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Buddha's First Sermon, India, 11th century

Buddhacarita (T. Sangs rgyas kyi spyod pa; C. Fosuoxing zan; J. Butsushogyōsan; K. Pulsohaeng ch’an 佛所行讚), or Acts of the Buddha, is the title of two early biographies of Gautama Buddha written in the first and second centuries CE.[1][2]

The first text of this title was written in the first century by the monk Sangaraksa. This text, written in a combination of verse and prose, is no longer available in the orginal Sanskrit. A Chinese translation of this text still exits.[1][2]

The second text was written in verse in the style of Indian epic poems by the India writer Aśvaghoṣa in the early second century CE.[3] This version of the Buddhacarita became very popular throughout Asia. "Because of the early date of Aśvaghoṣa’s epic poem, it is of great importance for both the history of Indian Buddhism, as well as the study of classical Indian linguistics and thought."[2]

Ashvagosha's text begins with a description of Gautama Buddha's parents, King Śuddhodana and Queen Maya, and ends with the events occuring shortly after the Buddha's paranirvana.[2] "Based closely on the biographical information in the Pali Tipitaka, Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita is remarkably free from the mythological accretions that surrounded the Buddha at the time, and is widely considered a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature."[1]

Encyclopedia Britannica states: "The author, who lived in northern India in the 1st–2nd century CE, created a loving account of the Buddha’s life and teachings, one that—in contrast to other treatments such as the Mahavastu (“Great Story”) and Lalitavistara (“Full Description of the Play [of the Buddha]”)—is both artistically arranged and restrained in its description of miracles. His work also reflects a vast knowledge of Indian mythology and of pre-Buddhist philosophies, plus a court poet’s interest in love, battle, and statecraft."[4]

The Princeton Dictionary states: "The Buddhacarita has served an important role within the Buddhist tradition itself, as the canonical works do not offer a systematic, chronological account of the Buddha’s life from his birth through his death."[2]

Only the first half of Ashvagosha's text remains intact in Sanskrit, but all 28 chapters are preserved in Chinese and Tibetan translations.[4][2]

The Chinese translation was made in 420 AD by Dharmakṣema.[5] In the 7th or 8th century, a Tibetan version was made which "appears to be much closer to the original Sanskrit than the Chinese".[6][7]

English translations

  • E.B. Cowell, trans. The Buddha-karita of Asvaghosha, Oxford, Clarendon 1894, reprint: New Delhi, 1977. PDF (14,8 MB) (translation from Sanskrit)
  • Samuel Beal, trans. The Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King. Oxford, 1883. (translation from Chinese language) PDF (17,7 MB)
  • E. H. Johnston, trans. The Buddhacarita or Acts of the Buddha. Lahore, 1936. 2 vols. (Cantos 1-14 in Sanskrit and English). Reprint: Delhi, Motilal Barnasidass 1978
  • E. H. Johnston, trans. (1937), "The Buddha's Mission and last Journey: Buddhacarita, xv to xxviii", Acta Orientalia, 15: 26-62, 85-111, 231-292.
  • Patrick Olivelle, trans. Life of the Buddha. Clay Sanskrit Library, 2008. 1 vols. (Cantos 1-14 in Sanskrit and English with summary of the Chinese cantos not available in the Sanskrit)
  • Willemen, Charles, trans. (2009), Buddhacarita: In Praise of Buddha's Acts, Berkeley, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. (translation from Chinese language)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BuddhaNet, Dharma Data: Buddhacarita
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Buddhacarita.
  3. Willemen 2009, p. XIII.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Encyclopedia Britannica, Buddhacarita
  5. University of Oslo, Thesaurus Literaturae Buddhicae: Buddhacarita Taisho Tripitaka T.192
  6. Sa dbaṇ bzaṇ po and Blo gros rgyal po, "Saṅs rgyas kyi spyod pa źes bya ba´i sñan dṅags chen po" (Tibetan translation of Buddhacarita), in Tg - bsTan ’gyur (Tibetan Buddhist canon of secondary literature), Derge edition, skyes rabs ge, 1b1-103b2.
  7. E.B. Cowell, trans. The Buddha Carita or the Life of the Buddha, Oxford, Clarendon 1894, reprint: New Delhi, 1977, p. X (introduction).


External links

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