Canto 18: ājñā-vyākaraṇaḥ
Knowing & Affirming


Ājñā means 1. the highest knowledge, the deepest knowledge, knowledge of liberation; and 2. order, command, authority, unlimited power. Vyākaraṇa is an -na neuter action noun from vy-ā-√kṛ, which means 1. to expound, explain, declare, and 2. to predict or prophesy. Related to this latter definition, vyākaraṇa is one of the nine divisions of the teaching. This category of vyākaraṇa is generally understood to contain the Buddha’s predictions of the future enlightenment of his followers. In Chinese, however, vyākaraṇa was rendered as 授記 (juki); and in Shobogenzo Dogen explains these two characters not in terms of future time (which, philosophically speaking, does not exist) but rather in terms of the real time of the present. Hence, rather than Giving a Prophecy, 授記 is better translated in Shobogenzo as Giving Affirmation. Following this line of thinking, then, the Canto title ājñā-vyākaraṇaḥ might be translated “Giving Affirmation of Deep Knowledge” or, in short, “Affirming of Knowing.”

In EH Johnston’s Canto title “The Declaration of Insight,” however, the reading of vyākaraṇa mirrors the usage of vyākaraṇa in verse 21, where Nanda does indeed declare his own insight. Again, Linda Covill’s translation “His Instructions Revealed” reflects the conventional understanding of vyākaraṇa in which the Buddha himself is the one who does the revealing.

Thus, in view of the ambiguity of both ājñā and vyākaraṇa, it seems likely that, as in so many previous Cantos, a two-word compound was chosen that might save us from the sin of certainty. “Knowing/Affirming” might come closer to conveying the real cloud of un-knowing that, ironically, Aśvaghoṣa may have had it in mind to suggest.



atha dvijo bāla ivāpta-vedaḥ kṣipraṁ vaṇik prāpta ivāpta-lābhaḥ /
jitvā ca rājanya ivārisainyaṁ nandaḥ kṛtārtho gurum abhyagacchat // 18.1 //

And so like a young initiate who mastered the Vedas, like a trader who turned a quick profit, / Or like a royal warrior who conquered a hostile army, a success, Nanda approached the Guru. // 18.1 //

draṣṭuṁ sukhaṁ jñāna-samāpti-kāle gurur hi śiṣyasya guroś ca śiṣyaḥ/
pariśramas te saphalo mayīti yato didṛkṣāsya munau babhūva // 18.2 //

For it is pleasant, at a time when wisdom has been fully realized, for teacher to see student, and for student to see teacher, / [Each thinking], “Your toil has rewarded me”; for which same reason the wish to see [Nanda] arose in the Sage. // 18.2 //

yato hi yenādhigato viśeṣas tasyottamāṅge ’rhati kartum iḍyām /
āryaḥ sarāgo ’pi kṛtajña-bhāvāt prakṣīṇamānaḥ kim-u vītarāgaḥ // 18.3 //

Thus is a noble person obliged to pay respect, EHJ notes that iḍyām is a corruption here for ijyām, which occurs occasionally in Buddhist works in the sense of pūjā (honour, worship, respect). 01 to his face, Uttamāṅge (fr. uttama + aṅga) is lit. “to the highest part of the body.”02 to the one through whom he has acquired distinction. / Even a noble person who retains the taint of redness is so obliged, out of gratitude: How much more is one with no red taint, all pride having perished? // 18.3 //

yasyārtha-kāma-prabhavā hi bhaktis tato ’sya sā tiṣṭhati rūḍha-mūlā /
dharmānvayo yasya tu bhakti-rāgas tasya prasādo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ // 18.4 //

For when devotion springs from an agenda or desire, there it remains rooted; / But when a person has love and devotion for dharma, that person is steeped to the core in tranquillity. // 18.4 //

kāṣāya-vāsāḥ kanakāvadātas tataḥ sa mūrdhnā gurave praṇeme/
vāteritaḥ pallava-tāmra-rāgaḥ puṣpojjvala-śrīr iva karṇikāraḥ // 18.5 //

And so, a glowing gold in his yellow-red robe, he bowed his head to the Guru / Like a karnikāra tree, with an outburst of ruddy shoots, and a glorious blaze of flowers, nodding in the wind. // 18.5 //

athātmanaḥ śiṣya-guṇasya caiva mahā-muneḥ śāstṛ-guṇasya caiva /
saṁdarśanārthaṁ sa na māna-hetoḥ svāṁ kārya-siddhiṁ kathayām babhūva // 18.6 //

Then, as a manifestation of his individual merit as a student and, indeed, of the great Sage’s merit as a teacher, / And not out of pride, he described his own accomplishment of the work that has to be done: // 18.6 //

yo dṛṣṭi-śalyo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ prabho bhṛśaṁ mām atudat su-tīkṣṇaḥ /
tvad-vākya-saṁdaṁśa-mukhena me sa samuddhṛtaḥ śalya-hṛteva śalyaḥ // 18.7 //

