Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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There is the lower group called the unredeemed and the second group ordinary Christians saved by faith, and the third group saved by knowledge with eternal bliss.

XUANZANG RETURNS TO CHINA

A long, long, long time ago and far, far, far away, the intrepid Chinese pilgrim (whose name is spelled seven different ways by seven different authors, (Watters p. xi) was finally headed home. In less than twenty years he had visited nearly 79 different Kingdoms and states. Can some truth be found in every nation? Recall that "the Lord doth grant unto all nations of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have." (Alma 30:8; 1Ne19:17; 2 Ne 26:13; Mos 8:13; Mos 15:28) Some nations were given more than others. Indeed, Persia and India were given a great deal more than others, what was given them influenced the religions and philosophies of more than half the world's population. The great teachings of Hinduism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, and many others, were influenced by the ancient gospel, particular as found in ancient Zoroastrianism, which influenced so much of all the various splinter group in China, Persia, India, and other Central and Far Eastern nations. Zoroastrianism may be traced back to Abraham. Abraham had many wives and concubines. (D&C 132:37) Abraham through his sons influenced more of the world than is generally known. (See the web site entry on ISHABAH) Ishbak was the fifth son of the six sons of Keturah, third wife of Abraham. (Mandel p. 221)The name means He will leave, he was given gifts and sent to the east. (Gen. 25:6) He had the priesthood, like his brother Midian who was the ancestor of Jethro, who gave the priesthood to Moses. (D&C 84:6) Ishbak took with him the great doctrines of his father Abraham, found in part in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. 

Xuanzang gathered religious material of great diversity, but in particular that of Buddhism, which now has split into at least 52 factions or persuasions, just as today's Islam is split into seventeen factions, the most recent is the Salafi al-Nour, as extreme as the Muslim Brotherhood, but more prone to institute Shari'a law. He returned to China around 645 AD with a great treasure of ancient documents. Many of them, in the near future, will help prepare China when the restored gospel is taken to the Mainland and the Chinese begin to realize what they have in their own records.

Xuanzang, is the way he wrote his name in a sutra he had prepared just before he died. (Wriggins p. 208) He ended the record of his years of travel with his arrival in the territory of Loulan, a once powerful kingdom 1500 Li  (about 900 miles) east of Khoran . (See map of Tarim Basin ) He was now within the borders of China, he was home; the remaining four hundred miles to Dunhuang, where he intended to rest and harvest the knowledge of that region, then another two hundred miles to the Jade Gate where he officially began his journey, and then another 800 miles or so to Chang'an (Xi'an) the capital city, was outside the scope of his record. (Wriggins pp. 180-181)  But he wrote a short eplogue: "I have set forth at length national scenery and ascertained territory division. I have explained the qualities of national customs and climatic characteristics.  Moral conduct is not constant and tastes vary; where matters cannot thoroughly verified one may not be dogmatic. Wherever I went I made notes, and in mentioning what I saw and heard I recorded the aspirations for [Chinese] civilization.  It is a fact that from here to where the sun sets all have experienced (His Majesty's) beneficence, and where his influence reaches all admire his perfect virtue. The whole world having been united under one sway I have not been a mere individual on a political mission traveling a myriad Li along a post road.” (Wriggins p. 180) He had a deep feeling of his worth. At this point in time, he was probably the most informed person on the face of the earth. Now he had to organize, copy and translate a vast array of diverse documents that he had collected. Some of these were going to be useful in the future to confirm to the Chinese who investigate the restored gospel that there are available records in highly respected Chinese sources that will confirm a restoration has occurred and that Joseph Smith got the records right the first time. Strangely Xuangzang  appears to have paid little attention to these records but instead emphasized the Buddhist documents. 

