Canto 1: bhagavat-prasūtiḥ
The Birth of Something Beautiful

Introduction

In the title of the present Canto bhagavat is ostensibly a term of reverence applied to gods and saints – Lord, Glorious One, Divine One, Adorable One, Venerable One, Holy One. But -vat is a possessive suffix, and bhaga is from the root √bhaj, which means to share out, or to obtain as one’s share, to enjoy. Meanings of bhaga given in the dictionary include good fortune, happiness, welfare, prosperity; dignity, majesty, distinction, excellence, beauty; love, sexual passion, amorous pleasure. So not all of these words necessarily carry a spiritual connotation.

The star of the present Canto is a sage who stands apart from the run-of-the-mill brahmins – spiritual materialists – who were eager to receive the king’s gifts of gold and cows. This singular sage’s name was Asita, which means “the Not-White One” – the one who, unlike the others, did not purport to be so spiritual, but who was rather devoted to sitting (āsana-stham, verse 52). Asita’s intuition, as events unfold, proves to be real. He hits the target.

Ostensibly, then, the present Canto describes a birth that was miraculous in the religious sense. But in its subversive subtext the Canto describes a birth that was miraculous in an irreligious sense. Hence in this translation, not “The Birth of the Holy One” but rather “The Birth of Something Beautiful.”

 

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aikṣvāka ikṣvāku-sama-prabhāvaḥ śākyeṣv aśakyeṣu viśuddha-vṛttaḥ /
priyaḥ śarac-candra iva prajābhyaḥ śuddhodano nāma babhūva rājā // 1.1 //

Among the unshakable Aśakya, lit. “not to be overcome, invincible” – a play on the clan name Śākya. 01 Śākyas there was a king, a descendant of Ikṣvāku who in might was the equal of Ikṣvāku, a man of well-cleansed conduct / Who was loved by those below him, like the autumn moon: Śuddhodana was his name – ‘Possessed of Well-Cleansed Rice.’ //1.1//

tasyendra-kalpasya babhūva patnī * * * * * * * * * * * /
padmeva lakṣmīḥ pṛthivīva dhīrā māyeti nāmnānupameva māyā // 1.2 //

That Indra-like king had a queen: - - - - - - - - - - / Like lotus-hued Padmā in her beauty and self-possessed as Mother Earth, she was Māyā by name and was like Māyā, the peerless goddess of beauty. Māyā (“Art”) and Padmā (“The Lotus-Hued One”) are aliases of the goddess of fortune and beauty most commonly known as Lakṣmī (“Beauty”). 02 //1.2//

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
tataś ca vidyeva samādhi-yuktā garbhaṁ dadhe pāpa-vivarjitā sā // 1.3 //

...Like knowledge conjoined with balance, she who was far removed from evil conceived a child. //1.3//

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
* * * * * * * * * * *na tan-nimittaṁ samavāpa tāpam // 1.4 //

[Before she conceived, she saw in her sleep a white lord of elephants entering her body, but] she did not on that account incur any pain. //1.4// The Sanskrit in these opening verses was reconstituted by EH Johnston from the Tibetan. Text in square brackets is based on EH Johnston’s English translation, which he based mainly on Weller’s Tibetan text and German translation but also partly on Beal’s Chinese text and English translation. The Chinese 於彼象天后 降神而處胎, though it led Beal to a different reading (in which he translated 象 as “likeness” rather than as “elephant”), at least corroborates the reference to an elephant. 03

sā tasya deva-pratimasya devī garbheṇa vaṁśa-śriyam udvahantī /
* * * vīta-śrama-śoka-māyā * * * * * * * * * * * ] // 1.5 //

She, the queen of that god-like king, bearing in her womb the light of his royal line, / And being devoid of weariness, sorrow, and the māyā which is deceit, Māyā means “art,” and by extension, “illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, witchcraft, magic.”04 [set her mind on the pristine forest. Chinese: 樂處空閑林, “enjoying the empty forest.” 05] //1.5//

sā lumbinīṁ nāma vanānta-bhūmiṁ citra-drumāṁ caitrarathābhirāmām /
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ] // 1.6 //

For the grove called Lumbinī, which, with its manifold trees, would have pleased Citra-ratha, Citra-ratha, “He of the Bright Chariot,” is the king of the gandharvas who, along with the celestial nymphs, beautify Indra’s heaven. Citra means bright or multifarious, manifold; hence the reference to manifold trees. 06 / [She left the King, there to brood, in the wooded solitude]. Chinese: 寂靜順禪思 啓王請遊彼, “[for] dhyāna/thinking, following peace and quiet, she asked the king for permission to pass time pleasantly there.” 07 //1.6//

āryāśayāṁ tāṁ * * * * * * vijñāya kautūhala-harṣa-pūrṇaḥ
śivāt purād bhūmi-patir jagāma tat-prītaye nāpi vihāra-hetoḥ // 1.7 //

Appreciating the nobility of her instinct...., and filled with joyful anticipation, / The master of the earth Bhūmi-pati, “master of the earth,” here means the king. Often in his epic poetry, Aśvaghoṣa uses expressions like these in describing the dignified behaviour of a buddha, i.e. a king of dharma. 08 departed from the blessed city at her pleasure – and not for the pleasure of an excursion. Vihāra means walking for pleasure or exploring – as in the title of BC Canto 2. Vihāra was also used as the name of a place given over to practice of activities like walking, lying down, standing, and sitting. 09 //1.7//

tasmin vane śrīmati rāja-patnī prasūti-kālaṁ samavekṣamāṇā /
śayyāṁ vitānopahitāṁ prapede nārī-sahasrair abhinandyamānā // 1.8 //

In that glorious grove, perceiving that it was time for the birth, / The queen took to a bed covered over with an awning, being joyfully received into the bosom of thousands of fellow women. //1.8//

tataḥ prasannaś ca babhūva puṣyas tasyāś ca devyā vrata-saṁskṛtāyāḥ /
pārśvāt suto loka-hitāya jajñe nirvedanaṁ caiva nirāmayaṁ ca // 1.9 //