“The splinter of a view, The cutting of ten fetters which was implicit in Aśvaghoṣa’s account of Nanda’s progress in Canto 17, is also implicit in Nanda’s own account of his progress. The ten fetters, to recap, are: 1. personality view, 2. doubting, 3. clinging to rules and rituals; 4. sensual desire, 5. ill will, 6. concern for outward appearances, 7. concern for spiritual advancement, 8. conceit, 9. restlessness, and 10. ignorance. In this verse, then, Nanda describes the cutting in him of the first fetter, the personality view. 03 that had penetrated to my core, O Mighty One, was paining me intensely, being very sharp; / Via the jaws of the pincers of your words – by means of a means and by way of a mouth A play seems to be intended on the word mukhena: the meanings of mukha include 1. mouth, 2. tip (i.e. the jaw of a pincer) and 3. means. 04 – it was pulled out of me, as a splinter is removed by a surgeon. // 18.7 //

kathaṁkathā-bhāva-gatosmi yena chinnaḥ sa niḥsaṁśaya saṁśayo me/
tvac-chāsanāt satpatham āgato ’smi sudeśikasyeva pathi pranaṣṭaḥ // 18.8 //

A doubt, Describes cutting of fetter no. 2, doubting. 05 by which I fell into a state of hesitant questioning, O One Beyond Doubt, has been eradicated in me – / Through your teaching I have arrived at a true path like a straggler, under a good guide, getting on the road. Cutting of the fetter no. 3, clinging to rules and rituals, appears either to be understood, or else to be implicit in entry onto a true path. 06 // 18.8 //

yat pītam āsvāda-vaśendriyeṇa darpeṇa kandarpa-viṣaṁ mayāsīt /
tan me hataṁ tvad-vacanāgadena viṣaṁ vināśīva mahāgadena // 18.9 //

With senses ruled by relishing, I madly drank the drug of love; This verse can be read as relating to fetter no. 4, namely desire for sensual pleasure. Cutting of the fetter no. 5, ill will, is understood.07 / Its action was blocked in me by the antidote of your words, as a deadly poison is by a great remedy. // 18.9 //

kṣayaṁ gataṁ janma nirasta-janman saddharma-caryām uṣito ’smi samyak /
kṛtsnaṁ kṛtaṁ me kṛta-kārya kāryaṁ lokeṣu bhūto ’smi na loka-dharmā // 18.10 //

Rebirth is over, O Refuter of Rebirth! I am dwelling as one with observance of true dharma. / What was for me to do, O Doer of the Necessary! is totally done. I am present in the world Lokeṣu is locative plural. Therefore, more literally, “I am present among the inhabitants of the world.” 08 without being of the world. // 18.10 //

maitrī-stanīṁ vyañjana-cāru-sāsnāṁ saddharma-dugdhāṁ pratibhāna-śṛṅgām /
tavāsmi gāṁ sādhu nipīya tṛptas tṛṣeva gām uttama vatsa-varṇaḥ // 18.11 //

Having drunk from the milk-cow of your voice, whose udder is loving-kindness, whose lovely dewlap is figures of speech, who is milked for true dharma, and whose horns are boldness of expression, / I am properly satisfied, O Most Excellent One, like a little calf that, because of thirst, has drunk milk. This verse can be read as expressing freedom from fetters no. 6 and 7, which are manifestations, in material and spiritual spheres, of residual craving (rāga) or thirst (tṛṣṇā). 09// 18.11 //

yat paśyataś cādhigamo mamāyaṁ tan me samāsena mune nibodha /
sarva-jña kāmaṁ viditaṁ tavaitat svaṁ tūpacāraṁ pravivakṣur asmi // 18.12 //

And so, O Sage, hear from me in brief what, through seeing, I have made my own. / Though you know it anyway, O All-knowing One, still I wish to mention how I have worked on myself. // 18.12 //

anye ’pi santo vimumukṣavo hi śrutvā vimokṣāya nayaṁ parasya /
muktasya rogād iva rogavantas tenaiva mārgeṇa sukhaṁ ghaṭante // 18.13 //

For true freedom-loving people (however individual they are) when they hear of another person’s plan that led to freedom / Will happily work at [freedom] via that same path, like sick men [hearing the plan] of one who became free from a disease. // 18.13 //

urvyādikān janmani vedmi dhātūn nātmānam urvyādiṣu teṣu kiṁ-cit /
yasmād atas teṣu na me ’sti saktir bahiś ca kāyena samā matir me // 18.14 //

