Progress to Lumbini

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Chapter Seventeen: Return to Lumbini

After the heavenly beings headed by Brahma, along with the bodhisattvas who had been intent on practicing austerities, heard the glorification of the Law by the Lion of the Shakyas, they wanted to hear What is So Hard to Find again, so they went to the city to worship and beg his favour.  

Then, in the dark fortnight of the month Ashadka on an auspicious day sacred to Agni, when the moon was in the asterism called Karna, recalling the buddha worlds and desirous of saving all beings, The Buddha set out [again] on his journey motivated by a longing for [a group of] disciples headed by his [own] father.

The company of brahmins, along with the inhabitants of Kashi who had visited the Deer Park and all thirty mendicants, was enhanced by the Chief of Saints.  

Kashi's [famous] courtesan, Kashika, after worshipping the Jina and enrolling her sons in the service of the Glorious One, went to the heaven of the gods; then the Conqueror of the World made thirty officiating priests of Kashi his joyous disciples, initiating them into the course of Perfect Wisdom.  Also Purna, the son of Maitreyani and Maitra who was the preceptor of the hosts of "the twice-born," obtained True Wisdom from the Chief of Saints, and became a noble mendicant.

The priest of the ruler of the city of Marakata [in Orissa], a brahmin named Agaya and his son Nalaka, who was well-versed in sacred learning and a store of information; an ascetic named Dhriti who lived in the Vindhya [hills], and an invincible brahmin ascetic, Sanjayin, with his disciples -- all from the Vindhyas  -- when they came to him for refuge, the Chief of Saints initiated them as monks by touching them with his wheel-marked hand.  Besides them, the Naga Elapatra  went to his abode and stood resplendent there, perfectly calm in demeanor while worshipping him with his malas.

A female ascetic of Mathura named Trikavyamgika, and a brahmin named Vidyakara had a son named Sabhya of the district of Svetabalarka.  He was a wise ascetic and proud of his wisdom, and as someone already perfectly illumined but [still] desirous of the highest wisdom from the Chief of All Mendicants, he went to the Deer Park for admission from the Omniscient One to the noble life.  He later became renowned in all assemblies as Sabhya the Monk. 

The son of Lalita-Prabuddha (known to the world as Yasodha) -- born after worship was paid to the Best of Trees beside the stream Varani, and from a besprinkling of the ambrosia of words by the King of Heaven was made wise and could recall all the former discourses he had ever heard, came with a retinue of friends to the grove in the Deer Park and the Holy One by touching his head with his hand, made him the guru of the head bhikshus.

The glorious one named The Great Buddha traveling in an auspicious parade of monks and displaying the salvation of the world by means of this triumphal procession, [now] entered the city of Kashi.  One native of Varanasi, the poor brahmin named Svastika, obtained riches from heaven through the favour of the Glorious One, and adopted as a servant to the Jina faith, he became [not only] a mendicant, [but] an Arhat at the hands of the Great Teacher.

After blessing Devodhasa, king of Kashi, and its citizens, with gold, grain and other riches, and having stayed at various places in the forests, caves and mountains, in his wanderings he finally got to the river, Ghanavi.  There, the boatman who conveyed the Jina across the Ganges worshipped him and offered him milk with all due reverential ceremony, and through His favour, he too became a monk and by the Jina's command, found shelter in the Buddha's hermitage in the grove.

After he had crossed the Ganges, the Glorious One  went to the hermitage of Kashyapa at Gaya called Uruvila.  There, having demonstrated his supernatural power, he received as bhikshus the Kashyapas -- Uruvila and the others -- along with more than a thousand of their disciples, and bestowed upon them together all kinds of spiritual knowledge along with the power to give up all worldly [inter-]action.  Then, at the command of his maternal uncle,  Upasena [also] became an ascetic accompanied by three hundred disciples.

The Glorious One made seven hundred ascetics who inhabited the woods enter Nirvana,  and also, the Lord of Dharma caused the daughters of Nandika -- Sugata and others who dwelt in the village -- to become the first female ascetics.  And in the city of Rajagriha, having introduced the monarch to Right Action and Activity the king, Bimbisara, that devoted follower of the Buddha who can be considered an older brother as far as Perfect Knowledge goes, was made a Bodhisattva with a great store of merit (sakrida-gomin.)

