“Meditate. Live purely. Quiet the mind. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”

This is from what the publishers term Thomas Byrom’s “rendering” of the Dhammapada. The word “rendering” is a dead giveaway. Normally texts in a foreign language are “translated.” I’m not sure that Byrom actually knew any Pali, though, and there’s no sign that he translated the text. I’d guess what he did is look at various translations, and with the Pali dictionary in hand, concocted a poetic — and impressionistic — work that is called “The Dhammapada” but which bears little resemblance to the original. The best I can say about it is that it’s pretty.

This quote:

“Meditate. Live purely. Quiet the mind. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”

is from the end of the 25th chapter, the Bhikkhu Vagga (“Chapter of the Monk,” which Byrom “renders” as “The Seeker”) and the start of the 26th Chapter, the Brāhmaṇa Vagga (“Chapter of the Brahmin,” which Byrom renders as “The True Master”).

Live purely.
Be quiet.*
Do your work with mastery

corresponds to verse 386, for which Narada Thera, a fairly literal translator, has:

He who is meditative, stainless and
secluded, he who has done his duty and is free
from corruptions, he who has attained the
Highest Goal—him I call a brāhmaṇa.

(*In the quote above “Be quiet” has been altered to “Quiet the mind.”)

You’ll note that some of the words are similar — “meditative/meditate,” “purely/stainless,” for example — but Byrom ignores the grammatical arrangement of the words, turning them into a series of “imperative” instructions. But there is grammar in the original, and it actually means something. And he misses a lot out. Byrom’s poetry is lovely, but it’s not the Dhammapada.

The second part is actually from an earlier verse, which in context Byrom has as:

However young,
The seeker who sets out upon the way
Shines bright over the world.
Like the moon,
Come out from behind the clouds! Shine.

Here’s Narada’s translation of verse 382:

The bhikkhu who, while still young,
devotes himself to the Buddha’s Teaching,
illumines this world like the moon freed from
a cloud.

Again, Byrom seems to have looked at the dictionary and made something up. He even managed to miss out the term “The Buddha’s teaching,” which in the Pali original is “buddhasasana.”


It’s a peculiar thing that someone who doesn’t know a language is asked to “render” a work into English. You wonder what the publishers are thinking. This isn’t the only time this has happened with the Dhammapada, incidentally. The English Buddhist Anne Bancroft also produced a “rendering,” of the Dhammapada, and together she and Byrom have contributed many Fake Buddhist Quotes to humanity. It’s as if “it’s only spirituality” and so what the scriptures actually say isn’t really important. As long as it’s “poetic” and “inspirational,” that’s OK. The problem with this approach is that the Dharma is actually an instruction manual on how to get from point A to point B. If your instruction manual has been “rendered” into English from another language — like the “Chinglish ” instructions above, they may not be terribly useful.

PS I inadvertently covered a variant of this quote in another post. My treatment of it is rather different, so it’s worth reading that account as well.

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