THE SECRET VAULT

By a curious twist of fate, more than twelve centuries after he rested at Dunhuang, (Tun-huang)  Xuangzang played a crucial role in a strange drama that unfolded there. The intrepid explorer and Central Asian archaeologist, Aurel Stein, had heard that a vast hoard of manuscripts had been found sealed in one of Dunhuang's caves, Cave 17, hidden behind a three story Buddha sculpture.  On his second expedition (1906-1908), Stein met the ignorant and somewhat eccentric Daoist (Taoist) Abbot Wang (Wang Tao-shih), who, in 1900, as an act of penance, appointed himself guardian of the caves, which by then had fallen into ruin. (Stein pp. 28-31) While cleaning away fallen debris behind a three story Buddha a wall with cracks in it had been found. Digging into the walled up area a room was revealed, stacked so high with scrolls and documents that a person standing between the stacks of rolls and documents could not, with outreached hands, touch the top of the piles. (See photo of vault with scrolls , Wriggins p. 187) It has been estimated that in that vault there were some 36,000 scrolls, averaging 75 feet in length. After persuasion and some silver coins, the moody Wang made a deal with Stein who, harried by time, sorted and removed nearly 26,000 of the documents taking them back to England. Wang had also commissioned a local artist to illustrate familiar scenes from the legendary travels of Xuangzang on a Dunhuang temple loggia. When Stein saw these portrayals, which were 15 to 20 foot high, very vivid, Murals, (Stein p. 171) particularly in cave 103, (Wriggins p.184) he told Abbot Wang how he had followed in the pilgrim's footsteps over 10,000 Li from India to Dunhuang. (Wriggins pp. 184-186)

Many of the remaining rolls were in Chinese and were examined by Paul Peliot, a French Sinologist, and later at the Sorbonne, about a year after Stein was there. (see photo ; Wiggins page 187) Peliot returned to Europe in 1910, met with Stein who had returned the year before, and together they catalogued some 10,000 Chinese documents from the vault. (Stein pp. 217-218) Among the finds was a copy of the world's oldest printed book, the Diamond Sutra, dated 868 AD. Because of Marauding armies particularly the Tanguts who took over Dunhuang in1035 the priests or monks had the manuscript cave sealed. (Graham p. 28) Once before, the vault had been closed for protection of the documents about 995 based on a document that dates at that time. All of the other documents are older than that date.

The caves, in the nearly 1 mile long cliff along the river ten miles south of the town of Dunhuang, were first occupied in 205 BC. The first inscribed date in the caves was in 344 AD. The Arabs defeated the Chinese at Talas in 751, in 781 Dunhuang surrendered to Tibet, who were in turn were driven out by Chang I-ch'ao in 848.  Then the Tanguts took over Dunhuang in 1035 the year the vault was finally sealed. The Mongols conquered the area in 1127, then followed periods of time when Dunhuang was abandoned-then resettled in 1760. Then the Daoist Wang Tao-shih in 1900 discovered the vault in Cave 17. (Graham p. 280)  And the rest became history. (See CD 12, CAVE OF THE 1000 BUDDHAS AND THE RESTORATION) One can imagine the consternation of the monks of the area scurrying under the pressure of advancing armies to preserve their greatest treasures. What grave consequences had  befallen them? Those who had stacked the scrolls there and sealed the vault, had they all been killed? Why had they not returned to retrieve their treasures? The vault stayed sealed for centuries! The opening of cave No. 17 alerted the world to the long-forgotten caves of Dunhuang and the works of Xuanzang. (Wriggins p. 186)  Marco Polo passed through Dunhuang on his epic journey to China arriving at the same Capital, Chang'du, in 1271 (Kagan p. 1889)  that Xuanzang had left centuries before. But it was about 236 years after the sealing of the vault. He camped just a few hundred feet from the Buddha and the treasures of the hidden vault. But the documents would continue to rest untouched for almost another 800 years. Had they been deliberately preserved?

XUANZANG ARRIVES BACK IN THE CAPITAL OF CHINA

From Dunhuang, Xuanzang wrote again to the Emperor Taizong to prepare for meeting him on his arrival, but Taizong had been, since 626, engaged in massive military expeditions to the north east where by 649 he had made a conquest of Korea and Turkestan- so the Emperor ordered one of his lord-lieutenants to arrange for his reception. By 650 CE, the Empire of China stretched from Tibet to Korea and from Mongolia to the South China Sea. (Kagan p. 130) The news of the pilgrim's return spread like wildfire and the streets of the city were filled to over flowing, so much so that Xuanzang was obliged to spend the night by a canal at the western outskirts of the  city. (Wriggins p. 186) Contrast this with the conditions of the Dark Ages in Europe.

