"Organized in a way that is meant to encourage a fresh encounter with the Dhammapada," according to its introduction, this guide jumps right in with Wallis’s careful translation of the 2,400-year-old Buddhist text. Wallis, an assistant professor of religion at the University of Georgia, wants readers to pore over the classic itself before using the notes in the back of the book on the second, third or even fourth reading. ("Learning is slow; careful reading is tedious; understanding is elusive," he cautions.) After this initial getting-to-know-you phase, readers can progress to the book’s second half, which has an extended guide to the text as a whole and a detailed commentary on selected verses (which are marked by an asterisk in the translation). Wallis discusses the oral nature of the original work, which would have been memorized and recited by monks, nuns and laypersons. He argues that rather than being seen as a random collection of verses, the Dhammapada has an overriding structure and a coherent theme, emphasizing the need for spiritual diligence and effort. According to the text, readers should seek the meaning of these verses as a skilled gardener would gather flowers. Wallis’s dexterous translation and commentary should help them in their task, though at times his writing is a bit technical.
What the Critics Say
[This translation] is faithful to the Pali text while retaining a lovely flow... What is so refreshing is that, unlike other editions of the Dhammapada... Dr. Wallis draws all his explanatory material right from the canonical layer of the suttas, the earliest discourses of the Buddha." —Rick Crutcher, Pariyatti Press
"Highly recommended ... a clear, readily accessible translation that preserves the Buddhist connotation." —Library Journal (starred review)