From ancient times to the present, the Dhammapada has been regarded as the most succinct expression of the Buddha’s teaching found in the Pali canon and the chief spiritual testament of early Buddhism.
To his followers, the Buddha is neither a god, a divine incarnation, or a prophet bearing a message of divine revelation, but a human being who by his own striving and intelligence has reached the highest spiritual attainment of which man is capable — perfect wisdom, full enlightenment, complete purification of mind. His function in relation to humanity is that of a teacher — a world teacher who, out of compassion, points out to others the way to Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana), final release from suffering. His teaching, known as the Dhamma, offers a body of instructions explaining the true nature of existence and showing the path that leads to liberation. Free from all dogmas and inscrutable claims to authority, the Dhamma is founded solidly upon the bedrock of the Buddha’s own clear comprehension of reality, and it leads the one who practices it to that same understanding — the knowledge which extricates the roots of suffering. The title “Dhammapada” which the ancient compilers of the Buddhist scriptures attached to our anthology means portions, aspects, or sections of Dhamma.