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Buddhabhadra and His Contributions in Buddhism in 5th Century China
Vijay Kumar Manandhar
Tribhuvan University, Nepal Introduction NEPAL AND CHINA have a long history of cultural and political relations. Historically, political relations between the two countries go back to the seventh century CE. During this period, official contacts between the Nepalese Court and the T’ang dynasty were maintained through the exchange of political missions. However, official contacts between the two countries began in the fifth century CE through cultural delegations. Buddhism seems to have been the most important factor in the relationship between these two countries in ancient times. It is probable that the Chinese were anxious to explore the birthplace of the Buddha and its environs. Interestingly, Buddhism still has a certain place in Sino-Nepalese relations. Here it should be mentioned that one of the most significant events in the history of Nepal-China cultural relations was the introduction of Buddhism into China during the Eastern Han Dynasty around the second century CE. Gradually, Buddhism spread to all parts of
China. After their rise to the power in the fourth century CE, the Emperors of the Eastern Tsin Dynasty worked to promote Buddhist ideals by constructing monasteries. The fifth century CE was also a remarkable period in the history of Nepal-China cultural relations as it witnessed a marshalling of activities designed to promote Buddhism on the part of Nepalese and Chinese monk-scholars. It should be pointed out that following the introduction of Buddhism in China, the Buddhist community faced several problems – 1 – – – – the translation of Buddhist texts with their highly technical terminology, confusion caused by erroneous translation of the Buddhist texts, the misunderstanding of subtle and mystic ideas in Buddhist philosophy, and lack of disciplinary codes for monastic life. As a result, the Chinese monk-scholars were prompted to undertake hazardous voyages to the Buddhist holy lands in Nepal and India to collect more complete and purer sources in order to enrich the Buddhist literature in their homeland. This led to the visits of renowned pilgrims turned monk-scholars Fa-hsien and Hsüan-tsang to Nepal and India in search of genuine Buddhist texts, true doctrines and to pay homage to the Buddhist holy places.
Lahiri, Chinese Monks in India, pp. XIX-XXI.
Some of the important features of Nepal-China relations were that they were established by the selfless Buddhist monk-scholars of both Nepal and China, who promised to carry the message of love and compassion, which Buddha delivered for the sake of emancipation from suffering. The cultural intercourse between the two countries was mainly initiated by the Chinese. Here it should be pointed out that there were prominent Nepalese Buddhist scholars who rendered valuable services in the propagation of Buddhism in China. Buddhabhadra’s visit th to China in the 5 century was the first by a Nepalese monk. Besides him, two other Nepalese Buddhist scholars Vimoksasena2 and Subhakarasimha3 also went to China in the sixth and eighth centuries respectively, and contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China by translating Buddhist texts into Chinese. Unfortunately, the Nepalese have not recorded the great accomplishments of the prominent Nepalese Buddhist scholar Buddhabhadra and others who went to China with a purely missionary spirit and whose names are interwoven with the history of
Bagchi, India and China, pp. 45 and 220; Manandhar, A Comprehensive History of Nepal-China Relations, p. 47. Chou Yi-liang, ‘Tantrism in China’, pp. 251-272; Bagchi, India and China, pp. 52-53 and 218; Watt, ‘Tantric Buddhism in China’, pp. 399-400; Ch’en, Buddhism in China, p. 334; Upadhyaya, ‘Vajrayana: Dharma, Darshan Aur Jeevan-Darshan’, pp. 56-57; Manandhar, A Comprehensive History of Nepal-China Relations, pp. 47-49.
Buddhism in China. Buddhabhadra was indeed the torchbearer of Nepalese civilization abroad. Significantly, the Chinese have not only preserved the name of this prominent Nepalese Buddhist scholar, but also have preserved the records of the Chinese Buddhist monkscholars Fa-hsien, Hsuan-tsang, Seng-tsai4 and others who went to Nepal in different times. Until now, the name of Seng-tsai has not received due attention from scholars. This monk of the Tsin Dynasty (265-420 CE) not only visited Nepal but also wrote Wuo-Kuo-Shih (Matters Concerning the Foreign Kingdoms). Apart from the fragments of his works which are included in the Shui-Ching-Chu (Commentary on the Water Classic), there are some quotations in the Yuan-Chien-lei-an (The Ch’ing Encyclopaedia of 1710) as well. His work provides us with an interesting historical description of Kapilvastu, the hometown of the Buddha, including an important source of information on the topography of Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. Seng-tsai’s work is older than the account of Fa-hsien. These source materials of spiritual and cultural intercourse between the two countries have not yet been fully explored. So, some of the most prominent figures who immortalized Nepal-China relations are Fa-hsien, Hsüantsang, Wang Hsuan-Tse, Buddhabhadra and Arniko.
Petech, Northern India According to the Shui-Ching-Chu, pp. 6 and 33-40.
Among them, Buddhabhadra, who made an enormous contribution to Chinese Buddhism, has not yet received the proper attention from scholars that he deserves either. As such, an attempt is made here to deal with the invaluable contributions of Buddhabhadra to Buddhism in fifth century China. Parentage and Early Life The discovery of four monuments called the Black Dragon Spring in Yanchow near Nanking in the Kiangsu province of China has revealed that a Buddhist scholar, 5 Buddhabhadra Shakya visited China in the fifth century CE. Buddhist historians in general hold two different views about his nationality. One group regards him as a Nepalese Buddhist scholar. Indeed, there are a few Buddhist scholars, particularly historians, who recognize him as a Buddhist master from Nepal. There are both Nepalese 6 and foreign scholars
in this group who regard him as a
Shaha, Heroes and Builders of Nepal, p. 41; Shaha, ‘Nepal, Tibet and China’, p. 15. Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 19; K. C., The Judicial Customs of Nepal, p.138; Singh, Buddhism in Nepal, p. 37; Ratna, Buddhism and Nepal, p .5; Pandey, ‘Promoting Nepal-China Cultural Cooperation’, p. 54; Shaha, Heroes and Builders., p. 41; Shaha, ‘Nepal, Tibet and China’, p. 15; Manandhar, A Comprehensive History of Nepal-China Relations, p. 22; Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepalko Sambandha, p. 65; Nepal, Nepal Nirukta, pp. 155-156; Acharya, Chin, Tibbat Ra Nepal, p. 11; Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, p. 2. Ghoble, China-Nepal Relations and India, p. 17; Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, p. 307; Welch, Buddhism Under
Nepalese. However, the second group of historians holds the view that supports the idea that Buddhabhadra was an Indian scholar.8 Whatever Buddhist historians believe about the birthplace of the Buddhist Master, historical evidence supports the fact that Buddhabhadra was a Nepalese scholar. In fact, Buddhabhadra was not only probably the first Nepalese to go to China and to devote his entire life to serving the Chinese people through the Buddhist mission, but also one of the great Buddhist scholars of Nepal who worked for the promotion of Buddhism in Kashmir and China.
