Canto 3: saṁvegotpattiḥ
Arising of Nervous Excitement


In this Canto, depending on how one reads it, the prince is either appalled or inspired. Ostensibly he is appalled by visions, conjured by the gods, of (a) old age, (b) sickness and (c) death. In the hidden meaning, on entering the royal road he is inspired (a) by a mature person who has well-developed powers of forgetting; (b) by a person, rendered helpless by disabled senses, whose pride has been broken by multiple failures and disappointments; and (c) by one who has stopped trying mindfully to breath. Either way, whether by disgust or by enthusiasm, the prince’s fear reflexes are stimulated, and his mind is perturbed – the saṁvega of the Canto title, which means violent agitation or excitement, is from the root saṁ-√vij, which means to tremble or start with fear. Utpatti means arising.



tataḥ kadā-cin mṛdu-śādvalāni puṁs-kokilonnādita-pādapāni /
śuśrāva padmākara-maṇḍitāni gītair nibaddhāni sa kānanāni // 3.1 //

Then, one day, he went to places carpeted with tender grass where trees resounded with a cuckoo’s calls, / To places adorned with profusions of lotuses – he went to forests fabricated in songs. Gītair nibaddhāni could also mean “covered with songs” or “furnished with songs.” Also the old Nepalese manuscript has not gītair but śīte (in the cold; hence “to forests chained in the cold”). The Tibetan and Chinese translations, however, indicate that the prince heard about the forests in songs. Is the point to highlight how motivating nervous agitation can begin with nothing more substantial than an idea? 01 //3.1//

śrutvā tataḥ strī-jana-vallabhānāṁ mano-jña-bhāvaṁ pura-kānanānām /
bahiḥ-prayāṇāya cakāra buddhim antar-gṛhe nāga ivāvaruddhaḥ // 3.2 //

Thus having heard how agreeable were the city’s forests, which the women loved so dearly, / He, like an elephant shut inside a house, made a decision to get out. //3.2//

tato nṛpas tasya niśamya bhāvaṁ putrābhidhānasya mano-rathasya /
snehasya lakṣmyā vayasaś ca yogyām ājñāpayām āsa vihāra-yātrām // 3.3 //

Then the king, catching the gist of the prince’s expression of his heart’s desire, / Convened a procession, commensurate with his affection and his wealth, and with a young man’s energy – the ruler of men decreed a pleasure outing. //3.3//

nivartayām āsa ca rāja-mārge saṁpātam ārtasya pṛthag-janasya /
mā bhūt kumāraḥ su-kumāra-cittaḥ saṁvigna-cetā iti manyamānaḥ // 3.4 //

He decreed, again, that on the royal road no afflicted common person must be met, / So that the prince with his impressionable young mind would not be mentally perturbed – or so the king supposed. //3.4//

pratyaṅga-hīnān vikalendriyāṁś ca jīrṇāturādīn kṛpaṇāṁś ca dikṣu /
tataḥ samutsārya pareṇa sāmnā śobhāṁ parāṁ rāja-pathasya cakruḥ // 3.5 //

Those bereft of extremities, The ostensible meaning is having missing limbs, but the ironic hidden meaning is being free of extreme views and habits. The ironic hidden meaning of the rest of this verse will emerge during the course of the canto, as the prince considers the meaning of growing old, not breathing, and so on. 02 with disabled organs of sense, along with pitiable people everywhere – the old, the infirm, and the like – / Were therefore caused, with great gentleness, to clear the area, so that the royal road was made to shine with great splendour. //3.5 //

tataḥ kṛte śrīmati rāja-mārge śrīmān vinītānucaraḥ kumāraḥ /
prāsāda-pṛṣṭhād avatīrya kāle kṛtābhyanujño nṛpam abhyagacchat // 3.6 //

And so in majestic action on the royal road, a majesty-possessing heir-apparent with an amenable assembly in his train, / Having alighted at the proper time from atop his elevated perch, approached, with his assent, a protector of men. //3.6//

atho narendraḥ sutam āgatāśruḥ śirasy upāghrāya ciraṁ nirīkṣya /
gaccheti cājñāpayati sma vācā snehān na cainaṁ manasā mumoca // 3.7 //

Then the king, tears welling, gazed long upon his son, kissed his head, / And issued his command, with the word “Go!” But with his heart, because of attachment, he did not let him go. //3.7//

tataḥ sa jāmbūnada-bhānḍa-bhṛdbhir yuktaṁ caturbhir nibhṛtais turaṅgaiḥ /
aklība-vidvac-chuci-raśmi-dhāraṁ hiraṇ-mayaṁ syandanam āruroha // 3.8 //

Yoked to four calm submissive horses bearing golden trappings, / With a complete man of knowledge and integrity holding the reins, was the golden carriage which he then ascended. //3.8//

tataḥ prakīrṇojjvala-puṣpa-jālaṁ viṣakta-mālyaṁ pracalat-patākam /
mārgaṁ prapede sadṛśānuyātraś candraḥ sanakṣatra ivāntarīkṣam // 3.9 //

And so a road bestrewn with masses of flowers in full bloom, along which wreaths hung down and flags fluttered fleetingly, Ostensibly garlands and flags festooned the road as marks of joyful celebration. In the hidden meaning, wreaths and fluttering flags on the royal road which is the noble eightfold path, were marks of impermanence. 03 / He entered, with suitable backing, like the moon entering the sky in the company of stars. //3.9//

kautūhalāt sphītataraiś ca netrair nīlotpalārdhair iva kīryamāṇaḥ /
śanaiḥ śanai rāja-pathaṁ jagāhe pauraiḥ samantād abhivīkṣyamāṇaḥ // 3.10 //

And while eyes that bulged with curiosity, covered him, like so many halves of blue lotuses, / He travelled the royal road, quietly and calmly, viewed on all sides by the townsfolk. //3.10//

taṁ tuṣṭuvuḥ saumya-guṇena ke-cid vavandire dīptatayā tathānye /
saumukhyatas tu śriyam asya ke-cid vaipulyam āśaṁsiṣur āyuṣaś ca // 3.11 //

Some praised him for his gentle, moon-like quality; others celebrated his blazing brilliance. / But such was the brightness of his face, that some wished to make his majesty their own, and to attain the depth of his vital power. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis – two opposing views, and effort in the direction of abandoning all views. 04 //3.11//

niḥsṛtya kubjāś ca mahā-kulebhyo vyūhāś ca kairātaka-vāmanānām /
nāryaḥ kṛśebhyaś ca niveśanebhyo devānuyāna-dhvajavat praṇemuḥ // 3.12 //

Hunch-backed men from noble houses, and regiments of mountain-men and dwarves, / And women from homes of no consequence, Ostensible meaning: low-status women. Hidden meaning: monks who have left home already. The three groups can be seen as following a dialectic progression to do with social status. 05 like hanging flags in the procession of a god, all came out and bowed. //3.12//

tataḥ kumāraḥ khalu gacchatīti śrutvā striyaḥ preṣya-janāt pravṛttim /
didṛkṣayā harmya-talāni jagmur janena mānyena kṛtābhyanujñāḥ // 3.13 //

Then the women, hearing from their servants the news that the prince was on his way, / Went, wishing to see him, onto the roofs and balconies – with assent from their masters. Ostensibly this sounds chauvinistic. In the hidden meaning, however, again, the women with their various peculiarities represent individual practitioners practising under the guidance of a teacher whose gender and personal background is of no consequence. 06 //3.13//

tāḥ srasta-kāñcī-guṇa-vighnitāś ca supta-prabuddhākula-locanāś ca /
vṛttānta-vinyasta-vibhūṣaṇāś ca kautūhalenānibhṛtāḥ parīyuḥ // 3.14 //

Impeded by slipping girdles and strings, with the bleary eyes of those being roused from deep sleep, In the hidden meaning, from unconscious behaviour. 07 / And having put on their unfolded splendour In the hidden meaning, their unfolded ochre robes (kaṣāyas). 08 as events unfolded, the girls, unabashed in their eager desire, circled around. //3.14//

prāsāda-sopāna-tala-praṇādaiḥ kāñcī-ravair nūpura-nisvanaiś ca /
vitrāsayantyo gṛha-pakṣi-saṅghān anyonya-vegāṁś ca samākṣipantyaḥ // 3.15 //

With the banging of feet on platform steps, with jingling of girdles and jangling of anklets, / They sent congregations This is one of several occasions where Aśvaghoṣa uses saṅgha as a collective noun. Nowhere does he use the word in the sense it is conventionally used in Buddhist circles, to mean a formal community or congregation. 09 of house sparrows fluttering, and each derided the others for their haste. A parody of a group of practitioners barging unskilfully about. 10 //3.15//

kāsāṁ-cid āsāṁ tu varāṅganānāṁ jāta-tvarāṇām api sotsukānām /
gatiṁ gurutvāj jagṛhur viśālāḥ śroṇī-rathāḥ pīna-payo-dharāś ca // 3.16 //

But some among these fine ladies, hurry though they might in their eagerness, / Were stopped in their tracks, by the heft of the mighty chariots of their hips and their corpulent breasts. //3.16//

śīghraṁ samarthāpi tu gantum anyā gatiṁ nijagrāha yayau na tūrṇam /
hriyāpragalbhā vinigūhamānā rahaḥ-prayuktāni vibhūṣaṇāni // 3.17 //