Then, as a propitious moon passed into the asterism of Puṣya, to that queen sanctified by the manner of her action – / Through her, Pārśva means “the side”; therefore, ostensibly the ablative pārśvāt means “through her side.” But pārśvāt sometimes simply means “by means of, through.” So in this case the ostensible meaning requires a leap of the imagination, whereas the real or hidden meaning expresses the more everyday miracle of a natural birth. 10 for the welfare of the world – a son was born, painlessly and healthily. //1.9//

ūror yathaurvasya pṛthoś ca hastān māndhātur indra-pratimasya mūrdhnaḥ /
kakṣīvataś caiva bhujāṁsa-deśāt tathāvidhaṁ tasya babhūva janma // 1.10 //

Just as Aurva was born from the thigh, Pṛthu from the hand, Indra-equalling Māndhātṛ from the head, / And Kakṣīvat from the armpit: of that same order was his birth. //1.10//

krameṇa garbhād abhiniḥsṛtaḥ san babhau cyutaḥ khād iva yony-ajātaḥ /
kalpeṣv anekeṣu ca bhāvitātmā yaḥ saṁprajānan suṣuve na mūḍhaḥ // 1.11 //

Having emerged from the womb gradually, Krameṇa – the birth went well, being neither precipitous nor prolonged. 11 he whose position at birth was never fixed, Yony-ajātaḥ ostensibly means not born by a vaginal birth. The Chinese has 不由於生門 (“not through the birth gate”). But besides the birth canal, yoni has the secondary meaning of “the form of existence or station fixed by birth (e.g. that of a man, Brahman, animal).” 12 shone as if he had dropped from empty space. / Again, as one whose self had been developing over many aeons, he was born with integral awareness, and not in a wrong position. //1.11//

dīptyā ca dhairyeṇa ca yo rarāja bālo ravir bhūmim ivāvatīrṇaḥ /
tathātidīpto ’pi nirīkṣyamāṇo jahāra cakṣūṁṣi yathā śaśāṅkaḥ // 1.12 //

With brightness he shone, and with constancy, like a newly-risen sun inundating the earth; / Thus he blazed too brightly to be gazed upon, and at the same time he stole the eyes, in the manner of the hare-marked moon. //1.12//

sa hi sva-gātra-prabhayojjvalantyā dīpa-prabhāṁ bhāskaravan mumoṣa /
mahārha-jāmbūnada-cāru-varṇo vidyotayām āsa diśaś ca sarvāḥ // 1.13 //

For with the blazing light of his body, he blotted out the light of lamps as does the sun; / And with his beautiful lustre of precious gold, he enlightened all directions. //1.13//

anākulāny ubja-samudgatāni niṣpeṣavad vyāyata-vikramāṇi /
tathaiva dhīrāṇi padāni sapta saptarṣi-tārā-sa-dṛśo jagāma // 1.14 //

With even footsteps, his feet rising up like water-born lotuses, and coming down in long stamping strides: / Seven such firm steps he took, looking like the Seven Seer cluster of stars. Saptarṣi, the Seven Seers: the constellation we call the Plough, or the Big Dipper, within the larger constellation of Ursa Major. 13 //1.14//

bodhāya jāto ’smi jagadd-hitārtham antyā bhavotpattir iyaṁ mameti /
catur-diśaṁ siṁha-gatir vilokya vāṇīṁ ca bhavyārtha-karīm uvāca // 1.15 //

“For awakening I am born, for the welfare of the world; this for me is the ultimate coming into existence.” / Surveying the four quarters, he of lion’s gait voiced a sound that conveyed this gist of what would be. In other words, we need not understand literally that the baby declared in polished Sanskrit metre, antyā bhavotpattir iyaṁ mameti, “This for me is the ultimate coming into existence.” More likely, in exhibiting nothing more or less miraculous than the neo-nate stepping reflex and a newborn’s unbridled cry, the baby forcefully announced his presence, as if to say, “I am here. This for me is it.” 14 //1.15//

khāt prasrute candra-marīci-śubhre dve vāri-dhāre śiśiroṣṇa-vīrye /
śarīra-saṁsparśa-sukhāntarāya nipetatur mūrdhani tasya saumye // 1.16 //

Flowing out of the emptiness, as radiant as moonbeams, two showers of raindrops, had a cooling and a heating effect / Conveying the ease that is conveyed through bodily contact, as they fell upon his cool, moist, moon-like head. Coolness, moistness, and mildness are characteristics attributed to the mildly intoxicating juice of the soma plant, collected under the moonlight and hence identified with the moon. 15 //1.16//

śrīmad-vitāne kanakojjvalāṅge vaiḍūrya-pāde śayane śayānam /
yad gauravāt kāñcana-padma-hastā yakṣādhipāḥ saṁparivārya tasthuḥ // 1.17 //

As he lay on a bed with a glorious royal canopy, a base of shining gold and legs of cats’-eye gems, / An honour guard of yakṣa-wranglers stood around him, with golden lotuses in hand. //1.17//

* * * * * ś ca divaukasaḥ khe yasya prabhāvāt praṇataiḥ śirobhiḥ /
ādhārayan pāṇḍaram ātapa-traṁ bodhāya jepuḥ paramāśiṣaś ca // 1.18 //

Heaven-dwellers who seemed to be concealed in the sky, with heads bowed down at his majesty, / Held up a white umbrella, and sang their best wishes for his awakening. //1.18//

mahoragā dharma-viśeṣa-tarṣād buddheṣv atīteṣu kṛtādhikārāḥ /
yam avyajan bhakti-viśiṣṭa-netrā mandāra-puṣpaiḥ samavākiraṁś ca // 1.19 //

Mighty serpents who, in their thirst for the choicest dharma, had watched over buddhas of the past, / Fanned him, their eyes exuding partiality, and covered him in a confetti of mandāra blossoms. //1.19//

tathāgatotpāda-guṇena tuṣṭāḥ śuddhādhivāsāś ca viśuddha-sattvāḥ /
devā nanandur vigate ’pi rāge magnasya duḥkhe jagato hitāya // 1.20 //

