Canto 2: rāja-varṇanaḥ
A Portrait of the King


The 2nd canto of Saundara-nanda, like the 2nd canto of Buddha-carita, paints an idealized picture of King Śuddhodana. In painting this picture of a non-Buddhist, or pre-Buddhist, king, Aśvaghoṣa seems to wish to inspire us to reflect on and to practise transcendent accomplishments like free giving, forbearance, valour, moral integrity, contemplativeness, and wisdom. Buddhists know these six virtues as six pāramitā – six transcendental virtues or six perfections. But by presenting them in connection with a king who, by biological necessity, pre-dated the prince who would be Buddha, Aśvaghoṣa seems to underline the truth that these virtues are universal. So if, as Buddhists, we believe in these virtues with a religious or sectarian attitude, revering these virtues as something special in Buddhism, we might be missing the implicit point of the present Canto.



tataḥ kadā-cit kālena tad avāpa kula-kramāt /
rājā śuddhodhano nāma śuddha-karmā jitendriyaḥ // 2.1 //

Some time thereafter that [realm] passed, through familial succession, / To a king named Śuddodhana who, being pure in his actions, The śuddha (“pure”) of śuddha-karmāḥ (“pure in his actions”) is a play on the name Śuddhodana. 01 had conquered the power of the senses. Jitendriyaḥ, which sometimes means an ascetic, as “one with conquered senses,” is almost as per the title of Canto 13, Śīlendriya-jayaḥ, “Defeating the Power of the Senses through Integrity.” Hence śīla, integrity, or pure conduct, keeping the precepts (1), is the first of the six transcendent accomplishments (pāramitā) which the idealized portrait of King Śuddhodana seems to present. 02 // 2.1 //

yaḥ sasañje na kāmeṣu śrī-prāptau na visismiye /
nāvamene parān ṛddhyā parebhyo nāpi vivyathe // 2.2 //

Neither stuck in his desires nor conceited about gaining sovereignty, / He did not, as he grew, look down on others, and nor did he shrink from others in fear. King Śuddhodana was thus also an exemplar of the transcendent accomplishment of vīrya, heroic endeavour, energy, valour (2). See also verse 15, in which vīrya is cited by name. 03 // 2.2 //

balīyān sattva-sampannaḥ śrutavān buddhimān api /
vikrānto nayavāṁś caiva dhīraḥ sumukha eva ca // 2.3 //

Strong and strong-minded; learned as well as intelligent; / Daring and yet prudent; determined, and cheerful with it; // 2.3 //

vapuṣmāṁś ca na ca stabdho dakṣiṇo na ca nārjavaḥ /
tejasvī na ca na kṣantaḥ kartā ca na ca vismitaḥ // 2.4 //

He had a fine form without being stiff; was dexterous but not dishonest; / Was energetic but not impatient; and active but never flustered. // 2.4 //

ākṣiptaḥ śatrubhiḥ saṁkhye suhṛdbhiś ca vyapāśritaḥ /
abhavad yo na vimukhas tejasā ditsayaiva ca // 2.5 //

Challenged by his enemies in battle, and petitioned by friends, / He was not backward in responding with an intense energy, and with a willingness to give. This represents the transcendent accomplishment of dāna, giving, generosity (3). 04 // 2.5 //

yaḥ pūrvai rājabhir yātāṁ yiyāsur dharma-paddhatim /
rājyaṁ dīkṣām iva vahan vṛttenānvagamat pitṝn // 2.6 //

Wishing to tread the dutiful path of dharma trodden by previous kings, / And bearing his kingship like a call to total dedication, he emulated the ancestors through his conduct. // 2.6 //

yasya su-vyavahārāc ca rakṣaṇāc ca sukhaṁ prajāḥ /
śiśyire vigatodvegāḥ pitur-aṅka-gatā iva // 2.7 //

Due to his good governance, and under his protection, his subjects rested at ease, / Free from anxiety, as if in a father’s lap. // 2.7 //

kṛtaśastraḥ kṛtāstro vā jāto vā vipule kule /
akṛtārtho na dadṛse yasya darśanam eyivān // 2.8 //