An individual who was different, Ostensibly anyā simply means another woman; below the surface, an individual who was different is a non-buddha – i.e, a buddha who is different from ordinary people’s stereotypical expectations of what a buddha might be. 11 meanwhile, though she was capable of going quickly, restrained her movement and went slowly, / Not showing off, but modestly keeping secret, splendid adornments connected to intimate practices. Ostensibly, for example, lacy under-garments. In the hidden meaning, for example, a certificate of transmission. Rahas means 1. privacy, a secret, a mystery; 2. sexual intercourse. 12 //3.17//

paras-parotpīḍana-piṇḍitānāṁ saṁmarda-saṁkṣobhita-kuṇḍalānām /
tāsāṁ tadā sasvana-bhūṣaṇānāṁ vātāyaneṣv apraśamo babhūva // 3.18 //

At the windows at that time, the women pressed up against each other in squashed masses, their earrings colliding and ricocheting, / Their jewellery rattling, so that in each airy aperture there was a commotion. //3.18//

vātāyanebhyas tu viniḥsṛtāni paras-parāyāsita-kuṇḍalāni /
strīṇāṁ virejur mukha-paṅkajāni saktāni harmyeṣv iva paṅka-jāni // 3.19 //

And yet, as they emerged from the windows, ear-rings setting each other aflutter, / The women’s lotus faces looked like flowers of mud-born lotuses that had attached themselves to the grand mansions. Even as he parodies the barging about of individuals who have come together to practise, Aśvaghoṣa sees something very beautiful in that collective effort – though he never once speaks of a Buddhist saṁgha. 13 //3.19//

tato vimānair yuvatī-karālaiḥ kautūhalodghāṭita-vātapānaiḥ /
śrīmat samantān nagaraṁ babhāse viyad vimānair iva sāpsarobhiḥ // 3.20 //

Thus, with its lofty mansions, whose gaping balconies young women lined, and whose shutters had been opened up out of curiosity, / The splendid city was wholly resplendent, like space, with its celestial chariots bearing celestial nymphs. //3.20//

vātāyanānām aviśāla-bhāvād anyonya-gaṇḍārpita-kuṇḍalānām /
mukhāni rejuḥ pramadottamānāṁ baddhāḥ kalāpā iva paṅka-jānām // 3.21 //

Through the narrowness of the windows, the women’s ear-rings overlapped each other’s cheeks, / So that the faces of those most gorgeous of girls seemed like tied-together bunches of lotus flowers. A suggestion of the inter-connectedness of individuals in a group – a suggestion that is antithetical to the description of the contrary individual in BC3.17? 14 //3.21//

taṁ tāḥ kumāraṁ pathi vīkṣamāṇāḥ striyo babhur gām iva gantu-kāmāḥ /
ūrdhvonmukhāś cainam udīkṣamāṇā narā babhur dyām iva gantu-kāmāḥ // 3.22 //

As down they gazed at the prince upon the road, the women seemed to wish to go to earth; / And the men, as up they looked at him, with upturned faces, seemed to wish to go to heaven. //3.22//

dṛṣṭvā ca taṁ rāja-sutaṁ striyas tā jājvalyamānaṁ vapuṣā śriyā ca /
dhanyāsya bhāryeti śanair avocañ śuddhair manobhiḥ khalu nānya-bhāvāt // 3.23 //

Seeing the king’s son shining bright with beauty and majesty, those women said in a soft whisper, “Lucky is his wife!” – speaking with pure minds and out of no other sense at all. What is ostensibly praise of purity is really tragicomic irony. The women in their innocence do not suppose what grief is about to come Yaśodharā’s way. “Out of no other sense” is nānya-bhāvāt – the hidden meaning, then, is “having no sense of irony.” 15 //3.23//

ayaṁ kila vyāyata-pīna-bāhū rūpeṇa sākṣād iva puṣpa-ketuḥ /
tyaktvā śriyaṁ dharmam upaiṣyatīti tasmin hi tā gauravam eva cakruḥ // 3.24 //

“He of arms so lengthened and full, so they say, who is like a flower-bannered god of love in manifest form, / Will give up royal sovereignty and pursue dharma.” Thus the women conferred on him the full weight of their estimation. //3.24//

kīrṇaṁ tathā rāja-pathaṁ kumāraḥ paurair vinītaiḥ śuci-dhīra-veṣaiḥ /
tat pūrvam-ālokya jaharṣa kiṁ-cin mene punar-bhāvam ivātmanaś ca // 3.25 //

