The Dhammapada: Verses on the Way: A New Translation of the Teachings of the Buddha With a Guide to Reading the Text


Trembling and quivering is the mind,
Difficult to guard and hard to restrain.
The person of wisdom sets it straight,
As a fletcher does an arrow.

The Dhammapada introduced the actual utterances of the Buddha nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, when the master teacher emerged from his long silence to illuminate for his followers the ...

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Trembling and quivering is the mind,
Difficult to guard and hard to restrain.
The person of wisdom sets it straight,
As a fletcher does an arrow.

The Dhammapada introduced the actual utterances of the Buddha nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, when the master teacher emerged from his long silence to illuminate for his followers the substance of humankind’s deepest and most abiding concerns. The nature of the self, the value of relationships, the importance of moment-to-moment awareness, the destructiveness of anger, the suffering that attends attachment, the ambiguity of the earth’s beauty, the inevitability of aging, the certainty of death–these dilemmas preoccupy us today as they did centuries ago. No other spiritual texts speak about them more clearly and profoundly than does the Dhammapada.

In this elegant new translation, Sanskrit scholar Glenn Wallis has exclusively referred to and quoted from the canonical suttas–the presumed earliest discourses of the Buddha–to bring us the heartwood of Buddhism, words as compelling today as when the Buddha first spoke them. On violence: All tremble before violence./ All fear death./ Having done the same yourself,/ you should neither harm nor kill. On ignorance: An uninstructed person/ ages like an ox,/ his bulk increases,/ his insight does not. On skillfulness: A person is not skilled/ just because he talks a lot./ Peaceful, friendly, secure–/ that one is called “skilled.”

In 423 verses gathered by subject into chapters, the editor offers us a distillation of core Buddhist teachings that constitutes a prescription for enlightened living, even in the twenty-first century. He also includes a brilliantly informative guide to the verses–a chapter-by-chapter explication that greatly enhances our understanding of them. The text, at every turn, points to practical applications that lead to freedom from fear and suffering, toward the human state of spiritual virtuosity known as awakening.

Glenn Wallis’s translation is an inspired successor to earlier versions of the suttas. Even those readers who are well acquainted with the Dhammapada will be enriched by this fresh encounter with a classic text

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Dhammapada, one of the most popular texts of the Buddhist canon, presents 423 short (mostly four-line) verses organized in 26 topical chapters. Aphoristic sayings attributed to the Buddha, these verses are intended to help struggling practitioners keep to the path and be mindful of "what is most important in life." Wallis (Buddhism, Hinduism, & Eastern religions, Univ. of Georgia; Meditating the Power of Buddhas) has rendered a clear, readily accessible translation that preserves the Buddhist connotation in language understandable to nonspecialist Western readers. His accompanying "Guide to Reading the Text" provides an introduction to each chapter while also illuminating notes and copious bibliographic references. Although this is another in a long line of English translations of this core title, most public and academic libraries will want to add it for its readability, the alternative reading many patrons will seek, and the utility of the concluding guide, which will prove useful to those seeking further context. Highly recommended.-James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville, Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812977271
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/9/2007
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 575,206
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

GLENN WALLIS has a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard. He is assistant professor of religion at the University of Georgia and the author of Mediating the Power of Buddhas and numerous articles.

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Read an Excerpt




Contrasting Pairs


Preceded by mind

are phenomena,

led by mind,

formed by mind.

If with mind polluted

one speaks or acts,

then pain follows,

as a wheel follows

the draft ox’s foot.(1)*

Preceded by mind

are phenomena,

led by mind,

formed by mind.

If with mind pure

one speaks or acts,

then ease follows,

as an ever-present shadow.(2)*

“He berated me! He hurt me!

He beat me! He deprived me!”

For those who hold such grudges,

hostility is not appeased.(3)

“He berated me! He hurt me!

He beat me! He deprived me!”

For those who forgo such grudges,

hostility ceases.(4)

In this world

hostilities are never

appeased by hostility.

But by the absence of hostility

are they appeased.

This is an interminable truth.(5)*

Some do not understand

that we are perishing here.

