Sacred Texts Buddhist Articles


The Leng-Yen-King

First Chapter


A Volume of Sketches,









{Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, May 2002}

p. 289



The Sutra of firm establishment in all doctrine, describing clearly the secret merit and attainments in the religious life of Tathâgata, who appears as Buddha in his great and unsurpassed stature; also the many acts of the Bodhisattwas.

IT is called also Chung-yin-tu-na-lan-to-ta-tau-ch'ang-king. "The Sutra of Nalanda, the great seat of worship, in Central India."

   The monastery of Nalanda, in the kingdom of Magadha, the present Bahar, was of great size, and lasted through more than seven centuries. The Chinese traveller Hiuen-tsang visited it. He found there ten thousand monks living in six buildings erected by as many monarchs, forming together one great ascetic establishment, the most splendid in India. It was celebrated as a place of study both for the Brahmanical books and those of Buddhism, and was devoted to the study of that branch of Buddhist doctrine called the "Greater Development." For legends connected with this flourishing seat of Buddhism, the translation by M. Julien of Hiuen-tsang's travels, from which I have derived these facts, may be consulted. It lay about thirty miles south-east of the modern Patna.

   The Chinese translation of the Leng-yen-king was made in the year 705 A.D., by Paramiti, a Hindoo Buddhist monk at Canton. He was assisted by Yung-pi, a Chinese, and p. 290 Migashakya, a native of Udyana, a country lying north-west of Cashmere.



   Thus have I heard:--On a time, Buddha was at the city Shravasti, in the chapel in the grove of Jeta. He was there with twelve hundred and fifty Bikshus, his disciples, who had all attained the rank of Arhan. These children of Buddha were at rest in their minds, grasping firmly the doctrine of their master, and excelling in goodness. They might in any country be patterns of virtue and dignity. They attended to the "monastic rules" (Vinaya) with exemplary carefulness. Assuming without limitation whatever bodily form was needed, they could save men from misery. Their names were Shariputra, Maha Maudgalyayana, Maha Kuhila, the son of Puruna, Mitarani, Subhûti, Upanishata, and others.

   Besides these, innumerable Pratyekas, together with many who had just begun to desire improvement in knowledge, came to the place where Buddha was, at the close of summer, repenting of their former evil acts.


   Remarks.--Shravasti was situated in what is now the province of Oude. Pratyekas are called in Chinese either P'it-ti, or P'it-ti-ka-la. They are in Sanscrit denominated "Pratyeka" Buddha, and in Chinese Yuen-kioh, "those who have attained intelligence by the study of causes." When a period occurs in the world's history without a Buddha, the Pratyekas appear, and, arriving at the perception of doctrine in his absence, take his place as teacher till he arrives.


   It happened to be the time when the Bikshus at the close of summer were released from restraint. From every region Bodhisattwas came to ask questions and have their doubts removed. They listened respectfully, and sought to know the secret thoughts of their teacher. Tathâgata sat in a tranquil attitude, and addressed to his audience profound doctrines which they had not before heard. His voice, like the singing of the Kalavingka, penetrated to the boundaries of the world. Bodhisattwas, numerous as p. 291 the sands of the Ganges, crowded to the assembly, and Manjusiri was chief among them.

   At this time king Prasenajit had, in memory of his father's death, prepared a vegetable repast for Buddha. He invited Buddha to the interior apartments of his palace, and came himself to conduct him in. He also invited the Bodhisattwas.

   In the city there was a man of rank who had also bidden the monks to a feast, and was waiting the arrival of Buddha. Buddha directed Manjusiri to send some of the Bodhisattwas and Arhans to attend the feast in place of himself.

   Ananda alone had been invited elsewhere at some distance, and had not returned. He was too late to take his place with the others, and there was no older monk with him nor an A-je-li to admonish him. He was coming back alone and empty-handed. As he passed along the streets he held in his hand a rice bowl, and asked alms from door to door. He was desiring that he might be entertained by some one who had not already invited the monks. He would not ask if the viands were pleasant to the taste or not, whether the host was of the Kshatrya caste, or belonged to the Chendaras. Feeling the same kind disposition towards rich and poor, he did not choose honour in preference to poverty, but was anxious that all with whom he met should obtain unmeasured happiness (by almsgiving).

