| Lokakṣema (136-?) | | Kumārajīva (344-413) | | Kālayaśas (383-442) | | Guṇabhadra (394-468) | | Dharmodgata (4th-5th centuries) | | Dharmagatayaśas (5th-6th centuries) | | Mandra (5th-6th centuries) | | Bodhiruci (5th-6th centuries) | | Vinītaruci (?-594) | | Xuanzang (600- or 602-664) | | Divākara (613-687) | | Śikṣānanda (652-710) | | Dharmacandra (653-743) | | Pramiti (7th-8th centuries) | | Amoghavajra (705-774) | | Prajñā (734-?) | | Fatian (?-1001) |
The continuation of the Dharma is credited not only to the Indian masters who took the teachings of the Buddha from India to China, but also to the Chinese masters who traveled to India to request for the sūtras and to carry them as a treasure back to China. All of them, with their elegant Chinese translations of the Sanskrit texts, made a crucial contribution to preserving and propagating the Dharma in China. Credit is also due to the Chinese emperors who revered the Buddhist masters and supported the Dharma. The life stories of a few of the masters related below in chronological order are based on WIKIPEDIA, the Free Encyclopedia, as well as on the 7-volume Fo Guang Da Ci Dian (佛光大辭典), or the Buddha's Light Dictionary, published by Fo Guang Publisher.
Lokakṣema (支婁迦讖 or支讖, 136-?), a descendant of the Kushan tribe of Yuezhi ethnicity (月氏), was from Gandhāra, an ancient Indian kingdom in the present-day Kashmir, northern Pakistan, and eastern Afghanistan area. He went to Luoyang (洛陽), China's capital, in 167, the last year of Emperor Huan (漢桓帝) of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). During the last eleven years (178-189) of Emperor Ling (漢靈帝), he translated over twenty sūtras. The twelve extant ones include the Sūtra of the Way to Prajñā-pāramitā (道行般若經), the Sūtra of Treasure Accumulation, the Sūtra of Infinite Pure Equal Enlightenment, and the Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhāvasthita Samādhi.
Lokakṣema is the first Indian monk who went to China to disseminate Mahāyāna sūtras. The Sūtra of Infinite Pure Equal Enlightenment, which introduces Amitābha Buddha and one's rebirth in His Pure Land, is the first of the Pure Land sūtras that arrived in China. The Sūtra of Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhāvasthita Samādhi prescribes an intensive three-month retreat in contemplating Amitābha Buddha and His land. Upholding these two sūtras, Dharma Master Huiyuan (慧遠, 334-416 BC), the first patriarch of the Chinese Pure Land School, founded the White Lotus Society on the Lu Mountain (廬山白蓮社), and 123 laymen trained with him. The Sūtra of the Way to Prajñā-pāramitā is the first in a series of Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtras that laid the foundation of the Mahāyāna in China.
Kumārajīva (鳩摩羅什, 344-413) means youth life. He lived during the turbulent period of the Sixteen Kingdoms (304-439), which posed a threat to the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). He is one of the four great sūtra translators in China. His father, Kumārāyana, was from a noble family in India, who went to Kucha (龜茲, or 庫車, in the present-day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China) and married the king's sister, Princess Jīva. From their union, Kumārajīva was born.
Jīva renounced family life when Kumārajīva was seven. Mother and son traveled in India, studying under renowned Buddhist masters. Even at such a young age, Kumārajīva had already committed to memory many sūtras and texts, and his name was heard throughout the five kingdoms of India. At twelve, he traveled with his mother to Turfan (吐魯番, an oasis city in Xinjiang, China), but the king of Kucha went to Turfan to ask him to return to Kucha. So he returned to his homeland and stayed there until his destiny called.
