Canto 7: tapo-vana-praveśaḥ
Entering the Woods of Painful Practice


As a sweeping generalization, tapas, asceticism, is bad in Aśvaghoṣa’s writing, in contrast to yoga, practice, which is good. There again, another general rule for a student of Aśvaghoṣa might be to forego sweeping generalizations, and to go beyond bad and good.

Ostensibly, then, the title of the present Canto describes the Prince’s entry (praveśa) into the “the ascetic grove” (tapo-vana). But in the hidden meaning, it may be up to each one of us individually to go metaphorically into the woods and investigate what the real meanings of tapas – beyond the straw doll of “asceticism” – might be. Before it defines tapas as “religious austerity,” for example, the Monier-Williams dictionary defines tapas as 1. warmth, heat, and 2. pain, suffering.



tato visṛjyāśru-mukhaṁ rudantaṁ chandaṁ vana-cchandatayā nir-āsthaḥ /
sarvārthasiddho vapuṣābhibhūya tam āśramaṁ siddha iva prapede // 7.1 //

Then, having sent on his way the weeping tear-faced Chanda, and being interested in nothing, Nir-āsthaḥ – ostensible meaning, not interested in anything; hidden meaning, interested in the possibility of pari-nirvāṇa, or emptiness, or other aspects of the truth of cessation. 01 through a chanda (a partiality) for the forest, / Sarvārtha-siddha, All Things Realized, overpowering the place by his physical presence, entered that ashram like a siddha, a realized man. //7.1//

sa rāja-sūnur mṛga-rāja-gāmī mṛgājiraṁ tan mṛgavat praviṣṭaḥ /
lakṣmī-viyukto ’pi śarīra-lakṣmyā cakṣūṁṣi sarvāśramiṇāṁ jahāra // 7.2 //

He the son of a king, moving like a lion-king, entered like a forest creature that arena of forest creatures; / By the majesty of his physical person, though bereft of the tokens of majesty, he stole the eyes of all the ashram-dwellers The next five verses expand on this generic description of sarvāśramiṇām, “all the ashram-dwellers,” by considering in detail particular types. 02 – //7.2//

sthitā hi hasta-stha-yugās tathaiva kautūhalāc cakra-dharāḥ sa-dārāḥ /
tam indra-kalpaṁ dadṛśur na jagmur dhuryā ivārdhāvanataiḥ śirobhiḥ // 7.3 //

For standing in precisely that manner, rooted in their curiosity, with yoke in hand, were the wheel-bearers, with wives in tow; / They beheld him the equal of Indra, and did not move, like beasts of burden with their heads half bowed. Was being accompanied by wives an indication of indecision? Or was having the head half bowed (in the middle way between being pulled back and falling too far forward) an indication that these individuals were originally buddhas, in the state of readiness to act? 03 //7.3//

viprāś ca gatvā bahir idhma-hetoḥ prāptāḥ samit-puṣpa-pavitra-hastāḥ /
tapaḥ-pradhānāḥ kṛta-buddhayo ’pi taṁ draṣṭum īyur na maṭhān abhīyuḥ // 7.4 //

And inspired brahmins, who had gone out for fuel to feed the sacred fire, and returned holding in their hands kindling, flowers, and kuśa grass, Samit can mean war, as well as kindling. Pavitra can mean a means of purification, as well as kuśa grass. This makes possible the hidden meaning that they were “holding in their hands the means of purification which is a flower of war.” The war, in that case, might be the war on sleep, and a means of purification might be a means of eliminating the pollutants such as greed and anger. 04 / Though they were men of formed minds for whom ascetic practice was paramount, they went to see him. They did not go towards their huts. //7.4//

hṛṣṭāś ca kekā mumucur mayūrā dṛṣṭvāmbu-daṁ nīlam ivonnamantam /
śaṣpāṇi hitvābhimukhāś ca tasthur mṛgāś calākṣā mṛga-cāriṇaś ca // 7.5 //

Bristling with rapture also, the peacocks let loose their cries, as if they had seen a dark raincloud rising up; In Sanskrit poems in general peacocks are described as bursting into joyous song at the coming of the rains. At the same time, in Saundara-nanda (SN1.11) Aśvaghoṣa poked fun at ascetic peacocks with their dreadlocks – śikhin means both peacock and having a lock or tuft of hair on top of the head. 05 / While, letting grass fall as they turned to face him, the deer stood still, along with the deer-imitators, with only their eyes moving. //7.5//

dṛṣṭvā tam ikṣvāku-kula-pradīpaṁ jvalantam udyantam ivāṁśumantam /
kṛte ’pi dohe janita-pramodāḥ prasusruvur homa-duhaś ca gāvaḥ // 7.6 //

Seeing him, the lamp of the Ikṣvāku tribe, shining like the rising sun, / The cows that were milked for offerings, though they had already been milked, were overjoyed, and flowed forth again. For the ironic hidden meaning of cows being milked, cf SN1.3. 06 //7.6//

kac-cid vasūnām ayam aṣṭamaḥ syāt syād aśvinor anyataraś cyuto ’ tra /
uccerur uccair iti tatra vācas tad-darśanād vismaya-jā munīnām // 7.7 //

“Could this be the eighth of the vasus, the good gods, or one of the two aśvins, the charioteers, alighting here?” / Calls like this went up on high, born of the bewilderment of the sages there, at seeing him. //7.7//

lekharṣabhasyeva vapur-dvitīyaṁ dhāmeva lokasya carācarasya /
sa dyotayām āsa vanaṁ hi kṛtsnaṁ yad-ṛcchayā sūrya ivāvatīrṇaḥ // 7.8 //

For, like the physical double of Indra, bull of gods, like the glory of all that moves and is still in the world, / He lit up the whole forest – as if the Sun himself had dropped by. //7.8//

tataḥ sa tair āśramibhir yathāvad abhyarcitaś copanimantritaś ca /
pratyarcayāṁ dharma-bhṛto babhūva svareṇa sāmbho-’mbu-dharopamena // 7.9 //

Then, being honoured and invited, with due courtesy, by those ashram-dwellers, / He in return, to the upholders of a dharma, paid his respects with a voice like rain-clouds full of rain. //7.9//

kīrṇaṁ tathā puṇya-kṛtā janena svargābhikāmena vimokṣa-kāmaḥ /
tam āśramaṁ so ’nucacāra dhīras tapāṁsi citrāṇi nirīkṣamāṇaḥ // 7.10 //

Through the ashram that was filled in this manner with pious people having designs upon heaven, / He, being desirous of release, steadily walked, observing the various ascetic practices. //7.10//

tapo-vikārāṁś ca nirīkṣya saumyas tapo-vane tatra tapo-dhanānām /
tapasvinaṁ kaṁ-cid anuvrajantaṁ tattvaṁ vijijñāsur idaṁ babhāṣe // 7.11 //

And the moon-like man of soma-mildness, when he had observed there, in that forest of ascetic severity, the ascetic contortions of ascetics steeped in severity, / He spoke as follows, wanting to know the truth of it, to one of the ascetics who was walking along with him: //7.11//

tat-pūrvam-adyāśrama-darśanaṁ me yasmād imaṁ dharma-vidhiṁ na jāne /
tasmād bhavān arhati bhāṣituṁ me yo niścayo yat prati vaḥ pravṛttaḥ // 7.12 //

“Since today is my first visit to an ashram and I do not understand this method of dharma; / Therefore, kind sir, please tell me – you are all possessed of what intention, directed towards what.” Ostensibly a question; in the hidden meaning a statement of ineffable reality. 07 //7.12//

tato dvi-jātiḥ sa tapo-vihāraḥ śākyarṣabhāyarṣabha-vikramāya /
krameṇa tasmai kathayāṁ cakāra tapo-viśeṣāṁs tapasaḥ phalaṁ ca // 7.13 //

And so the twice-born man, Dvi-jātiḥ or dvi-jaḥ, one twice-born, generally indicates a a Brahman, re-born through investiture with the sacred thread. But these terms can also indicate a tooth and a bird. This particular twice-born individual is going to tell the truth on more than one level, and so in the hidden meaning dvi-jātiḥ, or “born again,” may be taken to mean enlightened. 08 an explorer of the pleasure of painful practice, spoke to the bull of the Śākyas, whose steps were the steps of a bull – / He spoke to him, in steps, about the varieties of painful practice and about the fruit of painful practice. Aśvaghoṣa generally uses tapas with a pejorative connotation (tapas = asceticism vs yoga = practice). Below the surface in the present canto, however, tapas (hard practice, painful practice) can be read as representing practice itself, which, even if it need not be painful in theory, so often tends to be painful in practice. 09 //7.13//

agrāmyam annaṁ salila-prarūḍhaṁ parṇāni toyaṁ phala-mūlam eva /
yathāgamaṁ vṛttir iyaṁ munīnāṁ bhinnās tu te te tapasāṁ vikalpāḥ // 7.14 //

