Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia

Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia

Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia

Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia


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A unique Buddhist tradition, accessible in English for the first time—translations of forty-five Cambodian Dharma songs, with contextualizing essays and a link to audio of stunning vocal performances.

Until Nirvana’s Time is the first collection of traditional Cambodian Buddhist literature available in English, presenting original translations of forty-five poems. Introduced, translated, and contextualized by scholar and vocalist Trent Walker, the Dharma songs in this book reveal a distinctive Southeast Asian genre of devotion, mourning, and contemplation. Their soaring melodies have inspired Cambodians for generations, whether in daily prayers or all-night rituals.

Trained in oral and written lineages in Cambodia, Walker presents a carefully curated range of poems from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries that capture the transformative wisdom of the Khmer Buddhist tradition. Many of the poems, having been transcribed from old cassette tapes or fragile bark-paper manuscripts, are printed here for the first time. A link to recordings of selected songs in English and Khmer accompanies the book. These frank and compelling poems offer mirrors to our own lives—even as they challenge Buddhist conventions of how to die, how to grieve, and how to repay the ones we love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781645471349
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 12/27/2022
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.47(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

TRENT WALKER is Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies and Thai Professor of Theravada Buddhism in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. A specialist in Southeast Asian Buddhist music, literature, and manuscripts, he has published widely on Khmer, Lao, Pali, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist texts and recitation practices. He has trained in Cambodian Buddhist chant since 2005 and is a regular speaker at temples, retreat centers, and universities.

Table of Contents

Foreword Kate Crosby xi

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xxi

Note on Transliteration xxiii

Note to the Reader xxv

Part 1 The Songs

Narrating Lives 3

1 Chaddanta's Lament 5

2 Subhadra's Lament 7

3 Parika's Lament 9

4 Suvannasama's Lament 11

5 Madri's Lament 13

6 Lullaby of the Gods 19

7 Maya's Guidance for Gotami 21

8 Divine Messengers 23

9 Leaving the Palace 25

10 Maya's Lament 27

11 Indra's Lute 29

12 The Defeat of Mara 31

13 Invitation to Preach the Dharma 39

14 The Buddha's Last Words 43

15 The Buddha's Passing Away 45

16 Mourning the Buddha's Demise 47

17 The Cremation of the Buddha 49

18 The Relics of the Buddha 51

Repaying Debts 57

19 In Praise of the Earth 59

20 The Twenty-Four Vowels 65

21 The Thirty-Three Consonants 67

22 Absolving All Faults 71

23 Filial Debts 81

24 Asking for Mother's Forgiveness 83

25 Orphan's Lament 85

26 Hungry Ghosts' Lament 87

27 Offerings for Monks and Ancestors 93

28 Dedication of Merit 95

Befriending Death 97

29 Funeral March 99

30 This Life Is Short 101

31 The Four Thieves 103

32 The True Fate of Flesh 105

33 This Heap Called a Body 109

34 Song for the Hour of Death 117

35 A Lesson in Meditation 125

36 The Fortunate Eon 133

Chasing Peace 149

37 Lotus Offering to Reach Nirvana 151

38 A Prayer for the People 153

39 Homage to the Three Jewels 155

40 The Homage Octet 159

41 The Buddha's Eightfold Array 161

42 Homage to All Holy Sites 163

43 Hymn to the Buddha's Feet 165

44 The Dharma of Union 171

45 Lotus Offering to Realize Awakening 181

Part 2 The Essays

The World of Cambodian Buddhism 189

The Ritual Life of Dharma Songs 203

Oral and Written Transmission 209

Meter, Melody, and Rhyme 215

Part 3 Notes on the Songs

Unfolding Sources, Revealing Meanings 227

Notes 293

Bibliography 309

Index 325

About the Author 337

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