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...

Lives of Buddha (8): Kwo-hu-hien-tsai-yin-ko-king

It is in four kiouen. It has not come under my notice; but another translation of the same text, likewise in four kiouen, and made shortly after Buddhabhadra by a native of Mid-India called Guṇabhadra (A.D. 436), is before me. This work is called Kwo-hu-hien-tsai-yin-ko-king.

It is not divided into sections, but each kiouen embraces a distinct portion of the history.

Kiouen I contains an account of Sumedhas and his nomination by Dīpaṅkara Buddha. It then proceeds to narrate the events attending the conception, incarnation, and early years of the Bodhisattva until his tenth year, and his superiority at school (p. 26).

Kiouen II begins with the martial contest and victory of Bodhisattva over his compeers, and ends with the flight from his palace at nineteen years of age (p. 27).

Kiouen III begins with Bodhisattva's interview with the different Ṛṣis, and concludes with the conversion of the five men after Buddha's enlightenment (p. 34).

Kiouen IV begins with the conversion of Yasa and his father, and afterwards his fifty friends. It then gives in great detail the history of the Kāśyapas, and ends with an account of the gift of the Jetavana. This life of Buddha is of a circumstantial character, and is full of interesting episodes.

The next memoir in point of time of translation is the history of Buddha as it occurs in the Vinaya Piṭaka. I shall take as my example the Vinaya according to the Mahīśāsaka school. In the 15th and 16th chapters of this work is a brief life of Buddha. This copy of the Vinaya was brought from Ceylon by Fa-hien at the beginning of the fifth century (A.D. 414); it was not translated by him, but by Buddhajiva, a native of Cophene, A.D. 423 (see Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 21), with the assistance of Tao-sing (Cu-tao-sing), a Śramaṇa of Khoten.

In this life the order of events (and the precise words occasionally) agree with the Pāli of the Mahāvagga, as published by Oldenberg. It begins, however, with the history of the origin of the Śākyas, and in this it resembles the account in the Manual of Buddhism[1], except that in the Chinese the description of Janta, the son of Ambā, is that he was contemptible and ugly, whilst in the Singhalese account he is described as lovely and well-favoured. After the complete enlightenment, Buddha sits in contemplation at the foot of different trees. Here there occurs a divergence from the Pāli, as it is in the interval of his remaining thus in contemplation that he visits the village of Senāpati, and gives to his daughter Sujātā the two refuges in Buddha and the law. This is a curious statement, as it seems to imply that at that time the triple refuge was not known; in other words, that there was no Saṅgha, or Church.

The interview with Upaka is identical with the Pāli. The sermon at Benares and the conversion of the five men, the visit to and conversion of Bimbisāra, the conversion of Yasa and his friends, the visit to Uruvilva and the Kāśyapas, the conversion of Upatiṣya and Kolita—all this is as in the Southern account. The narrative then breaks off suddenly, and the rules of the Vinaya with respect to teacher and pupil &c. are introduced. This notice of Buddha's life, although not translated in China before the fifth century, must date back from the time when the Southern copy of the Vinaya, which Fa-hien brought from China, was first put together. The Mahīśāsika school was an offshoot from the Āryasthāvira branch of the Buddhist church, and in all probability was regarded in Ceylon as orthodox, in opposition to the Mahāsaṅghikas. It is curious that in the Mahāsaṅghika copy of the Vinaya which Fa-hien brought from Patna, and which he himself translated into Chinese, there is no section corresponding to the one just adduced, that is, this copy of the Vinaya contains no record of Buddha's life. This may be accounted for on the ground that the two redactions were made at different times and at places far apart. But yet it is curious that a copy of the Vinaya brought from Patna, and said to have been copied from an authentic original, should differ so widely from a copy found by the same person at the same time in Ceylon[2]. This circumstance at any rate will show the mixed character of Buddhist books in China, and the difficulty of classifying them in any distinct order.

Footnotes and references:


Spence Hardy, p. 130.


Fa-hien, p. 144.

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