Canto 9: kumārānveṣaṇaḥ
The Seeking of a Prince


The Canto title kumārānveṣaṇaḥ ostensibly describes the efforts of King Śuddhodana’s two emissaries to track down his son, the Prince (kumāra). The alternative reading is that the seeking (anveṣaṇa) in question is the investigation which the Prince is determined to do by himself for himself, not taking anybody else’s word for anything.

Still another possibility is to read kumāra, which means not only prince but also child, as both the subject and the object of the seeking – as in the famous story from ancient China where a Zen master describes real sincerity as “a child of fire coming looking for fire.”



tatas tadā mantri-purohitau tau bāṣpa-pratodābhihatau nṛpeṇa /
viddhau sad-aśvāv iva sarva-yatnāt sauhārda-śīghraṁ yayatur vanaṁ tat // 9.1 //

Then the two, The two may be taken as representing every kind of duality that is spurred into action when one gets moving in the right direction. 01 knowing informant and veteran priest, smitten by a protector of men, prodded with a goad of tears, In the hidden meaning, a long whip, or goad, of tears (bāṣpa-pratoda) might be a metaphor for the four noble truths, whose effect is to stimulate us, by means of suffering, into practice leading towards cessation of suffering. 02 / Making every effort, like two good horses spurred into action, went with good-hearted swiftness Sauhārda-śīghram, with the quickness, or readiness to act, associated with the compassion of a friend, or “good-heart” (su-hṛd). 03 to that forest. //9.1//

tam āśramam jāta-pariśramau tāv upetya kāle sadṛśānuyātrau /
rājarddhim utsṛjya vinīta-ceṣṭāv upeyatur bhārgava-dhiṣṇyam eva // 9.2 //

The two arrived, tired and weary, at that abode of tiring exertion. Having arrived at a favourable moment, with what was appropriate for the journey, / The two abandoned royal pomp and, in a modest manner, arrived at the hearth of a son of Bhṛgu – they arrived at the very place of fire of a son of fire. BC6.1 also says that the ashram in question was that of a son of Bhṛgu. The Bhṛgus are said to be closely connected with fire. Dhiṣṇya means a place or abode, or a home where a hearth is. One of its meanings is a side altar consisting of earth heaped up beside a fire. 04 //9.2//

tau nyāyatas taṁ pratipūjya vipraṁ tenārcitau tāv api cānurūpam /
kṛtāsanau bhārgavam āsana-sthaṁ chittvā kathām ūcatur ātma-kṛtyam // 9.3 //

They honoured that inspired sage, following the standard, and were saluted by him accordingly. / As two who had sat, Ostensibly kṛtāsanau (fr. kṛta doing, having done + āsana, sitting) simply means “seated.”05 they spoke to one who abode in the act of sitting As in the description of Asita in BC1.52, the ostensible meaning of āsana-stham is “remaining seated” or simply “sitting down.” Here, as again in BC1.52, the hidden meaning is to praise a sage as being devoted to sitting and as abiding in the act of sitting – having cut out idle chatter (chittvā kathām). 06 – cutting out chat, they told the son of Bhṛgu their private business. //9.3//

śuddhaujasaḥ śuddha-viśāla-kīrter ikṣvāku-vaṁśa-prabhavasya rājñaḥ /
imaṁ janaṁ vettu bhavān adhīraṁ śruta-grahe mantra-parigrahe ca // 9.4 //

“Though we belong to a king in the line of Ikṣvāku who is pure in his bodily energy and pure in his wide renown, / Know, good sir, that the men before you are not sure of ourselves The meanings of adhīra include not fixed, deficient in calm self-command, weak-minded. It is ostensibly self-deprecating but in the hidden meaning suggests freedom from the sin of certainty. 07 in apprehending what truth is taught Śruta-graha, lit. “grasping what is listened to,” suggests the work of a veteran priest. 08 and in comprehending the art of thought. Mantra-parigraha, lit. “comprehending consultation / the instrument of thought,” suggests the work of a king’s counsellor. 09 //9.4//

tasyendra-kalpasya jayanta-kalpaḥ putro jarā-mṛtyu-bhayaṁ titīrṣuḥ /
ihābhyupetaḥ kila tasya hetor āvām upetau bhagavān avaitu // 9.5 //

A son, like ‘Victorious’ Jayanta, of that Indra-like king, wishing to transcend the terror of aging and dying, / Has, it is said, come here. May you, venerable one, see us two as having arrived In the hidden meaning, upeta may be synonymous with tathāgata in the sense of arrived at reality. 10 because of him.” //9.5//

tau so ’bravīd asti sa dīrgha-bāhuḥ prāptaḥ kumāro na tu nāvabuddhaḥ /
dharmo ’yam āvartaka ity avetya yātas tv arāḍābhimukho mumukṣuḥ // 9.6 //

[The sage] told them: “Indeed! The young prince, he of long arms, did arrive, but not as an unwitting youth. Kumāraḥ means a prince or a child or youth. The canto title kumārānveṣanaḥ, ostensibly describes a prince being sought, but it could equally mean a prince doing the seeking. And, in a still deeper hidden meaning, the suggestion might be of seeking out child-mind i.e. open-mindedness – investigating the buddha-nature with beginner’s mind.11 / On the contrary, seeing that this dharma practised here involves repeatedly coming back, Āvartakaḥ, from the root ā-√vṛt, to turn around or turn back. Ostensibly, āvartakaḥ refers to repeated re-birth in saṁsāra. In the hidden meaning, a dharma practised here and now involves repeatedly coming back to the here and now. 12 he set out towards Arāḍa, seeking freedom.” //9.6//

tasmāt tatas tāv upalabhya tattvaṁ taṁ vipram āmantrya tadaiva sadyaḥ /
khinnāvakhinnāv iva rāja-bhaktyā prasasratus tena yataḥ sa yātaḥ // 9.7 //

Thus, on those grounds, the two of them grasped the truth, Upalabhya tattvam, similarly, ostensibly means “understanding the fact of the matter,” but in the hidden meaning suggests realization of reality here and now. 13 and said goodbye at once to that inspired sage, / Whereon, as if tired and yet tireless, through their royal devotion, Rāja-bhaktyā ostensibly means “because of devotion to the king.” Below the surface, the suggestion is that being on the royal road (of sitting-meditation) caused them to be born along by the truth of non-doing. 14 they staunchly went in that direction in which the other had gone. //9.7//

yāntau tatas tau mṛjayā vihīnam apaśyatāṁ taṁ vapuṣā jvalantam /
nṛpopaviṣṭaṁ pathi vṛkṣa-mūle sūryaṁ ghanābhogam iva praviṣṭam // 9.8 //

