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tatas-tā yoṣito dṛṣṭvā nando nandana-cāriṇīḥ /

And so, having gazed upon those women who wander in the Gladdening Gardens of Nandana,

babandha niyama-stambhe durdamaṃ capalaṃ manaḥ // 11.1 //

Nanda tethered the fickle and unruly mind to a tethering post of restraint.


so 'niṣṭa-naiṣkramya-raso mlāna-tāma-rasopamaḥ /

Failing to relish the taste of freedom from care, sapless as a wilting lotus,

cacāra viraso dharmaṃ niveśyāpsaraso hṛdi // 11.2 //

He went through the motions of dharma-practice, having installed the apsarases already in his heart.


tathā lolendriyo bhūtvā dayitendriya-gocaraḥ /

Thus did one whose sense-power had been restless, whose senses had grazed on the pasture of his wife,

indriyārtha-vaśād-eva babhūva niyatendriyaḥ // 11.3 //

Come, by the very power of sense-objects, to have his sense-power reined in.


kāma-caryāsu kuśalo bhikṣu-caryāsu viklavaḥ /

Adept in the practices of love, confused about the practices of a beggar,

paramācārya-viṣṭabdho brahma-caryaṃ cacāra saḥ // 11.4 //

Set firm by the best of practice guides, Nanda did the devout practice of abstinence.1


saṃvṛtena ca śāntena tīvreṇa madanena ca /

Stifling restraint and ardent love,

jalāgner-iva saṃsargāc-chaśāma ca śuśoṣa ca // 11.5 //

Like water and fire in tandem, smothered him and burned him dry.


svabhāva-darśanīyo 'pi vairūpyam-agamat param /

Though naturally good-looking, he became extremely ugly,

cintayāpsarasāṃ caiva niyamenāyatena ca // 11.6 //

Both from agonizing about the apsarases and from protracted restraint.


prastāveṣv-api bhāryāyāṃ priya-bhāryas-tathāpi saḥ /

Even when mention was made of his wife, he who had been so devoted to his wife

vītarāga ivottasthau na jaharṣa na cukṣubhe // 11.7 //

Stood by, seemingly bereft of passion; he neither bristled nor quavered.


taṃ vyavasthitam-ājñāya bhāryā-rāgāt parāṅ-mukham /

Knowing him to be adamant, turned away from passion for his wife,

abhigamyābravīn-nandam-ānandaḥ praṇayād-idam // 11.8 //

Ānanda, having come that way, said to Nanda with affection:


aho sadṛśam-ārabdhaṃ śrutasyābhijanasya ca /

"Ah! This is a beginning that befits an educated and well-born man --

nigṛhītendriyaḥ svastho niyame yadi saṃsthitaḥ // 11.9 //

Since you are holding back the power of your senses and, abiding in yourself, you are set on restraint!


abhiṣvaktasya kāmeṣu rāgiṇo viṣayātmanaḥ /

In one entangled in desires, in a man of passion, a sensualist,

yad-iyaṃ saṃvid-utpannā neyam-alpena hetunā // 11.10 //

That such consciousness has arisen -- this is by no small cause!


vyādhir-alpena yatnena mṛduḥ pratinivāryate /

A mild illness is warded off with little effort;

prabalaḥ prabalair-eva yatnair-naśyati vā na vā // 11.11 //

A serious illness is cured with serious efforts, or else it is not.


durharo mānaso vyādhir-balavāṃś-ca tavābhavat /

An illness of the mind is hard to remove, and yours was a powerful one.

vinivṛtto yadi sa te sarvathā dhṛtimān-asi // 11.12 //

If you are rid of it, you are in every way steadfast.


duṣkaraṃ sādhv-anāryeṇa māninā caiva mārdavam /

For an ignoble man good is hard to do; for an arrogant man it is hard to be meek;

atisargaś-ca lubdhena brahmacaryaṃ ca rāgiṇā // 11.13 //

For a greedy man giving is hard, and hard for a man of passion is the practice of devout abstinence.


ekas-tu mama saṃdehas-tavāsyāṃ niyame dhṛtau /

But I have one doubt concerning this steadfastness of yours in restraint.

atrānunayam-icchāmi vaktavyaṃ yadi manyase // 11.14 //

I would like assurance on this matter, if you think fit to tell me.


