The Life of Gautama Buddha
Awakening & Teaching

a complete collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Life of the Buddha as told in the Lalitavistara, together with further information.


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Birth & Youth

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Awakening & Teaching


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96. The Bodhisattva attains the highest Wisdom

In the late watch of the night when the day began to break, the Bodhisattva with such lofty comprehension, according to an insight that absorbed in unity of thought and time all that could be known, thought, achieved, seen and contemplated. attained the highest and most perfect Wisdom, and acquired the threefold knowledge.

Thereupon the gods spake: “Strew flowers, o friends, Bhagavān hath attained the Wisdom.” Then the gods’ sons strewed divine flowers over the Tathāgata till a knee-deep layer of the blossoms was formed. (350:8,12; 351:3).

The Bodhisattva, now become Buddha, is still seated on a throne with lotus cushion in bhūmisparśa-mudrā; the back of it is here lower but still has the makara-ornament, and above like a round niche the tree bends over him. On the ground on both sides is a flowering plant on a pedestal hung with garlands and covered by an umbrella, placed between two shells with flowers, also on pedestals. Right and left sit the gods, some with bowls of flowers in the hand and above in the clouds hover more of them, also with flowers and vases to honor the Buddha with a rain of blossoms.

No special importance need be given to the plants and shells, not mentioned by our text; In other sources the flowering of plants at the moment of the Sambodhana is specially mentioned (Kern 1.1. p. 72). they will be intended merely as ornament to the relief on which the attainment of the Buddha-ship is depicted, the zenith of the Buddha’s life. It is in fact very difficult to bring any special distinction into this fact, so unfitted for plastic representation, and to distinguish it from the other scenes of meditation and predication. The Barabuḍur sculptor had his task made easier by the long chain of previous scenes that enlighten the spectator and prepare him for the climax of the supreme moment; to give an idea of it on one separate and complete relief would be almost impossible.

We know in other places of the great difficulty there was in giving any distinctive character to the Abhisambodhana so that as equivalent, Māra’s attack, the temptation scene or the offering of the four bowls was given (here below No. 104). The representation in older Indian art with the empty throne under the Bodhi-tree, cannot of course be compared with that of Barabuḍur. Mahābodhi pl. 8 (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 206); Bharhut pl. 30; also Sāñchi (Foucher P. or. p. 65) and Amarāvatī (Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 18, 38, 45 etc.; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, II fig. 475 p. 391). At Pagān we see the Buddha in bhūmisparṣa-mudrā under the Bodhi-tree; Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 80 and p. 55 and 103. Ānanda Temple, Pagān

97. The Buddha honored by the apsaras

For the first seven days the Tathāgata remained seated in that same Bodhimaṇḍa.

All the Buddhas testified their approval to the Tathāgata who had attained the Wisdom and sent the dharmāchādas, who shaded this whole complex of three thousand great thousands of worlds with many umbrellas made of precious stones.

Then when the Kāmāvacara-apsaras became aware that the Tathāgata, who was seated at Bodhimaṇḍa, had attained the Wisdom, they turned to Bodhimaṇḍa and praised the Tathāgata with these verses: “At the foot of the king of trees, after vanquishing the army of Māra, he sits, unshaken as the Meru, knowing no fear and in silence etc.” (351:15; 352:4; 353:9,17).

The text does not say positively that the apsaras went to Bodhimaṇḍa, but that they turned in that direction; the sculptor however has brought them there and they are kneeling on both sides of the scene, the front one on the right with incense-burner and fan, others with flowers and dishes in their hands. Between two vases with a spout and lotuses, sits the Buddha still in the same bhūmisparśa-attitude, on his lotus cushion; the throne is again altered, has no back but small pillars on which the makara-heads rest that form the beginning of a sort of garland-like niche over the Buddha’s head; the tree projecting over the niche has very little resemblance to the ficus religiosa.

The objects floating in the air are very peculiar. First, on each side, five umbrellas; the gifts of the other Buddhas whose number has been reduced to ten in accordance with the ten directions of the wind. Below these on both sides, four large lotus flowers or lotus cushions, according to Pleyte (p. 140) an indication of the other Buddhas; but that seems to suggest more than the spectator can be expected to understand. Better leave the meaning in abeyance as also that of the flower-figures that appear on each side of the tree, consisting of one flower in the centre and four others crosswise round it. It may possibly have some symbolical meaning, but then one unknown to us, as the text says nothing about it. The whole does not look as if it had accidentally got into this shape (no less than the viśvavajra) without signifying anything more than ornament; so I cannot consider it merely a fancy of the Barabuḍur artist, but think that in the text he used, the umbrella-incident was put more in the foreground than in ours and that the more elaborate edition made mention of other such apparitions.

98. The gods bathe the Buddha with perfumed water

Then when the week was past, the Kāmāvacara gods’ sons took ten thousand vases of perfumed water and came to where the Tathāgata was, also the Rūpāvacara gods’ sons came with ten thousand vases of perfumed water. When they had come there, they bathed the Bodhi-tree and the Tathāgata with perfumed water. With thousands of jewel-pots and all kinds of perfumed water did the company of gods bathe the Friend of the world who had attained with tenfold powers the perfection of the virtues; and from all sides ten thousand kotis of gods in company of ten thousand apsaras honored him with thousands of instruments of music, in an incomparable way. (369:12; 376:17).

The Buddha in bhūmisparśa-mudrā still sits on his throne that again has the makara-ornament; the tree is now reduced to very small dimensions. The gods stand right and left; the front one on each side holds up with both hands a vase with a spout to water the Buddha and the tree. A few of the other gods also hold vases, without spouts, and of the ordinary gĕndi-shape. Behind the gods, on the extreme right and left, stand some apsaras with flowers and gifts of honor but without any music instruments. In the prose portion from which the first quotation is made, the apsaras are not mentioned at all, the verses of the second passage speak of them, as is seen, but very casually. The two quotations are separated by what follows on the next relief.

