Buddha Siddartha Intro

The “Journey of Siddhartha”, dedicated to my son Philip, is a very free translation (really “transcreation”) of the wonderful but too little known poem on the Life of the Buddha, the Buddhacarita of Ashvaghosa, composed approximately 2000 years ago, with a balance between the “standard” and (often startling) sensual sections.

Drawing upon the superb translation by E. H. Johnston, I wrote (or rewrote) it well over fifty years ago. Many of the images (e.g. “full honey jars”!) follow the lead of Asvaghosa and Johnston; but there is a considerable input in it from the twenty year old writer. I was encouraged by the fine poet and person, Archibald Macleish, who told me to publish it; and now, well over 50 years later, I have taken his advice. I hope you approve!

I might mention that the first band, The Chain of Existence—not for the light of heart—very loosely follows the sequence of imagery in the Paticca Samuppada. My attempt to complete the circle has been corrupted by the very ignorance with which our whole journey probably correctly starts. The actual “story” begins on band two, and ends with the Sestina on Departure in band six. What happens thereafter has to be up to you.



Walter M. Spink


Derived in large part from

Asvaghosa’s Buddhacarita


(The narrative starts at Band 2)

For Philip


How often will man stand in awe

Of all those things

with which his heart is full,

And only keep

the wind’s cold confidence.