Mao, p. 172; Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. II, p. 400; Huang Sheng-Chang, ‘China and Nepal’, p. 8; Chao Pu-Chu, Buddhism in China, p. 6; Wang Hung -wi, ‘Chin-Nepal Maitri’, p. 86; Report of the Fourth World Buddhist Conference, p. 93. Nehru, The Discovery of India, p. 193; Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p.123; Majumdar, The Classical Age, pp. 610 and 614; Sankrityayan, Baudha Sanskriti, p. 55; Upadhyaya, Brihattar Bharat, p. 163; Nariman, Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism, p. 263; Kaul, Buddhist Savants of Kashmir, pp. 74-75; Das, Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, p. 32; Bagchi, India and China, p.99 ; Beal (ed.), Buddhist Records of the Western World, p. XII; Fujita, ‘The Textual Origins of The Kuan Wu-ling-Shou Ching’, p. 157; Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 42; The Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism, p. 90; Bokshchanin, ‘Sino-Indian Relations from Ancient Times’, p. 121; Kohn, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, p. 30; Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism, p. 57; Chin Keh-mu, A Short History of Sino-Indian Friendship, p. 81; Chou Hsiang-kuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas, p. 55; The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 57.
The Chinese transliteration of Buddhabhadra’s name is Fo-t’o-po-t’o-lo9 and was translated as Chuehhsien.10 Although his family was originally from Kapilvastu, the hometown of The Buddha, they had settled in Nagarahara (the modern Jalalabad in Afghanistan) where Buddhabhadra was born in 358 CE11 According to one tradition, he is said to have been born at Kapilvastu 12 as a member of the Shakya family which claimed descent from King Amåtodäna, an uncle of the Buddha .13 Having lost his father and mother when he was three and five respectively, Buddhabhadra, along with his grandparents, moved from Nagarahara to Kapilvastu, but unfortunately, his
Bagchi, India and China, p. 331; Beal. Buddhist Records of the Western World, p. XII; Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 62. Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 66; Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, p. 3; Wang Hung -wi, ‘Chin-Nepal Maitri’, p. 86; Ikeda, The Flower of Chinese Buddhism, p. 81. Bagchi, India and China, p. 44; Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p.122; Majumdar, The Classical Age , p. 610; Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 66. But some writers have wrongly stated that Buddhabhadra was born in Kashmir. See: Bowker (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of World Religion, p. 169; Kohn, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, p. 30. Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. II, p. 400; Huang Sheng-Chang, ‘China and Nepal’, p. 8. Interestingly some writers have noted that Buddhabhadra was born in Kapilavastu in northern India. See Fujita, 'The Textual Origins of the Kuan Wuling-Shou Ching’, p. 157; The Seeker’s Glossary, p. 90. Das, Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, p. 32; Majumdar, The Classical Age, p. 610; Bagchi, India and China, p.205 and Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 66; Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. II, p. 400.
grandparents also died soon after. Thus left an orphan at an early age, he was taken care of by some kindhearted people and admitted to the Buddhist order. From his childhood, he had taken an interest in Buddhism. By the time he completed his studies around the age of seventeen, he had acquired profound knowledge of it.14 It was said that even at an early age, he read a thousand words of the scriptures daily. It was also said that once his fellow-student Sanghadatta, whilst lost in meditation, saw Buddhabhadra appear suddenly, and when asked whence he came, Buddhabhadra said he had been to the Tuñitä heaven to see Maitreya.15 His teachers also gave him a very good and indepth knowledge of Buddhism. Due to his devotion to Buddhism, and as he became a very talented and learned Buddhist scholar, Buddhabhadra became famous in China. While visiting several Buddhist holy places and Vihäras, he came into contact with many Buddhist scholars. During his visits to various Buddhist Vihäras, he happened to reach Mauthyan Tholo Vihära in Kashmir. At the request of the head of the Vihära, Buddhabhadra remained there and started giving lessons on Buddhism. He proved to be a talented Buddhist scholar. He stayed in Kashmir for
Bagchi, India and China, p. 44; Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 122 and Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 66.
Das, Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, p. 32.
sometime. He was a Buddhist monk of higher knowledge of Buddhism. Chinese Monks’ Invitation to China At that time, Kashmir was one of the most important centers of Buddhist Sanskrit learning and the centre of the Sarvästivädins.16 Through their activities, Kashmir became the centre of Buddhist philosophical studies. Buddhabhadra belonged to this school, which was flourishing, in Kashmir.17 He was also a disciple of the famous Dhyäna Master Buddhasena. During this period, Nepal’s widespread reputation as the birthplace of the Buddha was attracting the Chinese monks, who defied the difficulties of climate and terrain in their scholastic zeal and religious fervour. Fifth century China witnessed the visit of several prominent Buddhist Chinese monk-scholars to Nepal and India, the holy lands of the Buddhists, for religious purposes. Fa-hsein, the noted Buddhist monkscholar from Shanshi province, was one of the earliest Chinese pilgrims to visit Nepal and India. Intent on making a thorough study of Buddhism by procuring authentic Buddhist texts on monastic discipline (Vinaya) and searching for famous Buddhist scholars to bring back to China, Fa-hsien, at the advanced age of sixty-five, along with Chinese monks Hui-Ching, Tao-Cheng, Hui-ying,
Lahiri, Chinese Monks in India, p. 27.
Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. I, p. 223.
