Rather unexpectedly I am now publishing the fourth edition of A Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada. I only published the 3rd edition – which added the parallels from the Jaina tradition – in January, ten years after the 2nd edition, so it was rather a surprise to find I have enough material for a fourth edition so soon. It came so quickly that I didn’t even get time to record a 3rd edition for this site, before I knew we were heading for a fourth edition!
What happened is this. Shortly after publishing the 3rd edition I contacted Ayyā Vimalā, a developer who has worked for Sutta Central, knowing that she also had an interest in the various parallels to the Dhammapada verses. I was mainly asking for help in looking for parallels in the vast corpus of Hindu Sanskrit works.
It just so happened that she was working on setting up a new website able to compare all the Sanskrit works published by GRETIL (Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages) project at the University of Göttingen in Germany, and other texts which we have managed to collect, for a new site, Buddha Nexus (which is unpublished at the time of writing).
She then searched for parallels to the Udānavarga that also parallel the Dhammapada verses and sent on a long list of around 90 verses mainly from later Mahāyāna works, but including some Hindu Sanskrit material. Starting with this, and using the same tool I also searched for parallels to the Patna Dharmapada, and added around another 20 parallels to the list.
We now have more than 1,400 parallels to the Pāḷi collection, and sometimes as many as nine parallels to a single verse. This is the biggest single increase in additions since I first published this work in 2006. In really comes about because of the great increase of works that have now been transcribed on the one hand, and advances in AI and machine learning on the other.
I do not know if there will ever be a fifth edition, but for anyone who has an interest in the variants found of early Buddhist teachings this represents a great increase in our understanding of how widespread the verses spread and were repeated by the various recitors and writers in the Buddhist traditions.
An interesting thing to notice is, that even when we have a large amount of parallels to a particular verse, and most of them in one language: Sanskrit, it is unusual to find the verse having two exact parallels. Normally there are small variants between all the verses. It is also interesting that although we have found so many new parallels there are still a number of verses that appear to be unique to the Pāḷi collection.