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Thus did he hear about Nanda's desire to abandon sincere practice, to see his wife, and to go home; /

And so the Sage summoned the joyless and weak-willed Nanda, wishing to take him up. // 10.1 //

When Nanda, having not yet arrived at liberation's path, arrived, he of the beautiful mind questioned him, whose mind was faltering. /

Bowed down by humiliation, Nanda confessed to the one who was full of humility; he told his intention to a master intention-knower. // 10.2 //

And so the Sugata, the One Gone Well, seeing Nanda wandering in the darkness called "wife," /

Took his hand and flew up into the sky, wishing to take him up -- like an honest man in the water bearing up a pearl. // 10.3 //

A shining gold they shone with their ochre robes, in the clear sky, /

Like a pair of greylag geese rising up from a lake, embracing one another with outstretched wings. // 10.4 //

Filled with the heady fragrance of the divine deodar, full of rivers and lakes, and springs and gulches, /

And filled with golden ore was the Himālayan mountain full of divine seers at which the two arrived, immediately. // 10.5 //

On that auspicious mountain -- which was frequented by celestial singers and saints and blanketed in smoke from burnt offerings -- /

As if on an island in an unsupported sky, where no far shore is reached, the two stood. // 10.6 //

While the Sage, his sense-power stilled, remained there standing, Nanda looked all around in amazement /

At the caverns and bowers and forest-dwellers that were the mountain's jewels and its guardians. // 10.7 //

For there on a great long horn of white rock, lay a peacock with its tail feathers arrayed /

So as to resemble, on the long and muscular arm of Bala, an armlet of cat's-eye gems.1 // 10.8 //

A lion with shoulders made orange from contact with the orange-red ore of 'the mind-rock,' arsenic,2 /

Looked like Āmbika's3 crumpled armband of wrought silver streaked with refined gold. // 10.9 //

A tiger moved unhurriedly and expansively, its tail curling around its right shoulder, /

As it went to drink at a mountain spring: it looked like an offering to the ancestors, being made by somebody who has arrived at water.4 // 10.10 //

A yak had got stuck in a dangling kadamba tree swaying on the Himālayan hillside: /

Unable to free its tangled tail, it was like a man of noble conduct who cannot break away from a kindness that has been shown in his House. // 10.11 //

Communities of golden mountain-men, the Kirātas,5 their limbs streaked with shining peacock gall, /

Rushed out from their caves like flying tigers, as if spewed out of the unmoving mountain. // 10.12 //

Hanging out in nooks and crannies, and going beyond Beauty with their heart-stealing hips, breasts and bellies, /

Were the bevies of kiṁnarīs who appeared in every quarter, like creepers with flowers in their upward winding curls. // 10.13 //

Pestering the godly deodars,6 monkeys roved from peak to peak; /

Obtaining from those trees no fruit, they went away, as if from powerful masters whose favour is futile. // 10.14 //

But lagging behind that troop was one whose face was red as pressed red resin -- /

A female monkey with one eye missing. Seeing her, the Sage spoke this to Nanda: // 10.15 //

"Which, Nanda, in beauty and in manner, is the lovelier in your eyes: /

This one-eyed monkey, or the person who is the focus of your wishing?" // 10.16 //

Addressed thus by the One Gone Well, Nanda said, with a slight smirk: /

"How can a gap be measured, Glorious One!, between that most excellent of women your sister-in-law, and this tree-tormenting monkey?" // 10.17 //

Then the Sage, hearing his protestation, and having in mind a slightly unconventional means, /

Took hold of Nanda as before and proceeded to the pleasure-grove of the royal bearer of the thunderbolt.7 // 10.18 //

There one by one, season by season, and moment by moment, trees convey their individual form; /

While some odd ones8 also bring out the combined manifold glory of all six seasons. // 10.19 //

Some produce garlands and wreaths9 which are fragrant and affecting, with variously interwoven strands, /

And small round creations suited to the ear which are akin to earrings' opponents. // 10.20 //

Trees there that abound in red lotuses look like trees ablaze. /

Different trees,10 growing full-blown blue lotuses,11 seem to have their eyes open. // 10.21 //

In various colourless hues, or else white; beautifully illuminated with golden dividing lines; /

Beyond the weaving together of strands, being nothing but a unity; are the exquisite robes that trees there bear as fruit.12 // 10.22 //

