The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes asita and the young gotama which is Chapter II 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 II - Asita and the young Gotama

In the southern country there was a brāhman youth, the son of a wealthy brāhman of Ujjenī.[1] Asita[2] was dusky of complexion, clever, skilful and intelligent. He had learnt the Vedas, the mantras[3] and the śāstras[4] at his tutor’s house.

Now when he had completed the study of the Vedas, he left home, went to the Vindhya mountains and lived the religious life of a seer, subsisting austerely[5] on roots, fruits and leaves. In the Vindhya mountains he established a hermitage, and by endeavour, application and exertion in the brāhmanic[6] way of life he accomplished the four meditations[7] and won clear conception of the five branches of the higher knowledge.[8] And, having mastered the four meditations and attained the five branches of the higher knowledge and being learned and proficient in the Vedas, Asita the seer became known and celebrated everywhere.

Asita the seer was renowned in heaven also. He travelled through the air, being possessed of great magic and power. He dwelt in his hermitage in the company of five hundred pupils and Nālaka.[9]

At the birth of the Bodhisattva he saw the quaking of the earth and the great radiance. He heard the entrancing and divine sounds of song and music. He saw the celestial showers of blossoms raining down, and thousands of koṭis of devas and thousands of Apsarases carrying celestial garlands and perfumes as they hovered behind and in front on the aerial paths. He saw hundreds of other wonders besides and was thrilled at the sight. He asked himself, “What is toward in Jambudvīpa to-day? By whose power is the earth shaken to-day (31) and these hundreds of wonders manifested?” And the seer by means of his deva-eye[10] surveyed the whole of Jambudvīpa to see whose majesty and power it was that caused the entrancing sounds of song and music to be poured forth, celestial musical instruments to be heard, devas and deva-maidens to be seen, celestial flowers to rain down, thousands of moons and suns to be seen, no fire to blaze in the thousand hells, and all beings to become possessed of extreme bliss. This is what he saw with his deva-eye. In the eastern city of Kapilavastu a son had been born to King Śuddhodana, who was virtuous, powerful and mighty, and it was through his power and majesty that these hundreds of wonders were manifested. And Asita said, “I shall go and see the boy at the fit place and time.”

When he was sure that it was the proper time and occasion for seeing the boy, he, attended by his numerous pupils, travelled through the air by means of his magic power and reached the city of Kapilavastu. There he stood at the door of King Śuddhodana’s palace. The ministers and door-keeper on seeing him rose up to meet him, and asked, “Lord, what is your wish? What is the object, what is the purpose of your coming?” The seer replied, “Here at the door of Śuddhodana is Asita the seer, eager to behold his son.”

The door-keeper reported this to the king, saying, “Asita the seer wishes to see your son.” When King Śuddhodana heard of the coming of the seer Asita, who was renowned, learned and distinguished, he said to the door-keeper, “Let the seer come in.” The door-keeper ran and reported this to the seer, saying, “Let his reverence enter.”

The seer came in. The king, with his court, on seeing him rose up and said, “We greet you, sir. Pray be seated.” The seer hailed the king and sat down. Then the king asked,

“Lord, what is the reason for your coming?” The seer replied, “I wish to see your son.”

At that time the boy had achieved a tranquil concentration, and they thought he was asleep. So the king said to the seer,

“Lord, wait a little. Just now the boy is asleep.” The seer replied “Your majesty, the boy is not asleep.” The king went close up in front of the boy (32) and saw that he was awake.

He marvelled at the seer, and concluded that he must be a seer of great power.

The king then gave instructions that the boy be brought in to the seer. And the boy, borne on a soft rug of antelope skin, was brought in. The seer, perceiving even from a distance the marks of a Great Man on the boy’s body, lifted his joined hands to his head and rose up. He greeted the boy reverently and inspected his thirty-two marks of a Great Man.

Afterwards in the palace the seer heard the report that the boy was to become a universal king, for the diviners had so foretold. But the seer thought to himself, “This boy will not become a universal king. He will become a Buddha in the world.” For the seer saw that those marks were such as belonged not to a universal king but to a Buddha. “He will become a Buddha in the world,” said he, “But I ere long shall reach my allotted span, and I shall not behold this jewel. I shall not hear his preaching of the dharma. I shall not see his excellent company of disciples.” And the seer cried and wept.

