馬鳴 (n.d.) (Skt; Jpn Memyo)
A Mahayana scholar and poet from Shravastiin India who lived from the first through the second century. According to another account, he was from Shaketa in India. Ashva means horse, and ghosha, cry or sound. Originally a follower and scholar of Brahmanism, he converted to Buddhism. He was reputed to be an outstanding poet, an excellent composer of music, and an author of literary works. Ashvaghosha disseminated the kavya (court epic) style of Sanskrit poetry and led many people to Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings through his skills in music and literature. According to tradition, when Rashtrapala, a Buddhist drama he wrote, was staged, five hundred princes immediately renounced secular life to become Buddhist monks. He propagated Buddhism in northern India under the patronage of King Kanishka. He wrote epics such as Buddhacharita and Saundarananda. Buddhacharita recounts the Buddha's life and is considered a masterpiece of Indian literature. Saundarananda is the story of Nanda, a cousin of the Buddha, who severed his relationship with his beloved and beautiful wife and became a monk. The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana is attributed to Ashvaghosha, who is regarded as the eleventh of Shakyamuni's twenty-three, or the twelfth of his twenty-four, successors. Some accounts, however, attribute it to another person of the same name or to others.