Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

Dharma Verse Stories

(Ch. 法句譬喻經)

Dharma Verse Stories (T 211) is a Chinese translation of stories that serve as background tales and commentary to the Chinese Dharmapāda (T 210).

Below is a list of the English translations currently available with brief synopses of their contents. Pali equivalents are listed in () and the source text is indicated in [].

Chapter 1: Impermanence

  1. Śakra Attains Stream Entry (verses 1-2)

Just before passing away in the Trayastriṃśa Heaven, Śakra earnestly takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha. He’s briefly reborn to a potter’s wife, but she miscarries, and Śakra is immediately reborn as Śakra again. When he returns to the Buddha to tell this tale, the Buddha recites verses 1-2 of the Dharmapāda. Śakra has an epiphany and attains stream entry.

  1. King Prasenajit’s Queen (verse 3)

Prasenajit’s elderly wife passes away abruptly after falling ill. The king passes by the Buddha as he returns from the funeral, and the Buddha recites verse 3.

  1. Like Cattle Led to Their Slaughter (verses 4-6)

On the way back from giving a teaching in Rājagṛha, the Buddha and his assembly see a cowherd bringing a herd of cattle back to the city from grazing, which were fattened and ready for slaughter. Inspired by this, Buddha composes three verses about the impermanence of life. Later, Ānanda asks him the meaning of the verses 4-6, and the Buddha explains that ordinary people are like the cattle, not aware of when their deaths will arrive.