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 Fei-she-li (Vaishali)

Note: Vaiśālī is to the east of the Gaṇḍaka on the site of the present village of Besārh, where there is an old ruined fort still called Rāja-Bisal-ka-garh.[1]

This kingdom is about 5000 li in circuit.[2] The soil is rich and fertile; flowers and fruits are produced in abundance. The āmra fruit (mango) and the mocha (banana) are very plentiful and much prized. The climate is agreeable and temperate. The manners of the people are pure and honest. They love religion and highly esteem learning. Both heretics and believers are found living together. There are several hundred saṅghārāmas, which are mostly dilapidated. The three or five[3] which still remain have but few priests in them. There are several tens of Deva temples, occupied by sectaries of different kinds. The followers of the Nirgranthas are very numerous.

The capital city of Vaiśālī (or, called Vaiśālī) is to a great extent in ruins. Its old foundations are from 60 to 70 li in circuit. The royal precincts are about 4 or 5 li round: there are a few people living in it. North-westof the royal city (precincts) 5 or 6 li, is a saṅghārāma with a few disciples. They study the teaching of the Little Vehicle, according to the Sammatīya school.

By the side of it is a stūpa. It was here Tathāgata delivered the Vimalakīrti Sūtra (Pi-mo-lo-kie-king), and the son of a householder, Ratnākara,[4] and others offered precious parasols (to Buddha).[5] To the east of this is a stūpa. It was here śāriputra and others obtained perfect exemption (became Arhats).

To the south-east of this last spot is a stūpa; this was built by a king of Vaiśālī. After the Nirvāṇa of Buddha, a former king of this country obtained a portion of the relics of his body, and to honour them as highly as possible raised (this building).[6]

The records of India state: In this stūpa there was at first a quantity of relics equal to a "hoh" (ten pecks). Aśoka-rāja opening it, took away nine-tenths of the whole, leaving only one-tenth behind. Afterwards there was a king of the country who wished again to open the stūpa, but at the moment when he began to do so, the earth trembled, and he dared not proceed to open (the stūpa).

To the north-west is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja; by the side of it is a stone pillar about 50 or 60 feet high, with the figure of a lion[7] on the top. To the south of the stone pillar is a tank. This was dug by a band of monkeys (Markatahrada) for Buddha's use. When he was in the world of old, Tathāgata once and again dwelt here. Not far to the south of this tank is a stūpa; it was here the monkeys, taking the alms-bowl of Tathāgata, climbed a tree and gathered him some honey.

Not far to the south is a stūpa; this is the place where the monkeys offered the honey[8] to Buddha. At the north-west angle of the lake there is still a figure of a monkey.

To the north-east of the saṅghārāma 3 or 4 li is a stūpa; this is the old site of the house of Vimalakīrti (Pi-mo-lo-kie);[9] various spiritual signs (manifestations) are exhibited here.

Not far from this is a spirit-dwelling[10] (a chapel?), its shape like a pile of bricks. Tradition says[11] this stone-pile is where the householder Vimalakīrti preached the law when he was sick.

Not far from this is a stūpa; this is the site of the old residence of Ratnākara (P'ao tsi).[12]

Not far from this is a stūpa; this is the old house of the lady āmra.[13] It was here the aunt of Buddha and other Bhikṣuṇīs obtained Nirvāṇa.

To the north of the saṅghārāma 3 or 4 li is a stūpa; this indicates the place where Tathāgata stopped when about to advance to Kuśinagara to die, whilst men and Kinnaras followed him.[14] From this not far to the north-west is a stūpa; here Buddha for the very last time gazed upon the city of Vaiśālī.[15] Not far to the south of this is a vihāra, before which is built a stūpa; this is the site of the garden of the āmra-girl,[16] which she gave in charity to Buddha.

