WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

33

 

 


 

 

Ī 3. The Characteristics of a Future Buddha

Translated from the Introduction to the Jātaka (i.44.20).

 

"A human being, male of sex,
Who saintship gains, a Teacher meets,
As hermit lives, and virtue loves,
Nor lacks resolve, nor fiery zeal,
Can by these eight conditions joined,
Make his most earnest wish succeed,"

These eight conditions were all united in him when he made his earnest wish at the feet of Dīpamkara, saying, --

"Come now! I'll search that I may find
Conditions which a Buddha make."

Thereupon, putting forth a strenuous effort, -- as it is said, --

"And then I searched, and found the First
Perfection, which consists in alms," --

he discovered, not only the perfection which is called alms, but also all the others that go to make a Buddha. And in fulfilling them he reached his Vessantara existence.[1] In so doing, all the blessings celebrated in the following stanzas as belonging to Future Buddhas who make the earnest wish were attained by him: --

[34] 252. "Such men in every virtue trained,
And destined for the Buddhaship,
In all their weary rounds of birth,
Though cycle-millions come and go,
253. "Are never born inside of hell,
Nor in the intermundane voids.
They never share the Manes' thirst,[2]
Their hunger or ferocity,[2]
And though sometimes of low estate,
Are never of the insect class.
254. "When they appear among mankind,
T'is not as blind from birth they come,
Deafness they never have to bear,
Nor dumbness have they to endure.
255. "They're never of the female sex,
Nor as hermaphrodites appear,
As eunuchs are they never classed,
Those destined for the Buddhaship.
256. "From all the five great crimes exempt,
And pure in all their walks in life,
They follow not vain heresy,
For well they know how karma works.
257. "Though in the heavens they may be born,
Yet ne'er 'mongst those perception-reft;
Nor are they destined to rebirth
'Mongst dwellers in the Pure Abodes.[3]
258. "These pleasure-abnegating men
Live unattached in every birth,
And ever toil to help the world;
While all perfections they fulfil."

[35] Now in accomplishing these Ten Perfections there was no limit to the number of existences in which he fulfilled the perfection of almsgiving; as when he was born as the Brahman Akitti, the Brahman Samkha, king Dhanañjaya, Mahā-Sudassana, Mahā-Govinda, king Nimi, prince Canda, Visayha the treasurer, king Sivi, and king Vessantara. But the acme was reached when as the Wise Hare[4] he said,--

259. "There came a beggar, asked for food;
Myself I gave that he might eat.
In alms there's none can equal me;
In alms have I perfection reached."

Thus, in this offering up of his own life, he acquired the perfection of almsgiving in its highest degree.

Likewise there was no limit to the number of existences in which he fulfilled the precepts; as when he was born as the elephant-king Sīlava, the snake-king Campeyya, the snake-king Bhūridatta, the elephant-king Chaddanta, and prince Alīnasattu, son of king Jayaddisa. But the acme was reached when, as related in the Samkhapāla Birth-Story, he said,--

260. "They pierced me through with pointed stakes,
They hacked me with their hunting-knives;
Yet gainst these Bhojans raged I not,
But kept the precepts perfectly."

Thus, in giving up his own life, he acquired perfection in the keeping of the precepts.

Likewise there was no limit to the number of existences in which he fulfilled the perfection of abnegation by abandoning

[36] his throne; as when he was born as prince Somanassa, prince Hatthipāla, and the pandit Ayoghara. But the acme was reached when, as related in the Lesser Sutasoma Birth-Story, he said, --

261. "A kingdom dropped into my hands;
Like spittle vile I let it fall,
Nor for it felt the smallest wish,
And thus renunciation gained."

Thus, free from attachment, he renounced a kingdom and retired from the world, and by so doing acquired the perfection of abnegation in its highest degree.

