Buddhist records of the Western world (Xuanzang)

by Samuel Beal | 1884 | 224,928 words | ISBN-10: 8120811070

This is the English translation of the travel records of Xuanzang (or, Hiuen Tsiang): a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to India during the seventh century. This book recounts his documents his visit to India and neighboring countries, and reflects the condition of those countries during his time, including temples, culture, traditions and fest...

Chapter 20 - Country of Na-kie-lo-ho (Nagarahara)

The country of Nagarahāra (Na-kie-lo-ho) is about 600 li from east to west, and 250 or 260 li from north to south. It is surrounded on four sides by overhanging precipices and natural barriers. The capital is 20 li or so in circuit.[1] It has no chief ruler; the commandant and his subordinates come from Kapiśa. The country is rich in cereals, and produces a great quantity of flowers and fruits. The climate is moist and warm. Their manners are simple and honest, their disposition ardent and courageous. They think lightly of wealth and love learning. They cultivate the religion of Buddha, and few believe in other doctrines. The saṅghārāmas are many, but yet the priests are few; the stūpas are desolate and ruined. There are five Deva temples, with about one hundred worshippers,[2]

Three li to the east of the city there is a stūpa in height about 300 feet, which was built by Aśoka Rāja. It is wonderfully constructed[3] of stone beautifully adorned and carved. śākya, when a Bodhisattva, here met Dīpaṅkara[4] Buddha (Jen-tang-fo), and spreading out his deerskin doublet, and unbinding his hair and covering with it the muddy road, received a predictive assurance. Though the passed kalpa brought the overthrow of the world, the trace of this event was not destroyed; on religious (fast) days the sky rains down all sorts of flowers, which excite a religious frame of mind in the people, who also offer up religious offerings.

To the west of this place is a Kia-lan (saṅghārāma) with a few priests. To the south is a small stūpa: this was the place where, in old time, Bodhisattva covered the mud (with his hair). Aśoka-rāja built (this stūpa) away from the road.[5]

Within the city is the ruined foundation of a great stūpa. Tradition says that it once contained a tooth of Buddha, and that it was high and of great magnificence. Now it has no tooth, but only the ancient foundations remain.

By its side is a stūpa 30 feet or so in height; the old stories of the place know nothing of the origin of this fabric; they say only that it fell from heaven and placed itself here. Being no work of man's art, it is clearly a spiritual prodigy.

To the south-west of the city about 10 li is a stūpa. Here Tathāgata, when living in the world, alighted, having left Mid-India and passed through the air for the sake of converting men. The people, moved by reverence, erected this building. Not far to the east is a stūpa; it was here Bodhisattva met Dīpaṅkara Buddha and bought the flowers.[6]

About 20 li to the south-west of the city we come to a small stone ridge, where there is a saṅghārāma with a high hall and a storied tower made of piled-up stone. It is now silent and deserted, with no priests. In the middle is a stūpa 200 feet or so in height, built by Aśokarāja.

To the south-west of this saṅghārāma a deep torrent rushes from a high point of the hill and scatters its waters in leaping cascades. The mountain sides are like walls; on the eastern side of one is a great cavern, deep and profound, the abode of the Nāga Gopāla. The gate (or entrance) leading to it is narrow; the cavern is dark; the precipitous rock causes the water to find its way in various rivulets into this cavern. In old days there was a shadow of Buddha to be seen here, bright as the true form, with all its characteristic marks.[7] In later days men have not seen it so much. What does appear is only a feeble likeness. But whoever prays with fervent faith, he is mysteriously endowed, and he sees it clearly before him, though not for long.

In old times, when Tathāgata was in the world, this dragon was a shepherd who provided the king with milk and cream. Having on one occasion failed to do so, and having received a reprimand, he proceeded in an angry temper to the stūpa of "the predictive assurance," and there made an offering of flowers, with the prayer that he might become a destructive dragon for the purpose of afflicting the country and destroying the king. Then ascending the rocky side of the hill, he threw himself down and was killed. Forthwith he became a great dragon and occupied this cavern, and then he purposed to go forth and accomplish his original wicked purpose. When this intention had risen within him, Tathāgata, having examined what was his object, was moved with pity for the country and the people about to be destroyed by the dragon. By his spiritual power he came from Mid-India to where the dragon was. The dragon seeing Tathāgata, his murderous purpose was stayed, and he accepted the precept against killing, and vowed to defend the true law; he requested Tathāgata to occupy this cavern evermore, that his holy disciples might ever receive his (the dragon's) religious offerings.[8]

Tathāgata replied, "When I am about to die; I will leave you my shadow, and I will send five Arhats to receive from you continual offerings. When the true law is destroyed,[9] this service of yours shall still go on; if an evil heart rises in you, you must look at my shadow, and because of its power of love and virtue your evil purpose will be stopped. The Buddhas who will appear throughout this Bhadra-kalpa[10] will all, from a motive of pity, intrust to you their shadows as a bequest." Outside the gate of the Cavern of the Shadow there are two square stones; on one is the impression of the foot of Tathāgata, with a wheel-circle (lun-siang) beautifully clear, which shines with a brilliant light from time to time.

