This passage is from the Buddha-charita, the first complete biography of the 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 Shakyamuni Buddha’s life up to the time of his great awakening. These verses speak of Shakyamuni’s family and the events that surrounded the birth of the historical Buddha. Original spellings and usages from this 1893 translation by Edward B. Cowell have been retained throughout. This installment marks the first in a series of excerpts from The Buddha-Karita or Life of Buddha, reprinted with permission from Cosmo Publications, New Delhi, India.

Buddha Feet Pic
Wat Mahatat, Sukhothai, Thailand, 1993. Photograph by Marcia Lippman.


The Arhat is here saluted, who has no counterpart—who, as bestowing the supreme happiness, surpasses (Brahman) the Creator—who, as driving away darkness, vanquishes the sun—and, as dispelling all burning heat, surpasses the beautiful moon.

There was a city, the dwelling-place of the great saint Kapila, having its sides surrounded by the beauty of a lofty broad table-land as by a line of clouds, and itself, with its high-soaring palaces, immersed in the sky.

By its pure and lofty system of government it, as it were, stole the splendor of the clouds of Mount Kailasa, and while it bore the clouds which came to it through a mistake, it fulfilled the imagination which had led them thither.

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