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Unformatted text preview: 548 SOUTH ASIA: EARI Y AND MIDDLE PERIODS 142. 2970 The younger brother glanced at his spear with its bright blade like a leaf, thinking to pierce her as she spoke and he said, “if we don‘t free ourselves by killing her right now, she will trouble us for a long time. 0 king, what is your will?” The Lord said, “That would be the right thing to do, if she doesn‘t leave us alone!” and the Raksasi thought, “These men will show me no compassion. i will lose my life if 1 stay." 143. 2971 She said to them, “Could I ever bear to live with you after I have lost my nose as lovely as a long vine and my two ears and the nipples of both my breasts? What I said was meant to find out all about you. Now 1 will bring him who is swifter than the wind, him who is crueler than fire, Khara, who will be your Death!” and she set out, feeling herself full of hatred that had no calming. ASHVAGHOSHA (c. 100 CE.) India The Life of the Buddha [Buddhacarim] is one of two long poems, three plays. and assorted hymns and discourses written by Ashvaghosha, the first of the great Buddhist poets in Sanskrit. Tradition associates Ashvaghosha with the court of King Kanishka l, who ruled sometime between the middle and the end of the first century er. in the northern part of present—day lndia. . “ The passage presented here is known as the episode of the “four Signs. .It relates a crucial moment in the life of Shakyamuni, a young prince, when a series of events convinces him to undertake the queSt for spiritual awakening that will result in his transformation into Buddha (which means "awakened" in Sanskrit). It had been foretold at Shakyamuni’s birth that he was destined to become either a great king or a master of dharma (here the word takes on a special Buddhist meaning of spiritual teaching). Hoping for a king rather than a holy man. his _ . ... a. I n t," _ _._:._-,- CLnfnrdmtlrli in nPrfeCI C0meTL ShIEIding hlm ASHVAGHOSHA I THE LIFE OF BUDDHA 549 The Enlightenment 0fthe Buddha. ‘ Sandstone sculpture of the first , - century CE. from SanChi in central India. from The Life of Buddha {Buddhacarita} The Four Signs LIFE IN THE PALACE The prince passed through infancy and in course of time duly underwent the ceremony of initiation. And it took him but a few days to learn the sciences suitable to his race, the mastery of which ordinarily requires many years. But, as the king of the Sakyas had heard from the great seer, Asita, that the prince’s future goal would be the supreme beatitude, he feared lest he should go to the forests and therefore he turned him to sensual pleasures. Then from a family possessed of long-standing good conduct he summoned for him the goddess of Fortune in the shape of a maiden, Yasodharaby hithéjot widespread retro—win, Virtuous and endowed with beauty, modesty and gentle bearing. The prince, radiant with wondrous beauty like Sanatkumara,1 took his delight with the Sakya king’s daughter-in-law, as the Thousand-eyed with Saci.2 The monarch, reflecting that the prince must see nothing untoward that might agitate his mind, assigned him a dwelling in the upper storeys of the palace and did not allow him access to the ground. i Then in the pavilions, white as the clouds of autumn, with apartments suited to each season and resembling heavenly mansions come down to earth, he passed the time with the noble music of singing-women. \ For the palace was glorious as Kailasa,3 with tambourinos whose frames were bound with gold and which sounded softly beneath the strokes of women‘s fingers, and with dances that rivalled those of the beautiful Apsarasos.‘ There the women delighted him with their soft voices, charming blandish- merits, playful intoxications, sweet laughter, curvings of eyebrows and sidelong glances. Then, a captive to the women, who were skilled in the accessories of love and indefatigable in sexual pleasure, he did not descend from the palace to the ground. just as one who has won Paradise by his merit does not descend to earth from the heavenly mansion. THE PRINCE’S PERTURBATION Then upon a time he listened to songs celebrating the forests, with their soft grass, with their trees resounding with ko'ils‘ calls, and with their adornment of lotusponds. Then hearing of the entrancing character of the city groves, beloved of the womenfolk, he set his heart on an expedition outside, like an elephant confined inside a house. Then the king learnt of the state of mind of that heart's desire, styled his son, and directed a pleasure excursion to be prepared worthy of his love and majesty and of his son’s youth. And, reflecting that the prince‘s tender mind might be perturbed thereby, be forbade the appearance of afflicted common folk on the royal road. Then with the greatest gentleness they cleared away on all sides those whose limbs were maimed or senses defective, the aged, sick and the like, and the wretched, and made the royal highway supremely