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Yuan-chwang's Record

Description of Nalanda

Going north from this 30 li or so, we come to Nalanda sangharama.

The old accounts of the country say that to the south of this sangharama, in the middle of an Amra ('An-mo-lo) grove, there is a tank. The Naga of this tank is called Nalanda. By the side of it is built the sangharama, which therefore takes the name (of the Naga).
But the truth is that Tathagata in old days practised the life of a Bodhisattva here, and became the king of a great country, and established his capital in this land. Moved by pity for living things, he delighted in continually relieving them. In remembrance of this virtue he was called "charity without intermission;" and the sanghadrama was called in perpetuation of this name.

The site was originally an Amra garden. Five hundred merchants bought it for ten Kotis of gold pieces and gave it to Buddha. Buddha preached the law here during three months, and the merchants and others obtained the fruit of holiness. Not long after the Nirvana of Buddha, a former king of this country named Sakraditya (Shi- kia-lo-'o-t'ie-to) respected and esteemed the (system of the) one Vehicle, and honoured very highly the three treasures. Having selected by augury a lucky spot, he built this sangharama. When he began the work he wounded, in digging, the body of the Naga. At this time there was a distinguished soothsayer belonging to the heretical sect of the Nirgranthas. He having seen the occurrence, left this record:"
This is a very superior site. If you build here a sangharama, it must of necessity become highly renowned. Throughout the five Indies it will be a model. For a period of a thousand years it will nourish still. Students of all degrees will here easily accomplish their studies. But many will spit blood because of this wound given to the Naga."
His son, Buddhagupta-raja (Fo-t'o-kio-to), who succeeded him, continued to labour at the excellent undertaking of his father. To the south of this he built another sangharama.
Tathagatagupta-raja (Ta-tha-kie-to-kio-lo) vigorously practised the former rules (of his ancestors'), and he built east from this another sangharama. Baladitya-raja (P'o-lo-'o-tie-lo) succeeded to the empire. On the north-east side he built a sangharama.

It has no reference to the Naga. The car formed of seven precious sub word Nalanda would thus appear to stances, and drawn by a white ox." be derived from na + alam + da," not But the expression, "one Vehicle," is giving enough,"or" not having a common one in later Buddhist enough to give" books to denote the nature of This king's son, called Vajra (Fa-she-lo), came to the throne in succession, and was possessed of a heart firm in the faith. He again built on the west side of the convent a sangharama.
After this a king of Central India built to the north of this a great sangharama. Moreover, he built round these edifices a high wall with one gate. A long succession of kings continued the work of building, using all the skill of the sculptor, till the whole is truly marvellous to be- hold. The king said, "In the hall of the monarch who first began the sanghadrama. I will place a figure of Buddha, and I will feed forty priests of the congregation every day to show my gratitude to the founder."

The priests, to the number of several thousands, are men of the highest ability and talent. Their distinction is very great at the present time, and there are many hundreds whose fame has rapidly spread through distant regions. Their conduct is pure and unblamable. They follow in sincerity the precepts of the moral law. The rules of this convent are severe, and all the priests are bound to observe them. The countries of India respect them and follow them. The day is not sufficient for asking and answering profound questions. From morning till night they engage in discussion; the old and the young mutually help one another. Those who cannot discuss questions out of the Tripitaka are little esteemed, and are obliged to hide themselves for shame. Learned men from different cities, on this account, who desire to acquire quickly renown in discussion, come here in multitudes to settle their doubts, and then the streams (of their wisdom) spread far and wide. For this reason some persons usurp the name (of Nalanda students), and in going to and fro receive honour in consequence. If men of other quarters desire to enter and take part in the discussions, the keeper of the gate proposes some hard questions; many are unable to answer, and retire. One must have studied deeply both old and new (books) before getting admission. Those students, therefore, who corne here as strangers, have to show their ability by hard discussion; those who fail compared with those who succeed are as seven or eight to ten. The other two or three of moderate talent, when they come to discuss in turn in the assembly, are sure to be humbled, and to forfeit their renown. But with respect to those of conspicuous talent of solid learning, great ability, illustrious virtue, distinguished men, these connect (their high names) with the succession (of celebrities belonging to the college), such as Dharmapala (Hu-fa) and Chandrapala (Hu-yueh), who excited by their bequeathed teaching the thoughtless and worldly; Gunamati (Tih-hwui)" and Sthiramati (Kin-hwui), the streams of whose superior teaching spread abroad even now; Prabhamitra (Kwang-yeu), with his clear discourses; Jinamitra (Shing-yeu), with his exalted eloquence; the pattern and fame (sayings and doings) of Jnanachandra (Chi-yueh)nm reflect his brilliant activity; Sigrabuddha (?) (Ming-min), and Silabhadra (Kiai-hien), and other eminent men whose names are lost. These illustrious personages, known to all, excelled in their attainments (virtue) all their distinguished predecessors, and passed the bounds of the ancients in their learning. Each of these composed some tens of treatises and commentaries which were widely diffused, and which for their perspicuity are passed down to the present time.

