Patna Dhammapadaṁ
Patna Dhamma Verses



In the 1930s the great Indian savant Rahul Sankrityayana made several trips to Tibet where he photographed and copied numerous Sanskrit and other documents related to Sanskrit works, as part of his quest to find materials that had been taken out of India at the time of the collapse of the great monasteries in the north of the country. He wrote about his trips in the Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society (JBORS) Vols. XXI, pp 21-43 (March 1935): Sanskrit Palm-Leaf MSS. in Tibet; XXIII, pp 1-57 (1937), Second Search of Palm-leaf MSS. in Tibet. His essay, My Third Expedition to Tibet, originally published in Hindi, has now been translated into English (The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2012).

On one of those journeys he photographed both sides of the 21 palm leaves of a manuscript of a Dharmapada. It was written in a Middle-Indo Aryan (MIA) language in proto-Bengali script, of around the 11th-12th centuries. Sankrityayana in his 1935 article identified it as a Dharmapada in his catalogue (XXXIV, 1. 159), with a note: Pāḷi Dhammapada, translated into Saṁskrit by the paṇḍita Vanaratna (1384-1469 A.D.) who ordained in Sri Lanka (JBORS Vol. XXI, p. 41). It seems the ascription to Vanaratna was a wrong inference from another text photographed at the same time (see Roth in his Notes, 1980, p 93). Of all the varieties of Sanskritised Prakrit we know, the language is most similar to Pāḷi, with a different, but still early kind of Sanskritisation. Shukla and Mizuno refer to the language as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit; Roth calls it Prakritic; Skilling calls it Buddhist Prakrit. I prefer to use the term Sanskritised Prakrit, as nearly all the Buddhist texts of this period, including Pāḷi, are forms of Prakrit that have to one degree or another been Sanskritised.

While trying to identify the school affiliation of the manuscript Peter Skilling JPTS, Vol XXIII (1997), pp 83-122. suggested, on good grounds, that it may be written in the language of the canon of the Sāmmatīya school. He argued that of the four schools known to exist in the Middle Country, and at the time where the text was written, each associated with their own language, we have good witnesses for three of them, none of which match the Patna language. The texts of the Sāmmatīya school in MIA are now lost, but some inscriptions which probably belong to them do resemble the language of Patna, so it seems it must belong to that school. Mizuno in his paper A Comparative Study of Dharmapadas (pp 168-175 of Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalava Saddhātissa, 1984) came to the same conclusion.

The original manuscript has never been seen again. It may have been lost during the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, or during the subsequent Cultural Revolution, and no other witnesses to the text are known anywhere. This is unfortunate indeed, as some of the readings are not sure, either owing to obscuration of the text, or through the photograph being unclear. It is certain also that the scribe made mistakes, as are made in all manuscripts, but we have no way of checking it because of a lack of another exemplar.

As the photographs of this text are kept at the K P Jayaswal Research Institute in Patna in India, the identification of the text as the Patna Dhammapada (with abbreviation, PDhp) is now normally used. Both Shukla and Roth refer to it as a Dharmapada. The text uses the form Dharmma- in the colophon (but nowhere Dharma-), but this was evidently added later, as were the -varggaḥ end-titles. The form of the word used in the text itself is Dhamma-, and this seems preferable for the title. Kogen Mizuno used the abbreviation SDhp.

Editions and Studies

The first printed edition of the text was made by N. S. Shukla, which was printed at Patna in 1979, under the title The Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dharmapada, and was based on his MLitt. Thesis.

The following year Gustav Roth published a new edition called The Patna Dharmapada, which was included as a section of the Language of the Earliest Buddhist Tradition, which was edited by Heinz Bechert in Göttingen (1980). Accompanying his text is his Notes on the Patna Dharmapada, which discussed the text and described features of the language. Both the Notes and the Text form a Supplement to his main paper which was on The Language of the Āyra-Mahāsāṁghika-Lokuttaravādins, pp 78-93; Notes, pp 93-97; Text, pp 97-135.

In 1986, Margaret Cone presented her thesis at Cambridge, which contained another transcription of the text. The unpublished thesis was entitled THE PATNA DHAMMAPADA, transcribed and translated with a commentary. In it she translated the text, recorded the variant readings found in Shukla and Roth, and gave a philological commentary, and discussed the parallels.

In 1989 Dr. Cone published an edition of the text based on her thesis, entitled Patna Dhammapada 1, There was no II. JPTS XIII, pp 101-218. with the alternative readings by Shukla and Roth, but without her translation and commentary. All three editions show a great variation in the readings adopted, but the most thoroughly researched seems to be Cone’s text, which I rely upon for this translation.

