Hiouen-thsang's Life and Travels were first made known through Stanislas Julien in his great work Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes. The first volume (1853) contained Histoire de la vie de Hiouen-thsang et de ses voyages dans l'Inde de-puis l'an 629 jusqu'en 645 par Hoeï-li et Yen-thsong. The second and third volumes (1857 1858) contained Hiouen-thsang's Mémoires sur les Contrées occidentales. The same work was afterwards translated into English by the Rev. Samuel Beal under the title of Si-yu-ki Buddhist Records of the Western World. See M. M. Buddhist Pilgrims (1857) in Selected Essays vol. ii. p. 234.
Buddhist Pilgrims Acquainted with the Veda.
When speaking of the study of the Vedas Hiouen-thsang says:—
‘The Brâhmans study the four Vêda Sâstras. The first is called Shau (longevity); it relates to the preservation of life and the regulation of the natural condition. The second is called Sse (sacrifice); it relates to the (rules of) sacrifice and prayer. The third is called Ping (peace or regulation); it relates to decorum casting of lots military affairs and army regulations. The fourth is called Shu (secret mysteries); it relates to various branches of science incantations medicine1.
‘The teachers (of these works) must themselves have closely studied the deep and secret principles they contain and penetrated to their remotest meaning. They then explain their general sense and guide their pupils in understanding the words which are difficult. They urge them on and skilfully conduct them. They add lustre to their poor knowledge and stimulate the desponding. If they find that their pupils are satisfied with their acquirements and so wish to escape to attend to their worldly duties then they use means to keep them in their power. When they have finished their education and have attained thirty years of age then their character is formed and their knowledge ripe. When they have secured an occupation they first of all thank their master for his attention. There are some deeply versed in antiquity who devote themselves to elegant studies and live apart from the world and retain the simplicity of their character. These rise above mundane presents and are as insensible to renown as to contempt of the world. Their name having spread afar the rulers appreciate them highly but are unable to draw them to the court. The chief of the country honours them on account of their (mental) gifts and the people exalt their fame and render them universal homage. This is the reason of their devoting themselves to their studies with ardour and resolution without any sense of fatigue. They search for wisdom relying on their own resources. Although they are possessed of large wealth yet they will wander here and there to seek their subsistence. There are others who whilst attaching value to letters will yet without shame consume their fortunes in wandering about for pleasure neglecting their duties. They squander their substance in costly food and clothing. Having no virtuous principle and no desire to study they are brought to disgrace and their infamy is widely circulated.’ (Beal i. pp. 79 seq.)
‘To the north of the great mountain 3 or 4 li is a solitary hill. Formerly the Rishi Vyâsa (Kwang-po) lived here in solitude. By excavating the side of the mountain he formed a house. Some portions of the foundations are still visible. His disciples still hand down his teaching and the celebrity of his bequeathed doctrine still remains.’ (Beal ii. p. 148.)
A very important passage showing that Hiouen-thsang came in contact with Brâhmans who knew the Veda occurs in Julien's translation vol. i. p. 168. He there gives a short account of Sanskrit grammar and in repeating the paradigm of bhavâmi I am he remarks that in the four Vedas instead of the regular form po-po-me bhavâmas we are there occurs the form p'o-po-mo-sse. This can only be meant not for bhavâmas as Julien supposes but for bhavâmasi which is really the ancient Vedic form for the Ist pers. plur.
I-tsing another Buddhist pilgrim who visited India in the seventh century likewise refers to the Vedas and states that they were handed down by oral tradition. ‘The Brâhmans’ he writes ‘revere the scriptures namely the four Vedas containing about 100000 verses. These Vedas are handed down from mouth to mouth not written on paper. There are in every generation some intelligent Brâhmans who can recite these 100000 verses.’
From the book: