Comparative Study of Different
Versions of the Dharmapada
Research in Chinese Versions of this Ancient Buddhist Text
Completed with Pacific Cultural
Human well-being here and now
Insuring a good future rebirth
The detailed and careful research of the earliest period of Buddhist history is of extreme importance to those, who are pursuing Buddhist studies. By the earliest period we usually mean first five hundred years of development of this religion. The very foundations of all branches of Buddhist philosophy were laid in this important epoch. These also called twenty-six early schools then underwent further development both in Indian Cultural Area (today India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Shri Lanka) where Buddhism was established, as well as outside of it: first in Central Asia and in China, later also in Tibet and South East Asia.
One of possible methods of such a research is also comparative study of different versions of various Buddhist texts. By means of critical translation and careful comparison of few such versions we can for example with a high degree of probability ascertain which philosophical school does the particular version belong to, that is if this affiliation is not a matter of certainty. Thus we can also further increase our knowledge about differences and similarities between these schools.
One of many such texts is a collection of short verses with philosophical or ethical contents, known as The Dharmapada.  This collection is preserved to us in many different versions, some of them complete, but some unfortunately partially lost.
In this work we will discuss mainly the Chinese versions, mostly the most important of them, 法句經. But for the general introduction of this text we will use the version known as Dhammapada, which is written in Pāli language and is affiliated with the Theravāda school of Buddhism (today the prevailing form of Buddhism in Shri Lanka and South East
1. Dharmapada is a Sanskrit word whose meaning we will discuss shortly. This Sanskrit term is by no means the only name by which this text is known, but I am using it just as a general name for all different versions of this text.
First part of this work contains the general literary and philosophical description of the Dharmapada (based, as I mentioned above, on the Pāli language version of the text).
Main body of this work is an analysis of all the preserved versions of the Dharmapada. Most attention is paid to four Chinese version, 法句經, 法句譬喻經 , 出曜經 and 法集要頌經. We learn what is known of the history of their creation, we ponder about reasons why they were written, we list names of their chapters.
In appendix there is a full text of 法句經, as was converted into a computer form by the author.
Of course, I am well aware of limitations of this work. But one must bear in mind that this is only a preliminary research into Chinese versions of the Dharmapada. A full translation of 法句經 is planned, its thorough analysis, together with further comparison with already finished translation of Pāli and Gāndhārī  language versions of the text. Having this goal in mind, this particular work is of a great importance - it brings together and analyses all the material necessary to start the broader research.
2. The Dharmapada in the gāndhārī language is on of the partially preserved versions of this text. It is discussed later in my work.
Ever since the time, when the Buddhism was "discovered" in the Western countries, the Dharmapada draws to itself the attention of those, who are in some way interested in this religious and philosophical system. It was translated many times into practically all Western languages, countless commentaries were written upon it, it serves as a source of basic information on Buddhist philosophy, often it is also praised for it literary value. 
Most of the research was done on the Pāli version of the Dharmapada (called Dhammapada in this language). Main reason is that the Pāli texts were one of the first Buddhist scriptures that Western scientists came across. It is also only the Pāli Dhammapada that was preserved to us completely (that is to say, in Indian languages). Another big reason is that the Buddhist school of Theravāda, with which is this text affiliated, is widespread all around South East Asia as well as in the Western countries.
For this reason, we base this general analysis of the Dharmapada on the Pāli version.
The Sanskrit word compound Dharmapada consists of two words: dharma- and pada-.
The word dharma- is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root dhṛ- (dha- in Pāli, thus dhamma- in this language), whose basic meaning is "to hold". Etymologically is therefore dharma something "which holds".
3. But some of the authors writing about Dharmapada criticize its literary value, saying it is inconsistent metrically as well as in its literary standard. But we must bear in mind, that the Dharmapada is one of the first Indian literary works outside of the corps of Vedic literature. In this light I think the praise of the Dharmapada is well in place.
In Buddhist context, this word holds several meanings. One is general: here dharma is "a thing" or "a phenomenon". But the most important meaning, which is implied in the name of this text, is very specific. This word is used to denote the Buddha's teaching (in this case, the word is usually written with a capital D, Dharma).