Kōgen Mizuno prepared another edition of the text in 1990, published under the title A Study of the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dharmapada II. Buddhist Studies (Bukkyō Kenkyū, XIX, 1990). However, this has no independent value, as Mizuno had not seen the photographs and it is simply based on Shukla and Roth. Mizuno also discussed the text in Dharmapadas of Various Buddhist Schools; pp 255-267 of Studies in Pali and Buddhism, A Memorial Volume in Honor of Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap, Delhi, 1979. and A Comparative Study of Dharmapadas. pp 168-175 of Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalava Saddhātissa, Nugegoda, 1984.

Roth once more made a study of the text which was presented as the 2nd Rahul Sankrityayana Memorial Lecture in Patna in 1998, later published by the Patna Museum in 2000, under the title Discussions About The Patna Dharmapada.

Prof. K. R. Norman has contributed a number of articles in which he wrote about the Patna text; Most notably Notes on the Patna Dhammapada, reproduced as no 78 in his Collected Papers, vol. IV, pp 1-17, published prior to Cone’s edition. and his translation of the Pāḷi Dhammapada The Word of the Doctrine, PTS, 1997. included much discussion of the Patna text.

In 1997 Peter Skilling wrote a paper On the School-affiliation of the “Patna Dhammapada”. JPTS vol. XXIII, pp 83-122.

The Text and Translation

In 2007 I received permission from Dr. Cone and the Pali Text Society to reproduce her edition of the text online. See When I prepared the digital edition I made two studies of the text, as well as analysing and writing a running commentary on the prosody of the text. That transcription now forms the basis for the text presented here.

Dr. Cone had prepared a translation of the text for her thesis, a copy of which is with me, but she has never published it, and doesn’t intend to. Private communication to me around 2007. My translation of Patna, which is the first published translation of the text that I know of, was based primarily on my own translation of the Pāḷi text, with the required changes owing to the difference in readings between the texts, together with other translations I made afresh from Pāḷi canonical texts and from the Udānavarga. I then read through Cone’s thesis, including her translation, which led me to making some corrections to my own translation.


As the language and forms of the text have been described and discussed in detail by some of the greatest philologists of our time, it seemed redundant to repeat, or try to add to, their descriptions and arguments here.

Rather I have taken a different approach here, presenting the text and translation, together with just one close parallel for comparison, normally from a Pāḷi text, I have quoted the Udānavarga text as established by F. Bernhard, Göttingen, 1965, which is reproduced with permission. to indicate the sorts of variations that occur, without overburdening the student with scholarly discussion. In both the parallel text and its translation I have italicised the words that differ, adding notes only when I wished to say more about the difference.

For this edition of the text I made numerous changes to the way Cone printed it, following the methods normally adopted when printing Pāḷi texts. Hence here you find:

• Repunctuation throughout to follow sense,
• Capitalisation of the start of sentences and proper names,
• The elision sign (avagraha) removed or added as needed,
• Class nasal written in place of niggahīta, so that e.g. saṃtuṣito >> santuṣito; naṃdati >> nandati; anuyuṃjanti >> anuyuñjanti, etc.


• Uncertain readings are marked with red coloured text, e.g. manopūrvvaṁgamā,
• Some readings, which are not visible in the photographs that Cone was working from, are supplied either from Roth’s reconstruction in his edition, or by myself. I marked these additions with green coloured text, e.g. bhojanamhi ca māttraṁñū saddhaṁ.

To distinguish them clearly, Patna is presented in bold blue text, with its translation in dark red:

Na jaṭāhi na gotreṇa, na jāccā hoti brāhmaṇo,
Not because of matted hair, family or birth is one a true brahmin,

yo tu bāhati pāpāni, aṇutthūlāni sabbaśo,
he who wards off wickedness, small or great, in every way,

bāhanā eva pāpānāṁ, brahmaṇo ti pravuccati.
through warding off wickedness, he is called a brahmin.

The Pāḷi comparison texts are given in bold purple, with its translation in green:

Na jaṭāhi na gottena, na jaccā hoti brāhmaṇo,
Not because of matted hair, family or birth is one a true brahmin,

yamhi saccañ-ca Dhammo ca, so sucī so va brāhmaṇo.
in whom there is truth and Dhamma, that one is pure, that one is surely a brahmin.

The Udānavarga comparison texts are in bold teal, with its translation in dark yellow:

Na jaṭābhir na gotreṇa, na jātyā brāhmaṇaḥ smtaḥ,
Not because of matted hair, family or birth is one thought of as a brahmin,

yas tu vāhayate pāpāny aṇusthūlāni sarvaśaḥ,
he who leads off wickedness, small or great, in every way,

vāhitatvāt tu pāpānāṁ, brāhmaṇo vai nirucyate.
through leading off wickedness, he is called a brahmin.


I am very grateful indeed to Ayyā Sudhammā Therī, who has helped me with this and many other works. She has such a sharp eye that hardly a misplaced comma or full-stop escape her, let alone misspellings and other misdemeanours. The corrections I was able to make through her meticulous reading are innumerable, but if any faults remain, it is, of course, my fault entirely.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
November, 2017