Whether skilled in use of book, or in use of sword; whether born into an eminent family, or not; / Anybody who came into his presence was seen to be useful. The emphatic double negative has been translated as a positive. Aktārthah lit. “purpose not achieved,” more accurately means “not successful,” but there is a play on the word kṛta, translated in the first line as “skilled in use of.”05 // 2.8 //

hitaṁ vipriyam apy ukto yaḥ śuśrāva na cukṣubhe /
duś-kṛtaṁ bahv api tyaktvā sasmāra kṛtam aṇv api // 2.9 //

When given good advice, however disagreeable, he listened and did not react; / He let go of a wrong done to him, however great, This represents the transcendent accomplishment of kṣanti, forbearance (4). 06 and remembered a service rendered, however small. // 2.9 //

praṇatān anujagrāha vijagrāha kula-dviṣaḥ
āpānnān parijagrāha nijagrāhāsthitān pathi // 2.10 //

The meek and mild he befriended; tribal foes he apprehended; / Sufferers he comprehended; waverers he reprehended. // 2.10 //

prāyeṇa viṣaye yasya tac-chīlam anuvartinaḥ /
arjayanto dadṛsire dhanānīva guṇān api // 2.11 //

As the general rule in his dominion, those influenced by his integrity / Seemed to take possession of virtues as if they were securing treasures. Linda Covill: “they looked as though they were earning virtues like money.” 07 // 2.11 //

Adhyaiṣṭa yaḥ paraṁ brahma na vyaiṣṭa satatam dhṛteḥ /
dānāny adita pātrebhyaḥ pāpaṁ nākṛta kiṁ-cana // 2.12 //

He minded the supreme sacred word; in fortitude, he never failed; / He gave fitting gifts to deserving recipients; and no evil did he do at all. // 2.12 //

dhṛtyāvākṣīt pratijṇāṁ sa sad-vājīvodyatāṁ dhuram /
na hy avāñcīc cyutaḥ satyān muhūrtam api jīvitam // 2.13 //

A promise undertaken he resolutely carried out, like a good horse carrying a load; / For he did not desire, apart from truthfulness, even a moment of life. // 2.13 //

viduṣaḥ paryupāsiṣṭa vyakāśiṣṭātmavattayā /
vyarociṣṭa ca śiṣṭebhyo māsīṣe candramā iva // 2.14 //

For the intellectually bright, he was there; with his own self-containment, he shone; This represents the transcendent accomplishment of dhyāna, meditation (5). For deeper consideration of the virtue of ātmavat, “self-containment,” or “being in possession of oneself,” see BC Canto 11 where it is discussed in connection with desires. 08 / And on people in the directed state, he positively beamed – like the moon in the last month of the rains. // 2.14 //

avedīd buddhi-śāstrābhyām iha cāmutra ca kṣamam /
arakṣīd dhairya-vīryābhyām indriyāṇy api ca prajāḥ // 2.15 //

Through intelligence and learning, he knew what was fitting, This represents the transcendent accomplishment of prajñā, wisdom (6). 09 both in here and out there; / He guarded, with constancy and energy, both his senses and his subjects. // 2.15 //

ahārṣīd duḥkham ārtānāṁ dviṣatāṁ corjitaṁ yaśaḥ /
acaiṣīc ca nayair bhūmiṁ bhūyasā yaśasaiva ca // 2.16 //

He bore away the suffering of the oppressed and the boastful fame of the cruel, / And covered the earth with guiding principles and a much greater glory. // 2.16 //

apyāsīd duḥkhitān paśyan prakṛtyā karuṇātamakaḥ /
nādhauṣīc ca yaśo lobhād anyāyādhigatair dhanaiḥ // 2.17 //

Seeing people suffering he overflowed with his original emotion as a man of compassion; / But he did not, through eager desire, undermine his honour by unprincipled acquisition of treasured objects. // 2.17 //

sauhārda-dṛḍha-bhaktitvān maitreṣu viguṇeṣv api /
nādidāsīd aditsīt tu saumukhyāt svaṁ svam arthavat // 2.18 //

