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 14 - Country of T’o-na-kie-tse-kia (Dhanakataka)

This country is about 6000 li in circuit, and the capital[1] some 40 li round. The soil is rich and fertile, and is regularly cultivated, affording abundant harvests. There is much desert country, and the towns are thinly populated. The climate is hot. The complexion of the people is a yellowish black, and they are by nature fierce and impulsive. They greatly esteem learning. The convents (saṅghārāmas) are numerous, but are mostly deserted and ruined; of those preserved there are about twenty, with 1000 or so priests. They all study the law of the Great Vehicle. There are 100 Deva temples, and the people who frequent them are numerous and of different beliefs.

To the east of the capital (the city) bordering on (leaning against)[2] a mountain is a convent called the Pūrvaśilā (Fo-p'o-shi-lo-seng).[3] To the west of the city leaning against (maintained by) a mountain is a convent called Avaraśilā.[4] These were (or, this was) built by a former king to do honour to (for the sake of) Buddha. He hollowed the valley, made a road, opened the mountain crags, constructed pavilions and long (or, lateral) galleries; wide chambers supported the heights and connected the caverns.[5] The divine spirits respectfully defended (this place); both saints and sages wandered here and reposed. During the thousand years following the Nirvāṇa of Buddha, every year there were a thousand laymen[6] and priests who dwelt here together during the rainy season. When the time was expired, all who had[7] reached the condition of Arhats mounted into the air and fled away. After the thousand years the lay men and saints dwelt together; but for the last hundred years there have been no priests (dwelling here) in consequence of the spirit of the mountain changing his shape, and appearing sometimes as a wolf, sometimes as a monkey, and frightening the disciples; for this reason the place has become deserted and wild, with no priests to dwell there.

To the south[8] of the city a little way is a great mountain cavern. It is here the master of śāstras P'o-pi-feï-kia (Bhāvaviveka)[9] remains in the palace of the Asuras ('O-ssu-lo), awaiting the arrival of Maitreya Bodhisattva as perfect Buddha.[10] This master of śāstras was widely renowned for his elegant scholarṣip and for the depth of his vast attainments (virtue). Externally he was a disciple of Kapila[11] (Sāṅkhya), but inwardly he was fully possessed of the learning of Nāgārjuna. Having heard that Dharmapāla (Hu-fa-p'u-sa) of Magadha was spreading abroad the teaching of the law, and was making many thousand disciples, he desired to discuss with him. He took his religious staff in hand and went. Coming to Pāṭaliputra (Po-ch'a-li) he ascertained that Dharmapāla Bodhisattva was dwelling at the Bodhi tree. Then the master of śāstras ordered his disciples thus: "Go you to the place where Dharmapāla resides near the Bodhi tree, and say to him in my name, 'Bodhisattva (i.e., Dharmapāla) publishes abroad the doctrine (of Buddha) bequeathed to the world: he leads and directs the ignorant. His followers look up to him with respect and humility, and so it has been for many days; nevertheless his vow and past determination have borne no fruit! Vain is it to worship and visit the Bodhi tree. Swear to accomplish your object, and then you will be in the end guide of gods and men.'"[12]

Dharmapāla Bodhisattva answered the messenger thus: "The lives of men (or, generations of men) are like a phantom; the body is as a bubble. The whole day I exert myself; I have no time for controversy; you may therefore depart—there can be no meeting."

The master of śāstras having returned to his own country, led a pure (quiet) life and reflected thus: "In the absence of[13] Maitreya as a Buddha, who is there that can satisfy my doubts?" Then in front of the figure of the Bodhisattva Kwan-tsz'-tsai,[14] he recited in order the Sin-to'-lo-ni (Hṛdaya-dhāraṇi),[15] abstaining from food and drink. After three years Kwan-tsz'-tsai Bodhisattva appeared to him with a very beautiful[16] body, and addressed the master of śāstras thus: "What is your purpose (will)?" He said, "May I keep my body till Maitreya comes." Kwan-tsz'-tsai Bodhisattva said, "Man's life is subject to many accidents, The world is as a bubble or a phantom. You should aim at the highest resolve to be born in the Tuṣita heaven, and there, even now,[17] to see him face to face and worship."

The master of śāstras said, "My purpose is fixed; my mind cannot be changed,"[18] Bodhisattva said, "If it is so, you must go to the country of Dhanakaṭaka, to the south of the city, where in a mountain cavern a diamond-holding (Vajrapāṇi) spirit dwells, and, there with the utmost sincerity reciting the Chi-king-kang-t'o-lo-ni (Vajrapāṇidhāraṇī), you ought to obtain your wish."

On this the master of śāstras went and recited (the dhāraṇi). After three years the spirit said to him, "What is your desire, exhibiting such earnest diligence?" The master of śāstras said, "I desire that my body may endure till Maitreya comes, and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva directed me to come here to request the fulfillment (of my desire). Does this rest with you, divine being? "

The spirit then revealed to him a formula and said, "There is an Asura's palace in this mountain; if you ask according to the rule given you, the walls will open, and then you may enter and wait there till you see (Maitreya)," "But," said the master of śāstras, "dwelling in the dark, how shall I be able to see or know when the Buddha appears?" Vajrapāṇi said, "When Maitreya comes into the world, I will then advertise you of it." The master of śāstras having received his instructions, applied himself with earnestness to repeat the sentences, and for three years, without any change of mind, he repeated the words to a nicety (mustard-seed).[19] Then knocking at the rock-cavern, it opened out its deep and vast recesses. Then an innumerable multitude appeared before him looking about them, but forgetful of the way to return. The master of śāstras passed through the door, and addressing the multitude said, "Long have I prayed and worshipped with a view to obtain an opportunity to see Maitreya. Now, thanks to the aid of a spiritual being, my vow is accomplished. Let us therefore enter here, and together await the revelation of this Buddha."

Those who heard this were stupified, and dared not pass the threshold. They said, "This is a den of serpents; we shall all be killed." Thrice he addressed them, and then only six persons were content to enter with him. The master of śāstras turning himself and advancing, then all the multitude followed him with their gaze as he entered. After doing so the stone walls closed behind them, and then those left without chided themselves for neglecting his words addressed to them.

From this going south-west 1000 li or so, we come to the kingdom of Chu-li-ye (Chulya).

Footnotes and references:


Mr. Fergusson concludes from a report addressed to Government by the late J. A. C. Boswell, and also from some photographs by Captain Ross Thompson, that almost beyond the shadow of a doubt Bejwāḍā is the city described by Hiuen Tsiang (op. cit., p. 263). But see Ind. Ant., ut cit.


The word is "keu", to hold, to rely on. In the Analects (vii. 6, 2) there is the expression "keu yu tih", which Dr. Legge translates, "let every attainment in what is good be firmly grasped." I should suppose, therefore, the text means that the Pūrvaśilā convent was supported by or enclosed by a mountain on the east of the city.


The symbol "lo" appears to be omitted, Fo-lo-po would be equal to Purva.


'O-fa-lo-shi-lo, Aparaśilā or West Mount. Fergusson identifies this with the Amarāvatī tope. The tope is 17 miles west of Bejwāḍā. It stands to the south of the town of Amarāvatī, which again is 20 miles north-north-west of Guṇṭūr. The old fort called Dharṇikoṭa (which appears at one time to have been the name of the district) is just one mile west of Amarāvatī. "This celebrated Buddhist tope was first discovered by Rāja Veṅkaṭādri Nāyuḍu's servants in A.D. 1796; it was visited by Colonel Mackenzie and his survey staff in 1797; it was greatly demolished by the Rāja, who utilised the sculptured marbles for building materials up to the year 1816. It was again visited by Colonel Mackenzie, who made large excavations, in 1816. Further excavations in 1835 (?); examined by Sir Walter Elliot, who unearthed the ruins of the western gateway in 1840. Excavations recommenced (by Mr. R. Sewell) in May 1877. Further excavations (by Dr. James Burgess) in 1882-83. Sewell's List of Antiquarian Remains in Madra's vol. i. p. 63. For a full and valuable account of the sculptures of this tope see Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship, also Burgess, Report on the Amarāvatī Stūpa. An inscription discovered by Dr. Burgess among the stones of the stūpa proves "beyond doubt that the Amarāvatī stūpa was either already built or was being built in the second century A.D., if not earlier" (Burgess, op. cit., p. 27).


This would appear to refer to his work in constructing a sort of "sacred way" leading to the tope. But the text does not supply any information beyond the fact of the excavations in connection with this western saṅghārāma. But were these excavations confined to "the high mountain on the west of the town, full of caves, abutting on the river?" Perhaps an explanation may be found by supposing that the excavation of the mountain, etc., was independent of the building of the saṅghārāma. In Hwui-lih there is nothing said about the caverns, galleries, and tunnels; he simply states that "the eastern and western saṅghārāmas were built by a former king of the country, and he thoroughly searched through all the examples (kw'ai shih, rules and patterns) (of similar buildings) to be found in Ta-hia." Hiuen Tsiang says that "the eastern and western convents were built (the symbol ch'a in the text is "lih" in Hwui-lih; I regard it as a misprint) by a former king," and then he goes on to say that "he moreover bored through the river valley, hollowed out a road, divided the crags, raised pavilions (turreted chambers) with lateral galleries, whilst wide chambers supported (pillowed) the heights and connected the caves." This is all independent of building the saṅghārāmas. I must confess, however, that the position of the stūpa, seventeen miles west of the town, and on the other side of the river, seems to be a difficulty. With reference to Ta-hia, it is generally translated Baktria (Bretschneider, Notices of Mediæval Geography, etc., p. 197). The rules and patterns of buildings in Baktria would, I should suppose, be those of the Greeks.


