Oath taken by Lord Buddha before enlightenment

(From the restored text of Buddhacharita, 15th canto, verses 7 -11 in the Tibetan version, verses 10-13 in Charles Willemen’s translation from Chinese version and verses 1209-1213 in Samuel Beal’s translation from Chinese.)

On the way to Sarnath from Bodhgaya after enlightenment Buddha was asked by a sage about his master. Buddha preached him that I have no any master, I am self guided and I am unsurpassed.

There after Buddha says that I am going to Varanasi to enlighten all people who are suffering. Then he narrates his oath taken in past for mankind.

Ashvaghosha in his Sanskrit epic Buddhacharitam has described Buddha’s Oath in this way. Unfortunately, the original portion in Sanskrit is broken in available editions of Buddhachatitam. Only English translations from Chinese and Tibetan sources are now available. Bhavanath Jha has restored this portion on the basis of these available translations in Sanskrit text as follows:

Restored verses by Bhavanath Jha

मया प्रतिज्ञातमिमं हि लोकं निभाल्य दुःखार्णववीचिमग्नम्।

संतारयिष्यामि तटं प्रयातो मुक्तान् विधास्यामि जनान् प्रमुक्तः।।7।।

Mayā pratijñātamimaṁ hi lōkaṁ nibhālya duḥkhārṇavavīcimagnam.

Santārayiṣyāmi taṭaṁ prayātō muktān vidhāsyāmi janān pramuktō..7..

Mayā pratijñātam-imaṁ= There was an oath taken by me,  hi lōkaṁ= to beings nibhālya= after seeing, duḥkhārṇava-vīcimagnam= fallen in the sea waves of sadness.

Santārayiṣyāmi= I will take them out, taṭaṁ prayātō=when I will reach on the shore, muktān vidhāsyāmi= I will make them free,  janān=peoples pramuktaḥ=When I will be free from bondage..7..

प्राप्य श्रियं स्वार्थपरो जगत्यां जनो विजिह्रेति सदानुरक्तः।

उन्मीलिताक्षस्तु धनं विशिष्टं लब्ध्वा वितीर्यं हि जनेषु वेत्ति।।8।।

Prāpya śriyaṁ svārthaparō jagatyāṁ janō vijihrēti sadānuraktaḥ.

Unmīlitākṣastu dhanaṁ viśiṣṭaṁ labdhvā vitīryaṁ hi janēṣu vētti..8.

Prāpya= obtaining,  śriyaṁ= the wealth, svārthaparō=selfish, jagatyāṁ= in the world, janō vijihrēti= fail to act resolutely, sadānuraktaḥ= remaining always attached .

Unmīlitākṣaḥ= whose eyes are open, tu= then, but, dhanaṁ= the wealth viśiṣṭaṁ= special, labdhvā= getting, vitīryaṁ= to be distributed, hi= surely,  janēṣu= to peoples, vētti= knows.

दृढस्थलस्थो यदि पूरमग्नं कुष्णाति नद्याः नहि सोऽस्ति शूरः।

अवाप्तसम्पत्तिरथो दरिद्रान् न धारयेच्चेन्न  हि सोऽस्ति दाता।।9।।

Dr̥ḍhasthalasthō yadi pūramagnaṁ kuṣṇāti nadyāḥ nahi sō̕sti śūraḥ.

Avāptasampattirathō daridrān na dhārayēccēnna hi sō̕sti dātā..9..

Dr̥ḍha-sthala-sthō(ḥ)= a man standing on the solid ground, yadi= if pūramagnaṁ=flowing in the stream, kuṣṇāti=pulls up, nadyāḥ= from the river, nahi= no,  sō̕sti (saḥ-asti)= he is, śūraḥ=a heroic person.

Avāpta-sampattiḥ=he, who possess the wealth, athḥ= then,  daridrān= to needy person, to poverty-stricken,  na= no, dhārayēt=nourishes cēt= if, na=no, hi= merely, saḥ= he, asti= is, dātā= a munificent, a donor.

स्वस्थैर्यथा व्याधियुतो मनुष्यश्चिकित्सितव्यः सुलभोपचारैः।

सन्मार्गयातश्च तथैव योजयेद् गम्येन मार्गेण कुमार्गिणो जनान्।।10।।

Svasthairyathā vyādhiyutō manuṣyaścikitsitavyaḥ sulabhōpacāraiḥ.

Sanmārgayātaśca tathaiva yōjayēd gamyēna mārgēṇa kumārgiṇō janān..10..

Svasthaiḥ= by the healthy man, yathā= as, vyādhiyutḥ= diseased, manuṣyaḥ= person, cikitsitavyaḥ= should be treated, sulabha-upacāraiḥ= with the available resources, With the available treatments, Sanmārgayātaḥ=going on the good path, ca= also,  tathaiva= as well as, like that, yōjayēt=should motivate, gamyēna=Worth going, mārgēṇa=through path, kumārgiṇaḥ=going through the bad way, janān= to people.

यथा प्रदीप्तेन हि दीपकेन घनान्धकारो भवति प्रणष्टः।

प्रदीप्तबुद्धिज्वलने च बुद्धे लोके जनः कामवशो न भूयात्।।11।।

Yathā pradīptēna hi dīpakēna ghanāndhakārō bhavati praṇaṣṭaḥ.

Pradīptabud’dhijvalanē ca bud’dhē lōkē janaḥ kāmavaśō na bhūyāt..11..

Yathā= as for example, pradīptēna= by the lightening,  hi= surely, dīpakēna= by the lamp, ghanāndhakārḥ= the darkness, bhavati=happens, praṇaṣṭaḥ=ends up.

Pradīpta-bud’dhi-jvalanē= When the flame of intelligence grows, ca=also bud’dhē=awakened or an appearance of Lord Buddha, lōkē= in the world, janaḥ=a man,  kāmavaśaḥ= trapped with desire, na= no, bhūyāt= should be.

Translated from the Chinese by Charles Willemen, Numata Center

10. “Indeed, I will propagate the Right Law and rescue suffering beings. Because I have made a great solemn oath in the past, I shall save those who are not yet saved. The result of my oath will be accomplished now. I will fulfill that previous vow.

11. “When one has provided riches for oneself, one is not extolled as a famous righteous person, but if one benefits the whole world, then one is called a great person.

12. “If one does not bring rescue from drowning in the face of danger, why would one be called a valiant person? If he does not cure the sick, how would he be called a good doctor? If he sees someone who is lost but does not show him the way, who would call him a good guide?

13. “When, for instance, a lamp shines in the darkness, it is a natural light for the unwitting. When the Tathāgata lights the lamp of wisdom, there is no feeling of desire.

Translated from Chinese version by Samual Beal

‘But simply to declare the truth; to save men (living things) from pain, and to fulfil my ancient oath, to rescue all not yet delivered. 1209

‘ The fruit of this my oath is ripened now, and I will follow out my ancient vow. Wealth, riches, self all given up, unnamed, I still am named ” Righteous Master.” 1210

‘ And bringing profit to the world (empire), I also have the name “Great Teacher ;” facing sorrows, not swallowed up by them, am I not rightly called Courageous Warrior? 1211

Tf not a healer of diseases, what means the name of Good Physician? seeing the wanderer, not showing him the way, why then should I be called “Good Master-guide?” 1212

‘ Like as the lamp shines in the dark, without a purpose of its own, self-radiant, so burns the lamp of the Tathagata, without the shadow of a personal feeling. 1213

cover of the book Buddhacharita published from Mahavir Mandir prakashan
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