- Canonical, Literary and Epigraphic Records about Buddha’s Birth and Image Processions from Eastern Han to Northern Wei
- Accounts of Buddha’s Birthday Parades
- Sample Canonical Accounts of Merits Acquired from Image Processions
- Sample Canonical Recommendations of Ways to Celebrate Buddha’s Birthday
- Sample Canonical Accounts related to Buddha Bathing Ceremonies
- Sample Canonical Accounts of Monastic Rules related to Treatment of Buddha’s Birthday Offerings
Canonical, Literary and Epigraphic Records about Buddha’s Birth and Image Processions from Eastern Han to Northern Wei
|1||80 BCE||Acchariya-abhuta Sutta, Majjhima Nikāya|
|2||1st-2nd century CE||Buddhacarita|
|4||197 後漢 Later Han||《修行本起經》 Cārya-nidāna||四月八日, 右脇生|
|5||223-253吳 Wu||《太子瑞應本起經》 Taizi Rui Ying Sūtra||四月八日, 右脇生|
|6||266-313 西晉 Western Jin||《般泥洹後灌臘經》 Ban Ni Huan Hou Guan La Sūtra||四月八日, 浴佛|
|7||280-312 西晉 Western Jin||《菩薩受齋經》 Pusa Shou Zhai Sūtra||四月八日|
|8||280-312 西晉 Western Jin||《異出菩薩本起經》 Abhiniṣkramaṇa (sūtra)||四月八日, 右脇生|
|9||290-306 西晉 Western Jin||《佛說灌洗佛形像經》 Guan Xi Fo Xingxiang Sūtra||四月八日, 浴佛|
|10||290-307 西晉 Western Jin||《佛般泥洹經》 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra||四月八日, 右脇生|
|11||308 西晉 Western Jin||《普曜經》Lalitavistara(sūtra)||右脇生|
|12||317-420東晉 Eastern Han||《般泥洹經》Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra||四月八日|
|13||350-431秦 Later Qin Dynasties||《薩婆多毘尼毘婆沙》Sarvāstivādavinayavibhāṣā||二月八日|
|14||388-407西秦 Western Qin||《佛說摩訶剎頭經》 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra||四月八日, 浴佛|
|15||392東晉 Eastern Jin||《佛說十二遊經》 Shi Er You Jing||四月八日|
|16||397-398東晉 Eastern Jin||《中阿含經》 Madhyamāgama||出母胎|
|18||414-426北涼 Northern Liang||《佛所行讚》 Buddhacarita||四月八日, 右脇生|
|19||435-443宋 Liu Song||《過去現在因果經》 Scripture on Past and Present Causes and Effects||四月八日, 二月八日, 右脇生|
|20||502-557梁 Liang||《釋迦譜》 Shijia Pu||四月八日, 二月八日|
|21||502-557梁 Liang||《釋迦氏譜》 Shijia Shi Pu||四月八日, 二月八日|
|22||502-557梁 Liang||《出三藏記集》 Chu San Zang Ji Ji||四月八日|
|23||502-518梁||《弘明集》 Hong Ming Ji||四月八日|
|24||516梁||《經律異相》 Jing Lu Yi Xiang||四月八日|
Using thirteen different search terms (四月八日, 二月八日, 四月十五日, 二月十五日, 五月八日, 五月十五日, 右脇生, 浴佛, 灌佛,行像, 行象, 遶城, and 巡城) in the Blue Dots text pattern analysis tool,1 I scanned through canonical texts available in the Korean Buddhist Canon2 for all data related to the Buddha’s birthday up to the Northern Wei dynasty. The table below lists all relevant texts (as active hyperlinks) and the terms contained within.
Where English translations of the Chinese canonical materials are available, they are listed after the texts concerned.
80 BCE, Acchariya-abhuta Sutta, Majjhima Nikāya
I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta had descended into his mother’s womb, no kind of affliction arose in her; she was blissful and free from bodily fatigue. She saw the Bodhisatta within her womb with all his limbs, lacking no faculty. Suppose a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread were strung through a fine beryl gem of purest water, eight-faceted, well cut, and a man with good sight were to take it in his hand and review it thus: “This is a fine beryl gem of purest water, eight-faceted, well cut, and through it is strung a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread”; so too when the Bodhisatta had descended into his mother’s womb … she saw the Bodhisatta within her womb with all his limbs, lacking no faculty.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘Seven days after the birth of the Bodhisatta, his mother died and reappeared in Tusita heaven.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘Other women give birth after carrying the child in the womb for nine or ten months, but not so the Bodhisatta’s mother. The Bodhisatta’s mother gave birth to him after carrying him in her womb for exactly ten months.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘Other women give birth seated or lying down, but not so the Bodhisatta’s mother. The Bodhisatta’s mother gave birth to him standing up.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, first gods received him, then human beings.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. . I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he did not touch the earth. The four young gods received him and set him before his mother saying: “Rejoice, O queen, a son of great power has been born to you.”’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. . I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he came forth unsullied, unsmeared by water or humors or blood or any kind of impurity, clean, and unsullied. Suppose there were a gem placed on Kāsi cloth, then the gem would not smear the cloth or the cloth the gem. Why is that? Because of the purity of both. So too when the Bodhisatta came forth … clean and unsullied.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. . I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, two jets of water appeared to pour from the sky, one cool and one warm, for bathing the Bodhisatta and his mother.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. . I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘As soon as the Bodhisatta was born, he stood firmly with his feet on the ground; then he took seven steps facing north, and with a white parasol held over him, he surveyed each quarter and uttered the words of the Leader of the Herd: “I am the highest in the world. This is my last birth; now there is no renewal of being for me.”’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One. . I heard and learned this from the Blessed One’s own lips: ‘When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, then a great immeasurable light surpassing the spendor of the gods appeared in the world with its gods, its Māras, and its Brahmās,.in this generation with its recluses and Brahmins, with its princes and its people. And even in those abysmal world interspaces of vacancy, gloom, and utter darkness, where the moon and the sun, mighty and powerful as they are, cannot make their light prevail – there too a great immeasurable light surpassing splendor of the gods appeared. And the beings born there perceived each other by that light: “So other beings, indeed, have appeared here.” And this ten-thousandfold world system shook and quaked and trembled, and there too a great immeasurable light surpassing splendor of the gods appeared.’ This too I remember as a wonderful and marvelous quality of the Blessed One.3
1st-2nd century CE, Aśvaghoṣa, Buddhacarita
Then one day by the king’s permission the queen, having a great longing in her mind, went with the inmates of the gynaeceum into the garden Lumbinī. As the queen supported herself by a bough which hung laden with a weight of flowers, the Bodhisattva suddenly came forth, cleaving open her womb. At that time the constellation Puṣya was auspicious, and from the side of the queen, who was purified by her vow, her son was born for the welfare of the world, without pain and without illness. Like the sun bursting from a cloud in the morning, — so he too, when he was born from his mother’s womb, made the world bright like gold, bursting forth with his rays which dispelled the darkness. As soon as he was born the thousand-eyed (Indra) well-pleased took him gently, bright like a golden pillar; and two pure streams of water fell down from heaven upon his head with piles of Mandāra flowers. Carried about by the chief suras, and delighting them with the rays that streamed from his body, he surpassed in beauty the new moon as it rests on a mass of evening clouds. As was Aurva’s birth from the thigh, and Pṛthu’s from the hand, and Māndhātṛ’s, who was like Indra himself, from the forehead, and Kakṣīvat’s from the upper end of the arm, — thus too was his birth (miraculous). Having thus in