Dhamma Verses

4. The Chapter about Flowers

Reflection must be directed to what is important

Five hundred monks went on walkabout, and when they returned talked about the various kinds of earth they saw; the Buddha told them to reflect on the earthiness in their own hearts, and spoke the following verses.

44. Kŏ imaṁ paṭhaviṁ vicessati
yamalokañ-ca imaṁ sadevakaṁ?
Ko dhammapadaṁ sudesitaṁ
kusalo puppham-ivappacessati?

Who will know this earth and the lower realm,
together with the gods? Who will try to
reflect on the well-taught verse of Dhamma
as a good man reflects on a flower?

45. Sekho paṭhaviṁ vicessati
yamalokañ-ca imaṁ sadevakaṁ.
Sekho dhammapadaṁ sudesitaṁ
kusalo puppham-ivappacessati.

The trainee knows this earth and the lower realm,
together with the gods. The trainee will
reflect on the well-taught verse of Dhamma
as a good man reflects on a flower.

Go beyond death by reflecting on the body

A monk who had been practising meditation saw a mirage, and realised this was similar to existence; he next saw froth on a river, with its bubbles bursting, and he realised existence is the same; the Buddha summed up his insight with this verse.

46. Pheṇūpamaṁ kāyam-imaṁ viditvā,
marīcidhammaṁ abhisambudhāno,
chetvāna Mārassa papupphakāni,
adassanaṁ Maccurājassa gacche.

Knowing that this body is just like froth,
understanding it is like a mirage,
cutting off Māra’s flower-tipped arrows,
one should go beyond the King of Death’s sight.

Death carries off one attached to sense-pleasures

Prince Viḍūḍabha learned that he was the son of a Sakyan slave-woman due to a trick the Sakyans had played on his father, King Pasenadi, and he vowed revenge; on becoming King he massacred the Sakyans, but on his way home he and his army were swept away by flood waters; later the Buddha spoke this verse summarising what had happened.

47. Pupphāni heva pacinantaṁ byāsattamanasaṁ naraṁ,
suttaṁ gāmaṁ mahogho va, maccu ādāya gacchati.

Death takes up and carries away
the one whose mind is attached to
collecting flowers, like a flood
carries off a sleeping village.

Death carries off one attached to sense-pleasures

Patipūjikā passed away from Heaven and was reborn on earth, had four sons, served the monastics faithfully, and at the end of her life was reunited with her husband Mālabhārī in Tāvatiṁsa Heaven; the monastics told the Buddha about the loss of their benefactor, and he gave this teaching.

48. Pupphāni heva pacinantaṁ byāsattamanasaṁ naraṁ,
atittaṁ yeva kāmesu Antako kurute vasaṁ.

The End-Maker takes control of
the one whose mind is attached to
collecting flowers, even though
he is unsated with pleasures.

The sage should take only what he needs
and depart

Ven. Moggallāna brought the miser Kosiya and his wife to the Buddha who preached to them on generosity, and they both attained stream-entry; the Buddha praised Ven. Moggallāna for being both persuasive and modest with his supporters, and spoke this verse about him.

49. Yathā pi bhamaro pupphaṁ vaṇṇagandhaṁ aheṭhayaṁ
paḷeti rasam-ādāya, evaṁ gāme munī care.

Just as a bee, without hurting
the flower, its colour or scent,
gathers its nectar and escapes,
so should the seer roam in village.

Looking to one’s own Deeds

When a lay-disciple invited the Buddha for a meal, an ascetic supported by her abused both her and the Buddha, who advised her not to worry about what the ascetic is doing or saying but instead to look to herself; the Buddha then summarised his teaching with this verse.

50. Na paresaṁ vilomāni, na paresaṁ katākataṁ
attano va avekkheyya, katāni akatāni ca.

Not the wrong of others, or what
others have done or have not done
one should consider, but what has
been done and not done by oneself.

Words are only meaningful when backed by deeds

When Ven. Ānanda is sent to teach the two queens of King Pasenadi, Mallikā and Vāsabhakhattiyā, the first profits by it but the latter does not; the Buddha explained why this was so with these verses.