Fujian (苻堅), ruler of the Former Qin Kingdom (前秦) in China, had heard of the marvelous Kumārajīva and wanted to bring him to China. In 382, he sent his general Luguang (呂光) to conquor Kucha. Kucha fell the next year, and Luguang captured Kumārajīva. On their way to China, Luguang got the news that Fujian had been defeated at the Battle of the Fei River. Luguang then settled in Liang Province (涼州) and founded a state called Later Liang (後涼). For seventeen years, Kumārajīva was detained there. Finally, Yaoxing (姚興), ruler of the state of Later Qin (後秦), conquered Later Liang and took Kumārajīva to China.
In 401, Kumārajīva arrived in Chang-an (長安), China's capital, and Yaoxing honored him as the Imperial Teacher and forced him to marry ten women for the purpose of producing descendants of his caliber. He stayed at the Xiaoyao Garden (逍遙園) and began his great translation work with a team of assistants. During the rest of his life, he translated seventy-four texts in 384 fascicles, including the well-known Amitābha Sūtra, the Lotus Sūtra, the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa Sūtra, the Brahma Net Sūtra, and the Mahā-Prajñā-Pāramitā Sūtra, as well as the Mahā-Prajñā-Pāramitā Śāstra, the Madhyamaka Śāstra, and the Dvādaśanikāya Śāstra, written by Nāgārjuna. Kumārajīva's fluid and elegant translations greatly contributed to the propagation of the Dharma in China. Before his death, he said that if his translations were truthful, his tongue would not be destroyed by fire. After cremation of his body, indeed, his tongue was found intact.
Kālayaśas (畺良耶舍, 383-442) means time renown (時稱). He was from India and was accomplished in the Vinaya and the Abhidharma, especially in meditation. In 424, the first year of the yuanjia (元嘉) years of the Liu Song Dynasty (劉宋, 420-479), he went to the city of Jianye (建業), the present-day Nanjing, China, and stayed at the Daolin Ashram (道林精舍) in the Purple Gold Mountain, also called the Zhong Mountain (鍾山).
He translated the Sūtra of Visualization of Infinite Life Buddha and the Sūtra of Visualization of Bodhsattvas Medicine King and Medicine Superior. In 442, he visited some areas of Sichuan Province and expounded the Dharma to the multitudes. He died soon after his return, at the age of sixty.
Guṇabhadra (求那跋陀羅, 394th-468) means merit worthy (功德賢). He was from central India. Being in the Brahmin caste, he started the five studies as a child, and learned astrology, literature, medicine, and mantra practices. After studying the Heart Treatise on the Abhidharma, he turned to the teachings of the Buddha, renounced family life, and became a fully ordained monk.
Guṇabhadra then studied the Tripiṭaka of the Small Vehicles, followed by Mahāyāna teachings. With profound understanding of the Mahā-Prajñā-Pāramitā Sūtra and the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment, he began to teach. He even converted his father to Buddhism.
In 435, the twelfth year of the Yuanjia (元嘉) years of the Liu Song Dynasty (劉宋, 420-479), Guṇabhadra went to China by sea. Emperor Wen (文帝) sent an emissary to welcome and take him to the Qihuan Temple (祇洹寺) in Jiankang (建康), the present-day Nanjing. With the help of Huiyan (慧嚴), Huiguan (慧觀), and student monks, he translated the Kindred Āgama (Samyuktāgama) in fifty fascicles (one of the Four Āgamas in the Chinese Canon).
Guṇabhadra's life in China spanned the reigns of three emperors—Wen, Xiaowu, and Ming (文帝、孝武帝、明帝)—and he was highly revered by all of them. Because of his contribution to the Mahāyāna teachings, people called him Mahāyāna. Altogether, he translated fifty-two Sūtras in 134 fascicles, including the Sūtra of the Great Dharm Drum, the Śrīmālādevi Sūtra, the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra in 4 fascicles, and the mantra for rebirth in Amitābha Buddha's Pure Land. Guṇabhadra died in 468, at the age of seventy-five. On the day he died, he saw celestial flowers and the holy images of Amitābha Buddha and His retinue.
