English translation of Chinese Dharmapada T211

We now have an English translation of the Chinese Dharmapada T211 by Samuel Beal, 1878 thanks to @Yasoj. It’s a pretty old translation but the only one we have. Thank you @Yasoj for preparing it for us from the OCRed version.


The file we used is located in the Internet Archive here.

Below is the Chinese preface of this Dharmapada:


(Cod. I.)

(Law-verses. Dhammapada.)

[From the Chinese.]


The verses called Dhammapada (Tan-poh) are selections from all the Sūtras. The expression Tan means law, and the word poh means verse or sentence. These are various editions (or arrangements) of this Dhammapada Sūtra. There is one with 900 verses, another with 700, and another with 500. Now the word for verse, or Gāthā, signifies an extract from the Scriptures arranged according to metre. These are the words of Buddha himself, spoken as occasion suggested, not at any one time, but at various times, and the cause and end of their being spoken is also related in the different Sutras. Now Buddha, the All-wise, moved by compassion for the world, was manifested in the world, to instruct men and lead them into the right way. What he said and taught has been included in twelve sorts of works. There are, however, other collections containing the choice portion of his doctrine, such, for instance, as the four works known as the Āgamas. After Buddha left the world, Ānanda collected a certain number of volumes, in each of which the words of Buddha are quoted, whether the Sūtra be large or small, with this introductory phrase, “Thus have I heard.” The place where the sermon was preached is also given, and the occasion and circumstances of it. It was from these works that the Shamans, in after years, copied out the various Gāthās, some of four lines, some of six lines, and attached to each set a title according to the subject therein explained. But all these verses, without exception, are taken from some one or other of the accepted Scriptures, and therefore they are called Law-verses (or Scripture extracts), because they are found in the Canon.
Now the common edition used by people generally is the one with 700 Gāthas. The meaning of these Gāthās is sometimes very obscure (deep), and men say that there is no meaning at all in them. But let them consider that as it is difficult to meet with a teacher like Buddha, so the words of Buddha are naturally hard of explanation. Moreover, all the literature of this religion is written in the language of India, which widely differs from that of China — the language and the books, in fact, are those of the Devas (Heaven). So to translate them faithfully is not an easy task.
The present work, the original of which consisted of 500 verses, was brought from India in the third year of the reign of Hwang-wu (A.D. 223), by Wai-chi-lan, and, with the help of another Indian called Tsiang-im, was first explained, and then translated into Chinese. On some objection being made as to the inelegance of the phrases employed, Wai-chi-lan stated "that the words of Buddha are holy words, not merely elegant or tasteful, and that his Law is not designed to attract persons by its pleasing character, but by its deep and spiritual meaning."
Finally, the work of translation was finished, and afterwards 13 additional sections added, making up the whole to 752 verses, 14,580 words, and headings of chapters, 39.


And here is the part of Beal’s introduction that deals with the source text and the reasoning behind his choice (pages 23-26):


The English version which follows is not made from the Text we have just considered, but from another about which I now proceed to speak. The “Fā-kheu-pi-ü” i.e. parables connected with the book of scriptural texts — was translated by two Shamans of the western Tsin dynasty (A.D. 265 to A.D. 313). As its name denotes, it contains certain parables, or tales, connected with the verses which follow them, and which prompted their delivery. How far these tales are genuine may be difficult to determine. Professor Max Müller has already observed that such stories “may have been invented to suit the text of the Dhammapada rather than vice versā” (p. cvi. n.), and this appears to be very probable; but yet the stories found in the work before us must have been well known in India prior to the middle of the third century A.D., and judging from the ordinary period occupied in the transmission of such tales, we may reasonably refer them to a date perhaps as early as Dharmatrāta himself. The method adopted in this work is to give one or two tales, and a verse or more, as the Moral. The chapters are identical with the Fā-kheu-king — the only difference being that the verses or gathas are fewer — they are, in fact, only a selection from the whole to meet the requirements of the story preceding them. This arrangement is in agreement with the original design of the work. Buddhaghosha, we are told, gives for each verse a parable to illustrate the meaning of the verse, and believed to have been uttered by Buddha in his intercourse with his disciples, or in preaching to the multitudes that came to hear him. And so here we have a tale for each verse, delivered by Buddha for the benefit of his disciples, or others. As to the character of these stories, some of them are puerile and uninteresting. But if I mistake not, they are of a description not opposed to the character of the age to which they are assigned by the Chinese.