The word pada- (same both in Sanskrit and Pāli) is one of those terms, that can hold many meanings. It can denote: foot, step, footprint, path, place, position, case, part, element, word, verse, sentence - to name only the most important ones.
Thus we can see the reason for the variability of translations of the word Dharmapada. The first part of the compound does not constitute a big problem, but the translator has to decide how to convey the meaning of pada. So we can come across translations like Words of the Teaching, Verses of the Teaching, or even Feet of the Teaching.
The Dharmapada is a very heterogeneous collection of short verses with ethical or philosophical contents. These verses are sorted into chapters according to a set of different keys. Sometimes they are sorted thematically (thus verses contained in the chapter The Brahman describe the Buddhist ideal of a spiritually perfected person). But sometimes this is only based on occurrence of a particular word in the given verse (for example, the verses in the chapter Thousand have mostly very little in common - except for the fact, that the numeral "thousand" is used in all of them, in various meanings).
Even the religious and philosophical insight is not consistent in this work. We can find philosophically somehow shallow ethical precepts as well as extremely deep reflections on the nature of the world.
Verses of the Dharmapada can roughly be grouped into three levels (which correspond with the three levels of Buddhism in general):
This basic level concerns itself with the immediate human happiness and contentment, with good social relations, with benefit of the whole society. This level is de facto identical with similar levels of other world religions.  We are urged to give up unwholesome deeds, be they done by body, speech or mind, to cleanse our minds, to perform only good actions, to practice self-control. Great role is played by the law of karma,  which is present in the background of all these verses.
This level is actually an extension of the previous one. As a result of good deeds (in other words, good karma) a good rebirth can be expected, be it in various heavenly worlds or again as a human being.  Wrong deeds then of course lead to lower planes, to hells or to the animal realm. Very important on this level is understanding of underlying impermanence of all these states. The attainment of a favorable rebirth is not the goal of Buddhism and attachment to such things can even be a hindrance to further progress. But if somebody is not able to achieve the goal in this very life, good future life is very important, for it is in the future that such a person will strive to attain the highest.
4. It is only different probably in its absence from theistic implications, which are to some degree inherent in other religions. In Buddhism it is based on two immediately and directly verifiable foundations: one's own happiness and peace and prosperity of other members of the society.
5. In Sanskrit karma means "deed" (from the verbal root kṛ-, to do). The basic idea is that there is a causal relation between one's deeds and one's future.
6. A rebirth as a human being is unique, because only as a human can a living being realize the highest goal of Buddhism - emancipation from continuous wheel of life and death. Beings in higher worlds are too happy with their state and conceited, thinking the law of karma does not apply to them. Beings in lower planes are suffering without break and this prevents them from attaining any progress.
The third level is sharply separated from the two previous ones. What really matters here is the attainment of the goal, emancipation of mind. No importance is paid to a good future rebirth or to doing good deeds. Awakened person acts perfectly all by himself. On the contrary, attachment to doing good deeds could constitute a hindrance on the way to this liberation.
Very roughly we could say that the first two levels are meant for lay followers of the Buddha's teaching, who can not or do not want to fully devote themselves to attaining the highest goal and for the present are content with the first two levels. The third level is here for those, who have decided to leave the worldly life and devote themselves "full-time" and unconditionally to attainment of peace of mind, that is to say, for monks and nuns.
The distribution of verses into these three groups is not necessarily identical with their philosophical depth. Often we see verses that we would group into the first category, but they convey surprisingly deep insight into the reality of the world. On the other hand some of the verses that describe an arhant, awakened being, have no philosophical meaning at all.
Speaking about the literary aspect of the Dharmapada, even here we can not find a definite consistency. Brilliant verses, scenery, descriptions, parallels and similes go hand in hand with very dilettantish attempts to create high poetry. This is true also in the metrical sense. Some of the verses follow the metrical structure very closely, whereas some of them are defective to a degree that we can not even speak about coincidences or scribes' mistakes.