On the "Seventh day of the first month in 645 C.E....a body of high officials clear the way to bring Xuanzang to the capital. They arrange for a huge group of monks to parade his books, relics, gold, silver, and sandalwood images through Chang'an [Xi'an].  The procession...begins at the Street of the Red Bird and ends at the main gate of the Monastery of Great Happiness.  All monasteries sent monks in ceremonial robes...the people vie with one another in preparing their best banners, tapestries, umbrellas, precious tables, and carriages...they march forward with the sound of pearls and jade banging from their belts...golden flowers scattered on the roads. Scholars and local officials line the ceremonial path. The authorities...order the crowds...to stay still, burn incense and scatter flowers where they are standing...the...congregation witnesses a colored cloud in the sky...seems to float over the scriptures and the gold, silver and sandalwood images as if it is welcoming the holy objects. 'It is indeed the most splendid event since the death of the Buddha'." (Wriggins pp. 896-188)

RELICS OF THE BUDDHA  

"Xuanzang was proud to donate 150 pellets of the  Buddha's flesh and a box of his bone relics at the Monastery of Great Happiness."(Wriggins pp. 187-188) The traffic in relics of Buddha was greater than even the Papal indulgences and relic collecting at the time of Luther.  But it had been more than 1150 years since the death of Buddha, one always wonders about the survival of such relics and the quantity needed to supply thousands of monasteries. But believers reverence strange things that are represented as being or belonging to a much revered or worshipped individual. It seems to be mostly symbolic. In places it continues even to the present.  

THE WORLD AT THE TIME OF XUANGZANG'S RETURN

While Xuanzang was traveling the Holy Land of Buddha, a new religion and influential movement was emerging in Mecca among the Araba Quraysh tribe. A boy known as al-Amin (The Faithful) was born in 571.  His father died before his birth, at the age of six he lost his mother; his grandfather and a slave women, Umm Ayman, raised him. At age 25 he married an older women Khadijah, a well known merchant's widow who had financed a trading expedition to Syria he embarked upon with his uncle. His now-privileged life style did not satisfy the internal hunger he felt- there was an inner yearning he could not understand.  He would go into the desert and spend a great deal of time thinking. Then in 610 he received the first of a series of visions of the Archangel Gabriel (Hunt p. 180), whose words formed the basis of Islam and the Koran. Persecuted in Mecca, the man now called "the Prophet" undertook a miraculous journey to Jerusalem before going to Medina (his mother's native city) in 622, where he preached the Islamic doctrine of a single deity, Allah, and changed his name to Mohammed. By 631 (the year of delegations) many of the leading tribes of western Arabia had lent their allegiance to the Prophet. Before he could fully exploit his new power he died in 632. (Dowley p. 86) Xuangzang had been gone from China for nearly three years. Abu Bakr (632-634) succeeds Mohammed and starts his campaigns against the Persian Sassanians and Roman Byzantiums and reduces them to history. A  Muslim army under Umar, (634-644)  in 634 defeats the Sassanians at the Battle of Chains (because they chained the soldiers together so they could not leave the battle field, so they were left dead, chained together). In 636 the Arab Muslims defeat Rustam of Persia at the battle of Qudisiyah, and by 636 the Muslims control Syria, Jerusalem and Damascus." (Hunt p. 18). The year that Xuanzang arrives back in Xian, China, Uthman and Ali (644-661) are busy making a conquest of all the land between Makrain on the Arabian Sea to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Mediteranian Sea at Antioch, which took them until 651, the year the Muslims annex Persia.  In 656, Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, becomes the new leader of Islam. (Kagan  p. 130) Mohammad had many wives, the first Khadijayh was the line of the Famtimas from which came the Shite Imam, and through the third Shite Imam, Hussein, came the line of the IMAMS through which the 12th IMAM, the  'HIDDEN' IMAM (MUHAMMAD AL-MAHDI) would come. His coming would be sparked by a world-wide conflagaration which the Iranians think they are to start. From the fourth wife, Habibah came MUIAWIYA, the first Umayyad Caliph. Through the line of HAKAM, the later UMMAYYADS CALIPHS have come. The UMAYYAD AMIRS & CALIPHS, and the IMAM lines are the ruling lines of today. (Montefiore pp. 548-549)  Xuanzang would be dead by the time the dynasties of the Ummayads (661-750) would complete their conquest of the territory from the Arabian Sea to the Aral Sea and the southern Caspian Sea.