As thus on those grounds they were going, they saw him, who had totally neglected purification, Mṛjayā vihīnam ostensibly means that the prince had gone without washing; in the hidden meaning, the suggestion is that in sitting naturally, he had already gone beyond religious rites of purification. 15 shining with handsome form, / On the road, royally seated at the foot of a tree – like the sun when it has entered a canopy of cloud. //9.8//

yānaṁ vihāyopayayau tatas taṁ purohito mantra-dhareṇa sārdham /
yathā vana-sthaṁ saha-vāmadevo rāmaṁ didṛkṣur munir aurvaśeyaḥ // 9.9 //

Thus on those grounds the veteran, abandoning a vehicle, went in his direction, joined by the keeper of the compass of thought – / As, when Rāma was in the forest, the sage Aurvaśeya, ‘Dawn’s Descendant,’ along with the minister Vāmadeva, went to Rāma, wishing to see him. The ostensible point of this verse seems to be to draw a parallel between the story of Sarvārtha-siddha and the story of Rāma as told in the Rāmāyaṇa. Below the surface, Aśvaghoṣa may have intended to convey more important meaning with the words yānaṁ vihāya, “abandoning a vehicle.” 16 //9.9//

tāv arcayām āsatur arhatas taṁ divīva śukrāṅgirasau mahendram /
pratyarcayām āsa sa cārhatas tau divīva śukrāṅgirasau mahendraḥ // 9.10 //

The two fittingly honoured him, as in heaven ‘Shining’ Śukra and Āṅgirasa caused great Indra to shine; / And he in return fittingly honoured those two, as in heaven great Indra caused Śukra and Āṅgirasa to shine. Śukra (fr. √śuc, to glow), “The Shining One,” is a name of Agni, god of fire; and Agni is regarded as the chief son of Aṅgiras. So Śukra (“the Shining One”) and Āṅgirasa (‘son of Aṅgiras’) can be understood to be two names for one entity – and in this sense representative of all dualities, like body and mind, which we are required to shine light upon, and shake off. 17 //9.10//

kṛtābhyanujñāv abhitas tatas tau niṣīdatuḥ śākya-kula-dhvajasya /
virejatus tasya ca saṁnikarṣe punar-vasū yoga-gatāv ivendoḥ // 9.11 //

Having thus on these grounds been allowed, the two, in the presence of the flag of the Śākya family, Śākya-kula-dhvaja ostensibly means the Śākya prince himself, but in the hidden meaning “the banner of the house of Śākya[muni],” suggests a traditionally-sewn kaṣāya. 18 sat; / And in his vicinity they shone – like the twin stars of Punar-vasu in conjunction with the moon. Ostensibly Aśvaghoṣa is picking up a simile in the Rāmayāna about Punarvasu and the moon. Below the surface, the intention, again, may be to cause us to investigate what psycho-physicality is, since some understand Punarvasu to be an asterism consisting of two stars (the alpha and beta Geminorum), while some understand Punar and Vasu to be two stars forming an asterism. Punar-vasu literally means “Restoring Goods” or “Restoring Wealth,” but grammatically, as here, is dual. 19 //9.11//

taṁ vṛkṣa-mūla-stham abhijvalantaṁ puro-hito rāja-sutaṁ babhāṣe /
yathopaviṣṭaṁ divi pārijāte bṛhas-patiḥ śakra-sutaṁ jayantam // 9.12 //

The veteran priest addressed that son of a king who abode at the foot of the tree, shining, / As in heaven ‘Lord of Prayer’ Bṛhas-pati addressed ‘Victorious’ Jayanta, son of Mighty Indra, sitting under the celestial coral tree: //9.12//

tvac-choka-śalye hṛdayāvagāḍhe mohaṁ gato bhūmi-tale muhūrtam /
kumāra rājā nayanāmbu-varṣo yat tvām avocat tad idaṁ nibodha // 9.13 //

“Learn of the moment when a king, losing consciousness, Mohaṁ gataḥ lit. means “gone/going to loss of consciousness,” i.e. being in a state of deluded bewilderment. In the hidden meaning, forgetting oneself, or dropping off body and mind. 20 is on the ground, the arrow of your sorrow having penetrated his core Ostensibly the veteran priest is referring to the King, Śuddhodana, but in the hidden meaning rājā, a king, means one who is lord of the earth in sitting, being struck by the teaching of the four noble truths. 21 – / To these words which the king, O child!, his eyes raining tears, said to you, listen well: //9.13//

jānāmi dharmaṁ prati niścayaṁ te paraimi te bhāvinam etam artham /
ahaṁ tv akāle vana-samśrayāt te śokāgnināgni-pratimena dahye // 9.14 //

‘I know your resolve with regard to dharma. I realize that this will be your goal. But at your going to the forest at the wrong time, I am consumed with a fire of sorrow that burns like a fire. //9.14//

tad ehi dharma-priya mat-priyārthaṁ dharmārtham eva tyaja buddhim etām /
ayaṁ hi mā śoka-rayaḥ pravṛddho nadī-rayaḥ kūlam ivābhihanti // 9.15 //

So come back, you who holds dharma dear, because of what is dear to me. For no reason but dharma itself, abandon this idea of yours. / For this swollen stream of sorrow eats away at me as the flow of a river eats away its bank. //9.15//

meghāmbu-kakṣādriṣu yā hi vṛttiḥ samīraṇārkāgni-mahāśanīnām /
tāṁ vṛttim asmāsu karoti śoko vikarṣaṇocchoṣaṇa-dāha-bhedaiḥ // 9.16 //

