Chapter Seventeen: Return to Lumbini
After the heavenly beings headed by Brahma, along with the bodhisattvas who
had been intent on practicing austerities, heard the glorification of the Law by
the Lion of the Shakyas, they wanted to hear What is So Hard to Find
again, so they went to the city to worship and beg his favour.
Then, in the dark fortnight of the month Ashadka on an auspicious day
sacred to Agni, when the moon was in the asterism called Karna, recalling the
buddha worlds and desirous of saving all beings, The Buddha set out [again] on
his journey motivated by a longing for [a group of] disciples headed by his
The company of brahmins, along with the inhabitants of Kashi who had visited the
Deer Park and all thirty mendicants, was enhanced by
the Chief of Saints.
Kashi's [famous] courtesan, Kashika, after worshipping the Jina and enrolling
her sons in the service of the Glorious One, went to the heaven of the gods;
then the Conqueror of the World made thirty officiating priests of Kashi his
joyous disciples, initiating them into the course of Perfect Wisdom. Also
Purna, the son of Maitreyani and Maitra who was the
preceptor of the hosts of "the twice-born," obtained True Wisdom
from the Chief of Saints, and became a noble mendicant.
The priest of the ruler of the city of Marakata [in Orissa], a brahmin named
Agaya and his son Nalaka, who was well-versed in sacred learning and a store of
information; an ascetic named Dhriti who lived in the Vindhya
[hills], and an invincible brahmin ascetic, Sanjayin, with his disciples --
all from the Vindhyas -- when they came to him for refuge, the Chief of
Saints initiated them as monks by touching them with his wheel-marked
hand. Besides them, the Naga
Elapatra went to his abode and stood resplendent there, perfectly calm in
demeanor while worshipping him with his malas.
A female ascetic of Mathura named Trikavyamgika, and a brahmin named Vidyakara
had a son named Sabhya of the district of Svetabalarka. He was a wise
ascetic and proud of his wisdom, and as someone already perfectly illumined but
[still] desirous of the highest wisdom from the Chief of All Mendicants, he went
to the Deer Park for admission from the Omniscient One to the noble life.
He later became renowned in all assemblies as Sabhya the Monk.
The son of Lalita-Prabuddha (known to the world as Yasodha) -- born after
worship was paid to the Best of Trees beside the stream Varani, and from a
besprinkling of the ambrosia of words by the King of Heaven was made wise and
could recall all the former discourses he had ever heard, came with a retinue of
friends to the grove in the Deer Park and the Holy One by touching his head with
his hand, made him the guru of the head bhikshus.
The glorious one named The Great Buddha traveling in an auspicious parade of
monks and displaying the salvation of the world by means of this triumphal
procession, [now] entered the city of Kashi. One native of Varanasi, the
poor brahmin named Svastika, obtained riches from heaven through the favour of
the Glorious One, and adopted as a servant to the Jina faith, he became [not
only] a mendicant, [but] an Arhat at the hands of the Great Teacher.
After blessing Devodhasa, king of Kashi, and its citizens, with gold, grain and
other riches, and having stayed at various places in the forests, caves and
mountains, in his wanderings he finally got to the river, Ghanavi. There,
the boatman who conveyed the Jina across the Ganges worshipped him and offered
him milk with all due reverential ceremony, and through His favour, he too
became a monk and by the Jina's command, found shelter in the Buddha's hermitage
in the grove.
After he had crossed the Ganges, the Glorious One went to the hermitage of
Kashyapa at Gaya called Uruvila. There, having
demonstrated his supernatural power, he received as bhikshus the Kashyapas
-- Uruvila and the others -- along with more than a thousand of their disciples,
and bestowed upon them together all kinds of spiritual knowledge along with the
power to give up all worldly [inter-]action. Then, at the command of his
maternal uncle, Upasena [also] became an ascetic accompanied by three
The Glorious One made seven hundred ascetics who inhabited the woods enter
Nirvana, and also, the Lord of Dharma caused the daughters of Nandika --
Sugata and others who dwelt in the village -- to become the first female
ascetics. And in the city of Rajagriha, having introduced the monarch to
Right Action and Activity the king, Bimbisara, that devoted follower of the
Buddha who can be considered an older brother as far as Perfect Knowledge goes,
was made a Bodhisattva with a great store of merit (sakrida-gomin.)
In another village named Naradya, there was a brahmin Dharmapalin and a brahmin
woman named Shalya whose seventh son named Upatishya had studied all the Vedas;
he became a Buddhist mendicant. There was another great pandit, a brahmin
named Dhanyayana who lived in Kolata village, and his son named Maudgalya, --
him along with the son of Shali (ie. Shariputra)-- the Great Saint
received as the best of bhikshus: his pre-eminent disciples.
Next he ordained the keen-witted maternal uncle of Shaliputra named Dirghanakha.
Then traveling in the kingdom of Magadha, the Glorious One was honoured by the
inhabitants with alms and other signs of devotion. He delivered them from
evil, and lived at the monastery donated by the seer, Jeta. There he
attracted many of the monks to himself, and after ordaining a native of Mithila
named Ananda as a mendicant, he stayed there with his companions for a year.
The brahmin named Kashyapa, a very Kubera in wealth, and a
master of all sciences connected with the Vedas, was an inhabitant of Rajagriha,
But, being pure-minded and wearing only a single garment, he had left his whole
family and went in search of the wisdom of asceticism. That noble youth
had been at the Bodhi tree practicing a very difficult austerity for six years,
and then he paid worship to the Chief of Saints who had attained Perfect
Knowledge. He became the well-known Kashyapa who was chief of the yogis
and the foremost of the Arhats.
The saint Naradatta who lived on Mount Himavat, remembered the wholesome words
of his maternal uncle, and came to the Sugata with his disciples, and the Holy
One admitted them all into the order of the Jina. Then a woman named
Shakti and another one named Kamala who were famous for their brahminical power
came to the Sugata, and they fell down at his feet. Then standing before
him, they were received (into the order) by the Saint and made happy with the
staff and begging-bowl [the outward signs of members of a mendicant order.]
Seven hundred disciples of the ascetic Rudraka, in observance of their teacher's
noble words had become mendicants according to the doctrine of the Jina, and
(now they) flocked round him paying homage and carrying staves.
Next, a seer named Raivata finished his course of discipline and became a
mendicant, and joyfully uttering praises full of devotion to the Guru he now
considered gold and clay as the same (thing;) he was well-versed in mantras and
meditation, and able to counteract the three
kinds of poisons and other fatal harms.
After having received as followers and disciples certain householders of
Shravasti such as Purna and the others, and given them alms-bowls [let them
become mendicants.] And (after) having made many poor
wretches as rich as Kubera, and healed the maimed by making their limbs well,
and made paupers and orphans affluent -- after having proclaimed the Law
while living at Jetavana for two years and saving those who asked -- the
Glorious One gave further instruction to the saint Jeta, established the Bhikshu
Purna (Order of Monks) and then once more went on his way.
The Glorious One went on, protecting merchant-caravans from troops of robbers by
the stores of his own treasures. Next he went into the Rajagriha area
wandering with his alms-bowl which (was the one that) had been donated by the
merchants. In a forest filled with Shala [or,
Sal] trees called Venu, he ate an offering of food prepared by the
now-wealthy robbers, and he received five hundred of them (into his order) as
mendicants and gave them begging-bowls and the other requisite items.
(Now,) At the request of (Rahula) Buddha's son, Shudhodana gave this message to
his envoys Khandaka and Udayin: "Your father and mother, some noble ladies
headed by Yasodhri, and this my young [grand]son have come in hopes of seeing
you -- the idea being that you are devoted to the [whole] world's
salvation. What shall I tell them?"
And the two of them went, and reverentially saluting the Buddha in the vihara
(temple) called Venu, they conveyed that message to him, their eyes filled with
Khandaka and Udayin [then] accepted his advice, and delighted at the mighty
power of Buddha, they became great ascetics; and the Great Jina took them with
him and proceeded from that wood with the disciples, the mendicants, and the
saints. Going on from place to place and dwelling in each one for a while
giving Refuge and confirming [or ordaining] disciples, mendicants and Arhats, he
at last reached the Nyagrodha forest,
illuminating the district with his glory, shaking the earth, and putting an end
He again stirred up his followers in the Buddha-dharma and then, with crowds of
inhabitants gathered round him, he continued teaching his shaven-headed monks as
they begged alms while the gods reminded them of his
precepts. He forbade the monks to enter the city and went to
Rajagriha himself with his own followers. Then the King who Dwells Apart
from all Doubt, the Jina, who knows at a glance all the history of every bhikshu,
instructed the ascetic (Udayin) in proclaiming the Dharma to others.
In accordance with the Jina's command, Udayin that prince of yogis, went to
Kapilavastu where as Lord of Mahasiddhas he instructed the king while in a state
in which his powers were amplified eight hundred-fold. Then coming down
from heaven, he declaimed to the king and his courtiers a discourse on the Four
Sublime Truths. The king, his mind now enlightened, prostrated to him and
then had a meeting with him attended by his courtiers during which they offered
every form of homage.
The monarch [later,] rejoiced at the sight of the Jina, praised
his feet and worshipped them with eight hundred offerings, and the Sugata
[As a blessing
and a demonstration] He made manifest in the sky in
his one person a form comprising the entire
universe: First as fire, then ambrosia, then a lion (king of beasts) an
elephant, the king of horses, the king of peacocks, the king of birds, Maghavan
[Magnanimous Indra,] the ten rulers of the world headed by Yama, the sun,
the moon, all the hosts of stars, and Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
(Also) The sons of Diti, the four Maharajas [kings of the directions] with
Dhritarashtra at their head; the hosts of Yogins with the king Drumasiddha, the
(heavenly) ascetics, the Vasus, the Manus; the children of the forest [the
beasts], the creatures of the waters headed by the Makara,
the birds headed by Garuda, and all the
kings in the different worlds with the Lord of the Tushita heaven at their head,
and [also] those in the world of the dead -- the domain of Bali ---whatever is
conspicuous in the universe, the Holy One created it all by becoming the
When the king had been instructed in this way, the Lord of Saints went to the
Satya heaven, and then from the sky seated on his own throne, he proclaimed the
twelve-fold Law [of causality.] Then he restored Gautami and Anugopa and
many other women to sight, and filled all the assembled people with joy; and
established others in Nirvana and in the Law. Then Shudhodana full of joy
invited him to a feast given to the whole assembly which he accepted by his
The Lion of the Shakyas, having been invited, went with the congregation of
his followers to the place, after showing the mighty miracle. Then the
earth shook, a shower of flowers fell, the various quarters of space became
illumined and a wind blew. The heavenly beings: Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu,
Indra, Yama, Varuna, Kubera, the lord of Bhutas [ghosts], the lord of the winds,
Narriti, Fire (Agni) with his seven flames, and all the others that stand
resting their feet on the serpent Shesha
followed along leading [the lesser] gods and gandharvas in their dance in the
Making millions of ascetics, disciples, Arhats, sages, mendicants and fasters;
delivering from their ills the blind, the hunch-backed, the lame, the insane,
the maimed as well as the destitute; having established many persons of the
fourth caste in True Activity [following the dharma] and inaction
[non-involvement in the world] and in the Three Vehicles (Yanas) with the four samgrahas
(sects) and the eight agamas (orders); going on from place to place
saving and confirming bhikshus [and bhikshunis] and in the twelfth year, he went
to his own city.
Day after day (he was occupied in) confirming bhikshus and providing food for
the congregation, then at an auspicious moment he made a journey to Lumbini with
the Bhikshus and the citizens, with Brahma and Rudra at their head and in great
triumph with a fanfare of musical instruments. There he saw [once again]
the holy fig-tree, and he stood by it remembering his birth with a smile, and
rays of light streamed from his mouth and went forth illumining the earth, and
he uttered a discourse to the Goddess of the Wood that gave her serenity of
There, at the Lumbini fig-tree he spoke to Paurvika the daughter of Rahula [his
grand-daughter], and Gopika the daughter of Maitra, and his own preceptor,
Kausika. Beside the tank, Vasatya, he gave an affectionate speech
honouring his mother. Then he spoke with Ekasangi, the daughter of
Mahakautuka and Sautasomi in the Nyagrodha wood. He received into the
community some members of his own family headed by Sundar-Ananda, and one
hundred and seven citizens.
