Ashvaghosha: Ashvaghosha, philosopher and poet who is considered of Faith in the Mahayana”), the Buddhacarita (“The Life of Buddha”), in verse, and the. Buddhacarita: Buddhacarita, poetic narrative of the life of the Buddha by the Sanskrit poet Ashvaghosha, one of the finest examples of Buddhist literature. Aśvaghoṣa. Life of the Buddha. Translated by Patrick Olivelle. Clay Sanskrit Library Series. New York: New York University Press and JJC Foundation, lv.

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Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Buddhist monk Ashva. This is the earliest surviving text of the Sanskrit literary genre called kavya and probably provided models for Kali. The most poignant scenes on the path to his Awakening are when the young prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, is con The Buddhist monk Ashva. The most poignant scenes on the path to his Awakening are when the young prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, is confronted by the reality of sickness, old age, and death, while seduced by the charms of the women employed to keep him at home.

A poet of the highest order, Ashva. His wonderful descriptions of the bodies of courtesans are ultimately meant to show the transience of beauty. Hardcoverpages. Published April 1st by Clay Sanskrit first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Life of the Buddhaplease sign up.

Lists with This Book. Oct 07, Mark Surya added it. It’s a classical Sanskrit poem. As Eliot Weinberger observes in his most recent book, for whatever reason, Sanskrit poetry has never really found it’s style in English translation, the way that other Asian languages haveJapanese and Chinese for sure, but also Tamil, etc.

So I was under no illusion that I was going to be reading a masterwork of poetry here. Olivelle’s translation is pleasant, clear in it’s imagery and easy to read. That’s basically everything you want out of famously intermina It’s a classical Sanskrit poem. That’s basically everything you want out of famously interminable Sanskrit poetry.

My interest in Asvaghosa was threefold: There’s something eerie about reading older Indian Buddhist texts in general, but particularly those in Sanskritsomething like feeling the aftermath of war when standing in a cleared field where a city stood. Buddhism is, even now, largely gone from India; but by the end of this text the Emperor Ashoka has declared it the new state faith.

Ambedkar, the drafter of India’s constitution and the leading light of the Dalit movement, based his own telling of the Life of Buddha squarely on this text. As Olivelle states in his introduction, Asvaghosa himself is most definitely a Brahmin, and is interested largely in reclaiming the Brahminical tradition in light of Buddhism as a result, the Buddha actually does begin to bear a resemblance to Christ here in a significant way: A text attempting to preserve in some way the Brahminical tradition becoming a source text for the most radical interpretation of The Dhamma to be crafted, one distinctly anti-Brahminical in aim, method, and goal; wild.

So, keeping in mind my interests, this is what I got from this. Kalidasa has read his Asvaghosa. Ramanujan has observed that the typical Indian method of arguing against a position is not to mention the opponent’s view at all, but to raise your argument and only subtly allude to the one you’re attempting to dismantle.

From that, I’m not sure I can read the later Sanskrit Hindu poets the same way, knowing the degree to which they must have been familiar with Buddhist arguments from this text. The other strange thing is, of course, how largely the early world of Buddhism is shared with what he now call Hinduism; not just the Brahminical references that Asvaghosa includes, but the general themes, settings, and mythology.


Coming in with the galactic reach, I’ll say that in America this seems very familiar, where people espouse what might seem like “antiwhite” antiracist thought rather often largely because it’s been made to be as accessible as possible to the vast majority of “white” people I’ll admit I was disappointed by this aspect of the text, but on the other hand it’s my own fault: Asvaghosa’s concern is with theology and practice, not philosophy. As a result we get pulled out of the narrative right as The Buddha is having his awakening, which is, you know, a massive historico-religio cockblock.

Olivelle summarizes the last 14 chapters, so you can get a good sense of how the text was going to proceedthrough the Buddha’s establishing of the Sangha, to his death, to the Emperor Ashoka converting to Buddhism and establishing it as state religion.

I have to find one of the Chinese or Tibetan recensions of this to actually read it, but there are some intriguing things I can glimpse about the story through that.

For one, despite the Buddha actually going to heaven to convert his birth asbvaghosha, the story apparently never comes back around to the Buddha reengaging with his abandoned wife and son: This is mostly disappointing because pf wife’s asyvaghosha when the Buddha abandons her is one of the stunning pieces in this poem, thematically indispensable and powerfully done. The other strange thing is ending the text with Ashoka’s conversion. The story opens with a prince arguing that one must be an ascetic to practice Dhamma, giving up the world because the royal life will by necessity ensnare him; it ends with a literal conqueror adapting the Dhamma in his royal life and succeeding.

