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 Lan-mo (Ramagrama)

The kingdom of Lan-mo [1] has been waste and desolate for many years. There is no account of its extent. The towns are decayed and the inhabitants few.

To the south-east of the old capital (town) there is a brick stūpa, in height less than 100 feet. Formerly, after the Nirvāṇa of Tathāgata, a previous king of this country having got a share of the śarīras of his body, returned home with them, and to honour these relics he built (this stūpa). Miraculous signs are here displayed, and a divine light from time to time shines around.

By the side of the stūpa is a clear lake (tank). A dragon at certain periods[2] comes forth and walks here, and changing his form and snake-like exterior, marches round the stūpa, turning to the right to pay it honour. The wild elephants come in herds, gather flowers, and scatter them here. Impelled by a mysterious power, they have continued to offer this service from the first till now. In former days, when Aśoka-rāja, dividing the relics, built stūpas, having opened the stūpas built by the kings of the seven countries, he proceeded to travel to this country, and put his hand to the work (viz., of opening this stūpa);[3] the dragon, apprehending the desecration of the place, changed himself into the form of a Brāhmaṇ, and going in front, he bowed down before the elephant[4] and said, "Mahārāja! your feelings are well affected to the law of Buddha, and you have largely planted (good seed) in the field of religious merit. I venture to ask you to detain your carriage awhile and condescend to visit my dwelling." The king replied, "And where is your dwelling? is it near at hand?" The Brāhmaṇ said, "I am the Nāga king of this lake. As I have heard that the great king desires to build a superior field of merit,[5] I have ventured to ask you to visit my abode." The king, receiving this invitation, immediately entered the dragon precinct, and sitting there for some time, the Nāga advanced towards him and said, "Because of my evil karma I have received this Nāga body; by religious service to these śarīras of Buddha I desire to atone for and efface my guilt. Oh, that the king would himself go and inspect (the stūpa, or, the relics) with a view to worship. Aśoka-rāja having seen (the character of the place), was filled with fear, and said, "All these appliances for worship are unlike anything seen amongst men." The Nāga said, "If it be so, would that the king would not attempt to destroy the stūpa!" The king, seeing that he could not measure his power with that of the Nāga, did not attempt to open the stūpa (to take out the relics). At the spot where the dragon came out of the lake is an inscription to the above effect.[6]

Not far from the neighbourhood of this stūpa is a saṅghārāma, with a very few priests attached to it. Their conduct is respectful and scrupulously correct; and one śrāmaṇera manages the whole business of the society. When any priests come from distant regions, they entertain them with the greatest courtesy and liberality; during three days they keep them in their society, and offer them the four necessary things.[7]

The old tradition is this: Formerly there were some Bhikṣus who agreed[8] to come together from a distance, and to travel to worship this stūpa. They saw when they had arrived a herd of elephants, coming and departing together. Some of them brought on their tusks shrubs (leaves and branches), others with their trunks sprinkled water, some of them brought different flowers, and all offered worship (as they stood) to the stūpa. When the Bhikṣus saw this, they were moved with joy and deeply affected. Then one of them giving up his full orders[9] (ordination), vowed to remain here and offer his services continually (to the stūpa), and expressing his thoughts to the others, he said, "I indeed, considering these remarkable signs of abounding merit, count as nothing my own excessive labours during many years amongst the priests.[10] This stūpa having some relics of Buddha, by the mysterious power of its sacred character draws together the herd of elephants, who water the earth around the bequeathed body (of the saint). It would be pleasant to finish the rest of my years in this place, and to obtain with the elephants the end (at which they aim)." They all replied, "This is an excellent design; as for ourselves, we are stained by our heavy (sins); our wisdom is not equal to the formation of such a design; but according to your opportunity look well to your own welfare, and cease not your efforts in this excellent purpose."

Having departed from the rest, he again repeated his earnest vow, and with joy devoted himself to a solitary life during the rest of his days.

On this he constructed for himself a leafy pannasālā,[11] led the rivulets so as to form a pool, and at their proper seasons gathered flowers, and watered and swept and garnished the stūpa. Thus, during a succession of years he persevered without change of purpose or plan.

The kings of the neighbouring countries, hearing the history, greatly honoured him; gave up their wealth and treasure, and together founded the saṅghārāma. Then they requested (the śrāmaṇera) to take charge of the affairs of the congregation; and from that time till now there has been no interruption in the original appointment, and a śrāmaṇera has ever held the chief office in the convent.

Eastward from this convent, in the midst of a great forest, after going about 100 li, we come to a great stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. This is the place where the prince-royal, after having passed from the city, put off his precious robes, loosed his necklace, and ordered his coachman[12] to return home. The prince-royal in the middle of the night traversing the city, at early dawn arrived at this place,[13] and then, heart and body bent on accomplishing his destiny, he said, "Here have I come out of the prison stocks. Here have I shaken off my chains." This is the place where he left for the last time his harnessed horse,[14] and taking the mani gem[15] from his crown, he commanded his coachman, saying, "Take this gem, and, returning, say to my father the king, now I am going away, not in inconsiderate disobedience, but to banish lust, and to destroy the power of impermanence, and to stop all the leaks of existence."

Then Chaṇḍaka (Chen-to-kia) replied, "What heart can I have to go back thus, with a horse without a rider?"" The prince having persuaded him with gentle words, his mind was opened and he returned.

