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p. ix


HAVING been asked by the Editor of 'the Sacred Books of the East' to contribute to the series a volume from the Buddhist literature of China, I undertook, with some distrust, to translate from that language the Phû-yau-king, which is the second version of the Lalita Vistara, known in China, and dated A.D. 308.

After some months of rather disappointing work I found the text so corrupt and imperfect, and the style of the composition so inflated, that I gave up my task, having completed the translation of six chapters (kiouen) of the text, out of eight.

The editor being still desirous to have one book at least from the Chinese Tripitaka in his collection of translations (and more especially a translation of some Life of Buddha, the date of which could be fixed), kindly renewed his request, and proposed that the Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, which professed to be a translation of Asvaghosha's Buddhakarita, made by an Indian priest called Dharmaraksha (or Dharmâkshara), about the year 420 A.D., should be substituted for the work first selected.

This is the work here translated. The difficulties have been many, and the result can only be regarded as tentative. The text itself, and I have had only one Chinese text to work on, is in many places corrupt, and the style of the composition, especially in the metaphysical portions of it, is abstruse and technical. The original Sanskrit, I am told, differs considerably from the Chinese translation, and except in the restoration of proper names, in which the editor of these books has most readily helped me, the assistance derived from it has been very little. I offer the

p. x

result of my work, therefore, with some mistrust, and yet with this confidence, that due allowance will be made for imperfections in the preparation of a first translation of a text comprising nearly 10,000 lines of poetry, printed in the original without stops or notes of any sort, and in a difficult style of Chinese composition.


This term is now well recognised. It is used to denote the Buddhism of Nepal, Thibet, China, Japan, and Mongolia, as distinguished from the Buddhism of Ceylon, Burmah, and Siam. The radical difference between the two schools is this, that Northern Buddhism is the system developed after contact with Northern tribes settled on the Indus, while the Southern school, on the contrary, represents the primitive form of the Buddhist faith as it came (presumably) from the hands of its founder and his immediate successors. We might, without being far wrong, denote the developed school as the Buddhism of the valley of the Indus, whilst the earlier school is the Buddhism of the valley of the Ganges. In China there is a curious mixture of the teaching of both schools. The books of the contemplative sect in Southern China are translations or accommodations from the teaching of men belonging to the South of India, whilst in the North we find the books principally followed are those brought by priests from the countries bordering on the Indus, and therefore representing the developed school of the later complex system.

Northern Buddhism, again, may be divided into two, if not three, distinct periods of development, or epochs. The earliest includes in it the period during which the teaching of the immediate followers of Buddha, who brought their books or traditions northward and there disseminated them, generally prevailed; this is called the teaching of the 'little vehicle' (Hinayâna), or 'imperfect means of conveyance' (across the sea of sense). The second period is that during which the expanded form of belief denoted as the 'great

p. xi

vehicle' (Mahâyâna) was accepted; here the radical idea is that the teaching of Buddha provides 'universal salvation' for the world. Thirdly, the 'indefinitely expanded' form, known as Vaipulya, which is founded on the idea of a universal nature, to which all living things belong, and which, by recovering itself in each case, secures for the subject complete restoration to the one nature from which all living things have wandered. This is evidently a form of pure Pantheism, and denotes the period when the distinctive belief of Buddhism merged into later Brahmanism, if indeed it did not originate it.

We cannot lay down any sharp line of division (either as to time or minute difference of doctrine) between these forms of thought as they are found in the books; but they may be traced back, through the teaching of the sects into which the system became separated, to the great schism of the primitive Buddhist church at Vaisâlî, too years after the Nirvâna.

With respect to this schism the statement made in the Dîpavamsa 1 is this: 'The wicked Bhikkus, the Vaggiputtakas (i.e. the Vaisâlî Buddhists), who had been excommunicated by the Theras, gained another party; and many people, holding a wrong doctrine, ten thousand, assembled and (also) held a council. Therefore this Dhamma Council is called the Great Council (Mahâsaṅgîti),' (Oldenberg's translation, p. 140.) Turning now to the Mahâsaṅghika version of the Vinaya, which was translated into Chinese by Fa-hien (circ. 420 A.D.), who brought it from Pâtaliputra (chap. XXXVI), we read (K. 40, fol. 23 b), 'After the Nirvâna (Ni-pan, i.e. Nibbâna) of Buddha the Great Kâsyapa, collecting the Vinaya Pitaka, was the (first) Great Master (Mahâsthavira), and his collection of the Dharmapitaka was in 80,000 divisions. After the death (mih to, destruction) of the great Kâsyapa the next master (lord) was Ânanda, who also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him the honourable (lord) Mo-yan-tin (Madhyântika) was chief, and he also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him came

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[paragraph continues] Sanavâsa (she-na-po-sa), who also held the Dharmapitaka in 80,000 (divisions). After him came Upagupta, of whom the lord of the world (Buddha) predicted that as "a Buddha without marks" (alakshanako Buddhah; see Burnouf, Introd. p. 378, note 1) he should overcome Mâra, which is related in the Avadânas (yin ün). This (master) could not hold the 80,000 divisions of the Dharmapitaka. After him there were five schools (the school of the Great Assembly" being the first of the five) to which the following names were given: (1) Dharmaguptas, (2) Mahîsâsakas, (3) Kâsyapîyas, (4) Sarvâstivâdas. This last is also called the school "that holds the existence of all," because it maintains the distinct nature of (things existing in) past, present, and future time. Each of these schools had its own president and distinctive doctrine. Because of this in the time of Asokarâga, when the king was in doubt what was right and what was wrong, he consulted the priests as to what should be done to settle the matter. They replied, "The law (dharma) ought to be settled by the majority." The king said, "If it be so, let the matter be put to the vote (by lots or tokens of wood), and so let it be seen who is right (in the majority)." On this they cast lots, and our sect (i.e. the Mahâsaṅghikas) was in great preponderance. Therefore it is called the Mahâsaṅgîti or Great Assembly.'

