Soon after the time of Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor of the
third century before the Common Era, India became the theator of
protracted invasions and wars. Vigorous tribes from the North
conquered the region of the upper Panjab and founded several states,
among which the Kingdom of Gandhara became most powerful.
Despoliations, epidemics, and famines visited the valley of the
Ganges, but all these tribulations passed over the religious
institutions without doing them any harm. Kings lost their crowns and
the wealthy their riches, but the monks chanted their hymns in the
selfsame way. Thus the storm breaks down mighty trees, but only bends
the yielding reed. 1
By the virtues, especially the equanimity and thoughtfulness, of
the Buddhist priests, the conquerors in their turn were spiritually
conquered by the conquered, and they embraced the religion of
enlightenment. They recognised the four noble truths taught by the
Tathagata: (1) the prevalence of suffering which is always in evidence
in this world; (2) the origin of suffering as rising from the desire
of selfishness; (3) the possibility of emancipation from suffering by
abandoning all selfish clinging; and (4) the way of salvation from
evil by walking in the noble eightfold path of moral conduct,
consisting in right comprehension, right aspiration, right speech,
right conduct, right living, right endeavor, right discipline, and the
attainment of the right bliss. 2
When the kingdom of Gandharaa had been firmly established, commerce
and trade began to thrive more than ever, while the viharas, or
Buddhist monasteries, continued to be the home of religious exercises,
offering an asylum to those who sought retirement from the turmoil of
the world for the sake of finding peace of soul. 3
It was in one of these viharas in the mountains near Purushaputra,
the present Peshawur, that Charaka, a descendant of the Northern
invaders, had decided to join the brotherhood. He was as yet little
acquainted with the spirit and purpose of the institution; but being
very serious and devoutly religious, the youth had decided, for the
sake of attaining perfect enlightenment, to give up everything dear to
him, his parents, his home, his brilliant prospect of a promising
future, and the love that was secretly budding in his heart. 4
The vihara which Charaka entered was excavated in the solid rock of
an idyllic gorge. A streamlet gurgled by, affording to the hermits
abundance of fresh water, and the monks could easily sustain their
lives by the gifts of the villagers who lived near by, to which they
added the harvest of fruit and vegetables which grew near their cave
dwellings. In the midst of their small cells was a large chaitya, a
hall or church, in which they assembled for daily services, for
sermons, meditations, and other pious exercises. 5
The chaitya, like the cells, was hewn out of the living rock; a row
of massive columns on either side divided the hall into a central nave
and two ailes. 6
The ornaments that covered the faces of the rocky walls, though the
product of home talent, being made by the untrained hands of monk
artists, did not lack a certain refinement and loftiness. The
pictures exhibited scenes from the life of Buddha, his birth, his
deeds, his miracles, illustrations of his parables, his sermons, and
his final entry into Nirvana. 7
A procession of monks, preceded by a leader who swung a censer,
filed in through the large portal of the chaitya. Two by two they
moved along the aisles and solemnly circumambulated the dagoba,
standing at the end of the nave in the apse of the hall, just in the
place where idol worshippers would erect an altar to their gods. It
was in imitation of a tumulus destined to receive some relic of the
reverted teacher, and the genius of the architect had artfully
designed the construction of the cave so that the rays of the sun fell
upon the dagoba and surrounded its mysterious presence with a halo of
light. 8
The monks intoned a solemn chant, and its long-drawn cadences
filled the hall with a spirit of sanctity, impressing the hearers as
though Buddha himself had descended on its notes from his blissful
rest in Nirvana to instruct, to convert, and to gladden his faithful
disciples. 9
The monks chanted a hymn, of which the novice could catch some of
the lines as they were sung; and these were the words that rang in his
ears: 10
"In the mountain hall we are taking our seats,
In solitude calming the mind;
Still are our souls, and in silence prepared
By degrees the truth to find." 11
When they had circumambulated the dagoba, they halted in front of
it where the novice now discovered an image of the Buddha in the
attitude of teaching, and the monks spoke in chorus: 12
"I am anxious to lead a life of purity to the end of my earthly
career when my life will return to the precious trinity of the Buddha,
the Truth and the Brotherhood." 13
Then the chanting began again: 14
"Vast as the sea
Our heart shall be,
And full of compassion and love.
Our thoughts shall soar
High, like the mountain dove. 15

"We anxiously yearn
From the Master to learn,
Who found the path of salvation.
We follow His lead
Who taught us to read
The problem of origination." 16
A venerable old monk who performed the duties of abbot now stepped
forth and asked the assembled brethren whether any one had a
communication to make that deserved the attention of the assemblage,
and after the question had been repeated three times Subhuti, one of
the older monks, said: 17
"There is a young man with us who, having left the world, stayed
with me some time for the sake of instruction and discipline. He is
here and desires to be admitted to the brotherhood." 18
The abbot replied: "Let him come forward." 19
It was Charaka; and when he stepped into the midst of the brethren,
the abbot viewed his tall figure with a kindly, searching glance and
asked: "What is your name and what your desire?" 20
Charaka knelt down and said with clasped hands: "My name is
Charaka. I entreat the Brotherhood for initiation. May the
Brotherhood receive me and raise me up to their height of spiritual
perfection. Have compassion on me, revered sirs, and grant my
request." 21
The abbot then asked the supplicant a series of questions as
prescribed in the regulations of the brotherhood: whether he was free
from contagious disease, whether he was a human being, a man, and of
age, whether his own master and not a slave nor in the king's service;
whether unencumbered with debts and whose disciple he was. 22
When all the questions had been answered satisfactorily, the abbot
submitted the case to the brotherhood, saying: "Reverend sirs, the
Brotherhood may hear me. This man Charaka, a disciple of the
venerable Subhuti, desires to receive the ordination. He is free from
all obstacles to ordination. He has an alms-bowl and a yellow robe,
and entreats the Brotherhood for ordination, with the reverent brother
Subhuti as his teacher. Let those among the venerable brethren who
are in favor of granting the ordination be silent. Let those who are
opposed to it step forth and speak." 23
These words were three times repeated, and as there was no
dissenting voice, the abbot declared with solemnity: "The Brotherhood
indicates by its silence that it grants to Charaka the ordination,
with the reverend brother Subhuti as his teacher." 24
Having completed the ceremony and having recited the rules of the
order including the four great prohibitions: that an ordained monk
must abstain from carnal indulgence, from theft of any kind, from
killing even the meanest creature, and from boasts of miraculous
powers; the abbot requested the novice to pronounce the refuge
formula, which Charaka repeated three times in a clear and ringing
voice. Then the congregation again intoned a chant, and, having
circumambulated the dagoba, left the assembly hall, marching in solemn
procession along the aisles, each brother thereupon betaking himself
in his cell. 25

Charaka the novice lived with his brethren in peace, and his
senior, the venerable Subhuti, was proud of his learned disciple, for
he was patient, docile, modest, earnest, and intelligent, and proved
all these good qualities by an abnormally rapid progress. He learned
the Sutras perfectly and soon knew them better than his teacher. He
had a sonorous voice, and it was a pleasure to hear him recite the
sacred formulas or chant the verses proclaiming the glorious doctrine
of the Blessed One. To all appearances the Brotherhood had made a
good acquisition; but if the venerable Subhuti could have looked into
the heart of Charaka he would have beheld a different state of things,
for the soul of the novice was full of patience, dissatisfaction, and
excitement. The life of a monk was so different from what he had
expected and his dearest hopes found no fulfilment. 1
Charaka had learned many beautiful sentiments from the mouth of his
teacher; some of them fascinated him by the melodious intonation of
their rhythm, some by the philosophical depth of their meaning, some
by their truth and lofty morality. How delighted was he with the
lines (Dhammapada 21): 2
"Earnestness leads to the State Immortal;
Thoughtlessness is dreary Yama's portal.
Those who earnest are will never die,
While the thoughtless in death's clutches lie." 3
How powerfully was he affected by the following stanza
(Dhammapada 223): 4
"With goodness meet an evil deed,
With lovingkindness conquer wrath,
With generousity quench greed,
And lies, by walking in truth's path." 5
But sometimes he was startled and had difficulty in understanding
the sense. He wanted peace, not tranquilisation; he wanted Nirvana,
its bliss, and its fulness, not extinction. And yet sometimes it
seemed as if the absolute obliteration of his activity were expected
of him (Dhammapada 134): 6
"Only if like a broken gong
Thou utterest no sound:
Then hast thou reached Nirvana,
And the end of strife hast found." 7
Yet Charaka said to himself: "It is only the boisterous noise that
must be suppressed, not work; only evil intention, not life itself;
the weeds, not the wheat." For it is said (Dhammapada 313): 8
"What should be done, ye do it,
Nor let pass by the day:
With vigor do your duty,
And do it while you may." 9
Not life, but error and vice, must be attacked. Not existence is
evil, but vanity, anger, and sloth (Dhammapada 258,240): 10
"As fields are damaged by a bane,
So 'tis conceit destroys the vain.
As places are burned by fire,
The angry perish in their fire.
And as strong iron is gnawed by rust,
So fools are wrecked through sloth and lust." 11
What ambition was beaming in the eyes of Charaka! The venerable
Subhuti thought, there is but one danger for this noble novice: it is
this, that the brethren may discover his brightness and spoil him by
flattery. Instead of freeing himself from the fetters of the world,
he may be entangled in the meshes of a spriritual vanity, which, being
more subtle, is more perilous than the lust of the world and of its
possessions. Then he recited to Charaka the lines (Dhammapada 254):12
"No path anywhere
Leadeth through the air.
The multitude delights
In sacrificial rites.
Throughout the world
Ambition is unfurled;
But from all vanity
Tathagatas are free." 13
Charaka knew that there were fools among men considered saints, who
claimed to walk through the air. He was not credulous, but when told
that to attempt the performance of supernatural deeds was vanity, his
ambition revolted against the idea of setting limits to human
invention. Man might find paths through the air as well as over
water; and he submitted to the sentiment only because he regarded it
as a form of discipline by which he would learn to rise higher. So he
suppressed his ambition, thinking that if he only abodehis time he
would find himself richly rewarded by the acquisition of spiritual
powers which would be a blessing forever, an imperishable treasure
that could not be lost by the accidents of life and would not share
the doom of compounds which in due time must be dissolved again. He
was yearning for life, not for death, for a fulness of melody and a
wreath of harmony, not for the stillness of the broken gong. He had
seen the world and he knew life in all its phases. He disdained loud
noise and coarse enjoyments but he had not left his home and wandered
into homelessness to find the silence of the tomb. A chill came over
him, and he shrank from the ideal of sainthood as though it were the
path to mental suicide. "No, no!" he groaned, "I am not made to be a
monk. Either I am too sinful for a holy life, or the holiness of the
cloister is not the path of salvation." 14


