Last year I completed a translation of the well-known Pāḷi text, the Dhammapada. As this text has been translated scores of times I was sometimes asked: Why bother? Well, besides the intrinsic value of presenting it in a new way, with chapter candidates at the end of each section, and a verse translation of the whole text in the English version, it was also a preparation for a translation of the Patna version of the text.
The Patna Dhammapada is a collection of Dhammapada-type verses written in a language similar to Pāḷi, but which is Sanskritised in a different way. There is only one copy of the text in existence, and that is from photographs taken by the great Indian scholar Rahul Sankritayana during his travels in Tibet in the 1930s. The manuscript itself has subsequently disappeared, maybe during the invasion by the Chinese or the following Cultural Revolution.
The text is somewhat shorter than the Pāḷi text, having 22 chapters, against Pāḷi’s 26; and 414 verses, against 423. The opening two chapters are similar (The Pairs and Heedfulness), and some of the verses are the same with but dialectical changes. Many of the verses, however, have different readings, and the organisation of the verses differs in many ways.
In 1986, Margaret Cone presented her thesis at Cambridge, which contained a transcription of the text. The unpublished thesis was entitled THE PATNA DHAMMAPADA, transcribed and translated with a commentary. This is the only translation I am aware of, and Dr. Cone has informed me she will not publish it.
In 2007 I received permission from Dr. Cone and the Pali Text Society to reproduce her edition of the text online. When I prepared the digital edition I made two studies of the text, as well as analysing and writing a running commentary on the prosody of the text. That transcription now forms the basis for the text presented here.
My translation of Patna was based primarily on my own translation of the Pāḷi text, with the required changes owing to the difference in readings between the texts, together with other translations I made afresh from Pāḷi canonical texts and from the Udānavarga. I then read through Cone’s thesis, including her translation, which led me to making some corrections to my own translation.
There are two versions. The first, in the Texts and Translations section of Ancient Buddhist Texts, contains the text, a translation, and at least one parallel with its translation, mainly drawn from the Pāḷi texts – or if not available, then from the Udānavarga, another collection of Dhammapada-type material preserved in another dialect.
The second, in the English section, presents the Patna text and its translation only. Eventually I will add a reading of the translation, but there is not sufficient time to do that at present. In both cases there are various formats: html, pdf, flipbook, epub and mobi to choose from.
While working on this text and translation I also had cause to update my earlier translation of the Pāḷi text, and this is now republished in a 2nd edition, the Text and Translation is here, and the English verse translation is here.
I am very grateful indeed to Ayyā Sudhammā Therī, who read through the whole text, making many corrections and suggestions.