|About the Book|
The Dhammapada, of which a metrical translation by Mr. Woodward is here presented, is a precious Buddhist Scripture which deserves to be widely known. The Theosophical Society is to be congratulated on securing so competent and sympathetic aMoreThe Dhammapada, of which a metrical translation by Mr. Woodward is here presented, is a precious Buddhist Scripture which deserves to be widely known. The Theosophical Society is to be congratulated on securing so competent and sympathetic a translator and on publishing it in a popular form.The Dhammapada is a part of the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Buddhistic Canon and consists of about 420 stanzas in the sloka metre. Every fully ordained bhikkhu is expected to know the book by heart, and its verses are often on the lips of pious laymen. The beginner of Buddhist studies can have no better introduction to Buddhism and must go back to it again and again to enter into the spirit of Buddha and his apostles.The Scriptures of the Buddhist Canon are known collectively as the Ti-pi[t.]aka (Sansk. Tri-pi[t.]aka), the Three Baskets or Treasuries. These divisions correspond to the two Testaments of the Christian Bible and contain (excluding repetitions) more than twice as much matter. They are known separately as the Vinaya pi[t.]aka, Sutta pi[t.]aka and Abhidhamma pi[t.]aka, the Basket of Discipline, the Basket of Discourses and the Basket of Metaphysics. These scriptures are regarded with the utmost veneration by Buddhists as containing the word of Buddha (Buddha-vacanam), and are reputed to have been recited at the first Council held, according to tradition, at Rajagaha immediately after Buddhas death circa 540 B.C.It seems more probable that they grew up gradually and did not receive their final shape till about three centuries later, at the Council held under the auspices of the Emperor Asoka at Pa[t.]aliputra circa 247 B.C. The account given of the First Council in the closing chapter of the Culla vagga seems to indicate that the Basket of Metaphysics was then unknown or unrecognised, and that the scriptures were then a Dvi-pi[t.]aka (Two Baskets) rather than a Ti-pi[t.]aka (Three Baskets).It seems to be an Anthology, prepared for the use of the faithful, of verses believed to be the real words of Buddha, short improvisations in which he expressed striking thoughts and embellished his preaching. They were current among the early Buddhists, and have been culled from the other scriptures as of high ethical and spiritual value. The importance of the Dhammapada for a critical study of Buddhism is thus considerable.