Three months after the Passing away of the Buddha, the Arahants, who assembled at the First Convocation to rehearse the Teachings of the Buddha, collected some of the poetic utterances of the Buddha, which He expounded on different occasions, arranged and classified the treatise in its present form, naming it the Dhammapada. The Dhammapada is featured in one of the thirty one books that comprise the Tripitaka, (the Baskets which contain the quintessence of the Buddha’s Teachings) named the Kuddaka Nikaya (A collection of discourses of a miscellaneous nature).
The Dhammapada consists of 423 melodious Pali 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 led to these noble utterances are presented in the form of long or short stories, together with traditional interpretations of the Pali verses and technical terms, in the voluminous commentary written by Ven. Buddhaghosa, and has been translated by E.W. Burlinghame for the Harvard Oriental Series. It may be remarked that most of these verses are better understood when read with the context. The 432 Pali stanzas are grouped under 26 chapters.
The Gems of truth embodied in these texts aptly illustrate the moral and philosophical Teachings of the Buddha. There is no single verse in the Dhammapada that can be dismissed as unintelligible to a lay reader.
One should not rest satisfied with a mere perusal of these golden sayings. They should be read, re-read, and pondered upon, together with the accompanying stories, drawing appropriate lessons therefrom. These interesting and edifying anecdotes clearly depict the greatness of the Buddha as an energetic, compassionate and wise teacher, ever ready to serve all. All these noble utterances should be put into actual practice in the course of one’s daily life. Then only may one rightly say in the words of the Dhammapada: -
“Happily he/she lives who drinks of the Dhamma.”An excerpt from- The Dhammapada by Ven. Narada