by Upasaka Kuo Yu Linebarger

     Before the end of the T’ang Dynasty, as many as twenty Buddhist pilgrims traveled to the Buddha’s homeland in search of scriptures. Three of the most famous were the Great Master Fa Hsien, the Great Master Hsuan Tsang, and the Great Master I Ching . Of these, the Great Master Hsuan Tsang has the highest reputation.

     Hsuan Tsang was born in Ch’en Liu which is now modern K’ai Feng in Ho Nan Province. When he was born, his mother dreamed she saw her son dressed in white robes going toward the West. She asked him why he was going and he replied that he was in search of the Dharma. His parents then knew that he was no or­dinary child.

     When Hsuan Tsang was eight, his father taught him the Book of Filial Piety. After hearing and under­standing it, he practiced its doctrine vigorously, and was well—known for his respect for his elders. He went on to master the remaining Confucian Classics, and was so studious that at times he forgot to eat or sleep.

     His second elder brother was a monk at Pure Land Monastery in Lo Yang. On seeing the potential of his younger brother, the bhiksu encouraged him to study at the monastery. After a short while, even though he did not know many of the scriptures and was not old enough, he was vigorous and so was invited to take the precepts of a novice monk. He proved to be worthy of the invitation: within two years he had mastered all the Buddhist writings that were available to him.

     Hsuan Tsang was fully ordained at twenty. When asked why he became a bhiksu he replied that he wished to study and worship the Buddha and his teachings. After receiving the precepts he mastered the precept section of the Buddhist Canon. Hsuan Tsang was like a starving man in search of food; constantly in search of writings to be studied, he traveled all over China.

     Then a problem arose that was to change his life and greatly expand the Buddhist teachings in China. The Master Hsuan Tsang found that all the teachings he had studied from various monks differed from the original texts in one way or another. Some teachers even con­tradicted one another. He knew there must be more scriptures so he vowed to travel to India to learn them and bring back what he could. A primary aim of his journey was to master the Saptadasabhumi Sastra which can solve all doubts.

     Hsuan Tsang petitioned the government many times to allow him to leave the country, but he was constantly refused. Because of his belief in Buddhism he decided to go anyway, and before leaving he asked the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help him on his journey. That night he dreamed he was walking on lotus flowers through the great sea surrounding Mount Sumeru. After attempting to climb the mountain, but failing, he was blown by a strong wind to the top and saw all existence. Needless to say, the Master was greatly encouraged. He slipped out of China under cover of darkness by way of Tun Huang in the West.

     When the Master left for India, he started on one of the greatest pilgrimages of all time. He went for Buddhist scriptures, but he also learned and recorded much about the countries and people he encountered. When he returned, the Emperor T’ai Tsung requested the Master to write a book about all he had seen. This book, Buddhist Records of the Western World, holds much intriguing information about his travels. He not only wrote about the geography, but also covered econ­omics, agriculture, and commercial concerns. He ob­served the philosophies and costumes of the people, and particularly noted the political systems and even the personalities of the rulers. For the first time in Chinese history, China had an “Almanac” about many of the countries to the west. Here is his complete de­scription of the country of Pu—Nu—Tso (Purach).

     This kingdom is about 2000 li in circuit, with many mountains and river—crossings, so that the arable land is very contracted. The seed is sown, however, at regular intervals, and there are a quantity of flowers and fruits. There are many sugar—canes, but no grapes. Amalas, Udumbaras, Mochas, flourish, and are grown in large quantites like woods; they are prized on account of their taste. The climate is warm and damp. The people are brave. They wear ordinary cotton clothing. The disposition of the people is true an upright; they are Buddhists. There are five ”Sangharamas”, mostly deserted. There is no independent ruler, the country being tributary to Kasmir. To t north of the chief town is a temple with a few priests. Here there is a Stupa which is celebrated for its miracles. (trans. Samuel Beal, N · Y., 1968 p.63, Book III.

     During his travels he had many very exciting experiences. While traveling in the desert west of Tun Huang he was invited by Chu Wen-tai,, who, at that time, was the king of Kaochang ~ ~ ), to come to his coun­try. Unable to refuse, the Master followed the king’s envoy. When the Master arrived, he was personally greeted by the king and his attendents. The king told the Master that he had traveled all over China and had seen many monks but was not impressed with any. But when he heard Hsuan Tsang’s name, he became very ex­cited. He said that now that he had this famous monk in his country, he would keep him there and make offerings to him.

     The Master had a job to do and wasn’t going to be diverted. He utilized his eloquent tongue and after much skilled talk, managed to get out of the country with an escort provided by the king.

     After climbing the mountains, he traveled south­west thru Kasmir and India. He visited many of the places where magnificent things happened in the Buddha’s life. One place was Shadow Cave. Here, it was said1 one could see the Buddha and all the great assembly in a image on one of the walls. The Master went to the cave with a group of merchants and prayed at the spot where the image was expected to appear. After a long time the Master’s faith won out, and he saw the Buddha and his entire assembly. He called in the traders, and five out of six present saw what the Master had seen.

     The Master visited the Bodhi Tree, the place were the Buddha was enlightened. He also visited many of the monasteries and studied for quite a while, learning the Indian literary language, Sanskrit. He visited many Stupas containing the Buddha’s relics. Once, after viewing some relics of unusual size, the Master and a monk with whom he was traveling became doubtful about their source, In the evening, when they were discussing the matter, the whole sky lit up and they discovered the light was coming from the Stupa that held the relics. Their doubts vanished.

     The Master’s return trip first went north to the Indus river, which is about two or three miles across. After loading all the writings on a boat, the Master forded the river on his elephant. When the boat was in the middle of the river, a great wind blew some fifty scriptures into the river, as well as some rare Indian flower seeds. The other writings barely escaped. The Master was later informed that the wind suddenly arose because no Indian seeds can leave the country. Others who attempted to take seeds over the Indus had the same accident.

     Hsuan Tsang climbed the mountains and crossed the desert. All the way back he was aided by the kings of countries through which he passed. When he finally arrived in China, sixteen years after he had left, he had many scriptures and Buddha images. Here is a list of the scriptures he brought back:

...224 books of Mahayana Sutras, 192 books of Mahayana Sastras, 15 books of the Tripitaka of the Sthavira School, 15 books of the Tripitaka of the Sammitiya School, 22 books of the Tripitaka of the Mahisasaka School, 17 books of the Tripitaka of the Dharmagupta School, 67 books of the Tripitaka of the Sarvastivadin School, 36 books concerning Hetuvidya Sastra and 13 books concerning the Sabdavidya Sasstra, making a total number of 657 books, bound in 520 cases, being loaded on twenty horses. (Monk Huili, The Life of Hsuan Tsang, trans. Li Yung—hsi, Peking, 1959. p 208.)

     The Master’s great feat did not pass unnoticed. The ceremony which was given was one of the greatest. The streets were so crowded that people weren’t able to move without trampling one another. All the monasteries were ordered to fly the ceremonial banners and the procession welcoming the Master was filled with all the dignitaries of the country, including the Emperor.

     After his return, the Master had many talks with Tai­tsung. The Emperor was so impressed that he asked the Master to leave the monastic life and help him govern the country. The Master refused his offer many times, having decided to spend his remaining years translating the works he brought back However, he aided the Emperor on some major decisions.

     His accomplishments were many. He translated seventy four works in 1,335 volumes, painted one thousand images of the Buddha and one thousand images of Maitreya and copied over Siitras a thousand times, made offerings to ten thous­and bhiksus and more than that number of poor people. He lit sacrificial lamps and save many thousands of living beings. Because of his great merit all the wrongs he had 4co~rjnitted in past lives were redeemed.

     Before he died, he called all the monks together and sacrificed all his personal belongings to make more Buddha images. The Master lay on his side in the posture of Sakyamuni Buddha when he entered Nirvina. A disciple asked him if he was sure he was going to be reborn in the Tushita Heaven with Maitreya Bodhisattva. He replied that he was sure. A little later, his breath stopped. He was given a grand funeral and a Stupa was built at his grave site. The year of his death was 664 A.D.



