There are many different translations of the Dhammapada that can be recommended for different reasons, but here we want to focus on two of our favourites.
The first is Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha, which is translated by Thomas Byrom (with a foreword by Ram Dass) and the second is The Dhammapada: Teachings of the Buddha, which is translated with annotations by Gil Fronsdal (and with a foreword by Jack Kornfield).
Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha is a poetic translation which is available in a number of formats, but our preference is for the Shambhala Pocket Classics edition. This measures just 3 x 0.4 x 4.5 inches, making it a book that you can easily slip into your pocket or purse, and that means you can turn to it whenever you have a spare moment or two throughout the day. Here are the first few lines of the first chapter, Choices:
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
The Dhammapada: Teachings of the Buddha is our second recommendation, and according to the publisher (also Shambhala) it is ‘the first translation of this text to be published in English that is both truly accurate and enjoyable to read.’ We agree wholeheartedly, and as well as giving readers a superb translation, Fronsdal provides a very helpful Notes section that illuminates the text even further. For those who would like to listen to the text there is also a book and audio CD set with the text of the translation read by Jack Kornfield. Here are the first few lines of the first chapter, Dichotomies:
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
As you can see from the very brief excerpts shown, these two versions of the Dhammapada are quite different, and in our opinion both are extremely valuable. We refer to both on a regular basis, and we believe that many others would benefit from doing the same.