From this it appears that the Mahâsaṅghikas, on their part, claimed to be the original portion of the Buddhist church, and that they regarded the four sects, whose names are given, to be heretical. The same colophon has a further notice respecting this subject. It states that 'There was in former times in Mid-India a wicked king who ruled the world. From him all the Sramanas fled, and the sacred books were scattered far and wide. This wicked king having died, there was a good king who in his turn requested the Sramanas to Come back to their country to receive his protection (nurture). At this time in Pâtaliputra there were 500 priests who wished to decide (matters of faith), but there was no copy of the Vinaya, or teacher who knew the Vinaya, to be found. They therefore sent forthwith to the Getavana Vihâra to copy out the Vinaya in its original character, as

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it had been handed down to that period. Fa-hien, when he was in the country of Magadha, in the town of Pâtaliputra, in the temple of Asokarâga, in the Vihâra of the Southern Devarâga (Virûdhaka), copied out the Sanskrit (Fan) original and brought it back with him to P’ing kau, and in the twelfth year of the title I-hi (417 A.D.) [416 according to the cyclical characters] and the tenth month, he translated it.' Here we seem to have an obscure allusion to a first and second Asoka. Is it possible that the reference is to an actual council held at Pâtaliputra in opposition to the orthodox assembly under Moggaliputta? The 500 priests who were sent to the Getavana might have represented the popular party, and being without a copy of their version of the Vinaya, they procured one from Srâvastî. This may or may not be so, and in the absence of further details we cannot give it much weight.

On examining the copy of the Vinaya alluded to by Fa-hien, viz. that belonging to the Mahâsaṅghikas, we find ample reason for adhering to the statement of the Dîpavamsa, viz. 'that the members of the great congregation proclaimed a doctrine against the faith' (p. 139 op. cit.) The sections illustrating the Parâgika and other rules are of a gross and offensive character. The rules are illustrated by an abundance of tales or gâtakas introduced in the text (this seems to favour the presence of a Northern element in the redaction). The account of the two councils differs from that found in the other copies of the Vinaya, and in the history of the second council at Vaisâlî there is mention made only of one of the sins of the 'Vaggiputtakas,' viz. receiving money; but the council itself is called, according to this account, for the purpose of revising the canon. Now this seems to show that the Mahâsaṅghika school took its rise at this time, and that a redaction of the canon was prepared by that school distinct from that in common use. According to the statement found in the Dîpavamsa, 'they composed other Suttas and another Vinaya' (p. 141, § 36). This is confirmed by an account which we have given us in a work belonging to the Vinaya class in the Chinese Tripitaka, called 'The Questions of Sâriputra'

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[paragraph continues] (Catalogue, case 48, miscellaneous). I thought this might be the work referred to in the edict of Asoka as the Questions of Upatissa,' but on examination it appears to be a production of the Mahâsaṅghika school, and not exclusively bearing on questions of the Vinaya. Perhaps it was written and named in opposition to the orthodox text alluded to in the edict. To exhibit the teaching of the school to which it belongs I will briefly allude to the earlier portion of this Sûtra. The scene is laid in Râgagriha, the question proposed by Sâriputra is, 'Who is the true disciple of Buddha, and who not?' Buddha replies, 'The true disciple is one who attends to and obeys the precepts, as the Bhikshu Pao-sse, i.e. precious thing (Yasa), who hearing the statement of Buddha that all things (samskârâ) were impermanent, immediately perceived the whole truth. The disciple who attends to the tradition of the church is also a true one, as the Bhikshu who attended to Sâriputra's statement respecting Kâludâyi's drinking wine. Those, on the other hand, who neglect either the direct instruction of Buddha, or that of his successors--these are not true disciples.' Sâriputra then proceeds to ask what are the permissions and what the prohibitions made by Buddha in the rules of the Vinaya, especially in respect of food, as, for example, where Buddha forbids an early meal at the invitation of a villager, or where he permits the use of fish and other condiments. Buddha replies that these things must depend on circumstances, and that the rule of the true disciple is to follow the directions of the president of the church. For instance, after my Nirvâna (he proceeds) the great Kâsyapa will have authority equal to mine; after Kâsyapa, Ânanda; after Amanda, Madhyântika; after Madhyântika, Sanakavâsa; after Sanakavâsa, Upagupta; after Upagupta there will be a Maurya (king) Ku-ko (Asoka), who will rule the world and extend the Scriptures (Dharmavinaya). His grandson will be called Pushyamitra (Fu-sha-mih-to-lo), who will succeed to the empire of the righteous king (or who will succeed directly to the empire of the king, or the royal estate). This one will ask his ministers what he must

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do to gain an undying fame; and being told he must either patronise religion as his predecessor or persecute it, he will adopt the latter course, overthrow the pagodas (dâgobas), destroy the Scriptures, murder the people. Five hundred Arhats, however, will escape the persecution. Meantime the Scriptures being taken up to Maitreya, he will preserve them. At last the king and his army being destroyed (by a mountain cast on them), this line of kings will perish. Afterwards a righteous king will succeed, and Maitreya will send down 300 youths, born apparitionally among men, who will recover the law from the 500 Arhats, and go amongst men instructing them, so that once more the Scriptures, which had been taken to heaven by Maitreya, will be disseminated in the world. At this time the king of the country will divide the Dharmavinaya into many parts; and will build a strong-hold in which to preserve them, and so make it difficult for those wishing to consult them, to do so. Then an old Bhikshu of good repute will write a remonstrance, and selecting such passages of the Vinaya as are in accordance with Kâsyapa's council, and known as the Vinaya of the 'Great Congregation' (will make them known); the other party will, on their part, include with these the false additions that have been since made. Thus will begin the contention and wrangling. At length the king will order the two schools to assemble, and the matter to be put to the vote, in this way,--taking a number of slips of wood, some black, the others white, he will say, 'let the adherents of the old school take the black slips, and the new school the white slips.' Then those taking the black slips will be myriads in number, those taking the white only hundreds. Thus there will be a separation. The old school will be called 'the Mahâsaṅghikas,' the new 'the school of the elders,' and hence also named 'the Ta-pi-lo' (Sthâvira (school)).

This obscure account tends at any rate to show that the original separation of the church, from which resulted the later schisms, began at the time of the Great Assembly at Vaisâlî. Whether we are to gather that a second and final separation took place afterwards when the good king was

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reigning (Dharma-Asoka?) is not certain, but it seems to be implied in this and the former record, and is in every respect probable. This would therefore account for the silence of the Northern school respecting the Council at Pâtaliputra, and would fully explain why the Sthâvira school insists on that council as the charter, so to speak, of their orthodoxy.