On his first reading of the royal road, which was filled like this with obedient citizens ostensibly displaying purity and steadfastness, Meanings of veṣa include 1. dress, clothes, and 2. artificial exterior, assumed appearance. To add further ambiguity, the old Nepalese manuscript has ceṣaiḥ, which was most probably a corruption of veṣaiḥ but could possibly have been a corruption of ceṣṭaiḥ (gestures). 16 / The prince was thrilled, and somewhat conscious of himself being as if reborn. Punar-bhāva, being born again, ostensibly carries a favourable meaning. But on the royal road, the suggestion may be (taking veṣaiḥ to mean assumed appearances), one should beware of first impressions. The truth, on the royal road, may be that the doings which the ignorant one does do, always lead, until such time as they are stopped, in the direction of repeated becoming (punar-bhavāya; see MMK26.1). 17 //3.25//

puraṁ tu tat svargam iva prahṛṣṭaṁ śuddhādhivāsāḥ samavekṣya devāḥ /
jīrṇaṁ naraṁ nirmamire prayātuṁ saṁcodanārthaṁ kṣitipātmajasya // 3.26 //

But when they saw that city all buoyed up, as if it were heaven, the gods whose perch is purity / Elicited an old man to wander by, for the purpose of provoking a prince who was an offspring of a protector of the earth. //3.26//

tataḥ kumāro jarayābhibhūtaṁ dṛṣṭvā narebhyaḥ pṛthag-ākṛtiṁ tam /
uvāca saṁgrāhakam āgatāsthas tatraiva niṣkampa-niviṣṭa-dṛṣṭiḥ // 3.27 //

And so the prince beheld that man humbled by growing old, who was of an order different to other men; In the hidden meaning, one grown old means a fully developed person, a buddha. 18 / He quizzed the gatherer of the reins, In the hidden meaning, saṁgrāhakam “a gatherer of the reins,” might also mean a buddha. 19 being full of interest in that state, in which sole direction he rested his eyes, immovably. The object of the focused contemplation could be the old one or, equally, could be the state of one who holds the reins, having tamed the horses. A parallel phrase follows in verse 40, with reference to the one who has been broken.20 //3.27//

ka eṣa bhoḥ sūta naro ’bhyupetaḥ keśaiḥ sitair yaṣṭi-viṣakta-hastaḥ /
bhrū-saṁvṛtākṣaḥ śithilānatāṅgaḥ kiṁ vikriyaiṣā prakṛtir yad-ṛcchā // 3.28 //

“Who is this man, O master of the horses, that has appeared with hair all white, hand firmly gripping a staff, In the ostensible meaning, a sign of weakness. In the hidden meaning, a sign of firmness. 21 / Eyes concealed below his brow, limbs loose and bending: Is this strange transformation his original condition? Is it a chance occurrence?”//3.28//

ity evam uktaḥ sa ratha-praṇetā nivedayām āsa nṛpātmajāya /
saṁrakṣyam apy artham adoṣa-darśī tair eva devaiḥ kṛta-buddhi-mohaḥ // 3.29 //

Addressed thus, the driver of a chariot of joy divulged to the offspring of a ruler of men / The very information he was supposed to protect; failing to see the fault in this, under the influence of those same old gods, he was confounded by way of his own resolve. The gods, as in Greek drama, are the masters of cosmic irony. 22 //3.29//

rūpasya hantrī vyasanaṁ balasya śokasya yonir nidhanaṁ ratīnām /
nāśaḥ smṛtīnāṁ ripur indriyāṇām eṣā jarā nāma yayaiṣa bhagnaḥ // 3.30 //

“Ripping away of beautiful appearance, defeat of force, beginning of sorrow, ending of joys of passion, / And fading out of things remembered: an adversary of the senses is this process, called ‘growing old,’ by which the one here is being undone. //3.30//

pītaṁ hy anenāpi payaḥ śiśutve kālena bhūyaḥ parisarpam urvyām /
krameṇa bhūtvā ca yuvā vapuṣmān krameṇa tenaiva jarām upetaḥ // 3.31 //

For even such a man in infancy sucked milk and, in the course of time, again, he went on hands and knees upon the earth; In the hidden meaning, for example, during the act of making a prostration. 23 / Having become, step by step, an adult in possession of his body, by that same process, step by step, he has grown old.” //3.31//

ity evam ukte calitaḥ sa kiṁ-cid rājātmajaḥ sūtam idaṁ babhāṣe /
kim eṣa doṣo bhavitā mamāpīty asmai tataḥ sārathir abhyuvāca // 3.32 //

Thrown somewhat off balance on being thus informed, he the fruit of a king’s loins said to the master of the horses: / “Will I also have this fault in the future?” Then the driver of the chariot in which the two were riding said to him: //3.32//

āyuṣmato ’py eṣa vayaḥ-prakarṣo niḥsaṁśayaṁ kāla-vaśena bhāvī /
evaṁ jarāṁ rūpa-vināśayitrīṁ jānāti caivecchati caiva lokaḥ // 3.33 //

The present span of life of you who are so full of life will also in future, through the power of time, surely run its course. / The world knows that growing old thus destroys beautiful appearances, and yet the world desires it.” //3.33//

tataḥ sa pūrvāśaya-śuddha-buddhir vistīrṇa-kalpācita-puṇya-karmā /
śrutvā jarāṁ saṁvivije mahātmā mahāśaner ghoṣam ivāntike gauḥ // 3.34 //

And so he whose mind had been cleansed by good intentions, before the fact, Pūrva, beforehand, in advance. A passing reminder that the secret is in the preparation, that the readiness is all? 24 he who had heaped up piles of good karma, through long kalpas, by his acts, / When he heard about growing old, recoiled mightily, like a bull hearing the crash of a nearby thunderbolt. //3.34//

niḥśvasya dīrghaṁ sva-śiraḥ prakampya tasmiṁś ca jīrṇe viniveśya cakṣuḥ /
tāṁ caiva dṛṣṭvā janatāṁ saharṣāṁ vākyaṁ sa saṁvigna idaṁ jagāda // 3.35 //

He took an audible deep breath, then shook his head, then fixed his eye upon the old man, The verb pra-√kamp means to shake or to loosen. In the hidden meaning, taking a deep breath, loosening the head (i.e. letting the head/neck be free), and fixing one’s eye upon the Old Man (the Buddha), suggests meditative practice itself. 25 / And then he took in the joyful throng; after that, still in a state of alarm, he uttered these words: An ironic description of giving a “dharma-talk” in front of a joyfully expectant audience? 26 //3.35//

evaṁ jarā hanti ca nirviśeṣaṁ smṛtiṁ ca rūpaṁ ca parā-kramaṁ ca /
na caiva saṁvegam upaiti lokaḥ praty-akṣato ’pīdṛśam īkṣamāṇaḥ // 3.36 //

“Growing old like this demolishes – without discrimination – memory, beautiful appearance, and forcefulness; / And yet the world is not stirred, even as the world witnesses it so before its very eyes. //3.36//

evaṁ gate sūta nivartayāśvān śīghraṁ gṛhāṇy eva bhavān prayātu /
udyāna-bhūmau hi kuto ratir me jarā-bhave cetasi vartamāne // 3.37 //

Being so, O master of the horses, turn the horses back! The hidden meaning of turning back is brought out in detail in BC Canto 6, Chandaka / Turning Back. 27 Take us home, good sir, quickly! For what pleasure can there be for me in parkland while the reality of growing old is occupying my mind?”//3.37//

athājñayā bhartṛ-sutasya tasya nivartayām āsa rathaṁ niyantā /
tataḥ kumāro bhavanaṁ tad eva cintā-vaśaḥ śūnyam iva prapede // 3.38 //

And so at the behest of the child of his master, the tamer of horses turned the chariot around; / Then into the palace, that real piece of royal real estate, Bhavana means a place of abode, a palace, and the place where anything grows. In the hidden meaning, turning back to the royal abode symbolizes coming back to just sitting in full lotus. 28 the prince went, in the thrall of anxious thought, as if he were going into emptiness.//3.38//

yadā tu tatraiva na śarma lebhe jarā jareti praparīkṣamāṇaḥ /
tato narendrānumataḥ sa bhūyaḥ krameṇa tenaiva bahir jagāma // 3.39 //

When actually there, however, he found no happiness, looking deeper and deeper into aging, and thinking, “growing old..., growing old...”; / Whereupon, with the king’s approval, again, by the exact same procedure, he went outside. //3.39//

athāparaṁ vyādhi-parīta-dehaṁ ta eva devāḥ sasṛjur manuṣyam /
dṛṣṭvā ca taṁ sārathim ābabhāṣe śauddhodanis tad-gata-dṛṣṭir eva // 3.40 //

Then one whose body was encompassed by sickness, In the hidden meaning, a person steeped in the truth of suffering; a man of clouded eyes. Vyādhi means disorder, disease, sickness but also “any tormenting or vexatious thing.” 29 a human being unlike any other, those same old gods conjured up; / And on seeing him the son of Śuddhodana addressed the driver of the chariot, with his eye directed squarely in that direction. //3.40//

sthūlodaraḥ śvāsa-calac-charīraḥ srastāṁsa-bāhuḥ kṛśa-pāṇdu-gātraḥ /
ambeti vācaṁ karuṇaṁ bruvāṇaḥ paraṁ samāśritya naraḥ ka eṣaḥ // 3.41 //

