The Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King (A Life of Buddha)

by Samuel Beal | 1883 | 108,941 words

This book is called “A Life of Buddha” by Asvaghosha Bodhisattva, in Chinese known as the “Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King”. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Dharmaraksha (or Dharmakshara) A.D. 420. The most reliable of the lives of Buddha known in China is that translated in the present volume, the Buddhacarita-kavya. It was no doubt written...

Varga 16. Bimbisāra Rāja Becomes A Disciple

And now those five men, Aśvajit, Vāṣpa, and the others, having heard that he (Kauṇḍinya) 'knew' the law, with humble mien and self-subdued, . 1277

Their hands joined, offered their homage, and looked with reverence in the teacher's face. Tathāgata, by wise expedient, caused them one by one to embrace the law. . 1278

And so from first to last the five Bhikṣus obtained reason and subdued their senses, like the five stars which shine in heaven, waiting upon the brightening moon. . 1279

At this time in the town of Ku-i[1] (Kuśinārā) there was a noble's son (called) Yasas; lost in night-sleep suddenly he woke, and when he saw his attendants all, . 1280

Men and women, with ill-clad bodies, sleeping, his heart was filled with loathing; reflecting on the root of sorrow, (he thought) how madly foolish men were immersed in it; . 1281

Clothing himself, and putting on his jewels, he left his home and wandered forth; then on the way he stood and cried aloud, 'Alas! alas! what endless chain of sorrows.' . 1282

Tathāgata, by night, was walking forth, and hearing sounds like these, 'Alas! what sorrow,' forthwith replied, 'You are welcome! here, on the other hand, there is a place of rest, . 1283

'The most excellent, refreshing, Nirvāṇa, quiet and unmoved, free from sorrow.' Yasas hearing Buddha's exhortation, there rose much joy within his heart, . 1284

And in the place of the disgust he felt, the cooling streams of holy wisdom found their way, as when one enters first a cold pellucid lake. Advancing then, he came where Buddha was; . 1285

His person decked with common ornaments, his mind already freed from all defects; by power of the good root obtained in other births, he quickly reached the fruit of an Arhat; . 1286

The secret light of pure wisdom's virtue (li) enabled him to understand, on listening to the law; just as a pure silken fabric[2] with ease is dyed a different colour; . 1287

Thus having attained to self-illumination, and done that which was to be done, (he was converted); then looking at his person richly ornamented, his heart was filled with shame. . 1288

Tathāgata knowing his inward thoughts, in gāthas spoke the following words: 'Tho’ ornamented with jewels, the heart may yet have conquered sense; . 1289

'Looking with equal mind on all that lives, (in such a case) the outward form does not affect religion; the body, too, may wear the ascetic's garb, the heart, meanwhile, be immersed in worldly thoughts; . 1290

'Dwelling in lonely woods, yet covetous of worldly show, such men are after all mere worldlings; the body may have a worldly guise, the heart mount high to things celestial; . 1291

'The layman and the hermit are the same, when only both have banished thought of "self," but if the heart be twined with carnal bonds, what use the marks of bodily attention? . 1292

'He who wears martial decorations, does so because by valour he has triumphed o’er an enemy,—so he who wears the hermit's colour’d robe, does so for having vanquished sorrow as his foe.' . 1293

Then he bade him come, and be a member of his church (a Bhikṣu); and at the bidding to! his garments changed! and he stood wholly attired in hermit's dress, complete; in heart and outward look, a Śramaṇa. . 1294

Now (Yasas) had in former days some light companions, in number fifty and four; when these beheld their friend a hermit, they. too, one by one, attained true wisdom [entered the true law]; . 1295

By virtue of deeds done in former births, these deeds now bore their perfect fruit. Just as when burning ashes are sprinkled by water, the water being dried, the flame bursts forth. . 1296

So now, with those above, the Śrāvakas (disciples) were altogether sixty, all Arhats; entirely obedient and instructed in the law of perfect discipleship[3]. So perfected he taught them further: . 1297

'Now ye have passed the stream and reached "the other shore," across the sea of birth and death; what should be done, ye now have done! and ye may now receive the charity of others. . 1298

'Go then through every country, convert those not yet converted; throughout the world that lies burnt up with sorrow, teach everywhere; (instruct) those lacking right instruction; . 1299

'Go, therefore! each one travelling by himself[4]; filled with compassion, go! rescue and receive. I too will go alone, back to yonder Kia-ce[5] mountain; . 1300