By the side of this garden is a stūpa; this is the place where Tathāgata announced his death.[17] When Buddha formerly dwelt in this place, he told ānanda as follows:—"Those who obtain the four spiritual faculties are able to extend their lives to a kalpa. What is the term of years of Tathāgata then?" Thrice he asked this question, and ānanda answered not, through the fascination of Māra. Then ānanda rising from his seat, gave himself up to silent thought in a wood. At this time Māra coming to Buddha,[18] asked him, saying, "Tathāgata has for a long time dwelt in the world teaching and converting. Those whom he has saved from the circling streams (of transmigration) are as numerous as the dust or the sands. This surely is the time to partake of the joy of Nirvāṇa." Tathāgata taking some grains of dust on his nail, asked Māra, saying, "Are the grains of dust on my nail equal to the dust of the whole earth or not?" He answered, "The dust of the earth is much greater." Buddha said, "Those who are saved are as the grains of earth on my nail; those not saved like the grains of the whole earth; but after three months I shall die." Māra hearing it, was rejoiced and departed.

Meantime ānanda in the wood suddenly had a strange dream, and coming to Buddha he told it to him, saying, "I was in the wood, when I beheld in my dream a large tree, whose branches and leaves in their luxuriance cast a grateful shade beneath, when suddenly a mighty wind arose which destroyed and scattered the tree and its branches without leaving a mark behind. Oh, forbid it that the lord is going to die! My heart is sad and worn, therefore I have come to ask you if it be so or not?"

Buddha answered ānanda, "I asked you before, and Māra so fascinated you that you did not then ask me to remain in the world. Māra-rāja has urged me to die soon, and I have covenanted to do so; and fixed the time. This is the meaning of your dream."[19]

Not far from this spot is a stūpa. This is the spot where the thousand sons beheld their father and their mother.[20] Formerly there was a rishi who lived a secret life amid the crags and valleys. In the second month of spring he had been bathing himself in a pure stream of water. A roe-deer which came to drink there just after, conceived and brought forth a female child, very beautiful beyond human measure, but she had the feet of a deer. The rishi having seen it, adopted and cherished it (as his child). As time went on, on one occasion he ordered her to go and seek some fire. In so doing she came to the hut of another rishi; but wherever her feet trod there she left the impression of a lotus-flower on the ground. The other rishi having seen this, was very much surprised, and bade her walk round his hut and he would give her some fire. Having done so and got the fire, she returned. At this time Fan-yu-wang (Brahmadatta-rāja[21]) going out on a short excursion, saw the lotus-flower traces, and followed them to seek (the cause). Admiring her strange and wonderful appearance, he took her back in his carriage. The soothsayers casting her fortune said, "She will bear a thousand sons." Hearing this, the other women did nothing but scheme against her. Her time having been accomplished, she brought forth a lotus-flower of a thousand leaves, and on each leaf was seated a boy. The other women slandered her on its account, and saying it was "an unlucky omen," threw (the lotus) into the Ganges, and it was carried away by the current.

The king of Ujiyana (U-chi-yen), down the stream going out for an excursion, observed a yellow-cloud-covered box floating on the water and coming towards him. He took it and opened it, and there saw a thousand boys; being well nourished, when they came to perfect stature, they were of great strength. Relying on these, he extended his kingdom in every direction, and encouraged by the victories of his troops, he was on the point of extending his conquests to this country (i.e., Vaiśālī). Brahmadatta-rāja hearing of it, was much alarmed; fearing his army was not able to contend successfully with the invaders, he was at a loss what to do. At this time the deer-footed girl, knowing in her heart that these were her sons, addressed the king thus: "Now that these youthful warriors are approaching the frontier, from the highest to the lowest there is an absence of courage (heart). Your feeble wife by her thought is able to conquer those redoubtable champions." The king not yet believing her, remained overwhelmed with fear. Then the deer-girl, mounting the city wall, waited the arrival of the warriors. The thousand youths having surrounded the city with their soldiers, the deer-girl said to them, "Do not be rebellious! I am your mother; you are my sons." The thousand youths replied, "What extravagant words are these!" The deer-girl then pressing both her breasts, a thousand jets of milk flowed out therefrom, and by divine direction fell into their mouths. Then they laid aside their armour, broke their ranks, and returned to their tribe and family. The two countries mutually rejoiced, and the people rested in peace.