Gladdened by a birth that went so well, those whose essence is pure and who dwell in the clear blue yonder, / The gods, though devoid of any red taint of passion, rejoiced for the welfare of a world steeped in sorrow. //1.20//

yasya prasūtau giri-rāja-kīlā vātāhatā naur iva bhūś cacāla /
sa-candanā cotpala-padma-garbhā papāta vṛṣṭir gaganād anabhrāt // 1.21 //

At his birth the earth, anchored by the king of mountains, shook like a ship being battered in a gale; / And a sandalwood-scented rain, containing lillies and lotuses, fell from the cloudless sky. The falling of rain from a cloudless sky (gaganād anabhrāt) is ostensibly a miracle. But as Nāgārjuna would later explain in detail, in reality there is no such thing, as a thing existing unto itself, as a cloud. In this sense the sky is always empty. 16 //1.21//

vātā vavuḥ sparśa-sukhā mano-jñā divyāni vāsāṁsy avapātayantaḥ /
sūryaḥ sa evābhyadhikaṁ cakāśe jajvāla saumyārcir anīrito ’gniḥ // 1.22 //

Breezes blew that were pleasant to the touch and agreeable to the mind, causing fancy clothing to fall off. / The sun shone with extra brightness, being nothing but itself. Fire, with a full, moon-like flame, burned without being stirred. //1.22//

prāg-uttare cāvasatha-pradeśe kūpaḥ svayaṁ prādur abhūt sitāmbuḥ /
antaḥ-purāṇy āgata-vismayāni yasmin kriyās-tīrtha iva pracakruḥ // 1.23 //

In the north-eastern corner of the residence a well of pure water spontaneously appeared; The ancient Indian sages apparently deemed the north-east to be best direction for wells and water tanks. 17 / And there the royal householders, filled with wonder, performed bathing practices as if on the bank of a sacred stream. //1.23//

dharmārthibhir bhūta-gaṇaiś ca divyais tad-darśanārthaṁ vanam āpupūre /
kautūhalenaiva ca pāda-pebhyaḥ puṣpāny akāle ’pi * * * * * // 1.24 //

Hosts of divine, dharma-needy beings, being motivated to meet him, filled up the forest. / And such indeed was the zealous absorption, that blossoms, even out of season, were caused to fall from trees. //1.24//

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
* * * * * * * * * * * ayatnato * * * * * * * // 1.25 //

[Diseases cleared up,] naturally. //1.25// No Sanskrit is extant from BC1.25 through to the last line of BC1.40; and for these verses, unlike for the opening verses of the chapter, EH Johnston did not endeavour further to restore Aśvaghoṣa’s original Sanskrit. EHJ’s translation from the Tibetan for this verse was: “At that time the noxious creatures consorted together and did each other no hurt. Whatever diseases there were among mankind were cured too without effort.” “Without effort” may well have been ayatnatas in Sanskrit, represented in the Chinese translation by 自, by itself, spontaneously, naturally (不療自然除 ). 18

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
diśaḥ praseduḥ * * * * * * * * * * * // 1.26 //

Directions became clear... //1.26// EHJ: “The birds and deer did not call aloud and the rivers flowed with calm waters. The quarters became clear (Tibetan: phyogs rnams rab snaṅ) and the sky shone cloudless; the drums of the gods resounded in the air.”19

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
jagad-vimokṣāya guru-prasūtau * * * * * * * * * * * // 1.27 //

The guru had been born for the liberation of the world. [Only the God of Love did not rejoice.] //1.27// EHJ: “When the Guru was born for the salvation of all creatures, the world became exceeding peaceful, as though, being in a state of disorder, it had obtained a ruler. Kāmadeva alone did not rejoice.” The Chinese translation has 唯彼魔天王 震動大憂惱, “Only he, the celestial king Māra, trembled and was greatly distressed.” Māra, “the Destroyer,” also known as Kāma-deva, “God of Love,” is the subject of BC Canto 13.20

[On seeing the marvellous birth of his son, the king, steadfast though he was, was much disturbed, and from his affection a double stream of tears flowed, born of joy and apprehension. //1.28//] Six lines of Chinese correspond: 父王見生子 奇特未曾有 素性雖安重 驚駭改常容 二息交胸起 一喜復一懼. 21

[The queen also was filled with fear and joy. //1.29//] EHJ: “The queen was filled with fear and joy, like a stream of hot and cold water mixed, because the power of her son was other than human on the one hand, and because she had a mother’s natural weakness on the other.”22

[Superstitious old women... /...prayed to the gods for good fortune. //1.30//] EHJ: “The pious old women failed in penetration, seeing only the reasons for alarm; so, purifying themselves and performing luck-bringing rites, they prayed to the gods for good fortune.” The Chinese has 互亂祈神明, ‘in mutual confusion praying to the divine intelligence.” 23

[Brahmins of learning and eloquence, and reputed good conduct... /... said to the king: //1.31//] EHJ: “When the Brahmans, famed for conduct, learning and eloquence, had heard about these omens and considered them, then with beaming faces full of wonder and exultation they said to the king, who was both fearful and joyfull:” The Chinese translation also mentions 高名稱, “lofty fame.”24

[“Men born on earth, for their peace, desire above all else a son. Rejoice, for this is the lamp of your people. //1.32//] EHJ: “’On earth men desire for their peace no excellence at all other than a son. As this lamp of yours is the lamp of your race, rejoice and make a feast to-day.” The Chinese includes 人生於世間 唯求殊勝子, “people in the world only wish for an excellent son.” 25

[Your son, among beings beset by suffering, will be a leader. //1.33//] EHJ: “Therefore in all steadfastness renounce anxiety and be merry; for your race will certainly flourish. He who has been born here as your son is the leader for those who are overcome by the suffering of the world.” The Chinese includes 靈祥集家國, “spiritual fortune will be concentrated in your family and nation” and 必爲世間救 “he will surely be the world’s salvation.” 26