In his kind-hearted iron devotion even to imperfect friends, / He had no will to take, but willingly gave, cheerful-faced, to each according to his need. // 2.18 //

Anivedyāgram arhadbhyo nālikṣat kiṁ-cid aplutaḥ /
gām adharmeṇa nādhukṣat kṣīra-tarṣeṇa gām iva // 2.19 //

Without offering the first portion to revered beings, and without bathing, he did not eat anything; / Neither did he milk the earth unjustly, as a cow is milked by a man thirsting for milk. // 2.19 //

nāsṛkṣad balim aprāptaṁ nārukṣan mānam aiśvaram /
āgamair buddhim ādhikṣad dharmāya na tu kīrtaye // 2.20 //

He never scattered the food offering except when due; he never developed lordly arrogance; / Committing of the scriptures to his mind, he did for dharma, not for praise. // 2.20 //

kleśārhān api kāṁś-cit tu nākliṣṭa kliṣṭa-karmaṇaḥ /
ārya-bhāvāc ca nāghukṣad dviṣato ’pi sato guṇān // 2.21 //

A few doers of harsh deeds, though they deserved harsh treatment, he did not treat harshly; / And due to his noble nature he never cast a veil over the virtues of a true man, even one who defied him. // 2.21 //

ākṝkṣad vapuṣā dṛṣṭīḥ prajānāṁ candramā iva /
parasvaṁ bhuvi nāmṛkṣan mahāviṣam ivoragam // 2.22 //

With his fine form he ripped away, as does the moon, people’s views; / He never touched, in an act of becoming, what belonged to others, any more than he would touch a venomous snake slithering on the earth. Bhuvi is the locative of bhū, whose meanings include 1. the act of becoming, and 2. the earth. To take account of this ambiguity, bhuvi is here translated twice. 10 // 2.22 //

nākrukṣad viṣaye tasya kaś-cit kaiś-cit kva-cit kṣataḥ /
adikṣat tasya hasta-stham ārtebhyo hy abhayaṁ dhanuḥ // 2.23 //

Nowhere in his dominion did anyone hurt by anyone lament; / For the bow in his hand bestowed peace upon the afflicted. // 2.23 //

kṛtāgaso ’pi praṇatān prāg eva priya-kāriṇaḥ /
adarśat snigdhayā dṛṣṭyā ślakṣṇena vacasāsicat // 2.24 //

Even those who transgressed, if they were submissive (and before them, of course, those who acted agreeably), / He surveyed with an affectionate eye, and steeped in loving speech. // 2.24 //

bahvīr adhyagamad vidyā viṣayeṣv akutūhalaḥ /
sthitaḥ kārtayuge dharme dharmāt kṛcchre ’pi nāsrasat // 2.25 //

He studied many subjects, without being interested in objects; / Abiding in dharma as it was in the golden age, he did not drift, even in a predicament, from dharma. // 2.25 //

avardhiṣṭa guṇaiḥ śaśvad avṛdhan mitra-sampadā /
avartiṣṭa ca vṛddheṣu nāvṛtad garhite pathi // 2.26 //

Because of his virtues, he continually grew; in his joy at the success of friends, he kept growing; / In the stream of forebears long since grown old, again he kept going… but go he did not, on a blameworthy path. // 2.26 //

śarair aśīśamac chatrūn guṇair bandhūn arīramat /
randhrair nācūcudad bhṛtyān karair nāpīpiḍat prajāḥ // 2.27 //

He quietened his enemies, using arrows; he gladdened his friends, using virtues; / His servants, when there were faults, he did not goad; the offshoots who were his subjects he did not, with doing hands, overtax. Karaiḥ is the instrumental plural of kara, whose meanings include 1. the act of doing, 2. “the doer” = the hand, and 3. tax. In the hidden meaning, the King was an exemplar of how to transmit the truth of non-doing. 11 // 2.27 //

rakṣanāc caiva śauryāc ca nikhilāṁ gām avīvapat
spaṣṭayā daṇḍa-nītyā ca rātri-sattrān avīvapat// 2.28 //

