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tapase tataḥ kapilavāstu haya-gaja-rath'-augha-saṁkulaṁ /

For ascetic practice, then, he left Kapilavāstu -- a teeming mass of horses, elephants and chariots,

śrīmad-abhayam-anurakta-janaṁ sa vihāya niścita-manā vanaṁ yayau // 3.1 //

Majestic, safe, and loved by its citizens. Leaving the city, he started resolutely for the forest.


vividhāgamāṁs-tapasi tāṁś-ca vividha-niyamāśrayān munīn /

In the approach to ascetic practice of the various traditions, and in the attachment of sages to various restraints,

prekṣya sa viṣaya-tṣā-kpaṇān-anavasthitam tapa iti nyavartata // 3.2 //

He observed the miseries of thirsting after an object. Seeing asceticism to be unreliable, he turned away from it.


atha mokṣa-vādinam-arāḍam-upaśama-matiṁ tathoḍrakaṁ /

Then Ārāḍa, who spoke of freedom, and likewise Uḍraka, who inclined towards quietness,

tattva-kta-matir-upāsya jahāv-ayam-apy-amārga iti mārga-kovidhaḥ // 3.3 //

He sat beside, his heart set on truth, and he left. He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."


sa vicārayan jagati kiṁ nu paramam-iti taṁ tam-āgamaṁ /

Of the different traditions in the world, he asked himself, which one was the best?

niścayam-anadhigataḥ parataḥ paramaṁ cacāra tapa eva duṣ-karaṁ // 3.4 //

Not obtaining certainty elsewhere, he entered after all into ascetic practice that was most severe.


atha naiṣa mārga iti vīkṣya tad-api vipulaṁ jahau tapaḥ /

Then, having seen that it was not the path, he also abandoned that extreme asceticism.

dhyāna-viṣayam-avagamya paraṁ bubhuje varānnam-amtatva-buddhaye // 3.5 //

Understanding the realm of meditation to be supreme, he ate good food in readiness to realise the deathless.


sa suvarṇa-pīna-yuga-bāhur-ṣabha-gatir-āyatekṣaṇaḥ /

With golden arms fully expanded and as if in a yoke, with lengthened eyes, and bull-like gait,

plakṣam-avaniruham-abhyagamat paramasya niścaya-vidher-bubhutsayā // 3.6 //

He came to a fig tree, growing up from the earth, with the will to awakening that belongs to the supreme method of investigation.


upaviśya tatra kta-buddhir-acala-dhtir-adri-rājavat /

Sitting there, mind made up, as unmovingly stable as the king of mountains,

māra-balam-ajayad-ugram-atho bubudhe padaṁ śivam-ahāryam-avyayaṁ // 3.7 //

He overcame the grim army of Māra and awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible.


avagamya taṁ ca kta-kāryam amta-manaso divaukasaḥ /

Sensing the completion of his task, the denizens of heaven whose heart's desire is the deathless nectar

harṣam-atulam-agaman muditā vimukhī tu māra-pariṣat pracukṣubhe // 3.8 //

Buzzed with unbridled joy. But Māra's crew was downcast and trembled.


sa-nagā ca bhūḥ pravicacāla huta-vaha-sakhaḥ śivo vavau /

The earth with its mountains shook, that which feeds the fire blew benignly,

nedur-api ca sura-dundubhayaḥ pravavarṣa cāmbu-dhara-varjitaṁ nabhaḥ // 3.9 //

The drums of the gods resounded, and from the cloudless sky rain fell.


avabudhya caiva paramārtham-ajaram-anukampayā vibhuḥ /

Awake to the one great ageless purpose, and universal in his compassion,

nityam-amtam-upadarśayituṁ sa varāṇasī-parikarām-ayāt purīm // 3.10 //

He proceeded, in order to display the eternal deathless nectar, to the city sustained by the waters of the Varaṇā and the Asī – to Vārāṇasī.


atha dharma-cakram-ta-nābhi dhti-mati-samādhi-nemimat /

And so the wheel of dharma -- whose hub is uprightness, whose rim is constancy, determination, and balanced stillness,

tatra vinaya-niyamāram-ṣir-jagato hitāya pariṣady-avartayat // 3.11 //

And whose spokes are the rules of discipline -- there the Seer turned, in that assembly, for the welfare of the world.


iti duḥkham-etad-iyam-asya samudaya-latā pravartikā /

"This is suffering; this is the tangled mass of causes producing it;

