The Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King (A Life of Buddha)

by Samuel Beal | 1883 | 108,941 words

This book is called “A Life of Buddha” by Asvaghosha Bodhisattva, in Chinese known as the “Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King”. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Dharmaraksha (or Dharmakshara) A.D. 420. The most reliable of the lives of Buddha known in China is that translated in the present volume, the Buddhacarita-kavya. It was no doubt written...

Varga 21. Escaping the Drunken Elephant and Devadatta

Having instructed his mother in heaven with all the angel host, and once more returned to men, he went about converting those capable of it. . 1676

Jutika, Jīva(ka)[1], Sula, and Cūrṇa, the noble's son Aṅga and the son of the fearless king (Abhaya) . 1677

Nyagrodha[2] and the rest; Śrīkutaka (or, Śrīguptaka), Upāli the Nirgrantha[3], (all these) were thoroughly converted. . 1678

So also the king of Gandhāra, whose name was Fo-kia-lo (Pudgala?); he, having heard the profound and excellent law, left his country and became a recluse. . 1679

So also the demons Himapati and Vātagiri, on the mountain Vibhāra, were subdued and converted; . 1680

The Brahmacārin Prayan(tika), on the mountain Vajana (Po-sha-na), by the subtle meaning of half a gātha, he convinced and caused to rejoice in faith; . 1681

The village of Dānamati (Khānumat)[4] had one Kūtadanta, the head of the twice-born (Brahmans); at this time he was sacrificing countless victims; . 1682

Tathāgata by means (upāya, expedients) converted him, and caused him to enter the true path. On Mount Bhatika[5] (?) a heavenly being of eminent distinction, . 1683

Whose name was Pañcaśikha[6], receiving the law, attained Dhyāna[7]; in the village of Vainuṣṭa, he converted the mother of the celebrated Nanda[8]; . 1684

In the town of Añcavari (Agrāṭavī), he subdued the powerful (mahābāla) spirit; Bhanabhadra (patala), Śronadanta; . 1685

The malevolent and powerful Nāgas, the king of the country and his harem, received together the true law, as he opened to them the gate of immortality (sweet dew). . 1686

In the celebrated Vijji village (or in the village Pavijji) Kina and Sila, earnestly seeking to be born in heaven, he converted and made to enter the right path; . 1687

The Aṅgulimāla[9], in that village of Sumu, through the exhibition of his divine power, he converted and subdued; . 1688

There was that noble's son, Purijīvana, rich in wealth and stores as Punavatī (punyavatī?), . 1689

Directly he was brought to Buddha (Tathāgata) accepting the doctrine, he became vastly liberal. So in that village of Padatti he converted the celebrated Patali (or, Potali), . 1690

And also Patala, brothers, and both demons. In Bhidhavali (Pi-ti-ho-fu-li) there were two Brahmans, . 1691

One called Great-age (Mahāyus?), the other Brahma-age (Brahmāyus?). These by the power of a discourse he subdued, and caused them to attain knowledge of the true law; . 1692

When he came to Vaiśālī, he converted all the Rakṣa demons, and the lion (Siṃha) of the Licchavis, and all the Licchavis, . 1693

Saca[10] the Nirgrantha, all these he caused to attain the true law. Hama kinkhava had a demon Potala, . 1694

And another Potalaka (in) Potalagāma [these he converted]. Again he came to Mount Ala, to convert the demon Alava, . 1695

And a second called Kumāra, and a third Asidaka; then going back to Mount Gaja (Gayāsīrṣa) he converted the demon Kañjana, . 1696

And Kamo (kin-mau) the Yakṣa, with the sister and son. Then coming to Benares, he converted the celebrated Katyāyana[11]; . 1697

Then afterwards going, by his miraculous power, to Sruvala (Sou-lu-po-lo), he converted the merchants Davakin and Nikin (?), . 1698

And received their sandal-wood hall, exhaling its fragrant odours till now. Going then to Mahīvatī, he converted the Ṛṣi Kapila, . 1699

And the Muni remained with him; his foot stepping on the stone, the thousand-spoked twin-wheels appeared, which never could be erased. . 1700

Then he came to the place Po-lo-na (Prāṇa), where he converted the demon Po-lo-na; coming to the country of Mathurā, he converted the demon Godama (Khadama?); . 1701

In the Thurakusati (? neighbourhood of Mathurā) he also converted Piṇḍapāla (or, vara); coming to the village of Vairañja, he converted the Brahman; . 1702

In the village of Kalamasa (or Kramasa), he converted Savasasin, and also that celebrated Ajirivasa. . 1703

Once more returning to the Śrāvastī country, he converted the Gautamas Jātisruna and Dakātili; . 1704

Returning to the Kośala country, he converted the leaders of the heretics Vakrapali (or, Vikravari) and all the Brahmacārins. . 1705

Corning to Satavaka, in the forest retreat, he converted the heretical Ṛṣis, and constrained them to enter the path of the Buddha Ṛṣi. . 1706

Coming to the country of Ayodhyā, he converted the Demon Nāgas; coming to the country of Kimbila, he converted the two Nāgarājas; . 1707

One called Kimbila, the other called Kālaka. Again coming to the Vajji country, he converted the Yakṣa demon, . 1708

Whose name was Piṣa[12], the father and mother of Nāgara, and the great noble also, he caused to believe gladly in the true law. . 1709

Corning to the Kausāmbī country, he converted Goshira[13], and the two Upasīkās, Vajuttarā . 1710

And her companion Uvarī; and besides these, many others, one after the other. Coming to the country of Gandhāra he converted the Nāga Apalāla[14]; . 1711

Thus in due order all these air-going, water-loving natures he completely converted and saved, as the sun when he shines upon some dark and sombre cave. . 1712

At this time Devadatta,[15], seeing the remarkable excellences of Buddha, conceived in his heart a jealous hatred; losing all power of thoughtful abstraction, . 1713

He ever plotted wicked schemes, to put a stop to the spread of the true law; ascending the Gṛdhrakūṭa (Ghijjakūṭa) mount he rolled down a stone to hit Buddha[16]; . 1714

The stone divided into two parts, each part passing on either side of him. Again, on the royal highway he loosed a drunken, vicious elephant[17]; . 1715

With his raised trunk trumpeting as thunder (he ran), his maddened breath raising a cloud around him, his wild pace like the rushing wind to be avoided more than the fierce tempest; . 1716

His trunk and tusks and tail and feet, when touched only, brought instant death. (Thus he ran) through the streets and ways of Rājagṛha, madly wounding and killing men; . 1717

Their corpses lay across the road, their brains and blood scattered afar. Then all the men and women filled with fear, remained indoors; . 1718

Throughout the city there was universal terror, only piteous shrieks and cries were heard; beyond the city men were running fast, hiding themselves in holes and dens. . 1719

Tathāgata, with five hundred followers, at this time came towards the city; from tops of gates and every window, men, fearing for Buddha, begged him not to advance; . 1720

Tathāgata, his heart composed and quiet, with perfect self-possession, thinking only on the sorrow caused by hate, his loving heart desiring to appease it, . 1721

Followed by guardian angel-nāgas, slowly approached the maddened elephant. The Bhikṣus all deserted him[18], Ānanda only remained by his side; . 1722

Joined by every tie of duty, his steadfast nature did not shake or quail. The drunken elephant, savage and spiteful, beholding Buddha, came to himself at once, . 1723

And bending, worshipped at his feet[19] just as a mighty mountain falls to earth. With lotus hand the master pats his head, even as the moon lights up a flying cloud. . 1724

And now, as he lay crouched before the master's feet, on his account he speaks some sacred words: 'The elephant cannot hurt the mighty dragon[20], hard it is to fight with such a one; . 1725