Buddhism had gained ascendency in India without exterminating the
more ancient creeds, and there were many devoutly religious people who
had only a vague notion of the abstract in which it stood to other
forms of faith. 1
The spiritual atmosphere in which Charaka had grown up consisted of
a mixture of all the thoughts, influences, and opinions then
entertained in India; but while the northern gods that had been
worshiped by the ancestors of the invaders in their former homes had
faded from the mental vision of the present generation, the ancient
deities of India had not gained full recognition. Vishnu, Shiva, and
Indra appeared to them as the patrons of conquered races and were
therefore deemed of inferior power. Among the better educated Hindu
people philosophical ideas were spreading and Brahma was revered as
the Supreme Being, the Great, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, as the
All-Consciousness and All-Perfection, the Creator, the Fashioner, the
Ruler of the Universe, and the All-Father of all beings. With this
God-idea of an all embracing personal deity Charaka had become
familiar almost from childhood and he was greatly astonished not to
hear a word about God, the Lord, or Brahma, in his religious
instructions. 2
Buddha was spoken of as the teacher of gods and men; he was
worshiped with a reverence which was peculiar to him; but the belief
in the ancient gods was not disturbed. Their existence was neither
denied nor affirmed. 3
So long as he was unacquainted with his new surroundings, Charaka
did not dare to ask questions, but when he began to know his kind-
hearted elder Subhuti and some others of the monks, he grew more
assured, and one day while several brothers were seated at the portico
of the assembly hall, he ventured to inquire as to the doctrine
concerning God. 4
Life is taken seriously in a Buddhist monastery and the tone of
conversation is always religious and considerate. Nevertheless there
were never missing among the brethren men of a lighter temper, who saw
the humor of things, who could smile and, smiling, point out the
comical features of life so as to make their fellow brethren smile
too, for real laughter was seldom, or never, heard in the precincts of
the cloister. We find frequent traces of this humor in the wall
paintings as well as the legends of saints, part of which are
preserved even today. Now when Charaka spoke of God, one of the
brethren, Kevaddha by name, a healthy looking man of medium size and
of radiant face, drew near and asked, "What do you mean, Indra, the
thunderer, the soma-intoxicated braggart-hero and ruler of the second
heaven, whom the people call Sakra or Vasava, or do you mean Shiva,
the powerful and terrible One, decked with a necklace of skulls, the
god full of awe and majesty? Perhaps you mean Vishnu, in any of his
avatars, as a fish or wild boar or a white horse?" 5
Charaka shook his head, and Kevaddha continued: "Maybe you mean
Krishna, the avatar of love, he who danced with all the shepherdesses
at once, finding an appropriate incarnation in their favorite swains,
while each girl imagined that she alone held the god in her arms?" 6
"My question refers to no one of the gods," replied the novice,
"but to God," and the emphasis with which he marked the difference
showed that he felt not like joking on a problem which was of grave
importance to him. 7
"Ah, I see!" exclaimed Kevaddha. His lip curled with sarcasm and
there was a twinkle of triumph in his eye, for the topic under
discussion reminded him of a contest which he had had with a Brahman
priest in which his antagonist had been completely worsted by his
superior skill in pointing out the weak side of the proposition and
holding it up to ridicule. "Ah, I see!" he exclaimed, "you do not
mean any of the several gods, but god in general. You are like the
man who sent his servant to market to buy fruit and when the latter
returned with bananas, mangoes, grapes, and an assortment of other
fruit, he upbraided him, saying: 'I do not want bananas, nor mangoes,
nor grapes, nor pears, nor prunes, nor apples, nor pomegranates, I
want fruit! Fruit I want, fruit pure and undefiled, not a particular
fruit, but fruit in general!'" 8
Said Charaka: "Are you a wrangler, famous in the art of dialects
and do you know not the difference between God and the gods? I love
God but I hate the gods!" 9
"Is it possible," cried Kevaddha with a sarcastic chuckle, "you
hate the gods and you love God? Can you hate all the sinle men, monks
and laymen, traders, warriors, kings, noblemen, Brahmans, Kshatryas,
and Shudras, and love man in general? How is that you can hate the
gods and love God? Does not the general include the particular?" 10
"Be so good, reverend sir," answered the novice, who began to chafe
under the attacks of the brisk monk, "to understand what I mean. The
world in which we live is a world of order, and we know that there are
laws to which we must submit. When I speak of God I mean him who made
us, the Omnipotent Creator of the Universe, the Father of all Beings,
the Standard of all Perfection, the Eternal Law of life." 11
"Well, well," replied Kevaddha,who though boisterous was at the
bottom of his heart good-natured. "I do not mean to offend. I try to
drive a truth home to you in the guise of fun. The truth is serious,
though my mode of expression may be humorous. I understand now that
you are devoted to the great All-God, Brahma, as the Brahmans call
him, the Lord, Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Bud did you ever
consider two things, first that such an All-God conceived as a being
that has name and form is the product of our own imagination as much
as are all other deities of the people; and secondly, if Brahma were
as real as you are and I am, he would be of no avail? Every one must
find the path of salvation himself, and Brahma's wisdom is not your
wisdom. Nor can Brahma who resides in the Brahma heaven teach you
anything." 12
Charaka did not conceal his dissatifaction with Kevaddha's notion
of God and said: "The mere idea that there is a God gives me strength.
He way be directly unapproachable or may surround us as the air or as
the ether which penetrates our bodies. He may be different from what
we surmise him to be; but he must exist as the cause of all that is
good, and wise, and true, and beautiful. How shall I, in my endeavors
to seek the truth, suceed if there be no eternal standard of truth?"13
"Yes, I know," replied Kevaddha with undisguised condescension; "It
will help a youth who pursues an ideal to think of it as a being, as a
god, as the great god, as the greatest god of all. Children need toys
and the immature need gods. Your case reminds me of a story which was
told me when I in my younger years went out not unlike you in search
of truth." 14
"Tell us the story!" exclaimed one of the younger brethren, and
Kevaddha said: "If I were sure not to hurt the feelings of our young
friend, the novice, I should be glad to tell the story. But seeing
that he is a worshiper of Brahma, I had better let the matter drop!"15
Charaka answered: "I am not a worshiper of Brahma, unless you
understand by Brahma the First Cause of the All, the ultimate reason
of existence, the Supreme Being, the Perceiver of all things, the
Controller, the Lord, the Maker, the Fashioner, the Chief, the Victor,
the Ruler, the Father of all beings who ever have been and are to be!
If your story be instructive I am anxious to hear it myself, even
though it should criticise my belief." 16
All further discussions ceased when Kevaddha showed his readiness
to tell the story. 17


There was a priest in Benares, a man of Brahman cast, learned in
all the wisdom of the Vedas, not of the common type of priests but an
honest searcher after truth. He longed for peace of heart and was
anxious to reach Nirvana; yet he could not understand how it was
possible in the flesh to attain perfect tranquillity, for life is
restless and in none of the four states of aggregation can that
calmness be found which is the condition of the blissful state. So,
this priest thought to himself: 'Before I can make any progress, I
must solve the question, Where do the four states of aggregation: the
solid state, the watery state, the fiery state, and the state of air,
utterly cease?' 1
"Having prepared his mind, the priest entered into a trance in
which the path to the gods became revealed to him, and he drew near to
where the four great kings of the gods were. And having drawn near,
he addressed the four great kings as follows: 'My friends, where do
the four states of aggregation: the solid state, the watery state, the
fiery state, and the state of air, utterly cease?' When he had thus
spoken, the four great kings answered and said: 'We gods, O priest, do
not know where the four states of aggregation utterly cease. However,
O priest, there are the gods of the higher heavens, who are more
glorious and more excellent than we. They would know where the four
states of aggregation utterly cease.' 2
"When the four great kings had thus spoken the priest visited the
gods of the higher heavens and approached there ruler, Ishvara. He
propounded the same question and received the same answer. Ishvara,
the Lord, advised the priest to go to Yama. 'He is powerful and has
charge over the souls of the dead. He is apt to be versed in problems
that are profound and recondite and abstruse and occult. Go to Yama;
he may know where the four states of aggregation utterly cease.' 3
"The priest acted upon Ishvara's advice, and went to Yama, but the
result was the same. Yama sent the priest to the satisfied gods,
whose chief ruler is the Great Satisfied One. 'They are the gods who
are pleased with Whatever is. They are the gods of serenity and
contentment. If there is any one who can answer your question, they
will be able to tell you where the four states of aggregation utterly
cease.' 4
"The priest went to the heaven of the satisfied gods, but here too
he was disappointed. Their ruler, th Great Satisfied One, said: 'I, O
priest, do not know where these four states of aggregation, the solid
state, the watery state, the fiery state, and the state of air,
utterly cease. However, O priest, there are the gods of the retinue
of Brahma, who are more glorious and more excellent than I. They
would know where these four states of aggregation utterly cease.' 5
Then, this same priest entered again upon a state of trance, in
which his thoughts found the way to the Brahma world. There the
priest drew near to where the gods of the retinue of Brahma were, and
having drawn near, he spake to the gods of the retinue of Brahma as
follows: 'My friends, where do these four states of aggregation, the
solid state, the watery state, the fiery state, and the state of air,
utterly cease?' 6
"When he had thus spoken, the gods of the retinue of Brahma
answering spake as follows: 'We, O priest, cannot answer your
question. However, there is Brahma, the great Brahma, the First Cause
of the All, the Supreme Being, the All-Perfection, the All-Perceiving
One, the Controller, the Lord of All, the Creator, the Fashioner, the
Chief, the Victor, the Ruler, the All-Father, he who is more glorious,
more excellent, than all celestial beings, he will know where the four
states of aggregation, the solid state, the watery state, the fiery
state, and the state of air, do uttery cease.' 7
"Said the priest: 'But where, my friends, is the great Brahma at
the present moment?' And the gods answered: 'We do not know, O
priest, where the great Brahma is, or in what direction the great
Brahma can be found. But inasmuch, O priest, as he is omnipresent,
you will see signs and notice a radiance and the appearance of an
effulgence, and then Brahma will appear. This is the previous sign of
the appearance of Brahma, that a radiance is noticed, or an effulgence
appears.' 8
"The priest, having invoked Brahma's appearance with due reverence
and according to the rules of the Vedas, in a short time Brahma
appeared. Then the priest drew near to where Brahma was, and having
drawn near, he spake to Brahma as follows: 'My friend, where do the
four states of aggregation, the solid state, the watery state, the
fiery state, and the state of air, utterly cease?' 9
"When he had thus spoken, the great Brahma opened his mouth and
spake as follows: 'I, O priest, am Brahma, the great Brahma, the
Supreme Being, the All-Perfection, the All-Perceiving One, the
Controller, the Lord of All, the Creator, the Fashioner, the Chief,
the Victor, the Ruler, the All-Father.' 10
"A second time the priest asked his question, and the great Brahma
game him the same answer, saying: 'I, O priest, am Brahma, the great
Brahma, the Supreme Being, the All-Perfection;' and he did not cease
until he had enumerated all the titles applied to him. 11
"Having patiently listened to Brahma, the priest repeated his
question a third time, and added: 'I am not asking you, my friend, Are
you Brahma, the great Brahma, the Supreme Being, the All-Perfection,
the All-Perceiver, the All-Father, and whatever titles and
accomplishments you may have in addition; but this, my friend, is what
I ask you: 'Where do the four states aggregation, the solid state, the
watery state, the fiery state, and the state of air, utterly cease?'12
"The great Brahma remained unmoved, and answered a third time,
saying: 'I, O priest, am Brahma, the great Brahma, the Supreme Being,
the All-Perfection, the All-Perceiver,' enumerating again all the
titles applied to him. 13
"Now the priest rose and said: 'Are you truly a living being, or an
automation, that you can do nothing but repeat a string of words?' 14
"And now the great Brahma rose from his seat and approached the
priest, and leading him aside to a place where he could not be
overheard by any of the gods, spake to him as follows: 'The gods of my
suite and all the worshipers of the world that honor me with sacrifice
and adoration, believe that Brahma sees all things, knows all things,
has penetrated all things; therefore, O priest, I answered you as I
did in the presence of the gods. But I will tell you, O priest, in
confidence, that I do not know where the four states of aggregation,
the solid state, the watery state, the fiery state, and the state of
air, utterly cease. It was a mistake, O priest, that you left the
earth where the Blessed One resides, and came up to heaven in quest of
an answer which cannot be given you here. Turn back, O priest, and
having drawn near to the Blessed One, the Enlightened Buddha, ask him
your question, and as the Blessed One shall explain it to you, so
believe.' 15
"Thereupon the priest, as quickly as a strong man might stretch out
his bent arm, disappeared from the Brahma heaven and appeared before
the Blessed One; and he greeted the Blessed One and sat down
respectfully at one side, and spake to the Blessed One as follows:
'Reverend Sir, where do the four states of aggregation, the solid
state, the watery state, the fiery state, and the state of air,
utterly cease?' 16
"When he had thus spoken the Blessed One answered as follows: 'Once
upon a time, O priest, some sea-faring traders had a land-sighting
bird when they sailed out into the sea; and when the ship was in mid-
ocean they set free that land-sighting bird. This bird flies in an
easterly direction, in a southerly direction, in a westerly direction,
and in a northerly direction, and to the intermediate quarters, and if
it sees land anywhere it flies thither, but if it does not see land it
returns to the ship. In exactly the same way, O priest, when you had
searched as far as the Brahma world and found no answer to your
question you returned to the place whence you came. The question, O
priest, ought never to have been put thus: Where do these four states
of aggregation cease? The question ought to be as follows: 17
"Oh! Where can water, where can wind,
Where fire and earth no footing find?
Where disappear all mine and thine,
Good, bad, long, short, and coarse and fine,
To find in nothingness release?" 18
"'The answer, however, is this: 19
"'Tis in the realm of radiance bright,
Invisible, eternal light,
And infinite, a state of mind,
There water, earth, and fire, and wind,
And elements of any kind,
Will nevermore a footing find;
There disappear all mine and thine,
Good, bad, long, short, and coarse, and fine,
There too will name and form both cease,
To find in nothingness release." 20
"Then the priest understood that the world of matter is restless
and remains restless, but peace of heart is a condition of mind which
must be acquired by self-discipline, by wisdom, by devotion. The gods
cannot help; nor even can Brahma himself, the Great Brahma, the
Supreme Being, the Lord and Creator. Sacrifice is useless and prayer
and worship are of no avail. But if we desire to attain the highest
state of bliss, which is Nirvana, we must follow the Blessed One, the
Teacher of gods and men; and like him we must by our own effort become
lamps unto ourselves and resolutely walk upon the noble eightfold
path." 21


