Fa Hian, Sungyun and Huen Tsiang

Related material:

Buddha: The Enlightened One

Alexander, the Great and Kalanus, the Yogi

Ashoka, the Great and a Yogi in his Torture-cell

Kunal, the son of Ashoka, Blinded and Cured !

   Fa Hian (the famous Chinese traveler) commenced his journey in 399 AD from Chang Gan in China to India in search of authoritative texts of Buddha’s preaching. He reached in seventeen days to a province then known as Shenshen. This place is located 38° N 92° E that is somewhere south of Lop Nur where Tibet meets China in Kunlun Mountain and near Altun Shan and Quaidam Pendi.

  Fa Hian describes it thus:  “It is mountainous province. The land is barren and stony. Common people wear coarse cloths, like in our country. The only difference is that some wear Pasmina and others wear blankets. The king’s religion is that of ours (Buddhism). All the Shramanas belong to Hinayana (Buddhism). All people of this country, whether they be householders or recluse, follow Indian precepts, the difference being that some follow the general and others a particular form (of these precepts) that we found whichever country we went to the west from here. The only difference was that each country had its own separate and strange language. But all world-renouncing recluses were found studying Indian books and Indian language. We remained here for one month.”

  Fa Hian traveled from Shenshen towards northwest direction and reached Ooae in fifteen days. This place is located 43° N 80° E in Tarim basin of Takla Makan Desert at the confluence of Aksun He and Tarim He rivers in China. More than four thousand Shramanas were living there. All of them were Hinayana Buddhists.

  He says: “Its (Hinayana) rules of conduct are difficult. They are determined to follow them. Shramanas of China have no capacity to observe them.”

  Fa Hian moved from Ooae towards southwest and reached in one month five days at Khotan. He found this place rich and pleasant. The people were religious and intelligent, and they enjoyed religious music in great congregations. There were tens of thousands Shramanas living there. The houses of citizens of this district were made separate like stars and every house had its own small Stupa. Even the smallest Stupas were more than twenty hands high. All around there were cells for Shramanas and the guest Shramanas were lodged in these cells and their needs were looked after.

    Fa Hian was comfortably lodged by the ruler of the district in a Sanghrama known as Gomati Sangharama. It was a Mahayana Vihara and there were more than three thousand Sramanas staying in this Vihara. Fa Hian states thus:  “The name of that sanghrama was Gomati. It was a Mahayana vihara. There lived three thousand Bhikshus in this vihara. All were followers of Mahayana.

  “At the ringing of the bell all were to go to mess to take food. They maintained an extremely grave mental composure. They used to sit in lines at their appropriate places. All were quiet – even the sounds of utensils were not audible. These Bhikshus observed silence in the mess. If need be, they mere gestured with hands.”

  After seeing the Rathayatra at Khootan Fa Hian marched towards the province of Jihoon and after traveling for twenty-five days reached there.

  This place is located 40° N 73° E near about the area of Farghana in Fergan Valley, Surkhob, Andijan, Salyukta, Khujand and Samarkand at the border of modern Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Here there were more than one thousand Shramanas belonging to Mahayana sect of Buddhism. The ruler of this province was greatly religious person.

  After spending fifteen days at Jihoon (Jahoon), Fa Hian traveled for four days towards south and by crossing Sungling Mountain (Karakoram or Hindukush Mountain) he reached Yuvhe district. After spending rainy season there, traveled for twenty-five days in mountains and reached Keecha district. This place is located 37° N 77° E somewhere near modern Ladakh or Skardon. There were more than one thousand Bhikshus of Hinayana living in this place. Fa Hian says:  “The conduct of Shramanas is wonderful, so much in accordance with negative-injunctions that it is beyond description.”

  In Tole, modern Darad, Fa Hian found several Shramanas of Hinayana Buddhism and a wooden image of Buddha, and there was a great competition among the rulers of all districts for worshipping this image.

   Alexander Cunningham in his celebrated book ‘Ancient Geography of India’ says about Udyana and Gandhara thus: “This place was called U-Chang by Fa-Hian and Sungyun, which is a close transcript of Ujjana, the Pali form of Udyana. It would have embraced the four modern districts of Panjkora, Bijawar, Swat and Bunir. Fa-Hian mentions Su-ho-to as a small district to the south of Udyana. This has generally been identified with the name of Swat. The capital of Udyana was called Mung-kie-ii, or Mangala, which is probably the Mangora of Wilford’s surveyor… “

  Fa-Hian says about Udyana thus: “Here Buddhist religion is in command. The residence of Shramanas is called Sanghrama. In all there are five hundred sanghramas here. All belong to followers of Hinayana. If guest Bhikshu comes here, he is provided meals for three days. At the end of third day he is told to seek his refuse elsewhere… There is a big Stupa in Gandhar. It is covered with gold-silver foil. All residents of this province are Hinayana followers.”