For the action which on clouds, water, brushwood and mountains, is exerted by wind, sun, fire and the mighty thunderbolt: / Sorrow exerts that action on us – tearing us apart, causing us to become dry, burning us out and demolishing us. In the hidden meaning, being dismantled and becoming dry might be an ironic suggestion of what it is really to understand the four noble truths. See also SN Canto 17: The action which on fire, trees, ghee and water is exerted by rainclouds, wind, a flame and the sun, / Nanda exerted that action on the faults, quenching, uprooting, burning, and drying them up. //SN17.59// 22 //9.16//

tad bhuṅkṣva tāvad vasudhādhipatyaṁ kāle vanaṁ yāsyasi śāstra-dṛṣṭe /
an-iṣṭa-bandhau kuru māpy upekṣāṁ sarveṣu bhūteṣu dayā hi dharmaḥ // 9.17 //

So enjoy for the present sovereignty over the earth. You will return to the forest at the right moment, as per the śāstras, or temporal sciences. / Never show disregard for your less fortunate kin. For dharma is compassion directed towards all beings. Below the surface an earth-lord is preaching the Buddha’s teaching in a four-phased progression – covering subjective sovereignty, objective knowledge, not doing wrong, and realization of the Buddha’s dharma. 23 //9.17//

na caiṣa dharmo vana eva siddhaḥ pure ’pi siddhir niyatā yatīnām /
buddhiś ca yatnaś ca nimittam atra vanaṁ ca liṅgaṁ ca hi bhīru-cihnam // 9.18 //

Neither is this dharma realized only in the woods: Its realization is assured in the city too, for those who make the effort. / Intention and energy are what count in this arena. For the forest and the uniform are a mark of fearfulness. Ostensibly Śuddhodana is mocking solitude and the robe as marks of a coward. In the hidden meaning, he is praising them as refuges of one rightly afraid of the terrors of aging, sickness and death. 24 //9.18//

maulī-dharair aṁsa-viṣakta-hāraiḥ keyūra-viṣṭabdha-bhujair narendraiḥ /
lakṣmy-aṅka-madhye parivartamānaiḥ prāpto gṛha-sthair api mokṣa-dharmaḥ // 9.19 //

By kings bearing crowns, by kings with strings of pearls hanging over their shoulders, and their arms fortified by bands, / By kings lying cradled in Lakṣmi’s lap – even by those who did remain in family life – the dharma of liberation has been attained. //9.19//
[Alternative translation]
Realized by kings who possess the earth, The meanings of mauli/maulī include 1. crown, and 2. earth. 25 by kings for whom battle is directed towards their own shoulders, The meanings of hāra include 1. string of pearls, and 2. war, battle.26 and whose arms are fortified by bands, / By kings acting in the middle, between the dual flanks of fortune Lakṣmi: 1. name of the Goddess of Fortune; 2. fortune. Aṅka: 1. lap; 2. side, flank. Madhye: 1. in the middle, 2. standing between two. 27 – and realized also by those who stay at home – is the dharma of liberation. //9.19//

dhruvānujau yau bali-vajrabāhū vaibhrājam āṣāḍham athāntidevam /
videha-rājaṁ janakaṁ tathaiva [pāka]-drumaṁ sena-jitaś ca rājñaḥ // 9.20 //

‘Oblation-Offering’ Bali and ‘Thunderbolt-Armed’ Vajra-bāhu, who were the younger brothers of ‘The Immutable’ Dhruva; ‘Born of Brightness’ Vaibhrāja, ‘Born of the Midsummer Month’ Āṣāḍha, and ‘Close to the Gods’ Antideva; / Likewise the Videha King Janaka, ‘The Producer’; ‘[Ripening] Tree’ [Pāka]-druma, and ‘Army Vanquishing’ King Senajit – //9.20//

etān gṛha-sthān nṛpatīn avehi naiḥśreyase dharma-vidhau vinītān /
ubhe ’pi tasmād yugapad bhajasva vittādhipatyaṁ ca nṛpa-śriyaṁ ca // 9.21 //

These men who remained at home as kings, you should know, were steeped in the dharma-practice that leads to the highest happiness; / Therefore, enjoy both together sovereignty over what is acquired and the glory of a protector of men. Below the surface, a lord of the earth is giving good advice – not to put cart before horse or horse before cart. 28 //9.21//

icchāmi hi tvām upaguhya gāḍhaṁ kṛtābhiṣekaṁ salilārdram eva /
dhṛtātapatraṁ samudīkṣamāṇas tenaiva harṣeṇa vanaṁ praveṣṭum // 9.22 //

Having contained you in a close embrace, you being besprinkled, wet with nothing but water, Ostensible meaning: when you have been anointed as my successor. Hidden meaning: when water has become for you nothing but water. 29 / Then seeing you in possession of the ā-tapa-tra (the big umbrella, the instrument of protection from the heat of tapas) Ostensible meaning: seeing you in possession of the royal umbrella. Hidden meaning: seeing you impervious to all forms of extremism, starting with asceticism. 30 – I desire, only in that state of happiness, to enter the forest.’ Icchāmi... vanaṁ praveṣṭum, “I wish/desire... to enter the forest,” can be read below the surface as a buddha’s pointing back to nature. 31 //9.22//

ity abravīd bhūmi-patir bhavantaṁ vākyena bāṣpa-grathitākṣareṇa /
śrutvā bhavān arhati tat-priyārthaṁ snehena tat-sneham anuprayātum // 9.23 //

Thus did the king speak to you, with words punctuated by tears; / Having listened well, for the sake of his love, you should return his affection with affection. //9.23//
[Alternative translation]
Thus did a possessor of the earth speak to you, with words punctuated by tears; / Having listened well, on account of valuing that, Tat-priyārtham: 1. For the sake of his love (tat = the king); 2. because of valuing that (tat = that dharma / that forest). 32 you should follow with attachment his attachment to that. Tat-sneham: 1. His affection; 2. attachment to that. 33 //9.23//

śokāmbhasi tvat-prabhave hy agādhe duḥkhārṇave majjati śākya-rājaḥ /
tasmāt tam uttāraya nātha-hīnaṁ nir-āśrayaṁ magnam ivārṇave nauḥ // 9.24 //

For in the deep sea whose water is sorrow and which has its origin in you – in the foaming sea of suffering – the Śākya king In the hidden meaning, a king [of dharma], in Śākyamuni’s line, immerses himself in the four noble truths. 34 submerses himself; / On that basis you should allow him, who has no protector, to cross to his destination, as a boat allows one to cross who, with nothing to hold onto, is submersed in a flood. //9.24//

bhīṣmeṇa gaṅgodara-saṁbhavena rāmeṇa rāmeṇa ca bhārgaveṇa /
śrutvā kṛtaṁ karma pituḥ priyārthaṁ pitus tvam apy arhasi kartum iṣṭam // 9.25 //