The young novice spent his days in study and his nights in doubt.
He followed with interest the recitations of his instructor on the
philosophy of the Enlightened One; he enjoyed the birthstories of
Bodhisattva and the parables of the master with their moral
applications, but when he retired in the evening or was otherwise left
to his own thoughts he began to ponder on the uselessness of the
hermit's life and longed to return to the world with its temptations
and struggles, its victories and defeats, its pleasures and pains, its
hopes and fears. He enjoyed the solitude of the forest, but he began
to think that the restlessness of the world could offer him more peace
of mind that the inactivity of a monkish life. 1
When Charaka had familiarised himself with all the Sutras and wise
sayings which were known to the brethren of the monastery, the time
began to hang heavy on his hands, and he felt that the religious
discourses were becoming tedious. 2
Weeks elapsed, and Charaka despaired of either becoming accustomed
to monkish life or of understanding the deeper meaning of their
renunciation of the world, and his conscience began to trouble him;
for the more the elder brethren respected him for his knowledge and
gentleness, and the more they praised him, the less worthy he deemed
himself of their recognition. 3
The day of confession approached again. He had spent the hours in
fasting and self-discipline, but all this availed nothing. He was
weary and felt a sadness of heart beyond description. 4
In the evening all the brethren were gathered together in the
chaitya, the large hall where they held their devotional meetings.
The aisles lay in mystic darkness, and the pictures on the heavy
columns and on the ceiling were half concealed. They appeared and
disappeared from time to time in the flicker of the torches that were
employed to light the room. The monks sat in silent expectation,
their faces showing a quietude and calmness which proved that they
were unconcerned about their own fate, ready to live or to die, as
their doom might be, only bent on the aim of reaching Nirvana. 5
The senior monk arose and addressed the assembly. "Reverend sirs,"
he said, "let the order hear me. Today is full moon, and the day of
the unburdening of our hearts. If the order is ready, let the order
consecrate this day to the recital of the confession. This is our
first duty, and so let us listen to the declaration of purity." 6
The brethren responded, saying: "We are here to listen and will
consider the questions punctiliously." 7
The speaker continued: "Whoever has committed a transgression, let
him speak, those who are free from the consciousness of guilt, let
them be silent." 8
At this moment a tall figure rose slowly and hesitatingly from the
ground at the further end of the hall. He did not speak but stood
there quietly, towering for some time in the dusky recess between two
pillars as though he were the apparition of a guilty conscience. The
presiding brother at last broke the silence and addressed the
brethren, saying: "A monk who has committed a fault, and remembers it,
if he endeavors to be pure, should confess his fault. When a fault is
confessed it will lie lightly upon him." 9
Still the shadowy figure stood motionless, which seemed to
increase the gloom in the hall. 10
"One of the brethren has risen, indicating thereby that he desires
to speak," continued the abbot. "A monk who does not confess a fault
after the question has been put three times is guilty of an
intentional lie, and the Blessed One teaches that an intentional lie
cuts a man off from sanctification." 11
The gloomy figure now lifted his head and with suppressed emotion
began to speak. "Venerable father," he said, "and ye, reverend sirs,
may I speak out and unburden my heart?" The voice was that of the
novice, and a slight commotion passed through the assemblage. Having
been encouraged to speak freely and without reserve, Charaka began: 12
"Venerable father, and ye, reverend sirs: I feel guilty of having
infringed on one of the great prohibitions. I am as a palm tree, the
top of which has been destroyed. I am broken in spirit and full of
contrition. I am anxious to be a disciple of the Shakya-Muni, but I
am not worthy to be a monk, I never have been and I never shall be."
Here his voice faltered, and he sobbed like a child. 13
The brethren were horror stricken; they thought at once that the
youth was contaminated by some secret crime; he was too young to be
free from passion, too beautiful to be beyond temptation, too quick-
witted not to be ambitious. True, they loved him, but they felt now
that their affection for him was a danger, and there was no one in the
assembly who did not feel the youth's self-accusation as partly
directed against himself. But the abbot over-came the sentiment that
arose so quickly, and encouraged the penitent brother to make a full
confession. "Do not despair," he said, "thou art young; it is natural
that thy heart should still cherish dreams of love, and that alluring
reminiscences should still haunt thy mind." 14
"I entered the brotherhood with false hopes and wrong aspirations,"
replied the novice. "I am longing for wisdom and supernatural powers;
I am ambitious to do and to dare, and I hoped to acquire a deeper
knowledge through self-discipline and holiness. I am free from any
actual transgression, but my holiness is mockery; my piety is not
genuine; I am a hypocrite and I find that I am belying you, venerable
father, and all the monks of this venerable community. But it
grieveth me most that I am false to myself; I am not worthy to wear
the yellow robe." 15
"Thou art not expected to be perfect," replied the abbot, "thou art
walking on the path, and hast not as yet reached the goal. Thy fault
is impatience with thyself and not hypocrisy." 16
"Do not palliate my fault, venerable father," said Charaka. "There
is something wrong in my heart and in my mind. If I am not a
hypocrite, then I am a heretic; and a heretic walks on the wrong road
in the wrong direction, and can never reach the goal. Do not
extenuate, do not qualify and mitigate my faults, for I feel their
grievousness and am anxious to be led out of the darkness into the
light. I long for life and the unfoldment of life. I want to
comprehend the deepest truths; I want to know and to taste the highest
bliss; I want to accomplish the greatest deeds." 17
"Then thou art worldly; thou longest for power, for fame, for
honor, for pleasures," suggested the abbot inquiringly; "thou art not
yet free from the illusion of selfhood. It is not the truth, then,
that thou wantest, but thy-self, to be an owner of the truth; it is
self-enhancement, not service; vanity, not helpfulness." 18
"That my be, reverend father," replied the novice; "thy wisdom
shall judge me; though I do not feel myself burdened by selfishness.
No, I do not love myself. I would gladly sacrifice myself for any
noble cause, for truth, for justice, for procuring bliss for others.
Nor do I crave for worldly pleasures, but I do not feel any need of
shirking them. Pleasures like pains are the stuff that life is made
of, and I do not hate life. I enjoy the unfoldment of life with all
its aspirations, not for my sake, but for life's sake. I do not love
myself, I love God. That is my fault, and that is the root from which
grow all my errors, heresies, hypocrisies, and the false position in
which I now am." 19
The good abbot did not know what to say. He looked at the poor
novice and pitied him for his pangs of conscience. Every one present
felt that the man suffered, that there was something wrong with him;
but no one could exactly say what it was. His ambition was not sinful
but noble. And that he loved God was certainly not a crime. At last
the abbot addressed Subhuti, Charaka's senior and teacher, and asked
him: "Have you, reverend brother, noticed in this novice's behavior or
views anything strange or exceptional?" 20
Subhuti replied that he had not. 21
The abbot continued to inquire about Charaka's previous religious
relations and the significance of his love of God. 22
"I do not know, reverend sir," was the elder monk's answer. "He is
not a Brahman, but a descendant of a noble family of the northern
conquerors that came to India and founded the kingdom of Gandhara.
Yet he knows Brahman writings and is familiar with the philosophy of
the Yavanas (Greeks) of the distant West. I discoursed with him and
understand that by God he means all that is right and good and true in
the world and without whom there can be no enlightenment." 23
"Very well," proclaimed the abbot, "there is no sin in loving God,
for what you describe as God is our Lord Shakyamuni, the Enlightened
One, the Buddha, the Tathagata;" but he added not without a suggestion
of reproof: "You might dignify the Lord Buddha with a higher title
than God. Gods, if they exist, are not Buddha's equals. When
Bodhisattva was a child, the gods prostrated themselves before him,
for they recognised the Tathagata's superiority even before he had
attained to complete Buddhahood. The divinity of the gods is less
than the noble life of a Bodhisattva." 24
Having thus discussed the case of the novice Charaka, the abbot
addressed himself to the Brotherhood, asking the reverend sirs what
they would deem right in the present case. Was the brother at all
guilty of the fault of which he accused himself and if so what should
he do to restore his good standing and set himself aright in the
Brotherhood? 25
Then Subhuti arose and said: "Charaka is a man of deep
comprehension and of an earnest temper. The difficulty which he
encounters is not for us to judge him or to advise him about. But
there is a philosopher living in the kingdom of Madadha, by the name
of Asvaghosha. If there is any one in the world that can set an
erring brother right, it is Asvaghosha, whose wisdom is so great that
since Buddha entered Nirvana there has been no man on earth who might
have surpassed him either in knowledge or judgement." So Subhuti
proposed to write a letter of introduction to Asvaghosha commending
the brother Charaka to his care and suggesting to him to dispel his
doubts and to establish him again firmly in the faith in which the
truth shines forth more brilliantly than in any other religion. 26
The abbot agreed with Subhuti and the general opinion among the
brethren was in favor of sending Charaka to the kingdom of Magadha to
the philosopher Asvaghosha to have his doubts dispelled and his heart
established again in the faith of Buddha, the Blessed One, the teacher
of truth. 27
Before they could carry out their plan the session was interrupted
by a messenger from the royal court of Gandhara, who inquired for a
novice by the name of Charaka, a man well versed in medicine and other
learned arts. A dreadful epidemic had spread in the country, and the
old king had died while two of his sons were afflicted with the
disease and now lay at the point of death. The oldest son and heir to
the throne was in the field defending his country against the
Parthians, and some mountaineers of the East, nominally subject to the
kingdom of Magadha but practically independent had utilised the
opportunity afforded by these circumstances to descend into the
fertile valleys of Gandhara and to pillage the country. 28
The regard in which Charaka had been held in the Brotherhood during
his novitiate had not suffered through his confession and was even
heightened. It had been known in the cloister that the young novice
was of a noble family, but he had made nothing of it and so the
intimate connection with the royal family of the country created an
uncommon sensation among his venerable brethren. Now, a special awe
attached to his person since it was known that the young king knew of
Charaka, and needing his wisdom, sent a special messenger to call him
back to the capital. 29
In spite of the interruption the ceremony of confession was
continued and closed in the traditional way; all the questions
regarding transgressions that might have been committed were asked and
in some cases sins were punctiliously reported by those who felt a
need of unburdening their conscience. Penances were imposed which
were willingly and submissively assumed. When everything had been
attended to, the abbot turned again to Charaka saying, "If you had
concealed your secret longings, you would have been guilty of
hypocrisy, but now since you have openly laid bare the state of your
mind, there is no longer any falsehood in you. Therefore I find no
fault with your conduct; should you find that you cannot remain a
monk, you must know that there is no law that obliges you to remain in
the Brotherhood against your will." 30
The abbot then granted Charaka permission to obey the King's call,
saying, "You are free to leave the order in peace and goodwill, but I
enjoin you to make a vow that you will not leave your doubts
unsettled, but that as soon as you have attended to the pressing
duties which will engage your attention at the capital you will make a
pilgrimage to the philosopher Asvaghosha, who lives in the kingdom of
Magadha. He will be a better adviser than I, and he shall decide
whether or not you are fit to be a monk of our Lord the Buddha." 31


