The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories
Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.
Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma
Tipitaka Association Rangoon, Burma, 1986
Courtesy of Nibbana.com
For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma.
Dhammapada is one of the best
known books of the Pitaka. It is a collection of the teachings of the Buddha
expressed in clear, pithy verses. These verses were culled from various
discourses given by the Buddha in the course of forty-five years of his
teaching, as he travelled in the valley of the Ganges (Ganga) and the
sub-mountain tract of the Himalayas. These verses are often terse, witty and
convincing. Whenever similes are used, they are those that are easily understood
even by a child, e.g., the cart's wheel, a man's shadow, a deep pool, flowers.
Through these verses, the Buddha exhorts one to achieve that greatest of all
conquests, the conquest of self; to escape from the evils of passion, hatred and
ignorance; and to strive hard to attain freedom from craving and freedom from
the round of rebirths. Each verse contains a truth (dhamma), an exhortation, a
piece of advice.
Dhammapada verses are often quoted by many in
many countries of the world and the book has been translated into many
languages. One of the earliest translations into English was made by Max Muller
in 1870. Other translations that followed are those by F.L. Woodward in 1921, by
Wagismara and Saunders in 1920, and by A.L. Edmunds (Hymns of the Faith) in
1902. Of the recent translations, that by Narada Mahathera is the most widely
known. Dr. Walpola Rahula also has translated some selected verses from the
Dhammapada and has given them at the end of his book "What the Buddha
Taught," revised edition. The Chinese translated the Dhammapada from
Sanskrit. The Chinese version of the Dhammapada was translated into English by
Samuel Beal (Texts from the Buddhist Canon known as Dhammapada) in 1878.
In Burma, translations have been made into
Burmese, mostly in prose, some with paraphrases, explanations and abridgements
of stories relating to the verses. In recent years, some books on Dhammapada
with both Burmese and English translations, together with Pali verses, have also
The Dhammapada is the second book of the
Khuddaka Nikaya of the Suttanta Pitaka, consisting of four hundred and
twenty-three verses in twenty-six chapters arranged under various heads. In the
Dhammapada are enshrined the basic tenets of the Buddha's Teaching.
Verse (21) which begins with "Appamado
amatapadam" meaning "Mindfulness is the way
to Nibbana, the Deathless," is a very important and significant
verse. Mindfulness is the most important element in Tranquillity and Insight
Meditation. The last exhortation of the Buddha just before he passed away was
also to be mindful and to endeavour diligently (to complete the task of
attaining freedom from the round of rebirths through Magga and Phala).
It is generally accepted that it was on account of this verse on mindfulness
that the Emperor Asoka of India and King Anawrahta of Burma became converts to
Buddhism. Both kings had helped greatly in the propagation of Buddhism in their
In verse (29) the Buddha has coupled his call
for mindfulness with a sense of urgency. The verse runs: "Mindful
amongst the negligent, highly vigilant amongst the drowsy, the wise man advances
like a race horse, leaving the jade behind."
Verses (1) and (2) illustrate the immutable law
of Kamma, under which every deed, good or bad, comes back to the doer. Here, the
Buddha emphasizes the importance of mind in all our actions and speaks of the
inevitable consequences of our deeds, words and thoughts.
Verses (153) and (154) are expressions of
sublime and intense joy uttered by the Buddha at the very moment of his
Enlightenment. These two verses give us a graphic account of the culmination of
the Buddha's search for Truth. They tell us about the Buddha finding the
'house-builder,' Craving, the cause of repeated births in Samsara. Having rid of
Craving, for him no more houses (khandhas) shall be built by Craving, and there
will be no more rebirths.
Verses (277), (278) and (279) are also
important as they tell us about the impermanent, unsatisfactory and the non-self
nature of all conditioned things; it is very important that one should perceive
the true nature of all conditioned things and become weary of the khandhas, for
this is the Path to Purity.