ārjavābhihitaṃ vākyaṃ na ca gantavyam-anyathā /

Straight talk should not be taken amiss:

rūkṣam-apy-āśaye śuddhe rukṣato naiti sajjanaḥ // 11.15 //

However harsh it is, so long as its intention is pure, a good man will not retain it as harsh.


apriyaṃ hi hitaṃ snigdham-asnigdham-ahitaṃ priyam /

For there is disagreeable good advice, which is kind; and there is agreeable bad advice, which is not kind;

durlabhaṃ tu priya-hitaṃ svādu pathyam-ivauṣadham // 11.16 //

But advice that is both agreeable and good is as hard to come by as medicine that is both sweet and salutary.


viśvāsaś-cārtha-caryā ca sāmānyaṃ sukha-duḥkhayoḥ /

Trust, acting in the other's interest, sharing of joy and sorrow,

marṣaṇaṃ praṇayaś-caiva mitra-vṛttir-iyaṃ satām // 11.17 //

And tolerance, as well as affection: such, between good men, is the conduct of a friend.


tad-idaṃ tvā vivakṣāmi praṇayān-na jighāṃsayā /

So now I am going to speak to you out of affection, with no wish to hurt.

tac-chreyo hi vivakṣā me yat-te nārhāmy-upekṣitum // 11.18 //

For my intention is to speak of that better way for you in regard to which I ought not to be indifferent.


apsaro-bhṛtako dharmaṃ carasīty-abhidhīyase /

You are practising dharma, so they say, for celestial nymphs as wages.

kim-idaṃ bhūtam-āho-svit parihāso 'yam-īdṛśaḥ // 11.19 //

Is that so? Is it true? such a thing would be a joke!


yadi tāvad-idaṃ satyaṃ vakṣyāmy-atra yad-auṣadham /

If this really is true, I will tell you a medicine for it;

auddhatyam-atha vaktṝṇām-abhidhāsyāmi tad-rajaḥ // 11.20 //

Or if it is the impertinence of chatterers, then that dust I shall expose."


ślakṣṇa-pūrvam-atho tena hṛdi so 'bhihatas-tadā /

Then -- though it was tenderly done -- Nanda was stricken in his heart.

dhyātvā dīrghaṃ niśaśvāsa kiṁ-cic-cāvāṅmukho 'bhavat // 11.21 //

After reflecting,2 he drew in a long breath, and his face inclined slightly downward.


tatas-tasyeṅgitaṃ jñātvā manaḥ-saṃkalpa-sūcakam /

And so, knowing the signs that betrayed the set of Nanda's mind,

babhāṣe vākyam-ānando madhurodarkam-apriyam // 11.22 //

Ānanda spoke words which were disagreeable but sweet in consequence:


ākāreṇāvagacchāmi tava dharma-prayojanam /

"I know from the look on your face what your motive is in practising dharma.

yaj-jñātvā tvayi jātaṃ me hāsyaṃ kāruṇyam-eva ca // 11.23 //

And knowing that, there arises in me towards you laughter and at the same time pity.

yathāsanārthaṃ skandhena kaś-cid gurvīṃ śilāṃ vahet /

Like somebody who, with a view to sitting on it, carried around on his shoulder a heavy rock;

tadvat-tvam-api kāmārthaṃ niyamaṃ voḍhum-udyataḥ // 11.24 //

That is how you, with a view to sensuality, are labouring to bear restraint.


titāḍayiṣayā dṛpto yathā meṣo 'pasarpsati /

Just as, in its desire to charge, a wild ram draws back,

tadvad-abrahmacaryāya brahmacaryam-idaṃ tava // 11.25 //

So, for the sake of non-abstinence, is this devout abstinence of yours!


cikrīṣanti yathā paṇyaṃ vaṇijo lābha-lipsayā /

Just as merchants buy merchandise moved by a desire to make profit,

dharmacaryā tava tathā paṇya-bhūtā na śāntaye // 11.26 //

That is how you are practising dharma, as if it were a tradable commodity, not for the sake of peace.


yathā phala-viśeṣārthaṁ bījaṃ vapati kārṣakaḥ /

Just as, with a particular crop in view, a ploughman scatters seed,

tadvad viṣaya-kārpaṇyād viṣayāṃs-tyaktavān-asi // 11.27 //

That is how, because of being desperate for an object, you have renounced objects.


