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 10 - Country of Mo-ti-pu-lo (Matipura)

Note: Matipura has been identified with Maḍāwar or Mundore, a large town in Western Rohilkand, near Bijnor.[1]

This country is about 6000 li in circuit; the capital is about 20 li. The soil is favourable for the growth of cereals, and there are many flowers and kinds of fruit. The climate is soft and mild. The people are sincere and truthful. They very much reverence learning, and are deeply versed in the use of charms and magic. The followers of truth and error are equally divided.[2] The king belongs to the caste of the śūdras (Shu-t'o-lo). He is not a believer in the law of Buddha, but reverences and worships the spirits of heaven. There are about twenty saṅghārāmas, with 800 priests. They mostly study the Little Vehicle and belong to the school of Sarvāstivādas (Shwo-i-tsie-yau). There are some fifty Deva temples, in which men of different persuasions dwell promiscuously.

Four or five li to the south of the capital we come to a little saṅghārāma having about fifty priests in it. In old time the master of śāstras called Kiu-na-po-la-p'o (Guṇaprabha),[3] composed in this convent the treatise called Pin-chin,[4] and some hundred others. When young, this master of śāstras distinguished himself for his eminent talent, and when he grew up he stood alone in point of learning. He was well versed in knowledge of men (or things), was of sound understanding, full of learning, and widely celebrated.[5] Originally he was brought up in the study of the Great Vehicle, but before he had penetrated its deep principles he had occasion to study the Vibhāṣā śāstra, on which he withdrew from his former work and attached himself to the Little Vehicle. He composed several tens of treatises to overthrow the Great Vehicle, and thus became a zealous partisan of the Little Vehicle school. Moreover, he composed several tens of secular books opposing and criticising the writings of former renowned teachers. He widely studied the sacred books of Buddha, but yet, though he studied deeply for a long time, there were yet some ten difficulties which he could not overcome in this school.

At this time there was an Arhat called Devasena,[6] who went once and again to the Tuṣita (Tu-shi-to) heaven. Guṇaprabha begged him to obtain for him an interview with Maitreya in order to settle his doubts.

Devasena, by his miraculous power, transported him to the heavenly palace. Having seen Maitreya (Tse-shi) Guṇaprabha bowed low to him, but paid him no worship. On this Devasena said, "Maitreya Bodhisattva holds the next place in becoming a Buddha, why are you so self-conceited as not to pay him supreme reverence? If you wish to receive benefit (building up, edification) from him, why do you not fall down?"

Guṇaprabha replied: "Reverend sir! This advice is honest, and intended to lead me to right amendment; but I am an ordained Bhikṣu, and have left the world as a disciple, whereas this Maitreya Bodhisattva is enjoying heavenly beatitude, and is no associate for one who has become an ascetic. I was about to offer him worship, but I feared it would not be right."

Bodhisattva (Maitreya) perceived that pride of self (ātmamada) was bound up in his heart, so that he was not a vessel for instruction; and though he went and returned three times, he got no solution of his doubts. At length he begged Devasena to take him again, and that he was ready to worship. But Devasena, repelled by his pride of self, refused to answer him.

Guṇaprabha, not attaining his wish, was filled with hatred and resentment. He went forthwith into the desert apart, and practised the samādhi called fa-tung (opening intelligence); but because he had not put away the pride of self, he could obtain no fruit.

To the north of the saṅghārāma of Guṇaprabha about three or four li is a great convent with some 200 disciples in it, who study the Little Vehicle. This is where Saṅghabhadra (Chung-hin), master of śāstras, died. He was a native of Kashmir, and was possessed of great ability and vast penetration. As a young man he was singularly accomplished, and had mastered throughout the Vibhāṣā śāstra (Pi-p'o-sha-lun) of the Sarvāstivāda school.

