Translation talk:Dhammapada

Add topic
Active discussions

As a general rule, ancient texts should, IMHO, be "Attributed to..." rather than "By..." As a matter of aesthetics, maybe simply placing the name of the text below the title would prevent pious, or dogmatic, persons from taking offense.Geofferybard (talk) 22:02, 28 April 2011 (UTC)


There are many different translations of the Dhammapada into English. Since Pali is a radically different language than English, and since shades of meaning are often lost to time, translators have a wide array of choices to make in every verse. Some translations attempt to convey the age and wisdom of the original text by using archaic English. Others try to maintain the poetic form by focusing on preserving the structure, assonance, and repetition of the original. Still others paraphrase the work in order to make it more approachable to a modern audience. The Dhammapada can serve many roles: as poetry, as anthropological description, as philosophical teaching, and as a guide for ethical living, just to name a few.

This translation does not attempt to be the most scholarly, the most literal, or the most poetic translation available. Instead, we have focused on making the words of the text applicable to daily life. Words and structures were chosen to be as useful as possible, rather than focusing on other aspects of the work. For example, verses will often indicate "When a person [acts in a certain way]", and this is usually rendered in this translation as "When I [act in this way]", in order to make the translation more specific to the reader. We hope that the text has not been strained unduly in making this translation, and all errors are of course our own.

Relatively few English translations of the Dhammapada are free of copyright restrictions. In order to facilitate the widespread use and understanding of the teachings of the Buddha, we have waived all copyrights on the translation. It is hoped that the reader will profit from the wisdom contained herein.

Customs used in this translationEdit

Sanskrit and Pali are closely related languages used in ancient India. It is widely assumed that Gautama Buddha would have used Pali in day-to-day conversation, while Sanskrit was used in scholarly texts or for texts designed to be widespread. We have chosen the Pali versions of words, instead of the Sanskrit terms, merely out of familiarity and custom. The choice of Pali vs. Sanskrit terms has become a sectarian disagreement, and our use of Pali should not be seen as an advocation of either side of this debate. Whenever a Pali word is used, the Sanskrit word is listed beside it in parentheses.

There are two competing traditions regarding the numbering of verses. In one tradition, all 423 verses are numbered in order, regardless of chapter. In the other, each chapter begins a new numbering of verses. In this way, the second verse in the third chapter can be listed as Dhammapada 34 or as Dhammapada 3:2. We have listed both numbering systems in this translation, with the chapter:verse nomenclature first, and the single verse number in parentheses.