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Some time thereafter that realm passed, through familial succession, /

To a king named Śuddodhana who, being pure in his actions, had conquered the power of the senses.1 // 2.1 //

Neither stuck in his desires nor conceited about gaining sovereignty, /

He did not, as he grew, look down on others, and nor did he shrink from others in fear. // 2.2 //

Strong and strong-minded; learned as well as intelligent; /

Daring and yet prudent; determined, and cheerful with it; // 2.3 //

He had a fine form without being stiff; was dexterous but not dishonest; /

Was energetic but not impatient; and active but never flustered. // 2.4 //

Challenged by his enemies in battle, and petitioned by friends, /

He was not backward in responding with an intense energy, and with a willingness to give. // 2.5 //

Wishing to tread the dutiful path of dharma trodden by previous kings, /

And bearing his kingship like a call to total dedication, he emulated the ancestors through his conduct. // 2.6 //

Due to his good governance, and under his protection, his subjects rested at ease, /

Free from anxiety, as if in a father's lap. // 2.7 //

Whether skilled in use of book, or in use of sword; whether born into an eminent family, or not; /

Anybody who came into his presence was seen to be useful.2 // 2.8 //

When given good advice, however disagreeable, he listened and did not react; /

He let go of a wrong done to him, however great, and remembered a service rendered, however small. // 2.9 //

The meek and mild he befriended; tribal foes he apprehended; /

Sufferers he comprehended; waverers he reprehended. // 2.10 //

As the general rule in his dominion, those influenced by his integrity /

Seemed to take possession of virtues as if they were securing treasures. // 2.11 //

He minded the supreme sacred word; in fortitude, he never failed; /

He gave fitting gifts to deserving recipients; and no evil did he do at all. // 2.12 //

A promise undertaken he resolutely carried out, like a good horse carrying a load; /

For he did not desire, apart from truthfulness, even a moment of life. // 2.13 //

For the intellectually bright, he was there; with his own self-containment, he shone; /

And on people in the directed state, he positively beamed -- like the moon in the last month of the rains. // 2.14 //

Through intelligence and learning, he knew what was fitting, both in here and out there; /

He guarded, with constancy and energy, both his senses and his subjects. // 2.15 //

He bore away the suffering of the oppressed and the boastful fame of the cruel, /

And covered the earth with guiding principles and a much greater glory. // 2.16 //

Seeing people suffering he overflowed with his original emotion as a man of compassion; /

But he did not, through eager desire, undermine his honour by unprincipled acquisition of treasured objects. // 2.17 //

In his kind-hearted iron devotion even to imperfect friends, /

He had no will to take, but willingly gave, cheerful-faced, to each according to his need. // 2.18 //

Without offering the first portion to revered beings, and without bathing, he did not eat anything; /

Neither did he milk the earth unjustly, as a cow is milked by a man thirsting for milk. // 2.19 //

He never scattered the food offering except when due; he never developed lordly arrogance; /

Committing of the scriptures to his mind, he did for dharma, not for praise. // 2.20 //

A few doers of harsh deeds, though they deserved harsh treatment, he did not treat harshly; /

And due to his noble nature he never cast a veil over the virtues of a true man, even one who defied him. // 2.21 //

With his fine form he ripped away, as does the moon, people's views; /

He never touched, in an act of becoming, what belonged to others, any more than he would touch a venomous snake slithering on the earth.3 // 2.22 //

Nowhere in his dominion did anyone hurt by anyone lament; /

For the bow in his hand bestowed peace upon the afflicted. // 2.23 //

Even those who transgressed, if they were submissive (and before them, of course, those who acted agreeably), /

He surveyed with an affectionate eye, and steeped in loving speech. // 2.24 //

He studied many subjects, without being interested in objects; /

Abiding in dharma as it was in the golden age, he did not drift, even in a predicament, from dharma. // 2.25 //

Because of his virtues, he continually grew; in his joy at the success of friends, he kept growing; /

In the stream of forebears long since grown old, again he kept going... but go he did not, on a blameworthy path. // 2.26 //

He quietened his enemies, using arrows; he gladdened his friends, using virtues; /

His servants, when there were faults, he did not goad; the offshoots who were his subjects he did not, with doing hands, overtax.4 // 2.27 //

Under his protection, and because of his heroism, seeds were planted over the whole earth; /

And by the transparent working of his judicial system, sessions were sat into the dark stillness of night. // 2.28 //

By the conduct of a royal seer, he propagated through his house the fragrance of honour. /

Like the son of Aditi5 shining light into darkness, he with the intensity of his energy caused the enemies to scatter.6 // 2.29 //

Using virtues that befitted a good son, he caused the ancestors, again, to disseminate their light; /

And, like a raincloud using rain, he enlivened his offshoots, his subjects, using conduct. // 2.30 //

With inexhaustible and great acts of giving, he caused the brahmins to press out their soma; /

And by dutifully adhering to his kingly dharma, he caused corn, at the right moment, to ripen.7 // 2.31 //

He talked no talk that went against dharma, being free in himself of doubts and questions; /