At this time Vasubandhu Bodhisattva was living. He was seeking to explain that which it is beyond the power of words to convey by the mysterious method (way) of profound meditation.[7] With a view to overthrow the propositions of the masters of the Vibhāṣika school, he composed the Abhidharma-kośa śāstra. The form of his composition is clear and elegant, and his arguments are very subtle and lofty.

Saṅghabhadra having read this work, took his resolution accordingly. He devoted himself during twelve years to the most profound researches, and composed the Kin-she-pao-lun (Kośakarakā śāstra)[8] in 25,000 ślokas, containing altogether 800,000 words. We may say that it is a work of the deepest research and most subtle principles. Addressing his disciples, he said, "Whilst I retire from sight, do you, distinguished disciples,[9] take this my orthodox treatise and go attack Vasubandhu; break down his sharp-pointed arguments, and permit not this old man[10] alone to assume the leading name."

Thereupon three or four of the most distinguished of his disciples took the treatise he had composed, and went in search of Vasubandhu. At this time he was in the country of Cheka,[11] in the town of śākala, his fame being spread far and wide. And now Saṅghabhadra was coming there; Vasubandhu having heard it, forthwith ordered (his disciples) to prepare for removal (dress for travel). His disciples having (cherishing) some doubts, the most eminent of them began to remonstrate with him, and said, "The high qualities of our great master transcend those of former men of note, and at the present day your wisdom is far spread and acknowledged by all. Why, then, on hearing the name of Saṅghabhadra are you so fearful and timid? We, your disciples, are indeed humbled thereat."

Vasubandhu answered, "I am going away not because I fear to meet this man (doctor), but because in this country there is no one of penetration enough to recognise the inferiority of Saṅgabhadra. He would only vilify me as if my old age were a fault. There would be no holding him to the śāstra, or in one word I could overthrow his vagaries. Let us draw him to Mid-India, and there, in the presence of the eminent and wise, let us examine into the matter, and determine what is true and what is false, and who should be pronounced the victor or the loser."[12] Forthwith he ordered his disciples to pack up their books, and to remove far away.

The master of śāstras, Saṅghabhadra, the day after arriving at this convent, suddenly felt his powers of body (hi, vital spirits) fail him. On this he wrote a letter, and excused himself to Vasubandhu thus: "The Tathāgata having died, the different schools of his followers adopted and arranged their distinctive teaching; and each had its own disciples without hindrance. They favoured those of their own way of thinking; they rejected (persecuted) others. I, who possess but a weak understanding, unhappily inherited this custom from my predecessors, and coming to read your treatise called the Abhidharma-kośa, written to overthrow the great principles of the masters of the Vibhāṣika school, abruptly, without measuring my strength, after many years' study have produced this śāstra to uphold the teaching of the orthodox school. My wisdom indeed is little, my intentions great. My end is now approaching. If the Bodhisattva (Vasubandhu), in spreading abroad his subtle maxims and disseminating his profound reasonings, will vouchsafe not to overthrow my production, but will let it remain whole and entire for posterity, then I shall not regret my death."

Then, selecting from his followers one distinguished for his talents in speaking, he addressed him as follows: "I, who am but a scholar of poor ability, have aspired to surpass one of high natural talent. Wherefore, after my approaching death, do you take this letter which I have written, and my treatise also, and make my excuses to that Bodhisattva, and assure him of my repentance."

After uttering these words he suddenly stopped, when one said, "He is dead!"

The disciple, taking the letter, went to the place where Vasubandhu was, and having come, he spoke thus: "My master, Saṅghabhadra, has died; and his last words are contained in this letter, in which he blames himself for his faults, and in excusing himself to you asks you not to destroy his good name so that it dare not face the world."