Those who understand this

bring to rest their quarrels.(6)

Living with an eye to pleasure,

unrestrained in the sense faculties,

immoderate in eating, indolent, and idle—

M¯ara overcomes such a person,

as the wind overcomes a weak tree.(7)*

Living without an eye to pleasure,

well restrained in the sense faculties,

moderate in eating, faithful, and energetic—

M¯ara does not overcome such a person,

as the wind, a rocky hill.(8)*

A stained person

who would wear the yellow-stained robe,

although neither honest nor restrained,

is not worthy of the yellow-stained.(9)*

But a person

who has dispelled his stain,

well set on virtuous ways,

both honest and restrained,

that one is worthy of the yellow-stained.(10)*

Those who hold the worthless to be of value,

and see in the valuable the worthless,

do not attain the valuable,

pasturing, as they are, in the field of wrong intention.(11)*

But having understood the valuable as the valuable,

and the worthless as the worthless,

they attain the valuable,

pasturing, as they are, in the field of right intention.(12)*

Just as rain pierces

a poorly roofed house,

so passion pierces

an uncultivated mind.(13)*

Just as rain cannot pierce

a well-roofed house,

so passion cannot pierce

a well-cultivated mind.(14)*

In this world he grieves.

In the world beyond he grieves.

In both worlds, the harm doer grieves.

He grieves, he is struck down by sorrow,

having seen the impurity of his own actions.(15)*

In this world he rejoices.

In the world beyond he rejoices.

In both worlds, the virtuous person rejoices.

He rejoices, he is uplifted,

having seen the purity of his own actions.(16)*

In this world he suffers.

In the world beyond he suffers.

In both worlds, the harm doer suffers.

Thinking, “I have acted destructively!” he suffers.

Taking an unfortunate rebirth,

he suffers even more.(17)*

In this world he is delighted.

In the world beyond he is delighted.

In both worlds, the virtuous person is delighted.

Thinking, “I have created value!” he is delighted.

Taking a fortunate rebirth,

he is delighted even more.(18)*

Although reciting many religious texts,

if one does not practice accordingly,

he is a heedless man.

Like a cowherd counting the cows of others,

he has no share in the religious life.(19)*

Although reciting but little from religious texts,

if one is good, he lives in harmony with the teachings.

Abandoning passion, hatred, and delusion,

he possesses proper understanding, perfect purity of mind.

Showing no attachment to this world or beyond,

he has a share in the religious life.(20)*

Guide page 103

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Contrasting pairs (verses 1-20) 3
Ch. 2 Diligence (21-32) 7
Ch. 3 Mind (33-43) 10
Ch. 4 Flowers (44-59) 12
Ch. 5 The childish person (60-75) 15
Ch. 6 The skilled person (76-89) 18
Ch. 7 The accomplished person (90-99) 21
Ch. 8 Thousands (100-115) 23
Ch. 9 Detriment (116-128) 26
Ch. 10 Violence (129-145) 29
Ch. 11 Old age (146-156) 32
Ch. 12 Oneself (157-166) 34
Ch. 13 The world (167-178) 37
Ch. 14 The awakened (179-196) 40
Ch. 15 Being at ease (197-208) 43
Ch. 16 Pleasing (209-220) 46
Ch. 17 Anger (221-234) 48
Ch. 18 Toxins (235-255) 51
Ch. 19 Firmly on the way (256-272) 55
Ch. 20 The path (273-289) 58
Ch. 21 Scattered themes (290-305) 61
Ch. 22 The lower world (306-319) 64
Ch. 23 Elephant (320-333) 67
Ch. 24 Craving (334-359) 70
Ch. 25 The practitioner (360-382) 75
Ch. 26 The superior person (383-423) 79
Guide to reading the text
Chapter overviews and notes
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2007

    The best of all

    On the advice of a friend, I recently poured through no fewer than seven translations of the Dhammapada. While each has its merits, I think that this one by Glenn Wallis is overall the best. The translations are tight and honest-sounding and the Guide is a masterpiece of erudition and wisdom. I recommend Wallis above the others.

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    Posted August 6, 2009

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