Ancient Cultivation Stories: The Legendary Bukong

Shi Bukong's name in Sanskrit is Amoghavajra, meaning Vajra, or diamond. He was born into a Brahman family in Northern India. His parents died when he was young, so he travelled with his uncle to many places. Bukong became Varjabodhi's disciple when he was fifteen and began to study the Buddhist sutras in the Sanskrit language. When he had mastered them, he and his fellow practitioners, Sheguang, Huibian and others, a total of 21 people, travelled on a merchants' ship to go to China through the South China Sea.

When the ship reached the boarder of Helin (today known as Java Island, an island belonging to Indonesia - Translator), they encountered a heavy storm. The merchants got very scared and all began to recite incantations from their home countries. But none of them had any effect. They all knelt down and worshipped Heaven, asking for heaven's blessings. Huibian and the other monks also began to cry. Bukong said: "I have the sutras so none of you need to worry." He then stood in the front of the ship, with five-tasselled Bodhi vajra (at one time a type of weapon in India; later a Buddhist instrument - Translator) in his right hand, the Heart Sutra in his left hand, and recited the Mahapratisara for a while. Soon the storm stopped. After some time, some extremely big whales floated to the surface of the water and blew out water as high as the mountains. That situation was even more dangerous than the storm. The merchants begged Bukong to use his powers. Bukong told Huibian to recite the Shajie Dragen King Sutra and soon the whales disappeared.

When the ship reached the Country of Lions (or Simhalauipa in Sanskirt - Translator), near today's Sri Lanka, the king sent people to welcome Bukong and did all he could to provide Bukong with food and everything needed. One day, the king held an exhibition of elephants fighting each other. Suddenly, the elephants went crazy and started dashing around madly on the street. Everyone stood far away and was afraid of getting close. Bukong stood on the street and, while doing hand signs, muttered incantations. The elephants began to act as if they were drunk and fell on the ground on top of one another. The people in the whole country were shocked, and called Bukong a god-like human.

Bukong and the group then went to India. Signs of fortune repeatably appeared. In the fifth year of Tianbao (746 A.D.) Bukong arrived in Chang'an (today's Xi'an City - Translator), which was the capital of China back then. It was in the middle of a great drought and there was absolutely no rain. The Tang Emperor Xuanzong sent out an imperial decree that ordered Bukong to pray for rain. He also demanded that it had to be very soon and, also, the amount had to be exactly right. Bukong built a prayer altar. He went over to it and rotated the "divine wooden beads" as he recited incantations. Within three days, the rains came, right on time. Tang Emperor Xuanzong was very happy and awarded him a purple cassock. But the next day very strong wind started to blow. The Emperor again sent out an imperial decree, asking Bukong to stop the wind. Bukong put a silver bottle on top of the altar and then used special ways to strength the power. The wind stopped blowing very soon. Suddenly a goose ran in and knocked the bottle down. The wind started blowing again. Bukong held the bottle up and the wind stopped again. Emperor Xuanzong thus granted Bukong the name of "Zhi-Zang" (Zhi means "wisdom" and Zang is a general term for Buddhism scriptures - Translator).

In the eighth year of Tianbao (749 A.D.), Emperor Xuanzong gave Bukong permission to return to his home country. But when Bukong was about to get on a ship in Nanhai Province (Nanhai - South Sea. Nanhai Province is near today's Guangzhou City - Translator), there was an imperial decree asking him to stay. During the first year of Zhide (756 A.D.), Emperor Xuanzhong was taking refuge at Lingwu (today's Lingwu City, Ningxia Province - Translator) and Fengxiang (today near Dali autonomous district, Ningxia Province - Translator), Bukong followed and protected him. Emperor Suzong also sent messengers to ask Bukong about matters that were of concern to him.

After the Incident of An and Shi, Emperor Suzong ascended the throne and Emperor Daizong after him. Both emperors treated Bukong very politely. During the period of Emperor Daizong, there was another long drought and Bukong was again asked to pray for rain. The Emperor also said: "If it rains within three days, it is the monk's supernatural power; if it rains only after three days, then it is just due to nature's spontaneous reasons." Bukong accepted the imperial decree and built an altar. It rained heavily the next day.

Another year passed and there was a great drought again. A government official from the capital Xiao Xin came to visit Bukong and asked him whether he could set up an altar to pray for rain. Bukong led his disciple to get a piece of birch bark. It was about a foot long. Bukong drew a little dragon on it, and put the bark in front of an incense burner and a water container. Bukong recited incantations toward the dragon. After about the time of a meal, Bukong gave the bark to Xiao Xi, telling him to throw it into the Qu River and then immediately come back. Xiao Xin did it according to the instructions. Soon after he threw the bark into the river, a one-foot long white dragon flew out of the water and soon enlarged to over ten meters. Xiao Xi was riding his horse back and after his horse took only a few dozen steps, the sky became very dark and it started to rain very heavily.

There was an enormous snake on Beimang Mountain. Woodchoppers often saw it. The snake's head was as large as a small hill and it often came outside at night to breathe the air evaporated from the drew. One time, it turned into human form and came to see Bukong. It said: "I received negative retribution. Could you please save me? Otherwise I will flood the Luoyang City to pacify my hatred." Bukong initiated monkhood for him and taught him the principle of cause and effect. Bukong told him: "You received this retribution because your hatred is too strong,. If you still don't reduce your hatred now, I can't help you at all. You must give up this body." Several days later, some woodchopper found the enormous snake dead in a cave. People smelled it from miles away.

During the years of Yongqin (765-766 A.D.), one day, after showering, Bukong laid down with his head pointing east, and passed away in a Buddhist posture. After his body was burned, his disciple got several hundred relics (or sarira in Sanskrit). His skull would not burn and there was big relic inside, which would only show up from time to time.

From the Legends of Holy Monks, volume 8

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