Buddha 2



Ashvaghosha, Buddhacharita

The encounter with a mendicant


[Shâkyamuni, the sage of the Shâkyas] had fulfilled his task,

and he now went on his way....

A pious mendicant saw him on the road,

folded his hands, and said:   ....



Your face shines with intellectual power,

you have become master of your senses....

Who is your guru?...



I have no teacher, he replied....

I have attained nirvana, and I am not the same as others.

You see, I am the originator of the dharma.



Having understood completely what needs to be understood,

but which others have not understood,

I am the Buddha....



I am now on my way to Varânasî*,     *Benares

to beat the drum of the deathless dharma,

not for the pleasure of fame, nor out of pride,

but simply for the good of my fellow beings oppressed by suffering.



Long ago, when I saw the distress of all living beings,

I made a vow, that when I crossed the ocean of suffering myself,

I would help others to cross it,

and when freed myself, I would set others free.     [see p.48 (13-16)]   ....



He decided to leave the Buddha, and moved on,...

but he looked back repeatedly with eyes full of wonder.

        The reunion with the five mendicants




In due course the Sage saw the city Kashi...,

where the rivers Bhâgirathî and Varânasî meet.



Resplendent with power and glory, shining like the sun,

he came to the Deer Park....



The five mendicants, seeing him from afar....

said to one another:



Here comes that pleasure-loving Gautama,

the mendicant who gave up asceticism;

anyone who breaks a vow does not deserve respect,

and we will not greet him when he arrives.   ....



But the closer the Buddha came to them,

the weaker their resolve became.



One of them took his mantle,

another with folded hands looked after his begging-bowl,

another offered him the proper seat,

and the other two provided water to wash his feet.



They all treated him as their guru...,

but did not stop calling him by his family name*,     *Gautama

and so the holy one in his compassion said to them:




You should not speak to a venerable arhat

as you have done in the past, without reverence....



The Buddha wins enlightenment for the good of the world,

but the dharma is cut off for those who slight their guru

by addressing him with his family name;

it is like showing disrespect to one’s parents.



But led astray by delusion they answered him

with a trace of a smile on their faces:



Gautama, since it is not by austerities...

that you have come to an understanding of the real truth,

what is your ground for saying you have seen it?


                                    The turning of the dharma wheel


Since the mendicants showed scepticism towards the truth

of the Tathâgata, who really knew the path to enlightenment,

as being different from the way of austerity,

he began to expound the path to them:



Those foolish people who torture themselves,

and likewise those attached to the domains of the senses,

are equally at fault, you see,

because they have taken paths that do not lead to deathlessness.   ....



I have abandoned both extremes,

and have found the middle path,

which leads to the cessation of sorrow

and passes beyond bliss and ecstasy.



The sun of right outlook illumines it,

the chariot of pure right thinking proceeds along it,

the rest-houses are right words rightly spoken,

and it is beautified by a hundred groves of good conduct.



It enjoys the great prosperity of noble livelihood,

and has the army and retinue of right effort;

it is guarded about by foritifications of right awareness,

and is provided with the bed and seat of concentration.



Such in this world is this most excellent eightfold path,

by which comes release from death, decrepitude, and disease;

by passing along it, all is done that has to be done,

and there is no further travelling in this world or the next.   ....



Thus I came to the conclusion in this matter,

that suffering is to be recognized,

the cause is to be abandoned, the suppression is to be realized,

and the path is to be cultivated.   ....



When I had mastered these noble truths,

and  had done the task that was to be done,

then I claimed to be liberated in this matter,

and saw that I had attained the goal.   ....



When the wheel of the dharma was thus turned

in heaven and earth for the tranquillity of the three worlds,

a shower of flowers fell from the cloudless sky,

and the inhabitants of the three spheres of existence sounded their drums.


                                                   The First converts


Sixty was the number of the first company of disciples,

who were also arhats;

and the Arhat, fittingly revered by the arhats,

spoke to them as follows:


O mendicants, you have passed beyond suffering

and fulfilled your great task;

it now behoves you to help others
who are still suffering.


Therefore let all of you, singly,

make your way over the earth,

and impart the dharma to humankind,

out of compassion for their affliction.


I for my part am going on to Gaya,

the abode of royal seers, to convert

the Kâshyapa seers, who through their attainments

are possessed of supernatural powers.

                                        The homecoming to Kapilavastu


Then the Sage, having overcome with his knowledge

all the teachers of the various systems,

set out in due course from the city of five mountains*     *Râjagriha

for the one where his royal father resided*....     *Kapilâvastu





The king, on learning of his arrival,

was overjoyed, and wished to see him;

escorted by all the citizens he went out to meet him,

forgetting all decorum in his haste.



He saw him afar off, surrounded by his thousand disciples,

like Brahmâ in the midst of the seers*;     *rishis

and out of reverence for the dharma of the great seer,

he alighted from his chariot and approached on foot.




Hastening into his presence,

at the sight of the Sage he uttered no words;

he was as incapable of calling him mendicant

as he was of calling him son.



As he gazed at the mendicant robes

and compared the numerous ornaments on his own person,

he sighed heavily and shed tears,

lamenting in an undertone....



Here he is, surpassing Mount Meru in steadfastness,

the sun in brightness, the moon in beauty,

a great elephant in stride, a bull in voice;

yet he eats the food of mendicancy instead of winning the earth.



Thus the Buddha knew that his father

still thought of him in his mind as his son,

and in compassion for the monarch

he flew up into the sky for his sake.



He touched the chariot of the sun with his hand,

and walked on foot along the pathway of the wind;

he transformed his single body into many,

and then made the many bodies into one.



Unimpeded he plunged into the earth as if into water,

and walked on the surface of the water as if on dry land;

and he calmly penetrated the mountain, passing through it

without obstruction, as if moving through air.



With one half of his body he emitted showers of rain,

and with the other he blazed with fire;

he shone forth gloriously in the sky,

as brilliant as the bright vegetation on the mountain.



He thus aroused delight in the mind of the king,

who loved him so dearly;

and, seated in the sky like a second sun,

he expounded the dharma to the earthly sovereign.



I know, O king, that in your natural compassion

you are overwhelmed by sorrow at the sight of me;

give up that delight in having a son, and with composure

accept from me the dharma in place of a son....



Guardian of the earth, recognize the nature of karma,

the origin of karma, the vehicle of karma,

and the lot that comes through maturing of karma,

and know that the world is under the dominion of karma;

so practise the karma* that is advantageous.     *act, action







Consider and ponder on the real truth of the world:

good karma is a person’s friend, bad karma is the opposite;

you must give up everything and go forth alone,

without support, accompanied only by your karma.   ....



Purify the actions of your body and voice;

strive for quietude of mind;

this is your goal;  there is no other.



Knowing the world to be as restless as the waves of the sea,

and meditating on it, seek no joy in life’s round,

but practise the karma that is virtuous, leading to

the highest good, to destroy the power of karma.



Know that the world revolves perpetually,

like the cycle of the constellations;

even gods pass their zenith and fall from heaven,

how then can one rely on the human condition?



Know the bliss of salvation to be the supreme bliss,

and inward delight to be the highest of all delights;

what self-controlled person rejoices in the pleasures of pomp,

attended as it is with perils, like a house infested with snakes?



Look upon the world as encompassed

with great dangers, like a house on fire;

and aspire to that stage which is serene and certain,

with neither birth nor death, neither toil nor pain.



Crush the hostile armies of the faults,

for which there is no need of wealth or land,

or weapons, or horses, or elephants;

when they are conquered, there is nothing else to conquer.



Understand suffering, the cause of suffering,

the cessation, and the means of cessation;

by thoroughly penetrating these four*,     *the Four Truths

the great dangers and the evil births are suppressed.





The Blessed One’s display of miraculous power

had made the king’s mind a fertile field for instruction;

now having received the dharma by hearing,

he was enraptured, and folding his hands he said:



Wise and fruitful are your deeds,

and you have released me from great suffering....



You did rightly in going away and forsaking sovereign glory,

in toiling at such great labours,

and in leaving your dear loving kinsfolk,

and now in having had compassion on us.



For the good of this afflicted world also

you have attained the supreme beatitude,

which was not achieved in olden times

even by divine seers and royal sages.



If you had become a universal monarch*,     *chakravartin

you would not have caused me as much joy

as I am now feeling, from experiencing

your miraculous powers and your dharma.



