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Dhammapada

by Irving Babbit, Guatama Buddha

Buy the book: Irving Babbit. Dhammapada

Release Date: December, 1965

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Irving Babbit. Dhammapada


spirit uncaptured

Buddhism is a wonderful religion, full of compassion and true wisdom. The Dhammapada is beautifully poetic - however, I found this translation somewhat disappointing. I am sure there are better translations out there, because as I was reading this one I did not feel the compassion, the peace that I felt while reading other Buddhist books. I have always pictured the Buddha as being gentle and tender to his disciples, kind to those that had not attained his enlightened state. I still want to believe that - but this translation made the Buddha sound cold and caught up in himself, not to mention preachy. I found myself strongly and distastefully reminded of the Christian Bible, or God with his "sin and you are damned." For example, in some places things are said about not being companion to a fool, and about a bad man going to hell. Since when do Buddhists believe in hell? At least, a man-made hell, not the Christian afterlife of fire and punishment. And, should we shun those who are not as wise as we? In my opinion, Babbit misinterpreted the spirit of the piece, used words that led to misunderstandings, and caused the text to apparently contradict itself. The other conclusion would be that the original work itself is faulty and that the Buddha was harsh and cold-hearted, something I find all but impossible to believe. I have been studying Buddhism for some time, and this is not the Buddhism I have been studying.

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A Manual For Monks

The Dhammapada is quite literally a manual for monks . . . it is for people who intend to leave the world altogether to seek enlightenment. This does not mean it is of no use to the rest of us, but all the same, its applicability is quite limited for someone who feels that the world is something that is not to be escaped from, but lived in. The basic ideas common to all Eastern philosophy are here . . . non-attachment, good conduct (chastity, non-stealing, non-lying and so forth), although the form of the book makes it a little duller to read than some other popular treatments of the subject. The Gita more or less says the same thing, but in a much livelier manner. Contrary to popular belief, the Dhammapada does not in any way deny the existence of the Vedic gods -- Indra is mentioned many times -- but nevertheless the emphasis is on inner self-development rather than ritualistic supplication to the gods. A very traditional heaven and hell are believed in -- quite literally it seems -- and the notion of "Mara", the tempter personified, seems the answer to the Christian devil. Still, unlike Christianity in general, the emphasis is on the inner person -- there is some very powerful material here in that sense. What one does and thinks determines one's character. The existence of the wicked is punishment in itself, and although hell is admitted to exist, it is not the primary reason to avoid sin. Preaching is looked down upon unless the person doing the preaching has mastered himself first. The mastery of the individual self and mind are the most important notions here, I think . . . the morality is mainly a means to an end. Although nothing very new or unexpected will be found in the Dhammapada, it does place a great deal of emphasis on individual responsibility and the power of the individual to affect his own destiny. Still, the eliminating of all desire, passion, and even love does not seem to be the way, to me, to achieve anything other than indifference to a world that one also has a genuine responsibility to. At what point this book can be said to be "Buddhist" rather than "Hindoo", I do not know, as the teachings are so similar -- it could very plausibly be considered an Upanishad. A good place to start one's study of Buddhism, but not very deep. Does not possess the power of allusion and suggestibility as strong as many other texts.

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