Pearl necklaces and gemstones, supreme earrings, choicest armlets, and ankle bracelets, /

Are the kinds of ornament, fit for heaven, that trees there bear as fruit.13 // 10.23 //

There rise golden lotuses with beryl stems and diamond shoots and stamens; /

Receptive to touch, they have a scent of the ultimate: still pools without ripples allow them to grow.14 // 10.24 //

All kinds of musical instrument, with lengthened [sinews] and widened [skins], with open tubes and solid substance, /

Are born there as fruit, by the distinctively bejewelled and gilded trees which are the heaven-dwellers' playing companions.15 // 10.25 //

Over mandāra coral trees, and over trees weighed down with water-lily and ruddy lotus blossoms, /

The 'Full Grown' Coral, shining there with majestic qualities, steps up and reigns supreme.16 // 10.26 //

Growing there, on soil tilled in Indra's heaven by unwearying ploughs of austerity and discipline, /

Are such trees as these, which are always adapting to provide for sky-dwellers' enjoyment. // 10.27 //

Birds there have bright red beaks, the colour of red 'mind-rock' arsenic; and crystalline eyes; /

And wings a deathly shade of yellow, with intensely red tips; and claws as red as red dye, but half white.17 // 10.28 //

Birds which are -- again -- different, with distinctively golden wings and bright, beryl-blue eyes, /

Birds called śiñjirikas fly to and fro, carrying away minds and ears with their songs.18 // 10.29 //

Adorned with curling feathers that are red at the tips, golden in the middle, /

And the colour of beryl within borders, birds there move.19 // 10.30 //

Winged ones of a different ilk, named rochiṣṇus, who have the lustre of a blazing fire, their faces seeming to be aglow, /

Roam around, shaking views with their wonderful appearance, and carrying apsarases away with their splendid sound.20 // 10.31 //

There, merit-makers do whatever they like; constantly erect, they are free from pain, free from aging, and beyond sorrow; /

Each by his actions inferior, superior, or in the middle, each letting his own light shine, the merit-makers rejoice. // 10.32 //

Seeing that world to be in a perpetually elevated state, free from tiredness, sleep, discontent, sorrow, and disease, /

Nanda deemed the ever-afflicted world of men, under the sway of aging and death, to be akin to a cremation ground. // 10.33 // (EHJ: 10.34)

Nanda beheld Indra's forest all around him, his eyes wide open with amazement. /

And the apsarases surrounded him, bristling with joyous excitement, while eyeing each other haughtily. // 10.34 // (EHJ: 10.35)

Eternally youthful and devoted purely to Love, the apsarases are zones of recreation open to all who have made merit; /

They are the heavenly and innocent resort of gods, their reward for ascetic practices. // 10.35 // (EHJ: 10.36)

Odd ones among those women sang, in low and in high voices; some pulled lotuses apart, playfully; /

Others in the same vein danced, bristling with mutual delight, limbs making exotic gestures, breasts perturbing pearl necklaces. // 10.36 // (EHJ: 10.37)

Here, having first accepted the price in austerities and made the decision to splash out on heaven, /

Ascetics rich in austerities have their weary minds enthralled by the flirting apsarases. // 10.37 // (EHJ: 10.33)

The faces of some of these women, ear-rings atremble, peeped through chinks in the undergrowth /

Like duck-dunked lotuses peeping through scattered and displaced leaves. // 10.38 //

When he saw them emerging from their forest niches like ribbons of lightning from rainclouds, /

Nanda's body trembled with passion like moonlight on rippling water. // 10.39 //

Their heavenly form and playful gestures he then mentally seized; /

And, while his eye was appropriated by curiosity, he became impassioned, as if from a thirst for union. // 10.40 //

He became thirsty, desirous of drinking up the apsarases, afflicted by a pervading itch to have them. /

Dragged along by the mind-chariot whose horse is the restless power of the senses, he could not come to stillness. // 10.41 //

For just as a man adds soda ash to dirty clothes and thereby makes them even dirtier /

Not in order to increase dirt but in order to remove it, so the Sage had stirred the dust of passion in Nanda. // 10.42 //

Again, just as a healer who wishes to draw faults from the body would endeavour to aggravate those faults, /

So, wishing to kill the red taint of passion in him, the Sage brought about an even greater passion. // 10.43 //