due time issued from the womb, he shone as if he had come down from heaven, he who had not been born in the natural way, — he who was born full of wisdom, not foolish, as if his mind had been purified by countless aeons of contemplation. With glory, fortitude, and beauty he shone like the young sun descended upon the earth; when he was gazed at, though of such surpassing brightness, he attracted all eyes like the moon. With the radiant splendour of his limbs he extinguished like the sun the splendour of the lamps; with his beautiful hue as of precious gold he illuminated all the quarters of space. Unflurried, with the lotus-sign in high relief, far-striding, set down with a stamp, — seven such firm footsteps did he then take, — he who was like the constellation of the seven Ṛṣis. `I am born for supreme knowledge, for the welfare of the world, ? thus this is my last birth,’ thus did he of lion gait, gazing at the four quarters, utter a voice full of auspicious meaning. Two streams of water bursting from heaven, bright as the moon’s rays, having the power of heat and cold, fell down upon that peerless one’s benign head to give refreshment to his body. His body lay on a bed with a royal canopy and a frame shining with gold, and supported by feet of lapis lazuli, and in his honour the yakṣa-lords stood round guarding him with golden lotuses in their hands. The gods in homage to the son of Māyā, with their heads bowed at his majesty, held up a white umbrella in the sky and muttered the highest blessings on his supreme wisdom. The great dragons in their great thirst for the Law, — they who had had the privilege of waiting on the past Buddhas, — gazing with eyes of intent devotion, fanned him and strewed Mandāra flowers over him. Gladdened through the influence of the birth of the Tathāgata, the gods of pure natures and inhabiting pure abodes were filled with joy, though all passion was extinguished, for the sake of the world drowned in sorrow. When he was born, the earth, though fastened down by (Himālaya) the monarch of mountains, shook like a ship tossed by the wind; and from a cloudless sky there fell a shower full of lotuses and water-lilies, and perfumed with sandalwood. Pleasant breezes blew soft to the touch, dropping down heavenly garments; the very sun, though still the same, shone with augmented light, and fire gleamed, unstirred, with a gentle lustre. In the north-eastern part of the dwelling a well of pure water appeared of its own accord, wherein the inhabitants of the gynaeceum, filled with wonder, performed their rites as in a sacred bathing-place. Through the troops of heavenly visitants, who came seeking religious merit, the pool itself received strength to behold Buddha, and by means of its trees bearing flowers and perfumes it eagerly offered him worship. The flowering trees at once produced their blossoms, while their fragrance was borne aloft in all directions by the wind, accompanied by the songs of bewildered female bees, while the air was inhaled and absorbed by the many snakes (gathering near). Sometimes there resounded on both sides songs mingled with musical instruments and tabours, and lutes also, drums, tambourines, and the rest, from women adorned with dancing bracelets.4
3rd century, Lalitavistara
Thus, Bikshus, ten months having elapsed, and the time for the birth of the Bodhisattva having arrived, thirty-two omens became manifest in the garden attached to the palace of king S’uddhodana. What were the thirty-two omens? (1) All the flower plants there budded, but did not blossom. (2) In the tanks blue lotuses, pink lotuses, lilies, and white lotuses put forth buds, but did not flower. (3) Flower and fruit trees sprouted from the earth and bloomed, but bore no fruit. (4) Eight trees grew forth and twenty hundreds of thousands of stores of innumerable jewels came up to view. (5) In the gynacaeum mines of jewels became exposed. (6) Fountains poured forth scented water, both cold and hot, and redolent of aromatic oils. (7) Young lions came down from the sides of the Himavat mountain, joyfully walked round the city of Kapila, and sat by its gates bearing no enmity against any being. (8) Five hundred young elephants of a yellowish white colour came, and, in the presence of king S’uddhodana, scratched the earth with their trunks and feet. (9) Heavenly nymphs with golden zones appeared standing with their hips touching each other in the gynacaeum of the king. (10) Semiophide Naga damsels, with various articles of worship, appeared pendant under the sky. (11) Ten thousand Naga damsels holding peacock’s feathers became visible under the sky. (12) Ten thousand well-filled jars appeared going round the great city of Kapilavastu. (18) Ten thousand celestial damsels, carrying vases filled with scented water on their heads, became apparent. (14) Ten thousand daughters of Devas appeared standing with parasols, flags and pennons in their hands. (15) Many hundreds of thousands of Apsarases appeared awaiting with conch-shells, clarions, drums, banners, and bells in their hands. (16) The air seemed still, and did not blow. (17) Rivers and currents stood still, and did not flow. (18) The chariots of the sun, and the moon, and the stars and the celestial constellations stopped their courses. (19) The constellation Pushya became manifest. (20) Mines of jewels became exposed in the house of king S’uddhodana. (21) Fire ceased to burn. (22) Jewels appeared pendant under net-works over towers, palaces and gateways. (23) Reprehensible odours were nowhere present. (24) Various agreeable smells seemed to circulate everywhere. (25) The voices of crows, owls/vultures, wolves and jackals were no longer audible. (26) Agreeable sounds resounded everywhere. (27) The whole of mankind appeared to have retired from labour. (28) Banks and low grounds on earth all became even and level. (29) All roads, crosses, courtyards, highways and market places were covered with flowers so as to be flat like the palm of the hand. (30) All pregnant women gave birth with comfort and ease. (31) The presiding gods and goddesses of Sala forests having made half bodies with leaves appeared saluting them. These were the thirty-two prevalent omens that became apparent. Now, Mayadevi, perceiving that the time for the Bodhisattva’s birth had arrived, and impelled by the vigour of the Bodhisattva, repaired, at the first watch of night, to the king, and addressed him in these Gathas “Lord, listen to my wish as I relate it unto you. It is my earnest desire that I should immediately proceed to the garden. Should it not be to your annoyance, or harm, or trouble, I would quickly repair to the pleasure-garden. “You have become wearied by penance and constant devotion to virtue, and I am confined for a long time, carrying within me the pure being. The noble Sal trees in serried lines are in blossom; it is fit, therefore, O lord, that I should go to the garden ground. “It is the noble season of spring, the delighter of women; the black bees are in murmur; the koels are in full song; many-coloured and pure (pollen) powders from the flowers are flying in the air; dear one, accord your permission that I may proceed without delay” Hearing these words of the lady, the king, in delight and joy of mind, thus addressed his courtiers: “Place in array my vehicles harnessed to elephants and horses, and my chariots, and decorate the precious Lumbini garden. “Let twenty thousand elephants of the colour of the cloud, like the blue mountain, housed in golden networks, decorated with gold and jewels, with bells hanging on their side—noble six-tusked elephants—be placed in array. “Let twenty thousand horses of the colour of snow or silver, with noble manes of the colour of munja fibre, covered with golden networks set