  In Purushpur (modern Peshawar now in Pakistan) Fa-Hian found the Begging-Bowl of Buddha being worshipped by the king and people there. He says:  “On being offered flowers by the poor it becomes filled, but if a greatly rich person desires to fill it then it is not filled with even ten thousand, nay, and hundred thousand, basket-full of flowers.”

  In Nagarhar, Hidda near Jalalabad (Mghanistan) there was a bone-relic of Buddha in a vihara in the city, we are informed by Fa Hian. Fa Hian says:  “In the morning every day, the king worships (the relic). He attends to the state’s functions after performing the worship. Here the Sethas also attend their household works after performing the worship. It is done like this every day. There never happens any break in this routine.” In the capital of Nagarhar there is a sangharama at a distance of hundred steps from a mountain cave towards south of the city. There are about seven hundred shramanas living there.

  After crossing Sindhu River, Fa-Hian reached Punjab and found that there people followed either Hinayana or Mahayana form of Buddhism. From there he marched towards Mathura. On the way he saw that there were Viharas continuously in which lakhs of sramanas lived. From the desert to the western India, in all the provinces the kings or rulers were followers of Buddhism.

 In the Madhyantika country, he found that “the king neither awards capital nor corporeal punishment to the guilty, but the criminal is inflicted a penalty of fine, either of the highest or medium courage category, according to the capacity of the criminal”… In the whole country, citizens do not commit violence against animals, do not drink wine and do not consume onion or garlic, except the Chandalas.

  “Dasyu (robber?)  is called Chandala. … In the province, nobody rears pig and hen, sells live animals, and there are no shops of wine and drinking-places… Only Chandalas indulge in fishing, hunting and selling of meat.

  “The business of sramanas is to earn merit by doing good deeds, recitation of the (Buddhist) Sutras and meditate. When the guest Bhikshus arrives, the resident Bhikshus (of the viharas) move forward to receive them. They carry their (guests’) begging-bowls and cloths (on arrival) they provide water for their feet-wash and oil for their hair. After having rested, they are enquired of the days since they had taken Pravajya, then they are provided accommodation according to their status and accordingly behave with them.”

     Fa Hian further says:   “Shramanas of Jetvana Sangharama (in Shrawasti area), after having meal, ordinarily sit in this forest (Chakshukarani forest) for meditation.”

  He informs us of the desolate condition of Kapilvastu city thus: “(T)here is neither the king nor the citizens. Only deserted ruins are there. Some Shramanas live here and there are ten houses of residents.”

  Sungyun, another Chinese traveler, came to India in 517 AD. He says:  “These people do not consider animal-killing a good thing. Those who eat meat, eat of those animals only that die of their own death. These people resemble with the people of Khotan in their conduct and language. But the script of these people is Brahmi.”

  Sungyun tells us that near a cave in the province of Udyana, there is vihara, “Where two hundred shramanas live… To the north of the fall, there is a vihara… Near the top of this mountain (in Udyana) there is a ‘Pokeen’ vihara built by Yakshas. There are about eighty shramanas living here. They (shramanas) say that Arhats and Yakshas come to this vihara to worship, serve and purification and they collect (fire) wood. Ordinary Shramanas are not allowed to stay here. Toying, a shramana of the ‘Mahavei’ race had come here and after worshipping went back (to his country, that is, China). He did not have the courage to stay here.”

  The narrative of the travels of Huen Tsiang was written down by one Chang Yueh on the dictation of Huen Tsiang around 629 AD. In his introduction to Huen Tsian’s narration Chang says thus:  “There are four lands (countries, or islands, dwipas) in the salt sea, which are inhabited. On the east (Purva) (there is) Videha; on the south, Jambudwipa; on the west, Godhanya; on the north, Kurudwipa. A golden~wheel monarch rules righteously the four; a silver-wheel monarch rules the three (excepting Kuru); a copper-wheel monarch rules over two (excepting Kuru and Godhanya); and an iron~wheel monarch rules over Jambudwipa only… In the middle of Jambudwipa there is a lake called Anavatapa to the south of the Fragrant Mountains and to the north of the great Snowy Mountains… From the eastern side of the lake, through the mouth of a silver ox, flows the Ganges (The King~kia or Ganges river was anciently written Hang~ho or river Hang. It was also written Hang~kia – Chinese editor); encircling the lake once, it enters the southeastern sea.”