If you had remained engrossed in this worldly existence,

as a universal monarch you would have protected humankind,

but now as a sage you preach the Dharma for the benefit of all,

having conquered the sufferings of the cycle of existence.*   ....     *samsara






Many such things were spoken by the Shâkya king,

who had become fit for the dharma of the Compassionate One;

and though his status was king and father,

he did obeisance to his son, having realized the truth.



Many who had witnessed the Sage’s miraculous demonstration,

who had understood the doctrine that penetrated to the truth,

and who saw the king his father venerating him,

conceived a desire to leave their homes.   ....



Ânanda, Nanda, Krimila, Aniruddha,

Nanda (the beautiful), Upananda, and Kunthadhâna,

and also Devadatta, the false teacher of the disciples,

left their homes after instruction by the Sage. ....



The king, on seeing his son’s power,

entered the stream of supreme immortality,

and dead to attachment he abdicated the kingdom to his brother,

to live on in the palace as a royal seer.



The Buddha, having converted these and other

relatives, friends, and followers, entered the city,

at the proper time and in full control of himself,

amid the welcome of the weeping citizens.   ....



As the women saw him advance with his countenance lowered,

illuminated by the dharma and the beauty of his person,

they expressed their pity and devotion,

and with their eyes clouded by tears, they lamented:



His beautiful body is marred by the shaving of his head

and the wearing of cast-off garments,

yet he is enveloped in the golden hue from his body;

and he walks with his eyes fixed on the ground.   ....



He should be riding on a horse under the shelter

of an umbrella that is as white as the face

of a woman when a tamala leaf has been applied to her cheek,

but he is going on foot, holding a begging-bowl.   ....




The king’s daughter-in-law, Yashodharâ, to be sure,

was gripped by grief, but she surmounted her troubles,

and, on hearing what her Lord was doing,

she prevailed over the tidings, and did not pass away.   ....



If, when he sees his son Râhula bathed in tears,

he feels no attachment to him,

what are we to think of such resolute vows

that turn a man’s face away from his affectionate family?   ....



Thus the women uttered their many laments,

grasping at different opinions like the various teachers.

The Buddha, with his mind untouched, entered his native city,

and having obtained alms he returned to the Nyagrodha grove.


                                         The sojourn in Jetavana grove 


Having had compassion on the multitude in Kapilavâstu,

the Buddha set out with a huge retinue of followers

towards the Koshala city Shrâvastî,

which was protected by the arm of King Prasenajit.




He arrived at the glorious Jetavana grove,

brilliant with the unfurled bloom of its ashoka trees,

resonant with the voices of ecstatic cuckoos,

with a row of lofty dwellings as white as the snow of Kailâsa.



Then in due course Sudatta, a wealthy householder,

taking a ewer of pure water, which was

embossed with gold and adorned with a white wreath,

presented the Jetavana grove to the Tathâgata.



King Prasenajit, desirous of seeing the Sage of the Shâkyas,

set off for the Jetavana grove, and on arriving

he reverently did obeisance to him,

sat down, and addressed him:



Your desire, O Sage, to stay in this city

will truly bring good fortune to the Koshala people....



O Saint*,...     *sâdhu

I have suffered and have been harassed

by passion and by royal duties.



The Sage listened graciously to these

and other such words from the Indra-like king,

and knowing him to be addicted to rapacity and lust,

thus replied to stir up his mind:   ....



O king, when time binds and drags the monarch away,

no friends or relations or courtiers will follow you;

they will all be left afflicted and helpless;

and only your deeds will accompany you, like a shadow.



Therefore, guard your kingdom in accordance with the dharma,

if you desire Paradise and a good reputation....



Do not harass human beings,

never give your senses free rein;

do not consort with the vicious, or give way to anger;

do not let your mind wander on evil courses.   ....



Since even deities are still subject to the power of karma,

they are impermanent and under the dominion of time;

therefore set your mind on the cessation of activity,

for if there is no activity there is no suffering.   ....



It must not be thought that this dharma

is not for people who dwell in houses;

whether abiding in a forest or in a house,

only the person who achieves quietude enjoys real existence.   ....



The doctors of learning, seeing the earthly ruler bowing down to him,

challenged the one with the Ten Powers to a display of magic....



Then the Sage appeared as an orb diffusing splendour,

like the rising sun outshining the stars,

and he defeated the teachers of the various systems....