Just as a light in the dark is extinguished by the thousand-rayed brightness of the rising sun, /

So the lovely radiance of women in the human world is put in the shade by the brilliance of the celestial nymphs. // 10.44 //

Great beauty blots out lesser beauty, a loud noise drowns out a small noise, /

And a severe pain kills a mild pain -- every great stimulus tends towards the extinction of a minor one. // 10.45 //

And Nanda was able, relying on the power of the Sage, to endure that sight unendurable to others. /

For the mind of a man lacking dispassion, when he was weak, would be burned up by the apsarases' shining splendour. // 10.46 //

Deeming then that Nanda was roused to a new height of passion, his passion having turned from love of his wife, /

And desiring to fight passion with passion, the dispassionate Sage spoke these words: // 10.47 //

"Look at these women who dwell in heaven and, having observed, truly tell the truth: /

Do you think more of these women with their lovely form and excellent attributes or the one upon whom your mind has been set?" // 10.48 //

So, letting his gaze settle upon the apsarases, burning in his innermost heart with a fire of passion, /

And stammering, with a mind stuck on objects of desire, Nanda joined his hands like a beggar and spoke. // 10.49 //

"Whatever difference there might be, Master, between that one-eyed she-monkey and your sister-in-law, /

Is the same when your poor sister-in-law is set against the lovely apsarases. // 10.50 //

For just as previously, when I beheld my wife, I had no interest in other women, /

So now when I behold their beauty I have no interest in her. // 10.51 //

Just as somebody who had been pained by mild sunshine might be consumed by a great fire, /

So I who was previously toasted by a mild passion am now roasted by this blaze of passion. // 10.52 //

Therefore pour on me the water of your voice, before I am burned, as was The Fishes' Foe;21 /

For a fire of passion is going now to burn me up, like a fire rising up to burn both undergrowth and treetops. // 10.53 //

Please, O Sage firm as the earth, I am sinking. Liberate me who am without firmness. /

I shall give up my life, O Man of Liberated Mind, unless you extend to a dying man the deathless nectar of your words. // 10.54 //

For a snake whose coils are calamity, whose eyes are destruction, whose fangs are madness, whose fiery venom is dark ignorance: /

The snake of love has bitten me in the heart. Therefore, Great Healer, supply the antidote! // 10.55 //

For nobody bitten by this snake of love remains anything but unsettled in himself /

Bewildered was the mind of Vodhyu, whose essence had been immovability, while 'Good-Body' Śan-tanu, who had been a sensible man, grew gaunt.22 // 10.56 //

In you who abides conspicuously in the state of refuge, I seek refuge. So that I do not wander through this world loafing in this place and that place; /

So that I might come to and then go beyond that abode which is my adversity-ending end, please, repeatedly I plead that you help me." // 10.57 //

Desiring to dispell that darkness in his heart like the moon dispersing the darkness that rises by night, /

Then spoke the moon of great seers, the disperser of the world's darkness, the one devoid of darkness – Gautama: // 10.58 //

"Embrace firmness, shake off indecision, get a grip of hearing and of heart, and listen! /

If you desire these women practise now the utmost asceticism to pay their price. // 10.59 //

For these women are conquered neither by force nor by service, neither by gifts nor by good looks; /

They are mastered just by dharma-conduct. If aroused, practise dharma diligently. // 10.60 //

Perching here in heaven with gods; delightful forests; ageless women -- /

Such is the fruit of your own pure action. It is not conferred by another; nor is it without cause. // 10.61 //

Through strenuous efforts on earth -- drawing a bow and suchlike -- a man may sometimes win women, or else he may not; /

But what is certain is that, through his practice of dharma here and now, these women in heaven can belong to a man of meritorious action. // 10.62 //

So delight in restraint, being attentive and ready, if you desire to secure the apsarases, /

And I guarantee that, insofar as you persist in your observance, you certainly shall be one with them." // 10.63 //

"From now on, I will!" he agreed. Believing intently in the supreme Sage, he had become extremely determined. /

Then the Sage, gliding down from the sky like the wind, brought him back down again to earth. // 10.64 //

The 10th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "A Vision of Heaven."

1 Bala means Bala-rāma, the elder brother of Kṛṣṇa and third of the Rāmas, regarded as the 8th avatar of Viṣṇu. In contrast to his brother, Kṛṣṇa, who is shown as dark blue or black, Bala is generally depicted as being fair skinned (hence the comparison to a long horn of white rock), and as wearing armlets.

