by Acharya Buddharakkhita
Dhammapada is the best known and most widely esteemed text in
the Pali Tipitaka, the sacred scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.
The work is included in the Khuddaka Nikaya ("Minor Collection")
of the Sutta Pitaka, but its popularity has raised it far above
the single niche it occupies in the scriptures to the ranks of
a world religious classic. Composed in the ancient Pali language,
this slim anthology of verses constitutes a perfect compendium
of the Buddha's teaching, comprising between its covers all the
essential principles elaborated at length in the forty-odd volumes
of the Pali Canon.
to the Theravada Buddhist tradition, each verse in the Dhammapada
was originally spoken by the Buddha in response to a particular
episode. Accounts of these, along with exegesis of the verses,
are preserved in the classic commentary to the work, compiled
by the great scholiast Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa in the fifth
century C.E. on the basis or material going back to very ancient
times. The contents of the verses, however, transcend the limited
and particular circumstances of their origin, reaching out through
the ages to various types of people in all the diverse situations
of life. For the simple and unsophisticated the Dhammapada is
a sympathetic counselor; for the intellectually overburdened its
clear and direct teachings inspire humility and reflection; for
the earnest seeker it is a perennial source of inspiration and
practical instruction. Insights that flashed into the heart of
the Buddha have crystallized into these luminous verses of pure
wisdom. As profound expressions of practical spirituality, each
verse is a guideline to right living. The Buddha unambiguously
pointed out that whoever earnestly practices the teachings found
in the Dhammapada will taste the bliss of emancipation.
to its immense importance, the Dhammapada has been translated
into numerous languages. In English alone several translations
are available, including editions by such noted scholars as Max
Muller and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. However, when presented from
a non-Buddhist frame of reference, the teachings of the Buddha
inevitably suffer some distortion. This, in fact, has already
happened with our anthology: an unfortunate selection of renderings
has sometimes suggested erroneous interpretations, while footnotes
have tended to be judgmental.
present translation was originally written in the late 1950's.
Some years earlier, while consulting a number of English-language
editions of the Dhammapada, it was observed that the renderings
were either too free and inaccurate or too pedantic, and it was
therefore felt that a new translation avoiding these two extremes
would serve a valuable purpose. The finished result of that project,
presented here, is a humble attempt by a practicing follower of
the Buddha to transmit the spirit and content, as well as the
language and style, of the original teachings.
preparing this volume I have had access to numerous editions and
translations of the Dhammapada into various languages, including
Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Sinhala, Burmese and Nepali. I particularly
benefited from the excellent translations of the work by the late
Venerable Narada Mahathera of Vajirarama, Colombo. Sri Lanka,
and Professor Bhagwat of Poona, India; To them I acknowledge my
debt. A few verses contain riddles, references or analogies that
may not be evident to the reader. The meanings of these are provided
either in parenthesis or notes, and for their interpretation I
have relied on the explanations given in Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa's
commentary. Verses discussed in the notes are indicated in the
text by an asterisk at the end of the verse.
first edition of this translation was published in 1959 and a
second in 1966, both by the Maha Bodhi Society in Bangalore, India.
For this third edition, the translation has undergone considerable
revision. The newly added subtitle, "The Buddha's Path of
Wisdom," is not literal, but is fully applicable on the ground
that the verses of the Dhammapada all originate from the Buddha's
wisdom and lead the one who follows them to a life guided by that
am grateful to the editors of the Buddhist Publication Society
for their helpful suggestions and to the Society itself for so
generously undertaking the publication of this work.
make this offering of Dhamma in grateful memory of my teachers,
parents and relatives, departed and living. May they find access
in the Buddha's Dispensation and attain Nibbana!
all beings be happy!