“That individual with an expanded belly, whose body moves as he breathes, whose arms hang loose from his shoulders, whose limbs are wasted and pale, / And who, pathetically, keeps saying ‘Mother!’, while leaning on others for support: Ostensibly he leans on others because of being too sick to stand, and cries for his mother. In the hidden meaning he goes begging, addressing women he meets as ambā, “mother,” a term of respect. 30 This man is Who?” //3.41//

tato ’bravīt sārathir asya saumya dhātu-prakopa-prabhavaḥ pravṛddhaḥ /
rogābhidhānaḥ sumahān anarthaḥ śakro ’pi yenaiṣa kṛto ’svatantraḥ // 3.42 //

Then spoke the leader who was in the same chariot as him Sārathir asya ostensibly means “his charioteer” or “his leader.” But sārathi is from sa-ratha, which as an adverbial phrase means “on the same chariot with” or simply “together with.” The phrase thus serves as a reminder that, whether drivers or passengers, we are all in the same chariot. 31: “O gentle moon-like man! Stemming originally from excitement of primitive elements and now far advanced / Is the momentous reverse, known as a breakdown, Roga, disease, sickness, is from the root √ruj, to break or shatter – as when an illusion is shattered. 32 that has rendered even this strong man helpless. Asvatantraḥ, lit. “not pulling his own strings” – an ironic suggestion of non-doing. 33” //3.42//

ity ūcivān rāja-sutaḥ sa bhūyas taṁ sānukampo naram īkṣamāṇaḥ /
asyaiva jātaḥ pṛthag eṣa doṣaḥ sāmānyato roga-bhayaṁ prajānām // 3.43 //

The son of the king spoke again, being moved by pity as he looked at the man: / “Is this fault arisen specifically in the one here? Is the terror of breaking down common to all creatures?” //3.43//

tato babhāṣe sa ratha-praṇetā kumāra sādhāraṇa eṣa doṣaḥ /
evaṁ hi rogaiḥ paripīḍyamāno rujāturo harṣam upaiti lokaḥ // 3.44 //

Then the driver of that vehicle of joy said: “This fault, O Prince, is common to all. / For, while thus pressed all around by forces of disintegration, people pained by disorder move towards pleasure.” In the hidden meaning, those struck by the truth of suffering direct their practice towards nirvāṇa. “Driver of the vehicle of joy,” “master of the horse,” “tamer of horses,” et cetera, all indicate that the charioteer is, below the surface, thus teaching the teaching of a buddha. 34 //3.44//

iti śrutārthaḥ sa viṣaṇṇa-cetāḥ prāvepatāmbūrmi-gataḥ śaśīva /
idaṁ ca vākyaṁ karuṇāyamānaḥ provāca kiṁ-cin mṛdunā svareṇa // 3.45 //

Mentally dejected to listen to this truth, the prince trembled like the moon reflected in ripples of water; / And, emoting with compassion, he uttered these words, in a somewhat feeble voice: //3.45//

idaṁ ca roga-vyasanaṁ prajānāṁ paśyaṁś ca viśrambham upaiti lokaḥ /
vistīrṇam ajñānam aho narāṇāṁ hasanti ye roga-bhayair amuktāḥ // 3.46 //

“Seeing this for living creatures as ‘the evil of disease,’ still the world rests easy. / Vast, alas, is the ignorance of men who laugh and joke though not yet liberated from their fears of disease. //3.46//

nivartyatāṁ sūta bahiḥ-prayāṇān narendra-sadmaiva rathaḥ prayātu /
śrutvā ca me roga-bhayaṁ ratibhyaḥ pratyāhataṁ saṁkucatīva cetaḥ // 3.47 //

Let the chariot of joy, O master of the horse!, be turned back from going onward and outward. Let the chariot go back to the royal seat of the best of men. In the hidden meaning, again, the royal seat is the act of sitting in the lotus posture. 35 / Having learned of the danger arising from disease, my mind, driven back from miscellaneous enjoyments, also seems to turn inward.” //3.47//

tato nivṛttaḥ sa nivṛtta-harṣaḥ pradhyāna-yuktaḥ praviveśa veśma /
taṁ dvis tathā prekṣya ca saṁnivṛttaṁ paryeṣaṇaṁ bhūmi-patiś cakāra // 3.48 //

Then, having turned back, and having turned back exuberance, he deeply entered the royal abode, absorbed in deep reflection. / And, seeing him thus twice turned back, a possessor of the earth made an investigation. //3.48//

śrutvā nimittaṁ tu nivartanasya saṁtyaktam ātmānam anena mene /
mārgasya śaucādhikṛtāya caiva cukrośa ruṣṭo ’pi ca nogra-daṇḍaḥ // 3.49 //

