চৈনিক ধর্মপদ: সংযোজিত গাথাসমূহ Translated by Bhikkhu Gyanabodhi
Reviewed by Upali Sraman
Among various ancient versions of the Dhammapada in Sanskrit, Gandhari, Chinese, Tibetan, etc. the Pali Dhammapada has been the most popular one in Theravada Buddhist traditions for several centuries. Bengali Buddhist readers too have been reading this Dhammapada in several Bengali translations in prose as well as in verses. In fact very handful of Bengali readers, apart from scholars who are in touch with Dhammapada studies, even knew that there are other versions of Dhammapada differing greatly from the one in Pali. In this perspective, Venerable Gyanabodhi’s 2010 publication ‘Additional Verses of the Chinese Dhammapada’ presenting Bengali translations of a collection of 116 Dhammapada verses that are not available in Pali Dhammapada, in a slim volume of around 50 pages is certainly a landmark contribution. Also remarkable is that this is the first book of the author who has previously produced translations of some Buddhist essays from English originals. The book has been published from Shasanapriya Welfare Organization which is led by a young, energetic and visionary monk venerable Dharmalankara – a friend of the author, and sponsored by Tirossatu Bhikkhu. Indeed this book is the first output of this publication.
This indicates the first light of the dawn of a new trend of Buddhist studies and practices in Bengali language. This trend, deemed to take firm roots in near future, is initiated by young Bangladeshi Buddhist students who have been exposed to international scenario of Buddhist studies. This generation of young Buddhist students envisages slackening the scholastic and intellectual gap in textual studies that segregates Bangladeshi Buddhist scholars and readers (mostly confined to Pali literature) from their counterparts in foreign countries. Familiarizing Bengali readers with translations of scholastic outputs of Buddhist scholars abroad, therefore, plays a foremost part in this process. Thus, we take this opportunity to warmly compliment Venerable Gyanabodhi for his atypical yet momentous publication and hope all the best for his similar endeavors in invaluable scholastic activities at present and future.
Venerable Gyanabodhi received his source material from (the great guru of Ven. Gyanabodhi and also of the great guru of the present reviewer) Venerable KL Dhammajoti’s “the Chinese Version of the Dhammapada” which itself is a magnum opus in the arena of Dhammapada studies. Indeed Ven. Gyanabodhi has respectfully dedicated his work in the name of his guru Venerable KL Dhammajoti. Well known is that, in his extensive study of 26 chapters from the earliest Chinese Dhammapada (which has 39 chapters) that are closely akin to the Pali Dhammapada, Venerable KL Dhammajoti has made an invaluable contribution for scholars of Buddhist studies who were formerly unable to refer to the original Chinese version due to the lack of a reliable translation.
Ven. Gyanabodhi in his Bengali translations has remained faithful to the wonderful prosaic style of the original English. The translations retain a pleasant flow of modern Bengali language. The tone is didactic and the eternal truths presented in lucid expressions directly reach the heart of readers. In places where multiple words or phrases are available for one English word or phrase Ven. Gyanabodhi has applied the most appropriate one avoiding morphological and syntactical complexities. In re-transcribing the Bengali verses back into English one would be able to almost reproduce the original (of Venerable KL Dhammajoti). This shows how much effort has been invested by Venerable Gyanabodhi in being faithful to the original version and at the same time retaining the flavor of Bengali prose. The book has some typographical errors which, although very few, are expected to be corrected in future editions.
Venerable Anandajoti, himself an accomplished scholar of Dhammapada and the author of the acclaimed book ‘Comparative Edition of Dhammmapada’, has graced the work of Ven. Gyanabodhi by writing a short but apposite preface. In this manner, Ven. Gyanabodhi, through his publication, has subscribed in the lineage of great scholars who are connected to the Dhammapada – the priceless jewel of Buddhist literature. It is hoped that the ‘Additional Verses of the Chinese Dhammapada’ would serve as an inspiration to Bengali readers and researches to undertake translations of Buddhist classics of ancient languages like Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit into Bengali language. The current reviewer wishes to present some of these verses from Venerable Gyanabodhi’s translation in the BBSU blog for a wider circulation.