The Dhammapada is one of the best known and best loved Buddhist texts, a sequence of verses traditionally said to have been spoken by the Buddha himself to help people on the path to liberation. In her version for Penguin Classics, Valerie J Roebuck seeks to translate the Pali into modern English verse that will keep the beauty and clarity of the original.

Archive for May, 2012

Verses for Vesakh

Posted on: May 4th, 2012 by admin 2 Comments


I wandered without respite
A journey of many births,
Seeking the house-builder.
Painful is birth again and again.

House-builder, I have seen you:
You shall not build a house again.
All your rafters are broken:
Your ridge-pole is destroyed.
The mind, freed from conditioned things,
Has reached the end of cravings.

Dhammapada 153-4

On May 5th or 6th this year (depending on which day the full moon falls in their particular part of the world), many Buddhists will be celebrating the festival of Vesākha (Vesakh, Vaiśākha), which marks three great events in the life of the Buddha: his birth; his attainment of Buddhahood; and his Parinibbāna (when he passed away, never to be born again).

These Dhammapada verses are said to have been spoken by the Buddha on his attainment of Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. They are addressed to Māra, who embodies the forces that seek to keep us bound to the conditioned realm, saṃsāra. Māra is the house-builder, who has built all the bodies in which the Buddha-to-be has travelled in his ‘journey of many births’. Now the Buddha has recognised him, and Māra will no longer have any hold over him.

When the Buddha saw this, and decided to teach others, he showed the way for any of us who wish to make an end of that painful journey, and become free from conditioned things. However overwhelmed we may sometimes feel by the difficulties of our lives, and the obstacles in the way of our practice, we should never forget that freedom is possible, and that there is a way to reach it.

Wishing you a joyful Vesākha 2012/2555 BE. May it remind us all of the reasons for which we try to live a spiritual life. – Valerie