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 XXXVI

From Banaras going eastward we arrive at the town of Pat aliputra again. The purpose of Fa-Hian was to seek for copies of the Vinaya Pitaka; hut throughout the whole of Northern India the various masters trusted to tradition only for their knowledge of the precepts, and had no originals to copy from. Wherefore Fa-Hian had come even so far as Mid-India. But here in the sanghardma of the Great Vehicle he obtained one collection of the precepts, viz., the collection used by the Mahasanghika assembly. This was that used by the first great assembly of priests during Buddha’s lifetime. It is reported that this was the one used in the Jetavana vihara. Except that the eighteen sects have each their own private rules of conduct, they are agreed in essentials. In some minor details they differ, as well as in a more or less exact attention to matters of practice. But the collection (of this sect)is regarded as the most correct and complete. Moreover, he obtained one copy of precepts from dictation, comprising about 7000 gathas. This version was that used by the assembly belonging to the school, of the Sarvastivadas; the same, in fact, as is generally used in China.

The masters of this school also hand down the precepts by word of mouth, and do not commit them to writing. Moreover, in this assembly he obtained a copy of the Samyuktabhidharma-hridaga Sastra, including altogether about 6000 gathas. Moreover, he obtained a copy of the Nirvana Sutra, consisting altogether of 2500 verses. Moreover, he obtained in one volume the Vaipulya-parinirvana Sutra, containing about 5000 verses. Moreover, he procured a copy of the Abhidharma according to the school of the Mahasanghikas. On this account Fa-Hian abode in this place for the space of three years engaged in learning to read the Sanskrit books, and to converse in that language, and in copying the precepts.

When To-ching arrived in Mid-India and saw the customary behaviour of the Sramanas, and the strict decorum observed by the assembly of priests, and their religious deportment, even to the smallest matters, then, sorrowfully reflecting on the meagre character of the precepts known to the different assemblies of priests in the border-land of China, he bound himself by a vow and said, “From the present time for ever till I obtain the condition of Buddha, may I never again he born in a frontier country.” And in accordance with this expression of his wish, he took up his permanent abode in this place, and did not return. And so Fa-Hian, desiring, according to his original purpose, to spread the knowledge of the precepts throughout the land of Han (China), returned alone.

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