   Ananda knew that Buddha had blamed Subhûti and Kashiapa, because they had not obtained the evenhanded justice of the Arhans, and he had reverently listened to his wise advice for relieving scruples and preventing suspicions and slanders.

   He crossed the moat, and slowly approached the gate. His demeanour was grave. It was that of one who reverently observed the dietetic regulations.

   He passed on his way the house of a prostitute, and fell under the influence of enchantment. Matenga, by means p. 292 of a charm obtained from Brahma by one of the Sabikaras, drew him to her couch, and he was about to break his vow of chastity.

   Tathâgata knew that he had been enthralled by the charm. On returning from the repast to which he had been invited, the king, his courtiers, and many persons of reputation in the city, came to hear Buddha discourse. Light shone from the head of Tathâgata, seeming to combine the several rays of all precious stones. Out of this mild radiance was seen to spring a lotus flower with a profusion of petals, and upon it Buddha sat crosslegged with metamorphosed body, uttering a mighty charm. He sent this charm by the hand of Manjusiri to save Ananda. The messenger went, and the influence of the wicked charm being broken, he brought Ananda with Matenga to the presence of Tathâgata.


   Remarks.--The bird called Kalavingka had a very soft, rich voice.

   Prasenajit, the king of Shravasti, was very favourable to the Buddhist religion. It was his minister Sudatta who bought the garden of Jeta from the prince of that name, and erected in it a residence for Buddha. (See Julien's Memoires sur les Contrées Occidentales.) Many of the Sutras attributed to Buddha are said to have been delivered here. At the time of Hiuen-tsang's visit the city was mostly in ruins. He observed the remains of the monastery formerly standing on the site of the garden of Jeta, two miles below the city. (See Julien's Histoire de la Vie de Hiouen-thsang). It was here that the Bikshus assembled to listen to Buddha.

   During three months in summer the Bikshus lived in seclusion, forbidden to travel or to see Buddha. At the end of this time they met before Buddha, and gave liberty to each other to point out any faults in their conduct, in order that they might undergo a penance appointed by Buddha.

   The word A-je-li means an instructor in the ascetic discipline. It was required that, in going to a distance, at least three should be in company. A monk in the position of Ananda should have had with him a superior in rank and also an A-je-li.

   When Buddhism was flourishing in India, the Kshatryas and Chendaras were at the two extremes of the social scale. The kings p. 293 and nobles belonged to the Kshatrya caste. The Chendaras were butchers, and belonged to various humble trades.

   Subhûti asked alms only from the rich, because they were able to give. Kashiapa preferred to beg of the poor, desiring to increase their happiness. Buddha blamed them both for transgressing the rule of justice.

   The Sabikaras were a heretical sect, with brown hair, who fasted on rice. They obtained this charm by special worship of the god Brahma. It was capable of being communicated to others, and Matenga made use of it.

   The commentator, Te-ts'ing, a Chinese Buddhist monk of the Ming dynasty, says that a superficial reader might wonder why this Sutra, which unveils the hidden nature of man, points out a secure place of rest, and unfolds a doctrine in all respects complete, should make such an ordinary incident as the temptation of Ananda its point of departure. He says, in explanation, that it is the passions which prevent men from attaining the Nirvâna. Among the passions sensual lust is the most powerful, and therefore it needs a remedy of corresponding strength to remove it.


   Ananda, on seeing Buddha, bowed his head to the ground and bitterly wept. He grieved that he had not yet made a successful beginning and that, after all the instruction he had received, he should still be deficient in moral strength. With earnestness he asked to know how the Buddhas of all worlds had obtained entrance to the region of rest and contemplation.

   The auditors, numerous as the sands of the Ganges, sat silent, waiting for Buddha to address them.