'Where there are great Ṛṣis, royal Ṛṣis, Brahman Ṛṣis too, these all dwell there, influencing, men according to their schools; . 1301

'The Ṛṣi Kāśyapa, enduring pain, reverenced by all the country, making converts too of many, him will I visit and convert.' . 1302

Then the sixty Bhikṣus respectfully receiving orders to preach, each according to his fore-determined purpose, following his inclination, went thro’ every land; . 1303

The honour'd of the world went on alone, till he arrived at the Kia-ke mountain, then entering a retired religious dell, he came. to where the Ṛṣi Kāśyapa was. . 1304

Now this one had a 'fire grot' where he offered sacrifice, where an evil Nāga dwelt[6], who wandered here and there in search of rest, through mountains and wild places of the earth. . 1305

The honoured of the world,.(wishing) to instruct this hermit and convert him, asked him, on coming, for a place to lodge that night. Kāśyapa, replying, spake to Buddha thus: 'I have no resting-place to offer for the night, . 1306

'Only this fire grot where I sacrifice, this is a cool and fit place for the purpose, but an evil dragon dwells there, who is accustomed, as he can, to poison men.' . 1307

Buddha replied, 'Permit me only, and for the night I'll take my dwelling there,' Kāśyapa made many difficulties, but the world-honoured one still asked the favour. . 1308

Then Kāśyapa addressed Buddha, 'My mind desires no controversy, only I have my fears and apprehensions, but follow you your own good pleasure.' . 1309

Buddha forthwith stepped within the fiery grot, and took his seat with dignity and deep reflection; and now the evil Nāga seeing Buddha, belched forth in rage his fiery poison, . 1310

And filled the place with burning vapour. But this could not affect the form of Buddha. Through-out the abode the fire consumed itself, the honoured of the world still sat composed: . 1311

Even as Brahma, in the midst of the kalpa-fire that burns and reaches to the Brahma heavens, still sits unmoved, without a thought of fear or apprehension, . 1312

(So Buddha sat); the evil Nāga seeing him, his face glowing with peace, and still unchanged, ceased his poisonous blast, his heart appeased; he bent his head and worshipped. . 1313

Kāśyapa in the night seeing the fire-glow, sighed;

'Ah! alas! what misery! this most distinguished man is also burnt up by the fiery Nāga,' . 1314

Then Kāśyapa and his followers at morning light came one and all to look. Now Buddha having subdued the evil Nāga, had straightway placed him in his pātra, . 1315

(Beholding which) and seeing the power of Buddha, Kāśyapa conceived within him deep and secret thoughts: 'This Gotama,' he thought, 'is deeply versed (in religion), but still he said, "I am a master of religion."' . 1316

Then Buddha, as occasion offered, displayed all kinds of spiritual changes[7], influencing his (Kāśyapa's) heart-thoughts, changing and subduing them; . 1317

Making his mind pliant and yielding, until at length prepared to be a vessel of the true law, he confessed that his poor wisdom could not compare with the complete wisdom of the world-honoured one. . 1318

And so, convinced at last, humbly submitting, he accepted right instruction. (Thus) U-pi-lo (Uravilva) Kāśyapa, and five hundred of his followers . 1319

Following their master, virtuously submissive, in turn received the teaching of the law. Kāśyapa and all his followers were thus entirely converted. . 1320

The Ṛṣi then, taking his goods and all his sacrificial vessels, threw them together in the river, which floated down upon the surface of the current. . 1321

Nadi and Gada, brothers, who dwelt adown the stream, seeing these articles of clothing (and the rest) floating along the stream disorderly, . 1322

Said, 'Some great change has happened,' and deeply pained, were restlessly (concerned). The two, each with five hundred followers, going up the stream to seek their brother, . 1323

Seeing him now dressed as a hermit, and all his followers with him, having got knowledge of the miraculous law—strange thoughts engaged their minds— 1324

'Our brother having submitted thus, we too should also follow him (they said).' Thus the three brothers, with all their band of followers, . 1325

Were brought to hear the lord's discourse on the comparison of a fire sacrifice[8]: (and in the discourse he taught), 'How the dark smoke of ignorance arises[9], whilst confused thoughts, like wood drilled into wood, create the fire, . 1326

'Lust, anger, delusion, these are as fire produced, and these enflame and burn all living things. Thus the fire of grief and sorrow, once enkindled, ceases not to burn, . 1327