There is no life of Buddha in the Southern school. Facts connected with his life are found in the different canonical books, and these being put together give an out-line of his career, though there is no single work devoted to the account of his life. But there are many such works in the Chinese collection of books. Some of them still exist, others have been lost. The earliest of which we have any record was translated by Ku-fa-lan (Gobharana) between A.D. 68 and A.D. 70. It was called the

(1) Fo-pen-hing-king

in five chapters. It is lost, but there are quotations from it found in Chinese Buddhist books which indicate its character. In the commentary, for example, of Taou-shih, who edited a life of Buddha by Wong pûh, there is frequent reference to a work, Pen-hing-king, which in all probability is the book under our present consideration. This we gather from a comparison of these quotations with the text of other works that bear a similar title. For instance, there is a book called Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king, which is stated to be a Chinese version of the Abhinishkramana Sûtra, that is sometimes quoted as the Pen-ping-king, but the passages given by Taou-shih are not to be found in this work. Neither are they taken from the Pen-hing-king, written by Paou-Yun, nor are they to be found in the Pen-hing-king by Asvaghosha. We may justly argue therefore that the commentator, Taou-shih, in quoting from the Pen-hing-king, refers to the work translated by Ku-fa-lan, which is

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now lost. If so, the book can have differed in no material point from the common legendary account of Buddha's early career. In § 8 the Pen-ping is quoted in reference to the selection of Buddha's birth-place; in § 11 the dream of Mâyâ at the conception of the child is referred to. In § 23 there is the history of Asita and his horoscope. In § 27 the trial in athletic sports. In § 29 the enjoyment of the prince in his palace for ten years. In § 31 the account of the excursion beyond the walls and the sights of suffering. In § 33 the interview with his father before his flight from the palace. In § 38 the act of cutting his hair with his sword and the intervention of Sakra. In § 39 his exchange of garments with the hunter. In § 40 his visit to the Rishis in the snowy mountains. In § 41 the account of his six years' fast at Gayâ. In § 44 there is allusion to the Nâgas Kalika and Mukilinda. In § 46 the rice milk given by the two daughters of Sugâta. Here the quotations from the Pen-hing conic to an end. We can scarcely doubt therefore that this work ended with the account of the supreme enlightenment of Buddha. It is said that the Fo-pen-hing was in five kiouen; it could not therefore have been a short abstract, but must have been a complete history of Buddha from his birth to the period of his victory over Mâra. It would thus correspond with what is termed the 'intermediate epoch,' in the Southern records. We may conclude therefore that such a life of Buddha was in circulation in India in a written form at or before the beginning of our era. It was brought thence by Ku-fa-lan, and translated into Chinese A.D. 67-70. M. Stanislas Julien, in the well-known communication found on p. xvii n. of the translation of the Lalita Vistara from Tibetan by M. Foucaux, speaks of this work as the first version of the Lalita Vistara into Chinese.

We have next to consider a work translated into Chinese by two Sramanas from India in the year A.D. 194, and named

(2) Siu-hing-pen-k’i-king.

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[paragraph continues] This work belongs to case lxviii in my Catalogue of the Buddhist Tripitaka, and is numbered 664 by Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio. It was translated by Ku-ta-lih (Mahâbâla) and Kong-mang-tsiang. As the title indicates, it is a brief memoir of Buddha's preparatory career (i.e. preparatory to his enlightenment), in two parts 1 and seven vargas. It is stated in the work, Kao-săng-fu, K. i, fol. 8/1, that this book was brought from Kapilavastu by the Sramana Dharmaphala (Tan-kwo). This is also repeated in the work Lai-tai-san-pao, K. iv, fol. 18. The opening scene therefore lies in Kapilavastu. Its language is sufficiently exaggerated, but not to that wearisome degree found in the later Sûtras. It begins with the nomination of Buddha by Dîpaṅkara, and ends with the defeat of Mâra under the tree of knowledge. It therefore includes both the distant and the intermediate epochs. I shall give the headings of the seven vargas, with some remarks on the character of the narrative.

Varga 1 (pp. 1-9). 'Exhibiting change.' The scene is laid in Kapilavastu, in the Nyagrodha Vihâra. Surrounded by a vast assembly of disciples, Buddha enquires of Maudgalyâyana, 'Can you for the sake of all living things 2 declare the origin of my career (pen k’i)?' On this Maudgalyâyana, addressing Buddha in the usual orthodox way, asks him to recite the history in virtue of his own inherent spiritual power. On this Buddha declares how he had been born during innumerable kalpas in every character of life for the sake of stemming the tide of lust and covetousness which engulphed the world, and by a life of continual progress through the exercise of the virtues of wisdom, patience, charity, &c. had arrived at the final condition of enlightenment. He then gives the history of his nomination when Dîpaṅkara was Buddha, and of his successive births until finally, after having been born as Vessantara, he occupied the Tushita heaven, and thence descended to be

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born in Kapilavastu as the Bodhisattva about to accomplish his career as Buddha.

Varga 2. Bodhisattva descends as a spirit. In this section we find an account of Bodhisattva's conception. He descends under the form 1 of a white elephant, and is seen by Mâyâ in a dream: 'She beholds in the middle of heaven a white elephant resplendent with glory, and lighting up the world, accompanied by music and sounds of rejoicing, and whilst accompanying Devas scatter flowers and incense, the elephant approaches her, and for a moment hovers above the spot and disappears.' The dream is interpreted by the soothsayers as an exceedingly fortunate one, because 'it indicated the descent of a holy spirit (Shing-shin) into the womb.' The child born therefore would be either a wheel-turning flying-as-he-goes (fi-hing), universal monarch, or a Buddha 'born to save the world.' The queen from that moment leads a pure, uncontaminate life.

'Now on account of this conception,
Bearing as I do a Mahâsattva,
I give up all false, polluting ways,
And both in heart and body rest in purity.'

[paragraph continues] The kings of neighbouring countries bring their presents of gold, silver, jewels, and robes, and on the eighth day of the fourth month the child is born under an Asoka tree. The angels sing for joy, and thirty-two supernatural events indicate the nativity. We need not enumerate all these events; the first, however, is that the earth was greatly shaken, and all rough and hilly places became smooth. The fifteenth is, the star Pushya came down and appeared waiting on the prince. The last is that the tree spirit (i.e. the spirit residing in the tree under which the Bodhisattva was born) appearing from it as a man bowed his head in worship 2. We then have an account of Asita's visit and prediction. The

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varga concludes with the account of his superiority over his teachers.