The king, with his court, on seeing Asita the seer weeping, became distressed, and asked him, “Why, Lord, do you weep on seeing the boy? I hope that you do not see any misfortune awaiting him. When he was born the earth quaked six times, and a radiance appeared in the world. He was adored by thousands of devas. There were showers of celestial blossoms, and the sounds of thousands of celestial instruments being played poured forth. When the boy was born there were also born in Kapilavastu five hundred other boys, five hundred girls, five hundred bondsmen and bondswomen, five hundred elephants, and five hundred horses. Five hundred stores of treasures were revealed, and five hundred kings sent messengers with greetings. And there were other marvels and wonders besides. And yet you, sir, weep on seeing the boy. Assure me, therefore, that you do not see any misfortune awaiting him.”

The seer replied, “Your majesty, (33) it is not that I see any misfortune for the boy. At some time or other, in some place or other such Great Men do appear in the world. For your son stands revealed as a Great Man. He will become a Buddha in the world. But I am old and I’ll not live to see it. He will preach the dharma which confers calm, which is noble and which leads to Nirvana. But I shall not hear him. I shall not see his goodly band of disciples, nor the wonders which he will work as a Buddha. And so, your majesty, it is because I see this great misfortune of my own that I weep.”

And the seer, having explained one by one, the four meanings of the marks,[11] proclaimed, “He will become a Buddha in the world,” and then went his way.

Put aside all hindrances, and calmly listen to me as I relate how Asita the seer wept at the birth of the Śākyan child.[12]

There was a great seer, Asita by name, who dwelt in the region of the Vindhyas. His wealth of merit was assured. He was high-minded, and sprung from great Kapila’s head.[13]

He was proficient in the āraṇyas[14] and śāstras, and master of the five branches of the higher knowledge. He dwelt on Kailāsa’s summit, like a lord of wealth, albeit a lord of a cave.

He abode at the head of a forest glade, living austerely[15] on roots and wild fruits, along with his pupil Nālaka and many others.

He ensued the path of the ten moralities,[16] happy in his calm and self-control, and exhorted others. He was a seer who had

attained the perfection of all good qualities,[17] and was endowed with the perfection of morality.

On a time there was shed a rich radiance, and the uttermost ends of the world were gladdened and amazed. All beings became extremely blessed, and the earth shook.

And the seer as he sat there saw flowers of the coral-tree and celestial blooms[18] from heaven fall on the surface of the earth. (34) Asita saw the sky bespangled with hundreds of jewels, and thousands of deva maidens running along the paths of heaven.

In the grottoes of the mountains he heard the sweet musical strains of the Kinnarīs,[19] which checked the mountain streams as they ran between the banks, their waters laden with flowers.

He beheld a rich radiance all around in the ten quarters, like the splendour of the newly-risen sun in all its might.

When he had seen these and many other marvels, Asita in his astonishment became thoughtful.

“Why now,” thought he, “does the great earth quake, and why do drums roar in the paths of heaven? Why is the world bathed in radiance, and why do flowers rain down?

“The moon and sun shine not[20] and the dark-blue water of the ocean trembles; the flower-strewn waves look like an expanse[21] of lotuses.

“And all these fair trees are laden with blooms out of season, and give forth at the same time the sweet fragrance of flowers and fruits.

“To-day no fire blazes in the thousand hells, nor do the dismal regions between the worlds know aught of affliction.

“Nor do hunger and thirst arise in the body as before. My heart is glad. What, I wonder, is toward to-day?

“Why now is this exceeding loud laugh raised in the eastern quarter? Why do deva maidens hurry with sandalwood powder in their hands?

(35) “What mighty man has to-day been born in Jambudvīpa? Through the glory of what glorious man is such great might revealed?

“Of whatsoever else in the world such things are a sign,’tis certain that such portents occur at the birth of Buddhas.”

He hears hosts of immortals from the skies alighting on the earth, and saying, “The Saviour of the world is born. He will become a Buddha who is his own guide.”[22]

Enraptured, then, at hearing the hosts of devas in the air proclaiming, “To-day, the Buddha, a scion of heroes, has been born in the world,”

The seer, with his deva eye, surveyed the whole of Jambudvīpa, and saw that a son was born to Śuddhodana in the clan of the Śākyans.