Vasubandhu Bodhisattva, reading the letter and looking through the book, was for a time lost in thought. Then at length he addressed the disciple and said: "Saṅghabhadra, the writer of śāstras, was a clever and ingenious scholar (inferior scholar). His reasoning powers (li), indeed, were not deep (enough), but his diction is somewhat (to the point).[13] If I had any desire to overthrow Saṅghabhadra's śāstra, I could do so as easily as I place my finger in my hand. As to his dying request made to me, I greatly respect the expression of the difficulty he acknowledges. But besides that, there is great reason why I should observe his last wish, for indeed this śāstra may illustrate the doctrines of my school, and accordingly I will only change its name and call it Shun-ching-li-lun (Nyāyānusāra śāstra).[14]

The disciple remonstrating said, "Before Saṅghabhadra's death the great master (Vasubandhu) had removed far away; but now he has obtained the śāstra, he proposes to change the title; how shall we (the disciples of Saṅghabhadra) be able to suffer such an affront?"

Vasubandhu Bodhisattva, wishing to remove all doubts, said in reply by verse: "Though the lion-king retires afar off before the pig, nevertheless the wise will know which of the two is best in strength."[15]

Saṅghabhadra having died, they burnt his body and collected his bones, and in a stūpa attached to the saṅghārāma, 200 paces or so to the north-west, in a wood of āmra[16] (An-mo-lo) trees, they are yet visible.

Beside the āmra wood is a stūpa in which are relics of the bequeathed body of the master of śāstras Vimalamitra (Pi-mo-lo-mi-to-lo).[17] This master of śāstras was a man of Kashmir. He became a disciple and attached himself to the Sarvāstivāda school. He had read a multitude of sūtras and investigated various śāstras; he travelled through the five Indies and made himself acquainted with the mysterious literature of the three Piṭakas. Having established a name and accomplished his work, being about to retire to his own country, on his way he passed near the stūpa of Saṅghabhadra, the master of śāstras. Putting is hand (on it),[18] he sighed and said, "This master was truly distinguished, his views pure and eminent. After having spread abroad the great principles (of his faith), he purposed to overthrow those of other schools and lay firmly the fabric of his own. Why then should his fame not be eternal? I, Vimalamitra, foolish as I am, have received at various times the knowledge of the deep principles of his departed wisdom; his distinguished qualities have been cherished through successive generations. Vasubandhu, though dead, yet lives in the tradition of the school. That which I know so perfectly (ought to be preserved). I will write, then, such śāstras as will cause the learned men of Jambudvīpa to forget the name of the Great Vehicle and destroy the fame of Vasubandhu. This will be an immortal work, and will be the accomplishment of my long-meditated design."

Having finished these words, his mind became confused and wild; his boastful tongue heavily protruded,[19] whilst the hot blood flowed forth. Knowing that his end was approaching, he wrote the following letter to signify his repentance:—"The doctrines of the Great Vehicle in the law of Buddha contain the final principles.[20] Its renown may fade, but its depth of reason is inscrutable. I foolishly dared to attack its distinguished teachers. The reward of my works is plain to all. It is for this I die. Let me address men of wisdom, who may learn from my example to guard well their thoughts, and not give way to the encouragement of doubts." Then the great earth shook again as he gave up life. In the place where he died the earth opened, and there was produced a great ditch. His disciples burnt his body, collected his bones, and raised over them (a stūpa). [21]

At this time there was an Arhat who, having witnessed his death, sighed and exclaimed, "What unhappiness! What suffering! Today this master of śāstras yielding to his feelings and maintaining his own views, abusing the Great Vehicle, has fallen into the deepest hell (Avīchi)!"

On the north-west frontier of this country, on the eastern shore of the river Ganges, is the town of Mo-yu-lo;[22] it is about 20 li in circuit. The inhabitants are very numerous. The pure streams of the river flow round it on every side; it produces native copper (teou shih), pure crystal, and precious vases. Not far from the town, and standing by the Ganges river, is a great Deva temple, where very many miracles of divers sorts are wrought. In the midst of it is a tank, of which the borders are made of stone joined skilfully together. Through it the Ganges river is led by an artificial canal. The men of the five Indies call it "the gate of the Gaṅgā river."[23] This is where religious merit is found and sin effaced. There are always hundreds and thousands of people gathered together here from distant quarters to bathe and wash in its waters. Benevolent kings have founded here "a house of merit" (Puṇyaśālā). This foundation is endowed with funds for providing choice food and medicines to bestow in charity on widows and bereaved persons, on orphans and the destitute.