   He then said to Ananda:--"You and I are akin by birth. We are thus caused by heaven to love each other. You formerly felt a desire to follow my teaching. What beautiful appearance was it which led you to forsake the world's deep love?" Ananda replied: "I saw the thirty-two beauties of Tathâgata.1 They are inexpressibly lovely, and the bodily form to which they belong is transparent as crystal. I reflected that such a form cannot be produced by earthly love. Because the bodily desires are p. 294 coarse and ill-smelling lusts, and they cannot give origin to a pure bright form radiating a purple golden light like that of Tathâgata; therefore I thirsted to follow Buddha and be shorn of my hair, in token of my abandonment of a worldly life."

   Buddha replied:--"you speak well, Ananda. All men continue to live and die, and live and die again, because they do not know that the mind should rest in a state of constant purity, and their nature be kept clear and true to itself. Ideas arise in their minds which are not true, and perforce they enter the wheel of ceaseless revolution. If you would attain the highest knowledge and develop your true nature in its clearness, answer honestly my inquiries. The Buddhas have trodden one path to escape from life and death. They have kept their hearts right. Their hearts and words were right, and they have therefore begun well and ended well. Thus they have no wrong thoughts or pernicious changes. I now ask you, Ananda, when your heart was attracted towards the thirty-two beauties of Tathâgata, what was it that saw, and what was it that loved?" Ananda replied: "This love came from the use of my heart and my eye. My eye saw the transcendent beauty of Buddha, and my heart felt love. Therefore it was that I desired to become freed from life and death."

   Buddha answered:--"Since this love came from the heart and the eye, you must know where these organs reside; otherwise you cannot overcome the evils caused by the 'objects of sense' (ch'en). When a country is ravaged, the troops sent to chastise the marauders must know where they are to be found. I ask, then, where the heart and eye, the enemies who have done you harm, reside?"


   Remarks.--The passions are the cause of men being subject to life and death. To set them at rest is the means of attaining to the state of Buddha. Ananda had been led away by passion, and he asks to p. 295 be reinstructed in the mode of escape. He felt the evil to he great, and that some very powerful agency was needed to destroy it. He desired to commence self-reformation afresh, but not knowing where to begin, he asks for information. The first step is to observe, contemplate, and loosen the heart from its attachments.

   Buddha does not proceed at once to describe the three modes of contemplation, but first inquires of him why, in the first instance, he had commenced the ascetic life. The answer of Ananda revealed the cause of his want of success. Love had been awakened in his mind by the sight of beautiful forms. This was because his mode of thinking was wrong. He had only exchanged one love for another. His heart had been attracted by a beautiful vision; but he had not seen Buddha in his higher character. If he was right in loving Buddha, might he not also love Matenga?

   Not only is Ananda the victim of wrong thoughts. All men are so; and therefore it is that they do not emerge from the region of life and death. But man's true nature cannot be developed where wrong thoughts prevail. The exciting causes of this wrong state of things must be examined into. It is the work of the senses. The senses are the six enemies that disturb the original tranquillity of man's nature. These six thieves, as they are called, are ruled by the heart and the eye. The place where they reside must be discovered.


   The answer of Ananda was that "living beings, of all the ten different kinds, without exception regard the perceiving faculty and the heart or mind as being within the body. They also see that Buddha's eye forms a part of Buddha's countenance. This eye of mine and three other organs of sense are a part of my face. My 'heart' (mind), then the perceiving organ, is certainly within my body."

   Buddha replied to him:--"You are sitting in this house. You see the grove of Jeta. I ask you where it is?" "It is," answered Ananda, "outside of this hall. This house is in the garden of Anáthapindika. And assuredly the grove is outside of the house." Buddha again inquired: "In this house what do you first see?" Ananda replied: "I first see Tathâgata, then the audience, and farther off the trees and the garden." Buddha continued: "In looking p. 296 towards the trees and the garden, how do you perceive them?" Ananda replied: "By the door and other openings." Buddha then stretched out his golden arm, and touching the head of Ananda, said: "There is a samadhi called that of the Sheu-leng-yen Rajah, who is Buddha-like in size and stature. It embraces all good actions, and describes how all the Buddhas were rescued from the world of sense and entered the glorious path that leads to confirmed rest. Listen!" Ananda made a prostration, and waited to hear.