From the above stated facts we can draw a conclusion that the Dharmapada is probably not a work of one author (although the tradition of course attributes it to the Buddha). The collection was composed by unknown editors from different verses, some could be composed by Buddha himself, some were probably uttered by his disciples. But some verses simply belong to Indian cultural inheritance - they are either general ethical and philosophical verses that can be adopted by every Indian (and not only Indian) religion or they have only very thin Buddhist garment. Many verses from the Dharmapada we can also find in non-Buddhist works, such as in the Mahābhārata (by which I do not suggest originality of one or the other version - it is only a proof of the fact, that different religious and philosophical schools freely borrowed each other's ideas).
Dhammapada in the Pāli  language belongs to the Theravāda school of Buddhism. This school is the oldest preserved form of Buddha's teaching, although it is probably not the direct word of the Buddha himself (as this school often claims). However, for the reason of its antiquity, it is quite a reliable source of information about oldest Buddhist ideas and teachings.
Of course, it is almost impossible to ascertain when exactly the Pāli Dhammapada originated. According to the Theravāda tradition the whole Canon was edited during the First Buddhist Council, which took place immediately after Buddha's death (that is during the sixth or firth century B.C.E.). But it is certain that even after this date some editing work was done on the Canon, in the way the texts are arranged as well as in the texts themselves.  Usual consensus takes the Third Council (that was sponsored by king Aśoka during the third century B.C.E.) as the date of the final edition of Theravāda Canon. It was written down for the first time in the first century B.C.E. in Shri Lanka.
The Canon of sacred scriptures of the Theravāda school is the only one that is completely preserved to us in an Indian language. It is called Ti-piṭaka (Three Baskets). One of these "baskets" is Sutta-piṭaka (The Basket of Discourses), that contains the main portion of speeches and sermons, by the tradition ascribed to the Buddha. This piṭaka has a number of chapters (called nikāya), of which the Khuddaka-nikāya (The Chapter of Short Works) is a collection of shorter texts that the editors were unable to place in any other chapter. And one of these texts is also the Dhammapada.
7. On of the oldest forms of so called Prakrit (prākṛt) languages, that were spoken in Northern India for a few hundred years B.C.E. and C.E.
8. To make memorizing of the texts easier, phrasing was probably unified in them. The old classification of the Canon that is spoken about in the oldest period was abolished and it was divided into so called Three Baskets.
The Pāli Dhammapada contains four hundred twenty-three verses, divided into twenty-six chapters. The division of verses into chapters is as follows:
1. Yamaka-vagga (The Chapter of the Pairs) verses 1.-20. (20 verses)
2. Appamāda-vagga (The Chapter of Conscientiousness) 21.-32. (12)
3. Citta-vagga (The Chapter of the Mind) 33.-43. (11)
4. Puppha-vagga (The Chapter of the Flower) 44.-59. (16)
5. Bāla-vagga (The Chapter of the Fool) 60.-75. (16)
6. Paṇḍita-vagga (The Chapter of the Wise) 76.-89. (14)
7. Arahanta-vagga (The Chapter of the Perfected) 90.-99. (10)
8. Sahassa-vagga (The Chapter of Thousand) 100.-115. (16)
9. Pāpa-vagga (The Chapter of Evil) 116.-128. (13)
10. Daṇḍa-vagga (The Chapter of the Punishment) 129.-145. (17)
11. Jarā-vagga (The Chapter of the Old Age) 146.-156. (11)
12. Atta-vagga (The Chapter of the Self) 157.-166. (10)
13. Loka-vagga (The Chapter of the World) 167.-178. (12)
14. Buddha-vagga (The Chapter of the Awakened) 179.-196. (18)
15. Sukha-vagga (The Chapter of Happiness) 197.-208. (12)
16. Piya-vagga (The Chapter of Affection) 209.-220. (12)
17. Kodha-vagga (The Chapter of Anger) 221.-234. (14)
18. Mala-vagga (The Chapter of Impurity) 235.-255. (21)
19. Dhammaṭṭha-vagga (The Chapter of the Righteous) 256.-272. (17)
20. Magga-vagga (The Chapter of the Way) 273.-289. (17)
21. Pakiṇṇaka-vagga (The Chapter of Various) 290.-305. (16)
22. Niraya-vagga (The Chapter of the Hell) 306.-319. (14)
23. Nāga-vagga (The Chapter of the Elephant) 320.-333. (14)
24. Taṇhā-vagga (The Chapter of the Thirst) 334.-359. (26)
25. Bhikkhu-vagga (The Chapter of the Monk) 360.-382. (23)
26. Brāhmaṇa-vagga (The Chapter of the Brahmin) 383.-423. (41)
It can be seen immediately that the length of the chapters varies a lot. The chapters at the beginning are longer, than those in the middle and the editors probably "caught breath" only at the end, where the chapters suddenly increase in length.