Under his protection, and because of his heroism, seeds were planted over the whole earth; / And by the transparent working of his judicial system, sessions were sat into the dark stillness of night. The 2nd and 4th pādas of this (and the following) verse include the same causitive aorist form, avīvapat, from the root √vap, which means (1) to strew, scatter, or procreate; or (2) to shear, shave, cut off, mow down. In its causative usage √vap means (1) to put or plant in the ground; or (2) to cause to be shorn or cut back. Ostensibly the description is of a well-functioning judicial system, in which case avīvapat could mean that “night-sessions” (rātri-sattrān) were 1. prolonged, out of due diligence, or 2. cut short, thanks to decisiveness. In the hidden meaning, “night sittings” suggests sitting-meditation practised at night. 12// 2.28 //

kulaṁ rājarṣi-vṛttena yaśo-gandham avīvapat /
dīptyā tama ivādityas tejasārīn avīvapat // 2.29 //

By the conduct of a royal seer, he propagated through his house the fragrance of honour. / Like the son of Aditi Āditya, or “son of Aditi,” is a name of the sun. 13 shining light into darkness, he with the intensity of his energy caused the enemies to scatter. Again, “propogated” in the 2nd pāda and “caused to scatter” in the 4th pāda are translations of avīvapat. The use of the same verb in four different contexts may be taken as a signal to the reader, or as a reminder, not to take what is written at face value. 14// 2.29 //

apaprathat pitṝṁs caiva satputra-sadṛsair gunaiḥ /
salileneva cāmbhodo vṛttenājihladat prajāḥ // 2.30 //

Using virtues that befitted a good son, he caused the ancestors, again, to disseminate their light; / And, like a raincloud using rain, he enlivened his offshoots, his subjects, using conduct. // 2.30 //

dānair ajasra-vipulaiḥ somaṁ viprān asūṣavat /
rāja-dharma-sthitatvāc ca kāle sasyam asūṣavat // 2.31 //

With inexhaustible and great acts of giving, he caused the brahmins Vipra as an adjective means stirred or inwardly excited, inspired, wise. As a noun it can mean any inspired sage, seer, singer, or poet, but ostensibly here it means a brahmin priest. 15 to press out their soma Soma literally means “what is pressed out.” In the hidden meaning is there an autobiographical element? Did Aśvaghoṣa see himself to be a kind of vipra (a sage/singer/poet) out of whom epic poetry was being squeezed out? 16; / And by dutifully adhering to his kingly dharma, he caused corn, Sasya means 1. corn, and 2. virtue, merit. 17 at the right moment, to ripen. “Caused to press out” and “caused to ripen” are both translations of asūṣavat. 18 // 2.31 //

adharmiṣṭhām acakathan na kathām akathaṁkathaḥ/
cakravartīva ca parān dharmāyābhyudasīṣahat // 2.32 //

He talked no talk that went against dharma, being free in himself of doubts and questions; / And, like a wheel-rolling king, he caused others to be courageous in service of dharma. // 2.32 //

rāṣṭram anyatra ca baler na sa kiṁ-cid adīdapat /
bhṛtyair eva ca sodyogaṁ dviṣad-darpam adīdapat // 2.33 //

No special tribute did he cause the kingdom to pay him; / But with sustained endeavour, and using only regulars, Bhṛtya means one who is to be maintained, a dependent, servant; hence in this context the ostensible meaning is troops already on the payroll, regular troops (LC: “using just his regular troops”). In the hidden meaning, is there a suggestion that particular defilements, like pride, can all be defeated by cultivating wisdom through regular practises like performing prostrations and just sitting – without recourse to the cultivation of specific antidotes? 19 he caused enemy pride to be cut down. // 2.33 //

svair evādīdapac cāpi bhūyo bhūyo guṇaiḥ kulam /
prajā nādīdapac caiva sarva-dharma-vyavasthayā // 2.34 //