ākāṅkṣec-ca yathā rogaṃ pratīkāra-sukhepsayā /

Just as a man who craves some pleasurable remedy might want to be ill,

duḥkham-anvicchati bhavāṃs-tathā viṣaya-tṛṣṇayā // 11.28 //

That is how in your thirst for an object you are seeking out suffering.


yathā paśyati madhv-eva na prapātam-avekṣate /

Just as a man sees honey and fails to notice a precipice,

paśyasy-apsarasas-tadvad bhraṃśam-ante na paśyasi // 11.29 //

That is how you are seeing the heavenly nymphs and not seeing the fall that will come in the end.


hṛdi kāmāgninā dīpte kāyena vahato vratam /

Blazing with a fire of desire in your heart, you carry out observances with your body:

kim-idaṃ brahmacaryaṃ te manasābrahmacāriṇaḥ // 11.30 //

What is this devout abstinence of yours, who does not practise abstinence with his mind?


saṃsāre vartamānena yadā cāpsarasas-tvayā /

Again, since in spiralling through saṁsāra you have gained celestial nymphs and left them

prāptās-tyaktāś-ca śataśas-tābhyaḥ kim-iti te spṛhā // 11.31 //

A hundred times over, what is this yearning of yours for those women?


tṛptir-nāstīndhanair-agner-nāmbhasā lavaṇāmbhasaḥ /

A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water,

nāpi kāmaiḥ sa-tṛṣṇasya tasmāt kāmā na tṛptaye // 11.32 //

Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction.


atṛptau ca kutaḥ śāntir-aśāntau ca kutaḥ sukham /

Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease?

asukhe ca kutaḥ prītir-aprītau ca kuto ratiḥ // 11.33 //

Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment?


riraṃsā yadi te tasmād-adhyātme dhīyatāṃ manaḥ /

Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within.

praśāntā cānavadyā ca nāsty-adhyātma-samā ratiḥ // 11.34 //

Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it.

na tatra kāryaṃ tūryais-te na strībhir-na vibhūṣaṇaiḥ /

In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments;

ekas-tvaṃ yatra-tatra-sthas-tayā ratyābhiraṃsyase // 11.35 //

On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment.


mānasaṃ balavad duḥkhaṃ tarṣe tiṣṭhati tiṣṭhati /

The mind suffers mightily as long as thirst persists.

taṃ tarṣaṃ chindhi duḥkhaṃ hi tṛṣṇā cāsti ca nāsti ca // 11.36 //

Eradicate that thirst; for suffering co-exists with thirst, or else does not exist.


saṃpattau vā vipattau vā divā vā naktam-eva vā /

In prosperity or in adversity, by day or by night,

kāmeṣu hi sa-tṛṣṇasya na śāntir-upapadyate // 11.37 //

For the man who thirsts after desires,3 peace is not possible.


kāmānāṃ prārthanā duḥkhā prāptau tṛptir-na vidyate /

The pursuit of desires is full of suffering, and attainment of them is not where satisfaction lies;

viyogān-niyataḥ śoko viyogaś-ca dhruvo divi // 11.38 //

The separation from them is inevitably sorrowful; but the celestial constant is separation.


kṛtvāpi duṣkaraṃ karma svargaṁ labdhvāpi durlabham /

Even having done action that is hard to do, and reached a heaven that is hard to reach,

nṛlokaṃ punar-evaiti pravāsāt sva-gṛhaṃ yathā // 11.39 //

A man comes right back to the world of men, as if to his own house after a spell away.


yadā bhraṣṭasya kuśalaṃ śiṣṭaṃ kiṃ-cin-na vidyate /

The backslider when his residual good has run out

tiryakṣu pitṛ-loke vā narake vopapadyate // 11.40 //

Finds himself among the animals or in the world of the departed, or else he goes to hell.


tasya bhuktavataḥ svarge viṣayān-uttamān-api /

Having enjoyed in heaven the utmost sensual objects,

bhraṣṭasyārtasya duḥkhena kim-āsvādaḥ karoti saḥ // 11.41 //

He falls back, beset by suffering: what has that enjoyment done for him?