As I mentioned above, the pattern of dividing verses into chapters is extremely heterogeneous. For example, in the first chapter (Yamaka-vagga) there are pairs of verses that are somehow connected to each other or describe opposite states of mind. But we can find here also pairs of verses whose relation is a bit debatable and in some other chapters there are verses that should rather belong here.
In the fourth chapter (Puppha-vagga) the word "flower" is used in one sense or the other in all the verses. The meaning of this word in the particular context differs from verse to verse and we can not find any pattern here. The same criterion was used in other chapters as well (for example Sahassa-vagga, Daṇḍa-vagga, Loka-vagga etc.).
And the twenty-first chapter (Pakiṇṇaka-vagga) contains verses that the editors were probably unable to fit in any other place.
But at the other hand we find out that some of the chapters are quite compact in the structure. For example fifth and sixth chapters (Bāla-vagga and Paṇḍita-vagga), that talk about wise and foolish people respectively, describe the types of person in question rather complexly - the ideas that such people have, the thoughts that go on in their minds, the deeds that are the outcome thereof etc.
The best example of these "compact chapters" is the last one (Brāhmaṇa-vagga). In spite of a few verses, the majority of them have a clear unifying component - the final phrase "him do I call a Brahmin", after describing in the first part of the verse qualities and deeds of a true Brahmin.
In short, the Pāli Dhammapada is a collection, whose heterogeneity is only stressed by the fact, that some of its parts have a regular internal structure.
Another Indian version that is known to us is the Dharmapada in the prākṛt language of gāndhārī, written in the kharoṣṭhī script. This language was spoken in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, in the area traditionally known as Gandhāra. This was a region, which was the first to absorb foreign influences and also the first to export Indian ideas outside of the subcontinent.
If it was very hard to attempt to date the Pāli Dhammapada, it is even more difficult in the case of the Gāndhārī Dharmapada. Only a very few people have researched this question or the history of the kharoṣṭhī script in general. Based on the comparison with other findings of this script  it seems, that the script of our manuscript is very similar to that used on the Kurram Case and Wardak Vase. These objects can be dated roughly to the second century C.E. Therefore we can assume that the manuscript of the Gāndhārī Dharmapada can be dated to the same period. There is a general consensus that this text is the oldest Indian manuscript preserved or found so far.
There is only one (and incomplete) manuscript of the Gāndhārī Dharmapada. It was found outside of India, in the Central Asia.
One part was acquired by French explorers MM. Dutreuil de Rhins and Grenard. It was researched by scholar E. Senart and published in 1898.  Second part was in 1897 given to the Russian Indologist S. F. Oldenburg by N. Th. Petrovskij, the Russian General Consul in Kashgar.
9. Actually, there are quite few findings. They are mainly Aśoka's edicts in Shazbazgarhi and Mansehra, some late inscriptions usually dated between the first century B.C.E. and the second century C.E., few coins with inscriptions in this script and a collection of official documents from several places in Chinese Turkestan, mostly from the place called Niya. Next, there is so called Kurram Case, dated to the year 20 of Kaniṣka's Era, which bears an inscription about storing relics in a certain monastery of Sarvāstivāda school. Finally, we have the Wardak Vase from the year 51 of Kaniṣka's Era, commemorating establishment of a monastery of the Mahāsaṅghika school.
10. Senart, E.: Le manuscript kharoṣṭhī du Dhammapada: les fragments Dutreuil de Rhins. In.: Journal Asiatique, neuvieme serie, tome xii, pp. 193-308. Paris 1898.
It was then further studied and finally published by Sten Konow. 
