The Dhammapada As A Manifesto
Researcher's Note: The Dhammapada is a highly versatile Buddhist document. It firmly states the Buddha’s message from many different perspectives, and although ancient in origination, does not fall into the trap of dogma or sectarianism. It is a scripture of Early Buddhism, it is preserved within the Pali language, and yet does not support or uphold the Theravada interpretation of the Dhamma. On the other hand, whilst appearing ’Mahayana’ in essence, it is clearly a document arising from the life-time of the historical Buddha. This is an important observation, as this gives a crucial insight into what the Buddha’s ‘original’ message might have been before it split into at least 18 different schools after his death. I acquired the book quoted here, whilst visiting Sri Lanka in 1996 – where I received Dhamma instruction from Mangala Thero (the Head Monk of the Ganga Ramaya Temple in Beruwela). Indeed, I remember reading it on the aeroplane flying back to a very cold London. There is no doubt in my mind that the Buddha-Dhamma can only be legitimately reconciled with Scientific Socialism – an idea that appears quite naturally amongst the monastics of the Ordained Sangha and the devout lay-Buddhist community of Sri Lanka. Interestingly, the Tamil insurgency in Northern Sri Lanka was explained to me as an aspect of (capitalist) India’s imperialism in the region, disguised as ‘ethnic determination’. When I visited an elephant orphanage near Beruwela, many of the elephants had only three-legs. I was told that this was because Tamil Insurgents targeted the elephants with landmines – as the elephant is known to be ‘sacred’ to Sri Lankan Buddhists. Another important observation is that the US was funding Tamil terrorism long before Islamic terrorism was common or well-known. Indeed, the BBC has made documentaries depicting the Tamil Insurgents as ‘victims’ and the Sri Lankan defenders as ‘aggressors’ over the years, eulogising Tamil suicide bombers in much the same way that Rambo III eulogised the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s! The Mujahedeen would eventually morph in Al Qaeda and carryout the 911 terrorist attacks in New York! On the other hand, the Tamils who live in other parts of Sri Lanka tend to live peacefully with the Sinhalese, or so it seems. The Tamils that I saw in the South tended to work on the tea plantations and appeared very ‘over worldly’. They were lovely people. If there was one Buddhist Sutta which encompasses the entire Buddhist path, it is the Dhammapada which I would highly recommend for study in a number of its English translations (including those made by Indian academics and serving Bhikkhus). The following extract is quoted from WA Abeysinghe’s book entitled Essays on Buddhism and Buddhist Culture, S Godage and Brothers, (1993), Chapter 3 – Significance of the Dhammapada as a Manifesto of Buddhism, Pages 33-41. ACW (17.3.2020)
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2020.