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 3 - Country of Ta-ch’a-shi-lo (Takshashila)

The kingdom of Ta-ch'a-shi-lo[1] is about 2000 li in circuit, and the capital is about 10 li in circuit. The royal family being extinct, the nobles contend for power by force. Formerly this country was in subjection to Kapiśa, but latterly it has become tributary to Kia-shi-mi-io (Kaśmīr). The land is renowned for its fertility, and produces rich harvests. It is very full of streams and fountains. Flowers and fruits are abundant. The climate is agreeably temperate. The people are lively and courageous, and they honour the three gems. Although there are many saṅghārāmas, they have become ruinous and deserted, and there are very few priests; those that there are study the Great Vehicle.

North-west of the capital about 70 li is the tank of the Nāga-rāja Elāpatra (I-lo-po-to-lo);[2] it is about 100 paces round, the waters are pure and sweet; lotus flowers of various colours, which reflect different tints in their common beauty (garnish the surface); this Nāga was a Bhikṣu who anciently, in the time of Kāśyapa Buddha, destroyed an Elāpatra tree. Hence, at the present time, when the people of that country ask for rain or fine weather, they must go with the Shamans to the side of the tank, and then cracking their fingers (or, in a moment), after praying for the desired object, they obtain it.

Going 30 li or so to the south-east of the Nāga tank, we enter a gorge between two mountains, where there is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. It is about 100 feet in height. This is where śākya Tathāgata delivered a prediction, that when Maitreya, Lord of the World, appeared hereafter, there should also appear of themselves four great gem treasures, and that in this excellent land there should be one. According to tradition, we find that whenever there is an earthquake, and the mountains on every side are shaken, all round this sacred spot (treasure) to the distance of 100 paces there is perfect stillness. If men are so foolish as to attempt to dig into the place (or ground surrounding it), the earth shakes again, and the men are thrown down headlong.

By the side of the stūpa is a saṅghārāma in ruins, and which has been for a long time deserted and without priests.

To the north of the city 12 or 13 li is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. On feast-days (religious commemoration days) it glows with light, and divine flowers fall around it, and heavenly music is heard. According to tradition, we find in late times there was a woman whose body was grievously afflicted with leprosy. Coming to the stūpa secretly, she offered worship in excess and confessed her faults. Then seeing that the vestibule (the open court in front of the stūpa) was full of dung and dirt, she removed it, and set to work to sweep and water it and to scatter flowers and perfumes; and having gathered some blue lotus flowers, she covered the ground with them. On this her evil leprosy left her, and her form became lovely, and her beauty doubled, whilst from her person there came the famed scent of the blue lotus, and this also is the reason of the fragrance of this excellent place. This is the spot where Tathāgata formerly dwelt when he was practising the discipline of a Bodhisattva; he was then the king of a great country and was called Chen-ta-lo-po-la-po (Chandraprabha); he cut off his head, earnestly seeking the acquirement of Bodhi: and this he did during a thousand successive births, (for the same object and in the same place).[3]

By the side of the stūpa of the "sacrificed head" is a saṅghārāma, of which the surrounding courts are deserted and overgrown; there are (nevertheless) a few priests. It was here in old days the master of śāstras Kumāralabdha,[4] belonging to the school of Sūtras (Sāutrāntikas),[5] composed several treatises.

Outside the city to the south-east, on the shady[6] side of a mountain,[7] there is a stūpa, in height 100 feet or so; this is the place where they put out the eyes of Ku-lang-na (for Ku-na-lang-na, Kuṇāla), who had been unjustly accused by his step-mother; it was built by Aśoka-rāja.

When the blind pray to it (or before it) with fervent faith, many of them recover their sight. This prince (Kuṇāla) was the son of the rightful queen. His person was graceful and his disposition loving and humane. When the queen-royal was dead, her successor (the step-queen) was dissolute and unprincipled. Following her wild and foolish preference, she made proposals to the prince; he, when she solicited him, reproached her with tears, and departed, refusing to be guilty of such a crime. The step-mother, seeing that he rejected her, was filled with wrath and hatred; waiting for an interval when she was with the king, she addressed him[8] thus: "To whom should your majesty intrust the government of Ta-ch'a-shi-lo but to your own son? The prince is renowned for his humanity and obedience; because of his attachment to the good his fame is in every mouth." The king listening to her seducing words,[9] agreed willingly with the vile plot, and forthwith gave orders to his eldest son in these words: "I have received my royal inheritance in succession, and I desire to hand it down to those who follow me; my only fear is lest I should lose aught of it and so dishonour my ancestors. I now confide to you the government of Ta-ch'a-shi-lo.[10] The affairs of a country are of serious importance; the feelings of men are contradictory; undertake nothing rashly, so as to endanger your authority; verify the orders sent you; my seal is the impression of my teeth; here in my mouth is my seal. There can be no mistake."

On this the prince, receiving his orders, went to establish order. And so months passed on, yet the step-mother's hatred did but increase. Accordingly she wrote a dispatch and sealed it with red wax, and then, waiting till the king was asleep, she stamped it secretly with his tooth impression, and sent it off by a messenger with all dispatch as a letter of accusation. His ministers having read the letter,[11] were confused, and looked at one another with dismay.

