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Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection (Penguin Classics)

by Juan Mascaro, Thomas Wyatt

Buy the book: Juan Mascaro. Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection (Penguin Classics)

Release Date: June, 1973

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Juan Mascaro. Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection (Penguin Classics)

Beautiful and inspiring

The Dhammapada is one of the world's great religious classics, and its pithy, poetic style makes it very direct and inspiring. Like some of the other reviewers, I don't read Pali, and it's probably true that this isn't the most literal translation. However, I've read several translations of the Dhammapada and this has been my favorite for a long time. In any translation of a poetic nature, the translator must choose a certain balance between a strictly literal translation of the source material and a poetic rendering of the material in the target language, and Mascaro leans a little toward the latter. I've been a student of Buddhism for some years, though, and I find very few places where Mascaro's translation seems to be inaccurate --- even though there are other translations that may be a little more precise and literal. In any case, there are many Buddhist philosophical works where precision of terminology is critical, but, since the Dhammapada is a more general work consisting mainly of aphorisms, it's one work where a little poetic license seems acceptable.

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Poetic but outdated translation

Having read Max Muller's over 100 year misleading translation, Carter's and Palihawadana's philosophical, dry, but excellent translation, which, with annonations builds up whole buddhist philosophical system, Mascaro's translation is deeply disappointing. While I can't understand Pali, Carter's translation is -or at least seems to be very convincing translation. Mascarara's translation is beatiful and poetic but has same grave philosophical errors than Muller's outdated translations. Let's see one example.

Chapter one, verse one is translated by Muller as:
All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage

Mascaro's also misleading translation goes like:
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and out present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.
If a man speaks or act with an impure mind, suffering follows him as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart.

But Carter's et al. translation reveals the (propably) true (philosophical) meaning of the verse:
Proceeded by perception are mental states,*1
for them is perception supreme,
from them perception have they sprung.
If, with perception polluted*2, one speaks or acts,
Thence suffering follows
As a wheel the draughts wheel ox's foot.

annonations of Carter's book:

*1 perception...mental states: the pure event of seeing, hearing, smelling etc. an object is Â'perceptionÂ'; the concurrent rise of attachment, hate, anger, desire etc. with regard to it ís the mental states.

*2 polluted: that is, with mental states such as anger.

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