Varga 3. The athletic contest. This section contains an account of the prince's marriage with Ku-i (Gopî) after the exhibition of his strength in fighting, wrestling, and archery. The prince in this account restores the elephant to life which Devadatta had killed, and is charged by Devadatta and his followers as being strengthened by Mâra (the devil) in doing the wonders he did. He marries Gopî, and with 60,000 attendant women dwells in his palace. But his heart is not at rest.

Varga 4. The excursion for observation. This is the usual account of the prince's visit to the garden and the sights he beheld. The charioteer is accompanied by 1000 other chariots and 10,000 cavalry. A Suddha Deva called Nandahara assumes the form of an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a Sramana successively, and thus determines the prince to leave the world (worldly life) and become an ascetic. In order to distract his mind the king requests the prince to attend a ploughing festival. Whilst thus engaged he beholds the suffering of the oxen, and the heat and toil of the men, and the countless insects being destroyed and devoured by the birds. Retiring under the shadow of a Gambu tree 1 he enters Dhyâna (profound meditation). The king hearing where he was proceeds to the spot, and observes the branches of the trees bent down 2 over the prince, and on approaching the horses bend their knees in reverence. The king and his retinue then return to the city. On entering the gate he is met by countless thousands of people with flowers and incense, whilst the soothsayers shout with joy, 'O king! live for ever!' The king enquiring the reason, the Brahmans tell him that to-morrow the seven treasures would appear, and the king would become a 'holy ruler' (a Kakravartin).

Varga 5. Leaving his home. The prince without ceasing

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meditated on the joy of a contemplative life in the desert. Being now nineteen years old, he vowed on the seventh day of the fourth month to leave his home. In the middle of the night he was addressed by Ku-i his wife, who had been troubled by five dreams. Having appeased her, the gods determined, ere he composed himself again, to induce him to leave his home. They sent Ou-suh-man [is this Wésamuna? (Manual of Buddhism, p. 51)] to lull the people to sleep, whilst the Deva Nandahara causes all the women of the palace to appear in loathsome attitudes, &c. The prince beholding the sight, and regarding all things that exist 'as a phantom, a vision, a dream, an echo,' called his coachman to bring his horse, and accompanied by countless divine beings left the city. Leaving the city they fled on their way, till at morning light they had gone 480 lis, and arrived at the A-nu-ma country (the river Anavamâ or Anomâ; a Chinese note explains it as the 'ever-full'). Here he dismisses his attendant and sends him back with the horse and his jewels to Kapilavastu. Having cut off his hair, he proceeded to the Magadha country, and there has an interview with Bimbisâra râga. To the enquiry whence he came and what his title was, he replies, 'I come from Ka-wei (Kapila or Kavila) to the east of the fragrant mountains and north of the snowy mountains.' On this Bimbisâra asks him in haste, 'Surely you are not that celebrated Siddhârtha?' On his replying in the affirmative, the king bows down at his feet, and asks why one so richly endowed and so distinguished in his person was not a universal monarch, and why he had left his home. The prince replies that he had gone forth to seek deliverance from old age, disease, and death. On this follows a long series of lines (geyas), beginning, 'Suppose we could.' Finally Bodhisattva leaves the king and encounters Arâta and Kâlâma (i.e. Arâla Kâlâma), but not satisfied with their teaching he again departs.

Varga 6. Six years' austerities. Bodhisattva goes forward and arrives at the valley (river-valley (kuen)) of Se-na. This valley was level and full of fruit trees, with no noxious insects or snakes. Here dwelt the Rishi (Tao-sse) Se-na, with 500 followers. Here Bodhisattva took his

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residence under a Sâla tree. The gods offer him nectar (sweet dew), but he receives it not, but vows to take one grain of millet (hemp) a day. When he had continued thus for six years, and reduced himself to the verge of death, the two daughters of Se-na have a dream, in which they see a lily having seven colours wither away; there comes a man who waters it, and it revives, whilst other buds spring up on the face of the water. Awaking they ask their father to explain the dream, but neither he nor his followers can do so. On this Sakra descends under the form of a Brahmakârin, who explains the dream. The girls having prepared a dish of cream convey it to Bodhisattva; he receives it, and his strength revives. Having washed his hands and flung the dish into the river, whence it is carried by a golden-winged bird to heaven, he proceeds to the Bodhi tree.

Varga 7. Defeats Mâra. Seated under the tree he causes a stream of light to proceed from between his eyes and to enter the dwelling of Mâra. Mâra, greatly disconcerted, knowing that the Bodhisattva if he fulfils his purpose will overthrow his power, resolves to oppose him. His son Sumati warns him against such an attempt, but Mâra, summoning his three daughters, acquaints them with his design. They robe themselves in their choicest attire, and with 500 attendants go to the spot where Bodhisattva was. They proceed to tempt him with lascivious offers. Bodhisattva with a word changes their appearance into that of old women. On this Mâra, enraged, summons the king of the demon spirits (kwei-shin) to assemble with eighteen myriads of others. They surround the tree for a distance of thirty-six yoganas, and assuming every shape (lions, bears, tigers, elephants, oxen, horses, dogs, monkeys, &c.) they belch forth smoke and fire. Bodhisattva sits unmoved. Mâra then advances and endeavours to induce him to give up his purpose. Bodhisattva replies in loving words, and finally the entire host is dispersed. Buddha then arrives at perfect wisdom, the condition which neither Brahma nor any other being had yet attained, and so completes his purpose.

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The following life of Buddha, although named in the_ catalogues, has not come under my notice:

(3) Siau-pen-k’i-king

in two kiouen; translated by the Sramana Ki-yau, A.D. 196.

The next history of Buddha in point of the date of its translation is the

(4) Ta-tseu-sui-ying-pen-k’i-king.

