Until Nirvana's Time

Until Nirvana’s Time presents forty-five Dharma songs, whose soaring melodies have inspired Cambodian Buddhist communities for generations. Whether recited in daily prayers or all-night rituals, these poems speak to our deepest concerns—how to die, how to grieve, and how to repay the ones we love.

Introduced, translated, and contextualized by scholar and vocalist Trent Walker, this is the first collection of traditional Cambodian Buddhist literature available in English. Many of the poems have been transcribed from old cassette tapes or fragile bark-paper manuscripts that have never before been printed. A link to recordings of selected songs in English and Khmer accompanies the book.

SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS • 12/27/2022 • 368 PAGES 5.5 X 8.5 inches • ISBN: 9781645471349

Selected praise for Until Nirvana's Time

Until Nirvana’s Time reads like a potent incantation. Trent Walker’s lucid rendering of Buddhist songs from Cambodia is both authentic to the Khmer language and to the poetry of the chants invoked. Walker’s artful translation is further enhanced by his rigorous scholarship on Buddhism and Cambodian literary traditions across the centuries. Given how much has been lost to war and genocide, the work is an invaluable contribution to the understanding of Khmer literature and the spiritual culture that shapes it." 

Vaddey Ratner, New York Times bestselling author of In the Shadow of the Banyan and Music of the Ghosts 

“In this heartfelt and brilliant series of beautiful translations, Trent Walker allows the creativity and profundity of pre-modern Cambodian poets to take center stage. It should become the model of discerning and ethical scholarship. There is simply no other book like this and it sparkles with insight gained over nearly twenty years of research. With this book, Walker emerges as the leader in a new generation of scholars of Southeast Asian Buddhism and literature.”

Justin McDaniel, author of Wayward Distractions: Ornament, Emotion, Zombies and the Study of Buddhism in Thailand

“This collection holds a special place for newer generations of Cambodians to gain insight into our ancestors’ practices. By centering Buddhist poets from Cambodia, Walker is honoring all the teachers who came before him. It is a work of beauty and utmost gratitude.”

Sokunthary Svay, author of Apsara in New York

Until Nirvana’s Time opens wide windows that look out across vivid landscapes of Khmer poetry. Trent Walker’s first-ever translations introduce us to the aesthetic and emotional tones of three to four centuries of Southeast Asian Buddhism. Unfolding new dimensions of the human spirit, Walker deftly expresses Khmer poetic and spiritual sentiments in a confident contemporary voice. His seamless transfer of striking metaphors and insights into rhythmic and sonorous sounds enriches our understanding of Cambodian Buddhism’s human dimensions. Walker translates these songs with tender passion, aiming to make ‘the beauty and relevance of Khmer poetry accessible to Buddhists everywhere.’ His palpable success makes Until Nirvana’s Time a major contribution to world poetry and Buddhist humanities. The volume is enhanced by short and informative essays and notes that supply just the right amount of background information to contextualize the poems. Rarely if ever have the voices of Cambodian or other Southeast Asian Buddhists been so eloquently and evocatively expressed. Accessible, a pleasure to read: this excursion into the spiritual and emotional countryside of premodern Cambodia stands to become a classic voice in the chorus of Asian poetry.”

Peter Skilling, author of Questioning the Buddha: A Selection of Twenty-Five Sutras

Until Nirvana’s Time represents an important contribution to Southeast Asian poetics in translation and shines a groundbreaking light on Cambodian verse and its intersections with Buddhism that was nearly lost during the conflicts of the twentieth century. Trent Walker's efforts at translation are thoughtful and compelling, providing both beginners and experts with an excellent look at the traditions of Khmer verse and a model for how we might translate and preserve other similar bodies of literature across Southeast Asia.”

Bryan Thao Worra, Creative Works Editor, Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement

“Trent Walker’s hauntingly beautiful Cambodian Dharma songs bring ancient wisdom to today's troubled world hungering for spiritual truth and guidance. At once disturbing and tender, Until Nirvana’s Time maps the universal human experience of grief and loss along Buddhist themes of impermanence, gratitude, and transformation. With spiritual urgency, the songs stir us from complacency, invite us to settle relationships, and seek peace in our hearts before death strikes."

Wendy Garling, author of The Woman Who Raised the Buddha: The Extraordinary Life of Mahaprajapati

Click here to look inside the book, or here for an audiovisual preview