Then the Buddha shows us the Path leading to
the liberation from round of rebirths, i.e., the Path with eight constituents (Atthangiko
Maggo) in Verse (273). Further, the Buddha exhorts us to make our own effort
in Verse (276) saying, "You yourselves should make
the effort, the Tathagatas only show the way." Verse (183) gives
us the teaching of the Buddhas. It says, "Do no evil,
cultivate merit, purify one's mind; this is the teaching of the Buddhas."
In Verse (24) the Buddha shows us the way to
success in life, thus: "If a person is energetic,
mindful, pure in thought, word and deed, if he does everything with care and
consideration, restrains his senses; earns his living according to the Dhamma
and is not unheedful, then, the fame and fortune of that mindful person
These are some of the examples of the gems to
be found in the Dhammapada. Dhammapada is, indeed, a philosopher, guide and
friend to all.
This translation of verses is from Pali into
English. The Pali text used is the Dhammapada Pali approved by the Sixth
International Buddhist Synod. We have tried to make the translation as close to
the text as possible, but sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible, to
find an English word that would exactly correspond to a Pali word. For example,
we cannot yet find a single English word that can convey the real meaning of the
word "dukkha" used in the exposition of the Four Noble Truths. In this
translation, wherever the term "dukkha" carries the same meaning as it
does in the Four Noble Truths, it is left untranslated; but only explained.
When there is any doubt in the interpretation
of the dhamma concept of the verses or when the literal meaning is vague or
unintelligible, we have referred to the Commentary (in Pali) and the Burmese
translation of the Commentary by the Nyaunglebin Sayadaw, a very learned thera.
On many occasions we have also consulted the teachers of the Dhamma
(Dhammacariyas) for elucidation of perplexing words and sentences.
In addition we have also consulted Burmese
translations of the Dhammapada, especially the translation by the Union Buddha
Sasana Council, the translation by the Sangaja Sayadaw (1805-1876), a
leading Maha thera in the time of King Mindon and King Thibaw, and also the
translation by Sayadaw U Thittila, an Ovadacariya Maha thera of the Burma Pitaka
Association. The book by the Sangaja Sayadaw also includes paraphrases and
abridgements of the Dhammapada stories.
Summaries of the Dhammapada stories are given
in the second part of the book as it is generally believed that the Dhammapada
Commentary written by Buddhaghosa (5th century A.D.) is a great help towards a
better understanding of the Dhammapada. Three hundred and five stories are
included in the Commentary. Most of the incidents mentioned in the stories took
place during the life-time of the Buddha. In some stories, some facts about some
past existences were also retold.
In writing summaries of stories we have not
tried to translate the Commentary. We have simply culled the facts of the
stories and have rewritten them briefly: A translation of the verses is given at
the end of each story.
It only remains for me now to express my deep
and sincere gratitude to the members of the Editorial Committee, Burma Pitaka
Association, for having meticulously gone through the script; to Sayagyi
Dhammacariya U Aung Moe and to U Thein Maung, editor, Burma Pitaka Association,
for helping in the translation of the verses.
May the reader find the Path to Purity.
Daw Mya Tin
20th April, 1984
||Sayadaw U Kumara, BA, Dhammcariya (Siromani, Vatamsaka).
||U Shwe Mra, BA., I.C.S. Retd.,
Former Special Adviser, Public Administration Division, E.S.A., United
||U Chan Htoon, LL.B., Barrister-at-law;
Former President, World Fellowship of Buddhists.
||U Nyun, B.A., I.C.S. Retd.,
Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for
Asia and the Far East;
Vice-President, World Fellowship of Buddhists.
||U Myint Too, B.Sc., B.L., Barrister-at-law,
Vice-President, All Burma Buddhist Association.
||Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Former Head of Geography Department, Institute of Education, Rangoon.
||U Kyaw Htut, Dhammacariya;
Former Editor-in-chief of the Board for Burmese Translation of the
Sixth Synod Pali Texts.
||U Myo Min, M.A., B.L.,
Former Professor of English, Rangoon University.
||U Thein Maung, B.A., B.L
||U Hla Maung, B.A., B.L.
||U Tin Nwe, B.Sc.