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The Life of the Victorious Buddha
Some Notes on Jinacaritaṁ
Very little is known for sure about the author of the Jinacaritaṁ. In the colophon he mentions that he composed the work while residing in a residence (pariveṇa) built by King Vijayabāhu, and that the residence bears the name of the King:
Vijayabāhunā Raññā sakanāmena kārite ... pariveṇavare ... in a noble residence ... which was made by King Vijayabāhu ... and which bears his own name.
There were a number of Kings who bore that name, and it could refer to any one of them. The first King of that name, for instance, who had a long reign from 1059-1114 is recorded as having built many vihāras (Mhv. 60.58-63), and also to have greatly encouraged poets (Mhv. 60.75-76).
Duroiselle (Jinacarita, p.iii) identified the King as the second of that name, who reigned for one year in A.D. 1186, but the inference, which is based solely on the prosperity that prevailed at that time, seems a little tenuous.
Malalasekera in The Pali Literature of Ceylon identifies him as the third King who reigned from 1235-1366; For some reason in DPPN, II, p. 663, while referring to his previous work, he says that the King was the second. Perhaps this is a printing error? 01 he further states that the pariveṇa “probably refers to the vihāra built by Vijaya-Bāhu III, who ruled at Dambadeniya”, and refers to Mhv. 81.58, in support. The verse there reads: Atha Vattalagāmasmiṁ bhikkhūnaṁ sakanāmato Rājā Vijayabāhavhaṁ vihāraṁ sādhu kārayī, then in Vattalagāma Vattalagāma has been further identified by Somapala Jayawardhana in his Handbook of Pali Literature, p. 64. as the village Wattala, which still exists south of Colombo.02, the King called Vijayabāhu (III), had a monastery built for the bhikkhus, and in his own name.
If we compare that with the colophon above the similarity is striking, and it is easy to see how Malalasekera came to his conclusion. But although it could have been this vihāra that Medhaṅkara was referring to, it is by no means certain. Even if he did live in a monastery built by that King, however, that cannot be taken as an indication that he lived during that King's time, as there is nothing in the colophon to suggest contemporaneity of our Author and the King.
In the same place Malalasekera identifies our author with the author of Payogasiddhi, and refers to him as Vanaratana Medhaṅkara, but on what grounds this identification has been made has not been clarified. Jayawardhana follows him, but he also gives no reasons for the identification.03 The Medhaṅkara who wrote the Payogasiddhi, wrote an elaborate colophon to the work in which he calls himself Vanaratana Medhaṅkara, he also identified his teachers, and the King who supports him, King Bhuvanekabāhu.04 but he doesn't say he wrote the Jinacarita.
Again, the Jinacarita does not mention Payogasiddhi, and nor does the author identify himself as Vanaratana. Given that the name Medhaṅkara is common, it seems a bit presumptious to say the authors are the same, and all theories based on this assumption simply fall to the ground for lack of evidence to support them. It seems safer therefore here to leave speculation aside, and admit that we remain very much in the dark in regard to our Author's history.
Ven. Medhaṅkara's Sources
The chief source for the material of the poem is the Jātakanidāna (Jā Nid). The verses describing the Rains Residences of the Buddha near the end of the poem (vv. 436-457), are additional to the history covered by the Jātaka Nidāna, but everything else is in that work.05 The correspondence is so close that it sometimes appears to be only a versification of the prose original. In illustration of this, we can compare the following: The word order in Jinacarita, is here rearranged slightly to bring out the verbal similarity. Many more examples could easily be assembled.06
Jā Nid: kappasatasahassādhikānaṁ catunnaṁ asaṅkhyeyyānaṁ matthake amaravatī nāma nagaraṁ ahosi.
Jinacaritaṁ vv. 8 & 10: kappasatasahassassa catunnañ-cāpi matthake asaṅkheyyānaṁ ... amarasaṅkhātaṁ puraṁ ahosi.
Jā Nid: atha ekaccānaṁ devatānaṁ “ajjāpi nūna siddhatthassa kattabbakiccaṁ atthi, pallaṅkasmiñhi ālayaṁ na vijahatī” ti...
Jinacaritaṁ vv. 274 & 275: ekaccadevatānāsi: “ajjāpi nūna dhīrassa siddhatthassa yasassino atthi kattabbakiccaṁ hi tasmā āsanam-ālayaṁ na jahāsī” ti...
Jā Nid: Sākiyā nāma mānajātikā mānatthaddhā, te “siddhatthakumāro amhehi daharataro, amhākaṁ kaniṭṭho, bhāgineyyo, putto, nattā" ti cintetvā, daharadahare rājakumāre āhaṁsu “tumhe vandatha, mayaṁ tumhākaṁ piṭṭhito nisīdissāmā" ti.
