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 1 - Country of I-lan-na-po-fa-to (Hiranyaparvata)

THIS country is about 3000 li in circuit. The capital of the country is 20 li or so round, and is bounded on the north by the river Ganges.[1] It is regularly cultivated, and is rich in its produce. Flowers and fruits also are abundant. The climate is agreeable in its temperature. The manners of the people are simple and honest. There are ten saṅghārāmas, with about 4000 priests. Most of them study the Little Vehicle of the Sammatīya (Ching-liang-pu) school. There are some twelve Deva temples, occupied by various sectaries.

Lately the king of a border country deposed the ruler of this country, and holds in his power the capital. He is benevolent to the priests, and has built in the city two saṅghārāmas, each holding something less than 1000 priests. Both of them are attached to the Sarvāstivādin school of the Little Vehicle.

By the side of the capital and bordering on the Ganges river is the Hiraṇya (I-lan-na) mountain, from which is belched forth masses of smoke and vapour which obscure the light of the sun and moon. From old time till now ṛṣis and saints have come here in succession to repose their spirits. Now there is a Deva temple here, in which they still follow their rules handed down to them. In old days Tathāgata also dwelt here, and for the sake of the Devas preached at large the excellent law.

To the south of the capital is a stūpa. Here Tathāgata preached for three months. By the side of it are traces of the three Buddhas of the past age, who sat and walked here.

To the west of this last-named spot, at no great distance, is a stūpa. This denotes the spot where the Bhikṣu śrutaviṃśatikoṭi[2] (Shi-lu-to-p'in-she-ti-ku-chi) was born. Formerly there was in this town a rich householder (gṛhapati), honoured and powerful. Late in life he had an heir born to his estate. Then he gave as a reward to the person who told him the news 200 lakhs of gold pieces. Hence the name given to his son was śūtraviṃśatikoṭi (Wen-urh-pih-yih). From the time of his birth till he grew up his feet never touched the ground. For this reason there grew on the bottom of his feet hairs a foot long, shining and soft, and of a yellow gold colour. He loved this child tenderly, and procured for him objects of the rarest beauty. From his house to the Snowy Mountains he had established a succession of rest-houses from which his servants continually went from one to the other. Whatever valuable medicines were wanted, they communicated the same to each other in order, and so procured them without loss of time, so rich was this family. The world-honoured one, knowing the root of piety in this man was about to develop, ordered Mudgalaputra to go there and to instruct him. Having arrived outside the gate, he had no way to introduce himself (to pass through). Now the householder's family (or simply the householder) worshipped Sūrya-deva. Every morning when the sun rose he turned towards it in adoration. At this time Mudgalaputra, by his spiritual power, caused himself to appear in the disc of the sun and to come down thence and stand in the interior. The householder's son took him to be Sūrya-deva, and so offered him perfumed food (rice) and worshipped him.[3] The scent of the rice, so exquisite was it, reached even to Rājagṛha. At this time Bimbisāra-rāja, astonished at the wonderful perfume, sent messengers to ask from door to door whence it came. At length he found that it came from the Veṇuvana-vihāra, where Mudgalaputra had just arrived from the abode of the (rich) householder. The king finding out that the son of the householder had such miraculous (food), sent for him to come to court. The householder, receiving the order, considered with himself what was the easiest mode of transport; a galley (boat with banks of oars) is liable to accidents from wind and waves; a chariot is liable to accident from the frightened elephants running away. On this he constructed from his own house to Rājagṛha a canal basin, and filled it full of mustard seed.[4] Then placing gently on it a lordly boat furnished with ropes with which to draw it along, he went thus to Rājagṛha.

First going to pay his respects to the Lord of the World, he (i.e., Buddha) addressed him and said, "Bimbasāra-rāja has sent for you, no doubt desiring to see the hair beneath your feet. When the king desires to see it, you must sit cross legged with your feet turned up. If you stretch out your feet towards the king, the laws of the country exact death."[5]

The householder's son, having received the instruction of Buddha, went. He was then led into the palace and presented (to the king). The king desiring to see the hair, he sat cross-legged with his feet turned up. The king, approving of his politeness, formed a great liking for him. Having paid his final respects, he then returned to the place where Buddha was.

Tathāgata at that time was preaching the law and teaching by parables. Hearing the discourse and being moved by it, his mind was opened, and he forthwith became a disciple. Then he applied himself with all his power to severe thought, with a view to obtain the fruit (of Arhatship). He walked incessantly up and down,[6] until his feet were blood-stained.

The Lord of the World addressed him, saying, "You, dear youth, when living as a layman, did you know how to play the lute?"[7] He said, "I knew." "Well, then," said Buddha, "I will draw a comparison derived from this. The cords being too tight, then the sounds were not in cadence; when they were too loose, then the sounds had neither harmony nor charm; but when not tight and not slack, then the sounds were harmonious. So in the preparation for a religious life, the case is the same; too severe, then the body is wearied and the mind listless; too remiss, then the feelings are pampered and the will weakened."[8]

Having received this instruction from Buddha, he moved round him in a respectful way,[9] and by these means he shortly obtained the fruit of Arhatship.

