This installment is the second in a series of excerpts from The Buddha-charita or Life of Buddha, the first complete biography of Shakyamuni Buddha, written by the poet Ashvaghosha, probably in the first century C.E. The Buddha-charita is made up of twenty-eight songs recounting events in the Buddha’s life up to the time of his great awakening. The previous installment described Shakyamuni’s family and the events that surrounded his birth. In this episode we hear Shakyamuni’s first words and witness the arrival of Asita, the great seer, who pronounces the Buddha’s fate. This excerpt was adapted from Edward B. Cowell’s 1893 translation (Cosmo Publications, New Delhi, India). Original spellings, usages, and punctuation have been retained throughout.

Reclining Buddha, Aytuthya Thailand, courtesy of Bobby Neel Adams.
Reclining Buddha, Aytuthya Thailand, courtesy of Bobby Neel Adams.

With glory, fortitude, and beauty [the newborn Buddha] shone like the young sun descended upon the earth; when he was gazed at, though of such surpassing brightness, he attracted all eyes like the moon.

Unflurried, with the lotus-sign in high relief, far-striding, set down with a stamp,seven such firm footsteps did he then take,he who was like the constellation of the seven rishis [holy seers].

‘I am born for supreme knowledge, for the welfare of the world,thus this is my last birth,’thus did he of lion gait, gazing at the four quarters, utter a voice full of auspicious meaning.

When he was born, the earth, though fastened down by (Himalaya) the monarch of mountains, shook like a ship tossed by the wind; and from a cloudless sky there fell a shower full of lotuses and water-lilies, and perfumed with sandalwood.

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