The Legend of the Lonely Buddhas

Now listen to the legend of the Lonely Buddhas:

The Sage of Vedeha,1 his body bent, asked
the Thus-Gone-One dwelling in Jetavana,
“Indeed there are those [called] the Lonely Buddhas;2
through what causes do they become [so], Wise One?” (1) [82]3

Then spoke the Omniscient, Outstanding, Great Sage,
to lucky Ānanda with [his] honeyed voice,
“Who performed service among former4 Buddhas,
[but] didn’t get freed in their dispensations,5 (2) [83]

because that is the means to awaken, wise,
they with sharp knowing, through knowledge and power,
because of [their] wishes [and] also great strength,
reach the Awakening of Lonely [Buddhas]. (3) [84]

In every world, with the exception of me,
there is no equal for the Lonely Buddhas.
I will describe a piece of the excellent
character6 of those Buddhas, the Great Sages.” (4) [85]

All of you, with well-pleased minds,7 aspiring for
the unsurpassed medicine, hear, by yourselves,
the excellent sayings, which are short and sweet,8
of those Great Sages who were Lonely Buddhas, (5) [86]

which are explanations of generations
of Lonely Buddhas who gathered together,
and a story of dispassion for danger,9
and likewise [how] they achieved Awakening. (6) [87]

With awareness detached from passionate things,
mind not delighting in delights in the world,
abandoning obstacles, throbbing conquered,
thereby indeed10 they achieved Awakening. (7) [88]

Putting away the stick among all beings,
not causing harm to a single one of them,
with a loving mind, friendly, compassionate,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (8) [89]11

Putting away the stick among all beings,
not causing harm to a single one of them,
not wishing for sons, let alone12 companions,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (9) [90]13

Affections arise for one with connections;
this dis-ease proceeds in line with affections.
Seeing the danger that’s born of affections,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (10) [91]14

Feeling compassion for friends [and] companions,
one puts off the goal, mind tied [to their problems];
seeing that fearfulness in intimacy,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (11) [92]15

One who is attentive to sons and to wives
is entangled like a large bamboo [thicket].
Not stuck to others, like a new bamboo shoot,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (12) [93]16

Just as a deer, not ensnared, goes for pasture
in the forest according to [its] wishes,
a knowing man looks after independence;
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (13) [94]17

Resting, standing, going, wandering there is
[some] invitation amidst [one’s] companions.
Looking after independence [most] don’t want,18
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (14) [95]19

Amidst [one’s] companions there is delighting
in sports, and there is abundant love for sons.
[Though] hating separation from what’s held dear,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (15) [96]20

Global in outlook,21 one is causing no harm,
being happy with whatever comes one’s way;
an endurer of troubles, not stiff with fear,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (16) [97]22

Even some who have gone forth are ill-disposed;
likewise [some] householders living in the house.
Being unconcerned about others’ children,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (17) [98]23

Shedding the attributes of life in the house
like an ebony24 tree whose leaves have fallen,
the hero severs the ties to household life;
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (18) [99]25

If one should obtain a clever companion,
a co-wanderer who lives well [and] is wise,
after having overcome every trouble,
one would wander with that one, thrilled [and] mindful. (19) [100]26

If one should not get a clever companion,
a co-wanderer who lives well [and] is wise,
[then] like a king quitting a conquered kingdom,
one should wander alone, like tuskers in the woods.27 (20) [101]28

Truly we’re praising success with companions;
those29 who are better or equal should be served.
Not getting those, not enjoying sinful things,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (21) [102]30

Seeing shiny [bangles made out] of [fine] gold,
which have been well-made by the son of a smith,
banging together when two are on [one] arm
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (22) [103]31

“Like that, with another,32 there will be for me,
meaningless chatter or ill-tempered [bad speech];”
seeing that as a danger for the future,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (23) [104]33

Sense pleasures are varied, sweet and delightful;
[they] churn up the mind with [their] varying form.
Seeing danger in the strands of sense pleasure,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (24) [105]34

“For me this is calamity, misfortune;
a sickness, a [sharp] arrow, a fearsome thing.”
Seeing this fear in the strands of sense pleasure,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (25) [106]35

[Freezing] cold and [scorching] heat, hunger and thirst,
wind [and] hot weather and gadflies [and] serpents:
having vanquished even all of those [problems,]
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (26) [107]36