On either side of the Cavern of the Shadow there are several stone chambers; in these the holy disciples of Tathāgata reposed in meditation.

At the north-west corner of the cave of the shadow is a stūpa where Buddha walked up and down. Beside this is a stūpa which contains some of the hair and the nail-parings of Tathāgata.

Not far from this is a stūpa where Tathāgata, making manifest the secret principles of his true doctrine, declared the Skandha-dhātu-āyatanas (Yun-kiaï-king).[11]

At the west of the Cave of the Shadow is a vast rock, on which Tathāgata in old time spread out his kaṣāya[12] robe after washing it; the marks of the tissue still exist.

To the south-east of the city 30 li or so is the town of Hi-lo (Hiḍḍa);[13] it is about 4 or 5 li in circuit; it is high in situation and strong by natural declivities. It has flowers and woods, and lakes whose waters are bright as a mirror. The people of this city are simple, honest, and upright. There is here a two-storied tower; the beams are painted and the columns coloured red. In the second storey is a little stūpa, made of the seven precious substances; it contains the skull-bone of Tathāgata; it is 1 foot 2 inches round; the hair orifices are distinct; its colour is a whitish-yellow. It is enclosed in a precious receptacle, which is placed in the middle of the stūpa. Those who wish to make lucky or unlucky presages (marks) make a paste of scented earth, and impress it on the skull-bone; then, according to their merit, is the impression made.

Again there is another little stūpa, made of the seven precious substances, which encloses the skull-bone of Tathāgata. Its shape is like a lotus leaf;[14] its colour is the same as that of the other, and it is also contained in a precious casket, sealed up and fastened.

Again, there is another little stūpa, made of the seven precious substances, in which is deposited the eyeball of Tathāgata, large as an āmra fruit and bright and clear throughout; this also is deposited in a precious casket sealed up and fastened. The Saṅghāṭī robe of Tathāgata, which is made of fine cotton stuff of a yellow-red colour,[15] so is also enclosed in a precious box. Since many months and years have passed, it is a little damaged. The staff[16] of Tathāgata, of which the rings are white iron (tin?) and the stick of sandalwood, is contained in a precious case (a case made of a precious substance). Lately, a king, hearing of these various articles that they formerly belonged to Tathāgata as his own private property, took them away by force to his own country and placed them in his palace. After a short time,[17] going to look at them, they were gone; and after further inquiries he found they had returned to their original place. These five sacred objects (relics) often work miracles.

The king of Kapiśa has commanded five pure-conduct men (Brāhmaṇs) to offer continually scents and flowers to these objects. These pure persons, observing the crowds who came to worship incessantly, wishing to devote themselves to quiet meditation, have established a scale of fixed charges, with a view to secure order, by means of that wealth which is so much esteemed by men. Their plan, in brief, is this:—All who wish to see the skull-bone of Tathāgata have to pay one gold piece; those who wish to take an impression pay five pieces. The other objects[18] in their several order, have a fixed price; and yet, though the charges are heavy, the worshippers are numerous.

To the north-west of the double-storied pavilion is a stūpa, not very high or large, but yet one which possesses many spiritual (miraculous) qualities. If men only touch it with a finger, it shakes and trembles to the foundation, and the bells and the jingles moving together give out a pleasant sound.

Going south-east from this, crossing mountains and valleys for 500 li or so, we arrive at the kingdom of Kien-t'o-lo (Gandhāra).

Footnotes and references:


The situation of the town of Nagarahāra (the old capital of the Jalālābād district) has been satisfactorily determined by Mr. W. Simpson (J. R. A. S., N.S., vol. xiii. p. 183). He places the site of the town in the angle formed by the junction of the Surkhar and Kābul rivers, on their right banks. Both the direction and the distance from Lamghān (about twenty miles south-east) would place us on this spot. The mountains crossed by the pilgrim were the Siāh Koh, and the river would be probably the Kābul river at Darunta. The Sanskrit name—Nagarahāra—occurs in an inscription which was discovered by Major Kittoe in the ruined mound of Ghosrāwā in the district of Bihār (J. A. S. B., vol. xvii. pt. i. pp. 492, 494, 498 f.) The district corresponds with the Nagara Dionusopolis of Ptolemy (lib. vii. c. 1, 43). It is called the city of Dīpaṅkara by Hwui-lih (Jul. Vie, p. 78), just as he calls Hiḍḍa the city of "the skull-bone" (l. c.) Conf. Lassen, I. A., vol. iii. p. 137.