'Ever giving rise to birth and death; but whilst this fire of sorrow ceases not, yet are there two kinds of fire, one that burns but has no fuel left; . 1328

'So when the heart of man has once conceived distaste for sin, this distaste removing covetous desire, covetous desire extinguished, there is rescue; . 1329

'If once this rescue has been found, then with it is born sight and knowledge, by which distinguishing the streams of birth and death, and practising pure conduct, . 1330

'All is done that should be done, and hereafter shall be no more life (bhava).' Thus the thousand Bhikṣus hearing the world-honoured preach, . 1331

All defects[10] for ever done away, their minds found perfect and complete deliverance. Then Buddha for the Kāśyapas' sakes, and for the benefit of the thousand Bhikṣus, having preached, . 1332

And done all that should be done, himself with purity and wisdom and all the concourse of high qualities excellently adorned, he gave them, as in charity, rules for cleansing sense. . 1333

The great Ṛṣi, listening to reason, lost all regard for bodily austerities, and, as a man without a guide, was emptied of himself, and learned discipleship. . 1334

And now the honoured one and all his followers go forward to the royal city[11] (Rājagṛha), remembering, as he did, the Magadha king, and what he heretofore had promised. 1335.

The honoured one when he arrived, remained within the 'staff grove[12];' Bimbisāra Rāja hearing thereof, with all his company of courtiers, . 1336

Lords and ladies all surrounding him, came to where the master was. Then at a distance seeing Buddha seated, with humbled heart and subdued presence, . 1337

Putting off his common ornaments, descending from his chariot, forward he stepped; even as

Śakra, king of gods, going to where Brahmadevarāja dwells. . 1338

Bowing down at Buddha's feet, he asked him, with respect, about his health of body; Buddha in his turn, having made enquiries, begged him to be seated on one side. . 1339

Then the king's mind reflected silently: 'This Śākya must have great controlling power, to subject to his will these Kāśyapas who now are round him as disciples.' . 1340

Buddha, knowing all thoughts, spoke thus to Kāśyapa, questioning him: 'What profit have you found in giving up your fire-adoring law?' . 1341

Kāśyapa hearing Buddha's words, rising with dignity before the great assembly, bowed lowly down, and then with clasped hands and a loud voice addressing Buddha, said: . 1342

'The profit I received, adoring the fire spirit, was this,—continuance in the wheel of life, birth and death with all their sorrows growing,—this service I have therefore cast away; . 1343

'Diligently I persevered in fire-worship, seeking to put an end to the five desires, in return I found desires endlessly increasing, therefore have I cast off this service. . 1344

'Sacrificing thus to fire with many Mantras, I did but miss (i.e. I did not find) escape from birth; receiving birth, with it came all its sorrows, therefore I cast it off and sought for rest. . 1345

'I was versed, indeed, in self-affliction, my mode of worship largely adopted, and counted of all most excellent, and yet I was opposed to highest wisdom. . 1346

'Therefore have I discarded it, and gone in quest of the supreme Nirvāṇa. Removing from me birth, old age, disease, and death, I sought a place of undying rest and calm. . 1347

'And as I gained the knowledge of this truth, then I cast off the law of worshipping the fire (or, by fire).' The honoured-of-the-world, hearing Kāśyapa declaring his experience of truth, . 1348

Wishing to move the world throughout to conceive a heart of purity and faith, addressing Kāśyapa further, said,' Welcome! great master, welcome! . 1349

'Rightly have you distinguished law from law, and well obtained the highest wisdom; now before this great assembly, pray you! exhibit your excellent endowments; . 1350

'As any rich and wealthy noble opens for view his costly treasures, causing the poor and sorrow-laden multitude to increase their forgetfulness awhile; . 1351

'(So do you now) and honour well your lord's instruction.' Forthwith in presence of the assembly, gathering up his body and entering Samādhi, calmly he ascended into space, . 1352

And there displayed himself, walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, emitting fiery vapour from his body, on his right and left side water and fire, not burning and not moistening him; . 1353

Then clouds and rain proceeded from him, thunder with lightning shook the heaven and earth; thus he drew the world to look in adoration, with eyes undazzled as they gazed; . 1354

With different mouths, but all in language one, they magnified and praised this wondrous spectacle, then afterwards drawn by spiritual force, they came and worshipped at the master's feet, . 1355