“Unprocessed food – food that grows in the presence of water – leaves and water and fruits and roots: / This, according to tradition, is the fare of sages. EH Johnston amended the text to salile prarūḍham and translated accordingly “that which grows in the water.” This conveys the ostensible meaning of very restrictive ascetic fare. But the real or hidden meaning might simply be to convey the general rule that sages (not only ascetic ones) eat food that is natural, not over-processed. 10 But in their painful practices there are alternative approaches, each being distinct. //7.14//

uñchena jīvanti kha-gā ivānye tṛṇāni ke-cin mṛgavac caranti /
ke-cid bhujaṅgaiḥ saha vartayanti valmīka-bhūtā iva mārutena // 7.15 //

Ones who are different live by gleaning crumbs, like movers in emptiness, or birds Ostensiblyl kha-gāh, “movers in emptiness,” means birds. Below the surface it suggests those who are free, i.e. those who have left home to live the wandering life. 11; some graze on leaves of grass, like deer; / Some, together with sitters in coils, or snakes – as if they were ant-hills – subsist on thin air. //7.15//

aśma-prayatnārjita-vṛttayo ’nye ke-cit sva-dantāpahatānna-bhakṣāḥ /
kṛtvā parārthaṁ śrapaṇaṁ tathānye kurvanti kāryaṁ yadi śeṣam asti // 7.16 //

Ones who are different live by what is ground out through effort on a stone; some are sustained by breaking food down with their own teeth; / Ones, again, who are different, having done the cooking for others, do what is for them to do, if anything is left over. Ostensibly a twice-born brahmin ascetic is listing some rules for ascetic practice. In the hidden meaning, one who is born again is continuing to suggest the everyday life of buddhas, bodhisattvas and mahāsattvas. 12 //7.16//

ke-cij jala-klinna-jaṭā-kalāpā dviḥ pāvakaṁ juhvati mantra-pūrvam /
mīnaiḥ samaṁ ke-cid apo vigāhya vasanti kūrmollikhitaiḥ śarīraiḥ // 7.17 //

Some, their matted coils of hair dripping with water, twice pour butter into the fire, with mantras [or make offerings of two times three, using a mantra] Dvis means twice or twice a day. Pāvaka means fire, but also, because fire is of three kinds, the number 3; pāvaka is also given in the dictionary as “a kind of ṛṣi, a saint, a person purified by religious abstraction or one who purified from sin.” Juhvati means they make a sacrifice, especially by pouring butter into the fire. But juhvati can also simply mean they honour. A mantra, according to one explanation of its etymology, from the root √man, to think, literally means “an instrument of thought.” Many possible hidden meanings, then, can be read into dviḥ pāvakaṁ juhvati mantra-pūrvam. For example: “twice [a day], using thought as an instrument, they honour a great seer.”13 / Some, like fishes, go deep into the water and there they abide, their bodies scratching the surface of the tortoise Ostensibly the brahmin ascetic is describing an ascetic practice involving holding the breath under water: “And there they abide, their bodies being scratched by turtles.” In the hidden meaning, the suggestion might be that even the buddhas, with all their wisdom, cannot fathom the merit of just sitting, but are content at least to scratch the surface. 14. //7.17//

evaṁ-vidhaiḥ kāla-citais tapobhiḥ parair divaṁ yānty aparair nṛ-lokam /
duḥkhena mārgeṇa sukhaṁ kṣiyanti duḥkhaṁ hi dharmasya vadanti mūlam // 7.18 //

Through painful practices such as these, accumulated over time, they arrive, via superior practices, at heaven, and via lowlier ones at the world of human beings. The ironic hidden meaning might be that buddhas opt for the lowlier, or more humble, practice among fellow human beings. 15 / By an arduous path they come to inhabit ease; for suffering, they say, is the starting point of dharma. Again, the words apply equally to a dharma of asceticism and to the Buddha’s dharma of four noble truths. 16” //7.18//

ity evam-ādi dvipadendra-vatsaḥ śrutvā vacas tasya tapo-dhanasya /
adṛṣṭa-tattvo ’pi na saṁtutoṣa śanair idaṁ cātma-gataṁ babhāṣe // 7.19 //