The manuscript was originally written on both sides of one long strip of birch bark. The parts we have today correspond roughly to the first and last thirds of the text. Because of the colophon was placed after the first thirteen chapters (listing the names of these thirteen chapters), we assume that the total number of chapters was twenty-six. It seems probable, that the author put this colophon after the half of all chapters. Another fact, that seems to speak for this reasoning is, that the transition from the right to the reverse side of the bark happens after the fourteenth chapter. The scribe probably felt the need to make sure that he will be able to finish on the reverse side and therefore turned the strip one chapter after he thought he reached one half of the text. 
As we can see, we know for sure only names of the first thirteen chapters. As for the following chapters, sometimes we can estimate their names by looking at the verses contained in them, sometimes even this is impossible. In the chapters preserved completely, we know the exact number of verses - the number is written under the last verse. The names of the chapters, where we can estimate them, are given in Sanskrit equivalent.
1. Brammaṇa (Brahmin) 50 verses
2. Bhikhu (Monk) 40 verses
3. Tasiṇa (Thirst)
4. Pavu (Evil)
5. Araha (Perfected One)
6. Magu (Way) 30 verses
7. Apramadu (Conscientiousness) 25 verses
11. Konow, Sten: The Oldenburg folio of the Kharoṣṭhī Dhammapada. In.: Acta Orientalia, vol. Xix, pp. 7-20. 1943.
12. This judgement was not very good. The chapters were probably arranged in descending order as for the number of verses, therefore the end of the text is not preserved, the reverse side could be covered with writing maximally from the thirds. The scribe took mechanically the half of the chapters for the half of the text.
8. Cita (Mind)
9. Bāla (Fool)
10. Jara (Old Age) 25 verses
11. Suha (Happiness) 20 verses
12. Thera (Elder) 19 verses
13. Yamaka (Pairs) 22 verses
14. [Paṇḍita] (Wise One) 19 verses
15. [Bahuśruta] (Learned One) 16 verses
16. [Prakīrṇaka] (Various) 15 verses
17. [Krodha] (Anger) 16 verses
18. [Puṣpa] (Flower) 15 verses
19. [Sahasra] (Thousand) 17 verses
20. [Śīla] (Virtue) 10 verses
21. [Kṛtya] (Duty) 9 verses
22. [Nāga or Aśva] (Elephant or Horse)
23.- 26. ???
The total number or preserved verses is three hundred and fifty-four, including the introduction, the colophon after first thirteen verses and two verses written below the manuscript later by some other scribe. In two hundred and forty-four cases we can find a similarity with the Pāli Dhammapada. The whole manuscript shows tendency to arrange chapters in descending order as for the number of verses. If we suppose this trend in the unpreserved chapters, we can come to the lowest possible number of verses around 510 and highest around 570.  The reasonable estimate seems to be between 520 and 560 verses in total.
As for the formal arrangement, what was said about the Pāli Dhammapada applies as well to the Gāndhārī version. Here we also find the same irregularity in dividing verses into chapters. The striking
13. That means if we estimate the highest or lowest number of verses without breaking this "descending order".
contrast between these two versions is immediately visible - whereas in the Pāli Dhammapada the number of verses in the chapters gets higher as we approach the end, the Gāndhārī text shows opposite tendency. We can also see, that the Gāndhārī version contains some chapters that do not have parallels in the Pāli text. Therefore, if we accept the theory about twenty-six original chapters of the manuscript, we can assume that some chapters of the Pāli version are not contained in the Gāndhārī text. Even in the case of chapters that are contained in both versions, we see different distribution of the verses. But this can be easily explained by the several present key words in them. 
The affiliation of this version is unclear. It is certain, that it could not be Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda or Mahāsaṅghika.  Therefore we must look for its affiliation among schools that were present in the region of Gandhāra and further north in Central Asia. These are mainly Kāśyapīya and Dharmaguptaka that are responsible for spreading of Buddhism beyond the borders of Indian cultural sphere. But with the material available now we can not be sure about this. We must therefore wait patiently until more parts of the Buddhist Canon written in prākṛt gāndhārī and the kharoṣṭhī script are found. 
14. For example, if the verse contains both the words "flower" and "monk", it can be listed in both these chapters respectively.
15. The Theravāda version is the Pāli Dhammapada. About the versions of Sarvāstivāda and Mahāsaṅghika schools we will talk later. It is highly improbable, that one school could have more versions of the same text.