[Having the lustre of gold, and the radiance of a lamp, /... he will be either a spiritual seer or an earthly king. //1.34//] EHJ: “According to the signs found on this excellent one, the brilliance of gold and the radiance of a lamp, he will certainly become either an enlightened seer or a Cakravartin monarch on earth among men.” The Chinese translation includes 金色 ‘the colour of gold.”27

[Should he desire earthly sovereignty, he will stand above all kings, as the sun outshines all stars. //1.35//] EHJ: “ Should he desire earthly sovereignty, then by his might and law he will stand on earth at the head of all kings, as the light of the sun at the head of all constellations.” The Chinese includes 猶如世光明 日光爲最勝, “just as, of brightness in the world, the light of the sun is best.” 28

[Should he seek freedom in the forest, then he will stand on the earth transcending all teachings, as Mount Meru stands as king of all mountains. //1.36//] EHJ: “ Should he desire salvation and go to the forest, then by his knowledge and truth he will overcome all creeds and stand on the earth, like Meru king of mountains among all the heights.” The Chinese includes 譬如須彌山 普爲諸山王, “just as Sumeru Mountain, among all mountains everywhere, is the king.” 29

[As gold is the best of metals, Meru of mountains, the ocean of waters, / And as the moon is the best of planets, he will be the best of men. //1.37//] EHJ: “As pure gold is the best of metals, Meru of mountains, the ocean of waters, the moon of planets and the sun of fires, so your son is the best of men.” The Chinese includes 諸宿月爲最, “among constellations, the moon is best.”30

[His eyes are blazing and yet mild, deep blue with long black lashes. How will these eyes not see everything?” //1.38//] EHJ: “His eyes gaze unwinkingly and are limpid and wide, blazing and yet mild, steady and with very long black eyelashes. How can he not have eyes that see everything?’ The Chinese describes 淨目, his pure eye. 31

[The king said to the brahmins: “Why should these signs be seen in him, when they were not seen in any former king? What is the cause?”... /... Then the brahmins said to him: //1.39//] EHJ: “Then the king said to the twice-born: ‘What is the cause that these excellent characteristics should be seen, as you say, in him, when they were not seen in previous great-souled kings?’ Then the Brahmans said to him:” The Chinese includes 如此奇特相 以何因縁故, “special signs like these, are due to what causes and conditions?”32

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * /
* * * * * * * * * * * nidarśanāny atra ca no nibodha // 1.40 //

[“Some things, such as wisdom, glorious deeds, and a king’s fame, are beyond former and latter. And yet every effect arises from a cause.] So listen to these examples [of unprecedented accomplishment: ] //1.40// EHJ: “In respect of wisdom, renowned deeds and fame of kings there is no question of former and latter. And, since in the nature of things there is a cause here for the effect, listen to our parallels thereto.” The Chinese includes 物性之所生 各從因縁起, “That which in the nature of things is born/produced, in each case arises out of causes and conditions.” 33

yad rāja-śāstraṁ bhṛgur aṅgirā vā na cakratur vaṁśa-karāv-ṛṣī tau /
tayoḥ sutau saumya sasarjatus tat kālena śukraś ca bṛhas-patiś ca // 1.41 //

That science of kingship which Bhṛgu Name of an ancient seer regarded as progenitor of the Bhṛgu tribe. 34 and Aṅgiras Another ancient seer, regarded as the father of the fire-god Agni. Various hymns and law books are attributed to him. 35, those two lineage-founding seers, failed to formulate, / Was created in the course of time, O gentle sir!, by their sons Śukra “The Bright One,” a name of the planet Venus or its regent (regarded as the son of Bhṛgu). Also a name of Agni. 36 and Bṛhas-pati. “Lord of Prayer.” EH Johnston notes that Śukra and Bṛhas-pati are regularly coupled together as the authors of the first treatises on political science 37 //1.41//

sārasvataś cāpi jagāda naṣṭaṁ vedaṁ punar yaṁ dadṛśur na pūrve /
vyāsas tathainaṁ bahudhā cakāra na yaṁ vasiṣṭhaḥ kṛtavān aśaktiḥ // 1.42 //

And Sārasvata See also SN Canto 7: So too did brahma-begotten Aṅgiras, when his mind was seized by passion, have sex with Sarasvatī; To her was born his son Sarasvata, who gave voice again to missing Vedas. //SN7.31 // 38 articulated again a lost Veda which forebears had never seen; / Vyāsa, Vyāsa, classifier of the Vedas, is also known as Dvaipāyana, “island-born,” since he was born in a small island in the Ganges. Nanda also refers to him in SN Canto 7: Dvaipāyana, equally, while having dharma as his primary object, enjoyed a woman at a brothel in Kāśi; Struck by her foot, with its trembling ankle bracelet, he was like a cloud being struck by a twist of lightning.// SN7.30 //39 ‘the Compiler,’ likewise, arranged it into many sections, which Vasiṣṭha, Vasiṣṭha was the owner of the cow of plenty mentioned in SN1.3. His son’s name was Śakti, “Capability.” 40 for lack of Capability, had not done. //1.42//

vālmīkir ādau ca sasarja padyaṁ jagrantha yan na cyavano maharṣiḥ /
cikitsitaṁ yac ca cakāra nātriḥ paścāt tad ātreya ṛṣir jagāda // 1.43 //

Vālmīki Author of the Rāmāyaṇa. 41 invented a metre which the great seer Cyavana, One of the authors of the Ṛg Veda. 42 in his compositions, had never used; / And that treatise on healing which Atri failed to produce, the seer Ātreya A famous physician whose name Ātreya means “descended from Atri.”43 would later expound. //1.43//

yac ca dvijatvaṁ kuśiko na lebhe tad gādhinaḥ sūnur avāpa rājan /
velāṁ samudre sagaraś ca dadhre nekṣvākavo yāṁ prathamaṁ babandhuḥ // 1.44 //

