Records of the Lives of the High Masters


-From the lectures of the Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua1
-Translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin

The High Master Buddhayasas was a native of Kashmir.2 His family belonged to a secret non-Buddhist religion. One day, when a Sramana came to their door on his begging rounds, Buddhayas' father said angrily, "Get out of here!" and sent his servant to beat him. As soon as the servant hit him, Buddhayasas' father felt pain in his arms and legs, and in a short time he was completely paralyzed. Realizing his mistake, he asked a shaman for advice.

"You have offended a sage," the shaman said, "and the ghosts and spirits have taken revenge. Seek forgiveness and you will get well."

Buddhayasas' father invited the Sramana into his house and bowed to him over and over saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," and he immediately got well.  Impressed by the Sramana's virtue, Buddhayasas became his disciple and the two of them traveled from country to country.

Once, they met a tiger. The Sramana wanted to run, but Buddhayasas said, "He's eaten his full. Don't worry, he won't harm us."

"How do you know?" said the Sramana...He didn't disbelieve him, but he didn't exactly believe him either. Just then the tiger trotted by without so much as a glance at the two bhiksus. Up ahead, they came upon a corpse; all blood and bones scattered on the road, and the Sramana thought, "Strange, I wonder how he knew that?" Buddhayasas was thirteen years old at the time, but there was nothing strange about it, because he was a young novice with great virtue. He had opened his heavenly eye, and could see right into the tiger's stomach.

When he was fourteen, Buddhayasas studied and recited Sutras—a lot of Sutras, hundreds of thousands of volumes of Sutras—and his arrogance grew.  "How many men in this world could possibly be my teacher?" he thought. "Few, few indeed!" Because of his arrogance, none of his colleagues would come near him and when he was twenty he still hadn't received the complete bhiksu precepts. No one would transmit them to such an arrogant child, so he studied the Indian classics with his non-Buddhist uncle. His teacher looked everywhere for enough High Masters to transmit the precepts to him, but he had annoyed so many that he was twenty-seven years old before he finally received them.

Having mastered the Five Sciences, he continued to study, recite, and translate Buddhist Sutras and later traveled to Kashgar. The King of Kashgar, who was faithful and generous in his offerings to the Triple Jewel, one day invited over 3000 Bhiksus and Bhiksunis to the palace to have lunch and receive offerings! When the King's son, Dharma-putra, saw Buddhayasas, he was deeply impressed by his handsome appearance and awesome comportment and asked, "Where are you from?" Buddhayasas' eloquent reply delighted the Prince and he invited him to live in the palace and receive royal offerings of the finest food, clothing, and lodgings.

It was at this time that the young Kumarajiva and his mother arrived in Kashgar. Kumarajiva had been studying the Small Vehicle, but now he studied the Great Vehicle under Buddhayasas, and together they translated Sutras for a year or two, until Kumarajiva and his mother returned to Kucha.

When the King of Kashgar, whose name translates as "No Thought", died, Dharma-putra took the throne. Fu Chien of the Fu Ch'in Dynasty of China sent his great general Lu Kuang to Kucha to capture Kumarajiva. Dharma-putra went to the aid of the King of Kucha who was battling Lu Kuang. Deputizing his son, the crown prince, and the bhiksu Buddhayasas to administer the country's affairs, Dharma-putra himself led the army to Kucha. But before he even arrived Kucha was devastated, the army defeated, and Kumarajiva captured by Lu Kuang.

The King of Kashgar took his army back to the homeland and told Dharma Master Buddhayasas that Kumarajiva had been captured by China's Lu Kuang. Buddhayasas sighed and said, "Ah! Kumarajiva and I were together for a long time, but I still have not fully explained all the principles that I cherish to him. I don't know when we will meet again."

More time passed. Dharma Master Buddhayasas went to Kucha to propagate the Dharma and everyone believed in him. Dharma Master Kumarajiva sent him a letter from China, inviting him there and Buddhayasas said to his disciples, "We will go immediately!" They prepared to leave, but the King and common people of Kucha would not let them go. Buddhayasas waited a year and then one night he gathered his disciples together. "Tonight we leave!” he said.

"But how?" said his disciples. "We can't get very far, and the King will surely find us and bring us back. How are we going to get out?"

"There's a method," said Buddhayasas, and he put some herbs in a large basin of water and began to recite mantras over them. Then, still reciting mantras, they all washed their feet, picked up their bedding, and ran. They ran about four hundred miles, and when it got light, he asked his disciples,  "What do you think of that?"

"Oh!" they said, "all we heard was the wind in our ears; our eyes blown shut by the wind with tears running from them."

Then he recited another mantra and they all washed their feet again.  The first mantra was the "flying mantra" and the second was the "non-flying mantra". The King of Kucha had sent people after them, but of course they never caught them. The virtuous sramanas of antiquity were national treasures and were not allowed out of the country. 

While they were together in China, Buddhayasas helped Kumarajiva translate Sutras and spread the Dharma. The Chinese Emperor Yao Hsing, who respected him highly, welcomed him at the border and built him a house and study. Buddhayasas lived there but he accepted no further offerings. Many years later, however, he received the four offerings of food, drink, bedding and medicine, but he ignored them and when three great roomsful had accumulated. Emperor Yao Hsing sold them for him and built a temple. The last offering the Emperor made to him was 10,000 rolls of cloth, but he refused it. His practice of not receiving offerings was Dharma Master Buddhayasas' outstanding trait. 

Note: The Kao Seng Chuan does not name the two mantras the "flying mantra" and the "non-flying mantra" but that’s probably what they were. 

(To be continued)

1 Adapted from the Kao Seng Chuan,T.2059,P. 233C.
2 Buddhayasas is a Sanskrit word.
"Buddha" means "enlightened" and "yasas," "splendor," or "renown."
Chinese translators rendered his name as chiao ming  "enlightened brightness." He is well-known for his translation of the Szu Fen Lu, the Dharmaquptaka Vinaya (T. 428).
3 The five (Indian) Classics:
a. grammar and composition
b. logic
c. for Buddhists: Tripitaka and Twelve Divisions of the Canon adhyatma-vidya
d. medicine
e. arts and mathematics
silpa (-karma-) sthana-vidya
Mahavyutpatti, XXVI, 1554-9, p.124-5.
4 For details about this incident see the commentary on the Wonderful Dharma
Lotus Blossom Sutra, VBS #29.