The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes attributes of the buddhas which is Chapter XVIII 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 XVIII - Attributes of the Buddhas

“Nor is it possible to comprehend all the virtues of a Buddha, so numerous are the virtues with which Buddhas are endowed. (158)After they have come to the bodhi tree, but before they acquire comprehensive knowledge, Buddhas become gifted with the five eyes.”

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa said to the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “O son of the Conqueror, describe in detail these five eyes. All the world, the crowded assembly of devas and men, is listening attentively.”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa, “These, my pious friend, are the five eyes of the perfect Buddhas. What five? The eye of the flesh, the deva eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of dharma, and the eye of a Buddha. These five eyes,[1] my pious friend, are possessed by perfect Buddhas. They are not attributes{GL_NOTE::} of Pratyekabuddhas, arhans, disciples, nor of the utterly ignorant men of the crowd.

“With regard to the Tathāgatas’ eye of the flesh, this eye is endowed with such brilliance, such power of perception of what is minute and real, as does not belong to the eye of the flesh of any other being. And when Bodhisattvas have attained this all-seeing faculty, their range of vision is unobstructed, no matter what extent of space they desire to scan. What is the reason for this? It comes of their rich accumulation of merit. As it must be believed that a universal king with his fourfold army moves through the air from continent to continent by his magic power, and as it must be believed that the firm earth, when Buddhas walk on it, rises and subsides and subsides and rises by their magic power, even though they do not will it, in the same way and by other analogies as well this (159) eye of the flesh is proved to be an essential attribute of perfect Buddhas. Not in a kalpa is it possible to reach the limit of the qualities of the physical eye of Buddhas. And why? Because there is nothing in the Buddhas that can be measured by the standard of the world, but everything appertaining to the great seers is transcendental.[3] Likewise the experience of the Buddhas is transcendental. And yet this physical eye of the Buddhas has the same colour, the same mode of working and the same position in the body as it has in other beings.

“The deva eye of the Buddhas is the same as that which devas of earth, Yakṣa devas, Rākṣasa devas, Kāmāvacara[4] devas and Rūpāvacara[5] devas have, only superior, larger, and more expansive. This eye is concerned with mental forms.

“The eye of wisdom of the Buddhas is the same as that which individuals, arranged in eight classes[6] according to their power of sight from the convert up to the arhan, have, but is clearer. Then what is the dharma eye of the Buddhas? This consists in the intellectual possession of the ten powers.[7] What ten powers? They are as follows:—

A Buddha knows what is and what is not a causal occasion. This is the first power of the infinitely wise ones. He knows whither every course of conduct tends. This is the second power.

He knows the various elements which make up the world. This is declared to be the third power. He knows the divers characters of beings. This is the fourth power.

He knows the merits of the conduct of other men. This is the fifth power. (160) He knows the good and bad force of karma. This is the sixth power.

He knows the fault and purification of attainments in meditation.[8] This is the seventh power. He knows the many modes of his former lives. This is the eighth power.

The Buddhas become endowed with the clear deva eye. This is the ninth power. They attain the destruction of all defiling lusts. This is the tenth power.

“These are the intellectual powers on account of which the All-seeing One, renowned in heaven and earth, is called Daśabala. The intellectual knowledge that is comprised in these ten powers is what is meant by the eye of dharma.

“Next what is the Buddha eye? It comprises the eighteen special attributes[9] of a Buddha, which are as follows. The Buddha has infallible knowledge and insight of the past. He has infallible knowledge and insight of the future. He has infallible knowledge and insight of the present. All his acts of body are based on knowledge and concerned with knowledge. All his acts of speech are based on knowledge and concerned with knowledge. All his acts of thought are based on knowledge and concerned with knowledge. There is no falling off in resolution. There is no falling off in energy. There is no falling off in mindfulness. There is no falling off in concentration. There is no falling off in insight. There is no falling off in freedom. There is no faltering. There is no impetuosity.[10] His mindfulness never fails. His mind is never disturbed. There is no thoughtless indifference. There is no preoccupation with the multiplicity of phenomena. The knowledge involved in these eighteen special attributes of a Buddha is what is meant by the Buddha eye.”

