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Published by Min Bahadur shakya

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Published by: Min Bahadur shakya on Sep 03, 2009
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Master Xuanzang and his contribution on Nepal
 byMin Bahadur ShakyaDirector, Nagarjuna Institute of Exact MethodsCenter for Buddhist StudiesLalitpur, Kathmandu Nepal
The travels of Master Xuanzang were extraordinary, and his contribution to the Buddhistworld is beyond measure. Most of the holy places in South Asia connected with the lifeof Buddha Shakyamuni had been lost in oblivion, but the writings of this great master threw enough light on them to enable these sacred sites to be pinpointed and their mysteries unfolded. The Great Xuanzang travelled widely throughout South Asia from629–645 A.D., and accurately recorded whatever he deemed necessary. His writingsleave clues to the religious history of Nepal during the Licchavi period (464-880 A.D).
 I. Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley
Master Xuanzang wrote on the status of Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley, the number of monks and nuns, about the kings, buildings, lakes, mountains and so forth.
 Withregard to the Kathmandu Valley, he gave the following account in his diary:
This country is about 400 li in circumference, and is situated among the SnowyMountains
. The perimeter of the capital city is about 20 li. Mountainsand valleys are joined together in an unbroken succession. The area is suitable for the growth of cereals, and abounds with flowers and fruits. It produces red copper, the Yak and the Mingming bird 
. In commerce they use coinsmade of red copper.The climate is icy cold. The manners of the made of people are false and  perfidious. Their temperament is hard and fierce, with little regard to truth or honour. They are unlearned but skilful in the arts; their appearance is ungainlyand revolting.There are believers and heretics mixed together. The sangharamas and  Deva
temples are joined together closely. There are about 2000 priests,who study both the Great and Little Vehicles. The number of heretics an sectaries of different sorts is uncertain.The king is a Ksatriya, and belongs to the family of the Licchavis. Hismind is well informed, and he is pure and dignified in character. He has sincere faith in the law of the Buddha. Lately there was a king called Anchu famo
who wasdistinguished for his learning and ingenuity. He himself had composed a work on
It is unanimously held that Xuanzang visited Vaishali. This is certain. He did not actually visit Nepal in 629A.D., but rather wrotehis account of the Kathmandu Valley according to informants.
Samuel Beal,
 Buddhist Records of the Western World-Si Yu-ki
, repr. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidas, 1981, pp.80-81.
; he esteemed learning and respected virtue, and hisreputation was spread everywhere.To the south-east of the capital is a little stream and a lake. If we fling fireinto it, flames immediately arise; if other things are thrown in it, they changetheir character.
Analysis of Xuanzang’s account
1. One of the remarkable features noted by this Chinese master is the religious harmonyin Kathmandu Valley between Nepalese social systems when he spoke of the Hindutemples touching the Buddhist monasteries. It is a unique quality of the Nepalese peoplethat the Hindu and Buddhist population have lived in peaceful harmony throughout thecenturies.2. Furthermore, the same structure of harmony and fraternity was observed among theHinayana and Mahayana Buddhist monks who lived together side by side. Xuanzang hadmentioned that there were about 2000 Buddhist monks from both Hinayana andMahayana sects. That such a large number of Buddhist monks were present shows thatBuddhism had developed significantly in the Kathmandu valley. This observation hasconsiderable historical importance.3. Master Xuanzang spoke highly of the learning of King Amsuvarma (604-621), whowas knowledgeable in the Sanskrit language. This was in part because Amshuvarma hada wise adviser and a great grammarian called Chandra Varma who was well-known evenin Nalanda Monastery as a talented Buddhist scholar of Magadha.4. Xuanzang also indicated in his statement the presence of Buddhist King in the familyof the Licchavi dynasty. The question is whether his description of Nepal is true for theyear of his visit, or at the time he left India, or at the time when he returned to China.Jayaswal holds that this observation is true of the year 643, when he had just left India.
Then the king referred to must be King Narendradeva, who was ruling in that year. Nokings after Amshuvarma’s death had any Buddhist leaning, except for Narendradeva.King Narendradeva’s buddhist affiliation is substantiated by Tang dynastic records.
5. In the last passage, Xuanzang also mentioned the existence of a small spring in thesouth-east of the capital on the surface, where a brilliant flame rises if one throws fireinto it. If one throws other objects, they change their nature and become fire. Thereference is probably to Ankhe Pokhari in the vicinity of Godavari village, southeast of Patan, not Toudah (southwest) as proposed by Lévi (vol I, p.159).
 II. Critical analysis of Xuanzang’s account of Lumbini 
, p.162.
“The King, Naling-ti-po ( Narendradeva) adorns himself with the pearls, rock crystals, mother of pearl,coral, and amber, he has in the ear rings of gold and pendants of jadem, and a breloc belt ornamented withthe figure of Buddha...” Lévi, vol.II, pp.164;
,1936, pp.238-39.
The texts on early Buddhist history and Buddhist geography as reflected in the life of theBuddha can be divided into the following groups:1. Textual sources on the life of the Buddha such as the
and so forth.2. Other descriptive material consisting mainly of travelogues written by ChineseBuddhist pilgrims.In the case of Lumbini and Kapilavastu we have to rely on two main figures:1. Faxian’s
Gaoseng Faxian-zhuan
 Report of the Great Monk Faxian
),from the begining of the 5th century, and2. Xuanzang’s own report of his journey, the
 Report of theWestern Regions of the Great Tang Dynasty
), followed by his biography, the
 Biography of the Dharma Master Tripitaka of the Cien-Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty
).For the present purpose, I have left out the Faxian’s account.Let us then first have a look at what Xuanzang has to say about Lumbini:
On the name of Lumbini:
While Faxian’s transcription of Lumbini,
, is quite compatible with thePrakrit form of the name given in the Ashokan inscription: Lummini. Xuanzang’s
is difficult to associate with any Indic form of the name. Watters thought that it isrelated to Skt.
, “beautiful women”, referring to Queen Maya. When he came to thegrove of Lumbini, like his predecessor, he was first of all struck by the pool:
Going 80 or 90
north-east from the Arrow spring, one comes to Lumbini. Thereis a bathing pond of the Sakya clan whose water is clear as a mirror, and onwhose surface flowers are scattered and drift. Twenty-four or twenty-five steps tothe north of the pond there is an Asoka flower tree
which isnow already withered; this is the place where the sacred birth of the Bodhisattvatook place.The bodhisattva was born in the second half of the month Vaisakha
 , on the eighth day, that is, on the eighth of the third month (in theChinese calendar); the Sthaviravadins say it was the 15th day of the second half of the month Vaisakha, that is the 15th day of the third month. Farther to the east are two stupas which were built by King Asoka and these are places where two nagas bathed the prince. After the bodhisattva wasborn he took seven steps in each of the four cardinal directions without being  supported and said: “In heaven and on earth I alone am the venerable. From nowon my rebirths have come to an end”. Big lotus flowers sprang up at the spotswhere he had set his feet. The two nagas leapt out from the earth and rested in the

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