The son of a chief among two-footed beings, listened to words like these, and more, under that man steeped in painful practice / But he failed to see the truth of it, and was not satisfied. Silently he said to himself: //7.19//

duḥkhātmakaṁ naika-vidhaṁ tapaś ca svarga-pradhānaṁ tapasaḥ phalaṁ ca /
lokāś ca sarve pariṇāmavantaḥ sv-alpe śramaḥ khalv ayam āśramāṇām // 7.20 //

“Asceticism in its various forms has suffering at its core; at the same time, ascetic practice has heaven as its chief reward; / And yet every world is subject to change – all this toil in ashrams, for so very little! //7.20//

śriyam ca bandhūn viṣayāṁś ca hitvā ye svarga-hetor niyamaṁ caranti /
te viprayuktāḥ khalu gantu-kāmā mahattaraṁ bandhanam eva bhūyaḥ // 7.21 //

Those who abandon prestige, connections, and objects, to observe restrictions for the sake of heaven – / Evidently, when parted from there, are destined to go only into greater bondage. //7.21//

kāya-klamair yaś ca tapo ’bhidhānaiḥ pravṛttim ākāṅkṣati kāma-hetoḥ /
saṁsāra-doṣān aparīkṣamāṇo duḥkhena so ’nvicchati duḥkham eva // 7.22 //

And he who, by the bodily travails called ascetic practice, desires advancement for the sake of desire / While failing to attend to the faults that fuel saṁsāra – he by the means of suffering pursues nothing but suffering. //7.22//

trāsaś ca nityaṁ maraṇāt prajānāṁ yatnena cecchanti punaḥ prasūtim /
satyāṁ pravṛttau niyataś ca mṛtyus tatraiva magnā yata eva bhītāḥ // 7.23 //

Though people are ever afraid of dying, still actively they strive for re-birth, / And just in their doing, their death is assured – right there, where they are drowning, in fear itself. //7.23//

ihārtham eke praviśanti khedaṁ svargārtham anye śramam āpnuvanti /
sukhārtham āśā kṛpaṇo ’kṛtārthaḥ pataty an-arthe khalu jīva-lokaḥ // 7.24 //

Some individuals go through grim exhaustion for an end in this world, others suffer the ascetic grind for an end in heaven – / Pitifully expectant, having happiness as its end but failing to accomplish its end, humankind sinks into end-less disappointment. //7.24//

na khalv ayaṁ garhita eva yatno yo hīnam utsṛjya viśeṣa-gāmī /
prājñaiḥ samānena pariśrameṇa kāryaṁ tu tad yatra punar na kāryam // 7.25 //

Not to be blamed, certainly, is this effort which, casting aside the inferior, aims for distinction; / But the work wise men should do, exerting themselves as one, is that work wherein nothing further needs doing. //7.25//

śarīra-pīḍā tu yadīha dharmaḥ sukhaṁ śarīrasya bhavaty adharmaḥ /
dharmeṇa cāpnoti sukhaṁ paratra tasmād adharmaṁ phalatīha dharmaḥ // 7.26 //

If causing the body pain, in contrast, is the dharma here, the body being happy constitutes the opposite of dharma. / And yet by the dharma the body is [supposed] to obtain happiness in future. On those grounds, the dharma here results in the opposite of dharma. //7.26//

yataḥ śarīraṁ manaso vaśena pravartate vāpi nivartate vā /
yukto damaś-cetasa eva tasmāc cittād ṛte kāṣṭha-samaṁ śarīram // 7.27 //

Since the body, by the mind’s command, either carries on or stops its doing, / Therefore what is appropriate is taming of the mind. Without the thinking mind, the body is like a wooden log. //7.27//

āhāra-śuddhyā yadi puṇyam iṣṭaṁ tasmān mṛgāṇām api puṇyam asti /
ye cāpi bāhyāḥ puruṣāḥ phalebhyo bhāgyāparādhena parāṅmukhārthāḥ // 7.28 //