with little bells,—swift as the wind, and worthy the vehicle of royalty,—be placed in order. “Quickly set in array twenty thousand men, veterans in warfare, longing for fight with heroes, armed with swords, bows, arrows, iron spears, lassoes, and falchions; so that they may without delusion, guard the noble Maya and her suite. “Decorate the Lumbini garden which, in its wealth of flowers, is like the Nandana garden of the Suras, with jewels and gold in profusion ;—with precious stuffs of various kinds set off all the trees; and having done so report to me.” These commands having been heard, the Lumbini garden was immediately decorated. The courtiers then exclaimed: “Success, success attend thee, O king! May thy life be long! Lord, without waiting we have already done everything according to thy command and are awaiting thy pleasure.” The noble king was satisfied. Entering his excellent apartment, he thus commanded his warders: “Issue orders so that those who are well-affected towards me and those who wish to please me may all decorate themselves for my gratification. Let all be cheerful. Let every one put on soft and pleasant dresses of diverse colours in choice fashions, and redolent with delightful essences and aromatics. Let them have pearl necklaces pendant on their chests, and let all appear fully ornamented. Let lutes, monochords, and mridangas,—let vinas, flutes, and mukundas,—let clarions by hundreds of thousands—raise their charming music, and so entertain all that even gods by hearing the sweet sounds may long for their goddesses. In this noble chariot let Mayadevi ascend, and none other, whether man or woman. Let women of various ranks drag that car, causing no diversion, nor the slightest distraction. When Maya issued forth from her apartment to the gate, she heard loud cheers proceeding from the diversified army of elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers stationed at the king’s gate; the sound was such as to cause commotion even in the ocean. That beautiful chariot was set off, by the king’s orders, with a hundred thousand tinkling bells and a thousand chauris; it had a jewelled throne, and around it jewelled trees, rich in foliage and flowers. In that chariot geese, herons and peacocks raised a pleasant carol; parasols, standards, flags and pennons were uplifted; little bells suspended from networks tinkled around; it was set off by stuffs of different kinds. Heavenly damsels came to the sky to behold it. They broke forth in pleasant sweet cheers, and bepraised her, when Maya took her seat on the throne, and the three thousand earths formed of sixfold modifications quaked. The damsels showered, too, choice flowers after whirling them in the air. This day will the noblest of beings be born in the garden of Lumbini. The four guardians of the quarters are carrying that chariot. Indra, lord of the gods, is purifying the road, and Brahma is marching in front to restrain the wicked. Immortals by hundreds of thousands are, with joined hands, saluting her. The king, in delight, is beholding the procession. For such a god among gods, such should be the rejoicings—for him, whom the four guardians of the quarters, Brahma, Indra and the other gods. offer such profuse homage. This pure being is manifest; there is none other in the three regions who is worthy of such homage. Should any Deva or Naga, S’akra or Brahma, or the guardians of the quarters, venture to accept it, the crown of his head would immediately burst open. But to this greater god all homage is becoming. Now, Bhikshus, Mayadevi proceeded forth attended by her suite. She was guarded by eighty-four thousand well-appointed horse-cars, eighty-four thousand well-appointed elephant-cars, eighty-four thousand brigades of heroic, veteran, sturdy soldiers clad in impenetrable mail and armour. She was preceded by sixty thousand S’akya maidens. She was guarded by forty thousand S’akyas, old, young and middle-aged, all born agnates to the king S’uddhodana. She was surrounded by sixty thousand musicians of king S’uddhodana’s inner apartments, all engaged in singing and music, playing on clarions and other instruments. She was surrounded by eighty-four thousand Deva damsels, by the same number each of Naga damsels, of Gandharva damsels, of Kinnara damsels, and of Asura damsels, proceeding in different arrays, decorated with a profusion of ornaments, and engaged in singing, music, or pleasant conversation. The whole of the Lumbini garden was redolent with scented waters, and besprinkled with choice flowers. All the trees in that noble park were clad with leaves, flowers and fruits out of season. That park was decorated by Devas, even as the Miśraka Park is adorned by them. Now, Mayadevi, having entered the park and descended from her chariot, sauntered about in the company of human and heavenly damsels. Rambling from tree to tree, strolling from one parterre to another, now looking at this tree, then at another, she came near the waved-leaved fig tree. It was the noblest of many noble trees, with well-disposed branches, bearing fine leaves and blossoms, covered with exquisite flowers, redolent of aroma, having clothes of various colours suspended from it, resplendent in the lustre of numerous jewels, having its root, trunk, branches and leaves set with all kinds of jewels, having well-disposed and far extending branches, standing on ground even as the palm of the hand, covered with verdant green rivalling in colour the throat of the peacock, and soft to the touch like the down on the pod of the Abrus precatorius. About it dwelt the mothers of former Jinas, and around it resounded the music of Devas. It was auspicious, stainless, and pure. By the calm spirit of hundreds of thousands of S’uddhavasakayika Devaputras, it was bent. It was bepraised by the bent heads of those who bore matted hair as their crown, (i. e.9 hermits). This Plaksha tree did the lady approach. Now, that Plaksha tree, feeling the glory of the Bodhisattva, lowered its head and saluted her. Now, Mayadevi, extending her right hand, resplendent as the lightning on the sky, held a branch of the Plaksha tree, and, looking playfully towards the sky, stood there yawning. At that time sixty hundreds of thousands of Apsarases, along with Kamavachara Devas, engaged themselves in her service. Thus did the Bodhisattva remain thriving in the womb of his mother. And when ten full months had passed, forth from the right side of his mother, he issued, with full memory, knowing everything, and undefiled by any uterine dirt, such as usually attaches to others. At this time, Bhikshus, there were present before him S’akra, the lord of the Devas, and Brahma, lord of the earth, and they respectfully and intelligently and in full memory received the Bodhisattva under cover of a beautiful piece of silk cloth. Brahma, lord of the earth, and his suite of Brahmakayika Devaputras plucked out the tower in which the mother of Bodhisattva had dwelt during her pregnancy, and carried it away to Brahmaloka for the purpose of erecting a chaitya on it, and worshipping it. No Bodhisattva should be received by any human being, therefore was the Bodhisattva first received by the Devas. Immediately after his birth the Bodhisattva alighted on the earth; and at that time, piercing through the earth, a noble lotus appeared for the newly-born Mohasattva Bodhisattva. The two Naga kings, Nanda and Upananda, remaining in semi-developed form under the sky, bathed the Bodhisattva by pouring two streams of water, one hot and the other cold. S’akra, Brahma, the guardians of regions, and the Devaputras by hundreds of thousands, who had come there, bathed the new-born Bodhisattva with scented water and well-blown flowers, and sprinkled the same about him. Two chamaras, and