Dharmodgata (曇無竭, 4th-5th centuries) was from Huanglong (黃龍), the present-day Chaoyang (朝陽), in Liaoning, a northeastern province of China, and his family name was Lee. He became a novice monk when he was just a child. He studied hard, observing the precepts and reciting sūtras, and was well regarded by his teachers. Inspired by the example of Faxian (法顯), who had visited the Buddhist Kingdom (India), Dharmodgata vowed to seek the Dharma even at the cost of his life.
In 420, the first year of the Yongchu (永初) years of the Liu Song Dynasty, Dharmodgata set out for the western country, together with twenty-five monks who shared his aspiration. They carried with them banners and ritual objects for making offerings as well as food and utensils.
The team passed Khocho (高昌, in the present-day Turfan Prefecture, Xinjiang, China), Kucha (龜茲, or 庫車, in the present-day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China), and other kingdoms. Only thirteen members of the team survived climbing a cliff on their way. After crossing the snow mountain, they arrived in Kophen (罽賓, an ancient kingdom, also called Gandhāra, in the present-day Kashmir, northern Pakistan, and eastern Afghanistan area). They made obeisance to the Buddha's begging bowl and received the Sanskrit text of the Sūtras of the Prophecy Bestowed upon Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. The team stayed there for over a year, learning Sanskrit and studying Sanskrit texts.
The team continued on west toward the Yuezhi country (月氏, the moon people, an Indo-European people, who had established the Kushan Empire, which at its height stretched from what is now Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and down into the Ganges river valley in northern India), where they paid homage to the relics of the Buddha's head bone. Then they went to northern India, the present-day Pakistan, and stayed at the Pomegranate Temple for three months, passing the summer. At this temple in India, Dharmodgata accepted the complete monastic precepts and became a fully-ordained monk.
Trudging south toward Śrāvastī in central India, Dharmodgata and his team crossed unforgiving terrain and relied on sugar for food. Only five of the thirteen-member team survived the ordeal. Throughout the hardships, Dharmodgata never forgot the sūtra that he was carrying with him. By invoking the help of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, Dharmodgata and his surviving team escaped the perils of raging elephants and then of buffaloes.
The team continued to travel in India for several years, paying homage to the sacred sites of the Buddha and visiting with illustrious masters. Finally, departing from southern India, they undertook their return journey by sea, aboard a merchant ship. Crossing the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, they safely arrived at Guangzhou, in Guangdong Province, China. Dharmodgata stayed in that area, spreading the Dharma until his death.
It is remarkable that Dharmodgata had gone to India, seeking the Dharma, about two hundred years earlier than Dharma Master Xuanzang. The Sūtra of the Prophecy Bestowed upon Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva that he had translated into Chinese is included in the Chinese Canon. However, his book on his adventurous pilgrimage had been lost.
Dharmagatayaśas (曇摩伽陀耶舍, 5th-6th centuries) means Dharma come to renown (法生稱). He was a Buddhist monk from central India, who could write Chinese. In 481, the third year of the Jianyuan (建元) years of the Xiao Qi Dynasty (蕭齊, 479-501, second of the four successive Southern Dynasties), at the Chaoting Temple (朝亭寺) in the city of Guangzhou, he translated from Sanskrit into Chinese the Sūtra of Immeasurable Meaning. Nothing more is known about him.
Mandra (曼陀羅仙, 5th-6th centuries) was a Tripiṭaka master from Funan (扶南), a pre-Angkor Indianized kingdom located around the Mekong delta. In 503, the second year of the Tianjian (天監) years during the Southern Liang Dynasty (502-557), Mandra arrived in Jiankang (建康), the present-day Nanjing, China. He helped Saṅghavarman (僧伽婆羅, 460-524), who was also from Funan, translate Sanskrit texts into Chinese, with the support of Emperor Wu (梁武帝). In 506, Mandra translated the Sūtra of Mahā-Prajña-Pāramitā Pronounced by Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. Nothing more is known about him.