If the good is to be got through purity of food, it follows that there is good in even the creatures of the forest; / As also there are human beings who, through the reaping of fruits, subsist as outsiders – human beings who, because of contravening destiny, are turned away from wealth. Ostensibly the prince is poking fun at the conception that religious merit (puṇya) is to be gained by eating pure food – because, if it were so, even deer and even outcasts could gain religious merit by living outside of human civilization. In the hidden meaning, forest monks (creatures of the forest) do indeed gain merit by transcending the will to fame and profit and living as outsiders. 17 //7.28//

duḥkhe ’bhisaṁdhis tv atha puṇya-hetuḥ sukhe ’pi kāryo nanu so ’bhisaṁdhiḥ /
atha pramāṇaṁ na sukhe ’bhisaṁdhir duḥkhe pramāṇaṁ nanu nābhisaṁdhiḥ // 7.29 //

But if the cause of good is the ability to handle hardship, then is not the same ability to be practised with regard to happiness? / Or else, if being able to handle happiness is not the standard, then how can ability to handle hardship be the standard? //7.29//

tathaiva ye karma-viśuddhi-hetoḥ spṛśanty apas-tīrtham iti pravṛttāḥ /
tatrāpi toṣo hṛdi kevalo ’yaṁ na pāvayiṣyanti hi pāpam āpaḥ // 7.30 //

Those again who, with a view to purifying their karma, zealously sprinkle on themselves water which they feel to be sacred, / Are only, in so doing, pleasing their own heart, for wrong will never be washed away by waters. //7.30//

spṛṣṭaṁ hi yad yad guṇavadbhir ambhas tat tat pṛthivyāṁ yadi tīrtham iṣṭam /
tasmād guṇān eva paraimi tīrtham āpas tu niḥsaṁśayam āpa eva // 7.31 //

Whatever water has been touched by people steeped in good – that is sacred bathing water, if such on earth is sought. / Therefore, virtues, yes, I do see as a sacred ford. But water, without doubt, is water.” //7.31//

iti sma tat tad bahu-yukti-yuktaṁ jagāda cāstaṁ ca yayau vivasvān /
tato havir-dhūma-vivarṇa-vṛkṣaṁ tapaḥ-praśāntaṁ sa vanaṁ viveśa // 7.32 //

Thus, employing many and various forms of reasoning, did he speak, as the Brilliant One set behind the Western Mountain. / Then he went where the trees, veiled by smoke from burnt offerings, were turning gray; the practising of pain there having ceased, he went into the forest... //7.32//

abhyuddhṛta-prajvalitāgni-hotraṁ kṛtābhiṣekarṣi-janāvakīrṇam /
jāpya-svanākūjita-deva-koṣṭhaṁ dharmasya karmāntam iva pravṛttam // 7.33 //

... Into the flaring forest, where the sacrificial flame was passed from fire to blazing fire; into the bespattered forest, filled with seers performing their bathing rites; / Into the cooing forest, where shrines to gods resounded with muttered prayers; into the forest which was like a hive of dharma, all busy with doing. //7.33//

kāś-cin niśās tatra niśā-karābhaḥ parīkṣamāṇaś ca tapāṁsy uvāsa /
sarvaṁ parikṣepya tapaś ca matvā tasmāt tapaḥ-kṣetra-talāj jagāma // 7.34 //

For several nights, resembling the night-making moon, he dwelt there, investigating ascetic practices; / And, having embraced asceticism in the round and come to his own conclusion about it, he made to depart from that field of asceticism. //7.34//

anvavrajann āśramiṇas tatas taṁ tad-rūpa-māhātmya-gatair manobhiḥ /
deśād anāryair abhibhūyamānān maharṣayo dharmam ivāpayāntam // 7.35 //

Then the ashram-dwellers followed him, their minds directed on his beauty and dignity – / Like great seers following the dharma, when, from a land being overrun by uncivil people, the dharma is retreating. This could be another example in which the second half of a simile, ironically, carries the main gist of what Aśvaghoṣa seems to want to suggest – namely, that we should not attach to a geographical location, but should just follow the dharma. 18 //7.35//

tato jaṭā-valkala-cīra-khelāṁs tapo-dhanāṁś caiva sa tān dadarśa /
tapāṁsi caiṣām anurudhyamānas tasthau śive śrīmati vṛkṣa-mūle // 7.36 //