Having declared the glory of the Buddha-dharma, he built a round stupa and held
a coronation for Saunu, sending him into the wood (to live as an ascetic)
pre-eminent with the holiest saints and Chaityas, and charged him with the
worship of the sacred relics. He commanded Rahula, and Gautami and
the other women led by Gopika, as shaven ascetics with staves in their hands to
do the vow of fasting called ahoratra [day and night] and after that the
Laksha-chaitya (treasure jar) ceremony, and then the ritual of Sringabheri, and
the one called Vasundhariki.
The Ashtasahasrika of sacred authority (The Prajnaparamita in 8, 000
Verses,) the Geya and the Gatha, the Nidana and the Avadana, and that which
is called the Sutra of the great Yana, the Vyakara and the Ityukta, the Jataka,
the work called Vaipulya, the Adbhuta and the Upadesha, and also the Udinaka as
the twelfth (of these sacred texts,) and making current the Yana for common
disciples, that for Pratyeka Buddhas, and the Mahayana, and proclaiming them all
around, accompanied by thirteen and a half bodies of mendicants, the Conqueror
of the World went out of the city of Kapila.
After displaying miracles in the city of Kapila, and having paid honour to his
father, and having made Rahula and his companions Arhats, and also the
Bhikshunis with Gautami and Gopika at their head, and various women of all the
four castes; and having established Saunu on his imperial throne, and the people
in the Jina doctrine, and having abolished poverty and darkness, and then
remembering his mother, he set forth ever worshipping Swayambhu,
towards the northern region along with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as mendicants
in his train.
[Ashvaghosha addresses us directly at the end of his poem:]
"The glory of the Avadana of the birth of the
Lion of the Shakyas has thus been described by me at length and yet very
concisely. It must be corrected by pandits wherever anything is
omitted. My childish speech is not to be laughed at, but to be listened
to with pleasure.
Whatever virtue may have accrued from describing the King of Dharma, the
deliverer from mundane existence who assumes all forms, -- may it become a
store of merit for the production of right activity [in some] and inactivity
in others, and for the diffusion of delight among the six orders of
And so ends the seventeenth sarga called Return, or Progress
to Lumbini, in the great poem composed by Ashvaghosha, The Buddha-charitra.
Sarva mangalam. May this effort be auspicious. May
it benefit all who see it.
mendicant: Crowell used
'mendicant' which actually means 'beggar' to denote the wandering monk who begs
in villages in the morning for food for his main, noonday meal. This verse is
followed by a catalogue of all the influential people in and around Varanasi who
were converted to the Buddha's system of dharma.
preceptor of the
host of twice-born: possibly the brahmacharya, the one who is the
brahmin priest responsible for initiating all the priests of a sect into its
The Vindhya range of hills is 600 miles
(970 km) long, rising to c. 3,000 ft. (910 m) and is the border between the
North that used Sanskrit, and South India that uses Dravidian languages.
Their sandstone was used for the 3rd century BCE Buddhist stupa at Sanchi.
Maudgalya and Shariputra: the
first was pre-eminent in siddhis and the other in wisdom. They are often
depicted as larger-than-life in images of the 16
Kubera: The Indian god of limitless
wealth symbolized by his possession of the jewel-spitting mongoose. (The
mongoose is well-known for its actual ability to defeat venomous snakes like the
Three kinds of poisons:
ignorance, anger and desire.
while the gods reminded them:
presumably as they approached the city they can see, as the devas provided
examples for Siddhartha before, the inevitable sufferings of people caught in
the round of rebirth.
praised his feet: This is
a very ancient way of paying homage, but is ordinarily performed by a wife to
her husband, or a lower-ranked person to someone of higher status such as a son
to his father. When Shudhodana touches the Jina's feet, he is
acknowledging publicly and also privately the superiority of the One who was
once his son but is now a Buddha.
Avadana: Teaching story. A
collection of tales with a moral that are told as examples of the benefit of
~ The tangka displaying the nimbus of various forms is
available for purchase from Exotic
This is a first draft only, and should not be reproduced for
circulation ~ it has yet to be checked against the original. See
the Introduction for information about that.
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