[paragraph continues] This is the work of an Upâsaka belonging to the Wu dynasty (222-264 A.D.), who came to China towards the end of the After-Han dynasty, and was a diligent translator. The work before us is a brief one, divided into two parts, without any subdivision into sections. The first part, which resembles the translation last noticed, takes us to the defeat of Mâra. The second includes in it a description of Buddha's condition as the 'fully enlightened,' and also the conversion of the fire-worshipping Kâsyapas. With respect to his work of preaching, this book has the peculiarity of excluding all mention of the journey to Benares after the enlightenment. It makes the conversion of the five men take place near the Bodhi tree in Magadha, and omits all mention of Yasa, Sâriputra, or Maudgalyâyana. The account of the conversion of the Kâsyapas is full and circumstantial. It agrees in a marked way with the particulars given in the Manual of Buddhism (Spence Hardy, pp. 188-191 ). The illustrations of this event, given in the Sanchi Sculptures (plates xxiv, xxxi, xxxii, 1st ed.), show that it was a popular episode in the history of Buddha at the time of the completion of the Sanchi Stûpa. It is also given in the following pages in Asvaghosha's work, so that we cannot doubt this event formed part of the recognised work of Buddha as a teacher. This short life therefore includes in it the three portions known in the South as the distant, intermediate, and proximate epochs. The last named, however, differs materially from the more expanded account found in other books, and is in fact

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confined to the labour of the conversion of the five men and the three Kâsyapa brothers.

We now come to the consideration of the life of Buddha known as the

(5) Kung-pen-k’i-king.

This translation was made by the Sramana Dharmaphala in conjunction with Kong-mang-tsiang, about the year 208 A.D. It was brought by Dharmaphala from Kapilavastu, and it is said to be extracted from the Dîrghâgama (the long Âgama), which is undoubtedly a primitive and, as we should say, a canonical work. This translation is in two parts, divided into 15 vargas.

Varga 1. Turning the wheel of the law. This section begins with Buddha's interview with Upaka, after he had attained enlightenment, and gives an account of the conversion of the five men.

Varga 2. Indicating changes. Contains the history of Yasa, and the conversion of his four friends (Fu-nai, Punya-git; Vimala; Kiu-yen-pih, Gavâmpati; Su-to, Subâhu).

Varga 3. The conversion of Kâsyapa.

Varga 4. Converts Bimbisâra râga.

Varga 5. Conversion of Sâriputra and Maudgalyâyana.

Varga 6. returns to his own country.

Varga 7. The history of Su-ta (i.e. Sudatta or Anâthapindada).

Varga 8. The history of the queen of Udyâna, king of Kausâmbî. She would not comply with the king's wishes, because it was a fast day.

Varga 9. Gautamî becomes a Bhikshunî.

Varga 10. Inconstancy. Contains the history of Prasenagit's interview with Buddha, and of the minister who had lost his child.

Varga 11. Self love. Contains the history of an interview with Prasenagit, and a sermon preached by Buddha on self-love.

Varga 12. Conversion of Mahâkâsyapa (Agnidatta).

Varga 13. Conversion of Ambapâlî.

p. xxv

Varga 14. Discussion with the Nirgranthas.

Varga 15. Buddha eats the food fit for horses 1.

It will be seen from the above summary, that so early at least as the end of the second century A D. a life of Buddha, with the details above named, was in circulation in Kapilavastu.

The next life of Buddha, in point of date, is the second version of the Lalita Vistara, known in China as the

(6) Phû-yau-king.

[paragraph continues] This was translated by the Indian priest Dharmaraksha, during the Western Tsin dynasty, about A.D. 300. It is in eight chapters, and belongs to the expanded class of Buddhist literature. The story of Buddha's life is here told from his birth to his death, but in the exaggerated and wearisome form peculiar to the works of this (expanded) school. It would seem as if the idea of merit attaching to the reproduction of every word of the sacred books had led the later writers, not only to reproduce the original, but to introduce, by an easy but tiresome method, the repetition of a simple idea under a multitude of verbal forms, and so secure additional merit 2.

There is another life of Buddha named in the Chinese Catalogues, translated A.D. 420 by Buddhabhadra, who was a descendant of Amritodana, the uncle of Buddha. This life is named

(7) Kwo-hu-yin-ko-king.

[paragraph continues] It is in four kiouen. It has not come under my notice; but another translation of the same text, likewise in four kiouen, and made shortly after Buddhabhadra by a native of Mid-India called Gunabhadra (A.D. 436), is before me. This work is called

p. xxvi

(8) Kwo-hu-hien-tsai-yin-ko-king.

[paragraph continues] It is not divided into sections, but each kiouen embraces a distinct portion of the history.

Kiouen I contains an account of Sumedhas and his nomination by Dîpaṅkara Buddha. It then proceeds to narrate the events attending the conception, incarnation, and early years of the Bodhisattva until his tenth year, and his superiority at school (p. 26).

Kiouen II begins with the martial contest and victory of Bodhisattva over his compeers, and ends with the flight from his palace at nineteen years of age (p. 27).

Kiouen III begins with Bodhisattva's interview with the different Rishis, and concludes with the conversion of the five men after Buddha's enlightenment (p. 34).

Kiouen IV begins with the conversion of Yasa and his father, and afterwards his fifty friends. It then gives in great detail the history of the Kâsyapas, and ends with an account of the gift of the Getavana. This life of Buddha is of a circumstantial character, and is full of interesting episodes.

The next memoir in point of time of translation is the history of Buddha as it occurs in the Vinaya Pitaka. I shall take as my example the Vinaya according to the Mahîsâsaka school. In the 15th and 16th chapters of this work is a brief life of Buddha. This copy of the Vinaya was brought from Ceylon by Fa-hien at the beginning of the fifth century (A.D. 414); it was not translated by him, but by Buddhagiva, a native of Cophene, A.D. 423 (see Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 21), with the assistance of Tao-sing (Ku-tao-sing), a Sramana of Khoten.

In this life the order of events (and the precise words occasionally) agree with the Pâli of the Mahâvagga, as published by Oldenberg. It begins, however, with the history of the origin of the Sâkyas, and in this it resembles the account in the Manual of Buddhism 1, except that in the Chinese the

p. xxvii

description of Ganta, the son of Ambâ, is that he was contemptible and ugly, whilst in the Singhalese account he is described as lovely and well-favoured. After the complete enlightenment, Buddha sits in contemplation at the foot of different trees. Here there occurs a divergence from the Pâli, as it is in the interval of his remaining thus in contemplation that he visits the village of Senâpati, and gives to his daughter Sugâtâ the two refuges in Buddha and the law. This is a curious statement, as it seems to imply that at that time the triple refuge was not known; in other words, that there was no Saṅgha, or Church.

