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translation of asvaghosa's buddha carita


  • Patrick Olivelle is Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also translated the Pacatantra, as Five Discourses on Worldly Wisdom, and has edited and translated The Early Upanishads, The Law Codes of Ancient India, and Manus Code of Law.

    The Clay Sanskrit Library is a unique series that, through original text and English translation, gives an international readership access to the beauty and variety of classical Sanskrit literature.

    For a full list of titles, a searchable corpus of CSL texts and translations, and further information, please visit: www.claysanskritlibrary.com

    Ashvaghoshas Life of the Buddha is a masterpiece of poetry in the service of religious teaching. The ravishing

    bodies of the future Buddhas courtesans are lovingly described only to illustrate the ultimate transience of beauty. In sleep, Siddhrthas lovers reveal their true physical squalidness, provoking him to leave home

    and go forth on his ascetic quest.



    sanskrit library

    life of the buddha



    Life of the Buddhaby Ashvaghosha

    Translated by



    jjcNEW YORK UNIVERSITY PRESSWashington Square

    New York, NY 10003



    9 780814 762165

    ISBN 978-0-8147-6216-5


    Here is a new Clay Sanskrit Library translation of Ashvaghoshas Life of the Buddha.

    The Buddhist monk Ashvaghosha composed his elegant biographical and religious poem in the first or second century CE, probably in the city of Aydhya. Importantly, this is the earliest extant text of the Sanskrit genre of literature as a fine art (kavya).

    Fourteen cantos take the reader from the birth of Siddhrtha, the future Buddha, to his Awakening when he discovered the truths of Buddhism. The remainder of the composition, lost in the original Sanskrit, is here summarized from its Chinese and Tibetan translations. The most poignant scenes on the young princes path to Awakening are the three occasions when he is confronted by the realities of human sickness, old age, and death, while at home he is continuously seduced by the transient charms of the women deployed by his father to keep him from the spiritual path.

    A creative artist of the highest order, Ashvaghoshas aim is not pure entertainment but deep instruction. His mission is to present the Buddhas teaching as itself the culmination of the Brahmanical tradition.

    CSL LIFE OF THE BUDDHA Cover.indd 1 20/2/08 10:06:35 am









    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • Copyright c 2008 by the CSL.All rights reserved.

    First Edition 2008.

    The Clay Sanskrit Library is co-published byNew York University Pressand the JJC Foundation.

    Further information about this volumeand the rest of the Clay Sanskrit Library

    is available at the end of this bookand on the following websites:www.claysanskritlibrary.com


    ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-6216-5 (cloth : alk. paper)ISBN-10: 0-8147-6216-6 (cloth : alk. paper)

    Artwork by Robert Beer.Typeset in Adobe Garamond at 10.25 : 12.3+pt.

    XML-development by Stuart Brown.Editorial input from Linda Covill,

    Tomoyuki Kono, Eszter Somogyi & Peter Szanto.Printed in Great Britain by St Edmundsbury Press Ltd,

    Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on acid-free paper.Bound by Hunter & Foulis, Edinburgh, Scotland.

    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • Life of the Buddha

    by Asvaghos.a





    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • Contents

    Sanskrit alphabetical order viiCSL conventions viiPreface xiii


    Introduction xvii

    Canto 1 The Birth of the Lord 1Canto 2 Life in the Ladies Chambers 35Canto 3 Becoming Dejected 59Canto 4 Rebung the Women 85Canto 5 The Departure 123Canto 6 Chandaka is Sent Back 159Canto 7 Entering the Ascetic Grove 185Canto 8 Lamenting in the Seraglio 209Canto 9 Search for the Prince 243Canto 10 Encounter with King Shrenya 277Canto 11 Condemnation of Passion 295Canto 12 The Meeting with Arada 327Canto 13 Victory over Mara 371Canto 14 The Awakening 401

    Summary of Cantos 1428 415Notes 433Glossary of Names 465Index 477Sandhi grid 498

    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • Canto 5The Departure

    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • sa tatha vis.ayair vilobhyamanah.5.1 paramAarhair api SakyaArajaAsunuh.na jagama dhr.tim. na sarma lebhe,

    hr.daye sim. ha iv atiAdigdhaAviddhah. .

    atha mantriAsutaih. ks.amaih. kada cit

    sakhibhis citraAkathaih. kr.tAanuyatrah.vanaAbhumiAdidr.ks.aya samAepsur

    naraAdevAanumato bahih. pratasthe.

