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 Mo-la-p’o (Malava)

This country is about 6000 li in circuit. The capital is some 30 li round. It is defended (or supported) by the Mahī river on the south and east.[1] The soil is rich and fertile, and produces abundant harvests. Shrubs and trees are numerous and flourishing. Flowers and fruit are met with in great quantities. The soil is suitable in an especial manner for winter wheat. They mostly eat biscuits and (or, made of) parched corn-flour. The disposition of the men is virtuous and docile, and they are in general of remarkable intelligence. Their language is elegant and clear, and their learning is wide and profound.

Two countries in India, on the borders, are remarkable for the great learning of the people, viz., Mālava on the south-west, and Magadha on the north-east. In this they esteem virtue and respect politeness (humanity). They are of an intelligent mind and exceedingly studious; nevertheless the men of this country are given to heretical belief as well as the true faith, and so live together. There are about 100 saṅghārāmas in which some 2000 priests dwell.[2] They study the Little Vehicle, and belong to the Sammatīya school. There are 100 Deva temples of different kinds. The heretics are very numerous, but principally the Pāśupatas (the cinder-covering heretics).

The records of the country state: Sixty years before this[3] flourished śīlāditya, a man of eminent wisdom and great learning; his skill in literature was profound. He cherished and protected the four kinds of creatures,[4] and deeply respected the three treasures.[5] From the time of his birth to his last hour, his face never crimsoned with anger, nor did his hands ever injure a living thing. His elephants and horses drank water that had been strained, after which he gave it them, lest any creature living in the water should be injured. Such were his love and humanity. During the fifty years and more of his reign, the wild beasts became familiar with men, and the people did not injure or slay them. By the side of his palace he built a vihāra. He exhausted the skill of the artists, and used every kind of ornament in decorating it. In it he put images of the seven Buddhas,[6] Lords of the World. Every year he convoked an assembly called Mokṣa mahāpariṣad, and summoned the priests of the four quarters. He offered them "the four things" in religious charity; he also gave them sets of three garments used in their religious services, and also bestowed on them the seven precious substances and jewels in wonderful variety. This meritorious custom has continued in practice without interruption till now.

To the north-west of the capital about 200 li, we come to the town of the Brāhmaṇs.[7] By the side of it is a hollow ditch; into this the winter and summer streams flow continually, but though through decades of days the water runs into the hollow, yet it never seems to increase in quantity. By the side of it again is a little stūpa. The old traditions of the country say: Formerly a Brāhmaṇ of an exceedingly haughty mind[8] fell alive into this pit and went down to hell. In old days there was a Brāhmaṇ born in this town, who was acquainted with all things, and of learning beyond all the eminent men of his time. He had penetrated the secrets and dark sayings of books sacred and profane. He was acquainted with the calculations of astronomy as if they were in his hand; his fame was wide-spread and his behaviour without blemish. The king very highly esteemed him, and the people of the country made much of him. He had some 1000 disciples, who appreciated his doctrine and respected his character. He constantly said of himself, "I am come into the world for the purpose of publishing abroad the holy doctrine and to guide the people. Among the former sages, or those who have arrived at wisdom after them, there is none to compare with me. Maheśvaradeva, Vāsudeva, Nārāyaṇadeva, Buddha-lokanātha, men everywhere worship these, and publish abroad their doctrine, represent them in their effigies, and pay them worship and honour. But now I am greater than they in character, and my fame exceeds that of all living. Why should they then be so notorious, for they have done no wonderful thing."

Accordingly, he made out of red sandal-wood figures of Maheśvaradeva, Vāsudeva, Nārāyaṇadeva, Buddha-lokanātha, and placed them as feet to his chair, and wherever he went as a rule he took this chair with him, showing his pride and self-conceit.

Now at this time there was in Western India a Bhikṣu, Bhadraruchi (Po-t'o-lo-liu-chi) by name; he had thoroughly exhausted the Hetuvidyā (śāstra) and deeply investigated the sense of different discourses (treatises).[9] He was of excellent repute, and the perfume of his exceeding goodness (morality) spread in every direction. He had few desires and was contented with his lot, seeking nothing in the world. Hearing (of the Brāhmaṇ) he sighed and said, "Alas! how sad. This age (time) has no (one worthy to be called a) man; and so it permits that foolish master to dare to act as he does in defiance of virtue."

