The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes buddha in veshali (vaishali) which is Chapter XXIX 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 XXIX - The Buddha in Veśālī (Vaiśālī)

So in due course the Exalted One reached Vaiśālī. There he brought well-being both to those within and to those without Vaiśālī, and recited these verses[1] on well-being.

Homage to the Enlightened One. Homage to his enlightenment. Homage to him who is freed; homage to his freedom. Homage to wisdom; homage to him who is fully wise. Pay homage to the foremost and the best in the whole world.

All creatures here assembled, creatures of earth and of sky, be ye all gladdened, and listen to what the Conqueror declares to be well-being.[2]

Whatever be the choicest gem in the world or the world beyond, or in heaven, it is not comparable to the Tathāgata, (291) the deva above all devas, the supreme of men. This choicest gem is in the Buddha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon....[3]

The choicest gem is in the dharma. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

There is no equal to that pure concentration which the supreme Buddha extols and which men say is unbroken.[4] This choicest gem is in the dharma. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

The eight orders of men whom people always praise form four pairs.[5] The Sugata has declared that they are worthy of offerings, and the giving of these brings great reward. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

He who has the good fortune to possess all the true doctrines[6] (292) has left behind the three evil states of harbouring theories about individuality,[7] of doubt, and of the delusion concerning good works.[8] This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

Whatever wrong a pupil commits in deed, speech, or thought, it is impossible[10] for him to conceal it. This impossibility has been proclaimed by those to whom the way is manifest. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

As Indra’s column is firmly grounded so that it is unshaken by the four winds, like it do I proclaim the worthy man to be, who keeps full in view the well-taught profound Āryan truths. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

Those who clearly understand the Āryan truths well-taught by him whose wisdom is profound, however sorely they are tempted by the world (293) do not cling to life in any of the eight spheres of existence.[9] This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

Those who are devoted to endeavour, their minds intent on what is good, those who have withdrawn from the world as Gotama taught them, win the highest gain, pass to immortality, and with their hearts liberated enjoy complete release. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

Their old karma is exhausted; there is no fresh accumulation of it. Immune from future existence, with the seed of life destroyed, and no longer in a condition of growth, the wise pass out like a lamp. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

As a fire lit by night[11] after burning fiercely goes out for lack of fuel, so also do the wise sons of the Buddha, when they have by their wisdom overcome their proneness to passion, escape the visitation of the king of death. (294) This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

As the tree-tops in the forest break out in bloom in Caitra, the first month of summer, and, stirred by the breezes, shed their fragrance abroad, so also do the wise sons of the Buddha shed forth the fragrance of the virtue they have won. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

All demons that are here assembled, those of earth and those of air, let them always deal kindly with the race of men. Day and night they bring you offerings.

Therefore keep diligent watch over this man,[12] as a mother shows anxious care for her child. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

Let those devas who believe in Vipaśyin, in Viśvabhū, in Krakucchanda, in radiant Kanakamuni,[13] in Kāśyapa, and in glorious Gotama Śākyamum, all of them mighty Buddhas (295), guard him well, and confer blessing on the race of men.

Therefore do ye keep diligent watch over this man, as a mother shows anxious care for her child. This choicest gem is in the Saṅgha. By this truth let blessing come from man and from demon.

I bow before him, the Buddha, the best of men and devas, who, overcoming the world, set rolling the wheel of dharma for the sake of all creation. Let there be prosperity. I bow before the dharma. Let there be prosperity. I bow before the Saṅgha. Let prosperity come from man and from demon.

When she had fed the Buddha and his monks Gośṛṅgī presented them with the sāl-forest. And then this thought occurred to the Licchavis: “Each one of us could provide the Exalted One and his community of monks for a whole life-time with robe, almsbowl, lodging, and medical requisites for use in sickness. But let us so act that the multitude can join together in a deed of merit. Let us make a levy on each of sufficient rice for one man.”

An individual levy of rice was thus raised containing twenty-five and more kinds of rice. And so they maintained the Exalted One and his community of disciples for a week.

