The Buddha-carita of Aśvaghoṣa

Translated by E. B. Cowell

Book VI [The Dismissal of Chaṁdaka]

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1. Then when the sun, the eye of the world, was just risen, he, the noblest of men, beheld the hermitage of the son of Bhṛgu,

2. Its deer all asleep in quiet trust, its birds tranquilly resting, — seeing it he too became restful, and he felt as if his end was attained.

3. For the sake of ending his wonder and to show reverence for the penances observed, and as expressing his own conformity therewith, he alighted from the back of his horse.

4. Having alighted, he stroked the horse, exclaiming, ‘All is saved,’ and he spoke well-pleased to Chaṁdaka, bedewing him as it were with tears from his eyes:

5. ‘Good friend, thy devotion to me and thy courage of soul have been proved by thy thus following this steed whose speed is like that of Tārkṣya.

6. ‘Bent even though I am on other business, I am wholly won in heart by thee, — one who has such a love for his master, and at the same time is able to carry out his wish.

7. ‘One can be able without affection, and affectionate though unable; but one like thee, at once affectionate and able, is hard to find in the world.

8. ‘I am pleased with this noble action of thine; this feeling is seen towards me, even though I am regardless of conferring rewards.

9. ‘Who would not be favourably disposed to one who stands to him as bringing him reward? but even one's own people commonly become mere strangers in a reverse of fortune.

10. ‘The son is maintained for the sake of the family, the father is honoured for the sake of our own (future) support; the world shows kindness for the sake of hope; there is no such a thing as unselfishness without a motive.

11. ‘Why speak many words? in short, thou hast done me a very great kindness; take now my horse and return, I have attained the desired wood.’

12. Thus having spoken, the mighty hero in his desire to show perfect gentleness unloosed his ornaments and gave them to the other, who was deeply grieved.

13. Having taken a brilliant jewel whose effect illumined his diadem, he stood, uttering these words, like the mountain Mandara with the sun resting on it:

14. ‘By thee with this jewel, O Chaṁda, having offered him repeated obeisance, the king, with his loving confidence still unshaken, must be enjoined to stay his grief.

15. “I have entered the ascetic-wood to destroy old age and death, — with no thirst for heaven, with no lack of love nor feeling of anger.

16. “Do not think of mourning for me who am thus gone forth from my home; union, however long it may last, in time will come to an end.

17. “Since separation is certain, therefore is my mind fixed on liberation; how shall there not be repeated severings from one's kindred?

18. “Do not think of mourning for me who am gone forth to leave sorrow behind; it is the thralls of passion, who are attached to desires, the causes of sorrow, for whom thou shouldst mourn.

19. “This was the firm persuasion of our predecessors, — I as one departing by a common road am not to be mourned for by my heir.

20. “At a man's death there are doubtless heirs to his wealth; but heirs to his merit are hard to find on the earth or exist not at all.

21. “Even though thou sayest, ‘He is gone at a wrong time to the wood,’ — there is no wrong time for religious duty (dharma), life being fragile as it is.

22. “Therefore my determination is, ‘I must seek my supreme good this very day;’ what confidence can there be in life, when death stands as our adversary?"

23. ‘Do thou address the king, O friend, with these and such-like words; and do thou use thy efforts so that he may not even remember me.

24. ‘Yea, do thou repeat to the king our utter unworthiness; through unworthiness affection is lost, — and where affection is lost, there is no sorrow.’

25. Having heard these words, Chaṁda, overwhelmed with grief, made reply with folded hands, his voice choked by tears :

26. ‘At this state of mind of thine, causing affliction to thy kindred, my mind, O my lord, sinks down like an elephant in the mud of a river.

27. ‘To whom would not such a determination as this of thine cause tears, even if his heart were of iron, — how much more if it were throbbing with love?

28. ‘Where is this delicacy of limb, fit to lie only in a palace, — and where is the ground of the ascetic forest, covered with the shoots of rough kusa grass?

29. ‘When, on hearing thy resolve, I first brought thee this horse, — it was fate only, O my lord, which made me do it, mastering my will.

30. ‘But how could I, O king, by mine own will, knowing this thy decision, — carry back the horse to the sorrow of Kapilavastu?

31. ‘Surely thou wilt not abandon, O hero, that fond old king, so devoted to his son, as a heretic might the true religion?

32. ‘And her, thy second mother, worn with the care of bringing thee up, — thou wilt not surely forget her, as an ingrate a benefit?

33. ‘Thou wilt not surely abandon thy queen, endowed with all virtues, illustrious for her family, devoted to her husband and with a young son, as a coward the royal dignity within his reach?

34. ‘Thou wilt not abandon the young son of Yaśodharā, worthy of all praise, thou the best of the cherishers of religion and fame, as a dissolute spendthrift his choicest glory?

35. ‘Or even if thy mind be resolved to abandon thy kindred and thy kingdom, thou wilt not, O master, abandon me, — thy feet are my only refuge.

36. ‘I cannot go to the city with my soul thus burning, leaving thee behind in the forest as Sumitra left the son of Raghu.

37. ‘What will the king say to me, returning to the city without thee? or what shall I say to thy queens by way of telling them good news?

38. ‘As for what thou saidst, "thou must repeat my unworthiness to the king" — how shall I speak what is false of thee as of a sage without a fault?

39. ‘Or even if I ventured to speak it with a heart ashamed and a tongue cleaving to my mouth, who would think of believing it?

40. ‘He who would tell of or believe the fierceness of the moon, might tell of or believe thy faults, O physician of faults.

41. ‘Him who is always compassionate and who never fails to feel pity, it ill befits to abandon one who loves, — turn back and have mercy on me.’

42. Having heard these words of Chaṁda overcome with sorrow, — self-possessed with the utmost firmness the best of speakers answered:

43. ‘Abandon this distress, Chaṁda, regarding thy separation from me, — change is inevitable in corporeal beings who are subject to different births.

44. ‘Even if I through affection were not to abandon my kindred in my desire for liberation, death would still make us helplessly abandon one another.

45. ‘She, my mother, by whom I was borne in the womb with great thirst and pains, — where am I now with regard to her, all her efforts fruitless, and where is she with regard to me?

46. ‘As birds go to their roosting-tree and then depart, so the meeting of beings inevitably ends in separation.

47. ‘As clouds, having come together, depart asunder again, such I consider the meeting and parting of living things.

48. ‘And since this world goes away, each one of us deceiving the other, — it is not right to think anything thine own in a time of union which is a dream.

49. ‘Since the trees are parted from the innate colour of their leaves, why should there not still more be the parting of two things which are alien to each other?

50. ‘Therefore, since it is so, grieve not, my good friend, but go; or if thy love lingers, then go and afterwards return.

51. ‘Say, without reproaching us, to the people in Kapilavastu, “Let your love for him be given up, and hear his resolve.

52. “Either he will quickly come back, having destroyed old age and death; or else he will himself perish, having failed in his purpose and lost hold of every support.” '

53. Having heard his words, Kaṁthaka, the noblest of steeds, licked his feet with his tongue and dropped hot tears.

54. With his hand whose fingers were united with a membrane and which was marked with the auspicious svastika, and with its middle part curved, the prince stroked him and addressed him like a friend:

55. ‘Shed not tears, Kaṁthaka, this thy perfect equine nature has been proved, — bear with it, this thy labour will soon have its fruit.’

56. Then seizing the sharp jewelled sword which was in Chaṁdaka's hand, he resolutely drew out from the sheath the blade decked with golden ornaments, like a serpent from its hole.

57. Having drawn it forth, dark blue like a blue lotus petal, he cut his decorated tiara and his hair, and he tossed it with its scattered muslin into the air as a grey goose into a lake.

58. And the heavenly beings, with a longing to worship it, seized it respectfully as it was thrown up; and the divine hosts paid it due adoration in heaven with celestial honours.

59. Having thus divorced his ornaments and banished all royal magnificence from his head, and seeing his muslin floating away like a golden goose, the stedfast prince desired a sylvan dress.

60. Then a celestial being, wearing the form of a hunter, pure in heart, knowing his thoughts, approached near him in dark-red garments; and the son of the Śākya king thus addressed him:

61. ‘Thy red garments are auspicious, the sign of a saint; but this destructive bow is not befitting; therefore, my good friend, if there is no strong preference in the matter, do thou give me that dress and take this of mine.’

62. The hunter replied, ‘It has given me my desire, O giver of desires, as by this I have inspired animals with confidence and then killed them; but if thou hast need of it, O thou who art like Indra, accept it at once and give me the white dress.’

63. With extreme joy he then took that sylvan dress and gave away the linen one; and the hunter, assuming his heavenly form, having taken the white garment, went to heaven.

64. Then the prince and the attendant of the horse were filled with wonder as he was thus going, and forthwith they paid great honour anew to that sylvan dress.

65. Then the great-souled one, having dismissed the weeping Chaṁda, and wearing his fame veiled by the sign of the red garment, went towards the hermitage, like the king of mountains wrapped in an evening cloud.

66. While his master, thus regardless of his kingdom, was going to the ascetic-wood in mean garments, the groom, tossing up his arms, wailed bitterly and fell on the ground.

67. Having looked again he wept aloud, and embraced the horse Kaṁthaka with his arms; and then, hopeless and repeatedly lamenting, he went in body to the city, not in soul.

68. Sometimes he pondered, sometimes he lamented, sometimes he stumbled, and sometimes he fell; and so going along, wretched through his devoted attachment, he performed all kinds of actions in the road without conscious will.

[Such is the sixth chapter in the great poem Śri Buddhacarita,
called The Dismissal of Chaṁdaka]