The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes history of dipamkara (dipankara) which is Chapter XX 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 XX - The history of Dīpaṃkara (Dīpaṅkara)

The beginning of the history of Dīpaṃkara.[1]

An immeasurable, incalculable kalpa ago, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, there was a universal king, named Arcimat,[2] who was virtuous, mighty, possessing the seven treasures, sovereign over the four continents, triumphant, blessed with devoted subjects in town and country, righteous, a king of righteousness, and pursuing the ten right ways of behaviour. His were the seven treasures, to wit, the treasure of the wheel, of the elephant, the horse, the jewel, the woman, the householder, and the counsellor. He had a full thousand sons, who were valiant, brave, comely, and vanquishers of the armies of their foes. The king dwelt in complete ascendancy over these four continents, which were girt by ocean and mountain, and held them in peace and quiet, ruling by righteousness and not by means of the scourge, the sword, and oppression. (194)King Arcimat, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, had a royal city named Dīpavatī, which extended twelve yojanas east and west, and seven yojanas south and north. It was encircled by seven ramparts made of gold and covered with gold.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, the royal city of Dīpavatī was surrounded by seven rows of bright and beautiful palm-trees of the seven precious substances, gold, silver, pearl, beryl, crystal, white coral, and ruby. The palm-tree which had a trunk of gold had leaves and fruit of silver; the palm-tree with a trunk of silver, had leaves and fruit of pearl; the palm-tree with a trunk of pearl had leaves and fruit if beryl; the palm-tree with a trunk of beryl had leaves and fruit of crystal; the palm-tree with a trunk of crystal had leaves and fruit of white coral; the palm-tree with a trunk of white coral had leaves and fruit of ruby; and the palm-tree with a trunk of ruby had leaves and fruit of pearl. When these palm-trees, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, were stirred and fanned by the wind, their rustling was gentle, pleasant and charming, not grating

on the ears, but like the sound of the five musical instruments played in harmony by skilled performers. Thus...[3] Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, at that time and on that occasion the men of the royal city of Dīpavatī were intoxicated by the music of the leaves of the palm-trees, and, endowed and provided with the pleasures of the five senses, they diverted, enjoyed and amused themselves.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, the royal city of Dīpavatī was encircled by seven bright and gleaming railings[4] of the seven precious substances,[5] gold, silver, pearl, beryl, crystal, white coral, and ruby. Where the pillar was of gold the crossbars,[6] (195) the supports,[7] and the base[8] were of silver; where the pillar was of silver, they were of pearls; where the pillar was of pearls, they were of beryl; where the pillar was of beryl, they were of crystal; where the pillar was of crystal, they were of white coral; where the pillar was of white coral, they were of rubies, and where the pillar was of ruby, they were of gold.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, these railings were covered with two net-like fabrics, one of gold, the other of silver. On the gold net-work there were silver bells; on the silver network, golden bells. And the royal city of Dīpavatī had three gates on every side, bright and beautiful, made of the seven precious substances, gold, silver, pearl, beryl, crystal, white coral and ruby. These gates had an arch[9] made of the two metals, gold and silver. These gates had beams[10] of two metals, gold and silver. They had flanking towers[11] of two metals, gold and silver. These gates had opening panels[12] of two metals, gold and silver. They were faced with plates[13] of two metals, gold and silver. They had paṭimodakas[14] of four precious substances, gold, silver, pearl and beryl. By these gates, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, were shrines for relics[15] built of two metals, gold and silver. In front of these gates were Indra-columns[16] made of four precious substances, gold, silver, pearl and beryl. These gates had swing-doors of two metals, gold and silver. The bolts were of two metals, gold and silver.

(196)Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, in front of these gates pillars were reared which were embedded in the ground to the depth of three men’s lengths, were three men’s lengths in circumference[17] and twelve men’s lengths in height.[18] They were bright and beautiful, made of the seven precious substances, gold, silver, pearl, beryl, crystal, white coral and ruby. These gates, again, were encased in two net-like fabrics of gold and silver. The golden net-like fabric had bells of silver, and the silver one had bells of gold. And the rustling of these net-like fabrics, when moved and stirred by the wind, sounded sweet and pleasant and charming, not grating on the ear.[19]

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, this royal city of Dīpavatī was full of such sounds as those of elephants, chariots, pedestrians, drums, tabors, cymbals, trumpets, flutes, lutes, songs, and musical instruments. It was full of cries bidding men to eat, consume, drink, give alms, do good deeds, live righteously, and of cries of welcome to recluses and brāhmans.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, in the centre of the royal city of Dīpavatī there was a pillar named Valguyā, which was bright and beautiful with the seven precious substances, gold, silver, pearl, beryl, crystal, white coral and ruby. It was twelve yojanas high and embedded in the ground to the depth of four.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, King Arcimat had a chief queen, named Sudīpā, who was gracious, lovely, majestic, and endowed with perfect beauty of complexion.