The method of teaching by parables, it is plain, was customary in India during the first and second centuries B.C. The Jātakas, and the stories which occupy such a great part of the ordinary lives of Buddha (vid. Romantic Legend, passim), are illustrations of this. We know also from sculptures that these stories were familiar in India, and were, in fact, the ordinary means for instructing the people, at a date somewhere about the second century B.C., if not earlier, so that I see no reason why the parables in this work, which was brought to China, in the first instance, about 220 A.D, should not "be the very ones attributed to Dharmatrāta at least 70 B.C. I am sorry that I have not been able to trace any agreement between these stories and those given by Buddhaghosha. Mr. Fausbölls notes are mostly mere transcriptions in Pāli, but yet enough may be gathered from these, even by one who is not a Pāli scholar, to make it clear that the stories to which he refers are not the same as those I have translated; the solution of this difficulty will have to be sought in the hint before alluded to, viz., that the parables were invented to suit the text of Dhammapada rather than vice versa (Max Müller’s Dh. cvi. n.). I shall leave any further observations on the Gāthās which accompany the stories, for the notes that will be found in the book itself.


I have selected the second Chinese version for translation in preference to the first, because of its completeness. If my object had been to institute a comparison between the Pāli and Chinese copies of Dhammapada, the earlier version would doubtless have been the one to select for the purpose. But such is not the aim of the present book. Its purpose is to show the method adopted by the early Buddhist teachers and preachers who were mainly instrumental in diffusing a knowledge of this religion through the Eastern world. The simple method of Parable was the one used. Doubtless it was this method which, in the first place, contributed to the wide prevalence of the system, and has since enabled it to keep its hold on the minds of so many millions of people. And when we consider the peculiar simplicity of these tales, and the truth contained in the morals drawn from them, we do not wonder at the result; nor can it be questioned that the influence of such teaching must have been beneficial to those affected by it.



Thanks so much to both of you. It’s pretty incredible that such detailed work was done a century and a half ago, yet most Buddhists still simply don’t know that these texts are found in all traditions!


It’s a little off-topic, but for anyone interested Internet Archive has several non-English translations of the Pali Dhammapada:

Latin, by Viggo Fausbøll (1855)

Omnis mali omissio, boni susceptio, cogitationis suæ lustratio: hoc est Buddharum præceptum.

Patientia optima devotio – indulgentia (videlicet), Nibbānum optimum dicunt Buddhæ, non enim (is) pabbajitas (fit), qui alterum cædit, (neque) samanas fit, qui alterum affligit.

Increpationis et vexationis omissio et secundum præscripta (quæ liberationem spectant) continentia et moderatio edendi et secretus cubandi locus et in summa cogitatione occupatio: hoc est Buddharum præceptum.
(Dhp. 183-5)

Catalan, by Nil Durall (2016)

Cap mal fer a ningú,
generar el bé i conrear-lo,
i mantenir la ment disciplinada i pura:
aquesta és l’ensenyament dels Budes.

La paciència i la resistència constitueixen la virtut més elevada,
els Budes proclamen que el Nirvana és el bé suprem.
Algú que irrita o agredeix a uns altres,
no és ni monjo ni renunciant.

No maleir ni fer mal,
moderar-se concorde als preceptes,
menjar poc, viure reclòs
i entrenar la ment en el sublim:
aquesta és l’ensenyament dels Budes.

Portuguese, by Pedro Guimarães (2013)

Abster-se do mal. Fazer o bem e purificar a mente. Tal é o conselho dos budas.

A melhor das práticas ascéticas é a indulgência e a paciência constantes. É o estado nibbânico mais perfeito, dizem os budas. Não é em absoluto um discípulo quem faz mal aos outros seres, nem se torna verdadeiro asceta(sámana) quem a outrem injuria e ofende.

Não injuriar, a ninguém prejudicar, praticar a disciplina segundo a lei, ser moderado no comer, viver retirado e dar-se a altas meditações, tal é o ensino dos budas.

French, (together with Le Sūtra en 42 Articles), by Ernest Leroux (1878)

Telugu, by Dr. Ratnakaram Balaraju (1994).

Bengali, by Bhikshu Shilbhadra (1944)

Bengali, by Ramprasad Sen (Not the Bengali Tantric poet of this name, but some other guy. 1960).

Hindi, by Naaraayand-a Kishor (undated)

Malayalam, by Telappurathu Narayana Nambi (1915)


Thanks for this!
We have 19 Pali Dhammapada translations on the site but Latin is certainly not one of them!

In our previous version of SuttaCentral, we could only have one translation per language, which was most of the time the most modern one. It would be nice to have more translations in these languages so if anybody is interested in coding them, please contact me! The only problem with the Archive is that most of the time the files there are not very suitable for easy conversion to SuttaCentral so it might be a lot of work to digitize them. Sometimes there is an OCRed version available but often that is of bad quality also and needs to be checked completely.


I’d volunteer for the Latin one :grin:

(maybe alongside with completing my HTML tutorial… this would probably prompt me to follow this tutorial a bit more consistantly :wink:)


I’ll do the French Dhammapada translation.
(And possibly the translation of the Tibetan Sutra of 42 articles.)


