The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes fifth bhumi which is Chapter XII 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 XII - The fifth Bhūmi

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “O son of the Conqueror, what is the state of heart of the Bodhisattvas which links[1] the two bhūmis, as they who do not lapse advance from the fourth bhūmi to the fifth?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied, “They see all existences inflamed by passion, hatred, and folly, and accordingly the state of heart that links the two bhūmis and brings them to the fifth immediately after the fourth is one full of despair and disgust.”

Then the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “Again, (111) O son of the Conqueror, what were the names of the Buddhas worshipped by the Exalted One when he was in his fifth bhūmi? What were their families? How large were the assemblies of their disciples? What radiance was theirs? And how long was the span of their lives?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied in verse:—

There was a noble Conqueror, styled the Śākyan Seer, who had a following of a koṭi of saints. His radiance extended one fathom. He was massive like a mountain crag, gleaming like a mountain of gold. And he was a destroyer of his foes.

At that time the span of life of the Supreme Man was six thousand years. His name was Yaśavrata, and he was beneficent and enlightened.

By family he was a Gotama, and this present Exalted One was then a merchant’s son, who, when he made the Buddha an offering of rice-gruel, made a vow in his presence.

Saying, “Since I have laid up a store of merit by giving all[2] to the holy Saṅgha, may I become one who will realise the ultimate good. May my merit be unimpaired.”

Then there was the beneficent valiant man, named Sudarśana, who had come down to his last existence on earth. He was of the family of Bhāradvāja, and his radiance extended ten yojanas.

This choicest of beings had a following of a koṭi of saints. At that time the life of Māra’s vanquisher was ten thousand years.

(112)Now there was a universal king, by name Dharaṇīṃdhara, who thus spoke to the Conqueror Sudarśana and his community of disciples. Thus did that wise man speak: “I give (to thee and the Saṅgha) all that is necessary to your comfort.” And then the king made the following vow, saying, “May I become like unto thee.”

“May I be active in leading across men who have entered upon the ocean of old age and death....”[3]

Then there was an Exalted One with a sound root of merit, named Nareśvara, of the Vāsiṣṭha family, whose radiance extended ten yojanas.

He had a retinue of twelve koṭis of saints, and the span of men’s lives was then nine thousand years.

Now there was a universal king named Aparājita. With devotion in his heart he thus addressed the Daśabala, the lord of men:—

“I give to thee, Lord, these eighty-four monasteries,[4] with their corners bright with the seven precious stones, and adorned with many gems.”

And when he had offered this gift to the lord of men, he made his vow saying, “May I become like unto thee. May I win the Conqueror’s powers.”

Once on a time there was a king’s minister, named Vijaya, and the Conqueror of that time was named Suprabha. (113) The latter belonged to the Kāśyapa family, and his radiance extended ten yojanas.

His community of disciples consisted of ten koṭis of men who had shed their passions. At that time the span of man’s life was twenty-thousand years.

Vijaya greeted and invited the noble Conqueror, the destroyer of existences. The Daśabala accepted, and Vijaya was thrilled with joy.

Vijaya regaled him with the choicest, most excellent, and sweetest of foods, and following this duly made his vow, saying:—

“May I become like unto thee, honoured of the best men, and a benefactor of devas and men. Thus may I become a noble guide, a Daśabala, and a tiger in eloquence.”

Once on a time there was a Buddha, a Tathāgata, named Ratanaparvata. He was a Gotama by family, and his radiance extended ten yojanas.

He had a retinue of thirty koṭis of men whose minds were well-controlled. The span of man’s life was then twenty-thousand years.

Now there was at that time a universal king named Acyuta, who, embracing the Conqueror’s feet, thus addressed the supreme of devas and men:—

“O thou elephant among men, I have eighty-four thousand palaces. (114) These in all their splendour I give to thee and thy community of disciples.”

The king was exultant when he saw (that the Conqueror)[5] was willing to accept, and he made his vow accordingly in the presence of him who bore the marks of excellence, saying:—

“By the merit of this good deed, may I become an unfailingly strenuous performer of good deeds which heap up merit, and a protector of the unprotected

There was a perfect Buddha, named Kanakaparvata, whose mind was unsullied by anything in heaven or earth, and who was honoured by men. His family was named Kauṇḍinya.

His radiance, born of fair deeds, extended six yojanas, and he had a retinue of five koṭis of saints.


Now there was at that time a universal king, named Priyadarśana, who was resplendent with the seven treasures of royalty, sovereign over the four continents, and protector of the earth.

Accompanied by his counsellors, and his women wearing their necklaces of pearls, he fell at the lovely feet of the Buddha Kanakaparvata, and implored him saying,

“I have a kingdom full of cities and towns, the four wealthy great continents. Ungrudgingly I give these to thee, O hero, and to thy community of disciples.