“In twelve years, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana,[20] the Bodhisattva Dīpaṃkara, will pass away from his existence in Tuṣita.” (197) The Śuddhāvāsa devas proclaim to the Pratyekabuddhas, “The Bodhisattva is about to pass hence. Quit[21] ye the Buddha-fleld.”[22]

From his life in Tuṣita, the Glorious One, who has the insight of infinite knowledge, will pass away. Quit ye the field of the Buddha, the Master who hears the marks of excellence.

When the Pratyekabuddhas heard the Buddha proclaimed by these mighty lords[23] they passed away, emancipated, self-dependent and self-controlled.[24]

“In twelve years, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana,[25] the Bodhisattva Dīpaṃkara will pass away from his life in Tuṣita.” The Śuddhāvāsa devas then disguised themselves as brāhmans, and instructed the brāhmans in the mantras, the Vedas, and the thirty-two marks of a Great Man, so that, when the Bodhisattva appeared in the world, they should be able to declare his buddhahood.

Then, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when it became time for the Bodhisattva to leave his abode in Tuṣita, he made four great surveys, to wit, of the time, the region, the continent, and the family in which he should be born.

Bodhisattvas are born in one of two classes of families, either noble or brāhman. The family in which Bodhisattvas are born is endowed with sixty qualities. What sixty? Such a family, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, is distinguished, well-known, and dignified. It is of high birth and lineage, with a long, distinguished and powerful ancestry, and rich in women and men. It is not greedy, nor covetous. It is without fear or baseness; it is intelligent, virtuous, not bent on hoarding riches, but rather making use of its wealth. It is steadfast in friendship, grateful and devout.[26] Its conduct is not motived by partiality, nor by malice, (198) nor by folly, nor by fear[27]. It is irreproachable and hospitable.[28] It is manly-minded, and steadfastly heroic. It honours shrines, devas and ancestors. It is zealous in duty, keen on charity, and intent upon religious observances. It maintains its continuity[29] and is well-spoken of among the devas.[30] It is foremost, supreme, pre-eminent among families, and has ascendancy over other families. It wields great power, and has a large, tireless, faithful and loyal retinue. It respects mothers, fathers, recluses, brāhmans and noble families. It is rich in wealth, treasuries and granaries, elephants, horses, cattle and sheep, in female and male slaves and in servants. It is inviolable by strangers, adversaries and foes. That family, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, in which Bodhisattvas are born is endowed with these sixty qualities. Those beings who are blessed with such a family come to have the “great compassion.”[31]

Thus, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when it was time for him to pass away, the Bodhisattva made his great preparation. A certain deva addressed the thousands of other devas, saying “Be reborn in the sixteen great provinces,[32] in the interior districts, in the rich families of nobles, householders, kings, and kings’ counsellors. As you have been trained in the Discipline, the mass of the people will in their turn accept it.”

At the time of his passing away, the Bodhisattva scanned the quarters of the world, looking for a place in which he should be born. “This King Arcimat,” thought he, “is virtuous, powerful, a universal king, a king over the four continents. He is worthy to be my father.”

(199) He then sought a mother who should be gracious, of good birth, pure of body, of tender passion, and short-lived, of whose span of life only seven nights and ten months remained.

The mothers of all Bodhisattvas die on the last of the seven days after they are delivered of the Supreme of Men.

Now what is the reason that a mother of an All-knowing One should die so soon after giving birth to the Best of Men?

While he is still dwelling in Tuṣita, the Bodhisattva exercises great mindfulness in his search for a mother whose karma is good.

For he must descend into the womb of a woman who has only seven nights and ten months of her life remaining.

And why so? Because, says he, it is not seemly that she who bears a peerless one like me should afterwards indulge in love.

But if, on the other hand, the mother[33] of the Sugata should indulge in the pleasures of love, the hosts of devas would say that the king was violating his duty.

The Exalted One, indeed, at all times, proclaims the depravity of sensual desires. Shall, then, the mother of the saviour of the world indulge in love?

[To take an illustration from] the jewel-caskets which are found in the palaces of princes, the Best of Men is the jewel, his mother the casket.

While he carefully searched, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, the Bodhisattva saw (200) Sudīpā, the queen of Arcimat, king of the royal city of Dīpavatī. He saw that she was gracious, of good birth, pure of body, tender of passion, of whose span of life only seven nights and ten months were left.

As he contemplates the world he sees in Arcimat’s court Sudīpā, a woman like the consort of an immortal, radiant as the lightning’s flash.

Seeing in her his mother he says to the immortals, “I am passing hence. For the last time 1 take up my abode in a woman’s womb for the sake of devas and men.”

The deva host, arrayed in fine jewels, raised their joined hands and answered him saying, “O man supreme, whose beauty is sublime, may thy vow prosper.

“And we also, for the world’s sake and to do thee honour, thou deva above all devas,[34] shall renounce the sweet enjoyment of the pleasures of sense and go to dwell in the world of men.”

