If you could ask one single question to a wise person, who honestly walks his talk and whose integrity is beyond doubt – what question would this be?
To me such a fundamental question is: What really matters in life?
And the Dhammapada is like a letter sent 2500 ago and received today in faultless condition, exactly giving the answer to this question.
The Dhammapada is said to be the essence of the teachings of Buddha. The historic Gautama Buddha is such a person, who literally walked his talk about 2500 years ago. Wandering by foot from village to village in the North-East of India for 45 years, he shared his vision of life with everybody who was eager to hear it.
After abandoning his privileges as a prince and practicing spiritual disciplines for many years, he had gained a state of consciousness that he called Nirvana, which also brought him the experience that suffering had ended once for all.
Fortunately the disciples of the Buddha carefully memorized the talks and conversations of Gautama. Only four months after his passing, at the first Buddhist council, around 500 monks gathered for seven months and codified a first collection of Buddha’s words. It is not sure whether the Dhammapada was already laid down in this first meeting of his followers, but all buddhist scholars agree, that the Dhammapada belongs to the most authentic buddhist scriptures.
In only 423 verses it covers many streets of life and we immediately learn, that the human mind, man’s emotions and passions haven’t changed in the last 2500 years. And so the pressing questions the Buddha brings up are still the same today. “What is real happiness?”, “Where does suffering come from?” – and finally: “What really matters in life?”. These are some of the most fundamental questions we have to face and we can get insights by listening to the Buddha’s words.
The red thread that goes through all topics in the Dhammapada is, to find the hidden source of consciousness, the level of pure being beyond words, thoughts and emotions, which is the still center within each person. From there you get a different perspective on everything.
Ready for some enlightening reflections on life?
There are many translations of the Dhammapada in almost every language. A good one to start with might be the English translation by Eknath Easwaran, which has been my travel companion for many years.
Thomas Klein, co-founder (Mitbegründer) of VeggieHotels® – – the world’s largest hotel association for vegetarian and vegan hotels