As the night was far advanced, the royal messenger allowed his
horses a short rest in the Vihara, and set out with Charaka at an
early hour the following morning. The two travelers could not,
however, make rapid progress, for the atmosphere was murky, and the
fogs of the rainy season obscured the way. They passed a picket of
Gandhara soldiers who were on the lookout for the hostile
mountaineers. The mounted messenger showed them his passport, and the
two men reached the capital only when the shades of evening were
setling upon the valley. The gates were carefully guarded by armed
men. The sentinel led the two horsemen to the officer at the gate,
who seemed satisfied with the report that Charaka had nowhere
encountered enemies; but the home news was very bad, for one of the
princes had died and Chandana (commonly called Kanishka), the third
and youngest son of the king, was thought to be critically ill. 1
The night was darker than usual, and the towm made a gloomy
impression. The inhabitants were restless and seemed to be prepared
for a dire calamity. 2
Charaka was at once conducted to the royal palace. He passed
through a line of long streets which seemed narrow and dismal. The
people whom they met on their way, being wrapped in a veil of mist,
resembled even at a short distance dim dusky specters, like guilty
ghosts condemned for some crime to haunt the scene of their former
lives. At last they reached the palace, and Charaka was ushered into
the dimly lighted bedroom of Prince Kanishka. Charaka stood
motionless and watched the heavy breathing of the patient. He then
put his hand gently upon the feverish forehead and in a low voice
demanded water to cool the burning temples of the sick man. Turning
to the attendants, he met the questioning eye of a tall and beautiful
woman, an almost imperious figure. He knew her well; it was Princess
Kamalavati, the king's daughter and a younger half-sister of the
prince. 3
"His condition is very bad," whispered Charaka in reply to the
unuttered question that was written in her face, "but not yet
hopeless. Where are the nurses who assist you in ministering unto the
patient?" 4
Two female attendants appeared, and the physician withdrew with
them into an adjoining room where he listened to their reports. "The
king and his second son have died of the same disease, and the
situation is very critical," said Charaka; "but we may avoid the
mistakes made in the former cases and adjust the diet strictly to the
condition of the patient." 5
Charaka and Kanishka were of the same age. They had for some time
been educated together and were intimate friends. But when the prince
joined the royal army, Charaka studied the sciences under the
direction of Jivaka, the late court physician of Gandhara, and knowing
how highly the latter had praised the young man as his best disciple,
the prince had unbounded confidence in the medical skill of his
boyhood companion. He had suggested calling him when he father, the
king, fell sick, but his advice had remained unheeded, and now being
himself ill, he was impatient to have the benefit of his friend's
assistance. 6
Charaka gave his instructions to the princess and the other
attendants and then sat down quietly by the bedside of the patient.
When Kanishka awoke from his restless slumber, he extended his hand
and tried to speak, but the physician hushed him, saying: "Keep quiet,
and your life will be saved." 7
"I will be quiet," whispered Kanishka, not without great effort,
"but save my life, for the sake of my country, not for my own sake."
After a pause he continued: "Tell my sister to call Matura, our brave
and faithful Matura, to my bedside." 8
Matura, the scion of a noble Gandhara family, had served his
country on several occasions and was at present at the capital. He
came and waited patiently till Charaka gave him permission to see the
patient. 9
In this interview the prince explained to Matura the political
situation since his father's death. His royal brother, now in the
field against the Parthians, was at present the legitimate king.
"During his absence," said Kanishka, "the duty devolves on me, as the
vice-gerent of the crown, to keep the mountaineers out of the kingdom,
and I call upon you to serve me as a chancellor in this critical
situation. Raise troops to expel the marauders, but at the same time
exhaust diplomatic methods by appealing to the honor and dignity of
the kingdom of Magadha of which these robber tribes are nominal
subjects." 10
Thus Matura took charge of state affairs and Charaka and Kamalavati
united in attending to the treatment of the sick prince. They had
weary nights and hours of deep despondency when they despaired of the
recovery of their beloved patient, but the crisis came and Kanishka
survived it. He regained strength, first slowly, very slowly, then
more rapidly, until he felt that he was past all danger. 11
The rainy season had given the people of Gandhara a respite from
the suffering caused by the hostilities of their enemies. The king,
Kanishka's elder brother, continued to wage war against the Parthians
and concentrated his forces for striking a decisive blow. But while
the best troops of the country had thus still to be employed against a
formidable foe, the mountaineers renewed their raids, and the king of
Magadha, too weak to interfere with his stubborn vassals, pleaded
their cause declaring that they had grievances against the kingdom of
Gandhara and could therefore not be restrained. The prince
accordingly declared war on the kingdom of Magadha. He raised an
army, and the young men of the peasantry, who had suffered much from
this state of unrest, gladly allowed themselves to be enlisted. 12


During the preparations for war against Magadha there came tidings
from the Parthian frontier that the troops of Gandhara had gained a
decisive victory which, however, was dearly bought, for the king
himself who had been foremost among the combatants, died a glorious
death on the field of battle. The crown now passed to Kanishka who
deemed it his first duty to overcome the enemies of his nation.
Leaving the trusted generals of his brother in command of the
victorious army in Parthia, he placed himself at the head of the
troops destined to march against Magadha. Charaka was requested to
accompany him in the field, and Matura remained behind as chancellor
of the state. 1
Charaka loved the princess without knowing it. She had been kindly
disposed toward him from childhood; but her interest was heightened to
admiration since she had observed him at the bedside of her brother.
How noble he was, how thoughtful, how unselfish; and at the same time
how wise in spite of his youth. When the two parted she said: "Take
care of my brother, be to him as a guardian angel; and," added the
princess smiling, "be good to yourself, for my sake." 2
Charaka stood bewildered. He felt his cheeks flushing, and did not
know what to think or say. All at once he became conscious of the
fact that a powerful yearning had gradually grown up in his heart, and
a tender and as yet undefined relation had become established between
himself and the princess. He was not sure, however, whether it was
right for him to accept and press the beautiful woman's hand that was
offered him in unaffected friendliness and with maidenly innocence.
He stood before her like a schoolboy censured for a serious breach of
the school regulations. He stammered; his head drooped; and at last
covering his eyes with his hand, he began to sob like a child with a
guilty conscience. 3
At that moment Kanishka approached to bid his sister goodbye; and
after a few words of mutual good wishes Charaka and Kamalavati
parted. 4
While the king and his physician were riding side by side, their
home behind them, their enemy in front, Kanishka inquired about the
trouble which had stirred Charaka to tears. And Charaka said: "It is
all my fault. When your sister bade me farewell, I became aware of a
budding love toward her in my soul, and I feel that she reciprocates
my sentiment. I know it is sinful, and I will not yield to
temptation, but I am weak, and that brought tears to my eyes. I feel
ashamed of myself." 5
"Do you think love a sin?" inquired the king? 6
"Is not celibacy the state of holiness," replied Charaka, "and is
not marriage a mere concession to worldliness, being instituted for
the sake of preventing worse confusion?" 7
"You ought to know more about it than I," continued Kanishka, "for
you devoted yourself to religion by joining the brotherhood, while I
am a layman, and my religious notions are not grounded on deeper
knowledge." 8
"Alas!" sighed Charaka, "I am not fit to be a monk. The abbot of
the Vihara could not help me and advised me to have my doubts allayed
and the problems of my soul settled by Asvaghosha of Magadha, the
great philosopher and saint who is said to understand the doctrine of
the Blessed One, the Buddha." 9
"What is the problem that oppresses you?" inquired King Kanishka.
"Is your soul burdened with sin?" 10
"I am not guilty of a sinful deed, but I feel that my soul is
sinful in its aspirations. My heart is full of passion, and I have an
ambitious mind. I would perform great deeds, noble and miraculous,
and would solve the problem of life; I would fathom the mysteries of
being and comprehend the law of existence, its source and its purpose.
There is an undefined yearning in my breast, a desire to do and to
dare, to be useful to others, to live to the utmost of my faculties,
and to be rooted in the mysterious ground from which springs all the
life that unfolds itself in the world. I came into being, and I shall
pass out of existence. I believe that I existed before I was born,
and that I shall exist after my death. But these other incarnations
of mine are after all other than myself, other at least than my
present existence. I understand very well that I am a reproduction of
the life impulses that preceded me, and that I shall continue in
subsequent reproductions of my karma. But I feel my present self to
be the form of this life which will pass away, and I yearn for a union
with that eternal substratum of all life which will never pass
away." 11
Kanishka said: "While I was ill I had occasion to meditate on the
problem of life and life's relation to death. Once I was dreaming;
and in the dream I was not Prince Kanishka, but a king, not King of
Gandhara, but of some unknown country, and I was leading my men in
battle; and it happened, as in the case of my brother, that I was
victorious, and the hostile army before me turned in wild flight, but
in the moment of victory a dying enemy shot an arrow at me which
pierced my heart, and I knew my end was come. There was a pang of
death, but it was not an unpleasant sensation, for my last thought
was: 'Death in battle is better than to live defeated.' I awoke. A
gentle perspiration covered my forehead, and I felt as though I had
passed through a crisis in which I had gained a new lease of life. My
dream had been so vivid that when I awoke I had the impression that I
and all the visions that surrounded me had been annihilated; yet after
a while, when my mind was again fully adjusted, the dream appeared
empty to me, a mere phantasma and illusion. Will it not be similar,
if at the moment of death we make our final entrance into Nirvana?
Nirvana appears to us in our present existence as a negative state,
but our present existence is phenomenal, while Nirvana is the abiding
state." 12
Charaka replied: "I should think there is much truth in your words.
But the Tathagata teaches that by attaining enlightenment, we shall
enter Nirvana even in this present life; and if we do so, it seems to
me that our main advantage lies in the comprehension of the transiency
of all bodily existence and the permanence of our spiritual nature.
Death has lost its terrors to him who sees the immortal state. He
knows that in death he sloughs off the mortal. But here my difficulty
begins. I long for Nirvana only as a means to enrich this present
life. 13
"The Tathagata teaches that life is suffering, and he is right. I
do not doubt it. He has further discovered the way of emancipation,
which is the eightfold noble path of righteousness. Now, I love life
in spite of its suffering, and I am charmed with love. Love is life-
giving, heart-gladdening, courage-inspiring! Oh, O love love, real
worldly love! I admire heroism, the wild heroism of the battle-field!
I long for wisdom, not the wisdom of the monks, but practical science
which teaches us the why and wherefore of things and imparts to us the
wizard's power over nature. Now, with all this I love righteousness;
I feel the superiority of religious calmness, and the blissfulness of
Nirvana. I do not cling to self, but desire to apply myself: I want
a field of activity. All these conflicting thoughts produce in me the
longing for a solution: there it lies before me as an ideal which I
cannot grasp, and I call it God. Oh, that I could speak to the
Tathagata face to face; that I could go to him for enlightenment, that
I could learn the truth so as to walk on the right path and find peace
of soul in the tribulations of life. Since the Lord Buddha is no
longer walking with us in the flesh, there is only one man in the
world who can help me in my distress, and that is the great disciple
of the Blessed Master, the philosopher and saint Asvaghosha of
Magadha." 14
"Asvaghosha of Magadha!" replied the king. "Very well! We are
waging war with the king of Magadha. Let the prize of combat be the
possession of Asvaghosha!" 15