Not far from this spot is a stūpa. This is where Tathāgata walked for exercise, and left the traces thereof. In teaching (or, pointing to the traces) he addressed the congregation thus: "In ancient days, in this place, I returned to my family[22] on seeing my mother. If you would know then, those thousand youths are the same as the thousand Buddhas of this Bhadra-kalpa."

To the east of the spot where Buddha explained this birth (jātaka) is a ruined foundation above which is built a stūpa. A bright light is from time to time reflected here. Those who ask (pray) in worship obtain their requests. The ruins of the turretted preaching-hall, where Buddha uttered the Samantamukha[23] dhāraṇi and other sūtras, are still visible.

By the side of the preaching-hall, and not far from it, is a stūpa which contains the relics of the half body of ānanda.[24]

No far from this are several stūpas—the exact number has not yet been determined. Here a thousand Pratyeka Buddhas (To-kio) attained Nirvāṇa. Both within and without the city of Vaiśālī, and all round it, the sacred vestiges are so numerous that it would be difficult to recount them all. At every step commanding sites and old foundations are seen, which the succession of seasons and lapse of years have entirely destroyed. The forests are uprooted; the shallow lakes are dried up and stinking; nought but offensive remnants of decay can be recorded.

Going north-west of the chief city 50 or 60 li, we come to a great stūpa. This is where the Licchavas (Li-ch'e-p'o) took leave of Buddha.[25] Tathāgata having left the city of Vaiśālī on his way to Kuśinagara, all the Licchavas, hearing that Buddha was about to die, accompanied him wailing and lamenting. The Lord of the World having observed their fond affection, and as words were useless to calm them, immediately by his spiritual power caused to appear a great river with steep sides and deep, the waves of which flowed on impetuously. Then the Licchavas were abruptly stopped on their way, moved with grief as they were. Then Tathāgata left them his pātra as a token of remembrance.

Two hundred li to the north-west of the city of Vaiśālī, or a little less, is an old and long-deserted city, with but few inhabitants. In it is a stūpa. This is the place where Buddha dwelt when, in old days, for the sake of an assembly of Bodhisattvas, men, and Devas, he recited an explanatory jātaka of himself when as a Bodhisattva he was a Chakravartin monarch of this city and called Mahādeva (Ta-tien). He was possessed of the seven treasures,[26] and his rule extended over the world (the four empires). Observing the marks of decay in himself,[27] and concluding in his mind about the impermanency of his body, he took a high resolve (being secretly affected by his reflections), left his throne, gave up his country, and, becoming a hermit, assumed the dark robes and gave himself to study.

Going south-east from the city 14 or 15 li, we come to a great stūpa. It was here the convocation of the seven hundred sages and saints was held.[28] One hundred and ten years after the Nirvāṇa of Buddha there were in Vaiśālī some Bhikṣus who broke the laws of Buddha and perverted the rules of discipline. At this time Yaśada (Ye-she-t'o) āyushmat[29] was stopping in the country of Kosala (Kiao-sa-lo); Sambogha (San-pu-kia) āyushmat was dwelling in the country of Mathurā Revata (Li-po-to) āyushmat was stopping in the country of Han-jo (Kanyākubja?[30]); Sāla[31] (Sha-lo) āyushmat was stopping in the country of Vaiśālī; Pujasumira (Fu-she-su-mi-lo=Kujjasobhita?) āyushmat was stopping in the country of Sha-lo-li-fo (Salaṛbhu?): all these were great Arhats, possessed of independent power, faithful to the three piṭakas, possessed of the three enlightenments (vidyās), of great renown, knowing all that should be known, all of them disciples of ānanda.

At this time Yaśada sent a message to summon the sages and saints to a convocation at the city of Vaiśālī. There was only wanting one to make up the 700, when Fu-she-su-mi-lo by the use of his divine sight saw the saints and sages assembled and deliberating about religious matters. By his miraculous power he appeared in the assembly. Then Sambogha in the midst of the assembly, baring his right breast and prostrating himself, (arose) and exclaimed with a loud voice, "Let the congregation be silent, respectfully thoughtful! In former days the great and holy King of the Law, after an illustrious career, entered Nirvāṇa. Although years and months have elapsed since then, his words and teaching still survive. But now the Bhikṣus of Vaiśālī have become negligent and pervert the commandments. There are ten points in which they disobey the words of the Buddha (the ten-power daśabala). Now then, learned sirs, you know well the points of error; you are well acquainted with the teaching of the highly virtuous (bhadanta) ānanda: in deep affection to Buddha let us again declare his holy will."