Ch’en, Kenneth, Buddhism in China, A Historical Survey, Princeton, New Jersey, 1964.
Grousset, Ren6, The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire, Berkeley, 1970.
Hsuan Tsang, Buddhist Records of the Western World, trans. Samuel Beal, New York, 1968.
Li, Dun J., The Ageless Chinese. A History, New York, 1965.
Monk Hui—li, The Life of Hsuan Tsang, trans., LiYung Hsi, Peking, 1959.


Upasaka Kuo Yu Linebarger, who is present] preparing to be both a scholar and a prac­tical cultivator of Buddhism, has lived ar cultivated at the Sino—American Buddhist Association for a number of years. He toc up the study of Chinese in order to be of the greatest use possible in helping to introduce and spread the upright Dharma in the West.

This summer he is taking part in an intensive Chinese language program in Taipei, Taiwan sponsored by San Francisco State College. Upasaka Linebarger is accom­panied by his wife, Kuo Wan. The Linebargers plan to visit many temples and monasteries in Taiwan and Hong Kong during their travels.



Dharma Master Shig Hui Wan, who was named Yu Yun Shan at birth, has always devoted herself to learning and mastered Chinese painting in her early life. One day she had the opportunity to pay her respects to the Great Master Hsu Yun at Nan Hua Monastery, and not long after she was so moved by an inscription of Mother and Son from the Annals of Zen Master Han Shan that she vowed to become a nun.

  In Autumn l942, she took refuge and became a lay disciple under Master Chang Yuan, Abbot of Shih Fang in Cheng Tu, Szechuan.

     Hoping to contribute something to Buddhism, she ma a pilgrimage to India in 1947, and lived in Tien Ju for four years, and worshipped wherever the Buddha had left his footprints. She copied and brought back to China the images of Buddha from the old Ajanta Caves, and used them in her book “Indian Artwhich describe her pilgrimage about the country ‘o~~uddha, blending the mental conception of a Buddhist and an artist , and pointing out that Buddha’s spiritual behaviour was in itself a great art.

     On returning, she studied with Master Tan Hsu and Master Ting Hsi, she began to work on the T’ien T’ai Sect and isolated herself for meditation at She T’ien Ch’an Park in Kowloon, Hongking.

     She has traveled in Europe, Asia, and America, has held several exhibitions and was invited to address many of the university study groups and cultural asso­ciations in the countries she visited. Her main purpose was to visit the Buddhist associations on the spot, so that she might find something to bring back for refer­ence to develop Buddhism in China.

     In 1958, in India, she fulfilled her early vow by leaving home to become a Bhiksuni in the country of the Buddha. When she returned to Hongkong, she paid her respects to Master Tan Hsu and accepted the instruction of T’ien T’ai School, and increased her efforts. In 1959 she received the complete precepts at Pao Lien Temple,(from Master Fa K’o, with Great Master Hai Shan acting as Karma Master.

     In Autumn, 1971, she set up the Lotus Buddhist Academy in Yung Ming Temple on the mountainside on t h~ way to Yang Ming Mountain. There are presently about twenty students, including a few young Bhiksunis, all with great resolve to progress. The main course at the Academy is the cultivation of the Buddhadharma. Students keep silent one day each week and spend a period of time sitting in meditation every day. Other courses are primarily centered around Buddhist studies, with emphasis on the spirit of the Great Master Hui Yuan. There are, in addition, courses in literature, Chinese painting, handwriting, English, etc. so that students can not only learn to be morally upright, but be educated as well, developing themselves in preparation for the work of spreading the Buddhadharma.



  1. Two birds in one cage,
         Fighting for two days,
    Then friendly. 
    When they first come together, 
         They fight. 
    What is the reason?

  2. Two people in one room, 
        In the beginning, 
    Fighting, fighting. 
    After a few months or years. 
         No more fighting, and if 
    One leaves, the other is sad.

  3. Attachment is yourself attaching. 
         No one can tell you to attach; 
    No one can undo attachments for you. 
    I chat with you now, 
         But within it all. 
    Wonderful Dharma.

Spoken by Master Hsuan Hua

(Taken from the notes of Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin)