More than a decade ago I began supplying translations from the Pali Canon to what was then a fledgling website, Access to Insight. Among the earliest translations was an anthology of passages from the Udāna. For quite some time now I have wanted to replace that anthology with a complete translation, both because my early effort contained a number of minor mistakes, and because, as I became more sensitive to the literary dimensions of the Pali Canon, I came to see that the Udāna is a well-constructed whole, with each part amplifying and amplified by the others. Only a complete translation could do justice to the skill with which the collection was compiled.
In October of last year I had the opportunity to revisit the text and to begin work on a complete, more correct translation. With the benefit of computerized versions of the Pali Canon now available, I was able not only to compare various editions of the text, but also to explore more fully other udānas and udāna-like passages in the Pali Canon. Also, I made a more thorough study of the text and the values it expresses, creating the tables used in the Introduction. And I tried to place the text in the context of Indian literary theory, to help get a better sense of the effect at which the compliers may have been aiming.
At the same time, because of the recent surge of interest in approaching early Buddhist texts from modern and post-modern perspectives, I felt that it would be worthwhile to consider how beneficial these approaches might be with this particular text. These considerations made their way into the Introduction as well. I hope you find them useful.
Just as I was completing the manuscript, I became aware of two works by Ven. Ānandajoti in this area: a complete translation of the Udāna and a comparative study of parallels to the Udāna verses in the Udānavarga, a text composed in the language called Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Comparing my work with his, I was able to ferret out a few more errors in my translation and to incorporate the results of some of his research into my notes. Thus I am in his debt. However, because the aims and method of his translation differed from mine, I feel that this new translation is not superfluous.
The primary foundation for this translation is the Thai edition of the Pali text, printed by Mahāmakut Rājavidyālaya, Bangkok, 1981. I have also consulted Sri Lankan and Burmese editions available online through the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and the Digital Pali Reader. All of these texts have their flaws, so I have had to make choices among them. In cases where the Thai text contained readings that were obviously wrong, I have chosen readings from one or both of the other sources. In cases where none of the variant readings in the different editions seemed obviously better than the others, I have stuck with the Thai reading even when the other editions were seconded by the Udānavarga. This is because there already exist English translations based on the Sri Lankan and Burmese editions; I felt that the Thai edition should have its chance to speak to the larger world.
Many people have reviewed the manuscript and made valuable suggestions for improvement. In addition to the monks here at the monastery, this includes Michael Barber, Charles Malloy IV, Addie Onsanit, Nathaniel Osgood, Mary Talbot, and Barbara Wright. Any errors that remain in the manuscript, of course, are my own.
Metta Forest Monastery
Valley Center, CA 92082-1409