In a birth, I perceive earth and the other elements, but in earth and those other elements, I perceive no self at all. / On that basis, there is no attachment in me to those elements; my orientation is equal with regard to my body and outside. // 18.14 //

skandhāṁś ca rūpa-prabhṛtīn daśārdhān paśyāmi yasmāc capalān asārān /
anātmakāṁś caiva vadhātmakāṁś ca tasmād vimukto ’smy aśivebhya ebhyaḥ // 18.15 //

Again, the five skandhas, Skandha means shoulder and hence part or (as in SN16.37) division. The five skandhas are rūpa, material form, or (as per the MW dictionary) “the organized body”; vedanā, feeling; saṁjñā, perception; saṁskāra, doing; vijñāna, consciousness. In agreement with the realization expressed here by Nanda, Nāgārjuna (MMK26.8) asserts that the five skandhas are just becoming. 10 beginning with the organized body, I see to be inconstant and without substance, / As well as unreal and life-negating; therefore I am free from those pernicious [constructs]. // 18.15 //

yasmāc ca paśyāmy udayaṁ vyayaṁ ca sarvāsv avasthāsv aham indriyāṇāṁ /
tasmād anityeṣu nirātmakeṣu duḥkheṣu me teṣv api nāsti saṁgaḥ // 18.16 //

Since I see for myself an arising and a vanishing in all situations in the realms of the senses, / Therefore, again, there is in me no clinging to those [aforementioned elements] which are impermanent, impersonal, and unsatisfactory. // 18.16 //

yataś ca lokaṁ sama-janma-niṣṭhaṁ paśyāmi niḥsāram asac ca sarvaṁ /
ato dhiyā me manasā vibaddham asmīti me neñjitam asti yena // 18.17 //

Again, on the grounds that I see the whole world as emerging and in the same moment passing away, as having no essential meaning and not being as it ought to be, / On these grounds, because of meditation, [the world] is bound fast by my mind in such a way that there is no flicker in me of ‘I am.’ A series of verses in which Nanda seems to describe what is seen by the Dharma-Eye referred to in Canto 17, thus culminates with the association of seeing and sitting-meditation. Nanda sees what he sees because of meditating (dhiyā). This verse can thus be seen as mirroring SN17.34. At the same time, it can be seen as expressing freedom from fetter no. 8, which is “I am” conceit. 11 // 18.17 //

catur-vidhe naikavidha-prasaṁge yato ’ham āhāra-vidhāv asaktaḥ /
amūrcchitaś cāgrathitaś ca tatra tribhyo vimukto ’smi tato bhavebhyaḥ // 18.18 //

There is all manner of indulging in the four sorts of food, but since I am not attached to how I take food, / Since when it comes to food Tatra, in that regard, i.e. in regard to food. 12 I am not congealed or trussed up, I am free, on that score, from three kinds of becoming. Three kinds of becoming might mean three forms of fetter no. 9, which is restlessness or agitation. In the context of taking food in everyday life, the fetter might mean for example 1. the restlessnes of impatient desire for food that is available, 2. the restlessness of dissatisfaction with food that is available, 3. the restlessness of envy for food that is not available. 13 // 18.18 //

aniścitaś cāpratibaddha-citto dṛṣṭa-śrutādau vyavahāra-dharme /
yasmāt samātmānugataś ca tatra tasmād visaṁyoga-gato ’smi muktaḥ // 18.19 //

In the daily round of dharma-practice since I am neither certain about nor bound in mind to visual, auditory and other kinds of perception, / And since through that [dharma-round] I am graced by trailing equanimity, on that account I am detached and am free.” This seems to be an expression – again in terms of action in everyday life – of freedom from fetter no. 10, ignorance. In BC Canto 14, the Buddha’s own full awakening is described as the ending of ignorance. 14 // 18.19 //

ity evam uktvā guru-bāhumānyāt sarveṇa kāyena sa gāṁ nipannaḥ /
praverito lohita-candanākto haimo mahā-stambha ivābabhāse // 18.20 //

After speaking thus, he prostrated himself on the ground with his whole body, out of deep appreciation for the Guru; / He looked like a great fallen column of gold tinged with red sandalwood. // 18.20 //

tataḥ pramādāt prasṛtasya pūrvaṁ śrutvā dhṛtiṁ vyākaraṇaṁ ca tasya /
dharmānvayaṁ cānugataṁ prasādaṁ meghasvaras taṁ munir ābabhāṣe // 18.21 //