Bodhiruci (菩提留支, 5th-6th centuries) means bodhi splendor. A Buddhist master from northern India, he was versed in mantra practices and the Tripiṭaka. Aspiring to propagate the Dharma, in 502, the first year of the Yongping (永平) years of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), he arrived in Luoyang (洛陽), China's capital. Emperor Xuanwu (魏宣武帝) valued him highly and commanded him to stay in the Yongning Temple (永寧寺) to translate Sanskrit texts. He translated thirty-nine texts in 127 fascicles, including the Diamond Sūtra, the Buddha Name Sūtra, the Dharma Collection Sūtra, the Profound Secret Liberation Sūtra, as well as the Commentary on the Lotus Sūtra, the Treatise on the Great Jewel Accumulation Sūtra, the Treatise on the Ten Grounds Sūtra, and the Treatise on the Infinite-Life Buddha Sūtra. After 537, Bodhiruci was not seen again.
Bodhiruci expressed his unique view on the teachings of the Buddha. Based on the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, he said that, for the first twelve years, the Buddha gave only half-worded teachings, followed afterward by fully-worded teachings. Bodhiruci also proposed the One Tone Theory, saying that the Buddha pronounces teachings in one tone, and sentient beings come to a variety of understandings according to their capacities. Furthermore, he proposed the distinction, based on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, between sudden and gradual enlightenment.
Vinītaruci (毘尼多流支, ?-594) means subdued pleasure (滅喜). He was born in the sixth century, in southern India. In 574, the sixth year of the Taijian (太建) years of the Chen Dynasty (557-89, the last of the four Southern Dynasties), he went to Chang-an (長安), China, in search of the Dharma. He met the third patriarch Sengcan (僧璨, dates unknown) of the Chinese Chan School, in Ye County (鄴縣), Hunan Province, who transmitted to him the Mind Seal and commanded him to go to southern China to deliver the multitudes.
He then went down south to Guangdong Province and became the abbot of the Zhizhie Temple (制止寺) in the city of Guangzhou. There he translated into Chinese from Sanskrit the Mahāyāna Vaipulya Sūtra of Total Retention and the Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of the Elephant Head Ashram.
In 580, the twelfth year of the Taijian years, Vinītaruci went to northern Vietnam and became the abbot of the Fayun Temple (法雲寺). He started his Vinītaruci Chan School and spread the Dharma in Vietnam for over ten years until his death in 594, during the Sui Dynasty (581-619). His teachings included that true suchness and Buddha nature are never born and never perish and that all sentient beings have the same nature of true suchness. The Vinītaruci Chan School prospered in Vietnam for over six hundred years. His disciple Faxian (法賢, ?–626) was the first patriarch, who successively passed the lineage down to Yishan (依山, ?–1216). Then this Chan School declined into obscurity.
Xuanzang (玄奘, 600- or 602-664) is a Tripiṭaka Master in the Tang Dynasty. He is well-known and revered in China for his overland trip to India and his translating into Chinese the voluminous Sanskrit texts he brought back from India. Xuanzang was a native of Henan Province, China. His secular name was Chen Hui (陳褘). He lived for five years with his elder brother, who was a monk at the Jingtu Monastery (淨土寺) in Luoyang (洛陽), the capital city of the Sui Dynasty. Xuanzang studied both Theravāda and Mahāyāna texts and became a novice monk at the age of thirteen. During the chaos in the transition from the Sui Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, the two brothers traveled widely in China, and then they studied the Abhidharma under Buddhist masters Daoji, Baoqian, and Zhenfa (道基、寶遷、震法). In 622, Xuanzang was fully ordained as a monk.
Dissatisfied with the discrepancies and contradictions in available texts, Xuanzang vowed to bring more texts from India. He began his pilgrimage in 627 or 629, traveling alone to the west by way of the so-called Silk Roads, encountering many Buddhist monasteries and holy sites. He arrived in the Indian kingdom of Magadha in 631 or 633. He studied under Master Śīlabhadra (戒賢) at the Nālandā Monastery for five years, learning logic, the Yogācārya-bhūmi Śāstra, the Mādhyamika Śāstra, and other texts. Xuanzang then traveled widely in India, visiting renowned masters and collecting scriptural texts.