On this, he took his staff, and travelling afar, he came to this country. Whilst dwelling therein his mind was made up and he acquainted the king with it. The king, seeing his dirty clothes, conceived no reverence for him; but, in consideration of his high purpose, he forced himself to give him honour (to treat him with respect), and so he arranged the chair of discussion and called the Brāhmaṇ. The Brāhmaṇ hearing it smiled and said, "What man is this who has dared to conceive such an idea (to cherish this determination)."

His disciples having come together, and many (hundred) thousands of listeners being arranged before and behind the discussion-arena to attend as hearers, then Bhadraruchi, with his ancient robes and tattered clothes, arranging some grass on the ground, sat down. Then the Brāhmaṇ, sitting on his chair which he carried with him, began to revile the true law and to praise the teaching of the heretical schools.

The Bhikṣu, with a clear distinction, like the running of water, encircled his arguments in order. Then the Brāhmaṇ after a while yielded, and confessed himself conquered.

The king replying said, "For a long time you have assumed a false reputation; you have deceived the sovereign and affected the multitude with delusion. Our old rescripts say, 'He who is defeated in discussion ought to suffer death.'" Then he prepared to have a heated plate of iron to make him sit thereon; the Brāhmaṇ thereupon, overpowered by fear, fell down to entreat pardon (deliverance).

Then Bhadraruchi, pitying the Brāhmaṇ, came and requested the king, saying, "Mahārāja! your virtue extends far and wide; the sound of your praises resounds through the public ways. Then let your goodness extend even to protect this man: give not way to a cruel design. Pass over his want of success and let him go his way." Then the king ordered him to be placed on an ass and to be proclaimed through all the towns and villages (as an impostor).

The Brāhmaṇ, nettled by his defeat, was so affected that he vomited blood. The Bhikṣu having heard of it, went to condole with him, and said, "Your learning embraces subjects religious and profane; your renown is spread through all parts; in questions of distinction, or the contrary, success or defeat must be borne; but after all, what is there of reality in fame?" The Brāhmaṇ, filled with rage, roundly abused the Bhikṣu, calumniated the system or the Great Vehicle, and treated with contumely the holy ones who had gone before; but the sound of his words had scarcely been lost before the earth opened and swallowed him up alive; and this is the origin of the traces still left in the ditch.

Going south-west we come to a bay of the sea,[10] then going 2400 or 2500 li north-west we come to the kingdom of 'O-ch'a-li (Aṭali).

Footnotes and references:


The symbol "ku" implies that the capital was "held by" (either defended or supported by) the Mahī river on the south-east, or on the south and east. This would seem to take us to the neighbourhood of Dongarpur (Elphinstone's map). Cunningham considers Dhāranagara to be intended, in which V. de St. Martin agrees.


This can hardly refer to Ujjain, therefore, because we are told subsequently that the convents there were in ruins, and only about 300 priests in them. It is curious, however, that the circuit of this capital, thirty li (Julien has twenty li, by mistake), and that of Ujjain are the same.


See ante, book ii. note 91.


Viviparous, oviparous, born from spawn, or by transformation (fa) (water-insects, and so on).


Buddha, dharma, saṅgha.


For the seven Buddhas consult Eitel, Handbook, s. v. Sapta Buddha.


This may be Brāhmaṇapura; there is a city of the Brāhmaṇs named by Arrian (Exped. Alex., vi. 7)and by Diodorus, called by him Harmatelia (vii. 465). See also Cunningham, Anc, Geog,. pp. 267, 268. But the town named in the text cannot be near Harmatelia.


Or it may be a proper name, "the great-proud Brāhmaṇ"


Or, it may possibly be, "different systems."


Literally, the passage runs, "From this, south-west, we enter a sea-blending, or a confluence of two seas." I have translated it "bay," because it is sometimes used so; it probably refers to the gulf of Kachh. Hwui-lih does not mention this gulf, but takes us away from the "city of the Brāhmaṇs" the same distance as in the text to 'O-ch'a-li.

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