The Strength of Be­lief


Special Focus - - Contents - Wang Jueren 王觉仁

Xuan­zang, the fa­mous monk San­zang of Tang, was born in Goushi, Luozhou ( Yan­shi City of He­nan Prov­ince today) and had the sec­u­lar name of Chen Wei. When he was 11 years old, he was in­tro­duced by his sec­ond el­der brother, Monk Changjie, to Bud­dhist doc­trines in Jingtu Tem­ple of Luoyang City. Two years later, in 608, by the em­peror’s or­der, Zheng Shanguo, the Chief of the Supreme Court (“Dal­isiqing”), came to Luoyang to “give gov­ern­ment ap­proval to the po­ten­tially qual­i­fied monks.” Xuan­zang went to the in­ter­view.

Zheng had a good name for rec­og­niz­ing tal­ent. He thought highly of Xuan­zang by his dis­po­si­tion and ap­pear­ance, so asked him why he would like to be a monk. “My in­ten­tion is to carry on Bud­dha’s cause by widely spread­ing his teach­ings,” replied the boy. Zheng ap­pre­ci­ated Xuan­zang’s am­bi­tion. “If I give ap­proval to this boy,” he said to his at­ten­dants, “he will be an in­valu­able trea­sure of Bud­dhism.”

Ac­cord­ing to the reg­u­la­tions, Xuan­zang was too young to be ap­proved as a monk. Luck­ily, Zheng made an ex­cep­tion for him. But even Zheng did not ex­pect that lit­tle boy to be a per­son who would com­pletely

change the Bud­dhist his­tory of East Asia.

An Omi­nous Jour­ney

In the early stage of Xuan­zang’s re­li­gious ca­reer, he soon achieved mas­tery of the i mpor­tant Ma­hayana the­o­ries in­clud­ing the Ma­ha­pari-nir­vanaSu­tra and

Ma­hayana-sam­graha . In 618, when Luoyang was un­der direct threat of the civil war, Xuan­zang left Luoyang for other fa­mous tem­ples in China. He vis­ited tem­ples in Chengdu, Jingzhou ( Jian­gling County of Hubei Prov­ince today), Yangzhou, Xiangzhou (Anyang City of He­nan Prov­ince today), Zhaozhou (Zhaox­ian County of He­bei Prov­ince today), and then went to Chang’an, the im­pe­rial cap­i­tal of Tang, in 627.

Af­ter a decade’s study and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with var­i­ous Bud­dhist schools, Xuan­zang be­came a renowned master. How­ever, only in the process of his stud­ies did Xuan­zang start to re­al­ize the es­sen­tial in­com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween the dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ings of Bud­dhism, and he fur­ther found that those dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ings were mostly caused by in­con­sis­tent trans­la­tions of Bud­dhist scrip­tures. He then con­sid­ered vis­it­ing In­dia to study the orig­i­nal San­skrit scrip­tures.

He be­came de­ter­mined to see through his westward jour­ney af­ter meet­ing a monk from mid­dle In­dia, who in­tro­duced to Xuan­zang the aca­demic scale of Na­landa Monastery ( which is lo­cated in Patna, Bihar state of In­dia today), the fa­mous shrine of Bud­dhism, and de­scribed the spec­tac­u­lar event when Master Si­l­ab­hadra ex­pounded the

Yo­gacara-bhu­miSu­tra . Xuan­zang promptly ap­plied for an exit per­mit from the gov­ern­ment.

By that time, such a per­mit was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to get, and Xuan­zang’s ap­pli­ca­tion was not sur­pris­ingly re­jected. Yet he never gave up his res­o­lu­tion and be­lief. The monk made all the prepa­ra­tions and waited for an op­por­tu­nity.

In Au­gust, 627, Chang’an and the sur­round­ing ar­eas were swept by se­ri­ous frost and famine. When Xuan­zang heard that the gov­ern­ment al­lowed the vic­tims to freely leave their home­land to make a liv­ing, he im­me­di­ately grasped the op­por­tu­nity. The

Statue of Master Xuan­zang in Xi’an西安 玄奘像

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