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The Dhammapada (Pāli; Prakrit: धम्मपद Dhammapada;[1]) is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form and one of the most widely read and best known Buddhist scriptures.[2] The original version of the Dhammapada is in the Khuddaka Nikaya, a division of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.

The Buddhist scholar and commentator Buddhaghosa explains that each saying recorded in the collection was made on a different occasion in response to a unique situation that had arisen in the life of the Buddha and his monastic community. His commentary, the Dhammapada Atthakatha, presents the details of these events and is a rich source of legend for the life and times of the Buddha.[3]


The title, "Dhammapada," is a compound term composed of dhamma and pada, each word having a number of denotations and connotations. Generally, dhamma can refer to the Buddha's "doctrine" or an "eternal truth" or "righteousness" or all "phenomena";[4] and, at its root, pada means "foot" and thus by extension, especially in this context, means either "path" or "verse" (cf. "prosodic foot") or both. In Tamil language 'Padam' means subject,[5] English translations of this text's title have used various combinations of these and related words.[6][7]


According to tradition, the Dhammapada's verses were spoken by the Buddha on various occasions.[8] "By distilling the complex models, theories, rhetorical style and sheer volume of the Buddha's teachings into concise, crystalline verses, the Dhammapada makes the Buddhist way of life available to anyone...In fact, it is possible that the very source of the Dhammapada in the third century B.C.E. is traceable to the need of the early Buddhist communities in India to laicize the ascetic impetus of the Buddha's original words."[9] The text is part of the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka, although over half of the verses exist in other parts of the Pali Canon.[10] A 4th or 5th century CE commentary attributed to Buddhaghosa includes 305 stories which give context to the verses.

Although the Pāli edition is the best-known, a number of other versions are known:[11]

Comparing the Pali Dhammapada, the Gandhari Dharmapada and the Udanavarga, Brough (2001) identifies that the texts have in common 330 to 340 verses, 16 chapter headings and an underlying structure. He suggests that the three texts have a "common ancestor" but underlines that there is no evidence that any one of these three texts might have been the "primitive Dharmapada" from which the other two evolved.[20]

The Dhammapada is considered one of the most popular pieces of Theravada literature.[2] A critical edition of the Dhammapada was produced by Danish scholar Viggo Fausbøll in 1855, becoming the first Pali text to receive this kind of examination by the European academic community.[21]


The Pali Dhammapada contains 423 verses in 26 chapters (listed below in English and, in parentheses, Pali).[22][23][24]

Sr. No. Chapter Title in Pali Chapter Title Transliteration Chapter Title in English
I. यमकवग्गो Yamaka-vaggo The Twin-Verses (see excerpt below)
II. अप्पमादवग्गो Appamāda-vaggo On Earnestness
III. चित्तवग्गो Citta-vaggo Thought
IV. पुफ्फवग्गो Puppha-vaggo Flowers
V. बालवग्गो Bāla-vaggo The Fool
VI. पण्डितवग्गो Paṇḍita-vaggo The Wise Man
VII. अरहन्तवग्गो Arahanta-vaggo The Venerable
VIII. सहस्सवग्गो Sahassa-vaggo The Thousands
IX. पापवग्गो Pāpa-vaggo Evil
X. दण्डवग्गो Daṇḍa-vaggo Punishment (see excerpt below)
XI. जरावग्गो Jarā-vaggo Old Age
XII. अत्तवग्गो Atta-vaggo Self
XIII. लोकवग्गो Loka-vaggo The World
XIV. बुद्धवग्गो Buddha-vaggo The Buddha — The Awakened (see excerpt below)
XV. सुखवग्गो Sukha-vaggo Happiness
XVI. पियवग्गो Piya-vaggo Pleasure
XVII. कोधवग्गो Kodha-vaggo Anger
XVIII. मलवग्गो Mala-vaggo Impurity
XIX. धम्मट्ठवग्गो Dhammaṭṭha-vaggo The Just
XX. मग्गवग्गो Magga-vaggo The Way (see excerpt below)
XXI. पकिण्णकवग्गो Pakiṇṇaka-vaggo Miscellaneous
XXII. निरयवग्गो Niraya-vaggo The Downward Course
XXIII. नागवग्गो Nāga-vaggo The Elephant
XXIV. तण्हावग्गो Taṇhā-vaggo Thirst (see excerpt below)
XXV. भिख्खुवग्गो Bhikkhu-vaggo The Mendicant
XXVI. ब्राह्मणवग्गो Brāhmaṇa-vaggo The Brāhmana