                            The sojourn in heaven

Thereupon, the people of Shrâvastî having reverenced him,

he departed from them with the utmost majesty,

and soared above the triple world,

there to preach the dharma for the benefit of his mother.



By his knowledge the Sage converted his mother,

who dwelt in heaven, where he spent the rainy season,

and duly accepted alms from the ruler of the sky-gods;

then he descended from the celestial world....


                                           The progress of the mission


After converting his mother in heaven,

and the heavenly denizens desiring salvation,

the Sage travelled over the earth,

converting those who were ripe for conversion.   ....



In the city of Varânasî, the Possessor of the Ten Powers,

converted the Brahmin Kâtyayâna,

a nephew of Asita the sage*....          *see 1.49



Then by his magic powers he went to the city Shûrpâraka,

where he instructed the merchant Stavakarnin.



He became so faithful that for the best of seers

he built a sandalwood vihara*,     *meeting hall, monastery

which was always sweet-smelling

and touched the very sky.   ....




In the forest land of Shetavika

the best of teachers taught a parrot and a starling,

birds who were as erudite as Brahmins.   ....



In Kaushâmbî he converted the wealthy Ghoshila,

Kubjottarâ and other women,

and a whole multitude beside.



In the Gândhâra country, the snake Apalâla

had his senses tamed by the Rule*,     *vinaya

and he passed beyond evil.   ....





Through the conversion of these and other beings,

whether traversing the earth or the sky,

the fame of the Buddha went on increasing,

like the ocean at spring tide.



Devadatta*, on seeing the Buddha’s greatness,     *his cousin;  see 19.39

became envious, and, having lost control over the trances,

did many unseemly things.



With his mind sullied, he created

a schism in the Sage’s community,

and in his disunity, instead of being devoted,

he sought to do him harm.



On Mount Gridhrakûta* he set a rock rolling     *Vulture Peak

forcefully, aimed at the Sage;

yet it did not fall on him,

but divided into two pieces.



On the royal highway he let loose against the Tathâgata

a lord of elephants, trumpeting like the thunder

of black clouds at the dissolution of the world,

rushing like the wind in the sky when the moon is darkened.



The streets of Râjagriha became impassable with corpses,

which he had struck with his body or taken up in his trunk,

or whose entrails had been gored out by his tusks,

and scattered about in heaps.   ....



Despite the on-coming elephant intent on slaughter,

despite the wailing people holding up their arms in terror,

the Bhagavat advanced, collected and unaffected,

not breaking his step nor giving way to malevolence.



Quietly the Sage moved forward;

that huge lord of elephants had no power to touch him,

who in his benevolence* had compassion on all creatures,     *maitrî

and whom the gods followed with devotion.





The disciples of the Buddha fled;

only Ânanda followed him....



Then, as the enraged elephant came near,

he regained his senses through the Sage’s spiritual power.   ....



As the sun touches a cloud with its rays,

the Sage stroked the lord of elephants on the head

with his beautiful hand, soft as a lotus

and with shapely webbed fingers.



As the elephant bent low at his feet,

like a black raincloud overladen with water,

the Sage preached peace to him....



But Devadatta, having done in his malice

many evil heinous things,

fell to the nether regions, detested by all....


                                    The visit to Amrapali’s grove


In the course of time the Saint proceeded

from Râjagriha to Pâtaliputra....



He came to the bank of the Gangâ

and saw the people with their boats....



But unseen by the spectators, through his magic powers

he and his disciples passed to the other side in a mere moment....



He moved on to Vaishâlî and abode in a glorious grove

in the domain of the courtesan Amrapâlî....



Self-assured in her loveliness and glory,

like a forest goddess in beauty,

she alighted from her chariot

and entered the grove eagerly.



The Bhagavat, seeing her flashing eyes,

commanded his disciples with a voice like a drum....



This is Amrapâlî who is approaching,

the feverish obsession of those whose strength is weak;

take your stand on knowledge,

and control your mind with the elixir of awareness.



Nearness to a snake is better,

or to an enemy with drawn sword,

than nearness to a woman, for a man

who is devoid of awareness and wisdom.



Whether seated or reclining,

whether walking or standing,

or even when portrayed in a picture,

a woman captures men’s hearts.   ....



It is better to sear your eyes

with red-hot iron pins

than to look on a woman’s rolling eyes

with misguided awareness.



