Why the Buddha Suffered


Last year I was contacted by one of my virtual friends, Alexandra, who had just returned from Sri Lanka where she had heard a Dhamma Talk by Ven. Pemasiri, in which he spoke about the Bodhisatta’s previous unwholesome deeds and how that had led to suffering for the Buddha even after he had attained Awakening.

She wanted to know if I knew of this text, and where it can be found. She gave such a good discription of it that I was soon able to find the 34 verses hidden away in the Apadāna, one of the few Canonical books that still hasn’t been translated into English.

Anyone who follows my Ancient Buddhist Texts will know that I have a lot of biographical material about the Buddha on the site, and this intrigued me and seemed like a good addition to make, I therefore began a translation of the verses, thinking it would only take a short time.

Like all my ‘small’ projects this one turned into something much larger than originally intended and took much longer than I had expected, mainly because it eventually required a translation of the commentary as well to give context to the verses, and there were many problems with that too.

As far as I know this is the first time that any section of the Apadāna commentary has been translated into English, though during the course of the work I found that Peter Masefield had already translated the verses in his Udāna commentary translation.

The texts concern the deeds the Bodhisatta performed in previous lives which led to various problems in his last life: he underwent a long period of almost deadly austerities, he was slandered on more than one occasion, he had to eat horse-food, he was cut by rocks, splinters and knives and suffered headaches, backaches and dysentry.

The reasons for these misfortunes are all traced back to deeds the Bodhisatta had performed, and for which he was now suffering retribution. The verses are attributed to the Buddha himself, and seem to have been well-known in many early Buddhist traditions, and Divyāvadāna even states that giving this teaching is one of the things a Buddha must do during his career.

To find out more about the verses and the commentary, please see the Introduction to the text.

I have made the usual three editions:

An Established Text, which shows the variant readings found in the various traditions
A Text and Translation, which is a help to reading the original
An English Translation, which gives a readable English version

The latter is available in various formats (html, flip-book, pdf, epub, mobi and mp3), as are all the texts in the English section of the website.

I have also published an essay on the Buddhakhetta which is described in the first section of the Apadāna, together with a translation of the Buddhāpadāna itself by Mr. Dwijendralal Barua, M.A., which originally appeared in an obscure Volume in Honour of B.C. Law that was published by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Poona, India in 1946.

Buddhakhetta and Buddhāpadāna (html, flip-book, pdf, epub, mobi and mp3)


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