śyenāya prāṇi-vātsalyāt sva-māṃsāny-api dattavān /

Through tender love for living creatures Śibi gave his own flesh to a hawk.4

śibhiḥ svargāt paribhraṣṭas-tādṛk kṛtvāpi duṣkaram // 11.42 //

He fell back from heaven, even after doing such a difficult deed.


śakrasyārdhāsanaṃ gatvā pūrva-pārthiva eva yaḥ /

Having attained half of Indra's throne as a veritable earth-lord of the old school,

sa devatvaṃ gate kāle māndhātādhaḥ punar-yayau // 11.43 //

Māndhātṛ when his time with the gods elapsed came back down again.5


rājyaṃ kṛtvāpi devānāṃ papāta nahuṣo bhuvi /

Though he ruled the gods, Nahuṣa fell to earth;

prāptaḥ kila bhujaṃgatvaṃ nādyāpi parimucyate // 11.44 //

He turned into a snake, so they say, and even today has not wriggled free.6


tathaivelivilo rājā rāja-vṛttena saṃskṛtaḥ /

Likewise King Ilivila being perfect in kingly conduct,

svargaṃ gatvā punar-bhraṣṭaḥ kūrmī-bhūtaḥ kilārṇave // 11.45 //

Went to heaven and fell back down, becoming, so they say, a turtle in the ocean.7


bhūridyumno yayātiś-ca te cānye ca nṛpa-rṣabhāḥ /

Bhūri-dyumna and Yayāti and other excellent kings,8

karmabhir-dyām-abhikrīya tat-kṣayāt punar-atyajan // 11.46 //

Having bought heaven by their actions, gave it up again, after that karma ran out --


asurāḥ pūrva-devās-tu surair-apahṛta-śriyaḥ /

Whereas the asuras, who had been gods in heaven when the suras robbed them of their rank,

śriyaṃ samanuśocantaḥ pātālaṃ śaraṇaṃ yayuḥ // 11.47 //

Went bemoaning their lost glory down to their Pātāla lair.9


kiṃ ca rāja-rṣibhis-tāvad-asurair-vā surādibhiḥ /

But why such citing of royal seers, or of asuras, suras, and the like?

mahendrāḥ śataśaḥ petur-māhātmyam-api na sthiram // 11.48 //

Mighty Indras have fallen in their hundreds! Even the most exalted position is not secure.


saṃsadaṃ śobhayitvaindrīm-upendraś-ca-tri-vikramaḥ /

Again, Indra's luminous sidekick, he of the three strides, lit up Indra's court,10

kṣīṇa-karmā papātorvīṃ madhyād-apsarasāṃ rasan // 11.49 //

And yet when his karma waned he fell to earth from the apsarases' midst, screaming.


hā caitraratha hā vāpi hā mandākini hā priye /

"Oh, the grove of Citra-ratha!11 Oh, the pond! Oh, the heavenly Ganges! Oh, my beloved!" --

ity-ārtā vilapanto 'pi gāṃ patanti divaukasaḥ // 11.50 //

Thus lament the distressed denizens of heaven as they fall to earth.


tīvraṃ hy-utpadyate duḥkham-iha tāvan-mumūrṣatām /

For intense already is the pain that arises in those facing death in this world

kiṃ punaḥ patatāṃ svargād-evānte sukha-sevinām // 11.51 //

And how much worse is it for the pleasure-addicts when they finally fall from heaven?


rajo gṛṇhanti vāsāṃsi mlāyanti paramāḥ srajaḥ /

Their clothes gather dust; their glorious garlands wither;

gātrebhyo jāyate svedo ratir-bhavati nāsane // 11.52 //

Sweat appears on their limbs; and in their sitting there is no enjoyment.