If at the moment of death your mind

is subject to passion, it will bind you

and take you helpless to a rebirth

among animals or in a hell.



Therefore recognize the danger

and do not dwell on the external features;...

that man sees truly who sees

only form in someone else’s body.   ....



The eye grasps the form, and the mind considers it,

and from that consideration there arises

passion with regard to the object,

or else freedom from passion.   ....



Therefore, not abandoning awareness,

proceeding with the utmost heedfulness,

and having concern for your own good,

meditate actively with your minds.



As he thus instructed his disciples...,

Amrapâlî drew near with folded hands....,



deeming herself highly favoured by his presence in the grove.   ....



When she had seated herself...

the Sage addressed her with words suited to her understanding.



Your determination is virtuous,

your mind is steadfast through purification,

and yet desire for the dharma is not usually found

in a woman who is young, beautiful, and wealthy.   ....



Your mind, however, is turned to the dharma,

and that is your real wealth,

because the world of the living is transitory*,             *impermanent

and there are no riches outside the dharma.





Health is taken away by illness,

youth is cut short by age,

life is snatched away by death,

but the dharma has no such disaster.



In pleasure-seeking one obtains only

separation from what is pleasant,

and association with what is unpleasant;

therefore the dharma is the best path.



Dependence on others is great suffering,

self-dependence the highest bliss;

but of those born into the race of Manu*,     *ancestor of humans

all females are dependent on others.*     see Laws of Manu 5.146-148



Therefore you should come to a proper conclusion,

since the suffering of women is excessive

because of their dependence on others

and also because of childbirth.   ....



Through the Tathâgata’s preaching of the dharma,

she cast off her lust-driven state of mind,

turned away from the objects of sense,

despised her status as a woman,

and detested her means of livelihood....


                                 The last three months in Vaishali


When the night had passed, Amrapâlî

offered food to him and his disciples.

He then moved on to the village Venumatî....



After spending the rainy season there,

the Great Sage returned to Vaishâlî,

and sat beside Markata’s pool....



There Mara approached him, and said:



O Sage, when I said to you once before*....,     *at his enlightenment

you have fulfilled your task, enter nirvana,



you replied, Not until I have given security to the afflicted,

and caused them to abandon their sins.



Well then, many have now obtained salvation,...

so it is time to enter final nirvana.



To this the supreme Arhat replied:

In three months’ time I will enter final nirvana;

do not be impatient....



Thereupon the great seer with intense yoga,

entered into such concentration of mind

that he gave up the physical life due to him,

to live on in a unique way by the force of his spiritual power.



At the moment when he abandoned this physical life,

the earth reeled like a drunken woman....



Indra’s thunderbolts flashed continuously in every direction,

replete with fire and accompanied by lightning;

and flames blazed up everywhere as at the end of the aeon,

when the universal conflagration consumes the world.   ....



When Ânanda saw the earth quaking,

his hair stood on end and he wondered at the reason....



The reason for this earthquake, said the Sage,

is that I have cut off my days on earth;

my life has only three more months from now....



Ânanda was grieved, because the Buddha

was his kinsman and his guru....



You must recognize the world’s real nature,

Ânanda, and not be grieving;

this world is an aggregation, and impermanent,

because its state is composite.   ....



Whatever is born is composite and ephemeral....



I have steadfastly explained to you

the path in its totality;

you as disciples should understand

that the Buddhas withhold nothing.   ....



The light of the dharma goes on for ever....


                                 The final entry into nirvana


When the time came for the Sage to depart for his nirvana,

Vaishâlî was like the sky darkened by an eclipse of the sun....



It was because of its sorrow that it did not shine,

like a woman whose husband has died....



Then the Sage... gazed on the city

and uttered these words:



O Vaishâlî, I shall not see you again in this life;

I am now departing for nirvana....



In due course the Teacher proceeded to Bhoganagara,

and there he said to his followers....



After I pass away today, you must fix

your best attention on the dharma....



Whatever is not contained in the sutras,

or does not appear in the vinaya*,     *scriptures relating to discipline

is contrary to my principles

and should by no means be accepted.   ....



Then he went on to the town Pâpâ,

where the Mallas honoured him.



There he took his last meal, in the house

of the worthy and devoted Chunda,

doing so for Chunda’s sake,

not for his own sustenance.