On learning, then, a cause of turning back, he felt himself being totally abandoned by him. In the ostensible meaning, the king felt himself being abandoned by his son. In the hidden meaning, a possessor of the earth is aware of a process of being forgotten by himself. 36 / And though [the possessor of the earth] railed against the overseer who was charged with clearing the road, In the hidden meaning, a dharma-holder who (like Nanda in SN Canto 18) has been charged with carrying the torch of that transmission which dispels all views and opinions. 37 however annoyed he was, he did not resort to cruelty with the cudgel. //3.49//

bhūyaś ca tasmai vidadhe sutāya viśeṣa-yuktaṁ viṣaya-pracāram /
calendriyatvād api nāma śakto nāsmān vijahyād iti nāthamānaḥ // 3.50 //

And once more he arranged for his son a special playground of sensual enjoyments, / All the time praying: “Though it be through the fickle power of the senses, would that he were unable to leave us!” //3.50//

yadā ca śabdādibhir indriyārthair antaḥpure naiva suto ’sya reme /
tato bahir vyādiśati sma yātrāṁ rasāntaraṁ syād iti manyamānaḥ // 3.51 //

And since his son had taken no delight in the sounds of voices, or in the other sensory stimuli, within the battlements of the women’s apartments, / The king gave the order for a trip outside, thinking that this might be a different kind of enjoyment. //3.51//

snehāc ca bhāvaṁ tanayasya buddhvā saṁvega-doṣān avicintya kāṁś-cit /
yogyāḥ samājñāpayati sma tatra kalāsv abhijñā iti vāra-mukhyāḥ // 3.52 //

Attentive, out of attachment, to his son’s state of mind, and heedless of any faults associated with nervous excitement, The point might be to emphasize the importance of establishing the will to the truth, without worrying about attendant faults. For example, Dogen wrote that the bodhi-mind has been established in drunkenness. 38 / He summoned to be present there well-practised women who, being adept in subtle skills, were mistresses of deferred pleasure. Kalāsv abhijñā iti vāra-mukhyāḥ. Ostensibly the best among skillful courtesans; in the hidden meaning (which will be brought out in the following canto), masters skilled in the use of expedient means, or indirect tactics. 39 //3.52//

tato viśeṣeṇa narendra-mārge svalaṁkṛte caiva parīkṣite ca /
vyatyasya sūtaṁ ca rathaṁ ca rājā prasthāpayām āsa bahiḥ kumāram // 3.53 //

Then, once the royal road had been adorned even more beautifully and had been inspected with even more care, / The king switched around the charioteer and the chariot, and urged the prince on his way, outwards. Symbolizing reciprocal efforts, to sit with mind, and to sit with body, in the direction of dropping off body and mind. 40 //3.53//

tatas tathā gacchati rāja-putre tair eva devair vihito gatāsuḥ /
taṁ caiva mārge mṛtam uhyamānaṁ sūtaḥ kumāraś ca dadarśa nānyaḥ // 3.54 //

Consequently, as the son of the king thus went into movement, those same old gods conjured up one who had breathed his last; In the hidden meaning, one who had stopped breathing, i.e. one who had given up trying to control his breath, or other vital processes, by direct means. One who had learned to let the right thing do itself. 41 / And as he, being dead, was borne along the road, nobody saw him but the charioteer and the prince. //3.54//

athābravīd rāja-sutaḥ sa sūtaṁ naraiś caturbhir hriyate ka eṣaḥ /
dīnair manuṣyair anugamyamāno yo bhūṣito ’śvāsy avarudyate ca // 3.55 //

Then the son of the king said to the master of the horses: “This is Who, who is being carried by four people, Four or more often five (= one who has breathed his last + four who support him or her?) is the traditional minimum number to form a community devoted to the practice of the Buddha’s teaching. 42 / Who is being followed by afflicted human beings, who is beautifully adorned, and yet, as one who does not breathe, inspires tears.” //3.55//

tataḥ sa śuddhātmabhir eva devaiḥ śuddhādhivāsair abhibhūta-cetāḥ /
avācyam apy artham imaṁ niyantā pravyājahārārthavad īśvarāya // 3.56 //

Then the charioteer, while his mind was overpowered by the gods whose essence is purity itself, by the gods who sit upon pure perches, / He, in a voice full of meaning, as the tamer of the horses, Again, in the hidden meaning, niyantā, restrainer, tamer of horses, may be taken as an epithet for a teacher of the Buddha’s teaching. 43 conveyed to the prince the unspeakable meaning in question. //3.56//

buddhīndriya-prāṇa-guṇair viyuktaḥ supto visaṁjñas tṛṇa-kāṣṭha-bhūtaḥ /
saṁvardhya saṁrakṣya ca yatnavadbhiḥ priya-priyais tyajyata eṣa ko ’pi // 3.57 //

“Dissevered from the strings of sense power and breathing, inactive and insensible, akin to straw and wood, / Having been nurtured and cherished, he is deliberately left alone by his dearest friends – this, indeed, is Who.” A person who is as one with the ineffable, the unspeakable, unbelievable truth. 44 //3.57//

iti praṇetuḥ sa niśamya vākyaṁ saṁcukṣubhe kiṁ-cid uvāca cainam /
kiṁ kevalo’ syaiva janasya dharmaḥ sarva-prajānām ayam īdṛśo ’ntaḥ // 3.58 //

On hearing the words of a guide he was somewhat agitated, and said to him: / “Is this a condition unique to this person here? Is such the end for all creatures?” //3.58//

tataḥ praṇetā vadati sma tasmai sarva-prajānām idam anta-karma /
hīnasya madhyasya mahātmano vā sarvasya loke niyato vināśaḥ // 3.59 //

Then the guide said to him: “This is the ultimate karma of all creatures: / For everybody in this world, whether low, middling, or mighty, utter loss is certain.” In the hidden meaning, emptiness is the most reliable thing there is. 45 //3.59//

tataḥ sa dhīro ’pi narendra-sūnuḥ śrutvaiva mṛtyuṁ viṣasāda sadyaḥ /
aṁsena saṁśliṣya ca kūbarāgraṁ provāca nihrādavatā svareṇa // 3.60 //

Then, mild-mannered though he was, as a son of the best of men, on learning of dying, he sank back and down, instantly deflated, / And, bringing his shoulder into contact with the tip of the pole of the yoke of the chariot, In the ostensible meaning, he reached the point of giving up, and rested back on the chariot. In the hidden meaning, he contacted the point at which he might begin to make effort to move the chariot. 46 he asserted in a sonorous voice: //3.60//

iyaṁ ca niṣṭhā niyatā prajānāṁ pramādyati tyakta-bhayaś ca lokaḥ /
manāṁsi śaṅke kaṭhināni nṝṇāṁ svasthās tathā hy adhvani vartamānāḥ // 3.61 //

“This, for sentient creatures, is a certain conclusion, and yet the world barges heedlessly about, disregarding danger. / Stiffened, I venture, are the mental sinews of men, who so self-assuredly remain on such a path. A double-bluff – ostensibly the prince is being ironic, but in the hidden meaning bodhisattvas on the path are indeed steadfast. 47 //3.61//

tasmād rathaḥ sūta nivartyatāṁ no vihāra-bhūmer na hi deśa-kālaḥ /
jānan vināśaṁ katham ārti-kāle sacetanaḥ syād iha hi pramattaḥ // 3.62 //

Therefore, O master of the horses, let our chariot of joy be turned back, for this is not the time or the place for roaming around: / Knowing utter loss, in the hour of pain, how could anybody possessed of consciousness be negligent in this area?” //3.62//

iti bruvāṇe ’pi narādhipātmaje nivartayām āsa sa naiva taṁ ratham /
viśeṣa-yuktaṁ tu narendra-śāsanāt sa-padma-ṣaṇḍaṁ vanam eva niryayau // 3.63 //

Even with an offspring of a ruler of men telling him so, assuredly he did not turn that chariot back; / Rather, following the order of the best of men, to a wood imbued with special distinction, to Sa-padma-ṣaṇda-vana, ‘the Wood of the Liberated Bull among Lotuses,’ he ventured farther out. //3.63//

tataḥ śivaṁ kusumita-bāla-pādapaṁ paribhramat-pramudita-matta-kokilam /
vimānavat-sa-kamala-cāru-dīrghikaṁ dadarśa tad vanam iva nandanaṁ vanam // 3.64 //

There with young trees in flower, lusty cuckoos roving joyously around, / And tiered pavilions in charming stretches of lotus-covered water, that happy glade he glimpsed, like Nandana-vana, ‘the Gladdening Garden’ of Indra. //3.64//

varāṅganā-gaṇa-kalilaṁ nṛpātmajas tato balād vanam atinīyate sma tat /
varāpsaro-vṛtam alakādhipālayaṁ nava-vrato munir iva vighna-kātaraḥ // 3.65 //

Most lushly wooded with beautiful women was that park, to which the offspring of a ruler of men was then forcibly led, / Like a sage to a palace populated by the choicest nymphs in Alaka, The capital city of the realm of Kubera, Lord of Wealth. 48 when his practice is young and he is nervous about impediments. //3.65//

iti buddha-carite mahākāvye saṁvegotpattir nāma tṛtīyaḥ sargaḥ // 3 //
The 3rd canto, titled “Arising of Nervous Excitement”
in an epic tale of awakened action.