We are being offered yet another version of the Dhammapada, this time not a new translation or even the more common rehash by someone who knows no Pali of someone else’s rehash who knew no Pali either, but an “interpretation”. According to the blurb on Tai Sheridan’s The Bare Bones Dhammapada, the original text is “burdened by the stylistic and conceptual dust of the early and middle ages” and this new version “strips the Dhammapada of monasticism, literalness, chauvinism, anachronisms, and concepts of evil, shame, and sensual denial. It presents the path of wisdom as universal truths for a contemporary audience of any gender, lifestyle, or spiritual inclination”. No it doesn’t! All it does is offer cryptic verses, some of which are actually quite poetic, but that in no way reflect either the Buddha’s words or intent.
For example the Buddha of both the Pali Theravada and the Sanskrit Mahayana sutras was disparaging of dancing while Tai Sheridan apparently enjoys it and therefore Dhammapada verse 16 can be rendered as “do good dance joyfully”. Tai loves partying and is convinced the Buddha did too, hence verse 18 can be rendered as “do good throw a party on the path sing and dance.” All this renders the Dhammapada unfamiliar to anyone who knows it. What is very familiar about The Bare Bones Dhammapada is the assumption underlying it: “I happen to believe in and like (fill in the gap) and that’s what the Buddha taught.”
Hemmingway’s comment on punctuation could apply equally well to translating or even paraphrasing other peoples work, especially classics such as the Dhammapada.