two words 'Dhamma' and 'pada.'
The title of this text has been interpreted in various ways, because both the words have many meanings. 'Dhamma' is a word which is not easy to translate into English. It means Religion (particularly taught by Lord Buddha), Virtue, Law, Truth, Doctrine, Nature, Thing, Form, and Property and so on. 'Pada' means Foot, Foot-Step, Word, Sentence, Verse, Thing, Portion, Place, Protection, Cause, Nirvana, etc. Hence, the title of the book has been translated in a variety of ways namely, "The Path of Virtue", "The Foot-Step of Religion", "The Path to Truth", "Foot-Steps of the Law", "Sentences of Religion", "Stanzas of Law", "Law Texts", "Scriptures Texts" and so on. Compiled in the Pali language
, this Buddhist scripture contains 423 verses which are divided into 26 chapters. These chapters are as follows:
1. Yamaka Vagga
2. Appamada Vagga
3. Citta Vagga
4. Puppha Vagga
5. Bala Vagga
6. Pandita Vagga
7. Arhanta Vagga
8. Sahasa Vagga
9. Papa Vagga
10. Danda Vagga
11. Jara Vagga
12. Atta Vagga
13. Loka Vagga
14. Buddha Vagga
15. Sukha Vagga
16. Piya Vagga
17. Kodha Vagga
18. Mala Vagga
19. Dhammattha Vagga
20. Magga Vagga
21. Pakinnaka Vagga
22. Niraya Vagga
23. Naga Vagga
24. Tanha Vagga
25. Bhikkhu Vagga
26. Brahmana Vagga
The teachings of Lord Buddha
had been closely influenced by the philosophies of Upanishads and Vedas. Rather it can be said that Dhammapada is a close reflection of his philosophical insights. The Law of Karma is of prime importance in the philosophy of Hinduism
. The Law of Karma assumed that actions good or bad must fructify. Taking cue from this thought Lord Buddha had discussed the consequences of actions in the Dhammapada. Similarly the other concepts which closely influenced him were the concepts of moksha
and nirvana. This is because the essence of Buddhism
is to achieve Nirvana
. The concept of ascetism, Bhakti
and Jnana also finds reflection in Buddhist Philosophy
. Thus it can be said that Lord Buddha had developed his school of thought based on some of the important philosophical tenets of the Upanishads and the Vedas
In the Dhammapada, the text, itself, the word Dhamma has been used in three senses which are (1) The Law of Truth, (2) Thing or Form and (3) Way or mode of life. It seems that the title of this book Dhammapada means the "Virtuous Path According to Lord Buddha". It can be said that Dhammapada is a splendid anthology like flower gathering. With the help of this text the seeker seeks Nirvana
or Salvation. Rather it is better said that an enquiring mind tries to find out the Truth. It is also assumed that Dhammapada was in the form of verses or parables and Lord Buddha had used the verses while he had communicated with his disciples and even during the propagation of his philosophy Lord Buddha had made use of the verses.
The three main parts of Dhammapada are namely, (1) The Karmayoga or the Philosophy of Action, (2) The Sadhana or the Spiritual Training and (3) The Nistha or the Faith.
The first part or the Philosophy of Action contains all the essential gradients helpful for the attainment of Nirvana. According to the Dhammapada the Karma yoga has emphasised on non-enmity, virtue, company of the righteous and the consequence of actions, ethics and non-slandering.
The second part or Sadhana consists of six main things. It has been said in the text that in order to achieve a good life it is absolutely necessary to undergo spiritual training. In fact it has been claimed that a proper spiritual training makes the path towards Nirvana easier. The chief components of Sadhana according to Dhammapada are first of all self-control, the transitoriness of the body, vigilance, self-purification, the wisdom and finally the eradication of craving.
The third part or the section dealing with Nistha or Faith has also incorporated six chief elements. They are the Buddha and his followers, the Dhamma, the Wise, the Bhikku
, the Arhant and the Brahmin. The text of Dhammapada has said that an individual who transforms himself as the follower of Buddha and also follows the commandments laid down by Lord Buddha
can achieve salvation much easily.
According to Dhammapada an individual who follows the path of Buddha is a wise person and only such a wise person as him gets rid of all kinds of cravings. All impurities are removed from him and he gradually moves towards the path of sainthood. In the text of Dhammapada Buddha has asked everyone to become the Bhikku but everyone cannot become a Bhikku. One needs to follow certain codes in order to become the Bhikku. He who is devoid of self-control and truth is not worthy of being called a Bhikku. Similarly an Arhant in the opinion Buddha is the one who has no sorrow in him and who has completed his journey of life. A person, who has severed all kinds of attachments, is free from all sorts of credulity and knows the path of Nirvana is indeed the noblest of all.
Lord Buddha has disseminated the message of Brahman
. He had said that one who with the help of his body, speech or mind does not offend anyone is in reality the Brahman. It has been stated in the Dhammapada that perfection is the main goal of Buddha. He expects that everyone should become perfect and that too with his or her own effort. As he himself had realised the supreme bliss, so it was quite natural for him to expect from every aspirant the realisation of this blissful state.
It has been claimed by eminent scholars that Dhammapada is a connecting link between the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita
on one side and the saintly teachings of Jnandeo, Kabir
and Guru Nanak
on the other side.
It can be said, thus, that the essential tenets of Lord Buddha's teachings included the code of morality, disapproval of superstitious rites and practices and degrading of ascetic practices. Hence, it can be concluded saying that Dhammapada has thrown light to the philosophy and teachings of Gautama Buddha and the essence of his teachings say, "Commit no sin: cultivate good and purify the mind."