And when he had seen all this, the rumour of enlightenment arose in the regions,[23] and the sound of the Buddha’s name went abroad. (And he said) “I shall see him in due time.”

They,[24] carrying hatchets[25] in their hands, wearing black robes of antelope skin and cloaks of black fibre, came bearing fruits and water.

The seer travelled through the unsupporting air in the path of the wind. By calling forth his magic power he arrived at Kapilavastu in an instant.

At the foot of the Himalayas he descried a delightful city bathed in sunlight, and impregnable to foes. Verily it was as delightful as a city of the Three-and-Thirty devas. And the seer entered this city in order to see the Śākyan.

He entered the city which was radiant[26] and whose markets were busy in selling and buying. It was thronged (36) by joyful people, happy warriors on horseback, on elephants, in chariots and on foot.

With cheerful[27] heart he approached and entered its bright gates—the abode of Śuddhodana, an abode like that of the king of the devas.

He saw the upper chamber[28] of the palace, with the fair windows of its gables and attics open,[29] gleaming like a brilliant mountain-top in the sky.

On the front of the mansion were pinnacles resplendent with silver, and its corners gleamed like the flame of the sacrificial fire.

The inner apartments were fair like pellucid shells. They sparkled like brilliant little suns or like moon-shaped ornaments.[30]

There were seen rays[32] like lightning flashes thrown out[32] by the well-wrought panels[33] of beryl and by the rows of house-bolts.[34]

There were seen arched portals of gold like burning fire, like the clear sun, that flashed like moon-shaped ornaments.

Everywhere rutting elephants, like monsoon clouds,[35] like clouds that yield rain, come forth adorned with star-like ornaments.[36]

Everywhere kittens fall down suddenly, for they are frightened by the peacocks that strut about.

Everywhere cuckoos in aviaries sweetly call; everywhere parrots and sārikas[37] flutter about like ropes of pearls.

(37) It was a fair citadel built square to all points of the compass, and well laid out,[38] impregnable to foes, and thronged by wearers of the sacred cord.

On the ground with its heaps of jewels and piles of other splendours a lion sits and starts with fear at the rising sun which it has seen.[39]

This palace, then, which knew no vehicles drawn by animals, but was well supplied with slaves and courtesans,[40] and crowded with eunuchs in red-and-white garments, did Asita enter.

The palace was crowded with servants and hundreds of carriages, full of nobles, and pervaded with a sweet fragrance, as the recluse reached the door unhindered.

Crowding the hall[41] he saw women standing still or moving about, holding scimitars[42] in their hands, and exceeding fair to look upon as they gossiped.

And Asita, wise, profound, and well-versed in the scriptures, thus spoke to the door-keeper: “Bear this message of mine to the king of the Śākyans.

“I am Kāla[43] and I am of the clan of Bhāradvāja.[44] I am of noble birth and dwell in a region on the summit of the Vindhyas.”

“So be it, sir,” replied the door-keeper obediently, and he went in to the king who listened to all his words and had him bring Asita in.

In obedience to the summons Asita entered the heavenly abode of Siṃhahanu[45], like Indra going to Nandana[46] with its throngs of Apsarases.

(38) Asita hailed the king and presented fruits to him. The king accepted them and said, “Welcome, lord.”

There was a special couch with its eight legs of gold, with bright cushions,[47] and studded with gems. On it Asita sat down as bidden.

The seer, who was master of the five branches of the higher knowledge and had great magic power, sat down on the couch, and King Śuddhodana himself invited him to partake of food.

When the sumptuous meal was over, Asita said, “Pray, listen to me, O king.” And the king replied, “Well be it with you, lord” Asita said, “I wish to see your son, if it is your pleasure.”

“You are heartily welcome” said the king, “But just now the comely child is asleep. When he wakes up you shall see him like a body of pure gold.”

And when the child was awake, he took him from his mother and presented him with his hair in eight braids, like the sun emerging through a rift in the clouds.

When the noble seer saw him lying like a jewel[48] on the blanket of fine cloth, he hurriedly rose to his feet and received the child in his arms.