In his meticulousness Fausbøll was the K.R. Norman of his day and his translations seem to have stood the test of time better than anything else published in the 19th century. In the case of his Latin Dhammapada we find a review in the prestigious Indo-Iranian Journal praising its accuracy as recently as 2001:

The Latin translation of Fausbøll’s Dhammapada deserves to be called accurate. In its benefit (at least for those who read Latin), most of the countless modern versions cannot match it.

In fact, Latin may be seen as a more appropriate language for the translation of Buddhist Middle-Indian poetry than modern Indo-European languages. Where, e.g., numerous English translations of the text can be perceived as more or less convincing free interpretations of the original, Fausbøll in his Latin version tries to stick close to the original in a sober, scholarly, though mostly inspired way.

Consequently, Fausbøll’s second edition of the Dhammapada including the Latin translation remains a most valuable work for those who engage in the study of this precious piece of Buddhist Pali poetry; the reprint is therefore most welcome.

— Burkhard Scherer

Scherer Review.pdf (29.2 KB)


I have found the Thai version on the website of Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism. Not sure whether it will be of use?พุทธวจนะในธรรมบท/


Thank you so much @Dheerayupa. Because my Thai is non-existent, I will tag in Bhante @Sujato to have a look at this and tell me if this is a good addition to the site.

(WARNING: Don’t run this text through Google Translator! (Unless you want to have a good laugh!)


This is a Thai translation of the Pali Dhammapada, not from a Chinese text. But as we don’t have a Thai Dhammapada currently, it would be good to add one. Dheerayupa, do you think this seems like a good translation? It would be nice to have a version that reads well for such a popular text.


Prof. Sathīanphong Wannapok is a fellow of the Royal Society of Thailand (appointed by the monarch as a senior expert in the society within their field) in the field of the Pali language and Buddhism. Achieved the highest education in Pali in Thailand, BA (hons) and MA in Pali and Sanskrit from Cambridge.

So, I guess his translation is pretty good :smiley:


Bhante @Sujato, is this French translation by Leon Feer (1878) useful for SC?
(Link to the pdf in Ven. Dhammanando’s post above)


Alright, well then, let’s do it!

I’m not sure. Is there a more modern translation? Any French speakers who want to give us some advice!

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Ven. Kathrin @vimalanyani has prepared and coded the following Dhammapadas from the list that Ven. @Dhammanando posted:

Catalan, by Nil Durall (2016)
Portuguese, by Pedro Guimarães (2013)
French, by Ernest Leroux (1878)

Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu! :anjal: These are great additions to the site!


Is there more of these now on the website? I think There is a parallel in Netti also. The part that Buddha shows old age and death to the beautiful woman that after became Bhikkhuni.

It seems the Thai Dhp never got added. :frowning: I don’t see it on the site…

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I see plenty of more recent French Dhammapada translations, but they all are copyrighted unfortunately.


Mr. Beal’s translation & mine for Chapter 37, Life & Death:

  1. What is life but the flower or the fruit which falls, when ripe,
    but yet which ever fears the untimely frost?
    Once born there is nought but sorrow;
    for who is there can escape death?

1 命如果待熟
Life is like a fruit waiting to ripen,
Always afraid of falling;
All that are born have pain,
For they cannot escape death.

  1. From the first moment of conception in the womb, the result of passionate love
    and desire, there is nought but the bodily form,
    transitory as the lightning flash.
    It is difficult to dam up the daily flow of the waters of life.

2 从初乐恩爱
At first people were all delighted with love,
They made love in an empty bubble;
The shape of life is like lightning,
Flowing day and night, can’t be stoped.

  1. The body is but a thing destined to perish.
    There is no certain form given to the spirit conceived with the body.
    Once dead it is again born
    —the connections of sin and of merit cannot be overreached.

3 是身为死物
This body is a stiff,
The spirit is invisible;
If the dead are reborn,
Sin and bliss will not disappear.

  1. It is not a matter of one life, or one death,
    but from the act of renewed conception proceeds all the consequences of former deeds,
    resulting in joy or misery;
    the body dies but the spirit is not entombed!

4 终始非一世
The end and beginning are not in one life,
The foolish love makes it last;
From then on through pain and happiness,
The body dies, and the spirit does not.


  1. It is the mind alone (spirit) that determines the character of (life in) the three worlds.
    Just as the life has been virtuous or the contrary, is the subsequent career of the individual.
    Living in the dark, darkness will follow;
    the consequent birth is as the echo from the cavern,

8 识神造三界
The spirit made the 3 realms,
And 5 kind or evil places;
They walk in shadows and arrive in silence,
Their direction is like an echo.

  1. immersed in carnal desires, there cannot be any thing but carnal appetite;
    all things result from previous conduct,
    as the traces follow the elephant-step,
    or the shadow the substance.

9 欲色不色有
The existence of desire, form and formless,
Are all caused by past conducts;
Like the seed would grow as its parent plant,
Natually the retribution is like the shadow behind.

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