(161) When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “Again, O son of the Conqueror, does this account of the bhūmis apply to the Exalted One (Śākyamuni) particularly, or to all perfect Buddhas generally?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa, “Once upon a time, my pious friend, the Exalted One was staying near Benares, at Ṛṣivadana, in the Deer Park,[11] attended by eighteen thousand saints. There the Exalted One analysed the eighteen special attributes of a Buddha by saying, ‘Perfect Buddhas have infallible knowledge and insight of the past,’ etc., and expounded the ten bhūmis. It is by taking the perfect Buddha Śākyamuni as a type that the ten bhūmis are explained. Concerning this matter it is said:

The man of vision gives up his dear possessions with a glad heart, as he passes through his long succession of lives. That is why the Tathāgata, reaching his high ideal, awakens to that unsurpassed knowledge which is dear to him.

With wholly contented mind he gives up women garbed in fine raiment and wearing brilliant jewels. His splendid wonderful purpose is disclosed by the fruit of this deed.

Never did he in the course of his existence shoot arrows, darts, spears and javelins at living beings. Hence his path is free from grass, brambles, and thorns (162) as he passes harmlessly through town and village.

He listens respectfully even to his servant if he speaks the truth, and does not interrupt his tale. That is why, when he himself preaches dharma to the multitude, there is none that is not glad and does not rejoice.

He bestows choice gifts....[12] He dispels doubt and perplexity, and that is why cool radiance, like shafts of light, emanates from his body.

No beggar lays his request before the Lord of men in vain. That is why his preaching is not in vain. Hence also the marvel of his destruction of Māra’s power.

Right gladly do they[13] give the Conquerors lovely golden palm-leaves. That is the reason for the marvel that the kinsmen of the world always go about in the world with cheerful faces.[14]

Right gladly does he give at all times jewelled sandals and shoes. (163) That is why the Supreme of Men always walks without touching the ground for as much as the width of four fingers.

Although reviled by others again and again, the Lord bears it with composure and pays no heed to it.[15] That again is why this earth with its mountains rises and subsides as he walks over it.

With his guidance he gives protection to the humble and raises up the fallen multitude. That is why the jewel-bearing earth rises and falls as he walks along.

The chapter of the dharma called Buddhānusmṛti[16] was then recited by the perfect Buddha to celebrate his own virtues, and at the end of that he was extolled in his presence by the venerable Vāgīsa:—[17]

Homage to thee, O Buddha, who art boundless of vision, limitless of sight, who bearest the hundred[18] marks of merit, who art friendly and compassionate, who knowest the highest good. I greet thee, Gotama, in these pleasant strains.

Having thyself crossed, O great seer, thou leadest others across. Thou Foremost Man, thou bringer of peace, thou knowest no fear. (164) Making clear what valid reasoning is, thou leadest many men to the deathless truth.

The moral worth of the all-seeing great seer is well described as deep, noble, and rich. Thou art devout in this world and beyond, distinguished for thy moral worth, a crusher of thy foes.

O great sage, thy life is flawless, stainless, and freed of the āśravas. Clean and perfectly pure, thou art all aglow like a fire on a mountain top. In steadiness of mind thou hast reached perfection.

Thus, too, O Man, thou hast gained mastery of concentration and of thought. Thou hast reached perfect mastery. Far removed from the sphere of evil, thou shinest forth.

Just as thy wish is, thou that art extolled of devas and men, thou dost ensue,[19] with all thy heart,[20] solitude[21] and concentration; thou art resplendent as a garland of gold. Homage then, to thee, O truly valiant Gotama.

As the glorious sun shines in the sky, and the full moon when the sky is clear, (165) so dost thou, O Man, firm in concentration, shine forth like burnished gold.

Men who strive in perplexity[22] and ignorance know not the whole-hearted endeavour of him who ensues solitude and blissful concentration. Homage to thee, who art adored by devas and men.

Both when thou lookest out upon the world,[23] O thou whose tread is like a Nāga’s,[24] and when thou reachest the shore beyond death, mindful and with thy thought unsullied, then does this life-bearing earth quake.

Since, through thine own understanding, thou hast apprebended[25] the truth and knowledge unheard of before,[26] O Foremost Man, who shinest like thousand-eyed Maghavan,[27] pray give utterance to it.[28]

This terrible misery is now at an end; it will arise no more.[29] The cessation of it is complete.[30] The result [31] of deeds fades away like the sighing of the wind.