Jinacaritaṁ vv. 364 - 366: sañjātamānasatthaddha-Sākiyā: “amhākam-esa siddhattho putto natto ti” ādinā cintayitvāna, dahare dahare rājakumāre idam-abravuṁ: “tumhe vandatha siddhatthaṁ na vandāma mayan”-ti taṁ idaṁ vatvā, nisīdiṁsu.
The Poetry of Jinacarita
The text of Jinacarita shows the influence of both Sanskrit Alaṅkāraśāstra (Poetics) and Chandaḥśāstra (Metrics), being very developed in both of these arts. At only 472 verses, the shortness of the work prevents it from being classed as a Mahā Kāvya, but it nevertheless has many of the charactersitics of that literature. As required, it begins with a benediction, is built around a romantic story, and has a wise and noble hero. It includes extended descriptions of towns, lakes, mountains, the seasons, the moon and the sun, and also has sports, love-scenes, feasts, battles and so on. There is a famous passage in Daṇḍin's Kāvyādarśa where he outlines what an epic should entail:
Sargabandho mahākāvyaṁ ucyate tasya lakṣaṇaṁ:
Āśīrnamaskriyā vastunirdeśo vāpi tanmukham ||
Itihāsakathodbhūtamitarad eva sadāśrayam
Caturvargaphalāyattaṁ caturodāttanāyakam ||
Vipralambhair vivāhaiś-ca kumārodayavarṇanaiḥ ||
The verses are decorated with numerous alaṅkāras, including metaphors, similies, double-meanings, and so on. These also often cause considerable problems for a would-be translator, as these figures, which sound quite acceptable in Sanskrit and Pāḷi, are not always so obvious once put into English.
Very often we come across metaphor (rūpaka), as in: Sambuddhāravindavadano, the lotus-faced Sambuddha (300); Dhammabhākaraṁ, the Dhamma-sun (2); Saṅghacandaṁ, the Saṅgha-moon (3), ambujabuddhiyā, lotus-intelligence (317) and so on.
Similie (upamā) is seen in many verses of the text, we can illustrate it with this beautiful image of the Buddha, v. 304:
Tatojapālodayapabbatodito mahappabho buddhadivākaro nabhe maṇippabhāsannibhabhāsurappabho pamocayaṁ bhāsurabuddharaṁsiyo
Translation: Then the Buddha rose from the Goat-Herder's (Tree), like the sun rising with great light into the sky over the mountain, like a shining and bright jewel-light, emitting the shining Buddha-rays.
In illustration of the double-meaning (silesa) consider the following compound: lataṅganāliṅgitapādapindā (104), which may be translated as: Lordly trees were surrounded by creepers; or as: Lordly trees were surrounded by slender women. In the translation I have taken the only reasonable course open to me and translated it twice.
In order to make the translation intelligible I have sometimes found it necessary to extend it by including material that otherwise would have appeared in the notes, and broken up the flow of the narrative. So, for instance, I have quite often replaced pronouns with proper names, and placed them in brackets, e.g. v. 164:
abhinikkhamanaṁ tassa ñatvā varaturaṅgamo
tena sajjiyamāno so hesāravaṁ udīrayi
Translation: Having understood it was for (the Bodhisatta's) Great Renunciation, that noble horse, while being harnessed by (Channa), neighed excitedly.
If we replace the proper names with pronouns here we can see there is confusion as to who is doing the harnessing.
The verbal complexity of the work is very noticeable. We often see infinite verbal forms employed across many verses, before we eventually come to a finite verb, which brings the movement to a conclusion. See for instance, the run of participles from verses 330-335: So Bimbisāra-Narindo Mahesino ... suṇitvā ... vibhūsito ... upagantvāna ... sobhayanto ... nisinno ... gantvā ... ānīto ... cālayanto... patigaṇhiya.
As in Sanskrit verse, in many places the present participle has to be taken in a finite sense, for the sentence to make sense. For this usage see Perniola, Pali grammar, p. 35908 I have noted the following examples: viharanto (33) vasanto (69) abhipālayanto (86) gacchaṁ (141) patiṭṭhapesā (199) gacchaṁ (221) pavattento (316) sammasanto (269) caṅkamanto (278) pabodhayanto (279) vindaṁ (280) anuvilokento (415) vindanto (460).
As in Sanskrit literature there are some very long compounds in the present work, which sometimes cross the pādayuga, and occasionally extend for the whole line, e.g. the following Upajāti verse 348:
We sometimes see the sandhi itself cross the pādayuga, which is frowned upon in the prosodic literature, e.g.
−⏑−−¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑− pathyā Siloka
yācito tena sambuddhāravindavadano jino
the last syllable of the prior line = sambuddha-aravinda- (300)
the last syllable of the prior line = -kallahāra-aravinda- (349cd)
Something we will not normally see in Sanskrit literature is ellipsis, which is common in Pāḷi, and which, despite the obvious Sanskrit influences, is also found in this poem: see e.g. pañca-abhiññā- (33c), sa-inda- (242a), saddhamma-amata- (332b), sugandha-indīvara- (349c), -ākiṇṇa-acchodaka- (362ab), dasa-aṭṭhamasmiṁ (452c), dhamma-asinā (453b).
Epithets of the Buddha
Ven. Medhaṅkara was very fond of using various names and epithets for his Hero, and they occur in nearly every other verse. Here I have collected the varieties used, and it so happens they come to nearly 100. They are listed here with the translation adopted, wherever appropriate:
Words not found in PED
Duroiselle in his edition of Jinacarita, published in 1906, listed many words and meanings that were not found in Childers' Pali Dictionary. It is unfortunate indeed that the Pali Text Society's Pali English Dictionary hardly rectified this situation, and there are still many words to list that are not found in that dictionary. They are mainly derived from Sanskrit words used in Classical Literature.
aṅghi, m., feet.
atikomala, adj., exceedingly soft; producing affection.
atisobhati, ati + sobh + a, greatly beautifying.
anaggha, m., priceless (cf. aggha).
anokāsa, adj., full.
apahāsakara, m., mocker.
ambāsaya, m., lake, pool.
avanipa, m., lord of the earth; a king.
asādisa, adj., incomparable; matchless (cf. sādisa).
asitasela, m., sapphire.
indu, m., the moon.
uttuṅga, adj., tall.
uparatta, adj., altogether red.
ummāraka, m., threshold (cf. ummāra).
katāvakāsa, adj. (= katokāsa), being permitted; given leave to; opportunity.
kadambaka, n., multitude; troop; herd.
kammajamāla, m., the pangs of childbirth.
kalīra, nt., the soft part above the stem of a palm tree.
kulūpaga, adj., one who frequents a family; an advisor.
kumantaṇa, m., bad advice, an evil counsel.
klesa, (= kilesa) m., passion; lust; depravity; impurity; defilement.
guṇākara, m., a mine of virtue.
gopura, nt., gateway; gate tower; city gates.
jinaṅkura, m., a budding victor i.e. a bodhisatta.
jhara, m., waterfall.
dānavaka, m., a divine being.
dirada, m., lit.: two-tusked; a tusker.
dīpakāla, m., day-time.
devaṅgaṇā, f., a deva-maiden.
devindacāpa, m., the lord of the gods bow, a rainbow.
dvāramūla, nt., door-sill.
dharādhara, m., a mountain.
dhī, f., wisdom personified.
dhīmantu, adj., wise; devout.
narādhipa, m., the ruler of men.
nijjhara, m. (= jhara), waterfall.
pacāra, m., proceed, appear, perform, behave.
paṇya, m., a trader; wares.
padakkama, m., orderly lines.
bimbādhara, m., a lip red like the Bimba fruit.
bhākara, m, the sun.
bhukuṭi, f., frown.
bhuvana, m. (= bhavana), worlds.
bhūpāla, m., protector of the earth; a prince.
bhūmikā, f., earth; ground; a floor; a story.
makarākara, m., the sea; repository.
mahanīya, adj., respectable.
moḷiratana, nt., bejewelled.
rativaḍḍhana, nt., delightful; delight-increasing.
rasāyana, m., pleasure.
lāvaṇṇa, m., beautiful.
vanitā, f., women.
vāridhāra, f., torrent; stream; shower.
vidduma, m., coral.
vuṭṭhidhārā, f., showers of rain.
saṁvītināmeti, vi + ati + nam + e, spends time; waits.
saṅkhaṇḍeti, saṁ + khaṇḍ + e, break into pieces (cf. khaṇḍeti).
sabbhi, adj., the virtuous.
sampīta, past.p. of sampivati, soaked; stewed.
sīkara, m., mist.
sudhīsa, m., a wise man; sage.
suphulla, su + past.p. of phalati, full flowering; blossoming.
suvañjita, su + past.p. of añjeti or añjati, collyrium-annointed.
seṇi, f., a line; row; multitude; flock.
hesārava, m., the sound of neighing.
Further these meanings of words are not found in PED:
ānana, m., face.
ākula, adj., crowded.
āvalī, f., a multitude.
ketu, m., bright; a torch; an eminent person.
gabbha, m., a storeroom.
garu, m., parent.
jantu, m., earth creatures like worms, etc.
jala, m., tear.
pesala, adj., well-formed.
mugga, m., casket.
latā, f., a slender woman.
vadhū, f. cf. vadhukā, a woman; a bride.
valaya, nt., an enclosure.
sandhāraka, adj., bearing.
siṅga, nt., a turret.
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last updated: October 2007