2 Orange-red arsenic ore, or realgar, is manaḥ-śilā, lit. “mind-rock.” The compound might be a clue to something that Aśvaghoṣa is intending to draw to the reader's attention in this Canto, namely the material basis for even the most exotic and outlandish mental phenomena. What we imagine always has its basis in what we have experienced. Investigating how a buddha imagines heaven to be, we can learn something about how a buddha experiences the world – as, for example, governed absolutely by cause and effect.

3 The name Āmbika is a conjecture, but evidently the reference is to some mythical figure; the point might be that a lion's mane (something real, albeit imagined to exist in Indra's heaven) resembled something mythical or legendary.

4 The tail curling around the right shoulder may allude to the traditional method of wearing a kaṣāya, with the right shoulder bare. Arriving at water might suggest the state of a tathāgata, one who has arrived at reality.

5 Kirāta mountain men were said to be golden; they were famous, or infamous, for their abandonment of all religious rites and views (in the Brahmanical tradition, they were regarded as heretics). As an adjective, the final word of the verse, ācala, means “not moving” or “immoveable”; as a noun it means a mountain. See also 3.7.

6 Deva-dāru, as in 10.5, lit. means “divine tree.” Because of its heady fragrance, the deodar tree was assigned a certain divinity, to which the behaviour of greedy monkeys is comically opposed.

7 I.e. Indra.

8 Anye means other. At the same time it means different, odd, individual, atypical, not conforming to ideas and expectations. This use of the Sanskrit word anya may thus be understood as similar to the use of the Chinese/Japanese character (HI), non-, in the phrase 非仏 (HI-BUTSU), “non-buddha.” A non-buddha means a buddha as a real individual.

9 Mālā and sraj, wreath and garland, are the names of metres used in Sanskrit poetry.

10 Anye vṛkṣāḥ again means different trees, or trees that are not what people think of as trees, as in Yakusan's famous phrase describing the practice of sitting-dhyāna as 非思量 (HI-SHIRYO), “non-thinking.”

11 Whereas blazing redness symbolizes the passions, a blue lotus, which comes into full bloom in cool pools at the height of the hot season, is a symbol of coolness and hence enlightenment.

12 Another allusion to the robe. Verses 10.19-22, then, relate to things in Indra's paradise that seem to have religious, spiritual, or holistic meaning – like poetic words, symbols of Buddhist enlighenment, and traditionally-sewn robes.

13 The ornaments described in this verse, from a spiritual viewpoint, might be meaningless baubles. The verse can thus be taken as antithetical to the previous four verses.

14 Golden lotuses with beryl stems can be understood as symbolizing what transcends the opposition between red and blue, profane and spiritual, organic and inorganic, material and immaterial, et cetera. That they grow out of stillness seems to acknowledge yogic practices that allow body and mind to come to quiet.

15 Krīḍā, play or sport, suggests enjoyment of actions, like standing, walking, lying down, and sitting.

16 The mandāra and pārijāta tree are the same species of tree – the majestic coral tree. But pārijāta literally means “fully developed”; so it suggests something mature, fully transcendent, and ultimate – for example, a fully enlightened buddha's sitting practice, which might be both exactly the same as, and totally beyond, the sitting practice of you and me.

17 The four colours mentioned here, 1. the red of 'mind-rock'; 2. transparency, or absence of independent colour; 3. deathly yellow still tinged with red; 4. contrast or opposition between red and white, may be taken as symbolizing our painful struggles as ordinary, unenlightened people in the world.

18 Anye vihaṁgamāḥ, “birds which are different,” may once again be taken as symbols of those non-buddhas who have mastered the practice of non-thinking, and on that basis talk the talk of dharma beautifully and inspiringly.

19 The verse points us away from figurative expression back into the reality in which birds are not interested in symbolizing anything, and they don't live anywhere else but in the present moment of their action.

20 These birds, like the 'Full Grown' Coral Tree, seem to have something especially transcendent and energetic about them.

21 Abja-śatruḥ lit. “the enemy of the water-born,” can be understood as another name for mīnaripu (The Fishes' Foe) mentioned in 8.44.

22 Śan-tanu is the king mentioned by Nanda in 7.41 and 7.44. No reference to Vodhyu has been traced.

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