Then, after listening to him who had emerged already out of heedlessness, after hearing his firmness and his testimony Vyākaraṇam is as per the Canto title. But the usage of vyākaraṇa in this verse, to express Nanda’s “detailed description” [MW], or testimony, is different from the conventional usage in which the Buddha is the agent of “prediction” or “phrophecy” [MW], or affirmation. 15 / And a clarity consistent with the gist of dharma, the Sage boomed at him like a thundercloud: // 18.21 //

uttiṣṭha dharme sthita śiṣya-juṣṭe kiṁ pādayor me patito ’si murdhnā /
abhyarcanaṁ me na tathā praṇāmo dharme yathaiṣā pratipattir eva // 18.22 //

“You who stands firm in the dharma which is loved by those who study it, stand up! Why are you fallen with your head at my feet? / The prostration does not honour me so much as this surefootedness in the dharma. // 18.22 //

adyāsi su-pravrajito jitātmann aiśvaryam apy ātmani yena labdham /
jitātmanaḥ pravrajanaṁ hi sādhu calātmano na tv ajitendriyasya // 18.23 //

Today, conqueror of yourself, you have truly gone forth, since you have thereby gained sovereignty over yourself. / For in a person who has conquered himself, going forth has worked; whereas in an impulsive person whose senses remain unconquered, it has not. // 18.23 //

adyāsi śaucena pareṇa yukto vāk-kāya-cetāṁsi śucīni yat te /
ataḥ punaś cāprayatāṁ asaumyāṁ yat saumya no vekṣyasi garbha-śayyām // 18.24 //

Today you are possessed of purity of the highest order, in that your voice, body, and mind are untainted, / And in that, henceforward, my gentle friend, you will not again be confined in the ungentle womb of unready slumber. The palm-leaf manuscript has garbha-śaryyāṁ, which EHJ amended based on Shastri’s conjecture, noting: “Garbha-śayyā [‘abode/bed of the womb’] is so regular a phrase that I have not dared to keep the manuscript’s interesting garbha-śaryāṁ with śaryā in the sense of ‘night’ and a possible pun of ‘moonless’ in asaumyāṁ.” An alternative translation, then, is: Today you are possessed of purity of the highest order, in that your voice, body, and mind are untainted, / And in that, henceforward, my moon-like friend, you will not again be confined in the womb of moonless night. // 16// 18.24 //

adyārthavat te śrutavac chrutaṁ tac chrutānurūpaṁ pratipadya dharmaṁ /
kṛta-śruto vipratipadyamāno nindyo hi nirvīrya ivāttaśastraḥ // 18.25 //

Listening [ears open] to the [truth] which is replete with listening, and with purpose, today you stand surefooted in the dharma, in a manner that befits the listening tradition. / For a man equipped with listening [ears] who is wavering is like a swordsman lacking valour: he is worthy of blame. // 18.25 //

aho dhṛtis te ’viṣayātmakasya yat tvaṁ matiṁ mokṣa-vidhāv akārṣīḥ /
yāsyāmi niṣṭhām iti bāliśo hi janma-kṣayāt trāsam ihābhyupaiti // 18.26 //

Ah! What firmness in you, who is a slave to objects no more, in that you have willed the means of liberation. / For, facing the end of existence in this world and thinking ‘I will be finished,’ it is a fool who gives in to a state of quivering anxiety. // 18.26 //

diṣṭyā durāpaḥ kṣaṇa-saṁnipāto nāyaṁ kṛto moha-vaśena moghaḥ /
udeti duḥkhena gato hy adhastāt kūrmo yugacchidra ivārṇavasthaḥ // 18.27 //

Happily, this meeting with the present moment, which is so hard to come by, is not being wasted under the sway of ignorance. / For a man who has been down goes up with difficulty, like a turtle to a hole in a yoke, in the foaming sea. // 18.27 //

nirjitya māraṁ yudhi durnivāram adyāsi loke raṇa-śīrṣa-śūraḥ /
śūro ’py aśūraḥ sa hi veditavyo doṣair amitrair iva hanyate yaḥ // 18.28 //

Having conquered Māra, who is so hard to stop in battle, today, at the forefront of the fight, you are a hero among men. / For even a hero is not recognized as a hero who is beaten by the foe-like faults. // 18.28 //

nirvāpya rāgāgnim udīrṇam adya diṣṭyā sukhaṁ svapsyasi vītadāhaḥ /
duḥkhaṁ hi śete śayane ’py udāre kleśāgninā cetasi dahyamānaḥ // 18.29 //

Today, having extinguished the flaming fire of redness, happily, you will sleep well, free of fever. / For even on a fabulous bed he sleeps badly who is being burned in his mind by the fires of affliction. // 18.29 //

abhyucchrito dravya-madena pūrvam adyāsi tṛṣṇoparamāt samṛddhaḥ /
yāvat satarṣaḥ puruṣo hi loke tāvat samṛddho ’pi sadā daridraḥ // 18.30 //