  In a note on ‘Anavatapa’ Samuel Beal, the translator of Huen Tsiang’ says:   “Anavatapa means “without the annoyance of heat”, that is, cool; ‘an + ava + tapa’. “

  Chang continues his introduction   “From the south of the lake, through a golden elephant’s mouth, proceeds the Sindhu (Sin-to, the Sindu or Indus; formerly written Sin-tau – Chinese Editor) river; encircling the lake once, it flows into the south western sea. From the western side of the lake, from the mouth of a horse of lapis~lazuli, proceeds the river Vakshu (Po~tsu) and encircling the lake once it falls into the northwestern sea.

  “From the north side of the lake, through the mouth of a crystal lion, precedes the river Sita and encircling the lake once, it falls into the northeastern sea…”

  On a note on Vakshu, Samuel Beal adds thus: “The Vakshu- Po-tsu, formerly written Poh-ch’a – is the Oxus or Amu-Daria (ldrisi calls it the Waksh-ab), which flows from the Sarik-kullake in the Pamir plateau (lat. 37° 27′ N, long. 73° 40′ E,) and is at an elevation of about 13,950 feet. It is supplied by the melting snows of the mountains, which rise some 3500 feet higher along the southern shores. It is well called, therefore, “the cool lake” (Anavatapa). The Oxus issues from the western end of the lake, and after “a course of upwards of a thousand miles, in a direction generally south-west, it falls into the southern end of the lake Aral” Wood). This lake, Lieut. Wood intended to call Lake Victoria. Its name, Sarik-kui, – “the yellow valley” – is not recognized by later travelers, some of whom call it Kul-I-Pamir-kulan, “the lake of the Great Pamir”- Wood’s Oxus, pp. 232, 233, note 1.”

  On another note on ‘Sita’ Samuel Beal expresses his opinion thus: “The Sita -Si-to, formerly written Si-t’o- is probably the Yarkand river (the Zarafshan). This river rises (according to Prejevalsky) in the Karakorum mountains, at an elevation of 18,850 feet (Iat. 35° 30′ N, long. 77° 43′ E.). It takes a north and then a westerly course, and passing to the eastward of Lake Sarik-kul, bends to the north and finally to the east. It unites with the Kashgar and Khotan rivers, and they conjointly form the Tarim, which flows on to Lake Lob and is there lost. The Sita is sometimes referred to the Jaxartes or the Sarik-kul River. In this case it is identified with the Silis of the ancients. It is probably the Side named by Ktesias.

  “This agrees with the Chinese account that the Yellow River flows from the “weak water”, which is a river “fabled to issue from the foot of the Kwen-Iun Mountain”.”It owes its name to the peculiar nature of the water, which is incapable of supporting even the weight of a feather”. This last remark agrees curiously with the comment on Jataka xxi, referred to by Minayef in his Pali Grammar (p.ix), which derives the name of Sida from sad + avas, adding that “the water is so subtle that the feather of a peacock cannot be supported by it, but is swallowed up” (Pali, siditi, from root sad, “to sink.”). A river Sila is mentioned in the Mahabharata, north of Meru. Megasthenes mentions both a fountain and river Silas that had the same peculiarity.”

  Chang continues in his introduction (to the Huen Tsiang’s narration):  “Hearing the reports of the native races and diligently searching out things old and new, and examining those things, which came before his eyes and ears, it is thus that he (that is, Hiuen Tsiang) obtained information. Now Buddha having been born in the western region and his religion having spread eastwards, the sounds of the words translated have been often mistaken, the phrases of the different regions have been misunderstood on account of the wrong sounds, and thus the sense has been lost. The words being wrong, the idea has been perverted. Therefore, as it is said, ‘it is indispensable to have the right names, in order that there are no mistakes’.”

  Hiuen Tsiang while marching from his native place (in China) to India, passed through many regions and places (most of which now are sovereign states forming part of post Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS) and observed their manners, languages, customs and history. The narrative of his observations leaves no doubt that the people living in these regions have their roots in ancient India. Let us refer to some of these places and people.

