"The Buddhist monk Ashva-ghosha composed his elegant biographical and religious poem in the first or second century CE, probably in the city of Ayodhya. Importantly, this is the earliest extent text of the Sanskrit genre of "literature as a fine art" (kavya)." "Fourteen cantos take the reader from the birth of Siddhartha, the future Buddha, to his Awakening when he discovered the truths of Buddhism. The remainder of the composition, lost in the original Sanskrit, is here summarized from its Chinese and Tibetan translations. The most poignant scenes on the young prince's path to Awakening are the three occasions when he is confronted by the realities of human sickness, old age, and death, while at home he is continuously seduced by the transient charms of the women deployed by his father to keep him from the spiritual path.". "A creative artist of the highest order, Ashva-ghosha's aim is not pure entertainment but deep instruction. His mission is to present the Buddha's teaching as itself the culmination of the Brahmanical tradition."--BOOK JACKET.