(115) Whatever food is befitting to seers, whatever garments, whatever kinds of medicine, whatever couches and seats, all these are to be found in my fair palace.

“O most comely one, in thy compassion have pity on me who have dispensed all the things, of twelve kinds,[7] that are the requisites of monks.”

After the excellent prince[8] had made this gift he duly made his vow with a glad heart in the presence of the perfectly virtuous one, saying:—

“May I become a noble leader having a keen discernment of the ultimate good, and gifted with perfect skill, one who has destroyed all the bases of existence.”[9]

There was an Exalted One, who bore the thirty-two marks and was named Puṣpadanta. He was of the Vatsa family and was a perfect Buddha who had sight of the ultimate good.

This most excellent Conqueror had a radiance extending nine yojanas. Thirty-four koṭis of saints attended upon this Daśabala.

The span of man’s life was then fifty-thousand years, and thus there was no occasion for doubt as to what was then taught.

Now there was at that time a king, a lord of men, named Durjaya, who with his train of followers approached Puṣpadanta and bowed at his feet.

(116) Raising his joined hands, the king serenely addressed Puṣpadanta, saying, “May the Daśabala deign to be gracious and live on my store of food for seven days[10].”

When the king, invincible in majesty and might,[11] saw that the Daśabala consented, he covered the ground with bright carpets of golden cloth.

Thereon he set down resplendent bejewelled couches, and laid out richly varied food of the most exquisite fragrance.

Eight-hundred individual devas and men[12] in magnificent attire and gay adornment held up sunshades sparkling with the seven precious stones.

So that for each saint they reverently[13] held up a gem-studded sunshade that was radiant and spotless, like the moon or a disc of mother-of-pearl. When he had thus regaled the Sugata named Puṣpadanta and his followers, the king duly made this vow in his mind:—

“May I become a perfect Buddha like thee, and preach dharma to dev as and men....”[14]

There was a perfect Buddha, who bore the thirty-two marks and was named Lalitavikrama, an Exalted One, a destroyer of existence, one who had shaken off the lusts. He belonged to the Vāsiṣṭha family.

The radiance emitted from his body extended thirty-two yojanas (117) and this most excellent of men had a retinue of thirty koṭis of saints.

The span of man’s life was then eighty-four thousand years. Now there was at that time a king named Caturaṅgabala, who was beloved and popular.

This guardian of earth built forty koṭis of palaces made of many precious stones, and one palace besides of preeminent beauty.

The king also caused to be made an abundance of couches and seats of faultless workmanship, and prepared the requisites of food and medicines befitting seers.

When the king had offered all this to the Exalted One and his community of disciples he joyfully and duly made his vow in the presence of the Daśabala, saying,

“The Daśabala is one whose like is hard to find; he is incomparable. He crushes old age, death and doubt. May I, too, become supreme among devas and men, and confuse the talk of the vulgar herd.”

There was an Exalted One who bore the thirty-two marks, named Mahāyaśas, of the Kāśyapa family. He was of wide renown and boundless fame.

The radiance of the body of this virtuous one extended fifty yoj anas, and he had a retinue of fifty-five koṭis of saints.

The span of man’s life was then eighty-four thousand years, (118) and this four-fold race of men was then eighty-four-fold.

Now there was at that time a king named Mṛgapatisvara, a lord of the four continents, unsurpassed in his abounding might, whose wheel was invincible.

For ninety-six yojanas this king had the branches of the forest trees decked out with jewels and hung with fine tapestry.

The surface of the earth he made radiant and resplendent with beryl, and he rendered it fragrant with aloe wood, and strewed it with sweet-smelling flowers.

There for seven days the protector of the earth, with devotion in his heart, regaled the lion-voiced valiant man with abundant food.

Then in gladness he offered that heavenly forest as a place of rest by day[15] to the Daśabala, the choicest of all beings.

And when he had made his gift to Mahāyaśas and his community of disciples, the king in ecstasy of heart duly made his vow, saying,

“May I become honoured by the multitude, self-dependent, not led by another; may I become omniscient. By this deed of merit of mine, may I become mighty with a Tathāgata’s strength.”

There was a Conqueror named Ratanacūḍa, who was richly endowed with powerful merit, a skilful guide, (119) having deep dark eyes, with an incomparable store of virtue, and wise.

The radiance of his body extended one hundred yojanas all around. The All-seeing One of that time belonged to the Bhāradvāja family.

He had a Saṅgha of ninety-nine koṭis of men who had shaken off the defilements. The span of man’s life was then eighty-four thousand years.

Now there was at that time a universal king, lord of the four continents, holding sway over all the earth.[16] He was named Maṇiviṣāṇa, and he governed men in righteousness.

This protector of earth built for Ratanacūḍa ninety-two koṭis of nayutas of palaces of varied design.

And he feasted the gold-like Ratanacūḍa, the honoured of devas and men, and his followers for ten years without wearying.