That rank of twice-born brahmin In this verse, it is clear from the context that dvi-ja-tvam, lit. “twice-born-ness” means being a Brahman.44 which “Squint-Eyed” Kuśika never won, O King!, the son of Gādhin did attain; Viśva-mitra “Friend of All,” who was the son of Gādhin and the grandson of Kuśika, was born into the warrior caste of kṣatriyas but after enduring years of ascetic self-denial eventually earned the epithet brahmarṣi, “Brahman Seer” – only then to be captivated by the nymph Ghṛtācī. Nanda refers to the same story in SN7.35. 45 / And “Poison-Possessing” Sagara So called because of poison given to his pregnant mother by the other wife of his father. 46 gave the ocean a shoreline, a boundary which formerly the Ikṣvākus had failed to fix. //1.44//

ācāryakaṁ yoga-vidhau dvijānām aprāptam anyair janako jagāma /
khyātāni karmāṇi ca yāni śaureḥ śūrādayas teṣv abalā babhūvuḥ // 1.45 //

The status of teacher to twice-born brahmins of the method of yoga, a status that nobody but a brahmin had obtained, Janaka did attain; King Janaka, as such, was a member of the kṣatriya cast of royal warriors. As such, again, he reversed the usual relationship in which brahmins would have taught yoga to kings. 47 / And the celebrated deeds of Śauri, “Descended from the Mighty,” were beyond the power of Śūra, “the Mighty Man” himself, and his contemporaries. //1.45//

tasmāt pramāṇaṁ na vayo na vaṁśaḥ kaś-cit kva-cic chraiṣṭhyam upaiti loke /
rājñām ṛṣīṇāṁ ca hi tāni tāni kṛtāni putrair akṛtāni pūrvaiḥ // 1.46 //

The criterion, then, is neither age nor descent; anyone anywhere may attaiśākyeśvarasyālayan pre-eminence in the world. / For, among kings and seers, sons have achieved various things that forebears failed to achieve.” //1.46//

evaṁ nṛpaḥ pratyayitair dvijais tair āśvāsitaś cāpy abhinanditaś ca /
śaṅkām aniṣṭāṁ vijahau manastaḥ praharṣam evādhikam āruroha // 1.47 //

The king, being thus cheered and encouraged by those trusted twice-born provers, / Banished from his mind awkward doubt and rose to still greater heights of joy. //1.47//

prītaś ca tebhyo dvija-sattamebhyaḥ satkāra-pūrvaṁ pradadau dhanāni /
bhūyād ayaṁ bhūmi-patir yathokto yāyāj jarām etya vanāni ceti // 1.48 //

And so upon those truest of the twice-born, Dvija-sattamebhyaḥ, “to the truest of the twice-born,” seems here to contain a pinch of irony. In later cantos (esp. BC Canto 7) dvi-ja (twice-born, born again) might be intended to carry a hidden, non-pejorative meaning. But here Aśvaghoṣa seems to suggest, below the surface, that the brahmins were self-seeking and not so true. The great seer Asita, who appears in the following verse, is not included among the twice-born [brahmins] – he is not called dvi-jaḥ; he, evidently, was one who was different (anyaḥ). 48 he joyfully bestowed riches, along with hospitality, / Wishing “May the boy become a king as prophesied and retire to the forest in his old age.” //1.48//

atho nimittaiś ca tapo-balāc ca taj-janma janmānta-karasya buddhvā /
śākyeśvarasyālayam ājagāma saddharma-tarṣād asito maharṣiḥ // 1.49 //

Then, awoken by dint of practice of austerities and alerted via signs to the birth of the one who would put an end to birth, / There appeared at the palace of the Śākya king, driven by a thirst for true dharma, the great seer Asita, “the Not White One.” Asita, “black, not white,” is thought to be a back formation from sita,”white.” Assuming that Aśvaghoṣa chose the name himself, the suggestion might be that Asita was different from brahmins who affected spiritual purity. Hence Asita’s intuition was real, and it would hit the target. 49 //1.49//

taṁ brahmavid brahmavidāṁ jvalantaṁ brāhmyā śriyā caiva tapaḥ-śriyā ca /
rājño gurur gaurava-satkriyābhyām praveśayām āsa narendra-sadma // 1.50 //

The king’s own guru, a knower of brahma among brahma-knowers, As discussed in connection with Arāḍa’s teaching in BC Canto 12, brahma is derived from √bṛh, whose meanings include to grow, to develop, to get fat. 50 ushered in him who was blazing with brahma-begotten brilliance and with the glowing heat of ascetic exertion – / The king’s guru, with the gravity and hospitality due to a guru, ushered Asita into the king’s royal seat. //1.50//

sa pārthivāntaḥ-pura-saṁnikarṣaṁ kumāra-janmāgata-harṣa-vegaḥ /
viveśa dhīro vana-saṁjñayaiva tapaḥ-prakarṣāc ca jarāśrayāc ca // 1.51 //

He entered the intimate surroundings of the women’s quarters of the palace, bristling with a rush of joy at the prince’s birth, / But steady, seeing the harem as if it were a forest, through his exceptional practice of austerities – and thanks also to old age. //1.51//

tato nṛpas taṁ munim āsana-sthaṁ pādyārghya-pūrvaṁ pratipūjya samyak /
nimantrayām āsa yathopacāraṁ purā vasiṣṭhaṁ sa ivāntidevaḥ // 1.52 //

Then that sage who was devoted to sitting, The ostensible meaning of āsana-sthaṁ is “remaining seated” or simply “sitting down.” 51 the king fittingly honoured, with foot-washing water and with welcoming water; / The king offered to him appropriate service, as once upon a time Antideva did to Vasiṣṭha. The story of how Antideva went to heaven after serving warm water to Vasiṣṭha is contained in the Mahā-bhārata. 52 //1.52//

dhanyo ’smy anugrāhyam idaṁ kulaṁ me yan māṁ didṛkṣur bhagavān upetaḥ /
ājñāpyatāṁ kiṁ karavāṇi saumya śiṣyo ’smi viśrambhitum arhasīti // 1.53 //