The words that proclaim emancipation of mind and reveal deliverance, are beyond thought, yet are fixed in the way of reason, (166) sound strong and clear, are eloquent, gentle, and instinct with truth.

Explain these matchless words...,[32] for thou art in the presence of men. Verily, when they hear thy sweet well-spoken speech, the thirsty will drink as from a brook of water.

Among stricken men, do thou devise a kindly, incomparable readiness of speech that will have the force of supreme authority. For thou hast attained perfection in the highest attributes as has no one else in the world.

O Sage, thy wisdom is supreme, unequalled, matchless in the whole world. Thou art the highest of all living beings, as Mount Meru is among rocky peaks.

Endowed with so much virtue as thou art, there is none equal or like, much less superior to thee in good qualities. Thou art the highest, the perfect man, as immovable blessed Nirvana is best of all states.

Having abjured passion, folly and vice, conceit, hypocrisy and ensnaring lust (167), thou, with thy mind delivered from sin, shinest forth like the full moon in the clear sky.

Since thou hast uprightly walked in the way of truth, thou art a mighty bridge over which good men cross. O Foremost Man, thou that shinest forth like thousand-eyed Maghavan, pour forth this hymn of thine.

Cultivate the concentration that is free of defilements, pure and calm, the refuge of men. For the good of living beings, thou art triumphantly resplendent like the sun, and revered of devas and men.

Free of all attachments in this world and the world beyond, meditating thou rejoicest in thy meditation. Crowds of devas throng together to adore the great Seer, with joined hands outstretched.

Manifold[33] in many ways is the eye of the clear-seeing Buddhas, who crush old age and death, who tame the untamed.

The conduct of the Exalted One is transcendental, his root of virtue is transcendental. The Seer’s walking, standing, sitting and lying down are transcendental.

The Sugata’s body, which brings about the destruction of the fetters of existence, (168) is also transcendental. Of this, my friends, there should be no doubt.

The Seer’s wearing of his mendicant’s robe is transcendental. Of this there is no doubt. The Sugata’s eating of his food is likewise transcendental.

The teaching of the heroic men is to be deemed wholly transcendental, and I shall proclaim, as it truly is, the greatness of the eminently wise Buddhas.

When they have obtained opportunity of place and time, and maturity of karma, the Leaders preach the true dharma each time it is born anew.[34]

The Buddhas conform to the world’s conditions, but in such a way that they also conform to the traits of transcendentalism.

The pre-eminent men practise the four postures of the body,[35] though no fatigue comes over these men of shining deeds.

It is true that they wash their feet, but no dust ever adheres to them; their feet remain clean as lotus-leaves. This washing is mere conformity with the world.

It is true that the Buddhas bathe, but no dirt is found on them; their bodies are radiant like the golden amaranth. Their bathing is mere conformity with the world.

They clean their teeth and perfume their mouths with the fragrance of the lotus. They put on clothes, the cloak and the three robes.

Though the wind blows their garments about, it does not harm their bodies. (169) This clothing of the lion-hearted men is mere conformity with the world.

They sit in the shade, though the heat of the sun would not torment them. This is mere conformity with the world on the part of the Buddhas whose karma has had a happy outcome.[36]

They are in the habit of taking medicine, but there is no disease in them, for great is the reward that those leaders reap. This taking of medicine is mere conformity with the world.

Although they could suppress the working of karma, the Conquerors let it become manifest and conceal their sovereign power.[37] This is mere conformity with the world.

It is true that they eat food, but hunger never distresses them. It is in order to provide men with the opportunity to give alms that in this respect they conform to the world.

It is true that they drink, but thirst never torments them—this is a wondrous attribute of the great seers. Their drinking is mere conformity with the world.

They put on robes, and yet a Conqueror would always be covered without them and have the same appearance as devas. This wearing of robes is mere conformity with the world.

They keep their dark and glossy hair close cropped, although no razor ever cuts it. This is mere conformity with the world.

They take on the semblance of being old, but for them there is no old age, for the Conquerors have the gift of overcoming it. This appearance of old age is mere conformity with the world.

Although they have reached perfection by the merits won in the course of countless kalpas, they make it appear as though they were at the beginning. This is mere conformity with the world.

(170) Although the Sugata’s corporeal existence[38] is not due to the sexual union of parents, yet the Buddhas can point to their fathers and mothers. This is mere conformity with the world.