   Remarks.--Hiuen-tsang relates that the grove of Jeta is "six li" (two miles) south of the city Shravasti. In this grove was the garden of Anáthapindika or Anáthapindada. At the time when the Chinese traveller visited it, the convent which was formerly there was in ruins. Jeta sold the land to Sudatta, and himself gave the grove. Anáthapindika means "He who gives to orphans." Sudatta was so named on account of his charities.

   Samadhi is a sort of waking dream or reverie, occurring to Buddha or his disciples when engaged in deep contemplation, and in which an impression or vision teaching certain religious dogmas seems present to the mind's eye.

   The commentator Te-ts'ing remarks that men generally fall into the error of Ananda. They think that the mind is enclosed in the visible body. Continuance in the sphere of the metempsychosis arises from men's mistaken opinion that the body, the mind, and "their actions" (wu-yün) constitute myself. This false view must be first combated. Buddha, being about to subvert the cherished opinions of Ananda, kindly placed his hand upon his head to inspire him with confidence, lest he should feel pained.


   Buddha:--"According to what you say you are in this hall, and through the open doors you see the garden and the grove. If you could not see Tathâgata, would you be able to see what is outside of the hall?"

   Ananda:--"That could not be."

   Buddha:--"This to your mind is perfectly clear. Now, if that mind which perceives it be within the body, men ought first to see what is within the body and afterwards p. 297 what is outside. Since we do not see the heart, liver, and other viscera, while we can perceive the growth of nails and hair, and the movements of muscles and pulses, the heart cannot reside within the body."

   Ananda (bowing):--"As I hear the instructions of Tathâgata, I am made to perceive the truth, that my mind resides outside of my body. For it is like a lamp lighted in a house. It first shines on what is within the house, and then through the door upon the portico. Since men see only what is outside the body, the perceiving mind cannot reside within them. This statement is incontrovertibly right."

   Buddha:-- When these Bikshus come to seek me in this city of Shravasti, and assemble at the grove of Jeta, should you see one of them eating, would all of them be thereby relieved from hunger?"

   Ananda:--"No! for although they were Arhans and share in a different kind of existence, how could one man's taking food remove hunger from the rest?"

   Buddha:--"The mind and body being entirely separate from each other, neither of them can know what is known to the other. I now show you my hand. Your eye sees it, but does your mind distinguish it?"

   Ananda:--"Yes, Honoured Chief of the world!"

   Buddha:--"If both perceive it, then it is wrong to say that they are separate from each other, and that the mind dwells outside of the body."

   Ananda:--"Buddha has said that the mind, not seeing what is within the body, cannot reside there. Further, he has said that when the mind and body both know what is known to the other, they cannot be outside of each other, but must be in one place."

   Buddha:--"Where, then, is the mind placed?"

   Ananda:--"I think it must be hidden in the organs of sense. The eye is to the mind like a piece of glass which does not interfere with vision. Whenever the eye sees, p. 298 the mind at once distinguishes. The reason why the mind does not see the interior of the body is because it resides in the sensorial organs, and its position there enables it to notice objects outside of the body."

   Buddha:--"Supposing that it is so, I ask what a man will see when a glass is placed before his eyes? When he sees the hills and mountains beyond, will he see the glass also?"

   Ananda:--"He will see the glass."

   Buddha:--"If so, why should not the eye be seen at the time when hills and rivers are visible through it? But if the eye be seen it is a part of the scenery observed by the mind, and there is no interdependence between the two, so that the mind should at once perceive what is an object of vision to the eye. But if the mind does not see the eye, then it cannot be said that the mind resides in the organs of sense."

   Ananda:--"I have now thought upon another thing. The viscera are in the interior of the body, while the various apertures are outside. There is darkness in the one and light in the other. While I look at Buddha my eye is open and sees light. In this case I see what is external. When I close my eyes I see darkness. In this case I see what is internal. Is this a correct distinction?"