51. Yathā pi ruciraṁ pupphaṁ vaṇṇavantaṁ agandhakaṁ,
evaṁ subhāsitā vācā aphalā hoti akubbato.

Just like a beautiful flower,
which has colour, but lacks fragrance,
so are well-spoken words fruitless
for the one who acts not on them.

52. Yathā pi ruciraṁ pupphaṁ vaṇṇavantaṁ sagandhakaṁ,
evaṁ subhāsitā vācā saphalā hoti pakubbato.

Just like a beautiful flower,
which has both colour and fragrance,
so are well-spoken words fruitful
for the one who will act on them.

One should take the opportunity to do good deeds

Visākhā was a faithful supporter of the Buddha, but was married off to a son of Migāra, a supporter of the Jains; she insisted on inviting the Buddha for the wedding meal and Migāra was converted by his teaching; later she built the Pubbārāma monastery for the monastics; the Buddha spoke this verse about her.

53. Yathā pi puppharāsimhā kayirā mālāguṇe bahū,
evaṁ jātena maccena kattabbaṁ kusalaṁ bahuṁ.

Just as from a heap of flowers
one might make a lot of garlands,
so should many good deeds be done
by one who is born a mortal.

Virtue gains renown and is unsurpassed

When Ven. Ānanda asked the Buddha if there is any fragrance that goes against the wind, the Buddha explained that if someone takes refuge, keeps precepts and is generous, the fragrance of his virtue will become widely known, and he spoke these verses.

54. Na pupphagandho paṭivātam-eti,
na candanaṁ tagaramallikā vā,
satañ-ca gandho paṭivātam-eti,
sabbā disā sappuriso pavāyati.

The fragrance of flowers goes not against the wind,
nor does sandalwood or pinwheel or white jasmine,
but the fragrance of the good goes against the wind,
the true person’s fragrance permeates all directions.

55. Candanaṁ tagaraṁ vā pi, uppalaṁ atha vassikī,
etesaṁ gandhajātānaṁ sīlagandho anuttaro.

Sandalwood and pinwheel also
water lily and striped jasmine,
amongst these kinds of good fragrance
virtue’s fragrance is unsurpassed.

The fragrance of virtue blows amongst the gods

Ven. Mahākassapa rose from meditation after seven days and went for alms; celestial spirits stepped forward to donate to him but he dismissed them, then Sakka and his wife disguised themselves as weavers and succeeded in giving alms, but Ven. Mahākassapa discovered who they were and chided them; the Buddha spoke this verse about him.

56. Appamatto ayaṁ gandho yāyaṁ tagaracandanī,
yo ca sīlavataṁ gandho vāti devesu uttamo.

Pinwheel and sandalwood fragrance
are insignificant, but the
fragrance of one who has virtue
flutters supreme amongst the gods.

Māra can no longer find those who are free

Gravely ill, Ven. Godhika kept falling away from his concentration and decided to commit suicide; after the event Māra searched high and low for his place of rebirth, but the Buddha asserted that he had not been reborn, and spoke this verse.

57. Tesaṁ sampannasīlānaṁ, appamādavihārinaṁ,
sammad-aññāvimuttānaṁ, Māro maggaṁ na vindati.

Māra cannot find the path of
those who are endowed with virtue,
who live heedfully, and who are
freed through complete and deep knowledge.

True disciples shine forth amongst
the ordinary folk

Sirigutta supported the Buddha, but his friend Garahadinna supported the Jainas; Sirigutta proved that the Jainas do not know the past, present and future as they declared; and the Buddha proved his knowledge and power to Garahadinna, who became his disciple; then the Buddha spoke these verses.

58.59. Yathā saṅkāradhānasmiṁ ujjhitasmiṁ mahāpathe
padumaṁ tattha jāyetha, sucigandhaṁ manoramaṁ,
evaṁ saṅkārabhūtesu, andhabhūte puthujjane,
atirocati paññāya Sammāsambuddhasāvako.

Just as in a discarded heap
along the highway a lotus
might arise, with a pure fragrance,
delighting the mind, so amongst
the forsaken, the Sambuddha’s
disciple outshines the blind and
ordinary folk through his wisdom.

Pupphavaggo Catuttho
The Chapter about Flowers, the Fourth