etāny-ādau nimittāni cyutau svargād divaukasām /

These are the first signs of the imminent fall from heaven of sky-dwellers,

aniṣṭānīva martyānām-ariṣṭāni mumūrṣatām // 11.53 //

Like the unwelcome but sure signs of the approaching death of those subject to dying.


sukham-utpadyate yac-ca divi kāmān-upāśnatām /

When the pleasure that arises from enjoyment of desires in heaven

yac-ca duḥkhaṃ nipatatāṃ duḥkham-eva viśiṣyate // 11.54 //

Is compared with the pain of falling, the pain, assuredly, is greater.


tasmād-asvantam-atrāṇam-aviśvāsyam-atarpakam /

Knowing heaven, therefore, to be ill-fated, precarious,

vijñāya kṣayiṇaṃ svargam-apavarge matiṃ kuru // 11.55 //

Unreliable, unsatisfactory, and transitory, set your heart upon immunity from that circuit.


aśarīraṃ bhavāgraṃ hi gatvāpi munir-udrakaḥ /

For though he attained a peak experience of bodiless being, Sage Uḍraka,12

karmaṇo 'nte cyutas-tasmāt tiryag-yoniṃ prapatsyate // 11.56 //

At the expiration of his karma, will fall from that state into the womb of an animal.


maitrayā sapta-vārṣikyā brahma-lokam-ito gataḥ /

Through seven years of loving kindness, Sunetra went from here to Brahma's world,

sunetraḥ punar-āvṛtto garbha-vāsam-upeyivān // 11.57 //

But he span around again and came back to live in a womb.13


yadā caiśvaryavanto 'pi kṣayiṇaḥ svarga-vāsinaḥ /

Since heaven-dwellers, even when all-powerful, are subject to decay,

ko nāma svarga-vāsāya kṣeṣṇave spṛhayed budhaḥ // 11.58 //

What wise man would aspire to a decadent sojourn in heaven?


sūtreṇa baddho hi yathā vihaṃgo vyāvartate dūragato 'pi bhūyaḥ /

For just as a bird tied to a string, though it has flown far, comes back again;

ajñāna-sūtreṇa tathāvabaddho gato 'pi dūraṃ punar-eti lokaḥ // 11.59 //

So too do people return who are tied to the string of ignorance, however far they have travelled.


kṛtvā kāla-vilakṣaṇaṁ pratibhuvā mukto yathā bandhanād

A man temporarily released from prison on bail

bhuktvā veshma-sukhāny atītya samayaṁ bhūyo vished bandhanaṁ /

Enjoys home comforts and then, when his time is up, he must go back to prison;

tadvad dyāṃ pratibhūvad-ātma-niyamair-dhyānādibhiḥ prāptavān

In the same way, through restrictive practices beginning with meditation, a man gets to heaven, as if on bail,

kāle karmasu teṣu bhukta-viṣayeṣv-ākṛṣyate gāṁ punaḥ // 11.60 //

And after enjoying those objects which were his karmic reward, he eventually is dragged back down to earth.


antar-jāla-gatāḥ pramatta-manaso mīnās-taḍāge yathā

Fish in a pond who have swum into a net, unwarily,

jānanti vyasanaṃ na rodha-janitaṃ svasthāś-caranty-ambhasi /

Do not know the misfortune that results from capture, but contentedly move around in the water;

antar-loka-gatāḥ kṛtārtha-matayas-tadvad-divi dhyāyino

In the same way, meditators in heaven (who are really of this world of men), think that they have achieved their end;

manyante śivam-acyutaṃ dhruvam-iti svaṃ sthānam-āvartakam // 11.61 //

And so they assume their own position to be favourable, secure and settled -- as they continue to whirl around.


taj-janma-vyādhi-mṛtyu-vyasana-parigataṃ matvā jagad-idaṃ

Therefore, see this world to be shot through with the calamities of birth, sickness, and death;

saṃsāre bhrāmyamāṇaṃ divi nṛṣu narake tiryak-pitṛṣu ca /

See it -- whether in heaven, among men, in hell, or among animals or the departed -- to be reeling through saṁsāra.

yat-trāṇaṃ nirbhayaṃ yac-chivam-amarajaraṃ niḥśokam-amṛtaṃ

Seeing the world to be thus, for the sake of that fearless refuge, for that sorrowless nectar of immortality, which is benign, and beyond death and decay,

tadd-hetor-brahmacaryaṃ cara jahi-hi calaṃ svargaṃ prati rucim // 11.62 //

Devoutly practise abstinence, and abandon your fancy for a precarious heaven.




saundarananda mahākāvye svargāpavādo nāma aikādaśaḥ sargaḥ

The 11th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Negation of Heaven."