śāntir-iyam-ayam-upāya iti pravibhāgaśaḥ param-idaṁ catuṣṭayam // 3.12 //

This is cessation; and here is a means." Thus, one by one, this supreme set of four,


abhidhāya ca tri-parivartam-atulam-anivartyam-uttamaṁ /

The seer set out, with its three divisions1 of the unequalled, the incontrovertible, the ultimate;

dvādaśa-niyata-vikalpam śir-vinināya kauṇḍina-sagotram-āditaḥ // 3.13 //

And with its statement of twelvefold linkage;2 after which he instructed, as the first follower, him of the Kauṇḍinya clan.3


sa hi doṣa-sāgaram-agādham-upadhi-jalam-ādhi-jantukaṁ /

For the fathomless sea of faults, whose water is falsity, where fish are cares,

krodha-mada-bhaya-taraṅga-calaṁ pratatāra lokam-api ca vyatārayat // 3.14 //

And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear; he had crossed, and he took the world across too.


sa vinīya kāśiṣu gayeṣu bahu-janam-atho giri-vraje /

Having instructed many people at Kāśi and at Gaya as also at Giri-vraja,

pitryam-api parama-kāruṇiko nagaraṁ yayāv-anujighkṣayā tadā // 3.15 //

He made his way then to the city of his fathers, in his deeply compassionate desire to include it.


viṣayātmakasya hi janasya bahu-vividha-mārga-sevinaḥ /

To people possessed by ends, serving many and various paths,

sūrya-sadśa-vapur-abhyudito vijahāra sūrya iva gautamas-tamaḥ // 3.16 //

Splendour had arisen that seemed like the sun: Gautama was like the sun, dispelling darkness.


abhitas-tataḥ kapilavāstu parama-śubha-vāstu-saṁstutaṁ /

Seeing then all sides of Kapilavāstu -- which was famed for its most beautiful properties,

vastu-mati-śuci śivopavanaṁ sa dadarśa niḥsphatayā yathā vanaṁ // 3.17 //

And was pure and clean in substance and design, and pleasantly wooded -- he looked without longing, as though at a forest.


aparigrahaḥ sa hi babhūva niyata-matir-ātmanīśvaraḥ /

For he had become free of belonging: he was sure in his thinking, the master of himself.

naika-vidha-bhaya-kareśu kim-u sva-jana-sva-deśa-jana-mitra-vastuśu // 3.18 //

How much less did he belong to those causes of manifold worry -- family, countrymen, friends and property?


pratipūjayā na sa jaharṣa na ca śucam-avajñayāgamat /

Being revered gave him no thrill, and neither did disrespect cause him any grief.

niscita-matir-asi-candanayor-na jagāma duḥkha-sukhayoś-ca vikriyāṁ // 3.19 //

His direction was decided, come sword or sandalwood, and whether the going was tough or easy he was not diminished.


atha pārthivaḥ samupalabhya sutam-upagataṁ tathāgataṁ /

And so the king learned that his son had arrived as the Tathāgata, the One Arrived Thus;

tūrṇam-abahu-turagānugataḥ suta-darśanotsukatayābhiniryayau // 3.20 //

With but a few horses straggling behind him, out the king charged, in his eagerness to see his son.


sugatas-tathāgatam-avekṣya nara-patim-adhīram-āśayā /

The Sugata, the One Gone Well, saw the king coming thus, composure lost in expectation,

śeṣam-api ca janam-aśru-mukhaṁ vininīṣayā gaganam-utpapāta ha // 3.21 //

And saw the rest of the people too, with tearful faces; wishing to direct them, up he took himself, into the sky.


sa vicakrame divi bhuvīva punar-upaviveśa tasthivān /

He strode over heaven as if over the earth; and sat again, in the stillness of having stopped.

Niścala-matir-aśayiṣṭa punar-bahudhābhavat punar-abhūt-tathaikadhā // 3.22 //

Without changing his direction, he lay down; he showed many changing forms while remaining, in this manner, all of one piece.


salile kṣitāv-iva cacāra jalam-iva viveśa medinīṁ /

He walked over water as if on dry land, immersed himself in the soil as though it were water,

megha iva divi vavarṣa punaḥ punar-ajvalan nava ivodito raviḥ // 3.23 //

Rained as a cloud in the sky, and shone like the newly-risen sun.


yugapaj-jvalan jvalanavac-ca jalam-avasjaṁś-ca meghavat /

Simultaneously glowing like a fire and passing water like a cloud,

tapta-kanaka-sadśa-prabhayā sa babhau pradīpta iva sandhyayā ghanaḥ // 3.24 //

He gave off a light resembling molten gold, like a cloud set aglow by daybreak or by dusk.


tam-udīkṣya hema-maṇi-jāla-valayinam-ivotthitaṁ dhvajaṁ /

Looking up at him in the network of gold and pearls that seemed to wrap around him like an upraised flag,4

prītim-agamad-atulāṁ npatir janatā natāś-ca bahumānam abhyayuḥ // 3.25 //

The king became joyful beyond measure and the assembled people, bowing down, felt deep appreciation.


