A unique Buddhist tradition, accessible in English for the first time—translations of forty-five Cambodian Dharma songs, with contextualizing essays and a link to audio of stunning vocal performances.
Trent Walker's Until Nirvana's Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia (Shambhala, 2022) is the first collection of traditional Cambodian Buddhist literature available in English, presenting original translations of forty-five poems. Introduced, translated, and contextualized by scholar and vocalist Trent Walker, the Dharma songs in this book reveal a distinctive Southeast Asian genre of devotion, mourning, and contemplation. Their soaring melodies have inspired Cambodians for generations, whether in daily prayers or all-night rituals.
Trained in oral and written lineages in Cambodia, Walker presents a carefully curated range of poems from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries that capture the transformative wisdom of the Khmer Buddhist tradition. Many of the poems, having been transcribed from old cassette tapes or fragile bark-paper manuscripts, are printed here for the first time. A link to recordings of selected songs in English and Khmer accompanies the book. These frank and compelling poems offer mirrors to our own lives—even as they challenge Buddhist conventions of how to die, how to grieve, and how to repay the ones we love.
Selected recordings of Dharma songs can be accessed here: Trent Walker--Dharma Songs.
You can download Trent Walker's 1631-page-long dissertation here: Unfolding Buddhism.
Here's the link to register for his course at Barre Center: Story and Song.
Jessica Zu is an intellectual historian and a scholar of Buddhist studies. She is an assistant professor of religion at the University of Southern California.