On the western frontier of the country, to the south of the river Ganges, we come to a small solitary mountain, with a double peak rising high.[10] Formerly Buddha in this place rested during the three months of rain, and subdued the Yakṣa Vakula (Yo-c'ha Po-khu-lo).[11]

Below a corner of the south-east side of the mountain is a great stone. On this are marks caused by Buddha sitting thereon. The marks are about an inch deep, five feet two inches long, and two feet one inch wide. Above them is built a stūpa.

Again to the south is the impression on a stone where Buddha set down his kiun-chi-kia (kuṇḍikā or watervessel). In depth the lines are about an inch, and are like a flower with eight buds (or petals).[12]

Not far to the south-east of this spot are the foot-traces of the Yakṣa Vakula. They are about one foot five or six inches long, seven or eight inches wide, and in depth less than two inches. Behind these traces of the Yakṣa is a stone figure of Buddha in sitting posture, about six or seven feet high.

Next, to the west, not far off, is a place where Buddha walked for exercise.

Above this mountain top is the old residence of the Yakṣa.

Next, to the north is a foot-trace of Buddha, a foot and eight inches long, and perhaps six inches wide, and half an inch deep. Above it is a stūpa erected. Formerly when Buddha subdued the Yakṣa, he commanded him not to kill men nor eat their flesh. Having respectfully received the law of Buddha, he was born in heaven.

To the west of this are six or seven hot springs. The water is exceedingly hot.[13]

To the south the country is bounded by great mountain forests in which are many wild elephants of great size.

Leaving this kingdom, going down the river Ganges, on its south bank eastwards, after 300 li or so, we come to the country of Chen-po (Champā).

Footnotes and references:


There seems to be a confusion in the text. Literally it is, "The capital (has) as a northern road or way the river Ganges." There is a note in the original saying that the order is misprinted.


This translated into Chinese is "Wen urh pih yih", that is, "hearing-two-hundred lakhs." The note adds that formerly it was translated by "yih-urh", that is, laksha-karṇa. The reference in the story is to Soṇa, Kolivisi, who, according to the Southern account, lived at Champā. (see Sacred Books of the East, vol. xvii. p. 1). He is said to have been worth eighty cart-loads of gold, asīti-sakaṭa-vāhe hiraññaṃ (op. cit., p. 13). But in the following section of the Mahāvaggā (op. cit. 32) there is reference to another Soṇa called Kuṭikaṇṇa, which Buddhaghosha explains by saying that his ear-ornaments were worth a koṭi; but Rhys Davids thinks this may be explained by his having pointed ears (p. 13, n. 3). It seems evident that the old form in Chinese, viz., "yih urh", i.e., lakshakarṇa, refers to this Soṇa. The symbol "yih" is frequently used for koṭi, in which case the translation would be koṭi karṇa. Compare Cunningham's remarks about Rāja Karṇa (Arch. Surv., vol. xv. p. 16). Compare also Julien, tome ii. errata, p. 573, col. 1, line 16.


The symbol "kwei", "to return," is probably a mistake for "kwei", "to worship." The translation I have given differs from the French.


In the Mahāvagga it is simply said, "and they carried Soṇa Kolivisa in a palanquin to Rājagṛha" (S. B. E., xvii. 2).


This advice is given him by his parents in the Southern account. On the other hand, the visit of the eighty thousand overseers to Buddha and the miracles of Sāgata resulting in their conversion, are quite omitted here.


Walking up and down, thinking, is represented as a constant habit of the early Buddhist śramaṇas (S. B. E., xvii. 17, n. 3). It is constantly referred to in Hiuen Tsiang, and the spots where the Buddhas had walked up and down appear to have been accounted sacred


The viṇā, as in the Pāli.


This comparison is found in the Sūtra of Forty-two Sections, No. xxxiii.


That is, keeping his right shoulder towards him (pradakshiṇa).


This mountain is identified by Cunningham with the hill of Mahādeva, which is situated east from the great irregular central mass of the Mongir hills (Arch. Surv., vol. xv. p. 19). Hiuen Tsiang does not appear himself to have visited this spot, as the symbol used is "chi", not "hing". The passage might be translated, "there is a small solitary hill with successive crags heaped up." For an account of the neighbouring hot springs see Cunningham (op. cit. Appendix).


Vakula or Vākkula was also the name of a Sthavira, one of Buddha's disciples. Burnouf, Introd., p. 349.; Lotus, pp. 2, 126.


Many of these marks or figures might probably be explained by a knowledge of the character of the rock formation. Buchanan describes the rock of Mahādeva as quartz or silicious hornstone.


These springs as described by a recent visitor in the Pioneer, 17th August 1882 (see Cunningham, op. cit. Appendix); they are still so hot as to fill the valley with clouds of steam "like a cauldron."

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