16. It seems certain, that there must have been a whole version of the Canon written in this language. It is improbable, that a school would edit only its version of the Dharmapada and stop there.
This text (despite its different name) is also a version of the Dharmapada. It was originally written in Sanskrit and later, when Tibetan scholars made the great effort of translating of original Sanskrit texts, it was also translated into Tibetan and is a part of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon.
The word udāna- is derived from the verb ud+an- where ud- is a prefix denoting moving upwards (the English equivalent would be "up") and the verb root an- means "to breathe". Therefore, udāna means "breathing upwards", or in better words "breathing out". In Buddhist sense udāna means a short utterance (usually by the Buddha), that is pronounced by the inspiration of the moment, possibly in one single breath. It is usually translated as "joyful utterance". The word varga- is a noun derived from the verbal root vṛj- meaning (among other things) "to gather". Varga is therefore translated as "a group", "a chapter", "a collection" and similar synonyms. Udānavarga then should be translated as "A collection of joyful utterances".
The Sanskrit original is unfortunately not preserved on Indian soil itself, but thanks to the good climatic conditions in Central Asia  the scholars were able to reconstruct roughly two thirds of the original Sanskrit text from the manuscripts found there.
Udānavarga contains roughly one thousand verses divided into thirty-three chapters. As for the names of these chapters, we can observe certain differences in naming chapters with similar contents. Some examples are compared in the following chart:
17. Indian climate is - owing to yearly monsoons - very wet, which fact causes the manuscripts to deteriorate and disappear very quickly. Central Asia, on the other hand, is separated from Indian Subcontinent by the Himalayas mountain range and has therefore very dry desert climate. This fact helped to preserve great number of Indian Buddhist text in this area.
Pāli Dhammapada Udānavarga Dhammaṭṭha-vagga Śramaṇa-varga (Recluse) Buddha-vagga Tathāgata-varga ("Thus-gone" one)  Nāga-vagga Aśva-varga (Horse) Jarā-vagga Anitya-varga (Impermanence)
We will now enlist all the names of the chapters. Because the original Sanskrit was not preserved, these names are taken from the Tibetan version. We will list them directly in English:
5. Agreeable Things
7. Virtuous Conduct
11. The Recluse
12. The Way
18. The Flower
19. The Horse
18. A very common epithet of a Buddha.
21. "Thus-gone" one
22. The Hearer
29. Day and Night
31. The Mind
32. The Monk
33. The Brahmana
Preserved fractions of the Udānavarga are probably not all the part of one version of this text. All the indications point to at least two editions, but a higher number of versions is very probable. Main differences lay mostly in the language - older version are written in so called Hybrid Buddhist Sanskrit,  but later ones show tendency to polish the language and change wording and phrasing into Classical Sanskrit. In other places defects of the metrical structure are also removed to give way to their correct forms.
As the person, responsible for editing of the Udānavarga, is very often in the texts mentioned certain Dharmatrāta. This monk is usually supposed to be a member of the Sarvāstivāda school of Buddhism. Although it is not certain, that Dharmatrāta was really the editor of this version, it seems to be possible. He can at least be responsible for the Commentary to this text.
The affiliation of the Udānavarga to the Sarvāstivāda school is not completely proved, but it is very probable. There are no proofs at all to
19. This is a mixture of Prakrit and Sanskrit.
counter this assumption.
There existed at least one more Sanskrit version of the Dharmapada. But it was unfortunately completely lost, except for few short fractions. As a part of one of the classical Buddha's biographies, the Mahāvastu, there are quoted two chapters, namely Sahasra-varga (Thousand) and Bhikṣu-varga (The Monk), plus some isolated verses elsewhere in the text of the Dharmapada of unknown origin. Because this work, the Mahāvastu, was composed in the Mahāsaṅghika Buddhist school, we can therefore accept theory, that these fragments were a part of the Dharmapada version of this school.
In Chinese, there are preserved four different editions of the Dharmapada. They are 法句經, 法句譬喻經, 出曜經 and 法集要頌經. We are also aware of at least two unpreserved versions.