From Dīpaṃkara onwards, the Tathāgata is always free from passion. Yet (the Buddha) has a son, Rāhula, to show. This is mere conformity with the world.

Although in the course of countless koṭis of kalpas they have attained to perfect insight, they yet wear the semblance of being ignorant. This is mere conformity with the world.

Although in the worlds both of devas and of men they condemn upholders of wrong beliefs, they yet resort to heretics. This is mere conformity with the world.

Although, for the sake of all beings, they have awakened to the unsurpassed enlightenment, they yet put on the appearance of a lack of zeal.[39] This is mere conformity with the world.

All perfect Buddhas are endowed with a voice of perfect qualities. It has sixty qualities. What are the sixty?

The voice of the Excellent Man pervades everywhere with a sweet musical sound. The Sugata’s voice is like the sound of the lute and the fife. It is like a swan’s song.

The voice of the eminently wise one is like the roar of the thunder-cloud, yet sweet, like the cuckoo’s call.

It is like the rattle of chariot-wheels, like the booming of the ocean, like the cry of a water-bird.

Like the notes of the kinnara,[40] the sparrow, and the cloud-bird[41] is the voice of them who bear the marks of excellence. (171) It is like the trumpeting of an elephant, and like the roar of the king of beasts.

The utterance of the Pre-eminent of Men and devas is deep as the sound of drums; it is like the rustling of the wind-swept forest,[42] and like the rumbling of an earthquake.

The voice of the Conquerors pervades everywhere like the sound of an orchestra of the five instruments.[43] It is low like the gentle note of the duck,[44] and of the red-lipped, slender-tongued peacock.

The voice of those who are pre-eminent in virtue is sweet as the song of the Gandharvas. It is like the sound of the lapping[45] of waves, and it is not rendered confused by distance.

The voice of the foremost of men both in heaven and on earth is like the merry tinkling of bells, yet full; it is like the rustling of a net of gold, and like the jingling of jewels.

The voice of those who bear the marks of excellence is not too hurried, nor uneven, nor faltering, but sweet, gushing and coherent.[46]

The sweet voice of the Daśabalas pervades a whole assembly. It makes a whole assembly understand, even though nayutas of worlds are gathered there.

Though it speak in one language, this utterance becomes current everywhere, even in the barbaric assemblies of the Śakas (Scythians),[47] the Yāvanas (Greeks), the Cīnas (Chinese), the Ramaṭhas,[48] the Pahlavas (Persians)[49], and the Daradas.[50]

The voice of the most eminent of men as it goes forth does not miss anyone in the assembly. (172) The voice of the Daśabalas is neither raised nor lowered, but remains eventoned.

The Sugata’s voice is not broken, nor forced, nor affected, nor halting;[51] it sounds like a hymn of praise.

It is not vulgar nor corrupted, but consists of wholly ordered sounds. It thrills all men, good and bad, with its accents.

When the speaking voice goes forth from between the spotless teeth of the Virtuous One, the flocks of birds in sky and wood rejoice.

When the eloquent Sugata’s voice goes forth in the assembly, it is adequate to the need of any tone that may be desirable.

The clear voice of these sweet-toned men issues melodiously[52] and earnestly;[53] it is like the sound of a mountain stream, like the osprey’s cry.

The Conqueror’s voice is like that of the blue-jay, like that of the pheasant which is coloured like the golden leaf of the palm-tree; its stirring sound is like the noise of the crashing drum and the tabor.

The voice of those who have attained perfection is to be recognised and acknowledged as deep and terrifying, yet good to hear, and always reaching the heart.

The voice of all the meritorious ones, who have gathered a rich store of goodness, whose glory is unending, is pleasant to the ear like an Indian lute.

(173) “Such is a true description of the Buddha’s voice.

“Perfect Buddhas preach dharma in this wise: ‘Monks,’ they say, ‘I do not teach that the impermanent things are permanent, nor that the permanent are impermanent. I do not teach that what is ill is well, nor that what is well is ill. I do not teach that what is without self has a self, nor that what has a self is without self. I do not teach that vile things are fair, nor that fair things are vile. I do not teach that beautiful things are ugly. I do not teach that right things are wrong, nor that wrong things are right. I do not teach that things which are free of the āśravas are charged with them, nor that the things which are charged with them are free of them. I do not teach that things which are distinct are indistinct, nor that things which are indistinct are distinct. I do not teach that base things are sublime, nor that sublime things are base. I do not teach that things which pertain to a layman pertain to a recluse, nor that things which pertain to a recluse pertain to a layman.’

