The Life of the Victorious Buddha

Some Notes on Jinacaritaṁ


The Author

Ven. Medhaṅkara’s Sources

The Poetry of Jinacaritaṁ

Epithets of the Buddha

Words not found in PED


The Author

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? 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., 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. 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. 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. 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.

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. 359 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:

visiṭṭhagandhākulaphāliphulla-nānāvicittāni mahīruhāni


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)

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti
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:

  1. Aṅgīrasa Aṅgīrasa
  2. Adantadamaka Tamer of the untrained
  3. Atula Incomparable One
  4. Arahata Worthy One
  5. Isi Sage
  6. Uḷārapaññā One of Extensive Wisdom
  7. Uttama Supreme One
  8. Guṇākara Mine of Virtue
  9. Guṇaṇṇava Ocean of Virtues
  10. Guṇasekhara Head of all Virtues
  11. Cakkhumā Visionary One
  12. Janindānam-inda Lord of the Lords of Men
  13. Jina Victor
  14. Jinaṅkura Budding Victor (i.e. the Bodhisatta)
  15. Jinapakkhirājā Victorious Bird-King
  16. Jutindhara Brilliant One
  17. Tapodhana Great Ascetic
  18. Tathāgata Realised One
  19. Tibhavekanātha Sole Protector of the Three Realms of Existence
  20. Tibhavekanāyaka Sole Leader of the Three Realms of Existence
  21. Tilokagaru Teacher of the Three Worlds
  22. Tilokahitada One who Gives Benefit to the Three Worlds
  23. Tilokamahita One Honoured by the Three Worlds
  24. Tilokanātha Protector of the Three Worlds
  25. Tilokatilaka Ornament of the Three Worlds
  26. Tilokekanetta Sole Leader of the Three Worlds
  27. Tilokekavilocana Sole Eye of the Three Worlds
  28. Danta Trained One
  29. Dayālaya One who has Pity as his Abode
  30. Devātideva Deva of Devas
  31. Dipadānam-inda Lord of Men
  32. Dipaduttama Supreme Man
  33. Dhīmatā Devout One
  34. Dhammarājā King of Dhamma
  35. Dhammissara Master of the Dhamma
  36. Dhīra Hero
  37. Dhitimā Firm One
  38. Narādhipa Ruler of Men
  39. Narāsabha Best of Men
  40. Narasīharāja King Lion of a Man
  41. Narinda Lord of Men
  42. Narissara Master of Men
  43. Naruttama The Supreme Man
  44. Nātha Protector
  45. Pabhaṅkara Light-Maker
  46. Paramamāraji Excellent Victor over Māra
  47. Pavara Excellent One
  48. Buddha Buddha
  49. Bhagavā Fortunate One
  50. Bhūpāla Protector of the Earth
  51. Bhūripaññā One of Extensive Wisdom
  52. Mahabbala One of Great Strength
  53. Mahādaya One of Great Pity
  54. Mahīpati Master of the Earth
  55. Mahāpaññā Greatly Wise One
  56. Mahāvīra Great Champion
  57. Mahāyasa Greatly Famous One
  58. Mahesi Great Seer
  59. Mahiddhi Sage of Great Power
  60. Muninda Lord of Sages
  61. Munimegha Raincloud-Sage
  62. Munipuṅgava Noble Sage
  63. Munirājā King of Sages
  64. Munisīharājā Lion King of Sages
  65. Munivara Noble Sage
  66. Yasassina Famous One
  67. Lokahita He who delights in the World’s Benefit
  68. Lokahitekanātha Sole Protector of the World’s Benefit
  69. Lokālokakara One who Makes Light for the World
  70. Lokanātha Protector of the World
  71. Lokanāyaka Leader of the World
  72. Lokantadassī One who Sees to the End of the World
  73. Lokattayekasaraṇa Sole Refuge of the Three Worlds
  74. Lokavidū Knower of the Worlds
  75. Lokekabandhu Sole Kinsman of the World
  76. Lokekanāyaka Sole Leader of the World
  77. Lokekarājā Sole King of the World
  78. Lokuttama Supreme One in the World
  79. Vīra Champion
  80. Varadhammarājā Noble King of Dhamma
  81. Vipulayasa One of Extensive Fame
  82. Visālapaññā One of Broad Wisdom
  83. Visuddha Pure One
  84. Sabbaññū Omniscient One
  85. Sajjana Good Man
  86. Sakyamuni Sakyan Sage
  87. Sakyamunikesarī Sage-Lion of the Sakyas
  88. Sambuddha Sambuddha
  89. Sammā-Sambuddha Perfect Sambuddha
  90. Santa Peaceful One
  91. Santamāna One of Peaceful Mind
  92. Satthā Teacher
  93. Sivaṅkara Safety-Maker
  94. Subhaga Favoured One
  95. Sugata Happy One
  96. Hitesī Benefactor

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.