99. The Buddha replies to Samantakusuma

Then a gods’ son named Samantakusuma descended among the company and falling at the feet of the Buddha said thus to him, holding his hands in sĕmbah: “O Bhagavān, what is the name of the meditation, absorbed in which the Tathāgata remains for seven days without changing the crossed position of his legs?” Then answered the Tathāgata this gods’ son and said: “Prītyāhāravyūha, o son of the gods, is called the meditation in which absorbed the Tathāgata remained seven days without changing the crossed position of his legs.” Thereupon the gods’ son Samantakusuma praised the Tathāgata with verses. (370:3).

As it appears above, text and relief in some details are not quite in accord; so we might expect to see in this scene the homage of various sorts of gods as it is given in the 23rd chapter of the Lalitavistara, though it precedes in the text the bath of perfumes. We should be all the more inclined to think this because otherwise this whole chapter would be passed over by the sculptor. Still I think we must reject such an explanation because the Buddha on this relief not only is receiving homage, but according to his attitude is occupied in making some declaration to one of the company who evidently shows that he is asking or declaring something. For this reason I believe that the sculptor again follows the usual sequence of the text and gives the question of Samantakusuma after the episode of the perfumes. The Buddha for the first time has relinquished his bhūmisparśa-attitude he sits in abhaya-mudrā on his lotus cushion, still on the vajrāsana under the Bodhi-tree; by way of variety a triangular space is left out behind his head. On both sides is placed a flowering plant or bouquet on a pedestal, next in the background is an umbrella and after that, under some trees, sit the gods in various attitudes. The front one on the right is the one with whom by his gesture the Buddha is talking, therefore Samantakusuma.

100. The Buddha takes a walk and then returns to Bodhimaṇḍa

In the second week the Tathāgata took a long walk that included the complex of three thousand great thousands of worlds. In the fourth week he took a short walk for the distance that is between the East and the West sea. (377:3,7).

So as to make clear that the Buddha is taking a walk, but not leaving Bodhimaṇḍa for good, the sculptor has chosen the moment of his return to depict the events of the second or fourth week. The empty throne stands under the tree in the middle of the relief; a lotus cushion put ready on it, above which is a kind of niche. The throne has here become a real siṁhāsana; two small lions on four legs support the seat on which are two lions rampant, their heads touching the back of the seat. The Buddha advances from the right, he stands on a lotus cushion, holding the tip of his garment in the left hand and making a gesture of dismissal with the right. The sculptor has considered it beneath his dignity to be alone on his walk, so there is an umbrella-bearer (whose umbrella has a crooked stick for want of space) and a company of gods. Left of the throne is another umbrella and some one sitting on the ground, probably another gods’ son, who is fanning an incense-burner. The rest of the space on the left is fitted up with woodland scenery; trees with birds perched therein, and underneath deer couching.

Now in the text follows a repetition of the temptation scene; three of Māra’s daughters, not discouraged by the warning of their father, who considers it a hopeless case, make another attempt to captivate the Buddha. He transforms them into old women, but later on relents at their request and pardons them. This scene is not given on the monument, maybe it was not in the text the sculptor followed, or he did not feel inclined to repeat the incident of No. 95. According to Pleyte (p. 136 and 143) the sculptor did give a combination and No. 95 would be typical for the second temptation scene. His argument is founded mainly on his taking the weather-worn dancers for the maidens changed into old women (relying on Wilsen’s drawing), and this comes of course in the second, not in the first temptation scene. The drawing has also led him astray in another detail: Māra sitting in the left corner seems to be tracing patterns in the sand and this too is only spoken of in the second temptation scene, but in reality there is nothing to be seen of it on the relief. I have already given in No. 95 my explanation of this scene and how it corresponds to the first temptation scene, there quoted.

101. The nāga-king Mucilinda pays homage to the Buddha

Now in the fifth week the Tathāgata stayed in the dwelling of the nāga-king Mucilinda. In that week as it was very bad weather, the nāga-king Mucilinda came out of his habitation and wound round the Tathāgata’s body seven coils and protected him with his hood: “Let no cold winds reach the body of Bhagavān.” And from… the East came nāga-kings in great number and wound round the body of the Tathāgata seven coils etc. etc. Then when at the end of the week the nāga-kings saw that the bad weather was passed, they unwound their coils from the body of the Tathāgata and after honoring his feet with their heads and walking round him three times with their right side turned towards him, they returned each one to his dwelling. Also the nāga-king Mucilinda honored the feet of the Tathāgata with his head, walked round him three times with his right side turned towards him and entered his dwelling. (379:15; 380:5).

There is no sign on the relief of the principal incident of this episode, that is only possible if the nāgas are represented in serpent form, but on the Barabuḍur they appear only in human shape, merely distinguished from ordinary people by their hood with cobra-heads. The sculptor has made no attempt to do anything more, he omits the protecting of the Buddha and gives only the homage of the serpent-king. At Amarāvatī (T.S.W. pl. 76; Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 31) the Buddha sits on the coils of the nāga and is shielded by its hood. See also Sarnāth (Ann. Rep. Arch. Surv. 1904-5 pl. 30). In the modern Buddhist art Mucilinda is also in serpent-shape, for inst. the Siamese fig. in Frankfurter’s “The attitudes of the Buddha”, Journ. of the Siam Society 10 (1913) pl. 9 and the Tibetan in Hackin, 1.1. pl. 9. The Buddha sits in a pĕndapa left on the relief, in vitarka-mudrā on a weather-worn lotus cushion. On the right, still inside the pĕndapa, behind the cushion, appears the head and front legs of an elephant, with a little fellow mounted on it and bending over to his left, holding his right hand above his head, with a flower in his left. Why this small person and the elephant are put there next to the throne, I can’t imagine. Outside the pĕndapa is an incense-burner, behind which Mucilinda is kneeling with his hands on the ground in front of him. Next to him an umbrella is set up, on the right stand his male and female nāga-suite, most of them carrying gifts of honor; flowers and a vase are distinctly to be seen, but the large object held by the front one is damaged beyond identification.

102. The Buddha meets with other ascetics

In the sixth week the Tathāgata went away from the dwelling of Mucilinda to the banyan-tree of the goatherds. Between these two places along the banks of the Nairañjanā the Tathāgata was seen by carakas, parivrājakas, old śrāvakas, gautamas, nirgranthas, ājīvakas and others who said unto him: “Has the Bhagavān Gautama passed this week of bad weather according to his desire?” Then spoke the Tathāgata these cheerful words: “According to his desire is solitude for the contented one who hath heard the Law and obtained insight; according to his desire is compassion in the world and devotion to living beings, according to his desire is freedom from passion in the world and victory over sin; this is according to his greatest desire in this human world.” (380:10).

There is here nothing to show that we have returned to the banks of the Nairañjanā. On a path hewn out of the rock the Buddha stands on his lotus-cushion; the left hand holds the tip of his garment, the right is raised towards the persons he addresses. Behind him on the right, against a background of foliage, follow the gods who form his escort, the front one holding an umbrella. On the left hand of the relief on a space with trees and low rocks stand four representatives of the ascetics the text mentions, hermits and monks of other sects. Two of them have smooth hair and plain clothing somewhat in the style of brahmans, the front one salutes with flowers in his folded hands; the second, holding a parasol, wears a beard. On the extreme left are another pair of the hermits who appear on so many reliefs, with hair twisted up in a knot, necklace and loincloth. The front one of these also seems to be giving the flower salute; the relief is here very much worn-away. Above the Buddha some flowers are falling from the sky.

103. The merchants Trapuṣa and Bhallika approach the Buddha

In the seventh week the Tathāgata tarried at the foot of the tārāyaṇa-tree. Now at that time there were two brothers from the North named Trapuṣa and Bhallika, wise and skilful merchants, who journeyed with much stuff and many sorts of merchandise from South to North, with a great caravan of five hundred laden wagons. They had two excellent bulls named Sujāta and Kīrti who had no fear of obstacles; and when the other bulls would draw no longer, these two were put in front.

Near to the tārāyaṇa, by reason of the enchantments of a goddess who lived in a kṣīrika-wood, all their wagons came to a stand and could go no further. They were seized with fear and wonder: “What can ... be the reason and what is the hindrance that causes the wagons to stand still upon this level ground?” Then they put in the two bulls Sujāta and Kīrti, but these too could go no further. Then they thought: “Surely there is something ahead of us that causes the bulls to fear, so that even these fail.” And the goddess after making herself visible, comforted them saying: “Have no fear,” then both bulls drew the wagons to the place where the Tathāgata was.

When they saw him there, radiant as the god of fire, they marvelled saying: “Is Brahmā descended to this place, or Śakra the king of the gods, Vaiśravaṇa, Sūrya, Candra or some mountain or river-god?” The Tathāgata then showed them his russet garments and they said: “It is a wandering monk in russet clothing, we have no cause to fear.” Then taking courage they said one to another: “It will be time for the monk to eat. Is there anything?” And others replied: “There is honey cake and peeled sugarcane.” And taking the honey cake and peeled sugarcane, they came to the place of the Tathāgata and did homage to his feet with their heads, walked three times round him keeping the right side turned to him, stood aside and spoke: “Bhagavān, receive these alms from us in friendliness to us.” (381:3,11,15,18,21; 382:4).

It was of course impossible to depict all the various consecutive phases of this whole tale, and the sculptor has chosen the moment when the merchants, reassured by the goddess, are approaching the Buddha. He sits in dhyāna-mudrā on a throne with makara-ornament and triangular back, from the sides of which as from the tārāyaṇa-tree that projects above it, rays stream out to indicate the shining of the Buddha that made such an impression on the spectators. On the ground on both sides are sitting gods, a group of three and four; the front one on the right has an incense-burner, others have flowers. On the right we see three of the merchants coming, very much damaged, we can only say they are plainly-dressed, without headdress, and have beards; they carry an umbrella. The goddess is under a tree opposite to them, her hand raised; between her and the front merchant, above the ground, is some half-obliterated rock-scenery in which only two birds above, and another below in a nest in the rock, can be distinguished. In the left corner of the relief there is another landscape with rocks and trees and a pair of dilapidated gazelles adorn it. They are certainly not the two bulls as Pleyte suggests (p. 146), nor should we expect to see them on the opposite side of the relief to where their masters are standing.

104. The four Guardians of the world offer a bowl

Then thought the Tathāgata: ‘‘It would not be right for me to take this with my hands. In what way did former Tathāgatas, who had achieved perfect Wisdom, accept it?” “In a bowl” he remembered. Then, having noticed that it was time for the Tathāgata to partake of food, the four Great Kings came from the four points of the compass with four golden bowls and offered them to the Tathāgata: “Bhagavān, accept these golden bowls out of friendliness to us.” But the Tathāgata, considering that these were not suitable for a śramaṇa, would not accept them. The same with four silver bowls etc. Then thought the Tathāgata: “In what kind of bowl was it received by the former Tathāgatas, the arhats who had attained perfect Wisdom?” “In stone bowls” he remembered.

The four Great Kings, each with his followers round him, offered these bowls filled with divine flowers to the Tathāgata. Then he thought: “These four Great Kings, devout and pure, offer me four stone bowls, yet I can not make use of four. If I take one from one of them, the other three would be displeased. Therefore I shall take the four and make them into one.” Then the Tathāgata accepted the bowls from the Great Kings Vaiśravaṇa, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Virūdhaka and Virūpākṣa out of friendliness and made them into one, by the power of his friendly disposition. (382:15; 383:5,18,21; 384:10,15,20; 385:3).

On each side of the Buddha who sits in varada-mudrā on a plain throne under the tree, stand two Guardians of the world, each with his stone bowl in the hand; this is the usual arrangement for this scene also in Gandhāra, Foucher, Les basreliefs du stūpa de Sikri, fig. 13 and Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 208 p. 412 and 210 p. 417; J.I.A.I. l.l. pl. 14; B.A.I. pl. 98. In the cave of Yun-Kang on the contrary they are shown kneeling, see Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale, fig. 227 and p. 311. where as was mentioned, the offering of the bowls is often substituted for the attainment of the Buddha-ship. There is still more public present, sitting right and left, with some trees in the background. Among the much-damaged group on the left, probably the gods here also present, one strangely enough is holding a fifth bowl. The persons on the right with plain headdress will be the merchants, two of them ready with a dish of food.

