300 Dhammapada Stories on Ancient Buddhist Texts

Buddhist Legends

In the Pāḷi tradition there are a number of great collections of stories, found mainly in the Jātaka, Dhammapada, Thera- and Therīgāthā commentaries, besides smaller collections made elsewhere.

The Dhammapada Commentary translation, which is entitled Buddhist Legends, was made by Eugene Watson Burlingame, a professor of Pāḷi at Yale, who published his work in three volumes in 1921 via the Harvard University Press.

The commentary itself consists mainly of stories set at the time of the Lord Buddha and featuring both his disciples and others he met during his teaching career, and it is a great treasure house of information and traditional stories about the time of the Lord Buddha.

The translation is still very readable, is fairly consistent, and Burlingame’s knowledge of Pāḷi was very good. It is a transcript of this collection that is now being made available in the English Only section of Ancient Buddhist Texts.

The work on the text was first started by the Canadian monk Ven Khemaratana, who worked with a very poor ocr-ed text, which had been extracted from pdfs of the work. He passed the work to me around 2010, and after that it stood on one of my crowded (metaphorical) shelves for a few years, and only this year did I manage to go through the whole work, doing the final proof-reading and the formatting, and preparing the work for publication.

At present the work stands at nearly 1,000 pages long and includes the stories, which is the most important part of the work (I may work on the interesting Introduction and add it in later). The work is available in html, and three volumes of both pdf, epub, mobi and flipbook at present.

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I am also trying to record some of the stories, though whether I can record them all remains to be seen as it would be of enormous length. As and when I make the recordings I will introduce the stories here. For now I have made recordings of the Prologue and the first story in the collection about the monk Cakkhupāla.

Burlingame gave the story the title: “If Thine Eye Offend Thee, Pluck It Out”, quoting from the Gospel. This was a quite unfortunate start, because Cakkhupāla was not offended by his eye, nor did he pluck it out in any way; the story rather illustrates the truly Buddhist idea of giving up a smaller good (his eyes, which deteriorated owing to neglect) for a better (escape from the round of saṁsāra).

Anyway, do not be put off by the inappropriate title, as this is one of the more memorable of the stories in the collection showing a monk with full determination to do what had to be done achieving his aim despite the many difficulties coming in his way, and also has a sub-story of a misbehaving novice.

At a later time, when Cakkhupāla was already blind, some of the monks saw him treading on insects and blamed him for wrong-doing, but the Buddha showed how his deeds were not intentional and therefore didn’t have kammic consequences. We then conclude with a story of one of his past lives, in which he did a deed that led to his going blind in his last life.

You can find the whole collection of the stories, and Cakkhupāla’s story on Ancient Buddhist Texts.

Buddhist Legends

 




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