(296) As the starry hosts encircle the moon, so does the throng sit around the radiant, mighty, beautiful, and glorious Buddha.[14]

Arrayed in golden garments, the colour of karṇikāra[15] flowers, and wearing solid bracelets they sit around the Buddha.

Their bodies smeared with yellow sandal-wood ointment, and clothed in best Benares cloth, [they sit around the Buddha:][16]

The Buddha with all his splendour outshines this attendant hand of devas which had foregathered, pure, well-born and virtuous though they were, as the lord of the stars outshines the planets.

As the light-giving moon in a cloudless sky outshines the hosts of stars, so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

the sun prevails in the sky and dazzles as it stands in its sunny path, so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

As the sun blazes in the sky and dazzles as it stands in its sunny path, so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

Like the tall and bright red-lotus with its fragrant petals, (297) so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

As Śakra, the hundred-eyed crusher of the Asuras, outshines the Three-and-Thirty-devas, so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

As Brahmā, compassionate to all creatures, outshines the splendour of all the devas, so does the Buddha with all his splendour outshine the noble lords of earth.

The Exalted One shed a pure, perfect[17] radiance. Then, aware of their faith in immortality, he instructed the noble lords, and revealed dharma to them as clearly as though he held it in his hand.

Thus did the venerable Ānanda praise the Exalted One. The Exalted One instructed, gladdened and thrilled the Licchavis of Vaiśālī with a discourse on dharma, and he converted many thousands.

Thus the gift made by the Licchavis of Vaiśālī was a meritorious gift[18] conferred as a mark of their gratitude.[19]

As the bees come together and cull the essence of various flowers, gathering it in their mouths and on their feet....[20]

(298) Through their concerted efforts is made a juice[21] that is sweet of taste and smell, and that, pressed together, becomes choicest honey, goodly in colour, taste and smell, and useful as food and medicine.

In the same way, wherever the Exalted One comes, to village or to town, the multitude flock together, children and wives, men and women, bent on lovely deeds.

Making common contribution they give the Saṅgha drink and food, and prepare rice-gruel for them. They give drink and most pleasant hard food, and essences approved by Āryans.

In proportion to their faith and their means they make their common contribution over a long period, and, with devotion in their hearts, they give again and again. And thus the store of their merit goes on increasing.

Adoring him with their joined hands raised in salutation, they respectfully rise up from their seats.[22] They render him service,[23] and give thanks for dharma. So does the great multitude joyfully perform its deed of merit.

Those who give gifts and do deeds of merit, whether they contribute with words of praise (299) or participate in the communal offering all go to a heavenly abode.

Invested with the forms of devas, waited on by throngs of Apsarases, with plenty of food, choice things to eat and drink, they rejoice in the mansion[24] they have come to.

And when they come again into the world of men, they all are born in families that are rich, thriving, prosperous, and fruitful in men and women.

The good and true man esteems the honey gathered from all kinds of flowers as bringing great blessing. Whatever man desires, so he desire it with his mind, it all shall turn out well for him, even as he wishes.

Gaining all your ends, you pass on to that release in which all the lusts that are inherent in the elements of sentient life[25] are cast away. Thus did the Saviour of the world, the Great Lord, bestow his blessing on them, their sons and wives, their kith and kin.

Then the Licchavis said to the Exalted One, “Here, Lord, is the greatest of our pleasure grounds, namely the Great Grove[26], with its pavilion. This we give and present to the Exalted One and his company of disciples.” The Exalted One said to his disciples, “Herewith, monks, I grant you permission to use this as a place of rest, of lodging, and of recreation.”

Then the Exalted One left the Great Grove and came to the shrine of Cāpāla.[27] (300) The Licchavis asked, “Where is the Exalted One?” The monks replied, “O sons of Vasiṣṭha, the Exalted One has gone from the Great Grove to pass the day at the shrine of Cāpāla.” Then the Licchavis said, “We give and present the shrine of Cāpāla to the Exalted One and his company of disciples.”