105. The Buddha receives milk food from the merchants

At that time the herd of cows that belonged to the merchants Trapuṣa and Bhallika was at a neighboring market-place. At that moment the cows were giving instead of milk, cream of melted butter. The cowherds came to the merchants Trapuṣa and Bhallika with that cream of melted butter and told them thereof. At that time there was a brahman Śikhaṇḍin, in his former life a kinsman of the merchants, reborn into the brahmā-heaven. He took the form of a brahman and spoke to the merchants these verses: “Formerly ye made the vow: ‘May the Tathāgata when he has attained the Wisdom, after eating of food offered by us, cause the wheel of the Law to revolve.’ Now is the vow fulfilled; the Tathāgata hath attained the Wisdom. Offer him food; after eating thereof he will cause the wheel of the Law to revolve.”

After putting together the milk of a thousand cows without leaving anything over and taking from it the finest cream, full of respect they prepared a dish of food. The bowl made of precious stones that bore the name of the moon and held a hundred thousand palas, was filled up to the brim with the food, after being cleaned. purified and made spotless. With honey and this bowl, they came to the foot of the tārāyaṇa, to the Master: “Accept and receive this food which we bring thee in devotion, and partake of it.” (386:3,11,22).

Although the Buddha is supposed to be sitting in the same place, his throne has undergone important alterations and now has a very fine and richly-ornamented lower part. The tree as well for no apparent reason has been altered; instead of the ordinary foliage, there appears in the air a large lotus flower turned forwards and surrounded on both sides by flowers and flower branches. Small trees are placed on both sides of the throne, next to which on the right is a very dilapidated ornamental plant on a pedestal; left, the bowl decorated with flowers and garlands and also on a pedestal, now knocked off. The gods sit on the right, one standing in front with a lotus in his hand; one of those seated holds a bowl of flowers, another an oblong covered dish. On the other side of the Buddha, who is in abhaya-mudrā, are the merchants. The front one is standing, lifting up the dish of milk food with both hands; two others sit behind him. On both sides the relief is finished off with rocky scenery and trees with some animals, especially birds on the left.

The same episode is found at Ajaṇṭā Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 225, cf. Griffiths, Paintings in the Buddhist Cave temples of Ajaṇṭā pl. 50. and perhaps too in the Gandhāra art Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 192 p. 379; A.M.I. pl. 139. See Foucher, I p. 415. where the two merchants stand one on each side of the Buddha, but the identification is not certain.

East Wall (North to Center)

106. The gods request the Buddha to reveal the Law

The great Brahmā with hair high-twisted, lord of ten times three thousand great thousands ([of] worlds) was by the power of the Buddha in his mind aware of what passed in the Tathāgata’s mind: that the spirit of Bhagavān, being not cheerful, was inclined towards not revealing the Law. Then he thought: “Let me go myself to the Tathāgata and request him to reveal the Law.” Surrounded and followed by sixty eight hundred thousand brāhmaṇas he betook himself to the place where the Tathāgata was, did homage to his feet and spoke to him with hands held in sĕmbah: “This world goes completely to ruin, Bhagavān, if the Tathāgata after attaining the highest Wisdom, being not cheerful inclines his mind towards not revealing the Law.”

Therefore the great Brahmā with hair high-twisted, betook himself to the place where Śakra, king of the gods, was and said unto him: “This well thou shouldst know, Kauśika, the mind of the Tathāgata is inclined (etc. as above). why should we not go together to the Tathāgata, the arhat who has attained the perfect wisdom, to request him to reveal the Law?” “It is good, o worthy one.” Then Śakra and Brahmā, the earth-gods, the heaven-gods etc. etc. came to the place where the Tathāgata was and placed themselves aside. Śakra, king of the gods, went up to the Tathāgata, bowed before him with hands held in sĕmbah and praised him in verses etc.

When the great Brahmā with hair high-twisted and Śakra, king of the gods, became aware that the Tathāgata kept silence, they went away sorrowful and dejected with those gods’ sons (393:20; 394:8; 396:4,5,11,13,18,21; 397:20).

Between two incense-burners is placed the once more plain throne of the Buddha, who sits in dhyāna-mudrā. The tree is in the same style of hovering flower-arrangement, and now covered by an umbrella. The gods sit on both sides with trees in the background; some are making a sĕmbah, others hold gifts of honor. None of them has his hair dressed high so as to be Brahmā, nor is Śakra to be identified by the presence of Airāvata in the usual way. It seems to be more a deputation of the gods in a body, not Brahmā or Śakra in particular.

107. The Buddha agrees to reveal the Law

Towards the end of the night the great Brahmā with hair high-twisted, caused on all sides of the foot of the tārāyaṇa a divine radiance to shine with matchless colors and going to the place where the Tathāgata was, did homage at his feet with his head, and after throwing his upper-garment over the shoulder and placing his right knee on the ground he bowed to the Tathāgata with hands in sĕmbah and spoke these verses unto him: “In former lives didst thou resolve: “When I myself have passed to the other side, then will I be a helper to others.” Now without doubt thou hast passed to the other side, therefore fulfil thy promise, o hero of the truth.”

Being then conscious of his own complete knowledge and yielding to the request of the great Brahmā with high-twisted hair, the Tathāgata spoke these verses: “The doors of immortality are open for those who strive ever earnestly after the highest, they enter who are faithful, with no evil in their minds, they hear the Law, the beings of Magadha.” And when the great Brahmā with high-twisted hair was aware that the Tathāgata agreed, he did homage to his feet and went away satisfied, cheerful, gay, delighted, full of joy and gladness (398:9,11; 399:17; 400:15).

As this relief also depicts a conversation of the Buddha with the gods, among whom no one can be selected as Brahmā, nor is anyone in a kneeling posture such as the text describes for him, we could easily believe that this scene does not represent the above-quoted conversation with Brahmā at all, but for instance the visit of Śakra and Brahmā together, quoted at No. 106, while No. 106 itself would be the first unsuccessful effort of Brahmā alone. In support of this argument we might add, that the text does not mention the fact that Brahmā on his last visit to the tārāyaṇa was accompanied by other gods. There is really something to be said for this and I shall not ignore the possibility of its being correct. But I consider it more reasonable, in spite of the disagreement in various details, to think that when two scenes are allowed for the visit of the gods, we are more likely to find first the unsuccessful attempt and then the successful one, rather than only the two attempts that failed, whereas the most important, where the repeated request is at last successful, should be considered not worth depicting.