Then the whole congregation were deeply affected; they summoned to the assembly the Bhikṣus, and, according to the Vinaya, they charged them with transgression, bound afresh the rules that had been broken, and vindicated the holy law.

Going south 80 or 90 li from this place, we come to the saṅghārāma called śvetapura (Shi-fei-to-pu-lo); its massive towers, with their rounded shapes and double storeys, rise in the air. The priests are calm and respectful, and all study the Great Vehicle. By the side of this building are traces where the four past Buddhas sat and walked.

By the side of these is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. It was here, when Buddha was alive, that, on going southwards to the Magadha country, he turned northwards to look at Vaiśālī and left there, on the road where he stopped to breathe, traces of his visit.

Going south-east from the śvetapura saṅghārāma 30 li or so, on either (south and north) side of the Ganges river there is a stūpa,; this is the spot where the venerable ānanda divided his body between the two kingdoms. ānanda was on his father's side cousin of Tathāata. He was a disciple (śaikṣa[32]) well acquainted with the doctrine (collectanea), thoroughly instructed in ordinary matters (men and things), and of masculine understanding. After Buddha's departure from the world he succeeded the great Kāśyapa in the guardianship of the true law, and became the guide and teacher of men devoted to religion (men not yet Arhats). He was dwelling in the Magadha country in a wood; as he was walking to and fro he saw a śrāmaṇera (novice) repeating in a bungling way a sūtra of Buddha, perverting and mistaking the sentences and words. ānanda having heard him, his feelings were moved towards him, and, full of pity, he approached the place where he was; he desired to point out his mistakes and direct him in the right way. The śrāmaṇera, smiling, said, "Your reverence is of great age; your interpretation of the words is a mistaken one. My teacher is a man of much enlightenment; his years (springs and autumns) are in their full maturity. I have received from him personally the true method of interpreting (the work in question); there can be no mistake." ānanda remained silent, and then went away, and with a sigh he said, "Although my years are many, yet for men's sake I was wishful to remain longer in the world, to hand down and defend the true law. But now men (all creatures) are stained with sin, and it is exceedingly difficult to instruct them. To stay longer would be useless: "I will die soon." On this, going from Magadha, he went towards the city of Vaiśālī, and was now in the middle of the Ganges in a boat, crossing the river. At this time the king of Magadha, hearing of ānanda's departure, his feelings were deeply affected towards him, and so, preparing his chariot, he hastened after him with his followers (soldiers) to ask him to return. And now his host of warriors, myriads in number, were on the southern bank of the river, when the king of Vaiśālī, hearing of ānanda's approach, was moved by a sorrowful affection, and, equipping his host, he also went with all speed to meet him. His myriads of soldiers were assembled on the opposite bank of the river (the north side), and the two armies faced each other, with their banners and accoutrements shining in the sun. ānanda, fearing lest there should be a conflict and a mutual slaughter, raised himself from the boat into mid-air, and there displayed his spiritual capabilities, and forthwith attained Nirvāṇa. He seemed as though encompassed by fire, and his bones fell in two parts, one on the south side, the other on the north side of the river. Thus the two kings each took a part, and whilst the soldiers raised their piteous cry, they all returned home and built stūpas over the relics and paid them religious worship.

