by the playwright and poet, A˜vagho˘a, is perhaps the earliest
complete biography of the Buddha.
These selections from the work are from the first half
of the poem, the only portion of the original Sanskrit text that still remains.
however, a Tibetan translation of the
, which does have the complete text.
English translation which includes the parts only available in Tibetan was published by E.
H. Johnston under the title,
The Buddhacarita or Acts of the Buddha
The poem casts as the Buddha as an epic hero, similar to the epic heroes of the
Indian tradition, except that his battle and triumph is in the realm of the mind and the spirit.
As a result, the poet makes frequent, learned references especially to the
following notes will help you negotiate allusions to the epic poems and to other stories of
Indian myth and legend.
The Birth of the Lord
1. Ik˘v‡ku = the grandson of the Sun and the founder of the "solar dynasty" which
reigned at Ayodhy‡.
This is the dynasty into which R‡ma was born.
¯‡kyas = the tribe among whom the Buddha was born.
2. Indra = king of the Vedic gods.
¯ac„ = the wife of Indra.
Padm‡ = "lotus," an epithet of the goddess Lak˘m„, or ¯r„, the wife of Vi˘ıu.
"matchless M‡y‡" = the divine power which creates the world.
3. Vai˜ravaıa = one of the several epithets of Kubera, the god of wealth.
6. Caitraratha = the king of the heavenly women and the heavenly musicians who created
a pleasure garden for Indra, which is called, therefore, the Caitraratha grove.
9. Pu˘ya = one of the constellations through which the moon moves; to be born during
that time is highly auspicious.
10. Aurva, PÁthu, M‡ndh‡tÁ, Kak˘„vat = heroes of Hindu-Buddhist legend, whose unusual
births signalled their unusual lives and
14 Seven Seers = Little Dipper.
17. Yak˘as = mysterious minor deities or spirits which inhabit field, forest and jungle and
who frequently appear in Indian folklore.
They may be either kind or malicious.
20. Gods of the pure realm = deities of highest celestial realms.
21. The mountain king is Mt. Meru, which anchors the earth.
27. Teacher = Guru = spiritual preceptor, here, the Buddha.