Again and again, he caused his own house to be pure, using just his own virtues; Cf. the Universal Precept of the Seven Buddhas: [Pali] sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṁ, kusalassa upasampadā, sacittapariyodapanaṁ etaṁ buddhāna’ sāsanaṁ. [Chinese] 諸惡莫作 衆善奉行 自淨其意 是諸佛教. The not doing of any wrong, Undertaking what is good, Cleansing one’s own mind – This is the teaching of buddhas. 20 / At the same time, he did not let his offshoots decay, “Caused to pay” and “caused to be cut down” in verse 33, and “caused to be pure” and “let decay” in verse 34, are all translations of the same word adīdapat, derived from the roots √dā (to cause to pay), or √dā = √do (to cause to be cut down), or √dā = √dai (to cause to be pure), or √dī (to shine forth), or √dī (to cause to decay). 21 for all were established in all dharmas. Sarva-dharma-vyavasthayā (“being established in all dharmas”) means being grounded in the teaching which is the central teaching of the Lotus Sutra, namely, “all dharmas are real form,” or “all things are reality.” (Chinese/Japanese: 諸法実相 shoho-jisso.) 22 // 2.34 //

aśrāntaḥ samaye yajvā yajña-bhūmim amīmapat /
pālanāc ca dvijān brahma nirudvignān amīmapat // 2.35 //

A man of tireless sacrifice when the time was right, he caused sacrificial ground to be measured out; / And he enabled twice-born men, Dvi-ja, “twice born,” generally means a brahmin, considered to have been born again at his initiation ceremony. Aśvaghoṣa might equally have in mind the kind of re-birth that Nanda manifests at the begining of SN Canto 12, when he begins to demonstrate real confidence in the Buddha’s teaching of a better way (i.e. a way that is better than both hedonism and Brahmanism). 23 who under his protection were unburdened by anxiety, to know the weight of the sacred word. Brahma… amīmapat could mean to know the weight of the sacred word, or could mean to anchor the sacred word (brahma) in the ground – see note on amīmapat appended to the following verse. 24// 2.35 //

gurubhir vidhivat kāle saumyaḥ somam amīmapat /
tapasā tejasā caivadviṣat-sainyam amīmapat // 2.36 //

In the presence of gurus, and obeying the rule, he caused the soma to be measured out on time, as a cool, mild man of soma, In later Cantos, the Buddha frequently addresses Nanda in the vocative case as saumya, which is generally translated “my friend!” but which literally means “man of the soma!” This is because the qualities attributed to the soma, and to the moon-god with whom sacrificial drinking of the soma was associated, are those of being in the first instance cool and moist; and by extension placid, gentle, mild, happy, pleasant, cheerful. In this verse, therefore, saumyaḥ, “man of soma,” has connotations that are diametrically opposed to intense ardour and fiery energy.25 / And yet, with intense ardour, with fiery energy, he saw the enemy army cut down to size. “Caused to be measured out” and “enabled to know the weight” in verse 36, and “caused to be measured out” and “saw cut down to size” in verse 37, are all translations of the same word, amīmapat, a causative aorist form which can be derived from at least four roots: √mā (to measure, build, erect), √mi (to know, to fix in the ground), √mā (to reap) and √mī (to diminish). The resulting ambiguity may be intended, again, to alert the reader to the ambiguity and irony which run through the whole of Saundara-nanda. 26 // 2.36 //

prajāḥ parama-dharma-jñaḥ sūkṣmaṁ dharmam avīvasat /
darśanāc caiva dharmasya kāle svargam avīvasat //2.37 //

As knower of the dharma that is paramount, he caused his offshoots to abide in dharma in a small way, / And yet caused them, because of experiencing dharma, to let heaven wait. “Caused to abide” and “caused to let wait” are translations of the same word avīvasat, derived from the root √vas (to cause to stay or wait). The wording invites the reader to understand that the king caused his subjects to dwell in heaven in future, while simultaneously allowing – for the more practically inclined – an alternative reading. 27//2.37 //

vyaktam apy artha-kṛcchreṣu nādharmiṣṭham atiṣṭhipat /
priya ity eva cāśaktaṁ na saṁrāgād avīvṛdhat // 2.38 //