“Thus, my pious friend, do the perfect Buddhas teach, speaking the truth, speaking in due season, speaking what is real, what is full of meaning, what is certain, not what is false and uncertain, speaking in accordance with the dharma and the Discipline.

(174) “Once upon a time, my pious friend, when the Buddha had gone to Ṛṣivadana near Benares, to the grove there, on the day he set rolling the noble wheel of dharma, a Tuṣita deva, named Śikharadhara, who was a Bodhisattva, went to speak to him in person, and greeted him with respect and deference.[54] Bowing, and holding out his joined hands he said,

Hail! Thy voice, O beautiful one, knows no obstruction. Hail to thee! Thy voice is rich, perfect and pleasant. Hail! Thy voice possesses sweet tone, and is endued with melodious timbre. Hail, great sage, who proclaimest the Four Truths.

Hail! The Gandharva devas imbibe thy sweet music. Hail! Here thou settest rolling the irresistible wheel of dharma that obeys thy command.[55]

There is none in the world equal to thee in form, beauty, birth and strength, in the four postures, in energy, in meditation, in knowledge, in calm and in self-control.

To-day, valiant sage, with thy first exhortation, ten koṭis of devas were thrilled and led to the first fruition.[56]

O valiant lord, with thy second exhortation, thou didst lead thirty koṭis to the first fruition.

Fifty koṭis more of devas were converted by thee, O sage, with thy third exhortation, and were delivered from the desolate ways.

(175) Eighty koṭis more of devas didst thou tame, O lord, with thy third exhortation, to the fruition of entering the stream,[57] and didst deliver from the ways of ill.

Hence there is none equal to thee in friendliness, O supreme of men. Compassionate, thou art still greater in compassion, O heroic man.

In joy, great sage, are the valiant men[58] born; to the whole world are they gracious. They live their lives for the welfare of all beings.

A very long time ago, thou man of strength, thou wast born in the world as a king’s son, a leader of the lost, a gladdening guide of the afflicted.

May our revered saviour never disappear, for thy strength, O kinsman of the world, is boundless.

By thy power, Self-becoming One, states of desolation are become of no account. Through thee, O Man Supreme, the heavens are rendered inadequate.[59]

Thanks to thee, O Very Man, he who belongs to the class of people[60] whose wrongdoing is fixed in its consequences[61] achieves the class where no consequences are entailed.

O thou of illustrious birth, he who belongs to the class where actions entail no consequences will, thanks to thee, that art extolled of Suras, reach the class where righteousness is fixed in its consequences.

O Man of Light, thanks to thee, the steadfast dispeller of darkness, the pure radiance of wondrous states is won.

(176) Whilst thou speakest of these true states, O Valiant Conqueror, the worlds, together with Indra, extol thy voice, O Great Sage.

Thus with gladsome hearts the hosts of devas praise the Beneficent One who is endowed with boundless virtue, who is worthy of praise, and is the supreme of men.

“Perfect Buddhas, my pious friend, are ready to serve[62]; are able to perceive the right occasion; have clear sight; discern the high and the low; are good at the beginning and at the end[63]; raise the banner of dharma, the invincible banner; are eager in fight and combat; are eloquent; know what is deathless, and on occasion practise charity at the cost of their lives.[64] They urge on the blind, and rebuke those who go along the devious ways.

“On this matter it is said”:—

Altogether perfect in qualities, intent on all things that are salutary, leaders and saviours that they are, all the Buddhas are praised by wise men.

With unconfused knowledge, with pure mind, they shine in the three worlds like the full moon in the sky.

Instinct with perfect virtue, they are leaders of men by their pleasing and lovely conduct. They raise a great shout.

The heroes, bent on rendering service, instruct men, and with an insight into truth quell the strife of others.

The best of men, though born into the world, are not besmirched by it. The lords, profound in their attributes, are beyond description.

(177) Having shouldered their heavy yoke, the wise ones do not falter, but, suiting actions to their words, they are of irreproachable conduct.

With the fire of knowledge the lords burn the noxious poisonous weed of false belief, and without fear or trembling they hold out to men the prospect of the beyond.