'The elephant desiring so to do will in the end obtain no happy state of birth; deceived by lust, anger, and delusion, which are hard to conquer, but which Buddha has conquered. . 1726

'Now, then, this very day, give up this lust, this anger and delusion! You! swallowed up in sorrow's mud! if not now given up, they will increase yet more and grow.' . 1727

The elephant, hearing Buddha's words, escaped from drunkenness, rejoiced in heart; his mind and body both found rest, as one athirst (finds joy) who drinks of heavenly dew. . 1628

The elephant being thus converted, the people around were filled with joy; they all raised a cry of wonder at the miracle, and brought their offerings of every kind. . 1729

The scarcely-good arrived at middle-virtue, the middling-good passed to a higher grade, the unbelieving now became believers, those who believed were strengthened in their faith. . 1730

Agātaśatru, mighty king, seeing how Buddha conquered the drunken elephant, was moved at heart by thoughts profound; then, filled with joy, he found a twofold growth of piety. . 1731

Tathāgata, by exercise of virtue, exhibited all kinds of spiritual powers; thus he subdued and harmonised the minds of all, and caused them in due order to attain religious truth; . 1732

And through the kingdom virtuous seeds were sown, as at the first when men began to live (i.e. were first created). But Devadatta, mad with rage, because he was ensnared by his own wickedness, . 1733

At first by power miraculous able to fly, now fallen, dwells in lowest hell[21]. . 1734

Footnotes and references:


This I suppose is the physician Jīvaka. The names of many of the persons in the context may be found in Spence Hardy, M. B., passim.


For Nyagrodha, see M. B., p. 39.


For Upāli the Nirgrantha, see M. B., p. 267.


The village Dānamati must be the same as that called Khānumat by Spence Hardy, M. B., p. 271.


For this event, see Spence Hardy's M. B., p. 288. He calls the mountain or rock by the name of Wédi.


For Pañcaśikha and his conversion, see M. B., p. 289; also Fă-hien, cap. xxviii. [I may here correct my translation of the passage in my 'Buddhist Pilgrims' (p. r z o), instead of 'each one possessing a five-stringed lute,' it should be 'attended by the divine musician Pañcaśikha.'] For Pañcaśikha, see Childers' Pāli Dict., sub voce Pañcasikho; also Eitel's Handbook.


Or attained rest, or a fixed mind.


The mother of Nanda was Prajāpatī; for her conversion, see M. B., p. 307. She was the foster-mother of Buddha.


For the history of the conversion of the Aṅgulimāla, see M. B., p. 249.


For Śaka the Nirgrantha, see M. B., p. 255; also Dhammapada from the Chinese, p. 126.


That is, Mahākātyāyana. There was another Kātyāyana, mentioned by Hiouen Thsang, who lived 300 years after the Nirvāṇa.


Pi-sha, i.e. Vaiśravaṇa, the Regent of the North: converted by Buddha.


For Goshira, see Jul. II, 285; Fă-hien cap. xxxiv.


For the conversion of Apalāla, see Jul. II, 13 5.


Devadatta, the envious; he was the son of Suprabuddha, the father-in-law of Buddha, M. B., p. 61.


This event is related by Fă-hien, cap. xxix, p. 1155 (Buddhist Pilgrims). Fă-hien says, 'The stone is still there,' but he does not say that it was divided. See also M. B., p. 383, where the account somewhat differs.


This story of the drunken elephant is related in nearly all the 'lives of Buddha.' The sculptures at Amarāvati and Barahut also include this episode. See also Fă-hien, p. 113.


It is said, in the later accounts, that 'they rose into the air.'


See Tree and Serpent Worship, plate lviii; also Burgess' Western Caves, plate xvii.


Buddha was also called the great Nāga or dragon.


For a full account of the deeds and punishment of Devadatta, see M. B., pp. 328, 329. We are told that Suprabuddha, the father of Devadatta, also went to hell, M. B., p. 339 seq.

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