In another village named Naradya, there was a brahmin Dharmapalin and a brahmin woman named Shalya whose seventh son named Upatishya had studied all the Vedas; he became a Buddhist mendicant.  There was another great pandit, a brahmin named Dhanyayana who lived in Kolata village, and his son named Maudgalya, -- him along with the son of Shali (ie. Shariputra)--  the Great Saint received as the best of bhikshus: his pre-eminent disciples.

Next he ordained the keen-witted maternal uncle of Shaliputra named Dirghanakha.  Then traveling in the kingdom of Magadha, the Glorious One was honoured by the inhabitants with alms and other signs of devotion.  He delivered them from evil, and lived at the monastery donated by the seer, Jeta.  There he attracted many of the monks to himself, and after ordaining a native of Mithila named Ananda as a mendicant, he stayed there with his companions for a year.

The brahmin named Kashyapa, a very Kubera in wealth, and a master of all sciences connected with the Vedas, was an inhabitant of Rajagriha,  But, being pure-minded and wearing only a single garment, he had left his whole family and went in search of the wisdom of asceticism.  That noble youth had been at the Bodhi tree practicing a very difficult austerity for six years, and then he paid worship to the Chief of Saints who had attained Perfect Knowledge.  He became the well-known Kashyapa who was chief of the yogis and the foremost of the Arhats.

The saint Naradatta who lived on Mount Himavat, remembered the wholesome words of his maternal uncle, and came to the Sugata with his disciples, and the Holy One admitted them all into the order of the Jina.  Then a woman named Shakti and another one named Kamala who were famous for their brahminical power came to the Sugata, and they fell down at his feet.  Then standing before him, they were received (into the order) by the Saint and made happy with the staff and begging-bowl [the outward signs of members of a mendicant order.]

Seven hundred disciples of the ascetic Rudraka, in observance of their teacher's noble words had become mendicants according to the doctrine of the Jina, and (now they) flocked round him paying homage and carrying staves.   Next, a seer named Raivata finished his course of discipline and became a mendicant, and joyfully uttering praises full of devotion to the Guru he now considered gold and clay as the same (thing;) he was well-versed in mantras and meditation, and able to counteract the three kinds of poisons and other fatal harms.

After having received as followers and disciples certain householders of Shravasti such as Purna and the others, and given them alms-bowls [let them become mendicants.]    And (after) having made many poor wretches as rich as Kubera, and healed the maimed by making their limbs well, and made paupers and orphans affluent --  after having proclaimed the Law while living at Jetavana for two years and saving those who asked -- the Glorious One gave further instruction to the saint Jeta, established the Bhikshu Purna (Order of Monks) and then once more went on his way.

The Glorious One went on, protecting merchant-caravans from troops of robbers by the stores of his own treasures.  Next he went into the Rajagriha area wandering with his alms-bowl which (was the one that) had been donated by the merchants.  In a forest filled with Shala [or, Sal] trees called Venu, he ate an offering of food prepared by the now-wealthy robbers, and he received five hundred of them (into his order) as mendicants and gave them begging-bowls and the other requisite items.

(Now,) At the request of (Rahula) Buddha's son, Shudhodana gave this message to his envoys Khandaka and Udayin: "Your father and mother, some noble ladies headed by Yasodhri, and this my young [grand]son have come in hopes of seeing you -- the idea being that you are devoted to the [whole] world's salvation.  What shall I tell them?" 

And the two of them went, and reverentially saluting the Buddha in the vihara (temple) called Venu, they conveyed that message to him, their eyes filled with tears.

Khandaka and Udayin [then] accepted his advice, and delighted at the mighty power of Buddha, they became great ascetics; and the Great Jina took them with him and proceeded from that wood with the disciples, the mendicants, and the saints.  Going on from place to place and dwelling in each one for a while giving Refuge and confirming [or ordaining] disciples, mendicants and Arhats, he at last reached the Nyagrodha forest, illuminating the district with his glory, shaking the earth, and putting an end to misery.