The valiant men, having traversed the wilderness and attained peace, in their wisdom proclaim, “Here is the place where no terror is.

“Here is found no recurrence of old age and death and disease. Here is experienced no event of tribulation or sorrow.”

Devas and men hearing his[65] sweet words and paying due heed to them, attain to that well-being.

Therefore their renown is spread far and wide and is supreme in the three worlds. The Buddhas fare onwards, praised of good men, and never do they rest.

Footnotes and references:


In the Pali canon these “eyes” are described somewhat differently. At Nd.2 235 we have maṃsacakkhu, “the eye of the flesh or physical eye,” dibba, “the deva eye,” paññā, “the eye of wisdom,” buddha, “the eye of a Buddha,” and samanta, “the eye of all-round knowledge, the eye of a Tathāgata.”


Asādhāraṇa, “not general to,”” not shared by.”


A statement of the special doctrine of the Lokottaravādins, that same sect of which the Mahāvastu is the scripture. See p. 3 and compare pp. 45, 76, 132.


Certain grades of devas in a heaven where they are still amenable to the seductiveness of the senses.


Devas in a heaven or sphere where “rūpa’s or objects of sight are the principal medium of experience” (Expositor, p. 216 n.).


Compare note p. 94.


Senart has a long note on these balāni and resolves many of the difficulties in the text with the aid of the two lists in the Lotus and the Mahāvyutpatti respectively. It may here be said that with the limited sources for collation at his disposal, Senart has been remarkably successful in restoring corrupted terms. At first sight, and independently of the ordinals enumerating them, the balāni of the Mahāvastu are eleven in number. Senart decided that the right number of ten could be obtained by taking the words kleśavyavadānam vetti saptamam dhyānasamāpattim vetti as meant to express one bala, and suggests the reading... samāpattīnaṃca. This reading has been adopted for translation, and, when one considers the invariably mutilated form of the Mahāvastu terms, it comes very near the description of the seventh bala in the Pali texts, e.g. A. 5.34, jhānavimokhhasamādhisamāpattīnaṃ saṃkilesaṃ vodānaṃ vuṭṭhānaṃ pajānāti.

Where the Mahāvastu list of balāni departs farthest from the tradition is in its term for the ninth—pariśuddhadivyanayanā bhavanti. The possession of the deva eye is nowhere else said to be a bala in itself. The ten balāni, indeed, have just been said to compose the intellectual attributes connoted by the “eye of dharma.” The “deva eye” is rather the means of exercising the power which is ninth in the Pali lists—dibbena cakkhunā... satte passati cavamāne upapajjamāne... yathākammūpage, “with his deva eye he sees beings passing away and being born... according to their deeds.” The ninth bala of the Mahāvastu, therefore, corresponds to none in the Pali lists, and is an attempt to make up the round number of ten which had been vitiated elsewhere. This had happened when the sixth bala was described, too succinctly, as karmabalam prajānanti śubhāśubham, i.e. “they know the power of karma, whether it is good or bad”. In the Pali lists this knowledge is described under two aspects, i.e. it is divided into two balas; first, the knowledge of the working of kamma, atītānāgatapaccuppannānaṃ kammasamādānānaṃ ṭhanaso hetuso vipākam... pajānāti, “he knows the fruit of actions past, future, and present (= our bala No. 2); and, second, “the knowledge of the state of beings when they reap the fruit of this karma,” the ninth bala quoted above from the Pali list. In 5. 5. 303 ff., the balāni appear as ten of the thirteen attainments gained by the cultivation of the “four arisings of mindfulness.”


Dhyāna, Pali jhāna. “Meditation” is, perhaps, the English word that comes nearest to the meaning of the original, and may be used in translation if only it is remembered that it is a particular type of meditation, special to Buddhist theory and practice. It is essentially a form of religious experience, or rather exercise, and in some ways is “mystical.” Mrs. Rhys Davids translated jhāna by “musing,” believing that thus she would avoid the intellectual associations of the word” meditation.” “Musing,” however, seems too passive a term, for dhyāna (jhāna) was throughout all its stages distinctly an active and well-ordered exercise. It is described in detail below p. 183.


Āveṇikā buddhadharmā: See note p. 33.


Ravita, so translated here on the analogy of the use of Pali rava in the Vinaya to denote “speaking and making blunders by over-hurrying oneself in speaking” (Pali Dictionary). Compare also the use of ravā cited by Senart from the corresponding list in Jina Alaṃkāra (Bumouf, Lotus, p. 648 f.) and translated by “action violente.”


Mṛgadāva. See note p. 311.




I.e. the Bodhisattvas generally—a disconcerting change of number from the singular otherwise used throughout this passage.


Text has anālokiyā, which is unsatisfactory. Senart suggests mukholokiyā, which may be taken as a variant of mukhullocaka (above p. 27 of text) “glad” i.e. “with a cheerful look.” Cf. Pali mukhullokana, “cheerful” and mukhullokika, “flattering.”


Ūhate = Vedic ohate. (√ūh, “to consider.”) So Senart. It may be better to read ūhata (Pali), “disturbed,” past participle from ūhanati = ud + hanati, and translate “is not disturbed.”


A work which cannot with certainty be identified with the Bodhisattvabuddhānusmṛtisamādhi, referred to by Wassiljew: Buddhismus, p. 187. See Senart’s note. Note, also, that there is an evident break here in the coherence of the narrative.


I.e. Vāgīśa, “lord of speech.” Usually this word is an epithet, and is often found compounded with the names of scholars. It is not clear to whom this title is applied here or at pp. 267, 269, of the text where the name occurs again. Is he identical with Vaṅgīsa Thera, whose verses are given at Theragāthā 1209-79?


I.e. every possible such mark.


Reading niṣevase (ni + sev) for niveśasan of the text.


Śāntara, which Senart suggests is “un reflet plus ou moins défiguré” of Pali santharin in sabbasantharin, “completely,” etc.


Araṇa for araṇya. So also next page.


Ākāṅkṣamānā vigatā. The second word makes no sense here, and has been replaced in translation by vimanā. So Senart.


Yadā ca ālokasi. The reference here is obscure, as there is no mention elsewhere of an earthquake on such an occasion. Śenart takes the verb in a “moral” sense and renders “quand tu te livres à la contemplation.” But this is open to two objections; first, that āloketi is never in this text used with such a meaning, and second, that there is never said to be a convulsion of the earth when the Buddha engages in contemplation.


Here an “elephant.” See note p. 35.


Abhisametya, Pali abhisameti, for which the Buddhist Sanskrit form in Divy. 617 is abhisamayati. The latter, however, may be a denominative from abhisamaya. See note p. 206. On p. 312 of the text abhisameti is used with the locative case of the object.


darśanaṃ tathā... anuśrutaṃ. The text has anuśrutam, but, as Senart points out, the sense requires anāśrutam or aviśrutam.


A name of Indra; in Pali Magha, “the name Sakka bore in a previous birth when he was born as a man in Macalagāma in Magadha. His story is given in the Kulāvaka Jātaka” (D.P.N.).


The speech which is here begged of the Buddha is not forthcoming, and Senart, therefore, suggests that the eulogy of Vāgīśa’s is out of its proper place.


Ito... agre—“henceforth; cf. Pali yadagge... tadagge, and BSk. tadagrena, adyāgrena cited by Senart from Lal. Vist. and Lotus.


Literally, “the cessation of it has reached bottom,” reading, with Senart, avarodhanam adho pravartati, for avarodhānam, etc., of the text.


Pāka, “ripening,” “maturing,” sc. of karma.




The metre changes here, and the verses following are evidently not part of Vāgīśa’s eulogy, but are a recital of the special tenets of the Lokottaravādins. See pp. 3, 45, 76, 132.


Abhinirvṛtam, cf. Pali abhinibbatli, “rebirth,” etc., that is to say, with the coming of each new Buddha.


See note p. 18.


Literally “the issue of whose karma is fair”—śubhaniṣyanda. Cf. the use of nissanda in Pali.


I.e., they are or remain in the world of their own free will, and not because any karma of theirs has entailed rebirth.


Samucchritam (sam-ud-śri). Cf. BSk. samucchraya, “body,” Divy. 70, and Pali samussaya in the same sense, D. 2. 157; 5. 1. 148, etc.


Alpotsukatva, synonymous with the Pali appossukkatā, abstract noun from appossukka, “unconcerned,” “living at ease,” “careless.”


Either “a kind of musical instrument,” or the fabulous “little bird with a head like a man’s.” See note p. 54.


Meghasvararavā, on the assumption that this is a form of megharāva, “a kind of water-bird.”