You used markedly to be mad about possessions; today, because you have stopped thirsting, you are rich. / For as long as a man in the world thirsts, however rich he may be, he is always deprived. // 18.30 //

adyāpadeṣṭuṁ tava yukta-rūpaṁ śuddhodano me nṛ-patiḥ piteti /
bhraṣṭasya dharmāt pitṛbhir nipātād aślāghanīyo hi kulāpadeśaḥ // 18.31 //

Today you may fittingly proclaim that King Śuddhodana is your father. / For it is not commendable for a backslider, after falling from the dharma alighted on by ancestors, to proclaim his lineage. // 18.31 //

diṣṭyāsi śāntiṁ paramām upeto nistīrṇa-kāntāra ivāpta-sāraḥ /
sarvo hi saṁsāra-gato bhayārto yathaiva kāntāra-gatas tathaiva // 18.32 //

How great it is that you have reached the deepest tranquillity, like a man making it through a wasteland and gaining possession of treasure. / For everybody in the flux of saṁsāra is afflicted by fear, just like a man in a wasteland. // 18.32 //

āraṇyakaṁ bhaikṣa-caraṁ vinītaṁ drakṣyāmi nandaṁ nibhṛtaṁ kadeti /
āsīt purastāt tvayi me didṛkṣā tathāsi diṣṭyā mama darśanīyaḥ // 18.33 //

‘When shall I see Nanda settled, given over to the living of a forest beggar’s life?’, / So thinking, I had harboured from the start the desire to see you thus. What a wonderful sight you are for me to behold! // 18.33 //

bhavaty arūpo ’pi hi darśanīyaḥ sv-alaṁkṛtaḥ śreṣṭhatamai-guṇaiḥ svaiḥ /
doṣaiḥ parīto malinī-karais tu sudarśanīyo ’pi virūpa eva //18.34 //

For even an unlovely sort is a sight to behold when he is well-adorned with his own best features. / But a man who is full of the befouling faults, strikingly beautiful man though he may be, is truly ugly. //18.34 //

adya prakṛṣṭā tava buddhimattā kṛtsnaṁ yayā te kṛtam ātmakāryam /
śrutonnatasyāpi hi nāsti buddhir notpadyate śreyasi yasya buddhiḥ // 18.35 //

Developed in you today is the real wisdom by which you have done, totally, the work you had to do on yourself. / For even a highly educated man lacks wisdom, if wisdom fails to show in his practice of a better way. // 18.35 //

unmīlitasyāpi janasya madhye nimīlitasyāpi tathaiva cakṣuḥ /
prajñā-mayaṁ yasya hi nāsti cakṣuś cakṣur na tasyāsti sacakṣuṣo ’pi // 18.36 //

So it is with seeing, among people with eyes open and with eyes closed. / For when a man lacks sight that is packed with intuition, though he has eyes, the Eye is not present in him. // 18.36 //

duḥkha-pratīkāra-nimittam ārtaḥ kṛṣyādibhiḥ khedam upaiti lokaḥ /
ajasram āgacchati tac ca bhūyo jñānena yasyādya kṛtas tvayāntaḥ // 18.37 //

Struck by calamity, stung to do something to combat suffering, the world exhausts itself with work like ploughing; / And yet it is ceaselessly revisited by that [suffering], to which, using what you know, you today have put an end. // 18.37 //

duḥkhaṁ na me syāt sukham eva me syād iti pravṛttaḥ satataṁ hi lokaḥ /
na vetti tac caiva tathā yathā syāt prāptaṁ tvayādyāsulabhaṁ yathāvat // 18.38 //

People in the world are impelled ever forward by thinking ‘There might be for me no hardship, just happiness....’ / And yet [the world] does not know a means whereby that [happiness] might come to be – that rarely attained [happiness] which you today have properly realized.” // 18.38 //

ity evam ādi sthira-buddhi-cittas tathāgatenābhihito hitāya /
staveṣu nindāsu ca nir-vyapekṣaḥ kṛtāñjalir vākyam uvāca nandaḥ // 18.39 //

While the Tathāgata told him this and more for his benefit Nanda remained firm in his judgement and thinking / And was indifferent to plaudits or criticisms. With hands joined, he spoke these words: // 18.39 //

aho viśeṣeṇa viśeṣa-darśiṁs tvayānukampā mayi darśiteyaṁ /
yat kāmapaṅke bhagavan nimagnas trāto ’smi saṁsāra-bhayād akāmaḥ //18.40 //

“Oh, how particular, O Seer of Particularities, is this compassion that you have shown to me! / Since I who was sunk, Glorious One, in the mire of love have been a reluctant refugee from the terror of saṁsāra. //18.40 //

bhrātrā tvayā śreyasi daiśikena pitrā phala-sthena tathaiva mātrā /
hato ’bhaviṣyaṁ yadi na vyamokṣyaṁ sārthāt paribhraṣṭa ivākṛtārthaḥ // 18.41 //

If not set free by you, a brother, a guide along a better way, a fruitful Phala-sthena is also used in the sense of “fruitful” in SN6.43. 17 father, and equally a mother, / I would be done for; like a straggler Akṛtārthaḥ lit. means “one who was not successful.” 18 dropped from a caravan, I would not have made it. Na vyamokṣyam lit. means “I would not be set free.” 19 // 18.41 //

śāntasya tuṣṭasya sukho viveko vijñāta-tattvasya parīkṣakasya /
prahīṇa-mānasya ca nir-madasya sukhaṁ virāgatvam asakta-buddheḥ // 18.42 //

Solitude is sweet for one who is calm and contented, who looks into and has learned what is. / Again, for one who is sober and shorn of conceits, for one who is detached in his decision-making, dispassion is a pleasure. // 18.42 //

ato hi tattvaṁ parigamya samyaṅ nirdhūya doṣān adhigamya śāntim /
svaṁ nāśramaṁ samprati cintayāmi na taṁ janaṁ nāpsaraso na devān // 18.43 //

And so, through squarely realising what is, through shaking off faults and coming to quiet, / I worry now neither about my own place, nor about the person there, nor about apsarases, nor about gods. // 18.43 //

idaṁ hi bhuktvā śuci śāmikaṁ sukhaṁ na me manaḥ kāṁkṣati kāmajaṁ sukham /
mahārham apy annam adaivatāhṛtaṁ divaukaso bhuktavataḥ sudhām iva // 18.44 //

For now that I have tasted this pure, peaceful happiness, my mind no longer hankers after happiness born of desires – / Just as the costliest earthly fare [cannot entice] a god who has supped the heavenly nectar. // 18.44 //

aho ’ndha-vijñāna-nimīlitaṁ jagat paṭāntare paśyati nottamaṁ sukham /
sudhīram adhyātma-sukhaṁ vyapāsya hi śramaṁ tathā kāma-sukhārtham ṛcchati // 18.45 //

Alas, the world has its eyes closed by blind unconsciousness; it does not see utmost happiness in a different robe. / Flinging away lasting inner happiness, it exhausts itself so, in pursuit of sensual happiness. // 18.45 //

yathā hi ratnākaram etya durmatir vihāya ratnāny asato maṇīn haret /
apāsya saṁbodhi-sukhaṁ tathottamaṁ śramaṁ vrajet kāma-sukhopalabdhaye // 18.46 //

For just as a fool, having made it to a jewel mine, might leave the jewels and carry off inferior crystals, / So would one reject the highest happiness of full awakening and struggle to gain sensual gratification. // 18.46 //

aho hi sattveṣv atimaitra-cetasas tathāgatasyānujighṛkṣutā parā /
apāsya yad dhyāna-sukhaṁ mune paraṁ parasya duḥkhoparamāya khidyase // 18.47 //

Oh! high indeed, then, is the order of that desire to favour living beings which the Tathāgata has, overflowing with benevolence: / Since, O Sage, you throw away the highest-order happiness of meditation and are consumed by your effort to stop others suffering. // 18.47 //

mayā nu śakyaṁ pratikartum adya kiṁ gurau hitaiṣiṇy anukampake tvayi /
samuddhṛto yena bhavārṇavād ahaṁ mahārṇavāc cūrṇita-naur ivormibhiḥ // 18.48 //

How today could I possibly repay you, my compassionate Guru whose desire is others’ welfare, / By whom I was taken totally up and out of the foaming sea of becoming, like a man out of a great ocean when his boat is being battered by waves?” // 18.48 //

tato munis tasya niśamya hetumat prahīṇa-sarvāsrava-sūcakaṁ vacaḥ /
idaṁ babhāṣe vadatām anuttamo yad arhati śrīghana eva bhāṣituṁ // 18.49 //

Then the Sage, hearing his well-founded words which signified the removal of all pollutants, / Voiced, as the Very Best of Speakers, these lines that none but a buddha, being ‘Sheer Radiance,’ EHJ noted that śrīghana was a very rare appellation for the Buddha and translated “spoke these words which were such as a Buddha Śrīghana should speak.” The implicit principle is as expressed in Dogen’s favourite line from the Lotus Sutra 唯仏与仏乃能究尽諸法実相 “None but a buddha, together with a buddha, is able perfectly to realize that all things are reality.” 20 should voice: // 18.49 //

idaṁ kṛtārthaḥ paramārthavit kṛtī tvam eva dhīmann abhidhātum arhasi /
atītya kāntāram avāpta-sādhanaḥ su-daiśikasyeva kṛtaṁ mahāvaṇik // 18.50 //

