Dhammapada: Tanhavagga
Chapter 24 — Verses 334 to 359

24. Craving


The lusts of him with heedless traits
Like strangling vines proliferate.
From life to life he leaps and swoops:
A jungly monkey greedy for fruit.


Whosoever by craving’s entanglements gets choked,
His sorrows will flourish like grass that rain soaks.
Whosoever quells craving – hard to conquer – sheds pain,
Just as the lotus sheds droplets of rain.


Some words auspicious I will say
To those assembled here today:
Dig up craving by the root
(Like with weeds), not just the shoot;
Or else, by Mara you’ll be crushed,
As floods destroy the weak bulrush.


If its roots are firm and stout,
A tree, though felled, once more will sprout:
If latent craving’s not laid low,
Again and again fresh sorrow will grow.


If the thirty-six streams of his sensual desire
Abundantly flow to things loved and admired,
Then a torrent of many a lust-inspired plan
Will carry away the intemperate man.


A river courses far and wide:
The creeping vine, where it sprouts it abides.(1)
So, seeing clinging’s vine-like shoots,
With wisdom cut it at the root.


The sensual happiness of beings arises in accordance with the flow of desire.(2) Attached to pleasure, seeking bliss, beings suffer birth and old age.


When a person's entangled by craving,
He quails like a trapped mountain hare:
Held tightly by fetters and clinging,
For long he’ll meet grief and despair.


When a person’s entangled by craving,
He quails like a trapped mountain hare.
So, if he is longing for freedom,
A bhikkhu should craving forswear.


Having mastered his sensual ‘woulds’(3)
A monk set his heart on the woods.
Though free in his life in the woods
He returned to his earlier ‘woulds’.

Come and examine the person, once free,
Returning himself to captivity.


That bond is weak,
The wise opine,
That’s made of teak
Or bronze or twine.

Craving for gems
And lusting for ladies,
Relishing rings
And longing for babies:

These are the bonds
That truly are strong;
Though easy to don,(4)
They’re tenacious once on.

The wise thus proceed
These bonds having severed,
Free of all longing
And rid of sense pleasure.


Those flowing with lust will fall into its current,
Like into its web a spider might plummet.
Removing their passion, the wise thus proceed
Without any longings, from sorrowing freed.


Let go of what’s been and whatever’s foreseen,
And let go of the present which stands in between.
Having left all becoming, with mind well-released,
Then returning to birth and old-age, you will cease.


Whoever by fanciful thinking’s oppressed,
Full of strong passions, with beauty obsessed,
He generates craving, he cultivates lust,
That person indeed makes his fetters robust.


Whoever’s devoted to calming his thinking,
Who’s mindful of bodily aspects unpleasing,
That person erases his sensual ardour:
He shatters asunder the fetters of Mara.


The person who
          has attained the Goal;
          is free of trembling;
          is free of craving;
          is free of blemish;
          has removed the dart of existence:
this is his last body.


Whoever’s adept at linguistics,
Proficient in words and semantics,
And skilled in phonetics,
An expert in syntax,
Whose craving and clinging’s destroyed:
“A great intellect”,
“The salt of the earth”,
“A last-body person” is called.(5)


All-conquering, I:
All things do I know,
And by all things am I undefiled.

By destruction of craving,
I’m utterly free;
By renouncing, I’ve left all behind.

Having thus comprehended
All things by myself,
Then who could I say was my guide?


The giving of Dhamma surpasses all gifts;
The pleasure of Dhamma surpasses all bliss;
The flavour of Dhamma, of tastes, is the chief;
For in conquering craving, one conquers all grief.


Wealth will surely harm the witless,
Not the seekers of the Deathless.
Fools, in craving revenue,
Will harm themselves and others too.


A flaw of crops is rust;
A flaw of men is lust.
Thus, fruits of gifts to him are great,
The one who’s rid of lustful states.


A flaw of crops is blight;
A flaw of men is spite.
Thus, fruits of gifts to him are great,
The one who’s rid of spiteful states.


A flaw of a coppice is holly;
A flaw of men is folly.
Thus, fruits of gifts to him are great,
The one who’s rid of foolish states.


A flaw of fields is weeds;
A flaw of men is greed.
Thus, fruits of gifts to him are great,
The one who’s rid of greedy states.


Go to the next chapter


1. Verse 340: "A river courses far and wide/ The creeping vine, where it sprouts it abides". I take this to mean that although sensation (vedana) courses far and wide, free of attachment, like a river, clinging is static, like a vine.

2. Verse 341: My translation of the first line has been largely guided by the context of the second line.

3. Verse 344: "wood/would" reflects the Pali "vana/vana" word-play.

4. Verse 346: "easy to don" (ohārinaṃ sithilaṃ). Comments in PED suggest this can be translated as "yielding to take down".

5.Verse 352:
"Adept at linguistics" (niruttipadakovido) which PED says means "skilled in the dialect or the original language of the holy Scriptures".
"Proficient in words and semantics" (sannipātaṃ) which PED says means "collocation" i.e. the characteristic combination of words in a language.
"Skilled in phonetics" (akkhara) which PED says means "phonetics which probably included grammar".
"Expert in syntax (pubbāparā) which PED says means "what precedes and what follows, what comes first and what last, with reference to the successive order of syllables and words in the text of the Scriptures".

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