Vanadeva-anilavidhūtasvaraprapātā. The general sense of this compound is clear, but it presents difficulties of grammar and metre which Senart is unable to resolve.


Pañcāṅgikatulya, for pañcāṅgikatūrya (Pali °turiya). Tulya is probably reminiscent of the etymology of tūrya, “musical instrument,” which would seem to be derived from tul, “weigh,” “balance,” “scale.” There is no manuscript justification for changing tulya into tūrya, although below (p. 194, text) we have pañcāṅgikasya tūryasa. The five instruments referreḍ to in this phrase are specified at VvA. 37 as being ātata, vitata, ātata-vitata, ghana, and susira, but the dictionaries do not seem to agree as to the precise nature of them.


Or a bird of the same species. Here, as elsewhere in Indian literature, western standards of the musicality of bird notes must be forgotten.


Literally “falling,” nipāta.




See note p. 107.


Pahlava, i.e. Pahlavi or Pehlavi.


See note p. 107.


Vikhalakhalakhalāyati, of which Senart says “paraît être une onomatopée, peut-être rattachée au verbe skhal.”


Literally “well-perfumed,” varavāsana.


Sahita, see p. 115.


Sapratīsa, a Buddhist Sanskrit form corresponding to Pali sappaṭissa from paṭi-sunāti (prati-śru). It occurs again in the Mahāvastu at 2. 258; 3. 345, and 372, the form varying between sapratīsa and sapratīśa.


Reading after one MS. anuvartikaṃ “following,” “obedient,” “compliant” for the anivartikaṃ of the text, which would mean “not returning” or “not to be rolled back.” As has been seen (p. 33 note 7) the Mahāvastu never speaks of the “rolling back” of the wheel of dharma.


I.e. to the first stage in the Way, or “entering the stream.” (See below)


Another metaphorical expression, equivalent to the Way. A śrotāpanna (Pah, sotāpanna) has destroyed the first three fetters. (See below p. 150 and D. 1. 156, etc.)


Sc. Bodhisattvas.


I.e. to hold all those who merit to be reborn there.


Literally, “he whose class is the class of people”; rāśi, “a heap” is an Abhidhamma term for “class,” “category,” etc.


mithyātvaniyata, literally, “fixed in wrongfulness,” but as the commentary on Dhammasaṅgaṇi (1028) says, niyata here has the especial sense of “fixed in its consequences” or “reaching down to.” Three rāśis are usually given, e.g. D. 3. 217. Tayo rāsī. Micchattaniyato rāsi, sammattaniyoto rāsi, aniyato rāsi, “Three heaps, to wit, that of wrong-doing entailing immutable evil results, that of well-doing entailing immutable good results, and that of everything not so determined” (Rhys Davids, Dial. 3.210). The use of rāsi to denote a class of things or actions is still more clearly seen in Kvu. 610. In the Dhammasaṅgaṇi (l.c.) three states (dhammā) are distinguished on the basis of the same differentia. The P.T.S. Pali Dictionary is incorrect in saying that Buddhist Sanskrit knows of only two rāśis, for even if the metre of the text here does not allow of the emendation of samyaktatejakulodita into the full name of the third rāśi, samyaktvaniyata, the samyak of this compound must be taken as qualifying rāśi and serving, in its truncated form, for the whole compound—a mnemonic use of abbreviation which we meet with elsewhere in the Mahāvastu (e.g. 1. 86). All the three rāśis are also mentioned in Vol. 3, p. 318. In both the Mahāvastu passages it seems simpler to take rāśi in the sense of a class of people rather than of things or actions. Cf. also 1. 316.


? upacāravidhisampannā, “endowed with the rule of or disposition to, service.”


Pūrvāntanayasampannā, “endowed with (good) conduct at the beginning and at the end.” This is, no doubt, an echo of the well-known Pali formula describing dhamma as ādikalyānaṃ majjhekalyānaṃ pariyosānakalyānaṃ, “beautiful in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end.”


Āvusādayanto. Āvusā is taken by Senart as a Prakritism for āyuṣā. Cf. Pali āvuso for āyusmanto, pl. of āyusman (for the regular Pali āyasmant). If the reading is correct, dayanto is also a Prakritism from dadāti, literally “giving up their lives.”


A change from plural to singular, from the subject of Buddhas in general to that of an individual Buddha.

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