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21 | Buddha-Carita | Aśvaghoṣa

Buddha-carita, or The Life of Buddha

Book 21:

Subduing the Maddened Elephant Dhanapāla

1. After [the Buddha] had converted his mother in heaven, and also the other multitude of gods, he returned among humans and went on converting [beings] according to circumstances.

2. Jyotiṣka, Jīvaka, Śūra, Śroṇa, the elder’s son Aṅgada, and also Prince Abhaya,

3. Nyāgrodha and others, Śrīguptaka, the Nirgrantha (Jain) Upāli, he caused them all to be delivered.

4. When the king of Gandhāra, called Puṣkara, heard the exposition of the profound fine Law, he gave up his country and went forth.

5. The demon Haimavata and also Sātāgira were subdued on Mount Vipulā, and they were converted.

6. The Brāhman Pārāyaṇika was subdued on Mount Pāṣāṇaka by the subtle meaning of half a gāthā, and was brought to resolute faith.

7. In the village of Sthāṇumatī there was Kūṭadanta. He was a head of the twice-born [ones] and killed many living beings to offer as sacrifices, but the Tathāgata made an effort to convert him and caused him to enter the right path.

8. A celestial spirit of great majesty on Mount Vaidehaka, called Pañcaśikha, accepted the Law and entered certainty.

9. In the village of Veṇukaṇṭakī [the Buddha] converted the mother of Nanda, and in the city of Aṅgapura he subdued very powerful spirits.

10. Pūrṇabhadra and the wicked, very powerful dragons Śroṇa and Daṇḍa, the king and his concubines, all accepted the Right Law, thereby opening the gate of immortality.

11. In a village of dwarfs Kenya and Śela earnestly sought the happiness of rebirth in heaven, but they were converted so that they entered the right path.

12. In a village of the Suhmas [the Buddha] showed his divine power to Aṅgulimāla. He converted him so that he was immediately subdued.

13. There was the son of a great elder, Prajīvana (?).He was very wealthy and had many riches and possessions, just like Pūrṇabhadra. Before the Tathāgata, he was instantly converted and widely practiced generosity.

14. In the village of Bhadrika [the Buddha] converted the brothers Bhadravālin and Bhadra, two spirits.

15. In Videhapura there were two Brāhmaṇs. One was called Mahāyu, and the other was called Brahmāyu. [The Buddha] subdued them in a debate and caused them to enter the Right Law.

16. Upon his arrival in the city of Vaiśālī [the Buddha] converted Rākṣasa demons, and also the Licchavi Simha and a multitude of Licchavis, and Satyaka Nirgranthaputra. He caused them all to enter the Right Law.

17. In Alakāvatī there were the demons Bhadra, Bhadraka, and Bhadrakarma (?).

18. He later arrived at Mount Aṭavī and saved the demon Āṭavika, a second one called Kumāra, and a third one, Hastaka.

19. [The Buddha] returned to Gaja Mountain and saved the demon Ṭakana (?) and the yakṣā Śūcīloma and his sister’s son.

20. He later went to Vārāṇasī and converted Kātyāyana. After that he went to Śūrpāraka using his divine power.

21. [The Buddha] converted the merchants there, and Stavakarṇin. He accepted the Sandalwood Hall, whose fine fragrance spreads even now.

22. Upon reaching Mahīvatī, he saved the seer Kapila. While the muni was staying there he stepped upon a stone, and the two wheel(-marks) with a thousand spokes [on the soles of his feet] became visible [on the stone]. They were preserved.

23. Upon reaching the place of Vāraṇa, he converted the demon Vāraṇa, and upon reaching the country of Mathurā he saved the demon Gardabha.

24. In Sthūlakoṣṭhaka [the Buddha] saved Rāṣṭrapāla. When he arrived in the village of Vairañjā, he saved the Brāhmaṇs.

25. In the village of Kalmāṣadamya he saved Bṛhadvājin, and further converted Agṇiveśyā there.

26. [The Buddha] again returned to the land of Śrāvastī and saved the Gotamaka Jātiśroṇi and the māgaṇḍika Ātreya.

27. Having returned to the land of Kośala, [the Buddha] saved heretical teachers, Puṣkarasārin, and the crowd of Brāhmaṇs.

28. When he arrived in the quiet and secluded place of Śetavika, he saved the heretical seers so that they entered the path of the seer Buddha.

29. Upon his arrival in the land of Ayodhyā, [the Buddha] saved a crowd of demons and dragons. When he arrived in the land of Kumbhīra, he saved two evil dragon kings. One was called Kumbhīra and the other was called Kālakā.

30. Further, upon his arrival in the land of the Bhārgas, [the Buddha] converted the Yakṣa demon called Bheṣaka, the parents of Nakula, and also the great elder, so that they had resolute faith in the Right Law.

31. Upon his arrival in the land of Kauśāṃbī, [the Buddha] converted Ghoṣila and the two upāsikās Prajā and Uttarā.

32. Their companions, a multitude of upāsikās, were also saved in due order. Upon his arrival in the land of Gandhāra he saved the dragon Apalāla.

33. All such [beings], those who walk in the sky and those who have the nature of water or of dry land, he went to convert them all in due order, just as the sun illuminates the darkness.

34. At that time, when Devadatta saw the excellence of the Buddha’s qualities, deep in his heart he felt jealous and withdrew from the trances. He used evil means to destroy the order of the Right Law.

35. [Devadatta] ascended Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa, let a rock fall, and tried to hit the Buddha with it, but the rock split in two and fell to the Buddha’s left and right.

36. On the level and straight royal road [Devadatta] let loose a maddened evil elephant. His rolling roar was like thunder. His ferocity burst forth, forming a cloud. He rushed on like a storm, mighty as a fierce wind.

37. His trunk, tusks, tail, and four feet—coming into contact with them would absolutely bring destruction. In the alleys and streets of the city of Rājagṛha, those he had killed and injured lay scattered about. After their violent deaths, the corpses lay spread out in the streets. Brains and blood were spattered all around.

38. All the men and women were afraid to go out. The whole city trembled [in fear]. One heard only voices calling out in panic. Some left the city in a hurry, and others hid in caves.

39. The Tathāgata and a group of five hundred then arrived and entered the city. The people in the windows high on the pavilions advised the Buddha not to proceed.

40. The Tathāgata was composed at heart and complacent, and his countenance was free from distress. He was mindful only of the suffering of envy. His compassionate mind wished to put [the elephant] at ease.

41. As a multitude of gods and dragons followed all around, [the Buddha] gradually approached the place where the maddened elephant was. All the Bhikṣus had fled, so he was accompanied only by Ānanda. Just like the one specific nature of all kinds of characteristics of the Law, he did not move.

42. The maddened elephant burst forth in a rage, but when he saw the Buddha, his mind immediately became calm. He threw himself down and made obeisance at the Buddha’s feet, as if Mount Tai had crumbled.

43. With his lotus-like palm, [the Buddha] patted [the elephant] on the head, just like the sun shining on a dark cloud. As [the elephant] knelt at the Buddha’s feet, he expounded the Law to him, saying:

44. “No elephant may injure the greatest dragon! It is hard for an elephant to fight a dragon, but if an elephant wants to injure the greatest dragon, he will never be reborn in a wholesome destination!

45. “The infatuations of greed, anger, and delusion are difficult to subdue, but the Buddha has subdued them. That is why you should now reject greed, anger, and delusion. If you do not reject them, [you will be] sunk in the mud of suffering and they will further increase.”

46. When the elephant had heard the Buddha’s exposition, his madness was destroyed and his mind immediately gained insight. He was content in body and in mind, as when one is thirsty and drinks the nectar of immortality.

47. When the elephant had been converted by the Buddha, the people in the land all rejoiced. They all exclaimed in admiration that it was wonderful, and arranged for all kinds of worship.

48. Those of a lesser goodness changed to an intermediate [level], and those of intermediate goodness advanced to a superior [level]. Nonbelievers gained faith and believers’ faith was very firm.

49. When the great king Ajātaśatru saw that the Buddha had subdued the maddened elephant, he thought that it was amazing. He rejoiced and doubled his respect.

50. The Tathāgata, being skilful in means, showed all kinds of divine power and subdued the beings. He caused them to enter the Right Law according to their capacities. The whole country developed wholesome actions, just like people at the beginning of an eon.

51. Devadatta was entangled in his own evil. Previously he had the divine power to fly, but now he was certain to fall into the Avīci Hell.