The tree has now quite disappeared and is replaced by an umbrella with waving ribbons above the head of the Buddha, who sits on a throne with makara-ornament in vitarka-mudrā. On the right is a large stand, with wreaths or what looks like them, the relief being rather damaged. Left, a vase with lotus-flowers. Then on both sides, again with a background of trees, the figures of the gods; the front one right making a sĕmbah, in the left group one or two with flower bowls. On each side of the Buddha two heavenly ones At least one of them is a female; so they are not the four Guardians of the world (Pleyte p. 151). come flying and flowers are falling down.

It may be useful to compare the representations of the request of the gods found elsewhere, for it appears that it is not always thought necessary to distinguish Brahmā and Śakra; see for instance the relief of old Indian art at Mahābodhi, Cunningham, pl. 8 (= Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 214). nor does one of the Gandhāra representations known to us Foucher, Les basreliefs du stūpa de Sikri, fig. 4; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 212, 213, and p. 420-427. That here the gods are standing, does not matter. indicate the two gods; though another one shows them plainly. The two Gandhāra reliefs are also remarkable in another way: on one, the Buddha sits with the same gesture of the hand as on our No. 107 and the tree is omitted as well; on the other, he has the attitude of dhyāna-mudrā and the tree is there, just as on No. 106. Whether this is mere chance, or if a certain tradition required both phases of this episode to be distinguished in this way, or that perhaps, as Foucher suggests, the Javan sculptors have taken two traditional forms of the same episode, with the idea of making two separate incidents, this I should not venture to decide. It is quite likely that an accepted tradition will have existed in sculpture as well, concerning such an important moment that was depicted already in the oldest Indian art.

108. The Buddha deliberates to whom he shall reveal the Law (?)

Then thought the Tathāgata: “To whom first of all shall I reveal the Law?” And he considered: “Rudraka, son of Rāma, is pure and good by nature… Where doth he dwell at the present day?” Then he became conscious that Rudraka had died seven days ago. Also the gods falling at the Tathāgata’s feet said: “So it is, Bhagavān, so it is, Sugata; to-day Rudraka, son of Rāma, is dead seven days.” Then thought the Tathāgata: “Ārāḍa Kālāpa too is pure and such a one as would put no hindrance in my way of teaching the Law.” And he mused: “Where is he at the present moment?” And while he mused he knew that Ārāḍa had died three days before. Also the Śuddhāvāsakāyika gods told him: “So it is, Bhagavān, so it is, Sugata; to-day Ārāḍa Kālāpa is dead three days.” Then thought the Tathāgata: “The five of the blessed company are pure and good by nature… to them will I first reveal the Law.” And he mused: “Where do they live at present, the five of the blessed company?” He looked round the whole world with clear-seeing eyes and saw the five of the blessed company dwelling at Benares, at Ṛṣipatana in the deer park. (402:19; 403:3,8,11,20; 404:7,12,14).

It seems to me very doubtful if this relief represents the episode of the above-quoted text. Quite to the right, the Buddha is seated on a throne with makara-ornament; an umbrella is there too above his head. He makes a gesture of argument with his right hand. Next to him is a vase with legs, there are lotuses in it and the smoke of perfume rising from it. The uncertainty is about the persons who occupy nearly all the right of the relief, with a background of trees. In the front, nearest to the Buddha, sits a figure in royal or divine costume making a sĕmbah, a little further are three men in much the same dress, two of them holding a bowl of flowers. Then come some kneeling figures in plainer clothes with the umbrella and other royal insignia and finally, away on the left, some more persons are sitting very plainly-dressed, some armed with sword and shield. The four front ones might be gods, but the rest of the company look much more like the ordinary royal suite than part of a heavenly crowd. Although we have quoted above a passage that according to the text ought to follow, and which is possibly the one represented, I am much more inclined to think that the sculptor has here followed a deviating text and depicts the visit paid by a king with a distinguished escort and ordinary suite, to the Buddha. This view seems the more probable because we have no explanation for the following relief.

109. The Buddha on the way to Benares (?)

Having thus mused, the Tathāgata rose up from Bodhimaṇḍa, and made tremble a complex of three thousand great thousands of worlds; he went forth gradually further through Magadha and came on his journey to the land of Kāśi. (405:1).

As mentioned before, the text says nothing about what this relief represents; at any rate the Buddha has begun his journey to Benares and has not yet encountered the ājīvaka-monk, whom we shall see on the next relief. I have therefore only quoted the few lines of the text that describe the beginning of his journey. The Buddha is coming from the right where some trees cut off the scene; he has the tip of his garment in the left hand and holds out the right. Next to him an umbrella is fixed up, there is a stand fitted with flowers or such like, and on the ground a heap of something that looks too like flowers; on top is a large lotus from which a flame rises. Then we see three persons, not very well-dressed, who are paying homage to the Buddha, the two front ones stand, one with a dish of food and the second (a woman?) This is according to the drawing; it is not distinct on the photograph. with a lotus in her hand, the third is kneeling and holds a rather indistinct bowl. Still more to the left, between two trees, is a building on a high foundation, it has a niche with kālamakara-ornament, and a little tower on the middle of the roof looking just like the usual style of small temples. Quite on the left we can see under some trees another group of worshippers sitting with a tray of garlands from which a line of perfume rises, a dish of food and a bowl of flowers. Though the meaning of this scene in hidden from us, I must mention that according to Pleyte (p. 153), this might be the homage of king Bimbisāra, a suggestion I am not able to contradict, but that rests only on the supposition that this prince would not let the Buddha pass by unnoticed.