Fan fu, common disciples.


Or, it may mean all of them attained the condition of Arhats.


According to the report quoted by Mr. Fergusson (op. cit., p. 263), "immediately south of the town (i.e., of Bejwāḍā) is a singular isolated rock or hill, along whose base and sides there are the remains of a considerable number of rock-caves, etc."


In Chinese Tsing-pin, "he who discusses with clearness" (Jul.); but in Wong-Pūh (§ 193) he is called Ming-pin, which seems more accurate. For the story of this doctor see Wong-Pūh (loc. cit.)


In this passage, as in the one relating to Kāśyapa in the Kukkutapāda-giri, Julien has quite missed the sense; he translates as though Bhāvaviveka had become a Buddha.


In the text it is "externally" he wore the clothes or costume of the Sāṅkhya (Sang-k'ie), that is, he was a follower of Kapila by outward profession. Julien has translated it as though Sang-k'ie were equivalent to Sang-k'ia-chi, but the symbols are quite different, and he himself gives Sāṅkhya as the equivalent of Sang-k'ie (pp. 470, 527).


This passage is obscure, and I offer my translation only as tentative. It appears to me that the message to the Bodhisattva was couched ironically. Bhāvaviveka challenges Dharmapāla on the ground that his aim has not yet been accomplished, and to go to the Bodhi tree to worship is foolish and inoperative. "Vow to accomplish your purpose, and it shall be accomplished irrespective of worship or humility." This would seem to have been the tendency of Nāgārjuna's teaching, and Bhāvaviveka, though outwardly a follower of Kapila, was yet full of Nāgārjuna's spirit.


That is, until Maitreya becomes Buddha, who is there that can answer my doubts? It is not that Maitreya has become Buddha, but until he does so become.


This is indirectly a most important passage. It shows that Bhāvaviveka, who was imbued "with the spirit of Nāgārjuna," although professedly a follower of Kapila, exhibited his faith by going to Avalo-kiteśvara. This, joined with the story of Sadvaha excavating the Brahmara (Durgā) convent for Nāgārjuna, shows that the worship of Durgā (the many-armed and the high) was the chief feature in the spirit of Nāgārjuna's teaching; in other words, that the fusion between Buddhism and the native worship of hill gods dates from Nāgārjuna's time, and was brought about by his influence.


This is a well-known sūtra or mantra, has been translated in the Journal of the R. A. S., 1875, p. 27; see also Bendall, Catalogue of MSS., etc., p. 117, add. 1485. The composition of this sūtra may, I think be attributed to Nāgārjuna, as the founder of the Mahāyāna doctrine.


This "beautiful body" of Avalokiteśvara seems to be derived from foreign sources. The character of the beauty may be seen from the plates supplied by Mr. B. Hodgson in the J. R. A. S., vol. vi. p. 276. There can be little doubt that we have here a link connecting this worship with that of Ardhvisuraanāhita, the Persian representative of the beautiful goddess of "pure water." Compare Anaitis as Venus, and the Venus-mountains in Europe (Fensberg), the survival of the worship of hill-gods. (See Karl Blind on "water-gods," etc., in the Contemporary Review.)


This is the aim of the true Buddhist convert, to be born in the heaven of Maitreya after death, and there to hear his doctrine, so as to be able at his advent to receive his instruction and reach Nirvāṇa. Opposed to this is the foreign theory of a Western paradise.


This exhibits the character of Bhāvaviveka, who had charged Dharmapāla with want of a strong determination (oath). See ante, n. 109.


Julien translates this "sur un graine de sénevé." Referring to my translation in Wong-Pūh, § 193, I had the honour to correspond with M. Julien on the subject, he only allowed that the point was worthy of consideration. His words are these: "Il me semble au contraire que cela signifie que la puissance des dhāraṇi recités sur une graine de sénevé fut telle que cette graine, malgré sa légérité extreme, put, etant projetée sur la pierre, la faire s'entrouvrir comme si elle avait été frappée avec un instrument d'une force, d'un poids extraordinaire." But there is something to be said on the other side. To repeat a formula "to a mustard-seed," is to repeat it perfectly (ad unguem); hence the name of Siddhārtha, "the perfect" (yih-tsai-i-shing), the son of śuddhodana, the promised Buddha, was just this, "the white mustard-seed" Siddhārtha), because he was "perfectly endowed." Whether the phrase, "faith as a grain of mustard-seed" (hôs kokkon sinapeôs) does not mean "perfect faith" (an Orientalism introduced into Palestine, hôs used for eôs, or pros) is a point I shall not urge; but probably the familiar story of "Open Sesame" is derived from the legend of Bhāvaviveka and the "mustard-seed." Both Ali Baba and the master of śāstras succeeded in opening the cavern gate by a "mustard-seed" formula. Cunningham connects the name of the place, Dhārani-koṭa, with this legend (Anc. Geog. p. 538).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: