The Dhammapada contains a number of verses that deal primarily with the universal subject of human suffering, showing the path to cessation of suffering and attainment of Nirvana. The style of writing is such that would appeal to the lay as well as informed reader. A commentary and an introductory essay give an account of the life and times of Lord Buddha. A beautiful, short set of meditations on how life should be lived from the Buddha himself. This is one of the best known books of the Pitaka. It is a collection of the teachings of the Buddha expressed in clear, pithy verses. These verses were culled from various discourses given by the Buddha in the course of forty-five years of his teaching, as he travelled in the valley of the Ganges (Ganga) and the sub-mountain tract of the Himalayas. These verses are often terse, witty and convincing. Whenever similes are used, they are those that are easily understood even by a child, e.g., the cart’s wheel, a man’s shadow, a deep pool, flowers. Through these verses, the Buddha exhorts one to achieve that greatest of all conquests, the conquest of self; to escape from the evils of passion, hatred and ignorance; and to strive hard to attain freedom from craving and freedom from the round of rebirths. Each verse contains a truth (dhamma), an exhortation, a piece of advice.
I appreciate the author Kadambari Kaul for attempting a good non-fiction on this subject. This book by her is not to be read superficially like a novel and shelved aside. It should be read and re-read so that it may serve as a constant companion for inspiration, solace, and edification in times of need. There is not a single verse in the Dhammapada that can be dismissed as unintelligible to a lay reader. To draw out the living message of any great spiritual classic, it is not enough for us merely to investigate it in terms of questions. We have to take a step beyond scholarly examination and seek to make an application of those teachings to ourselves in our present condition. To do this requires that we use our intelligence, imagination and intuition to see through the limiting cultural contexts out of which the work was born and the author has done this appropriately through this book. She has examined the Dhammapada in order to discover what this ancient book of wisdom regards as the fundamental and perennial spiritual problems of human life and to learn what solutions it can propose for them that may be relevant to us today. In this way she has successfully uncovered the message of Dhammapada.
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