Exultantly they rained down from the sky a shower of spotless, bright and pure flowers of the coral-tree, speaking sweet words the while:

“How marvellous it is that thou dost not delight in the abodes of the immortals, where sweet peace reigns, where is no tribulation nor sorrow, and dost not indulge in the pleasures of sense.

“Marvellous is it, too, that, excelling the deva hosts and shining like a mountain of gold, O mighty Sura, thou illuminest the ten quarters of the world.

“Thou, whose intelligence is infinite, excellest the Maheśvaras[35] and Dānavas,[36] the hosts of Māra, and the stars that move in the sky—this also is a wonder.

“How can we then not be loth to part from thee, Master of all that is? (201) For thou, O lotus-eyed, wilt become the bourne of devas and men.”

Thus, at the time and on the occasion of the descent of him whose eye was like the bright hundred-petalled lotus, did the glad hosts shout through all quarters of the world.

And such was the talk that went round in the city of Tuṣita, whilst she, the peerless Sudīpā, the chief wife of King Arcimat, went up to him and spoke. She, Sudīpā, with eyes like a young fawn’s, radiant like a Gandharva’s wife, and dusky, spoke thus persuasively[37] and sweetly to Arcimat:

“Adorned with jewels, wearing my choicest raiment, and attended by my friends, I wish, O mighty king, to spend this night away from you.

“O Best of Men, I would go up to the highest part of the fair palace of Śataraśmi,[38] to the fair spotless bed there that is covered as though with lotuses.”

Pleased with the charming speech of his queen, King Arcimat, with joyful intent addressed his courtiers, saying,

“Quickly let them tell me where Śataraśmi is. Have the place wreathed in fair flowers, and strewn with heaps of flowers, like an abode of a deva in heaven.

“Speedily make Śataraśmi resplendent with festoons of fine cloth, have it covered with a network of gold, that in appearance it be like Meru’s fair summit.

“Let an entire army,[39] bristling with spears, arrows and lances, at once stand guard over Śataraśmi’s stately pile[40].”

All was done as the king had commanded; and when they had made all things ready, his courtiers approached the king and said,

(202) “May our great protector protect the race of men[41] for a full thousand years yet! All is ready. The noble mansion stands resplendent, and will give you a thrill of joy.”

Then the queen, looking like the consort of an immortal, rose lip from her lovely couch and said to the king, just when the sun had set,

“I will cultivate harmlessness towards living things, and live the chaste life. I will abstain from theft, intoxication, and frivolous speech.

“I will, my lord, refrain from unkindly[42] speech, and from slander. I will refrain from abusive speech. This is my resolve.

“And I will not nurse envy of the pleasures of others, nor cause injury to living things. I will give up false views.

“And, O King, I will live in the practice of the eleven moralities.[43] A All night long has this resolve been stirring within me.

“Do not then, I pray you, O King, desire me with thought of sensual enjoyment. See to it that you be guiltless of offence against me who would observe chastity.”

The king replied “I shall have all your wishes fulfilled. Be at ease, you who have entered upon a noble life. I and my whole realm are at your command.”

The queen then took her thousand beloved principal maidens, went up to the fair mansion, and lay down, her dear wish fulfilled.

And there on that bed of the colour of the snow-white lotus, she whiled away the time in silence, contentedly calm and self-controlled.

(203) She laid down her beautiful body on its right side, her limbs clinging to the bed as a flowering creeper clings to a tree.

Then espying the queen on her bed, beautiful as a celestial maiden, throngs of dev as came down from their homes in Tuṣita and alighted on the terrace.

All these immortals joyfully bowing their heads, and raising their joined hands, lauded the virtuous queen, the Conqueror’s mother, as she lay on her bed.

Then in great excitement a large throng of deva maidens carrying fair garlands came, eager to see the Conqueror’s mother, and alighted on the terrace.

When they had come and had seen the queen on her bed, in beauty that dazzled like the lightning, they were filled with great joy and happiness, and showered on her flowers from heaven.

Having stood awhile in contemplation of such a comely and wondrous, albeit human, form, they said among themselves,[44] “There is no woman like her to be found even among the wives of the dev as.

“Ah, dear friends, observe the loveliness of this woman; how befitting a Conqueror’s mother it is. As she lies on her bed she is radiant and alluring, and gleams as with the sheen of gold.

“She will bear the Great Man who takes exceeding delight in charity, self-control and virtue, who makes an end of all the āśravas, and who is free from passion. What more can you want, O queen?

“O woman whose belly with its bright streak of fair downy hair curves like the palm of the hand, of you will be born he whose thought is boundless, who is ever undefiled, unsullied by what is foul.

“Rich merit beyond compare has in the course of a long time (204) been acquired by this woman, who will bear him whose worth is illimitable, and who is strong with the merit attained during a long time.

“You are a worthy woman, supreme among mothers, and your son will be the Pre-eminent of Men, who has abandoned desire and is free of passion. What more can you want, O queen?”

Then the Rākṣasas of various shapes were thus commanded[45]: “Ye wielders of brave weapons, quickly take up positions in all quarters of the sky, and clear all its spaces of obstacles.”

Next after these the horde of fork-tongued Nāgas, whose anger is fanned into flame by the slightest breeze they heay stirring, stood on guard in the regions of the sky.

Next to these the Yakṣas, a monstrous crowd, with flaming crests, were posted, and hidden to ward off all who were malevolent, hut not to slay any.

And next the mighty host of Gandharvas, comely in form and noble of features, with shining hows stood to guard him who is abundantly wise.

The Four Lords[46] of the world stood in the air along with their own retinues. “For to-day,” said they, “the Exalted One is coming down to earth to bring welfare, happiness and prosperity to the world.”

The Three-and-Thirty devas along with their chief, the hearer of the wheel,[47] stood in the air, saying, “Soon the Exalted One, in his yearning for the utmost happiness of the world, will make his last descent.”

A great host of devas, raising their joined hands and bowing at the queen’s feet, looked out for the Conqueror’s coming from Tuṣita, and uttered sweet words:—

“O thou who art strong with merit won by purification, now is it time for thee to enter upon thy last existence. Thy mother is ready. Now have pity upon afflicted mankind.”

(205) “Lo, I depart hence.” So did [the Exalted One] speak out and utter the happy word....[48] And at that very moment the Conqueror’s mother saw in a dream him who had won maturity of fruition.

He enters her[49] body in the form of a noble elephant, light of step, perfectly flawless of body, gleaming like snow-white silver, with six tusks, a gracefully waving trunk and a crimson head.

Bodhisattvas, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, do not descend into their mothers’ womb during the dark fortnight, but on the day of the full moon in the month Pauṣa.[50] Bodhisattvas enter the womb of a mother who observes the fasts, who is tall and well-proportioned,[51] who is accomplished and in the flower of youth, who is trained in the Discipline, who is learned, mindful and self-possessed, in every way right-minded and seemly, the most perfect of women.[52]

When a Bodhisattva of Tuṣita, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, passes away thence, there is shed a radiance which illumines a whole Buddha-field. [And then] one deva asks another,

“Why is a radiance shed by the excellent Sura, which is more serene than the moonbeams, which is pure like gold, and which gladdens the lords of the A suras and of men and even the fiery flaming hells?”

And that deva replies:—

“The radiance is shed as a greeting by the liberating, sinless glory of those who everywhere succour men caught in the toils of rebirth (saṃsāra) and obsessed by intoxication.”

(206) The Bodhisattva said [to the devas]:—

“Leave your cities, ye immortals. Verily this is not the time to indulge in their delights. Rather is it time to rive the strongholds of old age and death with the blows of knowledge.”

The Bodhisattva, thoughtful, self-possessed and right-minded, entered his mother’s womb.

The lion-hearted man, roaring a lion’s roar, when it is the time and the occasion for him to pass away, leaves on the instant, and re-appears in the home of a king.

He who lights up Tuṣita with his radiant beauty, leaves the cities of the immortals and becomes an incomparable light in the world.

This incomparable light of the world illumines with his beauty the whole world including Brahmā’s, and all the race of men, brāhmans and recluses.

Behold this wonder and this marvel, that the potent Master, mindful and self-possessed, has come down into his mother’s womb,

That the Very Best of Men, hearing the marks of excellence, mindful and self-possessed, has taken his place in his mother’s womb.

As soon, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, as the Great Being, the Bodhisattva, had descended into his mother’s womb, this great earth quaked, shook and trembled violently six times. There was something thrilling in this quaking,[53] something beautiful, merry, gleeful, amiable, exhilarating, admirable, cheerful, (207) assuring, graceful, lovely, gladdening,[54] causing no misgiving nor fear. For while the earth quaked, it destroyed no life whatever, whether animal or plant.

Then this earth hounded by ocean and Mount Meru quaked six times. And the world was made bright and lovely by the splendour of him who dispels the great darkness.

When the powerful and mindful one passed away from Tusita, taking on the form of an elephant, the colour of a white boar, and having six tusks,

Mindful, self-possessed, and virtuous, he entered the womb of his mother as she lay high up in the palace.[55] A fasting and clothed in pure raiment.

When night had passed into day, she said to her gracious spouse, “Noble king, [in my dream I saw] a white and kingly elephant enter my womb.”

When her husband, the king, heard this, he assembled the diviners.[56] A and bade them all declare the full portent[57] of this dream.

The diviners said in answer to the king, “He who bears the thirty-two marks of excellence has entered the queen’s womb.

“O king, you should rejoice because of him who has appeared in your family. O sovereign of earth, the noble child in the womb is the peerless Great Being.

“According to what I myself have learnt from the ancient masters, (208) one of two alternative careers lies before him, O valiant king.

“If he remains in the world he will become a mighty lord, possessing treasure,[58] prosperous, always attended by victory, with a hundred thousand kings in his train.

“But if he embraces the religious life and renounces the sovereignty of the four continents, he will become a self-guiding Buddha, the guide of men and devas

All the Nāga kings and lords eagerly rushed to mount watch and ward over the Bodhisattva. Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva had entered his mother’s womb, all the Suparṇa[59] kings and lords eagerly rushed to mount watch and ward over the Bodhisattva. And so, too, did the Four Great Kings.