Hundreds of sacred relics
The sacred relics on the four sides of the convent are hundreds in number. For brevity's sake we will recount two or three.

A vihar
On the western side of the sangharama, at no great distance, is a vihara. Here Tathagata in old days stopped for three months and largely expounded the excellent law for the good of the Devas.

A small stupa
To the south 100 paces or so is a small stupa. This is the place where a Bhikshu from a distant region saw Buddha. Formerly there was a Bhikshu who came from a distant region. Arriving at this spot, he met the multitude of disciples accompanying Buddha, and was affected inwardly with a feeling of reverence, and so prostrated himself on the ground, at the same time uttering a strong desire that he might obtain the position of a Chakravartti monarch. Tathagata having seen him, spoke to his followers thus:
"That Bhikshu ought much to be pitied. The power (character) of his religious merit is deep and distant; his faith is strong. If he were to seek the fruit of Buddha, not long hence he would obtain it; but now that he has earnestly prayed to become a Chakravartti king, he will in future ages receive this reward: as many grains of dust as there are from the spot where he has thrown himself on the earth down to the very middle of the gold wheel, so many Chakravartti kings will there be for reward; but having fixed his mind on earthly joys, the fruit of holiness is far off.

A standing figure of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
On this southern side is a standing figure of Kwan-tsz'-tsai (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva. Sometimes he is
seen holding a vessel of perfume going to the vihdra of Buddha and turning round to the right.

A stupa of Buddha's hair and nails
To the south of this statue is a stupa, in which are remains of Buddha's hair and nails cut during three months. Those persons afflicted with children's complaints," coming here and turning round religiously, are mostly healed.

A tank and a stupa
To the west of this, outside the wall, and by the side of a tank, is a stupa. This is where a heretic, holding a sparrow in his hand, asked Buddha questions relating to death and birth.

The danta-kashtha tree
To the south-east about 50 paces, within the walls, is an extraordinary tree, about eight or nine feet in height, of which the trunk is twofold. When Tathagata of old time was in the world, he flung his tooth-cleaner (danta-kashtha) on the ground here, where it took root. Although many months and years have elapsed since then, the tree neither decreases nor increases.

A great vihara
Next to the east there is a great vihara about 200 feet in height. Here Tathagata, residing for four months, explained various excellent laws.

A vihara with figure of Bodhisattva
After this, to the north 100 paces or so, is a vihara in which is a figure of Kwan-tsz'-tsai Bodhisattva. The disciples of pure faith, who offer their religious gifts, do not all see the place he occupies alike; it is not fixed. Sometimes he (i.e., the figure) seems to be standing by the side of the door; sometimes he goes out in front of the eaves. Religious people, both clerics and laics, from all parts come together in numbers to offer their gifts.

A great vihara by Baladitya
To the north of this vihara is a great vihara, in height about 300 feet, which was built by Baladitya-raja (Po-
lo-'o-tie-to-wang). With respect to its magnificence, its dimensions, and the statue of Buddha placed in it, it resembles (is the same as) the great vihara built under the Bodhi tree.

A stupa
To the north-east of this is a stupa. Here Tathagata in days gone by explained the excellent law for seven days.

A place
To the north-west is a place where the four past Buddhas sat down.

A vihara of brass built by Siladitya-raja
To the south of this is a vihara of brass built by Siladitya-raja. Although it is not yet finished, yet its in- tended measurement, when finished (to plan}, will be 100 feet.

A figure of Buddha installed by Purnavama
Next to the eastward 200 paces or so, outside the walls, is a figure of Buddha standing upright and made of copper. Its height is about 80 feet. A pavilion of six stages is required to cover it. It was formerly made by Purnavarma-raja (Mwan-cheu).

A figure of Tara Bodhisattva
To the north of this statue 2 or 3 li, in a vihara constructed of brick, is a figure of Tara Bodhisattva (To-lo-p'u-sa). This figure is of great height, and its spiritual appearance very striking. Every fast-day of the year large offerings are made to it. The kings and ministers and great people of the neighbouring countries offer exquisite perfumes and flowers, holding gem-covered flags and canopies, whilst instruments of metal and stone resound in turns, mingled with the harmony of flutes and harps. These religious assemblies last for seven days.