And when he had taken him in his arms and seen that he bore the thirty-two marks of a Great Man as well as the lesser characteristics, he wept and sobbed.[49]

Seeing his eyes welling with tears King Śuddhodana asked him, “What, I pray you, is this sadness that has come over you on seeing the child?

“I want to hear, brahman, why you weep on seeing him who, on the day he was born, took seven strides to the north.

(39) “Why do you weep, brāhman, on seeing him, on the day of whose birth devas stood in the air carrying sunshades and fans?

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth the whole world was bathed in radiance.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth two springs of water welled up in the sky.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth devas held up a sunshade in the sky.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth devas scattered powder of the coral-tree.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth the inanimate earth quaked.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth the dark-blue water of the salt ocean trembled.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth drums roared in the sky.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred Śākyan lads were also born.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred Śākyan maidens were also born.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred bondsmen were born for me.

(40) “I want to hear, brahman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred bondswomen were born for me.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred steeds were born for me.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred elephants were born for me.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred stores of treasure stood revealed.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth five hundred neighbouring kings came to bow down before me.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, on the day of whose birth teachers of kings came to see him.

“I want to hear, brāhman, why you weep on seeing him, whom men behold with gladness, joy and exaltation.

“Cast grief aside, brāhman, be joyful and regain your composure. For this child will become a king possessing the seven treasures,[50] a lord of the earth.”

When this had been said, Asita wiped away his tears and in reply spoke these words of good cheer;[51] [“Not so”],[52] said he, “has it been foretold by the seers.

“This lion-hearted man, who is like the joyful and fiery young sun, will not become a king, a lord of men. He will become an unsurpassed Master.

“For he with three strides has traversed the whole threefold world.[53] (41) He will attain the highest dharma, which is blest, immortal and irresistible.

“I am old, my vigour gone, and just now a boy has been born who will become a Supreme Man. But I shall be dead, when the boy attains enlightenment.

“He will become a Buddha, omniscient, with power over all things[54] in his well-proclaimed dharma and Discipline. But I am old, and hence I weep.

“And yet I have no fear of death. For how can a man be born and not die? I weep because I shall not see the peerless Buddha.

“Verily, I have no fear of death. For how can a man be born and not die? I weep because I shall not hear the peacegiving dharma.

“Verily, I have no fear of death. For how can a man be born and not die? I weep because I shall not see the Saṅgha[55] with its ocean of virtues.[56]

“I weep because he who, himself awakened, will awaken this race of men so long lulled to sleep by material joys, now stands revealed when I am old.

“I weep because he who, himself released, will release this race of men bound in the fetters of passion, now stands revealed when I am old.

“I weep because he who, himself released, will release this race of men bound in the fetters of folly, now stands revealed when I am old.

“I weep because he who, himself released, will release this race of men from passion, hatred and folly, now stands revealed when I am old.

“I weep because he who, himself healthy, will also render others healthy, now stands revealed when I am old.

(42) “I weep because he who, himself grief less, will also render others griefless, now stands revealed when I am old.

“I weep because he who, himself free from pain, will also render others free from pain, now stands revealed when I am old.

“These fortunate men and devas will see the King of dharma setting his wheel a-rolling in the city of Kāśi.[57] But I am old and therefore I weep.

“These fortunate men and devas will see the ambrosia shared among the noble throng. But I am old and therefore I weep.

“Sickness, old age and death are great stumbling-blocks[58] to men. Now a comforter has arisen. But I am comfortless and therefore I weep.”

When the seer had pitifully[59] and tremulously[60] uttered these many lamentations,[61] he lauded the excellent, self-controlled Man whom he had just seen.

“I have come eastwards,” said he, “seeking the Supreme Man, for rare[62] is the appearance of Buddhas who tame the untamed.”

Then he walked round the Bodhisattva several times keeping him on his right. To the king he said, “I am going. Let your majesty safeguard my well-being.”[63]

[When he had returned home he said to Nārada:][64]

“When you hear news of the Buddha go to the presence of the Supreme Guide. Live the good life and let his words be your counsel.

“So be it,” said Nārada when he heard these words. (43) He embraced the religious life and became the foremost of his class, an Arhan[65] who had shaken off his lusts.