atha bhājanī-ktam-avekṣya manuja-patim-ddhi-sampadā /

And so, seeing that he had made a vessel of the ruler of men, through the wealth of his accomplishments,

paura-janam-api-ca tat-pravaṇaṁ nijagāda dharma-vinayam vināyakaḥ // 3.26 //

And that the townsfolk also were amenable, the Guide gave voice to the dharma and the discipline.


npatis-tataḥ prathamam-āpa phalam-amta-dharma-siddhaye /

Then the royal hero reaped the first fruit for the fulfillment of the deathless dharma.

dharmam-atulam-adhigamya muner-munaye nanāma sa yato gurāv-iva // 3.27 //

Having obtained unthinkable dharma from the sage, he bowed accordingly in the sage's direction, as to a guru.


bahavaḥ prasanna-manaso 'tha janana-maraṇārti-bhīravaḥ /

Many then who were clear in mind -- alert to the agony of birth and death --

śākya-tanaya-vṣabhāḥ ktino vṣabhā ivānala-bhayāt pravavrajuḥ // 3.28 //

Among mighty Śākya-born men of action, went forth into the wandering life, like bulls that had been startled by fire.


vijahus-tu ye 'pi na ghāni tanaya-pit-mātr-apekṣayā /

But even those who did not leave home, out of regard for children or father or mother:

te 'pi niyama-vidhim-ā-maraṇāj-jaghuś-ca yukta-manasaś-ca dadhrire // 3.29 //

They also, until their death, embraced the preventive rule and, with ready minds, they held to it:5


na jihiṁsa sūkṣmam-api jantum-api para-vadhopajīvanaḥ /

No living creature, no matter how small, was subjected to violence, even by a person who killed for a living,

kiṁ bata vipula-guṇaḥ kula-jaḥ sadayaḥ sadā kim-u muner-upāsakaḥ // 3.30 //

Still less by a man of great virtue, good family and unfailing gentleness -- and how much less by a servant of the Sage?6


akśodyamaḥ kśadhano 'pi para-paribhavāsaho 'pi san /

The man not shy of hard work and yet still short of money, though he could not bear the other's slights,

nānya-dhanam-apajahāra tathā bhujagād-ivānya-vibhavādd-hi vivyathe // 3.31 //

Did not, even so, carry off the other's goods; for he shrank from others' riches as from a snake.7


vibhavānvito 'pi taruṇo 'pi viṣaya-capalendriyo 'pi san /

Even the man of money and youth with senses excited by objects of his affection --

naiva ca para-yuvatīr-agamat paramaṁ hi tā dahanato 'py-amanyata // 3.32 //

Even he never approached others' wives, for he deemed them to be more dangerous than a burning fire.8


antam jagāda na ca kaś-cid tam-api jajalpa nāpriyaṁ /

Nobody told an untruth, nor made true but nasty gossip,

ślakṣṇam-api ca na jagāv-ahitaṁ hitam-apy-uvāca na ca paiśunāya yat // 3.33 //

Nor crooned slick but malicious words, nor spoke kindly words that had a backbiting motive.9


manasā lulobha na ca jātu para-vasuṣu gddha-mānasaḥ /

No greedy-minded person, in his heart, had any designs on the treasures of others;

kāma-sukham-asukhato vimśan vijahāra tpta iva tatra saj-janaḥ // 3.34 //

Seeing sensual happiness to be no happiness, the wise went freely on their way, as if satisfied in that area already.10


na parasya kaś-cid-apaghātam-api ca sa-ghṇo vyacintayat /

Nobody showed any hostility towards the other; rather, they looked on others with positive warmth,

māt-pit-suta-suht-sadśam sa dadarśa tatra hi parasparaṁ janaḥ // 3.35 //

As mother, father, child or friend: for each person there saw in the other himself.11


niyatam bhaviṣyati paratra bhavad-api ca bhūtam-apy-atho /

That the fruit of conduct, inevitably, will be realized in the future, is being realized now, and has been realized in the past;

karma-phalam-api ca loka-gatir-niyateti darśanam avāpa sādhu ca // 3.36 //

And that thus is determined how one fares in the world: this is an insight that, again, each experienced unerringly.12


iti karmaṇā daśa-vidhena parama-kuśalena bhūriṇā /

By this most skillful and powerful tenfold means, by the means of their conduct,

bhraṁśini śithila-guṇo 'pi yuge vijahāra tatra muni-saṁśrayāj-janaḥ // 3.37 //

Although virtue was lax in a declining age, the people there, with the Sage's help, fared well.


na ca tatra kaś-cid-upapatti-sukham-abhilalāṣa tair-guṇaiḥ /

But nobody there, because of his virtues, expected happiness in a resulting birth;

sarvam-aśivam-avagamya bhavaṁ bhava-saṁkṣayāya vavte na janmane// 3.38 //

Having learned that all becoming is pernicious, people worked to eradicate becoming, not to become something.


