Master Xuanzang (602-664)
Xuanzang 玄奘 was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator who lived during the Tang Dynasty. He was born in 602 in Luoyang, Henan Province, China, and was surnamed Chen 陈, whose real name was Yi 祎. Xuanzang is best known for his extensive travels to India, where he studied Buddhism and collected numerous scriptures, which he later translated into Chinese.
At an early age, Xuanzang was already deeply interested in Buddhism and became a monk at the age of 13. He was known for his intelligence and diligence and quickly rose through the ranks of the Buddhist monastic system. At that time, Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (618 à 907) was very prosperous, but the translated scriptures were many falsehoods and different theories, and Xuanzang was often confused and unable to understand. In particular, the "Regency" and "Earth Theory" had different theories about the Dharma, and Xuanzang felt very puzzled. This led him to seek out more authentic versions of the texts in India.
In 629, Xuanzang embarked on a 17-year journey to India. He traveled overland through the Gobi Desert, across the Pamir Mountains, and into India, enduring countless hardships along the way. During his travels, Xuanzang studied with many Buddhist masters and collected over 600 Sanskrit texts, which he later translated into Chinese.
Xuanzang's journey to seek the Dharma was full of hardships.
The "Records of the Buddha Kingdom" records such a plot: "There are no birds on the top, no beasts below, looking at the extreme eyes, and wanting the degree, but they do not know what to do, but the dead bones are used as the marking ears." There are no residents on the road, the sand is difficult, and the suffering is reasonable. "This shows the pain of the journey to seek the Dharma.
Prayer to Guanyin and recitation of the Prajna Heart Sutra 普拉赫特蘇特拉.
When the food was exhausted and the horse died, Xuanzang, who was in trouble, would unconsciously pray to Guanyin and recite the Prajna Sutra until he found a place with spring water.
Xuanzang's recitation of the Prajna Heart Sutra 普拉赫特蘇特拉 also has a related legend. For example, when Xuanzang was practicing in Shu, he once saw a person who was suffering from illness, and Xuanzang immediately developed compassion, brought the patient back to the monastery, and offered clothes and food.
This patient was the embodiment of Guanyin, and the assisted Guanyin therefore recited the Prajna Sutra to Xuanzang, who has been reciting the Prajna Sutra ever since. When he is in crisis in the desert, the Prajna Sutra will unconsciously blurt out. Although the Prajna Sutra is a very brief classic, the merit of reciting it is great.
Xuanzang's disciples Huili 慧立 and Yan were shocked to record Xuanzang's life and his journey to India to seek the Dharma. When Xuanzang began translating Buddhist texts at the Great Ci'en Monastery, Hui Li first wrote the five volumes "Three Legends of Ci'en", which fully recorded Xuanzang's deeds of obtaining sutras from India to China. After that, the events before Xuanzang's death were recounted by a disciple named Yan Xuan, and finally became the "Legend of the Sanzang Master of Daci'en Temple".
Volume 1. Leaving Chang'an: Xuanzang left Chang'an and crossed the tight military guards all the way west. At that time, it was extremely difficult to walk from central China to distant India.
Volume 2. Reaching Gaochang: With the help of the king of Gaochang (around present-day Turpan, Xinjiang), Xuanzang successfully crossed the treacherous desert and the Tianshan barrier.
Volume 3. Establishing the country through Samao: that is, in the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, after passing through the Tianshan Mountain Range, Xuanzang entered the Western Regions at that time, which is the area of present-day Central Asia.
Volume 4. Kashmira at that time, now Kashmir, it was a holy place of Buddhism, and it was here that Xuanzang began to study the Dharma comprehensively.
Volume 5. Zhongtianzhu Nalanda Temple: Xuanzang arrived at Nalanda Monastery and finally met the master of the sages, where he studied 7 important Buddhist scriptures.
Xuanzang Return to China
Upon his return to China in 645, Xuanzang was welcomed as a hero and was granted an audience with the Tang Emperor Taizong. He was given resources to establish a translation center at the Great Wild Goose Pagoda in Chang'an (today Xi'an), where he spent the rest of his life translating Buddhist texts into Chinese.
It is said that Xuanzang's translations contributed greatly to the development of Chinese Buddhism and had a profound impact on the country's intellectual and religious history.
In addition to his translations, Xuanzang also wrote several works on Buddhism, including "The Great Tang Records on the Western Regions," which documented his travels and experiences in India. He died in 664 at the age of 62 and was posthumously honored with the title "Tripitaka Master," which recognized his contributions to the Buddhist canon.
Xuanzang's legacy continues to inspire and influence people around the world. His dedication to the study and preservation of Buddhist texts helped to bridge the gap between the Buddhist traditions of India and China, and his translations continue to be studied and admired by scholars and practitioners alike.
Xuanzang's influence extended beyond China, as his travels and translations helped to spread Buddhist teachings throughout East Asia. His work also had an impact on Western scholars, such as Max Müller, who called Xuanzang "the greatest traveler in history." Xuanzang's story has been the subject of numerous books, films, and even a popular Japanese manga series, "Journey to the West," which tells the story of his journey to India and his encounters with various supernatural beings.
Today, Xuanzang is still widely revered as a Buddhist master and a cultural hero in China. His tomb in Xi'an is a popular pilgrimage site, and his life and achievements continue to inspire people around the world. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Xuanzang's story, with scholars and travelers retracing his journey and exploring the Buddhist sites he visited along the way.
The greatest traveler in history
Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900) was a German-born scholar and philologist who is known for his work on the comparative study of religions and the translation of sacred texts. He is widely considered one of the greatest scholars of his time, and his contributions to the field of religious studies have had a lasting impact on the way we understand and study religion today.
Müller was particularly interested in the study of Buddhism and its historical development, and he recognized the importance of Xuanzang's work in bringing authentic Buddhist teachings to China. In his book, "Buddhism: Its History and Literature," Müller described Xuanzang as "the greatest traveler in history," praising his dedication to the study of Buddhist texts and his courage in traveling to India during a time of political and social upheaval.
Müller's admiration for Xuanzang was not limited to his scholarly achievements. He also saw Xuanzang as a model for what he called "the true spirit of scientific inquiry," which he believed was characterized by curiosity, skepticism, and a willingness to learn from different cultures and traditions. In Müller's view, Xuanzang embodied these qualities, and his journey to India represented the ideal of the "scientific spirit".
Overall, Müller's praise for Xuanzang reflects his own deep respect for scholarship, religion, and cultural exchange. His recognition of Xuanzang's achievements helped to bring greater awareness of the importance of Buddhist texts and teachings, and his work has continued to inspire scholars and travelers around the world.
Xuanzang was a remarkable figure in Chinese and Buddhist history. His tireless efforts to preserve and translate Buddhist texts, as well as his epic journey to India, have had a lasting impact on Chinese and global culture. Xuanzang's legacy serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, devotion, and intellectual curiosity, and his story continues to inspire generations of people to explore the world and seek spiritual enlightenment.