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The Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King (A Life of Buddha by Asvaghosha Bodhisattva)

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Item Code: NAM256
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788120801202
Pages: 417
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 640 gm
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Book Description

Having been asked by the Editor of the Sacred Books of the East to contribute to the series a volume from the Buddhist literature of China, I undertook, with some distrust, to translate from that language the Phu-yau-king, which is the second version of the Lalita Vistara, known in China, and dated A. D. 308.

After some months of rather disappointing work I found the text so corrupt and imperfect, and the style of the composition so inflated, that I gave up my task, having completed the translation of six chapters (kiouen) of the text, out of eight.

The editor being still desirous to have one book at least from the Chinese Tripitaka in his collection of translations (and more especially a translation of some Life of Buddha, the date of which could be fixed), kindly renewed his request, and proposed that the Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, which professed to be a translation of Asvaghosha's Buddhakarita, made by an Indian priest called Dharmaraksha (or Dharma- kshara), about the year 420 A. D., should be substituted for the work first selected.

This is the work here translated. The difficulties have been many, and the result can only be regarded as tentative. The text itself, and I have had only one Chinese text to work on, is in many places corrupt, and the style of the composition, especially in the metaphysical portions of it, is abstruse and technical. The original Sanskrit, I am told, differs considerably from the Chinese translation, and except in the restoration of proper names, in which the editor of these books has most readily helped me, the assistance derived from it has been very little. I offer the result of my work, therefore, with some mistrust, and yet with this confidence, that due allowance will be made for imperfections in the preparation of a first translation of a text comprising nearly 10,000 lines of poetry, printed in the original without stops or notes of any sort, and in a difficult style of Chinese composition.

Northern Buddhism

This term is now well recognised. It is used to denote the Buddhism of Nepal, Thibet, China, Japan, and Mongolia, as distinguished from the Buddhism of Ceylon, Burmah, and Siam. The radical difference between the two schools is this, that Northern Buddhism is the system developed after contact with Northern tribes settled on the Indus, while the Southern school, on the contrary, represents the primitive form of the Buddhist faith as it came (presumably) from the hands of its founder and his immediate successors. We might, without being far wrong, denote the developed school as the Buddhism of the valley of the Indus, whilst the earlier school is the Buddhism of the valley of the Ganges. In China there is a curious mixture of the teaching of both schools. The books of the contemplative sect in Southern China are translations or accommodations from the teaching of men belonging to the South of India, whilst in the North we find the books principally followed are those brought by priests from the countries bordering on the Indus, and therefore representing the developed school of the later complex system.

Northern Buddhism, again, may be divided into two, if not three, distinct periods of development, or epochs. The earliest includes in it the period during which the teaching of the immediate followers of Buddha, who brought their books or traditions northward and there disseminated them, generally prevailed; this is called the teaching of the' little vehicle' (Hinayana), or 'imperfect means of conveyance' (across the sea of sense). The second period is that during which the expanded form of belief denoted as the' great vehicle' (Mahayana) was accepted; here the radical idea is that the teaching of Buddha provides' universal salvation' for the world. Thirdly, the 'indefinitely expanded' form, known as Vaipulya, which is founded on the idea of a universal nature, to which all living things belong, and which, by recovering itself in each case, secures for the subject complete restoration to the one nature from which all living things have wandered. This is evidently a form of pure Pantheism, and denotes the period when the distinctive belief of Buddhism merged into later Brahmanism, if indeed it did not originate it.

We cannot lay down any sharp line of division (either as to time or minute difference of doctrine) between these forms of thought as they are found in the books; but they may be traced back, through the teaching of the sects into which the system became separated, to the great schism of the primitive Buddhist church at Vaisali, 100 years after the Nirvana.

With respect to this schism the statement made in the Dipavamsa is this: 'The wicked Bhikkus, the Vaggiputtakas (i. e. the Vairsali Buddhists), who had been excommunicated by the Theras, gained another party; and many people, holding a wrong doctrine, ten thousand, assembled and (also) held a council. Therefore this Dhamma Council is called the Great Council (Mahasangiti),' (Oldenberg's translation, p. 140.) Turning now to the Mahasanghika version of the Vinaya, which was translated into Chinese by Fa-hien (circ. 420 A.D.), who brought it from Pataliputra (chap. XXXVI), we read (K. 40, fol. 23 b), 'After the Nirvana (Ni-pan, i. e. Nibbana) of Buddha the Great Kasyapa, collecting the Vinaya Pitaka, was the (first) Great Master (Mahasthavira), and his collection of the Dharmapitaka was in 80,000 divisions. After the death (mih to, destruction) of the great Kasyapa the next master (lord) was Ananda, who also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him the honourable (lord) Mo-yan-tin (Madhyantika) was chief, and he also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him came Sanavasa (she-na-po-sa), who also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him came Upagupta, of whom the lord of the world (Buddha) predicted that as "a Buddha without marks" (alakshanako Buddhah; see Burnouf, Introd. p. 378, note I) he should overcome Mara, which is related in the Avadanas (yin un). This (master) could not hold the 80,000 divisions of the Dharmapitaka. After him there were five schools (the school of the “Great Assembly" being the first of the five) to which the following names were given: (I) Dharmaguptas, (2) Mahisasakas, (3) Kasyapiyas, (4) Sarvastivadas. This last is also called the school “that holds the existence of all," because it maintains the distinct nature of (things existing in) past, present, and future time. Each of these schools had its own president and distinctive doctrine. Because of this in the time of Asokaraga, when the king was in doubt what was right and what was wrong, he consulted the priests as to what should be done to settle the matter. They replied, "The law (dharma) ought to be settled by the majority." The king said, " If it be so, let the matter be put to the vote (by lots or tokens of wood), and so let it be seen who is right (in the majority)." On this they cast lots, and our sect (i.e. the Mahasanghikas) was in great preponderance. Therefore it is called the Mahasangiti or Great Assembly.'

From this it appears that the Mahasanghikas. on their part, claimed to be the original portion of the Buddhist church, and that they regarded the four sects, whose names are given, to be heretical. The same colophon has a further notice respecting this subject. It states that' There was in former times in Mid-India a wicked king who ruled the world. From him all the Sramanas fled, and the sacred books were scattered far and wide. This wicked king having died, there was a good king who in his turn requested the Sramanas to come back to their country to receive his protection (nurture). At this time in Pataliputra there were 500 priests who wished to decide (matters of faith), but there was no copy of the Vinaya, or teacher who knew the Vinaya, to be found. They therefore sent forthwith to the Getavana Vihara to copy out the Vinaya in its original character, as it had been handed down to that period. Fa-hien, when he was in the country of Magadha, in the town of Pataliputra, in the temple of Asokaraga, in the Vihara of the Southern Devaraga (Virudhaka), copied out the Sanskrit (Fan) original and brought it back with him to P'ing kau, and in the twelfth year of the title I-hi (417 A.D.) [416 according to the cyclical characters] and the tenth month, he translated it.' Here we seem to have an obscure allusion to a first and second Asoka. Is it possible that the reference is to an actual council held at Pataliputra in opposition to the orthodox assembly under Moggaliputta? The 500 priests who were sent to the Getavana might have represented the popular party, and being without a copy of their version of the Vinaya, they procured one from Sravasti. This may or may not be so, and in the absence of further details we cannot give it much weight.


Book I
1The BirthI
2Living in the Palace20
3Disgust at Sorrow29
4Putting away Desire38
5Leaving the City47
Book II
6The Return of Khandaka59
7Entering the Place (Wood) of Austerities70
8The General Grief of the Palace81
9The Mission to seek the Prince94
Book III
10Bimbisara Raga invites the Prince111
11The Reply to Bimbisara Raga119
12Visit to Arada Udrarama131
13Defeats Mara147
14O-wei-san-pou-ti (Abhisambodhi)156
15Turning the Law-wheel168
Book IV
16Bimbisara Raga becomes a Disciple180
17The Great Disciple becomes a Hermit192
18Conversion of the ‘Supporter of the Orphans and Destitute' (Anathapindada)201
19Interview between Father and Son218
20Receiving the Getavana Vihara230
21Escaping the Drunken Elephant and Devadatta241
22The Lady Amra (Amrapali) sees Buddha249
Book V
23By Spiritual Power fixing his (Term of) Years.257
24The Differences of the Lik Mavis268
27Praising Nirvana309
28Division of the Sariras325
IComparative List of 17 Chapters of the Sanskrit and Chinese Copies of the Buddhakarita340
IIExample of the Style of the Expanded Sutras, as translated into Chinese344
IIIThe same Title given to different Works365
Transliteration of Oriental Alphabets adopted for the Translations of the Sacred Books of the East377
Sample Pages

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