On another occasion, when the Licchavis went to the Great Grove to bow at his feet, the Exalted One had finished his meal and had gone to pass the day at the Saptāmra[28] shrine. The Licchavis asked the monks, “Friends, where is the Exalted One?” The monks replied, “O sons of Vasiṣṭha, the Exalted One has finished his meal and has gone to pass the day at the Saptāmra shrine." The Licchavis proceeded to the Saptāmra shrine, and, after bowing at the feet of the Exalted One, said to him,” Lord, we give and present the Saptāmra shrine to thee and thy company of disciples.”

In the same way were presented the shrines of Bahuputra,[29] Gautamaka[30] and Kapinahya.[31]

On yet another occasion, the Exalted One, having finished his meal, had left the Great Grove to pass the day at the shrine of Markaṭahradatīra,[32] when the Licchavis came to the Great Grove to bow at his feet. They asked the monks, “Friends, where is the Exalted One?” The monks replied, “O sons of Vasiṣṭha, the Exalted One has finished his meal and has gone to pass the day at the shrine of Markaṭahradatīra.” Thereupon, the Licchavis went to the shrine of Markaṭahradatīra, and, having bowed at the feet of the Exalted One, said to him, “We give and present the shrine of Markaṭahradatīra to the Exalted One and his company of disciples.”

When Āmrapālī[33] had entertained the Exalted One and his company of disciples she gave them the Mango Grove,[34] and when Bālikā[35] had done so she gave them her park Bālikāchavī.

Here ends the chapter of “The Sunshades” in the Mahāvastu-Avadāna.[36]

And so may the noble Saṅgha, guardian of the treasure of dharma, which is contained in the nine-fold[37] scriptures, the Saṅgha that belongs to the king of dharma of infinite glory (301), long continue in the greatest prosperity, as steadfast as Mount Meru.

Footnotes and references:

1.

These verses are a version of the Ratana Sutta of Sn. and Khp. already referred to in a note on p. 237. Although the verses are here introduced by the words svastyayanagāthāṃ bhāṣati which might be translated “he pronounced an incantation” (“a spell-verse”), it seems better, as has already been suggested, to take these verses as meaning that true welfare consists in the acceptance of the truth enunciated in each, rather than to regard them as “incantations” calculated to produce good results by a mere recital of them. The point of the whole series of stories is that the plagues were automatically allayed by the very presence of the Buddha in one or another of his incarnations. It is possible, of course, that the author, or authors, of the Mahāvastu recension did regard these verses as incantations or spells, and that the addition of the words manuṣyato vā amanuṣyato vā- (“from man and from demon”) to the refrain as it exists in Pali, emphasises, as Senart suggests, this magical nature of the verses. But that is not necessarily so. These words may equally serve to emphasise the immunity of the believer in the truth of the “gems” from all evil machinations whether of man or of demon. True blessings, pearls of priceless value come from belief in the Buddha and his doctrine.

2.

Literally “the blessing pronounced by the Conqueror”, svastyayanam jinena bhāṣitam. The corresponding Pali is (atho pi) sakkaccaṃ (sunantu) bhāsitam, which would make it tempting, if there were MS. justification for it, to emend svastyayanam into satkṛtyam, the Buddhist Sanskrit form corresponding to sakkaccaṃ, “respectfully,” “reverently,” etc.

3.

Lacuna.

4.

Ānantariya, or “the result of which is immediate.” Cf. ānantaryāni karmāṇi, p. 199. Pali ānantarika.

5.

I.e. one man in each of the four stages of the Path and another in the corresponding stage of fruition make four pairs and a total of eight individuals. See S. 4. 272 and Vism. 219.

6.

Darśanasampadāyo, the equivalent of Pali diṭṭhisampadā which appears at A. I. 269 as the third of a set of three sampadās or “attainments,” the other two being sīla° and cittasampadā.

7.

Satkāyadṛṣṭī, Pali sakkāyadiṭṭhi, “theory of soul, heresy of individuality, speculation as to the eternity or otherwise of one’s own individuality” (Pali Dictionary).

8.

Śīlavrata, here in a bad sense, usually rendered in Pali by sīlabbataparamāsa, “the contagion of mere rule and ritual, the infatuation of good works, the delusion that they suffice” (Pali Dictionary). The term is rendered by Lord Chalmers at M. 1. 9 by” the virus of good works.”

9.

See note p. 36.

10.

Abhavya, with abhavyatā for the abstract noun below. I.e. (?) “a moral impossibility,” called abhabbaṭṭhāna at D. 3. 133, etc.

11.

Reading, on Senart’s suggestion, niśīthe for niṣīde of the text.

12.

I.e. the man who believes and trusts in the “gems” of Buddhist doctrine (or, alternatively the man on whose behalf these verses are pronounced as a spell, see p. 242).

13.

? Bhāmakanakamuni. So printed, but Senart’s index has “Bhānakanakamuni (?) = kanakamuni.”

14.

These verses, which, at the end, are attributed to Ānanda, are introduced here with a strange abruptness.

15.

See p. 186.

16.

Lacuna.

17.

Daśāṅgupeta, (?) literally “endowed with ten limbs or parts,” i.e. a radiance shining to all the ten quarters, hence, perfect. Senart, however, translates “douée des dix qualités,” though he admits that he does not know what these ten qualities can be.

18.

Deyadharma, Pali deyyadhamma, “that which has the quality of being given,” a gift, especially a gift or set of gifts which it was a rule to give to monks, hence “a meritorious gift.” See a list of such gifts at Nd1 373 and Nd2 528.

19.

Anumodanāye, dative of purpose. For the sense compare Pali anumodanagāthā, “verses expressing gratitude.”

20.

Lacuna.

21.

Yosa, a Prakrit form conjectured by Senart, as being equivalent to Sanskrit yūṣa, Pali yūsa.

22.

Reading āsanatāt or āsanatā (so 2 MSS.) for āsanatāṃ of the text.

23.

Vaiyāvṛta, a Buddhist Sanskrit from of Pali veyyāvacca which corresponds to Sanskrit * vaiyāpṛtya, abstract from of vyāpṛta, “active,” “busy.” (See Pali Dictionary).

24.

Vimāna. See note p. 26.

25.

Saṃskārā. See p. 99.

26.

Mahāvana.

27.

A shrine near Vesāli, at one time the dwelling place of the yakṣa Cāpāla.

28.

Pali Sattamba or Sattambaka, a shrine near Vesāli, so-called after the seven daughters of King Kikī of Benares who strove for attainment there. (D.P.N.)

29.

Pali Bahuputta or Bahuputtaka, a shrine to the north of Vesāli, originally a many-branched banyan tree where people prayed to the spirit of the tree for sons. Hence the name. (D.P.N.)

30.

Pali Gotamaka, a shrine to the south of Vesāli, so-called after Gotama.

31.

As the above three shrines were, respectively to the west, north, and south of Vesāli, it may be presumed that Kapinahya was to the east, although the shrine named at D. 1. 9-10 as being to the east was Udena. It is possible that Kapinahya has some connexion with the place called Kapinaccanā, which, however, was not a shrine. (See D.P.N.)

32.

I.e. the shrine on “the shore of the Ape’s Pool,” a locality near Vesāli.

33.

See p. 216.

34.

Āmravana.

35.

Otherwise unknown, but Senart suggests that Bālikāchavī is identical with the Vālikārāma, a monastery in Vesāli. (See D.P.N.)

36.

This chapter has, in translation, been divided into several.

37.

Navavidhaśāsana, cf. Pali navaṅgabuddhasāsana, “the nine-fold teaching of the Buddhas,” i.e. the nine divisions of the Budḍhist scriptures according to their form or style, as sutta, gāthā, jātaka, etc.

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