Hui-Wei and others left Ch’ang-an in 399 CE and set out for India.18 At that time, there were two important routes from China to India: one, the over-land route through the Gobi desert, the plains and mountains of Central Asia and the Himalaya, and the other, the sea route from the port of Kuang-chou through the South China sea into the Indian ocean.19 As for Fa-hsien, he traveled overland through Dunhuang, Khotan and the Himalayas, a long, hard journey full of peril.20 In India, he studied for some years and personally copied the Buddhist scriptures. Although he visited the western parts of Nepal, Kapilvastu and Lumbini, the hometown and birthplace of the Buddha respectively, in 405 CE, he did not mention anything about Nepal in his short account entitled Fo-Kuo-Chi (A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms),21 the first highly reliable Chinese account of these countries and the oldest surviving travel book in Chinese literature. From India, he went to Ceylon, where he studied Buddhism for two years. After visiting more than thirty countries, he returned to China in 414
19 20 21
Fa-hsien, A Record of the Buddhist Countries, pp. 50-51; Chin Keh-mu, A Short History of Sino-Indian Friendship, pp. 63-65; Wang Hung -wi, ‘Chin-Nepal Maitri’, p. 86. Lahiri, Chinese Monks in India, p. XIX. Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 118. Legge, A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms ..., passim; Giles, The Travels of Fa-hsien (399-414 A.D, passim; Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, p. 207; Jan Yuan-Hua, ‘Fa-hsien’, pp. 245246; Keyes, ‘Buddhist Pilgrimage in South and Southeast Asia’, p. 348.
CE. He collected volumes of Buddhist texts. Fa-hsien was a great Chinese Buddhist scholar and a pilgrim whose contribution to China’s Buddhist history is of immense significance. He carried back to China his collection of Buddhist manuscripts, images and paintings.22 Fa-hsien’s account, in which he recorded his journey, has been preserved complete, and translated into French and English. It provides valuable reference materials for the study of ancient Kapilvastu and Lumbiné as well as other matters.23 Although his account is mainly that of pilgrim interested in religious matters, Fa-hsien nevertheless gives a good picture of India during the Gupta era, as well as expressing his dismay by depicting the declining condition of Lumbiné, Kapilvastu and the surrounding areas. The importance of Fa-hsien in the history of Sino-Nepalese relations lies in the fact that not only was he the prominent Chinese citizen to enter Nepalese territory, but also that he
Bagchi, India and China, pp. 61-64; Perkins, Encyclopedia of China, pp. 47 and 155; Hazra, The Rise and Decline of Buddhism in India, pp. 77-81; Takakusu, ‘Yuan-Chwang, Fa-hian and ITsing’, p. 843; Dillon, China: A Cultural and Historical Dictionary, p. 98; Gernet, A History of Chinese Civilization, p. 223; Bapat (ed.), 2500 Years of Buddhism, pp. 254-261; The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 174; Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 92; Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, pp. 117-118; The Seeker’s Glossary…, pp. 205-206; Kohn, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, p. 67; Ch’en, Buddhism in China, pp. 89-92. Pradhan, Lumbiné Kapilawastu Devadaha, p. 23.
helped make the journey of Buddhabhadra, the first Nepalese Buddhist monk-scholar ever to visit China, a success. While in India, he is said to have met him, and decided to translate many of the classic Buddhist texts into Chinese in collaboration with him. Thus, Fa-hsien can be given credit for laying the foundation for Nepal-China relations. At the time of Fa-hsien’s visit to India, there was another Buddhist party from China, visiting India independently of Fa-hsien, with the purpose of studying Buddhism and searching for famous Buddhist scholars to bring back to China. The five-member Chinese Buddhist party consisted of Pao-Yun, Chih-Yen, Sang-Shao, HwuyKeen and Sang-King. Pao-Yun, the leader of this Chinese delegation,24 was a brilliant scholar who wrote an account of his travels, which unhappily has vanished. Another, Chih-Yen, who in three years in India learned more than others who had studied there for ten years, thereby won the commendations of his teachers and the admiration of the Indians as well.25 During the course of their visit, this party also visited Kashmir, a prestigious Buddhist centre for learning, where they acquired knowledge of Buddhism. At the time of their departure, they requested that the Buddhist community there send a scholar of repute along
Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 68. Chin Keh-mu, A Short History of Sino-Indian Friendship, p. 54.
with them to China. The head of the Kashmiri Vihära strongly recommended the name of Buddhabhadra, stating that he was not only a descendant of the Buddha, but also from the land of the Buddha. Moreover, he was a great scholar of Buddhism. Therefore, the Chinese delegation invited Buddhabhadra to accompany them to China. At first, the Nepalese Buddhist scholar was reluctant to go on the grounds that China was a faraway and completely new and foreign country. Afterwards, following Chinese entreaties, Buddhabhadra made the decision to go and preach the teachings of the Buddha in faraway China. Chih-Yen was given credit for inviting Buddhabhadra to China. In fact, Buddhabhadra was a monk of some distinction, who in later years made invaluable contributions to the historical development of Chinese Buddhism by translating Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and preaching the message of the Buddha. Arrival in China Buddhabhadra set out for China with these Chinese Buddhist monks in 406 CE. They traveled on foot for three years. This time they did not travel by the old Central Asian route but by an altogether new route. While making the over-land journey to China from India, they crossed six countries and faced many difficulties, and reached Vietnam via Burma. From there, they continued their journey by sea. During their sea-journey towards China, it was
reported that Buddhabhadra impressed all his fellow travelers by successfully foretelling such storms and encounters with pirates. At last, they reached the port of Tsing Tao of the Chinese province of Shantung in 409 CE. But it seems that some writers have mistakenly referred to Buddhabhadra’s arrival in China as having fallen between 389 and 399 CE.26 From Shantung, they went to Ch’ang-an (modern Sian in Shen-si province), the then capital of China as well as an important early centre of Buddhist activities in northern China. Upon their arrival at the Chinese capital, they were warmly welcomed by the Chinese Emperor Yao-Hsing as well as the people of China and were taken to Ch’ang-an’s biggest monastery. After his arrival in Ch’ang-an, Buddhabhadra started preaching Buddhism. He solved a lot of puzzling questions regarding Buddhism from Chinese monks, who were greatly convinced by his answers. Due to his scholarship, Chinese Buddhist scholars as well as laymen were greatly influenced. Conflict with Kumarajiva Kumarajiva, a contemporary of Buddhabhadra, was a great scholar of his times. He was born of an Indian
Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, pp. 68-71; Das, Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, p. 32; Bokshchanin, ‘Sino-Indian Relations from ancient Times to the Sixteenth Century’, p. 121; Majumdar, The Classical Age , pp. 610-611.
