Another translation of the Dhammapada.

Many other English translations are already available–the fingers of at least five people would be needed to count them–so I suppose that a new translation has to be justified, to prove that it’s not “just” another one. In doing so, though, I’d rather not criticize the efforts of earlier translators, for I owe them a great deal. Instead, I’ll ask you to read the Introduction and Historical Notes, to gain an idea of what is distinctive about the approach I have taken, and the translation itself, which I hope will stand on its own merits. The original impulse for making the translation came from my conviction that the text deserved to be offered freely as a gift of Dhamma. As I knew of no existing translations available as gifts, I made my own.

The explanatory material is designed to meet with the needs of two sorts of readers: those who want to read the text as a text, in the context of the religious history of Buddhism–viewed from the outside–and those who want to read the text as a guide to the personal conduct of their lives. Although there is no clear line dividing these groups, the Introduction is aimed more at the second group, and the Historical Notes more at the first. The End Notes and Glossary contain material that should be of interest to both. Verses marked with an asterisk in the translation are discussed in the End Notes. Pali terms–as well as English terms used in a special sense, such as effluent, enlightened one, fabrication, stress, and Unbinding–when they appear in more than one verse, are explained in the Glossary.

In addition to the previous translators and editors from whose work I have borrowed, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Jeanne Larsen for her help in honing down the language of the translation. Also, John Bullitt, Gil Fronsdal, Charles Hallisey, Karen King, Andrew Olendzki, Ruth Stiles, Clark Strand, Paula Trahan, and Jane Yudelman offered many helpful comments that improved the quality of the book as a whole. Any mistakes that remain, of course, are my own responsibility.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

(Geoffrey DeGraff)

Metta Forest Monastery

Valley Center, CA 92082-1409

December, 1997