The interview with Upaka is identical with the Pâli. The sermon at Benares and the conversion of the five men, the visit to and conversion of Bimbisâra, the conversion of Yasa and his friends, the visit to Uruvilva and the Kâsyapas, the conversion of Upatishya and Kolita--all this is as in the Southern account. The narrative then breaks off suddenly, and the rules of the Vinaya with respect to teacher and pupil &c. are introduced. This notice of Buddha's life, although not translated in China before the fifth century, must date back from the time when the Southern copy of the Vinaya, which Fa-hien brought from China, was first put together. The Mahîsâsika school was an offshoot from the Âryasthâvira branch of the Buddhist church, and in all probability was regarded in Ceylon as orthodox, in opposition to the Mahâsaṅghikas. It is curious that in the Mahâsaṅghika copy of the Vinaya which Fa-hien brought from Patna, and which he himself translated into Chinese, there is no section corresponding to the one just adduced, that is, this copy of the Vinaya contains no record of Buddha's life. This may be accounted for on the ground that the two redactions were made at different times and at places far apart. But yet it is curious that a copy of the Vinaya brought from Patna, and said to have been copied from an authentic original, should differ so widely from a copy found by the same person at the same time in Ceylon 1. This circumstance at any rate will

p. xxviii

show the mixed character of Buddhist books in China, and the difficulty of classifying them in any distinct order.

We come now to notice a life of Buddha translated by a native Chinese priest. It is called the

(9) Fo-pen-hing-king

and was translated by Pao-yun, a companion of Fa-hien in his travels in India, about A.D. 420. It is in seven chapters, and composed in varying measures or verses of 4, 5 or 7 symbols to the line. We have no means of deter-mining the name of the original work from which Pao-yun translated his book, but it evidently was not the Buddhakarita-kâvya of Asvaghosha. It resembles it in no particular, except that it is in verse. The contents of this work I have already given elsewhere (Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 100); so that there is no need to allude to it here at any length.

Nor need I refer, except to name it, to the Chinese version of the Lalita Vistara. This translation was made by the Sramana Divâkara during the Tang dynasty. He was a native of Mid-India, and flourished in China A.D. 676. It is in 12 chapters and 27 sections. The headings of these chapters have been given elsewhere (Catalogue, gyp. 18, 19). The contents of the Chinese version agree in the main with the Tibetan. It is named

(10) Fang-kwang-tai-kwang-yan-king.

There is a life of Buddha translated. by an Indian priest of Cophene, about A.D. 445, which is called

(II) Săng-kia-lo-c’ha-sho-tsih-fo-hing-king.

[paragraph continues] This appears to have been written by a priest called Saṅgharaksha, who was born in the kingdom of Su-lai, and came to Gandhara when Kanishka flourished. This monarch is called in the text Kien-to-ki-ni-wang. The

p. xxix

symbols Kien-to correspond with the family title given elsewhere to Kanishka, viz. Kan-tan, i.e. Kandana or sandal-wood (see the work Tsah-pao-tsang-king in the Indian Office Collection of Buddhist Books, kiouen vi, fol. 12 [Catalogue, case lxvi]). This Chinese title may probably correspond with the tribal name of Gushan, or perhaps (according to Oldenberg) with the title Koiranos, of the coins. But, in any case Saṅgharaksha is said to have lived during the time of this monarch, and to have written the life of Buddha, which was afterwards translated into Chinese by Saṅghabhadanta (?). This work is in 5 kiouen; it comprises the usual stories from the birth of Buddha to the distribution of his relics after his death. There is at the end a curious story about Asoka, who reigned too years after the Nirvâna. He is said to have had a dream which induced him to assemble the Bhikshus in a convocation. He was told by them that there was in Râgagriha a casket on which there was a record enshrined, or a gold plate, which had been delivered by Buddha. On opening the casket a prophecy was found stating that in Magadha, in the city of Râgagriha, there were two householders whose two sons were called Vigayamitra and Vasudatta; of these the former, in consequence of his merit in giving a ball of earth to Buddha, should be born 100 years after as Asoka râga of the Maurya family. In consequence of this prophecy Asoka built 84,000 shrines for the relics of Buddha, obeying in this the direction of his dream, that he should cause the sarîras of the holy one to be everywhere diffused.

Another life of Buddha is one I have partly translated in the Romantic History of Buddha. It is called

(12) Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king

and was translated by Gñânagupta or Gñânakûta of the Tsui dynasty (circ. A.D. 588). It is said to be the same as the Abhinishkramana Sûtra, but of this there is no positive evidence. It is in 60 kiouen, and embraces Buddha's history from the beginning to the time of the conversion of the Kâsyapas and others.

p. xxx

The following is the title of a life of Buddha, translated by Fă-khin of the Sung dynasty (began 960 A.D.), and named

(13) Fo-shwo-kung-hu-mo-ho-ti-king

which is, as it appears, a work of the Sammatiya school of Buddhism, corresponding with the Mahâvastu. The phrase is used in the introductory chapter to denote Sammata, who was 'chosen by all' to be the first king; and is the Chinese form of Mahâvastu, 'the great (thing).' This memoir is in 2 vols. and 13 kiouen; it is very complete, agreeing in its details with the notices found in the Manual of Buddhism, and in Bigandet's Life of Godama. It was probably in the original a Pâli work.

The last version of the Lalita Vistara, known as the

(14) Shin-t’ung-yaou-hi-king,

has not come under my notice.


The most reliable of the lives of Buddha known in China is that translated in the present volume, the Buddhakarita-kâvya. It was no doubt written by the Bodhisattva Asvaghosha, who was the twelfth Buddhist patriarch, and a contemporary of Kanishka 1. Translators in China attribute both this book and the work which I have called the 'Sermons of Asvaghosha' (ta kwang yăn king lun) to him, and there is no reason to question it Kumâragîva, who translated the latter work, was too familiar with Indian subjects to be mistaken in this particular, and Dharmaraksha (we will employ this restoration of his name) was also a native of Mid-India, and deeply versed in Buddhist

p. xxxi

literature (he became a disciple at six years of age). Both these translators lived about A.D. 400.