a jewelled umbrella became manifest in the sky. The Bodhisattva, seated on the noble lotus, beheld the four quarters; he beheld it with the sight of a lion—with the sight of a Mahapurusha. At that time further birth being precluded by the maturation of the fruit of his former good works, the Bodhisattva obtained a transcendental sight, through which he beheld to the utmost the three thousand great thousand regions, along with all their towns, market towns, villages, provinces, kingdoms, and capitals, together with all the gods and human beings dwelling there. He perceived, too, the mind and habits of all created beings. Perceiving them, he looked to ascertain whether there was any person equal to him in good conduct, in meditation, in thorough knowledge, and in the exercise of all virtuous actions; but nowhere in the three thousand great thousand regions did he see any. Now then, the Bodhisattva, dauntless and fearless as a lion, and unagitated, calling to mind and contemplating on the eight objects of reflection, and knowing the mind and habits of all beings, advanced seven steps towards the east, saying, “I shall be the easternmost (foremost) in all virtuous actions, the source of all goodness.” While he advanced, the beautiful, white, wide-extended umbrella and the auspicious chamaras, advanced along with him in the sky, and where he set his foot there sprouted forth lotuses. In this way he next advanced seven steps towards the south, saying, “I shall be worthy of reward (dakshiṇīya) from gods and men.” Towards the west he advanced seven steps, and, stopping like a lion at the seventh step, with a cheering voice declared, “I am the eldest on the earth; I am the noblest on the earth; this is my western (or last) birth; I shall bring to an end all birth, decay, death and pain.” ‘ He advanced seven steps towards the north, and said, “I shall be subsequenceless (without a north) among all creation.” He advanced seven steps downwards, and said, “I shall destroy Mara and his army; I shall shower on hell the rain of the cloud of the great religion, and blow out the fire of the nether regions, so that they may be restored to happiness.” He advanced seven steps upwards, and, casting his look above, said, “I shall be the observed of all who live above.” These were the words that were said by the Bodhisattva. At that time the three thousand great thousand regions learnt well from this voice that this was the knowledge of things produced by the maturation of the works of the Bodhisattva. When the Bodhisattva is born for the last time and when he acquires the sequenceless absolute Bodhi, then with reference to him these and the like miracles become manifest. Then, O Bhikshus, all beings were horripilated with delight. Then frightful, horripilating, extensive earthquakes took place. Then superhuman celestial clarions sounded without being blown by any one. Then trees of every season bore flowers and fruits in the three thousand great thousand regions. Clear rolling sounds of the clouds were heard under the sky. The Devas slowly showered down from the cloudless sky small particles of rain. Delightful, mild, fragrant breeze loaded with many kinds of flowers, apparels, ornaments, and aromatic powders circulated everywhere. Free from darkness, dust, smoke and tog all the sides sparkled delightfully. From above the sky loud, deep and grave sounds were beard. The refulgence of the moon, of the sun, of S’akra, of Brahma, and of the Lokapalas was subdued. The whole of the three thousand regions became aglow with the touch of the highest pleasure, with the growth of the mental and corporeal pleasures of all beings, and with the resplendence of many thousands of variegated colours. All beings were devoted to the gratification of the newly-born Bodhisattva. They were all devoid of auger, malice, delusion, pride, dejection, disappointment, fear, covetousness, envy, and vanity. All were averted from all hurtful actions. The diseased got rid of their ailments. The hungry and the thirsty had their hunger and thirst subdued. Drunkards had their drunkenness removed. The insane got their reason back. The blind got back their power of vision, and the deaf their hearing. Those who had deformities in their mouth or other parts of their bodies had those defects removed. The poor obtained wealth, and the bound their freedom from bonds. The sufferings of those who dwelt in Avichi and other hells were suppressed at the time. The brute creation were free from the pain of devouring each other, and the dwellers in the region of Yama suffered not from hunger, thirst, and the like. When the Bodhisattva, immediately after his birth, advanced seven steps, innumerable millions then stood firm on that adamantine spot, incalculable millions of hundreds of thousands of Buddhas from the ten quarters, of well regulated feet, of mighty vigour, thoroughly exercised in the great religion. The great Prithivi made herself manifest there, when the newly-born Bodhisattva of great power and vigour advanced seven steps. At that time the farthest bound of all regions become aglow in a resplendent light. Great were the sounds of singing and dancing at the time. Innumerable were the flowers, powders, essences, garlands, jewels, ornaments and apparels which were showered from the clouds. All creation was immersed in the highest delight. In short, inconceivable were the occurrences when, rising from all other regions, the Bodhisattva made himself manifest on this earth.5
197 後漢竺大力共康孟詳《修行本起經》卷1〈菩薩降身品〉 Cārya-nidāna, Scroll 1
「於是能仁菩薩，化乘白象，來就母胎。用四月八日，夫人沐浴，塗香著新衣畢，小如安身，夢見空中有乘白象，光明悉照天下，彈琴鼓樂，絃歌之聲，散花燒香，來詣我上，忽然不現。夫人驚寤，王即問曰：『何故驚動？』夫人言：『向於夢中，見乘白象者，空中飛來，彈琴鼓樂，散花燒香，來在我上，忽不復現，是以驚覺。』王意恐懼心為不樂，便召相師隨若那，占其所夢。相師言：『此夢者，是王福慶，聖神降胎，故有是夢。生子處家，當為轉輪飛行皇帝；出家學道，當得作佛，度脫十方。』王意歡喜。於是夫人，身意和雅，而說偈言：「『今我所懷胎， 必是摩訶薩， 婬邪嫉恚止， 身心清淨安。 定意入三昧， 智慧廣度人。 觀察大王身， 敬如父以兄， 瞻愍人民類， 亦如己赤子。 疾病醫藥療， 飢寒施衣食， 憐貧敬尊老， 樂令生老滅。 諸在獄閉繫， 毒苦愁怖惱， 願王加大慈， 一時赦罪過。 今我不欲聞， 世俗音樂聲， 志趣山林宴， 清淨寂默定。』於是粟散諸小國王，聞大王夫人有娠，皆來朝賀，各以金銀珍寶衣被花香，敬心奉貢稱吉，無量夫人，舉手攘之，不欲勞煩。自夫人懷妊，天獻眾味，補益精氣，自然飽滿，不復饗王厨。十月已滿太子身成，到四月七日，夫人出遊，過流民樹下，眾花開化、明星出時，夫人攀樹枝，便從右脇生墮地。行七步，舉手而言：『天上天下，唯我為尊。三界皆苦，吾當安之。』應時天地大動，三千大千剎土莫不大明。釋梵四王與其官屬，諸龍、鬼神、閱叉、揵陀羅、阿須倫，皆來侍衛。有龍王兄弟，一名迦羅，二名欝迦羅，左雨溫水，右雨冷泉，釋梵摩持天衣裹之，天雨花香，彈琴鼓樂，熏香燒香，擣香澤香，虛空側塞。夫人抱太子，乘交龍車，幢幡伎樂，導從還宮。」6
223-253 吳支謙 《太子瑞應本起經》卷1 Taizi Rui Ying Sūtra, Scroll 1
280-312 西晉聶道眞 《異出菩薩本起經》卷1 Abhiniṣkramaṇa (sūtra), Scroll 1
290-306 西晉法炬 《佛說灌洗佛形像經》卷1 Guan Xi Fo Xingxiang Sūtra, Scroll 1
All Buddhas of the ten directions are born in the middle of the night on the 8th day of the 4th month; all Buddhas of the ten directions take leave of their homes and enter the mountains to study the Way in the middle of the night on the 8th day of the 4th month; all Buddhas of the ten directions attain Buddhahood in the middle of the night on the 8th day of the 4th month; all Buddhas of the ten directions achieve nirvāṇa in the middle of the night on the 8th day of the 4th month. The Buddha said, ‘The 8th day of the 4th month is chosen for its being on the cusp of spring and summer, when perils and transgressions are all extinguished. The myriad beings all come to life, while poisonous pneuma are not yet abroad. Neither cold nor hot, the air of the season is harmonious and agreeable. This is the very day on which a Buddha is born. All good men and women, after the Buddha’s passage to nirvāṇa, should dwell deep in their hearts on the strength of the Buddha’s immeasurable merit. By washing an image of the Buddha as if he were still alive, one attains immeasurable good fortune, beyond all reckoning.10
290-307 西晉白法祖《佛般泥洹經》卷1 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, Scroll 1
290-307 西晉白法祖 《佛般泥洹經》卷2 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, Scroll 2
308 西晉竺法護 《普曜經》卷2〈5 欲生時三十二瑞品〉 Lalitavistara(sūtra), Scroll 2
On the 8th day of the 4th month, nine dragons hold water in their mouths, and bathe the image of the Crown Prince.14
A Buddha is born on the 8th day of the 4th month; gives up his home on the 8th day of the 4th month; attains the way of the Buddha on the 8th day of the 4th month; and achieves nirvāṇa on the 8th day of the 4th month. Each takes place at the rising of the stars of puṣya. At this time, all the flowers are in blossom, and the trees lush with growth.16
350-431 秦 《薩婆多毘尼毘婆沙》卷2 Sarvāstivādavinayavibhāṣā, Scroll 2
388-407西秦聖堅 《佛說摩訶剎頭經》卷1 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra, Scroll 1
392 東晉迦留陁伽 《佛說十二遊經》卷1 Shi Er You Jing, Scroll 1
397-398 東晉瞿曇僧伽提婆譯道祖筆受《中阿含經》卷8〈4 未曾有法品〉 Madhyamāgama, Scroll 8
413 後秦佛陁耶舍共竺佛念 《長阿含經》卷2 Dīrghāgama, Scroll 2
414-426 北涼曇無讖 《佛所行讚》卷1〈1 生品〉 Buddhacarita, Scroll 1
「爾時摩耶后， 自知產時至， 偃寢安勝床， 百千婇女侍。 時四月八日， 清和氣調適， 齋戒修淨德， 菩薩右脇生， 大悲救世間， 不令母苦惱。 優留王股生， 畀偷王手生， 曼陀王頂生， 伽叉王腋生。 菩薩亦如是， 誕從右脇生， 漸漸從胎出， 光明普照耀， 如從虛空墮， 不由於生門。 修德無量劫， 自知生不死， 安諦不傾動， 明顯妙端嚴。 晃然後胎現， 猶如日初昇， 觀察極明耀， 而不害眼根。 縱視而不耀， 如觀空中月， 自身光照耀， 如日奪燈明， 菩薩真金身， 普照亦如是。 正真心不亂， 安庠行七步， 足下安平趾， 炳徹猶七星。 獸王師子步， 觀察於四方， 通達真實義， 堪能如是說。 此生為佛生， 則為後邊生， 我唯此一生， 當度於一切。 應時虛空中， 淨水雙流下， 一溫一清涼， 灌頂令身樂。 安處寶宮殿， 臥於琉璃床， 天王金華手， 奉持床四足。 諸天於空中， 執持寶蓋侍， 承威神讚歎， 勸發成佛道。 諸龍王歡喜， 渴仰殊勝法， 曾奉過去佛， 今得值菩薩。 散曼陀羅花， 專心樂供養， 如來出興世， 淨居天歡喜。 已除愛欲歡， 為法而欣悅， 眾生沒苦海， 令得解脫故。 須彌寶山王， 堅持此大地， 菩薩出興世， 功德風所飄， 普皆大震動， 如風鼓浪舟。 栴檀細末香， 眾寶蓮花藏， 風吹隨空流， 繽紛而亂墜， 天衣從空下， 觸身生妙樂。 日月如常度， 光耀倍增明， 世界諸火光， 無薪自炎熾， 淨水清涼井， 前後自然生。 中宮婇女眾， 怪歎未曾有， 競赴而飲浴， 皆起安樂想。 無量部多天， 樂法悉雲集， 於藍毘尼園， 遍滿林樹間。 奇特眾妙花， 非時而敷榮， 凶暴眾生類， 一時生慈心， 世間諸疾病， 不療自然除。 亂鳴諸禽獸， 恬默寂無聲， 萬川皆停流， 濁水悉澄清， 空中無雲翳， 天鼓自然鳴。 一切諸世間， 悉得安隱樂， 猶如荒難國， 忽得賢明主。 菩薩所以生， 為濟世眾苦， 唯彼魔天王， 震動大憂惱。 父王見生子， 奇特未曾有， 素性雖安重， 驚駭改常容， 二息交胸起， 一喜復一懼。 夫人見其子， 不由常道生， 女人性怯弱， [怡-台+求]惕懷氷炭， 不別吉凶相， 反更生憂怖。 長宿諸母人， 互亂祈神明， 各請常所事， 願令太子安。」22
435-443 宋求那跋陁羅 《過去現在因果經》卷1 Scripture on Past and Present Causes and Effects, Scroll 1
502-557 梁僧祐 《釋迦氏譜》卷1 Shijia Shi Pu, Scroll 1
502-557 梁僧祐 《出三藏記集》卷13 Chu San Zang Ji Ji, Scroll 13
502-518 梁僧祐 《弘明集》卷1
516 梁僧旻寶唱等 《經律異相》卷28 Jing Lu Yi Xiang, Scroll 28
Different Aspects of the Sūtras and Vinaya
In antiquity there was a Buddha known as Initial Non-Being (Shiwu). At the same time, there was a king named Devout (Haoxin), who was enamored of the Buddha’s law, and never tired of looking upon the Buddha. He planted a banyan tree, and placed underneath it a sandalwood couch for the Buddha. The Buddha would sit upon it, and King Devout would listen to scripture. After the Buddha’s nirvāṇa, the king could look upon the Buddha no more. So he named the banyan tree the Buddha Tree. Seeing it was like seeing the Buddha. Every day he would go to the tree and sit beneath it. Often, in that place where they had so often sat, he would reflect on the teachings he had heard. The king had a maid, named Julu, who often served at the king’s side. His wife became jealous, so she hired a brāhman to put a death curse on the Buddha Tree. The brāhman Yuchang, on the 7th day of the 4th month, took the brain of a large venomous snake from the southern mountain, and smeared it onto the tree. The tree withered and died. The king’s sorrow and tears were more than he could bear. On the 8th day of the 4th month, in the middle of the night as Venus appeared, he took five-colored fragrant water and flowers, and used them to bathe the tree. It came back to life. So the king made a wish, saying “Let the Buddhas of the Ten Directions choose this day to be born, this day to attain enlightenment, and this day to attain nirvāṇa.” Ever since then, when Buddhas come into the world, they always do so on this day. Hence one bathes the Buddha on the 8th day of the 4th month.29
The following section contains accounts of Buddha’s birthday image processions held between Eastern Han and Northern Wei dynasties. A table lists the time of occurrence of the event and the reference source. Where available, English translations follow the Chinese texts.
1st-2nd century CE, Aśvaghoṣa, Buddhacarita
When ten days were fulfilled after his son’s birth, with his thoughts kept under restraint, and filled with excessive joy, he offered for his son most elaborate sacrifices to the gods with muttered prayers, oblations, and all kinds of auspicious ceremonies. And he himself gave to the Brāhmans for his son’s welfare cows full of milk, with no traces of infirmity, golden-horned and with strong healthy calves, to the full number of a hundred thousand. Then he, with his soul under strict restraint, having performed all kinds of ceremonies which rejoiced his heart, on a fortunate day, in an auspicious moment, gladly determined to enter his city. Then the queen with her babe having worshipped the gods for good fortune, occupied a costly palanquin made of elephants’ tusks, filled with all kinds of white flowers, and blazing with gems. Having made his wife with her child enter first into the city, accompanied by the aged attendants, the king himself also advanced, saluted by the hosts of the citizens, as Indra entering heaven, saluted by the immortals.30
3rd century, Lalitavistara
Now, Bhikshus, the Bodhisattva entered the great city of Kapilavastu with a retinue millionfold greater than that with which Mayadevi had seven days previously issued forth therefrom to retire to the garden. On his entry five thousand pitchers filled with scented stream water were carried before him. Five thousand maidens, holding peacock’s tail chouries, marched before him. Five thousand maidens, holding palm-leaf fans, marched before him. Five thousand maidens, holding spouted urns full of aromatic water, marched before him, sprinkling the water on the road. Five thousand maidens, holding pieces of chintz, marched before him. Five thousand maidens, holding fresh, variegated, long garlands, marched before him. Five thousand maidens, holding appropriate jewelled ornaments, marched before him, purifying the road. Five thousand maidens, carrying appropriate chairs, marched before him. Then five hundred thousand Brabmans, holding bells walked in procession before him, ringing auspicious music. Twenty thousand elephants, arrayed in beautiful ornaments, marched before him. Twenty thousand horses, richly caparisoned and decked with golden ornaments, paraded before him. Eighty thousand chariots mounted with white umbrellas, flags, pennons and networks of bells followed the train of the Bodhisattva. Forty thousand veteran heroes of majestic form, arrayed in invulnerable mail coats and breast-plates, followed the Bodhisattva. Under the sky illimitable and uncountable millions of millions of Devaputras of the class Kamavacharas followed the train, offering worship to the Bodhisattva with various collections of offerings. The magnificent chariot in which the Bodhisattva repaired had been decorated by Kamavachara devas with numerous collections of precious articles. Twenty thousand celestial maidens set off with numerous ornaments and holding jewelled threads dragged that chariot. Between every two Apsarases there was one human female, and between every two human females there was one Apsaras, but neither did the Apsarases feel the rank smell of the human females, nor did the human females feel bewildered by the beauty of the Apsarases: this was due to the glory of the Bodhisattva.31
Shihu liked to glorify the Buddha with incalculable extravagances. He commissioned an altar-carriage. In breadth, it was more than a zhang (approximately 10 feet), in length two zhang, with a golden Buddha image on top of a flat four-wheeled cart and nine dragons above that. A wooden figure of a monk was placed before the Buddha, and all round the Buddha were more than ten monks, each a bit more than two feet in height, all wearing white kaṣāyas. When the cart moved, the nine dragons would spew water over the image of the Buddha, and the monk standing in front of the Buddha would rub the area between the Buddha’s heart and his abdomen, as if washing a newborn. The other ten-odd monks would circumambulate the Buddha. As each would come just in front of the Buddha, he would do obeisance, then, taking incense in his hand, deposit it in a censer. When the cart stopped, so would the activity. 36