And, like a wheel-rolling king, he caused others to be courageous in service of dharma. // 2.32 //

No special tribute did he cause the kingdom to pay him; /

But with sustained endeavour, and using only regulars, he caused enemy pride to be cut down. // 2.33 //

Again and again, he caused his own house to be pure, using just his own virtues; /

At the same time, he did not let his offshoots decay, for all were established in all dharmas.8 // 2.34 //

A man of tireless sacrifice when the time was right, he caused sacrificial ground to be measured out; /

And he enabled twice-born men,9 who under his protection were unburdened by anxiety, to know the weight of the sacred word.10 // 2.35 //

In the presence of gurus, and obeying the rule, he caused the soma to be measured out on time, as a cool, mild man of soma,11 /

And yet, with intense ardour, with fiery energy, he saw the enemy army cut down to size.12 // 2.36 //

As knower of the dharma that is paramount, he caused his offshoots to abide in dharma in a small way, /

And yet caused them, because of experiencing dharma, to let heaven wait.13 // 2.37 //

Even the obvious candidate in a crisis, he did not appoint if it went against dharma; /

Nor, out of nothing more than fondness, did he dotingly promote incompetence. // 2.38 //

With intense energy and with light he exposed to view his enemies, the conceited; /

And with a blazing lantern of brightness, he caused the world to shine. // 2.39 //

He gave out of kindness, not for his glorification, and always to meet a need; /

Giving up even a thing of great substance, he mentioned nothing of it. // 2.40 //

He did not shun one afflicted by suffering, even an enemy, who had taken refuge; /

And having conquered his enemies, the conceited, he did not become proud on that account. // 2.41 //

No rule did he break, out of love, hate, or fear; /

Even while abiding in pleasurable circumstances, he did not remain in thrall to the power of the senses. // 2.42 //

He was never seen to do shoddily anything anywhere that needed to be done; /

When required by friend and non-friend to act, he did not fall into inaction. // 2.43 //

He drank and guarded, as prescribed, the soma and his honour; /

And he was constantly mindful of the Vedas, as well as the dharma proclaimed in the Vedas. // 2.44 //

Not eschewed by such uncommon virtues as these /

Was he who on no side could be vanquished -- the unshakable Śākya King, like Śakra.14 // 2.45 //

Now at that time dharma-loving denizens of the heavens /

Moved into the orbit of the human world, wishing to investigate dharma movements. // 2.46 //

Those essences of dharma, moving, with the desire to know dharma, over the earth, /

Saw that leader of men whose essence was particularly given over to dharma. // 2.47 //

Then the bodhisattva came down to earth, and rather than among Tuṣita gods, /

He put down birth-roots in the family of that earth-lord. // 2.48 //

That man-god at that time had a goddess, a queen whose name was Māyā; /

She was as devoid of anger, darkness and the māyā which is deceit as was the goddess Māyā in heaven. // 2.49 //

In a dream during that period she saw entering her womb /

A white six-tusked elephant, mighty as Airāvata.15 // 2.50 //

When they heard this dream, brahmins who knew dreams predicted /

The birth of a prince who would bring honour, through wealth or through dharma. // 2.51 //

At the birth of this exceptional being whose mission was the end of re-birth /

The earth with its immoveable mountains moved, like a boat being battered by waves. // 2.52 //

A rain of flowers, unwilted by the sun's rays, fell from the sky /

As if shaken from the trees of Citra-ratha's forest by the trunks of the elephants of the four quarters.16 // 2.53 //

Drums sounded in heaven, as though the storm-gods were rolling dice; /

The sun blazed inestimably, and the wind blew benignly. // 2.54 //

Gods in Tuṣita Heaven became calm and content, as did gods of the clear blue Śuddhāvāsa yonder,17 /

Through thinking highly of true dharma, and through fellow feeling among sentient beings. // 2.55 //

To one who was a lamp of honour came a supreme bringer of the brightness of betterment: /

He shone with tranquil splendour like dharma in a separate bodily form. // 2.56 //

To the king's younger queen, also, like fire in the notch of a fire-board, /

A son was born named Nanda, Joy, a bringer of constant joy to his family. // 2.57 //

Long in the arm, broad in the chest, with shoulders of a lion and eyes of a bull, /

He because of his superlative looks bore the epithet "handsome." // 2.58 //

Like a first month in spring having arrived; like a new moon having risen; /

Again, like the non-physical having taken a physical form, he radiated sheer loveliness. // 2.59 //

The king with exceeding gladness brought up the two of them, /

As great wealth in the hands of a good man promotes dharma and pleasure. // 2.60 //

Those two good sons, in time, grew up to do the king proud, /

Just as, when his investment is great, dharma and wealth pay a noble person well. // 2.61 //

Being in the middle, with regard to those two good sons, the Śākya king reigned resplendent, /

Like the Madhya-deśa, the Middle Region, adorned by the Himālaya and Pāriyātra mountains. // 2.62 //

Then, gradually, those two sons of the king became educated, in practical arts and in learning. /

Nanda frittered all his time on idle pleasures; but Sarvārtha-siddha, Accomplisher of Every Aim, was not mottled by the redness of passions. // 2.63 //

For he had seen for himself an old man, a sick man, and a corpse,

After which, as with a wounded mind he witnessed the unwitting world, /

He was disgusted to the core and found no pleasure in objects

But wished totally to terminate the terror of being born and dying. // 2.64 //

Having focused his agitated mind on the end of becoming,

He fled the king's palace, indifferent to the most beautiful of women sleeping there; /

Determined to go to the forest, he fled in the night,

Like a goose from a lake of ruined lotuses. // 2.65 //

The 2nd canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "A Portrait of the King."

