The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | 502,133 words | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes animals (tiryak) which is Chapter III-a of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter III-a - Visit to other worlds (1): Animals (tiryak)

The venerable Mahā-Maudgalyāyana often went on a visit to the world of the brutes (tiryak), and saw beings reborn among the brutes suffering miseries of various kinds.

The venerable elder Kolita[1] as he went journeying among the brutes, saw among them beings in extreme misery, who were glad[2] to have dried or fresh grass to eat, and cold or warm water to drink. They knew neither mother nor father, neither brother nor sister, neither teacher nor teacher’s pupil,[3] neither friend nor kinsman. They devoured one another and drank one another’s blood. They slew and strangled one another. From darkness they passed into darkness, from woe into woe, from evil plight into evil plight, from ruin into ruin. They suffered thousands of divers miseries, and in their brute state it was with difficulty that they survived them.

When he had seen this great wretchedness among the brutes, Maudgalyāyana came to the Jeta Grove and described it at length to the four great assemblies. “Thus,” said he, do beings reborn among the brutes endure thousands of divers woes, and it is with difficulty that in their brute state they survive. Therefore we should strive after knowledge, win it, (28) be enlightened, be fully enlightened and live the holy life, and we should not commit any sin in this world. Thus I declare.”

Footnotes and references:


See p. 6, footnote 2.


Or, eat “cheerfully,” mukhullocakam, which Senart equates with Pali mukhullokaka (Pali Diet., mukhullokika, “flattering”).


Gurusthāyin, the equivalent of Pali (ācariya-)antevāsika or antevāsin.

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