And after the Tathâgata had eaten,

together with his company of disciples,

he preached the dharma to Chunda,

and then went on to Kushinagara.



Accompanied by Chunda he crossed the river,

and made his way to a grove of that city,

which had a peaceful lotus-pool.



Having bathed in the river, he gave instructions

to the grieving Ânanda....



Ânanda, prepare a place for me to lie down,

between those twin shâla trees;

before the night has passed away

the Tathâgata will enter nirvana.   ....



In the presence of his disciples

he lay down on his right side,

rested his head on his hand,

and put one leg over the other.   ....


                                    The Buddha’s last sermon


When the first part of the night had passed,

and the moon had eclipsed the light of the stars,

and the groves were silent, as if asleep,

in his great compassion the Sage instructed his disciples:



When I have gone to the beyond, the Prâtimoksha*     *the Pâtimokkha rules

shall be your director, your lamp, your treasure;

that is your teacher, and you shall be under its dominion;

repeat it just as you have done during my lifetime.



To purify the actions of your body and speech,

give up all worldly concerns,

and, as from grasping a fire, refrain from accepting

lands, living beings, grain, treasure, and the rest.



The proper means of livelihood is to abstain

from cutting and felling what grows on the earth,

from digging and ploughing the ground,

and from medicine and astrology.   ....



Thus the Prâtimoksha is the summary of the discipline,

the root of liberation;

from it arise the concentrated meditations,

all forms of knowledge, and the final goals.



Therefore, the person in whom is found

pure inviolable discipline, has the dharma....



When discipline continues unabated and purified,

there is no activity in the spheres of the senses;

as cattle are kept from the crops by a rod,

so the six senses should be guarded strictly.   ....



Some suffer bitterly in this world by falling into enemy hands,

but those who from delusion fall into the sense-objects’ power,

become subject to suffering, whether they wish to or not,

in their future lives as well as in this.   ....



The mind wanders in all directions as it wills,

like a mad elephant unrestrained by an iron hobble,

or like a monkey leaping about in the trees;

no occasion should be given to it for restlessness.



When the mind is a law to itself there is no quietude,

but when it attains to stillness the task is completed;

therefore strive with all your might to make

these minds of yours desist from restlessness.



Observe exact measure in eating, as for doses of medicine;

do not feel repulsion or desire towards it,

only taking as much as is necessary

for satisfying hunger and maintaining the body.



As bees sipping their juice in the garden

do not destroy the flowers,

so you should practise alms-begging at the proper time,

without ruining other believers.



Pass the entire day in the practice of yoga,

and also the first and last watches of the night;

lie down only in the middle watch, but full of awareness,

so that the time of sleep does not cause calamity.   ....



You should only sleep after exorcizing,

through knowledge and the repetition of sacred texts,

the snakes of the sins residing in your heart,

as one does to black snakes in a house by magic and charms....



A man is respected to the extent to which he has self-respect,

and he who lacks self-respect, and is devoid of discrimination

between what is and what is not his real good,

is on a level with the brute beasts.



Even if someone cuts off your arms and limbs with a sword,

you should not harbour sinful thoughts about him,

or utter unforgiving words,

because such responses are an obstacle to you alone.



There are no austerities equal to forbearance,

and he who has forbearance has strength and fortitude;

those who cannot bear harsh treatment from others

are not following the way of those who deliver the dharma, nor are they saved.



Do not allow the slightest opening to anger...;

there is no enemy to the virtues like it;...



But it is not contrary to the life of householders,

because they are full of passion,

and have not taken vows about it....



If pride arises in your heart, it must be warded off,

by touching your head shorn of its beautiful locks,

by looking at your dyed clothes and your begging bowl,

and by reflecting on the conduct and occupations of others.



If wordly people who are proud overcome pride,

how much more those whose heads are shaven,

who have directed themselves toward salvation,

and who eat the bread of mendicancy and have proved themselves.



Deceitfulness and the practice of dharma are incompatible;

therefore do not resort to crooked ways....



The suffering that comes to someone whose desires are great

does not come to someone whose desires are small....



If you desire salvation, then practise contentment;

with contentment there is bliss here, and it is in the dharma;

the contented sleep peacefully, even on the ground;

the discontented are burnt up, even in Paradise.