magnificent. Then, when the road had been made beautiful, the prince, after receiving permission, descended at the proper time in full splendour with well-trained attendants from the top of the palace, and approached the king. Thereon the ruler of men, with tears in his eyes, gazed long at his son and kissed him on the head; and with his voice he bade him set forth, but out of affection he did not let him go in his mind. Then the prince mounted a golden chariot, to which were harnessed four well-broken horses with golden gear, and with a driver who was manly, skilful and reliable. Then, like the moon with the constellations mounting to the sky, he proceeded with a suitable retinue towards the road which was bestrewn with heaps of brilliant flowers and made gay with hanging wreaths and fluttering banners. And very slowly he entered the royal highway, which was carpeted with the halves of blue lotuses in the shape of eyes open to their widat in excitement, as all around the citizens gazed at him. - ‘ Some praised him for his gracious bearing, others worshipped him for his glorious appearance, but for his benignity others wished him sovereignty and length of days. ' . From the great houses humpbacks and swarms of dwarfs and Kiratas5 poured forth, and from the maner houses women; and all bowed down as to the flag in the procession of the god. _ . . Hearing the news from their servants, “the prince, they say, is gorng out, " the women obtained leave from their elders and went out on to the balconies in their desire to see him. They gathered together in uncontrollable excitement, obstructed by the slipping of their girdle-strings, as they put their ornaments on at the report, and with their eyes still dazed by sudden awakening from sleep. They frightened the flocks of birds on the houses with the jingling of belts, the tinkling of anklets and the clatter of their steps on the stairs, and reproached each other for jostling. ' But some of these magnificent women, ,though longing made them try to rush, were delayed in their movements by the weight of their hips and full breasts. ‘ . But another, though well able to move with speed, checked her steps and went slowly, modestly shrinking as she covered up the ornaments worn in intimacy. 3, Unquiet reigned in the windows then, as the women were crowded together in the mutual press, with their earrings ever agitated by collisions and their ornaments jingling. But the lotus-faces of the women, emerging from the windows and mutually setting their earrings in perpetual commotion, seemed like lotuses stuck on to the pavilions. Then with its palaces full to bursting with young women, who threw the lattices open in their excitement, the city appeared as magnificent on all sides as Paradise with its heavenly mansions full of Apsarases. From the narrowness of the windows the faces of these glorious women, with their earrings resting on each other‘s cheeks, seemed like bunches of lotus-flowers tied to the windows. . Ibeyomen, looking down at the prince in the street, seemed as if wishing to jestggrtd,tgearth, while the-margaz‘mg up at him with upraised faEES‘ seemed as if wishing torisc to heaven. Beholding the king’s son in the full glory of his beauty and majesty, the women murmured low, “Blessed is his wife," with pure minds and from no baser WNW” For they held him in reverent awe, reflecting that he with the long stout arms, in form like the visible presence of the god whose symbols are flowers,‘5 would, it was said, resign his royal pomp and follow the religious law. Thus the first time that the prince saw the royal highway, it was thronged with respectful citizens, clad in cleanly sober guise; and he rejoiced and felt in some degree as if he were being re-created. But when the Suddhadhivasa gods" saw that city as joyful as Paradise itself, they created the illusion of an old man in order to incite the king‘s son to leave his home. Then the prince saw him overcome with senility and different in form to other men. His interest was excited and, with gaze steadily directed on the man, he asked the charioteer:—- . » . “Good charioteer, who is this man with white hair, supporting himself on the staff in his hand, with his eyes veiled by the brows, and limbs relaxed and bent? Is this some transformation in him, or his original state, or mere chance?" When the chariot-driver was-thus spoken to, those very same gods con- founded his understanding, so that, without seeing his error, he told the prince the matter he should have withheld?— “Old age it is called, that which has broken him down.—the murderer of beauty. the ruin of vigour, the birthplace of sorrow, the grave of pleasure, the destroyer of memory. the enemy of the senses. For he too sucked milk in his infancy, and later in course of time he crawled on the ground; in the natural order he became a handsome youth and in the same natural order he has now reached old age," At these words the king's son started a little and addressed the charioteer thus, “Will this evil come upon me also?“ Then the charioteer said to him:— “Inevitably by force of time my long-lived lord will know this length of his days. Men are aware that old age thus destroys beauty and yet they seek it.“ Then, since his mind was purified by his intentions in the past and his good merit had been accumulated through countless epochs, he was perturbed in his lofty soul at hearing of old age, like a bull on hearing the crash of a thunderbolt near by. Fixing his eyes on the old man, he sighed deeply and shook his head; and looking on the festive multitude he uttered these words in his perturbation:— “Thus old age strikes down indiscriminately memory and beauty and valour, and yet with such a sight before its eyes the world is not perturbed. . This being so, turn back the horses, charioteer; go quickly home again. [EQW can l take my pleasure in the garden, when the fear of old age rules in myrnmd? if Solar thébidding of his master‘s son the driver turned back the chariot. Then the prince returned to the same palace, but so 105t in anxiety that it seemed to him empty. 6. The god of love. who (like Cupid) has a 7. “Dwelling in a pure abode. one ol bow. made of flowers with a black bow- numerous categories of gods in the Bud- string of bees. dhist cosmology, who typically an‘ nounce the birth of the Buddha. But even there he found no relief, as he ever dwelt on the subject of old age; therefore once more with the permission of the king he.went out; all being ordered as before. - . ‘ j Thereupon the same gods created a man with body afflicted by disease, and the son of Suddhodana saw him, and, keeping his gaze fixed on him, he said to the chariOteer:— ‘ “Who is this man with swollen belly and body that heaves with his panting? His shoulders and arms are fallen in, hislimbs emaciated and pale. He calls out piteously, “mother," as he leans on another for support." Then the charioteer replied to him, “Good Sir, it is the mighty misfortune called disease, developed in full force from the disorder of the humours, that has made this man, once so competent, no longer master of himself." Thereupon the king’s son looked at the man compassionately and spoke, “is this evil peculiar to him, or is the danger of disease common to all men?" - Then the chariot-driver said, "Prince, this evil is shared by all. For men feast and yet they are thus oppressed by disease and racked by pain". Hearing this truth, be was perturbed in mind and trembled like the reflection of the moon on rippling water;-and in his pity he uttered these words in a somewhat low tone:— “This is the calamity of disease for mankind and yet the world sees it and feels no alarm. Vast, alas, is the ignorance of menuwho sport under the very shadow of disease. ‘ Tum back the chariot, charioteer, from going outside; let it go straight to the palace of the chief of men. And on hearing of the danger of disease, my mind is repelled from pleasures and shrinks, as it were, into itself." Then he turned back with allfeeling of joy gone and entered the palace, given over to brooding; and seeing him thus retumed a second time, the lord of the earth made enquiry. But when he learnt the reason for his return, he felt himself already abandoned by him. And he merely reprimanded the officer in charge of clearing the road, and angry though he was, imposed no severe punishment on'him. And he further arranged for his son the application of sensual attractions in the highest degree, hoping, “Perhaps he will be held by the restlessness of the senses and not desert us". But when in the women‘s apartments his son took no pleasure in the objects of sense, sounds and the rest, then he directed another excursion outside with the thought that it might cause a change of mood. And as out of his affection he understood his son’s state of mind and took no account of the dangers of passion, he ordered suitable courtesans to be present there, as skilled in the arts. Then the royal highway was decorated and guarded with especial care; and ‘ the king changed the charioteer and chariot and sent the prince off outside. Then as the king‘s son was going along, those same gods fashioned a lifeless man, so that only the charioteer and the prince, and none other, saw the corpse being borne along. Thereon the king‘s son asked the charioteer, “Who is being carried along 554 SOUTH ASIA: EARLY AND MIDDLE PERIODS yonder by four men and followed by a dejected company? He is dressed out gorgeously and yet they bewail him“. Then the driver's mind was overcome by the pure-natured Suddhadhivasa gods and, though it should not have been told, he explained this matter to the lord of mankind:— “This is someone or other, lying bereft of intellect. senses, breath and qualities, unconscious and become like a mere log or bundle of grass. He was brought up and cherished most lovingly with every care and now he is being abandoned.” Hearing the driver‘s reply, he was slightly startled and said, “Is this law of being peculiar to this man, or is such the end of all creatures?" Then the driver said to him, "This ‘5 the last act for all creatum. Dan'uction is inevitable for all in the world, be he of low or middle or high degree". Then, steadfast-minded though he was, the king's son suddenly became faint on hearing of death, and, leaning with his shoulder against the top of the chariot rail, he said in‘ a melodious voice:— “This is the end appointed for all creatures, and yet the world throws off fear and takes no heed. Hardened, I ween, are men’s hearts; for they are in good cheer, as they fare along the road. Therefore, charioteer, let our chariot be turned back; for it is not the time or place for pleasure—resorts. For how could a man of intelligence be heedless here in the hour of calamity, when once he knows of destruction?" Though the king‘s son spoke to him thus, he not merely did not turn back but in accordance with the king’s command went on to the Padrnasanda grove} which had been provided with special attractions. There the prince saw that lovely grove like the grove of Nandana,’ with young trees in full bloom, with intoxicated ko'ilslo flitting joyously about, and with pavilions and tanks beautiful with Iotuses. THE WOMEN REJEC TED Then the women went forth from the city garden, their eyes dancing with excitement, to meet the king’s son, as if he were a bridegroom arriving. And. as they approached him, their eyes opened wide in wonder and they welcomed him respectfully with hands folded like lotus-buds. And they stood around him, their minds absorbed in love, and seemed to drink him in with eyes that were moveless and blossomed wide in ecsrasy. For the glory of the brilliant signs on his person,u as of ornaments born on him. made the women deem him to be the god of love in bodily form. II. Physical marks—often very specific signs such as the “wheel" on the foot in the case of an emperor—indicate a person’s character and destiny. 8. A place where day-Iotuses grow. 9. The heavenly garden of Indra. 10. Indian cuckoos. ASHVAGHOSHA / THE LIFE OF BUDDHA 555 Some opined from his benignity and gravity that the moon had come down to earth in person with his rays veiled. Enthralled b his beautthey writhed wppressgdly, and, smiting each other with t errg nces, sofilygsighed. ' ' But despite such allurements the prince firmly guarded his senses, and in his perturbation over the inevitability of death, was neither rejoiced nor dis- tressed. - ‘ He, the supreme man, saw that they had no firm footing in the real truth, and with mind that was at the same time both perturbed and steadfast he thus meditated:— . “Do these women then not understand the transitoriness of youth, that they are so inebriated with their own beauty, which old age will destroy? Surely they do not perceive anyone overwhelmed by illness, that they are so full of mirth, so void of fear in a world in which disease is a law of nature. And quite clearly they sport and laugh so much at ease and unperturbed, because they are ignorant of death who earriee all away. For what rational being would stand or sit or lie at ease, still less laugh, when he knows of old age, disease and death? But he is just like a being without reason, who, on seeing another aged or ill or even dead, remains indifferent and unmoved. For when one tree is shorn both of its [lowers and its fruit and falls or is cut down, another tree is not d'stressed thereby." Then their garlands and ornaments worn in vain, their excellent arts and endearrnents all fruitless, the women suppressed the god of love in his birthplace, their hearts, and returned to the city with their hopes frustrated. Then the son of earth's guardian saw the glory of the women in the city garden withdrawn again in the evening and, meditating on the transitoriness of everything, he entered his dwelling. But when the king heard that his son was averse from the objects of sense, then like an elephant with a dart in its heart, he did not lie down that night. Thereon wearing himself out with all kinds of counsels with his min- isters, he found no means, other than the passions, for restraining his son‘s purpose. FLIGHT Though the son of the Sakya king was thus tempted by priceless objects of sense, he felt no contentment, he obtained no relief, like a lion pierced deeply in the heart by a poisoned arrow. Then longing for spiritual peace, he set forth outside with the king’s permission in order to see the forest, and for companions he had a retinue of ministers‘ sons, chosen for their reliability and skill in converse. He went out, mounted on the good horse Kanthaka, the bells of whose 556 SOUTH ASIA: EARLY AND MIDDLE PERIODS bit were of fresh gold and whose golden trappings were beautified with wav- ing chowries, and so he resembled a karnilzara” emblem mounted on a flag- pole. Desire for the forest as well as the excellence of the land led him on to the more distant jungle...
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