“As a man of action who got the job done and who knows the primary task, Paramārtha is as in paramārthataḥ, the word that Nāgārjuna uses in distinguishing between conventional truth (loka-saṃvṛti-satyam) and ultimate truth (satyaṃ paramārthataḥ). In this verse, however, the Buddha’s emphasis seems to be more practical than philosophical. 21 none but you, O crafty man!, should express this affirmation – / Like a great trader, having crossed a wasteland and got the goods, who affirms the work of a good guide. // 18.50 //

avaiti buddhaṁ nara-damya-sārathiṁ kṛtī yathārhann upaśānta-mānasaḥ /
na dṛṣṭa-satyo ’pi tathāvabudhyate pṛthag-janaḥ kiṁ-bata buddhimān api // 18.51 //

An arhat, a man of action whose mind has come to quiet, knows the Buddha as a charioteer of human steeds who needed taming: / Not even a truth-seer appreciates the Buddha in this manner: how much less does an ordinary person, however intelligent he may be? // 18.51 //

rajas-tamobhyāṁ parimukta-cetasas tavaiva ceyaṁ sadṛśī kṛtajñatā /
rajaḥ-prakarṣeṇa jagaty avasthite kṛtajña-bhāvo hi kṛtajña durlabhaḥ // 18.52 //

This gratitude is fitting, again, in none but you whose mind has been liberated from the dust of the passions and from darkness. / For while dust prevails in the world, O man of gratitude! real gratitude is a rare state of being. // 18.52 //

sa-dharma dharmānvayato yataś ca te mayi prasādo ’dhigame ca kauśalam /
ato ’sti bhūyas tvayi me vivakṣitaṁ nato hi bhaktaś ca niyogam arhasi // 18.53 //

O possessor of dharma! Since, because of abiding by dharma, you have skill in making it your own and quiet confidence in me, / I have something else to say to you. For you are surrendered and devoted, and up to the task. // 18.53 //

avāpta-kāryo ’si parāṁ gatiṁ gato na te ’sti kiṁ-cit karaṇīyam aṇv api /
ataḥ paraṁ saumya carānukampayā vimokṣayan kṛcchra-gatān parān api // 18.54 //

Walking the transcendent walk, you have done the work that needed to be done: in you, there is not the slightest thing left to work on. / From now on, my friend, go with compassion, freeing up others who are pulled down into their troubles. // 18.54 //

ihārtham evārabhate naro ’dhamo vimadhyamas tūbhaya-laukikīṁ kriyām /
kriyām amutraiva phalāya madhyamo viśiṣṭa-dharmā punar apravṛttaye // 18.55 //

The lowest sort of man only ever sets to work for an object in this world. But a man in the middle does work both for this world and for the world to come. / A man in the middle, I repeat, works for a result in the future. The superior type, however, tends towards abstention from positive action. // 18.55 //

ihottamebhyo ’pi mataḥ sa tūttamo ya uttamaṁ dharmam avāpya naiṣṭhikam /
acintayitvātma-gataṁ pariśramaṁ śamaṁ parebhyo ’py upadeṣṭum icchati // 18.56 //

But deemed to be higher than the highest in this world is he who, having realized the supreme ultimate dharma, / Desires, without worrying about the trouble to himself, to teach tranquillity to others. // 18.56 //

vihāya tasmād iha kāryam ātmanaḥ kuru sthirātman para-kāryam apy atho /
bhramatsu sattveṣu tamo-vṛtātmasu śruta-pradīpo niśi dhāryatām ayam // 18.57 //

Therefore forgetting the work that needs to be done in this world on the self, do now, stout soul, what can be done for others. / Among beings who are wandering in the night, their minds shrouded in darkness, let the lamp of this transmission be carried. // 18.57 //

bravītu tāvat puri vismito janas tvayi sthite kurvati dharma-deśanāḥ /
aho batāścaryam idaṁ vimuktaye karoti rāgī yad ayaṁ kathām iti // 18.58 //

Just let the astonished people in the city say, while you are standing firm, voicing dharma-directions, / ‘Well! What a wonder this is, that he who was a man of passion is preaching liberation!’ // 18.58 //

dhruvaṁ hi saṁśrutya tava sthiraṁ mano nivṛtta-nānā-viṣayair mano-rathaiḥ /
vadhūr gṛhe sāpi tavānukurvatī kariṣyate strīṣu virāgiṇīḥ kathāḥ // 18.59 //

Then, surely, when she hears of your steadfast mind with its chariots turned back from sundry objects, / Your wife following your example will also talk, to women at home, the talk of dispassion. // 18.59 //

tvayi parama-dhṛtau niviṣṭa-tattve bhavana-gatā na hi raṁsyate dhruvaṁ sā /
manasi śama-damātmake vivikte matir iva kāma-sukhaiḥ parīkṣakasya // 18.60 //

