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A Translation
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
(Geoffrey DeGraff)
Copyright © Thanissaro Bhikkhu 1998
This book may be copied or reprinted for free distribution
without permission from the publisher.
Otherwise all rights reserved.
Revised edition, 2011.
I : Pairs
II : Heedfulness
III : The Mind
IV : Blossoms
V : Fools
VI : The Wise
VII : Arahants
VIII : Thousands
IX : Evil
X : The Rod
XI : Aging
XII : Self
XIII : Worlds
XIV : Awakened
XV : Happy
XVI : Dear Ones
XVII : Anger
XVIII : Impurities
XIX : The Judge
XX : The Path
XXI : Miscellany
XXII : Hell
XXIII : Elephants
XXIV : Craving
XXV : Monks
XXVI : Brahmans
Historical Notes
End Notes
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
Metta Forest Monastery
Valley Center, CA 92082-1409
December, 1997
The Dhammapada, an anthology of verses attributed to the Buddha, has long been
recognized as one of the masterpieces of early Buddhist literature. Only more recently have
scholars realized that it is also one of the early masterpieces in the Indian tradition of kavya,
or belles lettres.
This translation of the Dhammapada is an attempt to render the verses into English in a
way that does justice to both of the traditions to which the text belongs. Although it is
tempting to view these traditions as distinct, dealing with form (kavya) and content
(Buddhism), the ideals of kavya aimed at combining form and content into a seamless whole.
At the same time, the early Buddhists adopted and adapted the conventions of kavya in a way
that skillfully dovetailed with their views of how teaching and listening played a role in their
path of practice. My hope is that the translation presented here will convey the same
seamlessness and skill.
As an example of kavya, the Dhammapada has a fairly complete body of ethical and
aesthetic theory behind it, for the purpose of kavya was to instruct in the highest ends of life
while simultaneously giving delight. The ethical teaching of the Dhammapada is expressed
in the first pair of verses: the mind, through its actions (kamma), is the chief architect of
one’s happiness and suffering both in this life and beyond. The first three chapters elaborate
on this point, to show that there are two major ways of relating to this fact: as a wise person,
who is heedful enough to make the necessary effort to train his/her own mind to be a skillful