Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia

Shambhala Publications

Until Nirvana’s Time is the first collection of traditional Cambodian Buddhist literature to appear in English. Based on the author’s comparative editions of dozens of bark-paper and palm-leaf manuscripts, the book presents translations of forty-five Khmer sung verse texts from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries, along with analytical essays and extensive critical notes.

The poems in Until Nirvana’s Time—known as dharm pad or “Dharma songs” in Khmer—feature soaring melodies that have inspired Cambodian Buddhist communities for generations. Whether recited in daily prayers or all-night rituals, these poems speak to elemental human concerns—how to die, how to grieve, and how to repay the ones we love.

In the four analytical essays, Walker traces the principal doctrinal themes that animate these early modern compositions, their chanted performance in rites of mourning, healing, and consecration, their various methods of oral and written transmission, and their intricate musical and metrical structures. A critical note accompanies each poem, exploring complex issues of interpretation along with discussions of relevant parallels from across the Theravada world in Pali, Thai, and other languages.