339-420《佛國記》‧于闐 Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms – Yutian
法顯等欲觀行像，停三月曰。其國中十四大僧伽藍，不數小者。從四月一曰，城裏便掃灑道路，莊嚴巷陌。其城門上張大幃幕，事 事嚴飾。王及夫人、采女皆住其中。翟摩帝僧是大乘學，王所敬重，最先行像。離城三四裏，作四輪像車，高三丈余，狀如行殿，七寶莊校，懸繒幡蓋。像立車中， 二菩薩侍，作諸天侍從，皆金銀雕瑩，懸於虛空。像去門百步，王腕天冠，易著新衣，徒跣持華香，與從出城迎像，頭面禮足，散華焚香。像入城時，門樓上夫人、 采女搖散眾華，紛紛而下。如是莊嚴供其，車車各異。一僧伽藍，則一曰行像。四月一曰為始，至十四曰行像乃訖。行像訖，王及夫人乃還宮耳。37
Hwuy-king, Tao-ching, and Hwuy-tah set out in advance towards the country of K’eeh-ch’a; but Fa-hien and the others, wishing to see the procession of images, remained behind for three months. There are in this country four great monasteries, not counting the smaller ones. Beginning on the first day of the fourth month, they sweep and water the streets inside the city, making a grand display in the lanes and byways. Over the city gate they pitch a large tent, grandly adorned in all possible ways, in which the king and queen, with their ladies brilliantly arrayed, take up their residence (for the time). The monks of the Gomati monastery, being mahayana students, and held in greatest reverence by the king, took precedence of all the others in the procession. At a distance of three or four le from the city, they made a four-wheeled image car, more than thirty cubits high, which looked like the great hall (of a monastery) moving along. The seven precious substances were grandly displayed about it, with silken streamers and canopies hanging all around. The chief image stood in the middle of the car, with two bodhisattvas in attendance on it, while devas were made to follow in waiting, all brilliantly carved in gold and silver, and hanging in the air. When the car was a hundred paces from the gate, the king put off his crown of state, changed his dress for a fresh suit, and with bare feet, carrying in his hands flowers and incense, and with two rows of attending followers, went out at the gate to meet the image; and, with his face (bowed to the ground), he did homage at its feet, and then scattered the flowers and burnt the incense. When the image was entering the gate, the queen and the brilliant ladies with her in the gallery above scattered far and wide all kinds of flowers, which floated about and fell promiscuously to the ground. In this way everything was done to promote the dignity of the occasion. The carriages of the monasteries were all different, and each one had its own day for the procession. (The ceremony) began on the first day of the fourth month, and ended on the fourteenth, after which the king and queen returned to the palace.38
339-420《佛國記》‧摩竭國 Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms – Kingdom of Mojie
凡諸中國，唯此國城邑為大。民人富盛，競行仁義。年年常以建卯月八曰行像。作四輪車，縛竹作五層，有承櫨、揠戟，高二丈余許，其狀如塔。以白氈纏上，然後彩畫，作諸天形像。以金、銀、琉璃莊校其上，懸繒 幡蓋。四邊作龕，皆有坐佛，菩薩立侍。可有二十車，車車莊嚴各異。當此曰，境內道俗皆集，作倡伎樂，華香供養。婆羅門子來請佛，佛次第入城，入城內再宿。 通夜然燈，伎樂供養。國國皆爾。其國長者、居士，各于城中立福德醫藥舍，凡國中貧窮、孤獨、殘跛一切病人，皆詣此舍，種種供給。醫師看病隨宜，飲食及湯藥 皆令得安，差者自去。39
The cities and towns of this country are the greatest of all in the Middle Kingdom. The inhabitants are rich and prosperous, and vie with one another in the practice of benevolence and righteousness. Every year on the eighth day of the second month they celebrate a procession of images. They make a four-wheeled car, and on it erect a structure of five storeys by means of bamboos tied together. This is supported by a king-post, with poles and lances slanting from it, and is rather more than twenty cubits high, having the shape of a tope. White and silk-like cloth of hair is wrapped all round it, which is then painted in various colours. They make figures of devas, with gold, silver, and lapis lazuli grandly blended and having silken streamers and canopies hung out over them. On the four sides are niches, with a Buddha seated in each, and a Bodhisattva standing in attendance on him. There may be twenty cars, all grand and imposing, but each one different from the others. On the day mentioned, the monks and laity within the borders all come together; they have singers and skilful musicians; they pay their devotions with flowers and incense. The Brahmans come and invite the Buddhas to enter the city. These do so in order, and remain two nights in it. All through the night they keep lamps burning, have skilful music, and present offerings. This is the practice in all the other kingdoms as well. The Heads of the Vaisya families in them establish in the cities houses for dispensing charity and medicines. All the poor and destitute in the country, orphans, widowers, and childless men, maimed people and cripples, and all who are diseased, go to those houses, and are provided with every kind of help, and doctors examine their diseases. They get the food and medicines which their cases require, and are made to feel at ease; and when they are better, they go away of themselves.40
At that time Shih-tsu had just ascended the throne. He also, continuing the actions of T’ai-tsu and T’ai-tsung, always used to invite śramaṇas of high character and discuss with them. On the eighth day of the fourth month he used to mount the Buddha images on carriages and march them through the wide streets. The Emperor would personally drive to the gate tower and watch; he would scatter flowers and thus perform acts of veneration.42
When it came to the 8th day of the 4th month, Shuo was in the crowd in Chengdu bounding along on all fours, in the form of a lion. The same day, people in the County also said they saw him dressed as a lion. It was then that people realized he could divide his body.44
495 – 534 《洛陽城內伽藍記卷第一》‧長秋寺 A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang (Inside City), Scroll 1 – Ch’ang-chiu Temple
長秋寺 … 作六牙白象負釋迦在虛空中。莊嚴佛事悉用金玉。工作之異難可具陳。四月四日。此像常出。辟邪師子導引其前。吞刀吐火騰驤一面。綵幢上索詭譎不常。奇伎異服冠於都市。像停之處。觀者如堵。迭相踐躍。常有死人。46
The Ch’ang-chiu Temple (Temple of the Prolonger of Autumn) … There was a statue of a six-tusked white elephant carrying on its back Sakyamuni in the void. The sumptuous Buddhist decorations were all made of gold or jade, with a distinctive workmanship difficult to describe. As a rule, this statue would be carried out [of the temple] and put on parade on the fourth day of the fourth month, behind such [man-made] animals as pi-hsieh and lions. [Variety shows would be held, featuring] sword-eaters, fire-spitters, galloping horses, flagstaff climbers, and rope-walkers—all being [demonstrations] of unusual skills. Their spectacular techniques and bizarre costumes were unmatched in the capital. Wherever the statue stopped, spectators would encircle it like a wall. Stumbling and trampling on each other, people in the crowd often suffered casualties.47
The Ching-lo Nunnery (Nunnery of the Happy View) … There was a Hall of Buddha that housed a carriage for the sacred image. The deftness shown in carving it had no parallel at the time.49
495 – 534《洛陽城內伽藍記卷第一》‧昭儀尼寺 A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang (Inside City), Scroll 1 – Chao-i Nunnery
The Chao-i Nunnery (Nunnery of the Exemplar) The nunnery housed statues of one Buddha and two bodhisattvas, splendid sculpture not matched elsewhere in the capital. On the seventh day of the fourth month, [the three statues] were always carried to the Ching-ming Monastery (Bright Prospect Monastery) where they were habitually met by three others housed there. [On that occasion] the display of rich music and shows was comparable to that of Liu Teng’s [Ch'ang-ch'iu Temple].51