(Exclaiming), 'Buddha is our great teacher! we are the honoured one's disciples! Thus having magnified his work and finished all he purposed doing, . 1356

Drawing the world as universal witness, the assembly was convinced that he, the world-honoured, was truly the 'Omniscient!' . 1357

Buddha, perceiving that the whole assembly was ready as a vessel to receive the law, spoke thus to Bimbisāra Rāja: 'Listen now and understand; . 1358

'The mind, the thoughts, and all the senses are subject to the law of life and death. This fault[13] of birth and death, once understood, then there is clear and plain perception; . 1359

'Obtaining this clear perception, then there is born knowledge of self, knowing oneself and with this knowledge laws of birth and death, then there is no grasping and no sense-perception. . 1360

'Knowing oneself, and understanding how the senses act, then there is no room for "I," or ground for framing it; then all the accumulated mass of sorrow, sorrows born from life and death, . 1361

'Being recognised as attributes of body, and as this body is not "I," nor offers ground for "I," then comes the great superlative (discovery), the source of peace unending; . 1362

'This thought (view) of "self" gives rise to all these sorrows, binding as with cords[14] the world, but having found there is no "I" that can be bound, then all these bonds are severed. . 1363

'There are no bonds indeed—they disappear-and seeing this there is deliverance. The world holds to this thought of "I," and so, from this, comes false apprehension. . 1364

'Of those who maintain the truth of it, some say the "I" endures, some say it perishes; taking the two extremes of birth and death, their error is most grievous! . 1365

'For if they say the "I" (soul) is perishable, the fruit they strive for, too, will perish; and at some time there will be no hereafter, this is indeed a meritless deliverance. . 1366

'But if they say the "I" is not to perish, then in the midst of all this life and death there is but one identity (as space), which is not born and does not die. . 1367

'If this is what they call the "I," then are all things living, one—for all have this unchanging self—not perfected by any deeds, but self-perfect; . 1368

'If so, if such a self it is that acts, let there be no self-mortifying conduct, the self is lord and master; what need to do that which is done? . 1369

'For if this "I" is lasting and imperishable, then reason would teach it never can be changed. But now we see the marks of joy and sorrow, what room for constancy then is here? . 1370

'Knowing that birth brings this deliverance then I put away all thought of sin's defilement; the whole world, everything, endures! what then becomes of this idea of rescue. . 1371

'We cannot even talk of putting self away, truth is the same as falsehood, it is not "I" that do a thing, and who, forsooth, is he that talks of "I?" . 1372

'But if it is not "I" that do the thing, then there is no "I" that does it, and in the absence of these both, there is no "I" at all, in very truth. . 1373

'No doer and no knower, no lord, yet notwithstanding this, there ever lasts this birth and death, like morn and night ever recurring. But now attend to me and listen; . 1374

'The senses six and their six objects united cause the six kinds of knowledge, these three (i.e. senses, objects, and resulting knowledge) united bring forth contact, then the intervolved effects of recollection (follow). . 1375

'Then like the burning glass and tinder thro’ the sun's power cause fire to appear, so thro’ the knowledge born of sense and object, the lord (of knowledge) (self) (like the fire) is born. . 1376

'The shoot springs from the seed, the seed is not the shoot, not one and yet not different, such is the birth of all that lives.' . 1377

The honoured of the world preaching the truth, the equal and impartial paramārtha, thus addressed the king with all his followers. Then king Bimbisāra filled with joy, . 1378

Removing from himself defilement, gained religious sight, a hundred thousand spirits also, hearing the words of the immortal law, shook off and lost the stain of sin. . 1379

Footnotes and references:


The scene of this history of Yasas is generally laid in Benares; see Romantic Legend, 261; Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, p. 102.


Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, p. 105.


The law of Arhats.


In after time the disciples were not allowed to travel alone, but two and two.


Gayāśīrṣa, or Gayāsīsa in the Pāli (Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, p. 134).


The episode here translated is found amongst the Sanchi sculptures. See Tree and Serpent Worship, plate xxiv.


The different wonders wrought by Buddha are detailed in Spence Hardy 's Manual, and in the Romantic Legend of Buddha.


So I translate i sse fo pi; it may mean, however, 'in respect of the matter of the fire comparison.'


This is the sermon on 'The Burning;' see Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, p. 135.


The Āśravas.


So also in the Pāli.


The Wang lin,' called in Sanskrit Yaṣṭivana.


This fault; that is, this flaw.


As with fetters.

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