After the attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha expounded the sublime Dhamma for forty five years. The Dhamma or the Teaching of the Buddha, commonly known as Buddhism, is collected and divided into two main parts, namely:
- The Law of Truth (Dhamma) and
- Codes of Discipline (Vinaya).
The teaching is also classified into three parts called the Baskets (Tipitaka), as follows:
- Discourse (Sutta),
- Codes of Discipline (Vinaya) and
- Higher Teaching of the Truth (Abhidhamma).
The Tipitaka is again further divided into five collections (Pancanikaya), namely:
- The Collections of Long Discourses (Dighanikaya),
- The Collections of Middle Length Discourses (Majjhimanikaya),
- The Collections of Kindred Sayings (Samyuttanikaya),
- The Collections of Discourses from Gradual Sayings (Anguttaranikaya) and
- The Collections of Minor Anthologies (Khuddakanikaya).
The Tipitaka is again further divided into nine parts called Navangani. They are:
- Discourses (Suttam),
- Prose and verse (Geyam),
- Prose (Veyakaranam),
- Verse (Gatha),
- Paean of Joy (Udana),
- Thus said Discourses (Itivuttaka),
- Birth Stories (Jataka),
- Admired Doctrine (Abbhutadhamma) and
- Explanatory Conversations (Vedalla).
On the whole the Tipitaka consists of 84,000 groups of doctrines which is called Caturasitisahassani Dhammakkhandha. The Dhamma, an immutable law of nature or the eternal truth of the nature of universe, is always in existence whether the Buddhas appear in the world or not. However, it can be discovered and fully realized only by the Buddhas. The Dhamma itself is, therefore, that what really is. In other words, it is the doctrine of Reality or Truth comprehensible only by the wise or Noble Ones, and therefore, it is a mean of Deliverance from all sufferings of life. Thus the Dhamma prevents one who lives by its principles from falling into the miserable and woeful planes of existence (apaya). The Dhamma contains only non aggressive morals and psycho philosophical principles; it demands no blind faith, expounds no dogma, and encourages no superstitions.
The Dhamma is not regarded as a divine revelation, but simply as the advice of a great religious Teacher to His Disciples. It is not to be accepted and believed but to be understood and practised. It, in fact, does not appeal to blind faith, but to practical and experimental intelligence.
Here, we can observe how the Buddha taught the Kalama Princess in Kesamutti Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya: Now, you Kalamas, do not be led by hearsay nor by what is handed down by tradition nor by what people say, nor by what is stated on the authority of your traditional teaching. Do not be led by reasoning, nor by inferring, nor by argument as to method nor by delight in speculative opinions, but by seeing possibilities, by the directions from your teachers. But O Kalamas, when you know by yourselves that certain actions done by you are not good, wrong and considered worthless by the wise; when followed and put into practice, lead to loss or suffering, then give them up ... and when you know by yourselves that certain actions done by you are good, true and considered worthy by the wise, then accept them and put them into practice.
The Dhamma therefore advocates a golden rule that guides a person by pure thought and good living to attain supreme wisdom, with liberation from lifes miseries. The Dhamma is not a subject to be studied from a historical or literary standpoint but is to be learned and put into actual practice in the course of ones life, It lays emphasis mainly on practice, for without practice one can never expect to realize the truth.
Theoretical learning of the Dhamma (pariyatti) and constant meditation practice (patipatti) will sooner or later bring about insight and higher knowledge of knowing the Path and Fruition (pativedha). In other words, one must learn the Dhamma thoroughly for general knowledge of the scriptures (sutamaya nana) there by developing the reasoning faculty (cintamaya nana). Then one must develop oneself for the meditative attainment (bhavanamaya nana) and the final realization of Supreme Wisdom (adhipanna).
Ordinary worldlings, being deluded with the darkness of ignorance (avijja) and ensnared with craving (tanha), indeed find it very difficult to realize the true nature of things as they really are. As such, the Buddha and His Noble Disciples, having realized the Supramundane Dhamma through their enlightenment, showed the light of it to all beings so that they also may attain like themselves the Noble Path towards the Deliverance of Nibbana.
That is the only reason why the Dhamma can prevent a person not to sink down into lower miserable plane of existence (apaya) and convey him to the stage of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana by virtue of its (Dhamma) preventability from doing evils. The true followers of the Buddha who actually live up to the principles of the Dhamma can enjoy the Blissful Happiness of Liberation from passions (Vimutti sukha) and comprehend the real Essence of Emancipation from all sufferings of life (Vimutti rasa).
The Dhamma therefore proves itself that "one who practices Dhamma will, in turn, be certainly protected by the Dhamma. He who imbibes the Dhamma lives happily with the purified mind, and the wise ever delight in the Dhamma revealed by the Noble Ones (Ariyas). The gift of Truth (Dhamma) excels all gifts, the flavour of the Truth excels all flavours, the delight of the Truth excels all delights; and the final victory over all sufferings is the extinction of craving".