The prince then asked them what moved them so. They said, "The Mahārāja has sent a dispatch accusing the prince, and ordering both his eyes to be put out, and that he be taken with his wife to the mountains,[12] and there left to die. Although this order has come, we dare not obey it; but we will ask afresh for directions, and keep you bound till the reply comes."[13]

The prince said, "My father, if he has ordered my death, must be obeyed; and the seal of his teeth is a sure sign of the truth of the order. There can be no error." Then he ordered a Chaṇḍāla to pluck out his eyes; and having thus lost his sight, he wandered forth to beg for his daily support. As he travelled on far away, he came to his father's capital town. His wife said to him,[14] "There is the royal city." " Alas!" he said, "what pain I endure from hunger and cold. I was a prince; I am a beggar. Oh, that I could make myself known and get redress for the false charge formerly brought against me!"[15] On this he contrived to enter the king's inner bureau, and in the after part of the night he began to weep, and with a plaintive voice, accompanied with the sound of a lute,[16] he sang a mournful song.

The king, who was in an upper chamber,[17] hearing these wonderful strains full of sadness and suffering, was surprised, and inquired. "From the notes of the lute and the sound of the voice I take this to be my son; but why has he come here?"

He immediately said to his court attendant, "Who is that singing so?"

Forthwith he brought the blind man into his presence and placed him before the king. The king, seeing the prince, overwhelmed with grief, exclaimed, "Who has thus injured you? Who has caused this misery, that my beloved son should be deprived of sight? Not one of all his people can he see. Alas! what an end to come to![18] O heavens! O heavens! What a misfortune is this!"[19]

The prince, yielding to his tears, thanked (his father) and replied, "In truth,[20] for want of filial piety have I thus been punished by Heaven. In such a year and such a month and such a day suddenly there came a loving order (or an order from my mother). Having no means of excusing myself, I dared not shrink from the punishment." The king's heart, knowing that the second wife had committed this crime, without any further inquiry caused her to be put to death.[21]

At this time in the saṅghārāma of the Bodhi tree[22] there was a great Arhat called Ghoṣa (K'iu-sha). He had the fourfold power of "explanation without any difficulties."[23] He was completely versed in the Trividyās.[24] The king taking to him his blind son, told him all the matter, and prayed that he would of his mercy restore him to sight. Then that Arhat, having received the king's request, forthwith addressed to the people this order: "Tomorrow I desire to declare the mysterious principle (of the law); let each person come here with a vessel in his hands to hear the law and receive in it his tears." Accordingly, they came together from every side (far and near), both men and women, in crowds. At this time the Arhat preached on the twelve Nidānas,[25] and there was not one of those who heard the sermon but was moved to tears. The tears were collected in the vessels, and then, when his sermon was finished, he collected all these tears in one golden vessel, and then, with a strong affirmation, he said, "What I have said is gathered from the most mysterious of Buddha's doctrines; if this is not true, if there be error in what I have said, then let things remain as they are; but if it is otherwise, I desire that this blind man may recover his sight after washing his eyes with these tears."[26]

After finishing this speech he washed his eyes with the water, and lo! his sight was restored.

The king then accused the ministers (who had executed the order) and their associates. Some he degraded, others he banished, others he removed, others he put to death. The common people (who had participated in the crime) he banished to the north-east side of the Snowy Mountains, to the middle of the sandy desert.

Going south-east from this kingdom, and crossing the mountains and valleys about 700 li, we come to the kingdom of Sang-ho-pu-lo (Siṃhapura).

Footnotes and references:


On the return journey, Hiuen Tsiang makes the distance from Takshaśilā to the Indus three days' journey N.W. (Hwui-lih, Vie, p. 263). Fa-hien makes it seven days' journey from Gandhāra (cap. xi.); Sung-yun also places it three days to the east of the Indus (Beal's Bud. Pilgrims, p. 200). General Cunningham places the site of the city near Shah-dheri, one mile to the north-east of Kāla-ka-sarai, where he found the ruins of a fortified city, and was able to trace the remains of no less than fifty-five stūpas—of which two were as large as the great Mānikyāla tope—twenty-eight monasteries, and nine temples (Anc. Geog. of India, p. 105). The classical writers notice the size and wealth of the city of Taxila (Arrian, Anab. Alex., lib. v. c. 8; Strabo, Geog., lib. xv. c. 1, 17, and 28; Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib. vi. c. 17, 62, and c. 23; Ptolemy, Geog., lib. vii. 1, 45; Dionysius Perig., 1141). Apollonius and Damis are said also to have visited Taxila about A.D. 45. Philostratus describes the carvings and pictures of a temple near the town, representing scenes from the conflict of Porus with Alexander (cap. 20, p. 71, ed. Olearii, 1709). For further remarks on the ruins and antiquities see Cunningham, op. cit., pp. 104 f. M. V. de St. Martin, relying on the measurements given by Pliny derived from the records of Alexander's expedition, places Taxila at Hassan-Abdal, eight miles northwest of Shah-dheri (vid. Mémoire, p. 319); conf. Wilson, Ariana Ant., p. 196; J. R. A. S., vol. v. p. 118; Burnouf, Introd., pp. 322 f., 332, 361; Lotus, PP. 689 f.; Bunbury, Hist. Anc. Geog., vol. i. pp. 443, 499. It is frequently mentioned in Sanskrit literature, e.g., Mahābh., i. 682, 834; Rāmāyaṇa, iv. 53, śl. 23; Bṛīh. Saṃh., x. 8, and xiv. 26; Pāṇini, iv. 2, 82 and 3, 93.