When Xuanzang returned to the Monastery, Master Śīlabhadra ordered him to expound the Mahāyāna-Saṁparigraha Śāstra, composed by Asaṅga, and other treatises. He then composed thousands of verses, which disproved the views of two Indian masters who opposed to the Yogācārya and the Mahāyāna, and his name spread throughout the five kingdoms of Inida. The king Śīlāditya (戒日王) sponsored an assembly of debate in the city of Kānyakudja (曲女城) and appointed Xuanzang the master presiding over the forum. This renowned assembly was attended by the eighteen kings of the five kingdoms of India as well as Brahmins and about seven thousand Buddhist monks of both the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna Schools. Xuanzang posted outside the gate his essay entitled "The True Measure of Consciousness-only." For eighteen days, no one was able to debate his statement. After the assembly, the eighteen kings respectfully took refuge under Xuanzang. As a farewell event in honor of Xuanzang, the king Śīlāditya invited the eighteen kings to launch the quinquennial Unreserved Assembly for Almsgiving (無遮布施大會). For seventy-five days, whether monastic or secular, all participants were given alms in the form of the Dharma and of life-supporting goods.
Xuanzang departed India in 643 and arrived in 645 in Chang-an (長安), China's capital in the Tang Dynasty. His round trip to India took seventeen years, covering 50,000 lis (about 25,000 kilometers). He brought back Buddha statues and 150 Buddha relics and 657 Sanskrit texts. He was revered by Emperor Taizong (唐太宗), who honored him as the Tripiṭaka Dharma Master. For the following nineteen years, Xuanzang translated seventy-five Sūtras and Treatises in 1,335 fascicles, including the Mahā-Prajnā Sūtra in 600 fascicles, the Yogācārya Bhūmi Śāstra in 100 fascicles, the Mahā-Bhūmivibhāsā Śāstra in 200 fascicles, and more. His book entitled Da Tang Xi Yu Ji (大唐西域記), paraphrased as Journey to the West in the Great Tang Dynasty, has great historical value as a major source for the study of the culture and geography of medieval India and central Asia.
Xuanzang died in the second month of 664. Emperor Kaozong (唐高宗) was so grieved that he did not go to court for three days. He ordered a memorial pagoda to be erected to enshrine Xuanzang's relics, which later were moved to another pagoda in Nanjing. This pagoda was destroyed during the Rebellion of Great Peace (太平天國, 1859-64). Finally, during the Sino-Japaneses War (1937-45), the Japanese troops occupying Nanjing found the relics when they dug the ground to repair the road. They took the relics to Japan and later returned to China a part of the skull relic, which is now enshrined in the Xuanzang Temple in Taiwan.
Xuanzang's study and translation of texts on Yogācāra (瑜伽行派), or the consciousness-only doctrine (唯識), led to the formation of the Faxiang School (法相宗) of China, and his foremost disciple, Kuiji (窺基), is recognized as the first patriarch. Although this school soon declined in China, its tenets have had far-reaching influence in the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in East Asia.
Divākara (地婆訶羅, 613-687), or Rizhao (日照) in Chinese, was born in central India in the Brahmin caste. He became a monk when he was just a child, and he spent many years at the Mahābodhi Temple and the Nālandā Monastery. He was an accomplished Tripiṭaka Master, excelled in the five studies and especially in mantra practices. Already in his sixties, he went to Chang-an (長安), China, in 676, the first year of the Yifeng (儀鳳) years of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Gaozong (唐高宗) treated him as respectfully as he had treated the illustrious Tripiṭaka Master Xuanzang. In 680, the first year of the Yonglong (永隆) years, the emperor commanded ten learned monks to assist Divākara in translating sūtras from Sanskrit into Chinese. In six years Divākara translated eighteen sūtras, including the Sūtra of the Buddha-Crown Superb Victory Dhāraṇī. Longing to see his mother again, he petitioned for permission to go home. Unfortunately, although permission was granted, he fell ill and died in the twelfth month of 687, the third year of the Chuigong (垂拱) years, at the age of seventy-five. Empress Wu (武后則天) had him buried properly at the Xiangshan Monastery (香山寺) in Luoyang (洛陽).
