The Buddha-carita of Aśvaghoṣa

Translated by E. B. Cowell

Book XIV [Enlightenment]

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1. Then, having conquered the hosts of Māra by his firmness and calmness, he the great master of meditation set himself to meditate, longing to know the supreme end.

2. And having attained the highest mastery in all kinds of meditation, he remembered in the first watch the continuous series of all his former births.

3. ‘In such a place I was so and so by name, and from thence I passed and came hither,’ thus he remembered his thousands of births, experiencing each as it were over again.

4. And having remembered each birth and each death in all those various transmigrations, the compassionate one then felt compassion for all living beings.

5. Having wilfully rejected the good guides in this life and done all kinds of actions in various lives, this world of living beings rolls on helplessly, like a wheel.

6. As he thus remembered, to him in his strong self-control came the conviction, ‘All existence is insubstantial, like the fruit of a plantain.’

7. When the second watch came, he, possessed of unequalled energy, received a pre-eminent divine sight, like the highest of all sight-gifted beings.

8. Then by that divine perfectly pure sight he beheld the whole world as in a spotless mirror.

9. As he saw the various transmigrations and rebirths of the various beings with their several lower or higher merits from their actions, compassion grew up more within him.

10. ‘These living beings, under the influence of evil actions, pass into wretched worlds, — these others, under the influence of good actions, go forward in heaven.

11. ‘The one, being born in a dreadful hell full of terrors, are miserably tortured, alas! by many kinds of suffering;

12. ‘Some are made to drink molten iron of the colour of fire, others are lifted aloft screaming on a red-hot iron pillar;

13. ‘Others are baked like flour, thrown with their heads downwards into iron jars; others are miserably burned in heaps of heated charcoal;

14. ‘Some are devoured by fierce dreadful dogs with iron teeth, others by gloating crows with iron beaks and all made as it were of iron;

15. ‘Some, wearied of being burned, long for cold shade; these enter like bound captives into a dark blue wood with swords for leaves.

16. ‘Others having many arms are split like timber with axes, but even in that agony they do not die, being supported in their vital powers by their previous actions.

17. ‘Whatever deed was done only to hinder pain with the hope that it might bring pleasure, its result is now experienced by these helpless victims as simple pain.

18. These who did something evil for the sake of pleasure and are now grievously pained, — does that old taste produce even an atom of pleasure to them now?

19. ‘The wicked deed which was done by the wicked-hearted in glee, — its consequences are reaped by them in the fulness of time with cries.

20. ‘If only evil doers could see the fruits of their actions, they would vomit hot blood as if they were smitten in a vital part.

21. ‘And worse still than all these bodily tortures in hell seems to me the association of an intelligent man with the base.

22. ‘Others also, through various actions arising from the spasmodic violence of their minds, are born miserable in the wombs of various beasts.

23. ‘There the poor wretches are killed even in the sight of their kindred, for the sake of their flesh, their skin, their hair, or their teeth, or through hatred or for mere pleasure.

24. ‘Even though powerless and helpless, oppressed by hunger, thirst, and fatigue, they are driven along as oxen and horses, their bodies wounded with goads.

25. ‘They are driven along, when born as elephants, by weaker creatures than themselves for all their strength, — their heads tormented by the hook and their bodies kicked by foot and heel.

26. ‘And with all these other miseries there is an especial misery arising from mutual enmity and from subjection to a master.

27. ‘Air-dwellers are oppressed by air-dwellers, the denizens of water by the denizens of water, those that dwell on dry land are made to suffer by the dwellers on dry land in mutual hostility.

28. ‘And others there are who, when born again, with their minds filled with envy, reap the miserable fruit of their actions in a world of the Pitṛs destitute of all light;

29. ‘Having mouths as small as the eye of a needle and bellies as big as a mountain, these miserable wretches are tortured with the pains of hunger and thirst.

30. ‘If a man only knew that such was the consequence of selfishness, he would always give to others even pieces of his own body like Śibi.

31. ‘Rushing up filled with hope but held back by their former deeds, they try in vain to eat anything large, however impure.

32. ‘Others, having found a hell in an impure lake called the womb, are born amongst men and there suffer anguish.

[Here ends the original part of Buddhacarita]

 

The Buddha-carita continuation by AMṚTĀNANDA

33. ‘Others, ascetics, who have performed meritorious actions go to heaven; others, having attained widely extended empire, wander about on the earth;

34. ‘Others as Nāgas in the subterranean regions become the guardians of treasures, — they wander in the ocean of existence, receiving the fruits of their deeds.’

35. Having pondered all this, in the last watch he thus reflected, ‘Alas for this whole world of living beings doomed to misery, all alike wandering astray!

36. ‘They know not that all this universe, destitute of any real refuge, is born and decays through that existence which is the site of the skandhas and pain;

37. ‘It dies and passes into a new state and then is born anew.’ Then he reflected, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for old age and death?’

38. He saw that when there is birth, there is old age and death, then he pondered, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for a new birth’?’

40. He perceived that where there has been the attachment to existence there arises a (previous) existence; then he pondered, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for the attachment to existence?’

41. Having ascertained this to be desire, he again meditated, and he next pondered, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for desire?’

42. He saw that desire arises where there is sensation, and he next pondered, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for sensation?’

43. He saw that sensation arises where there is contact, and he next pondered, ‘What is that which is the necessary condition for contact?’

44. He saw that contact arises through the six organs of sense; he then pondered, ‘Where do the six organs of sense arise?’

45. He reflected that these arise in the organism, he then pondered, ‘Where does the organism arise?’

46. He saw that the organism arises where there is incipient consciousness; he then pondered, ‘Where does incipient consciousness arise?’

47. He reflected that incipient consciousness arises where there are the latent impressions left by former actions; and he next pondered, ‘Where do the latent impressions arise?’

48. He reflected exhaustively that they arise in ignorance; thus did the great seer, the Bodhisattva, the lord of saints,

49. After reflecting, pondering, and meditating, finally determine, ‘The latent impressions start into activity after they are once developed from ignorance.

50. ‘Produced from the activity of the latent impressions incipient consciousness starts into action; (the activity) of the organism starts into action on having an experience of incipient consciousness;

51. ‘The six organs of sense become active when produced in the organism; sensation is produced from the contact of the six organs (with their objects);

52. ‘Desire starts into activity when produced from sensation; the attachment to existence springs from desire; from this attachment arises a (continued) existence;

53. ‘Birth is produced where there has been a (continued) existence; and from birth arise old age, disease, and the rest; and scorched by the flame of old age and disease the world is devoured by death;

54. ‘When it is thus scorched by the fire of death's anguish great pain arises; such verily is the origin of this great trunk of pain.’

55. Thus having ascertained it all, the great Being was perfectly illuminated; and having again meditated and pondered, he thus reflected,

56. ‘When old age and disease are stopped, death also is stopped; and when birth is stopped, old age and disease are stopped;

57. ‘When the action of existence is stopped, birth also is stopped; when the attachment to existence is stopped, the action of existence is stopped;

58. ‘So too when desire is stopped, the attachment to existence is stopped; and with the stopping of sensation desire is no longer produced;

59. ‘And when the contact of the six organs is stopped, sensation is no longer produced; and with the stopping of the six organs their contact (with their objects) is stopped;

60. ‘And with the stopping of the organism the six organs are stopped; and with the stopping of incipient consciousness the organism is stopped;

61. ‘And with the stopping of the latent impressions incipient consciousness is stopped; and with the stopping of ignorance the latent impressions have no longer any power.

62. ‘Thus ignorance is declared to be the root of this great trunk of pain by all the wise; therefore it is to be stopped by those who seek liberation.

63. ‘Therefore by the stopping of ignorance all the pains also of all existing beings are at once stopped and cease to act.’

64. The all-knowing Bodhisattva, the illuminated one, having thus determined, after again pondering and meditating thus came to his conclusion:

65. ‘This is pain, this also is the origin of pain in the world of living beings; this also is the stopping of pain; this is that course which leads to its stopping.’ So having determined he knew all as it really was.

66. Thus he, the holy one, sitting there on his seat of grass at the root of the tree, pondering by his own efforts attained at last perfect knowledge.

67. Then bursting the shell of ignorance, having gained all the various kinds of perfect intuition, he attained all the partial knowledge of alternatives which is included in perfect knowledge.

68. He became the perfectly wise, the Bhagavat, the Arhat, the king of the Law, the Tathāgata, He who has attained the knowledge of all forms, the Lord of all science.

69. Having beheld all this, the spirits standing in heaven spoke one to another, ‘Strew flowers on this All-wise Monarch of Saints.’

70. While other immortals exclaimed, who knew the course of action of the greatest among the former saints, ‘Do not now strew flowers — no reason for it has been shown.’

71. Then the Buddha, mounted on a throne, up in the air to the height of seven palm-trees, addressed all those Nirmitā Bodhisattvāḥ, illumining their minds,

72. ‘Ho! ho! listen ye to the words of me who have now attained perfect knowledge; everything is achieved by meritorious works, therefore as long as existence lasts acquire merit.

73. ‘Since I ever acted as liberal, pure-hearted, patient, skilful, devoted to meditation and wisdom, — by these meritorious works I became a Bodhisattva.

74. ‘After accomplishing in due order the entire round of the preliminaries of perfect wisdom, — I have now attained that highest wisdom and I am become the All-wise Arhat and Jina.

75. ‘My aspiration is thus fulfilled; this birth of mine has borne its fruit; the blessed and immortal knowledge which was attained by former Buddhas, is now mine.

76. ‘As they through the good Law achieved the welfare of all beings, so also have I; all my sins are abolished, I am the destroyer of all pains.

77. ‘Possessing a soul now of perfect purity, I urge all living beings to seek the abolition of worldly existence through the lamps of the Law.’ Having worshipped him as he thus addressed them, those sons of the Jinas disappeared.

78. The gods then with exultation paid him worship and adoration with divine flowers; and all the world, when the great saint had become all-wise, was full of brightness.

79. Then the holy one descended and stood on his throne under the tree; there he passed seven days filled with the thought, ‘I have here attained perfect wisdom.’

80. When the Bodhisattva had thus attained perfect knowledge, all beings became full of great happiness; and all the different universes were illumined by a great light.

81. The happy earth shook in six different ways like an overjoyed woman, and the Bodhisattvas, each dwelling in his own special abode, assembled and praised him.

82. ‘There has arisen the greatest of all beings, the Omniscient All-wise Arhat — a lotus, unsoiled by the dust of passion, sprung up from the lake of knowledge;

83. ‘A cloud bearing the water of patience, pouring forth the ambrosia of the good Law, fostering all the seeds of merit, and causing all the shoots of healing to grow;

84. ‘A thunderbolt with a hundred edges, the vanquisher of Māra, armed only with the weapon of patience; a gem fulfilling all desires, a tree of paradise, a jar of true good fortune, a cow that yields all that heart can wish;

85. ‘A sun that destroys the darkness of delusion, a moon that takes away the scorching heat of the inherent sins of existence, — glory to thee, glory to thee, glory to thee, O Tathāgata;

86. ‘Glory to thee, O Lord of the whole world, glory to thee, who hast gone through the ten (Balas); glory to thee, O true hero amongst men, O Lord of righteousness, glory to thee!’

87. Thus having praised, honoured, and adored him, they each returned to their several homes, after making repeated reverential circumambulations, and recounting his eulogy.

88. Then the beings of the Kāmāvacara worlds, and the brilliant inhabitants of the Pure Abodes, the Brahmakāyika gods, and those sons of Māra who favoured the side of truth,

89. The Paranirmitavaśavarti beings, and the Nirmānaratayaḥ; the Tuṣita beings, the Yāmas, the Trayastriṁsad Devas, and the other rulers of worlds,

90. The deities who roam in the sky, those who roam on the earth or in forests, accompanying each their own king, came to the pavilion of the Bodhi tree,

91. And having worshipped the Jina with forms of homage suitable to their respective positions, and having praised him with hymns adapted to their respective degrees of knowledge, they returned to their own homes.