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 5 - Country of Kiao-shang-mi (Kaushambi)

Note: Kaushambi (Kiao-shang-mi) has been identified with Kosāmbi-nagar, an old village on the Jumnā, about thirty miles from Allahābād (Cunningham). Kosāmbi is mentioned in the Rāmayaṇa. It is the scene of the drama of Ratnavalī composed by Bāṇa in the court of śrī Harsha or śilāditya.

This country is about 6000 li in circuit, and the capital about 30 li. The land is famous for its productiveness; the increase is very wonderful. Rice and sugar-canes are plentiful. The climate is very hot, the manners of the people hard and rough. They cultivate learning and are very earnest in their religious life and in virtue. There are ten saṅghārāmas, which are in ruins and deserted; the priests are about 300; they study the Little Vehicle. There are fifty Deva temples, and the number of heretics is enormous.

In the city, within an old palace, there is a large vihāra about 60 feet high; in it is a figure of Buddha carved out of sandal-wood, above which is a stone canopy. It is the work of the king U-to-yen-na (Udāyana). By its spiritual qualities (or, between its spiritual marks) it produces a divine light, which from time to time shines forth. The princes of various countries have used their power to carry off this statue, but although many men have tried, not all the number could move it. They therefore worship copies of it,[1] and they pretend that the likeness is a true one, and this is the original of all such figures.

When Tathāgata first arrived at complete enlightenment, he ascended up to heaven to preach the law for the benefit of his mother, and for three months remained absent. This king (i,e., Udāyana), thinking of him with affection, desired to have an image of his person; therefore he asked Mudgalyāyanaputra, by his spiritual power, to transport an artist to the heavenly mansions to observe the excellent marks of Buddha's body, and carve a sandal-wood statue. When Tathāgata returned from the heavenly palace, the carved figure of sandal-wood rose and saluted the Lord of the World. The Lord then graciously addressed it and said, "The work expected from you is to toil in the conversion of heretics,[2] and to lead in the way of religion future ages."

About 100 paces to the east of the vihāra are the signs of the walking and sitting of the four former Buddhas. By the side of this, and not far off, is a well used by Tathāgata, and a bathing-house. The well still has water in it, but the house has long been destroyed.

Within the city, at the south-east angle of it, is an old habitation, the ruins of which only exist. This is the house of Ghoshira (Kiu-shi-lo) the nobleman.[3] In the middle is a vihāra of Buddha, and a stūpa containing hair and nail relics. There are also ruins of Tathāgata's bathing-house.

Not far to the south-east of the city is an old saṅghārāma. This was formerly the place where Goshira the nobleman had a garden. In it is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja, about 200 feet high; here Tathāgata for several years preached the law. By the side of this stūpa are traces of the four past Buddhas where they sat down and walked. Here again is a stūpa containing hair and nail relics of Tathāgata.

To the south-east of the saṅghārāma, on the top of a double-storeyed tower, is an old brick chamber where Vasubandhu Bodhisattva dwelt. In this chamber he composed the Vidyāmātrasiddhi śāstra (Wei-chi-lun), intended to refute the principles of the Little Vehicle and confound the heretics.

To the east of the saṅghārāma, and in the middle of an āmra grove, is an old foundation wall; this was the place where Asaṅga Bodhisattva composed the śāstra called Hin-yang-shing-kiau.

To the south-west of the city 8 or 9 li is a stone dwelling of a venomous Nāga. Having subdued this dragon, Tathāgata left here his shadow; but though this is a tradition of the place, there is no vestige of the shadow visible.

By the side of it is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja, about 200 feet high. Near this are marks where Tathāgata walked to and fro, and also a hair and nail stūpa. The disciples who are afflicted with disease, by praying here mostly are cured.

The law of śākya becoming extinct, this will be the very last country in which it will survive; therefore from the highest to the lowest all who enter the borders of this country are deeply affected, even to tears, ere they return.

To the north-east of the Nāga dwelling is a great forest, after going about 700 li through which, we cross the Ganges, and going northward we arrive at the town of Kia-she-pu-lo (Kaśapura).[4] This town is about 10 li in circuit; the inhabitants are rich and well-to-do (happy).