I am told, however, by Mr. Rockhill, that Târânâtha, the Tibetan author, mentions three writers of the name of Asvaghosha, the 'great one,' the younger, and one who lived in the eighth century A.D. This latter, who was also called Çura, could not be the Asvaghosha of our text, as the translation of the work dates from the fifth century. And as of the other two, one was called 'the great' and the other 'the younger,' it admits of little question that the Bodhisattva would be the former. But in the Chinese Catalogues, so far-as I have searched, there is no mention made of more than one writer called by this name, and he is ever affirmed to have been a contemporary of Kanishka. In the book Tsah-pao-tsang-king, for instance (kiouen vi), there are several tales told of the Kandan 'Kanika' or 'Kanishka,' in one of which (fol. 13) Asvaghosha is distinctly named as his religious adviser, and he is there called 'the Bodhisattva;' so that, according to evidence derived from Chinese sources, there seems no reason to doubt that the author of the book I have here translated was living at and before the time of the Scythian invasion of Magadha under the Kandan king Kanishka. With respect to the date of this monarch we have no positive evidence; the weight of authority sides with those who place him at the beginning of the Saka period, i.e. A.D. 78. It is therefore possible that the emissaries who left China A.D. 64 and returned A.D. 67 may have brought back with them some knowledge of the work of Asvaghosha called Fo-pen-hing, or of the original then circulating in India, on which Asvaghosha founded his poem. It is singular at least that the work of Asvaghosha is in five chapters as well as that translated by Ku-fa-lan. In any case we may conclude that as early as about A.D. 70, if, not before, there was in India a work known as Buddhakarita (Fo-pen-hing).

As to the origin of such a work, it seems likely to have sprung from an enlargement of the Mahâparinirvâna Sûtra. We know that the record of the history of Buddha's last

p. xxxii

days was extant under this title from early times, and nothing would be simpler than the gradual enlargement of such a record, so as to include in it not only his last days, but his work throughout his life. Each district in which Buddha taught had probably its own recollections on this point, and to any zealous writer the task of connecting these several histories would be an easy one. Such a man was Asvaghosha. Brought up in Central India, travelling throughout his life as a preacher and musician, and finally a follower of Kanishka through his Northern campaigns; such a man would naturally be led to put together the various tales or traditions he had gathered as to the birth and life of his great master, and connect them with the already recognised account of his end or last days on earth. The detailed account of Buddha's death, recorded in the Mahâparinirvâna Sûtra, finds a place at the end of the present work; this account being well known to Asvaghosha, there can be no difficulty in understanding how he came to write an entire poem on the subject of the master's life and death.

I am told by Professor Max Müller that the Sanskrit versions of the Buddhakarita break off at the end of varga 17, that is, after the account of the conversion of the great Kâsyapa. Whether this is accidental, or whether it indicates the original extent of the poem, I have no means of judging. One thing is certain, that at the time when the translation was made by Dharmaraksha (viz. about A.D. 420), the work was of the size of the present volume. There is no à priori reason for supposing the later portion to have been added by a writer subsequent to Asvaghosha. A poem does not easily admit of 'a continuation' by another author; nor can we think that a distinguished writer like Asvaghosha would omit in his biography the account of the death of his hero, especially as the materials were at hand, and the dramatic effect of the poem would be undoubtedly increased by the addition of such a popular record. It seems therefore more natural to suppose that the Sanskrit MSS. are incomplete copies of the original, and that the Chinese version before us is in

p. xxxiii

fact a translation of the entire poem as it came from its author's hands.

There is little to add, with respect to the history of Asvaghosha, to the few notices I have given elsewhere (Abstract, &c., p. 95 sqq.) One or two allusions to him will be found in the work of Wong pûh (Shing tau ki, §§ 186 and 190). These only confirm the general tradition that he was originally a distinguished Brahman and became a convert to Buddhism 1. The Buddhakarita contains sufficient proof of his acquaintance with and hostility to Brahmanical teaching, and the frequent discussions found therein relative to the non-existence of 'I' (an individual self) illustrate the record contained in § 190 of the work (Shing tau) named above, `that Vîra, a writer of Sâstras (Lun-sse), a disciple of Asvaghosha Bodhisattva, wrote a treatise in 100 gâthâs on the subject of "non-individuality" (wou ’ngo lun), which the heretics were unable to gainsay.' With reference to this doctrine of the non-existence of the individual subject, it is not possible in such a work as this to say much. I shall be glad to place on record, however, my belief that in Buddhism this question is much more than a speculative question of philosophy. It touches the skirt of the highest moral truth. For the individual self in Buddhism is the evil or carnal self, the origin of sorrow. This, the Buddhist says (at least as I read his confession of faith), does not exist; the evil self is not a separate reality, it is the delusion of 'sense;' it is 'nothing.' Destroy this idea of self and there will be light. If we regard the question thus, it assumes a form more interesting and vital than that of any philosophical enquiry. As I said above, it touches the skirt of the highest truth; and in this approach to truth lies the power of the Buddhist doctrine.


It is wonderful to look through the large collection of Buddhist books translated into Chinese from the dialects

p. xxxiv

of India, principally by Indian or Indo-Scythian priests. I use this last expression to indicate the nationality of those translators who came to China from Cabul and regions north of the Indus. For 600 years and more a succession of Buddhist teachers and preachers followed one another from India and Central Asia towards China with little interruption. The result is, that the Buddhist Tripitaka (canon) as we have it in that. country is a collection of translations without connection of parts, denoting the Buddhism of India and neighbouring countries, in every period of its development. Hence side by side with the early teaching of the faith found in such books as the Dharmapada (Tan poh), we have the gross form of Tantra worship contained in the 'Dhârani of Kandâ,' Kandâ being in fact the same as Kâlî or Durgâ or Gagatmâtri. Nevertheless this collection of translations is a most important one. Its importance has yet to be realised. To the student of Buddhism it is an inexhaustible mine of wealth. And to the student of history some knowledge of it is indispensable.

