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On the Dhammapadda

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

Today I read the whole Dhammapadda for the first time (previously only fragments) from the SuttaFriends site here, and I thought I would put together a few bullet points as a mini-review now that it is fresh in my mind.

  • It is a long list of pointers to dhamma — do this to be wise, act with restraint
  • It has elements of propaganda, it talks up how wonderful it is to be wise, a monk, a follower of the Dhamma
  • It covers good - happiness - and bad - hell, anger - and gives a view on how these qualities coexist
  • Some things repeat a number of times in different sections, like not associating with bad acquaintances
  • I found it to be limited in poetic expression, compared to say Seng’can’s Verses of the Faith Mind (here)

On the whole I was a little disappointed, I think I prefer the middle length discourses of the Buddha, but by all means go and check it out if you haven’t read it, it is held up as a classic of buddhist literature.

FleaMarketBunks

Comments

  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    It has been a minute since I visited the Dhammapadda. Thanks for taking the time to summarize it as a refresher. I may be focused on relationship elements of the practice at the moment because I'm seeing the theme of good and bad friends arising more often and throwing myself and those I know against it for points of calm reflection.

    Bunks
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I believe I heard it said that The Dhammapada is a summary/precis of all the Buddha's teachings, in short snappy bullet points.
    I'm sure there are other longer texts which elaborate much more fully on each of the verses featured.

    Bunks
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited April 27

    There are many Dharmapadas. They seem to have been a popular literary vehicle, in the early days of Buddhist missionary work, for spreading the teachings of the Buddha. The Pali Dhammapada is particularly old. This is from a considerably less-old Dharmapada:

    When all of the dharmas of suffering
    and all of the saṃskāras are submerged
    as if filled to the brim with water,
    there is peace. When the monk knows himself,
    never again does he enter the myriad realms.
    (Where there is) no entrance into empty space,
    (where there is) no entrance via the many bases,
    (where there is) neither entrance into non-perception nor into no non-perception,
    (where there is) neither "this life" nor the "afterlife,"
    (where there is) also too no notion of the sun or moon,
    (where there is) no going and no remaining,
    (where there is) no self that might go or come,
    (where there is) no departing and no returning,
    (where there is) no death and no "will be reborn,"
    these are the borders of nirvāṇa.
    Whether with an appearance or with no appearance (of them),
    pleasure and pain accordingly are understood.
    What is seen is no longer frightening.
    There is no doubt regarding the unutterable and the utterable (alike).
    Existence breaks when the arrow is shot.
    When meeting the stupid, you do not boast.
    This is the highest bliss.
    This path of tranquility is unexcelled.
    (Here,) the heart is resilient like the earth.
    (Here,) the practice of tolerance is like a keep's gate.
    (It is) pure like water. (It is) stainless and immaculate.
    When birth is vanished, never again to happen,
    victory in profit is seen as insufficient,
    for (such) victory always returns to bitterness.
    Instead, you ought to seek victory in the Dharma,
    for in this victory, there is no (subsequent) birth.
    It is finished, never again made new.
    Burnt seeds do not give rise to life.
    With the mind finished, it is like a fire has been submerged.
    The womb is a defiled ocean.
    Why (seek) happiness in the ways of obscenity?
    Though the utmost heavens are wonderful places,
    in all cases nothing is better than nirvāṇa.
    Knowing all, one ceases,
    never again grasping the world.
    Abandoning all, there is extinguishment and crossing (of the stream).
    Within all of the paths, this is victory.
    The Buddha has disclosed true Dharma.
    With wisdom and bravery, you can practice.
    Walking in purity, faultless and chaste,
    you know for yourself the world-transcending calm.
    The path of practice first takes leave of lust,
    so clothe yourself early in the morning with the Buddha's precepts
    to destroy evil and leave the world of evil
    easily, like a bird takes to the sky.
    If you understand this Dharmapada,
    whole-heartedly embody the path of practice.
    That is the ferrying from the shore of birth and death
    to where bitterness ends and there is no calamity.
    On the path of the Dharma, there is no near or far.
    Upright, you pay no heed to the powerful or the weak.
    The crux is to be unconscious of (false) divisions,
    for "bound" and "loosened" alike are calm tranquility.
    With lofty wisdom, you are freed from the rotting corpse,
    (and see it as) dangerous, frail, insubstantial, and unreal.
    Suffering is great and happiness is meagre (here).
    There are nine openings and not one is clean.
    The sage shuns peril and deals in peace.
    He throws away praise and ends myriad difficulties.
    The face rots and melts, transforming into foam.
    The sage sees it, abandons it, and is not greedy for it.
    He sees that the body is a tool of bitterness.
    (Because of this,) he has no birth, age, ailment, and no grief.
    Throwing away corruption and walking in calm tranquility,
    you can obtain the great peace.
    Depending upon wisdom, rejecting the demonic,
    discontinuing the defilements, attaining all,
    walking in purity, striving, transcending,
    of gods and men, there are none who will not laud.

