This anthology has been compiled from Eugene Watson Burlingame’s classic translation of the background stories from the Dhammapada Commentary,
Originallypublished in the Harvard Oriental Series,
has been maintained in printsince 1969 by the Pali Text Society. With the latter’s permission, the Buddhist PublicationSociety issues this selection of these stories in booklet form in the Wheel Series, edited andarranged by Bhikkhu Khantipálo. The publisher gratefully acknowledges the kindness of thePali Text Society for granting permission to publish this anthology. Readers who would liketo obtain the complete three-volume collection of Buddhist Legends may contact the PaliText Society or inquire from bookshops specialising in Asian literature.
This book comprises Buddhist stories which have been selected from the old commentary tothe Dhammapada. This anthology of fifty-six stories represents only a small part of the verylarge original work, which in its complete translation fills three large volumes. The storiesselected here are perhaps among the best, and they will be those most appealing to us at atime more than two thousand years after their origin.The Dhammapada (Dhp.) itself is the best known of all the collections of the Buddha’ssayings, for it has been translated many times into English and into many other languages of the East and the West. It consists of 423 verses arranged into twenty-six chapters. A few of these verses were spoken as pairs and, more rarely, three or more of them were uttered bythe Buddha together. Most are single stanzas which sum up the Dhamma that was necessaryat that particular time.No one knows how the Dhammapada was compiled. A great many of its verses are foundelsewhere in the Pāli Canon, but a few are peculiar to this collection. Why these particularverses were formed into what we now call the Dhammapada is not clear, but we know thatother Buddhist schools had Dhammapadas of their own which varied a good deal from thePāli version.If all the stories go back to the Buddha’s days (which is unlikely, though the traditionalview), then the collection could have been made for teaching purposes since many of thetales are both absorbing and instructive. But the random arrangement of the Dhp. itself 3