History of the Dhammapada
The Dhammapada is not a transcription of a single talk by Gautama the Buddha. Rather, it is a collection of his words on the most important subjects for those seeking Nirvana. It was compiled only three months after his passing away by his enlightened disciples (arhats), who gave it the name Dhammapada, which means “Portions of the Dharma” or “The Way of Dharma.” The Dhammapada consists of four hundred twenty-three Pali verses that were gleaned from about three hundred discourses of the Buddha. It is a distillation of forty-five years of teaching. The translation mostly used will be that of John Richards.
In this commentary you will encounter the word “Aryan” which Buddha used extensively in his teachings. Aryan literally means “one who strives upward.” It is an exclusively psychological term having nothing whatsoever to do with birth, race, or nationality. In his teachings Buddha habitually referred to spiritually qualified people as “the Aryas.” Although in English translations we find the expressions “The Four Noble Truths” and “The Noble Eightfold Path” Buddha actually said: “The Four Aryan Truths,” and “The Eightfold Aryan Path.” I have followed his example.
Also in this commentary there is a great deal of reference to the Bhagavad Gita. This is for two reasons: the Gita expresses the truths so well and expands on them, and I want to demonstrate that Buddha was a classical Sankhya yogi whose philosophy was identical with that of the Gita.
The Dhammapada is traditionally divided into twenty-six sections, and so this commentary is divided accordingly.
First article of the Dhammapada for Awakening: The Twin Verses