110. The meeting with an ājīvaka-monk

Between Gayā and Bodhimaṇḍa another ājīvaka-monk saw the Tathāgata approaching from afar, and he came to the place where the Tathāgata was and stood aside. Standing there the ājīvaka held pleasant converse with the Tathāgata over various matters and spoke thus: “Thy senses have been wholly subdued to calmness, o worthy Gautama… By whom hast thou been brahman-scholar?” And when he had spoken, the Tathāgata answered this ājīvaka in a verse: “No teacher have I had, nor does any man exist equal to me; I am the one perfect wise being, calm by nature and free from all corruption”, etc.

He said: “Whither goest thou, o worthy Gautama?” The Tathāgata answered: “To Benares shall I go and when I am come to the city of the Kāśis, I shall set going the wheel of the Law, that never yet has revolved in the world.” “That shalt thou do, Gautama.” And having so spoken the ājīvaka set forth to the South and the Tathāgata to the North. (405:3,17; 406:8,14).

The meeting takes place on a space planted with trees; by putting several trees behind and above one another, the sculptor has given some idea of perspective. On the right a hind is couching under a tree with a pair of squirrels climbing in it, on the left we see a bird and two hares. The ājīvaka For this sect see Hoernle in Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics I p. 259-268. is coming from the same side accompanied by two colleagues; the first and the third make a sĕmbah, the middle one holds up a flower on his open hand. They are not naked, as might have been expected, Compare Laufer, Dokumente der Indischen Kunst I (1913) p. 6-8. but wear a monk’s frock reaching to the ankles, a girdle with a clasp in front, an upper-garment, rolled-up like a bandolier over the left shoulder and under the right arm, bangles on the upper arm and the hair brushed up smooth from the forehead and twisted up on top of the head with one lock hanging down. The Buddha, approaching from the right and walking on a lotus cushion, lifts his right hand towards them; he is followed by a god as umbrella-bearer. Notice the ūrṇā, distinctly worn by two of the ājīvakas, probably meant as token of their sect.

111. The Buddha is entertained by the nāga-king Sudarśana

The Tathāgata was invited at Gayā by the nāga-king Sudarśana to remain and partake of food (406:18).

As we shall see by this and the three following reliefs, the sculptor has not restricted himself to what in the text and the life of the Buddha is most important, but takes the opportunity that occurs to give us some scenes very unimportant in themselves, but suitable for a fine relief. It would make no difference to our knowledge of the life of the Master or the contents of the Lalitavistara, if No. 115 followed direct on No. 110; but we should miss some scenes that are well worth attention on their own account.

The throne offered to the Buddha is very curious; the lotus cushion is laid on an octagonal seat ornamented with lions, the back is plain and above it is a canopy on four columns. The Buddha is seated, the right hand stretched out on the right of the relief, so that there is only room for one nāga umbrella-bearer to stand there. On the other side of the throne are two umbrellas, a pair of pedestals, a vase with lotuses, a pair of large gems and a very indistinct object, that seems to be a sort of dish or flower-stand with incense rising from it. The rest of the relief is all nāgas in two rows, one standing and one sitting in the foreground, males to the right, females to the left. Most of them hold a gift, among which besides the usual dishes and flowers we see a conch shell and several gems. One of the nāgas is sitting with his back to the spectator and we can see how the sculptor imagined the snake’s hood fastened to the body at the back.

112-114. The Buddha is received in various cities

Then the Tathāgata went to Rohitavastu, then to Uruvilvākalpa, then to Aṇāla and then to the city of Sārathi. In all these places the Tathāgata was invited by the heads of families to partake of food and to stay. Thus he came gradually to the banks of the river Ganges (406:19).

The Buddha, according to the text, is entertained in four cities and we are given a picture of no less than three receptions. Unrestricted by the text, the sculptor is free to use his own taste in the manner and design of his scene. He gives us three quite distinct reliefs, finely conceived and varying in detail.

112. On this relief the Buddha sits on a plain throne quite to the right under a canopy supported by columns. Near to the left is a pĕndapa decorated with flowers and garlands, in which on a bench a copious meal is set forth, the large ball of rice in the centre with numerous small dishes round it of sambalans and other delicacies. An umbrella is fixed up in the middle of the pĕndapa; on the other side of it three men are seated, two of them with a dish of food or gifts, maybe money bags and fruit for dessert. Then outside the pĕndapa three women approach, a fourth is kneeling, the front one has a dish with a cake or a wreath, the second an object broken off a stick, perhaps a fly-whisk, the third has a small dish from which something has been knocked off, perhaps a jug. Quite on the left, just to show it is a city, we see a small building in the simplest style of temple with fly-whisk ornament on the top.

113. The banquet has not yet begun but the invitation is being given to the Buddha approaching from the right; he stands on the lotus cushion, while a nāga kneeling further on the right holds an umbrella over him. The hosts are on the other side of the Buddha, separated from him by an incense-burner; they are two men in handsome clothes accompanied by an umbrella-bearer, the front one kneels with his hands on the ground, the second sits, making a sĕmbah. Behind stand two women, one with what looks like a mirror, the other with a fly-whisk. Next we see the throne ready for the Buddha, large and wide, the legs with small standing lions, and the back with little rampant lions on an elephant’s head at the sides, on the seat a large cushion with smaller lotus cushion on it, the back of the throne ornamented with arabesques terminating in a makara-head; the canopy spreads above it all, waving with pennons. On the other side of the throne some male and female followers stand and sit; one of the latter holds an incense-burner and fan.

114. This last scene is very simply designed. The Buddha in the centre on an ordinary kind of chair with back, his right hand in vitarka-mudrā; on the left a standard with a perfume homage piled up in a pyramid shape, then the citizens who receive him, men to the right, women to the left, in a standing and a sitting row. Among the men is an umbrella-bearer; the front one sitting holds an incense burner with a handle, the front standing one, a bowl and brush. Several others, especially women, Pleyte (p. 156) is mistaken in thinking there is a yakṣī present. have the usual dishes with food, flowers and other gifts.

115. The Buddha crosses the Ganges

At that time the mighty river, the Ganges, flowed full to its banks. The Tathāgata went to a boatman to be put across, who said to him: “Give me the fare, Gautama.” And with the words: “I have no fare, my good man”, the Tathāgata flew through the air from one bank to the other. When the boatman saw this, he was dismayed: “I have not set across a man so worthy to be honored. What a misfortune!” and with these words he fell senseless to the ground. Thereupon the boatman told the same to king Bimbisāra: “The monk Gautama, o lord, said when I asked him for the fare: ‘I have no fare’ and flew from this bank to the other through the air.” And hearing that, king Bimbisāra from that moment freed all wandering monks from paying for the ferry boat (407:1).