War is always deplorable, but sometimes it cannot be avoided. And
if that be the case, far from shunning it, a ruler, responsible for
the welfare of his people, should carry it on resolutely and
courageously with the one aim in view of bringing it speedily to a
happy conclusion. 1
Such was Kanishka's maxim, and he acted accordingly. Having
gathered as strong an army as he could muster, he surprised the
mountaineers by coming upon them suddenly with superior forces from
both sides. They made a desperate resistance, but he overthrew them
and, leaving garrisons in some places of strategic importance, carried
the war farther into the heart of the kingdom of Magadha. He
descended into the valley of the Ganges, and hurrying by forced
marches through the vassal kingdoms of Delhi and Sravasti, the
Gandhara army marched four columns toward the capital of the country.2
Subahu, king of Magadha, met his adversary in the field near
Pataliputra with an army that had been rapidly assembled, but he could
not stay the invader's victorious progress. In several engagements
his troops were scattered to the four winds, his elephants captured,
and he was obliged to retire to the fortress of Pataliputra. There he
was besieged, and when he saw that no hope of escape was left he
decided to make no further resistance and sent a messenger to king
Kanishka, asking him for terms of peace. 3
The victor demanded an indemnity of three hundred million gold
pieces, a sum which the whole kingdom could not produce. 4
When the besieged king asked for less severe terms, Kanishka
replied: "If you are anxious to produce peace, come out to me in
person and I will listen to your proposition. I wish to see you. Let
us meet face to face, and we will consider our difficulties." 5
Subahu, knowing the uselessness of further resistance, came out
with his minister and accompanied by his retinue. He was conducted
into the presence of Kanishka, who requested him to be seated. 6
The king of Magadha complied with the request of his victorious
rival with the air of a high-minded man, the guest of his equal.
Kanishka frowned upon him. He observed the self-possession of his
conquered foe with a feeling of resentment, which, however, was
somewhat alloyed with admiration. 7
After a pause he addressed the royal petitioner as follows: "Why
didst thou not render justice to me when I asked for it?" 8
"My intentions were good," replied Subahu, "I wanted to preserve
peace. The mountaineers are restless, but they are religious and full
of faith. Their chieftains assured me the people had only retaliated
wrongs that they had suffered themselves. Trying to be fair and just
to my vassals, I roused the worse evil of war, and in preserving the
peace at home I conjured up the specter of hostility from abroad. He
who would avoid trouble sometimes breeds greater misfortune." 9
"In other words," interrupted King Kanishka sternly, "your weakness
prevented you from punishing the evil-doers under your jurisdiction,
and being incapable of governing your kingdom, you lost your power and
the right to rule." 10
"Sir," replied the humiliated monarch with calm composure, "thou
art the victor and thou canst deal with me at thy pleasure, but if the
fortunes of the day had turned against thee, thou mightest stand now
before me in the same degraded position in which thou now seest me.
But the difference is this: I have a clean conscience; I have proved
peaceful; I never gave offence to anybody, consciously. Thou hast
carried the war into my country. Thou art the offender; and shouldst
thou condemn me to die, I shall die innocent to be reborn in a happier
state under more auspicious conditions. The Lord Buddha be
praised!" 11
Kanishka was astonished at the boldness of the king's speech, but
he mastered his anger and replied calmly: "Art thou so ignorant as not
to know that a ruler's first duty is justice, and to me justice thou
hast refused!" 12
"Man's first duty is to seek salvation,' replied the king of
Magadha, "and salvation is not obtained by harshness but by piety." 13
The king of Gandhara rose to his feet: "Thou art fitted for a monk,
not a monarch. Thou hadst better retire to the cloistered cell of a
Vihara than occupy the throne of a great empire. What is the use of
piety if it does not help thee to attend to the duties of thy high
office? It leads thee into misery and has cost thee thy throne. The
world cannot prosper on the principles which thou followest." 14
Subahu seemed imperturbable, and without deigning to look at the
incensed face of his vituperator he exclaimed: "What is the world if
we but gain salvation? Let all the thrones on earth be lost and whole
nations perish if only emancipation can be obtained! We want escape,
not secular enhancement." 15
Kanishka stared at the speaker as if unable to comprehend his frame
of mind, and Subahu without showing any concern quoted a stanza from
the Dhammapada, saying (Dhammapada 151): 16
"The king's mighty chariots of iron will rust,
And also our bodies resolve into dust;
But deeds, 'tis sure,
For aye endure." 17
Filled with admiration of Subahu's fortitude, Kanishka said: "I see
thou art truly a pious man. But thy piety is not of the right kind.
Thy way of escape leads into emptiness, and thy salvation is hollow.
This world is the place in which the test of truth must be made; and
this life is the time in which it is our duty to attain Nirvana. But
I will not upbraid thee for thy errors; I will first raise thee to a
dignified position in which thou canst answer me and give thy
arguments. I understand that thou art a faithful disciple of the
Buddha and meanest to do that which is right. I respect thy sincerity
and greet thee as a brother. Therefore I will not deprive thee of thy
crown and title, but I insist on the penalty of three hundred million
gold pieces. Thou shalt remain king with the understanding that
henceforth thou takest council with me on all questions of political
importance, for I see clearly that thou standest in need of advice.
But in place of the three hundred million gold pieces I will accept
substitutes which I deem worth that amount. First, thou shalt deliver
into my hands the bowl which the Tathagata, the Blessed Buddha,
carried in his hand when he was walking on earth, and, secondly, as a
ransom for thy royal person which I hold here besieged in Pataliputra
I request from thee the philosopher Asvaghosha whose fame has spread
through all the countries where the religion of enlightenment is
preached." 18
The vanquished king said: "Truly, the bowl of Buddha and the
philosopher Asvaghosha are amply worth three hundred million gold
pieces, and yet I must confess that thou art generous and thy
conditions of peace are fair." 19
"Do not call me generous," said Kanishka, embracing the king of
Magadha, "I am only worldly wise; and it is not my own wisdom. I have
learned the maxims of my politics from the Blessed One, the great
Buddha." 20


Buddha's birthday was celebrated with greater rejoicing than usual
in the year following king Kanishka's invasion, which took place in
the fifth century after the Nirvana. The formidable invaders had
become friends and the people were joyful that the war clouds had
dispersed so rapidly. 1
Kanishka was in good spirits. He was in good spirits. He was
elated by his success, but it had not made him overbearing, and he was
affable to all who approached him. In a short time he had become the
most powerful monarch of India, his sway extending far beyond the
boundaries of his own kingdom. His generals had been victorious over
the Parthians in the far west, and his alliance with the king of
Magadha made him practically ruler over the valley of the Ganges. But
more effective than his strategy and the might of his armies was the
kindness which he showed to this vanquished enemies. Princes of
smaller dominions willingly acknowledged his superiority and submitted
to him their difficulties because they cherished an unreserved
confidence in his fairness and love of justice. Thus was laid the
foundation of a great empire upon whose civiliztion the religion of
the Enlightened One exercised a decided influence. Peace was
established, commerce and trade flourished, and Greek sculptors
flocked to Gandhara, transplanting the art of their home to the soil
of India. 2
It was the beginning of India's golden age which lasted as long as
the Dharma, the doctrine of the Tathagata, was kept pure and
undefiled. A holy enthusiasm seized the hearts of the people and
there were many who felt an anxiety to spread the blessings of
religion over the whole world. Missionaries went out who reached
Tibet and China and even far off Japan where they sowed the seeds of
truth and spread the blessings of lovingkindness and charity. 3
Kanishka and the king of Magadha enjoyed each other's company. The
two allied monarchs started on a peaceful pilgrimage to the various
sacred spots of the country. They visited Lumbini, the birthplace of
the Bodhisattva. Thence passing over the site of Kapilavastu, the
residence of Shuddhodana, Buddha's father in the flesh and the haunt
of Prince Siddhartha in his youth, they went to the Bodhi tree at
Buddhagaya and returned to the capital Benares, to celebrate the birth
festival of the Buddha in the Deer Park, on the very spot where the
revered Teacher had set the wheel of truth in motion to roll onward
for the best of mankind, the wheel of truth which no god, no demon,
nor any other power, be it human, divine or infernal, should ever be
able to turn back. 4
A procession went out to the holy place and circumambulated the
stupa, erected on the sacred spot in commemoration of the memorable
event, and the two monarchs, who had but a short time before met as
foes on the battle-field, walked together like brothers, preceded by
white-robed virgins bearing flowers, and followed by priests chanting
gathas of the blessings of the good law and swinging censers. No
display of arms was made but multitudes of peaceful citizens hailed
the two rulers and blessed the magnanimity of the hero of Gandhara. 5
When the procession halted, Kanishka and his brother king stood in
front of a statue of the Buddha and watched the process of depositing
flowers. "Who is the beautiful maiden that is leading the flower
carriers?" asked Kanishka of the king of Magadha in a whisper; and the
latter replied: "It is Bhadrasri, my only daughter." 6
Kanishka followed with his eye the graceful movements of the
princess and breathed a prayer: "Adoration to the Buddha!" he said to
himself in the silent recesses of his heart. "The Buddha has guided
my steps and induced me to make peace before the demons of war could
do more mischief. I now vow to myself that if the princess will
accept me I shall lead her as queen to my capital and she shall be the
mother of the kings of Gandhara to come. May the Tathagata's blessing
be on us and my people!" 7
At the stupa of the first sermon of the Buddha, peace was
definitely concluded. The king of Magadha delivered to his powerful
ally the sacred bowl, a treasure which, though small in size, was
esteemed worth more than half the kingdom of Magadha; and Asvaghosha,
the old philosopher, was bidden to appear at court and be ready to
accompany the ruler of Gandhara to his home in the northwest of India.
Asvaghosha arrived at the Deer Park in a royal carriage drawn by
white horses, and there he was presented to King Kanishka. He bowed
reverently and said: "Praised be the Lord Buddha for his blessed
teachings! Gladness fills my heart when I think how your majesty
treats your vanquished foe. The victorious enemy has become a friend
and brother, making an end of all hostility forever." 8
"Good, my friend," replied Kanishka; "if there is any merit in my
action I owe thanks for my karma to the Tathagata. He is my teacher
and I bless the happy day on which I became his disciple. My
knowledge, however, is imperfect and even my learned friend Charaka is
full of doubts on subjects of grave importance. Therefore I invite
you to accompany me to Gandhara, where my people and myself are sorely
in need of your wisdom and experience." 9
"Your invitation is flattering," said the philosopher, "and it is
tendered in kindly words; but I pray you, noble sir, leave me at home.
I am an aged man and could scarcely stand the exertion of the journey.
But I know a worthy scholar, Jnanayasa, who is well versed in the
doctrine of our Lord and much younger than I. He may go in my place;
and should I grow stronger I shall be glad to visit you in
Gandhara." 10
"Charaka!" said the king, "have a room fitted up for Asvaghosha in
our residence at Benares, and so long as we remain here he shall pass
the time in our company. Let him be present at our meals, and when we
rest in the evening from the labors of the day let us listen to the
words of the philosopher who is regarded as the best interpreter of
the significance of Buddha's teachings." 11


One evening when King Kanishka together with his friend Charaka
enjoyed the company of Asvaghosha, the youthful ruler of Gandhara
turned to the venerable philosopher with this request: "And now,
worshipful master, tell us, do we worship in Buddha a god or a man?" 1
Replied Asvaghosha: "Buddha is neither a god nor a man; he is more
than either, for he is perfection incarnate. We worship in Buddha
wisdom and goodness, that is, the comprehension and application of the
truth, which are the qualities that alone render the gods divine.
Truth is eternal, but all actual beings, not even excluding the gods,
are transient." 2
Charaka interposed: "We do not speak of the gods, but of God, which
means divinity itself. What would the Buddha have taught about God?"3
Kanishka added: "We mean God, not in the sense of Brahma, the
principle of existence, nor of Ishvara, a personal Lord and
manufacturer of universes, but God as goodness, as truth, as
righteousness, as love? Does God in this sense exist or not? Is it a
dream or a reality? What is it and how do we know of it?" 4
"You ask a question to answer which will take a book. But I shall
be brief. Certainly, God in this sense is a reality. God, in this
sense is the good law that shapes existence, leading life step by step
onward and upward toward its highest goal, enlightenment. Recognition
of this law gives us light on the conditions of our existence so as to
render it possible for us to find the right path; and we call it
Dharmakaya, the body of the good law, or Amitabha, the source of
infinite light, or by some other name. It is the norm of all nature
involving the bliss of goodness and the curse of wrong doing according
to irrefragable causation." 5
"Accordingly, a man is not a Buddha by birth, but he can become a
Buddha by attaining to Buddhahood," said the king inquiringly. 6
"Exactly so," replied Asvaghosha. "The highest truth is not a
fabrication of the mind; the highest truth is eternal. Shakyamuni
attained to Buddhahood, and there were many who saw him, yet they did
not behold in him the Buddha; while now, after he has entered into
Paranirvana, there are many who never saw him in the body, yet having
attained faith may truly be said to behold the Buddha, for the Buddha
can be recognised with the mind's eye alone." 7
"Then Amitabha is the principle of being as much as Brahma?"
enquired Charaka. 8
"Brahma is a personification of the principle of being," replied
Asvaghosha, "but Amitabha is the standard of being. Amitabha is the
intrinsic law which, whenever being rises into existence, molds life
and develops it, producing uniformities and regularities in both the
world of realities and the realm of thought. It is the source of
rationality and righteousness, of science and of morality, of
philosophy and religion. The sage of the Shakyas is one ray of its
light only, albeit for us the most powerful ray, with the clearest,
brightest, and purest light. He is the light that comes to us here in
this world and in our country. Wheresoever wisdom appears, there is
an incarnation, more or less partial, more or less complete, of
Amitabha." 9
"But existence," rejoined Charaka, "is different from the good law.
Being is one thing and the norm that molds it another. There is the
great question, whether or not life itself is wrong. If life is
wrong, the joy of living is sin, the enhancement of life, including
its reproduction, an error, and love, the love of husband and wife,
becomes a just cause for repentance." 10
"Mark the doctrine, noble youth, and act accordingly," replied
Asvaghosha. "I read in your eyes the secret of your heart which
prompts you to ask this question. Goodness is a reality which exists
in both existence and non-existence. Call it God or Amitabha, or
Allhood, or the eternal and uncreated, the universal law, the not-
bodily, the nothing or non-existence, for it is not concrete nor
material, nor real to the senses, yet it exists, it is spiritual and
can be discovered by the mind; it is and remains for all that exists
the intrinsic and necessary norm; it is the rule and regulation for
both things and thoughts. It is omnipresent in the universe,
invisible, impalpable, as a perfume that permeates a room. Whatever
makes its appearance as a concrete reality is affected by its savor
and nothing can be withdrawn from its sway. It is not existence
itself, but the womb of existence; it is that which gives definite
shape to beings, molding them and determining them according to
conditions. You have Amitabha in two aspects as the formation of
particular existence and as the general law of universal types. The
particular is the realization of the univeral; and the universal
constitutes the type of the particular, giving it a definite
character. Neither is without the other. Mere particularity is being
in a state of ignorance; thus all life starts in ignorance; but mere
universality is existence unrealized; it is as though existence were
not. Therefore enjoyment of life is not wrong and the love of husband
and wife is no cause for repentance, if it be but the right love, true
and unfailing and making each willing to bear the burdens of the
other. 11
"The Lord spoke not of God, because the good law that becomes
incarnated in Buddhahood is not a somebody, not an entity, not an ego,
not even a ghost. As there is not a ghost-soul, so there is not a
ghost-God." 12
Said Charaka: "Now I understand the picture of the Lord Buddha with
his two attendants, Love as Particularity on the elephant and Wisdom
as Universality on the lion. Ananda, the disciple of loving service,
and Kashyapa, the disciple of philosophical intellectuality, have
approached their master and grasped the significance of his doctrine
from two opposite and contrasting sides." 13
"Those who mortify their bodies," continued Asvaghosha, "have not
understood the doctrine. We are not ego-souls. For that reason the
thought of an individual escape, the salvation of our ego-soul, is a
heresy and an illusion. We all stand together and every man must work
for the salvation of mankind. Therefore I love to compare the
doctrine of the Buddha to a great ship or a grand vehicle, a Mahayana,
in which there is room for all the multitudes of living beings and we
who stand at the helm must save them all or perish with them." 14
Charaka extended his hand and said: "I thank you, venerable sir,
for the light you have afforded me. I sought peace of soul in a
monastery, but the love of life, the love of God, the love of
knowledge, the love of my heart, drove me back to the world. I have
proved useful to King Kanishka as a physician, perhaps also as a
friend, and as a disciple of the Tathagata; and the problem before me
is, whether it is right for me to remain in the world, to be a
householder, to allow the particular, the sensual, the actual, a share
in life by the side of the universal, the spiritual, the ideal." 15
"Do not despise the particular, the sensual, the actual," replied
Asvaghosha. "In the material body the spiritual truths of goodness
and love and veracity are actualized. Existence if it is mere
existence, quantity of life and not quality, is worthless and
contemptible. The sage despises it. The sensual, if it be void of
the spiritual, is coarse and marks the brute. But existence is not
wrong in itself, nor is the sensual without its good uses. The
sensual, in its very particularity, by being an aspiration that is
actual, becomes consecrated in spirituality. Think how holy is the
kiss of true love; how sacred is the relation between husband and
wife. It is the particular in which the universal must be realized,
mere abstract goodness will become apparent only in the vicissitudes
of actual life." 16
"If I could serve the Buddha as a householder, my highest ambition
would be to be a brother-in-law to King Kanishka," replied Charaka. 17
"I know it," said Asvaghosha with a smile, "for the emotions of
your heart are reflected in your eyes. Go home and greet the king's
sister with a saying of the Blessed One, and when you are married may
your happiness be in proportion to your merit, or even greater and
better. Buddha's doctrine is not extinction, not nihilism, but a
liberation of man's heart from the fetters of selfishness and from the
seclusion of a separate egoity. It is not the suppression or
eradication of love, and joy, and family ties, but their perfection
and sanctification; not a cessation of life, but a cessation of
ignorance, indolence, and ill will, for the sake of gaining
enlightenment, which is life's end and aim." 18
After a pause Asvaghosha added pensively: "The more the truth
spreads, the more shall all relations and conditions be transfigured
by Buddhahood. Even the dumb creatures and inanimate nature are
yearning for their emancipation that is to come." 19
"Your instruction has benefited me too," said Kanishka to the
philosopher, and turning round to the king of Magadha, he continued,
"but you my noble friend and host are still my debtor. Since
Asvaghosha on account of his age finds himself unable to follow me to
Gandhara, you are in duty bound to procure an acceptable substitute.
Now, there is a way of settling your obligations to me, and that could
be done if your daughter, the Princess Bhadrasri would consent to
accept my hand and accompany me to Gandhara as my wife and queen!" 20
"My august friend," replied the king of Magadha, "I know that the
Princess worships you for the heroism you have displayed in battle,
the wisdom you have shown in council, and the magnanimity with which
you have dealt with your conquered enemy. She beholds in you not only
the ideal of royalty but also the restorer of her father's fortunes,
worthy of her sincerest gratitude. It is but for you to make her
admiration blossom out into rich love and wifely devotion." 21


Asvaghosha held daily conversations with Kanishka, in which not
only his friends charaka and the king of Magadha, but also Princess
Bhadrasri, his bride-elect, were now wont to join. 1
One day Subahu was detained by important affairs of state, and when
he made his appearance in the accustomed circle of his philosophical
friends, he was so full of distress as to be almost beyond the power
of speech. 2
"My royal friend," said Kanishka, "what disturbs your mind? How
terrible must the calamity be that so affects a man of your composure!
Are you or one of your kin in danger of death, or pray, what else is
the cause of your trouble?" 3
"My dear friend and ally," replied king Subahu, "it is your life
that is endangered. I come to take counsel with you as to how we may
save you from the perilous situation in which the false patriotism of
my people has placed you. Some of my southern generals having but
lately arrived with subsidies which ought to have been with me at the
beginning of the war, entered into a conspiracy with my prime minister
to surround the place, take you prisoner and put you to the sword;
then to attack your unwary soldiers and drive them out of the country.
Everything has been planned in the strictest privacy, and your noble
confidence in my faith and friendship made it easy for them to replace
the guards gradually by their friends until they now have everything
their own way, and I am given to understand that unless I join the
conspirators they will elect another king." 4
"And what is your pleasure in this matter?" asked Kanishka, who
betrayed no more concern than if he were talking about a game of
checkers. 5
"My pleasure?" exclaimed the disconsolate king; "ask not what my
pleasure is. I see only my duty, and that is to save you or to die
with you!" 6
Kanishka was a man of deeds, not of words. He bade Charaka at once
to hoist on the tower of the palace a blue flag, which was the secret
sign to summon the Gandhara generals that were camping in the vicinity
of the town. Having inquired into the situation and learned that all
the gates were in possession of the conspirators, he requested the
king to call into his presence the treacherous prime minister who was
at the head of the conspiracy, indicating, as though nothing had
happened, that he wanted to speak to him. 7
The prime minister entered, and the king spoke to him graciously
about his fidelity to King Subahu and the kingdom of Magadha, and said
that he himself, anxious to honor the people of Magadha, wished to
show some recognition and confer some favor on him, the most faithful
servant of King Subahu. 8
While King Kanishka thus idled away the time the prime minister
felt uneasy, for his fellow conspirators, the generals from the south,
were waiting for the signal to overpower the few foreign guards, to
close the gates, and take possession of the palace. Kanishka in the
meanwhile inquired as to his health, his general prosperity, his
children, his brothers and sisters, until the prime minister lost
patience and said: "Sire, allow me to withdraw; a number of my friends
from the southern provinces, men of great prominence in their distant
homes, have arrived and are anxious to meet me and my sovereign." 9
With a royal courtesy which could not be refused, King Kanishka
replied: "Let me accompany you to greet them. Your friends are my
friends, and the vassals of my most noble ally King Subahu are my
allies." 10
The prime minister blushed and looked inquiringly at the king; but
King Kanishka's eye was calm and showed not the least sign of
suspicion. At the same time there was a firmness and determination in
the king's attitude which made the treacherous minister wince and
submit. 11
"This is the way to the hall where my friends are assembled," said
the prime minister, and showed the king the way. 12
"Wait a moment," said King Kanishka, "it would be wrong of us if my
royal brother, King Subahu, were not present. Let us call my
councilors and generals so as to indicate our desire to honor your
guests." 13
In the meantime some of the horsemen had arrived, and their
officers damanded admission at the palace gates to report their
presence to the king. They were announced and admitted. 14
"Welcome, my gallant officers," exclaimed King Kanishka, "join my
retinue when I greet the friends of the prime minister, and let your
men remain under arms at the main gate ready to receive my
commands." 15
Thus the two kings with a stately retinue both of dignified
councilors and warlike officers entered the hall where the
conspirators were impatiently waiting. They were dumbfounded when
they saw at the side of their most hated enemy their own sovereign
accompanied by the prime minister with downcast eye, meek as a tame
doe and giving no sign for action. Then Kanishka addressed the
conspirators with great cordiality as though he had long desired to
meet them and show them his good will. He praised the generals for
their valor, for their love of their country, their faithfulness to
their king, and expressed his great happiness that the old times of
national hatred had passed away, that the two nations Magadha and
Gandhara should forthwith be like brothers, and that they would join
to set a good example to the world by obeying the maxim of the
Tathataga (Dhammapada 5): 16
"Hate is not overcome by hate;
By love alone 'tis quelled.
This is a truth of ancient date,
Today still unexcelled." 17
Not yet, however, had the ice of spite and ill will entirely melted
from the hostile hearts of his enemies; and not yet was his retinue
strong enough to make him feel master of the situation. So Kanishka
continued his policy of gaining time by having each one of the hostile
officers personally introduced to him and, this done, he began to
address the company a second time. 18
"Allow me to improve this rare opportunity of having so many
friends assembled here, to explain my policy. I am a disciple of the
Buddha, the Blessed One, who taught us to make an end of hatred by
ceasing to hate. If there be any just cause for war, let us have war
and let us wage war openly and resolutely, but let us ever be ready to
offer the hand of brotherly good-will to our enemies without
cherishing feelings of revenge for the injuries we may think we have
suffered. The policy of long suffering, of loving-kindness, of
forgiveness, not only shows goodness of heart but also a rare gift of
wisdom, as all those are aware who know the story of King Long-
suffering and his noble son Prince Long-life, which the Tathagata told
to the quarrelsome monks of Kaushambi. 19
King Kanishka then told the story of Brahmadatta, the powerful king
of Benares, how he had conquered the little kingdom of Kosala and had
the captive king Long-suffering executed in Benares. But Prince Long-
life escaped and, unknown to any one, entered the service of King
Brahmadatta, whose confidence he gained by his talents and
reliability. Thus he became King Brahmadatta's personal attendant. 20
King Kanishka was a good story-teller, and the people of India,
whether of high or low birth, love to hear a story well told, even if
they know it by heart. So the conspirators were as though spellbound
and forgot their evil designs; nor did they notice how the hall began
to fill more and more with the officers of the king of Gandhara. They
listened to the adventures of Prince Long-life; how on a hunt he was
left alone with King Brahmadatta in the forest, how the prince drew
his sword, how the king was frightened when he awoke and learned that
he was in the power of his enemy's son; and finally how each granted
the other his life and made peace, thus demonstrating the wisdom of
the maxim, that hatred cannot be appeased by hatred, but is appeased
by love, and by love only. 21
When the king finished the story of Prince Long-life, the hall was
crowded with armed officers of the Gandhara army, and seeing his
advantage, King Kanishka, feeling the satisfaction of one who had
gained a great victory in battle, paused and glanced with a good-
natured look over the party of conspirators. He remained as self-
possessed as a schoolmaster teaching a class of wayward boys. "I am
anxious to be at peace with all the world," he said, "but the question
arises, what shall be done with traitors and conspirators who
misunderstand my good intentions and would not brook the loving-
kindness of our great master?" Then addressing the prime minister of
Magadha by his full name and title, he added: "Let me hear your
advice, my friend. I meant to promote your welfare, while you
attempted to take my life. What shall I do with you and your
associates?" 22
The prime minister was overwhelmed. He fell upon his knees and
sobbed: "You are in wisdom like the Enlightened One, the Omniscient
Tathataga. Would that you were his equal also in mercy and
compassion. Never should you regret having forgiven me my
transgression!" 23
King Kanishka made no answer but looked round and cast conquering
glances at the several conspirators, until they, one by one, joined
the kneeling prime minister. Then espying the venerable head of
Asvaghosha among his audience, he approached the sage respectfully and
said: "Now, most reverend sir, it is your turn to speak, for I want
you to tell me what a king ought to do to those men who conspire to
take his life. Would it be wise for him to follow the behest of the
Tathagata and to grant them forgiveness?" 24
Said Asvaghosha: "Not I, sir, but you are the king. Pronounce
judgement according to your own discretion. I cherish the confidence
that the seeds of kindness will fall here upon good soil." 25
"Thank you, venerable sir. I have learned from the Great Teacher
of all beings, that to hate no one is the highest wisdom. But a king
is reponsible for the welfare of his people and cannot let crime go
unpunished. The duty of a judge is justice. In the present case I do
not think that I would condone your action if it were unmitigated
treason but I see in it a redeeming feature which is your patriotism,
misguided though it may be. Rise, gentlemen, and if you will promise
forthwith to banish from your heart all falsehood, spite, and envy,
come and shake hands with me in token of your faithful allegiance to
both your august sovereign, the king of Magadha, and myself, his ally
and brother on the throne." 26


Protestations of fidelity and admiration greeted King Kanishka from
all sided when he retired to his private rooms after having shaken
hands with the conspirators. He had conquered his enemies, not by the
power of arms, as he had done before in battle, but by the superiority
of his mind. 1
It was at this moment that a messenger arrived who had been sent by
the custodian of King Subahu's summer palace, saying: "Sir King, send
your hunters to the summer palace with elephants and soldiers, for a
man-eating tiger has been seen in its garden and parks, and all the
people living in the neighborhood are sore afraid of the beast." 2
Then the generals of the South shouted: "Great King and Sire, allow
us to go to the summer palace to hunt the tiger; for we are anxious to
distinguish ourselves and prove to the world that we are valient
soldiers and good hunters." 3
And they received permission to be the foremost in the hunt, and
after a hasty preparation they set out the same evening, but the two
kings and their retinue with many officers followed them on the
following day; Charaka, however, stayed behind at the command of King
Kanishka, to observe the courtiers and councilors of King Subahu and
keep an eye upon the populace of the city, the capital of Magadha. 4
Charaka sat at a window in company with the venerable Asvaghosha to
see the suite of the two kings with their hunters and elephants
leaving the city, and Charaka addressed the sage, saying: "My reverend
friend, I learned much yesterday from king Kanishka by watching his
mode of treating enemies. Truly, I understand the doctrine of the
Tathagata better now than if I had lived for many years in the
monastery and studied all the wisdom of the monks. How much evil can
be avoided by discretion, and should not mortals blame themselves for
all the ills that befall them? But there is this doubt that vexes my
mind. If Amitabha, the omnipresent, the eternal, the omnibeneficent
sourse of all wisdom, fashions the world and determines our destinies,
why should not life be possible without suffering? However, the first
sentence of the four great truths declars that life itself is
suffering. If that be so, no amount of discretion could give us
happiness so long as we live. And, on the other hand, how can
Amitabha permit innumerable things to suffer innocently for conditions
which they did not create themselves?" 5
"My young friend," replied Asvaghosha, "the first great truth is
truly obvious to any one who knows the nature of life. Life consists
of separation and combination; it is a constant meeting and parting
and has in store both pains and pleasures. Prove to me that life be
possible without any change, and I will begin to doubt the first of
the four great truths. But life is suffering, no being has a right to
blame Amitabha for existing. All beings exist by their own karma;
they are the incarnation of deeds of their former existences; they are
such as they are by their own determination, having fashioned
themselves under the influence of circumstances. 6
"By Amitabha all beings are merely educated in the school of life.
Some have gained more insight than others. Some love the light,
others hate it. Some rise to the pure heights of Buddhahood, and
others grovel in the dust to take delight in badness and deeds of
darkness. Amitabha is like the rain that falls upon the earth without
discrimination. The seeds of herbs assimilate the water that falls
from the clouds of heaven in a refreshing spring shower, and grow to
be herbs each of its kind. Fernspores become ferns, acorns change the
water into the leaves and wood and bark of oak trees, and the germs of
fruit trees fashion it into fruit, each of its own kind, into mangoes,
bananas, dates, figs, pomegranates, and other savory fruits. Amitabha
is the same to all, as the water of the refreshing rain is the same:
but diverse creates make a different use of the benefits of truth, and
each one is responsible for itself. Each one has originated in
ignorance by its own blind impulses, each one, in its field of
experience, has learned the lesson of life in its own way, and each
one can blame no one but itself for what it is and has become, except
that it ought to be grateful for the light that Amitabha sheds upon
the course of its development. 7
"Amitabha is not a god that would assert himself or care for
worship and adoration. He does not think and act and do deeds. He is
not Ishvara, not Sakra, not Indra, not Brahma: He is the norm of all
existence, the good law, the order and intrinsic harmony that shows
itself in cause and effect, in the bliss of goodness, in the cuse of
evil-doing. He is above all the gods, and everything that is has been
fashioned by him according to the eternal ordinances of his
constitution. 8
"We are not creatures of Amitabha, we are creatures of our own
making. Life starts in ignorance. It begins with blind impulses, and
life's start is life's own doing. But as soon as an impulse acts and
is reated upon, it is encompassed by the good law and thus it is
educated by Amitabha and raised by him as children are nourished by
their mother and instructed by their father. We are not the creatures
of Amitabha, but his children. 9
"Ask thy own self, whether thou art because thou wast created by
some extraneous power; or contrariwise whether it is not truer to say
that thou art because thou dost will thy own existence. Every man is
what is he wills to be. 10
"Thou hast become what thou art of necessity according to the norms
that constitute the nature of Amitabha. But thou grewest to be what
thou art because thou wantedst to become such. 11
"Now if an Ishvara had created thee, thou wouldst not have the
feeling of freedom that thou now hast, but thou wouldst feel like the
vessel made by the potter which is what it is in spite of its own like
or dislike." 12
"But if I am determined to love life," asked Charaka, "is it wrong
to do so and shall I be punished for it by suffering?" 13
Replied Asvaghosha: "There is neither punishment nor reward, my
son, though we may use the words in adapting our language to the
common mode of thought. There is only cause and effect. The
Tathagata gave no commandments, for what authority has any one to
command his brother beings? The Tathagata revealed to us the evils of
life, and what people call the ten commandments are the ten ways
pointed out by the Tathagata how to avoid the ten evils. He who does
not take the Tathagata's advice must bear the consequences. The tiger
will be hunted down, and a murderer will be executed. Their fate is
the result of their deeds. As to love of life, there is nothing wrong
in it. If you love life, you must not be afraid of suffering. While
the Tathagata lived in the flesh, he was as much subject to pain as I
am and as you are. But when the pangs of his last disease came upon
him he bore them with fortitude and did not complain. If you love
life, bear its ills nobly and do not break down under its burdens.
Avail yourself of the light of Amitabha, for thus you can escape the
worst evils of life, the contrition of regret, of remorse, of a bad
conscience; and the noblest pleasures of life is that of becoming a
lamp unto others. Let your light shine in the world and you will be
like unto your master, Buddha-Amitabha, the omnibenevolent source of
all illumination." 14


While King Kanishka stayed at the summer palace to witness the
tiger hunt, a Buddhist abbot came to the royal palace and requested an
interview with the great King Kanishka's friend; and the abbot was
adnitted into the presence of Charaka, who happened who happened to be
in the company of some councilors of King Subahu, among whom was
Asvaghosha, the saintly philoshopher. Said the abbot: "I come from
the monastery in the hills situated near a Brahman village south of
Benares and have been sent by the brethren, the venerable monks whose
abbot I am. We know that King Kanishka and you are followers of the
Buddha and are steadfast in the orthodox faith. Therefore we approach
you in confidence and hope that you will lend your your countenance to
us, endeavoring to spread and establish the good law, the pure
religion of the Tathagata. We have settled in the hills, but there is
a Shiva shrine close by and the villagers continue to offer gifts to
the priests while the venerable brethren who profess faith in the
glorious doctrine of the Buddha are neglected and sometimes positively
suffer from privation." 1
"What can I do about it?" queried Charaka. 2
"If the Shiva shrine were removed, the villagers would no longer
seek religious comfort through Brahman rites and would turn Buddhists.
We are told that you are a Buddhist monk; you will have sympathy with
your suffering brethren and help them to expel the unbelievers." 3
"And do you think," objected Asvaghosha, "that either King Subahu
or King Kanishka would lend you his royal authority to interfere with
the religious service of any one? No, my friend. The Shiva
worshipers may be mistaken in their religious views, but they seek the
truth and so long as they do no injury to their neighbors, their
worship cannot be disturbed. And I do not know but the Shiva priests
may in their own way do good service to the people." 4
And there was a Brahman present, one of King Subahu's councilors,
who was pleased with Asvaghosha's remark and expressed his approval of
the principle of toleration which the great emperor Asoka had
proclaimed in one of his edicts as a maxim of good government, and the
Brahman added: 5
"Do not ye, too, O Buddhists, preach the doctrine of the Brahmans,
that there is a supreme Lord Creator over all creatures, a divine ego-
consciousness of All-existence? Whether we call God Ishvara, or
Shiva, or Amitabha, he remains the same and has a just claim to
worship." 6
Asvaghosha shook his head: "No, my Brahman friend! The good law is
supreme, and it is a father omnibenevolent as we rightly designate it.
It is the norm of existence, the standard of truth, the measure of
righteousness; but that norm is not an Ishvara, neither Shiva, nor
Brahma. Here is the difference between Ishvara and Amitabha: Ishvara
is deified egotism; he demands worship and praise. Amitabha is love,
he is free from the vanity of egoism and is only anxious for his
children that they should avail themselves of the light and shun the
darkness, that they should follow his advice and walk in the path of
righteousness. Ishvara calls sin what is contrary to his will; he
loves to be addressed in prayer and he delights in listening to the
praises of his worshipers. Not so Amitabha. Amitabha cares not for
prayer, is indifferent to worship, and cannot be flattered by praise,
but the good law is thwarted when his children err; and Amitabha
appears to be wrapt in sadness by the evil results of their mistakes;
not for his sake for he is eternal and remains the same forevermore,
but for the sake of the sufferings of all sentient creatures, for all
creatures are his disciples, he guides them, he teaches them, he
encompasses them. He is like a father unto them. So far as they
partake of his nature, they are his children." 7
Said the Brahman: "I for one do not believe that Ishvara, or
Brahma, or whatever you may call God, is a person such as we are. He
is a higher kind of personality, which however includes the faculties
of perception, judgement and reason. I believe therefore that the
Buddhist faith is lacking in this, that its devotees think of Amitabha
as deficient in self-consciousness. Buddhist ethics are noble, but
are human deeds the highest imaginable? Since the godhead is greater
than man, the highest bliss will forever remain a union with Brahma,
or Ishvara, or Sakra, or whatever you may call the great Unknown and
Unknowable, who has revealed himself in the Vedas and is pleased with
the prayers and sacrifices of the pious who express their faith in
worship." 8
"When I was young," replied Asvaghosha, "I was a Brahman myself; I
believed in Brahma the Supreme Being, the Creator of and Lord over all
the worlds that exist. I know there is much that is good in the
Brahman faith, and I did not abandon it because I deemed it bad or
injurious. I abandoned it, because the doctrine of the Tathagata was
superior, all-comprehensive, and more profound, for it explains the
problems of existence, its whence and whither, and is more helpful.
The doctrine of the Tathagata is practical and not in the air as are
the theories and speculations of the Brahmans. You seek a union with
Brahma, and what is he? We may dispute his existence and no one can
refute us. He is an idea, a metaphysical assumption, and his mansion
is everywhere and nowhere. Thus the Tathagata says that those who
believe in Brahma are like a man who should make a staircase where
four roads meet, to mount up high into a mansion which he can neither
see nor know how it is, where it is, what it is built of, nor whether
it exists at all. The priests claim the authority of the Vedas, the
Vedas are based upon the authority of the authors who wrote them, and
these authors rely on the authority of Brahma. They are like a string
of blind men clinging to one another and leading the blind, and their
method of salvation consists in adoration, worship, and prayer. It is
a doctrine for children, and though the words of their theory are
high-sounding they are not the truth but a mere shadow of the truth;
and in this sense the Tathagata compared them to the monkey at the
lake who tries to catch the moon in the water, mistaking the
reflection for the reality." 9
"But would not all your arguments," replied the Brahman, "if I were
to grant them, apply with the same force to Amitabha? What is the
difference whether we say Brahma or Amitabha? Both are names for the
Absolute." 10
"There would be no difference in the names if we understand the
same by both. Brahma, the Absolute, is generally interpreted to mean
Being in general, but Amitabha is Enlightenment. We do not hanker
after existence, but we worship truth, goodness, and purity. 11
"By Amitabha we understand the eternal, infinite light, the
spiritual light of comprehension, and this light is a reality. No one
doubts that there is a norm of truth and a standard of right and
wrong. That is Amitabha. We may not yet know all about Amitabha; our
wisdom is limited; our goodness is not perfect. But we ground
ourselves upon that which we do know, while you Brahmans start with
speculations, seeking a union with the Absolute, which is a vague
idea, something unknown and unknowable. Amitabha is certainly not a
limited self-consciousness, but an infinite principle, an omnipresent
law, an eternal norm, higher than any individual, but the depth of
this norm is unfathomable, its application universal and infinite; its
bountiful use immeasurable. 12
"We know something but not all about Amitabha. He is the
Dharmakaya, the embodiment of the good law. He is the Nirmanakaya,
the aspiration to reach bodhi in the transformations of the evolution
of life. He is the Sambhogakaya, the bliss of good deeds. The
philosophers, scientists, poets, of the future, the thinkers and
dreamers of mankind, will find in Amitabha a wonderful source of
inspiration which can never be exhausted. The Tathagata's religion is
not mere metaphysics, but urges the pratical issues of life. Thus his
religion comprises all without becoming vague." 13
Said the Brahman: "How can so many contradictory things be united
in one?" 14
And Asvaghosha replied: "My venerable teacher, the saintly sage
Parsva, once told me the parable of the elephant which explains the
relation of the truth to the sundry doctrines held by the several
sects and schools, priests and philosophers, prophets and
preachers." 15
The Brahman said that he had never heard the story, and expressed
his desire to hear it. 16


Asvaghosha saw tht every eye was intent upon him, and so he told
the story of the white elephant. He said: 1
"There was a noble and mighty elephant, an elephant white in color,
with a strong trunk and long tusks, trained by a good master, and
willing and serviceable in all the work that elephants are put to.
And this noble and mighty elephant being led by his guide, the good
master who had trained him, came to the land of the blind. And it was
noised about in the land of the blind that the noble and mighty
elephant, the king of all beasts, the wisest of all animals, the
strongest and yet the meekest and kindliest of creatures, had made his
appearance in their country. So the wise men and teachers of the
blind came to the place where the elephant was and every one began to
investigate his shape and figure and form. And when the elephant was
gone they met and discussed the problem of the noble and mighty beast,
and there were some who said he was like a great thick snake; others
said he was like a snake of medium size. The former had felt the
trunk, the latter the tail. Further, there were some who claimed that
his figure was like that of a high column, others declared he was
large and bulky like a big barrel, still others maintained he was
smooth and hard but tapering. Some of the blind had taken hold of one
of the legs, others had reached the main body, and still others had
touched the tusks. Every one proposed his view and they litigated,
and bickered, and quarreled, and called each other names, and each one
imprecated all the others, and each one denounced all the others, and
they abused and scolded, and they anathematised and excommunicated,
and finally every one of them swore that every one else was a liar and
was cursed on account of his heresies. These blind men, every one of
them honest in his contentions, being sure of having the truth and
relying upon his own experience, formed schools and sects and factions
and behaved in exactly the same way as you see the priests of the
different creeds behave. But the master of the noble, mighty elephant
knows them all, he knows that every one of them has a parcel of the
truth, that every one is right in his way, but wrong in taking his
parcel to be the whole truth. 2
"Not one of these sectarians observed the fact that the elephant
was perfectly white and a marvel to see, for all of them were
purblind. Yet I would not say that they were either dishonest or
hypocrites. They had investigated the truth to the best of their
ability. 3
"The master of the elephant is the Tathagata, the Enlightened One,
the Buddha. He has brought the white elephant representing the truth,
the noble and mighty elephant, symbolising strength and wisdom and
devotion, into the land of the blind, and he who listens to the
Tathagata will understand all the schools, and all the sects and all
the factions that are in possession of parcels of the truth. His
doctrine is all-comprehensive, and he who takes refuge in Him will
cease to bicker, and to contend, and to quarrel." 4
When Asvaghosha had finished the parable of the noble and mighty
elephant, the two kings returned from the summer palace carrying with
them in a solemn procession the slain tiger, and close behind on a
white charger decked with garlands and gay ribbons, rode the hero of
the day, one of the generals from the South, whose dart had struck the
tiger with fatal precision and death-dealing power. 5
"Behold the hero of the day!" said Charaka. "And had the
conspiracy not miscarried the same man might now be an assassin and a
miscreant." 6
"There is a lesson in it!" replied Asvaghosha, "existence is not
desirable for its own sake. That which gives worth to life is the
purpose to which it is devoted. 7
"Our aim is not to live, but whether we die or live, to avoid wrong
doing and to let right and justice and lovingkindness prevail. Says
the Tathagata (Dhammapada 183): 8
"Commit no wrong, but good deeds do,
And let thy heart be pure.
All Buddhas teach this doctrine true
Which will for aye endure." 9


Charaka found by degrees and not without difficulties his mental
equilibrium, which his friend Kanishka seemed to possess naturally.
He unburdened his heart to the saintly old man and arrived at the
conviction that he was not made for a monk and that his duties of life
according to his disposition lay in other fields. 1
In the meantime King Kanishka had sent a messenger to Matura his
chancellor and vice-gerent at Gandhara, to bring Princess Kamalavati
to Benares. 2
Princess Kamalavati arrived, and when her betrothal to Charaka was
announced the happy events of our story reached their climax.
Asvaghosha solemnised the nuptials of both couples, Kanishka with
Bhadrasri, and Charaka with Kamalavati; and he read to them from the
Dhammapada the famous stanza (Dhammapada 332-333): 3
"Sweet in the world is fatherhood,
And motherhood is sweet;
But sweeter is the thought of good,
If nobly our heart beat. 4

"Sweeter, a life of old age spent
In truth and purity;
Sweeter, to reach enlightenment
And keep from evil free." 5
When the marriage ceremony was over a feast was spread at the royal
palace, and King Kanishka declared that he had a great respect for
priensts, but did not favor the idea that his friend, the physician
royal, should resign his calling of wizard (as he was wont to call
him) for the sake of becoming a monk. While there were plenty of good
and honest men to wear the yellow robe, there was scarcely one man
among a million who could perform miracles and save human lives, as
Charaka had done. 6
Charaka denied that he was a wizard. His art was no magic but
consisted simply in observation and experiment, and it was nature
whose forces he had learned to guide; but for all that he accomplished
things which astounded the world. They were better than the miracles
of magicians, for they were more useful and of enduring benefit to
mankind. 7
When his friends praised him, he replied: "My science is a
beginning only and what I accomplish is the work of a tyro. The
Tathagata has preached the religion of enlightenment, he set the wheel
rolling; it is now our duty to follow up his thought, to spread
enlightenment, and to increase it. Amitabha is infinite, and thus the
possibilities of invention are inexhaustible. The wondrous things
which man is able to do, and which he will do in the ages to come, can
at present only be surmised by the wisest sages. 8
"But greater than the greatest feats of invention will be the
application of the Lord Buddha's maxim of loving-kindness in all
fields of human intercourse, in family life, in politics, in labor and
social affairs, in our dealings with friends and foes, with animals,
and even with the degenerate and criminal. The enlightenment of our
souls is most important. Therefore we praise the Tathagata above all
other things. (Dhammapada 387): 9
"Bright shineth the sun in his splendor by day
And bright the moon's radiance by night,
Bright shineth the hero in battle array,
And the sage in his thought shineth bright.
But by day and by night, none so glorious so bright
As Lord Buddha, the source of all spiritual light." 10