    navaArukmaAkhalnaAkinkin. kam.pracalacAcamaraAcaruAhemaAbhan. d. am

    abhiruhya sa Kanthakam. sadAasvam.prayayau ketum iva drumAabjaAketuh. .

    sa vikr.s.t.ataram. vanAantaAbhumim.vanaAlobhac ca yayau mahAgun. ac ca;

    salilAormiAvikaraAsraAmargam.vasuAdham. c aiva dadarsa kr.s.yaman. am.

    halaAbhinnaAvikrn. aAsas.paAdarbham.5.5

    hataAsuks.maAkrimiAkt.aAjantuAkrn. am

    samaveks.ya rasam. tathaAvidham. tam.svaAjanasy eva vadhe bhr.sam. susoca.


    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • Although, in this way, the Shakya kings son 5.1was enticed with priceless objects of sense,yet he got no content, found no relief,like a lion shot in the heartwith a poison-tipped arrow.

    Then one day, with the consent of the king,he went outside to see the wooded groves,along with able sons of ministersand friends good at narrating vivid tales,yearning to nd peace.

    He set out mounted on the good horse Kanthakathe bells hanging from its bit were made of new gold,its gold trappings made charming with

    owing chowrieslike the glint of drumabja mounted on a ag.*

    Love of the woods and the exquisite landdrew him deep into the distant forest;there he saw the earth being plowed, with furrowsresembling the rippling waves on water.

    Clumps of grass dug up by the plow littered the earth, 5.5covered with tiny dead creatures, insects and worms;as he beheld the earth with all these strewn about,he grieved greatly, as if a kinsman had been killed.


    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • life of the buddha

    kr.s.atah. purus.am. s ca vks.aman. ah.pavanAarkAam. suArajoAvibhinnaAvarn. an

    vahanaAklamaAviklavam. s ca dhuryan

    paramAaryah. paramam. kr.pam. cakara.

    avatrya tatas turangaApr.s.t.ac

    chanakair gam. vyacarac chuca partah.jagato jananaAvyayam. vicinvan

    kr.pan. am. khalv idam ity uvaca c artah. .

    manasa ca viviktatam abhpsuh.suAhr.das tan anuyayino nivarya

    abhitas calaAcaruAparn. avatya

    vijane mulam upeyivan sa jambvah. .

    nis.asada sa yatra saucavatyam.bhuvi vaid. uryaAnikasaAsadvalayam

    jagatah. prabhavaAvyayau vicinvan

    manasas ca sthitiAmargam alalambe.

    samavaptaAmanah. Asthitis ca sadyo5.10

    vis.ayAecchAadibhir adhibhis ca muktah.saAvitarkaAvicaram apa santam.

    prathamam. dhyanam anAasravaAprakaram.


    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • the departure

    Seeing the men plowing the elds,their bodies discolored

    by the wind, the dust, the scorchingrays of the sun,

    oxen wearied by the toil of pulling the plows,great compassion overwhelmed that great noble man.

    Getting down from the horse, then, he began to paceslowly across that land, deeply engulfed by grief,reecting on the birth and death of all creatures;and deeply anguished, he cried out:

    How wretched, indeed, is this world!

    Getting rid of those friends who accompanied him,wishing to reach some clarity in his own mind,he reached the foot of a rose apple tree in alonely spot with charming leaves rustling all around.

    On that pure ground with grass the color of beryl,he sat down, and as he began to contemplatethe origin and destruction of all creatures,he embarked upon the path of mental stillness.

    Achieving at once the state of mental stillness, 5.10and freedom from worries, such as sensual desire,he attained the rst trance

    with thought and reection,tranquil, uninuenced by the evil inows.*


    Clay Sanskrit Library Life of the BuddhaEdited by Patrick Olivelle Version 3.0 (final)8 Nov 2007 3:32 p.m.

  • life of the buddha

    adhigamya tato vivekaAjam. tu

    paramaAprtiAsukham. manah. Asamadhim

    idam eva tatah. param. pradadhyau

    manasa lokaAgatim. nisamya samyak:

    kr.pan. am. , bata, yajAjanah. svayam. sann

    aAvaso vyadhiAjaraAvinasaAdharma

    jaray arditam aturam. mr.tam. va

    param aAjno vijugupsate madAandhah. .

    iha ced aham dr.sah. svayam. san

    vijugupseya param. tathaAsvabhavam,

    na bhavet saAdr.sam. hi tat ks.amam. va

    paramam. dharmam imam. vijanato me.