Essence of the Dhammapada: The Buddha's Call to Nirvana (Google eBook)

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Nilgiri Press, 2013 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 293 pages
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The translator of the best-selling edition of the Dhammapada, a well-known teacher of meditation, presents this scripture as a guidebook for all spiritual seekers, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alikeNew, lively, authoritative explanation of core Buddhist themes, illustrated with stories of the Buddha's life and contemporary examplesEknath Easwaran, translator of the best-selling edition of the Dhammapada, sees this powerful scripture as a perfect map for the spiritual journey. Said to be the text closest to the Buddha's actual words, it is a collection of short teachings memorized during his lifetime by his disciples. Easwaran presents the Dhammapada as a guide to spiritual perseverance, progress, and ultimately enlightenment - a heroic confrontation with life as it really is, with straight answers to our deepest questions. We witness the heartbreak of death, for instance - what does that mean for us? What is love? How does karma work? How do we follow the spiritual life in the midst of work and family? Does nirvana really exist, and if so, what is it like to be illumined?In his interpretation of Buddhist themes, illustrated with stories from the Buddha's life, Easwaran offers a view of the concept of Right Understanding that is both exhilarating and instructive. He shares his experiences on the spiritual path, giving the advice that only an experienced teacher and practitioner can offer, and urges us to answer for ourselves the Buddha's call to nirvana - that mysterious, enduring state of wisdom, joy, and peace.

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Essence of the Dhammapada is the latest posthumous book by Eknath Easwaran of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Tomales, CA. This is a great book with brand new material covering topics in Buddhism which is definitely worth reading. In this book, Easwaran combines his extensive knowledge of Pali, the language used in Buddhist scriptures, with his practical knowledge based on living the truths outlined in the Dhammapada to bring the teachings of the Buddha to life for modern readers.
This book is arranged as commentary on specific verses from the Dhammapada, a Buddhist scripture for lay practitioners which is free from dogma and speculation. The verses are grouped together by theme and are woven into a beautiful and coherent whole though the verses and commentary may at times not seem related to each other.
Essence of the Dhammapada is more theoretical in nature than some of Easwaran’s other books and serves as a great companion to Easwaran’s translation of the Dhammapada. This book goes much more deeply into an exploration of the theory of Buddhism than the introduction to Easwaran’s Dhammapada. There is brand new, previously unpublished material covering an exploration of topics including the concepts of no self, impermanence, the chain of cause and effect, and the doctrine of momentariness. In addition there are new stories about the Buddha’s life which demonstrate the practicality of the Buddha’s teachings.
The first few chapters set the background of the journey which the Buddha says that all human beings will have to make to attain nirvana, the highest goal of life and the end of all sorrow. Information about the Buddha’s own life story, the Four Noble Truths, and other basic Buddhist teachings help to set the background. Easwaran then goes on to illustrate the type of enthusiasm required for what will be a long, arduous journey. One important point to remember is that the battle waged in within and not external and the discovery to be made in nirvana is that all life is one.
In later chapters, Easwaran describes the chain of cause and effect and delves into the different stages of meditation. In the Buddha’s own story, he spent many years unsuccessfully experimenting with asceticism and other practices before settling on the Middle Path and practice of meditation. Easwaran’s description of the unfathomable world of the unconscious is sublime and could only have been made by someone who had himself gone through the journey within into the depths of the unconscious.
Easwaran ends with a description of how life seems through the perspective of someone who has attained the state of nirvana and how life as we currently know it is actually like a dream or illusion. The Buddha is well known for his scientific approach to religion and noble silence about speculative questions which have nothing to do with the attainment of the end of sorrow. In the same spirit, Easwaran has presented his own beautiful commentary on the Buddha’s teachings. I hope that other readers will like Essence of the Dhammapada as much as I have.

Review: Essence of the Dhammapada: The Buddha's Call to Nirvana

User Review  - Charles - Goodreads

I had hoped this was the full translation of the Dhammapada. That said this is a great start to reading and understanding Buddhism. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in the topic. Read full review


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About the author (2013)

Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) grew up in India and studied both Sanskrit and Pali, the simplified version of Sanskrit that was spoken by the Buddha. He was chairman of the English department at a major Indian university when he came to the United States on a Fulbright fellowship in 1959.

In 1961 Easwaran founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California, and in 1967, at the University of California, Berkeley, he taught the first academic course on meditation ever offered for credit at a major American university. From the mid 1970s onwards, Easwaran held classes on the core Buddhist scripture, the Dhammapada, in addition to his talks on meditation, world mysticism, and spiritual living.

A gifted teacher, he was able to anticipate the problems that Western readers may have with the concepts underlying the classics of Indian spirituality, and to explain them in fresh and profoundly simple ways. Easwaran’s translations of the Indian classics, the Dhammapada, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Upanishads, are all best-selling editions in English. His books have been translated into 25 languages, and more than 1.5 million copies are in print.

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