Introduction to the Text


The text of Buddhacarita reproduced here is essentially that edited by Edward B. Cowell, entitled:

The Buddha-carita or Life of Buddha by Aśvaghoṣa,
Indian poet of the early second century after Christ. Sanskrit
text, edited from a Devanagari and two Nepalese manuscripts with
variant readings, a preface, notes and in index of names.

which was originally published by the Oxford University Press in 1893, as Part VII of its Anecdota Oxoniensia, Aryan Series. This was republished together with the translation in India by Cosmo Publications, New Delhi, in 1997.

It has been partly supplemented by E. H. Johnston's edition of the same text entitled The Buddhacarita: Or, Acts of the Buddha; which was published as No 31 of the Panjab University Oriental Publications, in Calcutta in 1935.

The texts in both editions is printed in Devanagari script. The text in Roman script presented here has been prepared using a database entitled Aśvaghoṣa's Buddhacarita: A machine readable transliteration, edited by Peter Schreiner, in February 1990, which reproduced Johnson's edition in pausa form, along with Cowell's variant readings.

The original database has been converted to normal diacritical markings, subsequently proof-read, and the metrical markings have been added in by the present writer. In Cowell's text all the nasals are written as anusvara (ṁ), and this has been followed here, except at the end of the pādayuga, where I prefer to write labial -m, as is normal in Sanskrit. Johnson's edition (and Schreiner following him) interpreted anusvara as the relavant nasal for the consonant group. But I think Cowell must have been following the writing in the manuscripts in his edition, and I have therefore continued with that here.01

The text also accompanies the translation by Cowell which appears elsewhere on this website. Although Johnson's edition is definitely to be preferred, being based on better manuscripts, it is not in the public domain as yet, therefore I have prepared Cowell's edition here.02 Here however the text differs in some small respects to the edition printed there, because it has been my purpose to analyse the work and arrive at a correct understanding of Aśvaghoṣa's prosody, which can only be done after making some small adjustments to Cowell's text.

For instance in Cowell's edition certain verses were included which later proved to be spurious. These have been printed here, but not analysed, as they throw no light on the text. Also certain readings were adopted by Cowell which we can be sure go against

Aśvaghoṣa's normal prosody, and are therefore incorrect. In a few cases therefore I have preferred Johnson's readings, these are all noted in the appropriate place. Although I have adjusted Cowell's text in the ways indicated above wherever necessary, there has, of course, been no attempt to establish a new edition. I have simply examined Johnson's text to see if we can provide better readings, where it is clear that the metre must be incorrect, so as to more accurately reflect Aśvaghoṣa's prosody.03