For, with you showing constancy of the highest order, as you get to the bottom of what is, she surely will not enjoy life in the palace, / Just as the mind of an enlightened man does not enjoy sensual pleasures when his mental state is tranquil and controlled, and his thinking is detached and distinct.” // 18.60 //

ity arhataḥ parama-kāruṇikasya śāstur
mūrdhnā vacaś ca caraṇau ca samaṁ gṛhītvā /
svasthaḥ praśānta-hṛdayo vinivṛtta-kāryaḥ
pārśvān muneḥ pratiyayau vimadaḥ karīva // 18.61 //

Thus spoke the Worthy One, the instructor whose compassion was of the highest order, / Whose words and equally whose feet [Nanda] had accepted, using his head; / Then, at ease in himself, his heart at peace, his task ended, / He left the Sage’s side like an elephant free of rut. // 18.61 //

bhikṣārthaṁ samaye viveśa sa puraṁ dṛṣṭīr janasyākṣipan
lābhālābha-sukhāsukhādiṣu samaḥ svasthendriyo nispṛhaḥ /
nirmokṣāya cakāra tatra ca kathāṁ kāle janāyārthine
naivonmārga-gatān parān paribhavann ātmānam utkarṣayan // 18.62 //

When the occasion arose he entered the town for begging and attracted the citizens’ gaze; / Being impartial towards gain, loss, comfort, discomfort, and the like and with his senses composed, he was free of longing; / And being there, in the moment, he talked of liberation to people so inclined – / Never putting down others on a wrong path or raising himself up. // 18.62 //

ity eṣā vyupaśāntaye na rataye mokṣārtha-garbhā kṛtiḥ
śrotṛṇāṁ grahaṇārtham anya-manasāṁ kāvyopacārāt kṛtā /
yan mokṣāt kṛtam anyad atra hi mayā tat kāvya-dharmāt kṛtaṁ
pātuṁ tiktam ivauṣadhaṁ madhu-yutaṁ hṛdyaṁ kathaṁ syād iti // 18.63 //

This work is pregnant with the purpose of release: it is for cessation, not for titillation; / It is wrought out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry in order to capture an audience whose minds are on other things – / For what I have written here not pertaining to liberation, I have written in accordance with the conventions of kāvya poetry. / This is through asking myself how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow, like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet. // 18.63 //

prāyeṇālokya lokaṁ viṣaya-rati-paraṁ mokṣāt pratihataṁ
kāvya-vyājena tattvaṁ kathitam iha mayā mokṣaḥ param iti /
tad buddhvā śāmikaṁ yat tad avahitam ito grāhyaṁ na lalitaṁ
pāṁsubhyo dhātu-jebhyo niyatam upacitaṁ cāmīkaram iti // 18.64 //

Seeing, in general, that the world is moved primarily by fondness for objects and is repelled by liberation, / I for whom liberation is paramount have told it here like it is, using a kāvya poem as a pretext. / Being aware of the deceit, take from this [verb-rooted dust] Pāṃsubhyo dhātu-jebhyaḥ in the 4th pāda – “dhātu-born dust” – contains a play on the word dhātu, which means “element” both in the sense of a primary element of the earth and also in the sense of a grammatical element, i.e. a verbal root or stem. 22 what pertains to peace and not to idle pleasure. / Then elemental dust, assuredly, shall yield up abundant EHJ notes that upakara, as per the original manuscript, is not met with elsewhere, nor is there any obvious amendment. The noun upakāra (from upa-√kṛ, to serve) means benefit, service, favour, use, advantage, and upakāraṇa means “doing a service.” Hence LC translated upakaraṃ cāmīkaram as “serviceable gold.” The shortening of a vowel to fit a verse’s metre is very common in works that pre-date Aśvaghoṣa, such as Udāna-varga, written in what is known as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. But Aśvaghoṣa was the first known author to express the Buddha’s teaching in pure classical Sanskrit, and such vowel shortening is not characteristic of his poetry. One possible amendement (possible in the sense that it fits the metre) is upacitaṁ (see BC2.56, SN16.71), which means “heaped up,” “furnished in abundance,” or in short “abundant.” 22 gold. // 18.64 //

saundaranande mahākāvya ājñā-vyākaraṇo nāmaṣṭādaśaḥ sargaḥ /
The 18th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled “Knowing & Affirming.”

ārya-suvarṇākṣī-putrasya sāketakasya bhikṣor ācārya-bhadantāśvaghoṣasya
mahā-kaver mahā-vādinaḥ kṛtir iyam //

This is the work of a beggar, the respected teacher Aśvaghoṣa of Saketa,
son of the noble Suvarṇākṣī, crafter of epic poetry and talker of the great talk.