Just as a noble elephant with a full-
grown spotted body, abandoning the herd,
might dwell in the woods, however it wishes,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (27) [108]37

“One who is fond of company cannot touch38
liberation, even temporarily.”
Heeding with care [those] words of the Sun’s Kinsman,39
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (28) [109]40

Freed from [incessant] wrangling of opinions,
gaining the way, getting the path, [with the thought,]
“I know I am not to be led by others,”
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (29) [110]41

Freed from greed, without deceit, [and] thirst-free,
lacking hypocrisy, fault- and folly-free,42
becoming intention-free in the whole world,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (30) [111]43

Avoiding, not consorting with an evil
companion, who is blind44 to the goal, who gets
into trouble, who intends [things], is slothful,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (31) [112]45

One should consort with [someone] noble, a friend,
very learned, Dhamma-bearer, skilled preacher.
Discerning [one’s own] goals, removing [all] doubt,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (32) [113]46

Not embellishing, not looking after sport
nor47 delights, pleasures, happiness in the world;
abstaining from adornment,48 telling the truth,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (33) [114]49

Having given up sense pleasures completely,
[including] sons and wives, father [and] mother,
wealth and grain and also [all one’s] relatives,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (34) [115]50

Mindful, discerning, “this is an attachment;
the happiness here is trifling, little fun;
here there is much suffering, this is a shaft,”51
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (35) [116]52

Having broken to bits [one’s own] hindrances,53
like a fish breaking a net in the water,
like fire that does not return to what is burnt,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (36) [117]54

With eyes cast downward, not [just] goofing around,
having senses guarded and mind protected,
not filled with desire,55 not burning [as though fire,]
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (37) [118]56

Discarding the attributes of household life,
just like a coral tree57 with fallen-off leaves,
departing [the house] wearing the saffron robe,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (38) [119]58

Not59 greedy for [good] tastes, not wavering, not
feeding others, on unbroken begging rounds,60
with a mind that’s not bound to this clan or that,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (39) [120]61

Abandoning the five hindrances of mind,
having pushed away all of the defilements,
independent, affection [and] hate removed,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (40) [121]62

Putting happiness and suffering behind,
[and] even in the past, mental joy and pain;63
attaining equanimity, calm and pure,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (41) [122]64

With strenuous effort65 to reach the best goal,
with mind unstuck [and] behavior attentive,
with firm exertion, having strength and power,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (42) [123]66

Not quitting solitude [or] meditation,
always living among things by the Teaching,
grasping the danger within existences,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (43) [124]67

Aspiring to destroy craving, not lazy,
not foolish, learned, possessing mindfulness,
probing the Teaching, restrained, energetic,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (44) [125]68

Not terrified, like a lion [hearing] sounds;
unentangled, as is the wind in a net;
not smeared, like a pink lotus by the water,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (45) [126]69

Having overcome, like a strong-toothed lion,
the king of beasts, wandering victorious,
one should make use of lodgings that are remote,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (46) [127]70

Practicing love, equanimity, pity,
release, or71 joy for others at the [right] time,
being unobstructed by the entire world,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (47) [128]72

Quitting passion and hatred and delusion,
having broken to bits [one’s own] hindrances,73
not trembling at the moment when life’s destroyed,
one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (48) [129]74

They associate, they embrace with [some] motive;
friends without motives are hard to find75 these days.
Wise about self-interest, people aren’t pure.
One should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn. (49) [130]76

With Pure Morals and With Very Pure Wisdom,
Attentive, Applying Selves to Mindfulness,
Insightful, Seeing the Teaching’s Distinction,
Knowing the Aspects of Path [and] of Wisdom,77 (50) [131]

in a Victor’s dispensation practicing
merit, aspiration [and] thus [gaining] signs,78
Wise Ones who don’t go on to have followers
become Lonely Victors, [those] Self-Become Ones. (51) [132]

With Vast Dhamma,79 [and] Many Dhamma-Bodies,80
Mind-Lords,81 Crossing the Flood of All Suffering,82
With Thrilled Minds,83 Seers of the Ultimate Goal,84
Analogues of Lions,85 Like a Rhino’s Horn,86 (52) [133]

With Tranquil Senses,87 With Tranquil Minds,88 Composed,89
Acting Mindfully90 for91 neighboring beings,92
Lamps93 shining the light of ultimate truth here,
these Lonely Buddhas are constantly honored.94 (53) [134]

