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Dhammapada: Significance

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From ancient times to the present, the Dhammapada has been regarded as the most succinct expression of the Buddha's teaching found in the Pali canon and the chief spiritual testament of early Buddhism. In the countries following Theravada Buddhism, such as Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand, the influence of the Dhammapada is ubiquitous. It is an ever-fecund source of themes for sermons and discussions, a guidebook for resolving the countless problems of everyday life, a primer for the instruction of novices in the monasteries. Even the experienced contemplative, withdrawn to forest hermitage or mountainside cave for a life of meditation, can be expected to count a copy of the book among his few material possessions. Yet the admiration the Dhammapada has elicited has not been confined to avowed followers of Buddhism. Wherever it has become known its moral earnestness, realistic understanding of human life, aphoristic wisdom and stirring message of a way to freedom from suffering have won for it the devotion and veneration of those responsive to the good and the true.

OriginEdit

Among Pali composition, Dhammapada and the corresponding Sanskrit version are not only cited by the rest of suttas but also cross-cited by in all versions of the sutta. That is, Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Tibetan versions of the Tipitaka all contain the same Dhammapada passages. Moreover, these section seems to follow language usage is much similar to Magadhi dialect, Eastern dialect which was used by the Buddha Gautama while the Pali is a Western dialect.

TitleEdit

The title Dhammapada which the ancient compilers of the Buddhist scriptures attached to our anthology means portions, aspects, or sections of Dhamma. The work has been given this title because, in its 26 chapters, it spans the multiple aspects of the Buddha's teaching, offering a variety of standpoints from which to gain a glimpse into its heart. Whereas the longer discourses of the Buddha contained in the prose sections of the Canon usually proceed methodically, unfolding according to the sequential structure of the doctrine, the Dhammapada lacks such a systematic arrangement. The work is simply a collection of inspirational or pedagogical verses on the fundamentals of the Dhamma, to be used as a basis for personal edification and instruction. In any given chapter several successive verses may have been spoken by the Buddha on a single occasion, and thus among themselves will exhibit a meaningful development or a set of variations on a theme. But by and large, the logic behind the grouping together of verses into a chapter is merely the concern with a common topic. The 26 chapter headings thus function as a kind of rubric for classifying the diverse poetic utterances of the Buddha, and the reason behind the inclusion of any given verse in a particular chapter is its mention of the subject indicated in the chapter's heading. In some cases (Chapters 4 and 23) this may be a metaphorical symbol rather than a point of doctrine. There also seems to be no intentional design in the order of the chapters themselves, though at certain points a loose thread of development can be discerned.

Famous VersesEdit

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