This is the oldest and most important of all Chinese versions. The authors themselves state in the foreword, that it was compiled from different sources. Unfortunately, they do not specify more clearly these sources. The work contains seven hundred and fifty-nine verses in thirty-nine chapters. Of these thirty-nine chapters, chapters 9-32 and 34-35 correspond directly by names and sequence to the Pāli Dhammapada. Even the verses in these chapters are the same, with the exception of some newly added verses.
As for the remaining thirteen chapters, in some cases we can observe a close relationship with the Udānavarga. But still we are left with six names of the sections, that we can not find parallels for in any other preserved version. One possibility is, that as the source for these chapters was taken the Gāndhārī Dharmapada, or rather those verses and chapters, that are not preserved. Another variant is to suppose that these thirteen chapters were taken from the Dharmapada of the Mahāsaṅghika school that I mentioned above. And of course, we can not rule out the possibility of still another version that was lost completely.
This version was written in the year 224 - 225 CE. The people, responsible for its edition and translation, were two Indian monks - 維祇難 and 竺將炎. It is said, that at that time there already existed one version of the Dharmapada in China, but it was of very poor standard. The translation was bad and in places misleading. It was also called 法句經 - but this version has not been preserved for us to judge its quality
today. These two monks were asked to do a completely new translation and edition of the Dharmapada, faithfully rendering the original meaning of Indian texts. They succeeded - the translation is indeed very good as we can judge by comparing the passages parallel in Pāli Dhammapada and 法句經.
The authors state, that this text is also called 曇缽偈 - which can be only seen as an attempt to transliterate into Chinese characters the Sanskrit word Dharmapadagātha (where gātha means "a verse" or "a strophe"). The direct translation of the name Dharmapada is of course the name of the work itself, for the Sanskrit word dharma- in Chinese corresponds to the character法 and pada- is rendered by the character 句. Added is the character 經 (in Sanskrit sūtra-) to indicate the importance the editors ascribed to the text.
1. 無常品 (21 verses)
2. 教學品 (29)
3. 多聞品 (19)
4. 篤信品 (18)
5. 誡慎品 (16)
6. 惟念品 (12)
7. 慈仁品 (18)
8. 言語品 (12)
9. 雙要品 (22)
10. 放逸品 (20)
11. 心意品 (12)
12. 華香品 (17)
13. 愚闇品 (21)
14. 明哲品 (17)
15. 羅漢品 (10)
16. 述千品 (16)
17. 惡行品 (22)
18. 刀杖品 (14)
19. 老耗品 (14)
20. 愛身品 (13)
21. 世俗品 (14)
22. 述佛品 (21)
23. 安寧品 (14)
24. 好喜品 (12)
25. 忿怒品 (26)
26. 塵垢品 (19)
27. 奉持品 (17)
28. 道行品 (28)
29. 廣衍品 (14)
30. 地獄品 (16)
31. 像喻品 (18)
32. 愛俗品 (32)
33. 利養品 (20)
34. 沙門品 (32)
35. 梵志品 (40)
36. 泥恒品 (35)
37. 生死品 (18)
38. 道利品 (20)
39. 吉祥品 (19)
This version was created around 290 - 306 CE by two monks from Western Chin dynasty (西晉). Their names were 法炬 and 法立. It is a selection of verses from the 法句經, but the verses are commented upon. They are set into a narrative context and put into mouth of the Buddha himself. The stories follow a wide range of varieties and the climax of the story is always the particular verse of the Dharmapada, by which the Buddha sums up the story and the lesson that we are to take from it. Good deeds are praised and foolishness is criticized. It seems that the author was aware of the need of such a commented version of the Dharmapada. Possibly it was felt, that just the verses by themselves are not potent enough and it was necessary to put them into a larger scheme of things by actually telling the story that led to creation of the particular verse. Perhaps by this version the teachings of the Dharmapada could find their way into minds of ordinary people, as opposed to scholars and monks who were able to understand the message directly, from the rather dry style of the Dharmapada itself. It could be also means of help to the monks who were to preach the Dharma to the people. The Dharmapada is a very rich source of teachings of the Buddha on all levels and into this day it is used as an inspiration for teaching and educating the public. The commentary can be of a tremendous help to the preacher - it often offers a deeper insight into the meaning of the verse than one is able to get just by reading the verse itself.