The action of Bhīṣma ‘The Terrible,’ who was born from the womb of Gaṅgā, Bhīṣma was the first son of King Śan-tanu by his first wife Gaṅga, but Bhīṣma relinquished his claim to his father’s throne to honour his father’s promise to his second wife, the fisherman’s daughter Kāḷī. See SN7.41, SN7.44.. 35 the action of Rāma, Rāma, the hero of the Rāmayāna, also gave up his claim to his father’s throne, going voluntarily into exile in the forest. These two examples, then, undermine the case which the king is ostensibly making. 36 and the action of Rāma the son of Bhṛgu Rāma son of Bhṛgu means Paraśu-rāma (Rāma with the Axe), who pleased his father by slaying Kārtavīrya. See SN9.17. 37 – / That action they did for the sake of what their fathers valued. Having studied that action, you also should do a father’s desire. Pitṛ: 1. father, 2, deceased ancestor. In the hidden meaning, you should act in accordance with the mind of eternal buddhas. 38 //9.25//

saṁvardhayitrīṁ samavehi devīm agastya-juṣṭāṁ diśam aprayātām /
pranaṣṭa-vatsām iva vatsalāṁ gām ajasram ārtāṁ karuṇaṁ rudantīm // 9.26 //

Have regard for the queen who fostered you, and who has yet to go south, into the region inhabited by Agastya, The southern region inhabited by Agastya means the region of death; or, in the hidden meaning, the area where body and mind have dropped off. 39 / Have regard for her who, like a loving mother-cow that lost her calf, is constantly and piteously wailing in distress. //9.26//

haṁsena haṁsīm iva viprayuktāṁ tyaktāṁ gajeneva vane kareṇum /
ārtāṁ sa-nāthām api nātha-hīnāṁ trātuṁ vadhūm arhasi darśanena // 9.27 //

[Rescue also your wife] who is like a goose separated from the gander, who is like a cow elephant deserted in the forest by the bull; / Your unhappy young wife, who is widowed though her husband lives – you should rescue her, by your presence. In the hidden meaning, you should deliver all sentient beings, by your state of awakening. 40 //9.27//

ekaṁ sutaṁ bālam an-arha-duḥkhaṁ saṁtāpam antar-gatam udvahantam /
taṁ rāhulaṁ mokṣaya bandhu-śokād rāhūpasargād iva pūrṇa-candram // 9.28 //

Your only son, a young boy not deserving of hurt, who is bearing in secret the burning heat of anguish – / Release him, Rāhula, from his grief for his own flesh and blood [or from the sorrow of family ties] Bandhu-śoka could mean 1. grief for his relative, or 2. grief from being related. Cf.pati-śoka in the previous canto. 41; release him like the full moon from Rāhu’s eclipsing grasp. //9.28//

śokāgninā tvad virahendhanena niḥśvāsa-dhūmena tamaḥ-śikhena /
tvad-darśanāmbv icchati dahyamānam antaḥpuraṁ caiva puraṁ ca kṛtsnam // 9.29 //

Burning with a fire of grief whose fuel is your absence, burning with a fire whose fumes are sighs, and whose flames are hell, / While it seeks the water of your presence, is not only the royalty within the battlements but the whole city.” The ostensible intention of the veteran’s appeal is that the prince should extinguish the fires of people’s grief by giving up and going home. The irony is that the bodhisattva will truly accomplish that task, on the contrary, by not going back to Kapilavastu yet. 42 //9.29//

sa bodhisattvaḥ paripūrṇa-sattvaḥ śrutvā vacas tasya purohitasya /
dhyātvā muhūrtaṁ guṇavad guṇa-jñaḥ pratyuttaraṁ praśritam ity uvāca // 9.30 //

He the bodhisattva, the buddha-to-be, the one whose essence of being was awakening, he who in his essential being was perfect, having listened to the words of that veteran, / Meditated a moment and, as a knower of excellence, humbly spoke this excellent response: [or spoke this excellent response, full of secret meaning:] The meanings of praśrita include 1. leaning forward deferentially, humble, modest; and 2. hidden, obscure. 43 //9.30//

avaimi bhāvaṁ tanaye pitṛṇāṁ viśeṣato yo mayi bhūmi-pasya /
jānann api vyādhi-jarā-vipadbhyo bhītas tv agatyā sva-janaṁ tyajāmi // 9.31 //

“I understand the feelings of fathers towards a son, particularly the king’s towards me, / And yet, even so knowing, afraid as I am of sickness, aging and death, there is nothing for it but that I abandon my kith and kin. //9.31//

draṣṭuṁ priyaṁ kaḥ sva-janaṁ hi necchen nānte yadi syāt priya-viprayogaḥ /
yadā tu bhūtvāpi ciram viyogas tato guruṁ snigdham api tyajāmi // 9.32 //

For who would not wish to see his nearest and dearest if, in the end, there were no separation from loved ones? / But since separation, however long delayed, happens, on those grounds the guru, however sticky he is with affection, I abandon. //9.32//

madd-hetukaṁ yat tu narādhipasya śokaṁ bhavān āha na tat priyaṁ me /
yat svapna-bhūteṣu samāgameṣu saṁtapyate bhāvini viprayoge // 9.33 //

If, however, the gentleman present viewed me as the cause of the king’s sorrow, that view would not be near and dear to me / When, in comings together which are like a dream, he is suffering, Since the bodhisattva addresses the veteran as bhavāṇ (the gentleman present), which takes the 3rd person singular, saṁtapyate (he is suffering) could refer to the king or equally to the veteran himself. Either way, a wrong view is being negated in which the cause of suffering is seen as residing in others. 44 amid inevitable separation. //9.33//

evaṁ ca te niścayam etu buddhir dṛṣṭvā vicitraṁ jagataḥ pracāram /
saṁtāpa-hetur na suto na bandhur ajñāna-naimittika eṣa tāpaḥ // 9.34 //