    (Dharmapada T210.573a23)

    In case anyone is interested in text-critical study, there are a few ways that we can tell that this is a later Dharmapada than the Pali Dhammapada.

    1) It references itself as "this Dharmapada."
    2) It is a collage of oblique references to sūtras (such as the "arrow" that breaks existence, which is a reference to the Vālasutta, also the face becoming "foam" is a reference to mindfulness of the corpse and the Phenasutta) that presumes that the reader is actually already familiar with the body of literature that constitutes "the Buddha's sūtras." It is less useful to a beginner, because they don't know what the gāthā ("verse") is talking about.
    3) It seemingly incorporates Madhyamaka-like interpretations of the Buddhadharma (e.g. "bound and loosened alike are calm tranquility").

    Nonetheless, even from a second's glance, if you've read the Pali Dhammapada, you can see how different some of the other Dharmapadas that used to circulate among Buddhists are. Another very famous Dharmapada, more famous than this one, is the old Sarvāstivādin Udānavarga. It can be read here:

    https://ia902906.us.archive.org/14/items/udanavargatibetandhammapada_202003_991_y/Udanavarga-Tibetan-Dhammapada.pdf

    JeroenFleaMarket
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited April 27

    From the opening of the linked Dharmapada:

    Alas! the impermanency of created things; what is created is subject to decay. As what has been born must come to destruction, happy they who are at rest!

    To one who is being burnt, what joy can there be, what subject of rejoicing ? Ye who dwell in the midst of darkness, why seek ye not a light?

    Those pigeon-coloured bones are thrown away and scattered in every direction; what pleasure is there in looking at them?

    One who has heretofore been subject to the misery of birth from the womb may go to the highest place and come no more back again (into the world).

    As readers will be able to tell, it is a very old translation, done in the old "King James style," complete with anachronistic-for-the-time "thees and thous" and with a "ye" here and there.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited April 27

    One last thing I forget to mention is that the opening of the T210 Dharmapada references a very famous sūtra:

    “There is that sphere, monks, where there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air, no sphere of infinite space, no sphere of infinite consciousness, no sphere of nothingness, no sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, no this world, no world beyond, neither Moon nor Sun. There, monks, I say there is surely no coming, no going, no persisting, no passing away, no rebirth. It is quite without support, unmoving, without an object,—just this is the end of suffering.”

    (Udāna 8.1 as translated by Venerable Ānandajoti)

    Another version of the same:

    Where do earth, water, fire and air no footing find?
    Where are long and short, small and great, fair and foul -
    Where are “name-and-form” wholly destroyed?
    Where consciousness is signless, boundless, all-luminous,
    That’s where earth, water, fire and air find no footing,
    There both long and short, small and great, fair and foul -
    There “name-and-form” are wholly destroyed.
    With the cessation of consciousness this is all destroyed.

    (Dīghanikāya Sutta No. 11 as translated by Maurice Walshe)

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