The travels of Fa-Hian (400 A.D.)

by Samuel Beal | 1884 | 20,385 words | ISBN-10: 8120811070

This is the English translation of the travel records of Fa-Hian (or, Faxian): a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled by foot from China to India between A.D. 399 and A.D. 412. The full title is: The travels of Fa-Hian: Buddhist-country-records; By Fa-hian, the Sakya of the Sung (Dynasty) [Date, 400 A.D]. This work is an extract of the book “Buddhi...

Chapter XVII

South-east from this, after going 18 yojanas, there is a country called Samkasya. This is the place where Buddha descended after going up to the Trayastrimsas heaven to preach the law during three months for his mother’s benefit. When Buddha went up to the Trayastrimsas heaven by the exercise of his miraculous power (spiritual power of miracle), he contrived that his disciples should not know (of his proceeding). Seven days before the completion (of the three months) he broke the spell, so that Aniruddha, using his divine sight, beheld the Lord of the world afar, and forthwith addressed the venerable (Arya) Mahamudgalaputra, “You can go and salute the Lord of the world.” Mudgalyayana accordingly went, and bowing down, worshipped the foot and exchanged friendly greetings. The friendly meeting over, Buddha said to Mudgalyayana, “After seven days are over I shall descend to Jambudvipa.” Mudgalyayana then returned. On this the great kings of the eight kingdoms, the ministers and people, not having seen Buddha for a long time, were all desirous to meet him. They assembled like clouds in this country to meet the Lord of the world. At this time Utpala Bhikshuni thought thus with herself: “Today the kings of the countries and the ministers and people are going to worship and meet Buddha. I am but a woman; how can I get to see him first?” Buddha forthwith by his miraculous power made her, by transformation, into a holy Chakravartti king, and as such she was the very first to worship him. Buddha being now about to come down from the Trayastrinisas heaven, there appeared a threefold precious ladder. The middle ladder was made of the seven precious substances, standing above which Buddha began to descend. Then the king of the Brahma heavens (Brahmakayikas) caused a silver ladder to appear, on which he took his place on Buddha’s right hand, holding a white chauri. Then Sakra, king of Devas, caused a bright golden ladder to appear, on which he took his place on the left, holding in his hand a precious parasol. Innumerable Devas were in attendance whilst Buddha descended. After he had come down, the three ladders disappeared in the earth, except seven steps, which remained visible. In after times Asoka, wishing to discover the utmost depths to which these ladders went, employed men to dig down and examine into it. They went on digging till they came to the yellow spring (the earth’s foundation), but yet had not come to the bottom. The king, deriving from this an increase of faith and reverence, forthwith built over the ladders a and facing the middle flight he placed a standing figure (of Buddha) sixteen feet high. Behind the vihara, he erected a stone pillar thirty cubits high, and on the top placed the figure of a lion. Within the pillar on the four sides are figures of Buddha; both within and without it is shining and bright as glass. It happened once that some heretical doctors had a contention with the Sramanas respecting this as a place of residence. Then the argument of the Sramanas failing, they all agreed to the following compact: “If this place properly belongs to the Sramanas, then there will he some supernatural proof given of it.” Immediately on this the lion on the top of the pillar uttered a loud roar. Witnessing this testimony, the unbelievers, abashed, withdrew from the dispute and submitted.

The body of Buddha, in consequence of his having partaken of divine food during three months, emitted a divine fragrance, unlike that of men. Immediately after his descent he bathed himself. Men of after ages erected in this place a bath-house, which yet remains. There is also a tower erected on the spot where the Bhikshuni Utpala was the first to adore Buddha. There is also a tower on the spot where Buddha when in the world cut his hair and his nails, and also on the following spots, viz., where the three former Buddhas, as well as Sakyamuni Buddha, sat down, and also where they walked for exercise, and also where there are certain marks and impressions of the different Buddhas. These towers still remain.

There is also one erected where Brahma, Sakra, and the Devas attended Buddha when he came down from heaven. There are perhaps a thousand male and female disciples who have their meals in common. They belong promiscuously to the systems of the Great and Little Vehicle, and dwell together. A white-eared dragon is the patron of this body of priests. He causes fertilising and seasonable showers of rain to fall within their country, and preserves it from plagues and calamities, and so causes the priesthood to dwell in security. The priests, in gratitude for these favours, have erected a dragon-chapel, and within it placed a resting-place (seat) for his accommodation. Moreover, they make special contributions, in the shape of religious offerings, to provide the dragon with food. The body of priests every day select from their midst three men to go and take their meal in this chapel. At the end of each season of rain, the dragon suddenly assumes the form of a little serpent, both of whose ears are edged with white. The body of priests, recognising him, place in the midst of his lair a copper vessel full of cream; and then, from the highest to the lowest, they walk past him in procession as if to pay him greeting all round. He then suddenly disappears. He makes his appearance once every year. This country is very productive: the people are very prosperous, and exceedingly rich beyond comparison. Men of all countries coming here are well taken care of and obtain what they require. Fifty yojanas to the north of this temple there is a temple called “Fire Limit,” which is the name of an evil spirit. Buddha himself converted this evil spirit, whereupon men in after ages raised a vihara on the spot. At the time of the dedication of the vihara an Arhat spilt some of the sacred water, poured on his hands, and let it fall on the earth, and the place where it fell is still visible; though they have often swept the place to remove the mark, yet it still remains and cannot be destroyed.

There is, besides, in this place a tower of Buddha which a benevolent spirit ever keeps clean and waters, and which (was built) without a human architect. There was once an heretical king who said, “Since you can do this, I will bring a great army and quarter it here, which shall accumulate much filth and refuse. Will you he able to clear all this away, I wonder?” The spirit immediately caused a great tempest to rise and blow over the place, as a proof that he could do it. In this district there are a hundred small towers; a man might pass the day in trying to count them without succeeding. If any one is very anxious to discover the right number, then he places a man by the side of each tower and afterwards numbers the men; but, even in this case, it can never be known how many or how few men will be required. There is also a sangharama here containing about 600 or 700 priests. In this is a place where a Pratyeka Buddha ate (fruit); the spot of ground where he died is just in size like a chariot-wheel; all the ground around it is covered with grass, hut this spot produces none. The ground also where he dried his clothes is hare of vegetation; the traces of the impress of the clothes remain to this day.

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