Sing the praises of the kinsman of Kātyāyana,[66] who is named Nārada, a son of the Conqueror, who dwelt in the wood, the elder who has passed completely away.[67]

Sing the praises of him who is released and rid of attachment to existence,[68] who is utterly at peace and free, with every remnant of existence[69] destroyed—the elder who has passed completely away.

The Bodhisattva was proclaimed by Asita to be destined to become a Buddha on each of four grounds. What four? The clearness, the regularity, the fundamentalness[70] and the unimpaired excellence of his characteristics.

Exalted Buddhas have eighty secondary characteristics.[71] They have their nails long, copper-coloured, and glossy. Their fingers are rounded, beautiful and regular. Their veins have no knots and are concealed. Their ankles are concealed and compactly formed. They have even and level feet. Exalted Buddhas have perfect sexual organs. Their radiance extends all around them. Their limbs are soft, flawless, superb, wellshaped, and well-knit, and all are well-proportioned. Their bodies are unimpaired and unmarred. Their limbs are free from freckles and curly hair.[72] Exalted Buddhas have hands soft as cotton. The lines on their hands are deep, unbroken[73] and uninterrupted. Their lips are red.[74] Their voices do not carry too far.[75] Their tongues are soft, slender and red. Exalted Buddhas have voices like the sound of an elephant’s cry, well-toned and pleasant. Their gait is like the movement of an elephant, a bull, or a lion (44), always bearing to the right.

Their protuberances[76] are equal, and they are lovely in all parts. Their behaviour is clean. The hair of their bodies is perfectly clean and pure. Their radiance is all around them undimmed. Exalted Buddhas have straight, soft and regular limbs. Their bellies curve like a bow, are lovely, large[77] and regular.[78] Their navels are deep, regular,[79] unimpaired and turning to the right. Their knee-caps are curved.[80] Exalted Buddhas have round, sharp, regular,[81] unbroken and even teeth. Their noses are high but not too large. Their eyes are dark like the dark-white lotus.[82] Exalted Buddhas have dark, glossy eyebrows and large[83] equal ears without defect. Exalted Buddhas have their faculties unimpaired, unmarred and well-controlled. They have most excellently proportioned foreheads. Their hair is dark, thick, shiny, carefully combed,[84] growing without a break or interruption, soft, glossy and fragrant, with its tips curled.[85] They have well-shaped heads and their hair bears the figures of[86] the Svastika, Nandyāvarta and Muktika signs.[87]

These are the eighty secondary marks on the body of the infinitely wise Buddha, and with these the body of the deva who is above all devas, the Supreme Man, is always adorned.

Since there are on his body the thirty-two praiseworthy marks and the eighty secondary characteristics, and since his radiance extends a full fathom, (45) how, verily, can the wise not have faith in him as the Conqueror?

If a man were to have the merits of all beings a hundred-fold he would not[88] acquire[89] for his body a single one of these characteristics.

Footnotes and references:


Ujjenī was the capital of Avanti, “one of the four continents in the time of the Buddha, being also mentioned among the sixteen great janapadas. It is identical with the Greek Ozenī, about 77°E ana 23°N.” (D.P.N.)


In the Pali texts Asita, the “Buddhist Simeon,” was the chaplain of Siṃhahanu, father of Śuddhodana, and also the latter’s tutor. See D.P.N., where reference is made to E. J. Thomas: The Life of Buddha (pp. 38 ff.) on the growth of the Asita legend. But the Mhvu., like Lal. Vist., has confused with this residential chaplain a Himalayan recluse known as Asita Devala (see below, p. 35).


The hymns and prayers of the Vedas.


The standard religious treatises.


Rucchavṛttis. Ruccha is for Sk. rūkṣa. The Pali form of the latter is lūkha, which, as well as the alternative form lūha, is found several times in the Mhvu. also. But the manuscript evidence has decided Senart to print ruccha.


Vāhitakena (= bāhitakena or bāhirakena) [margena], “in the way outside of, or other than, the Buddhist way,” hence “unorthodox” from the Buddhist point of view, with especial reference to the Brāhmanic religion and asceticism.


Dhyāna. See Vol. I, pp. 183 ff.


Abhijñā, “super-knowledge.” See Vol. I, p. 201, n. 2.


Nephew of Asita, by whom he was warned to prepare himself to profit by the Buddha’s enlightenment.


See Vol. I, p. 125.


See below, p. 40.


A metrical version of the Asita legend.


Mahākapila-uttamāṅgaruha. Literally, “sprung from the hair (uttamāṅga, cf. Pali) of great Kapila.” The legend here seems to be peculiar to the Mhvu. Senart compares the birth of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma from two hairs of Hari’s head. It is worth noting also that Asita’s home is put in the Vindhyas, and not the Himalayas, the usual home of ascetics and seers, including Kapila himself (see Vol. I, pp. 296 ff.) Immediately below, however, Asita himself is said to dwell on Kailāsa (Kailāśa), a range of the Himalayas.


Evidently for the usual āraṇyakos, “forest” treatises.


Rucchaṃ vṛttim. See p. 27, n. 5.


See Vol. I, p. 3, n. 4.


Reading sarvaguṇa for devaguṇa. So Senart.


The text has kalpapuśpāṇi, but this word appears in Senart’s index at the end of vol. 3 with a question mark. Possibly the meaning is simply “flowers that last a kalpa,” hence “celestial.” Cf. kalpavṛkṣa, Pali kalparukkha, the name of a tree in Indra’s heaven. (See vol. I, p. 118).


Female Kinnaras. See Vol. I, p. 54. Mount Kailāśa is again mentioned as the home of the Kinnaras on p. 97 (text).


Na vibhānti, Senart’s conjecture for impossible MS. readings like nava yatim, navaṃpatim and nagapatim.


Uttarīyapaṭalā, “upper cover,” or, perhaps, padmottarīyapaṭalā means a “surface bluer than (literally ‘beyond’) the lotus.”


Aneya, usually, e.g., Vol. I, p. 208 (text), ananyaneya “not led by others.”


Diśasu is Senart’s emendation for pañcasu “the five (regions),” on the ground that the latter enumeration is unusual. Note also that kaulīna “rumour” is here masc., instead of neut. as the word is elsewhere in this sense. Further, Senart takes the words tatraiṣa buddhaśabda carati as spoken by Asita, but it seems better to take them as a continuation (tatra = “and then”) of the preceding statement. The text of the whole verse is suspect.


I.e. Asita and his disciples.


Kuṭhāri, Pali kuṭhārī, Sk. kuṭhāra. The purpose of their carrying hatchets is not clear.


Sannibhantam, for °bhāntam (possibly this form should be read here) pres. part, of san-ni-bhā.


Lacuna in the text, which is obviously to be filled in by an adjective of such meaning to go with manasā.


Harmiya, Vedic harmya, BSk. harmika (Divy. 244), Pali hammiya, “customarily given as a long storied mansion, which has an upper chamber placed or top.” (P.E.D.). Here it is compounded with prāsāda, “terrace.”


Gavākṣavaraśaraṇapañjaravibuddha. This is a difficult compound. gavākṣa (Pali gavakkha, Mhvs. ix. 15, 17), literally “ox-eye” denotes “a window” especially a dormer or attic window in a gable. Vara is, of course, a mere conventional epithet, “fair.” Śaraṇa, “refuge,” has also the meaning of “private apartment” or “closet” (see M.W.). and as the allusion here is to the upper story of the palace (Asita, besides, was coming in from the air) it may be rendered “attic.” But pañjara “cage” can only be rendered “window” on the analogy of its use in Pali in the compound sīhapañjara (“lion-cage”) to denote “window,” and apparently a dormer or attic window especially. (See Mhvs. xxvi, 16; J.3. 379; DhA. 1.191). Vibuddha “blossomed” is taken in the sense of “opened out.”


Literally “like made moons,” kṛtā va candrāṇi, or, following a suggestion by Miss I. B. Horner, “like shaped moons,” which may equally be understood as alluding to ornaments in the shape of moons, whether crescent or full. Senart doubts the reading, however, and as an alternative for kṛtā, one may tentatively suggest kāntā, “like lovely moons.” Although the compound vimalaraviprakāśa might seem to refer to the actual sun, it is better to make the allusion to be to sun-shaped ornaments “little suns.” For oriental ornaments of these shapes, see Isaiah 3.18, where the word translated “cauls” is possibly to be taken instead as the equivalent of the Arabic shabīsā “little suns.”


Literally “colours,” varṇāni.


Literally “spread,” uptā, from vap “to strew.”


Phalakehi. Cf. Vol. I, p. 154, n. 4.


Gṛhasūcīkāvalīhi. Or, perhaps, as Miss I. B. Horner suggests, sūcīkā here denotes the pins to secure the bolts.


Miss I. B. Horner points out that in Indian mythology these life-giving clouds are thought of as elephants, which once had wings and roamed the skies.


Niśritārkasadṛśā, “like suns fixed,” i.e. on the bodies of the elephants.


See Vol. I, p. 226, n. 2.


The text has suāviddham from su-ā-vyadh, but in his note Senart discusses the form susaṃviddham, “bien percé,” i.e. with loopholes. But he doubts the correctness of the reading. It has, therefore, been thought better to emend into suvibhaktam, on the analogy of vibhaktā in Vol. I, p. 9 (text), “divided,” “laid out.” Cf. vibhatta in Pali (A. 1. 141, M. 3. 167).


This stanza is very obscure. “Lion” is sīha (Pali for siṃha). The obscurity is worse if Sīha is taken as a proper name, for there is no one in the story to whom the name can be referred. Viṣṭam of the text, which could only be construed as “(the sun) which had entered” (i.e. past part. pass. for active) has been emended into dṛṣṭam, “ which had been seen.” The Mhv. almost invariably prefers the compound pra-viś to the simple viś.


Velāsikā. The form vailāsikā is found in Vol. 1, p. 348 (text). See note p. 294 of translation.


Osaraṇe bharitā. Senart explains the first word with reference to Pali osaraṇaṭṭhāna given by Childers as meaning “resort” (here “hall”). Bharitā is used figuratively, being applied to what fills instead of to that which is filled or “laden.”


Toys or ornaments in the shape of scimitars.


Kāla, “black,” a synonym of asita. So Asita Devala is called Kāla Devala in the Nidāna-Kathā.


Name of a Brāhman clan.


See Vol. I, p. 298.


I.e. Nandanavana, a park in Trāyastriṃśa (Tāvatiṃsa).


Or “mats,” kilañjaka.


Literally “like an earring,” kuṇḍala.


The text has ākhaṇḍalasamāno, which can only mean “like Ākhaṇḍala,” i.e. “the Destroyer,” an epithet of Indra. Even if there were a well-known episode in which Indra wept, the simile would be very forced and unnatural. Ākhaṇḍalasamāno has, therefore, been emended into aśrukaṇ-ṭhasamāno, literally, “being with tears in his throat,” i.e. “sobbing.”


See Vol. I, p. 85.


This is Senart’s interpretation of sitasāhvayam idamavocat. If the reading is corect, there is in the former word a play on the name Asita, “black.” Asita, that is to say, though black his name, spoke words that could be called (sāhvayam) white (sita).


Lacuna in the text.


See Vol. I, p. 78, n. 2.




See Vol. I, p. 31, n. 1.


Guṇasāgaram. Unless we read gaṇasāgaram, “an ocean of a multitude,” i.e. the Saṅgha, a multitude vast as the ocean.


I.e. Benares.


Literally “ stumbling-block makers,” antarāyakarā. The rendering of antarāya as “ stumbling-block ” is due to Lord Chalmers (Furth. Dial. i. 90). It has been adopted also by Miss I. B. Horner in Book of the Discipline (3.21), where she has a valuable note on the word.


Karuṇāyanto, which must be taken in a middle sense.


Vepitvā, see preceding note.


Ālapitvā bahūni.


Cf. Vol. I, pp. 42, 43, 92, 96, 190, 224 ; Sn. 559, 560, 998.


The text here has snigdhavatīm bhavāndetu. The former word, as Senart remarks, gives neither sense nor a suitable measure. The translation above has been based on a tentative emendation into snigdhavṛittim, “ an easy or comfortable way of life.” Cf. the use of snigdha in the phrase Pṛicchati snigdham in the Rāmāyaṇa (1. 68. 4), “to inquire after the health of.”