Even the obvious candidate in a crisis, he did not appoint if it went against dharma; / Nor, out of nothing more than fondness, did he dotingly promote incompetence. // 2.38 //

tejasā ca tviṣā caiva ripūn dṛptān abībhasat /
yaśo-dīpena dīptena pṛthivīṁ ca vyabībhasat // 2.39 //

With intense energy and with light he exposed to view his enemies, the conceited; / And with a blazing lantern of brightness, he caused the world to shine. // 2.39 //

ānṛsaṁsyān na yaśase tenādāyi sadārthine /
dravyaṁ mahad api tyaktvā na caivākīrti kiṁ-cana // 2.40 //

He gave out of kindness, not for his glorification, and always to meet a need; / Giving up even a thing of great substance, he mentioned nothing of it. // 2.40 //

tenārir api duḥkhārto nātyāji śaraṇāgataḥ /
jitvā dṛptān api ripūn na tenākāri vismayaḥ // 2.41 //

He did not shun one afflicted by suffering, even an enemy, who had taken refuge; / And having conquered his enemies, the conceited, he did not become proud on that account. // 2.41 //

na tenābhedi māryādā kāmād dveṣād bhayād api //
tena satsv api bhogeṣu nāsevīndriya-vṛttitā // 2.42 //

No rule did he break, out of love, hate, or fear; / Even while abiding in pleasurable circumstances, he did not remain in thrall to the power of the senses. // 2.42 //

na tenādarśi viṣamaṁ kāryaṁ kva-cana kiṁ-cana //
vipriya-priyayoḥ kṛtye na tenāgāmi nikriyāḥ// 2.43 //

He was never seen to do shoddily anything anywhere that needed to be done; / When required by friend and non-friend to act, he did not fall into inaction.// 2.43 //

tenāpāyi yathā-kalpaṁ somaś ca yaśa eva ca /
vedaś cāmnāyi satataṁ vedokto dharma eva ca // 2.44 //

He drank and guarded, Apāyi is aorist passive from the root √pā, which means: (1) to drink; (2) to watch, keep, preserve. So one verb is used in two meanings for two objects. The implicit teaching point might be that context is everything. 28 as prescribed, the soma and his honour; / And he was constantly mindful of the Vedas, as well as the dharma proclaimed in the Vedas. Again, the implicit teaching point might be, with respect to ancient wisdom, that its practical application is everything. Intellectual knowledge of ancient wisdom, on its own, is useless. 29// 2.44 //

evam-ādibhir atyakto babhūvāsulabhair guṇaiḥ /
aśakya-śakya-sāmantaḥ śākyarājaḥ sa śakravat // 2.45 //

Not eschewed by such uncommon virtues as these / Was he who on no side could be vanquished – the unshakable Śākya King, like Śakra. Śakra-vat, “like the Mighty One,” means like Indra, king of the gods in ancient Indian mythology. But the sound of the word might be more important than the meaning in this verse, whose primary function seems to be to round off, in a poetically pleasing manner, the long list of the king’s virtues. Hence the euphonic combination of a-śakya (impossible), śakya (to be subdued or shackled), Śākya (name of the people of whom the Buddha’s father was king), and Śakra (Mighty Indra). Samantaḥ means “on all sides,” but can also be read as “a vassal, a feudatory prince.” Thus, reading the 3rd pāda as aśakyaḥ śakya-sāmantaḥ, EHJ translated: “This invincible king of the Shakyas, to whom the vassal princes were submissive, was endowed like Shakra with these and other rare virtues.” 30 // 2.45 //

atha tasmin tathā kāle dharma-kāmā divaukasaḥ /
vicerur diśi lokasya dharma-caryādidṛkṣavaḥ // 2.46 //

Now at that time dharma-loving denizens of the heavens / Moved into the orbit of the human world, wishing to investigate dharma movements. // 2.46 //

dharmātmānaś carantas te dharma-jijñāsayā jagat /
dadṛśus taṁ viśeṣeṇa dharmātmānaṁ narādhipam // 2.47 //

Those essences of dharma, moving, with the desire to know dharma, over the earth, / Saw that leader of men whose essence was particularly given over to dharma. // 2.47 //

devebhyas tuṣitebhyo ’tha bodhisattvaḥ kṣitiṁ vrajan /
upapattiṁ praṇidadhe kule tasya mahīpateḥ // 2.48 //

