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Guide to Tipitaka

Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

Part 2 - The Dhammapada Pali

It is a book of the Tipitaka which is popular and well-known not only in Buddhist countries but also elsewhere The 'Dhammapada 1 is a collection of the Buddha's words or basic and essential principles of the Buddha's Teaching It consists of 423 verses arranged according to topics in twenty-six vaggas or chapters

Verse 183 gives the teachings of the Buddha in a nutshell Abstain from all evil; Promote (develop) what is good and purify your mind. Each stanza is packed with the essence of Truth which illumines the path of a wayfarer Many are the Dhammapada verses which find their way into the writings and everyday speech of the Buddhists One can get much sustenance and encouragement from the Dhammapada not only for spiritual development but also for everyday living

The Dhammapada describes the path which a wayfarer should follow It states (m verses 277, 278 and 279) that all conditioned things are transitory and impermanent; that all conditioned things are subject to suffering, and that all things (dhammas) are insubstantial, incapable of being called one's own When one sees the real nature of things with (Vipassana) insight, one becomes disillusioned with the charms and attractions of the Five Aggregates. Such disillusion- ment constitutes the path of purity (Nibbana)

Verse 243 defines the highest form of impurity as ignorance (avijja) and states that the suffering in the world can be brought to an end only by the destruction of craving or hankering after sensual pleasures Greed, ill will and ignorance are described as dangerous as fire and unless they are held under restraint, a happy life is im- possible both now and thereafter

Avoiding the two extremes, namely, indulgence in a life of sen- suous pleasures and the practice of self-mortification, one must follow the Middle Path, the Noble Path of Eight Constituents to attain per- fect Peace, Nibbana Attainment to the lowest stage (Sotapatti Magga) on this Path shown by the Buddha is to be preferred even to the pos- session of the whole world (V. 178). The Dhammapada emphasizes that one makes or mars oneself, and no one else can help one to rid oneself of impurity Even the Buddhas cannot render help, they can only show the way and guide, a man must strive for himself.

The Dhammapada recommends a life of peace and non-violence and points out the eternal law that hatred does not cease by hatred, enmity is never overcome by enmity but only by kindness and love (V.5) It advises to conquer anger by loving-kindness, evil by good, miserliness by generosity, and falsehood by truth.

The Dhammapada contains gems of literary excellence, replete with appropriate similes and universal truths and is thus found appeal- ing and edifying by readers all the world over It serves as a digest of the essential principles and features of the Buddha Dhamma as well as of the wisdom of all the ages.  

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