The discontented man, however rich, is always poor,

and the contented man, however poor, is always rich;

the discontented man, in seeking the desired sense-objects,

creates suffering for himself by struggling to obtain gratification.



Those who wish to obtain the highest bliss of peace

should not give themselves up to pleasures in that way;

even Indra and the other gods envy the person in the world

who is solely devoted to tranquillity.



Attachment is the roosting-tree of suffering;

so give up attachment, whether to relations or outsiders;

whoever has attachments in the world is stuck fast in suffering,

like a debilitated elephant in the mud.   ....



When awareness is present, faults are inactive;

there is no friend or protector equal to awareness,

and if awareness is lost, then everything is lost;

so do not lose hold of awareness directed at the body.



The firm in mind put on the armour of awareness towards the body,

and conduct themselves in the battle against the sense-objects

like heroes who gird on their armour

and plunge fearlessly into the ranks of their foes.   ....



Practise learning, knowledge, and meditation,

for the increase of mystical wisdom....   ....



I have done all that should be done by a master

who is compassionate and sympathetic

and aims for the good of others;

so apply yourselves and bring your minds to tranquillity.   ....



Having completed the task for myself and for others,

there is no gain in my further existence....



All who were to be converted by me, in the heavens and on earth,

have been saved and set in the stream;

hereafter this my dharma shall abide among humankind

through successive generations, monks.   ....



Everything, whatever it is, passes away;

so be mindful and vigilant.

The time for my entry into nirvana has arrived.

Do not lament.  These are my last words.





                      The final entry into nirvana

The supreme master in knowledge of the trances

entered at  that moment the first trance,

emerged from it and went on to the second,

and in due order he entered them all without exception.



Having thus passed through all the trances,

the nine stages of meditation, in upward order,

the great seer followed the reverse order,

and returned to the first trance again.



Emerging from the first once more,

he ascended in due order again to the fourth trance,

and on coming out of the practice of that trance,

he passed to the realization of everlasting peace.



And when the sage entered nirvana,

the earth quivered like a ship struck by a squall,

and firebrands fell from the sky....



Fearsome thunderbolts came crashing down,

vomiting fire with hundreds of sparks,

as when Indra hurls them in his wrath

to overcome the asuras* in battle.     *demons, enemies of the devas.






The winds blew violently....



The moon’s light waned,

and it shone with feeble colourless beams....



Eerie darkness spread over the skies,

and the rivers ran with boiling water,

as if overcome with grief....



Then the shâla trees standing nearby,

with beautiful flowers out of due season,

bent over the Buddha’s golden body

and showered him with their blossoms.



The gods who rejoice in the good dharma,

stood mourning in the sky,

absorbed in the utmost grief...



But the hosts of Mâra, having obtained their heart’s desire,

shrieked exultantly....





                          The funeral ceremonies

Those who were not yet rid of passions shed tears;

many monks lost their composure and gave way to grief;

but those who had completed the cycle,

knowing that it is the nature of things to pass away,

did not abandon self-control.



Then in due course the Mallas heard the news

and came streaming forth,... crying in their affliction,

Alas, the saviour!...



The weeping Mallas, with arms like the trunks of mighty elephants,

placed the seer on a priceless bier of ivory inlaid with gold....



They performed ceremonies befitting the occasion,

honouring him with garlands and perfumes,...

and then with devotion they all took hold of the bier.



Slender maidens, with tinkling anklets

and copper-stained hands, held a priceless canopy over it....



Some of the men held up parasols with white garlands,

while others waved white yaks’ tails set in gold....



With their eyes as red as a bull’s

the Mallas slowly bore the bier along,

while musical instruments, pleasant to the ear,

sounded in the sky, like clouds in the rains....



The Mallas, full of devotion, carried it onward,

doing obeisance hundreds of times,

on account of the Sage’s spiritual power,

and bewailing his decease....



Leaving the city Kushinagara through the Nâga gate,

they crossed the river called Hiranyavatî,

and at the foot of the Mukuta shrine

they raised a funeral pyre.



On this pyre they heaped sweet-scented barks and leaves,

aloewood, sandalwood, and cassia;

sighing with grief, like snakes, all the while,

and with unsteady eyes, they placed the Sage’s body on it.



Then although they applied a lighted lamp three times to it,

the great Sage’s pyre would not catch fire...



