Dhammapada 4: Flowers


Translated by Ven Nārada

44. Who will comprehend 1 this earth (self 2), and this realm of Yama, 3 and this world 4 together with the devas? 5 Who will investigate the well taught Path of Virtue 6, even as an expert (garland maker) will pick flowers?

45. A disciple in training (sekha 7), will comprehend this earth, and this realm of Yama together with the realm of the devas. A disciple in training will investigate the well-taught Path of Virtue even as an expert (garland-maker) will pick flowers.

46. Knowing that this body is like foam, 8 and comprehending its mirage-nature, 9 one should destroy the flower-shafts of sensual passions (Māra), and pass beyond the sight of the king of detah. 10

47. The man who gathers flowers (of sensual pleasure), whose mind is distracted, death carries off as a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

48. The man who gathers flowers (of sensual pleasure), whose mind is distracted, and who is insatiate in desires, the Destroyer 11 brings under his sway.

49. As a bee without harming the flower. its colour or scent, flies away, collecting only the honey, even so should the sage wander in the village. 12

50. Let not one seek others’ faults, things left done and undone by others, but one’s own deeds done and undone.

51. As a flower that is lovely and beautiful but is scentless, even so fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practise it.

52. As a flower that is lovely, beautiful, and scent-laden, even so fruitful is the well-spoken word of one who practises it.

53. As from a heap of flowers many a garland is made, even so many good deeds should be done by one born a mortal.

54. The perfume of flowers blows not against the wind, nor does the fragrance of sandalwood, tagara 13 and jasmine but the fragrance of the virtuous blows against the wind; the virtuous man pervades every direction.

55. Sandalwood, tagara, lotus, jasmine: above all these kinds of fragrance, the perfume of virtue is by far the best.

56. Of little account is the fragrance of tagara or sandal; the fragrance of the virtuous, which blows even amongst the gods, is supreme.

57. Māra 14 finds not the path of those who are virtuous, careful in living, and freed by right knowledge.

58-59. As upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, a sweet-smelling lovely lotus may grow, even so amongst worthless beings, a disciple of the Fully Enlightened One outshines the blind worldlings in wisdom. 15

End Notes

[1] Vijessati = attano ¬ñāṇena vijānissati - who will know by one’s own wisdom? (Commentary).

[2] That is one who will understand oneself as one really is.

[3] By the realm of Yama are meant the four woeful states - namely hell, the animal kingdom, the Peta Realm, and the Asura Realm. Hell is not permanent according to Buddhism. It is a state of misery as are the other planes where beings suffer for their past evil actions.

[4] Namely: the human plane and the six celestial planes. These seven are regarded as blissful states (sugati).

[5] Devas, lit., sporting or shining ones. They are also a class of beings who enjoy themselves, experiencing the effects of their past good actions. They too are subject to death.

[6] Dhammapada. The Commentary states that this term is applied to the thirty-seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiyadhamma). They are:-

I. The four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna) - namely:

1. contemplation of the body (kāyānupassanā),
2. contemplation of the feelings (vedanānupassanā),
3. contemplation of thoughts (cittānupassanā), and
4. contemplation of phenomena (dhammānupassanā).

II. The four Supreme Efforts (Sammappadāna) - namely: 1. the effort to prevent evil that has not arisen, 2. the effort to discard evil that has already arisen, 3. the effort to cultivate unarisen good, and 4. the effort to promote good that has already arisen.

III. The four Means of Accomplishment (iddhipāda) - namely: will (chanda), energy (viriya), thought (citta), and wisdom (vimaṃsā).

IV. The five faculties (Indriya) - namely: confidence (saddhā), energy (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (pa¬ñ¬ñā).

V. The five Forces (Bala), having the same names as the Indriyas.

VI. The seven Constituents of Enlightenment (Bojjhaṅga) - namely

mindfulness (sati), investigation of the Truth (Dhammavicaya), energy (viriya), joy (pīti), serenity (passaddhi), concentration (samādhi), and equanimity (upekkhā).

VII. The Eightfold Path (Aṭṭhangikamagga) - namely: right views (sammā diṭṭhi), right thoughts (sammā saṅkappa), right speech (sammā vācā), right actions (sammā kammanta), right livelihood (sammā ājīva), right endeavour (sammā vāyāma), right mindfulness (sammā sati) and right concentration (sammā samādhi).

[7] The term sekha, lit., one who is still under going training, is applied to a disciple who has attained the first stage of Sainthood (Sotāpatti = Stream-winner) until he attains the final Arahatta fruit stage. When he totally eradicates all fetters (saṃyojana) and attains the fruit stage of an Arahant, he is called an Asekha, as he has perfected his training. It is an asekha disciple who understands him self and the whole world as they really are. There is no graceful English equivalent for this difficult Pali term. "Adept" (= one who has attained) may be suggested as the closest rendering.

[8] Owing to its fleeting nature.

[9] Because there is nothing substantial in this body.

[10] Namely life’s sorrow, born of passions. An Arahant destroys all passions by his wisdom and attains Nibbāna where there is no death.

[11] Antaka, lit., Ender, which means death.

[12] Seeking alms, without inconveniencing any.

[13] A kind of shrub from which a fragrant powder is obtained.

[14] The personification of evil. See note on vs. 8.

[15] Nobody is condemned in Buddhism, for greatness is latent even in the seemingly lowliest just as lotuses spring from muddy ponds.