Śikṣānanda (實叉難陀, 652-710) means study joy. He was from the kingdom of Yutian (于闐), or Kustana, (the present-day Khotan, in Xinjiang, the autonomous region of China). He was accomplished in the doctrines of Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna as well as other studies. In 695, the first year of the Zhengsheng (證聖) years of Empress Wu (武后則天) of the Tang Dynasty, Śikṣānanda took the Sanskrit text of the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment (Buddhāvataṁsaka-mahāvaipulya-sūtra) to Luoyang (洛陽), China. At the command of Empress Wu, in collaboration with Bodhiruci and Yijing (義淨), he translated the text into Chinese at the Dabiankong Temple (大遍空寺) in the eastern capital city. This sūtra in 80 fascicles is more comprehensive than the 60-fascicle version. Altogether, Śikṣānanda translated nineteen sūtras in 107 fascicles, including the Mahāyāna Sūtra of Entering Laṅkā in 7 fascicles, the Sūtra of the Prophecy for Mañjuśrī, and so forth.
In 705, Śikṣānanda returned to his homeland. However, upon repeated invitations, in 708, the second year of the Jinglong (景龍) years, once again he went to China. Emperor Zhongzong (唐中宗) went outside the capital city to welcome him respectfully.
Śikṣānanda fell ill and died in the tenth month of 710, the first year of the Jingyun (景雲) years, at the age of fifty-nine. After cremation of his body, his tongue remained intact. His disciples returned his relics and tongue to Yutian and had a memorial pagoda built for enshrining them. Later on, a seven-story memorial pagoda was erected at the place where he had been cremated. It is called the Huayan Sanzang Pagoda, which means the Sublime Adornment Tripiṭaka Pagoda, because Śikṣānanda was the Tripiṭaka master who had translated this sublime sūtra.
Dharmacandra (法月, 653-743) is known to be from either eastern India or the kingdom of Magadha in central India. He traveled widely in central India and was accomplished in medical arts and the Tripiṭaka. Then he went to the kingdom of Kucha (龜茲, or 庫車, in the present-day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China), where he taught his disciple Zhenyue (真月) and others.
At the written recommendation of Lu Xulin (呂休林), the governor appointed to keep peace with the western region (安西節度使), in 732, the twentieth year of the Kaiyuan (開元) years of Emperor Xuanzong (唐玄宗) of the Tang Dynasty, Dharmacandra arrived in Chang-an (長安), China. As an offering to the Emperor, he presented Sanskrit texts on alchemy and herbal remedies, as well as the Sūtra of the Mighty Vidya King Ucchuṣma, translated by Ajita, who was from northern India. With the help of his disciple Liyan (利言), Dharmacandra translated into Chinese the Sanskrit text of herbal remedies as well as of the Sūtra of the All-encompassing Knowledge Store, the Heart of Prajñā-Pāramitā.
During an uprising in China, Dharmacandra moved to the kingdom of Yutian (于闐), or Kustana, (the present-day Khotan, in Xinjiang, the autonomous region of China). He stayed at the Golden Wheel Temple (金輪寺), teaching people attracted to him, until his death in 743, at the age of ninety-one.
Pramiti (般剌蜜帝, 7th-8th centuries), which means correct measure, was a monk from central India. On his first attempt to carry the Śūraṅgama Sūtra (楞嚴經) to China, he was found out by coast guards and was turned back. More determined than ever to spread the Dharma to China, he then copied the sūtra onto fine white fabric and had it sewn under the skin of his arm. After his arm was healed, he passed the inspection and was allowed to leave India.