“Fortunate am I and favoured is my family in that you, beauty-possessed man!, have come to see me. / Let me know, O moonlike man of soma!, what I should do. Please believe in me, for I am ready to be taught.” //1.53//

evaṁ nṛpeṇopamantritaḥ san sarveṇa bhāvena munir yathāvat /
sa vismayotphulla-viśāla-dṛṣṭir gambhīra-dhīrāṇi vacāṁsy uvāca // 1.54 //

Being bidden like this by a ruler of men, the sage, with his whole being, [responded] appropriately; / He whose expansive eye was, in his state of wonderment, wide open, voiced words whose sound was deep and sonorous: //1.54//

mahātmani tvayy upapannam etat priyātithau tyāgini dharma-kāme /
sattvānvaya-jñāna-vayo-’nurūpā snigdhā yad evaṁ mayi te matiḥ syāt // 1.55 //

“This befits you, great and noble soul that you are, hospitable, generous, and dharma-loving, / That you should show towards me, reflecting your character, family, wisdom and vitality, such affectionate appreciation. //1.55//

etac ca tad yena nṛpa-rṣayas te dharmeṇa sūkṣmeṇa dhanāny avāpya /
nityaṁ tyajanto vidhivad babhūvus tapobhir āḍhyā vibhavair daridrāḥ // 1.56 //

This, moreover, is that means whereby those seers who were rulers of men, on garnering riches, by the subtle method, / And constantly giving those riches away, in a principled manner, became flush with austerities and bereft of luxuries. //1.56//

prayojanaṁ yat tu mamopayāne tan me śṛṇu prītim upehi ca tvam /
divyā mayāditya-pathe śrutā vāg bodhāya jātas tanayas taveti // 1.57 //

But as to my own motive in coming here, hear it from me and be glad: / The cosmic word, I have heard – on Āditi’s way, on the path of the sun – is that your son has been born for the sake of awakening. //1.57//

śrutvā vacas tac ca manaś ca yuktvā jñātvā nimittaiś ca tato ’smy upetaḥ /
didṛkṣayā śākya-kula-dhvajasya śakra-dhvajasyeva samucchritasya // 1.58 //

Listening for that directive, Vacas like vacanam in the next verse ostensibly suggests a spoken word or act of speaking. At the same time, vacas and vacanam can also mean a teaching or direction. 53 applying the mind to it, and intuiting it by signs, on that basis I am arrived Ostensible meaning: “thus I have come to the palace.” In the hidden meaning, “on the basis of that direction, here I am, being here like this.” 54 / Desirous of seeing the banner of the Śākya clan held aloft like the flag of mighty Indra.” //1.58//

ity etad evaṁ vacanaṁ niśamya praharṣa-saṁbhrānta-gatir narendraḥ /
ādāya dhātry-aṅka-gataṁ kumāraṁ saṁdarśayām āsa tapo-dhanāya // 1.59 //

Thus discerning this direction, the king, with a joyful spring in his step, / Took the prince, who was sitting on a nurse’s lap, and showed him to austerity-rich [Asita]. //1.59//

cakrāṅka-pādaṁ sa tato mahārṣir jālāvanaddhāṅguli-pāṇi-pādam /
sorṇa-bhruvaṁ vāraṇa-vasti-kośaṁ savismayaṁ rāja-sutaṁ dadarśa // 1.60 //

Then the great seer observed the wheel-marked feet, the webbed fingers and toes, / The circle of hair between the eyebrows, and the testes drawn up like an elephant’s: disbelievingly did he behold the son of the king. //1.60//

dhātry-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam avekṣya cainaṁ devy-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam ivāgni-sūnum /
babhūva pakṣmānta-vicañcitāśrur niśvasya caiva tridivonmukho ’bhūt // 1.61 //

As he watched [the prince] sitting in the lap of a nurse, like the son of Agni sitting in the lap of divine nymphs, / [Asita’s] tears dangled on the ends of his eyelashes, and, taking a deep breath, he looked up towards the heavens. //1.61//

dṛṣṭvāsitaṁ tv aśru-pariplutākṣaṁ snehāt tanū-jasya nṛpaś cakampe /
sa-gadgadaṁ bāṣpa-kaṣāya-kaṅṭhaḥ papraccha sa prāṅjalir ānatāṅgaḥ // 1.62 //

But when the ruler of men beheld [Asita] all teary-eyed, the king’s attachment to his own flesh and blood caused him to shudder: / Stammering, choking back astringent tears, with his cupped hands held before him, and his body bent low, he asked: //1.62//

alpāntaraṁ yasya vapuḥ surebhyo bahv-adbhutaṁ yasya ca janma dīptam /
yasyottamaṁ bhāvinam āttha cārthaṁ taṁ prekṣya kasmāt tava dhīra bāṣpaḥ // 1.63 //

“On beholding him whose form is little different from the gods, whose shining birth was wonderful in many ways, / And whose purpose, you said, was destined to be of the highest order, why, O Steadfast Soul, would you shed tears? //1.63//

api sthirāyur bhagavan kumāraḥ kac-cin na śokāya mama prasūtaḥ /
labdhā kathaṁ-cit salilāñjalir me na khalv imaṁ pātum upaiti kālaḥ // 1.64 //

Will the prince, O one full of fortune! “O one full of fortune” and “O beauty-possessed man” are translations of the vocative bhagavan – as is “O glorious one!” Bhagavat, as in the Canto title bhagavat-prasutiḥ, means one possessed of bhaga. The meanings of bhaga include fortune, happiness, welfare, and beauty. 55, be blessed with long life? Heaven forfend that he was born for my sorrow! / Am I in my cupped hands somehow to have gained water, only for Death to come and drink it? //1.64//

apy akṣayaṁ me yaśaso nidhānaṁ kac-cid dhruvo me kula-hasta-sāraḥ /
api prayāsyāmi sukhaṁ paratra supto ’pi putre ’nimiṣaika-cakṣuḥ // 1.65 //

Again, will the repository of my glory be immune to decay? I hope the extending hand of my family is secure! / Shall I depart happily to the hereafter, keeping one eye open in my son, even while I sleep? //1.65//

kac-cin na me jātam aphullam eva kula-pravālaṁ pariśoṣa-bhāgi /
kṣipraṁ vibho brūhi na me ’sti śāntiḥ snehaṁ sute vetsi hi bāndhavānām // 1.66 //