Great Kâshyapa was coming along the road at that moment,

meditating with his purified mind;

it was the power of his desire to see the holy remains

that prevented the fire from flaring up.



When he had done obeisance to his guru

the fire blazed up spontaneously.





              The preservation of the relics

The fire burnt up the skin, flesh, hair, and limbs

of the Sage’s body, which sins had failed to enkindle;

but despite the quantity of ghee, fuel, and wind,

it was unable to consume the bones.



These were then purified with the finest water,

and deposited in golden jars in the city of the Mallas,

who chanted hymns of praise over them:



These jars hold the great relics, full of virtue,

like mountains containing jewel ore;

and these relics are unharmed by fire,     *Brahma’s realm, when all else is

like the sphere of the chief god in heaven.*     burned up at the end of the aeon





These bones, permeated by his universal love*,     *maitrî

are not susceptible to burning by the fire of passion;

they are preserved by the power of devotion;

cold as they are they still warm our hearts.....



For some days they duly worshipped the relics....

Then came ambassadors from seven neighbouring kings.



But the Mallas, in their pride and devotion to the relics,

refused to surrender any of them,

preferring to fight instead.



So the seven kings, like the seven winds,

came up with great violence against the city

that was named after Kusha*,     *Kushinagara

and their forces were like the current of the Gangâ in flood.   ....





When the kings saw the Mallas coming forth to fight,...

like snakes which have been confined in a jar,

they resolved to give battle.



But the Brahman Drona,...

out of his learning and lovingkindness said:   ....



It ill accords with your principles

to do harm while worshipping the Compassionate One,

who himself attained peace, and with benevolence

preached mercy to all beings.   ....



And so the Mallas devotedly and virtuously

divided the relics into eight parts,

keeping one part for themselves....

and handing the remaining seven over to the kings.



These rulers returned joyfully to their own lands,...

and with appropriate ceremonies, in their cities,

they set up stûpas for the relics of the Seer.   ....



Kings with their subjects and Brahmans with their children,

adored on earth the various stûpas of the Sage,

which with their waving flags

resembled the snowy peaks of Mount Kailâsa.


                                The compiling of the scriptures 


In the course of time, the five hundred Arhats

assembled at Râjagriha, on the slopes of one of its five mountains,

and there they collected the Sage’s sermons,

so that the dharma might  be established once more.



The disciples, with the agreement of the Sangha,

realizing that Ânanda had heard all the sections,

decided to ask the Vaideha sage

to recite the teachings of the great Seer.



So he sat in their midst and repeated the sermons,

as they had been preached by the best of all speakers,

saying, Thus have I heard, and explaining the place,

the occasion, the time, and the person addressed.



In this way, in conjunction with the Arhats,

he established the scriptures of the great Sage’s dharma;

and by full acquisition of it with effort,

people have passed, are passing, and will pass, beyond suffering.


                                            The good king Ashoka


In the course of time King Ashoka was born,                   

devoted to the faith, causing grief to proud enemies,

removing the grief of people in suffering, pleasant to see,

like an ashoka tree laden with blossoms or fruit.



The noble glory of the Maurya family,

he set to work, for the welfare of his subjects,

to provide the whole earth with stûpas,

and Chanda-Ashoka thus became Ashoka-Dharma-Râja.



He took the relics of the Seer from seven of the stûpas

in which they had been deposited, and in a single day

he distributed them over eighty thousand majestic stûpas,

which shone with the brilliance of autumn clouds.   ....



Although the king retained the sovereignty, which is fugitive,

and although he continued in enjoyments, enemies of the mind,

yet without putting on the ochre-coloured robe,

he purified his mind and obtained the choicest fruit.   ....



The wise know that, given equal purity of mind,

the virtues of the Buddha ensure the obtaining of the same fruit,

either by reverencing the Seer during his earthly life,

or by paying homage to his relics* after his final nirvana.   ....*see p.96 below



This poem has been composed for the benefit

and happiness of all people, according to the Sage’s scriptures,

out of reverence for the champion bull of all sages,

and not to display erudition or skill in poetry.

The work of the venerable mendicant and teacher,

Ashvagosha of Sâketa, son of Suvarnâkshî,

great poet, eloquent, and of universal renown.




This is an abridged translation of the Tibetan text of the Buddhacharita, based on the work of E.H. Johnston and E. Conze (see the notes to the first part).