The first verse of the Dhammapada

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The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:15 am

Greetings,

Prompted by Manapa's reference to it in another thread, I thought I would post the following....

After a lengthy public discussion about the first line of the Dhammapada on BuddhaChat I put the following question to a group of people...

The first line of the Dhammapada...

“manopubbangamaa dhammaa manosetthaa manomayaa”

... has been translated in various ways by various translators...

Buddharakkhita (on the accesstoinsight.org website): “Mind precedes all mental states.”

Thanissaro (on the same website):
“Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart.”

Mascaro: “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow; our life is the creation of our mind.”

Byrom: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”

Fronsdal: “All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind."

Lal: ”We are what we think, and become what we thought.”

Piyadassi Thera: “All [mental] states have mind as their forerunner, mind is their chief, and they are mind-made.”

Carter and Palihawadana: “Preceded by perception are mental states; for them is perception supreme; from perception they have sprung.”

Naarada Thera: “Mind is the forerunner of … states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they.

Maguire: “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.”

-------------------------
I'm wondering if anyone learned in Pali might be able to comment on these wildly varying translations, identify which is best (for whatever reason) and maybe even dare to have a go at translating this line themselves?


... to which venerable Dhammanando responded...

The earliest interpretation of the Dhammapada's opening verses —that of the Peṭakopadesa— takes mano in verse 1 as referring to viññāṇakkhandha or manoviññāṇadhātu or manāyatana or manindriya accompanied by the three akusala roots (loba, dosa, moha). Dhammā is then taken to refer to the ten akusalakammapaṭha, from killing of living beings to wrong view. Verse 2 is the same, but with the consciousness arising with kusala roots and dhammā referring to the ten kusalakammapaṭha.

The Dhammapada Atthakathā follows the same interpretation, but expounding it in a more abhidhammic fashion, with mano defined as the eight kāmāvacara kusalacittas and dhammā as vedanā, saññā and saṅkhārā.

My preferred translation is that of K.R. Norman:

"Mental phenomena are preceded by mind, have mind as their leader, are made by mind..."

As for the others....

Buddharakkhita's and Piyadassi's renderings are marred by the gratuitous insertion of the word "all".

In Carter and Palihawadana's, "perception" is a very quirky rendering of mano, which doesn't correspond to any of the senses that this word has in the Suttas or Abhidhamma.

Thanissaro's "made of the heart" for manomayā sounds a little bizarre. "Heart" in my view would be best reserved for hadaya and not used for anything else.

Those of Mascaro, Fronsdal, Lal, Byrom and Maguire are not really translations at all, but ill-conceived paraphrases.


What are your thoughts in relation to the first verse of the Dhammapada?

To me it tends to be the real litmus test, signalling whether a Dhammapada translation is worthy of consideration beyond that point. Anything of the "we are what we think" variety should be swiftly disregarded as it misses the subtlety of the Buddha's speech and the care he goes to in that verse not to infer any kind of self.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:38 am

I think that pali is quite a complex language to translate,
but allot of the translations have the same meaning simply put "we are what we think" others have just expanded on the understandingusing heart, mind, phenomenon, etc
the various different translations shouldn't be disregarded just because they are different or seen as too simple or complex but looked at as a means of deepening our understanding of what the others say!

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:48 am

Greetings Manapa,

You do raise a good point... there is still something to be learned from any translation. My concern as always is about the appropriate grasping of the snake... grabbing it properly so that it does not bite.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:20 pm

I actually learnt allot about metta from looking at different translations of the Sn 1.8 Karaniya Metta Sutta.
I suppose when looking at a translation it is best not to hold the view that one translation is better than another or more accurate!
personally I prefer Bodhi and Thanissaro Bhikkhu but Somas translations to name one are just as good to contemplate on in relation to the other translation as well as on their own!
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:22 pm

Hello Retro and Manapa,

For myself (cough cough, who's that?) the initial wisdom of the opening verses of Dhammapada lies in the very simple description given of the cause-effect relationship between a beings' thoughts and experiences. True, at a deeper level there is no experiencer! Thus any reference to a person "having" thoughts misses a crucial point.

But that's a very deep point.

The initial insight (of the verses you mention plus those that follow) that has been key in "my" (ha) experience, is recognizing how there is never anyone to blame for "my" suffering, it always arises with thoughts, initially. That is thoughts arise, are the root, which we need to address, to transform "our" suffering into happiness.

All mental phenomena are preceded by mind,
Mind is their master, they are produced by mind.
If somebody speaks or acts
With a corrupted mind,
Hence suffering follows him,
Like the wheel the foot of the bearing animal.

All things are preceded by mind,
Mind is their master, they are produced by mind.
If somebody speaks or acts
With a purified mind,
Hence happiness follows him,
Like never departing shadow.