Then those men whose wealth was painful practice he beheld in their matted locks, strips of bark, and flapping rags; / So seeing, and yet feeling towards their austerities a fond respect, he remained there standing, at the foot of an auspicious and splendid tree. //7.36//

athopasṛtyāśrama-vāsinas taṁ manuṣya-varyaṁ parivārya tasthuḥ /
vṛddhaś ca teṣāṁ bahu-māna-pūrvaṁ kalena sāmnā giram ity uvāca // 7.37 //

And so the ashram-dwellers stepped near and stood surrounding that most excellent human being, / And the most mature among them, being full of respect, spoke in a soft voice these gentle words: //7.37//

tvayyāgate pūrṇa ivāśramo ’bhūt saṁpadyate śūnya iva prayāte /
tasmād imaṁ nārhasi tāta hātuṁ jijīviṣor deham iveṣṭam āyuḥ // 7.38 //

“At your coming the ashram seemed to become full; at your going, it seems to become empty. / Therefore, my son, you should desist from leaving this [place of painful exertion] – like the cherished life-force [not leaving] the body of a man who is fighting for his life. Again, when A is like B, ostensibly the point of B is to illustrate A, but really A is the convenient fiction and the real message is in B. 19 //7.38//

brahmarṣi-rājarṣi-surarṣi-juṣṭaḥ puṇyaḥ samīpe himavān hi śailaḥ /
tapāṁsi tāny eva tapo-dhanānāṁ yat saṁnikarṣād bahulī bhavanti // 7.39 //

For near to us, inhabited by brahmin seers, king-seers, and god-seers, rises a holy Himālayan mountain Alternate reading of puṇyaḥ... himavān: a pleasant snow-clad peak. “A holy Himālayan peak” sounds religious, but this spiritual reading is undermined by the hidden reading. 20 / Through whose closeness are augmented those very investments of painful effort of people whose capital is painful effort. //7.39//

tīrthāni puṇyāny abhitas tathaiva sopāna-bhūtāni nabhas-talasya /
juṣṭāni dharmātmabhir ātmavadbhir devarṣibhiś caiva nṛparṣibhiś ca // 7.40 //

All around us, likewise, are holy bathing places, which are akin to stairways to heaven; Alternate reading: “All around us, likewise, are wholesome bathing places which, at the level of the air, consist of steps.” Again the hidden reading undermines the holiness of bathing places which are esteemed as stairways to a spiritual place. 21 / They are frequented by seers whose essence of themselves is dharma, and by seers possessed of themselves – by divine seers and by seers who are protectors of men. //7.40//

itaś ca bhūyaḥ kṣamam uttaraiva dik sevituṁ dharma-viśeṣa-hetoḥ /
na tu kṣamaṁ dakṣiṇato budhena padaṁ bhaved ekam api prayātum // 7.41 //

And going further, from here, the direction is northward that deserves to be cultivated, for the sake of distinction in dharma; / It ill befits a wise man to take, contrarily, even one step that might lead southward. Ostensibly, northward means towards the Himālayas; in the hidden meaning, north means up and south means down. 22 //7.41//

tapo-vane ’sminn atha niṣkriyo vā saṁkīrṇa-dharme patito ’śucir vā /
dṛṣṭas tvayā yena na te vivatsā tad brūhi yāvad rucito ’stu vāsaḥ // 7.42 //

Or else, in this forest of painful practice, you have seen one who neglects rites; or you have seen one who is not pure, one who, in a commingled dharma, has fallen / And for this reason there is in you no desire to dwell – then say as much, and be pleased to stay! [or express as much, in which act of abiding, let light be shone!] In the hidden meaning, one who neglects rites is a non-buddha, who expresses his or her true nature in the backward step of turning light and letting it shine. Rucita means shone upon (by the sun &c ), and hence pleasant. Astu means “let it be.” So rucito ‘stu ostensibly means “be pleased to...,” but the hidden meaning is “let [light] be shone.”23 //7.42//

ime hi vāñchanti tapaḥ-sahāyaṁ tapo-nidhāna-pratimaṁ bhavantam /
vāsas tvayā hīndra-samena sārdhaṁ bṛhas-pater apy udayāvahaḥ syāt // 7.43 //

For these want as their companion in ascetic practice you who resemble a repository of ascetic practice Alternate reading of tapo-nidhāna-pratimaṁ bhavantam: “you who represent the laying aside of asceticism.”24 – / Because abiding with you, the equal of Indra, would be a means of lifting up even Bṛhas-pati, ‘the Lord of Spiritual Growth.’ ” //7.43//

ity evam ukte sa tapasvi-madhye tapasvi-mukhyena manīṣi-mukhyaḥ /
bhava-praṇāśāya kṛta-pratijñaḥ svaṁ bhāvam antar-gatam ācacakṣe // 7.44 //

When he, in the midst of the ascetics, was thus addressed by the first ascetic, he the first in perspicacity, / Since he had vowed to end the bhava which is becoming, disclosed the bhāva of his own real inner feelings and thoughts: //7.44//

ṛjv-ātmanāṁ dharma-bhṛtāṁ munīnām iṣṭātithitvāt sva-janopamānām /
evaṁ-vidhair māṁ prati bhāva-jātaiḥ prītiḥ parā me janitaś ca mārgaḥ // 7.45 //

“Under dharma-upholding sages who tend in their core towards uprightness, and who are, in their willing hospitality, like family, / To have had shown towards me such manifestations of sincerity has filled me with great joy, and has opened for me a way. //7.45//

snigdhābhir ābhir hṛdayaṁ gamābhiḥ samāsataḥ snāta ivāsmi vāgbhiḥ /
ratiś ca me dharma-nava-grahasya vispanditā saṁprati bhūya eva // 7.46 //

By these emollient words of yours, which seep through to the heart, I am as if smeared all over; / And the enjoyment a beginner feels, at newly laying hands on dharma, is now pulsing through me all over again. //7.46//

evaṁ pravṛttān bhavataḥ śaraṇyān atīva saṁdarśita-pakṣapātān /
yāsyāmi hitveti mamāpi duḥkhaṁ yathaiva bandhūṁs tyajatas tathaiva // 7.47 //

To leave you all like this, so devoted to all you do and so hospitable, to leave you who have shown me such excessive kindness – / It pains me that I will leave you like this and depart, even as it pained me to leave my kith and kin. //7.47//

svargāya yuṣmākam ayaṁ tu dharmo mamābhilāṣas tv apunar-bhavāya /
asmin vane yena na me vivatsā bhinnaḥ pravṛttyā hi nivṛtti-dharmaḥ // 7.48 //

But this dharma of yours aims at heaven, whereas my desire is for no more becoming; / Which is why I do not wish to dwell in this wood: for a non-doing dharma is different from doing. Other possible readings of bhinnaḥ pravṛttyā hi nivṛtti-dharmaḥ include: 1. “A non-doing dharma is destroyed by doing;” 2. “The dharma of non-doing is mixed in with doing.” Besides the ostensible meaning of “different from,” bhinna can mean 1. split or destroyed; and 2. mixed or mingled with. The ambiguity may have been intentional on Aśvaghoṣa’s part, inviting us to ask ourselves what the relation is between non-doing and doing, in practice and in theory. 25 //7.48//

tan nāratir me na parāpacāro vanād ito yena parivrajāmi /
dharme sthitāḥ pūrva-yugānurūpe sarve bhavanto hi mahārṣi-kalpāḥ // 7.49 //

So it is neither displeasure in me nor wrong conduct by another that causes me to walk away from this wood; / For, standing firm in a dharma adapted to the first age of the world, all of you bear the semblance of great sages. The suffix kalpa means having the form of, resembling, like but with a degree of inferiority. On one level, then, the prince is praising those who are devoted to hard practice. But below the surface, the affirmation is by no means unreserved. 26” //7.49//

tato vacaḥ sūnṛtam arthavac ca su-ślakṣṇam ojasvi ca garvitaṁ ca /
śrutvā kumārasya tapasvinas te viśeṣa-yuktaṁ bahu-mānam īyuḥ // 7.50 //

Then, having listened to the prince’s speech, which was both friendly and full of real meaning, / Thoroughly gracious and yet strong and proud, those ascetics held him in especially high regard. //7.50//

kaś-cid dvijas tatra tu bhasma-śāyī prāṁśuḥ śikhī dārava-cīra-vāsāḥ /
ā-piṅgalākṣas tanu-dīrgha-ghoṇaḥ kuṇḍaika-hasto giram ity uvāca // 7.51 //

But up spoke one twice-born individual there, whose practice was to lay in ashes; standing tall, clothed in bark strips and wearing his hair in a top-knot, / His eyes dark red, his nose long and thin, holding in one hand a bowl-shaped container, he said these words: Being tall (prāṁśuḥ) and holding a bowl-shaped vessel (kuṇḍa) could be marks of a forest bhikṣu. But could laying in ashes also be such a mark? 27 //7.51//

dhīmann udāraḥ khalu niścayas te yas tvaṁ yuvā janmani dṛṣṭa-doṣaḥ /
svargāpavargau hi vicārya samyag yasyāpavarge matir asti so ’sti // 7.52 //

“O man of understanding! High indeed is the purpose of one who, young as you are, has seen the faults in rebirth; / For the man who, having properly thought about heaven and about ending rebirth, is minded towards ending rebirth – he is the man! //7.52//

yajñais tapobhir niyamaiś ca tais taiḥ svargaṁ yiyāsanti hi rāgavantaḥ /
rāgeṇa sārdhaṁ ripuṇeva yuddhvā mokṣaṁ parīpsanti tu sattvavantaḥ // 7.53 //

For those who are coloured by desire’s red taint, desire by various austerities, restrictions, and acts of devotion, to go to heaven; / Whereas, having battled with red desire as if with an enemy, those who are animated by the true essence, desire to arrive at liberation. //7.53//

tad buddhir eṣā yadi niścitā te tūrṇaṁ bhavān gacchatu vindhya-koṣṭham /
asau munis tatra vasaty arāḍo yo naiṣṭhike śreyasi labdha-cakṣuḥ // 7.54 //

Therefore if this is your settled purpose, go quickly to the region of the Vindhya Hills; / There lives the sage Arāḍa, who has gained insight into the ultimate good. //7.54//

tasmād bhavāñ chroṣyati tattva-mārgaṁ satyāṁ rucau saṁpratipatsyate ca /
yathā tu paśyāmi matis tathaisā tasyāpi yāsyaty avadhūya buddhim // 7.55 //

From him you will hear the method of the tattvas (or the path of reality) Tattva (truth, reality) and buddhi (intellect, view) were concepts in Sāṁkhya philosophy, wherein 20-odd tattvas, or truths, were enumerated. In fact Arāḍa in BC Canto 12 does not enumerate tattvas, though he does speak of tattva-jñāḥ, those who know the truth / the tattvas (BC12.65). And he cites buddhi (“the intelligent”) in the category of prakṛti, Primary Matter (BC12.18). 28 and will follow it as far as you like; / But since this mind of yours is such you will, I am sure, progress on, after shaking off the buddhi, or intelligence, of even that sage. //7.55//

spaṣṭocca-ghoṇaṁ vipulāyatākṣaṁ tāmrādharauṣṭhaṁ sita-tīkṣṇa-daṁṣṭram /
idaṁ hi vaktraṁ tanu-rakta-jihvaṁ jñeyārṇavaṁ pāsyati kṛtsnam eva // 7.56 //

For, beneath a straight and high nose, and lengthened and widened eyes, with its lower lip the colour of copper, and its large teeth, sharp and white, / This mouth, with its thin red tongue, will drink up the whole ocean of what is to be known. //7.56//

gambhīratā yā bhavatas tv agādhā yā dīptatā yāni ca lakṣaṇāni /
ācāryakaṁ prāpsyasi tat pṛthivyāṁ yan narṣibhiḥ pūrva-yuge ’py avāptam // 7.57 //

Moreover, in view of this unfathomable depth which you have, Or “to which you belong” – the genitive bhavatas leaves open both subjective and objective readings.29 in light of this brilliance, and judging by these signs, / You will realize on earth that seat of a teacher which was obtained not even by seers of the first age.” //7.57//

paramam iti tato nṛpātmajas tam ṛṣi-janaṁ pratinandya niryayau /
vidhivad anuvidhāya te ’pi taṁ praviviśur āśramiṇas tapo-vanam // 7.58 //

“Very well,” said the son of a protector of men; then, bidding a glad farewell to that group of seers, he went out. / For their part, having duly seen him off, the ashram-dwellers entered anew the woods of painful practice. //7.58//

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye tapo-vana-praveśo nāma saptamaḥ sargaḥ // 7 //
The 7th canto, titled Entering the Woods of Painful Practice,
in an epic tale of awakened action.