Going north from this 300 li or so, we come to Po-lo-hih-mo-pu-lo country (Brahmapura).

Footnotes and references:


Matipura has been identified with Maḍāwar or Mundore, a large town in Western Rohilkand, near Bijnor (V. de St. Martin, Mémoire, p. 344; Cunningham, Anc. Geog. of India, p. 349). The people of this town were perhaps the Mathai of Megasthenes (Arrian, Indica, c. 4; Ind. Ant., vol. v. p. 332).


That is, the Buddhists and Brāhmaṇs, or other sectaries.


In Chinese, "tih kwong", "the brightness of virtue, or good qualities."


Restored doubtfully by Julien to Tattva-vibhaṅga śāstra (p. 220 n. 2), and by Eitel to Tattva-satya śāstra (Handbook, sub voc. Guṇaprabha).


This expression, "to-wan", may mean "celebrated," or it may refer to Guṇaprabha when a young disciple. It is a phrase applied to ānanda before he arrived at enlightenment (see Catena of Buddhist Scrip., p. 289 and n. 2). It is also generally applied to Vaiśravaṇa, as an explanation of his name "the celebrated" (compare periklutos); and it is very probable that the story found in Buddhist books of Vaiśravaṇa's conversion and his consent to protect the śrāvakas is simply the result of these names being derived from the same root, śru. The Chinese "to-wan", when referred to a young disciple, is equal to the Sanskrit śikshaka, a learner (see Burnouf, Lotus, p. 295). Guṇaprabha is said by Vassilief (Bouddhisme, p. 78) to have been a disciple of Vasubandhu, and to have lived at Mathurā in the Agrapura monastery: he was guru at the court of the king śrī Harsha (doubtfully). Perhaps in this quotation Mathurā has been mistaken for Matipura, in which case the convent referred to in the text would be called Agrapura.


Ti-p'o-si-na, in Chinese "Tien-kwan", army of the gods.


"Yih-sin", i.e., samādhi or dhyāna.


Or Kośaśīlā śāstra (?).—Julien. See also Wong Pūh, §199, in J. R. As. S., vol. xx. p. 212.


It will be seen that this translation differs from Julien's, but I think it is in agreement with the text and context.


Saṅghabhadra could not have been the teacher of Vasubandhu, as Professor Max Müller thinks (India, pp 303 f., 309, 312). He is probably the same as Saṅghadeśa, named by Vassilief (Bouddhisme, p. 206).


For Cheka, see above, Book iv. p. 165 ante.


It will be seen again that this translation differs materially from that of M. Julien.


Or it may be complimentary, "his phraseology or composition is exceptionally elegant."


In full—O-pi-ta-mo-shun-chan-li-lun. It was translated into Chinese by Hiuen Tsiang himself. See Bunyin Nanjio's Cataloque, No. 1265; Beal's Tripiṭaka, p. 80.


From the Jātaka of the lion and the pig who rolled himself in filth. Fausböll, Ten Jātakas, p. 65.


Mango tree—Mangifera indica.


In Chinese, "wou hau yau", "spotless friend."


"On his heart."—Julien.


The text has "five tongues;" possibly the symbol "wu", five, is for "wu", loquacious or bragging.


This may also be rendered, "the masters who teach the doctrines of the Great Vehicle declare the final (highest) principles of the law of Buddha."


There is no word for stūpa in the original.


That is Mayāpura, or Haridwāra. It is now on the western bank of the Ganges. Julien makes it Mayūra.


Gaṅgādwāra. The canal still exists; the present name, Haridwāra, means the gate of Hari or Vishṇu: this is a comparatively modern name (Cunningham, p. 353).

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