Not only does the following verse, in the MSS, come before the farewell address to the king, but it contains nothing to indicate that the words were spoken to Nārada—we are left to infer this from the next verse. Not only is there this textual anomaly, but also the strange intrusion of Nārada (for whom see below p. 50, n. 5; 52.) into the Asita story. For, as has been seen (p. 27) Asita’s nephew whom he exhorted to accept the coming Buddha’s teaching was named Nālaka. Lal. Vist. calls him Naradatta.


See Vol. I, p. I, n. 4.


So is Nālaka called Kātyāyana in the Tibetan version.


These verses are out of place here, and have evidently been interpolated from a poem celebrating the death of Nārada.


Nirupadhi, i.e. without any upadhi or basis of rebirth or attachment to existence. Cf. upādi, Vol. I, p. 199, n. 2.


Sarva-upadhi. See preceding note.


Literally “profundity,” gambhīratā.




°tilaka-alaka. Or, perhaps, we have here the scribal error of dittography and should read °tilaka, “freckles,” only, as in the Dharmasaṃgraha sect. 84 (Subsequently cited as Dhsg.)


Abhagna. It would seem better to read abhugna, “unbent,” “not crooked,” which would make this characteristic correspond with No. 15, ajihmapāṇilekhā, in Lal.Vist., p. 106 (Lefmann’s edition).


Literally “like the bimba,” the fruit of the tree Momordica monadelpha, which, when ripe, is of a red colour.


Nābhyāyatana, “not beyond their (due) compass,” abhi having the force of ati. Cf. nātyāyata° next page, and nātyāyatavacanatā in Dhsg. (l.c.)


Utsada, see Vol. I, p. 6, n. 1. Dhsg. has utsāhagātratā “having vigorous limbs,” while Mvyut. (No. 30) has utsadagātra “ with protuberances on their limbs.”


Ukṣa.. This meaning is given in M.W. with a (?)


Reading either abhugna “not crooked” as in Dhsg., or abhagna “unbroken,” as in the text.


Text has abhagna, again. Lal. Vist. has ajihma and Mvyut., anupūrva.


Pariṇata, which, however, means rather “bent” or “crooked.” Pariṇāha(vat) or pariṇāhin, “big,” “wide,” would seem a better reading, and would correspond, with pṛthu in Dhsg. and Lal. Vist.


Reading abhugna for abhagna which is synonymous with the following acchinna. Lal.Vist. and Mvyut. have anupūrva.


Or, “like the dark and white lotus,” the pupil being black and the ball white. See Dhsg., n. p. 58 of “Anecdota Oxoniensia” edition.


Aparītta. Parītta is BSk. corresponding to Pali paritta “small,” “little,” “inferior.” According to the P.E.D., “The BSk. form may be a re-translation of Pali paritta, which may correspond to Sk. prarikta, pp. of pra-ric, meaning “that which is exceeded,” i.e. “left (over or behind).”


Vivṛtta, “turned in different directions,” “parted (?),” so interpreted by Senart on the analogy of Lal. Vist. anākula “not confused.” The reading of Lal.Vist. quoted in the notes in Dhsg. p. 59, however, is alulita “not deranged,” which corresponds to asaṃlulita of the Dhsg. itself.


Reading vellita° (<vell), with two MŚS, for vallitāgrakeśa of the text. Cf. Pali vellitāgga, applied to the hair.


Literally “is like to,” sannikāsa. Lal.Vist. has saṃsthāna, “consists of.”


The Svastika sign is, of course, well-known. The second is here spelt Nandyāvarta, instead of °āvata as in the text. Cf. the form in Dhsg. and Lal.Vist. The shape of it is discussed by Burnouf: Lotus, 626, and Cole-brooke: Miscellaneous Essays, II. 211. In Dhsg. it is the hands and feet that are marked with these three signs, but in Lal.Vist. the marks are said to be on the hair, only here the mark Muktika is replaced by the Śrīvata, and a fourth mark, the Vardhamāna, is added.


Reading, with one MS, nāsya, to be scanned naasya for tenāsya of the text. With the text reading the translation would have to be, “ he would acquire only one.”


Literally “bring back on his body,” kāye nivartaye.

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