He again stirred up his followers in the Buddha-dharma and then, with crowds of inhabitants gathered round him, he continued teaching his shaven-headed monks as they begged alms while the gods reminded them of his precepts.   He forbade the monks to enter the city and went to Rajagriha himself with his own followers.  Then the King who Dwells Apart from all Doubt, the Jina, who knows at a glance all the history of every bhikshu, instructed the ascetic (Udayin) in proclaiming the Dharma to others.

In accordance with the Jina's command, Udayin that prince of yogis, went to Kapilavastu where as Lord of Mahasiddhas he instructed the king while in a state in which his powers were amplified eight hundred-fold.  Then coming down from heaven, he declaimed to the king and his courtiers a discourse on the Four Sublime Truths.  The king, his mind now enlightened, prostrated to him and then had a meeting with him attended by his courtiers during which they offered every form of homage.

The monarch [later,] rejoiced at the sight of the Jina, praised his feet and worshipped them with eight hundred offerings, and the Sugata departed. 


[As a blessing and a demonstration] He made manifest in the sky in his one person a form comprising the entire universe: First as fire, then ambrosia, then a lion (king of beasts) an elephant, the king of horses, the king of peacocks, the king of birds, Maghavan [Magnanimous Indra,] the ten rulers of the world headed by Yama, the sun, the moon, all the hosts of stars, and Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

(Also) The sons of Diti, the four Maharajas [kings of the directions] with Dhritarashtra at their head; the hosts of Yogins with the king Drumasiddha, the (heavenly) ascetics, the Vasus, the Manus; the children of the forest [the beasts], the creatures of the waters headed by the Makara, the birds headed by Garuda, and all the kings in the different worlds with the Lord of the Tushita heaven at their head, and [also] those in the world of the dead -- the domain of Bali ---whatever is conspicuous in the universe, the Holy One created it all by becoming the Universal One.

When the king had been instructed in this way, the Lord of Saints went to the Satya heaven, and then from the sky seated on his own throne, he proclaimed the twelve-fold Law [of causality.]  Then he restored Gautami and Anugopa and many other women to sight, and filled all the assembled people with joy; and established others in Nirvana and in the Law. Then Shudhodana full of joy invited him to a feast given to the whole assembly which he accepted by his silence.

The Lion of the Shakyas, having been invited, went with the congregation of his followers to the place, after showing the mighty miracle.  Then the earth shook, a shower of flowers fell, the various quarters of space became illumined and a wind blew.  The heavenly beings: Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Yama, Varuna, Kubera, the lord of Bhutas [ghosts], the lord of the winds, Narriti, Fire (Agni) with his seven flames, and all the others that stand resting their feet on the serpent Shesha followed along leading [the lesser] gods and gandharvas in their dance in the sky.

Making millions of ascetics, disciples, Arhats, sages, mendicants and fasters; delivering from their ills the blind, the hunch-backed, the lame, the insane, the maimed as well as the destitute; having established many persons of the fourth caste in True Activity [following the dharma] and inaction [non-involvement in the world] and in the Three Vehicles (Yanas) with the four samgrahas (sects) and the eight agamas (orders); going on from place to place saving and confirming bhikshus [and bhikshunis] and in the twelfth year, he went to his own city. 

Day after day (he was occupied in) confirming bhikshus and providing food for the congregation, then at an auspicious moment he made a journey to Lumbini with the Bhikshus and the citizens, with Brahma and Rudra at their head and in great triumph with a fanfare of musical instruments.  There he saw [once again] the holy fig-tree, and he stood by it remembering his birth with a smile, and rays of light streamed from his mouth and went forth illumining the earth, and he uttered a discourse to the Goddess of the Wood that gave her serenity of faith.

There, at the Lumbini fig-tree he spoke to Paurvika the daughter of Rahula [his grand-daughter], and Gopika the daughter of Maitra, and his own preceptor, Kausika.  Beside the tank, Vasatya, he gave an affectionate speech honouring his mother.  Then he  spoke with Ekasangi, the daughter of Mahakautuka and Sautasomi in the Nyagrodha wood.  He received into the community some members of his own family headed by Sundar-Ananda, and one hundred and seven citizens.