The gap between those two is not something that Olivelle really explains in any of his notes. Feb 01, Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing. The series, modeled on the Loeb Classical Library, was sponsored by John Clay –who had studied Sanskrit in his youth before going on to a successful career in global investment banking. Oc series consists of 54 books of poetry, drama, novels, and philosophy. Each pocket-sized book includes the Sanskrit text together with the English translation on facing guddha.

These works are a valuable resource for learning about a culture still too-little appreciated in the West.

This book in the series, “The Life of the Buddha” was published in and dates from the first or second century A. The author, Ashva-ghosha, had been born a Hindu and had studied Hindu texts before converting to Buddhism and becoming a monk.

His “The Life of the Buddha” is a lengthy epic poem, fo first of its kind in Sanskrit.

Life of the Buddha

Olivielle also wrote the introduction to this volume together with endnotes and a glossary of the many names that appear in the poem.

Ashva-ghosha’s poem draws on Buddhist Scriptures but is a work of literature of its time rather than a canonical text. The poem consists of 24 cantos, but only the first 13 cantos and part of the 14th canto have survived in the original Sanskrit. The remainder of the poem has survived in Chinese or Tibetan translations. Olvielle’s translation covers only the Sanskrit original with a brief synopsis of the additional ten cantos at the end of the book.

The book describes the birth of the Buddha.

Buddhacarita – Wikipedia

It shows him assuming the life of a mendicant and studying with various teachers until he gradually develops his own understanding. The translation ends in this volume with the Buddha rejecting the temptations of Mara and attaining Enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi tree. I was interested in reading this poem because I lige studied Buddhism for many years. Ashva-ghosha combines Hindu and Buddhist elements in his poem. The book shows the resistance young Siddhartha encountered when he determined to become a mendicant in search of the meaning of old age, sickness, and death.


Many scenes of the poem show the young man ashvaghossha in lengthy religious discussions with his father, his father’s religious advisors, and other kings and other seekers trying to dissuade him from his course. Broadly, they argue that there is a time and place for asceticism, but not for the young.

The interlocutors urge young Siddhartha to remain with his father and his wife, to enjoy lief and to rule the kingdom and to defer the ascetic quest until old age. Siddhartha resists these arguments and resolutely defends sshvaghosha course of action.

The discussions become heated and some readers may remain unconvinced by Siddhartha’s chosen course and be more sympathetic to the arguments of his interlocutors.

The poem includes many allusions to Hindu mythology which work both to relate Buddhism to its predecessors and to show how Buddhism differed. The notes and glossary in this book help the reader understand the references in the text. At the time the poem was composed, Buddhism and Hinduism were competing for adherents in India.

Olivelle’s introduction helps the reader understand how the poem’s author and his likely audience saw the relationship between the two religions. Ashva-ghosha probably had the goal of showing Buddhism as an outgrowth of Hinduism and, thus, trying to bring the two religions together. Probably as a result of this goal, Ashva-ghosha’s poem emphasizes the supernatural parts of the story of the Buddha’s life and Enlightenment. The Buddha becomes almost a god in this telling.

The supernatural elements are far from absent in the Buddhist Scriptures I have read. But these early Scriptures also show a human, if gifted and special Siddhartha, who valiantly works and prevails to reach Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. This poem also is blunt and uncompromising in its rejection of pleasure and especially in its rejection of sexuality, even though the life of the senses frequently is described in beautiful terms.

Many readers will be struck by the anti-sexual tone of the work. The rejection of sexuality is at its strongest in Canto 11, “Condemnation of Passion”. The following Canto, “Meeting with Arada” includes a long, difficult description of the Buddha’s meditative attainments through the Jahnas and of how he passed beyond his predecessors by rejecting the doctrine of the soul.

Olivelle’s translation is in unrhymed verse in stanzas usually of four to five lines. The translation is accessible and lyrical and captures the beauty of the world of thf and the world of family life that young Siddhartha abandons and leaves behind.

I enjoyed this poem as a work of literature and budhda a work which showed how Buddhism developed and was viewed at a particular moment. There have been many other literary treatments of the life of the Buddha over the centuries in ashvagosha verse oof prose. I was reminded, for example, of Sir Edwin Arnold’s — epic poem “The Life of the Buddha”a work which for years helped introduce many Westerners to Buddhism.

The Clay Sanskrit Library has done a service in making this and many other Sanskrit writings available to a wide ashvaggosha. Feb 01, David rated it it ilfe amazing Shelves: Beautiful translation of this very important epic poem. Sep 09, Danielle rated it it was ok Shelves: I’m just not a fan tge medieval Indian courtly poetry.

I have read the bengali translated version of Buddhacharita. The translation was done by Rathindranath Tagore and it was published by Biswa Bharati.

It is a nicely translated version of the story of Buddha from his birth to his pife from the translation done by E B Cowell. It has taken help from tibetian version of buddhacharita for the missing parts. A must read for the readers who wants to know the life of Buddha.