Going north-east from this 500 li or so, we arrive at the country of Fo-li-shi (Vṛjji).[33]

Footnotes and references:


The pilgrim must have crossed the Gaṇḍaka river, not the Ganges. This river flows within 12 miles of Degwāra, the probable site of the Droṇa stūpa. Vaiśālī, therefore, is to the east of the Gaṇḍaka, and is placed by Cunningham on the site of the present village of Besārh, where there is an old ruined fort still called Rāja-Bisal-ka-garh, or the fort of the Rāja Visala. It is exactly 23 miles north-north-east from Degwāra. Vaiśālī was probably the chief town, or the first in importance, of the people called Vṛjjis or Vajjis. These people were a northern race who had taken possession of this part of India (viz., from the foot of the mountains to the Ganges on the south, and from the Gaṇḍaka on the west to the Mahānadī on the east) from an early period; how early we cannot say, but as early as the redaction of the Buddhist books at least. They may have been allied to the Viḍḍhals, the Yue-chi of Chinese authors. (See J. R. A. S., N.S., vol. xiv. part ii.)


This is much in excess of the actual measurement, even if the country of Vṛjjis be included. But for these calculations of area or circuit the pilgrim had no data except the ordinary statements of the people, which would be certainly exaggerated.


Julien proposes to substitute four for five. I have kept to the original, which is in accordance with Oriental idiom.


So Julien restores "p'ao-tsi", treasure heap. It is sometimes restored to Ratnakūṭa (B. Nanjio, Catalogue, p. 10 ss.); but, as before stated, the Chinese symbol for kūṭa is hwui, not tsi. Ratnākara is perhaps the same as Yaśada.


Yaśada is generally represented with a parasol over his head. Much of the later Buddhist legend appears to have been borrowed or adopted from the history of Yaśada. Pl. lxiii. fig. 3, Tree and Serpent Worship, probably relates to him.


The Lichhavis of Vaiśālī obtained a share of the relics of Buddha, and raised over them a stūpa. (See Varga 28 of the Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king). The scene found at Sāñchi (pl. xxviii, fig. 1, Tree and Serpent Worship) probably refers to this stūpa and its consecration. The appearance of the men shows they were a Northern race; their hair and flowing hair-bands and musical instruments agree with the account given of the people of Kuché (vol. i. p. 19, ante). It is stated both in the Pāli and Northern Buddhist books that the Licchavis were distinguished for their bright coloured and variegated dresses and equipages. All the evidence seems to point to these people being a branch of the Yue-chi.


The Lichhavis were called "lions." See Fo-sho, v. 1906. It would seem that the four animals named in vol. i. pp. 11, 12, are typical of the four regions respectively; the "lion" would therefore typify Northern nations.


This scene is also found at Sanchi (pl. xxvi. fig. 2, Tree and Serpent Worship). It is on the same pillar as the consecration scene alluded to above. The pillar was evidently the work or gift of the Vaiśālī people.


Vimalakīrti is explained by the Chinese equivalents wu kau ching, i.e., undefiled reputation. He was a householder (chang-ché) of Vaiśālī and a convert to Buddhism. There is little said about him in the books; but he is supposed to have visited China (Eitel, Handbook, sub voc.)


This was probably one of the Vajjian shrines, Chetiyāni or Yakkha-chetiyāni, of which we read in the Book of the Great Decease, and elsewhere. (Compare Sac. Bks. of the East, vol. xi. p. 4.)


Julien translates—"Tradition has preserved for it the name of 'piled-up stone' (Aśmakūṭa?)." But there is no symbol for "name" it is simply "tradition says." Julien has omitted the title of "householder" (chang-ché).


There is some difficulty in restoring P'ao tsi. Julien, in the passage before us, restores it to Ratnākara, but in note 1 (same page) he restores the same symbols to Ratnakūṭa.


For an account of the lady āmra, see Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, varga 22. Julien restores the expression to "daughter of the āmra" (āmradārikā). It may be so; but "the lady āmra" appears more natural. She is called the "Mango girl" in the Southern records (Sac. Books of the East, vol. xi p. 33), and the Chinese would bear this translation. She was a courtesan, and otherwise called Ambapālī. For an account of her birth and history, see Manual of Buddhism, p. 327 ss.


The Kinnaras are said to be the horse-faced musicians of Kuvera (Eitel, sub voc.); but the Chinese symbols describe them as "something different from men." They may be seen figured in the sculpture at Sanchi, pl. xxvi. fig. 1, where they are coming to the place where Buddha stopped (figured by the oblong stone); this is another sculpture of the Vaiśālī pillar, and illustrates the notice in the text.


The incident connected with Buddha's last look at Vaiśālī is narrated, Fa-hian, cap. xxv.; Sac. Books of the East, vol. xi. p. 64, and vol. xix. p. 283.


Or, the lady āmra; for an account of the gift of the garden, see Fo-sho as above.


For an account of this incident compare Fa-hian, cap. xxv.; Sac. Books of the East, vol. xi. p. 41, and vol. xix. p. 267.


This interview of Māra (called Piśuna, the wicked one, in the Chinese version, S. B. E., vol. xix. p. 267) is again found among the Sāñchi sculptures on the Vaiśālī pillar, pl. xxvi. fig. 1, lower scene. Māra is known by the escort of women, his daughters; he is here standing in front of the tree which symbolises Buddha's presence. His appearance and escort here are the same as in pl. xxx. fig. 1, upper part; he is there represented above the scene of rejoicing among the Devas of the Trayastriṃśas heaven around the head-turban of Buddha after the great renunciation; he is fitly placed above that heaven as being the "lord of the world of desire," and therefore always described as occupying the upper mansion of this tier of heavens. His distress and rage are indicative of his condition of mind in knowledge of Bodhisattva's renunciation. If the four identifications on this pillar are correct, we may conclude that the people of Vaiśālī were a Northern people allied to the Yue-chi, which illustrates the observation of Csoma Korösi, "that Tibetan writers derive their first king about 250 B.C. from the Litsabyis or Licchavis" (Manual of Buddhism, p. 236, note). The śākya family of Buddha is also said to belong to this tribe. Mémoire by V. de St. Martin, p. 367, note. The symbols used by the Chinese for the Yue-chi and for the Vṛjjis are the same. Unless we are to suppose a much earlier incursion of these people into India than is generally allowed, the date of the Southern books of Buddhism (the book of the Great Decease and others), which contain accounts respecting the character, habits, and dress of the Licchavis (which correspond with the Northern accounts), must be brought down considerably later than the assumed date of the redaction of the Pāli canon. But, on the other hand, if it be true that the incursion of these people took place when Pāṭaliputra was strengthened as a fortified outpost to repel their advance, i.e., about the time of Buddha, then we must allow an early advance on their part into India. We know they were regarded as intruders, for Ajātaśatru, king of Magadha, was desirous to attack and root out "these Vajjians," and it was he also who strengthened the city of Pāṭaliputra. The question deserves consideration.


For a full account of this incident, see, as before, The Sacred Books of the East, vols. xi. and xix.


Compare Fa-hian, p. 97 (Beal's edition). Julien has no notice of "the father" of the children: perhaps it is an error in my text.


If "yu" be taken in the sense of "given," Brahmadatta may be the right restoration. Julien proposes Brahmānadita doubtfully.


Fa-hian calls this place the spot where Buddha "laid aside his bow and his club."


Pu-men-t'o-lo-ni-king; this is a section of the Saddharma puṇḍarīka Sūtra, but we cannot suppose that any portion of this work is as old as the time of Buddha.


For an account of the division of ānanda's body consult Fa-hian, cap. xxvi.


For this event see Fa-hian, cap. xxiv.


That is, the seven treasures of a holy-wheel king, or Chakravartin. For an account of these treasures see Sénart, La Legende du Buddha, pp. 20 ff.


These marks of decay were the first white hairs that appeared on his head. On seeing these he resigned the throne to his son and became an ascetic. He is called Makhādewā by Spence Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, pp. 129, 130.


This is generally called "the second Buddhist convocation." For an account of it see Oldenberg, Vinayapiṭakam, vol. i.; Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 83, ss., etc.


So the Chinese Chang-lo may be rendered.


Julien restores this doubtfully as Hañjna.


Julien has omitted all mention of Sāla.


In Chinese, To-wan. He was the son of śuklodana-rāja.


Northern people call this "San-fa-shi" Samvaji. It is in Northern India.—Ch. Ed.

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