Pramiti traveled by sea and arrived in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, in 705, the first year of the Shenlong (神龍) years of Emperor Zhongzong (唐中宗) of the Tang Dynasty. He stayed at the Zhizhi Temple (制止寺) in the city of Guangzhou and started to translate this Śūraṅgama Sūtra in ten fascicles. He was assisted by another Indian monk Miccaśakya (彌伽鑠佉) from Udyāna, who helped render the Sanskrit text into Chinese, and by a Chinese layman Fangrong (房融), who recorded the translation. Then a learned Chinese monk, Huaidi (懷迪), reviewed the Chinese translation in light of the meaning conveyed by the sūtra.
It did not take too long for the king, furious about Pramiti's taking the Sūtra out of the country, to send agents to find Pramiti. He was found and, under the escort of the agents, willingly returned to India, to accept the responsibility for his action.
The story goes that Ācārya Nāgārjuna (龍樹菩薩, circa 150-250), who is revered in China as the distant originating patriarch of eight Mahāyāna Schools, in his meditation, saw the Śūraṅgama Sūtra and the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment (Buddhāvataṁsaka-mahāvaipulya-sūtra) kept in the dragon-king's palace, and he memorized these texts. Then he wrote down everything from memory. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra was considered a national treasure and kept in the Nālandā Monastery. It had been forbidden to take it out of the country, but it was smuggled out by Pramiti.
There was another good reason for the arrival of this sūtra in China. As it happened, over one hundred years earlier, an Indian monk remarked to Master Zhiyi (智顗, 538-597), the founding patriarch of the Tiantai School of China, that the threefold meditation of his School accorded with the tenets of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. Master Zhiyi was so inspired that he had a platform built on the peak of the Tiantai Mountain. For the eighteen years until his death, on this platform he routinely bowed down toward the west, requesting this sūtra to come to China. However, he was not to see this sūtra in his life. This obeisance-to-the-sūtra platform is still there today on the Huading Peak (華頂峰) on the Tiantai Mountain, in Zhejiang Province, China.
Amoghavajra (不空金剛, 705-774) is referred to as Not Empty Vajra in China. He is the sixth patriarch in the Buddhist esoteric lineage. Born in the Lion Kingdom (the present-day Sri Lanka) in southern India, he traveled in his youth with his uncle. Later he renounced family life and studied under Vajrabodhi (金剛智), who took him to Luoyang (洛陽) in 720, the eighth year of the Kaiyuan (開元) years of Emperor Xuanzong (唐玄宗) of the Tang Dynasty. Amoghavajra was then sixteen. Another version of the story goes that he was the son of a Brahmin in northern India. Orphaned as a child, he went to China with his uncle and then studied under Vajrabodhi.
At twenty, Amoghavajra was fully ordained at the Guangfu Temple (廣福寺) in Luoyang (洛陽). Exceptionally intelligent, he was well regarded by his teacher Vajrabodhi, who transmitted to him all five divisions of the teachings on the three secrets (body, voice, and mind). After Vajrabodhi died, Amoghavajra, honoring his teacher's instruction, set out for India in search of the esoteric Dharma. Together with Hanguang (含光), Huibian (慧辯), and others, he traveled by sea. He first visited Sri Lanka and received from Nāgabodhi (龍智) the Vajra Summit Yoga, which had been initially transmitted in eighteen assemblies, and the Mahāvairocana Great Compassion Store, as well as the five-Division Empowerment, the Secret Book of Mantras, and some five hundred sūtras and commentaries. He also received teachings on the secret mudrās of the deities. After traveling extensively through the five regions of India, Amoghavajra returned to the capital city of China in 746, the fifth year of the Tianbao (天寶) years. There he gave an esoteric empowerment to Emperor Xuanzong (唐玄宗). Later on, the emperor named him Knowledge Store and bestowed upon him the purple robe because his practice successfully brought rainfall.