   Buddha:--"When you close your eyes and look on darkness, is the darkness which you see 'objective to the eye' (wei-ü-yen-tui), or not? If the darkness be objective, it is something before the eye, and it is therefore wrong to say that it is internal. If, on the other hand, the darkness be internal, then the darkness you see in a room where no light can enter is nothing but the interior of your body. If, however, the darkness be not 'objective' (tui) to the eye, it cannot be said to be seen. If the darkness be internal, and is yet seen objectively by the eye, why do you not see your face when with open eyes you look p. 299 on brightness? If you see your face, the perceiving mind with the organ of vision must be in vacancy. They cannot then be within the body, nor can they be a part of it. For if they were a part of your body, then I who now see your face should be part of your body. By means of your eye which is in vacancy, you know that your body does not perceive objects. You must therefore hold that there are two acts of perceiving and two perceiving agents. You would thus become two persons. It cannot therefore be said, that in closing the eye and looking on darkness you see what is within."

   Ananda:--"I have heard Buddha say that actions spring from the mind, and the mind from action (i.e., mind and action are necessary to each other, and equally unreal). It appears to me that my thoughts are my mind, and that wherever my thought is, there is my mind. Thus the seat of the mind need not be within or without, or in an intermediate position."

   Buddha:--"The mind, Ananda, cannot be where the thought is; for it is without 'substance' (t'i), and cannot be at any place. For if an unsubstantial thing could be said to be at a place, the eighteen limiting points which excite sensations would become nineteen, and the six objects of sense would become seven. But that the mind is unsubstantial can easily be shown. When I touch myself with my hand, the knowing mind (the resulting act of knowledge) must come from within outwards, or from without inwards. If the former, the interior of the body would be visible; if the latter, I should first see my face. Since I see neither, my mind must be unsubstantial."

   Ananda:--"It is the eye that sees; though it is not the eye that knows. To say that the mind sees is incorrect."

   Buddha:--"If the eye could see, the door of the house in which you are might also be able to see. The eye of the dead sees nothing. Further, Ananda, the mind, if it has p. 300 substance, must be one substance or many. Your mind must pervade your entire body or not. If your mind be a single substance, when you touch one limb all the limbs should feel the pressure. If it were felt everywhere, the sensation would not be referred to any particular spot. If the sensation belongs to one part, you who are the subject of it cannot form a single substance. But neither can you be many substances, for then you would be many men. If the substance of your mind pervade your entire body, a sensation of pressure would be felt in every part. If it pervaded the body partially, a portion of it would be susceptible to touch, while the remaining parts were not so. Since this is not the case, your supposition, that the mind is wherever thought is, falls to the ground."

   Ananda:--"Formerly I heard Buddha discoursing with Manjusiri and others on the true nature of things which appear. You then said the mind is neither within nor without the body. It seems to me that without interior perception there can be no external knowledge. What is in the body must be perceived, if we are to know what is outside of the body; else the mind cannot be within the body at all. As it is, we only perceive what is outside, and not what is within. The mind, therefore, must be neither within nor without, but between the two."

   Buddha, in his reply, argues that Ananda is wrong, and that the place of the mind is not between the inside and the outside, any more than it is within the body or without in the material things which are the objects of sensations.

   So ends the first chapter of this book.


   Remarks.--The eighteen limiting "boundaries" (kiai) of the sensations are--eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, colour, sound, smell, taste, "contact" (chu), law, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking.

p. 301

   These eighteen items are otherwise arranged as six roots, the sensorial organs, six kinds of dust, colour, taste, smell, &c., and six kinds of sensational knowledge.

   The second group of six are also called the six thieves, as being the causes of delusion to all mankind who believe in matter.

   The first six are also called the six subjects that "love" (ai), and the six things that "feel" (ts'ing).

Buddhist Articles


p. 293

1 "Tathâgata," an appellation of Buddha, is, in Chinese, Ju-lai, "Calmly approaching."