Chapter 5. The Dhammapada (abridged)

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from The Dhammapada
The Reading Selection from The Dhammapada
Topics Worth Investigating

Bronze Buddha, The American Cyclopædia

About the author…

After Buddha's death, purportedly under the guidance of Kasyapa, Buddha's disciples gathered to record orally the thoughts of their teacher in order that the insights of his spiritual truth would not be lost or changed. The resulting collection of sayings, the Dhammapada, was passed on from generation to generation; several versions of these verses survive as recorded in different languages. The Dhammapada is generally considered among the most popular and best-loved Buddhist scriptures. Max Müller says, "I cannot see any reason why we should not treat the verses of the Dhammapada, if not as the utterances of Buddha, at least as what were believed by the members of the council under Asoks, 242 B.C., to have been the utterances of the founder of their religion."[1]

About the work…

In the The Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses (abridged),[2] the Buddha's philosophy is presented in over 400 verses. The scripture notes that people seek pleasure for themselves but experience suffering as a direct result of seeking their self-interest. Buddha believes that suffering ceases when the self is extinguished. The experiences of each person are consequences of past thoughts and actions; consequently, enlightenment or awakening as an escape from the seemingly endless cycles of life is as precious as it is rare.

Ideas of Interest from The Dhammapada

  1. Explain why Buddha believes hatred will cease when the world knows we will come to an end. What is the meaning of the phrase, "we will come to an end"?

  2. What is the importance of mindfulness or earnestness? Why is thoughtlessness to be feared?

  3. In what ways do wise persons fashion themselves? How does a wise person differ from a foolish person?

  4. Name and characterize the five "lower fetters." Which are to be cut off? Do you see any relation between the five bonds[3] and the five lower fetters?

  5. Describe the Arhat. What are the five "higher fetters" which an Arhat abandons?

  6. Why do you think the Bhikshu seeks separation from this world rather than seeking to do good works and deeds within this world?

  7. According to the The Dhammapada, how is suffering to be overcome?

  8. Explain the metaphor of the tabernacle. Do you think the law mentioned throughout the The Dhammapada is natural law or moral law or some combination of the two?

  9. Which of the following courses of action should be preeminent for you: seeking to help others with their duties or seeking to do your own duties? Explain why this is the case.

  10. What do you think this verse from the The Dhammapada means: "…[T]here is no happiness higher than rest"?

  11. Why, according to the The Dhammapada, should no one love anything? What does Buddha say about desire?

  12. What do you think is meant by the phrase, "There is no path through the air…"?

  13. Contrast the Brahmana (Arhat) with the Bhikshu (Mendicant).



Quoted in James Freeman Clarke. Ten Great Religions New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1871-3. xiii.


The Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881. Translated from the Pauli by F. Max Müller. Sacred Books of the East. Edited by F. Max Müller. Translated by Various Oriental Scholars. Volume X, Part I.


The five bonds are greed, hatred, delusion, false views, and conceit. Ed.