Heaven forbid that my family’s new shoot has budded only to wither away before opening. / Tell me quickly, O abundantly able one!; I have no peace, for you know the love that blood relatives invest in a child.” //1.66//

ity āgatāvegam aniṣṭa-buddhyā buddhvā narendraṁ sa munir babhāṣe /
mā bhūn matis te nṛpa kā-cid anyā niḥsaṁśayaṁ tad yad avocam asmi // 1.67 //

Knowing the king to be thus agitated by a sense of foreboding, the sage said: / “Let not your mind, O protector of men, be in any way disturbed; Anyā: more literally, “different.” 56 what I have said I have said beyond doubt. //1.67//

nāsyānyathātvaṁ prati vikriyā me svāṁ vañcanāṁ tu prati viklavo ’smi /
kālo hi me yātum ayaṁ ca jāto jāti-kṣayasyāsulabhasya boddhā // 1.68 //

Worried I am not about a twist of fate for him; distressed I am, though, about missing out myself. / For the time is nigh for me to go, now that he is born, who will know the secret of putting birth to death. //1.68//

vihāya rājyaṁ viṣayeṣv anāsthas tīvraiḥ prayatnair adhigamya tattvam /
jagaty ayaṁ moha-tamo nihantuṁ jvaliṣyati jñāna-mayo hi sūryaḥ // 1.69 //

Indifferent to objects, he will give up his kingdom; then, through exacting and unrelenting effort, he will realize the truth; / And then, to dispel the darkness of delusion in the world, he will shine forth as a sun whose substance is knowing. //1.69//

duḥkhārṇavād vyādhi-vikīrṇa-phenāj jarā-taraṅgān maraṇogra-vegāt /
uttārayiṣyaty ayam uhyamānam ārtaṁ jagaj jñāna-mahā-plavena // 1.70 //

Out of the surging sea of suffering, whose scattered foam is sickness, whose waves are old age, and whose terrible tide is death, / He will deliver the afflicted world which is borne helplessly along, by means of the great raft of knowing. //1.70//

prajñāṁbu-vegāṁ sthira-śīla-vaprāṁ samādhi-śītāṁ vrata-cakravākām /
asyottamāṁ dharma-nadīṁ pravṛttāṁ tṛṣṇārditaḥ pāsyati jīva-lokaḥ // 1.71 //

The river whose flow is the water of wisdom, whose steep banks are sturdy integrity, whose coolness is balance, and whose greylag geese, calling and answering, Water birds – greylag geese, or in some translations ruddy ducks – called cakra-vāka, lit. “circular calling,” were known to call mournfully – ang, ang – to each other when separated during the night. They feature prominently in Sanskrit romantic poetry. 57 are acts of obedience – / That highest of rivers – the water of dharma flowing forth from him – the thirst-afflicted world of living beings will drink. //1.71//

duḥkhārditebhyo viṣayāvṛtebhyaḥ saṁsāra-kāntāra-patha-sthitebhyaḥ /
ākhyāsyati hy eṣa vimokṣa-mārgaṁ mārga-pranaṣṭebhya ivādhvagebhyaḥ // 1.72 //

To sorrow-afflicted, object-laden souls, stuck in the scrubby ruts of saṁsāra, / He will tell a way out, as if to travellers who have lost their way. //1.72//

vidahyamānāya janāya loke rāgāgnināyaṁ viṣayendhanena /
prahlādam ādhāsyati dharma-vṛṣṭyā vṛṣṭyā mahā-megha ivātapānte // 1.73 //

To people being burned in this world by a fire of passion whose fuel is objects, / He with a rain of dharma will bring joyous refreshment like a great cloud with rain at the end of sweltering heat. //1.73//

tṛṣṇārgalaṁ moha-tamaḥ-kapāṭaṁ dvāraṁ prajānām apayāna-hetoḥ /
vipāṭayiṣyaty ayam uttamena saddharma-tāḍena dur-āsadena // 1.74 //

The door with panels of darkness and delusion, bolted shut by thirst, he will break open to let people out / By means of a thump of the highest order – the incontestable clout of true dharma, alongside which it is hard to sit. //1.74//

svair moha-pāśaiḥ pariveṣṭitasya duḥkhābhibhūtasya nirāśrayasya /
lokasya saṁbudhya ca dharma-rājaḥ kariṣyate bandhana-mokṣam eṣaḥ // 1.75 //

For folk entangled in the twisted fetters of their own delusion, for folk pulled down into their misery who lack the means to be lifted up, / He when he is fully awake, as a king of dharma, will undo the ties that bind. //1.75//

tan mā kṛthāḥ śokam imaṁ prati tvam asmin sa śocyo ’sti manuṣya-loke /
mohena vā kāma-sukhair madād vā yo naiṣṭhikaṁ śroṣyati nāsya dharmam // 1.76 //

Therefore do not sorrow for him; those who deserve sorrow are those in this human world who, / Whether through the delusion that stems from sensual desires, or because of fervent inspiration, will not learn his ultimate dharma. //1.76//

bhraṣṭasya tasmāc ca guṇād ato me dhyānāni labdhvāpy akṛtārthataiva /
dharmasya tasyāśravaṇād ahaṁ hi manye vipattiṁ tri-dive ’pi vāsam // 1.77 //

And since I have fallen short of that merit, in spite of having mastered the stages of meditation, I have failed. / Because of being a non-learner of his dharma, I deem it a misfortune to remain even in the highest heaven.” //1.77//

iti śrutārthaḥ sasuhṛt-sadāras tyaktvā viṣādaṁ mumude narendraḥ /
evaṁ-vidho ’yaṁ tanayo mameti mene sa hi svām api sāravattām // 1.78 //

Thus informed, the king in the company of his wife and friends dismissed dejection and rejoiced; / For, thinking “Such is this son of mine,” he saw his son’s excellence as being also his own. //1.78//