Worshippers or "men of different religious faith." The usual term for "non-believer" in Chinese is wai-tau, an "outside-religion man." This term corresponds with the Pāli bāhiro, used in the same way. The Buddhists are now spoken of by the Muhammadans as Kaffir log, "infidel people" (Simpson, u. s., p. 186.)


The Chinese expression seems to refer to the successive layers of checkered stones peculiar to these topes. See W. Simpson's and also Mr. Swinnerton's account.—Ind. Antiq., vol. viii. pp. 198 and 227 f.


The incident referred to in the text, viz., the interview between Dīpaṅkara Buddha and the Bodhisattva Sumedha, is a popular one in Buddhist sculpture and mythology. There is a representation of it among fragments in the Lahor Museum; another representation is among the sculptures of the Kaṇheri caves (Archaeol. Sur. W. Ind, Rep., vol. iv. p. 66). The legend I translated from the Chinese (J. R. A. Soc., N.S., vol. vi. pp. 377 ff). Fa-hien also refers to it (Buddhist Pilgrims, p. 43). See also some remarks on this legend, Ind. Antiq., vol. xi. p. 146; and conf. Rhys David's Buddh. Birth-Stories, pp. 3 f.


This is a difficult passage, and is probably corrupt. The phrase "ts'ui-pi," towards the end, may mean "in an out-of-the-way place." The reference is to the spot where predictive assurance was given to Sumedha that he should become a Buddha.


He bought the flowers of a girl, who consented to sell them only on condition that she should ever hereafter be born as his wife. See the account in the "Legend of Dīpaṅkara Buddha" (J. R. A. S., N.S., vol. vi. pp. 377 ff.) The incident of the flowers remaining over the head as a "baldachin," is represented in the Lahor sculpture referred to above, note 39. See Fergusson, Tree and Serp. Worship, pl. L.


See note 5 p. 1, and p. 145, note 76.


This is evidently the meaning of the passage: the request was, not that the dragon might dwell in the cavern, but that Tathāgata would live there with his disciples. Fa-hian refers to this cave.


The "true law" was to last 500 years; the "law of images" 1000 years.


This period is that in which we now are, during which 1000 Buddhas are to appear.


The symbol "chu" (āyatana) in this passage must be connected with the previous "yun kiaï." The yun kiaï chu are the eighteen dhātus, for which see Childers' Pāli Dict. (sub voc.) Vide also the śuraṅgama Sūtra (Catena of Buddhist Scrip., p. 297 n. 2). There is no word in my text for king, given by Julien.


Kashāya refers to the colour of the Buddhist upper robe, which was of brick-red or yellow colour (kashaya).


The city of Hi-lo or Hiḍḍa (concerning which restoration, see V. de St. Martin's Mém., u. s., p. 304), about six miles south-east of Nagarahāra, is described by Fa-hian (cap. xiii.) The Vihāra of the skull-bone is there said to be placed within a square enclosure, and it is added, "though the heavens should quake and the earth open, this place would remain unmoved." Compare with this the remark of Hiuen Tsiang respecting śvetavāras (sup. p. 61) and its name of Tetragônis. It is curious, too, that this place (the neighbourhood of Hiḍḍa) is called Begrām, and so also is śvetavāras (i.e., Karsana or Tetragonis). Both Begrām and Nagara appear to mean "the city." This town or Nagarahāra may be the Nyssa or Nysa of Arrian (lib. v. cap. i.) and Curtius (lib. viii. cap. x. 7), in which case there would be no need to derive Dionysopolis—the Nagara of Ptolemy—from Udyānapura, although, as General Cunningham remarks (Anc. Geog. of Ind., p. 46), the name Ajūna, given to Nagarahāra (according to Masson) might well be corrupted from Ujjāna or Udyāna. Compare with the text the account found in Hwui-lih (Vie, p. 76). Conf. Nouv. Jour. Asiatique, tom. vii. pp. 338 f.; Masson, Var. Jour., vol. iii. pp. 254 ff.; Wilson, Ariana Ant., pp. 43, 105 f.


The "ho hwa" is the water-lily, but it is also a general name for mallows (Medhurst, s. v.) This bone is that of the ushṇīsha or top of the skull.


Such seems to be the meaning. Julien has taken it as though kia-sha referred to another garment, but it seems merely to denote the robe called Saṅghāṭī.


The religious staff, khakkharam or hikkala, was so called from the noise it made when shaken. Conf. hikk; Ch. sek; Sek cheung, an abbot's crosier or staff (Wells Williams). It is described in the Sha-men-yih-yung (fol. 14 a). See p. 47, ante.


Scarcely had an hour elapsed.


The phrase "tsze chu", which is of frequent occurrence in Buddhist composition, seems to mean "moreover" or "besides this."

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