Flowers | An Excerpt from The Dhammapada

A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic

The Dhammapada

Who will master this world
And the realms of Yama and the gods?
Who will select a well‑taught Dharma teaching,
As a skilled person selects a flower?

One in training will master this world
And the realms of Yama and the gods.
One in training will select
A well‑taught Dharma teaching,
As a skilled person selects a flower.

Knowing this body is like foam,
Fully awake to its mirage‑like nature,
Cutting off Māra’s flowers,
One goes unseen by the King of Death.

Death sweeps away
The person obsessed
With gathering flowers,
As a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

The person obsessed
With gathering flowers,
Insatiable for sense pleasures,
Is under the sway of Death.

As a bee gathers nectar
And moves on without harming
The flower, its color, or its fragrance,
Just so should a sage walk through a village.

Do not consider the faults of others
Or what they have or haven’t done.
Consider rather
What you yourself have or haven’t done.

Like a beautiful flower,
Brightly colored but lacking scent,
So are well‑spoken words
Fruitless when not carried out.

Like a beautiful flower,
Brightly colored and with scent,
So are well‑spoken words
Fruitful when carried out.

Just as from a heap of flowers
Many garlands can be made,
So, you, with your mortal life,
Should do many skillful things.

The scent of flowers
—sandalwood, jasmine, and rosebay—
Doesn’t go against the wind.
But the scent of a virtuous person
Does travel against the wind;
It spreads in all directions.

The scent of virtue
Is unsurpassed
Even by sandalwood, rosebay,
Water lily, and jasmine.

Slight
Is the scent of rosebay or sandalwood,
But the scent of the virtuous is supreme,
Drifting even to the gods.

Māra does not find the path
Of those endowed with virtue,
Living with vigilance,
and freed by right understanding.

As a sweet‑smelling lotus
Pleasing to the heart
May grow in a heap of rubbish
Discarded along the highway,
So a disciple of the Fully Awakened One
Shines with wisdom
Amid the rubbish heap
Of blind, common people.

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Gil FronsdalGil Fronsdal has practiced Zen and Insight Meditation since 1975 and is the primary teacher for the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California. See more about him here.