ārṣeṇa mārgeṇa tu yāsyatīti cintā-vidheyaṁ hṛdayaṁ cakāra /
na khalv asau na-priya-dharma-pakṣaḥ saṁtāna-nāśāt tu bhayaṁ dadarśa // 1.79 //

But then it preyed upon his mind that his son might trace a seer’s path: / Biased against dharma he surely was not, but dread he did foresee from the ending of his line. //1.79//

atha munir asito nivedya tattvaṁ suta-niyataṁ suta-viklavāya rājñe /
sa-bahu-matam udīkṣyamāṇa-rūpaḥ pavana-pathena yathāgataṁ jagāma // 1.80 //

And so the sage Asita went away, having let the reality be known, having caused the king, who was worried about his child, to know the inevitable reality tied to having a child. / While people, with varying degrees of appreciation, looked up at his excellent form, the Not White One went as he had come, on the way of the wind. //1.80 //

kṛta-mitir anujā-sutaṁ ca dṛṣṭvā muni-vacana-śravaṇe ca tan matau ca /
bahu-vidham anukampayā sa sādhuḥ priya-sutavad viniyojayāṁ cakāra // 1.81 //

[A royal relative] who, having beheld his younger sister’s son, knew the score, saw to it that the sage’s direction should be listened to and given thought; / [This uncle] in many different ways, with empathy, being himself straight and true, saw to this as if for his own beloved son. //1.81//

nara-patir api putra-janma-tuṣṭo viṣaya-gatāni vimucya bandhanāni /
kula-sadṛśam acīkarad yathāvat priya-tanayas tanayasya jāta-karma // 1.82 //

Even the king himself, delighted at the birth of a son, loosened his ties to worldly objects / Whereupon, in a manner befitting his nobility, he performed for his son, out of love for his son, a rite of birth. //1.82//

daśasu pariṇateṣv ahaḥsu caiva prayata-manāḥ parayā mudā parītaḥ /
akuruta japa-homa-maṅgalādyāḥ parama-bhavāya sutasya devatejyāḥ // 1.83 //

Again, when ten days were up, with a purified mind, and filled with the greatest gladness, / He performed mutterings, fire oblations, ritual movements and other acts of religious worship, with a view to the ultimate well-being of his son. //1.83//

api ca śata-sahasra-pūrṇa-saṁkhyāḥ sthira-balavat-tanayāḥ sahema-śṛṅgīḥ /
anupagata-jarāḥ payasvinīr gāḥ svayam adadāt suta-vṛddhaye dvijebhyaḥ // 1.84 //

Still more, cows numbering fully a hundred thousand, with strong, sturdy calves and gilded horns, / Unimpaired by age or infirmity, yielding milk in abundance, he freely gave to the twice-born brahmins, with a view to his son’s advancement. //1.84//

bahu-vidha-viṣayās tato yatātmā sva-hṛdaya-toṣa-karīḥ kriyā vidhāya /
guṇavati divase śive muhūrte matim akaron muditaḥ pura-praveśe // 1.85 //

With his self reined in, then, on that basis – after performing sacrificial acts which were variously oriented towards his end and which made him feel gratified in his heart – / At an auspicious moment in a good day, he rejoicingly resolved to enter the city. //1.85//

dvi-rada-rada-mayīm atho mahārhāṁ sita-sita-puṣpa-bhṛtāṁ maṇi-pradīpām /
abhajata śivikāṁ śivāya devī tanayavatī praṇipatya devatābhyaḥ // 1.86 //

And then into a precious pallanquin made from a tusker’s two tusks, which was filled with the white flowers of the White Flower, the sita, and which had pearls for lamps, / The god-queen with her child repaired, having bowed down, for good fortune, before images of gods. //1.86//

puram atha purataḥ praveśya patnīṁ sthavira-janānugatām apatya-nāthām /
nṛ-patir api jagāma paura-saṁghair divam amarair maghavān ivārcyamānaḥ // 1.87 //

Now, having let his wife enter the city ahead of him – her with their offspring, and elders Sthavira means elder, as in sthavira-vādins or “Devotees of the Teaching of the Elders.”58 trailing behind – / The king also approached, applauded by groups Saṁgha means group or community. These two terms sthavira and saṁgha may have a hidden significance insofar as in the second general council held at Vaiśāli, one hundred years after the Buddha’s death, a schism is said to have arisen between Sthavira-vādins (Pāli Thera-vādī) and Mahā-saṁghikas or “Members of the Great Community.” 59 of townsfolk, like gift-bestowing Indra entering heaven, applauded by the immortals. //1.87//

bhavanam atha vigāhya śākya-rājo bhava iva ṣaṇ-mukha-janmanā pratītaḥ /
idam idam iti harṣa-pūrṇa-vaktro bahu-vidha-puṣṭi-yaśas-karaṁ vyadhatta // 1.88 //

Headlong into his palace, then, dived the Śākya king, happy as Bhava at the birth of six-faced Kārttikeya. Six-faced Kārttikeya was the son of the fire-god Agni, aka Bhava, mentioned above in BC1.61.60 / “Do this! Do that!” he commanded, his face brimming with joy, as he made arrangements for all sorts of lavishness and splendour. //1.88//

iti nara-pati-putra-janma-vṛddhyāṁ sa-jana-padaṁ kapilāhvayaṁ puraṁ tat /
dhana-da-puram ivāpsaro-’vakīrṇaṁ muditam abhūn nala-kūbara-prasūtau // 1.89 //

Thus at the happy development which was the birth of the king’s son, that city named after Kapila, Kapilavastu. 61 along with surrounding settlements, / Showed its delight, just as the city of the Wealth-Giver, spilling over with celestial nymphs, became delighted at the birth of Nala-kūbara. Nāla-kubara was a son of Kubera, here called dhāna-da, “the Wealth-Giver.” Usually depicted as a dwarfish figure with a large paunch, Kubera was nonetheless revered by many as the god of riches and treasure. 62 //1.89//

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye bhagavat prasūtir nāma prathamaḥ sargaḥ // 1 //
The first canto, titled “The Birth of Something Beautiful,”
in an epic story of awakened action.