1 Brahma-carya might otherwise translated as “spiritual practice.” The concept is rooted in a tradition of celibacy that pre-dated the Buddha.

2 Dhyā, to reflect, is as in dhyāna, reflection or meditation.

3 The use of kāma in the locative plural confirms that Aśvaghoṣa used the word kāma to mean, depending on context, both desire itself and the object of desire. So when the striver sees suffering as originating in desires, his words sound like the Buddha's teaching, but insofar as the striver is trying to pin the blame on objects, then his idea is totally different from the Buddha's teaching.

4 Both the Mahā-bhārata and Rāmāyaṇa contain the story of how the gods tested King Śibi by taking the form of a hawk and a pigeon. Chased by the hawk, the pigeon fell into the lap of Śibi who offered to compensate the hawk with his own flesh.

5 Māndhātṛ, reputed to be a 19th-generation descendant of Ikṣvāku, was a famous king of the ancient city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The history of that city records that Māndhātṛ obtained half the throne of Indra and conquered the whole earth in one day.

6 Book 13 of the Mahā-bhārata tells the story of how King Nahuṣa became chief of the gods, knocking Indra off top spot, by assiduously performing Brahmanical rites. By his arrogance, however, Nahuṣa incurred the wrath of one of the sages whom he had charged with carrying his palanquin. This sage reacted to being booted in the head by placing a curse on Nahuṣa who duly turned into a great big snake which slithered off to skulk in a Himālayan cave. Thereafter, the story goes, when a group of exiled Pāṇḍavas found the snake hiding in the cave, the Pāṇḍava leader recognized that the snake was no ordinary snake and asked it about its origin. Nahuṣa then confessed and was relieved of his curse, shedding his snakely incarnation.

7 Viṣṇu famously became a turtle (his second avatar, Kurma) in order to stop Mt. Mandara from sinking into the ocean. Though Viṣṇu had a thousand names, however, Ilivila has not been traced as one of them.

8 Bhūri-dhyumna was known for his piety. His fall from heaven, according to EHJ's notes, is documented in Book 2 of the Rāmāyaṇa. Yayāti is the celebrated king of the lunar race whose sons are mentioned favourably in 1.59. When Yayāti cheated on his wife, her father put a curse on him so that he immediately became an old man, whereupon he tried to buy back youth from his sons. Eventually, however, Yayāti realized the futility of his former shallow actions, let go of his worldly ambitions and took pains to redeem himself.

9 Asuras and suras (demons and gods) as their Sanskrit names suggest, are opposed to each other. Pātāla is one of the regions under the earth supposed to be inhabited by nāgas and demons; sometimes it is used as a general name for the lower regions or hells. The resentful attitude of the asuras seems to be comically contrasted with the more yielding attitude of Bhūri-dhyumna and Yayāti.

10 Upendra, lit. “Indra's younger brother,” is one of the many names of Viṣṇu, whose distinguishing characteristic was said to be light. Hymn 7.100 of the Ṛg Veda refers to the celebrated 'three steps' of Viṣṇu by which he strode over the universe and in three places planted his step.

11 Caitra-ratha, is the name of a grove of Kubera trees (Cedrela Toona) supposed to have been cultivated by the gandharva Citra-ratha “Having a Bright Chariot,” the king of the gandharvas. See also 2.53.

12 In 3.3 the Sage Uḍraka, who inclined towards quietness, is mentioned as one of the young Gautama's teachers. EHJ considered this and the next verse to be spurious.

13 Su-netra lit. means “Having Good Eyes” or “Being a Good Leader.” No reference has been traced.






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