The Four Lords of the world, also, watched over the world’s saviour, lest any malevolent being harm him who is destined to rout the power of Namuci.[60]

Śakra, also, king of the devas, and the deva Suyāma,[61] the deva Santuṣita,[61] the deva Sunirmita,[61] the deva Vaśavartīn,[61] Great Brahmā, and a Śuddhāvāsa deva, eagerly rushed to mount watch and ward over the Bodhisattva when he had entered his mother’s womb.

Delighted thousands of devas come to Arcimat’s city, as to a city of the immortals, to guard him whose wisdom is most choice.

The delightful city of Dīpavatī is become the chief of cities; it is made all radiant by the hosts of devas who enter it—the immortals whose coming is swift as thought.[62]

(209) Eight thousand of the lordly hosts,[63] taking up their stations in sky and air, wait upon the queen.

Behind them Indra’s thousands, with spotless crests, take up their stations in great numbers to guard him whose worth is great.

Behindthese dev a chiefs thousands of nayutas of Kāmāvacara devas take up their places in the unsupporting air.[64]

Behind these deva hosts again, Asuras, throngs of fork-tongued Asuras, Yakṣas of strange forms, and hordes of Rākṣasas take their places.

And in this way the air, thronged by hundreds of thousands of immortals, was glorified and utterly purified, for so great was the merit acquired by him who is free of passion.

Great Brahmā speaks[65]:—

The woman who in her dream has seen the sun from the sky enter her womb, will give birth to one who bears the marks of excellence. He will be a mighty universal king.

The woman who in her dream has seen the moon from the sky enter her womb, will give birth to a son who is both man and deva. He will be a noble universal king.

The woman who in her dream has seen a white elephant enter her womb, will give birth to a being as select as an elephant is among animals,[66] and he will be a Buddha who knows what is good and true.[67]

(210) And he asks the queen, “Whom do you bear? And she replies, “A universal king.”

“I bear a universal king, a choice man, a valiant king, who illumines my womb with his golden beauty and is endowed with the marks of excellence.”

But the devas in the sky acclaim him with the title of the Exalted One, saying, “He will become a Buddha, not a mighty universal king.”

Great Brahmā recites this verse:—

You bear [one who is like] an elephant [among men], the best of treasures, destroyer of the force and violence of intoxication, light of the world,[68] dispeller of dark and murky folly, the storehouse of virtues, the possessor of boundless wealth, a royal seer, whose wheel knows no obstacle, whose radiance is deathless.”

The queen replies:—

“As passion and vice no longer have power over me who have conceived the seed of the king of men, there is no doubt that he will be of such splendour as you say.”[69]

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb,[70] his mother is comfortable whether she walks, stands, sits, or lies down, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. No weapon can pierce her body, nor can poison, fire or sword prevail against her, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. Deva maidens attend to her with preparations made in heaven for cleaning and massaging the body, and she is clothed in celestial raiment and adorned with celestial jewels, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. She obtains celestial perfumes, garlands, cosmetics and essences, because of the power of the Bodhisattva.

(211) Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb, because of his power all her escort deem her worthy of perfect obedience and loyalty, and those who see her go up to her and offer their services. Nothing, not even a bird, passes over her, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. She becomes sound and healthy, and enjoys a digestive heat neither too cold nor too hot, which ensures a perfect digestion, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. She receives the choicest solid and soft food of the best and most superlative flavour, because of the power of the Bodhisattva. She becomes rid of passion, and lives an unimpaired, flawless, unspotted, untarnished and absolutely pure and perfect chaste life. In the heart of this pre-eminent woman no passion arises for any man, not even for King Arcimat. She lives in accordance with the five moral precepts,[71] observing them to the full.[72]

