And so, having conquered Māra's army
By the means of constancy and quietness,
Wanting to know the ultimate,
He who was skilled in meditation meditated.
And having obtained utmost mastery
Over all ways of meditating,
He called to mind in the first watch of the night
The succession of his previous births.
“There I had this name;
Passing from there, I arrived here” –
Thus, thousands of births
He recalled as if reliving them.
Having remembered [his own] birth and death
In those various existences,
Compassion towards all beings, on that basis,
Felt he whose very essence was compassion --
“Abandoning kinsfolk here,
Only to carry on at the next place, doing its performances,
Vulnerable indeed is this world,
As it rolls round and round like a wheel.”
While he was recollecting thus,
There grew in him, who was resolute to the core,
The conviction that saṁsāra was no more durable
Than the fragile heart of a banana plant.
But with the coming of the second watch,
He who in valiant effort was second to none
Realized the divine act of seeing, the ultimate eye –
He being most excellent among all possessed of eyes.
On that basis, by the means of that divine seeing,
That fully cleansed organ of sight,
He saw the whole Universe
As if in a spotless mirror.
As he observed the relegation and promotion
Of living beings possessed of the karma
Of pulling down or pulling up,
His inherent compassion waxed greater.
“These creatures of deeds badly done
Go to a bad place;
These others, good-doers,
Abide in the triple heaven.
Deservedly finding themselves in a horrible
And terribly harsh hell,
The former individuals are with many kinds of sufferings
Lamentably oppressed – alas!
Some are caused to imbibe a potion, brought to the boil,
Of smelted fire-coloured metal;
Ones who are different are planted, roaring,
Up a molten column of the metal.
Some are cooked like paste
In cauldrons of the metal, their faces looking down;
Some are consumed, piteously,
On heaps of flaming coals.
Some are chewed up, harshly,
By keen hounds with teeth made of the metal,
Some are scavenged by the crowing ayas-tuṇḍas, 'Metal-Beaks' –
As if by carrion crows, made of the metal.
Some, tired of burning,
Go hankering after cool shade;
The dark forest, where leaves are swords,
Like slaves in chains these enter.
Some, their arms in chains,
Are split, like wood by axes.
Even in such hardship the ripening of their karma is not completed;
By dint of their actions, their life-breath is preserved.
The action taken with the thought that it might bring happiness,
The deed that was done with a view to cessation of suffering,
Now has as its result, this,
Suffering itself, experienced by the helpless.
As for these who, with a view to happiness,
Have acted impurely and are greatly pained:
Does that enjoyment do anything for them,
Even slightly, in the way of happiness?
That cruddy deed that was done, while laughing,
By those whose nature was crud-encrusted,
Is in the fullness of time
Relived by them while lamenting.
If only wrong-doers could see
The result of their actions,
They might vomit warm blood
As if they had been struck in a vital part.
These different ones, by various actions
Stemming from palpitations of the mind,
Fittingly find themselves, poor penitent wretches,
In some form or other of non-upright, animal existence.
On account of their flesh, skin, hair and teeth,
Out of sheer aggression and also just for fun,
Here they are slaughtered, lamentably –
Even as their kind look on.
Powerless and helpless,
Oppressed by hunger, thirst, and exhaustion,
As oxen and horses, they are driven along,
While goads injure their bodies.
As elephants, again, they are driven,
Though they are the mighty ones, by the weak,
Who torment their heads with hooks,
And beat them, with foot and heel.
Though there are other sufferings too,
Suffering here arises especially
From competing with each other
While in the very thick of subjection to the enemy.
For dwellers in emptiness are jostled by dwellers in emptiness,
Dwellers in water by those for whom water is life,
And dwellers on land by those who stand with them on firm ground –
Even as they push one another forward.
And so these ones, likewise, find themselves fittingly
– With minds given over to dissatisfaction –
In the murky world of deceased ancestors,
Where, lamentably, they reap their reward.
With mouths like the eye of a needle
And mountainous bellies,
By sufferings born of hunger and thirst
They are pained – suffering being their lot.