father and a Kuchean mother.27 His name is sometimes transcribed as Ciu-mo-lo-shi or Kiu-mo-lo-che or Kiumo-to-tche-po with the Chinese translation Tang-Cheu. His father, Kumarayana, came from an illustrious family but for some reason left the country and after an arduous journey across the Pamirs arrived in Kucha. Here Jiva, a princess of the royal family of Kucha fell in love with him and ultimately married him. Kumarajiva, taking the names after his father and mother, was the issue of this union.28 He was born in 344 CE at Karasahr. Soon afterwards, Jiva was converted to Buddhism and she became a nun. Kumarajiva began his education in Kucha but when he was nine years old, his mother took him to Kashmir to give him a thorough grounding in Buddhist literature and philosophy. He distinguished himself in both Sarvästivädin and Mahäyäna studies. In 379 CE, his fame had reached even as far as China, and the Emperor Fu Chien of the Eastern Tsin Dynasty sent a delegation to invite him to the court. Kumarajiva accepted, but on the way back, the Chinese general who had been sent to fetch him, Lu Kuang, rebelled and held out against the court in northwestern China for seventeen years, during which time he held Kumarajiva captive. While this delay frustrated the court, it gave Kumarajiva a chance to become very fluent in Chinese
Bapat, 2500 Years of Buddhism, p. 238. Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 116.
language prior to undertaking his translation activities.29 After Lu Kuang’s rebellion was suppressed, Kumarajiva, originally a Hinayäna advocate, but eventually a proponent of Mahäyäna, and especially the Mädhyamika treatises of Nagarjuna, arrived in Ch’ang-an in 401 CE and was greatly welcomed by Emporer Yao-Hsing of the Later Tsin Dynasty. During his thirteen years stay at Ch’ang-an, he headed an extensive translation bureau which rendered a large number of Buddhist Sanskrit texts into Chinese, and to which more than eight hundred priests and scholars were attached.30 It is said that the Chinese Emperor, himself an ardent disciple of the new religion, held the original texts in his hand as the translation proceeded and that during that time more than three hundred volumes were prepared under the supervision of Kumarajiva. Until his death in 413 CE, he continued to devote his missionary zeal and the knowledge he had gained to the propagation of Buddhism, with the result that a large number of Buddhist monasteries were established in Northern China.31 Kumarajiva is said to have introduced a new alphabet and translated some fifty works. He is best known for his translations of Nagarjuna’s ‘Mulamädhyamika Kärika’, ‘Dvädasadvära Sästra’, ‘Sukhävatyämåta Vyüha’
29 30 31
Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 150. Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 159. Bapat, 2500 Years of Buddhism, p. 239.
and ‘Sarvästiväda Pratimokña’. The translations ascribed to him are ranked as classical Chinese, and his translation of the Saddharmapuëòarika Sütra remains the most valued and revered of the Chinese Buddhist scriptures.32 He is traditionally regarded as the first teacher of Mädhayamika doctrines in China and the expounder of the Satyasiddhi School (Cheng-se School) and the Nirvana school (later absorbed in the Lotus or T'ien-t'ai School). It is beyond doubt that his works heralded a new epoch in the spread of Buddhism in China. Due to his thorough knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, and his command of Sanskrit and Chinese languages, Kumarajiva was able to bring greater clarity and distinction to his translations than the earlier missionaries had done.33 Kumarajiva and his teachings were held in high esteem in China due to the patronage of the Chinese court. At the time of the arrival of Buddhabhadra, Kumarajiva was the arbiter of all things Buddhist.34 It is said that as soon as Kumarajiva heard that Buddhabhadra had come to China and was then working at Ch’ang-an, he immediately started for Ch’ang-an to meet him. They were probably old acquaintances in Kashmir. Kumarajiva admitted the superiority of Buddhabhadra and used to consult the latter so long as he was in Ch’ang-an.35
32 33 34 35
Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, pp. 120-121. Bapat, 2500 Years of Buddhism, p. 239. Ch’en, Buddhism in China, p. 109. Bagchi, India and China, pp. 44-45.
Afterwards, they came into conflict, some of the important factors for which they deferred were personality, attitude towards precepts and meditation as well as doctrinal preferences.36 Buddhabhadra was also a scholar of repute and was equally proud of his learning. He was a Buddhist teacher of independent spirit. That is why he never thought of paying respects to the Emperor, as was the custom in those days. He did however establish close contacts with the Chinese Buddhist teachers.37 Moreover, he was also gaining popularity as a Buddhist scholar. On the other hand, Kumarajiva had established himself as a renowned Buddhist scholar and had the full support of the Imperial court. However, a powerful rival had appeared in the person of Buddhabhadra. Disagreements apparently arose between the two over some aspects of discipline. Kumarajiva was provided with royal quarters in Ch’ang-an, and also with the pleasures of many concubines-conduct that a strict disciplinarian like Buddhabhadra must have looked upon with disfavour.38 It is said that when Kumarajiva went to China in 401 CE, the Chinese Emperor thought that such a wise person ought to have descendants so that his wisdom
‘Some Notes on Perceptions of Pratétyasamutpäda in China from Kumarajiva to Fa-yao’, www.ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JRJOCP/jc26721htm Bagchi, India and China, p. 45. Ch’en, Buddhism in China , p. 109
would carry on. As such, he gave concubines to Kumarajiva, and since they were a royal gift, Kumarajiva had no choice but to accept them. Afterwards, his disciples asked, ‘Can we have relations with women too?’ Kumarajiva said, ‘Sure, but first, let me show you something.’ He took a handful of needles and ate them as easily as they were noodles. When he finished, he said, ‘if you can do that, then you can have relations with women.’39 Thus it can be stated that while Kumarajiva was apparently a monk, his conduct was irregular, for he lived with many concubines; yet his talent was so appreciated and his fame so great that his patron and the people honoured him, despite his neglect of Buddhist discipline and in spite of attacks heaped upon him.40 It was stated that Kumarajiva was obliged to confess in a confrontation with the disciplinarian Buddhabhadra that he was a ‘lotus in the mud’. The relative weakness in precepts in the Ch’ang-an Buddhist community was thus understandable.41 It was also reported that the friction between the two Buddhist masters was over the issue of the ‘understanding of emptiness’. The Prince of Tsin, Hung, wanted to hear Buddhabhadra’s teachings, so he summoned a meeting of various monks for a discussion at the Eastern Palace. Both Kumarajiva and Buddhabhadra conversed for several
39 40 41
The Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism, p. 321. Anesaki, ‘Missions (Buddhist)’, p. 701. Whalen Lai, ‘The Three Jewels in China’, p. 291.