In the Tsung-sheng Temple was an image that was thirty-eight Chinese feet high. Its countenance was unusually grave, and it had all [the thirty-two marks and eighty signs on the body]. People held the statue in high esteem and could not take their eyes off it. Whenever the statue was on parade, [they would leave their homes or the marketplace to see it, so that] all the homes and marketplaces were virtually empty. The aureole of this statue had no parallel in its time. The skillful games and miscellaneous music performed here were second in excellence only to those in Liu Teng’s [Ch'ang-ch'iu Temple]. Men and women living in the eastern section of the city often came to this temple to watch the shows.53
495 – 534《洛陽城東伽藍記卷第二》‧景興尼寺 A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang (East), Scroll 2 – Ching-hsing Nunnery
景興尼寺 … 有金像輦。去地三尺。施寶蓋。四面垂金鈴七寶珠。飛天伎樂。望之雲表。作工甚精。難可揚推。像出之日。常詔羽林一百人舉此像。絲竹雜伎皆由旨給。54
The Ching-hsing Nunnery (Flourishing Prospect Nunnery … There was a gold carriage with an image, which was thirty Chinese feet off the ground. A jeweled canopy was hung above the carriage, from which were suspended gold bells, beads made out of seven varieties of precious materials, and images of Buddhist musicians and entertainers who appeared high up in the clouds. The craftsmanship was so superb it was hard to describe. When the [carriage-held] image was on parade, the emperor as a rule would order one hundred yu-lin guards to carry it, with the accompanying music and variety shows all provided for by the court.55
495 – 534《洛陽城南伽藍記卷第三》‧景明寺 A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang (South), Scroll 2 – Ching-Ming Monastery
The Ching-Ming Monastery [Bright Prospect Monastery]… At the time, the nation liked to pray for happiness, [so] on the seventh day of the fourth month all images in the capital were assembled in this monastery, numbering more than one thousand, according to the records of the Office of Sacrifices, Department of State Affairs. On the eighth day, the images [were carried] one by one into the Hsüan-yang Gate, where the emperor would scatter flowers in front of the Ch’ang-ho Palace. At this moment, gold-colored flowers reflected the dazzling sunlight, and the bejeweled canopies [over the carriages] for the images floated in the clouds. Banners were [as numerous as trees] in a forest, and incense smoke was [as thick as] a fog. Indian music and the din of chanted Buddhist scriptures moved heaven and earth alike. Wherever variety shows [were performed], there was congestion. Renowned monks and virtuous masters, each carrying a staff, formed a throng. The Buddhist devotees and their “companions in the law” holding flowers resembled a garden in bloom. Carriages and horses choked [traffic] and jostled each other. A foreign monk from the Western Regions saw it, and he chanted and said it was [the same as the Buddha's land as he had witnessed it].57
The 8th day of the 2nd month is the day on which Śākyamuni descended to his birth, and also the time at which he attained enlightenment. Families that have given themselves up to the faith observe the eight precepts. [There are] carriages with precious canopies, and lanterns of all shapes and varieties. At dawn one makes a circuit of the city, carrying incense and blossoms. This is called “proceeding through the city.59
564-581《玉燭寶典》‧典一 Yu Zhu Baodian, Volume 1
Supplementary Explanation: Confucius’ Classic of Internal Preparation says: “The movement of the trigram zhen signaled the birth of the Buddha.” The Nirvāṇa Sūtra says: “As a sandalwood forest is ringed by sandalwood, so the Lion King is encircled by lions.” It also says, “They touched their heads at the Buddha’s feet, and [encircled him] ten million times.” Today, on the 8th day of this month, people do a circuit of the city; this must be the legacy of this. The [Northern] Wei dynasty followed earlier traditions; [the custom] particularly flourished in this period. On the evening of the 7th day, the official responsible would petition for permission to open the city gates early, and after midnight people inside and outside the city would all arise, filling to capacity the outer walls. The Nirvāṇa Sūtra also says: “Multi-colored banners were hung from all kinds of fragrant woods, colorful and delicate as celestial clothing. Various types of celebrated flowers were scattered among the trees. When wind spirits of the four directions blewonto the trees, blossoms were scattered, out of season, among the double-trunked trees.” The Lotus Sūtra says: “Or with joy in their hearts, they praised in song the Buddha’s virtue.” It also says, “Sandalwood and aloe wood [aguru] in the rain, a riot of color falling in disarray; dropping from the void like flying birds, as offerings to all the Buddhas. The marvelous incense burner, [encrusted with] myriad jewels, burns priceless incense.” The Flower Adornment Sūtra says: “Myriad precious flowers in the rainy sky, falling like a flurry of snow.” On this day, His revered images are brought out in carriages. Clouds of incense filling the roads, banners and blossoms lead the way; monks and nuns, divided by temple, chanting eulogies bring up the rear. At this time of year, the flowering trees have still not fully distributed their blossoms; with the Sage so long departed, there is not the strength of resonance to draw down their flowery path. So the custom is to carve or embroider them. In the Han, Wang Fu’s Treatise of the Hidden One already wrote of the expense of embroidered flowers. Wang Fan of the Jin, in his “Collection of Alternate Biographies of the Four Residents of Xinye,” says: “The family cuts out Buddhist flowers for a living.” The practice has probably been around quite a long time. Record of Jing-Chu says: “Xie Lingyun’s grandson was named Zizao; he served as Advisor in the Jingzhou provincial government, etc. Today’s new flowers were all planted by his ancestor Lingyun.” (This seems to refer to flowering trees). The north and south have different customs, we need not assume them alike; but circumambulation is a constant. The fact that one only holds processions on the 8th day is probably related to the fact that the Buddha said, “In three months time I will attain nirvāṇa, and cross to extinction.” When the time of nirvāṇa came, they yearned for him deeply. The Sūtra on the Bodhisattva in the Womb 101 says: “On the 8th day of the 2nd month, the Buddha was born, [delivered the lecture] “Setting in motion the wheel of the dharma,” subdued the demon, and attained nirvāṇa.” All occurred on this day. Scripture on Past and Present Causes and Effects also says that “The Buddha was born on the 8th day of the 2nd month.” It might also come from this.61
People of later times always circumambulate the city on the 8th day of the 2nd month, and hold a statue procession and make offerings on the 8th day of the 4th month. Both [occasions] represent the legacy of the transformation [effected by the Buddha]; neither is abandoned, both coexist.63
The following table describes the merits acquired from image processions:-
|2||420-423||《佛說觀佛三昧海經》 Guan Fo Sanmei Hai Sūtra|
|3||290-306||《佛說灌洗佛形像經》 Guan Xi Fo Xingxiang Sūtra|
388-408 秦釋聖堅 《佛說除恐災患經》卷1 Śrīkaṇṭhasūtra
This table collects a sample of texts to illustrate the ways to commemorate the Buddha’s birthday:-
|1||25-220||《大方便佛報恩經》 Da Fang Bian Fo Bao’en Sūtra||Eight precepts|
|2||189-220||《後漢書》 Book of the Later Han||Feasts|
|3||280-313||《菩薩受齋經》 Pusa Shou Zhai Sūtra||Vegetarianism and more|
|4||3rd century||《三國志》 Records of Three Kingdoms||Feasts|
|5||266-313||《般泥洹後灌臘經》 Ban Ni Huan Hou Guan La Sūtra|
|6||416||《摩訶僧祇律》 Mahāsavghavinaya||Dharma lectures|
|7||502-557||《荊楚歲時記》 Jing Chu Suishi Ji|
Whenever it was time to bathe the Buddha, many entertained with drinks and food along the streets, people watching and partaking in the feasts numbered over 10,000.