In the middle of the relief we see the river with many fishes and some tortoises in it. On the right bank is a landing-place of stone, where the boatman is sitting holding his right hand to his face, either as a gesture of despair or else for looking across the river better. The boat-hook is next to him pushed into the rocky bank; a second person sits behind him, a third and fourth are coming from the right. The two last have beards and one leans on a stick; they all wear the clothes and hair-dressing of the poorest class. The Buddha has already flown across the river and now stands on the left on his lotus cushion, ready to continue his journey. The edge of the river on that side is planted with trees, it stretches further into the background and gives shelter to a pair of gazelles and pigs, many birds, especially geese Text: haṁsas. and a couple of fowls. In the river is the boat, made fast with a rope to the forked boat-hook already mentioned, it is a flat boat with [a] simple rudder on both sides of the stern and an awning on four poles for the shade, with another similar boat-hook laid ready on the top of it.

116. The Buddha at Benares

Thus went the Buddha gradually through various lands towards the great city of Benares and when he had dressed himself at break of day he entered the great city of Benares with his bowl and monk’s frock to ask for alms. And after passing through the city begging, and having done what he had to do to get food and at last having eaten what he had collected in his bowl, he betook himself to Ṛṣipatana, to the deer park where the five of the blessed company were. (407:12).

This is one of the few reliefs that might cause us to suspect that the sculptors worked perhaps more with fixed models than the variety everywhere introduced seems to imply. This relief is remarkably like No. 73; both show us “a mendicant Buddha in a great city”, first Rājagṛha, now Benares, and in both cases the composition is exactly the same; the Buddha or Bodhisattva, coming from the right, stands on a lotus cushion holding the tip of his garment in the left hand and stretching his right towards a woman kneeling before him touching the ground with her hands; behind her stand a man and woman well-dressed, the first offering a food bowl, further we see several men sitting and then a small building on the left. Only the details vary; instead of the three spectators in the right hand corner of No. 73, here there is a sitting umbrella-bearer of the Buddha, and the hovering heavenly-ones have disappeared. The woman standing, who holds nothing on No. 73, now has a bowl of food; the seated figures on No. 73, the king’s suite with his insignia, are now a group of citizens seated under the trees. Finally the building differs in style and here looks like a large rice-shed quite in keeping with the well-known stone models, but with a penthouse built on columns at the right, beneath which sits a guard with a beard and a club. In spite of these certainly not unimportant differences of detail, the composition of the whole is remarkably similar.

117. The Buddha approaches his five former pupils

Then the five of the blessed company saw the Tathāgata coming afar off and agreed when they saw him as follows: “Here comes the worthy monk Gautama, the lazy one, the glutton, spoiled by his indolence. Let no one go to meet him or rise when he comes or relieve him of his bowl and monk’s frock, or give him food or drink or a footstool, but let we only put ready the remaining seats and all together say: “These seats are left, worthy Gautama, seat thyself if thou wilt.” (407:17; 408:1).

We see here again how casually the sculptor treats the details, though the main point is clear; the Buddha is not holding a bowl, of which he could be relieved and there are no seats, where the five of the blessed company are. But the main thing is all right; the Buddha is coming from the right on a lotus cushion into the deer-park indicated by a gazelle couched at his foot, his left hand holds the tip of his garment, the right is in vitarka-mudrā. A thick bed of rushes with birds flying above it separates him from that part of the wood where the five are seated on the rocky ground, all dressed in the costume of ascetics or hermits, as we saw them last (on No. 77), hair brushed up high and twisted into a loop, beard, necklace and loincloth. They are talking together; the one nearest to the right is turning to look at the approaching Buddha, but according to their agreement none of them give any sign of salutation.

118. The five do homage to the Buddha as bhikṣus

And the nearer the Tathāgata came to the place where the five of the blessed company were, the more they felt uneasy in their seats and were compelled to stand up. And the nearer the Tathāgata came, the less could the five of the blessed company endure his majesty and radiance, but becoming uneasy in their seats, one rose to meet him, another advanced and relieved him of his bowl and monk’s frock, a third offered him a seat, another a footstool and another brought water to wash his feet, saying: “Welcome, worthy Gautama, welcome and seat thyself on the seat prepared for thee.” Thereupon the Tathāgata placed himself upon the seat prepared and the five after discoursing with him on several agreeable and joyful subjects seated themselves apart. There seated, the five of the blessed company spoke to the Tathāgata: “O worthy Gautama, thy senses are wholly subdued to calmness” etc. After these words spake the Tathāgata to the five: “Ye bhikṣus, address the Tathāgata no more as “worthy one”… I am a Buddha, ye bhikṣus, omniscient and all-seeing” etc.

And when he had spoken, all signs and tokens of false doctrine fell away from them and the three-piece monk’s dress and the alms bowl appeared and their heads were shorn… At the same time the five of the blessed company fell at the feet of the Tathāgata as bhikṣus, confessed their fault and recognised him as their Master, to love, honor and respect him. (408:6,14; 409:5,8,17,21).

The Buddha has seated himself on the chair provided for him, with his lotus-cushion in the middle of the relief, his right hand held in vitarka-mudrā, probably discoursing; streaks of flame all round him indicate the radiance spoken of in the text. Next to him is, left, an incense-burner, right, a stand but what it held is worn-off; further, on the right, three, and left, two of the five scholars who have already assumed the appearance of Buddhist monks. The front one, right, holds a lotus. Trees in the background indicate the situation; in the right hand corner sits a hare and two monkeys are sporting in the tree farthest to the left. Under the same tree sit four spectators, some with flowers in their hand; their headdress has partly disappeared but as far as we can see it was simple in style. Gods or such-like beings, for instance the Bodhisattvas Pleyte (p. 160) considers them to be so. present at the first preaching, they are not likely to be, more likely citizens of Benares who have come to look on; at any rate the text does not mention them. It is worth noting besides that on this relief as well, the alms bowl positively mentioned in the text is omitted; we might almost think that the Javan bhikṣus made no use of this article in their outfit.

