Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
(to Part V, Sec. 3)

(Tibetan cultural missions to India described in Brom-ton's 'Life of Atīśa')

THOLIN was the capital of Tibet in AD 1025. Here a Buddhist king of Tibet had built a monastery. It was a sort of training institute. Monks after a course of training here were sent out to different parts of India--to Magadha (Bihar) and Kashmir where Buddhism was best known, practised and studied. They were authorized to invite learned monks from India to Tibet.

Of twenty-one monks sent out from this monastery, nineteen, it is said, died in India of heat, fever, snake bite and other mishaps. The two survivors found their way to the great Vikramaśilā monastery on the bank of the Gangā where they heard of the fame of Dīpaṅkara Śrījñāna. They conveyed reports about him on their return to the Tibetan king, who despatched at once a mission to Vikramaśilā under a monk named Gya-tson, with a hundred attendants and a large quantity of gold. This was the first Tibetan mission to Vikramaśilā.

Its result is thus described:

'After encountering immense hardships and privations on the journey, the traveller ( Gya-tson) reached Magadha. Arrived at Vikramaśilā, he presented to Dīpaṅkara the king's letter with a large piece of bar gold as a present from the sovereign and begged him to honour his country with a visit. On this Dīpaṅkara replied: "Then it seems to me that my going to Tibet would be due to two causes--first, the desire for amassing gold, and second, the wish to acquire sainthood by the loving of others. But I must say that I have no necessity for gold nor any anxiety for the second at present". At this unexpected reply, Gya-tson wept bitterly, wiping his tears with a corner of the sacerdotal robe. . . . Dīpaṅkara sympathized with him and tried to console him.'

Further attempts were made to induce him to come to Tibet. Two or three other missions were organized, but with no better success. To defray the expenses of them repeated missions, the king had to go out prospecting for gold. While on a visit to a lately discovered gold-mine on the border of his kingdom, the king fell into the hands of the rājā of Gharwal who was inimical to Buddhism. He was cast into prison by the rājā and offered the alternative of either renouncing Buddhism or paying as ransom a block of solid gold of the size and weight of the captive king's person. His nephew made repeated attempts to collect the necessary amount of gold, but the total fell short. At last the long-suffering king summoned the nephew to the prison and expressed a desire to die a martyr. 'Do not give a grain of gold to this cruel rājā', he said to the nephew; 'take back the entire quantity of it that you may conduct religious service in our great monasteries and spend it in bringing an Indian paṇḍita to Tibet.' So the devout king expired in captivity and was succeeded by his loyal nephew.

The nephew, whose name was Chan Chub, became a monk after accession to the throne and made it his life's purpose to carry out the last wishes of his royal uncle.

-367-

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