rounds. Then Kumarajiva asked, ‘Why are the Dharmas said to be empty?’ Buddhabhadra answered, ‘Tiny atoms constitute form; the form has no self-nature. Therefore, even as there are forms, they are always empty.’ ‘If you so destroy (both) form and emptiness by reliance on these atoms, what then destroys the atom?’ ‘There are those who insist on destroying the individual atoms, but I would not do so.’ ‘Are you saying that they are permanent?’ Buddhabhadra answered, ‘By the one atom are the various atoms emptied. By the various atoms is the one atom emptied.’ At the time, Pao-yun who translated this sentence did not fully understand the meaning, and the monks and laymen in attendance thought Buddhabhadra to be proposing permanency for the atoms. Some days later, the learned monks of Ch’ang-an invited Buddhabhadra to speak where he said, ‘The Dharmas are not caused by themselves; they are born of the confluence of conditions. Conditioned by the one atom are the various atoms. The atom has no self-nature; it is therefore empty. Can it still be said that the one atom is not destroyed, that it is permanent and not empty?’ This would seem to be the real intention in his previous exchange. It seems that Kumarajiva reacted to Buddhabhadra because the latter reminded him of his former attachment to the atom theory of reality. There are scholars who think that perhaps Buddhabhadra still carried that legacy. However, Buddhabhadra was clearly not trying
to reduce reality to eternal atoms. He would, as Kumarajiva’s leadoff remark recognizes, ‘destroy (both) form and emptiness (or: the thesis that form is empty).’ Instead, he was showing how one atom can destroy as well as establish all the other atoms and vice-versa. This would suggest that he had in mind the worldview of the Avataàsaka Sütra, which he translated later. Kumarajiva’s understanding of emptiness was from the standpoint of one systematically negating the realist’s misperception of phenomenal realities as somehow real. For Kumarajiva, all forms and names were indeed empty. Buddhabhadra however, seemed to operate on a different level, what might be called the more noumenal. Thus, it seems that doctrinal differences (since Buddhabhadra was a Sarvästiväda adherent) were also responsible partly for this lack of friendship between the two Buddhist masters. In contrast to Kumarajiva, Buddhabhadra observed austere rules of monastic life and instructed his followers in discipline and in meditation.42 At that time, Chinese Buddhism would then issue forth from the Sütra oriented followers of Kumarajiva and the meditation orientation of Buddhabhadra’s followers. Buddhabhadra greatly disfavoured the lifestyle of
Anesaki, ‘Missions (Buddhist)’, p. 701.
Kumarajiva and the community of his followers. He never liked their excessive involvement with the royal court.43 Expulsion from Ch’ang-an In this way, Buddhabhadra came into conflict with the ‘official’ monks of Kumarajiva’s school who were sponsored by the Later Tsin court. The followers of Kumarajiva fabricated charges against Buddhabhadra. It is said that some people, who became very jealous of Buddhabhadra’s learning and popularity, tried to defame him by fabricating certain charges.44 Afterwards, when the truth was revealed, they repented. This resulted in the expulsion of Buddhabhadra from Ch’ang-an. In 410 CE, Buddhabhadra along with his forty disciples took refuge in the south,45 where Tao-an’s disciples were living, secluded in a monastery on Mount Lu-shan, in modern Chiang-hsi province. The leader of the group was Hui-yuan, the noted Chinese monk-scholar,46 and its members were monks, poets and philosophers who were disgusted with the troubles of the world and devoted themselves to meditation and conversation with one another. Hui-yuan was a native of Lou-fan, in Shansi. His early years were spent in the study of Confucian and Taoist doctrines. He was converted
43 44 45
Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 77. Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p… 72. Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. I, p. 223; Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism, p. 57. The Seeker’s Glossary…, p. 276.
to Buddhism when he was twenty years old. Later, he became the most brilliant disciple of Tao-an. He also became a very famous Buddhist Master and expositor of Buddhist teachings. He founded the Tung-lin monastery on Lu-shan in Central China and it became the most famous centre of Buddhism in South China. Here Buddhabhadra was not only warmly welcomed for his reputation as a Dhyäna master but also found its men more congenial than the Buddhists of the north, and instructed them further in the secrets of Buddhist mental training. In this group of thinkers, one can witness Chinese Buddhism quite acclimatized to the native soil, especially to the poetic and transcendental mood of the southern Chinese, and preparing for further union of Buddhist meditation with Chinese quietism. It was on this ground that a definite school of meditation, known as Shan-no (Dhyäna), later established itself and further impressed on Buddhism the poetry of the valley of the Yang-tze. Although the followers of the Shan-no school trace their origin to Bodhidharma, who was believed to have come to China by sea in 520 CE, the further source was to be found in the group of recluses at Lu-shan who had warmly welcomed Buddhabhadra. After all, one can assign the foundation of Chinese Buddhism, relatively apart from foreign missionaries, to Tao-an and Hui-yuan. Yet, parallel with this native movement, missionary work was proceeding,
both in the north and the south.47 Lu-shan was a famous mountain, and a community there was a centre of Buddhist activity in the late 4th century and after. Also known as Mount Lu, it was a large mountain encompassing many peaks and scenic views, located along the Chiu River near its juncture with the Yangtze River in Kiangsi province. Hui-yuan (334-416 CE) was a disciple of early Chinese Buddhist scholar Tao-an (312-385 CE) and was the inspiration of the White Lotus Society and also father of the Chinese Pure Land School of Buddhism. Although schooled in the Confucian and Taoist Classics, Hui-yuan ran a school for monks and scholars.48 In 381 CE, he went to Lu-shan, which was a solitary mountain spot, picturesque and eminently suited as a place of retirement for the Buddhist monks. In 386 CE, the governor of the province built a monastery for Hui-yuan at Lu-shan.49 Huiyuan developed it into an important centre for Buddhism. Among his two major contributions, in 402 CE, along with one hundred and twenty three of his disciples, he established the White Lotus Society, a group devoted to meditation on the figure of Amitäbha and attaining rebirth in the Pure Land (Sukhävati). As such, he is considered the founder of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism.50 Next, he gave
47 48 49 50
Anesaki, ‘Missions (Buddhist)’, p. 701. Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 138. Bagchi, India and China, p. 99. Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, pp. 138-139.
invitation to many famous translators to come and pursue activities in his Tung-lin monastery. In Lu-shan, Hui-yuan is said to have asked Buddhabhadra to bring out one of the scriptures in which he had specialized. It is said that the scripture was a short Hinayäna Dhyäna-treatise with a slight Mahayanistic admixture, commonly ascribed to Dharmatrata.51 It is interesting to note that Hui-yuan himself stated in his preface to the eulogy on the Buddha-shadow that he had the good fortune to meet a Dhyäna-master from Kashmir and a monk from the south well versed in the Vinaya who were able to give a detailed description of the shadow, whereupon he had it painted after their indications. According to the epilogue to these hymns, the solemn inauguration of the Chapel in which the image had been placed (it seems to have been a painting on silk and not a mural) took place on 27 May 412 CE. This date indicates that the ‘Vinaya Master from Kashmir’ was no one else than Buddhabhadra who had stayed at Lu-shan during that period, a fact which throws an interesting light upon the real function of this painting.52 Here it should be mentioned that Buddhabhadra was among other things the translator of the Kuan Fo San-Mei (Hai) Ching, a Sütra which, as the title indicated, was mainly devoted to the
Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. I, p. 223. Ibid., p. 224.
Buddhänusmåti Samädhi, precisely the kind of mental concentration who was so much popular among Huiyuan’s followers. According to a rather late and very unreliable source this scripture was translated during the Sung Period, hence after 420 CE, but even if this is true, Buddhabhadra may have orally transmitted some of its contents to Hui-yuan during his stay at Lu-shan. One can find in the seventh Chuan of the Kuan Fo San-Mei Ching a long passage dealing with the miracle of the shadow, followed by a highly interesting description of the ‘Contemplation of the Buddha’s shadow’ intended for the use of those disciples of the Buddha who ‘after the Buddha’s decease ... desire to know (the appearance of) the Buddha in a sitting posture.’ Detailed rules were given how to effect the visualization of the Buddha- body with all its marks and tokens of supernatural power-a form of concentration, which ‘eliminates the sins committed during the lives of a hundred thousand Kalpas. Importantly enough as Buddhabhadra himself had come from Nagrahara, he must have been well acquainted with local traditions concerning the original image and the way in which it was adored or used as an object of contemplation in its original or proper place. Thus, it can be concluded that the replica made at Hui-Yuan’s order in 412 CE at Lushan, far from being a mere pictorial representation of the
Buddha had a very concrete function, closely connected with the practice of Buddhänusmåti.53 In this way, we see that in Lu shan, Buddhabhadra worked closely with Hui-yuan. In 410-411 CE, Hui-yuan was stated to have written a letter to Emperor Yao-Hsing in order to clarify the case of the expulsion of Buddhabhadra from Ch’ang-an.54 He had even personally appealed to the Emperor asking him to revoke the verdict of the unjust expulsion of the Dhyäna master in 410 CE from Ch’ang-an. After remaining around two years in Lushan, in 412 CE, along with his disciples, eventually Buddhabhadra went to southern capital city Chien-K’ang (modern Nanking) where he continued his work in meditation and translation. Upon his arrival in China in 414 CE, Fa-hsien was baffled by the dispute between Buddhabhadra and Kumarajiva. Therefore, he proceeded to Nanking in order to assuage Buddhabhadra. Later, he was successful in persuading the Nepalese scholar to return to the capital at Ch’ang-an, where he was warmly welcomed by the Chinese Emperor.55 After remaining for some time in Ch’ang-an, along with Fa-hsien, Buddhabhadra once again returned to Nanking, where he became the senior translator at Tao Chang Ssu monastery, giving guidance to
53 54 55
Ibid., pp. 224-225. Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. II, p. 397. Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 75.
more than a hundred monks engaged in putting the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. This monastery was the main centre of such work in China.56 While in Nanking, collaborating with Fa-hsien, Buddhabhadra started the project of editing and translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese language.57 Fa-hsien had brought many Classic Buddhist texts from India. It is to be noted that by that time, Buddhabhadra had acquired a profound knowledge of the Chinese language. Even after Fa-hsien’s death in 420 CE, Buddhabhadra was engaged in translation projects. He continued his activities until his death at the age of seventy-one in 429 CE. Contributions of the Buddhist Master Fifteen of Buddhabhadra’s translation works are said to have been preserved in China until now. Between 398 to 421 CE, he translated those works at two different places, Lu-shan and Nanking. Importantly enough, he translated most of the texts while living in Tao Ch’ang Ssu monastery in Yang chou in Nanking. The fact that such a great literary activity was initiated in the Tao Chang Ssu monastery supports the idea that the monastery was one of the main centers of Buddhist activities in China in the fifth
Huang Sheng-Chang, ‘China and Nepal’, pp. 8-9. Ibid.; Legge, A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms, pp. 2-3.
century CE. The translation works of Buddhabhadra have been listed in the following catalogues.58 1. Bussho Kaisetsu Daijiten (prepared by G. Ono) 2. Comparative Analytical Catalogue of the Kanjur Division of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon (Otani University) 3. Complete Catalouge of Tibetan Buddhist Canon H. Ui et. al. (ed.), Tohoku University. 4. Tibetan Tripitaka (Cone edition) 5. Hanguk Taejanggyong (Korean Tripitaka). 6. Koryo Taejanggyong (reprint of Haein Xylograph) 7. Tibetan Tripitaka (Lhasa edition) 8. Nanjio Catalogue 9. Tibetan Tripitaka (Peking edition) 10. Tibetan Tripitaka (Sde-dge edition) 11. Tibetan Tripitaka (Snar-than edition) 12. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo (Taisho Tripitaka) It is reported that Kumarajiva acknowledged Buddhabhadra’s superiority and whenever he had doubts, he always sought Buddhabhadra’s explanation.59 Buddhabhadra assisted Kumarajiva in the translation of Buddhist scriptures.60 In 416-418 CE, along with Fa-hsien
58 59 60
Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Cannon, pp. xx-xxiii. Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 123. The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 57.