If a man knew
That such was the result of dissatisfaction,
He would by all means, like Śibi,
Yield up the limbs from his body as well.
For, totally exceeded by expectation
And constrained by their own actions,
These ones are not permitted to eat
Any impure droppings at all.
These different ones find themselves in a place that seems like hell,
A pool of impurity called “the insides”;
Fittingly, among human beings, they find themselves
As lowly creatures experiencing suffering.
[Sanskrit ends here. The rest of the Canto is based on EH Johnston's translation from the Tibetan.]
32. At the first even at the moment of birth they are gripped by sharp hands, as if sharp swords were piercing them, whereat they weep bitterly.
33. They are loved and cherished and guarded by their kindred who bring them up with every care, only to be defiled by their own various deeds as they pass from suffering to greater suffering.
34. And in this state the fools, obsessed with desire, are borne along in the ever-flowing stream, thinking all the more, 'this is to be done and this is to be done.'
35. These others, who have accumulated merit, are born in heaven, and are terribly burned by the flames of sensual passion, as by a fire.
36. And from there they fall, still not satiated with the objects of sense, with eyes turned upwards, their brilliance gone, and wretched at the fading of their garlands.
37. And as their lovers fall helplessly, the Apsarases regard them pitifully and catch their clothes with their hands.
38. Some look as if they were falling to earth with their ropes of pearls swaying, as they try to hold up their lovers falling miserably from the pavilions.
39. Others, wearing ornaments and garlands of many kinds and grieved at their fall into suffering, follow them with eyes unsteady with sympathy.
40. In their love for those who are falling, the troops of Apsarases beat their breasts with their hands and, distressed, as it were, with great affliction, remain attached to them.
41. The dwellers in Paradise fall distressed to earth, lamenting, “Alas, grove of Citraratha! Alas, heavenly lake! Alas, Mandākinī! Alas, beloved!”
42. Seeing that Paradise, obtained by many labours, is uncertain and transitory, and that such suffering will be caused by separation from it,
43. Alas, inexorably this is in an especial degree the law of action in the world; this is the nature of the world and yet they do not see it to be such.
44. Others, who have disjoined themselves from sensual passion, conclude in their minds that their station is eternal; yet they fall miserably from heaven.
45. In the hells is excessive torture, among animals eating each other, the suffering of hunger and thirst among the pretas, among men the suffering of longings,
46. The suffering of rebirth in the heavens, when one is separated from what one loves, is excessive. For the ever-wandering world of living beings, there is no place to settle in peace.
47. This stream of the cycle of existence has no support and is ever subject to death. Creatures, thus beset on all sides, find no resting-place.
48. Thus with the divine eye he examined the five spheres of life and found in saṁsāra no essential core, just as no heartwood is found in a plantain-tree when it is cut open.
49. Then as the third watch of that night drew on, the best of those who understand meditation meditated on the real nature of this world:--
50. “Alas! Living creatures obtain but toil; over and over again they are born, grow old, die, pass on and are reborn.
51. Further man’s sight is veiled by passion and by the darkness of delusion, and from the excess of his blindness he does not know the way out of this great suffering.”
52. After thus considering, he reflected in his mind, “What is it verily, whose existence causes the approach of old age and death? ”
53. Penetrating the truth to its core, he understood that old age and death are produced, when there is birth.
54. He saw that head-ache is only possible when the head is already in existence; for when the birth of a tree has come to pass, then only can the felling of it take place.
55. Then the thought again arose in him, “What does this birth proceed from?” Then he saw rightly that birth arises out of becoming.
56. With his divine eyesight he saw doing [or end-gaining or becoming] arising from karma – not from a Creator or from Nature or from a self or without a cause.
57. Just as, if the first knot in a bamboo is wisely cut, everything quickly comes into order, so his knowing advanced in proper order.
58. Thereon the sage applied his mind to determining the origin of becoming. Then he saw that the origin of becoming was in taking hold.
59. This taking hold is taking hold in the areas of rules and rituals, of desires, of narratives of self, and of views – as when fire and fuel have taken hold.
60. Then the thought occurred to him, “From what cause comes taking hold?” Thereon he recognised the causal grounds of taking hold to be thirsting.
61. Just as the forest is set ablaze by a little fire, when the wind fans it, so thirst gives birth to the vast sins of sensual passion and the rest.
62. Then he reflected, “From what does thirsting arise?” Thereon he concluded that the cause of thirsting is feeling.
63. Overwhelmed by feelings, the world thirsts for the means of satisfying those feelings; for in the absence of thirst nobody would take pleasure in drinking water.
64. Then he again meditated, “What is the source of feeling?” He, who had put an end to feeling, saw the cause of feeling to be in contact.
65. Contact is to be explained as the uniting of the object, the sense and consciousness, whence feeling is produced – just as fire is produced from the uniting of the two rubbing sticks and fuel.
66. Next he considered that contact has a cause. Thereon he recognised the cause to lie in six senses.
67. The blind man does not see physical forms, since his eye does not bring them into junction with consciousness; if sight exists, the junction takes place. Therefore there is contact, when a sense exists.
68. Further he made up his mind to understand the origin of six senses. Thereon the knower of causes knew the cause to be psycho-physicality.
69. Just as the leaf and the stalk are only said to exist when there is a shoot in existence, so six senses only arise where psycho-physicality has arisen.
70. Then the thought occurred to him, “What is the cause of psycho-physicality? ” Thereon he, who had passed to the further side of knowledge, knew its origin to lie in divided consciousness.
71. When divided consciousness arises, psycho-physicality is produced. When the development of the seed is completed, the sprout assumes a bodily form.
72. Next he considered, “From what does divided consciousness come into being?” Then he knew that it is produced by supporting itself on pscyho-physicality.”
73. And so, having understood the order of causality, he thought it over; his mind turned it over this way and that way and did not turn aside to other thoughts.
74. Divided consciousness is the causal grounds from which arises psycho-physicality. Psycho-physicality, again, is the basis of divided consciousness.
75. Just as the coracle carries the bloke who carries the coracle, so divided consciousness and psycho-physicality are causes of each other.
76. Just as redhot iron causes grass to blaze and as blazing grass makes iron redhot, of such a kind is their mutual causality.
77. Thus he understood that from divided consciousness arises psycho-physicality, from which originate senses, and from senses arises contact.
78. But out of contact, he knew feeling to be born; out of feeling, thirsting; out of thirsting, taking hold; and out of taking hold, again, becoming.
79. From becoming arises birth, from birth he knew ageing and death to arise. He truly realized that the birth of living beings, in new spheres in the cycle of saṁsāra, arises from causal grounds.
80. Then this conclusion came firmly on him, that from the ending of birth, old age and death are ended; that from the ending of becoming, birth itself is ended; and that becoming ends through the ending of taking hold.
81. Further, the latter is ended through the ending of thirst; if feeling does not exist, thirst does not exist; if contact is ended, feeling does not come about; from the non-existence of six senses, contact is ended.
82. Similarly, if psycho-physicality is well and truly ended, six senses everywhere are ended too; and the former [psycho-physicality] is ended through the ending of divided consciousness, and the latter [divided consciousness] is ended also through the ending of doings.
83. Similarly the great seer understood that doings are inhibited by the complete absence of ignorance. Therefore he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as the Buddha.
84. The best of men ... came to quiet, like a fire whose fuel is burnt out, by the eightfold path of supreme insight, which starts forth and quickly reaches the desired point.
85. Then as his being was perfected, the thought arose in him, “I have obtained this perfect path which was travelled for the sake of the ultimate reality by former families of great seers, who knew the higher and the lower things.”
86. At that moment of the fourth watch when the dawn came up and all that moves or moves not was stilled, the great seer reached the stage which knows no alteration, the sovereign leader the state of omniscience.
87. When, as the Buddha, he knew this truth, the earth swayed like a woman drunken with wine, the quarters shone bright with crowds of Siddhas, and mighty drums resounded in the sky.
88. Pleasant breezes blew softly, the heavens rained moisture from a cloudless sky, and from the trees there dropped flowers and fruit out of due season as if to do him honour.
89. At that time, just as in Paradise, māndārava flowers, lotuses and water-lilies of gold and beryl fell from the sky and bestrewed the place of the Śākya sage.
90. At that moment none gave way to anger, no one was ill or experienced any discomfort, none resorted to sinful ways or indulged in intoxication of mind ; the world became tranquil, as though it had reached perfection.
91. The companies of deities, who are devoted to salvation, rejoiced; even the beings in the spheres below felt joy. Through the prosperity of the party who favoured virtue the dharma spread abroad and the world rose above passion and the darkness of ignorance.
92. The seers of the Iksvāku race who had been rulers of men, the royal seers and the great seers, filled with joy and wonder at his achievement, stood in their mansions in the heavens reverencing him.
93. The great seers of the groups of invisible beings proclaimed his praises with loud utterances and the world of the living rejoiced as if flourishing. But Māra was filled with despondency, as before a great precipice.
94. Then for seven days, free from discomfort of body, he sat, looking into his own mind, his eyes never winking. The sage fulfilled his heart's desire, reflecting that on that spot he had obtained liberation.
95. Then the sage, who had grasped the principle of causation and was firmly fixed in the system of impersonality, roused himself, and, filled with great compassion, he gazed on the world with his Buddha-eye for the sake of its tranquillity.
96. Seeing that the world was lost in false views and vain efforts and that its passions were gross, seeing too that the law of salvation was exceeding subtle, he set his mind on remaining immobile.
97. Then remembering his former promise, he formed a resolution for the preaching of tranquillity. Thereon he reflected in his mind how there are some persons with great passion and others with little passion.
98. Then when the two chiefs of the heavenly dwellings knew that the Sugata's mind had taken the decision to preach tranquillity, they were filled with a desire for the world's benefit and, shining brightly, approached him.
99. As he sat, his aim accomplished by the abandonment of hindrances, and the excellent dharma he had seen as his best companion, they lauded him in all reverence and addressed these words to him for the good of the world:—
100, “ Ah! Does not the world deserve such good fortune that your mind should feel compassion for the creatures? In the world there exist beings of varied capacity, some with great passion, some with little passion.
101. O sage, having yourself crossed beyond the ocean of existence, rescue the world which is drowning in suffering, and, like a great merchant his wealth, bestow your excellencies on others also.
102. There are some people here who, knowing what is to their advantage in this world and the hereafter, act only for their own good. But it is hard to find in this world or in heaven one who will be active for the good of the world.”
103. After thus addressing the great seer, they returned to the celestial sphere by the way they had come. After the sage also had pondered on that speech, the decision grew strong in him for the liberation of the world.
104. At the time for the alms-round the gods of the four quarters presented the seer with begging-bowls; Gautama, accepting the four, turned them into one for the sake of his dharma.
105. Then at that time two merchants of a passing caravan, being instigated thereto by a friendly deity, joyfully did obeisance to the seer with exalted minds and were the first to
give him alms.
106. The sage reflected that Arāda and Udraka Rāmaputra were the two who had minds capable of accepting the dharma, but, when he saw that both had gone to heaven, his thoughts turned to the five mendicants.
107. Then, wishing to preach tranquillity in order to dispel the darkness of ignorance, as the rising sun the darkness, Gautama proceeded to the blessed city, which was beloved of Bhīmaratha, and whose various forests are ornamented by the Varāṇasī.
108. Then the sage, whose eye was like a bull’s, whose gait like a rutting elephant's, desired to go to the land of Kāśi in order to deliver the world, and turning his entire body like an elephant, he fixed his unwinking eyes on the bodhi tree.
The 14th canto, titled The Transcendent Total Awakening, in an epic tale of awakened action, composed by Aśvaghoṣa.