In 771, the sixth year of the Dali (大曆) years of Emperor Daizong (唐代宗), Amoghavajra presented his translations of seventy-seven sūtras in 101 fascicles with a table of contents and requested to have them included in the Tripiṭaka. Then the emperor conferred upon him a title, Great Vast Knowledge Tripiṭaka Master. In the sixth month of 774, sensing that his time was due, Amoghavajra wrote the emperor a farewell letter and offered his ritual objects, a bell and a five-spoke vajra. Lying on his side, he died at at the age of seventy. A memorial pagoda was erected at the Daxingshan Temple (大興善寺), for keeping his relics.
Kumārajīva (鳩摩羅什, 344th-413 or 350-409), Paramārtha (真諦, 499-569), Xuanzang (玄奘, 602?-664), and Amoghavajra (不空金剛, 705-774) are honored in China as the four great translators, who contributed greatly to establishing the correspondence between Sanskrit and Chinese in sounds and rhythms. Subhakara-Siṁha (善無畏, 637-735), Vajrabodhi (金剛智, 671?-741), and Amoghavajra are called the Three Great Ones during the Kaiyuan (開元) years. Amoghavajra's Chinese disciple Huiguo (惠果, 746-805) received full impartation of the Dharma from him and became the seventh patriarch, the last one in China. During their days, the Esoteric School of Buddhism flourished in China. Then the esoteric lineage was carried on by Huiguo's Japanese disciple Konghai (空海, 774th-835), who became the first patriarch of the True Word School (Mantra School) in Japan, which has thrived to this day.
Prajñā (般若, 734th-?) was from Kophen (罽賓, an ancient kingdom, also called Gandhāra, in the present-day Kashmir, northern Pakistan, and eastern Afghanistan area). He became a novice monk at seven and was fully ordained at twenty. When he was twenty-three, he went to Nālandā Monastery in central India and studied, under great masters, the Yogācāra doctrine, the Middle Versus the Diametric Views, and the Diamond Sūtra. Then he visited nations across the South China Sea.
In 781, the second year of the Jianzhong (建中) years of Emperor Dezong (唐德宗) of the Tang Dynasty, he arrived in Guangzhou, China. He then went to the capital city Chang-an (長安) and started translating Sanskrit texts into Chinese. In 788, he translated the Sūtra of the Six Pāramitās in the Tenets of the Mahāyāna in ten fascicles. Two years later, he was conferred the title Prajñā Tripiṭaka Master and awarded the purple robe. Then, he translated the Heart Sūtra, the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment in forty fascicles, and the Mahāyāna Sūtra of the Observation of the Mind Ground.
Prajñā died in the city of Luoyang (洛陽), his age unknown. He was buried on the Eastern Heights of the Longmen Caves (龍門西岡).
Born in central India, Fatian (法天, ?-1001), or Dharmadeva, had been a monk in the Nālandā Monastery in the kingdom of Magadha. In 973, the sixth year of the Kaibao (開寶) years of the Northern Song Dynasty, he went to China and stayed in Pujin (蒲津), in Lu County (漉州). He translated the Sūtra of the Infinite-Life Resolute Radiance King Tathāgata Dhāraṇī, the Stanzas in Praise of the Seven Buddhas, and other texts. His translations were recorded and edited by Fajin (法進), an Indian monk of the Kaiyuan Temple (開元寺) in Hezhongfu (河中府).
In 980, the fifth year of the Taiping-Xinguo (太平興國) years, the county official presented a written recommendation of Fatian to Emperor Taizong (宋太宗). Very pleased with what he read in the report, the emperor summoned Fatian to the capital city and bestowed upon him the purple robe. Furthermore, he decreed the building of an institute for sūtra translation. In 982, at the command of the emperor, Fatian, Tianxizai (天息災), Shihu (施護), and others moved into the institute, starting to translate the Sanskrit texts each had brought. In the seventh month, Fatian completed his translation of the Mahāyāna Sūtra of the Holy Auspicious Upholding-the-World Dhāranī. Then the emperor named him Great Master of Transmission of Teachings. Between 982 and 1000, he translated forty-six sūtras. Fatian died in 1001, the fourth year of the Xianping (咸平) years, his age unknown. The emperor conferred upon him a posthumous title, Great Master of Profound Enlightenment.