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   Buddhist Writings.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
II. The Doctrine
 
The Devoted Wife
 
Translated from the Dhammapada, and from Buddhaghosa’s comment
 
 
        While eagerly man culls life’s flowers,
With all his faculties intent,
Of pleasure still insatiate—
Death comes and overpowereth him.


“WHILE eagerly man culls life’s flowers.” This doctrinal instruction was given by The Teacher while dwelling at Svatthi, and it was concerning a woman called Husband-honorer. The affair began in the Heaven of the Suite of the Thirty-three.
  1
  They say that a god of that heaven named Garland-wearer went to his pleasure-grounds in company with a thousand celestial nymphs. Five hundred of these goddesses ascended trees and threw down flowers, while five hundred picked up the flowers that were thrown down and decked the god therewith. One of these goddesses, while on the bough of a tree, fell from that existence, her body vanishing like the flame of a lamp.  2
  Then she was conceived in a high-caste family of Svatthi, and was born with a reminiscence of her previous existences. And saying to herself, “I am the wife of the god Garland-wearer,” she made offerings of perfumes, garlands, and the like, with the prayer that in her next rebirth she might again be with her husband. And when at the age of sixteen years she married into another family, with ticket-food, and fornightly food, she continued to give alms, saying, “May this prove efficacious in bringing about my rebirth with my husband.”  3
  Thereupon the priests gave her the name of Husband-honorer, for they said: “She works early and late, and her only desire is for her husband.”  4
  Husband-honorer continually took care of the hall where the priests sat. She brought forward the drinking water, and spread out the mats to sit on. And when other people were desirous of giving ticket-food and other alms, they would bring it to her, and say, “Dear lady, prepare this for the congregation of the priests.” And by going to and fro in this manner, she acquired the fifty-six salutary qualities, all at one time.  5
  Then she conceived, and at the end of ten lunar months she brought forth a son; and when he was old enough to walk, another, until she had four sons.  6
  One day, after she had given alms and offerings, and had listened to the Doctrine, and kept the precepts, she died toward night-fall from a sudden disease, and was reborn into the presence of her husband.  7
  The other goddesses had continued to deck the god throughout the whole interval.  8
  “We have not seen you since morning,” said the god. “Where have you been?”  9
  “I fell from this existence, my lord.”  10
  “Are you in earnest?”  11
  “It was precisely so, my lord.”  12
  “Where were you born?”  13
  “At Svatthi, in a family of high caste.”  14
  “How long were you there?”  15
  “My lord, at the end of ten months I issued from my mother’s womb, and at the age of sixteen years I married into another family; and having borne four sons, and having given gifts and done other meritorious deeds with the prayer that I might again be with you, I have been born into your presence.”  16
  “How long is the life of men?”  17
  “Only a hundred years.”  18
  “Is that all?”  19
  “Yes, my lord.”  20
  “If that is the length of life to which men are born, pray, now, do they pass the time asleep and reckless, or do they give gifts and do other meritorious deeds?”  21
  “Nothing of the kind, my lord. Men are always reckless, as if they were born to a life of an incalculable number of years, and were never to grow old and die.”  22
  At this the god Garland-wearer became exceedingly agitated.  23
  “Men, it appears, are born to a life of only one hundred years, yet they recklessly lie down and sleep away their time. When will they ever get free from misery?”  24
  A hundred of our years make one day and night of the Gods of the Suite of the Thirty-three; thirty such days and nights their month; and twelve such months their year. And the length of their lives is a thousand such celestial years, or in human notation thirtysix million years. Thus for that god not one day has passed; but like a moment had the interval seemed to him. And thus he thought, “Recklessness for short-lived men is extremely unsuitable.”  25
  On the next day, when the priests entered the village, they found the hall had not been looked after; the mats had not been spread, and the drinking water had not been placed. Then they inquired,  26
  “Where is Husband-honorer?”  27
  “Reverend sirs, how could you expect to see her? Yesterday, after your worships had eaten and departed, she died at even-tide.”  28
  When the priests heard this, the unconverted among them, calling to mind her benefactions, were unable to restrain their tears, while those in whom depravity had come to an end had their elements of being agitated.  29
  After breakfast they returned to the monastery, and made inquiry of The Teacher:  30
  “Reverend Sir, Husband-honorer worked early and late doing many kinds of meritorious deeds, and prayed only for her husband. Now she is dead. Where, pray, has she been reborn?”  31
  “With her husband, O priests.”  32
  “But, Reverend Sir, she is not with her husband.”  33
  “O priests, it was not this husband she was praying for. She had a husband named Garland-wearer, a God of the Suite of the Thirtythree, and fell from that existence while he was decorating himself with flowers. Now she has returned and been born again at his side.”  34
  “Reverend Sir, is it really so?”  35
  “Assuredly, O priests.”  36
  “Alas, Reverend Sir, how very short is the life of all creatures! In the morning she waited on us, and in the evening a disease attacked her, and she died.”  37
  “Assuredly, O priests,” said The Teacher, “the life of creatures is indeed short. And thus it is that death gets creatures into his power, and drags them away howling and weeping, and still unsated in their senses and lusts.”  38
  So saying, he pronounced the following stanza:
        “While eagerly man culls life’s flowers,
With all his faculties intent,
Of pleasure still insatiate—
Death comes and overpowereth him.”
  39
 

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