English translations

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammapada#English_translations

Musical Settings


  1. See, e.g., the Gāndhārī Dharmapada (GDhp), verses 301, 302, in: Brough (1962/2001), p. 166; and, Ānandajoti (2007), ch. 4, "Pupphavagga" (retrieved 25 November 2008 from "Ancient Buddhist Texts" at http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/Buddhist-Texts/C3-Comparative-Dhammapada/CD-04-Puppha.htm).
  2. 2.0 2.1 See, for instance, Buswell (2003): "rank[s] among the best known Buddhist texts" (p. 11); and, "one of the most popular texts with Buddhist monks and laypersons" (p. 627). Harvey (2007), p. 322, writes: "Its popularity is reflected in the many times it has been translated into Western languages"; Brough (2001), p. xvii, writes: "The collection of Pali ethical verses entitled "Dhammapada" is one of the most widely known of early Buddhist texts."
  3. This commentary is translated into English as Buddhist Legends by E W Burlingame.
  4. See, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 335-39, entry "Dhamma," retrieved 25 November 2008 from "U. Chicago" at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.1:1:2654.pali.
  5. See, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 408, entry "Pada," retrieved 25 November 2008 from "U. Chicago" at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.2:1:1516.pali.
  6. See, for instance, C.A.F Rhys David's "Verses on Dhamma," Kalupahana's "The Path of Righteousness," Norman's "The Word of the Doctrine," Woodward's "The Buddha's Path of Virtue," and other titles identified below at "English translations".
  7. See also Fronsdal (2005), pp. xiii-xiv. Fronsdal, p. xiv, further comments: "... If we translate the title based on how the term dhammapada is used in the verses [see Dhp verses 44, 45, 102], it should probably be translated 'Sayings of the Dharma,' 'Verses of the Dharma,' or 'Teachings of the Dharma.' However, if we construe pada as 'path,' as in verse 21 ..., the title could be 'The Path of the Dharma.' Ultimately, as many translators clearly concur, it may be best not to translate the title at all."
  8. Pertinent episodes allegedly involving the historic Buddha are found in the commentary (Buddharakkhita & Bodhi, 1985, p. 4). In addition, a number of the Dhammapada's verses are identical with text from other parts of the Pali tipitaka that are directly attributed to the Buddha in the latter texts. For instance, Dhammapada verses 3, 5, 6, 328-330 can also be found in MN 128 (Ñāamoli & Bodhi, 2001, pp. 1009-1010, 1339 n. 1187).
  9. Wallis (2004), p. xi.
  10. Geiger (2004), p. 19, para. 11.2 writes:

    More than half the verses may be found also in other canonical texts. The compiler of the [Dhammapada] however certainly did not depend solely on these canonical texts but also made use of the great mass of pithy sayings which formed a vast floating literature in India.