It's like a very simple three dimensional map, a blue print, of dependent origination working our minds, for how thoughts create a sentient beings' "subjective" experience of the world. Beyond that, some translations may be better then others, much like a 3D super-realistic photo of an apple will be superior to a rough sketch by Picasso. The most important thing though is that one recognizes what an apple is, and isn't, when its right in front of our face, in real life.

Just my 2 cents.

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~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Will » Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:40 pm

This part of Bhante D's comments puzzle me -
Buddharakkhita's and Piyadassi's renderings are marred by the gratuitous insertion of the word "all".


Does that mean because the Pali lacks a word corresponding to "all" it is gratuitous? Because if that is so, it implies that only some "mental phenomena" are meant, and that leads to ask which ones are meant and which are not.

A related question: in Mahayana abhidharma there is a difference between Mind and Mental Events. Is this the same point being brought out here by Norman's translation - that Mind & Mental Phenomena are not identical?
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 01, 2009 9:12 pm

Hi Will
A related question: in Mahayana abhidharma there is a difference between Mind and Mental Events. Is this the same point being brought out here by Norman's translation - that Mind & Mental Phenomena are not identical?


If you look at the Satipatthana Sutta some translate the section on Dhamma as mental Qualities or Phenomena and with the section before this is the section on the mind it appears that it is also in Theravada also! although I am not all that knowledgable of the Mahayana texts
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:46 am

An excellent topic!
I actually wanted to post an almost identical thread on the Dhammapada verse I am using in my signature.
Rather than hijact this thread, I'll go and start another
Cheers

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Element » Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:04 am

Hi Forum,

For me, this has always been an interesting verse, in the the term 'mano' is used.

I think the verse encompasses both vinnana (experiencing) and citta (thinking), thus the more general or neutral 'mano' is used.

Mind creates all things. Both sense experience and suffering & happiness.

Kind regards,

Element

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:20 am

Hi Will,

Does that mean because the Pali lacks a word corresponding to "all" it is gratuitous? Because if that is so, it implies that only some "mental phenomena" are meant, and that leads to ask which ones are meant and which are not.


Note that I wasn't implying that the insertion of 'all' would make the verse express something false or contrary to Dhamma. It simply makes it not a faithful translation of what the Pali says. The verse comprises two statements of dhamma, the first according to the Abhidhamma method (in terms of mind and dhammas), and the second according to the Sutta method (in terms of a person acting and experiencing the fruits of his actions). Since the two halves of the verse are understood to be two ways of saying the same thing, the dhammas in the abhidhammic statement cannot be all dhammas, only certain unwholesome ones.

A related question: in Mahayana abhidharma there is a difference between Mind and Mental Events. Is this the same point being brought out here by Norman's translation - that Mind & Mental Phenomena are not identical?


They are not identical, but I don't know if this is the same as the distinction being made in the Mahayana (Yogacarin, presumably?) abhidharma.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:36 am

Hi Ven Dammanando,

Dhammanando wrote:
Note that I wasn't implying that the insertion of 'all' would make the verse express something false or contrary to Dhamma. It simply makes it not a faithful translation of what the Pali says. The verse comprises two statements of dhamma, the first according to the Abhidhamma method (in terms of mind and dhammas), and the second according to the Sutta method (in terms of a person acting and experiencing the fruits of his actions). Since the two halves of the verse are understood to be two ways of saying the same thing, the dhammas in the abhidhammic statement cannot be all dhammas, only certain unwholesome ones.


I agree with what you are saying here, but isn't it the essence of the statement more important that the Accuracy of the words being used to the words of what is being translated?
If we look at the word Satipatthana it can be translated in two different ways depending on which words you take to be the root words! (using this as I know where it is to cut the information from)here is a cut from wikipedia
Satipaṭṭhāna is a compound term that has been analyzed (and thus translated) in two ways: sati-paṭṭhāna ("foundation of mindfulness"), and sati-upaṭṭhāna ("presence of mindfulness").



and the note at the bottom of the page
^ See Anālayo (2006), pp. 29-30; and, Bodhi (2000), p. 1504. Anālayo argues from an etymological standpoint that, while "foundation [paṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is supported by the Pali commentary, the term paṭṭhāna (foundation) was otherwise unused in the Pali nikayas and is only first used in the Abhidhamma; in contrast, the term upaṭṭhāna (presence or establishment) can in fact be found throughout the nikayas and is readily visible in the Sanskrit equivalents of the compound Pāli phrase satipaṭṭhāna (Skt., smṛtyupasthāna or smṛti-upasthāna). Thus Anālayo states that "presence of mindfulness" (as opposed to "foundation of mindfulness") is more likely to be etymologically correct. Like Anālayo, Bodhi assesses that "establishment [upaṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is the preferred translation. However, Bodhi's analysis is more contextual than Anālayo's. According to Bodhi, while "establishment of mindfulness" is normally supported by the textual context, there are exceptions to this rule, such as with SN 47.42 (pp. 1660, 1928 n. 180) where a translation of "foundation of mindfulness" is best supported.

personally I think the two different translations should be used in the satipatthana sutta translations as not all of the sutta is specifically about the presence of or the foundations of when the words are used. one part being solely about the development of the foundations, and other sections about placing those foundations on objects when developed or the actual presence of mindfulness in refferance to the body, feelings, mind, and Dhamma.

just using my understanding here as I have said above in this thread different interpretations of the same thing are useful at times
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:37 pm

Hi Manapa,

Manapa wrote:I agree with what you are saying here, but isn't it the essence of the statement more important than the Accuracy of the words being used to the words of what is being translated?


It's true that the meaning is more important than the phrasing:

    “Now if you think thus: ‘These venerable ones agree about the meaning but differ about the phrasing,’ then whichever bhikkhu you think is the more reasonable should be approached and addressed thus: ‘The venerable ones agree about the meaning but differ about the phrasing. The venerable ones should know that it is for this reason that there is agreement about the meaning but difference about the phrasing. But the phrasing is of lesser account. Let the venerable ones not fall into a dispute over what is of lesser account.’”
    (Kinti Sutta, MN. 103)

But this doesn't mean that the phrasing is of no importance at all:

    “And thus you must train yourselves, being assembled in harmony and without dissension. If a fellow in the holy life quotes Dhamma in the assembly, and if you think he has either misunderstood the meaning or expressed it wrongly, you should neither applaud nor reject it, but should say to him: ‘Friend, if you mean such-and-such, you should put it either like this or like that: which is the more appropriate?’ or: ‘If you say such-and-such, you mean either this or that: which is the more appropriate?’ If he replies: ‘This meaning is better expressed like this than like that’, or: ‘The meaning of this expression is this rather than that’, then his words should be neither rejected nor disparaged, but you should explain to him carefully the correct meaning and expression.”
    (Pasadika Sutta, DN. 29)

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:01 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
It's true that the meaning is more important than the phrasing:

But this doesn't mean that the phrasing is of no importance at all:


I agree I remember the first time I came across the Kalama Sutta, (I can never find the page of the internet where this particular translation is, but have a copy of it from the Book called "Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism - By Kobutsu Malone") it is called the Kernel of Free inquiry but omits quite allot of the text as found on Access to insight! and it is called a distillation which to my mind gives more of an impression that this is the essence of what the sutta is about rather than an extract, when in fact it turns out that an extract would of been a more fitting word! as it only addresses the discernment of truth aspect of the sutta not the action aspect which I think is bigger and more important part of the Dialogue!

I may actually do a post on this sutta shortly!
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pererin

Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby pererin » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:13 pm

Having no Sanskrit or Pali scholarship I hesitate to venture a comment on this subject, but I have always had a measure of concern about aspects of the translations of Juan Mascaró. Although they are readable and have proved popular, there is little doubt that his love for the literature of the Spanish mystics, notably Juan de la Cruz (on whom he lectured at Cambridge University), has influenced him; and his translation of the Upanishads draws on terminology which perhaps makes more sense in a Christian context and which, for me, raises important questions about his approach to the texts he translated for English-speaking audiences.

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:39 pm

Hi Pererin,

pererin wrote:Having no Sanskrit or Pali scholarship I hesitate to venture a comment on this subject, but I have always had a measure of concern about aspects of the translations of Juan Mascaró.


Yes, Mascaró's is a very free rendering. Though as free renderings go, it's a long way from being the worst: that accolade belongs to Thomas Byrom's abysmal effort, which unfortunately has been issued as a popular pocketbook by one of the largest Buddhist publishers in the States, and so is always being quoted on the internet.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

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Re: The first verse of the Dhammapada

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:33 am

Hi Pererin, & Dhammanando

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Pererin,

pererin wrote:Having no Sanskrit or Pali scholarship I hesitate to venture a comment on this subject, but I have always had a measure of concern about aspects of the translations of Juan Mascaró.


Yes, Mascaró's is a very free rendering. Though as free renderings go, it's a long way from being the worst: that accolade belongs to Thomas Byrom's abysmal effort, which unfortunately has been issued as a popular pocketbook by one of the largest Buddhist publishers in the States, and so is always being quoted on the internet.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu


I pretty much stick to the renderings on Access to insight, and the Bodhi books, I think they give a wide enough difference to see what is meant without becoming a translator myself, I am far more interested at times though to look at the different views of meaning which may or may not give some insight into the actual meaning of the word/s phrases and so on!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."


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