Xuan Zang’s Compassion Overcame Ruthless Bandits

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Statue of Xuanzang, photoed by David Castor.

Many people are familiar with the fascinating stories of the Monkey King. However, Xuan Zang (602 – 664 AD), whose story became the prototype for the novel Journey to the West, actually traveled alone to India seeking the Buddha’s teachings. He experienced tremendous hardship on a trip that took him 19 years across tens of thousands of miles. He was welcomed with great fanfare by everyone when he returned.

According to historical records, “Both monks and ordinary people rushed to welcome him. Even the marketplaces closed to celebrate this event.” Xuan Zang spent another 19 years translating the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese so the public could read them. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an was built according to Xuan Zang’s knowledge of ancient Buddhist pagodas in India.

Two of his disciples recounted Xuan Zang’s personal experiences in a biography. It is a precious piece of historical text. What follows is one of his adventures on his way to India recorded in the book.

When Xuan Zang arrived in central India, he traveled with a group of over 80 locals on a boat across the Ganges River to the country of Ayamukha. In the middle of the trip, dozens of ships with robbers appeared from the trees lining the riverbank. Chaos broke out among the passengers on the boat and some even jumped into the river to escape.

Xuan Zang encountered many robbers on the trip and he successfully persuaded most of them to not commit crimes. But this gang of bandits was especially ruthless. Not only did they want the wealth, they also wanted a handsome man to sacrifice to their goddess.

They immediately took a liking to Xuan Zang. The bandits shouted, “It must be great luck that we have such a handsome monk as sacrifice!” Both Xuan Zang and the local residents who traveled with him tried to stop the robbers, but they would not listen. They were all taken away.

The bandits repaired the altar. Two men forced Xuan Zang on to the altar. Since the situation seemed hopeless, Xuan Zang asked the robbers to give him some time to reach nirvana himself.

Moved by Xuan Zang’s calmness and dignity, the robbers backed off. Xuan Zang sincerely recited Buddha scripture, wishing to cultivate again after reincarnation, as well as to be given the opportunity to save these robbers who killed him.

Perhaps the compassion of Xuan Zang moved the heavenly beings. The weather suddenly changed. The sky darkened, a strong wind blew up, and the robbers’ boat was nearly overturned.

Shocked by the change, the robbers knelt down and asked local residents who Xuan Zang was. After learning that he had traveled a long distance from the Han region to India for the Buddha’s teachings, the robbers kowtowed to him and apologized. At this time, while sitting in meditation, Xuan Zang let go of life and death, and reached a higher plane in cultivation.

The wind and waves gradually subsided. The bandits touched Xuan Zang and he came out of meditation. “Is it time?” He asked thinking that it was time for the sacrifice.

The robbers were thrilled that Xuan Zang was still alive. They immediately confessed and repented in front of him. Xuan Zang explained the principles of the Buddha School and asked them to trade short-term gain for endless evil retribution. The robbers not only agreed and abandoned the evil sect they followed, but also began to follow the Buddha School principles and became good people. Whenever they met people, they praised Xuan Zang’s dignity and their own happiness for obtaining salvation.

Was the sudden change in weather a coincidence? It is too much to be called a coincidence. The fury from the heavens was a warning to the evil bandits. They robbed and killed people. They have already committed deep sins. Killing a cultivator is the worst kind of sin that would accumulate vast amounts of karma. It is good that they were only temporarily misguided. Their original characteristics are still good, and they were able to reverse course from the teachings of Buddhism.

玄奘生死劫中顯慈悲 劫匪惡業天報

《西遊記》中唐僧師徒取經的故事膾炙人口,但歷史上,玄奘是隻身一人去古印度求法取經的。他歷盡艱辛,遠足數萬里,前後19年載譽歸來。史書記述當時民眾自發迎接玄奘空前盛大的場面,「道俗奔迎,傾都罷市」。而後他譯經19年功成圓滿。現在西安的大雁塔,就是當年玄奘按照古印度佛塔的樣子修建的。

《大慈恩寺三藏法師傳》是他的兩個弟子按照玄奘的親身經歷寫成,是很珍貴的史料。其中有一段最為險惡的生死劫。

那是玄奘走到中印度地區後,一天他和當地八十多人結伴,坐船順恆河去阿耶穆佉國。途中從兩岸樹林遮蔽處衝出來十幾條強盜船。玄奘所坐的船上頓時大亂,有人嚇得跳河逃生。

玄奘多次遇到過劫匪,那些亡命徒基本都被玄奘教化了,而這次強盜絕非尋常,不但劫財,還要劫一個美男子,祭祀他們信奉的女神。

祭祀的季節快過去了,正在為人祭發愁的兇徒們一下就看上了玄奘,大叫:「用這麼偉岸美貌的和尚獻祭,真是大吉大利!」玄奘勸善不成,同伴們苦求也沒用,被統統押走。

匪徒們修好了祭壇,兩人持刀把玄奘押上了祭台。玄奘自知無望,便請賊人給他一點時間,讓他自行坐化圓寂。劫匪們早被玄奘的氣度和淡定震懾了,自行退去。壇下同伴們哭成一片,而玄奘誠心誦佛,發願往生,願聽彌勒真經,而後下世救度這些殺他的匪徒。

也許是在生死劫中證悟了佛門覺者的大慈悲境界,感動了天地,天地對匪徒們變了臉。霎那間,黑風四起,飛沙走石,河浪滔天,船幾乎被掀翻。強盜們嚇得跪倒拜天,問眾人:「這和尚是誰啊?甚麼來頭?」有人告訴強盜:「這就是東土大唐取經來的玄奘法師。天神怒了,還不懺悔!」強盜們連忙給玄奘磕頭,而此時的玄奘端坐入定,看到自己飛過了須彌山的三層天,展望著佛界的莊嚴……

風浪漸去,賊人上前以手觸碰玄奘,玄奘出了定,問道:「時候到了?」以為要動刀了呢。

強盜們馬上歡呼雀躍,法師還沒坐化呀!馬上過來拜服懺悔。玄奘給他們開示佛法,告訴他們不要圖一時之利,種下無窮惡果。結果匪徒們全都摒棄了那個殺人嗜血的邪教,扔凶器,受五戒,皈依正道。此後他們逢人便稱頌玄奘的威德,訴說自己得度的喜悅。時人無不讚歎。

那時的風雲突變,是巧合麼?哪有那麼巧的事情呢?那時天地震怒、狂風巨浪的天譴,正是對邪教匪徒的警告。那些匪徒搶財殺人,已造下深重的罪業,而殺害修煉的人,更是罪業滔天。好在他們是一時迷失,本性未泯,終在佛法教化下迷途知返。

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