in Tao Ch’ang Ssu monastery, Buddhabhadra translated the Mahäsäìghika Vinaya (Mo ho seng Ch’i liu) in forty volumes (fascicles), which Fa-hsien had brought from a monastery in Päöaliputra. 61 The general plan of the work was similar to that of other Vinayapitakas but it was much richer than many of the works in anecdotal element throwing light on the social and economic history of northern India.62 The most noted work, which he translated into Chinese in collaboration with Fa-shien, was the Mahäparinirväëa Sütra (Ta-pan nieh-p’an ching)63 in six volumes from 416 to 418 CE. Besides that, the translation bearing the title of Tsa O-pi-t’an hsin-lun was also ascribed
Hirakawa, ‘Buddhist Literature: Survey of Texts’, p. 512. Nanjio (comp.), A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 247; Bapat, 2500 Years of Buddhism, p. 124; Nariman, Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism, p. 263; Chou Hsiangkuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas, p. 80; Sankrityayan, Baudha Sanskriti, p. 297; Bagchi, India and China, p. 129; Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 118; Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 42; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20; Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, p. 69. ‘Other Translators in The Period of Disunity’, www.buddhistdoor.com/bdoor/archive/nutshell/teach/ teach50htm;‘Buddhabhadra,’ www.kr.ks.yahoo.com/service/wiki_ know/know_view.html?tnum=1650. Bagchi, India and China, p. 129. Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, pp. 2-3; The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, pp. 174 and 381; and Chou Hsiang-kuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas, p. 80; Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 118; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20; Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 196; Dharmakñema, The Great Parinirväëa Sütra, (Eng. tr. Charles Patton), pp. 2-4; www. villa.lakes.com/cdpatton/ Dharma/Canon/T0375(1-6).
to Buddhabhadra and Fa-hsien, but the book has been lost.64 Collaborating with Pao-yun, Buddhabhadra translated the Larger Sukhävativyuha Sütra (Wu-liangshou-ching).65 Another most extensive work, was the translation of the Avataàsaka Sütra (Ta-fang Kuang-fo hua-yen ching) with thirty-six thousand verses in sixty fascicles and thirty-four chapters and divided into eight assemblies or scenes held at seven different locations from 417 to 420 CE. 66 It is said that he started the translation of
Jan Yuan-Hua, ‘Fa-hsien’, p. 246. Fujita, ‘The Textual Origins of The Kuan Wu-ling-Shou Ching’, pp. 152, 157 and 160. Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 33; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20; Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism, p. 58; Hirakawa, ‘Buddhist Literature’, p. 519. Mukherjee, Indian Literature Abroad (China), p. 23; Fujieda, ‘The Tun-huang Manuscript’, p. 123; Tucci, The Religions of Tibet, p. 270; Gimello, ‘Hua-yen’, p. 486; Weinstein, ‘Schools of Buddhism: Chinese Buddhism’, p. 483; Gomez, ‘The Avataàsaka Sütra’, p. 160; Bokenkamp, ‘Stages of Transcendence: The Bhumi Concept in Taoist Scripture’, p. 124; Dev, Bouddha Dharma Darshan, p. 151; Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, p. 47; Chou Hsiang-kuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas, p. 72; Ch’en, Buddhism in China, p. 313; Zurcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, Vol. I, p. 407; Bagchi, India and China, p. 205; Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 42; Prebish, The A to Z of Buddhism, p. 58; Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 111; Bapat, 2500 Years of Buddhism, p. 124; The Seeker’s Glossary… , p. 91; Thapa , Newar Buddhism, p. 20; Fujita, ‘The Textual Origins of The Kuan Wu-ling-Shou Ching’, pp. 157 and 162; Bhattarai, Chin Ra Tyasasita Nepal Ko Sambandha, p. 76; Chou Hsiang-kuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas., p. 80; Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Canon, p. 43; Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India., p. 307; The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, pp. 57 and 207; Kohn, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, p. 30; Upadhyaya,
this Sanskrit manuscript in 418 and completed it in 422 CE in Tao Chang Ssu monastery in Yang chou.67 This work is highly metaphysical and has been said to represent the highest level of Mahäyäna thought. Buddhabhadra also translated the Yogäcärabhümé Sütra (Ta-mo-to-lo-ch’anching) in two fascicles from 398 to 421 CE in Lu-shan in Yang Tu.68 Another translation of Buddhabhadra was that of the Tathägatagarbha Sütra (Ta fang ten-ju lai tsang Ching) in one fascicle in 420 CE during the Eastern Tsin Dynasty.69 He also translated the Buddhayäna Samädhisägara Sütra (Kuan fo san-mei hai Ching) from 420 to 423 CE in Yang Chou.70 His other translated works were the Anantamukha Sädhakadhäraëé Sütra (Ch’u Sheng wu
Brihattar Bharat, p. 56; Also browse - ‘Other Translators in the Period of Disunity’, www.buddhistdoor.com/bdoor/archive/ nutshell/teach50.htm; ‘Hua-yen Sect’, www.buddhistdoor.com/ bdoor/ archive/nutshell /teach/teach65htm;‘History of Zen in China’, www.texts.com/ bud/rosa03htm; ‘Buddhabhadra’, www. cyberspacei.com/jesusi/inlight/religion/Buddhism/buddhismh/ htm; and ‘Buddhabhadra’, www.dreamwiz.com/jimung/ songchol file/3folder/file3-12.htm. Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Canon, p. 43. Ibid., p. 355; ‘Other Translators in the Period of Disunity’, www. buddhistdoor.com/bdoor/archive/nutshell/teach50.htm Ibid , p. 129; Joshi, Kalakar Arniko, p. 47; Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 95; Hirakawa, ‘Buddhist Literature’, p. 519; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20. Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Canon, p. 140; Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 104 and Fujita, ‘The Textual Origins of Kuan Wu-ling- Shou Ching’, p. 157.
liang men Ch’ih Ching) in the first year of Yuan Hsi of the Eastern Tsin Dynasty in 419 CE in Yang Tu.71 Similarly, he also translated the Bhadracaryäpraëidhäna (Wen Shu shih li fa yuan ching) during the second year of Yuan Hsi of the Eastern Tsin Dynasty in 420 CE in Tao-Ch’ang Ssu monastery, 72 Dhyäna Sütra (Ta mo to lo Shan Kin) during the Eastern Tsin Dynasty,73 Samantabhadra Praëidhäna Bhadracari and the Maïjuçré Praëidhänotpäda Sütra (Wanshu-sh-li-fa-yuen-Ching)74 in 420 CE. Buddhabhadra also translated several other Buddhist texts, which include the Mahäsäìghikabhikñuëi Vinaya (Mo ho seng ch'i pi ch'iu ni chien pen) during the Eastern Tsin dynasty in 414 CE 75 and the Pratimokña Säìghika Vinayamälä (Po lo thi mu kha san
Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 90; Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Cannon, p. 119; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20. Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Cannon, p. 361; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20. Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 300; Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism, p. 58; ‘History of Zen in China’, www.sacredtexts/com/bud/rosa03.htm; ‘Buddhabhadra’,www.daekaksaofcanada.com/sub03/sub03_08.htm Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 297; Chou Hsiang-kuang, Chini Baudha Dharmaka Itihas , p. 80. Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Canon, p. 329; Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 253; Thapa, Newar Buddhism, p. 20.
khi kie pan or Mo ho seng ch’i lu ta pi Ch’iu Chienpen)76 during the second year of Luang-An of Eastern Tsin dynasty and the second year of Yung Ch’u Liu of Sung dynasty (398-421 CE). Besides Fa-hsien and Pao-yun, other Chinese monks such as Hui-yuan, Fa-Yeh and a host of other monks were also engaged in Buddhabhadra’s translation projects. Buddhabhadra’s works have been mentioned in Samuel Beal’s catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka as well. It is said that Buddhabhadra was a well-known Ch’an Master who gave a course of lectures on the Dhyäna Sütra for the first time in 413 CE, and it was through his instructions that many native Dhyäna practitioners were produced of which Chi Yen and Huan Kao became well known. Even Hui-yuan, the founder of the White Lotus Society and the Chinese Pure Land Buddhism practiced Dhyäna with the help of his instructions. Buddhabhadra’s translations of the Avataàsaka Sütra and Dhyäna Sütra may be said without exaggeration to have laid the very cornerstone for Dhyäna ideology in China. Moreover, through his efforts, the Ch’an School dedicated to the meditation teachings of his teacher Buddhasena, one of the most
Nanjio, A Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist Tripitaka, p. 253; Lancaster and Park, Korean Buddhist Canon, p. 330.
famous Masters of Dhyäna, was propagated throughout the region south of Yangtze. Buddhabhadra is also credited with having taught the Chinese monks to wear monk robes baring one shoulder, to sit on hard ground and to eat only one meal a day before noon.77 He also studied Chinese martial arts Wushu or Kung Fu. He was joined by two disciples, Seng Chou and Hui Gaung. The two studied under Buddhabhadra and in time honed their Wushu skills.78 Thus, he worked tirelessly to expound the Dharma to the Chinese intellectuals. In this way, by spending twenty-one years in China, he laid a strong foundation for the propagation of Buddhism. His works made him a renowned Buddhist Master in China. Very recently, the tomb of Ven. Buddhabhadra has been discovered in China.79 Conclusion We havs seen that the most important contribution made by Buddhabhadra was to the propagation of Buddhism in China and the work of translation. His efforts constitute a glorious chapter in the history of mutual exchange among Buddhist cultures. He was one of those important scholars who were instrumental in
Lai, ‘The Three Jewels in China’, p. 290. ‘Hua-Yen Sect’, www. buddhistdoor.com/bdoor/archive/nutshell /teach65.htm Bhattarai, ‘Dharmacharya Buddhabhadra (Chueh-hsien)’, Buddha Jayanti Golden Jubilee Souvenir, p. 24.
introducing Buddhist texts into China. He made an outstanding contribution by propagating Buddhism in China through his translation works. He also happened to be one of the prominent Buddhist monk-scholars who were invited to stay in the large monasteries of China. He was indeed a person of exceptional status, and his career was exemplary. He was a contemporary of another prominent scholar, Kumarajiva. Though fifteen years younger than Kumarajiva, Buddhabhadra surpassed him in reputed virtue and insight, enjoying among his Chinese contemporaries the highest esteem because of his miraculous powers.80 He was indeed one of the most prominent translators, comparable to Kumarajiva. His works heralded a new epoch in the spread of Buddhism in China. With his deep knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and his command of Sanskrit and Chinese languages, Buddhabhadra was able to translate fifteen Buddhist scriptures in one hundred and seventeen separate volumes. His important translated works still bear testimony to his profound erudition.81 Buddhabhadra not only assisted Kumarajiva in his translation works but also whenever Kumarajiva had any doubts, Buddhabhadra was always consulted for an explanation. His arrival in China marked a turning point
Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism, p. 57. Bagchi, India and China, p. 45.
in the early history of Chinese Buddhism. His contribution to the development of Buddhism in China was not simply that of a translator. He involved many native Chinese monks in the translation process and also fostered many disciples. Buddhabhadra’s translation works belong to three major categories of Chinese Buddhist scriptural writings: Sütra, Vinaya, and treatises and commentaries. Although not all the texts translated by Buddhabhadra were of equal importance or had equal appeal, a surprising number of them came to be regarded as basic scriptures of East Asian Buddhism. Some of the works translated by him became the fundamental Buddhist texts most commonly studied during the fifth century in China. The outcome of Buddhabhadra’s works in partnership with Fa-hsien was to contribute to establish certain kind of spiritual relations between Nepal and China. For this reason, he can be regarded as one of the most important Nepalese to contribute to the propagation of Buddhism in China. He is glowing example of the efforts made by Nepalese Buddhist Masters to spread Buddhism in China. We observe in this scenario a Sino-Nepalese intellectual joint venture in the creation of the new spiritual order. It should be noted that for a long time Buddhism played the role of a great medium of a cultural
exchange between other countries in the region and China. The monk-scholars from Nepal and China made outstanding contributions to the friendly intercourse between the two countries. The accounts of Fa-hsien and Hsüan-tsang have always been held in high esteem by the Buddhist historians as a valuable source for the study of some historical aspects of ancient Nepal. Likewise, in view of his invaluable contributions, along with other Buddhist monks from Central Asian states and India, Buddhabhadra can be undoubtedly regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of the development and expansion of Buddhism in China. References
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