Then the bodhisattva came down to earth, and rather than among Tuṣita gods, / He put down birth-roots in the family of that earth-lord. // 2.48 //

tasya devī nṛdevasya māyā nāma tad ābhavat /
vīta-krodha-tamo-māyā māyeva divi devatā // 2.49 //

That man-god at that time had a goddess, a queen whose name was Māyā; / She was as devoid of anger, darkness and the māyā which is deceit as was the goddess Māyā in heaven. // 2.49 //

svapne ’tha samaye garbham āviśantaṁ dadarśa sā /
ṣaḍ-dantaṁ vāraṇaṁ śvetam airāvatam ivaujasā // 2.50 //

In a dream during that period she saw entering her womb / A white six-tusked elephant, mighty as Airāvata. Airāvata, “produced from the ocean,” is the name of Indra’s elephant, who holds up the eastern quarter.31 // 2.50 //

taṁ vinirdidiśuḥ śrutvā svapnaṁ svapna-vido dvijāḥ /
tasya janma kumārasya lakṣmī-dharma-yaśo-bhṛtaḥ //2.51 //

When they heard this dream, brahmins Dvijāḥ, lit. “the twice-born.” 32 who knew dreams predicted / The birth of a prince who would bring honour, through wealth or through dharma. //2.51 //

tasya sattva-viśeṣasya jātau jāti-kṣayaiṣiṇaḥ /
sācalā pracacālorvī taraṅgābhihateva nauḥ // 2.52 //

At the birth of this exceptional being whose mission was the end of re-birth / The earth with its immoveable mountains moved, like a boat being battered by waves. // 2.52 //

sūrya-raśmibhir akliṣṭaṁ puṣpa-varṣaṁ papāta khāt /
dig-vāraṇa-karādhūtād vanāc caitrarathād iva // 2.53 //

A rain of flowers, unwilted by the sun’s rays, fell from the sky / As if shaken from the trees of Citra-ratha’s forest by the trunks of the elephants of the four quarters. Citra-ratha, “having a bright chariot,” is the name of the king of the gandharvas – the heavenly guardians of soma. 33// 2.53 //

divi dundubhayo nedur dīvyatāṁ marutām iva/
didīpe ’ bhyadhikaṁ sūryaḥ śivaś ca pavano vavau // 2.54 //

Drums sounded in heaven, as though the storm-gods were rolling dice; / The sun blazed inestimably, and the wind blew benignly. // 2.54 //

tutuṣus tuṣitāś caiva śuddhāvāsāś ca devatāḥ /
saddharma-bahumānena sattvānāṁ cānukampayā // 2.55 //

Gods in Tuṣita Heaven became calm and content, as did gods of the clear blue Śuddhāvāsa yonder, Śuddhāvāsa, “the pure abode,” is the name of a region of the sky in the realm of form/matter. Gods who live there would therefore tend to be on the other side of the science vs religion debate from the Tuṣita gods, who belong to a heaven in the realm of desire/volition/spirit. So it may be that Aśvaghoṣa mentioned the Śuddhāvāsa gods for the sake of balance. In a similar way the 1st pāda of the previous verse seems to relate to a spiritual happening in heaven, whereas the 2nd pāda has a less religious mood, describing storm-gods playing (against Albert Einstein’s expectations) dice. 34 / Through thinking highly of true dharma, and through fellow feeling among sentient beings. // 2.55 //

samāyayau yaśaḥ-ketuṁ śreyaḥ-ketu-karaḥ paraḥ/
babhrāje śāntayā lakṣmyā dharmo vigrahavān iva // 2.56 //

To one who was a lamp of honour came a supreme bringer of the brightness of betterment: Śreyas means the better state, better, a better way. EHJ translated “the highest good” and LC “Excellence.” See also SN5.49, and several verses in SN Canto 12, where the Buddha encourages Nanda to have confidence in a better way. 35 / He shone with tranquil splendour like dharma in a separate bodily form. // 2.56 //

devyām api yavīyasyām araṇyām iva pāvakaḥ/
nando nāma suto jajñe nityānanda-karaḥ kule // 2.57 //

To the king’s younger queen, also, like fire in the notch of a fire-board, / A son was born named Nanda, Joy, a bringer of constant joy to his family. // 2.57 //

dīrgha-bāhur mahā-vakṣāḥ siṁhāṁso vṛṣabhekṣaṇaḥ
vapuṣāgryeṇa yo nāma sundaropapadaṁ dadhe // 2.58 //

Long in the arm, broad in the chest, with shoulders of a lion and eyes of a bull, / He because of his superlative looks bore the epithet “handsome.” // 2.58 //

madhumāsa iva prāptaś candro nava ivoditaḥ /
aṅgavān iva cānaṅgaḥ sa babhau kāntayā śriyā // 2.59 //

Like a first month in spring having arrived; like a new moon having risen; / Again, like the non-physical Anaṅga, “the non-physical” or “the bodiless,” is an epithet of Kāma-deva, the god of love, whom Śiva rendered bodiless as a punishment, after a cupid’s arrow had caused Śiva to fall out of love with ascetic practice and into love with the beautiful Pārvatī. 36 having taken a physical form, he radiated sheer loveliness. // 2.59 //

sa tau saṁvardhayām āsa narendraḥ parayā mudā
arthaḥ sajjana-hastastho dharma-kāmau mahān iva // 2.60 //

The king with exceeding gladness brought up the two of them, / As great wealth in the hands of a good man promotes dharma and pleasure. // 2.60 //

tasya kālena sat-putrau vavṛdhāte bhavāya tau
āryasyārambha-mahato dharmārthāv iva bhūtaye // 2.61 //

Those two good sons, in time, grew up to do the king proud, / Just as, when his investment is great, dharma and wealth pay a noble person well. // 2.61 //

tayoḥ sat-putrayor madhye śākya-rājo rarāja saḥ /
madhya-deśa iva vyakto himavat-pāripātrayoḥ// 2.62 //

Being in the middle, with regard to those two good sons, the Śākya king reigned resplendent, / Like the Madhya-deśa, the Middle Region, adorned by the Himālaya and Pāriyātra mountains. The Pāriyātra is another name for the Vindhya mountains that lie to the south of the Ganges basin. 37// 2.62 //

tatas tayoḥ saṁskṛtayo krameṇa narendra-sūnvoḥ kṛta-vidyayoś ca /
kāmeṣv ajasraṁ pramamāda nandaḥ sarvārtha-siddhas tu na saṁrarañja // 2.63 //

Then, gradually, those two sons of the king became educated, in practical arts and in learning. / Nanda frittered all his time on idle pleasures; but Sarvārtha-siddha, Accomplisher of Every Aim, was not mottled by the redness of passions. // 2.63 //

sa prekṣyaiva hi jīrṇam āturaṁ ca mṛtaṁ ca
vimṛśan jagad anabhijñam ārtacittaḥ /
hṛdaya-gata-para-ghṛṇo na viṣaya-ratim agamaj
janana-maraṇa-bhayam abhito vijighāṁsuḥ // 2.64 //

For he had seen for himself an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, / After which, as with a wounded mind he witnessed the unwitting world, / He was disgusted to the core and found no pleasure in objects / But wished totally to terminate the terror of being born and dying. // 2.64 //

udvegād apunar-bhave manaḥ praṇidhāya
sa yayau śayita-varāṅganād anāsthaḥ/
niśi nṛpati-nilayanād vana-gamana-kṛtamanāḥ
sarasa iva mathita-nalināt kala-haṁsaḥ // 2.65 //

Having focused his agitated mind on the end of becoming, / He fled the king’s palace, indifferent to the most beautiful of women sleeping there; / Determined to go to the forest, he fled in the night, / Like a goose from a lake of ruined lotuses. // 2.65 //

// saundaranande mahā-kāvye rāja-varṇano nāma dvitīyaḥ sargaḥ//2//
The 2nd canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled “A Portrait of the King.”