To the east of the stūpa where Chaṇḍaka returned is a Jambu tree with leaves and branches fallen off but the trunk still upright. By the side of this is a little stūpa. This is the place where the prince exchanged his precious[16] robe for one made of deerskin. The prince had cut off his hair and exchanged his lower garments, and although he had got rid of his collar of precious stones, yet there was one divine garment (still on his person). "This robe," he said, "is greatly in excess (of my wants); how shall I change it away?" At this time a śuddhāvāsa-deva[17] transformed himself into a hunter with robes of deerskin, and holding his bow and carrying his quiver. The prince, raising his garment, addressed him thus: "I am desirous to exchange garments with you. Oh, that you would assent." The hunter said "Good!" The prince, loosing his upper garment, gave it to the hunter. The hunter having received it, resumed his Deva body, and holding the garment he had obtained, rose into the air and departed.

By the side of the stūpa commemorating this event, and not far from it, is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. This is the spot where the prince had his head shaved. The prince taking a knife (sword) from the hands of Chaṇḍaka, himself cut off his locks. śakra, king of Devas, took the hair to his heavenly palace to offer it worship. At this time a śuddhāvāsa-deva, transforming himself into a barber, and holding his razor in his hand, advanced towards the prince. The latter hereupon addressed him, "Can you shave off the hair? Will you favour me by so doing to me?" The transformed Deva being so directed, accordingly shaved his head.

The time when the prince left the city and became a recluse is not quite fixed. Some say that Bodhisattva was then nineteen years of age; others say he was twenty-nine, and that it was on the eighth day of the second half of the month Vaiśākha, which corresponds to our fifteenth day of the third month.

To the south-east of the head-shaving stūpa, in the middle of a desert, going 180 or 190 li, we come to a Nyngrodha grove in which there is a stūpa about 30 feet high. Formerly, when Tathāgata had died and his remains had been divided, the Brāhmaṇs who had obtained none, came to the place of cremation, and taking the remnant of coals and cinders to their native country, built this stūpa over them,[18] and offered their religious services to it. Since then wonderful signs have occurred in this place; sick persons who pray and worship here are mostly cured.

By the side of the ashes stūpa is an old saṇghārāma, where there are traces of the four former Buddhas, who walked and sat there.

On the right hand and left of this convent there are several hundred stūpas, among which is one large one built by Aśoka-rāja; although it is mostly in ruins, yet its height is still about 100 feet.

From this going north-east through a great forest, along a dangerous and difficult road, where wild oxen and herds of elephants and robbers and hunters cause incessant trouble to travellers, after leaving the forest we come to the kindom of Kiu-shi-na-k'ie-lo (Kuśinagara).

Footnotes and references:


The Chinese equivalents give us simply Rāma, but that is the name of the country. Rāmagrāma would be the old capital. There can be no doubt as to the restoration; the Mahāwaṅśo refers to the relic tower of Rāmagāmo (Turnour's Mahāw., pp. 184, 185), which is described by Hiuen Tsiang and Fa-hian. The site has not been satisfactorily determined. See Cunningham, Anc. Geog., pp. 420 f.


Or it may be translated "every day."


This translation differs entirely from Julien's; the story, however, of Aśoka's dividing the relics which the seven kings had acquired after the cremation is well known. (See Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, vers. 2297, 2298).


It is possible that "siang" (elephant) in this passage is a misprint for "t'how" (head): it would then be, "knocking his head (k'how t'how) before the king, he said," etc.: but as there is allusion to a carriage or conveyance in the next sentence, the reading may be correct.


I.e., to obtain a superior merit by building stūpas.


For a similar account, see Fa-hian, chap. xxiii.


Food, drink, clothing, medicine.


So I translate "tung chi", "were of the same mind." Julien renders it, "their brethren," as the equivalent of "those of the same mind," and he makes these invite (siang chaou) the other. It may be so, but there were evidently no brethren at the stūpa, as the narrative shows. This old tradition is also related by Fa-hian (chap. xxiii.)


This is undoubtedly the meaning of the passage. He was a Bhikshu, i.e., fully ordained; but now he gives up the privilege of that position and undertakes the duties of a śrāmaṇera, to water and sweep the courts of the stūpa.


This appears to me to be the meaning of the passage: The Bhikshu was led by witnessing the devotion of the elephants to count his own conduct as trifling compared with theirs. He therefore casts in his lot with them. M. Julien takes a different view of the meaning of the original.


pansala is a Sinhalese word for "leafy hut," i.e., a residence made out of boughs of trees.


His coachman, or equerry, was called Chaṇḍaka. For an account of his dismissal see Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, varga 6.


The place appears to be "Maneya," about 34 miles E.S.E. of Bhuila.


It is true that "kea" means "a chariot;" but it also means "a horse saddled for service;" and as all the evidence, both of the books and sculptures, is in favour of the prince sending back his "horse," I have used this translation. But it may also be translated "chariot," as the answer of Chaṇḍaka seems to require.


Mo-ni, generally called the chūḍāmaṇi.


His robe ornamented with various gems. I find nothing about "a hunter" in the text, although it was with a hunter the exchange was made.


A Deva of the "pure abodes;" a Deva of the five highest Rūpa-brahma heavens. See Childers' Pali Dict. sub voc. Sattaloka.


This is the "Ashes Dāgoba," referred to Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, v. 2284

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