Translation:Dhammapada/Chapter 4

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Dhammapada by Gautama Buddha, translated from Pāli by Wikisource
Chapter 4: The flowers

4:1 (44)
An expert garland-maker chooses just the right flower for his composition
But who can truly understand his or her own self?
Who understands every mysterious power[1] in this world?
Who can discern the path toward enlightenment[2] that has been taught to us?

4:2 (45)
As a dedicated disciple,[3] I am learning to understand myself.
I strive to understand every power in this world.
I am learning to discern the path toward enlightenment,
As expert garland-maker choosing just the right flower.

4:3 (46)
My body is as impermanent as foam.
Its true nature is as a mirage.
Realizing this, I pluck out the flowers of illusion
And pass beyond death's sight[4]

4:4 (47)
A great tidal wave may wash away
An entire village, caught unawares.
If I am distracted by the flowers of pleasure,
I, too, may be washed away.

4:5 (48)
If my mind is distracted,
If I become addicted to the flowers of pleasure,
Death will take me long before my desires are satisfied.

4:6 (49)
A bee collects pollen and then leaves, never harming the flower.
Neither the color nor the fragrance are diminished in any way.
In this way, I travel through life.

4:7 (50)
Instead of focusing on the faults of others,
The wrongs they have done, the good they have failed to do,
I look clearly at my own acts,
What I do, and what I leave undone.

4:8 (51)
Like a beautiful and colorful blossom that has no scent
Are words of wisdom spoken by one who does not practice them.

4:9 (52)
Like a beautiful blossom with a rich, sweet scent
Are words of wisdom spoken by one who puts them into practice.

4:10 (53)
Many different kinds of garlands can be made
With the same heap of flowers.
Many different kinds of good deeds
Can be done between my birth and death in this world.

4:11 (54)
The scents of flowers cannot blow against the wind.
Neither can the perfumes of jasmine, sandalwood, or clove.
But the fragrance of virtue radiates in every direction.

4:12 (55)
Jasmine, sandalwood, lotus, and clove:
The fragrance of vitue far surpasses all of these.

4:13 (56)
The fragrances of lavish perfumes grow faint
But the fragrance of virtue stays strong.
It wafts up even to the heavens.

4:14 (57)
When I possess these virtues,
Living in mindfullness and freed by right knowlege,
Temptation[5] cannot find me.
Illusion cannot follow me.

4:15 (58)
A heap of trash sits, discarded, by the side of the road
From out of it grows a beautiful and fragrant lotus flower.

4:16 (59)
In the same way, out of the rubbish of this world,
A follower of the Buddha may grow,
With wisdom shining out among the blind.

  1. The verse mentions specific powers and divinities that were very familiar to the Buddha's disciples, but which would not be familiar to a modern Western audience.
  2. The verse uses the word Dhammapada, the name of this text. It is assumed that the verse existed before it was collected into the Dhammapada; therefore the word is here rendered to "the path to Enlightenment" instead of being left untranslated.
  3. The Pali term refers to a student who has undergone the first level of training, but still has far to go before attaining perfection.
  4. or "beyond sight of the King of Death". In other words, the fear of death has no meaning for one who has attained nibbana.
  5. Temptation and illusion here are personified as Mara.