THE DhammaPada is one of the fifteen important treatises that comprise the Khuddaka Nikăya, the fifth Smaller Collection of the Sutta Pitaka, the Basket of Discourses.
It was the Arahats who rehearsed the Word of the Buddha at the First Council held at Răjagaha, three months after the passing away of the Teacher, and who arranged and classified the book in its present form, naming it the DhammaPada.
Here the Păli term dhamma, Sanskrit dharma, is used in the sense of Sayings or Teachings of the Buddha. Pada implies sections, portions, parts, or means way. DhammaPada may be rendered, "Sections or Portions of the Dhamma","The way of the Dhamma". It is somewhat difficult to offer a graceful English equivalent according to its literal meaning. "The Way of Truth","The Way of Righteousness", "The Path of Virtue", are terms that have been suggested by various scholars.
The DhammaPada consists of 423 melodious Păli verses, uttered by the Buddha on about 300 occasions, to suit the temperaments of the listeners in the course of his preaching tours during his ministry of forty-five years. Circumstances that leed to these noble utterances are presented in the form of short or long stories, together with traditional interpretations of the Păli verses and technical terms, in the voluminous commentary written by Buddhaghosa. This valuable commentary has been ably translated by E.W. Burlinghame for the Harvard Oriental Series. It must be said that most of these verses are better understood when read with the context.
The gems of truth embodied in these texts aptly illustrate the moral and philosophical teachings of Buddhism.
The very first two stanzas briefly represent the ethico-philosophical system of the Buddha. The importance of the mind in assessing morality, the Buddhist law of moral causation (kamma) the problem of pain and happiness, individual moral reponsibilty, etc., find expression in these twin verses. The third chapter is of special significance as it enables one to understand the Buddhist conception of mind. The first two chapters mainly deal with the eithics of Buddhism and are of equal importance to both bhikkhus and laymen. It was the first verse on "Heedfulness" in the second chapter that completely transformed the character of King Asoka the Righteous, who was originally stigmatized as Asoka the Wicked.
At times a single verse like the above, a solitary line like
The three verses, 183, 184, 185, which were originally recited by bhikkhus every fortnight in place of the present Pătimokkha precepts, are very edifying, as they indicate the ideal life of a bhikkhu.
The chapters on Pleasures, Happiness, Hell, Evil, World, Flowers, the Fool, the Wise, Craving etc., will prove very helpful to those who are engrossed in material pleasures. The illusive nature of worldly happiness and the kind of life one should lead in such a deluded world are shown in these chapters.
The chapters on the Buddha, the Arahat, the Brăhmana, give much food for thought to the highly advanced.
One should not rest satisfied by a mere perusal of these golden sayings. They should be read, re-read, and pondered upon. Above all, these virtues should be put into actual practise. Then only may one rightly say, in the words of the DhammaPada, "Happily he lives who drinks the Dhamma."
Readers will observe the simplicity of the similes employed by the Buddha in the DhammaPada, which are intelligible even to a child. Take, for instance, the similes of the cart's wheel, man's shadow, the ill-thatched house, the sleeping village, etc. The greatness of the Buddha lies in his exposition of profound truths in plain terms.
Throughtout the DhammaPada there is not a single verse that can be dismissed as unintelligible to a lay reader.
Direct teaching is the Buddha's usual method of exposition. At times he exercises his psychic powers, not miracles, in order to enlighten his deluded hearers or to give an actual demonstration to a concrete truth. *see v.146, 147, 148
To a fisherman named Ariya (noble), whom he saw fishing, the Buddha said, "Well, he is not an Ariya (noble) who is engaged in killing animals." The man realized his ignoble act and later became a Noble in the strictest sense of the term. *see v.270
In the DhammaPada. there are several instances to show that the Buddha not only preached to the intelligentsia and elderly folk, but also taught little children in their own language. *see v.131
In preparing this translation I have consulted with profit the learned articles on the DhammaPada written by my revered teacher, the venerable P.Siri Vajirańăna Mahă Năyaka Thera, the ancient Sinhala translation, and almost all the available English tranlsations. Special care was taken not to deviate from the traditional commentarial interpretations.
It must be admitted that is is extremely difficult to retain the beauty and the spirit of the original Păli in a translation like this.
In this third and revised edition, the first of which appeard in 1940, several improvements have been made, and copious notes have been added, mainly for the benefit of those who are not aquainted with the fundamentals of the Dhamma.
My grateful thanks are due to Bhikkhu Kassapa ( formerly Dr.Cassius A. Pereira ) and to Dr. E. J Thomas for their valued suggestions.
I have also to thank Mr. J. L Cranmer-Bying for having undertaken to publish this translation as a volume of the Wisdom of the East Series.