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb, all the Nāga kings and lords, whether born of eggs, or from the womb, or from moisture, or spontaneously,[73] enter her abode and sprinkle her with celestial sandal-wood powder. Similarly they sprinkle[74] her with aloe-wood powder and scatter showers of blossoms over her. They laud her with perfect praise, with consummate praise, with absolutely pure praise. When they have scattered celestial sandal-wood powder, they scatter keśara[75] powder, and powdered leaves of the tamāla[76] tree, and showers of blossoms. (212) They laud her with perfect praise, with consummate praise, with absolutely pure praise. And when they have thus lauded her with this perfect and pure praise, and scattered celestial powder of sandal-wood, aloe-wood, keśara and tamāla leaves, and showers of blossoms, on, about, and over the Bodhisattva’s mother, they salute her three times from the right, and go their way. [And all this is] because of the power of the Bodhisattva.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb, all the Suparṇa kings and lords, whether born of eggs, or from the womb, or from moisture, or spontaneously, enter her abode and sprinkle her with celestial sandal-wood powder and many other celestial powders, celestial keśara powder, celestial powder of tamāla leaves, and powder of celestial blossoms. They laud her with perfect praise, with consummate praise, with absolutely pure praise. And when they have scattered celestial powders of aloe-wood, of keśara, of tamāla leaves, and celestial blossoms on the Bodhisattva’s mother, and saluted her three times from the right, they go their way. [And all this is] because of the power of the Bodhisattva.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb the Cāturmahārājaka devas, the Trayastriṃśa devas, the Yāma devas, the Tuṣita devas, the Nirmāṇarati devas, Paranirmitavaśavartin devas, the Brahmā devas, and the Śuddhāvāsa devas enter her abode and scatter over her celestial sandal-wood powder, celestial aloe-wood powder, celestial keśara powder and powder of tamāla leaves, and showers of celestial blossoms. Then they laud her with perfect praise, with consummate praise, (213) with absolutely pure praise. When they have scattered over and about her celestial powder of sandal-wood, of aloe-wood, of keśara and of tamāla leaves, and showers of celestial blossoms, and lauded her with perfect praise, with consummate praise, with absolutely pure praise, they salute the Bodhisattva’s mother three times from the right and go their way. [And all this is] because of the power of the Bodhisattva.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb he does not occupy a position that is too low or too high. He does not lie on his face, nor on his back, nor on his left side, nor squatting on his heels.[77] But he sits[78] in his mother’s right side with his legs crossed. He is not polluted by bile, phlegm, blood or any other unclean matter. For the Bodhisattva, while he is in his mother’s womb, is rubbed with perfumes and washed clean. He is able to see his mother, while she, in her turn, can see the Bodhisattva in her womb like a body of pure gold and is enraptured at the sight. It is as though a jewel of beryl were placed in its crystal casket. Just so does his mother see the Bodhisattva like a body of gold illuminating her womb.[79]

(214) Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb, hosts of devas come day and night to inquire after his welfare. And the Bodhisattva greets them by raising his right hand, but without hurting his mother. Neither the devas nor the Nāgas, nor the Yakṣas, nor the Dānavas, nor the Rākṣasas, nor the Piśācas leave him day or night. Nor is there any talk of the affections, nor talk concerned with sensual pleasures, nor any other trivial talk there. But they speak of nothing other than the Bodhisattva’s beauty, his comeliness, his being, his might, his colour, his glory, and his root of virtue. Their worship of the Bodhisattva in his mother’s womb does not cease. Celestial musical instruments are played, celestial scents of aloe-wood are wafted abroad, celestial flowers and celestial powders rain down. And thousands of Apsarases sing and dance around.

Again, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, when the Bodhisattva has entered his mother’s womb, she laughs and talks[80] with thousands of deva maidens. And again when she falls asleep the deva maidens fan her with garlands of the coral-tree. [And all this is] because of the power of the Bodhisattva.

Such then, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, is this perfect descent into the womb, unsurpassed in all the great universe of the three thousand worlds.

And now behold another marvel, the marvel of the talk begetting the most perfect ecstasy, which there was among all that great concourse of devas.

There is no talk of sensual delight, nor of Apsarases, nor of song, nor of instrumental music, nor of eating and drinking.

There is no talk of jewellery, nor of dress. (215) No talk of driving and pleasure-gardens occurs to their minds.

“Oh! Good is the inimitable light of the Leader who is strong through his merit. It outshines the world of men and devas.” Such is the talk that echoes[81] there.

“Oh! Good is the incomparable conception of him whose form is perfect.” Such is the varied talk that echoes there among that gathering.

With these pure[82] psalms of acclamation for him whose wisdom is excellent do they while away the time, and such is the talk that echoes in that gathering.

And so the hosts of devas rejoice as they relate their varied themes, telling of the form, the colour, the might and the strength of him who is free from passion.

Footnotes and references:


Here related to Maudgalyāyana by Śākyamuni, who, however, once or twice is referred to in the third person in the course of the narrative.


Accima in Pali.




Vedikājālā. Vedikā from meaning “terrace” came to mean first “a terrace with balustrade,” and then the “balustrade” itself, or “railings.” Cf. D. 2. 179 (Dial. 2. 210) and Mhvs. trsl., 220 and 296. Vedikājālā “a net-work of a balustrade” seems to be an attempt at a more specific term for “railings,” and to denote railings consisting of close horizontal bars crossed by vertical ones at frequent intervals to give the effect of a net” or a grille pattern. Cf. jālavātapāna at V. 2. 148 denoting a “latticed shutter” (or “window”). (The translator owes this reference to Miss I. B. Horner.)


Varṇa for ratna or ratana.


Sūcikā, cf. Pali sūci.