All Obstacles Abandoned,95 Lords of People,96
Lamps of the World,97 Shedding Light Like Heaps of Gold,98
Free of Doubt [and] Good for the World to Look At,99
these Lonely Buddhas are constantly honored.100 (54) [135]

The clever sayings101 of the Lonely Buddhas
are circulating102 in the world with [its] gods.
Having heard, those who don’t act that way are fools;
they spin in suffering again and again. (55) [136]

The clever sayings103 of the Lonely Buddhas
are as sweet as if they were104 flowing honey.105
Having heard, those who practice accordingly
become seers of the [Four]106 Truths, very wise. (56) [137]

The[se] lofty verses spoken by [those] Victors,
Lonely Buddhas, gone forth into homelessness,
were made known, for apprehending the Teaching,
by the Śākyan Lion,107 the Ultimate Man. (57) [138]

With pity for the world, these transformations108
of those [Self-Become Ones,] the Lonely Buddhas,
were made known by [him,] the Self-Become Lion,
for increasing emotion and connection.109 (58) [139]

The Legend of the Lonely Buddhas is finished.110


  1. The Sage of Videha is Ānanda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant

  2. paccchchekabuddhā

  3. This and the following two verses correspond to the first three verses of Buddhāpadāna, above, where they are however found only in the BJTS edition; here, PTS agrees with BJTS in including them. They are in the more elaborate meter, with eleven syllables per foot, that characterizes the entire Paccchchekabuddhāpadāna (and the sutta from which it in turn draws, SN I.3), so I have translated accordingly.

  4. reading pubba° with BJTS (and PTS alt., and BJTS [2], above) for PTS sabba° (“all”)

  5. jinasāsanesu, lit., “Victors’ dispensations”

  6. vaṇṇa-padesa-mattaŋ

  7. or, reading sabbesu pasannacchittā, “with minds pleased in all of those [Lonely Buddhas]”

  8. or read madhuṃ va khuddaṃ (“sweet like honey”) with BJTS, as below even in PTS (v. 56)

  9. ādīnavo yañ ccha, BJTS Sinhala gloss kāmayen, i.e., “the danger” is (as ādīnavo connotes) passion itself

  10. reading tath’ eva with BJTS for PTS tatth’ eva (“there indeed”)

  11. BJTS adds the Pāli note: ayaṃ gāthā marammapothake ccha suttanipāte ccha na vijjjati, “this verse is not found in the Burmese edition nor [lit., “and”] in Suttanipāta,” referring to the remarkable fact that even though the following text is lifted almost verbatim from the “Rhinocerous Horn” sutta of the Sutta-nipāta (I.3), corresponding as indicated in the footnotes on the following verses, this present verse in the Paccchchekabuddhāpadāna, though it follows the format of the Sutta-nipāta sutta, is not found in that sutta (nor, apparently, in Burmese manuscripts of Apadāna).

  12. kuto, lit., “how then?” “from where?”

  13. this is SN, v. 35

  14. = SN, v. 36

  15. = SN, v. 37

  16. = SN, v. 38

  17. = SN, v. 39

  18. anabhijjhitaŋ seritaŋ, lit., “un-coveted independence”

  19. = SN, v. 40

  20. = SN, v. 41

  21. cchatuddiso, lit., “[one who belongs to] the four directions”

  22. = SN, v. 42

  23. = SN, v. 43

  24. koviḷāra, a species of ebony, Bauhinia variegata

  25. = SN, v. 44

  26. = SN, v. 45

  27. lit., “like a mātaṅga elephant in the woods (or forest)”

  28. this corresponds to SN, v. 46 but the latter does not diverge from the standard refrain, reading as the fourth foot: “one should wander alone, like a rhino’s horn”

  29. lit., “companions”

  30. = SN, v. 47

  31. = SN, v. 48. Clanging bangles is a common image of the throes of passion in Sanskrit erotic poetry, one of many levels at which the imagery here works to characterize the Lonely Buddha’s aversion to the world

  32. dutiyena sahā, lit., “with a second”

  33. = SN, v. 49

  34. = SN, v. 50

  35. = SN, v. 51

  36. = SN, v. 52

  37. = SN, v. 53

  38. lit., “it is an impossibility (aṭṭhāna, for a-ṭṭhānaṃ, lit., “groundless”) that one…would touch”

  39. Ādiccchchabandhussa. Though elsewhere in Apadāna this epithet signals Sammāsambuddhas (especially Tissa), here, as BJTS gloss makes clear, it refers to the Paccchchekabuddha to whom the phrase in quotation marks is attributed.

  40. = SN, v. 54

  41. = SN, v. 55

  42. niddhanta-kasāva=moho, lit., “with faults and delusions blown away/purified/cleaned up”

  43. = SN, v. 56

  44. lit., “who does not see” “who does not look at”

  45. = SN, v. 57

  46. = SN, v. 58

  47. ccha, lit., “and”

  48. vibhūsanaṭṭhāṇā, lit., “from a state of adornment”. The °(ṭ)ṭhāṇā here is largely superfluous, except in providing the ablative required by virato, and messes up the meter (13 syllables in this foot), but neither PTS nor BJTS indicates any hesitation about the reading. Norman, in his SN tr. (p. 9) reads vibhūsanā and omits °ṭṭhāṇā

  49. = SN, v. 59

  50. = SN, v. 60

  51. kaṇḍo, the shaft of an arrow (also an arrow itself, and “lump”)

  52. = SN, v. 61

  53. or “fetters,” saŋyojanāni

  54. = SN, v. 62

  55. anavassuto, lit., “not leaking” “not oozing”

  56. = SN, v. 63

  57. pārichatto, RD: Erythmia Indica, also a tree in Indra’s heaven

  58. = SN, v. 64

  59. akaraŋ, lit., “not doing”

  60. sapadānacchārī

  61. = SN, v. 65

  62. = SN, v. 66

  63. pubbe va somanassaŋ domanassaŋ, KRN SN tr. “already”

  64. = SN, v. 67

  65. āraddhaviriyo

  66. = SN, v. 68

  67. = SN, v. 69

  68. = SN, v. 70

  69. = SN, v. 71

  70. = SN, v. 72

  71. ccha, lit., “and”

  72. = SN, v. 73

  73. or “fetters,” saŋyojanāni

  74. = SN, v. 74

  75. or “hard to get,” dullabhā

  76. = SN, v. 75. This is the concluding verse of this sermon in SN, and the remaining nine verses of this apadāna are apparently original to it, as are its first eight verses, above.

  77. lit., “of going in the aspects of path [and] the aspects of wisdom (°bojjhaṅga°)”

  78. or predictions: nimittaŋ

  79. mahantadhammā

  80. bahudhammakāyā

  81. cchittissarā

  82. sabbadukkhoghatiṇṇā

  83. udaggacchittā

  84. paramatthadassī

  85. sīhopamā, lit., “with lions as metaphors”

  86. khaggavisāṇakappā

  87. santindriyā

  88. santamānā

  89. samādhī

  90. satippacchārā

  91. lit., “in” “among”

  92. paccchchantasattesu satippacchārā. BJTS reads paccchchanta gambhīra-mata-ppacchāra, “Going About with Deep Thought for Neighboring [Folks]” (?)

  93. Dīpā

  94. reading satataccchchitā ‘me with BJTS for PTS satataŋ hitā ‘me (“these…who are constantly friendly”)

  95. pahīnasabbāvaraṇā

  96. janindā

  97. lokappadīpā

  98. ghanakañcchanābhā

  99. lokasudakkhiṇeyyā

  100. reading satataccchchitā ‘me with BJTS for PTS satataŋ hitā ‘me (“these…who are constantly friendly”)

  101. subhāsitāni

  102. ccharanti

  103. subhāsitāni

  104. lit., “like”

  105. BJTS reads khuddam avassavantaṃ (“flowing honey”) for PTS khuddam iva ssavantam (“like [“as if they were”] flowing honey”)

  106. I follow BJTS Sinhala gloss in interpolating “the Four Noble Truths” here, as elsewhere more explicitly throughout Apadāna.

  107. Śākyasīhena

  108. vikubbitāni, lit., “miraculous transformations” (as through iddhi superpowers); the term seems to agree with subhāsitāni, “clever sayings,” in vv. 55-56 = “lofty verses” in v. 57.

  109. saŋvegasaṅgāmativaḍḍhanatthaŋ

  110. PTS (only) adds “the second”.