The Dhammapada is a collection of the sayings of the Buddha in verse form. It is one of the most widely read of the Buddhist scriptures and the most essential. There are many translations but I chose Easwaran’s because of a recommendation – the source of which I can’t for the life of me remember.
“As irrigators guide water to their fields,
as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve
wood, the wise shape their lives.”
The Dhammapada is an easy and enjoyable read. It is full of simple wisdom some of which may seem like common sense but is lovely to be reminded of from the Buddha’s unique perspective. He has a very simple and down to earth way of delivering essential truths which is the essence of his teachings.
“…the Dhammapada seems more like a field guide. This is is lore picked up by someone who knows every step of the way through these strange lands. He can’t take us there, he explains, but he can show us the way: tell us what to look for, warn about missteps, advise us about detours, tell us what to avoid. Most important, he urges us that it is our destiny as human beings to make this journey ourselves. Everything else is secondary.”
Eknath Easwaran, The Foreword
The Dhammapada is described as a handbook to the teachings of the Buddha but it is Easwaran’s informative introduction on Buddhism and the text that give an extra insight to the seemingly simple words of the Buddha. I enjoyed reading his introduction and it serves as a great starting point not only for this text but for Buddhism on a whole.
If, like me, you’ve never read any Buddhist texts (or much about Buddhist teachings) this short book of verse is a great place to start, particularly Easwaran’s translation. The opening verse of the Dhammapada is a profound reminder that our lives are shaped by our minds and we become what we think:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those
whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows
them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
It happened that earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, then some weeks later Easwaran’s Dhammapada, followed by The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which in retrospect could not have been better planned. I didn’t read them back to back but each prepared me for the next and I think I was able to take a great deal more from each one’s message for having read them in this order. Obviously you don’t need to read them like this but if you’re interested I enjoyed this reading order.
I enjoyed and recommend reading The Dhammapada. A wide variety of translations exist but I found Eknath Easwaran’s Introduction a highlight of reading this book. He has also done translations of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita which I hope to get to at some point also.