Ālambana, cf. the same use in Pali.


adhiṣṭhānaka, or, perhaps, “niches” or “look-out places,” so interpreted by Senart on the assumption that the Chinese terms so translated by Beal correspond to the Sanskrit. The precise signification of all these terms is doubtful. The description of a similar “heavenly” city in the Mahā-Sudassana Sutta (D. 2, 169 ff) translated by Rhys Davids in S.B.E, xi, and Dial. 2. 199 ff., is much clearer in its details, but unfortunately does not afford much help in the interpretation of the Mahāvastu description. A. K. Coomaraswamy: Indian Architectural Terms (J.A.O.S., 48, No. 3) takes adhiṣṭhāna to mean “a plinth,” and refers to Mukherji: Report on the A ntiquities of the District of Lalitpur (1899). (The translator owes this reference also to Miss I. B. Horner.)


vyamotsaṅga, from vyama, “diagonal’ (see Böhtlingk and Roth, s.v.) and utsaṅga, “roof”; the meaning possibly is “a pointed arch,” i.e. a roof or arch of two sloping sides or diagonals.




Anuvarga, “keeping-off [towers],” from vṛj, causative, “to keep off.” Senart compares the “enemy-resisting towers” of Beal: Romantic Legend.


Phaṭikaphalaka. Phaṭika, for sphaṭika, and phalaka are both from the same root *sphal or *sphaṭ, “to split,” etc. Phalaka in its derived sense of “board” would denote a panel only, while (s)phaṭika would imply that it was divided or split in two, and so forming “wings.” In any case we have here something which corresponds to the” white silver panels” of the Romantic Legend. Possibly this last description suggests that the translation should be” crystal panels,” sphaṭika, also meaning “crystal,” but unfortunately we are told they were of gold and silver.


Phalakastāra, from phalaka and stṛ, “to spread.”


An obscure word. Perhaps we should read with 2 MSS. paṭimoka, and interpret this as equivalent to pratimaukā from pratimā + oka(s), “a house or niche for statues or images.” Such a word does not seem to be known, but the reference in the next sentence to “temples for relics” seems to give this interpretation some plausibility. Senart’s suggested derivation from prati-mud can give no apposite sense here.


Elūka for eḍuka.


Indrakīlaka (-kīla), Pali Indakhīla.


Parigohyāni, Senart can only support this interpretation by the analogy of upa-guh in the sense of “to embrace.”


Udvedha = Pali ubbedha, from ud-vedh, from vyadh.


This is repeated, after a lacuna, but in both cases the comparison with the music of the five instruments played together, which is found on p. 194, is omitted.


“Mahā-Maudgalyāyana” is obviously out of place here in a sentence which is a quotation of the words uttered in the far distant past, proclaiming the imminent departure of the Bodhisattva Dīpaṃkara from Tuṣita.


Riñcatha, cf. Pali riñcati, Sanskrit ric, rinakti, “to leave.”


See p. 95.


Maheśvara—this is given in Senart’s index as the proper name of a class of devas, but here the word is a descriptive title substituted for the proper name Śuddhāvāsa devas. See further note p. 178.


These are obviously two traditional verses applicable to any Bodhisattva.


See note 2.


Vidhijña, “knowing the rule (of religion)” or perhaps “knowing the law,” “law-abiding.”


These are the four agatis or evil ways of living.


Sthūlabhikṣa, literally “having plenty of food,” like subhikṣa, Pali subhikkha. But as it is moral qualities that are recounted just here, the translation given above seems better. It is tempting to amend the word to sthūlalakṣa or °lakṣya, “liberal,” “munificent,” etc.


? Labdhapūrvāpara, “with what is before and after gained or kept.”


? Abhidevaghoṣaghuṣṭa.


I.e. Bodhisattvas born in such a family are marked out as destined to attain a Buddha’s attribute of “great compassion” for the world.


These are referred to again, but not enumerated, at 2. 2 and 3. 394. They are to be found enumerated at A. 1. 213. Cf. Rhys Davids, Buddhist India, p. 23.


In the text the reading is pratiseveyu: kāmāṃ sugatamātari na pitā, “if (the father) had intercourse with the mother would he not be said by the hosts of devas to be violating his duty?” But this makes pitā, or the understood personal pronoun standing for it, the subject of a plural verb. Senart therefore suggests the pi. mātaro, i.e. “if the mothers indulge in love,” and for na pitā, nṛpati as the subject of vakṣyate, “the king will be said.” Devasaṅghānām is a Buddhist Sanskrit use of the genitive for the instrumental.


The parallel passage in 2. 4 has anindita for atideva. The variations in such similar parallel passages seem to betoken an oral rather than a written transmission.


Unless Maheśvara is a descriptive title, “the Dānavas, the great lords.”


I.e. Asuras, so-called as being descended from Danu.


Sahitam. See note p. 115.


Otherwise unknown.


Literally “four-limbed,” caturaṅgī, i.e. consisting of cavalry, infantry, charioteers and fighters on elephants.


? manojñasaṃghāta.


Āyus, for the usual prajā in this formula. Cf. Mahāvastu 2. 5. Senart quotes two passages of Lal. Vist. also (90. 14; 117. 11) which have āyus.


Akhila, a peculiar use of this word as the opposite of sakhila. Cf. 2. 6. But in the parallel passage at 1. 145 we have anṛta.


See note p. 115.


Antarato, see note p. 116.


3rd pers. imperative in text, translated by 2nd pers. for convenience.


See note p. 124.


Sc. Indra.




The text has me, “my,” which would imply that the queen is here recounting her narrative in the first person. It is better, with Senart, to change me into se which can stand for asyā as well as asya.


Literally “when the full moon is in conjunction with the asterism or lunar mansion, puṣya,” pūrṇāyāṃ pūrṇamāsyāṃ puṣyanakṣatrayogayuktāyām; whence the name of the month Pauṣa, corresponding to December-January.


Pariṇāhasampanna, “possessing breadth or girth.”


There is some grammatical incoherency here. The adjectives are loc. sing., much as though matus kukṣimavakrāmanti had the force of “are born of.”


Literally “it quaked thrillingly,” etc.


Prasaraṇīya, which Senart plausibly takes as equivalent to Pali sārāṇīya, probably derived from sam + raj, “to rejoice,” “to gladden.” (See Pali Dictionary.)


Reading, with Senart, vīrāsane for vīraśayane of the text. Böhtlingk and Roth give vīrāsana = “das Stehen auf einem erhöhten Platze.” This agrees with what we are told of the situation of the queen’s bed.


The MSS. have vipañcanikān, but the metre requires vaipañcanikān. Both forms are obviously related to Pali vipañcitaññū, “knowing diffuseness or detail” or “of unillusioned understanding” (Pali Dictionary, where references to variants in Buddhist Sanskrit are given, but not to the Mahāvastu instance.) In the next stanza these diviners have the more usual appellation nimittika, from nimitta, “sign,” “omen,” etc., which corresponds to the classical Sanskrit naimittika, Pali, nemittaka or nemittika.


Literally “the realisation of the fruit of,” phalavipāka.


Saratna, or, perhaps, “possessing the seven gems or treasures of a universal king.” See p. 41.


The text has the Prakrit form Suvarṇa. Cf. Pali suvaṇṇa beside supaṇṇa, descriptive epithet (“well-winged”) of the Garuḍā, “a class of mythical birds generally mentioned in company with the Nāgas.” (D.P.N.)


“A name for Māra, given him because he does not allow either gods or men ‘to escape’ (muc) from his clutches.” (D.P.N.)


Chiefs of the Yāma, the Tuṣita, the Nirmāṇarati, and the Paranirmitavaśavartin devas respectively.


Manomayavikramagatehi, “who have come with a pace made of mind.”


Maheśvaras, see note p. 155.


Gagane nirālambe.


As Senart suggests, these verses would be more appropriately assigned to the diviners.


Literally “the select being of an elephant,” gajasattvasāra.




Lokasya pradīpa, see note p. 37.


Literally, “as the saying goes forth,” yatha niścarati vācā, or, perhaps, “as men say.”


This phrase, forming a stereotyped beginning for the sentences in this passage, is, as far as is consonant with clearness, subsequently omitted.


Pañca śikṣāpadāni (Pali sikkhāpadāni), i.e. the five precepts inculcating the practice of the five śīlāni, or “behaviours.” Both precepts and behaviours are sometimes given as ten, but when enumerated as five each group denotes abstinence, respectively, from murder, theft, adultery, falsehood, and slander, the committing of which occasions the “five-fold guilty dread” (pañca bhayāni verāni). See e.g. S. 2. 68. The later additional five śikṣāpadāni are not identical with the corresponding five śīlāni.


Reading, as Senart tentatively suggests, sampūrṇasamādinnāni, for sapūrva° of the text.


Cf. M. 1.73.


Some of the tenses here are past (aorist), implying an account of a particular conception of the Bodhisattva. Others are present describing such a conception in general terms. But the two tenses are so mixed up that it has been thought better to render both by the present (or present perfect).


See p. 32.


A tree with a very dark bark, but white flowers, Xanthochymus pictorius.


Or, more precisely, “squatting on the calves with the heels firmly planted on the ground”—utkuṭika, Pali ukkuṭika. See Pali Dictionary where the reference to the Buddhist Sanskrit form should be amended; Mahāvastu 2.16, has utkuṭuka.


The verb is tiṣṭhati, as it also is for “lying” (on his face), etc., and for the copulative “is” in the next sentence.


In the corresponding passage in Vol. 2. 16 the simile is in the metrical form of an āryā of three hemistiches. In his notes Senart makes an attempt at the restitution of the metrical form here, but has to admit that there is no MS. authority for the introduction of the necessary words.


Literally “laughter and talk befall (abhyābhavati) the B.’s mother.” This use of the verb abhi-ā-bhū is Brāhmanic, and Senart suggests that it is an example of not a few parallels which examination might reveal between the language of the Mahāvastu and the Brāhmaṇas.


Kathā vikasati. Senart tentatively refers vikasati to vikaś and cites kaś given by Vopadeva in the sense of “to resound,” etc. See also Böhtlingk and Roth s.v. kaś, kas, kaṃs.


Nirāmiṣa, “not fleshly,” “not gross,” “spiritual.”

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