Life of the Buddha - Ashvaghosha (I-II centuries)

Literature of antiquity and the Middle Ages - Summary - 2019

Life of the Buddha
Ashvaghosha (I-II centuries)

The poem is in 28 songs, from the Sanskrit original of which only the first thirteen and a half have survived, while the rest have reached the Tibetan and Chinese translations.

The king of Shuddhdans of the Shakyas, who lives in the city of Kapilavastus in the foothills of the Himalayas, is born to the son of Siddhartha. His birth is unusual: in order not to torment his mother Maye, he appears from her right side, and his body is decorated with happy signs, by which the sages predict that he will become the savior of the world and the founder of the new law of life and death. Relentlessly, in the darkened prosperity, the childhood and youth of Siddhartha proceed in the royal palace. At the appointed time, he marries the beauty of Yasodhara, from whom has his beloved son Rahulu. But one day Siddhartha leaves the palace in a chariot and first meets a shabby old man, then a bloated boy and a dead man who is carried in the cemetery. The spectacle of death and suffering overturns all the worldview of the prince. The beauty surrounding him seems to him disgrace, power, strength, and wealth are thought to be decaying. He contemplates the meaning of life, and the search for the ultimate truth of existence becomes his sole purpose. Siddhartha leaves Kapilavasta and leaves for a long wanderings. He meets with brahmins, who express his faith and teachings; he spends six years in the woods with ascetic devotees; King Magadhi Bibbisar offers him his kingdom so that he can realize the ideal of justice on earth - but neither the traditional wisdom, nor the killing of the flesh, nor the boundless power seem to him capable of solving the riddle of the meaninglessness of life. Near the city of Gaya under the Bodhi Siddhartha tree is immersed in deep reflection. The demon-tempter Mara unsuccessfully tries to embarrass him with carnal temptations, Mary's army throws stones, spears, darts, arrows in him, but Siddhartha does not even notice them, remaining motionless and impassive in his contemplation. And here, under the Bodhi tree, enlightenment descends upon him: from the Bodhisattva, the person who is destined to be a Buddha, he becomes such - Buddha, or Awakened, Enlightened.

The Buddha headed to Benares and there pronounced his first sermon, in which he teaches that there is suffering, is the cause of suffering - life is the path to ending suffering - the rejection of want, deliverance from desires and passions, the liberation from worldly bonds - the path of seclusion and spiritual equilibrium Wandering through the cities and allies of India, Buddha reiterates this teaching again and again, attracting many disciples, uniting thousands of people in their community. The enemy of the Buddha Devadatta tries to destroy him: he throws a huge stone on him from the mountain, but he does not split and touches his body; he sets on him a wild angry elephant, but he humbly and devotedly falls to the feet of the Buddha. Buddha rises to heaven and draws even the gods into his faith, and then, completing his mission, sets the limit of his life - three months. He comes to the city of Kushinagar in the extreme north of India, pronounces his last instruction there, and forever interrupting an infinite chain of births and deaths, immerses himself in nirvana - a state of complete rest, a dispassionate contemplative being. The bones of the Buddha, left after the funeral camp, are divided into eight parts by his disciples. The seven kings, who came from the distant lands of the land, perish, and the eighth in a golden jug is kept forever in Kushinagar in the temple built in honor of Buddha.