Having declared the glory of the Buddha-dharma, he built a round stupa and held a coronation for Saunu, sending him into the wood (to live as an ascetic) pre-eminent with the holiest saints and Chaityas, and charged him with the worship of the sacred relics.  He  commanded Rahula, and Gautami and the other women led by Gopika, as shaven ascetics with staves in their hands to do the vow of fasting called ahoratra [day and night] and after that the Laksha-chaitya (treasure jar) ceremony, and then the ritual of Sringabheri, and the one called Vasundhariki.

 The Ashtasahasrika of sacred authority (The Prajnaparamita in 8, 000 Verses,) the Geya and the Gatha, the Nidana and the Avadana, and that which is called the Sutra of the great Yana, the Vyakara and the Ityukta, the Jataka, the work called Vaipulya, the Adbhuta and the Upadesha, and also the Udinaka as the twelfth (of these sacred texts,) and making current the Yana for common disciples, that for Pratyeka Buddhas, and the Mahayana, and proclaiming them all around, accompanied by thirteen and a half bodies of mendicants, the Conqueror of the World went out of the city of Kapila.

After displaying miracles in the city of Kapila, and having paid honour to his father, and having made Rahula and his companions Arhats, and also the Bhikshunis with Gautami and Gopika at their head, and various women of all the four castes; and having established Saunu on his imperial throne, and the people in the Jina doctrine, and having abolished poverty and darkness, and then remembering his mother, he set forth ever worshipping Swayambhu, towards the northern region along with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as mendicants in his train.

 [Ashvaghosha addresses us directly at the end of his poem:]  

"The glory of the Avadana of the birth of the Lion of the Shakyas has thus been described by me at length and yet very concisely.  It must be corrected by pandits wherever anything is omitted.  My childish speech is not to be laughed at, but to be listened to with pleasure.

Whatever virtue may have accrued from describing the King of Dharma, the deliverer from mundane existence who assumes all forms, -- may it become a store of merit for the production of right activity [in some] and inactivity in others, and for the diffusion of delight among the six orders of beings."

And so ends the seventeenth sarga called Return, or Progress to Lumbini, in the great poem composed by Ashvaghosha, The Buddha-charitra.  

Sarva mangalam. May this effort be auspicious. May it benefit all who see it.


mendicant:  Crowell used 'mendicant' which actually means 'beggar' to denote the wandering monk who begs in villages in the morning for food for his main, noonday meal. This verse is followed by a catalogue of all the influential people in and around Varanasi who were converted to the Buddha's system of dharma.

preceptor of the host of twice-born: possibly  the brahmacharya, the one who is the brahmin priest responsible for initiating all the priests of a sect into its highest teachings. 

The Vindhya range of hills is 600 miles (970 km) long, rising to c. 3,000 ft. (910 m) and is the border between the North that used Sanskrit, and South India that uses Dravidian languages.  Their sandstone was used for the 3rd century BCE Buddhist stupa at Sanchi. 

Maudgalya and Shariputra:  the first was pre-eminent in siddhis and the other in wisdom. They are often depicted as larger-than-life in images of the 16 arhats.

Kubera: The Indian god of limitless wealth symbolized by his possession of the jewel-spitting mongoose. (The mongoose is well-known for its actual ability to defeat venomous snakes like the cobra.) 

Three kinds of poisons: ignorance, anger and desire. 

while the gods reminded them: presumably as they approached the city they can see, as the devas provided examples for Siddhartha before, the inevitable sufferings of people caught in the round of rebirth.

praised his feet:  This is a very ancient way of paying homage, but is ordinarily performed by a wife to her husband, or a lower-ranked person to someone of higher status such as a son to his father.  When Shudhodana touches the Jina's feet, he is acknowledging publicly and also privately the superiority of the One who was once his son but is now a Buddha. 

Avadana:  Teaching story.  A collection of tales with a moral that are told as examples of the benefit of dharma.

~ The tangka displaying the nimbus of various forms is available for purchase from Exotic India.

This is a first draft only, and should not be reproduced for circulation ~ it has yet to be checked against the original. See the Introduction for information about that.

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