The first day that he feasted the Sugata and his community of disciples the prince of men presented these noble palaces to the Virtuous One.

When the king had made this gift to the Great Man,[17] with devotion in his heart he duly made his vow in the Conqueror’s presence, saying,

“May I safely lead across all men who have fallen into the great flood of recurrent birth (saṃsāra), having myself burst through the toils of illusion, with peace in my heart, and with my mental power free from attachment to the world.”

Thus, the lion-hearted Buddhas in the fifth bhūmi were innumerable, (120) as were also Pratyekabuddhas, those in training, and the adepts, the disciples of the Conqueror. All these and other Tathāgatas as well were worshipped by the Exalted One, and it is thus that he laid up the root of goodness for the sake of the whole world’s welfare.

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “O son of the Conqueror, in what ways do Bodhisattvas who have made a vow to win enlightenment, while they are in the fifth bhūmi, lapse and fail to reach the sixth?” The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied, “O son of the Conqueror and my pious friend, there are four ways in which Bodhisattvas who have made a vow to win enlightenment in the fifth bhūmi, lapse and fail to reach the sixth. What are the four ways?

“Though the Bodhisattvas have taken up the religious life on the Buddha’s instruction, they yet join forces with the Yogācāras.[18] Hankering after the sensations which are abjured by a convert,[19] they turn away in fear from self-development.[20] They live perpetually inattentive to the cultivation of calm and introspective insight,[21] and they inevitably train their thought to be fixed on objects of perception.[22]

“All the Bodhisattvas, my pious friend, who, having vowed to win enlightenment in the fifth, lapse and fail to reach the sixth bhūmi, have done so, do so, and will do so, in these four ways.

Thus, my friend, the fifth bhūmi of Bodhisattvas whose merits are many and various, has been expounded and illustrated.

Here ends the fifth bhūmi of the Mahāvastu-Avadāna.

Footnotes and references:


See note p. 72.


Saṃśliṣya, “complètement, comprenant tout” (Senart).




Vihāra, in its later sense of a large building or monastery. Cf. note P. 30.


Lacuna in the text.


The text of the stanza giving the length of man’s life is very corrupt, and no attempt has been made to translate it.


Paribhojyaṃ dvādaśākāraṃ, evidently referring to the original four requisites (pratyaya, Pali paccaya) of a monk’s daily life, namely, robe, alms-bowl, seat and bed, and medicine, plus the other, and later, set of eight requisites (pariṣkāra, Pali parikkhāra), which consisted of the three robes, a bowl, razor, needle, girdle, and a water-strainer.


Pārthivalambaka. Although there is no manuscript authority here for the emendation, lambaka of the text has been changed to lañcaka. At 2. 421, where lañcaka occurs again, some MSS. have lambaka. The former, although its exact sense is obscure, is usually rendered by translators from Pali, by “excellent.” As, however, it seems to be a derivative of lañca, “gift,” “present,” it might be translated as “boon (of princes),” and this sense seems an appropriate one in the compound word in which it is generally found in the Mahāvastu, viz. naralambaka which is throughout read naralañcaka “a boon for men” (see pp. 122, 123, 150). Note, also, that Trenckner (Miln. p. 424) translates lañcaka as “excellent gift,” thus combining the two ideas.


See p. 199.


According to a regulation at V. 4. 87 no more than a seven days’ supply of food could be stored at one time, and it must be eaten within that period. (The translator owes this reference to Miss I. B. Horner.)


Reading durjayarddhibala, on Senart’s suggestion, for durjayordhvabala.


Naramarūṇaṃ... puruṣā.


Reading hirimanā for hṛdimano. So Senart.




Divāvihāra, cf. notes pp. 30, 89.






It is worth noting that the Yogācāras formed one of the great schools or sects of Mahāyāna Buddhism.


Aṣṭamaka. Of this word Senart says, “Je ne puis rien faire de aṣṭamaka,” and he proposes to read aṣṭāṅgika, making the reference to be to the “eightfold way.” Aṣṭamaka, however, is clearly the Pali aṭṭhamaka, thus defined in the P.T.S. Dictionary: “the eighth of eight persons who strive after the highest perfection, reckoned from the first or Arahant. Hence the eighth is he who stands on the lowest step of the Path, and is also called a sotāpanna.” For the moral attainments of such a person, see Kvu. 243 ff. Aṣṭamake, locative case, does not admit of translation without doing undue violence to the use of cases, although the case suits Senart’s emendation into aṣṭāṅgike. The right emendation, however, would seem to be the simple one of reading aṣṭamakadhutavedanāgṛddhā as one compound word, which would thus give the above translation.


I.e. development by means of mental application, bhāvanā.


The negative required by the sense in this sentence may be supplied by resolving the compound word to read °abahulāśca.


Ālambaṇa, with on the analogy of Pali ārammaṇa, meaning the “perceived object”, the relation of which to the perceiving subject may be said to constitute consciousness.

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