After observing the world, in its manifold diversity, manifesting itself, you should let your mind go towards certainty, like this: / Neither the son nor a relative is the cause of suffering. This pain has its cause in ignorance. //9.34//

yadādhvagānām iva saṁgatānāṁ kāle viyogo niyataḥ prajānām /
prājño janaḥ ko nu bhajeta śokaṁ bandhu-pratijñāta-janair vihīnaḥ // 9.35 //

Since separation, as for travellers meeting on a road, is, in time, inevitable for living beings, / What wise man would wallow in sorrow when rid of people with whom he was purported to be related? //9.35//

ihaiti hitvā svajanaṁ paratra pralabhya cehāpi punaḥ prayāti /
gatvāpi tatrāpy aparatra gacchety evaṁ jane tyāgini ko ’nurodhaḥ // 9.36 //

Here a quitter comes, having left relations elsewhere. Eluding them here as well, off he goes again. / Even after going there, again he goes, to yet another place. What attachment can there be towards such a serial deserter? Ironic affirmation of the wandering life? 45 //9.36//

yadā ca garbhāt prabhṛti pravṛttaḥ sarvāsv avasthāsu vadhāya mṛtyuḥ /
kasmād akāle vana-saṁśrayaṁ me putra-priyas tatra bhavān avocat // 9.37 //

And since from the womb onwards, death in every situation is poised to strike, / How could his majesty who holds his son dear, being there present, say that my giving myself to the forest was ill-timed? //9.37//

bhavaty akālo viṣayābhipattau kālas tathaivārtha-vidhau pradiṣṭaḥ /
kālo jagat karṣati sarva-kālān arcārhakaḥ śreyasi sarva-kālaḥ // 9.38 //

In devotion to worldly objects, wrong time exists. In business, equally, a right time is indicated. / Away from mankind and unto itself, time is dragging all moments of time. In a happier state of higher good, all time is deserving of adoration. Progression through four phases is again evident here in four pādas touching on 1. devotion, 2. worldly business, 3. relentless passing of moments of time, and 4. Time as synonymous with real existence. 46 //9.38//

rājyaṁ mumukṣur mayi yac ca rājā tad apy udāraṁ sadṛśaṁ pituś ca /
pratigrahītuṁ mama na kṣamaṁ tu lobhād apathyānnam ivāturasya // 9.39 //

That the king wishes to cede his kingdom to me – that indeed is noble, and worthy of a father; / But it would be no more fitting for me to accept, than for a sick man, out of greed, to accept food that is bad for him. //9.39//

kathaṁ nu mohāyatanaṁ nṛ-patvaṁ kṣamaṁ prapattuṁ viduṣā nareṇa /
sodvegatā yatra madaḥ śramaś ca parāpacāreṇa ca dharma-pīḍā // 9.40 //

How can kingship, as the dwelling place of delusion, be fit to be entered by a man of wisdom? / For there reside perturbation, intemperance, and exhaustion; and transgression against dharma through harsh treatment of others. //9.40//

jāmbūnadaṁ harmyam iva pradīptaṁ viṣeṇa saṁyuktam ivottamānnam /
grāhākulaṁ cāmbv iva sāravindaṁ rājyaṁ hi ramyaṁ vyasanāśrayaṁ ca // 9.41 //

For, like a golden palace on fire, like the finest food laced with poison, / And like a lotus pond full of crocodiles, kingship is attractive but it harbours calamities. //9.41//

itthaṁ ca rājyaṁ na sukhaṁ na dharmaḥ pūrve yathā jāta-ghṛṇā narendrāḥ /
vayaḥ-prakarṣe ’parihārya-duḥkhe rājyāni muktvā vanam eva jagmuḥ // 9.42 //

No comfort, then, is kingship; nor is it an inabdicable dharma – so that ancient kings who felt disgust, / As the drag of getting old brought forth inevitable suffering, ceded their kingdoms and retired nowhere else but to the forest. //9.42//

varaṁ hi bhuktāni tṛṇāny araṇye toṣaṁ paraṁ ratnam ivopaguhya /
sahoṣitaṁ śrī-sulabhair na caiva doṣair adṛśyair iva kṛṣṇa-sarpaiḥ // 9.43 //

For foraging herbs, out in the wilds, while clasping the highest contentment to one’s breast like a hidden jewel, / Is much better than living with the faults that tend easily to go, like unseen black snakes, with royal glory. //9.43//

ślāghyaṁ hi rājyāni vihāya rājñāṁ dharmābhilāṣeṇa vanaṁ praveṣṭum /
bhagna-pratijñasya na tūpapannaṁ vanaṁ parityajya gṛhaṁ praveṣṭum // 9.44 //

For it is praiseworthy for kings to leave their kingdoms behind them and, in their desire for dharma, to betake themselves back to the forest. / But it is not fitting for a vow-breaker to shun the forest and betake himself back to the family. //9.44//

jātaḥ kule ko hi naraḥ sa-sattvo dharmābhilāṣeṇa vanaṁ praviṣṭaḥ /
kāṣāyam utsṛjya vimukta-lajjaḥ puraṁdarasyāpi puraṁ śrayeta // 9.45 //

For what man of character born into a good family, having betaken himself, in his desire for dharma, to the forest, / Would cast off the red-brown robe and, dead to shame, make for the city – even if the city were that of Indra, “Breaker Down of City Walls,” himself? //9.45//

lobhādd hi mohād atha vā bhayena yo vāntam annaṁ punar ādadīta /
lobhāt sa mohād atha vā bhayena saṁtyajya kāmān punar ādadīta // 9.46 //

For he who, out of greed, out of ignorance, or else in fear, would take back the food he has vomited, / He, out of greed, out of ignorance, or else in fear, The repeated phrase atha vā bhavena, “or else in fear,”sets the bodhisattva’s thinking apart from that of the striver in SN Canto 8: “Greedy and untrained, devoid of decency and intelligence, / Truly, a wretched dog is wishing to eat again some food that he himself has vomited.’ // SN8.21 // 47 would take back the desires he has renounced. //9.46//

yaś ca pradīptāc charaṇāt kathaṁ-cin niṣkramya bhūyaḥ praviśet tad eva /
gārhasthyam utsṛjya sa dṛṣṭa-doṣo mohena bhūyo ’bhilaṣed grahītum // 9.47 //