1 As per the title of Canto 13, “Defeating the Power of the Senses through the Discipline of Integrity.” The śuddha (“pure”) of śuddha-karmāḥ (“pure in his actions”) is a play on the name Śuddodhana.

2 The emphatic double negative has been translated as a positive. Aktārthah lit. “purpose not achieved,” more accurately means “not successful,” but there is a play on the word kṛta, translated in the first line as “skilled in use of.”

3 Bhuvi is the locative of bhū, whose meanings include (1) the act of becoming, and (2) the earth. To take account of this ambiguity, bhuvi is here translated twice.

4 Karair is the instrumental plural of kara, whose meanings include (1) the act of doing, (2) “the doer” = the hand, and (3) tax.

5 Aditya, or “son of Aditi,” is a name of the sun.

6 “Caused [seeds] to be planted” and “caused [sessions] to be sat” in 2.36, and “propogated” and “caused to scatter” in 2.37, are all translations of the same causitive aorist form, avīvapat, derived from the root vap, which means (1) to strew, scatter, or procreate; or (2) to cut off or mow down. In its causative usage vap means (1) to put on the ground or plant in the ground; or (2) to cause to be shorn or cut back.

7 “Caused to press out” and “caused to ripen” are both translations of asūṣavat.

8 “Caused to pay” and “caused to be cut down” in 2.33, and “caused to be pure” and “let decay” in 2.34, are translations of the same word adīdapat, derived from the roots √dā (to cause to pay), or √dā = √do (to cause to be cut down), or √dā = √dai (to cause to be pure), or √dī (to shine forth), or √dī (to cause to decay). Sarva-dharma-vyavasthayā (“being established in all dharmas”) means being grounded in the teaching which is the central teaching of the Lotus Sutra, namely, “all dharmas are real form,” or “all things are reality.” (Chinese/Japanese: 諸法実相 SHOHO-JISSO.)

9 Dvi-ja, "twice born," generally means a brahmin, one who is considered to have been born again at his initiation ceremony. Aśvaghoṣa might equally have in mind the kind of re-birth that Nanda manifests at the begining of Canto 12, when he begins to demonstrate real confidence in the Buddha's teaching of a better way (i.e. a way that is better than both hedonism and Brahmanism).

10 Or to anchor the sacred word (brahma) in the ground – see following note.

11 In later Cantos, the Buddha frequently addresses Nanda in the vocative case as saumya, which is generally translated "my friend!" but which literally means "man of the soma!" This is because the qualities attributed to the soma, and to the moon-god with whom sacrificial drinking of the soma was associated, are those of being in the first instance cool and moist; and by extension placid, gentle, mild, happy, pleasant, cheerful. In this verse, therefore, saumyaḥ, "man of soma," has connotations that are diametrically opposed to intense ardour and fiery energy.

12 “Caused to be measured out” and “enabled to know the weight” in 2.36, and “caused to be measured out” and “saw cut down to size” in 2.37, are all translations of the same word, amīmapat, a causative aorist form which can be derived from at least four roots: (to measure, build, erect), mi (to know, to fix in the ground), (to reap) and (to diminish). The resulting ambiguity may be intended to alert the reader to the ambiguity and irony which run through the whole of Saundarananda.

13 “Caused to abide” and “caused to let wait” are both translations of the same word avīvasat, derived from the roots √vas (to cause to stay or wait). The wording invites the reader to understand that the king caused his subjects to dwell in heaven in future, while simultaneously allowing an alternative reading for the more practically inclined.

14 Śakra-vat, "like the Mighty One," means like Indra, king of the gods in ancient Indian mythology. But the sound of the word might be more important than the meaning in this verse, whose primary function seems to be to round off, in a poetically pleasing manner, the long list of the king's virtues. Hence the euphonic combination of a-śakya (impossible), śakya (to be subdued or shackled), Śākya (name of the people of whom the Buddha's father was king), and Śakra (Mighty Indra).

15 Airāvata, "produced from the ocean," is the name of Indra's elephant, who holds up the eastern quarter.

16 Citra-ratha, “having a bright chariot,” is the name of the king of the gandharvas – the heavenly guardians of soma.

17 Śuddhāvāsa, “the pure abode,” is the name of a region of the sky in the realm of form/matter – whereas the Tuṣita gods belong to a heaven in the realm of desire/volition/spirit. It may be, then, that Aśvaghoṣa mentioned the Śuddhāvāsa gods for the sake of balance.

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