  Samuel Beal expresses his opinion on O-ki-ni thus: O-ki-ni (anciently called Wu-ki) the kingdom of O-ki-ni (Akni or Agni). This may otherwise be written Wu-ki. Julien writes Yen-ki… This country corresponds to Karshar, or Kara-shahr, near the lake Tengh (Bagarach). Huen Tsiang writes about this place thus:  “The air is soft and agreeable; the manners of the people are sincere and upright. The written character is with few differences, like that of India

  “There are some ten or more Sanghramas with two thousand priests or so belonging to the Little Vehicle of the school of the Sarvastivadas.”

  On the location of Kucha, Samuel Beal expresses his opinion in a note thus:  “The route described to Kuche would agree tolerably well with that laid down on the Prejevalsky’s map passing two rivers (for Balgaktai-gol and the Kaidu-gol, after uniting, appear to bifurcate before reaching Karashahr), crossing a spur of the Kurugh-tah range, and then keeping westward for about 150 miles across a level valley-plain to Kucha.”

  Huen Tsiang describes this place thus:  “The air is soft, and the manners of the people honest. The style of writing (literature) is Indian, with some differences. They excel other countries in their skill in playing on the lute and pipe. There are about one hundred Sangharamas in this country, with five thousand and more disciples. They especially hold to the customs of the “gradual doctrine,” and partake only of the three pure kinds of food. They live purely, and provoke others (by their conduct) to a religious life… “

  Beal writes about Strishna thus: “Su-tu-li-sse-na (Sutrishna) is some 1400 or 1500 li in circuit. On the east it borders on the Yeh River (Jaxartes).”

  His note on this place reads thus:  “Sutrishna (Satrughna, also called Ustrush, Ustrushta, Setrushta, and Isterushan) or Usrushna is a country “well known to Arabian geographers, situated between Ferghanah and Samarkand.” – V. St. Martin, p. 278. It is described in the text as bordering on the Jaxartes on the east; we may suppose, therefore, that this river was its eastern boundary. It is said to be 1500 ii in circuit; we may place the western boundary, therefore, some 500 li to the west of Khojend. This limit would meet the requirements of the text, where the country is described as reaching 1000 Ii west from Tashkand. Of course west means to the west of Southwest. The town of Sutrishna is now represented by Ura-Tape, Uratippa or Ura-tiube, which is some 40 miles south-west from Khojend and 100 miles south-south-west from Tashkand (tat. 39.57 N., long. 69.57 E.). The Sir-Daria, Sihun or Jaxartes, however, is to the north of Uratiube.)”

  Huen Tsiang continues the narration of his journey:  “Passing through the Iron Gates we arrive at the country of the Tu-ha-la. This country, from north to south, is about 1000 li or so in extent, from east to west 3000 li or so. On the east it is bounded by the T’sung-ling mountains, on the west it touches on Po-li-sse (Persia), on the south are the great Snowy Mountains, on the north the Iron Gates.”

  Samuel Beal’s note on Tushara reads thus   “The country described as Tu-ha-la is the Tukhara of Sanskrit, and the Tokharistan of the Arabian geographers. It corresponds with the Ta-hia of Sze-ma-t’sien. Ta-hia is generally identified with Baktria, but the limits are not defined, except that it is separated from Sogdhiana by the Oxus.

  “No doubt this land of Tukhara was that inhabited by the Tokhari, who were neighbors to the Dahae, both of them mountain tribes. Mr. Kngsmill has given the substance of Sze-ma-t’sien’s account of Ta-hia and the surrounding tribes (Jour. R. As. Soc. N.S., vol. xiv, pp. 77 ff).

  “It is to be observed, however, that Hiuen Tsiang, when speaking of the Turks, that is, the Yueh-chi and Ye-tha, who had overrun this part of Central Asia, uses different symbols from those employed here. In the first case the people are called Tuh-kiueh; in this case the country is called Tu-ha-la. The land of the Tokhari (Tokharistan) need not be connected with the people called Tuh-kiueh – the Hiung-nu or Karanirus – although it was afterwards overrun by them. … Tushara (snowy, frigid) and Tushkara are used as equivalents of Tukhara… Tu-ha-la might phonetically represent Tur, and so indicate the origin of Turan, the region to which Wilford assigned the Tukharas.”

King Siladitya or Harshvardhana:

  Huen Tsiang’s narration provides a flood of information on King Siladitya, popularly known as Harshavardhana. He says:  “Rajyavardhana came to the throne (of Kanyakubja) as the elder brother, and ruled with virtue. At this time the king of Karnasuvarna (the town of Ranjamati, 12 miles north of Murshidabad, in Bengal, stands on the site of an old city called Kurusona-ka-garh, supposed to be a Bengali corruption of the name in text) – a kingdom of Eastern India – whose name was Sasangka frequently addressed his ministers in these words: “If a frontier country has a virtuous ruler, this is the unhappiness of the (mother) kingdom.” On this they asked the king to a conference and murdered him”.

  “The people having lost their ruler, the country became desolate. Thereupon the great minister, Bandi, called a conference of all ministers and proposing the name of prince Harshvardhana for kingship asked them to make request to the prince to take the responsibility as the king. Thereupon, they all requested the prince to assume the kingship.”

  Huen Tsiang continues further:  “The prince replied the government of a country is a responsible office and ever attached with difficulties. The duties of a prince require previous consideration. As for myself, I am indeed of small eminence; but as my father and brother is no more, to reject the heritage of the crown that can bring no benefit to the people. I must attend to the opinion of the world and forget my own insufficiency.

  “Now, therefore, on the banks of the Ganges there is a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, which has evidenced many spiritual wonders. I will go to it and ask advice (request a response).” Forthwith, coming to the spot where the figure of the Bodhisattva was, he remained before it fasting and praying. The Bodhisattva recognizing his sincere intention (heart) appeared in a bodily form and inquired, “What do you seek that you are so earnest in your supplications?” The prince answered, “I have suffered under a load of affliction. My dear father, indeed, is dead, who was full of kindness; and my brother, humane and gentle as he was, has been odiously murdered. In the presence of these calamities I humble myself as one of little virtue; nevertheless, the people would exalt me to the royal dignity, to fill the high place of my illustrious father. Yet I am, indeed, but ignorant and foolish. In my trouble I ask the holy direction (of the Bodhisattva)”.

  “The Bodhisattva replied, “In your former existence you lived in this forest as a hermit (a forest mendicant), and by your earnest diligence and unremitting attention you inherited a power of religious merit which resulted in your birth as a king. The king of the country, Karnasuvarna, has overturned the law of Buddha. Now when you succeed to the royal estate, you should in the same proportion exercise towards it the utmost love and piety. If you give your mind to compassionate the condition of the distressed and to cherish them, then before long you shall rule over the Five Indies. If you would establish your authority, attend to my instruction, and by my secret power you shall receive additional enlightenment, so that not one of your neighbors shall be able to triumph over you. Ascend not the lion-throne, and call not yourself Maharaja”.

  “Having received these instructions, he departed and assumed the royal office. He called himself the King’s Son (Kumara); his title was Solidity.

  “And now he commanded his ministers, saying, “The enemies of my brother are unpunished as yet, the neighboring countries not brought to submission; while this is so my right hand shall never lift food to my mouth. Therefore do you, people and officers, unite with one heart and put out your strength.” Accordingly they assembled all the soldiers of the kingdom, summoned the masters of arms (champions, or, teachers of the arts of fighting). They had a body of 5000 elephants, a body of 2000 cavalry, and 50,000-foot soldiers.

  “He went from east to west subduing all who were not obedient; the elephants were not un-harnessed nor the soldiers unbelted (un-helmeted). After six years he had subdued the Five Indies. Having thus enlarged his territory, he increased his forces; he had 60,000 war elephants and 100,000 cavalry. After thirty years his arms reposed, and he governed everywhere in peace.

  “He then practiced to the utmost the rules of temperance (temperate restrictions), and sought to plant the tree of religious merit to such an extent that he forgot to sleep or to rest. He forbade the slaughter of any living thing or flesh as food throughout the Five Indies on pain of death without pardon.

  He built on the banks of the river Ganges several thousand stupas each about 100 feet high; in all the highways of the towns and villages throughout India he erected hospices (punyashalas), provided with food and drink, and stationed there physicians with medicines for travelers and poor persons round about, to be given without any stint.

  “Once in five years he held the great assembly called Moksha. He emptied his treasuries to give all away in charity, only reserving the soldiers’ arms, which were unfit to give as alms.

  “Every year he assembled the Sramanas from all countries, and on the third and seventh days he bestowed on them in charity the four kinds of alms (viz., food, drink, medicines, and clothing). He decorated the throne of the law (the pulpit) and extensively ornamented (arranged) the oratories (the expression may refer to mats or seats for discussion or for religious services). He ordered the priests to carry on discussions, and he judged of their several arguments, whether they were weak or powerful. He rewarded the good and punished the wicked, degraded the evil and promoted the men of telnet. If anyone (of the priests) walked according to the moral precepts, and was distinguished in addition for purity in religion (reason), he himself conducted such a one to “the lion-throne” (singhasan) and received from him the precepts of the law. If anyone, though distinguished for purity of life, had no distinction for learning, he was revered, but not highly honored.

  ‘’If anyone disregarded the rules of morality and was notorious for his disregard of propriety, him he banished from the country, and would neither see him nor listen to him. If any of the neighboring princes or their chief ministers lived religiously, with earnest purpose, and aspired to a virtuous character without regarding labor, he led him by the hand to occupy the same seat with himself, and called him “illustrious friend”; but he disdained to look upon those of a different character.

  “When I first received the invitation of Kumara-raja, I said I would go from Magadha to Kamarupa (Kumara-raja who invited Huen Tsiang was the king of Kamarupa, the western portion of Assam. Siladitya was also called Kumara). At this time Siladityaraja was visiting different parts of his empire, and found himself at Kajughira (or Kajinghara, a small kingdom on the banks of the Ganges, about 92 miles from Champa), when he gave the following order to Kumararaja: ‘I desire you to come at once to the assembly with the strange Sramana (that is, Huen Tsiang) you are entertaining at the Nalanda convent’. On this, coming with Kumara-raja, we attended the assembly…

  ‘’Siladitya-raja being about to return to the city of Kanyakubja, convoked a religious assembly. Followed by several hundreds of thousand people, he took his place on the southern bank of the river Ganges, whilst Kumara-raja attended by several tens of thousands, took his place on the northern bank, and thus, divided by the stream of the river; they advanced on land and water. The two kings led the way with their gorgeous staff of soldiers (of the four kinds); some also were in boats; some were on elephants, sounding drums and blowing horns, playing on flutes and harps. After ninety days they arrived at the city of Kanyakubja, (and rested) on the western shore of the Ganges River, in the middle of a flowery copse.

  “Then the kings of the twenty countries who had received instruction from Siladitya- raja assembled with the Sramanas and Brahmans, the most distinguished of their country, with magistrates and soldiers. The king in advance had constructed on the west side of the river a great sangharama, and on the east of this a precious tower m about 100 feet in height; in the middle he had placed a golden statue of Buddha, of the same height as the king himself. It was now the second month of spring-time; from the first day of the month he had presented exquisite food to the Sramanas and Brahmans till the 21st day.

  ‘’The king, Siladitya, as he went, scattered on every side pearls and various precious substances, with gold and silver flowers, in honor of the three precious objects of worship. Having first washed the image (of Buddha) in scented water at the altar, the king then himself bore it on his shoulder to the western tower, where he offered to it tens, hundreds, and thousands of silken garments decorated with precious gems. At this time there were but about twenty Sramanas following in the procession, the kings of the various countries forming the escort. After the feast, they assembled the different men of learning, who discussed in elegant language on the most abstruse subjects. At evening-tide the king retired in state to his palace of travel.

  “Thus every day he carried the golden statue as before, till at length on the day of separation a great fire suddenly broke out in the tower and the pavilion over the gate of the sangharama was also in flames. Then the king exclaimed, “I have exhausted the wealth of my country in charity, and following the example of former kings, I have built this sangharama, and I have aimed to distinguish myself by superior deeds, but my poor attempts (feeble qualities) have found no return! In the presence of such calamities as these, what need I of further life!

  “Then with incense-burning he prayed, and with this vow (oath), ‘Thanks to my previous merit, I have come to reign over all India; let the force of my religious conduct destroy this fire; or if not, let me die!’ Then he rushed headlong towards the threshold of the gate, when suddenly, as if by a single blow, the fire was extinguished and the smoke disappeared. The kings beholding the strange event were filled with redoubled reverence; but he (the king), with unaltered face and unchanged accents, addressed the princes thus:

  ”’The fire has consumed this crowning work of my religious life. What think you of it!’ The princes, prostrate at his feet, with tears, replied, ‘The work which marked the crowning act of your perfected merit, and which was hoped would be handed down to future ages, has in a moment (a dawn) been reduced to ashes. How can we bear to think of it! But how much more can we brook when the heretics are rejoicing thereat, and interchanging their congratulations!’

“The king answered, ‘By this, at least, we see the truth of what Buddha said; the heretics and others insist on the permanency of things, but our great teacher’s doctrine is that all things are impermanent. As for me, my work of charity was finished, according to my purpose; and this destructive calamity (change) does but strengthens my knowledge of the truth of Tathagata’s doctrine. This is a great happiness (good fortune), and not a subject for lamentation.’

  “On this, in company with the kings, he went to the east, and mounted the great stupa. Having reached the top, he looked around on the scene, and then descending the steps, suddenly a heretic (or, a strange man), who had knife in hand, rushed on the king. The king, startled at the sudden attack, stepped back a few steps up the stairs, and then bending himself down he seized the man, in order to deliver him to the magistrates. The officers were so bewildered with fright that they did not know how to move for the purpose of assisting him.

  “The kings all demanded that the culprit should be instantly killed, but Siladitya-raja without the least show of fear and with unchanged countenance, commanded him thus: ‘What harm have I done you, that you have attempted such a deed?’

  “The culprit replied, ‘Great king! Your virtues shine without partiality; both at home and abroad they bring happiness. As for me, I am foolish and besotted, unequal to any great undertaking; led astray by a single word of the heretics, and flattered by their importunity, I have turned as a traitor against the king.’

  “The king then asked, ‘And why have the heretics conceived this evil purpose?’  He answered and said, ‘Great king! You have assembled the people of different countries, and exhausted your treasury in offerings to the Sramanas, and cast a metal image of Buddha; but the heretics who have come from a distance have scarcely been spoken to. Their minds, therefore, have been affected with resentment, and they procured me, wretched man that I am, to undertake this unlucky deed.’

  “The king then straightly questioned the heretics and their followers. There were 500 Brahmans, all of singular talent, summoned before the king. Jealous of the Sramanas, whom the king had revered and exceedingly honored, they had caused the precious tower to catch fire by means of burning arrows, and they hoped that in escaping from the fire the crowd would disperse in confusion, and at such a moment they purposed to assassinate the king. Having been foiled in this, they had bribed this man to lay wait for the king in a narrow passage and kill him.

  “Then the ministers and the kings demanded the extermination of the heretics. The king punished the chief of them and pardoned the rest. He banished the 500 Brahmans to the frontiers of India, and then returned to his capital.”

How were Indian people living in 629 AD? What were their beliefs and customs? How had they organized their society? Did Huen Tsiang throw any light on them? Yes, he keenly observed the Indian ways and wrote extensively about them. He says:

“On examination, we find that the name of T’ien chu are various and perplexing as to their authority. It was anciently called Shin – tu, also Hien – tau; but now, according to the right pronunciation, it is called In – tu (इंदु). The people of In – tu call their country by different names according to their district. Each country has diverse customs. Aiming at a general name which is the best sounding, we will call the country In – tu. In Chinese this name signifies the Moon.

“They (Indians) are very particular in their personal cleanliness, and allow no remissness in this particular. All wash themselves before eating; they never use that which has been left over (from a former meal); they  do not pass the dishes. Wooden and stone vesssels, when used, must be destroyed; vessels of gold, silver, copper, or iron after each meal must be rubbed and polished. After eating they cleanse their teeth with a willow stick, and wash their hands and mouth.

“Until these ablutions are finished they do not touch one another. Every time they perform the functions of nature they wash their bodies and use perfumes of sandal-wood or turmeric.

“With respect to the records of events, each province has its own official for preserving them in writing. The record of these events in their full character is called Ni-lo-pi-ch’a (Nilapita, Blue deposit). In these records are mentioned good and evil events, with calamities and fortunate occurrences.

“To educate and encourage the young, they are first taught (led) to study the book of twelve chapters (Siddavastu).

“After arriving at the age of seven years and upwards, the young are instructed in the five Vidyas, Sastras of great importance. The first is called the elucidation of sounds (Sabdavidya). This treatise explains and illustrates the agreement (concordance) of words, and it provides as index for drivatives.

“The second vidya is called Kiau-ming (Silpasthana-vidya); it treats of the arts, mechanics, explains the principles of the Yin and Yang and the calender.

“The third is called the medicinal treatise (Chikitsavidya); it embraces formulae for protection, secret charms (the use of) medicinal stones, acupuncture, and mugwort.

“The fourth vidya is called the Hetuvidya (science of causes); its name is derived from the character òf the work, which relates to the determination of the true  and false, and reduces to their last terms the definition of right and wrong.

“The fifth vidya is called the science of “the interior” (Adhyatmavidya); it relates to the five vehicles, their causes and consequences, and the subtle influences of these.

“The Brahmans study the four Veda Sastras. The first is called Shau (longevity); it relates to the preservation of life and the regulation of the natural condition. The second is called Sse (sacrifice); it relates to the (rules of) sacrifice and prayer. The third is called Ping (peace or regulation); it relates to decorum, casting of lots, military affairs, and army regulations. The fourth is called Shu (secret mysteries); it relates to various branches of science, incantations, medicines.

“The teachers (of tbese works) must themselves have closely studied the deep …….

……. All these they have used for ages. (addition awaited from page 79-83).

“When a man’s renown has reached to a high distinction, then at different times he convokes an assembly for discussion. He judges of the superior or inferior talent of those who take part in it; he distinguishes their good or bad points; he praises the clever and reproves the faulty; if one of the assembly distinguishes himself by refined language, subtle investigation, deep penetration, and severe logic, then he is mounted on an elephant covered with precious ornamemts, and conducted by a nemerous suite to the gates of the convent.

‘If, on the contrary, one of the members breaks down in his argument, or uses poor and inelegant phrases, or if he violates a rule in logic and adapts his words accordingly, they proceed to disfigure his face with red and white, and cover his body with dirt and dust, and then carry him off to some deserted spot or leave him in a ditch. Thus they distinguish between the meritorious and the worthless, between the wise and the foolish.

“With respect to the ordinary people, although they are naturally light-minded, yet they are upright and honourable. In money matters they are without craft, and in administering justice they are considerate. They dread the retribution of another state of existence, and make light of the things of the present world. They are not deceitful or treacherous in their conduct, and are faithful to their oaths and promises. In their rules of government there is remarkable rectitude, whilst in their behaviour there is much gentleness and sweetness. With respect to criminals or rebels, these are few in number, and only occasionally troublesome. When the laws are broken or the power of the ruler violated, then the matter is clearly sifted and the offenders imprisoned. There is no infliction of corporal punishment; they are simply left to live or die, and are not counted among men. When the rules of propriety or justice are violated, or when a man fails in fidality or filial piety, then they cut his nose or his ears off, or his hands and feet, or expel him from the country or drive him out into the desert wilds. For other faults, except these, a small payment of money will redeem the punisment. In the investigation of criminal cases there is no use of rod or staff to obtain proofs (of guilt). In questioning an accused person, if he replies with frankness the punishment is proportioned accordingly; but if the accused obstinately denies his fault, or in spite of of it attempts to excuse himself, then in searching out the truth to the bottom, when it is necessary to pass sentence, there are four kinds of ordeal used – (1) by water, (2) by force, (3) by weighing, (4) by poison.

“Every one who falls sick fasts for seven days. During this interval many recover, but if the sickness persists they take medicine. The character of these medicines are different, and their names also. The doctors differ in their modes of examination and treatment.

“The old and infirm who come near to death, and those entangled in a severe sickness, who fear to linger to the end of their days, and through disgust wish to escape the troubles of life, or those who desire release from the trifling affairs of the world and its concerns (the concerns of life), these, after receiving  a farewell meal at the hands of their relatives or friends, they place, amid the sounds of music, on a boat which they propel into the midst of the Ganges, where such persons drown themselves. They think thus to secure a birth among the Devas. Rarely one of these  may be seen not yet dead on the boarders (of the river).

“As the administration of the government is founded on benign principles, the executive is simple. The families are not entered on registers, and the people are not subject to forced labour (conscription). The private demesnes of the crown are divided into four principal parts; the first is for carrying out the affairs of state and providing sacrificial offerings; the second is for providing subsidies for the ministers and chief officers of the state; the third is for rewarding men of distinguished ability; and the fourth is for charity to religious bodies, whereby the field of merit is cultivated (planted). In this way the taxes on the people are light, and the personal service required of them is moderate. Each one  keeps his own worldly goods in peace, and all till the ground for their subsistence. These who cultivate the royal estates pay a sixth part of the produce as tribute. The merchants who engage in commerce come and go in carrying out their transactions. The river-passages and the road-barriers are open on payment of a small toll. When the public works require it, labour is exacted but paid for. The payment is in strict proportion to the work done.

“With respect to the different kinds of wine and liquors, there are various sorts. The juice of the grape and sugarcane, these are used by the Kshattriyas as drink; the Vaisyas use strong fermented drinks; the Sramanas and Brahmans drink a sort of syrup made from the grape or sugarcane, but not of the nature of the fermented wine.”

This document is systematically sequential. Read NEXT here.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Electing Parliament: The On-line Way (2) | Indian People's Congress

Join discussion:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: