20 | Buddha-Carita | Aśvaghoṣa


Buddha-carita, or The Life of Buddha

Book 20:

Acceptance of the Jetavana Pure Abode

1. After the World-honoured One had converted the people of Kapilāvastu, and when their salvation had been completed according to circumstances, he went on his way together with his great multitude. He went to the land of Kośala, to King Prasenajit.

2. The Jetavana had been decorated and its halls and dwellings were all fully prepared. Its streams and springs poured forth, and all the flowers and fruits were blossoming.

3. Many wondrous birds, in the water and on land, flocked together according to their kind and sang harmoniously. [The Jetavana’s] many charms were matchless in the world, just like the palace of Mount Kailāśa.

4. The elder Anāthapiṇḍada and his retinue welcomed [the Buddha and his multitude] as they were seeking their way. They scattered flowers, burned famous incense, and invited them to enter the Jetavana.

5. With his golden dragon-pitcher in his hand, [Anāthapiṇḍada] knelt and poured superior water, and offered the Jetavana pure abode to the order of the ten directions.

6. The World-honoured One accepted [the offerings] with the solemn wish,

“May your country be in peace, making it safe for a long time! May your good fortune, O Elder Anāthapiṇḍada, increase without end!”

7. When King Prasenajit heard that the World-honoured One had arrived, he then adorned his carriage and left for the Jetavana. He bowed at the World- honoured One’s feet. He withdrew and sat to one side, held his palms together, and said to Buddha:

8. “I had not imagined that great good fortune would unexpectedly come to my small country. I am evil and very pernicious. How could I move a great man?

9. “Now that I have seen your noble countenance, may I bathe in and drink from your bright grace! Even though I dwell among the common, I have met with the noble one, entering his excellent stream.

10. “When, for instance, the wind passes through a fragrant forest, it becomes a perfumed eddy in combination with the air. When the birds come together on Śumeru, their different colours all adjust to its golden light.

11. “When one has met with a bright person, one becomes equally splendid upon receiving his shelter. When the countryman brought worship to the seer, he was reborn as the constellation Triśaṅku.

12. “All worldly gain comes to an end, but your noble benefit is forever without end. A human king has many faults, but when he meets a noble one his benefit is permanent contentment.”

13. The Buddha knew that the king’s mind was earnest and that he would find happiness in the Law, like Lord Śakra. But he still had two kinds of attachments: he could not forget about riches and female beauty. Knowing it was the right time and knowing his mental behaviour, [the Buddha] expounded the Law to the king.

14. “When an evildoer, a lowly person, sees good, he still feels respect. How much more, then, would a sovereign king who has accumulated merit, availing of his past causality!

15. “To have greater reverence upon meeting the Buddha—this is not difficult! When the land is quiet and its people content, meeting the Buddha does not increase these.

16. “I shall now briefly expound the Law. Listen carefully, great king! Accept my exposition and see the result of my merits!

17. “When life has ended, the body and the spirit are separated, and one’s relatives are all separated. There are only the wholesome and evil actions that throughout follow one like a shadow.

18. “When you hold the actions of a righteous king in high esteem and when you care for all people, in the present world your fame will spread and at your life’s end you will ascend to heaven.

19. “If you indulge your feelings and do not comply with the Law, you suffer now and later you will be without joy. In ancient times King Kṛśāśva complied with the Law and experienced celestial good fortune. King Nikumbha performed evil and when his life ended he was reborn in a woeful destination.

20. “I have now briefly expounded the Law about good and evil to you, great king! As a great requirement you must be kind at heart! Observe your people as you would an only child!

21. “Do not harass or injure, and control your faculties well! Reject the wrong path and take the right road! Do not elevate yourself and put down others! Be a friend of ascetics and do not frequent friends who hold wrong views!

22. “Do not rely on your royal power and do not listen to artful talk! Do not trouble any ascetic and do not transgress the code of royal rule! Be mindful of the Buddha and consider his Right Law! Subdue those who are wrong!

23. “Be seen as the highest among humans, and your virtue may be thought of as most eminent! Profoundly consider the notion of impermanence, the constant change of one’s physical life! Fix your mind on the most eminent object and earnestly seek pure faith!

24. “Preserve your kindness and sovereign happiness, and in a future world you will increase your joy! May they transmit your fame in the vast eon, and you will certainly be shown gratitude by the Tathāgata! When, for instance, someone likes sweet fruit, he should plant fine saplings.

25. “There are those who from brightness enter darkness, and there are those who from darkness enter brightness. There are those whose one dark- ness is continued by another darkness, and there are those whose one bright- ness is cause for another brightness. A wise one must reject three categories and throughout apply himself to brightness.

26. “When one speaks evil, all echo it; but when good is being called out, those who go along have difficulties. There is nothing that does not cause fruition, and what one has caused is not lost. If one undertakes something but is not diligent, one will in the end be unable to do anything.

27. “If one did not once develop wholesome causality, one will later bring about a period without happiness. Having gone, there will be no period of rest. Therefore, one should develop what is wholesome! Watch yourself in order not to do any evil, because you will experience the results of your own actions!

28. “Just as beings have no place to escape when the four rocky mountains come together, beings have no way to do away with the mountains of birth, old age, illness, and death. Only those who practice the Right Law escape these heavy mountains of suffering.

29. “All the worldly is impermanent. The objects of the five desires are like lightning, [passing swiftly]. Old age and death are the sharp ends of an awl. Why would one practice what is wrong?

30. “The excellent kings of old were like the god Īśvara. They were valiant and determined to conquer the sky, but having been illustrious for a while they were ruined.

31. “The fire of the eon will melt Śumeru and the waters of the sea will all dry up. All the less may one’s body, which is like a bubble, hope to stay long in the world!

32. “A fierce wind may be stopped by a violent whirlwind, sunshine may be screened off by Śumeru, and a great fire may be extinguished by water. All existing things turn to extinction.

33. “This body is an impermanent object, painstakingly guarded for a long time. One extensively enjoys riches and female beauty with it, and in one’s negligence one becomes proud.

34. “When the moment of death suddenly arrives, [the body] is as rigid as a dead log. An intelligent person, seeing this change, should diligently practice! How could he sleep?

35. “Birth and death alone move the mechanism [of samsara]. One ceaselessly continues to fall. If one does not indulge in a happiness that will be discontinued, its painful retribution will not be brought about.

36. “One must not be close to any friend who is not excellent! If one does not apply oneself and ceaselessly practices, in one’s application one will not experience knowledge about existence. But experiencing this will certainly make you free from the body.

37. “Having a body, one must not be tainted by an object! Being tainted by an object is a great fault. Even if one were born among the immaterial gods, one would not be spared from change in time.

38. “You should train in a body that will not change! If it does not change, you are without any fault. As there is this body, it is the basis of all suffering.

39. “That is why the wise ones put a stop to the fundamental [problem] through the absence of a body. All kinds of beings bring forth suffering through their desire.

40. “Therefore, one should produce thoughts of revulsion concerning the existence of desire! If one is disgusted with the existence of desire, one will not experience any suffering.

41. “Even if one is born in [the realms of] form or no-form, changing is a great calamity, as one is not in quietude. All the more so if one is not free from desire!

42. “Thus one should contemplate the three realms as impermanent and without any ruler! While all suffering is constantly ablaze, how could the wise wish for happiness? When, for example, a tree is ablaze with many flames, why would the birds swarm to it?

43. “He who understands this is an intelligent person. Without this there is no understanding. Having this [realization], one is an insightful person, and being without this means no understanding.

44. “This, then, is what one should do, and being without this is not fitting. With this, one is close to the teaching, and without this one is separated from the right principle.

45. “If one says that this excellent Law is not fit for householders, this is a wrong pronouncement. Yes, the Law is spread equally among the people.

46. “When one suffers from heat and enters cold water, all becomes cool. When a dark room is lit by the flame of a lamp, all see the five colours.

47. “The same applies to the practice of the path. There is no different way for mendicants and for common people. Those who dwell in the mountains may fall, committing an offense, while a householder may rise to be a seer.

48. “Delusion is a vast ocean and wrong views are its waves. Beings follow the currents of desire. They are tossed about and no one can cross over.

49. “Wisdom is a light boat. Firmly hold on to the correctness of samādhi! The drum of application and the oars of mindfulness can save one from the ocean of ignorance.”

50. When the king had attentively listened to the explanation of the Omniscient One, he despised common splendour and knew that kingship was without any joy. He had been like a maddened elephant running loose, which had sobered up and returned, well proven.

51. There were the heretics, who had seen that the king had put his serene faith in the Buddha. They all requested the great king to decide about the Buddha on the basis of his divine power. The king then said to the World- honoured One, “Please, comply with their request!”

52. The Buddha immediately agreed, in silence. All kinds of people with different views, and the divine seers with the five supernatural powers all came to where the Buddha was.

53. The Buddha immediately manifested his divine power, sitting in the sky in his proper place. He emitted a great light all around, as bright as the morning sun. The heretics were all subdued, and the people of the land widely turned to his teaching.

54. In order to expound the Law to his mother, he immediately ascended to the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven. Three months he dwelled in his celestial palace and converted gods and humans all around. After he had saved his mother and shown his gratitude, he returned after the summer retreat had passed.

55. As all the attendants of the gods mounted a staircase of seven precious things, [the Buddha] descended to Jambudvīpa, to the place to which Buddhas have always descended.

56. Countless gods and humans saw him off in their palaces. The rulers and their people in Jambudvīpa held their palms together and gazed up at [the Buddha].