Read an Excerpt
Foreword, by Jack Kornfield
You hold in your hands the most beloved of all Buddhist texts, both poetic and profound. These verses of the
sum up in the simplest language the core teachings of the Buddha. Memorized and chanted by devoted followers for thousands of years, these words remind all who hear them of the universal truths expounded by the Buddha: Hatred never ends by hatred. Virtue and wise action are the foundation for happiness. And the
Buddha's teachings offer the possibility of a thoroughly unshakable peace and liberation of heart for those who follow the way of the Dharma and free themselves from clinging.
This new translation is both clearly and honorably literal and beautifully modern.
Through it, Gil Fronsdal, a deeply respected Western meditation teacher and
Buddhist scholar, conveys in English the life of these timeless words. The
Dhammapada's elegant verses, many spoken by the Buddha over the long years of his teaching,
were assembled by his senior monks and nuns to express his essential wisdom.
Indeed, had you been there, seated under the canopy of a banyan tree, listening closely to the Buddha as he directly pointed the way for you to live a compassionate, wise, and totally free life, you might have realized enlightenment then and there.
But it is not too late. These teachings in the
are as true now as the moment they were offered from the Buddha's own lips. One page, one verse alone, has the power to change your life. Do not merely read these words but take them in slowly, savor them. Let them touch your heart's deepest wisdom. Let your understanding grow. Seeing what is true, put these words into practice. Then, as the text says, let the fragrance of your virtue spread farther than the smell of rosebay and jasmine, farther than even the winds can blow. Let the practice release your heart from fear. Let the quieting of your mind and the clear seeing of the truth release you from confusion and clinging.
May these verses and the liberated and compassionate heart to which they point awaken you. May they bring you peace, wisdom, joy, and the gift of unshakable inner freedom.
May all who open this book be blessed.
Over the years I have read the
in a variety of ways, sometimes casually and sometimes with great care. I have calmed my mind in meditation so that I could encounter the text in creative and intuitive ways. I have read it out loud. I have memorized verses. Some passages
I have reread many times until they revealed new understandings or insights. I
have read it for my own inspiration as well as to discover what inspired ancient Buddhists in their religious life. At times I have approached the text with an inquiring attitude, sometimes to see how the text might address a particular question I've had and sometimes to allow the text to question my own views and biases.
Each way of reading the text gives me a different impression of the
Using a variety of approaches has enriched my experience of the text. My hope is that my translation will enable other readers to be enriched by it as well,
perhaps showing them something of the happiness toward which this religious classic is a guide.
The restless, agitated mind,
Hard to protect, hard to control,
The sage makes straight,
As a fletcher the shaft of an arrow.
Like a fish out of water,
Thrown on dry ground,
This mind thrashes about,
Trying to escape Mara's command.
The mind, hard to control,
Flighty—alighting where it wishes—
One does well to tame.
The disciplined mind brings happiness.
The mind, hard to see,
Subtle—alighting where it wishes—
The sage protects.
The watched mind brings happiness.
Far ranging, solitary,
Incorporeal and hidden
Is the mind.
Those who restrain it
Will be freed from Mara's bonds.
For those who are unsteady of mind,
Who do not know true Dharma,
And whose serenity wavers,
Wisdom does not mature.
For one who is awake,
Whose mind isn't overflowing,
Whose heart isn't afflicted
And who has abandoned both merit and demerit,
Fear does not exist.
Knowing this body to be like a clay pot,
Establishing this mind like a fortress,
One should battle Mara with the sword of insight,
Protecting what has been won,
Clinging to nothing.
All too soon this body
Will lie on the ground,
Cast aside, deprived of consciousness,
Like a useless scrap of wood.
Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy,
Or haters, one to another,
Far worse is the harm
From one's own wrongly directed mind.
Neither mother nor father,
Nor any other relative can do
One as much good
As one's own well-directed mind.