The story of the Nāga-rāja Elāpatra is a favourite one in Chinese Buddhist books. See Romantic Hist. of Buddha, p. 276 ff. (Stūpa of Bharhut, p. 27). Cunningham identifies the tank of Elāpatra with the fountain of Hassan Abdal called Bābā-wali. In the legend referred to above we are told that the Nāga stretched his body from Takshaśilā to Banāras (compare the sculpture). In this case we should be led to Hassan Abdal as the site of Takshaśilā. This Nāga is mentioned in Brahmanical literature also as the son of Kaśyapa and Kadrū. Makābhārata, i. 1551; Hariraṃśa, 228, 12821; Vishṇu-purāṇa (Hall's ed.), vol. ii. pp. 74, 285, 287, and vol. v. p. 251.


This legend was the origin of the name Takshaśirā, "the severed head," given to the place, as noticed by Fa-hian and Sung-yun. The legend will be found in Rājendralāl Mitra's Nepalese Buddhist Literature, pp. 310, viii. "The man" for whose sake he gave his head, as stated by Sung-yun (Buddhist Pilgrims, p. 200) and by Fa-hian (cap. xi.) was the wicked Brāhmaṇ Rudrāksha.


In Chinese Tong-shau, youth- receiving; the phonetic symbols are Ku-mo-lo-lo-to.


The Sautrāntika school of Buddhism was, according to Vassilief (Buddhisme, p. 233), founded by Dharmottara or Uttaradharma; it was one of the two principal branches of the Hīnayāna, or Little Vehicle, of Buddhism; the other branch being the Vaibhāshika school. On their tenets see Colebrooke, Misc. Essays, vol. i. pp. 391 f.; Köppen, Die Relig. d. Buddha, vol. i. pp. 151 f.; Burnouf, Introd., pp. 109, 397 f.; Lassen, Ind. Alt., vol. ii. p. 460; Vassilief, pp. 34, 48, 63 f., 114 f., 268, 273-286, 321.


That is, on the northern side.


Or, a south mountain; but probably "nan" is redundant.


The text requires some such expression as "winningly" or "when on easy terms with the king" she addressed him thus.


The text implies that he was gratified to accede to the terms of this plot of the adulteress, or this adulterous (kien) plot.


About fifty years after Alexander's campaign the people of Takshaśilā rebelled against Bindusāra, king of Magadha, who sent his eldest son, Susīma, to besiege the place. On his failure the siege was intrusted to Aśoka, his younger son, to whom the people at once submitted. Here Aśoka dwelt as viceroy of the Panjāb during his father's lifetime, and here on the occasion of another revolt he placed his son Kuṇāla, the hero of the legend in the text. Conf. Burnouf, Introd., pp. 163, 357, 360; J. A. S. Ben., vol. vi. p. 714.


Having perused the letter on their knees.


To the mountain valleys.


Awaiting the sentence or punishment.


Kuṇāla's wife was called Chin-kin-man, pure-gold-garland (Kāñchanamālā). The stepmother's name was Tishyarakshitā, and his mother's Padmāvatī (Lien-hwa). His name is also spelt Kuṇālāa.


This may be otherwise rendered: "Would that I could obtain a hearing, so as to vindicate myself completely from the former accusation." Julien translates it: "I will expose anew my past faults."


A vīṇā.


A high tower or pavilion.


Or it may simply mean, "how was this brought about?"


Julien translates it, "how virtue has degenerated." The symbol "tih", however, need not be rendered "virtue;" it refers to the reversal of fortune or condition.


The sense of the passage seems to require the force of "ching" to be, "Do you not know?" or "You are aware that my punishment is due to a charge of filial disobedience."


This story is also given by Burnouf, Introd., pp. 362 f.


The saṅghārāma of the Bodhi tree was the convent built on the site of the Buddha Gayā temple.


For this fourfold power of unimpeded explanation consult Childers' Pāli Dict. s. v. patisambhidā, also Eitel, Handbook s. v. pratisaṃ vid. Julien has an instructive note on this point. Conf. Burnouf, Lotus, p. 839.


For the trividyās consult Eitel, sub voc.; Burnouf, Lotus, p. 372; Julien, Mém. s. l. Cont. Occid., tome i. p. 160; and ante, p. 105, n. 75.


See Burnouf, Introd. au Buddh., pp. 52, 432, 574, 577 f.; Lotus, p. 380; Hardy, East. Mon., pp. 6, 193, 301.


There is a similar story told by Aśvaghosha; the Ghosha of the text, however, must not be confused with him.

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