Likewise there was no limit to the number of existences in which he fulfilled the perfection of knowledge; as when he was born as the pandit Vidhūra, the pandit Mahā-Govinda, the pandit Kuddāla, the pandit Araka, the wandering ascetic Bodhi, and the pandit Mahosadha. But the acme was reached when, as the pandit Senaka of the Sattubhatta Birth-Story, he said, --

262. "With wisdom sifted I the case,
And freed the Brahman from his woe;
In wisdom none can equal me:
In wisdom I've perfection reached,"

and displayed to all present the serpent which lay concealed in the bag, and in so doing acquired the perfection of wisdom in its highest degree.

Likewise there was no limit to the number of existences in which he fulfilled the perfection of courage. But the acme was reached when, as related in the Greater Janaka Birth-Story, he said, --

263. "Far out of sight of land were we,
The crew were all as dead of fright;
Yet still unruffled was my mind:
In courage I've perfection reached."

Thus it was in crossing the ocean he acquired the perfection of courage in its highest degree.

[37] Likewise in the Khantivāda Birth-Story, where he said, --

264. "Like one insensible I lay,
While with his hatchet keen he hacked,
Nor raged I gainst Benares' king:
In patience I've perfection reached,"

in enduring great suffering, while appearing to be unconscious, he acquired the perfection of patience in its highest degree.

Likewise in the Greater Sutasoma Birth-Story, where he said, --

265. "I kept the promise I had made,
And gave my life in sacrifice,
A hundred warriors set I free:
In truth have I perfection reached,"

in keeping his word at the sacrifice of his life, he acquired the perfection of truth in its highest degree.

Likewise in the Mūgapakkha Birth-Story, where he said,--

266. "T'is not that I my parents hate,
T'is not that glory I detest,
But since omniscience I held dear,
Therefore I kept my firm resolve,"

in resolving on a course of conduct that cost him his life, he acquired the perfection of resolution in its highest degree.

Likewise in the Ekarāja Birth-Story, where he said, --

267. "No fear has any one of me,
Nor have I fear of any one,
In my good-will to all I trust,
And love to dwell in lonely woods,"

in the exercise of feelings of good-will, and in taking no thought for his life, he acquired the perfection of good-will in its highest degree.

Likewise in the Lomahamsa Birth-Story, where he said, --

268. "I laid me down among the dead,
A pillow of their bones I made;
While from the villages around,
Some came to mock, and some to praise,"

[38] while village children flocked about him, and some spat and others showered fragrant garlands upon him, he was indifferent alike to pleasure and pain, and acquired the perfection of indifference in its highest degree.

The above is an abridgment, but the full account is given in the Cariyā-Pitaka.

Having thus fulfilled all the perfections, he said, in his existence as Vessantara,--

269. "This earth, unconscious though she be,
And ignorant of joy or grief,
E'en she then felt alms' mighty power,
And shook and quaked full seven times."

And having thus caused the earth to quake by his mighty deeds of merit, at the end of that existence he died, and was reborn in the Tusita heaven.

Accordingly the period from the time when he fell at the feet of Dīpamkara to his birth in the city of the Tusita gods constitutes the Distant Epoch.

 


 

[1]The Vessantara Birth-Story is the last of the five hundred and fifty, and is not yet published.

[2]I despair of giving in metre more than the general drift of these two lines. See Hardy, "Manual of Budhism {sic}," chap. ii. Ī 11.

[3]See page 289.

[4]The story of the Future Buddha's existence as the Wise Hare is given further on under the caption, "The Hare-Mark in the Moon." It is the only one of the numerous Birth-Stories above-mentioned that is to be found in this book. The stanza quoted, however, is not taken from that account, but from another work called the Cariyā-Pitaka, which is wholly in poetry. The Cariyā-Pitaka consists of Birth-Stories, and besides the Wise Hare, gives several others of those here mentioned. Some are also briefly alluded to in the ninth chapter of the Visuddhi-Magga; but of course the great treasure-house for Birth-Stories is the Jātaka itself.

 


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