Noble Eight-fold Path of Buddhism explained in Buddhacharita (2nd century)

Buddhacharita by Ashvaghosha

(canto XV, verses 35-37 in Tibetan version and verses 1245-1247 in Chinese version translated by Samuel Beal)

Unfortunately this portion of Buddhist literature is not available in the original Sanskrit. Bhavanath Jha has translated the complete broken part into Sanskrit verse which represents the original taste.

सम्यग्-दृष्टिरविप्रकाशविमलो मार्गः प्रशस्तः सदा

सम्यक-संकल्पयानं विहरति रमणेऽकण्टके सुप्रसन्ने।

सम्यग्-भाषितविश्रमस्थलशतै रम्यः सुगम्यो जनैः

सम्यक्-कर्मान्तकुञ्जैः कुसुमितललितैरुज्ज्वलोऽयं शतैश्च।।35।।

शुद्धामाजीविकाख्यां चरति पथि चरन् भैक्ष्यरूपामहीनां

सम्यग्-व्यायामसैन्यैः प्रकटितमहिमा रक्षितोऽयं सुपन्थाः।

सम्यग्-ध्यानेन गुप्तो दृढतरनगरे सर्वतः कोटगुप्ते

शय्याभिश्चासनैश्चाकलयति बहुधा यत्र सम्यक् समाधिः।।36।।

अयमष्टाङ्गिको मार्गः संसारे परमोत्तमः।

जरा-मरण-रोगेभ्यो मुच्यन्ते येन मानवाः।।37।।

Samyag-dr̥ṣṭiraviprakāśavimalō mārgaḥ praśastaḥ sadā

samyaka-saṅkalpayānaṁ viharati ramaṇē̕kaṇṭakē suprasannē.

Samyag-bhāṣitaviśramasthalaśatai ramyaḥ sugamyō janaiḥ

samyak-karmāntakuñjaiḥ kusumitalalitairujjvalō̕yaṁ śataiśca..35.. Śud’dhāmājīvikākhyāṁ carati pathi caran bhaikṣyarūpāmahīnāṁ

samyag-vyāyāmasain’yaiḥ prakaṭitamahimā rakṣitō̕yaṁ supanthāḥ.

Samyag-dhyānēna guptō dr̥ḍhataranagarē sarvataḥ kōṭaguptē

śayyābhiścāsanaiścākalayati bahudhā yatra samyak samādhiḥ..36..

Ayamaṣṭāṅgikō mārgaḥ sansārē paramōttamaḥ.

Jarā-maraṇa-rōgēbhyō mucyantē yēna mānavāḥ..37..

Right view

Samyag-dr̥ṣṭi-raviprakāśavimalō= clearly visible in the sunlight of Right view, mārgaḥ=the path, praśastaḥ=the excellent, sadā=always In this line, poet Ashvaghosh assumes that the path of Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism is always quite paved. It is always clear and visible. That’s because there is a right vision in this path. This right Vision shines like Sun in this path

Right resolve

samyaka-saṅkalpayānaṁ=The vehicle of Right Resolve, viharati= moves ramaṇē=on the delightful, akaṇṭakē=where there is no thorn, suprasannē=on the pleasant (road)

This is a delightful, thorn less and pleasant way of Noble Eightfold Path on which the vehicle of Right Resolve runs.

Right speech

Samyag-bhāṣita-viśrama-sthala-śatai= where there are hundreds of inns or road houses of Right Speech,  ramyaḥ= delightful, sugamyō= easily walkable, janaiḥ=by people.

Right conduct

samyak-karmānta-kuñjaiḥ= by many arboureds of Right Conduct,  kusumita-lalitaiḥ=beautiful and full of flowers, ujjvalaḥ=by bright, ayaṁ=this, śataiḥ-ca=by hundreds of.

This bright Eight-fold path has hundreds of arboureds, full with flowers and hence it is beautiful.

Right livelihood

Śud’dhāṁ=the pure, ājīvikākhyāṁ= namely the Right livehood, carati=behaves, pathi=on the path, caran=walking, bhaikṣya-rūpāṁ=collecting the benefaction, ahīnāṁ=which is not an inferior work.

Walking on this way a monk collects benefaction which is called namely the right livehood and it is not an inferior work.

Right effort

samyag-vyāyāma-sain’yaiḥ=by the soldiers, prakaṭita=mahimā= Whose eminence is considered, rakṣitaḥ=secured, ayaṁ=this, supanthāḥ=delightful.

This eminent and delightful noble path is secured by soldiers of right effort.

Right mindfulness

Samyag-dhyānēna=by the right meditation, mindfulness, guptaḥ=secured dr̥ḍhatara-nagarē=in the stronger city, sarvataḥ=from all sides, kōṭaguptē=safe under fort.

In this Buddhist noble path right mindfulness acts as a security guard and thus this path is secured from all sides as a city under a fort.

Right Samadhi (‘meditative absorption or union’)

śayyābhiḥ= by sleeping couches, ca=and, āsanaiḥ=by sitting platforms, ca=and, ākalayati=collaborates, bahudhā=by various means, yatra= where, samyak samādhiḥ= right meditation.

In this path right meditative absorption or union is like sleeping couches and resting platforms where one can stay with eternal peace.

Ayaṁ= this aṣṭāṅgikaḥ=eightfold, mārgaḥ=path sansārē=in tha world, paramōttamaḥ= the best, Jarā-maraṇa-rōgēbhyaḥ= from the old age, death and illness,  mucyantē= get rid of, yēna= by which, mānavāḥ=people.

This eightfold path is the most beautiful in this world, whereby people get rid of old age, disease and death.

Here we can see that how Ashvaghosha has described all eight components with their uses in salvation.

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