3rd century 《三國志》卷四十九 吳書四 Records of Three Kingdoms
266-313 西晉竺法護 《般泥洹後灌臘經》卷1 Ban Ni Huan Hou Guan La Sūtra, Scroll 1
The likes of the Buddha’s Birthday great assembly, Enlightenment Day great assembly, Turning the Dharma Wheel great assembly, Rāhula great assembly, Ānanda great assembly, pañca-vārṣika great assembly, or overnight dharma lectures should be held outdoors. In case of wind, rain, snow, or cold, one should go indoors and sit upright. For those elderly or sick and unable to sit, a partition should be set up. The partition must not be made of loose materials, and should be as high as the area of the shoulder and armpit.73
In Jing-Chu, on the 8th day of the 4th month, all the [Buddhist] temples hold assemblies, and bathe the Buddha with fragrant water. They all hold a Dragon Flower Assembly; this is viewed as a portent of Maitreya’s descent to be born.75
The following table lists a sample of references and merits acquired from Buddha-bathing ceremonies:-
|1||25-220||《雜譬喻經》 Za Pi Yu Sūtra|
|2||290-306||《佛說灌洗佛形像經》 Guan Xi Fo Xingxiang Sūtra|
|3||320-439||《三慧經》 San Bao Sūtra|
|4||388-407||《佛說摩訶剎頭經》 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra|
290-306 西晉法炬 《佛說灌洗佛形像經》卷1 Guan Xi Fo Xingxiang Sūtra, Scroll 1
388-407西秦聖堅 《佛說摩訶剎頭經》卷1 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra, Scroll 1
The canonical texts contain monastic rules governing the receipt of offerings related to the Buddha’s birthday:-
|1||317-420||《佛說目連問戒律中五百輕重事》 Jianlian Wen Jie Lu Zhong Wu Bai Qing Zhong Shi||答打揵椎|
|2||388-407||《佛說摩訶剎頭經》 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra||佛法僧錢|
388-407西秦聖堅 《佛說摩訶剎頭經》卷1 Mohe Cha Tou Sūtra, Scroll 1
416 東晉佛陁跋陁羅共法顯 《摩訶僧祇律》Mahāsaṅghikavinaya卷10
416 東晉佛陁跋陁羅共法顯 《摩訶僧祇律》卷33 Mahāsavghavinaya, Scroll 33
If at the sites of a Buddha’s Birthday great assembly or Bodhi great assembly, or if at a quinquennial great assembly, there are various kinds of musical entertainments staged as offerings to the Buddha; and if a dānapati [i.e. donor] says, “Revered ones, join me in following the World-honored One,” and one then sits together with him; and if while sitting, there are various kinds of musical entertainments, giving rise to defilements and attachments, then one should stand up and leave. This is what is known as entertainment music.84
The list of epigraphic texts below documents events that took place on the eighth day of the fourth month:-
492 《魏書 釋老志》 Book of Wei – Shi Lao Zhi:
In the sixteenth year (492), it was decreed [by Emperor Gaozu] that on the eighth day of the fourth month and the fifteenth day of the seventh month it was permitted to the great provinces to ordain one hundred persons, to the middle provinces fifty persons, and to the inferior provinces twenty persons. This was to be made a fixed standard and published in the law codes.87
503《張道智造像記》卷1 Chang Dao Zhi Zao Xiang Ji：
535《中岳嵩陽寺碑》卷1 Tablet in Zhong Yue Song Yang Temple：
- Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi (Bhikkhu.), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya (Wisdom Publications, 1995), 981–983.
- “The Buddha-Carita or The Life of Buddha by Aśvaghoṣa”, 1977, 10–14, http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/Texts-and-Translations/Buddhacarita/index.htm.
- Rājendralāla Mitra Mitra, trans., The Lalitavistara or Memoirs of the Early Life of Śákya Siñha (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1881), 118–126.
- (CBETA, T03, no. 184, p. 463, b12-c21)
- (CBETA, T03, no. 185, p. 473, c1-p. 474, a2)
- (CBETA, T03, no. 188, p. 618, a17-b14)
- (CBETA, T16, no. 695, p. 796, c10-22)
- Ian D. Chapman, “Carnival Canons: Calendars, Genealogy, and the Search for Ritual Cohesion in Medieval China” (Princeton University, 2007), 306–307.
- (CBETA, T01, no. 5, p. 165, a27-b10)
- (CBETA, T01, no. 5, p. 175, c16-20)
- (CBETA, T03, no. 186, p. 493, c13-p. 494, b28)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 292.
- (CBETA, T01, no. 6, p. 190, c4-8)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 270.
- (CBETA, T23, no. 1440, p. 510, b21-29)
- (CBETA, T16, no. 696, p. 797, c10-24)
- (CBETA, T04, no. 195, p. 146, b20-c16)
- (CBETA, T01, no. 26, p. 470, a13-c16)
- (CBETA, T01, no. 1, p. 15, c28-p. 16, a15)
- (CBETA, T04, no. 192, p. 1, a21-c28)
- (CBETA, T03, no. 189, p. 624, a20-p. 626, a22)
- (CBETA, T50, no. 2040, p. 10, a22-23)
- (CBETA, T50, no. 2041, p. 89, a19-p. 90, a23)
- (CBETA, T55, no. 2145, p. 96, c16-p. 97, a10)
- (CBETA, T52, no. 2102, p. 1, c1-10)
- (CBETA, T53, no. 2121, p. 152, c15-27)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 309–310.
- “The Buddha-Carita or The Life of Buddha by Aśvaghoṣa,” 20–21.
- Mitra, The Lalitavistara, 136–137.
- Ming-chiu Lai, “On the Image Procession in China from the Second to the Sixth Centuries AD: An Interpretation of an Elephant Sculpture at the Kongwangshan Site,” in Politics and Religion in Ancient and Medieval Europe and China (Hong Kong: Chinese Univ Pr, 1999), 57.
- Faxian and James Legge, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fâ-Hien of His Travels in India and Ceylon, A.d. 399-414, in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. Translated and Annotated with a Corean Recension of the Chinese Text (Clarendon Press, 1886), 18–19.
- Faxian and Legge, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, 79.
- Shou Wei, Treatise on Buddhism and Taoism: An English Translation of the Original Chinese Text of Wei-Shu Cxiv and the Japanese Annot. of Tsukamoto Zenryû by Leon Hurvitz, trans. Leon Hurvitz (Kyoto: Kyoto Univ., 1956), 56.
- (CBETA, T50, no. 2059, p. 392, c25-p. 393, a7)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 269.
- (CBETA, T49, no. 2035, p. 451, a4-9)
- Xuanzhi 楊衒之 Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang 洛陽伽藍記, trans. Yi-t’ung Wang (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), 46.
- Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang, 51.
- Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang, 53–54.
- Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang, 72–73.
- Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang, 77–78.
- Yang, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang, 126–127.
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 297.
- Ibid., 300–301.
- Ibid., 298–300.
- Ibid., 302.
- (CBETA, T17, no. 744, p. 555, a12-25)
- (CBETA, T15, no. 643, p. 675, c6-8)
- (CBETA, T16, no. 695, p. 797, a17-21)
- (CBETA, T03, no. 156, p. 154, b6-11)
- (CBETA, T24, no. 1502, p. 1116, b22-26)
- (CBETA, T12, no. 391, p. 1114, a7-b1)
- (CBETA, T22, no. 1425, p. 382, b8-13)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 277.
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 297.
- (CBETA, T16, no. 695, p. 796, c22-p. 797, b1)
- (CBETA, T17, no. 768, p. 704, b4-6)
- (CBETA, T16, no. 696, p. 798, a21-b26)
- (CBETA, T24, no. 1483a, p. 977, a19-21)
- (CBETA, T16, no. 696, p. 798, a21-b26)
- (CBETA, T22, no. 1425, p. 312, b15-24)
- (CBETA, T22, no. 1425, p. 494, a20-24)
- Chapman, “Carnival Canons,” 278.
- Tong 李童 Li, “A Study of Buddha’s Birthday Rituals during the Han and Six Dynasties 漢魏六朝佛誕節儀考述,” China Academic Journal 宗教學研究 4 (2008): 189.
- Wei, Treatise on Buddhism and Taoism, 80.
- (CBETA, I01, no. 8, p. 20, a0-7)
- Li, “A Study of Buddha’s Birthday Rituals during the Han and Six Dynasties,” 189.
- (CBETA, I01, no. 34, p. 86, b27-28)
Last edited on January 15, 2012