DHAMMAPADA STUDY GUIDE
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
What kind of work is the Dhammapada? How would begin to describe it? What is its purpose and what are the core principles that seem to rest at its heart?
Describe your experience of reading the Dhammapada.
Analyze the structure of the Dhammapada. To what extent is there a logical progression to the different chapters?
There are those commentators who suggest that the Dhammapada is an interesting but somewhat eclectic collection of proverbs that does not offer a particularly focused introduction to the teachings of the Buddha. Respond. How distinctively of a "Buddhist" text is the Dhammapada and what does that even mean?
What is the goal of life as represented in the Dhammapada? What is the path as described by the Dhammapada? What are the Four Noble Truths? To what extent are they firmly integrated into the Dhammapada?
What does it mean to be "awake"? What qualities of mind and of being are emphasized? What is meant by being "skilled"? How does a person begin to develop the skills necessary for awakening?
What are the biggest obstacles to becoming awakened? What is Mara and how is it portrayed in the Dhammapada?
What vision of human nature is offered in the Dhammapada? What is highlighted in terms of our tendencies and capabilities?
What perspective is offered on the human body in the Dhammapada? What metaphors are used to describe the body? What is said in the Dhammapada about asceticism?
To what extent do the gods appear in the Dhammapada?
What does the Dhammapada have to say about ritual? How is ritual distinguished from practice?
What does the Dhammapada have to say about family life?
What is the place of the word within the Dhammapada?
To what extent would you describe the Dhammapada as a work of ethics?
How would you compare and contrast the Dhammapada with the Bhagavad Gita in regards to structure, style and apparent purpose? How useful of a comparison is this for thinking about the relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism?
To what extent do you find evidence within the Dhammapada of an explicit or implicit conversation with Hinduism and its principles and practitioners?
How would you compare and contrast the Dhammapada with Zhuangzi Speaks? How would you compare and contrast the Buddhist way with the Way as explained within Taoism?
How would you compare and contrast the Dhammapada with other sacred texts that you have read? What do you think this says about the distinctiveness and/or universality of Buddhism?
Scholars of religion sometimes distinguish between Christianity as a religion concerned with orthodoxy ("right belief") and Judaism and Islam and religions focused upon orthopraxy ("right practice"). To what extent is this distinction helpful for understanding Buddhism?
Is there something within the Dhammapada that you found to be particularly surprising? Are there core themes that struck you as unexpected, troubling, nonsensical or incomprehensible? What sections or passages did you find to be most surprising or counter-intuitive?
Which of the 26 chapters did you find to be most interesting? Why? Analyze the structure, themes, lessons and language of the chapter. Integrate particular passages or phrases of interest into your discussion.
Are there particular metaphors within the Dhammapada that made an impression upon you?
What comments would you make about Wallis's translation and about his background notes? What translation issues are associated with the Dhammapada?