It is interesting to note that such a commentary was produced also to the Pāli Dhammapada. But here it does not form a part of the text itself, it is rather a separate text, that one could (but did not have to) read with the original Dharmapada. It is called Commentary to the Dhammapada (Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā) and is a part of the secondary Canon, i.e. the commentaries, that were composed to every single part of the Canon itself).
The text contains forty chapters - thus it differs from 法句經 which has only thirty-nine of them - and also the names and sequence is slightly different in places:
This work was composed roughly in 398-399 CE. As its authors are mentioned monks 僧伽跋澄 (probably Sanskrit Saṅghavarti) and 竺佛念 (which can mean "The Indian monk Buddhānusmṛti"). It is said in the foreword to this work, that the monk 僧伽跋澄 obtained the manuscript from India, whereas 竺佛念 was actually the one, who translated it. In its form, it is very close to 法句譬喻經, in other words, it lists the verses and then comments upon them. But in this case as a source, from which the verses to be commented upon were taken, served the Udānavarga rather than 法句經.
The authors seem to understand the Sanskrit word udāna to bear the meaning of "sunrise". That is very surprising, because the word is clearly connected with breathing (the verb root an-). It could be that they mistook the word udāna for udayana (prefix ud- meaning "up" and the verb root i- meaning "to go") which indeed denotes rising up, usually meaning the sunrise.
It consists of thirty-four chapters, thus obviously being different from two previous versions, which have more chapters. We are listing names of these chapters below:
This text is dated approximately to the end of the ninth century CE - during the Sung (宋) dynasty. It is attributed to certain 天息災. It is therefore very late and not directly important for research on the early period of Buddhism in China. It only sums up the verses from the 出曜經 although in many places wording is different.
The main difference of course is that the commentary part was left out - only the verses are listed. The reason for compiling this book was probably to put the verses together without the need to read through extensive commentary first. Also, there might be felt a "gap" - that is to say, 法句經 lists only the verses, whereas 法句譬喻經 brings the commentary to them. Therefore, if the 出曜經 has both the verses and the commentary, 法集要頌經 could have been created as a counterpart of 法句經 - to list only the verses.
The total number of chapters is 33 - one less than 出曜經. Their names are as follows:
There are at least two versions of the Dharmapada that were not preserved to our times.
First of them we already mentioned in the chapter 7.1. It was the first poorly translated version of 法句經, that the Indian monks 維祇難 and 竺將炎 were called upon to translate again. So this version got lost from very obvious reasons - there was no need to copy its manuscripts, since it was not a very good work to start with. Furthermore, there appeared a new better edition that was since then copied and used as the most important Chinese version of the Dharmapada.
There was another version that was lost completely. We do not even know its name, approximate date of edition nor are we aware of the source from which this text has been translated. We only know that it was translated by a certain man from the country of Yueh-Chih (月氏). That name is applied to the nation of nomadic people that was originally living somewhere in Central Asia, probably Chinese Turkestan. It is therefore very tempting to attempt to identify this lost version with the Gāndhārī Dharmapada whose only surviving manuscript was also found in this region. But of course, there are no proofs for such a claim.
As I stated in the Introduction, I am well aware of limitations of the present research. Complete translation of all the available versions is required, their mutual comparison, from the philosophical as well as philological points of view.
But this present research does not claim to be nothing else but the preliminary stage of the real work in this important field. We were able to discuss all the preserved versions of the Dharmapada, in Indian as well as Chinese languages, we introduced their history and also analyzed them from several points of view - philosophical, metrical, philological etc.
Of course, for this reason it was not possible to draw any definite conclusions from my research, but it did prepare all the necessary material for further work - which was exactly my aim when starting this present research.
Now we can undertake the real work - translate the Chinese versions, starting possibly with the most important of them, 法句經, compare them with the Pāli and Gāndhārī versions and other texts - for as I already mentioned, verses from the Dharmapada are often found also in non-Buddhist works, such as the great Indian epics Mahābhārata. Then we will be able to draw conclusions important for Buddhist studies and the history in general - the early period of Buddhism in China.
Therefore I present this research for what it is - first preliminary steps in a very important area that has not been very well explored so far and will be of great benefit to Buddhist studies when finished.
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