A large well
Within the southern gate of the wall is a large well. Formerly, when Buddha was alive, a great company of
merchants parched with thirst came here to the spot where Buddha was. The Lord of the World, pointing to
this place, said, "You will find water there." The chief of the merchants, piercing the earth with the end of the axle of his cart, immediately water rushed out from the ground. Having drunk and heard the law, they all obtained the fruit of holiness.
The Kulika village, Mudgalaputra’s birth-place
Going south-west 8 or 9 li from the sanghardma, we come to the village of Kulika (Kiu-li-kia). In it is a stupa built by Ashoka-raja. This is where the venerable Mudgalaputra (Mo-te-kia-lo-tseu) was born.

A stupa
By the side of the village is a stupa. This is where the Venerable One reached complete Niradna, and in it are placed the remains of his bequeathed body. The venerable (Maha-mudgalaputra) was of a great Brahman family, and was an intimate friend of Sariputra when they were young. This Sariputra was renowned for the clearness of his dialectic skill; the other for his persevering and deep penetration. Their gifts and wisdom were alike, and moving or standing they were always together.  Their aims and desires from beginning to end were just the same. They had together left the world from distaste to its pleasures, and as hermits had followed Saiijaya (Shen-she-ye) as their master. Sariputra having met Ashvajita (Ma-shing) the Arhat, hearing the law, understood its holy (meaning). On returning he repeated what he had heard for the sake of the venerable (Mudgalaputra). On this he understood the meaning of the law and reached the first fruit. Then with 250 followers he went to the place where Buddha was. The Lord of the World, seeing him at a distance, pointing him out, said to his disciples,
"That one coming here will be the first among my followers in the exercise of spiritual faculties (miraculous powers)."
Having reached the place where Buddha was, he requested to enter the law (the society}. The Lord replying, said,
"Welcome, Bhikshu; carefully practise a pure life, and you shall escape the limits of sorrow."
Hearing this his hair fell off, and his common robes were changed into others. Observing in their purity the sections of the rules of moral discipline, and being in his exterior behaviour faultless, after seven days, getting rid of all the bonds of sin, he reached the condition of an Arhat and the supernatural powers.
A stupa where Bimbisara met Buddha
East of the old village of Mudgalaputra, going 3 or 4 li, we come to a stupa. This is the place where Bimbisara-raja went to have an interview with Buddha. When Tathagata first obtained the fruit of a Buddha, knowing that the hearts of the people of the Magadha were waiting for him athirst, he accepted the invitation of Bimbisara-raja, and early in the morning, putting on his robes, he took his begging-dish, and with a thousand Bhikshus around him, on the right hand and the left (he advanced). In front and behind these there were a number of aged Brahmans who went with twisted hair (jalina'), and being desirous of the law, wore their dyed garments (chivara). Followed by such a throng, he entered the city of Rajagriha.
Then Lord Sakra (Ti-shih), king of Devas, changing his appearance into that of a Manava (Ma-na-p'o) youth, with a crown upon his head and his hair bound up, in his left hand holding a golden pitcher and in his right a precious staff, he walked above the earth four fingers high, leading Buddha along the road in front, in the midst of the vast assembly. Then the king of the Magadha country, Bimbisara (Pin-pi-so-lo) byname, accompanied by all the Brahman householders within the land, and the merchants (Jcu-sse), 100,000 myriads in all, going before and behind, leading and following, proceeded from the city of Rajagriha to meet and escort the holy congregation.

Town of Kalapinaka
South-east from the spot where Bimbasara-raja met Buddha, at a distance of about 20 li, we come to the town of Kalapinaka (Kia-lo-pi-na-kia).

A Ashoka-stupa where Sariputra was born
In this town is a stupa which was built by Ashoka-raja. This is the place where Sariputra, the venerable one, was born. The well U1 of the place still exists. By the side of the place is a stupa. This is where the venerable one obtained Nirvana; the relics of his body, therefore, are enshrined therein.
He also was of a high Brahman family. His father was a man of great learning and erudition; he penetrated thoroughly the most intricate questions. There were no books he had not thoroughly investigated. His wife had a dream and told it to her husband. "Last night," said she, "during my sleep my dreams were troubled by a strange man whose body was covered with armour; in his hand he held a diamond mace with which he broke the mountains; departing, he stood at the foot of one particular mountain." "This dream," the husband said," is extremely good. You will bear a son of deep learning; he will be honoured in the world, and will attack the treatises of all the masters and break down their teaching (schools). Being led to consider, he will become the disciple of one who is more than human."
And so in due course she conceived a child. All at once she was greatly enlightened. She discoursed in high and powerful language, and her words were not to be overthrown. When the venerable one began to be eight years old, his reputation was spread in every direction. His natural disposition was pure and simple, his heart loving and compassionate. He broke through all impediments in his way, and perfected his wisdom. He formed a friendship when young with Mudgalaputra, and being deeply disgusted with the world, and having no system to adopt as a refuge, he went with Mudgalaputra to the heretic Sarijaya's abode, and practised (his mode of salvation). Then they said together, "This is not the system of final deliverance, nor is it able to rescue us from the trammels of sorrow. Let us each seek for an illustrious guide. He who first obtains sweet dew, 116 let him make the taste common to the other."
At this time the great Arhat Asvajita, holding in his hand his proper measure bowl (patra), was entering the city begging for food.
Sariputra seeing his dignified exterior and his quiet and becoming manner, forthwith asked him, "Who is your master?"
He answered, "The prince of the Sakya tribe, disgusted with the world, becoming a hermit, has reached perfect wisdom. This one is my master."
Sariputra added, "And what doctrine does he teach? May I find a way to hear it? "
He said, "I have but just received instruction, and have not yet penetrated the deep doctrine."
Sariputra said, "Pray tell me (repeat) what you have heard."
Then Asvajita, so far as he could, explained it and spoke. Sariputra having heard it, immediately reached the first fruit, and went forthwith with 250 of his followers, to the place where Buddha was dwelling.
The Lord of the World, seeing him afar off, pointing to him and addressing his followers, said, "Yonder comes one who will be most distinguished for wisdom among my disciples." Having reached the place, he bent his head ill worship and asked to be permitted to follow the teaching of Buddha. The Lord said to him, "Welcome, Bhikshu."
Having heard these words, he was forthwith ordained. Half a month after, hearing Buddha preach the law on account of a Brahman and called "Long-nails" (Dirghanakha), together with other discourses, and understanding them with a lively emotion, he obtained the fruit of an Arhat. After this, Ananda hearing Buddha speak about his Nirvana, it was noised abroad and talked about (to the disciples). Each one was affected with grief. Sariputra was doubly touched with sorrow, and could not endure the thought of seeing Buddha die. Accordingly, he asked the Lord that he might die first. The lord said, "Take advantage of your opportunity."
He then bade adieu to the disciples and came to his native village. His followers, the Sramaneras, spread the news everywhere through the towns and villages. Ajatasatru-raja and his people hastened together as the wind, and assembled in clouds to the assembly, whilst Sariputra repeated at large the teaching of the law. Having heard it, they went away. In the middle of the following night, with fixed (correct) thought, and mind restrained, he entered the Samadhi called "final extinction." After awhile, having risen out of it, he died.

A stupa
Four or five li to the south-east of the town Kala-pinaka is a stupa. This is the spot where a disciple of Sariputra reached Nirvana. It is otherwise said, "When Kashyapa Buddha was in the world, and then three Tcdtis of great Arhats entered the condition of complete Nirvana in this place."
Indrashaila guha mountain with ancient holy figures
Going 30 li or so to the east of this last-named stupa, we come to Indrashaila guha mountain (In-t'o-lo- shi-lo-kia-ho-shan). The precipices and valleys of this mountain are dark and gloomy. Flowering trees grow thickly together like forests. The summit has two peaks, which rise up sharply and by themselves. On the south side of the western peak between the crags is a great stone house, wide but not high. Here Tathagata in old time was stopping when Sakra, king of Devas, wrote on the stone matters relating to forty-two doubts which he had, and asked Buddha respecting them. Then Buddha explained the matters. The traces of these figures still exist. Persons now try to imitate by comparison these ancient holy figures (figure forms). Those who enter the cave to worship are seized with a sort of religious trepidation.
On the top of the mountain ridge are traces where the four former Buddhas sat and walked, still remaining.

A sangharama
On the top of the eastern peak is a sanghardma; the common account is this : when the priests who dwell here look across in the middle of the night at the western peak, where the stone chamber is, they see before the image of Buddha lamps and torches constantly burning.

