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19 | Buddha-Carita | Aśvaghoṣa

Buddha-carita, or The Life of Buddha

Book 19:

Discussion among Father and Son.

1. The Buddha converted all kinds of people of different paths in the land of Magadha. They all followed the unique Law, just as the sun is reflected by the stars.

2. He left the city of the five mountains together with a thousand disciples. Surrounded by his retinue, he went to the gilded mountains.

3. Approaching Kapilāvastu, he wished to show his gratitude. “I will offer the Law to serve the king, my father.”

4. The royal preceptor and the chief minister had sent ahead some scouts to investigate the attendants’ presence and observe [the Buddha’s] advance. When they knew that the Buddha wanted to return to his country, they hurried to inform [the king] in advance.

5. “The Crown Prince has travelled far to study. His wish has been fulfilled. He is returning now.” The king was overjoyed on hearing this. He adorned his carriage and immediately left to welcome [the Buddha]. The whole country, nobles and commoners, all followed the king.

6. Gradually approaching, he saw the Buddha from a distance. His appearance was twice as bright as in the past. Among his great multitude, [the Buddha] was like King Brahmadeva.

7. [The king] descended from his chariot and slowly advanced, careful not to make any difficulty concerning the right of way. Gazing at [the Buddha’s] countenance, he felt delighted but did not know what to say.

8. Being covetous, [the king] dwelled among the bonds of the common, but his son had surpassed that and had ascended to become a seer. Although his son was among worthies of the path, [the king] did not know by what name to call him.

9. [The king] considered that he had been longing for this for a long time, yet now [that the time had come] he did not know how to make a pronouncement. His son sat in silence. [The Buddha] was tranquil and his expression did not change.

10. “Absence of affection after a long separation makes my heart lonely and sad. Suppose, for instance, someone who has been thirsting in vain comes across a cool spring on his way. He hurries to drink from it, but when he approaches the spring, it is unexpectedly dry.

11. “Now I see that you, my son, still have your former bright appearance, but your mind is distant and your manner remote, without any hidden impulses. While you restrain your feelings, my vain hopes are dashed, just as encountering a dry spring when thirsty.

12. “When I did not see you, multiple thoughts rushed on, but when I look you in the eye, there is no joy, just as when someone who has been remembering a distant dear one suddenly sees his painted image.

13. “You should rule the four worlds, just like King Māndhātṛ, but you now go begging for alms. What splendour would this path have?

14. “You are as tranquil as Śumeru, and your bright appearance is as bright as the sun. You walk with the dignified step of an ox king, with the roar of a fearless lion, but you do not accept the fiefdom of the four gods. You support yourself begging for alms.”

15. The Buddha knew that in the mind of the king, his father, there still existed the notion that he was his son. In order to open up his mind and also out of mercy for the entire crowd, he rose in the sky through his supernatural power and with both hands held up the sun and moon.

16. He wandered through the sky and made all kinds of transformations. He divided himself into countless bodies and united again in one,

17. or walked on water as on the ground, or entered into the ground as into water. Walls of stone did not hinder him, and left and right he emitted water and fire.

18. The king, his father, was overjoyed, and his feelings of father and son were all done away with. Seated on a lotus in the sky, [the Buddha] expounded the Law to the king.

19. “I know that your heart, O king, is kind. Because of me, your son, your grief has increased. You are bound by love for your son but you should quickly remove that! Stop your love, quiet your thoughts, and accept that I, your son, cares for the Law!

20. “That which other sons have never offered, I offer this now to the king, my father. That which a father has never received from a son you will now obtain from your son.

21. “Amazing for a human king and wonderful for a celestial king, the exquisite path of immortality, I now offer this to you, great king.

22. “Any specific action is an action for rebirth. The basis of an action causes its fruition. Know about the cause and effect of an action! Diligently develop actions to cross over the worldly!

23. “When one carefully contemplates the world, only action is one’s good friend. Relatives and oneself, with deep affection they long for one another. But when life stops, the spirit goes on alone. Only the good friend, action, follows.

24. “As the wheel revolves in the five destinations, one’s three actions are produced by the three. But craving is their cause, while all kinds of species are different.

25. “You must exert yourself now, and purify your corporal and verbal actions! Diligently practice night and day! Appease your confused mind and become quiet! Only this will benefit oneself. Without this there is nothing for me!

26. “Know that the existences of the three worlds are like the waves of the sea! They are difficult to enjoy and hard to attend to. You should practice the fourth action!

27. “In birth and death the wheel of the five destinations turns like the stars. As even the gods change, how could one obtain permanence among humans?

28. “Nirvana is the greatest happiness, and the quiet of meditation is the most excellent among pleasures. The happiness of the five desires of a human king is dangerous, fraught with fear. As if dwelling with poisonous snakes, how could one have an instant of joy?

29. “A bright person sees the world as if he were surrounded by a great fire. His fear is extraordinary and he does not have any contentment, even for a little while. He seeks to leave birth, old age, and death. The place of quietude without end is where a wise one dwells.

30. “One does not need sharp weapons, elephants, horses, and troops with chariots. Having subdued greed, anger, and delusion, there are no more enemies in the world.

31. “Know suffering and annihilate the cause of suffering! Realize its extinction and develop the means! Through right awakening to the four truths, one’s fear of a woeful destination is removed.”

32. The previous display of [the Buddha’s] fine divine power had made the king’s heart joyful. His feelings of resolute faith were already profound, and he was fit to be a vessel for the Right Law.

33. He held his palms together and said in praise, “Wondrous is the accomplishment of the result of your solemn oath! Wondrous is the freedom from great suffering! Wondrous is the benefit for me!

34. “Even though [the sight of you at first] increased my grief, I have obtained benefit because of the sadness. Today is a wondrous day for me! The fruition for having given birth to a son is accomplished.

35. “It was proper to reject exquisite happiness. It was proper to strenuously practice austerities. It was proper to forsake the splendour of your family. It was proper to give up feelings of love.

36. “The seer kings of old suffered greatly but without any merit. In a pure and tranquil place, you have now obtained all. At ease yourself and put- ting others at ease, your great compassion saves beings.

37. “Those who in the past once dwelled in the world as wheel-turning kings did not have any sovereign divine power that could open up my mind, and neither did they have this fine Law which makes me joyful today.

38. “If you were a wheel-turning king, the cycle of births and deaths would not end. Now you are spared from birth and death, and the great suffering of the turning of the wheel is extinguished. You widely and ably expound the law of immortality for the kinds of beings.

39. “Such is your divine power, and your wisdom is extremely profound and extensive. You have forever extinguished the suffering of birth and death, and are the highest among gods and humans. Even if you had occupied the position of a noble king, I would never have obtained this benefit.”

40. Having spoken such praise, [the king’s] love of the Law increased his reverence. Though he occupied the worthy position of king and father, he humbly bowed and made obeisance [to the Buddha].

41. When the whole population in the land observed the Buddha’s divine power, when they heard his exposition of the profound fine Law and saw their king’s reverence,

42. they held their palms together and made deep obeisance, and all thought that it was wonderful. Weary of staying in their common bonds, they all produced the thought of going forth.

43. The princes of the Śākya lineage gained insight into the path, coming to fruition. They all became weary of the happiness of worldly prosperity, gave up their relatives, and went forth.

44. Ānanda, Nandā, Kṛmila, Aniruddha, Nandā, and Upananda, and also Kuṇṭhadhāna.

45. Such chiefs and also other sons of the Śākya lineage all followed the Buddha’s teaching. They accepted the Law and became his disciples.

46. The son of the chief minister, who puts the country straight, Udāyi, and others subsequently went forth together with the princes.

47. Furthermore, when the son of Atri, called Upāli, saw that the princes and the son of the chief minister had gone forth, he was moved in his heart, 38a his affections opened up, and he accepted the law of going forth.

48. When the king, the father, had seen the divine power and qualities of his son, he too entered the clear stream himself, the gate of the Right Law of immortality.

49. He gave up his royal throne and his land, and was succeeded by Amṛtodana. Residing in solitude, [the former king] practiced quietude. Dwelling in the palace, he practiced like a royal seer.

50. After the Tathāgata had subsequently received all, his own family and good friends, his countenance was kindly as he went on his way and his relatives joyfully followed him.

51. When the time had come to go begging for alms, [the Buddha] entered Kapilāvastu. The men and women in the city were pleasantly surprised and called out in raised voices,

52. “Siddhārtha’s application to the path is completed, and he has returned!” Inside and outside they passed it on and told one another. Big and small rushed out to have a look.

53. In the doors and windows they stood shoulder to shoulder. In side- long glances they saw the primary and secondary marks of the Buddha’s body and the light [from his marks] was very bright.

54. Outwardly [the Buddha] wore a kāṣāya garment, but the brightness of his body inwardly had a penetrating shine, just as the round disk of the sun casts its light both inside and outside.

55. Those who observed this felt sadness and joy in their hearts. They held their palms together and their tears flowed. They saw that the Buddha was walking in a dignified way, his appearance restrained, and with con- trolled faculties his fine figure manifested the meaningfulness of the Law. They were startled and their sad sighing increased.

56. “By taking tonsure he has ruined the loveliness of his appearance, and his body is covered with a coloured garment. His deportment and refined appearance are stately. With self-control he proceeds, gazing at the ground.

57. “His head should bear a feathered crown and he should hold the reins of a flying dragon! Why must he brave the floating dust and go begging with a bowl in his hand?

58. “His skills are sufficient to subdue his enemies, and his appearance will please his ladies. He should wear ornamental dress and a celestial crown, and the people should all turn their heads toward his heavenly light!

59. “Why does he turn his splendid countenance downward, restraining his mind and controlling his appearance, and, having given up desire and fine clothes, wear a dyed garment on his unadorned body?

60. “What sign did he see, and what does he seek? He has become an enemy of the five worldly desires. He has given up his worthy wife and his dear son, and wanders alone, happy all by himself.

61. “Difficult, indeed, it is for that worthy consort! For a long time she has been feeling sorrow, and now she hears that [her husband] has gone forth. Can her life yet be complete?

62. “We are wondering whether King Śuddhodana will ever see his son. He has seen his fine-looking figure but [the son] has gone forth, ruining his appearance. An enemy may yet be more bitterly regretted, but when his father sees [his son], how could he be all right?

63. “His dear son Rāhula is in tears and feels a constant longing. Does [the Buddha] not think of soothing him when he sees him, because he has applied himself to this path?

64. “All those who understand the way of signs have said that when the Crown Prince was born, he was endowed with the signs of a great person, that he would enjoy the four seas. But contemplating what he has done now, that was all empty talk.”

65. Such [statements] among many others were their confused and disorderly pronouncements. But the Tathāgata’s mind was unattached, without any delight or grief. In his compassion he felt sympathy for the beings, and wished to free them from their poverty.

66. He increased their wholesome roots and for the sake of the future world, he showed them the path of little desire and removed the mist of common impurity.

67. He entered a poor neighbourhood and begged for alms, fine or coarse, whatever he could obtain. He did not single out any family, big or small, and, his bowl full, he returned to the mountain forest.