Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) brings to this volume a rare
combination of credentials. He was trained from an early age in
Sanskrit, of which Pali, the language of the Buddha, is a
simplified version. Later he studied English literature and was
chairman of the English department at a major Indian university
when he came to the United States on a Fulbright fellowship in
1959. Huston Smith writes, "His Indian heritage, literary gifts,
and spiritual sensibilities here produce a sublime rendering of the
words of the Buddha. Verse after verse shimmers with quiet,
In 1961 Easwaran founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California, and in 1967, at the University of California, Berkeley, he taught the first academic course on meditation ever offered for credit at a major American university. He continued to teach passage meditation and his Eight Point Program for spiritual living to an American and international audience for almost forty years. His twenty-seven books on meditation and the classics of world mysticism are translated into twenty-five languages.
From the mid 1970s onwards, Easwaran held classes on the Dhammapada for a primarily American audience. A gifted teacher, he was able to anticipate the problems that Western readers may have with the concepts underlying the classics of Indian spirituality, and to explain them in fresh and profoundly simple ways.
But for Easwaran the Dhammapada was not just of intellectual interest. His main qualification for interpreting the Dhammapada, he said, was that he knew from his own experience that these verses could truly transform our lives.