Hansa stupa
Before the sahgharama on the eastern peak of the Indrashailaguha mountain is a stupa which is called Hansa (Keng-sha). Formerly the priests of this sanghardma studied the doctrine of the Little Vehicle, that is, the Little Vehicle of the "gradual doctrine." They allowed therefore the use of the three pure articles of food, and they followed this rule without fail.
Now afterwards, when it was not time to seek for the three pure articles of food, there was a Bhikshu who was walking up and down; suddenly he saw a flock of wild geese flying over him in the air. Then he said in a jocose way,
"To-day the congregation of priests has not food sufficient, Mahasattvas! now is your opportunity."
No sooner had he finished, than a goose, stopping its flight, fell down before the priest and died. The Bhikshu having seen this, told it to the priests, who, hearing it, were affected with pity, and said one to the other, "Tathagata framed his law as a guide and encouragement (suitable to) the powers (springs] of each person ; now we, following 'the gradual doctrine,' are using a foolish guide. The Great Vehicle is the true doctrine. We ought to change our former practice, and follow more closely the sacred directions. This goose falling down is, in truth, a true lesson for us, and we ought to make known its virtue by handing down the story to other ages, the most distant." On this they built a stupa to hand down to future ages the action they had witnessed, and they buried the dead goose beneath it.

Going 150 or 160 li to the north-east of the Indra-shaila-guha mountain, we come to the Kapotika (pigeon) convent. There are about 200 priests, who study the principles of the Sarvastavada school of Buddhism.

A stupa built by Ashoka
To the east is a stupa which was built by Ashoka-raja. Formerly Buddha residing in this place, declared the law for one night to the great congregation. At this time there was a bird-catcher who was laying his snares for the feathered tribe in this wood. Having caught nothing for a whole day, he spoke thus, "My bad luck to-day is owing to a trick somewhere."
Therefore he came to the place where Buddha was, and said in a high voice, "Your speaking the law to-day, Tathagata, has caused me to catch nothing in all my nets. My wife and my children at home are hungry; what expedient shall I try to help them? "
Then Tathagata replied, "If you will light a fire, I will give you something to eat."
Then Tathagata made to appear a large dove, which fell in the fire and died. Then the bird-catcher taking it, carried it to his wife and children, and they ate it together. Then he went back to the place where Buddha was, on which, by the use of expedients, he framed his discourse so as to convert the bird-catcher. Having heard the discourse, he repented of his fault and was renewed in heart. Then he left his home, and practising wisdom, reached the holy fruit, and because of this the sangharama was called Kapotika.
Many viharas and religious shrines, sculptured with the highest art on another hill
To the south of this 2 or 3 li we come to a solitary hill, which is of great height, and covered with forests and jungle. Celebrated flowers and pure fountains of water cover its sides and flow through its hollows. On this hill are many viharas and religious shrines, sculptured with the highest art.
In the exact middle of the vihara is a figure of Kwan-tsz'-tsai Bodhisattva. Although it is of small size, yet its spiritual appearance is of an affecting character. In its hand it holds a lotus flower; on its head is a figure of Buddha.
There are always a number of persons here who abstain from food desiring to obtain a view of the Bodhisattva. For seven days, and fourteen days, and even for a whole month (do they fast). Those who are properly affected see this Kwan-tsz'-tsai Bodhisattva with its beautiful marks, and thoroughly adorned with all its majesty and glory. It comes forth from the middle of the statue, and addresses kind words to these men.
In old days the king of the Simhala country, in the early morning reflecting his face in a mirror, was not able to see himself, but he saw in the middle of a Tala wood, on the top of a little mountain in the Magadha country of Jambudvlpa, a figure of this Bodhisattva. The king deeply affected at the benevolent appearance of the figure, diligently searched after it. Having come to this mountain, he found in fact a figure resembling the one he had seen.
On this he built a vihara and offered to it religious gifts. After this the king still recollecting the fame of the circumstance, according to his example, built viharas and spiritual shrines. Flowers and incense with the sound of music are constantly offered here.

A convent on a solitary hill
Going south-east from this shrine on the solitary mountain about 40 li, we come to a convent with about fifty priests, who study the teaching of the Little Vehicle. Before the sangharama is a great stupa, where many miracles are displayed. Here Buddha in former days preached for Brahma-deva's sake and others during seven days. By the side of it are traces where the three Buddhas of the past age sat and walked.

A village with Hindu temples adjoining the river
To the north-east of the sangharama about 70 li, on the south side of the Ganges river, we come to a large village, thickly populated. There are many Deva temples here, all of them admirably adorned.

A great stupa
Not far to the south-east is a great stupa. Here Buddha for a night preached the law.

Village of Lo-in-ni-lo
Going east from this we enter the desert mountains; and going 100 li or so, we come to the convent of the village of Lo-in-ni-lo.

A stupa built by Ashoka
Before this is a great stupa which was built by Ashoka-raja. Here Buddha formerly preached the law for three months.

A large tank
To the north of this 2 or 3 li is a large tank about 30 li round. During the four seasons of the year a lotus of each of the four colours opens its petals.





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