119. The pupils bathe the Buddha

Full of respect they performed in a beautiful pool the ceremony of bathing the Tathāgata. (410:1.)

There is no doubt about this being a lotus-pond, we see lotus plants growing under and near to the lotus-cushion, on which the Buddha is seated in dhyāna-mudrā in the middle of the relief, they are to be found too in the background and sprouting up between the various figures. The five bhikṣus stand on a small eminence, two on the right, three, left. Those next to the Buddha hold up with both hands a water pot pouring out a stream on to him; one of the others holds the Master’s clothes on a tray and the last two, bowls of flowers. In spite of the clothes held ready, the Buddha is of course not naked in the bath but wears his ordinary monk’s garment. Some four other persons are present, recognisable as nāgas who belong to the pond, here quite appropriate, through not spoken of in the text. Two stand on the right, a male with an umbrella, a female with lotus flowers; on the left a pair is seated, the nāga holding a perfume stand and the nāginī making a sĕmbah.

120. The first preaching

After coming out of the bath the Tathāgata bethought himself: “Where did the former Tathāgatas, the arhats who attained perfect Wisdom, cause the wheel of the Law to revolve?” At the place where the former Tathāgatas had set the wheel of the Law in motion there appeared a thousand thrones made of seven gems. And when the Tathāgata out of respect for the former Tathāgatas had paced round three thrones turning the right side, he seated himself on the fourth like a lion without fear, his legs crossed. And the five bhikṣus after paying homage to the Buddha’s feet with their heads, sat down in front of him.

At that same moment came from the East, South, West and North, from the zenith and the nadir, everywhere from the ten points of the winds many kotis of Bodhisattvas who had attained the fulfilment of a former vote, they fell at the feet of the Tathāgata and besought him to set the wheel of the Law in motion. And whatever other gods there were in this complex of three thousand great thousands of worlds, Śakra or Brahmā or the Guardians of the world, or whatever other gods’ sons, mighty of the mighty, they all fell at the Tathāgata’s feet bending their heads and besought him to set the wheel of the Law in motion.

In the first watch of the night, the Tathāgata kept silence, in the second he held an exalting discourse. In the last watch of the night he addressed the five of the blessed company in these words… (410:3; 413:8; 416:13).

It is of course useless to quote the first preaching that now follows, any more than what in the second part is addressed specially to Maitreya. Besides among the audience on this relief there is none to be distinguished as Maitreya, so the sculptor evidently intends to depict the preaching to the disciples, the first revelation of the new doctrine of salvation for mankind in this world. The Buddha here sits on his lotus-cushion on a richly-ornamented throne, the high back of which terminates in makara-heads resting on small columns. Above his head hovers an umbrella, the only remnant of the decorations put up in the air by the gods, flags, banners etc. mentioned in a passage of the text we have not quoted as it was for the rest unnoticed by the sculptor. (413:4). The right hand has been knocked off, but we can see by the left one which rests on his lap, that the pose of the Buddha has not been dharmacakra-mudrā, and this is strange when the text specially mentions the offering of a “dharmacakra” (415:9 etc.), but in agreement with the Gandhāra tradition. See Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I p. 432. The whole argument (p. 427-435) is very important, also where it has no direct connection with the Barabuḍur representation. The attitude was probably vitarka-mudrā. Next to the Buddha’s throne, on each side, is a stand, on the left with wreaths and a lotus flower, the right one being quite indistinct. The audience sits on both sides. On the left in the front are the five bhikṣus, the first one holding a lontar-leaf, and furthest to the left one of the Bodhisattvas and gods, the rest of whom all sit on the right. Some make a sĕmbah, a few carry a flower. On clouds in the air heavenly ones come flying from both sides, partly very much damaged, but the front ones are going to pay their homage with a dish of wreaths. Naturally this relief omits the pair of gazelles or the small wheel that on separate representations in the Indian art as well as at Mendut The author’s Irrleiding Hindoe-Javaansehekunst (1923) I p. 318. are thought necessary to indicate that the first preaching at Benares, not any ordinary one, is meant; a distinction not here needed, where this relief is the last of a whole series and cannot be taken for anything but the first sermon.

We may pass over the numerous representations of the first preaching in further Buddhist art, in which the conception is symbolic and the Master replaced by cakra, triśūla or vardhamāna, a peculiarity that made its way even into Gandhāra. Mahābodhi pl. 8 (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 221); Sāñchi T.S.W. pl. 29, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, II fig. 475 p. 391; Gandhāra Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 218 p. 431; Amarāvatī T.S.W. pl. 71, Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 12, 38, 46, 48, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, II ibid. But the Buddha himself also appears in Gandhāra, A.M.I. pl. 80, 96, 147; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 220 p. 433; J.I.A.I. pl. 10; B.A.I. fig. 96. Amarāvatī, Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 16. For Ajaṇṭā see Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 225. Sarnāth, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 209 p. 413, II fig. 498 p. 539, fig. 507 p. 563; A.M.I. pl. 67 and 68; Journ. Roy. As. Soc. 1907 1.1. pl. 4. Magadha, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 500 p. 545. and Serindia; Grünwedel, Altbuddh. Kultst. Turk. fig. 383 (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, Il fig. 523 p. 605). his audience consists sometimes of gods only, other times, the same as at Barabuḍur, there are monks and gods together, very occasionally we find only a couple of bhikṣus. Naturally in all cases we find the Master in the middle with the seekers after salvation grouped around him.

“Here endeth śrī-Lalitavistara, the sūtra of the Mahāyāna, king of jewels”. Last words of the text (444:18). And with this, as regards Barabuḍur, the life-story of the Master, for it is a remarkable fact, which will be explained elsewhere, In the last chapter of the Barabuḍur-monograph. that nothing more The Avidurenidāna at Pagān ends already with the Sambodhi; see Seidenstücker p. 18 . of the Buddha’s further life nor the parinirvāṇa appears on the monument.


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Birth & Youth

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Awakening & Teaching


Photographs and Text by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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