Translated Into English By
Dharma Realm Buddhist University
International Institute For The
Translation Of Buddhist Texts
Kashyapa Matanga and Gobharana were two Dharma Masters from India
who co-translated the Sutra In Forty-Two Sections, in the
later Han dynasty. The Han Dynasty was divided into the Eastern
Han and the Western Han, and the period referred to here is the
Eastern Han. In the Eastern Han, during the third year of the
Yung Ping reign period (62 AD.),Emperor had a dream. He dreamed
of a golden man who had a halo of light which shone forth from
the crown of his head and streamed out through empty space into
the palace where the Emperor was sleeping. The next day he questioned
his officials about the dream and an astrologer named Fu-i said
to the Emperor, "I have heard that in India there was a holy
one whom people called the Buddha. Your dream, Your Majesty, certainly
is of the Buddha."
A scholar named Wang-Tsun also spoke to the Emperor: "In
the Chou Dynasty, there was a book written which was called Records
Of Strange Events. In that book it was stated:
At that time there was an astrologer, also a diviner, named Su-Yu.
He consulted the I Ching and got the hexagram "Ch'ien,"
"nine in the fifth place," "flying dragon the
heavens," and knew from that, that a great Sage had been
born in the West, in India. That Sage would transmit a teaching
which after five hundred years would be transmitted to Chung Kuo
At that time, the King of Chou ordered that the details of the
event be carved in stone as a record and then buried at a certain
spot south of the city to wait and see if the event would actually
occur--to see if five hundred years hence, the Buddhadharma would
actually be transmitted to Chung Kuo.
Later, during the reign of King Mu, there was a massive earthquake
which moved heaven and earth. A white rainbow with twelve rays
arched through the sun. At that time there was another astrologer
named Hu-to who also used the I Ching to reckon the hexagrams,
and he figured out, "This is a great Sage from the West who
has entered extinction. In India, earlier in the Chou Dynasty,
this great Sage came into the world and now he has entered Nirvana."
So, although when the Buddha entered the world and entered extinction
he was very far from Chung Kuo, nonetheless, they knew about it
in Chung Kuo. The Buddha's appearance in the world was no chance
When the Emperor Ming of Han had the dream about the Buddha, he
commanded Ts'ai-yin, Ch'in-ching, Wang-tsun, and others to go
to India to seek the Buddhadharma. In India they met Kashyapa
Matanga and Gobharana, and these two monks returned to Chung Kuo
with Ts'ai-yin, Ch'in-ching, and Wang-tsun arriving in Loyang
in the tenth year of the Yung-p'ing reign period (69 A.D.). They
came carrying the Sutras on a white horse, whereupon the Emperor
of Han established white Horse Monastery. There they translated
The Sutra In Forty-Two Sections Spoken By The Buddha, making it
the first Sutra transmitted to Chung Kuo.
At that time Taoism flourished in Chung Kuo. When Buddhism arrived
in Chung Kuo, the Taoist masters became jealous. By the fourteenth
year of the Tung-p'ing reign period, they had had enough. On New
Year's Day they met with the Emperor and told him that Buddhism
was false, that it was a barbarian religion, not Chung Wen(Chinese).
"You should abolish Buddhism," they urged. "If
you will not abolish it, then you should at least have a contest
in order to com[are Buddhism with Taoism." They suggested
that the texts be put together in a pile and then burned. Whichever
texts did not burn would be the true ones.
On the fifteenth day of the new year, Taoist Master and leader
Ch'u Shan-hsin, as well as five hundred other Taoist Masters,
assembled at the southern gate of White Horse Monastery. They
put the Taoist texts and the Buddhist texts together and then
prayed to the Old Man of Mount T'ai, saying, "Divine Lord,
Virtuous One of the Way, please grant us an efficacious response
to insure that our Taoist texts will not burn and that the Buddhist
At that time there were many Taoist Masters with spiritual penetrations.
They could mount the fog and ride the clouds. They could fly through
the heavens and hide in the earth. They could vanish into thin
air. They had used the charms and spells of the Taoist religion
to gain spiritual powers. But when the fire was lit, guess what
happened? The Buddhist Sutras did not burn. Instead, they emitted
light. The shariras of the Buddha emitted a five-colored light
as bright as the sun, illumining the whole world. The light shone
into empty space and formed a great canopy which covered everyone
in the Great Assembly. As soon as the Taoist texts were set on
fire, they burned. And those who before could mount the clouds
and ride the fog couldn't anymore. They didn't have nay more spiritual
penetrations. Those who before could fly could no longer fly.
Those who before could hide in the earth could no longer hide
in the earth. Those who before could vanish could no longer vanish.
When they spoke their charms, they were no longer efficacious.
There wasn't any response. The Taoist texts burned to a crisp
and the Taoist Masters Ch'u Shan-hsin and Fei Cheng-ch'ing just
about died of rage. In the midst of the fury of the masters, two
or three hundred of their disciples shaved their heads on the
spot and became Buddhist monks. So the first time Taoism and Buddhism
came to grips, the two Venerable Ones, Kashyapa Matanga and Gobharana,
ascended into empty space and manifested the eighteen transformations
of an Arhat. The Upper part of their bodies emitted water, the
lower part of their bodies emitted fire; the upper part of their
bodies emitted water; they walked about in empty space; they lay
down and went to sleep in empty space, and so forth. Because of
those manifestations, the Emperor and the people all came to believe
Living beings on the wheel of rebirth in the six paths cannot
avoid cause and effect. If you are wealthy now, it is because
you were generous in previous lives; if you are poor, it is because
you were stingy. To know what your future lives will be like,
look at what you are doing now. If you foster merit and practice
giving now, you will certainly be wealthy; if you do not, you
certainly will be poor. You do not need spiritual powers, the
Heavenly Eye, or the knowledge of past lives to understand this
The High and Venerable Bhikshu An Shih Kao, also named An Ch'ing,
was born the son of the King and Queen of An Hsi, Parthia, a small
kingdom near India. From birth he was extraordinarily intelligent
and mastered medicine, divination, astrology, and physiognomy
while still young. He not only studied the sciences of man, but
also learned the languages of animals and birds. When wild animals
spoke, he knew what they said, and when the birds had a conversation,
One day, while on a holiday with many friends, he heard a swallow
say to its flock, "Someone will send us food today!"
An Shih Kao told his companions what the swallow had said, but
they refused to believe him. In a short while, someone came with
provisions for the birds, and everyone thought it was very strange
that he could understand the language of birds. (Confucius' disciple
Kung Ye Ch'ang also had this ability.)
An Shih Kao studied thoroughly and well; when his father died,
An Shih Ko became king. All the officials brought their problems
to him. If it wasn't this problem, it was that problems. "This
is too much trouble!" he finally said, and abdicated the
throne in favor of his uncle. He had never married, and as a Buddhist
layman he held the precepts purely. Now he left home to become
A friend of his, a very intelligent Bhikshu, had, like An Shih
Kao, learned the Buddhadharma quickly. What this Bhikshu would
hear once he never forgot. But this Bhikshu had a temper. If people
came to make offerings to him but didn't add a lot of reverent
ward of praise, he would fly into a rage and shout, "I don't
want your offerings!"
An Shih Kao said to him, "Friend, your wisdom is equal to
mine, but your hatred is much greater. I fear that in the future
you will fall. If I am not certified to the fruit of Arhatship,
I won't be able to help you, but if I attain the Way, I shall
find you and take you across. Now, I am going to Canton, in Chung
Kuo, to receive the retribution from a former life.
In Canton, during the reign of Emperor Huan of the Eastern Han Dynasty, (147-168 A.D.), the government was in disorder and many bandits roamed the streets. Upon his arrival, An Shih Kao passed by a young man, who immediately took out a knife and said, "Now that I have met you, I am going to kill you."
"Go right ahead, kill me," An Shih Kao replied, "but may I ask why you hate me so?"
The young man was puzzled. "I really don't know," he
said, "but I wanted to kill you the moment I saw you. I feel
that you are evil."
An Shih Kao said, "You don't know why you want to kill me,
but I do. It is because in a previous lifetime I killed you. I
have come here today only because I want you to kill me."
Then he stretched out his neck and asked the man to kill him.
His face didn't show the slightest trace of fear, just like the
Second Patriarch in Chung Kuo, Hui Ko, who bared his neck for
the executioner. The boy cut off An Shih Kao's head and An Shih
Kao died. Everyone exclaimed, "This person did not fear death,
since he said, "Because I had killed you before, you have
to kill me now." This is very strange."
The crowd dispersed and the soul of An Shih Kao returned to An
Hsi to be reborn as the king's son once again. When he was sixteen,
he again left home to become a monk, and immediately went to save
his former friend and his former murderer. He found his former
murderer in Canton, no longer young but middle aged.
An Shih Kao asked him, Do you remember that on such and such a day you killed a Bhikshu?"
The man said, "Yes, I remember. Have you come to take revenge?"
"No, I have not come to take revenge. I am the person you
killed. I was reborn in An Hsi Country and now I have come back
to Chung Kuo to tell you of the cause and effect. You kill me
and I kill you. There is no end to this. But don't be afraid,
I won't kill you now."
The man thought to himself, "It has been many years since I killed that man, and this monk is a foreigner. So he must be telling the truth; how else could he know these things?"
An Shih Kao said, "I have told you the cause and effect.
Now, I must go to save my old friend from my past life."
"Where is your friend?" said the man.
"In Chiang Hsi."
"Good, I'll go with you."
So they went together to Lu Mountain in Chiang Hsi with a party
of over thirty people. At Lu Mountain, by the shore of Hu T'ing
Lake, there was a temple with an extremely magical Spirit living
inside. If travellers lit incense and bowed to the Spirit, their
boats would travel safely across the waters. But if they did not,
big waves would capsize their boats. Once a businessman asked
the Spirit if he could take the bamboo that grew within the temple.
The spirit didn't reply, so the businessman grabbed the bamboo
and ran. His boat was swamped and he was frowned. The bamboo floated
right back to the temple. The people said, "He is truly a
powerful Spirit, truly a powerful Spirit!" and for a thousand
miles around, everyone knew about the Spirit that lived in Hu
When An Shih Kao's party arrived at the lake, those who believed in the Spirit went to bow to him while An Shih Kao stayed in the boat. The Spirit said, "There is a Shramana on your boat. Invite him here!" When they told An Shih Kao, he said, "It is just this Spirit whom I have come to take across."
"Friend," he said to the Spirit, "you still have
that big temper, don't you? When someone slights you, you capsize
his boat. You have killed many people."
The Spirit said, "I don't know what to do! I am a Spirit
who manages an area of about a thousand miles. But when I die,
I shall certainly go to the hells for the crimes I have committed."
"Don't worry," said An Shih Kao, "Last life you
were my friend and I have come to help you. Now, knowing your
errors, show yourself!"
"I can't!" said the Spirit. "Everyone would die of fright."
An Shih Kao insisted, "Impossible. They won't be afraid.
Now appear and let me see you."
The spirit had been hiding behind the bed. Slowly his head rose
up, the head of a big snake--a mahoraga who could eat five people
in one gulp. An Shih Kao explained the Dharma to the snake and
recited mantras for him. The big snake cried; tears fell like
rain. He said, "Soon I shall die, but I won't leave this
ugly corpse here. I am going to a big marsh in Shan Hsi to die."
An Shih Kao returned to the boat and as it cast off from the dock,
the mahoraga appeared in the sky above the mountain tops and bowed
to An Shih Kao. Everyone waved good-bye to him. That was the end
of the mahoraga.
Later on their voyage, a young boy appeared on the boat and bowed
to An Shih Kao. He listened carefully while An Shih Kao explained
the Dharma to him, and then disappeared. An Shih Kao told his
followers, "This boy was the former Hu T'ing Lake Temple
Spirit; he returned to thank me." From that day on, no matter
what anyone prayed for at the Hu T'ing Lake Temple, there was
no response. What is more, in Shan Hsi in a big marsh, the enormous
body of a snake, measuring several miles long, appeared. The village
there is now called "Snake Village." Soon everyone knew
about this incident and many more people came to believe in the
When they disembarked, An Shih Kao handed his former murderer
a box, saying, "I have to go to Hui Chi to received more
retribution. In four years, open this box and see what is inside.
If anything should happen to me, please see that I am buried properly."
As he passed through Hui Chi, he walked behind two men fighting
in the street. One of them raised a club to strike his opponent,
cracked open An Shih Kao's head on the backswing, and killed him.
Four years later, the box was opened and in it were these words:
"Ch'en Hui venerates me,
and Monk Hui guards my Ch'an Dharma."
At that time no one understood these words, but later, a layman
named Ch'en Hui, venerated An Shih Kao, and a Dharma Master named
Monk Hui, propagated the Sutras that An Shih Kao had translated.
An Shih Kao dwelt in Chung Kuo for twenty years. Although a foreigner,
he learned Chung Wen quickly and translated over thirty Sutras
with great accuracy.
That An Shih Kao, a Monk of such high virtue, had to undergo a
severe retribution such as this, should warn us not to look lightly
on cause and effect and casually lose our temper. The Hu T'ing
mahoraga had been a Bhikshu in his last life, but fell to rebirth
as a snake because he liked to get angry. Everyone thought he
was magical. Who would have guessed that he was such a weird
thing? Had it not been for An Shih Kao's vow to save him, he would
have been in serious trouble.
An Shih Kao had been extremely filial to his father and mother.
Later, when he went to Chung Kuo, everyone recognized him as a
Virtuous High Monk. Because his father had been a king, the people
called him Lord An.
The Greatly Virtuous Indian Bhikshu, K'ang Seng Hui of the Third
Century, A.D., mastered all worldly knowledge by an early age.
His father, a businessman who travelled throughout India and South-east
Asia, settled his family in Chiao Chih, the present day Vietnam.
When K'and Seng Hui was eleven or twelve years old, both his parents
died simultaneously. After observing the practices of filial piety,
he left home, vowing to spread the Buddhadharma. His vow power
and conduct were lofty, and he strictly upheld the Vinaya; he
studied many sutras and was able to read thirty-thousand gathas
Earlier in Chung Kuo, a Buddhist Upasaka named Chih Ch'an, had
translated many Sutras and had instructed a fellow student, Chi
Ming. He, in turn, transmitted the teaching to Chih Ch'ien, a
contemporary of K'ang Seng Hui, who was an exceptionally gifted
Bhikshu. He had penetrated the principles of the entire Tripitaka
and spoke six languages.
At that time, Emperor Sun Ch'uan had just established the kingdom
of Wu. As wu was a peaceful country, Chih Ch'ien decided to travel
there to avoid the political unrest brought about under the reign
of Emperor Hsien of the Eastern Han Dynasty. When Emperor Sun
Ch'uan heard that the famous and talented Chih Ch'ien had come
to his country, he asked for his advice and conferred upon him
the honorary title of Doctor of Philosophy. Chih Ch'ien was as
tall and thin as a bamboo pole. His bright eyes had shining gold
pupils, and people said of him:
Chih's eyes are yellow in the middle;
His frame is thin, He is a bag of wisdom.
He was tall and thin, and full of wisdom, but because he was a
foreigner, he is not recorded in the historical documents of Wu.
When Chih Ch'ien died in Chung Kuo, K'ang Seng Hui in India knew
about his death and decided that since Chih Ch'ien had not established
any temples in Chung Kuo, he would go there and establish some.
He wore monk's clothes, hat, shoes, socks, and robes. When he
arrived, he built a small hut, made offerings to a Buddha image,
and cultivated. However, in his cultivation, he had trouble. Although
there was some Buddhadharma in Chung Kuo, Shramanas were rarely
seen. "Look at him!" people would exclaim, wearing such
strange clothes and doing strange things! see? He gets down on
the ground and then gets up, gets down on the ground and then
gets up. Just what does he think he is doing?"
The government sent the "F.B.I." to investigate. when K'ang Seng Hui was called before the Emperor Sun Ch'uan, the Emperor said, "Why, the Han Emperor Ming1
saw such a person in a dream! He is a member of the Sangha, a student of the Buddha
dharma!" Then he asked K'ang Seng Hui, "What are you
l Emperor Ming of the Eastern
Han Dynasty, in a dream saw a golden god flying in fron of his
palace. His astrologer, Fu-i, told him that this was the Buddha,
an Indian Sage who had attained Enlightenment, and whose body
was a golden color.
"I am studying the Buddhadharma," K'ang seng Hui replied.
"And who is the Buddha?" the Emperor asked.
"The Buddha was a Indian prince who cultivated in the Himalayas
for six years. then he sat beneath the Bodhi Tree, saw a star,
and became enlightened. After his entry into Nirvana, King Ashoka
built eighty-four thousand stupas to hold his sharira.2
The Buddha is a most awesome and powerful person!"
2 Sharira are precious relics
which remain after the cremation of a Buddha or a saint. They
are placed in reliquaries, called stupas, for veneration.
"You are deliberately overstating this," said the Emperor,
"by making the Buddha so mysterious and wonderful. There
is no such person, no such principle. But if you can show me a
sharira, I will build you a stupa."
Surrounded by his many disciples, K'ang Seng Hui answered boldly,
"In one week we shall give you sharira!"
K'ang Seng Hui and his disciples put on clean clothes, placed
a small brass urn on a table before the Buddha, and vowed, "In
this week we shall certainly obtain a sharira!"
K'ang Seng Hui then addressed his disciples: "The success
or failure of Buddhism in Chung Kuo will be decided right here.
If we obtain sharira, Buddhism will flourish; if we do not, Buddhism
is finished. It is fitting that the Dharma comes to Chung Kuo.
Therefore, we must be extremely sincere in our efforts this week."
Although they worshipped the Buddha all week, when Emperor Sun Ch'uan asked to see the sharira, K'ang Seng Hui could only reply that there were none yet, and he requested another week. Sun Ch'uan agreed.
With utmost sincerity, they prayed before the Buddha, but the second week passed and still there were no sharira. Emperor Sun Ch'uan was displeased: "You lied to me!" he said, "I have laws in my country. Do you know about them?" He wished to have K'ang Seng Hui put to death, but K'ang Seng Hui exclaimed, "Give us one more week!" Being wise and magnanimous, the Emperor assented.
K'ang Seng Hui said to his disciples, "If we obtain no sharira this week, we should not wait for the Emperor to execute us; we should all commit suicide together! The Buddhadharma should be efficacious. If we elicit no response, what right have we to continue to propagate the Law? Accordingly, they vowed, "If we obtain no sharira, we shall all die."
They bowed to the Buddha night and day, but by the evening of the sixth day, nothing whatsoever had happened. They had not even had any dream. Remembering their vow, they were afraid. Tomorrow we die!" they cried. But at about five o'clock in the morning on the seventh day, suddenly they heard from the brass urn:
K'ang Seng Hui rushed forward to look in the urn. There was a brilliant five-colored sharira.
Emperor Sun Ch'uan and the scholars and officials of the Court were amazed. When Sun Ch'uan overturned the urn onto a brass try, the sharira rolled out and shattered the tray. "This is a miracle," said the Emperor, "a true jewel."
"This is a manifestation of the Buddha's might." said K'ang Seng Hui. "The fire at the end of the kalpa cannot burn this sharira."3
Sun Ch'uan said, "We shall see." He placed that sharira on an anvil and struck it with a large hammer. The anvil and hammer were dented, but the sharira was unscratched. "This is harder than a diamond." he said. Everyone who saw this incredible sharira believed in the Buddha, and the Emperor Sun Ch'uan spread the dharma for and wide.
3 At the end of a kalpa there are the three disasters of: fire, flood, and wind.
Seeing the sharira which appeared in response to K'ang Seeing
Hui's prayers, emperor Sun Ch'uan came to believe in the Buddhadharma.
He built First Established Monastery in Fo T'o (Buddha) Village.
Here, at the Emperor's request, K'ang Seng Hui was asked to live.
The monastery, as well as its stupa, were the first in Chung Kuo.
After that, most of the people of the country of Wu became Buddhists.
To this day in Su-Chou, Hang-Chou and Nanking, many believe in
the Buddha because of this incident.
The Buddhadharma has its ups and downs; some believe and some do not. Emperor Sun Ch'uan may have believed in the Buddha, but his son Sun Hao (reign dated; A.D. 264-280), did not. He thought that his father was a stupid dolt, while he felt himself to be supremely intelligent. He wanted the Buddhist monasteries burned and the Buddhist practices discontinued. "Who started this Buddhism?" he asked his court officials. "Who is responsible for these meaningless rituals? Ultimately, what use are they? If Buddhism is useful, we should keep it, but if it doesn't benefit mankind, society, and the world, we should get rid of it!"
"The spiritual power and awesome virtue of the Buddha are inconceivable," replied the court officials. "You cannot just burn down Buddhist temples."
Sun Hao then sent a famous debater to visit the High Master K'ang Seng Hui, but no matter what principles or rhetoric he used, he could not defeat the Master. AS the debater was leaving, he saw that in a small temple beside the monastery gate, people were sacrificing chickens and pigs to the gods.
"How can such an improper place stand beside a proper, orthodox Buddhist monastery?" he asked.
K'ang Seng Hui replied, "Thunder may rend the mountains, but the deaf do not hear it. The Buddha is efficacious, but these senseless ones pay no attention."
"That has principle," said the debater. He returned to the Emperor and said, "Shramana K'ang Seng Hui is a man of great wisdom and intelligence. I cannot fathom his wisdom with my knowledge. The Emperor had best go see for himself." So the Emperor got into a beautiful four-horse cart and rode off to seek K'ang Seng Hui.
"What is magical about the Buddhadharma?" the Emperor asked. "What is meant by good and evil retribution? And what about ghosts and spirits? How do you explain these things?"
K'ang Seng Hui replied, "The Book Of Changes (I Ching), states that "A family that does good will have reason to rejoice; A family that does evil will encounter calamities." If you do evil in secret, the ghosts pay you back, and if you do evil openly, other men take revenge--they will kill you. Such is the retribution of good and evil."
The Emperor said, "Confucius and the Duke of Chou taught these principles long ago. What's so great about Buddhism expounding them now?"
"What was taught before was obvious and superficial. the
Buddhadharma explains "retribution" in such profound
and far-reaching terms that it leads men to refrain from evil
and do good. Is this not fine?" Although Sun Hao was intelligent,
he had no way to defeat K'ang Seng Hui or discredit the Buddhadharma.
He just said, "Okay, forget it." But he didn't believe
or study the Buddhadharma. There are many like Emperor Sun Hao!
Later, one of his attendants discovered a gold statue in the palace gardens. Not knowing it was a statue of the Buddha, the Emperor placed it in a hole beneath his outhouse so that all the excrement and urine landed on the Buddha image. He and his ministers laughed and joked. "This is really something." they said, "What kind of efficacy does it have now?" Then trouble came for Sun Hao; his entire body swelled up and his genitals really hurt. As he lay there, rolling over and over and calling out in pain, one of his diviners said, "You have offended a great spirit." Not knowing it was the Buddha, he just called it a great spirit. Sun Hao sent his attendants to the temples to offer incense and bow to the spirits, but his condition did not improve and his pain was not relieved at all. finally, one of his concubines, who was a Buddhist, asked, "Have you sought forgiveness in the temples of the Buddha?"
Sun Hao lifted his head, "Is the Buddha a great spirit?" he asked.
"The Buddha is the greatest of spirits," she replied.
Hearing this, Sun Hoa woke up and realized what he had done. He had the statue removed from the toilet and told his concubine to wash it clean with scented water. Sun Hao got up and bowed before the statue. He lit incense and repented, setting forth all of his past mistakes; soon he was completely cured and had no more pain. Later he went to First Established Monastery to request the speaking of the Dharma. K'ang Seng Hui spoke to him in eloquent detail of the principles of offenses and blessings, cause and effect, and the Emperor reformed, took refuge, and received the five precepts. He wanted to read the Bhikshu Precepts, but lay people are not allowed to see them, so K'ang Seng Hui wrote out two hundred and fifty vows all of which began, "I vow that living beings...etc." The vows increased the Emperor's faith and he instructed his attendants and laborers to take refuge, cultivate, and help spread the Buddhadharma.
K'ang Seng Hui translated many Sutras with great skill and accuracy, but during the fourth year of the T'ien Chi (A.D. 280) reign period, the Wu Dynasty fell to the Tsin Dynasty. In the ninth month of that year, K'ang Seng Hui died of a sudden illness. A stupa was built for him. Later a rebel named Su Tsun burned it down and it had to be rebuilt.
There was also General P'ingHsi Ch'ao Yu who did not believe in the Buddhadharma and slighted the Triple Jewel saying, "This is nothing but superstitious nonsense!" until one night the had a dream. He dreamt that he went into K'ang Seng Hui's stupa and said to the cultivators, "I have heard that this stupa emits light, but I will believe it when I see it." Just then, a five-colored light exploded from the stupa, totally filling up heaven and earth.
When the general woke up, he believed in the Buddha and never dared to slander the Triple Jewel again.
These are the main events in the life of K'ang Seng Hui.
High Sanghan Vighna was from India. His grandfather and father
were both externalists who cultivated the worship of fire. Fire
for them was the supreme ultimate, and they kept a fire constantly
burning in their home, respecting, revering, and worshipping it
as one would the Buddha.
One day a Shramana--a monk--who cultivated dharmas of the Lesser
Vehicle and was an expert in the use of extremely efficacious
mantras, passed by Vighna's household at dusk and asked to spend
the night. He received permission from Vighna's father, but because
the family cultivated an externalist way, they were reluctant
to welcome the Shramana.
"What are we going to do with him?" they worried. They finally told him. "You can stay here, but not in the house; you'll have to sleep outside." They were taking precautions lest someone try to destroy their religion.
Applying his spiritual penetrations, the Shramana recited a "fire-extinguishing
mantra" and their object of worship, the fire on their altar
died. This alarmed everyone in the family. They knew they had
done something wrong. In panic, they rushed outside, and so as
to repent, they bowed before the Shramana. He was then invited
inside to spend the night.
Inside, the Shramana recited a "fire-producing mantra,"
and the altar fire suddenly reappeared. The family of fire worshippers
thought, "This is strange. We've been serving fire a long
time, but we don't have his spiritual penetrations. It's miraculous!"
Upon seeing these awe-inspiring feats which far surpassed those
of his family, Vighna believed in the Shramana and wished to leave
the home life to follow him and cultivate the Way. His parents,
recognizing the power of the Shramana, gave their consent. After
he left the home life, Master Vighna concentrated on reading and
reciting Sutras. In one day he was able to read and learn to recite
from memory twenty or thirty thousand words.
In the third year of the reign period Huang Wu, in the Eastern
Wu Dynasty, Master Vighna went to the state of Wu where he studied
Chinese--remarkably slowly! Neither he, nor his companion Lu Yen,
could master the language, but nonetheless, they proceeded to
force some translations. How did they do it? They used dictionaries
to look up every word. Since they translated in this way, their
writing was stilted and cumbersome. They translated many short
Buddhist sutras this way.
The only existent copies were written out in large characters, and these Sutra were lost when the original copies disintegrated. Nevertheless, the merit of these two Dharma Masters is great. Having previously been followers of an externalist way, they took refuge with the Triple Jewel and translated Sutras at a time when no Chung Wen translations of Sutras existed. It was much more difficult to translate then, than it is today, when scientific devices help speed the process. Although Master Vighna's ability with the Chung Wen language was not very good, he dared to translate, and his courageous efforts should be remembered by all of us.
The father of Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva (344-413 A.D.), was
Kumarayana, Kumarayana was the son of a high official in India
and, although he was heir to his father's position, he renounced
the world instead and travelled everywhere in search of a Good
knowing Advisor. Since Kumarayana's father was a high official,
he was welcomed warmly wherever he went. In his travels he went
to Kucha. There the king, hearing that Kumarayana had set aside
worldly glory, much admired him and met him at the border, so
as to escort him into the country. He also conferred upon him
the title of "National Master."
The king had a little sister named Jiva who was just twenty years
old. From birth she was so intelligent that she looked down on
all the men in her own country. The king invited Kumarayana to
a banquet, and the moment Jiva saw him she fell in love with him
and wished to marry him. Although she didn't say anything, her
brother, who was also quite intelligent, noticed her reaction.
He decide it was meant to be, and ordered Kumarayana to marry
Before long, she became pregnant, and a lot of strange things
began to happen. She would often visit Ch'iao Li Ta Temple where
she would listen to the virtuous masters expound upon the Dharma.
Originally, she did not understand the Indian languages, but strangely
enough, when she was pregnant with Kumarajiva, one day at a banquet
offered to the Sangha, she suddenly understood the Indian speakers
and was able to converse with them as well. Not only that, her
eloquence was unobstructed and her wisdom increased greatly. Everyone
expressed their amazement. At that time, an Arhat said, "The
child in that woman's womb is no ordinary child but one of great
wisdom. This is like the time when Shariputra was in his mother's
womb. So the child is probably just like Shariputra, the wisest
of the Buddha's Sound-Hearer Disciples." When Kumarajiva
was still in his mother's womb, then, he helped her become wise.
Not long after that, she expressed the desire to leave the home
life, but her husband would not give his consent. Two or three
years later she gave birth to a second son. When she heard the
Dharma Masters expound the Dharma, saying that everything in the
world was bound up in suffering, emptiness, and impermanence,
and was without a self, she resolved to leave home, no matter
what. This is because her basic disposition was extremely fine.
At this time, Kumarajiva was only seven years old.
Although Kumarayana had formerly wanted to leave home, after his
marriage to Jiva, he gave up the idea. He was now too much in
love with his beautiful wife and too fond of his money and his
position. In The Sutra Of Forty-Two Sections it says, "It
is hard to study the Way when one is rich. Because of his wealth
and rank, Kumarayana had become confused. Not only did he not
want to leave home, he wouldn't allow his wife to leave home either.
One day, when Jiva was strolling outside the city, she came upon
a charnel field. seeing the dry, brittle bones scattered in great
disorderly heaps, she profoundly grasped and universal truth of
suffering and accordingly made a vow: "You say you won't
let me leave home." she said, "but I'll die before I'll
remain with you." and she began to fast. At first, Kumarayana
didn't think much of her not eating. But when she hadn't taken
any food, or even a drink of water, for six days, he grew concerned.
On the evening of the sixth day, seeing her weakened condition
and fearing that she might really starve to death, he finally
relented. "All right," he said, "you may leave
home. Now please eat something!" Jiva replied, "First
ask a Dharma Master to cut my hair and then I will eat. Otherwise,
after I eat you might go back one your word." Kumarayana
had no choice but to go to Ch'iao Li Ta Temple and ask the Abbot
to shave his wife's head. After that, she ate. From that time
on, she studied the Buddhadharma with great sincerity.
In studying the Dharma, sincerity is essential. Without a sincere
heart, no matter how long you study, you'll obtain nothing. Because
she was so sincere--ready to starve to death in order to leave
home--and because she saw cultivation as more important than life
itself, she was able to reach the extreme of single-mindedness.
She put absolutely everything else aside and at that time, her
spiritual light blazed forth and she realized the first fruit
Often she would take Kumarajiva with her to the Temple. He was
only seven years old at the time and when he saw people bowing
to the Buddha, he would do the same. When he saw people lighting
incense, he would imitate them. Soon, he left home with his mother.
Kumarayana was very upset. He found it as hard to let go of his
son as it had been to let go of his wife. He may have wept bitter
tears; it's not known for sure. However, Kumarajiva's mother was
very firm. "Cry all you like," she said, "but we
are leaving home," and off they went.
After Kumarajiva left home, he studied the Small Vehicle teachings
and memorized the Sutras at the rate of a thousand verses of thirty-two
words each, per day, or thirty-two thousand words a day. That's
about thirty times as many words as there are in the Shurangama
Mantra. Think it over: Kumarajiva at seven years old could memorize
that many words in a single day. How does out intelligence compare
with his? Every day you are given twenty-four Chung Wen characters
to learn, but today, you don't remember yesterday's lesson. How
can we possibly compare with him?
His mother soon had an awakening. Being the little sister of a
king, after she left home she was showered with offerings. Not
wishing to live in luxury and intent on cultivating the way, she
decided to take Kumarajiva with her and travel about. When Kumarajiva
was nine years old, she took him to Kashmir where he studied the
Small Vehicle under the High Master Bandhudatta. Kumarajiva worked
extremely hard at his studies. From dawn until noon. he wrote
the verses out, and from noon until the sun went down, he recited
them from memory.
In addition to being intelligent, Kumarajiva was also not lazy.
Because he was intelligent, he learned the Sutras very fast; because
he was not intelligent, but lazy, he never would have learned
very much. If he had been industrious, but not intelligent, he
also would not have learned very much. But since he was both,
he learned very quickly.
When he was twelve, he and his mother set out to return to Kucha.
As they passed through the northern mountains of Kusana, an Arhat
seeing Kumarajiva said to Jiva, "you should take good care
of this little novice. If by the time he is thirty-five he has
not broken the Precepts, he will be able to cause the Buddhadharma
to flourish greatly and will save countless beings, just like
the Fourth Patriarch Upagupta of India. If his Precepts are not
held intact, this will not be possible." The Fourth Patriarch
had lived in a stone cave. Every time he converted someone, he
would put a slip of bamboo in his cave. Eventually, the cave was
entirely filled with bamboo slips, which proves that he saved
hundreds of thousands of people.
On their way back to Kucha, they stopped in Kashgar. There, in
a temple, Kumarajiva saw a large incense burner in front of the
Buddha image. It must have weighed at least a hundred pounds.
But he picked it right up and put it over his head with no effort
at all. Once he had done this, he thought, "I'm just a little
child. How can I lift such a heavy thing?" with that one
thought, the burner suddenly became very heavy and crashed to
the ground. When his mother asked him what was going one, he said,
"The burner seemed light and then heavy only because of the
discriminations in my mind." Thus, he awoke to the fact that
everything is made from the mind alone. Before he had discriminated,
he lifted the burner easily. Once he gave rise to discrimination,
what had not been heavy became heavy. From this, he knew that
the ten thousand dharmas arise only from the mind.
He remained in Kashgar studying Abhidharma texts and was introduced
to the Great Vehicle and realized that, while the Small Vehicle
was wonderful, the Great Vehicle was the wonderful within the
wonderful. He sighed and said, "In my previous study of the
Small Vehicle, I was like one who did not recognize gold and took
ordinary rock as something wonderful." Although the king
of Kashgar was anxious to keep him in his court, the king of Kucha
sent a messenger asking him to return and so Kumarajiva and his
mother once again set out for Kucha.
In a small country north of Kucha, there was a master of debate
who loudly beat the palace drum and announced that if anyone could
beat him in a debate, he would chop off his own head and present
it to that person as a gift. This, too, was similar to the incident
which took place between Shariputra's uncle and the Buddha. As
Kumarajiva happened to be through, he questioned the man about
two principles. This rendered the man completely speechless. Since
the master of debate couldn't ear to cut off his head, he bowed
to Kumarajiva as his teacher and studied with him. Kumarajiva
once again set out for Kucha and was welcomed at the border by
the king himself.
At the age of twenty, Kumarajiva received, at the palace, the
full Precepts; that is, complete ordination. He studied the Sarvastivadin
Vinaya In Ten Sections under Vimalaksha, the well-known Shramana
from Kashmir who had travelled to Kucha and was a renowned master
of the Vinaya.
Meanwhile, Kumarajiva's mother decided to travel to India. There
she was to be certified to the third fruit of Arhatship. Before
leaving, she took a look at the causes and conditions and saw
that her son's affinities lay in Chung Kuo. She told him. "The
profound Vaipulya teachings should be propagated extensively in
Chung Kuo. You are the only one with the power to do this. However,
it will be most unbeneficial for you personally. I don't know
how you feel about this..."
Kumarajiva replied, "The way of the Bodhisattva is to benefit others and forget oneself. If I can transmit the great teaching and enlighten the people, I would not even object to being boiled in a cauldron."
Kumarajiva remained in Kucha for two years studying the Great
Vehicle Sutras. Then his uncle, the king, had a golden lion throne
made for him and asked him to ascend it and speak the Dharma.
But at that time Kumarajiva had something else on his mind. He
wanted to convert his Small Vehicle Master, Bandhudatta. His Small
vehicle Master had a lot of disciples, and if Kumarajiva could
convert him, he would convert many others as well. so, although
his uncle had made his a lion throne, he still intended to leave
Kucha for Kashmir where Bandhudatta lived. This greatly upset
his uncle. "I have been so gracious as to make you this throne,"
he said, "and you show me no consideration whatever."
Curiously enough, shortly thereafter, Bandhudatta arrived at the
border, seeking entrance into Kucha. When border officials informed
the palace, both Kumarajiva and the king went to meet him. The
king asked Bandhudatta, "Why have you come from so far?"
Bandhudatta replied, "I came first of all because I heard
of the great awakening of my disciple, and secondly, because I
heard, Great King, of your vast propagation of the Buddhadharma
and I wished to meet you."
Kumarajiva was delighted to see his teacher and spoke for him
The Sutra Of The Questions Of The Virtuous woman, a Great
Vehicle Sutra. When he had finished, his Teacher said, "Just
what particular advantages does the Great Vehicle have that have
caused you to take it up in lieu of the Small Vehicle?"
Kumarajiva replied, "The Great Vehicle propounds the doctrine
that dharmas are empty. The Small Vehicle relies upon names and
Bandhudatta replied, "The Great Vehicle talks about emptiness,
but emptiness is just emptiness--nothing at all. What's the use
of studying it? If everything is empty, then why study it?"
Kumarajiva said, "In emptiness there is Wonderful Existence.
In True Emptiness there is Wonderful Existence. The Great Vehicle
is the ultimate teaching. It is not like the Small Vehicle which
restricts itself with names and terms and does not teach genuine
liberation. The Small Vehicle is too rigid and stuffy."
Then Bandhudatta countered, "I have an analogy for the emptiness
of the Great Vehicle. Once there was a madman who asked a weaver
to weave him a piece of fine silk. The first piece the weaver
brought his was not fine enough, and the second was still too
coarse. He kept sending the weaver back to his loom until, in
exasperation, the weaver finally confronted him with nothing at
all, just his empty fist clenched in space and said, "Here
it is. This is my finest work!"
"But there's nothing there," the madman said.
"This silk is so fine," said the weaver, "that
even I, the master weaver, cannot see it. It's so fine it's invisible,"
"The madman was delighted and paid a handsome price for the
silk. the other weavers also took up this method and they all
cheated the madman who paid out a lot of money for nothing at
all. Your exposition of the Great Vehicle Dharma is exactly like
that," said Bandhudatta. "You talk about emptiness and
say that within emptiness there is existence, but no one can see
"No, no, no," said Kumarajiva, and he continued to explain
many subtle Great Vehicle Doctrines to him until finally, after
over a month of discussion, he won his Teacher over to the Great
Vehicle, and brought him to a true understanding or the doctrine
of True Emptiness and Wonderful Existence. Then what do you think
Bandhudatta said, "I want to bow to you as my Master,"
Kumarajiva said, "You can't do that. I have already bowed
to you as my Master. How can you bow to me as your Master?"
Bandhudatta said, "I am your Small Vehicle Master; you can
be my Great Vehicle Master. that way, we'll both have our Masters
and we'll both have our Vehicles and everyone will be satisfied.
It's no big problem."
In this way, Kumarajiva received his own Teacher as a disciple.
It's obvious from this that the ancients did not have a mark of
self. They had true understanding. Otherwise, Bandhudatta would
not have been able to bow to his own disciple as a teacher. He
would simply have said. "I don't care how lofty your eloquence;
you are my disciple and that's that." The ancients had no
view of self. They took the way as their Teacher. all that was
necessary was for someone else to have more virtue than they,
and they would bow to them as their Teacher. They had no obstructive
thoughts of rank or position, and they were not self-centered.
One time, when the weather was extremely dry in Kucha, and it
hadn't rained for a long time, Kumarajiva manifested great spiritual
powers and set up a Dharma Altar to seek rain. He announced, "Within
three days there will certainly be ran." Sure enough, before
three days had passed, it rained. Everyone believed in him even
All the nations stood in awe of Kumarajiva and the kings would
kneel beneath his speaking platform to listen to him expound upon
the sutras. The king would even allow his back to be used as a
step for Kumarajiva to walk on as he ascended the Dharma seat
to deliver a lecture. The king did this to show how much he honored
the Master any how much he esteemed the Buddhadharma.
In Chung Kuo at this time, The Emperor was Yao Hsing and his reign
period was called Yao Ch'in Earlier, Emperor Fu Chien had set
up the Fu Ch'in Dynasty. When Fu Chien was murdered by Yao ch'ang,
the dynasty name was changed to Yao Ch'in. Later, when Yao Ch'ang
died, Yao Hsing took the throne.
In Ch'ang An, Fu Chien's court astrologer, ch'ih Tien Chien,
had seen a "wisdom star" shining in the direction of
India and told Fu Chien, "In India, there is a person of
great wisdom who shall be coming here to protect our country."
Fu Chien said, "It is most likely Kumarajiva. We should send
out troops to escort him here. He then sent General Lu Kuang with
seventy thousand mounted troops to Kucha after Kumarajiva.
Before Lu Kuang arrived in Kucha, Kumarajiva had told the king,
"Chung Kuo is sending troops to our country, but they do
not wish to take our land. They have another objective and you
should listen to them and agree to their demands." But the
king refused to listen and when Lu Kuang arrived, he sent out
his troops to fight. The Chung Kuo army was large and powerful,
and Kucha was just a little country. the king was murdered and
his troops defeated.
As the king had been an ardent believer in Buddhism, you may wonder
why he was murdered. It was because the killing karma he had created
in past lives was too heavy. It was a fixed, unavoidable retribution.
Lu Kuang captured Kumarajiva and started back. One night he camped
in a gorge at the base of two mountain. Kumarajiva advised him
not to camp there as it was an inauspicious site, but Lu Kuang
said, "What do you, a left home person, know about military
matters?" In the middle of the night a flood swept down the
gorge and Lu Kuang lost several thousand men. The next day he
realized that Kumarajiva was rather extraordinary and that he
had spiritual powers. Before the troops had drowned he did not
believe in him, but now he certainly did!
When Lu Kuang arrived in Ku Tsang, he heard that in Chung Kuo,
Fu Chien had been murdered by Yao Ch'ang, who had set up the Yao
Ch'in Dynasty. Uncertain as to how he would be received in Chung
Kuo, Lu Kuang decide to remain in Ku Tsang and maintain his neutrality.
When Lu Kuang's most esteemed minister, Ch'ang Chih, fell ill, a Brahman healer thought to swindle Lu Kuang and claimed that he could cure Ch'ang Chih's illness. Lu Kuang gave him a large sum of money, but Kumarajiva knew the man was a swindler and said to Lu Kuang, "No matter how much money you give him, he won't be able to cure Ch'ang Chih's illness. I will prove it to you. Here is a five-colored threat which I shall burn into ashes. Then I will put the ashes in some water. If the ashes turn back into a five-colored thread, then Ch'ang Chih's illness will not be cured. If they do not, he will get well. If you don't believe me, we'll try it out. He burned the thread and put the ashes in a cup of water. As soon as he did this, the ashes turned into a five colored thread. seeing this, Lu Kuang knew that Ch'ang Chih could not be cured. soon after,
Ch'ang Chih died. Lu Kuang had spent a lot of money and got no
results whatsoever. This was the inconceivable state of Kumarajiva.
His spiritual powers were something which ordinary people could
In Chung Kuo, when Yao Ch'ang died, his son, Yao Hsing, took the
throne. A loyal supporter of the Buddhadharma, he sent men to
Ku Tsang to bring Kumarajiva to Chung Kuo. In Ku Tsang, Lu Kuang
having died, his son, Lu Shao, had taken the throne. Shortly after,
Lu Tsuan, the son of one of his father's concubines, murdered
Lu Shao and seized power. During the second year of Lu Tsuan's
reign, a three-headed pig was born. Then a dragon was seen crawling
out of a well on the outskirts of the eastern part of the city.
It coiled up in front of the palace hall and remained there until
dawn when it disappeared. Thinking this an auspicious portent,
Lu Tsuan renamed the palace "Hovering Dragon." Then
a black dragon was seen outside the throne-room gates. Lu Tsuan
changed the name from' Nine Chamber Gates" to "Rising
Kumarajiva told Lu Tsuan, "The appearance of these dragons
is highly inauspicious. They are YIN dragons and their frequent
appearance foretells calamities for the nation. I advise the cultivation
of virtue to forestall these impending disasters."
Lu Tsuan would not hear of this. While playing chess with Kumarajiva,
Lu Tsuan was about to take one of Kumarajiva's men and said, in
reference to the chess move, "I cut off the Hu Nu's (barbarian's)
Startled, Kumarajiva said, 'You cannot cut off the Hu Nu's head.
The Hu Nu will cut off someone else's head." This was a prophecy,
although Lu Tsuan failed to understand it as such.
Lu Kuang's little brother, Lu Pao, had a son named Lu Ch'ao, whose
nickname was Hu Nu. At that time, Lu Chao was plotting Lu Tsuan's
murder. Later Lu Chao did, in fact, kill Lu Tsuan, and set his
older brother, Lu Lung, on the throne. It was Lu Lung who was
ruling the country when Yao Hsing's troops arrived from Chung
Kuo to take Kumarajiva.
Kumarajiva arrived in Chung Kuo, at Chang An, in 401 A.D. and
was made a National Master. He headed a translation center with
over eight hundred Sangha and lay scholars assisting him. By the
time he died, he had produced over three hundred rolls of translation,
including the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
We have proof that Kumarajiva's translations are extremely accurate.
When he was about to die, he asked to be cremated and said, "I
have translated many Sutras during my lifetime and I personally
do not know if they are correct. If they are, when I am cremated,
my tongue will not burn. If there are mistakes, however, it will."
When his body was burned, his tongue was found unburned in the
During the Tang Dynasty, Vinaya Master Tau Hsuan once asked the god Lu Hsuan Chang, "Why does everyone prefer to read Kumarajiva's translations?"
The god replied, "Kumarajiva has been the translation master
for the past seven Buddhas and so his translations are extremely
Kumarajiva was a Tripitaka Master, one who has mastered the Three
divisions of the Buddhist Canon: the sutras, Shastras, and Vinaya.
A Dharma Master takes the Dharma as his master and bestows the
Dharma upon others. Some Dharma Masters chant Sutras, others maintain
them in their minds and practice them with their bodies; others
write them out and still others explain them for people.
Kumarajiva's name is Sanskrit and means "Youth of Long Life." One could say, "Young Kumarajiva will certainly live to a great age." One could also say, "He was young in years, but mature in wisdom, eloquence, and virtue: he had the wisdom of an old man. So he is called "the youth of long life."
The High Master Buddhayashas was a native of Kashmir. His family
belonged to a secret non-Buddhist religion. One day, when a Shramana
came to their door on his begging rounds, Buddhayashas" father
said angrily, "Get out of here!" and sent his servant
to beat him. As soon as the servant hit him, Buddhayashas' father
felt pain in his arms and legs, and in a short time he was completely
paralyzed. Realizing his mistake, he asked a shaman for advice.
Shamans are individuals who possessed by efficacious ghosts, thus
they have magical powers. the ghosts talk through the person,
and the person thereby seems to know everything. People mistake
this for a display of spiritual powers, and so many people believe
in Shamanism. In some cases, all the shaman has to do is to give
an auspicious prediction. For instance, if a couple have a newborn
infant, he could say, "This child will quickly grow up to
be strong and tall and will live a hundred years." which
might be enough to influence the couple to believe in him. "You
have offended a Sage," the shaman said, "and the ghosts
and spirits have taken revenge. Seek forgiveness and you will
Buddhayashas' father invited the Shramana into his house and bowed
to him over and over saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry,"
and he immediately got well. Impressed by the Shramana's virtue,
Buddhayashas became his disciple and the two of them traveled
from country to country.
Once, they met a tiger. The Shramana wanted to run, but Buddhayashas
said, "He's eaten his fill. Don't worry, he won't harm us."
"How do you know?" said the Shramana. He didn't disbelieve
Buddhayashas, but he didn't exactly believe him either. Just then
the tiger trotted by without so much as a glance at the two of
them. Up ahead, they came upon a corpse all blood and bones scattered
on the road, and the Shramana thought, "Strange. I wonder
how he knew that?" Buddhayashas was thirteen years old at
the time, but there was nothing strange about it, because he was
a young novice with great virtue. He had opened his Heavenly Eye
and could see right into the tiger's stomach.
When he was fourteen, Buddhayashas studied and recited Sutras--a
lot of Sutras, hundreds of thousands of volumes of Sutras--and
his arrogance grew. "How many men in this world could possibly
be my teacher?" he thought. "Few, few indeed!"
Because of his arrogance, none of his colleagues would come near
him, and when he was twenty, he couldn't receive the complete
Bhikshu Precepts. No one would transmit them to such an arrogant
child, so he studied the Indian classics with his non-Buddhist
uncle. His teacher looked everywhere for High Masters to transmit
the Precepts to him, but he had annoyed so many that he was twenty-seven
years old before he finally received them.
Having mastered the Five Sciences: grammar and composition, arts
and mathematics, medicine, logic, and philosophy, he continued
to study, recite, and translate Buddhist Sutras and later traveled
to Kashgar. The king of Kashgar, whose name translates as "No
Thought," was a faithful and generous protector of the Triple
Jewel. One day he invited over three thousand Bhikshus and Bhikshunis
to the palace to have lunch and received offerings. When the king's
son, Dharmaputra, saw Dharma Master Buddhayashas, he was deeply
impressed by his handsome appearance and awesome comportment and
asked, "Where are you from?" Dharma Master Buddhayashas'
eloquent reply so delighted the Prince that he invited him to
live in the palace and receive royal offerings of the finest food,
clothing, and lodgings. When the king died, Dharmaputra succeeded
It was at this time that the young Kumarajiva and his mother arrived
in Kashgar. Kumarajiva had been studying the Small Vehicle, but
now he studied the Great Vehicle under Dharma Master Buddhayashas,
and together they translated Sutras for a year or two, until Kumarajiva
and his mother returned to Kucha. Meanwhile, in Chung Kuo, Fu
Chien of the Fu Chin Dynasty, sent his great General Lu Kuang
to Kucha to bring Kumarajiva back to Chung Kuo. The king of Kucha
engaged Lu Kuang in battle. Deputizing his son, the crown prince,
and Dharma Master Buddhayashas to administer the country's affairs.
Dharmaputra leading his army, went to the aid of the king of Kucha.
But before he even arrived, Kucha had been devastated, their army
defeated, and Kumarajiva captured by Lu Kuang. (It took many hardships
and a change of government before Kumarajiva finally arrived at
Chang An, the capital of Chung Kuo, 401 A.D.).
Dharmaputra then took his army home and told Dharma Master Buddhayashas
that Kumarajiva had been captured by the Chung Kuo General Lu
Kuang. Dharma Master Buddhayashas sighed and said, "Ah! Kumarajiva
and I were together for a long time, but I still have not fully
explained all the principles that I cherish to him. I don't know
when we will meet again."
Time passed and Dharma Master Buddhayashas went to Kucha to propagate
the Dharma. Everyone came to believe in him. When Dharma Master
Kumarajiva, in Chung Kuo, sent him a letter of invitation. Dharma
Master Buddhayashas said to his disciples, "We will go immediately!"
They prepared to leave, but the king and common people of Kucha
would not let them go. Dharma Master Buddhayashas waited a year,
then one night he gathered is disciples together. "Tonight
we leave!" he said.
"But how?" said his disciples. "We can't get very
far, and the king will surely find us and bring us back. How are
we going to get out?"
"There's a method," said Dharma Master Buddhayashas,
and he put some herbs in a large basin of water and began to recite
mantras over them. Then, still reciting mantras, they all washed
their feet, picked up their bedding, and ran. They ran about four
hundred miles, and when it got light, he asked his disciples,
"What do you think of that?"
"Oh!" they said, "all we heard was the wind in
our ears. Our streaming eyes were blown shut by the wind."
Then he recited another mantra and they all washed their feet again. These mantras are not named in the text, but they probably were the "flying mantra" and the "non-flying mantra." The king of Kucha had sent people after them, but of course they never caught them. From this we can see that the virtuous Shramanas of antiquity were considered such national treasures that they were not even allowed out of the country.
They were welcomed at the border by Emperor Yao Hsing who respected
Dharma Master Buddhayashas very highly. He built the Master a
house where he could study. Dharma Master Buddhayashas lived there
and helped Dharma Master Kumarajiva translate the Sutras, and
spread the Dharma, but he accepted no further offerings. For many
years however, the four kinds of offerings--food, drink, bedding,
and medicine--were still offered; yet Dharma Master Buddhayashas
ignored them. When three great roomfuls had accumulated, the Emperor
sold them, and from the proceeds, built a temple for Dharma Master
Buddhayashas. the Emperor's last offering to him of ten thousand
rolls of cloth, was also refused. Dharma Master Buddhayashas'
practice of not accepting offerings was his outstanding trait.
The Venerable Buddhabhadra was of the same family as Shakyamuni
Buddha since he was a descendant of the Buddha's paternal uncle,
Amritodana. His grandfather's name in Sanskrit means "Dharma
Heaven"; his father's name means "Dharma Sun."
He was born in kapilavastu, which was a wealthy city with an abundance
of the objects of the five desires. Moreover, its citizenry had
the virtue of much learning and liberation.
Despite his noble ancestry, Buddhabhadra's luck was poor. When
he was three years old, his father died, and when he was five,
his mother died as well. Since he was a remarkably intelligent
child, he didn't cry when his parents died. "Life among men,"
he said, "is truly bitter." His maternal grandfather
adopted him when he heard that his grandson, although an orphan,
understood the nature of human existence so well.
"You have no parents," his grandfather said one day;
"perhaps you should leave home and become a Shramanera."
Young Buddhabhadra excelled as a novice. He was young in years,
but possessed such great wisdom that he even caused his teacher
to remark, "You are truly inconceivable. You can master in
one day what it takes others at least a month to learn. If this
isn't intelligence, what is?" when Buddhabhadra was seventeen,
he studied several hundreds of the Sutras, cultivating diligently
with his Dharma brother Sanghadatta, who held him in great esteem.
Even after cultivating together for more than a year, Sanghadatta
still had no inkling of the level of his partner's cultivation.
One day, however, when Sanghadatta had locked himself in his room
to meditate, Buddhabhadra suddenly appeared before him.
"I thought I locked the door," said Sanghadatta. "How
did you get in here?"
"I've just returned form the Tushita Heaven where I visited Maitreya Bodhisattva," Buddhabhadra replied. So saying, he vanished without a trace.
"He's a sage," thought Sanghadatta. "My Dhyana brother has certainly certified to the fruit," After that, he watched all of Buddhabhadra's spiritual transformations which went unnoticed by those less observant. Later, because he had asked in a most respectful manner, Buddhabhadra informed him that he had indeed been certified to the third fruit of Arhatship, that of an Anagamin, a 'never-returner." Now his greatest desire was to travel to all countries in order o spread the Buddhadharma and teach and transform living beings.
When the two of them were in Kashmir, Great Master Chih Yen (Second
Hua Yen Patriarch) came from Chung Kuo to visit. He praised them
saying, "The conduct of these two Dharma Masters is extremely
impressive and their cultivation is correct and pure and very
much in accord with the Dharma. If only the monks in Chung Kuo
could be like this! But there are no Good Knowing Advisors in
Chung Kuo at present and so no one has an opportunity to become
enlightened.," He had resolved to return to Chung Kuo with
a Good Knowing Advisor and so he addressed the Assembly saying,
"Which one of you will be compassionate and cultivate the
Bodhisattva way by returning with me to the land of Yao Chin (Chung
Kuo) to convert living beings?"
All the many High Masters in Kashmir at the time, recommended
Buddhabhadra. "This Indian Dharma Master," they said,
"was born and raised in a great noble family. He left home
at an early age and studied unfathomably deep Dharmas under his
Good knowing Advisor, Buddhasena. He's the one to go to Chung
Buddhasena himself said, "If you truly wish to propagate
the Law and to instruct members of the Sangha, take Dharma Master
Buddhabhadra with you." But when Master Chih Yen asked
Dharma Master Buddhabhadra to go, he refused. Master Chih Yen
then knelt for two days without rising until Dharma Master Buddhabhadra
compassionately agreed. At that time, of course, there were no
busses, trains, or planes, and while Buddhabhadra, as a certified
Sage, could have "flown" to Chung Kuo without a plane,
he knew it would have frightened people too much. So he shouldered
his pack and the two of them walked to Chung Kuo. They walked
for more than tree years and passed through six countries. The
kings of all these countries, on hearing that he was going to
Chung Kuo to spread the Dharma, were delighted and made offerings
to him with great enthusiasm. They walked as far as Chiao Chih,
the present day Vietnam, and then took a boat for Chung Kuo.
They sailed peacefully until one day, as they passed a certain
mountain, Dharma Master Buddhabhadra said to the captain, "We
should stop here."
"We can't stop now," said the captain. "We've got
favorable winds and are making good time." They sailed another
two hundred miles and ran into a gale which blew the ship, strangely
enough, right back to the mountain where they disembarked. Seeing
his spiritual powers, the people on board all took refuge with
him and made offerings. When the wind stopped a few days later,
he again cautioned the people to wait, but some didn't listen,
and their boat capsized shortly after they set sail.
Those who had heeded his instructions, of course, didn't drown,
but when he told them one night, "We should leave right away,"
not a single person listened. "All right," he said,
"stay if you like, but I'm leaving," and he threw the
lines off the deck and left. An hour later, those who had stayed
behind were raided by thieves. they finally understood that Dharma
Master Buddhabhadra was special!
When Buddhabhadra arrived in Chung Kuo at Ching Chou, Tung Lai
Prefecture, he was informed that Kumarajiva was in Chang An, the
Western Capital, and went to visit him. When Kumarajiva saw him
he was extremely happy. "So you've come!" he exclaimed.
"You must help me!" The two of them translated the Sutras,
and whenever Kumarajiva had a question, he would ask Buddhabhadra.
When ancient translators did not understand a passage, they were
not reluctant to ask someone else for fear of losing prestige.
Kumarajiva's wisdom, of course, was very high, but he still asked
Buddhabhadra about certain points. One day Buddhabhadra said,
"Your translation are really quite ordinary. There's nothing
particularly special about them. Why are they so famous and so
"Probably because I am so old," said Kumarajiva.
When Prince Yao Hung of Yao Chin heard of Buddhabhadra's unobstructed
eloquence and limitless wisdom, he asked Kumarajiva to invite
him to the palace to teach the Dharma. After several discussions,
Buddhabhadra finally accepted and, at the palace, Kumarajiva requested
the Dharma, asking "How can dharmas be made empty?"
Buddhabhadra replied, "A multitude of fine dust particles
make up form; that is, they create the appearance of form. This
appearance, however, has no self-nature. Thus the very substance
of form itself is empty. The basic substance of form is empty."
Knowing that the Assembly had not understood, Kumarajiva further
asked, "If, dividing form into its smallest particles of
form dust, you take that to be the destruction of emptiness, then
what about the particles of dust?"
Buddhabhadra said, "Most Dharma Masters suppose that a particle
of dust must be destroyed before it can be considered to be empty.
I disagree, I don't think that this particle of fine dust has
to be destroyed to be empty; it's very existence is emptiness."
The listeners still hadn't understood, so Kumarajiva asked, "Then
is this one remaining particle permanent and unchanging?"
Buddhabhadra said, "Because the one particle is empty, the
collection of particles is empty. Because the collection of particles
is empty, the single particle is empty. That is, the collection
of fine particles is made up of many single particles which are
of themselves non-existent. Thus when the collection of particles
making up form disperses, the single particles then also disappear--it's
One day when the Chung Kuo Dharma Masters interrogated Buddhabhadra
on this subject, Buddhabhadra said, "Dharmas do not arise
of themselves but are created from causal conditions. Whatever
is created form causal conditions has no self-nature and therefore,
its very substance is emptiness.
Later Dharma Masters, possibly because of inaccuracies in the
translation of Dharma Master Pao Yun, thought that Buddhabhadra
was claiming that a dust particle is permanent. However, Buddhabhadra
was saying that although a dust particle is an appearance of form,
since form has no self-nature, the dust particle is empty. Now,
an accumulation of dust particles creates a form, but on dispersion
of these dust particles, the form becomes empty. Hence, Buddhabhadra
asserted, "It's all empty."
The Emperor, Yao Hsing, was a firm believer in Buddhism. He had
invited Kumarajiva to stay at the palace, and supported and made
offerings to more than three thousand members of the Sangha who
were free to wander in and out of the palace and who were on familiar
terms with the Emperor believed in the Buddha and respected the
Sangha, the palace ministers and lesser officials did too. Knowing
they had the Emperor's respect, the Sangha members often went
to the court to fawn. If a person was really cultivating, what
would he be doing at the palace? So even then Chung Kuo Dharma
Masters sought high positions. The only on who didn't go to the
palace was Buddhabhadra. But the ways of the world are strange.
Since he and his disciples didn't go, they were different from
the other members of the Sangha who, in turn, became jealous.
If you are the only good one among the bad, unless you also join
their evil party, they will not be at all satisfied with you.
Because Buddhabhadra was not like the others, they were upset
with him. To his face they said, "You truly cultivate,"
but behind his back they slandered him. Having been certified
to the third fruit of Arhatship, Buddhabhadra more or less knew
what they were saying and decided to return to India. He said
to his several hundred disciples, "Yesterday, I saw five
big boats leave India headed for Chung Kuo; when they arrive,
we will depart on them."
Whenever there's trouble, the disciples are always behind it,
heating matters up. It's a headache to take disciples. I hope
no one believes in me; then I won't have such a great responsibility!
Buddhabhadra's disciples went everywhere saying, "None of
you Chung Kuo High Masters pass, If he didn't have the penetration
of the Heavenly Eye, how could he have known this?"
This made everyone even more jealous. The rumors got heavier and
heavier and the leading Dharma Masters objected: "He's just
manifesting a special style to make people believe in him."
Being slandered is one thing. But among his own disciples there
were many braggarts and liars who never cultivated but still claimed
to have certified to the first, second, or third fruits of Arhatship.
Buddhabhadra didn't pay attention to such trivial matters and
never told them that it was an offense to make such false claims.
His bad disciples were only interested in making people believe
that their words were efficacious and their knowledge extraordinary.
They didn't cultivate, but cheated everyone with their phony talk.
When they let out the news about their accomplishments, the Chung
Kuo Dharma Masters were incensed. "On top of the five boats
from India, this is really too much," they said, and couldn't
forget about it.
High Master Tao Heng said to Buddhabhadra, "You say five
boats are on their way from India. The Buddha himself did not
permit one to speak about any personal attainments. This the Buddha's
precept and yet you continue to spread false, baseless rumors.
What proof have you?"
There was no way of course, to send a telegram, or telephone to
discover if, in fact, there were five boats headed for Change
Kuo. Tao Heng called Buddhabhadra a liar and added that some of
Buddhabhadra's disciples were claiming to have certified to the
fruit. "If you can't even keep track of your own disciples,"
he said, "how can you possibly teach other people?"
When the government heard Buddhabhadra's disciples were making false claims, it wanted to arrest and imprison them. This frightened his disciples and some changed their names; others escaped over the wall in the middle of the night. Of several hundred disciples, only forty or so remained.
Then Tao Heng came to throw Buddhabhadra out.........., "Your
disciples don't follow the rules and so, according to the Buddha's
Precepts, you can't stay here. From today onward, you'll have
to leave right away! Get out!"
Buddhabhadra said, "Fine. My body is like a floating reed
and leaving poses no problem. I only regret that I haven't expressed
the bulk of what I brought here." And then he and his great
disciple, Hui Kuan, and the forth other disciples left.
When the Emperor Yao Hsing beard that they had gone, he said to
Tao Heng, "Master Buddhabhadra brought the Way to Chung Kuo,
intending to spread the Buddha's teaching. How could you throw
him out for such a small matter? This is not right. How could
you let such a trivial thing deprive the entire populace of a
Good Knowing Advisor?" The Emperor immediately sent a party
out to apologize to Buddhabhadra, but when they found him, Buddhabhadra
said to the attendant, "The Emperor has been most compassionate
towards me, but I can't return with you. Please tell him I can't
obey his command." That night he and his disciples escaped
to Lu Mountain.
On Lu Mountain, Dharma Master Hui Yuan propagated the Pure Land
School. He had long wished to meet Buddhabhadra because he greatly
admired Buddhabhadra's translation work with Kumarajiva at Chang
An. So when Dharma Master Hui Yuan heard that Buddhabhadra had
arrived at Lu Mountain, he was extremely happy. The two of them
chatted like old friends and Buddhabhadra helped Hui Yuan translate
The dwellings on the mountain were humble, but Buddhabhadra paid
no attention to this nor did he accept the offerings of those
who came to meet him. After more than a year he left Lu Mountain
for Chiang Ling (the present day Nanking). En route he went out
to beg for his food every day. He begged without discrimination,
paying no attention to whether the families he begged from were
rich or poor.
Once, Buddhabhadra and his disciples begged at the house of Yuan
Pao, who was the general for the Emperor Wu Ti of the Liu-Sung
Dynasty (5th to 6th Century, AD.). General Yuan Pao neither believed
in the Triple jewel nor respected the Sangha. In addition to the
fact that Buddhabhadra was a foreigner, Yuan Pao's offerings were
stingy and there was not enough food to go around.
Those who eat vegetarian food should regulate their diet carefully.
If the food is not varied and well-cooked, you cannot cultivate.
If you eat cabbage one day, then you should eat turnips the next,
and the next day sprouts. In general, it doesn't have to be as
pungent as meat, nor should it be as foul smelling as garbage.
Now, Yuan Pao's food offering was probably half-raw and half-cooked,
and his rice half-raw and partly spoiled. So no one ate his full.
Yuan Pao said, "Eat some more! You don't come here often
to beg and even though they aren't good offerings, you should
eat your fill."
"Your heart is too small," said Buddhabhadra. "Your decision to make offerings bas been half-hearted. You are not generous, and your rice is all gone; what would you have us eat?"
"Impossible!" said Yuan Pao, "Quickly, bring in
some more rice!"
"It's all gone," said the servant.
Yuan Pao thought, "This Dharma Master hasn't been to the kitchen. How does he know that the rice is gone?" He felt this was very strange. Later, he asked Hui Kuan, "What kind of a person is this Shramana?"
Hui Kuan said, "This Shramana's virtue is lofty and limitless,
something common men can't fathom. His state is inconceivable."
Yuan Pao greedily wanted to know more about him, and thinking, "Are there still such men left in the world?"
invited Buddhabhadra to live in Nanking. Buddhabhadra dwelt there
in Tao Chang Monastery where he was very frugal. He was completely
different from the Chinese in his habits, neither wearing fine
clothes nor eating rich food. For this reason, many Chinese Bhikshus
and Bhikshunis respected him and made offerings to him. Later
he translated the first thirty-six thousand verses of the Avatamsaka
Sutra and helped Dharma Master Fa Hsien translate the Mahasanghika
Vinaya. He died in the sixth year of the Yuan Chia reign of
the Liu Sung Dynasty (430 A.D.), aged seventy-one.
This Sage had been certified to the fruit and often manifested
spiritual powers. When he was thrown out of Chung Kuo by jealous
rivals, forty truly faithful disciples accompanied him.
The High Master Dharmaraksha was a native of central India. When
he was six years old, his father died and his widowed mother supported
herself and her son by weaving woolen blankets. When she heard
of the fame of the High Buddhayashas, who was receiving offerings
from the great officials of the court and even from the king,
she thought, "It's difficult to keep my son alive. Perhaps
I should send him to a monastery to leave home. He will be well
taken care of, and in the future, if he receives offerings anything
like those received by Master Buddhayashas, I, as his mother,
certainly won't starve to death."
After Dharmaraksha left home under Buddhayashas, he studied the Small Vehicle teachings and read and recited a great many Sutras. As a Shramanera, or novice, he was entirely different from his peers. None of them could match his wisdom or lofty character.
At that time, he met the Great Vehicle Dhyana Master Pai T'ou and debated with him for one hundred days. Dharmaraksha was defeated and asked Dhyana Master Pai T'ou, "Do you have any Sutras I could read?"
Dhyana Master Pai T'ou gave him a copy of the Nirvana Sutra, and when Dharmaraksha read it, he realized that his own realm was the size of a puddle, or like that of a frog sitting at the bottom of a well looking up at the sky. He knew that his wisdom was incomplete and that the Small Vehicle was not correct. So he gathered his fellow students, all novices, together and they bowed to Dhyana Master Pai T'ou, seeking repentance. Aster that, Master Dharmaraksha studied the Great Vehicle and read over two million words of Great Vehicle Sutras.
Dharmaraksha's brother happened to be an expert elephant trainer, and, when the king's favorite white-eared elephant refused to listen to him, Dharmaraksha's brother killed it. The enraged king executed him and afterwards issued an edict. This said that anyone who even looked at the corpse would be put to death, including the dead man's family, and his father's family, and his mother's. So no one dared to look at it, except Dharmaraksha who cried because it was his brother and because he wanted to bury the corpse. When he went ahead and buried it, the king threatened to kill him. Dharmaraksha said, "You killed my brother according to the law, and I buried him because he was my relative. This is certainly no infringement upon moral duty."
Hearing this, the king noticed that Dharmaraksha's bearing was
calm and undisturbed. "This Bhikshu doesn't fear death,"
he thought. "He certainly must have virtue. Very well, we
won't kill him." and he made offerings to Dharmaraksha instead.
Dharmaraksha was especially good at reciting mantras. His recitation
was efficacious to the point that, if you were sick and he recited
a mantra, you immediately got well. all unlucky affairs became
auspicious, and because of this he was known as "The Great
Once he accompanied the king to the mountains on a hunting expedition.
AS there was no water in the area, the king said, "I am really
thirsty, I wish I had some water." Dharmaraksha secretly
recited a mantra which told the Dragon king to send some water.
Strangely enough, water started to flow from the dry rocks. Dharmaraksha
said to the king, "Your Way Virtue and benevolence towards
the citizens is so great that you have caused water to flow from
the rocks." Actually, it was Master Dharmaraksha's mantra
that caused the water to flow, but he wanted to "give the
king a high hat."
The king put the high hat on, and thought it quite comfortable. The story of the water spread to the surrounding countries and everyone admired and respected the king. "His virtue is so lofty." they said, "that he caused water to flow from the barren rocks," and everyone wanted to be his ally.
The king made generous offerings to Dharma Master Dharmaraksha
and so Dharmaraksha's mother was not disappointed. However, after
a time, the king forgot about him and became distant from him.
Master Dharmaraksha thought, "I really shouldn't stay here
and wait for offerings. I should leave,"
He traveled to Kashmir where there were many students of the Small
Vehicle. Feeling no particular affinity for them, he then went
to Kucha where he propagated the Teaching widely, converted many
people, and gained a large following. Then he decided to go to
Chung Kuo, and traveled to Hsi Liang, the present day Hsin Chiang,
where the ruler, Chu Ch'u Meng Sun had established the Pei Liang
Kingdom in Liang Chou at the beginning of the 5th Century. The
king was especially respectful toward Master Dharmaraksha and
made offerings to him, and so Master Dharmaraksha stayed there
and taught the Dharma.
Because Master Dharmaraksha could recite mantras, he was able
to see ghosts. On one occasion he said to Meng Sun, "Many
epidemic ghosts have come into the area."
Meng Sun said, "I don't believe you. If I see one, then I'll believe."
"All right," said Master Dharmaraksha, "take a
look." Sure enough, Meng Sun saw a ghost and was nearly frightened
out of his wits. Dharmaraksha recited a mantra for three days
and the ghosts finally left. Many people of the country saw them.
epidemic ghosts spread a deadly sickness; once people catch it,
they die right away. When the ghosts left, everyone knew it was
because of Master Dharmaraksha's merit and virtue.
Meng Sun had sent his son, Hsing Kuo, to fight the Kingdom of
Mu Mo, but Hsing Kuo was taken prisoner. Before long, the country
of Mu Mo was leveled by Ho Lien, and, in the fighting, Hsing Kuo
When Meng Sun heard that his son had been killed, he was enraged.
"All my life I believed in the Buddha and yet I haven't received
any response. Why hasn't the Buddha protected my son?" Then
he issued an edict ordering all Bhikshus under the age of fifty
to return to lay-life. Those over fifty could remain Bhikshus.
Previously, the king had had a large stone image carved in rock
(over sixteen feet high, in memory of his mother. When he was
about to issue the edict, the statue wept; tears fell from its
eyes and snot ran out of its nose. When he saw this, Dharmaraksha
spoke to the king. "You shouldn't do things this way,"
Dharmaraksha said, "It's not that the Dharma hasn't done
anything for you. Your son's death was a matter of cause and effect.
It couldn't be avoided." After that, Meng Sun decided not
to issue the order and instead helped to propagate the Buddhadharma.
When General Ts'ao Ts'ao, in the country of Wei, heard that Dharma
Master Dharmaraksha was as wise as National Master Kumarajiva,
and as accomplished in spiritual penetrations as Master Fo T'u
Cheng, he dispatched a party to bring Master Dharmaraksha back
to Wei. But Meng Sun was too fond of Master Dharmaraksha to part
with him. Several years passed without war, and then Wei sent
the official Li Shun to request that Master Dharmaraksha come
to Wei. At this time prodigious offerings were made to Meng Sun
with the hope of obtaining the Master. Meng Sun invited the Wei
official Li Hsun to eat, and during the meal said to him, "No
matter what, I'll never let you have Master Dharmaraksha. He's
my Teacher. He only leaves over my dead body! I won't let him
The official, Li Hsun said, "The Emperor has been so good
to you. He's allowed you to be king and sent you many gifts. He
wishes that Dharmaraksha go to Wei, but you've lost your head
over a foreigner. If I were you, I wouldn't do things this way.
You really should let Master Dharmaraksha go."
"Never!" said Meng Sun, "He's the most important
person in my country and I can't let him go." On one had,
Meng Sun feared the country of Wei, but on the other, he bear
to part with Dharma Master Dharmaraksha. More time passed, and
Dharma Master Dharmaraksha, who had previously visited India for
a year, wanted to go back to India again. Meng Sun became angry
and did not want him to go anywhere at all.
However, Master Dharmaraksha decide to go after all. He wept when he left and said, "My karmic obstacles have found me, and they are such that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot rescue me. I wanted to teach the final portion of the Nirvana Sutra, but now I have to stop," and he departed.
Meng Sun was so angry that he sent a gang of assassins after Master
Dharmaraksha. They killed him and recovered all of the valuable
offerings Meng Sun had given him. Dharmaraksha was only forty-nine
years old when he died. After his death, Meng Sun's attendants
saw a ghost holding a sword standing at Meng Sun's side every
day. Not long afterwards in the fourth month of that year, Meng
Before Master Dharmaraksha died, Dharma Master Tao Chin had requested
Master Dharmaraksha to transmit the Bodhisattva Precepts to him.
Master Dharmaraksha said," Go and repent first." Tao
Chin returned and bowed to the Buddha in repentance for seven
days and seven nights. On the eighth day, he went to see Dharmaraksha
again . This time, Master Dharmaraksha acted really angry and
scolded him soundly. Tao Chin said, "My karmic obstacles
must be too heavy and so the Master won't transmit the Precepts
to me." He returned, and for three years he cultivated concentration
and sought repentance. At the end of three years he had a dream
in which he saw Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Bodhisattvas of
the ten directions come to transmit the Precepts to him. He was
not the only one who had this dream. Over ten people had the same
He went to inform Master Dharmaraksha, and as he approached the
Master, at a distance of perhaps thirty feet, Dharmaraksha stood
up and shouted, "Good indeed! Good indeed! You've already
got the Precepts! Although you have obtained them, I will certify
them for you." They went before the Buddha images and Master
Dharmaraksha transmitted the Bodhisattva Precepts to Master Tao
On the very day Tao Chin had the dream, far off in Ch'ang An, the Western Capital, Master Tao Lang also had the same dream. Although Tao Lang was actually senior to hi, he called Tao Chin his superior and adopted a lesser position than his. Everyone thought these affairs most extraordinary, and because of them, many people received the Precepts from Master Tao Chin. These are the general events in the life of Master Dharmaraksha.
Dharma Master Fa Hsien of the Chin and liu Sung Dynasties (5th
to 6th Centuries, A.D.), is one of the most venerated Dharma Masters
in the history of Buddhism. He was one of the first to make the
difficult journey from Chung Kuo to India long before Tripitaka
Master Hsuan Tsang of the T'ang. During the Chin Dynasty, travel
was treacherous, and the inland route from Chung Kuo to India
took several years to complete.
Dharma Master Fa Hsien had three brothers. The first brother lived for only three years. The second lived two years, and the third died at the age of one. When Fa Hsien was born his parents were so concerned for his welfare that they took him to a monastery to become a Shramanera soon after his birth. He lived at the monastery for three years without incident, and his parent began to think that perhaps this son would not die, so they brought him back home only to have him immediately fall ill. His sickness was severe that he lost consciousness. "This is really incredible," thought his parents, and sent him back to the monastery. They couldn't bear to part with their son, but had no recourse. As soon as they sent him back to the monastery, he made an overnight recovery. The severe illness just disappeared.
His mother still spent all her time longing to see her son, but
she didn't dare bring him in the door of her own home, because
as soon as she did, he fell ill. Eventually, she devised an expedient
method. Right outside the front door of the family house they
built a small room fashioned like a miniature monastery where
the little Shramanera could return home for two or three days
once, twice, or at the most, three times a year. But even then
he could never go in the main house.
When he was ten years old his father died. His uncle, who was
a real busybody, advised him saying, "You are your father's
only son. You can't leave the home life now that your father is
dead. You should return to lay life." The uncle kept pressing
his point: "Your mother is in mourning. She's a widow now
and it won't be easy for her. You should return home and be her
companion. You can't leave home any more."
What do you suppose the small Shramanera said? "My leaving
home had nothing to do with my father," he replied evenly.
"Since I didn't leave the home life because I had a father,
why should I return to lay life just because my father has died?"
His reply left the uncle speechless. the uncle realized that if
he argued, his nephew would out-talk him, so he didn't have anything
more to say.
The child stayed on at the monastery and cultivated ascetic practices.
He did the things that others couldn't do, but never mentioned
that he was doing them. The officers of the monastery noticed
the work being done and asked publicly, "Who did that job?
It was well done." Although it was actually Fa Hsien who
had done it, he remained silent while another Shramanera who was
greedy for recognition, took the credit. This caused everyone
to respect the greedy novice, not realizing that he was a fraud.
Once, however, a group of Shramaneras went to the rice fields
for the harvest. Times were hard in the area, and many people
suffered from hunger, so when workers went into the fields to
harvest the grain, people would come and steal it.
So it was that some hungry ghosts, saw that the rice in the monastery
fields was being harvested, and went there intent upon stealing
it. The Shramaneras fled in fright when they saw the thieves approach.
But Fa Hsien didn't run with the others. Instead he stayed and
spoke the Dharma for the bandits. "Brothers, I know it is
because you are hungry that you have come to take this grain.
Very well, you may have it. Take as much of it as you want. And
by the way, I'd like to say something to you if you want to listen."
As soon as the bandits heard that Fa Hsien was willing to give them the grain--that it didn't matter to him and that he wouldn't try to stop them--they were pleased with the small Shramanera and said, "Sure, speak up. Say whatever you want. We'll be happy to listen."
"I wonder if you know why you don't have any rice to eat."
said Fa Hsien. "Do you know why you are so hungry?"
The bandits looked at one another blankly. Unable to come up with
an answer they muttered, ....."Don't know."
Fa Hsien said, "If you had known, it wouldn't have been necessary for me to say anything. But since you don't know, I will tell you."
"Why is it?"" asked the thieves.
Fa Hsien said, "You can figure out what you did in the past
by what is happening to you now. You don't have anything to eat
now and so you have become thieves who go about stealing food.
This is happening because in past lives you didn't give to anyone.
This is the former cause that has led you to be so poor in this
life, to the point that you don't have any food at all. But look
at yourselves. You still aren't giving. You are still going around
stealing. Probably next life, you won't have it even this good.
This life at least you are still able to steal. But at the rate
you're going, in you next lives, you probably will be cripples
who will die of starvation. It's a shame."
His words set the bandits thinking. "He's got a point there..."
Fa Hsien turned on his heels as soon as he finished speaking and
walked out of the rice fields without a backward glance. Suddenly,
the thieves were overwhelmed with shame and left without touching
a grain of the monastery's rice. When Fa Hsien arrived back at
the monastery, they several hundred Bhikshus who had witnessed
the scene from afar agreed, "That Shramanera has got guts.
Not only was he unafraid of the thieves, but he was able to teach
and transform them, so that they renounced their evil ways and
began to practice the good."
After that incident, most people realized this Shramanera was
no ordinary novice and began to watch him closely. "In the
future, he will be a valuable resource for the Dharma," they
When Fa Hsien was twenty he received the complete Precepts. It
was then that he began to notice that most of the Sutras which
were available in translation, were incomplete. Sometimes the
first volume had been translated but not the last; sometimes the
last volume had been translated, but not the first. Faced with
this situation, he vowed to go to India.
At that time Buddhism in Chung Kuo was much like Buddhism in America
today. With rare exceptions, there weren't any Sutras. Those which
were available were very, very simple, such as the Forty-two
Sections Sutra translated by the Venerable Masters Chu Fa-lan
and Kashyapa Matanga. Printing methods had not been developed
and the sutras which were translated had to be copied out by hand,
a process which often resulted in scribal errors and omissions.
So Fa Hsien vowed to organize a party to go to India to bring
back the Sutras. He set out in search of comrades and soon there
were more than twenty dharma Masters who were prepared to accompany
him. Dharma Masters Hui Jing, Tao Cheng, Hui Ying, Hui Wei and
over fifteen others set out from Chung Kuo to India. The places
which they passed through--the arid deserts with their shifting
sands which stretched for hundreds of miles, high freezing mountains--and
other difficulties they encountered, were extreme. They traversed
places practically inaccessible, where neither birds would dare
fly nor animals tread. How much the less a man! They trekked through
barren wastes that bore no signs of life, not even vegetation.
There, the hot wind burned the eyes and made the head so dizzy
that most who made the attempt would soon pass into unconsciousness,
In that region, besides the hot wind there were invisible poisonous
ghosts. Their vapors were fatal when inhaled, and many people
suffocated and died on the spot upon meeting them. Near the Onion
Range Mountains, Fa Hsien and his party encountered a poison-spitting
dragon who infiltrated the wind and rain with his poisonous vapors.
Although the vapor was potentially fatal if inhaled, nonetheless.
Fa Hsien and his Dharma companions, having no other recourse,
walked right through the danger fully aware of the consequences.
At one point they came upon a place in the mountains where the
road ended at the edge of a sheer rock cliff. The only way to
go was up and over using peg holes chipped out by former travelers.
They would stick a wooden piton into a hole and take a step up,
pulling out the piton below and pounding it into the hole above
before they could take their next step. Each person carried four
pitons, and by putting them in and taking them out of the sheer
rock face, they managed to make the ascent. Everyone had to do
it. At the outset of this rugged climb there were more than twenty
people in the party. Three days later the party had dwindled to
twelve or thirteen--the rest having tumbled down and died.
Yet the remainder still pressed on, and eventually reached Small
Snow Mountain where the cold was severe. There Hui Jing caught
chills and began to shiver uncontrollable. He called to Fa Hsien,
"I can't go on with you. I am going to die. Don't retreat.
Press on. May my spirit protect you as you go on to seek the Sutras."
When he finished speaking, Hui Jing froze to death. There is a
verse which says,
During the reign of the seven emperors
From the Chin, Sung, Liang, through the T'ang Dynasties,
Hundreds of High Masters left Ch'ang An,
But less than ten returned.
How can generations to come ever realize
The difficulties endured by their ancestors?
Many Chung Kuo people who went to India to seek the Buddhadharma
exchanged their lives for it. They renounced their very lives
neither to invade India, nor to steal her treasures, but to seek
the Buddhadharma. Americans have many blessings, for they have
at their disposal, without any particular effort on their parts,
complete and accurate texts of the Sutras which have been passed
down from the virtuous High Monks of Chung Kuo. These Sutras have
been studied and certified by Bodhisattvas and Arhats. Now they
should be translated into English, which is also not a particularly
After Hui Jing froze to death, Fa Hsien clasped his corpse crying,
"Our original vow has not been fulfilled. Now you are dead,
but I am not discouraged. With even firmer resolve I will go on
and seek the Buddhadharma." so saying, he continued on through
more than thirty countries until he arrived at a temple about
thirty miles from Rajagriha.
Upon his arrival he told the several hundred monks residing at the temple that he was from Chung Kuo and that he had come to seek the Buddhadharma.
What he wished to do first, he said, was visit Vulture Peak.
"You can't go there!" was their reaction. "It's
too dangerous. Nobody dares go to Vulture Peak these days. It
was all right when the Buddha was in the world, but it won't work
now. You can't go."
"Why not?" Fa Hsien asked, "Why could the Buddha
go there but not us?"
They replied, "When the Buddha was in the world he had spiritual
powers to defeat evil animals, beasts, and demons. Now on Vulture
Peak the panthers alone are ferocious, not to mention the other
wild animals. The black cats devour men on sight, and nobody could
even begin to estimate the number of panthers roaming up there."
"I've been through all sorts of difficulties on my journey
from Chung Kuo," Fa Hsien replied emphatically.
"There were poisonous snakes and evil beasts every day, and
I won't afraid to die then. Now I am at the foot of Vulture Peak.
How could fear of death possible stop me from paying my respects
at a place where the Buddha taught?"
Two monks from the temple were sent to accompany him. It took
an entire day to get to the top where Shakyamuni Buddha had dwelt.
By the time they arrived,, night had begun to fall. "We'll
stay here," said Fa Hsien.
"You want to stay here?" repeated the two monks incredulously.
"We'll be eaten alive by the panthers! There are no two ways
about it. We should start back immediately."
"I'm not going back tonight," said Fa Hsien. "If
you don't want to remain, you can return."
As soon as he said that, the two monks dropped all pretense of
courtesy and left, saying, "If you want to stay here and
be eaten by panthers, it's your business. We still want to spread
the Buddhadharma, and can't give up our lives." Fa Hsien
was left alone on the mountain top.
He began bowing just as if Shakyamuni Buddha were still there
speaking the Dharma. with the traces of the sages right before
his eyes, he bowed and bowed with great sincerity. But eventually,
the prediction made by the monks at the temple came true. Three
panthers moved in on him. The cats were fiercer than tigers, and
totally merciless. Their sleek bodies crept closer and closer
while they licked their chops and flicked their tails as a prelude
to the pounce.
Fa Hsien, who was reciting mantras at the time, said to them. "If you wish to eat me you'll have to wait until I finish reciting the sutras and mantras. Once I've finished, I'll give you my body so that you can tie up conditions with the dharma. However, if you don't wish to tie up conditions, but have just come to test me, then get out of here immediately! Don't hang around!"
When he finished addressing them, the three panthers knelt at
his feet and Fa Hsien reached down and rubbed the tops of their
heads just as if they were house cats. After a while the cats
left, probably deciding among themselves that since one person
wasn't enough for the three of them, it would be better if none
of them feasted. Fa Hsien, having been virtually in the panthers'
mouths, got off with his life.
At dawn he began to walk back. After about a mole, be met an
extremely large person who wore ragged clothes and appeared to
be over ninety years old. It was only after they passed one another
that Fa Hsien realized the man was no ordinary person. Not really
stopping to think who he might be, he turned around to take another
look, only to find that the huge man had disappeared. a little
farther along the road he met a monk and Fa Hsien said, "Who
was that tall person?"
The monk laughed and said, "Him? He is the Great Disciple
Mahakashyapa." Hearing this, Fa Hsien turned to address the
monk only to find that he too had disappeared into thin air. Fa
Hsien realized that he was having an inconceivable experience.
He returned to the temple and took up the study of Sanskrit. One
day he noticed a food offering on the altar and recognized it
as being from Chung Kuo. Realizing that a Chung Kuo merchant must
have docked recently, he went out to find him, and was able to
secure passage on the return trip to Chung Kuo. He packed up the
numerous Sanghan Precepts, Bodhisattva Precepts, Sutras, and other
sections of Vinaya as well as Agama texts. He left on the merchant's
boat for Chung Kuo. During the passage, a violent storm blew the
boat off course and it ended up on the shores of some unknown
land. It is due to this incident that there are in the Indian
languages of Mexico to this day, features which bear a similarity
to ancient Chung Wen. This also accounts for the occurrence of
some Chung Kuo styled architecture evident in Mexico and also
for similarities in the iconography. When Fa Hsien and the hundred
or so people on that merchant ship were blown across the Pacific
to Mexico, they lived among the people there for five months during
which they taught the natives Chung Wen and showed them various
When the boat left Mexico, it carried over two hundred people,
as some Mexicans wished to travel to Chung Kuo. Not long after
it set sail, the winds rose again, and threatened the safety of
the ship. Everyone on board banded together to lay the blame on
Fa Hsien, saying that his presence on board was the reason for
the repeated storms. The mob was preparing to throw Fa Hsien overboard
as a sacrifice to the sea spirits in order calm the winds and
But as they moved toward Fa Hsien, a devoted Dharma Protector of his stepped in and said loudly. "If you intend to throw this Shramana into the sea., you will have to toss me in first. If you don't get rid of me, when we get to Chung Kuo, I will report you to the Emperor and you ill all surely lose your lives. The Emperor believes in the Buddha and venerates the Triple Jewel; therefore, if you throw this monk into the sea, none of you will have long to live." The Dharma Protector, in addition to being persuasive, was very powerful as well. Sizing him up, the merchants realized that they would have difficulty overcoming him, and several at least would lose their lives. All cowards, they didn't dare throw Fa Hsien into the sea. After more than twenty days, nei huo, a plant native only to Chung Kuo, was sighted growing along a shore, and word spread that the boat had reached Shantung.
The natives of Shantung informed the Governor that Fa Hsien had
arrived, and the Governor, who believed in the Buddha, came personally
to welcome him. He invited Fa Hsien to reside at the Governor's
mansion for a year, but the Dharma Master declined, saying that
after his long stay in India, he wanted to return to the capital,
Ch'ang An. Realizing that he couldn't detain Fa Hsien, the Governor
permitted him to go on his way. He went on to Tao Ch'ang Monastery
where Buddhabhadra resided, and began to translate the Sutras
he had brought back from India. His translations include the Sangha
Vinaya, the Nirvana Sutra, and over a hundred other
texts. At age 86, he completed the stillness.
Of the Sutras he translated, the Nirvana Sutra was the
one which many people particularly liked to study and recite.
Once a layman, whose name has been forgotten, had a handwritten
copy of the Nirvana Sutra which somehow got mixed in with the
secular books in his collection. One day his house caught fire
and all the books burned with the exception of the copy of the
Nirvana Sutra which remained totally untouched by the flames.
Everyone found the incident incredible, and it caused many to
take up the study of that Sutra.
One other point of interest is that when Fa Hsien was in India,
he witnessed the annual appearance of a white-eared dragon. This
local dragon spirit protected the area and caused there to be
an abundant harvest every year, provided that the people in that
locale made an annual offering to him. The dragon, which looked
like a snake except for his white ears, made its appearance while
Fa Hsien was in the area.
Dharma Master Fa Hsien's merit and virtue with regard to the Buddhadharma
is very great, and he is an outstanding figure in the history
of Chung Kuo Buddhism.
The greatly virtuous High Master Gunavarman, was born into the
royal family of Kashmir. His grandfather, Haribhadra, had been
a highly respected and virtuous king, but eventually was overthrown
by his subjects for being too rigid and unyielding. Consequently,
his son, Sanghananda, who was Gunavarman's father, never became
king but fled to the mountains to cultivate the way. Gunavarman
also liked to cultivate and was especially intelligent, even as
When Master Gunavarman was fourteen years old, his mother, who
enjoyed eating the flesh of wild beasts, asked Gunavarman to find
some meat for her , Gunavarman refused. "All creatures love
life and dread death," he said. "Eating the flesh of
animals is not compassionate. Not only do you destroy your own
compassionate sensibilities, but you create killing karma as well."
His mother flew into a rage. "Supposing," she said,
"just supposing there were an offense involved. It would
be my offense, not yours. I would stand it on your behalf to receive
the retribution for it."
Gunavarman did not reply, nor did he go out hunting for his mother.
A few days later, he accidentally splattered some boiling oil
and burned his hand in several places. In great pain, he went
to his mother and said, "Mama! The pain in excruciating!
Won't you please stand in for me and undergo this pain on my behalf?"
"You're just a child," said his mother, "and not
a very bright one, at that. Your body, not mine, is in pain. How
can I possible bear it for you?"
"If it is the case that you can't take the pain I suffer
in the present, how will you be able to undergo in the future
the karma for the offenses I went hunting, you would take the
retribution on yourself, but now you can't even undergo the pain
of a burned hand for me. How do you expect to suffer for my offense
One who wishes to save his mother and father must have a clever
method. Suddenly his mother understood. She ceased killing and
ate only vegetarian food. The young Gunavarman had purposely splattered
the oil on his hand in an attempt to his mother to believe in
the Buddhadharma. His method worked extremely well.
When he was eighteen years old, a physiognomist said of him, "When
you are thirty you will sit with your back to the north and your
face to the south; you shall be proclaimed an honored one and
will be the ruler of a great nation. However, should you dislike
worldly glory, you may leave home and you will be able to certify
to the fruit of Sagehood and become a world-transcending Sage."
When he was twenty, Gunavarman left the home life and received
the complete Precepts. Then he travelled around propagating the
Buddhadharma. People were very respectful to him and had great
faith in him. He read all the Great and Small Vehicle Sutras,
several million words, and could recite many of them from memory.
When he was thirty, the king of Kashmir died without leaving an
heir. The officials and the common folk got together to select
a leader and since they greatly revered the Master, they decided,
"Gunavarman is virtuous and learned and should become king."
They asked him to ascend the throne, but he refused, saying, "I
left home to cultivate the Way and care nothing for worldly matters.
Find someone else. I won't do it."
He continued to travel throughout India, spreading the Great Vehicle
Teaching. The people persisted and asked him gain. In fact, they
asked him three, four, five, six seven times to take the throne,
and what do you think happened? He ran away. He went off to the
deep mountain valleys where no one could find him, ate leaves
and roots, and saw nobody at all. He cultivated the Way among
the wild beasts and later he travelled to Sri Lanka (Simhala),
where he studied and propagated the Teaching. Among the people
it was known that he had certified to the First Fruit of Arhatship.
His speech was cogent and principled and his deportment was so
awesome that the people, having seen him only once, would bring
for the resolve to attain enlightenment.
Then the Master went to Java. The day before he arrived, the king
of Java's mother had a dream in which she saw a boat flying across
the sea, carrying a Shramana. When Gunavarman arrived the following
day, she recognized him. "Yesterday, I had a dream in which
a Shramana came to our country. You look just like him."
She deeply believed in him and received the five lay Precepts
from him: No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false
speech, and no intoxicants. She studied under the Master, cultivated,
and learned a lot.
One day she spoke to her son, the king. "I have a great affinity
with you and so you are my son and I am your mother. This is most
propitious. But I am a Buddhist and you are not, and so our causes
and conditions are divergent. I fear that in the future things
will not be as fortunate, for we are headed down two different
The king understood that his mother wanted him to become a Buddhist,
even though she had not said so openly, and she certainly would
not have demanded it. "I shall take the Five Precepts,"
he said to her, and he forced himself to go ahead, even though
he wasn't very interested in the Buddhadharma. Because Master
Gunavarman had been certified to the first fruit, he taught the
doctrines so effectively that the king eventually came to believe
in the Dharma. "It's incredibly wonderful," he said.
"Why didn't I begin studying it sooner? How fortunate I am
to have such a fine mother who believes in the Buddhadharma and
who has saved me as well!" He was overjoyed.
Just when he was most elated, trouble came. The neighboring country
invaded. The king went to Gunavarman and said, "Master, if
you believe in the Buddha, then people bully you! If you're evil,
people fear you, but if you're good, they push you around. Before
I became a Buddhist, no one dared opposed me. Now they have come
to wage war. If I fight them with troops I will kill many men.
If I don't fight, the country is finished. Master, I ask you,
what am I to do?"
Gunavarman said, "If they attack, use your troops, but hold
thoughts of compassion, not cruelty. Since you have taken the
Five Precepts, you should pity your enemies, not hate them."
The King instructed his troops to recite "Homage to the Greatly
Compassionate Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World"
(Avalokiteshvara), and to take, as their guiding principle, pity,
rather than the intent to kill. So although they went off to battle,
they recited the Bodhisattva's name. As a result, as soon as the
King's troops met the enemy, the enemy retreated, frightened by
their awesome virtue. The King, although injured in the foot by
a arrow, was still happy about the victory. Gunavarman recited
the Great Compassion Mantra over some water and then washed the
King's wound. It healed completely in just a few days, and didn't
hurt at all. This caused the King to believe in Gunavarman even
Having gained such a victory, the King realized that the Buddhadharma
was truly unfathomable. He studied every day and after a while
he had an awakening: he awoke to the fact that being a King was
a lot of trouble--"This is a problem! We'd better ask the
King. That's a problem. We'd better ask the King. Ask the King!
Ask the King!" He decided he would be better off leaving
home to become a member of the Sangha than remaining so caught
up in trivial worldly matters.
When he announced his decision to join the Sangha, all the ministers, scholars, and the people knelt and begged him not to abdicate. He denied their request and they wept. "All right," he finally said, "if you insist that I remain King you must agree to three conditions. Otherwise, I am going to leave home."
"What are your three conditions?" they asked. "First of all, within the country I rule, everyone must be respectful toward, make offerings to, and take refuge with the Triple Jewel. All the citizens must do this."
"That can be arranged," they said, "What is the second conditions?"
"All the citizens must uphold the Five Precepts and cultivate
the Ten Good Acts including no killing, no stealing, no sexual
misconduct, no greed, no hatred, no stupidity, no lying, no vulgar
speech, no abusive speech, no backbiting. What is more, they must
cease killing and eat only pure vegetarian food."
See how this Dharma Master first convinced his mother to quit
eating meat and now his disciple, the King, has convinced the
whole country to do so!
"There's no problem with that one," they said. "What's the third?"
"You must distribute all the treasures and wealth in the treasuries to the needy, the sick, the widows, widowers, the orphans, and the childless."
"Fine," they said, and the King remained on the throne.
He then erected a temple for his teacher, Master Gunavarman. He
joined the other carpenters and industriously pounded nails. However,
on one occasion a board fell on his toe, causing considerable
"Master," he cried, "My toe!"
"You," Master Gunavarman said, "are just looking for trouble. Why are you working as a carpenter?"
"I wanted to express my true sincerity toward my Master," the King replied.
"Well then, you can undergo a little pain," said the
Master. But then he applied a mantra which healed the toe on the
spot, thus redoubling the King's faith.
Master Gunavarman became well-known for converting the King of
Java. In Chung Kuo, during the Liu-Sung Dynasty, Buddhabhadra's
disciple, Dharma Master Hui Kuan, as well as Dharma Master Hui
Tsung and others, went to the Emperor Wen and asked that someone
be sent to request Master Gunavarman to come to Chung Kuo to spread
the Dharma. The Emperor ordered the Magistrate of Chiao Chou along
with Dharma Master Fa Ch'ang and Tao Ch'ung and others to serve
as envoys to request Master Gunavarman to come to Chung Kuo. However,
the King of Java did not wish to let his Master leave the country.
Yet, when he thought it over, he realized that people should not
be selfish. His own country was small, whereas Chung Kuo was large
and he thought it best to allow his Master to go to Chung Kuo
to teach and transform living beings there.
But, before the party from Chung Kuo had even arrived in Java,
Master Gunavarman had already set sail on a merchant ship. His
intention was to travel to a small kingdom to teach the Dharma.
Strangely enough, a wind came up an blew the Master directly to
Canton. Hearing of his arrival, the Emperor of Chung Kuo sent
people to welcome him and bring him to the capital. On the way
he passed through Shih Hsing where there was a mountain called
Hu Shih ("Tiger City") which Master Gunavarman said
resembled Mount Gridhrakuta ("Vulture Peak") in India,
and its name was accordingly changed.
In the monastery on the mountain, many Sangha members cultivated
the Way. The Master built a small hut about a mile from the monastery
where he cultivated Dhyana samadhi. Although the sound of the
large monastery bell did not reach as far as his hut, whenever
the small hand bell was run, the Master immediately went to the
It was generally known that the Master had been certified to the
first Fruit of Arhatship because his actions differed from those
of ordinary men. Although it looked like he was walking on the
ground, he actually was walking in space, about one inch off the
ground. People noticed that when it rained, the bottoms of his
shoes did not get muddy, and so they knew he was a Sage.
There were many man-eating tigers on the mountain, but whenever
the Master met one, he would put his staff on the tiger's head,
and speak the Dharma. The tiger would then tamely saunter away.
After this happened several times, the tigers never bothered anyone
On several occasions the Master entered Dhyana samadhi and did
not emerge from his room for days on end. Once, the monks sent
a novice to inquire after him. The novice saw a white lion guarding
the Master's door and green lotuses filling empty space. Startled,
the novice called out, but by the time the other monks arrived,
the vision had vanished. There were many such miraculous occurrences.
The Emperor invited the Master to come to Nanking. He arrived
in 431 A.D. The Emperor asked him, "I wish to be a vegetarian,
but court etiquette, and the pressure of those around me, all
of whom eat meat, prevent his. What can I do?"
The Master replied, "The way is to be found within the heart,
not in specific affairs. the Emperor's cultivation will naturally
differ from that of the common folk, for the Emperor has the charisma
which the common people do not. You need not necessarily eat vegetarian
food. What you should do is benefit the people. Be a just and
benevolent \ruler and command the people not to kill. Teaching
the people not to kill is your form of vegetarianism. Its merit
for surpasses that derived from simply eating one meatless meal,
thus saving one creature's life. Your cultivation does not reside
in simply eating less meat or in drinking less wine. Teaching
your subjects to be filial is you form of filial piety. You must
influence the citizens not to commit evil actions, but to practice
only good deeds. That should be your cultivation."
The Emperor exclaimed, "Most Shramanas are confused about
broad principles and most scholars are caught up in the specific
teachings. Those confused about broad principles speak about cause
and effect and the illusory nature of things in an unclear way.
those attached to specific teachings cling to their books and
literature. Today, having had this discussion with the Dharma
Master, I finally understand the Great Heavenly Way." The
Emperor arranged for the Master to live in the Jeta Monastery
and made abundant offering sot him. Many Bhikshus, Bhikshunis,
Upasakas, and Upasikas cultivated there, attending the Master's
lectures on the Sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra and the
Ten Grounds Sutra. One day at lunch, after he had taken
a few bites of food, Master Gunavarman suddenly rose and returned
to his room. There he sat upright in the full-lotus position and
entered the stillness. When his attendant noticed he had left
the dining room he went to ask after him and found that the Master
had suddenly gone off to rebirth. He was sixty-five years old.
He had announced to his disciples previously, the time of his
death. He had also written a set of thirty-six verses which narrated
the events of his life as a cultivator and described his contemplation
of corpses. He had watched the corpse swell, turn green, leak
pus and blood and then be eaten by worms. finally, only the skeleton
remained. He had realized that no matter how beautiful the woman
or how charming the man, when they are dead, their corpses are
equally disgusting. What is there to cling to? Through such contemplation,
he had won great bliss and his meditation was ineffably delightful.
He had then been certified to the First Fruit of Arhatship. After
that, he had continued to cultivate, but he was disturbed the
constant barrage of people who came to make offerings to him and
consequently he retired to the mountains and saw no one. He had
continued to cultivate in the stillness of his retreat and had
attained the Second Fruit of Arhatship. He then left Sri Lanka
for Java, and later went to Chung Kuo to propagate the great Vehicle.
When the affinities which drew him to this world had been fulfilled,
he died and was cremated according to Buddhist custom. He truly
had independence over birth and death. When he was burned on a
pyre of sandalwood, his faithful disciples watched the smoke form
into lotuses and saw a dragon fly out of the smoke into empty
space. Because of theses occurrences, everyone trusted his translations
of the Sutras and Vinaya, and knew that his merit and virtue was
In our own cultivation of the way we should imitate the greatly
virtuous ones of the past by never relaxing or slacking off, but
always forging ahead with all our might in order to quickly put
an end to birth and death.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra was a native of Kashmir. As a child
he was extremely happy to see members of the Sangha, especially
when he saw one of them reciting a Sutra. Whenever he encountered
a monk reciting a Sutra he would kneel down and listen. On seeing
a monk bow to the Buddha he would join in and bow too. This made
him extremely happy. Even when he was very small he went to the
monastery every day to play, but this play consisted of bowing
to the buddhas and reciting the Sutras. His father and mother
watched and thought, "This is very strange behavior for a
child. All the boy does is go to the monastery and bow to the
Buddha, recite the Sutras, and imitate people who have left the
By age seven he was keenly intelligent and had developed such a liking for the Buddhadharma that his parents allowed him to leave the home life. In Kashmir at that time, there were many Sages who had been certified to the holy fruit, and so Dharmamitra met many bright-eyed teachers and learned advisors; thus his cultivation was built on a firm foundation. He did not cultivate like ordinary people who haphazardly apply effort one day, but not the next. He never wasted his time. He never rested, but recited the Sutras, recollected the Buddha's name, and bowed to the Buddha until he was so tired he couldn't go on; then he would sit and practice dhyana. He might have dozed off occasionally, but would have soon roused himself to continue his practice of the Buddhadharma. His practice was so sincere that he didn't even make distinctions between day and night in his cultivation of the Buddhadharma. Hence, he was able to develop great wisdom. By the time he was aged fifteen, he was speaking the Dharma. His explanations of the principles in the teachings were both subtle and wonderful.
With a firm resolve and great determination, his intention was
to propagate the Buddhadharma throughout the world. He went to
more than twenty countries during his life to spread the Dharma
and teach living beings. One day his travels to propagate the
dharma brought him to Kucha. The day before his arrival, the
King of Kucha had a dream in which a god told him, "Tomorrow
a person of great blessings and virtue will come to your country.
You should make vast offerings and plant fields of blessings before
this virtuous person." When the King awoke he could remember
the dream vividly and knew that it had been an extraordinary one.
He ordered his customs officials to pay special attention and
the news of any particularly unusual person wanting to come into
the country was to be brought to his immediate attention via pony
express. In those days there were no telegrams, so urgent messages
were carried by horseback. The messenger would travel at full
speed and would change horses when ever one was exhausted. By
never having to slow down, he could travel an immense distance
in a day.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra had a peculiar appearance. Form birth,
his eyebrows had grown together in one continuous line above his
eyes, and because of this strange characteristic, he was called
Dhyana Master "Connected Eyebrows." When Dharma Master
Dharmamitra reached the border, the customs officers, because
of his unusual eyebrows, informed the pony express, who raced
to inform the King. The King assumed the monk must be the virtuous
person referred to in his dream. The King, setting out immediately,
travelled ten miles beyond the city walls to meet Dharma Master
Dharmamitra. The King personally invited the Dharma Master to
the palace and honored him with a vegetarian feast, which was
attended by the ministers and officials of state. Then the King
himself received the Five Precepts from Dharma Master Dharmamitra,
and made offerings of food, clothing, bedding, and medicines.
But basically, Dharma Master Dharmamitra was not interested in
good food, fine clothes, pleasant surroundings, or many offerings.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra, being very independent, was not fettered
by anything. He decided to stay only one night in Kucha. However,
that night the god appeared once again to the King and said, "Did
you know that the one of great virtue is preparing to leave? what
you did yesterday will be the extent of the fields of merit and
virtue that you can plant."
When the King awoke from his dream, his ministers of protocol
confirmed that Dharma Master Dharmamitra was preparing to leave.
He quickly called together all his ministers and officials. They
knelt before the Dharma Master and begged him to stay. Yet, in
spite of their sincere pleas, Dharma Master Dharmamitra would
not change his plans. "My causes and conditions here with
you are insufficient," he said, and no matter how they wished
to detain him, it was to no avail.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra went on to Tun Huang, Chung Kuo, passing
through the shifting sands of the vast, desolate desert. It was
a difficult journey. When he arrived at Tun Huang, he leveled
the earth and built a monastery. Around this he planted a thousand
palm trees and enhanced the grounds with flower gardens and pools.
From thousands of miles around, members of the Sangha and laity
would gather at this Bodhimanda to cultivate. Dharma Master Dharmamitra
taught and transformed many Chung Kuo people.
After the completion of the Tun Huang community, however, he moved
on to Liang Chou, the present day Hsin Chiang. There he built
another monastery where Shramanas from many miles around came
to meet the Master and cultivate Ch'an.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra promoted the principles and methods
of the Ch'an School in all his teachings. When he heard that the
Buddhadharma was flourishing in Nanking, in Sung Chou Province,
he once again set out to spread the Ch'an school. In the first
year of the Yuan Chia period of the Liu-Sung Dynasty (424 A.D.),
he went from Hsin Chiang to Szechuan. Then, from there he travelled
to Ching Chou, near Hupei. He dwelled in Ch'ang Sha Monastery
and built another large ch'an hall which could hold a thousand
people. There, a miraculous event occurred. this was similar to
what happened when K'ang Seng Hui, (see page 18 above),
sought for the sharira.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra had beard about how K'ang Seng Hui had
obtained sharira at that place, so he and his disciples also set
up a Dharma platform and prayed for the Buddha's sharira to appear.
They didn't have to pass through three weeks, as had their predecessor,
for after one week's time, they heard a loud "BANG"
in the pan and lifted out a sharira which constantly emitted light.
This miraculous response caused the four assemblies of disciples
to have deeper faith in him. Everyone realized that what had occurred
was an especially rare and auspicious event, and as a result,
everyone became very sincere in their cultivation. While Dharma
Master Dharmamitra was at Ch'ang Sha Monastery, over a hundred
people became enlightened.
Afterwards, Dharma Master Dharmamitra went from Ching Chou eastward
to Nanking, where he stopped first for a time at Chung Hsing Monastery.
the, shortly after, he went on to Chi Huan Monastery to live By
that time the Dharma Master's reputation as a Ch'an Master possessing
great way Virtue, had spread far and wide. Many people came to
hear him lecture on the Sutras, and explain the Dharma. He was
invited to many kingdoms including, Wei, Sung, and Chin. He went
to Nanking, where the Emperor extended a personal invitation to
him to receive offerings at the palace. The royal family became
Buddhist disciples under him and also received the Five Precepts.
As a result, the Buddhadharma flourished during the Emperor's
reign. Buddhism became so popular that Dharma Master Dharmamitra,
in order to handle the heavy volume of people who wished to pay
their respects or ask for instruction, could only be seen by appointment.
And even then, because his time was in such demand, it was difficult
to arrange such an appointment.
At Chi Huan Monastery he translated the Ch'an Sutra, the
Ch'an Dharma, the Essentials Of The Ch'an Dharma,
the Samantabhadra Contemplation, and the Empty Space
Store Contemplation. (He is credited with seven works in the
Taisho Tripitaka: T.277, T.407, T.409, T.564, T.619, T.814, and
T.822.) He taught the Dharma of reflecting on Ch'an, and for thousands
of miles around, people wrote letters asking him to come and teach
them. Everyone referred to him as the great Dhyana Master.
At that time the governor of Ping Sang was called Meng Yi. He believed in Buddhism and used its principles in his work. when he heard of the great fame of this Dhyana Master, he invited him to his province to propagate the Buddhadharma. In Ping Sang, Shamanism wash the prevalent belief, but when Dharma Master Dharmamitra arrived, however, the customs began to change. His wonderful Dharma transformed the people there, and they came to realized that Shamanism was wrong--not orthodox
Dharma. Hearing his wonderful Dharma, first one household would
take refuge with the Triple Jewel, renouncing their belief in
shamanism. Then another would do the same. In this way, the customs
and old beliefs gradually wore off.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra dwelt in Ping Sang for three years.
Then he returned to Chung Mountain near Nanking, taking up residence
in Ting Lin Lower Monastery. However, he felt that this monastery
was too near sea level, so he moved to higher ground. He found
a piece of land resembling two of the mightiest mountains, in
Chung Kuo: Mount Sung and Mount Hua. With the aid of the people
who lived there, he built Ting Lin Upper Monastery. In the monastery,
Dharma Master Dharmamitra painted a picture of the Dharma Protector
and Heavenly Ruler, Kapila, who had protected him as he had set
out from Kashmir on his journey to Kucha. Halfway to Kucha, Kapila
had manifested the body of a heavenly general, and informed the
Dhyana Master that he was going to leave and return to India.
Dharma Master Dharmamitra said, "Your divine powers and transformations
are inexhaustible. You can have anything you want. It's all 'as-you-will'
and comfortable for you. Why must you return? Why can't you come
with me?" After he had said that, Kapila disappeared, hiding
his body away once more. The dhyana Master then continued on his
journey. Now, strange as it may seem, everyone continually heard
words coming from the painting, and when anybody asked the painting
of Kapila for anything, they would always get a tremendous response.
After the monastery had been completed, people from all around
drew near the dhyana Master. Since they knew he was a Great Learned
Advisor, they crowded around him to make offerings. Also because
of his lofty virtue, wherever he went, he always attracted many
In the nineteenth year of the Yuan Chia reign (442 A.D.), in the
seventh month on the sixth day (lunar), Dharmamitra sat in full
lotus and said, "I'm going to leave today." Then he
spoke the Dharma for those gathered around him, but before he
finished speaking, he fell silent and entered Nirvana. He was
eighty-seven years old at the time. His grave still remains on
Chung Mountain at Ting Lin Upper Monastery near Nanking.
High Master Chih Meng, was from Yung Chou near Hsin Feng, not far from Peking. From the time he was born, he displayed unusual intelligence and propriety. He left the home life when very young to become a Shramanera and cultivated the Dharma door of reciting and upholding the Sutras. Night and day, he never ceased in his cultivation.
He had often heard the Dharma Masters from India talk about the
efficacious events which took place during the Buddha's life.
He was especially inspired by the various accounts of how the
Buddha subdued demons. The story which moved him the most was
the account of how the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree, crossed
over the demons, and accomplished the Way. He realized that it
wasn't much good sitting around dreaming about Shakyamuni Buddha's
life: he would actually have to visit all the holy places connected
with these events. Moreover, he knew that time waits for no one,
so right there and then he decided to go to India.
In the sixth year of the reign of Hung Shih of the Ch'in Dynasty
(404 A.D.), he advertised his journey: "I plan to travel
to India to visit all the holy places connected with the life
of Shakyamuni Buddha. would you like to go?"
"Oh, yes," came some replies.
"Do you want to go?"
"I would like to go."
"I'd be happy to....." came other replies, until fifteen
people had volunteered to accompany him.
He set out from Ch'ang An for India. At that time transportation
was very primitive (he made his journey even before Tripitaka
Master Hsuan Tsang of the T'ang Dynasty), and before they had
even reached Hsin Chiang on the western border of Chung Kuo, they
had already forded thirty-six treacherous rivers. No sooner had
they finished these dangerous crossings then they found themselves
struggling through two hundred and fifty miles of quicksand in
the arid desert region. It would have been very easy to die of
starvation or thirst; but they survived. Pilgrims had never experienced
such severe difficulties.
Eventually they reached Kucha and then Khotan, and as they passed
through, they observed the customs of these various countries.
From Khotan they travelled west for more than seven hundred miles
until they came to the Himalayas. By that time, the original party
of fifteen had diminished to six. Nine had been unable to endure
the hardships and had turned back.
Dharma Master Chih Meng and the five remaining members of his
party were determined to go on. They continued for another six
hundred miles until they reached the region of Bolan. There, one
member of the party named Chu Tao Sung died, and while Dharma
Master Chih Meng prepared the grave, the corpse disappeared without
a trace! It was nowhere to be found. who knows whether it was
stolen or eaten by the vultures?
The party of five continued across the Himalayas until they reached
the Indus River and the country of Kashmir which, at that time,
was inhabited by five hundred Arhats who were always on the go.
while the party was staying at Anavatapta Lake, one of the Arhats
was overjoyed on encountering Dharma Master Chih Meng. "Where
have you come from?" he asked.
"What place is this?" Dharma Master Chih Meng asked
in reply, and the Arhat spoke the Dharma for him. There, Dharma
Master Chih Meng found many of Shakyamuni Buddha's relics, including
a stone pitcher the Buddha had used, and the Buddha's bowl. The
bowl was violet in color and emitted alight both day and night.
Dharma Master Chih Meng used incense and flowers to make offerings
to it. Lifting the bowl reverently over his head, he made a vow
that in every life he would make offerings to the Triple Jewel,
leave the home life, cultivate the Way, and seek the Great Vehicle
As he held the bowl aloft and made his vow, he noticed the bowl
became alternately light and heavy. When it was heavy he could
barely hold it up over his head, but when it was light, it seemed
as if there were nothing there at all. This inconceivable response
caused him to be even more deeply determined to cultivate the
From there, the party went about four hundred miles to Kapilavastu,
where Master Meng respectfully made offerings to
the Buddha's hair, teeth, and the bones of his cowl-like crown.
whenever he encountered a relic of the Buddha, he would spend
the entire day making offerings t it and paying his respects.
Finally, he arrived at the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha had crossed
over the demons, and saw the Buddha image commemorating this events.
He was inexpressibly happy and he used his robe to wipe the image
clean before reverently making offerings to it. His pilgrimage
included many of the Buddha's relics. In addition to visiting
the Buddha's relics, he went to King Ashoka's capital and saw
the gigantic "Buddha" pagoda. There he met a Brahman
named Lo Yueh Tsung whose only concern was the propagation of
the Buddhadharma. His entire household was Buddhist and consequently,
the Brahman was greatly trusted by the reigning King.
When the Brahman met Master Meng he asked, "Is there any vehicle Buddhadharma in Chung Kuo?"
Master Chih Meng emphatically replied , "The study of Great
Vehicle Buddhism is carried on throughout Chung Kuo."
"Very rare. Very rare," replied the Brahman. "Bodhisattvas
must have gone to Chung Kuo to spread the Buddhadharma. That accounts
for its flourishing there." The Brahman gave Dharma Master
Chih Meng many Sutras which he carried back to Chung Kuo.
In the reign period Chia Tzu, Dharma Master Chih Meng set out
to return to Chung Kuo. Three members of the party died on the
road, so only he and a certain Tan Tsuan Chu returned to Liang
Chou. There he compiled a edition of the Nirvana Sutra
in twenty volumes which he had brought back with him. Then in
the 14th year of the Yuan Chia reign period of the Liu-Sung Dynasty
(437 A.D) he went to Szechuan where he wrote a book about all
the experiences on his pilgrimage. It was finished two years later,
in the seventh month. In the last year of the Yuan Chia period
(453 A.D.), he completed the stillness.
Dharma Master Chih Meng was highly influential in the spread of
Buddhism in Chung Kuo.
Indian Dhyana Master Kalayashas was stubborn by nature, very tough,
and had a fierce temper. I'm afraid his temper was even greater
than mine, because although I talk of beating you, I haven't done
it yet. But this Dharma Master didn't even forewarn his disciples.
When they broke the rules he just started swinging. He was so
severe that it was extremely difficult to study under him.
In addition, he was practically devoid of desire, since his self-nature
was always very pure. He had penetrated the Tripitaka (the Sutras,
Shastras, and Vinaya), and understood them all. In his cultivation
he concentrated on Ch'an practice. Now when we have a Ch'an session
we sit and walk alternately for seven days, but he would sit for
seven days straight without getting up from his seat. We find
it painful and unpleasant to sit still even for an hour, let alone
seven days straight. Once in samadhi he would go off to other
places so as to teach and transform living beings. Many people
while dreaming or awake, would suddenly see the Master appear
before them, hear him speak a few sentences of Dharma and then
see him disappear. In samadhi he sat unmoving, and yet simultaneously
went everywhere to teach beings.
Can you imagine the samadhi power of this Dharma Master? Measured
against what people can do today, he is in comparable. Now, after
only an hour of sitting, all of you are bent over out of shape.
How can you possible be said to have any courage at all? Your
practice is so insignificant. When you compare yourself to Dhyana
Master Kalayashas, you should feel terrible ashamed of how you
fail to measure up to him.
Dhyana Master Kalayashas travelled all around India propagating
the principles of the Ch'an (Dhyana) School. But when he heard
that the Great Vehicle teachings were flourishing in Chung Kuo,
he left India heedless of the long journey. He arrived in Nanking
in 424 A.D.
Emperor Wen of the Liu-Sung Dynasty greatly respected and believed
in Master Kalayashas and invited him to reside at Tao Lin Monastery.
Dhyana Master Pao Chih, who could eat two pigeons every day for
lunch and then spit them out alive, also greatly respected Master
Kalayashas. He went to study with him and investigated Dhyana
under his guidance.
Think it over: Dhyana Master Pao Chih, who had such great spiritual penetrations that he could eat two minced pigeons for lunch every day and then spit them back out alive and on the wing, chose to cultivate with, and study under, Master Kalayashas.
From this it must be clear that Dhyana Master Kalayashas was certainly
a great Good Knowing Advisor. In cultivation it is essential to
find a Good Knowing advisor. Master Pao Chih was not like the
rash of self-styled patriarchs in America: dancing patriarchs,
movie-going patriarchs, drug-taking patriarchs and the like. At
that time people knew that it was necessary, if you wanted to
cultivate the Way, to draw near a Good and Learned Advisor. If
you try to work on your own it is very easy to go down the wrong
road. So Dhyana Master Pao Chih drew near Dhyana Master Kalayashas.
While in Nanking, a Dharma Master named Seng Ho asked Dhyana Master Kalayashas
to translate The Medicine King And Medicine Superior Contemplations
(T.1161), and the Limitless Life Contemplation (T.365).
Dhyana Master Kalayashas knew that The Medicine King And Medicine
Superior Contemplations contained secret Dharma devices that
could alter people's karma. Through the recitation of Medicine
Master's crown-Anointing True words (a mantra), and then the Cultivation
of the Medicine King And Medicine Superior Contemplations,
karmic obstacles could be eradicated. He also knew that The
Limitless Life Contemplation was an extremely important practice,
and a great aid to the penetration of the Pure Land Dharma Door.
So he translated these works meticulously and paid particular
attention to them. After he made these translations, he travelled
to Szechuan and then later returned to Nanking. Then one day,
without any sickness, he completed the stillness at age sixty.
His practice and his translations make him a meritorious figure
in the history of Chung Kuo Buddhism.
At that time there was also the Indian Shramana, Sanghadatta.1
Indian Dharma Master Sanghadatta exclusively cultivated
Dhyana (Ch'an). He always dwelt in the mountains and sat in stillness.
Very often when he was sitting, he forgot to eat. It was not that
he did not want to eat, but that he forgot to do so. When he realized
that he had forgotten to eat, it would already be past midday,
and because he did not want to break the Precepts of not eating
after noon, he would let the day pass without taking food. This
happened over and over again so that days would go by and he didn't
eat once. Finally it became such a frequent occurrence that some
Dharma protectors came to his aid. Who were these Dharma protectors?
A flock of birds. When it was time to eat, one bird would come
with an apple, another would come with an orange, and yet another
would arrive with a banana, or anything else that could ward off
hunger. There were forty-eight birds. If each bird brought one
thing, altogether they could certainly supply enough to fill a
person up. At first Master Sanghadatta did not realize that the
birds were bringing the food for him, so he did not eat it. Soon,
several days; accumulation of offerings lay on the ground before
him untouched. Then the birds stayed with him and also didn't
eat. They brought their offerings, set them before him, and if
he didn't eat, the birds refused to leave. They stayed there and
fasted with him. After awhile he remembered how Shakyamuni Buddha
ate the honey which some monkeys offered to him and thought, "If
the Buddha can receive offerings from monkeys, why can't I accept
the offerings of these birds?" then he took all the things
which the birds had set before him and ate them all. This pleased
the forty-eight birds so greatly that they hopped and frolicked.
They were so delighted that they performed a dancing spectacular
right on the spot, which in turn made the Dharma Master very happy.
1 The Sanskrit of this is
The influence of Dhyana Master Kalayashas and Dharma Master Sanghadatta
caused most of the people who left the home life at that time
to take up the cultivation of Ch'an and practice regularly to
gain samadhi. Many people became enlightened during that period.
Another Indian Master, Sanghatrata, came from India to Chung Kuo
where he strictly observed the ascetic practices. He did not live
indoors, but stayed under trees or in graveyards. Wherever he
went he begged for his food. He took up hi bowl and went begging,
refusing any other kinds of offerings and refraining from becoming
involved with people. If someone wanted to make friends with him,
the Master wouldn't have anything to do with him. The people were
extremely respectful of this Dharma Master.
Afterwards, he went to Chung Mountain, and on its southern face
built a temple and established a retreat called Sung Hsi Monastery.
During the years that followed, many Indian Dharma Masters came
to Chung Kuo and so the Chung Kuo Dharma Masters came to study
the doctrines of the Indian Dhyana (Ch'an) School.
This Indian Dharma Master had two names: "Gunabhadra," and "Mahayana." In 435 A.D., he went to Chung Kuo Where, because of past conditions, he felt he could not teach and transform the living beings there. such was his determination that he even
made a vow to cross over the people of Chung Kuo.
In his early years, this Dharma Master had been somewhat stupid.
After studying the Buddhadharma, however, he became wiser and
more intelligent than everyone else. He mastered the Tripitaka,
the Sutras, the Shastras, and the Vinaya, and cultivated Dhyana
with such a singleminded effort that he could attain deep Dhyana
Dharma Master Gunabhadra had been stupid when young because his family believed in an "outside way"; that is, another religion.
What kind of outside way was it?
They were so far removed from true principle that they would not
allow anyone in the household to draw near Bhikshus or believe
in Shramanas. When they saw a Bhikshu coming, they considered
him to be fiercer than a tiger and more deadly than a poisonous
snake. "If you get near one, you'll lose your life,"
they warned each other. "Whatever you do, don't get near
a Shramana." Because these were the rules of their household,
their child was very stupid. He did not even know the difference
between a four and a five!
But eventually Gunabhadra became extremely intelligent. The causes
and conditions behind this were very peculiar. On one occasion
he saw a copy of The Nirvana Sutra, read it, and experienced
an enlightenment. He said, "Buddhism is so wonderful and
the Buddhadharma is so high." Then he ran away from home.
He walked right out the door of his outside way home. From inside
his outside way home he drilled his way out, and ran away to find
a Good Knowing advisor. His causes and conditions must have been
fairly good because, right away, he encountered what his family
had called a "tiger" or "snake." He met a
Bhikshu! This Bhikshu spoke the Dharma for him saying, "Leaving
the home life is not easy. Not even leaving home yourself, just
being able to see people who have left the home life means your
roots are good."
Now all of you young Americans have good roots, and so you have
been able to see people who have left the home life. Some of you
who have travelled a round a lot on vacations might have seen
Bhikshus, or you might have seen their pictures in books, but
rarely could you have seen Bhikshus in America. Moreover, the
number of people who have genuinely drawn near them is still less.
But the roots of all you youngsters have now matured, and so there
are Bhikshus and Bhikshunis in this country,
So the Bhikshu said to him, "Encountering the Triple Jewel
is difficult and very rare; leaving the home life to become a
Bhikshu is even more inconceivable." Gunabhadra immediately
asked the Dharma Master to shave his head, and he left the home
life to become a Shramanera. Later he received the complete Precepts
of a Bhikshu.
Gunabhadra means "Worthy One of Merit and Virtue." Someone
asked me if he is the same Gunabhadra mentioned in Fa Hai's introduction
to the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, Since the text says that
Gunabhadra was also from the Liu-Sung Dynasty, it is likely that
they are one and the same person. However, you should keep in
mind that many Indian people had the same name. It is similar
in America. Take the name Steve, for instance. How many Steves
are there? In the same way, many Indians had the same name. Also,
if two Sanskrit names were spelled slightly differently, both
could have been transliterated by the same Chung Wen characters,
since the translators would sometimes say, "Just get it more
or less sounding right. It doesn't matter if it is off by a little.
Steve is just Steve, let's not bother with the last name,"
was their attitude. So there could be two Gunabhadras, a hundred,
or even a thousand. There's no way to figure out exactly what
went on. Anyway, it is not that important. After all, it is just
a person's name; you don't have to go to a lot of trouble over
it and waste valuable time.
Historians just ask for trouble by continually doing research
to find out when that person lived, and when this person lived.
It is a case of them not having anything to do, and just twiddling
their thumbs. They get involved in doing meaningless research.
It seems that the more they investigate, the more trouble there
is, since they investigate absolutes. "This is false; is
this true?" In this world, really, what is "false"
and what is "true"? Nothing. If you think something
is true, it is true. For instance, if a country says they have
Mr. Smith as their President, yet you haven't seen him yourself,
you could draw the conclusion that this is false. On the other
hand, if he wasn't president, you could go ahead and say he was.
there is no way to be fixed about it. Originally Master Gunabhadra
was stupid because people in his household believed in an outside
way, another religion. But he became intelligent as soon as he
believed in the Buddhadharma. So you see, there is nothing fixed.
after Master Gunabhadra became a monk, he propagated the doctrine
of the Dhyana School in India for many years. One day he had a
false thought and said, "The root-nature of the great Vehicle
Dharma has matured in Chung Kuo. I should go there and teach living
beings." He knew that it was extremely difficult to go to
Chung Kuo and teach; for one thing, the languages were not the
same. then, too, the road was very long. He said, "Oh! It's
too much suffering to walk from India to Chung Kuo. That's three
and a half thousand miles on foot! I'll take a boat. This way,
gradually, every day I'll get nearer to Chung Kuo and it will
be easier." This was his plan. Now is it a good one or not?
If he had been stupid he would have walked, but because he was
so intelligent, he thought of a way to avoid walking. He took
a ship. Yet this was still no guarantee that he would make it
to Chung Kuo. During the voyage, the ship ran aground on a sand
bar. Then the tide receded and the whole ship was left high and
dry. Being a big vessel, the crew and passengers combined could
not budge it. There they were, in the middle of nowhere: it looked
certain that they would die. There were no communications and
no tow in sight. It wasn't like the oceans of today on which there
are many vessels. At that time there were very few ships. Master
Gunabhadra thought, "We have encountered a demonic obstacle
and the ship won't go."
It was an unexpected difficulty, but the Master was intelligent
and didn't get nervous or upset. He said, "I will teach all
of you, passengers and crew alike, to call on the Buddhas of the
Ten Directions and on Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. We will return
our lives to the Triple Jewel of the Ten Directions and to the
Greatly Compassionate Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva." Then they
all put their palms together and recited, "Homage to the
Eternally Dwelling Buddhas of the Ten directions. Homage to the
Eternally Dwelling Dharma of the Ten Directions. Homage to the
Eternally Dwelling Sangha of the Ten directions. Homage to the
Greatly Compassionate Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva." They recited
and recited, and Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, who probably could
not sit still said, "I have to go and rescue those people."
So Kuan Yin Bodhisattva ordered a rain, and soon the ship floated
free. Not only that, but imperceptibly, a gentle wind rose and
blew the ship right to Chung Kuo. Master Gunabhadra used his intelligence;
in that difficult situation he became neither agitated nor nervous,
but continued to believe in the buddhas of the Ten Directions.
Because of his faith, the Buddhas of the Ten Directions escorted
him to Chung Kuo.
He arrived in Chung Kuo during the Liu-Sung Dynasty (in 435 A.D.),
and the Prime Minister Ch'iao Wang, who believed in Buddhism,
was very good to him. He had heard that the Avatamsaka Sutra
was Master Gundbhadra's specialty.
Dharma Master Gunabhadra had selected this Sutra just after he
left home. He had drawn the Avatamsaka in a "Sutra-lottery,"
which was the accepted method in those days for deciding which
sutra one would study. His draw prompted Dharma Master Gunabhadra's
teacher to remark, "You certainly must have conditions with
the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma if you drew the Avatamsaka!
Then Master Gunabhadra studied, recited, learned how to explain
it and at all times thought about its principles. For this reason,
when he arrived in Chung Kuo, the Prime Minister asked him to
lecture on that Sutra.
Unfortunately, although the Master knew the common expressions
such as "good morning, good afternoon, good evening"
and the like, he could not speak enough Chung Wen to lecture the
Sutra. Moreover, at that time, there wasn't anybody who could
translate for him. Under such circumstances he began bowing to
the Buddhas in repentance, asking them to open his wisdom and
enable him to speak Chung Wen. His resolve was firm, and he bowed
this repentance for more than a year. One day, in a dream-like
samadhi, he saw a man, dressed in white, who was holding a knife
in one hand and a man's head in the other. The head of the man
"What are you worried about?" asked the man in white.
Master Gunabhadra replied, I come from India. Although someone
has asked me to explain the Avatamsaka Sutra, I can't do
it because I don't speak Chung Wen. That's why I am requesting
the Buddhas to help me."
"No problem, said the man in white. "I'll give you a
new head and you'll be able to speak Chung wen. O.K.? If you want,
I'll cut off your head and give you this one."
Master Gunabhadra said, "Well, if you think it's O.K., then do it..." So the man in white took the knife and sliced off Master Gunabhadra's head and put on the one he was holding in his hand, in its place.
"Doesn't it hurt?"
"No," replied Dharma Master Gunabhadra, "it doesn't
hurt." Suddenly he woke up. From then on, he didn't know
how or why, but he could speak fluent Chung Wen and was able to
explain the Avatamsaka Sutra.
After three years of lectures, the Prime Minister kept having
a recurring bad dream which he asked Master Gunabhadra to explain
to him. The Master said, "I fear that within the year there
will be something inauspicious and demonic which will arise in
the Liu-Sung dynasty. Someone wants a revolution." Sure enough,
within the year there was revolution. Then the Prime Minister
decided that he wanted to be Emperor and laid plans to start his
own revolution. Although Dharma Master Gunabhadra was worried,
he didn't say anything. Finally the Prime Minister asked him,
"Gunabhadra, you are a person who cultivates the Way, why
do you have such a worried expression these days? Dhyana Master
Gunabhadra began to cry bitterly and urged the Prime Minister
not to revolt, warning him that the revolution would be unsuccessful.
However, the Prime Minister didn't listen. Not only did he want
to revolt, but he intended to use the Master in his plan. He knew
with Dharma Master Gunabhadra appearing to be on his side, many
people, because they deeply believed in the Master, would support
So the Prime Minister took Dharma Master Gunabhadra on his march from Ching Chou to Nanking, the capital where the Emperor lived. On their way they passed through the Liang Mountains. There, the armies clashed. the Prime Minister and his troops were defeated in the battle, which ended in the middle of the Yangtze River. The Master thought he would certainly be killed, so he took his staff and jumped into the river. although he was far from shore, the water only came up to his knees; yet when he used his bamboo. He was a long way from shore and though, "I'll certainly die now. Even though the water is only up to my knees, I'm too far from shore. There is no way to wade across this river." Just then, a little child about seven or eight years old came up to him from behind and, tugging at his clothes, pilled the Master forward. "How can a little child like you take me across?" the Master asked. As soon as he had said those words, they reached land, even though he felt he had hardly moved. When he got on the shore he removed his clothing and turned to give it to the small child by way of thanks, but the child was nowhere to be found. Dharma Master Gunabhadra didn't know where he had gone. Then, realizing that because of his singleminded recitation of the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva while in the river, Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva had sent the Youth Good Wealth (Sudhana) to take him across and help him through that danger. But Dharma Master Gunabhadra, on reaching the shore, was captured by some of the Emperor's troops. The Emperor had sent out his troops with these orders: "No matter who captures Dharma Master Gunabhadra, don't harm him.
Bring him back to the capital." They escorted him to the Emperor who, in an audience with him, said, "I have looked up to you for a long time. I have long hoped for the opportunity to meet you, but conditions have only ripened today."
Dharma Master Gunabhadra replied, "It's my karma that causes
me to meet with this situation. I am very grateful that the Emperor
spares my life."
The Emperor then sent him to the Jeta Grove Monastery and made
abundant offerings to him. He often asked him to come to the Imperial
Palace to receive vegetarian banquets. The officials all tool
refuge, and bowed to Dhyana Master Gunabhadra as their teacher.
Once when the Emperor invited him to received offerings at the
palace, the Master did not have time to shave his beard or hair,
both of which were snow white. As he was on his way to the palace,
the Emperor said to his officials, "Gunabhadra has incomparable
wisdom and eloquence and is noted for his humaneness and righteousness.
No matter what you ask him, he gives clear and wonderful answers.
I'll question him today and we'll see what he says." When
he arrived at the Palace, the Emperor and officials welcomed the
Master. the Emperor said, "Master Gunabhadra, you have come
from afar, but now, there is only one matter remaining."
The Emperor had in mind the matter of death, but he didn't say
a word. Thus the Master replied, "This old Sangha member
has come from afar to draw near the Emperor and has been here
some thirty years now. There isn't anything else; there is only
death remaining." It made the Emperor very happy and
he asked Dharma Master Gunabhadra to sit next to him. The reply
had amazed all the officials, and they became particularly attentive
to Dharma Master Gunabhadra.
Afterwards, the Master dwelt at the Phoenix Pavilion. To the west
of it he built a monastery which, on its completion. housed a
lot of bhikshus. However, during the night there was a continual
knocking on the Bhikshus' doors. But if a Bhikshu went to see
who was at the door, nobody could be seen. People began to think
that demonic ghosts were bothering the place, keeping the Bodhimanda
in an uproar.
Dharma Master Gunabhadra heard gossip about this, and one evening
lit some incense. Then he made the following statement: "All
of you have lived here a long time and we have many conditions
together. Now I have built this monastery and if you can live
here, you can be the dharma protectors and good spirits of this
monastery. If you cannot live here, then do whatever you want,
but don't hang around giving people who cultivate the Way a lot
of trouble." That night, more than ten monks and laymen had
the same dream in which they saw many ghosts pack up their bags
and move out. After that, there was no more knocking on doors.
In the first month of 468 A.D., the Master had a slight illness.
After saying "goodbye" to the Emperor and the officials,
he sat in full lotus and entered Nirvana. He was seventy-five
Originally, the Master came from a family which believed in an
outside way. After he became a monk his parents would often write
and ask him to come home for a visit. He was fully ordained at
the time, having taken the Shramanera Precepts, the Bhikshu Precepts,
and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Finally he wrote them a letter in
which he said, "If you are still holding on to your religion,
it would be useless for me to come and see you. But if you were
to take refuge with the Triple Jewel, then we could see each other
quite often." His parents were so moved by his letter that
they changed from the deviant and returned to the proper. They
renounced the outside way, took refuge with the Triple Jewel and
became Buddhist disciples. Think it over. Originally this Dharma
Master didn't have any wisdom. But then, through cultivation,
he became wise and was able to convert his parents. It should
be clear that Dharma Master Gunabhadra is worth emulating.
People who cultivate the Way should find a good model to follow.
If someone is not a good model you should not follow him; only
follow the good. You should see which of these virtuous High Masters
you admire and respect the most. Then study his life and imitate
him. don't just listen to these stories and then forget them.
You should be particularly attentive to each of them. Confucius
Seeing a worthy one, you should resolve to be like him.
Seeing one who is not worthy, you should examine yourself.
This means that what is good you can accept as the Dharama; what
is not good you should realize as violation of the Precepts. If
we see something good we can attempt to imitate it, but we should
not try to be like those who set a bad example.
Before you understood the Buddhadharma, you could do whatever
you felt like doing. But now that you have come to understand
it, you cannot do whatever you please. You should be extremely
careful at all times. Be as cautious as if you were standing on
the edge of an abyss or walking on thin ice. You should be as
if you are in deep water where, if you don't watch out, you'll
drown. That is how you should cultivate.
These High Masters rose up from lowly positions. They did not
become High monks as soon as they left the home life, but accomplished
the Way gradually, through steady cultivation. You too who cultivate
the Way should progress little by little. Don't follow your own
inclinations and say. "I'm going to be whatever I like,"
That won't work. It is necessary to continually examine yourself,
and continually make the vows, "I shall not be lazy todya.
I shall not follow my own inclinations. I shall not be greedy,
hateful, or stupid." Having made such vows in the morning
then, in the evening, take stock and say to yourself, "This
morning I made vows. Have I acted in accord with them? Or did
I make the vow not to be greedy only to end up greedier than usual;
and the vow not to get angry only to end up even more angry; and
the vow not be stupid, only to fine that no matter what I did,
I got confused?"
At all times you should see if you are able to subdue yourself
and return to propriety. always watch yourself. So it is said,
"Mahasattva, don't pay attention to others. Amitabha Buddha,
every man looks after himself." If you don't wish to sincerely
advance in your cultivation toward the true, then the Bodhisattvas
won't pay any attention to you. But if you wish to tend toward
the true, the Bodhisattvas will help you.
Dharma Master K'ang Fa Lang lived in Canton at Chung Shan during the Chin Dynasty. From his youth, he enjoyed investigating the Buddhadharma and let the home life when he was quit young.
Because he was extremely intelligent, when he investigated, read,
and recited the Great Vehicle Sutras, he could memorize them rapidly.
Soon he knew by heart the Lotus and Avatamsaka Sutras.
Sometimes when he was reciting the Sutras, he would come to a
passage which mentioned the "Deer Park" or the "Bodhi
Tree." Then he would close the Sutra text and sigh, "My
karmic obstacles are very heavy. I have not been born at a time
when there is a Buddha in the world, and so I cannot meet a Buddha.
But I should go and see all the holy places in Shakyamuni Buddha's
life: where the Buddha cultivated in the Himalayas, where he sat
beneath the Bodhi Tree and saw a bright star one evening in his
awakening to the Way, and where, after becoming a Buddha, he went
to take the five Bhikshus across. I should look into all these
On the strength of that vow, he began to look for companions who
had made similar vows and who might be interested in travelling
with him. After a along time he found four, and they set out from
Chung Kuo for India.
Their journey took them through a desert which stretched for about
three hundred miles. After three days without seeing any signs
of life, they suddenly came upon an oasis where the grass grew
taller than a man and the trees were very old. In the midst of
the oasis were two dilapidated temples inhabited by two impoverished
Bhikshus. Not only were they poor, but one of the Bhikshus was
sick. The elder healthy Bhikshu had paid no attention to they
young one who was confined to a single room. His body was covered
with a mass of sores which seeped pus and blood so that the stench
was unbearable. Furthermore, the bloody, pus-filled sores were
infected by clutches of worms. He was a filthy sight. One glance
at him made you want to vomit;
K'ang Fa Lang and his companions discussed the matter "The
Buddhadharma is a oneness," they said. "Buddhists are
of one family. That Bhikshu is really sick and the old Bhikshu
isn't paying any attention to him. We should stay here and take
care of him;" so they remained there, boiled water for the
sick Bhikshu and made tea for him. Then they bathed to his sores,
washed his clothing, and sincerely tended to his needs. They looked
after him for six days, and by the seventh day, he was cured.
The room no longer stank, but was filled with the fragrance of
flowers. The young Bhikshu told the five of them, "The old
Bhikshu in the other room is my teacher. He is a certified Sage.
You should go seek the Buddhadharma from him."
At that point, they realized that the young "sick" Bhikshu
had feigned his illness. He was not really sick but had merely
been testing them. They went in to see the old Bhikshu who said.
"What are you planning to do?"
They replied, "We are headed for India to seek the Buddhadharma. That is how we happened to come here in the first place."
The old Bhikshu said, "In cultivation, it is not necessarily
the case that you have to go to any certain place to seek the
Buddhadharma. If you cultivate intensely and do the work, you
can accomplish the Way. Yet if you don't do the work, then even
if you could go to the end of the heavens, it wouldn't be any
good. You couldn't accomplish your Way-karma. If you follow my
advice, you will dwell here, and we will develop our skills together."
Dharma Master K'ang Fa Lang and his four companions listened.
they believed the words of exhortation spoken by the Sage, and
decided to dwell there. Eventually, however, Dharma Master K'ang
Fa Lang again set out to travel through other countries, and met
with many learned advisors.
When people who cultivate the Way encounter a state, regardless
of what it is, they should be patient. Dhyana Master K'ang Fa
Lang encountered a sick Bhikshu. But if he had not been willing
to tend to the Bhikshu's disease, he never would have known that
he was in the presence of a Sage who had been certified to the
fruit. He would have missed the opportunity. Later, the monk K'ang
Fa Lang was himself certified to the fruit, after which he disappeared--no
one knows where, or even if, indeed, he did in fact complete the
Dhyana Master K'ang Fa Lang had a disciple whose Dharma name was
Ling Shao. His family name was Lu and, like his teacher, he was
unusually intelligent. When he was still a householder, he engaged
in some frivolous pursuits and was also fond of hunting, killing
a lot of animals and enjoying eating their meat. He continued
eating meat until it began to dawn on him, "Oh, animals don't
like to die. Why do I keep killing." After that, he bowed
to Dharma Master K'ang Fa Lang as his teacher, and investigated
the doctrines of the Dhyana school. He could sit continuously
for many days and so developed his skill in Dhyana samadhi. He
cultivated until he forgot his teacher.
One day, he didn't know where his teacher had gone and, being
unable to find him, went into the mountains to sit in a cave.
There he constantly meditated and never lay down. He carved his
teacher's image out of a piece of wood, and every day he recited
the Sutras and bowed to the image of his teacher. He cultivated
like this for over a decade. Then he, too, was certified to the
fruit, and completed the stillness while sitting in the cave,
At that time, the people in the nearby village saw a brilliant
glow on the mountain. Some of the more curious villagers went
to the mountain to investigate, and found the Bhikshu who had
just died. Then everyone knew that the light had come from him,
which caused many of the people in that area to become Buddhists.
Today I will introduce a High Monk who is singularly outstanding. His name was Dharma Master Tao An. He lived during the Chin Dynasty. His home was at Ch'ang Shan and his family name was Wei. This High Monk was unlucky form birth on, for his father and mother both died shortly after his birth.
When he was seven, he began to read, and it was found that he
could recite books form memory upon having read them twice through.
He had total recall, and was particularly quick in his studies.
The villagers all knew that his child was very unusual, gifted
with genius. After he became a novice, at the age of twelve, he
dwelt in Ch'ang An in Wu Chi Monastery. His intelligence then
increased even more.
But no one is 100% perfect. If this aspect of you is good, then
some other aspect of you is not so good. With him, he was so incredibly
ugly that everyone was repulsed just by looking at him. Women,
in particular, didn't like hi, and as soon as they caught sight
of Dharma Master Tao An, they quickly turned their heads away
in disgust. This had its good points, however, because no woman
ever bothered his practice. He, in turn, didn't have to dislike
women, because they wouldn't come near him anyway. It was easy
for him to develop his skill in cultivation. The skin on his face
was black, and after he left the home life, the other monks named
him the "Black Man of the Way." Because he was so ugly,
they ridiculed him by choosing a word for "black" which
also means "lacquer." His facial features were so malformed
that not only women but his own Teacher couldn't stand the sight
of him, so that Tao An could never see his Teacher.
Tao An planted the fields and did other kinds of bitter work.
If he wasn't being a "scarecrow Shramanera" and shooing
the birds away, he was planting the crops. He did only hard work
like this for at least three years and was never lazy. In the
morning, if the time to rise was three o'clock, he would get up
at two-thirty. If the time to sleep was midnight, he would retire
at twelve-thirty. In general, he rose before the others and retired
after them. It is not so easy to be a Shramanera, and if you want
to be one, you must rise before the others and retire after them.
Dharma Master Tao An was exceptionally diligent and never complained,
"I'm the only one who does any work around here. You are
all really lazy. It's not fair! There's no justice in a monk's
life!" He never said such things, and day by day his diligence
increased. He never resorted to laziness. He also held the Precepts
After five years of bowing to his Teacher, he was finally granted
an audience. This ugly Shramanera had not dared to converse with
his Master for all that time. What were the first words he said?
"Master, what Sutra should I read?"
His Master didn't say a word. He took a copy of the Sutra entitled
Discussion Of Intention, containing five thousand lines,
and handed it to his disciple.
The next day Dharma Master Tao An carried the Sutra with him most
respectfully when he went into the fields to work. When people
do bitter work they work for two hours and then they should rest
for half an hour before returning to the task. Dharma Master Tao
An took Discussion Of Intention Sutra to the fields and
during the rest periods he would read. That night he returned
the Sutra to his Teacher and asked for another.
His Master said, "I gave you that Sutra only yesterday. How can you read another one before you finish the first?"
"I can already recite it from memory," the disciple replied.
His Master thought, "Of all the nerve. He claims he can recite
the Sutra from memory after having looked a tit for only one dayhe's
a little liar." But he wasn't interested in attending to
this disciple or talking with him too much, so he just pulled
out another Sutra, the Realization Of Complete Light Sutra,
containing the thousand lines.
The next day, Tao An went back to the fields to work, and once
again he spent the rest periods reading the Sutra he had been
given. That night he returned the volume to his Master.
His Master said, "Have you finished reading it, too?"
"I've finished reading it," he said, "and I can
recite it from memory."
"Really? his Master asked. "I don't believe you. Come
here, I'll test you. Give the book to me." The Master took
the book, and holding it so the disciple couldn't see, peered
at it an said, "Recite." Tao An recited form beginning
to end without a single mistake. His teacher was taken aback.
"Oh! This ugly disciple is so intelligent!" That's unusual.
Now that he knew how smart his ugly disciple was, he told him
to read the Sutras and study the Buddhadharma and refrain from
Having such an excellent opportunity to study the Sutras, Dharma
Master Tao An gained a penetrating understanding of the Great
and Small Vehicle, as well as the Three Treasuries of the Sutras
Treasury, he had both wisdom as vast as the sea and unobstructed
eloquence. When he was twenty, he propagated the Buddhadharma,
teaching and transforming living beings. He also lectured on the
Sutras and spoke the Dharma.
Next he went to draw near to Master Fo T'u Ch'eng, a Sage with
great spiritual penetrations who had been certified to the fruit
of Arhatship. As soon as Master Fo T'u Ch'eng saw Dharma Master
Tao An, he was particularly pleased and said, "Oh, you've
come. I've been waiting for you for a long time." This proves
that Dharma Master Tao An was no ordinary person. He and Master
Fo T'u Ch'eng began to talk and both of them were bubbling with
interest. They talked for a whole day and night without stopping
to eat or even take a drink of water. And with that, the disciples
of Master Fo T'u Ch'eng became jealous.
"He's such an ugly monk. What in the world are you talking
to him about?" the disciples asked their Master.
Master Fo T'u Ch'eng said, "You don't match up to that ugly
monk. He's not an ordinary person."
Even though he explained it to them, the several hundred Bhikshus
and Bhikshunis who had drawn near to him were jealous upon seeing
Master Fo T'u Ch'eng being so good to Dharma Master Tao An. why
is it that people who cultivate do not certify to sagehood and
become enlightened? It is because of jealousy. If they weren't
jealous, they would not be far from enlightenment and certification
to the fruit.
Sometimes when Master Fo T'u Ch'eng lectured on the Sutras and
spoke the Dharma, he would tell Dharma Master Tao An to give a
student's lecture. When he lectured, although Dharma Master Tao
An's eloquence was unobstructed, the disciples of Master Fo T'u
Ch'eng had no respect for him. But there was nothing they could
do about him. They didn't respect him because he was a new-comer
and some of them had been with Master Fo T'u Ch'eng for decades.
So they all debated with him. when they couldn't out-debate him,
they still wanted to face the issue. They continually argued with
him. But every time there was a discussion, they had to give in
to Dharma Master Tao An because none of them could match his eloquence.
So he was the "Black Man of the Way Who Started the Neighborhood."
Although Dharma Master Tao An's appearance was ugly, his mind
and nature were extremely beautiful, and officials and scholars
took refuge with him. he was a learned man with great wisdom,
and people of the time who were renowned in their own right would
draw near to him and request him to lecture the Sutras and speak
the Dharma. This official would request him to lecture, and then
that minister would request him to lecture, until soon there was
never a day when he did not lecture the Sutras and speak the Dharma.
Dharma Master Tao An had many disciples and, at any one time,
there were at least five hundred of them studying under him and
at least five hundred of them studying under him and who would
follow him wherever he went. The Dharma seat from which Dharma
Master Tao An lectured was exceptional. It was beautifully adorned
with precious canopies, streamers, golden Buddha images, embroidered
Buddha images, and painted Buddha images. People who came to his
lectures became reverent and respectful.
Out of the many donated Buddha images, one had been given by a foreigner. as it happened, people were not very respectful to this particular image, probably because the sculpting wasn't too good. While the people were saying that this image didn't amount to much, Tao An said, "It's not bad--it'll pass," However, the flesh cowl wasn't made very well and so Dharma Master Tao An asked his disciples to light incense and fix it up. When they were applying the plaster, the cowl began to emit light. At night, even without a lamp, the cowl could light up the room. Looking inside, the disciples found a sharira of the Buddha and this was the source of the light. People believed that the Venerable An knew about the sharira beforehand.
at that time he received a lot of disciples, many of whom had
Way-virtue. Moreover, after this incident, everybody was very
respectful towards him.
At that time there was a hermit who was in seclusion, perfecting
his will-power and cultivating the way. He wasn't greedy for anything.
Moreover, he investigated the Buddhadharma. One day he went to
see Dharma Master Tao An. the hermit's name was Hsi Ts'o Ch'ih,
which means to "practice drilling teeth." But he was
not a dentist. He was just called that.
"What is your name?" Dharma Master Tao An asked him.
"You don't know who I am?" he replied somewhat astounded.
"Within the four seas it's Hsi Ts'o Ch'ih." He was thinking,
"What a nerve! Everybody knows me. Who do you have to even
"Oh," replied Dharma Master Tao An, "so with you
it's within the four seas, it's Hsi Ts'o Ch'ih. Do you know who
Hsi Ts'o Ch'ih said, "You? You're Dharma Master Tao An.""
To which Dharma Master Tao An replied, "Me? Filling the skies,
it's Shih Tao An." He filled the heavens, while Hsi Ts'o
Ch'ih was within the four seas. And of course, what fills the
skies covers the four seas, so everyone saw it as a fine rebuttal.
this became a famous conversation.
Dharma Master Tao An travelled extensively lecturing the Sutras
and speaking the Dharma, and eventually, Dharma Master Kumarajiva,
who was till in India, heard that in Chung Kuo, there was Dharma
Master Tao An who "filled the skies," named Shih Tao
An. Dharma Master Kumarajiva began to bow nine times to Dharma
Master Tao An every day. While in Kucha and Kashgar and the like,
Dharma Master Kumarajiva continued to make obeisance to him every
day. He hoped to be able to go to Chung Kuo to see him, but before
he could arrive, Dharma Master Tao An had gone off the rebirth.
There is another incident which occurred prior to Dharma Master
Tao An's rebirth, and it involved a a hermit whose name was Wang
Chia, who often came to see hi. When Dharma Master Tao An was
about to complete the stillness, Wang Chia came, and Dharma Master
Tao An said, "We two should go together. We shouldn't stay
here any longer."
Wang Chia replied, "Oh, you want to go? You go ahead. I still
have a small debt to pay. When I have cleared my debt, I'll come
along." after they finished speaking, Dharma Master Tao An
sat in full lotus and completed the stillness.
At that time, Yao Ch'ang, the founder of the Yao Ch'in empire,
held Ch'ang An, but Fu Teng rebelled and the ensuing struggle
for power was long and drawn out. Wang Chia was in the city at
the time, and Yao Ch'ang asked him. "Will we gain victory
"In general, you'll get it," was Wang Chia's reply.
His answer outraged Ch'ang. "If we are to get it, you should
say, "you'll get it," How could there be anything 'in
general' about it?" He had Wang Chia beheaded. Losing his
life in this way was the debt Wang Chia had been referring to.
After Yao Ch'ang died, his son, Yao Hsing, took the throne and
Hsing's son named Liao, "In General," continued the
battle and obtained victory over Fu Teng. It was he whom Wang
Chia had been referring to. Wang Chia was also ugly. He spoke
like a drunk, and yet, although none of his contemporaries believed
him, his words were prophetic. at the time people simply did not
understand what he said. So, Wang Chia also had considerable spiritual
penetrations. A parallel can be drawn between Dharma Master Tao
An and Wang Chia and the later Masters Han Shan and Shih Te.
On the very same day after Yao Ch'ang had Wang Chia executed,
Wang Chia was seen elsewhere walking down a road. Only later did
those who saw him walking find out that he had been beheaded earlier
in the day in the capital. The small debt he had referred to was
his own life, and that's why he wanted to wait and undergo this
retribution. So you can see, the ancients regarded the question
of birth and death "both as light as a swallow's feather
and as heave as Mt. T'ai." Although Wang Chia was a Upasaka,
a layperson, he understood his past lives and wanted to straighten
the books in order to dissolve his old debt.
In Buddhism, everything has its prior causes and latter effects--one
gives rise to delusion, creates karma, and undergoes retribution.
The arisal of delusions is just ignorance. Because you lack understanding
and haven't any wisdom, out of ignorance you create all kinds
of improper, bad karma. Once you create that bad karma, you must
undergo its retribution. So the arisal of delusion, creation of
karma, and undergoing of retribution are interconnected. If you
fear retribution you should not create karma. In order not to
create karma you must constantly use your Prajna wisdom instead
of you ignorance.
Earlier, one of my disciples came to me saying that he had a problem
concerning Buddhism. I thought it was probably not a horrendous
problem. When I asked him what was his question he admitted it
was a small one. By the time he had expressed his little question,
it turned out that there wasn't anything there are all.
He spoke about his desire. He kept trying to find the root of
his desire, but it didn't seem to have a root. He couldn't find
it. He couldn't find the source of his desire and yet it kept
coming up. Where does it come form?
Now I will answer you. It comes form you ignorance. If you can
smash your ignorance, the desire will disappear. All such questions
will cease. If you want to understand this question, first smash
your ignorance. Ignorance is a barrel of black energy. If you
smash the barrel of black energy, you will have broken your ignorance
and will be able to see your Dharma-nature. Once you see your
Dharma-nature you are in an eternal treasury of light. When you
are perpetually in that great light treasury, desire cannot enter
or leave, because it basically does not exist.
Now I will tell you how people who have left the home life came
to sue the name "Shih." Originally in Chung Kuo, people
who had left the home life took their Teacher's name. If the Teacher
was named Chang, the disciples took the name Chang. If the Teacher
was named Wang, the disciples took the name Wang. It was essential
to have a Teacher in order to leave the home life, someone who
could certify that one, in fact, had left home and received the
Then Dharma Master Tao An said, "We should not use our Teacher's
name, we should use the Buddha's name. The Buddha was named Shakya,
and we who have left the home life should take the name "Shih"
(the first Chung Wen character in the transliteration of the name
When he brought this up, no one believed he was serious. "Ridiculous!" they said, "hoe can we take the Buddha's name as our own? Although it is inappropriate to use our lay names, we're not convinced it's right to use our teacher's name." Work spread, several decades passed, and still, the idea was not put into practice.
Later, a Sutra came from India called the Ekottaragama Sutra
and it said, "When the four rivers enter the sea, they are
no longer called rivers. When four varnas (classes) become Shramanas,
they all take the name of the Shakya clan." The four classes
refer to the Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Vaishyas, and Sudras. When
the four castes leave the home life, they all take on the surname
"Shakya." This proved that Dharma Master Tao An's opinion
coincided with the doctrines spoken in the Sutra. After that,
all those who left the home life took the surname "Shih."
So he was, "filling the skies it's Shih Tao An." Prior
to that, he had been called "Chu" Tao An, and some people
say that Chu Tao An is not the same person as Shih Tao An, but
that is not the case. They refer to the same person. within Chung
Kuo's Buddhism, Dharma Master Tao An were converted and Bhikshus
unwilling to cultivate became happy to cultivate.
Dharma Master Tao An had many disciples, one of whom was called
Shih Fa Yu. Before he left the home life, there was nothing Shih
Fa Yu did not do. He drank, ate meat--whatever was bad, he did.
This is a lot like the present day youth in America. But then,
unexpectedly, he met up with Dharma Master Tao An, who was lecturing
on the Sutras at the time. as soon as he heard the Sutras he exclaimed,
"This is more wonderful than anything imaginable." Then
he left the home life, followed Dharma Master Tao An, and cultivated.
he also was extremely intelligent, and soon he was lecturing on
the Sutras and speaking the Dharma. In time, a great number of
people began studying with him.
At that time there were some Bhikshus who did not follow the rules.
Dharma Fa Yu knew of one Bhikshu in particular who kept going
out to drink, breaking the Precept against using intoxicants.
Once when this monk came back drunk and began to berate people,
Dharma Master Fa Yu slapped him. He did not, however, send him
Eventually Dharma Master Tao An got word of this incident and
he sent his disciple a bamboo tube. Inside the tube he placed
a thorn. When Dharma Master Fa Yu opened it, he knew that his
teacher wished to punish him. So he struck the bell and beat the
drum and called everyone together. Then he told the Wei No (the
leader of ceremonies), "I have truly committed an offense.
The Master is so far away." (At the time, Dharma Master Tao
An was several hundred miles away). "I have done something
wrong and caused the High Master concern. I am at fault."
The he knelt before the Buddha and told the Wei No to strike him
three times with the incense board. After being struck three times,
he cried bitterly and said, "I am truly an unfilial disciple.
I have caused the Master, at such a great distance, to have to
be in two places at once." He was deeply repentant.
After his repentance, he continued to cultivates; he was in charge
of a large gathering of Bhikshus. One day, he sat in full lotus
and said goodbye to everyone with the words, "I have done
what I had to do. I am going." Then he sat there and departed.
You have heard of a great many who sat and "left." Which
of you in the future will try it out?
Dharma Master Fa Ho lived during the Chin Dynasty. He left home
a tan early age and was a fellow student of Dharma Master Shih
Tao An. His name, which means "Harmonious Dharma," implies
that he was truly humble, respectful, and harmonious. He respected
everyone. He was very polite and so most people called him "Never
Slighting." He was able to explain all the principles in
the Sutras very clearly.
Later, he took his disciples to Szechuan, and there, all the Buddhists
drew near him. Later, he went from Szechuan to Ch'ang An, and
then to Mt. T'ai and K'un Lun Mountain, and in Chin Hsing valley
he built a monastery. There he lectured on the Sutras and spoke
the Dharma. One time he went with Dharma Master Tao An to look
at a piece of land in the area of T'ai and K'un Lun Mountains.
The area they looked at was extremely fine--the scenery was superb,
and it was quite highly situated. First he praised it, but then
he began to cry. "Ah, if we build a monastery here it will
attract all kinds of tourists, and then how would we be able to
cultivate?" Dharma Master Tao An said, "Dharma Master,
if you don't have any samadhi power, there certainly is reason
to afraid. If you have samadhi power and keep your mind in its
place, if you control your mind and keep it steady, what is there
to be afraid of? If you have wisdom you can break through all
darkness. If you haven't any wisdom, then there is certainly cause
for alarm." Then they built a Bodhimanda there and the two
Masters, Fa Ho and Tao An, translated more than a hundred volumes
of the Sutras. Dharma Master Fa Ho's scholastic ability was excellent
and similar to Dharma Master Tao An's.
Dharma Master Fa Ho was always extremely vigorous. He forgot his
very life for the sake of the Dharma. The day came when he said
to everyone, "There's so much trouble and suffering in this
world. It is impossible to say exactly how much there is."
So, dressed in his finest clothing,he strode majestically into
the hall and before the Buddhas, made obeisance. After he finished
bowing to and circumambulating the Buddhas, he returned to his
room. He took his samghati robe and covered his head with it as
if he were meditating. Several days passed and he did not come
out of his room to take his meals. When people went to investigate,
they realized he had completed the stillness' he had entered Nirvana.
He had quite a sense of humor, actually.
High Monk Shih Seng Lang dwelt at T'ai Mountain in Chin Hsing
Valley as Abbot of Chin Hsing Retreat. His home was near Ch'ang
An. When he was quite young he began, in his search for the Buddhadharma,
looking for a "bright" teacher, a Good and Wise advisor.
He went far and wide and met a lot of Good and Wise Advisors.
Then he left the home life and received the Complete Precepts.
The Complete Precepts include the Ten Shramanera Precepts, the
Two hundred and fifty Bhikshu Precepts, and the Ten Major and
Forty-eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts.
Now, because it is the Dharma-Ending Age, there are those who,
not having received the Shramanera Precepts, say they are Shramaneras.
Some who have only taken the Shramanera Precepts say they are
Bhikshus. Some who have not taken the Bodhisattva Precepts go
ahead and call themselves Bodhisattvas. So, in the Dharma-Ending
Ate, people keep running out ahead in name only, while their practice
lags far behind. They figure it like this: "First I'll make
a name for myself and then I will eventually get down to doing
it." This probably has a bit of scientific logic about it.
In the scientific age, one first talks about something, and afterwards
actually does it. For instance, twenty years ago there was news
of going to the moon and traveling to the planets and stars.
And now as it turns out, people have gone to the moon. But once
they landed on the moon, they found there wasn't anything to eat
there, so they came back. They spent a lot of money to get there
and then all they did was come back. So, although it has happened,
it still has not actually been a success. Likewise, to say one
is a Bhikshu or a Bodhisattva without having actually taken the
appropriate Precepts is more or less similar.
After Dharmas Master Seng Lang left the home life, he concentrated
on reading and reciting the Sutras. He didn't do anything but
just read and recite the Great Vehicle Sutras. After reading and
reciting more than a hundred Sutras, he began to lecture on them.
His explanation of the doctrines was subtle and inconceivable
One time he went with several monks from another temple to receive
offerings. Half-way to the place where the offerings were to be
made he said, "You should go back. Don't go on to receive
"Why shouldn't we go receive the offerings?" they asked.
"Some thieves have come to you temple," he relied. "They're
going to rob your temple clean, because there isn't anyone guarding
it. Hurry up and o back."
Now, those monks probably had some money, gold and silver in their
temple--the kinds of things that are very heavy and hard to renounce.
there were a lot of big heavy rocks there, but they didn't return
for them. They went back save their gold. And when they got there,
sure enough, there were thieves in the temple. When the thieves
saw the monks returning, they ran away and the temple's treasures
were saved. Because of this, a lot of people said that Master
Seng Lang had the power of prophesy.
He was a vegetarian. He never ate meat and ever wore silk or fur,
but only cotton. He was very pure and upright in his holding of
Precepts. His resolve surpassed most people's. Dharmas Master
Seng Lang built a monastery overlooking Chin Hsing Valley on K'un
Lun Mountain. The monastery was built on the very highest peak
of the mountain. The location was so high that it was extremely
dangerous. The slightest slip would have sent one plummeting.
The rocks he used in building his monastery were extraordinarily
strong. There was also an immense waterfall in the area which
people found terrifyingly powerful. he built a lot of buildings
and planted a flower garden on the mountain. A lot of people came
to the place, lived there, and cultivated. Eventually, more than
a hundred people had gathered to live there with him and listen
to his lectures and dharma talks. He lectured on the Sutras and
spoke the Dharma every day. More often than not, Dharma Masters
only lecture once a week on the Sutras, or at the most, two or
three times. They are not like those of us here who give lectures
every night on the Sutras. They say that if you speak every day,
no on will come to listen. But we lecture every day, and so far
there have always been people to listen. I believe if other places
lecture every day, they too would have people come to listen,
but the Dharma Masters are afraid of the extra work. It takes
a lot of effort to lecture on the Sutras. You have to save up
your strength to be able to project your voice when you speak.
Dharma Master Seng Lang lectured on the Sutras and spoke Dharma every day without rest and he never complained of being tired. The Emperor Fu Chien looked upon Dharma Master Seng Lang with great respect and admiration. He revered the
Dharma Master's virtuous conduct so much that he sent messengers
to request him to come to the palace. But the Dharma Master did
not go. On one occasion, Fu Chien "weeded out the Sangha,"
which means he made an investigation to see if members of the
Sangha were holding the Precepts and following the rules in their
cultivation. Those who were not following the rules would be ordered
to return to lay life. The only exception to this investigation
was Dharma Master Shih Seng Lang's monastery on K'un Lun Mountain.
"Don't investigate that monastery," said the Emperor,
"because the Venerable Lang's virtue is lofty and pure, and
those who dwell with him are certainly also good cultivators.
So there is no need to inspect his place. There is no need to
go there and bother him."
During the Yao Ch'in Period, Emperor Yao Hsing was also especially
respectful of Master Seng Lang. At that time, Chung Kuo was divided
in two: North and South. The Emperor of the northern region also
paid reverence to Master Lang and gave him two kingdoms as an
Before Master Lang arrived, Chin Hsing Valley abounded with tigers
and people travelling in the area had to go in groups of ten to
twenty. No one would dare travel alone. After the Dharma Master
came, the tigers all left and the people could come and go as
they pleased. There was nothing to bother them. From this, the
people of the area came to realize that this Dharma Master's virtue
was very lofty. From then on, no one called the valley, "Chin
Hsing"; instead they called it, "Venerable Lang's Valley."
In those days, there weren't any telegrams or letters and other
forms of communication were not convenient, so if you wanted to
visit a monastery you couldn't give them any warning ahead of
time. You would just turn up. But Dharma Master Seng Lang could
tell the cook the expected number of guests in advance. He would
say, for instance, "Tomorrow you should prepare food for
this many more people." And the next day when the food was
all ready, that many people would show up. It was not like this
just one day. He did it all the time. Before the people had arrived,
he would say, "Tell the kitchen to prepare food 'X' number
of more people." Because he was always correct, people knew
the Venerable Master Lang had the power to know the future. And
this caused people to believe even more in him.
He died on the mountain at age eighty-five. They buried him there
on Mount T'ai next to the building he had lived in.
You should think it over, whether or not you want to imitate the
High Masters. Do you want to be a high monk or would you rather
imitate a low monk? Do you want to imitate a monk who is neither
high nor low? do you want to imitate a holy monk or a common monk?
Do you want to imitate a vigorous monk or do you want to imitate
a lazy monk? each of you should consider this. You should not
just listen to these records and let them pass by like wind blowing
by your ears. If you do, then I have spoken in vain. On the other
had, if you can imitate these high monks with their sounds, appearances,
cultivation, samadhi, and Precept power, then you can cast yourselves
in their mold and they will serve as living models. In this country,
I believe there are many high monks, Sagely monks, many vigorous
monks, and many monks with inconceivable spiritual penetrations.
Because if there are not these, then I fear there will not be
even any common monks. In the beginning of the Proper Dharma in
America, you should be leaders for people. Don't consider yourselves
useless. Don't think that slacking off a little won't matter.
that's not the way it is.
As for laymen, they should be like Vimalakirti and Anathapindada.
When I lectured the Vajra Sutra, I told how Anathapindada
used his own gold to cover the earth and build a monastery. Be
like him. Be like Vimalakirti, who was a layman with spiritual
penetrations greater than those of the great Arhats. He was able
to out-talk the brilliant Shariputra and others like him. You
should use your true heart to protect the Triple Jewel. In this
country there must be both laymen and Dharma Masters of such lofty