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.