By the side of the city is an old saṅghārāma, of which the foundation walls alone exist. This was where Dharmapāla[5] Bodhisattva refuted the arguments of the heretics. A former king of this country, being partial to the teaching of heresy, wished to overthrow the law of Buddha, whilst he showed the greatest respect to the unbelievers. One day he summoned from among the heretics a master of śāstras, extremely learned and of superior talents, who clearly understood the abstruse doctrines (of religion). He had composed a work of heresy in a thousand ślokas, consisting of thirty-two thousand words. In this work he contradicted and slandered the law of Buddha, and represented his own school as orthodox. Whereupon (the king) convoked the body of the (Buddhist) priests, and ordered them to discuss the question under dispute, adding that if the heretics were victorious he would destroy the law of Buddha, but that if the priests did not suffer defeat he would cut out his tongue as proof of the acknowledgment of his fault.[6] At this time the company of the priests being afraid they would be defeated, assembled for consultation, and said, "The sun of wisdom having set, the bridge of the law[7] is about to fall. The king is partial to the heretics; how can we hope to prevail against them? Things have arrived at a difficult point; is there any expedient to be found in the circumstances, as a way of escape?" The assembly remained silent, and no one stood up to suggest any plan.

Dharmapāla Bodhisattva, although young in years, had acquired a wide renown for penetration and wisdom, and the reputation of his noble character was far spread. He was now in the assembly, and standing up, with encouraging words addressed them thus: "Ignorant though I am, yet I request permission to say a few words. Verily I am ready to answer immediately to the king's summons. If by my lofty argument (discourse) I obtain the victory, this will prove spiritual protection; but if I fail in the subtle part of the argument, this will be attributable to my youth. In either case there will be an escape, so that the law and the priesthood will suffer no loss." They said, "We agree to your proposition," and they voted that he should respond to the king's summons. Forthwith he ascended the pulpit.

Then the heretical teacher began to lay down his captious principles, and to maintain or oppose the sense of the words and arguments used. At last, having fully explained his own position, he waited for the opposite side to speak.

Dharmapāla Bodhisattva, accepting his words, said with a smile, "I am conqueror! I will show how he uses false arguments in advocating his heretical doctrines, how his sentences are confused in urging his false teaching."

The opponent, with some emotion, said, "Sir, be not high-minded! If you can expose my words you will be the conqueror, but first take my text fairly and explain its meaning." Then Dharmapāla, with modulated voice, followed the principles of his text (thesis), the words and the argument, without a mistake or change of expression.

When the heretic had heard the whole, he was ready to cut out his tongue; but Dharmapāla said, "It is not by cutting out your tongue you show repentance. Change your principles—that is repentance!" Immediately he explained the law for his sake; his heart believed it and his mind embraced the truth. The king gave up his heresy and profoundly respected the law of Buddha (the orthodox law).

By the side of this place is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja; the walls are broken down, but it is yet 200 feet or so in height. Here Buddha in old days declared the law for six months; by the side of it are traces where he walked. There is also a hair and nail stūpa.

Going north from this 170 or 180 li, we come to the kingdom of Pi-she??-k'ie?? (Viśākhā).

Footnotes and references:


A copy of this sandal-wood figure was brought from a temple near Pekin, and is referred to in Beal's Buddhist Pilgrims, p. lxxv. A facsimile of it is stamped on the cover of that work. The story of Udāyana, king of Kosāmbī, is referred to by Kālidāsa in the Meghadāta.


"To teach and convert with diligence the unbelieving, to open the way for guiding future generations, this is your work." I take the symbol "sie" to refer to unbelievers; Julien makes it an interrogative (yé).


Aśvaghosha alludes to the conversion of Ghoshira, Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, v. 1710. See also Fa-hien, c. xxxiv.


This place has been identified with the old town of Sultānpur on the Gomatī river. The Hindu name of this town was Kuśabhavapura, or simply Kuśapura (Cunningham).


In Chinese U-fa; for some notices of Dharmapāla see Wong Pūh, §191; in J. R. As. Soc., vol. xx.; Eitel, Handbook sub voc., and B. Nanjio, Catalogue, col. 373.


This refers to the dream of king Ajātaśatru, for which see Wong Pūh, §178. This section of Wong Pūh shows that the great Kāśyapa is supposed by Buddhists still to be within the Cock's-Foot Mountain awaiting the coming of Maitreya.


It would seem from the context that it was the heretical teacher who asked the king to call the assembly, and that if he was defeated he said he would cut out his own tongue.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: