Reminder from last issue:
Buddhism in Sanskrit and Pali
The Buddhadharma Is Transmitted to China
In the book Records of Strange Events from the Zhou Dynasty, it records that the Buddha was born in India during the 24th year of Emperor Zhao of Zhou Dynasty in China. At that time the rivers overflowed their banks and a five-colored auspicious light connected the major stars. An astrologer and diviner named Su Qu consulted the Book of Changes and got the first hexagram qian, nine in the fifth place, "flying dragon in the sky." From this he ascertained that a great sage had been born in the West, in India, and that his teachings would come to China a thousand years later. Emperor Zhao ordered that the event be engraved on a stone tablet and buried at a certain spot south of the city, to see if a thousand years hence the Buddhadharma would actually be transmitted to China.
At the time of Emperor Mu of Zhou, the Buddha entered Nirvana in India. In the distant east, there was a massive earthquake in China, and twelve white rainbows simultaneously arched from the sun, a sign that the whole world was mourning. At that time another astrologer named Hu Duo used the Book of Changes to consult the hexagrams. He concluded, "There is a great sage in the West who has entered Nirvana." Therefore, the Buddha's coming to the world is no chance event.
Although historical records say that Buddhism first entered China in the Latter Han Dynasty, the Buddhadharma actually existed in China before then. Liezi once quoted Confucius as saying, "Qiu has heard of a sage in the West, who did not have to rule, and yet there was no disorder. He did not have to speak, yet people believed in him. He did not have to teach, yet people would practice. It was beyond the people's ability to describe his greatness." From this we know that Confucius had already heard of the Buddha. During the reign of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, King Asoka of India sent the monk Shi Lifang and seventeen others to take the Buddhist Sutras to China and propagate Buddhism there.
The First Emperor of Qin thought they were strange-looking, and imprisoned them. At night a sixteen-foot-high golden spirit broke down the prison door and released them, startling the Emperor so much that he bowed and repented of his fault. Later he lavished many presents upon them and escorted them to the country's border. The Chapter of Shi Laozhi in the Book of Wei says, "When Emperor Wu of the Former Han Dynasty was on an imperial tour of inspection, Huo Qubing received a golden image over ten feet tall from King Kunxie. Thinking it was a great god, the Emperor placed it in Sweet Springs Palace, lit incense and bowed to it." This indicates there were Buddha images in China as early as Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. However, this can only be considered the very beginnings of Buddhism in China; there was no formal propagation.
During the Yungping Reign of the Eastern Han (Latter Han), about a thousand years after Emperor Zhao of Zhou, Emperor Ming dreamed that a golden person with adorned features and a halo around his head flew into the Emperor's palace. The next day Emperor Ming asked his ministers about the dream and an astrologer named Fu Yi told the Emperor about the auspicious portents which had appeared in China when the Buddha was born, as recorded in the book Records of Strange Events. Emperor Ming then sent eighteen people, including Cai Yin, Qin Jing and Wang Zun, to India to request the Buddhadharma. When they reached Kusana, they met the Venerables Kashyapa-matanga and Gobharana, who were going to China to propagate the Dharma, bringing Buddhist Sutras on a white horse. Therefore, they all went to China together.
Emperor Ming welcomed the two Venerable Ones with solemn ceremony, and led them to Honglu Villa in Loyang. Later, he built them a magnificent temple and named it White Horse Monastery because they had carried the sutras to China on a white horse. This marked the advent of Buddhist temples in China. It is said that the two Venerables translated five Sutras. However, four have been lost and only the Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by the Buddha remains. This was China's earliest Dharma treasure.
→To be continued