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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 54 |buddhadharma The Buddha taught a path of liberation. To understand his teachings is to understand how to walk that path. Though he described it as an ancient pathway, hidden and forgotten until he rediscovered it, it remains as relevant today as it was in his time, 2,500 years ago. By far the most popular text teaching how to walk this path is the Dhammapada, a collection of verses from the earliest period of Buddhism in India. I was introduced to this sacred text when my first Zen teacher gave me my first copy. In the twenty-five years since receiving that gift, I have read and reread the Dhammapada many times. I have found its teachings to be direct, wise, and inspirational. The verses point to a possibility of peace and freedom that I find breathtakingly simple in its profundity. Over the years I have read the Dhammapada in a variety of ways, sometimes casually and sometimes with great care. I have calmed my mind in meditation so that I could encounter the text in creative and intuitive ways. I have read it out loud. I have memorized verses. Some passages I have reread many times until they revealed new understandings or insights. I have read the verses for my own inspiration, as well as to discover what inspired ancient Buddhists in their religious life. At times I have approached the text with an inquiring attitude, sometimes to see how the text might address a particular question I’ve had, and sometimes to allow the text to question my own views and biases. As a Western Buddhist teacher, I am acutely aware that Buddhism has been adapted and reinterpreted in the West. I believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with this tendency; indeed, it points out how Buddhism has been adapted over time and across cultures. However, I believe it is important that we be conscious of – and responsible for – just how we might be changing Buddhism. And to do this, we need to know what we are changing it from. In this translation, I have tried to put aside my own interpretations and preferences, insofar as possible, in favor of accuracy. In attempting a literal translation, I am trying to understand early Buddhism in its own terms so I can better evaluate our modern versions of Buddhism. After nearly thirty years of practice, I remain inspired by the teachings of the Buddha, and I hope to understand better what the Buddha taught by going back to the original text and rendering it into modern English. —Gil Fronsdal Gil Fronsdal is the Founder and primary teacher oF the insiGht meditation center in redwood city, caliFornia. he is also on the teachers council at spirit rock meditation center. this excerpt is From his book, the dhammapada: a new translation oF the buddhist classic with annotations, published by shambhala publications, 2005. The Inexhaustable Dhammapada Selections from Gil Fronsdal’s new translation of the Pali text that has inspired and guided countless practitioners on the Buddhist path. In TranslaTIon paintings by andra samelson