The question presents itself, therefore, can we rely on the truthfulness of the work done by these men in China? To this question only a qualified answer can be given; we may rely on the work of men of known ability. And in other cases we may test the work done by comparison with the originals. We should have no reluctance, I think, in accepting the translations of men like Kumâragîva, to whom both Chinese and Sanskrit must have been familiar, and whose work may be tested by comparison with Sanskrit texts. And if he may be trusted, so may others also who worked with him or in his time. Amongst these was Dharmaraksha, the translator of the Buddhakarita of this volume. He was a man of Mid-India, and became a disciple at six years of age, and daily recited 10,000 words of Scripture. At first he belonged to the school of the lesser development, and was well acquainted with the discourses of the five Vidyâs. Afterwards he became a follower of the greater development. He arrived in China in the year 412 A.D. and worked at translations till A.D. 454. Now

p. xxxv

we can hardly suppose that a man of such natural gifts as Dharmaraksha could have laboured for forty-two years at translations, without being worthy of trust. Moreover we find that Kumâragîva was working at this period in China, and that he translated the work of Asvaghosha called Ta-kwang-yan-king-lun, which appears to be related to the Ta-kwang-yan-king, another name for the Life of Buddha (Lalita Vistara). Is it likely that the two translators were unknown to one another?

It is true, indeed, that I have not been able to test the translation of Dharmaraksha by comparison with the Sanskrit. As I understand Professor Max Müller, the Sanskrit text is not always easy to interpret, and differs in many places from the Chinese version. Sometimes it is possible to see how it happened that the Chinese translator misunderstood the text before him. Sometimes it would seem that he omitted intentionally whole passages which would be either unintelligible or uninteresting to Chinese readers. As there is some prospect of the Sanskrit text of Asvaghosha's work being published, we may hope to arrive in time at something like certainty on the point under consideration.

But with respect to the trustworthiness of Chinese translations in general, it depends, as I said before, on the character of the individual scholar. There is no reason at all why a Brahman should not have become familiar with Chinese, and when we add to this the extraordinary facilities afforded the Buddhist missionaries in China for executing their work, in the way I mean of royal patronage and able coadjutors, there is no reason to suspect the result of their labours. Yet doubtless there are many unreliable versions of sacred texts to be found. Every zealous Upâsaka who came to China was not thereby duly qualified for the work of translation; and as a rule we should be cautious in attaching entire credence to the literary labours of such persons.

p. xxxvi


The Chinese priest I-tsing says that the hymns used in the Buddhist church during his visit to India were composed and arranged by Asvaghosha (Nan-hae, § 32). There can. be little doubt that he was a musician as well as poet. He travelled about, we are told, with a body of musicians, and was the means of converting many persons of distinction by his skill (Abstract, &c., p. 97). The work before us gives proof of his poetical talent. In translating his verses, even from the Chinese, an impulse to follow in his poetical vein has been felt. But the requirements of a literal translation forbad any such diversion. Nevertheless the reader will observe many passages that would have easily allowed a more 'flowery diction.' The passage in verse 629 and following verses is very touching--the consuming grief of Yasodharâ until 'her breath grew less and sinking thus, she fell upon the dusty ground.' The account of Buddha's enlightenment in verse 1166 and following is also striking: 'Thus did he complete the end of self, as fire goes out for want of grass; thus he had done what he would have men do; he first had found the way of perfect knowledge. He finished thus the first great lesson; entering the great Rishi's house, the darkness disappeared, light burst upon him; perfectly silent and at rest, he reached the last exhaustless source of truth; lustrous with all wisdom the great Rishi sat, perfect in gifts, whilst one convulsive throe shook the wide earth.'

There are many passages throughout the poem of great beauty; there is much also that is dry and abstruse, yet we cannot doubt that in that day and among these people the 'great poem' of Asvaghosha must have had considerable popularity. Hence the translations of it are numerous; it must have tested Dharmaraksha's powers to have turned it into Chinese. There is also a Tibetan copy of it; and whether it was originally composed in Sanskrit or not, we know that there are now various editions. of it in that language. I do not pretend to have

p. xxxvii

found the author's meaning in all cases; the Chinese is not easy; but in the main drift of the poem I have followed my text as faithfully and literally as possible. The concluding portion of the last section, as it seems to sup-port the idea of only one Asoka, first fierce and then gentle, or religious, is, to say the least, a curious passage. But we may not attach too much weight to an isolated statement of this sort; there may have been reasons more than we know of why the orthodox tradition of the Dharma-Asoka, the patron of the Theravâdi school, should have been ignored by a friend of Kanishka. But in any case the evidence is too slight to build upon; we can only say that in Asvaghosha's time it had become usual to put the Council of Pâtaliputra out of sight, and to regard the Theravâdi school as one opposed to the generally received traditions of the North.

I cannot conclude this Introduction without expressing my thanks to Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio, who kindly suggested emendations of my translation of some passages at the beginning of the work, and also to Professor Max Müller, to whom I am indebted for the restoration of many of the proper names that occur throughout the text.


        Feb. 4, 1883.



xi:1 The Dîpavamsa, an early historical record of Buddhism compiled in Ceylon between the beginning of the fourth and the first third of the fifth century A.D.

xviii:1 Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 10.

xviii:2 This is given in Chinese Ta-sa-ho-kie, which can only be restored to Tasâ. See Childers, sub voce.

xix:1 Or, riding on a white elephant. The phrase in the Chinese is ambiguous. There is reason to suppose that the original thought was that the Bodhisattva was riding on an elephant, but was invisible as a spirit.

xix:2 Tree and Serpent Worship, plate xci, fig. 4.

xx:1 Tree and Serpent Worship, plate xxv, fig. 1, where the three buildings represent the three palaces built for the prince.

xx:2 The leaves are bent down in the plate (op. cit.)

xxv:1 See Abstract of Four Lectures, p. 52.

xxv:2 To show the character of this style of composition we give at the end (Note II) a section from this Sûtra relating to the birth of Bodhisattva.

xxvi:1 Spence Hardy, p. 130.

xxvii:1 Fa-hien, p. 144.

xxx:1 There is no absolute certainty about the date of Kanishka; it may probably be referred to the beginning of the latter half of the first century A.D. (see next page).

xxxiii:1 Mr. Rockhill has kindly given me an extract from a Tibetan work, Mañgusrîmûlatantra, in which Asvaghosha is identified with Mâtrigâta or Mâtrigita, concerning whom, see Abstract, &c., p. 141.

Next: Varga 1. The Birth