akathaṁkathā ghiṇa eva parama-pariśuddha-dṣṭayaḥ /

Even householders were free from endless doubting, their views washed spotlessly away:

srotasi hi vavtire bahavo rajasas-tanutvam-api cakrire pare // 3.39 //

For many had entered the stream,13 and others14 had reduced the passions to a trickle.


vavte 'tra yo 'pi viṣayeṣu vibhava-sadśeṣu kaś-cana /

Even one there who had been given over to ends like wealth15

tyāga-vinaya-niyamābhirato vijahāra so 'pi na cacāla sat-pathāt // 3.40 //

Was now content with free giving, discipline, and restraint: he also fared well, not straying from the true path.


api ca svato 'pi parato 'pi na bhayam-abhavan-na daivataḥ /

Neither from within the self, nor from without, did any terror arise; nor from fate.

tatra ca susukha-subhikṣa-guṇair-jahṣuḥ prajāḥ kta-yuge manor-iva // 3.41 //

By dint of their true happiness and material plenty and practical merits, the citizens there rejoiced as in the golden age of Manu.16


iti muditam-anāmayaṁ nirāpat kuru-raghu-pūru-puropamaṁ puraṁ tat /

Thus exulting in freedom from disease and calamity, that city was the equal of Kuru,17 Raghu and Pūru,

abhavad-abhaya-daiśike mahārṣau viharati tatra śivāya vīta-rāge // 3.42 //

With the great dispassionate Seer serving there, for the good of all, as a guide to peace.18




iti saundaranande mahākāvye tathāgata-varṇano nāma ttīyaḥ sargaḥ //3//

The 3rd Canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "A Portrait of the Tathāgata."




1 The three divisions of the noble eightfold path, as clarified in 16.30-33, are (1) threefold integrity (using the voice and body well, and earning a living well); (2) threefold wisdom (insight into the four noble truths, thinking straight, and initiative); and (3) twofold tranquillity (awareness and balanced stillness).

2 That is, the deterministic twelve-linked chain of cause-and-effect, sometimes called “dependent origination.”

3 Kauṇḍinya, cited first in the long list of courageous individual practitioners that the Buddha holds up, from 16.87, as examples for Nanda to emulate. Also known as Ājñāta Kauṇḍinya,“Kauṇḍinya Who Knows” (Pali: Aññā Koṇḍañña), because at the end of the first turning of the Dharma-wheel, the Buddha is said to have declared, “Kauṇḍinya surely knows. Kauṇḍinya surely knows.”

4 This is the first of several verses in Saundarananda in which Aśvaghoṣa alludes to the colour of the buddha-robe. It is described as being yellow-red, and therefore, in the right light, having a golden hue. The robe is comparable to a net in that it is a patchwork of panels, stitched together in back-stitches whose heads sometimes look like little pearls.

5 Or, reading the final word as dadhyire “And, with ready minds, they meditated.” EHJ's rejection of this reading, on the grounds that meditation is not suitable for householders, is not well founded. The context, however, which is observance of the ten precepts, does seem to point more to dadhrire than dadhyire.

6 Precept one: not to inflict needless harm on living beings.

7 Precept two: not to steal.

8 Precept three: not to engage in illicit sexual relations.

9 Precepts four, five, six and seven: not to engage in four kinds of false speech.

10 Precept eight: not to covet.

11 Precept nine: not to show hostility.

12 Precept ten: not to have any doubt about cause and effect.

13 Stream-entry is the first of four levels of awakening, or fruits of dharma, that Nanda is described as realizing in Canto 17, “having shaken off every vestige of the personality view” (17.27). The personality view is the first of five lower fetters, and shaking off that view is associated with the first two levels of awakening. Rajasas, “the passions” here suggests sensual desire and ill-will, the fourth and fifth of the five lower fetters, the cutting of which is associated with the third level of awakening.

14 Alternate reading: “Afterwards they reduced the passions to a trickle” – pare means (1) “others” and (2) “afterwards.”

15 Cf. 2.60 and 2.61. Aśvaghoṣa's attitude to wealth at first glance seems contradictory. But on closer investigation, there is no contradiction: as a means, wealth is useful; but pursuit of wealth as an end is errant behaviour.

16 Manu means archetypal Man, progenitor of the human race.

17 Kuru was the name of an ancient Indo-Aryan tribe, and of their kingdom.

18 Abhaya, peace, or absence of fear, is opposed to bhayam (“terror”) in the previous verse. Vi-hṛ, translated previously as “to fare well,” has a sense of freedom of movement, or carefree adventure, which has been lost in the translation of this verse (see also 5.20).






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