Again, he who, after barely escaping from a burning house, would go back again into that inferno – / He, after leaving family life, having seen the faults attendant on it, would desire in his ignorance to embrace it again. //9.47//

vahneś ca toyasya ca nāsti saṁdhiḥ śaṭhasya satyasya ca nāsti saṁdhiḥ /
āryasya pāpasya ca nāsti saṁdhiḥ śamasya daṇḍasya ca nāsti saṁdhiḥ // 9.47(b) //

There is no combining fire and water. Nor can falsity and truthfulness co-exist. / There is no compatibility between what is noble and what is wicked. Nor are pacification and punishment reconcilable. //9.47 (b)// EHJ omitted this verse from his translation, partly on stylistic grounds and partly because it is absent from the Chinese translation. In the Tibetan translation this verse comes after verse 49. 48

yā ca śrutir mokṣam avāptavanto nṛpā gṛha-sthā iti naitad asti /
śama-pradhānaḥ kva ca mokṣa-dharmo daṅḍa-pradhānaḥ kva ca rāja-dharmaḥ // 9.48 //

Again, as for the tradition that rulers of men realized liberation while maintaining their status in the royal family – that is not so. / How can the dharma of liberation, in which peace is paramount, be reconciled with the dharma of a king, in which the rod is paramount? //9.48//

śame ratiś cec chithilaṁ ca rājyaṁ rājye matiś cec chama-viplavaś ca /
śamaś ca taikṣṇyaṁ ca hi nopapannaṁ śītoṣṇayor aikyam ivodakāgnyoḥ // 9.49 //

When he delights in peace and quiet, his kingship is lax; when his mind turns to kingship, the peace and quiet is spoilt. / For peacefulness and severity are incompatible – as a unity is impossible of the cold and the hot, in water and fire. //9.49//

tan niścayād vā vasudhādhipās te rājyāni muktvā śamam āptavantaḥ /
rājyād mitā vā nibhṛtendriyatvād anaiṣṭhike mokṣa-kṛtābhidhānāḥ // 9.50 //

Resolutely, therefore, those rulers of the wealth-giving earth abandoned their kingdoms and obtained peace; / Or else, firmly anchored, on the grounds of sovereign power, on the grounds of subdued senses, they affixed the name ‘liberation’ to what was not the ultimate. //9.50//

teṣāṁ ca rājye ’stu śamo yathāvat prāpto vanaṁ nāham aniścayena /
chittvā hi pāśaṁ gṛha-bandhu-saṁjñaṁ muktaḥ punar na pravivikṣur asmi // 9.51 //

Or if any of those kings during his kingship did properly realize peace, be that as it may! I, for my part, have not come to the forest with any lack of conviction. / For, having cut the snare called kith and kin, I am free, and not about to enter [that snare] again.” //9.51//

ity ātma-vijñāna-guṇānurūpaṁ mukta-spṛhaṁ hetumad ūrjitaṁ ca /
śrutvā narendrātmajam uktavantaṁ pratyuttaraṁ mantra-dharo ’py uvāca // 9.52 //

Words that reflected his facility for knowing the self, words free of eager desire, reasonable, yet powerful, / The son of the king thus spoke. Having listened, the counsellor Mantra-dharaḥ, counsellor, lit. means the bearer of mantra, or upholder of wise counsel. 49 also spoke his piece: //9.52//

yo niścayo mantra-dharo tavāyaṁ nāyaṁ na yukto na tu kāla-yuktaḥ /
śokāya dattvā pitaraṁ vayaḥ-sthaṁ syād dharma-kāmasya hi te na dharmaḥ // 9.53 //

“This mantra-containing resolve If the reading mantra-dhara is accepted here (neither EB Cowell nor EH Johnston accepted the reading), the compound is used as an adjective – mantra-containing. The meanings of mantra include 1. “instrument of thought,” 2. sacred speech, 3. counsel, 4. secret. 50 of yours is not improper; but neither is it suited to the present time. / For, to deliver your father in his old age into sorrow, for one who loves dharma as you do, might not be your dharma. //9.53//

nūnaṁ ca buddhis tava nāti-sūkṣmā dharmārthakāmeṣv avicakṣaṇā vā /
hetor adṛṣṭasya phalasya yas tvaṁ pratyakṣam arthaṁ paribhūya yāsi // 9.54 //

Assuredly, again, your judgement is not very acute, or else is dull, with regard to dharma, wealth and desires, Dharmārtha-kāma, dharma, wealth and desires/pleasure – the triple set of worthy aims, according to one strand of ancient Indian thought. 51 / In that, for the sake of an unseen result, you pass over conspicuous wealth. //9.54//

punar-bhavo ’stīti ca ke-cid āhur nāstīti ke-cin niyata-pratijñāḥ /
evaṁ yadā saṁśayito ’yam arthas tasmāt kṣamaṁ bhoktum upasthitā śrīḥ // 9.55 //

Some say, moreover, that there is rebirth; others assert with conviction that there is not. / While this matter remains thus open to doubt, it is only natural to enjoy whatever royal rank has come our way. //9.55//

bhūyaḥ pravṛttir yadi kā-cid asti raṁsyāmahe tatra yathopapattau /
atha pravṛttiḥ parato na kā-cit siddho ’prayatnāj jagato ’sya mokṣaḥ // 9.56 //

If we do carry on hereafter in some form, we will enjoy ourselves in that life as befits our birth; / Or else, if there is no carrying on in any form beyond this life, release is already a given for this world, without any effort on our part. //9.56//

astīti ke-cit para-lokam āhur mokṣasya yogaṁ na tu varṇayanti /
agner yathā hy auṣṇyam apāṁ dravatvaṁ tadvat pravṛttau prakṛtiṁ vadanti // 9.57 //

Some say that the next world does exist but they do not affirm a means of exemption [from life carrying on there]; / For, just as heat belongs to fire and wetness belongs to water, nature, Prakṛti, nature, or primal stuff, or the Primary Matter. See e.g. the description of the Sage Araḍa in BC12.17. 52 so they say, is there in the carrying on. //9.57//

ke-cit svabhāvād iti varṇayanti śubhāśubhaṁ caiva bhavābhavau ca /
svābhāvikaṁ sarvam idaṁ ca yasmād ato ’pi mogho bhavati prayatnaḥ // 9.58 //

Others explain that it is on the grounds of svabhāva, existence of things as things unto themselves, Svabhāva, or “existing of things as things unto themselves,” will be refuted at length, two generations after Aśvaghoṣa, by Nāgārjuna in his Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā. 53 that there arise the good and the ugly, being and non-being. / And since this whole world is naturally arisen from things existing unto themselves, again therefore effort is all in vain. //9.58//

yad indriyāṇāṁ niyataḥ pracāraḥ priyāpriyatvaṁ viṣayeṣu caiva /
saṁyujyate yaj jarayārttibhiś ca kas tatra yatno nanu sa svabhāvaḥ // 9.59 //

When the working of the senses is circumscribed, and pleasantness and unpleasantness reside in the objects of the senses, / And when all is bound up with old age and infirmities, what place in that has effort? Is all of that not simply the existence, as things unto themselves, of things? //9.59//

adbhir hutāśaḥ śamam abhyupaiti tejāṁsi cāpo gamayanti śoṣam /
bhinnāni bhūtāni śarīra-saṁsthāny aikyaṁ ca dattvā jagad udvahanti // 9.60 //

The oblation-eating fire is stilled by water, and fiery flames cause water to dry up; / The disparate elements, when contained in a body, confer unity and so bear up the world. //9.60//

yat pāṇi-pādodara-pṛṣṭha-mūrdhnā nirvartate garbha-gatasya bhāvaḥ /
yad ātmanas tasya ca tena yogaḥ svābhāvikaṁ tat-kathayanti taj-jñāḥ // 9.61 //

When, with hands, feet, belly, back and head, a being develops in the womb, / And when there is union of that being with its soul – those who know those things describe it as a natural arising out of things unto themselves. Svābhāvika, here used as an adjective, has been regarded as the name of a so-called “school of Buddhism.” Neither Aśvaghoṣa nor Nāgārjuna, however, recognized the existence of any such school. For them the Buddha’s teaching was not subject to analysis on sectarian lines. 54 //9.61//

kaḥ kaṇṭakasya prakaroti taikṣṇyaṁ vicitra-bhāvaṁ mṛga-pakṣiṇāṁ vā /
svabhāvataḥ sarvam idaṁ pravṛttaṁ na kāma-kāro ’sti kutaḥ prayatnaḥ // 9.62 //

Who produces the sharpness of a thorn or the birds’ and the beasts’ diversity of being? / All this is brought about naturally, out of things that exist unto themselves. There is no such thing as free will. Where are the grounds, then, for making an effort? //9.62//

sargaṁ vadantīśvaratas tathānye tatra prayatne puruṣaṣya ko ’rthaḥ /
ya eva hetur jagataḥ pravṛttau hetur nivṛttau niyataḥ sa eva // 9.63 //

Others say, in a similar way, that creation arises from Īśvara, the Almighty. What meaning is there, in that case, in a person’s effort, / When what causes the world’s carrying on is the same immutable agency that causes cessation? //9.63//

ke-cid vadanty ātma-nimittam eva prādur-bhavaṁ caiva bhava-kṣayaṁ ca /
prādur-bhavaṁ tu pravadanty ayatnād yatnena mokṣādhigamaṁ bruvanti // 9.64 //

There are others who say that the individual soul is the cause of both coming into being and being no more; / But whereas coming into being happens, they say, without effort, only by strenuous effort, they assert, is release attained. Having stated the case against bothering to make any effort, the counsellor now proceeds to hedge his bets and state the opposite case for making strenuous goal-oriented effort. 55 //9.64//

naraḥ pitṝṇām anṛṇaḥ prajābhir vedair ṛṣīṇāṁ kratubhiḥ surāṇām /
utpadyate sārdham ṛṇais tribhis tair yasyāsti mokṣaḥ kila tasya mokṣaḥ // 9.65 //

A man becomes free of his debt to the ancestors through his offspring, to the ancient sages through the Vedas, and to the gods through acts of sacrifice. / He is born with these three debts and when from these three he is released, there, so they say, in him, is release. //9.65//

ity evam etena vidhi-krameṇa mokṣaṁ sa-yatnasya vadanti taj-jñāḥ /
prayatnavanto ’pi hi vikrameṇa mumukṣavaḥ khedam avāpnuvanti // 9.66 //

In this way, say experts in the matter, by this order of proceeding, is release assured, to one who makes effort. / For if their effort, however persevering, is disorderly, seekers of release obtain only exhaustion. //9.66//

tat saumya mokṣe yadi bhaktir asti nyāyena sevasva vidhiṁ yathoktam /
evaṁ bhaviṣyaty upapattir asya saṁtāpa-nāśaś ca narādhipasya // 9.67 //

Therefore, O mild-mannered man of the soma, if you are devoted to release, honour the standard, in the proper manner, as prescribed. / Thus will come about the realization of [the release] and the ending of the anguish of the lord of men. //9.67//

yā ca pravṛttā tava doṣa-buddhis tapo-vanebhyo bhavanaṁ praveṣṭum /
tatrāpi cintā tava tāta mā bhūt pūrve ’pi jagmuḥ sva-gṛhān vanebhyaḥ // 9.68 //

Again, as for your thinking it a fault to re-enter the palace from the ascetic woods, / Have no worry in that regard, dear son – people even in ancient times left the forests and went back home. //9.68//

tapo-vana-stho ’pi vṛtaḥ prajābhir jagāma rājā puram ambarīṣaḥ /
tathā mahīṁ viprakṛtām anāryais tapovanād etya rarakṣa rāmaḥ // 9.69 //

When he was petitioned by his subjects, though he had been abiding in the ascetic forest, King Ambarīṣa went to the city. / So too, when the Great Earth was being abused by ignoble people, did Rāma return from the ascetic forest and reign over her. Cf. Nanda’s apology in SN Canto 7: “For the Śālva king, along with his son; and likewise Ambarīṣa and Rāma and Andha, and Rantideva, son of Sāṅkṛti / Cast off their rags and clothed themselves again in finest fabrics; they cut their twisted dreadlocks off and put their crowns back on.” // SN7.51 // 56 //9.69//

tathaiva śālvādhipatir drumākhyo vanāt sasūnur nagaraṁ viveśa /
brahmarṣi-bhūtaś ca muner vasiṣṭhād dadhre śriyaṁ sāṁkṛtir antidevaḥ // 9.70 //

So again did Druma, the Śālva king whose name means Tree, in the company of his son, enter the city from the forest. / And, having become a brahmarṣi, a brahman seer, Antideva the Sāṁkṛti received the royal insignia from the sage Vasiṣṭha. //9.70//

evaṁ-vidhā dharma-yaśaḥ-pradīpā vanāni hitvā bhavanāny atīyuḥ /
tasmān na doṣo ’sti gṛhaṁ prayātuṁ tapo-vanād dharma-nimittam eva // 9.71 //

Such lanterns as these of the splendour of dharma quit the forests and returned to their houses. / There is no fault in going home, therefore, away from the ascetic forest, when the reason is dharma itself!” //9.71//

tato vacas tasya niśamya mantriṇaḥ priyaṁ hitaṁ caiva nṛpasya cakṣuṣaḥ /
anūnam avyastam asaktam adrutaṁ dhṛtau sthito rāja-suto ’bravīd vacaḥ // 9.72 //

Then, after he had listened to the fond and well-meaning words of a counsellor who was the eye of a ruler of men, / Leaving nothing omitted and nothing garbled, neither getting stuck nor getting carried away, standing firm in his resolve, the son of a king said: //9.72//

ihāsti nāstīti ya eṣa saṁśayaḥ parasya vākyair na mamātra niścayaḥ /
avetya tattvaṁ tapasā śamena vā svayaṁ grahīṣyāmi yad atra niścitam // 9.73 //

“As to the doubt you raise, about existence in this world and non-existence, I shall arrive at conviction in this matter not by way of another’s words. / Seeing the truth by the heat of asceticism, or else by cooling tranquillity, I will grasp for myself what, in this matter, is to be ascertained. //9.73//

na me kṣamaṁ saṁśaya-jaṁ hi darśanaṁ grahītum avyakta-paras-parāhatam /
budhaḥ para-pratyayato hi ko vrajej jano ’ndhakāre ’ndha ivāndha-deśikaḥ // 9.74 //

For it would ill befit me to accept a worldview born of doubt, unintelligible and beset with internal contradictions. / For what wise person would proceed on the grounds of another person’s grounds – like a blind man in the darkness, whose guide is blind? //9.74//

adṛṣṭa-tattvasya sato ’pi kiṁ tu me śubhāśubhe saṁśayite śubhe matiḥ /
vṛthāpi khedo hi varaṁ śubhātmanaḥ sukhaṁ na tattve ’pi vigarhitātmanaḥ // 9.75 //

Even in my present state of not having realized the truth, yet still, though good and bad be in doubt, my inclination is to the good. / For better the toil, though the toil was in vain, of a soul given over to the good, than the gratification of one, though onto the truth, whose attitude was reprehensible. //9.75//

imaṁ tu dṛṣṭvāgamam avyavasthitaṁ yad uktam āptais tad avehi sādhv iti /
prahīṇa-doṣa-tvam avehi cāptatāṁ prahīṇa-doṣo hy anṛtaṁ na vakṣyati // 9.76 //

Notice, pray!, that this tradition you describe is not exactly determined, and know to be truly unerring that which is spoken by true people. / Again, know the state of a true person to be freedom from faults, for one without faults will never speak an untruth. //9.76//

gṛha-praveśaṁ prati yac ca me bhavān uvāca rāma-prabhṛtīn nidarśanam /
na te pramāṇaṁ na hi dharma-niścayeṣv alaṁ pramāṇāya parikṣata-vratāḥ // 9.77 //

And as for what you said to me about going home, citing as an example Rāma and the rest, / They are not the standard. For, in no way, as a standard for decisions in dharma, do vow-breakers measure up. //9.77//

tad evam apy eva ravir mahīṁ pated api sthiratvaṁ himavān giris tyajet /
adṛṣṭa-tattvo viṣayonmukhendriyaḥ śrayeya na tv eva gṛhān pṛthag-janaḥ // 9.78 //

That being so, even the sun may fall to the earth, even a Himālayan mountain may relinquish its firmness, / But never would I, not having realized the truth, my senses oriented expectantly towards objects, go back home as a common man. //9.78//

ahaṁ viśeyaṁ jvalitaṁ hutāśanaṁ na cākṛtārthaḥ praviśeyam ālayam /
iti pratijñāṁ sa cakāra garvito yatheṣṭam utthāya ca nirmamo yayau // 9.79 //

I would go into the oblation-eating fire when it is blazing, but I would not, with my task unaccomplished, go back home.” / Thus did he declare, with pride but with no sense of me and mine, as he stood up and, as per his declared intent, went on his way. //9.79//

tataḥ sa-bāṣpau saciva-dvijāv ubhau niśamya tasya sthiram eva niścayam /
viṣaṇṇa-vaktrāv anugamya duḥkhitau śanair agatyā puram eva jagmatuḥ // 9.80 //

Then the counsellor and the twice-born veteran, both in tears, having perceived his unshakeable resolve, / Tagged along, in the grip of suffering, with despondent faces; and then meekly, having no other course, the two of them went back to the city in question. //9.80//

tat-snehād atha nṛpateś ca bhaktitas tau sāpekṣaṁ pratiyayatuś ca tasthatuś ca /
dur-dharṣaṁ ravim iva dīptam ātma-bhāsā taṁ draṣṭuṁ na hi pathi śekatur na moktum // 9.81 //

Out of affection for him, and out of devotion to the king, the two went worriedly on their way, and then the two stood still; / For, as he blazed with his own light, like the blinding sun, they were able neither to behold him on the road nor to let him go. //9.81//

tau jñātuṁ parama-gater gatiṁ tu tasya pracchannāṁś cara-puruṣāñ chucīn vidhāya /
rājānaṁ priya-suta-lālasaṁ nu gatvā drakṣyāvaḥ katham iti jagmatuḥ kathaṁ-cit // 9.82 //

In order to monitor the progress, however, of him whose progress was of the highest order, those two appointed honest men to spy for them in secret. / “How on earth are we to go and see the king, who is so devoted to his beloved son?”, they fretted, as somehow, with difficulty, the two of them progressed. //9.82//

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye kumārānveṣaṇo nāma navamaḥ sargaḥ // 9 //
The 9th canto, titled The Seeking of a Prince,
in an epic tale of awakened action.