    In a similar vein, Hinüber (2000), p. 45, para. 90 remarks: "The contents of the [Dhammapada] are mainly gnomic verses, many of which have hardly any relation to Buddhism."
  11. Buddhist Studies Review, 6, 2, 1989, page 153, reprinted in Norman, Collected Papers, volume VI, 1996, Pali Text Society, Bristol, page 156
  12. Brough (2001), pp. 44–45, summarizes his findings and inferences as:
    "... We can with reasonable confidence say that the Gāndhārī text did not belong to the schools responsible for the Pali Dhammapada, the Udānavarga, and the Mahāvastu; and unless we are prepared to dispute the attribution of any of these, this excludes the Sarvāstivādins and the Lokottaravāda-Mahāsānghikas, as well as the Theravādins (and probably, in company with the last, the Mahīśāsakas). Among possible claimants, the Dharmaguptakas and Kāśyapīyas must be considered as eligible, but still other possibilities cannot be ruled out."
  13. Brough (2001). The original manuscript is believed to have been written in the first or second century CE.
  14. See, e.g., Cone (1989).
  15. Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XXIII, pages 113f
  16. Brough (2001), pp. 38-41, indicates that the Udanavarga is of Sarvastivadin origin.
  17. Hinüber (2000), p. 45, para. 89, notes:
    More than half of [the Dhammapada verses] have parallels in corresponding collections in other Buddhist schools, frequently also in non-Buddhist texts. The interrelation of these different versions has been obscured by constant contamination in the course of the text transmission. This is particularly true in case of one of the Buddhist Sanskrit parallels. The Udānavarga originally was a text corres[p]onding to the Pāli Udāna.... By adding verses from the Dhp [Dhammapada] it was transformed into a Dhp parallel in course of time, which is a rare event in the evolution of Buddhist literature.
  18. Rockhill, William Woodville (trans.): Udānavarga : a collection of verses from the Buddhist canon compiled by Dharmatrāta being the Northern Buddhist version of Dhammapada / transl. from the Tibetan of the Bkah-hgyur, with notes and extracts from the commentary of Pradjnāvarman. London: Trübner 1883 PDF (9.1 MB)
  19. Ānandajoti (2007), "Introduction," "Sahassavagga" and "Bhikkhuvagga."
  20. Brough (2001), pp. 23–30. After considering the hypothesis that these texts might lack a "common ancestor," Brough (2001), p. 27, conjectures:
    On the evidence of the texts themselves it is much more likely that the schools, in some manner or other, had inherited from the period before the schisms which separated them, a definite tradition of a Dharmapada-text which ought to be included in the canon, however fluctuating the contents of this text might have been, and however imprecise the concept even of a 'canon' at such an early period. The differing developments and rearrangements of the inherited material would have proceeded along similar lines to those which, in the Brahmanical schools, produced divergent but related collections of texts in the different Yajur-veda traditions.
    He then continues:
    ... [When] only the common material [is] considered, a comparison of the Pali Dhammapada, the Gandhari text, and the Udanavarga, has produced no evidence whatsoever that any one of these has any superior claim to represent a 'primitive Dharmapada' more faithfully than the others. Since the contrary appears to have been assumed from time to time, it is desirable to say with emphasis that the Pali text is not the primitive Dharmapada. The assumption that it was would make its relationship to the other texts altogether incomprehensible.
  21. v. Hinüber, Oskar (2006). "Dhammapada". In Buswell, Jr., Robert E. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. USA: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 216–17. ISBN 0-02-865910-4. 
  22. English chapter titles based on Müller (1881).
  23. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named SLTP
  24. Brough (2001) orders the chapters of the Gandhari Dharmapada as follows: I. Brāhmaṇa; II. Bhikṣu; III. Tṛṣṇā; IV. Pāpa; V. Arhant; VI. Mārga; VII. Apramāda; VIII. Citta; IX. Bāla; X. Jarā; XI. Sukha; XII. Sthavira; XIII. Yamaka; XIV. Paṇḍita; XV. Bahuśruta; XVI. Prakīrṇaka (?); XVII. Krodha; XVIII. Pruṣpa; XIX. Sahasra; XX. Śīla (?); XXI. Kṛtya (?); XXII. Nāga, or Aśva (?); XXIII. - XVI. [Lost]. [Parenthesized question marks are part of Brough's titles.] Cone (1989) orders the chapters of the Patna Dharmapada as follows: 1. Jama; 2. Apramāda; 3. Brāhmaṇa; 4. Bhikṣu; 5. Attha; 6. Śoka; 7. Kalyāṇī; 8. Puṣpa; 9. Tahna; 10. Mala; 11. Bāla; 12. Daṇḍa; 13. Śaraṇa; 14. Khānti; 15. Āsava; 16. Vācā; 17. Ātta; 18. Dadantī; 19. Citta; 20. Māgga; 21. Sahasra; [22. Uraga].


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