Xuanzang passed through Samarkand about 70 years before the Muslims made their conquests in that area. Samarkand is one of my favorite places, with its ruins of Ole Beg, (Ulugh-Beg) the Arabian astronomer, and the great Medrassas. I had spent some time there in 1984 as a guest of the Soviet Government. (See Photo in Samarkand) Xuanzang continued his travels southward to Balka, Kabul, and onto the Indus River, which was the final limits of Islamic expansion into India. The Franks would stop Islamic expansion northward out of Spain and Portugal at the battle of Poltiers in France in 732. (Hunt pp. 180-185) The world would never be the same. Today the rise of radical Islamic groups will influence western China where there are  some 37 million Islamic adherents, what this means for China in the future and the movement westward in China of the Christian revolution is part of the daily news and the immediate future. What Xuanzang brought back to China in 645 AD, was the cultural achievements in the lands he traversed before the rise of the Islamic doctrines. After he left, immense changes would occur in the west. The documents he brought back and which form in part the libraries at the Little Goose Pagoda complex and the vault at Dunhang, captures the cultural aspects of the eastern world and its western contact with the western world in the middle of the seventh century.  Things would so change that had Xuangzang delayed his journey of even stayed just a few years or so longer in India he could not have brought back most of what he did. It is stunning and difficult to realize the importance of all this until it is placed in the context of historical time and events and the evident impact on today and the coming future.

THE WESTERN MARKET PLACE IN XIAN

In the great capital city of Chang'an (Xian) there is an area where the city is connected to the Silk Road.  It is called the Western Market. Xuanzang went there often, "...it was a radiating center of Asian cultures, where new stimuli from Northern India...the Kingdoms of Central Asia enriched Chinese Buddhism and made it the most lively and influential system of thought in its day. From Iran and central Asia came other new religions...Islam, Zoroastrianism, Menichaeanism, and Nestorian Christianity...new developments in the arts...music and dance...metalworking...fine cusine...technical and scientific influence...mathematics...linguistic...poets...the latest in Buddhist doctrine...could be found in Chang'an." (Wriggins p. 9)  Here he learned Tokharian, spoken in so many places in Central Asia. Here he refined his knowledge of Sanskrit so he could communicate with foreign monks. Sanskrit was the language of Buddhist scriptures and monasteries in all of northern Asia. (Wriggins p. 9) When he left China at age 27 he was as prepared for his journey as he could possibly be...a little under six feet...exceptionally hand- some...broad eyebrows, bright eyes, clear complexion and a noble forehead. (Wriggins p.11)                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

BUDDHIST HOLY LAND AND SACRED PLACES

"When he was a young man, Xuanzang had once been so absorbed in reading the Sutra of the Glorious Decease that he forgot to sleep. "There are four places," the Buddha is supposed to have said in this sutra, "which the believing man should visit with feelings of reverence and awe, where the Buddha was born, where he received enlightenment, where he preached the first sermon and where he died."  (Wriggins p. 98) Like a devout Mormon ought to visit Vermont, Kirtland, Palmyra, Liberty Jail and Nauvoo. In the many years that Xuanzang spent in India he made sure he visited the foot hills of the Himalaya near the present-day border between India and Nepal where the prosperous kingdom of a warrior people, Buddha's people, the Sakya, who were Brahmans, ruled from Kapilavastu. (Saddhatissa Map p. 12) In the year 560 BC, Queen Mahamaya, about to bear a child intended to return to her parents home for the birth, but while stopping for rest at a garden called Lumbini Park she went into labor and gave birth to a son. (Saddhatissa p. 13)  She would die at his birth. The new born son would become the Buddha! But he was a Sakya first, and of royal birth. See the Map provided with this study.  It is a map of the Holy Land of the Buddhist, showing the twelve sacred locations in the life of Buddha, including Lumbini where he was born, and Kusinagara where he died, and the two main rivers, the Ganges and the Gandak, southwest of the Himalaya Mountains,  that played a role in the life of Sidhartha. It was at Bodh Gaya where he achieved enlightment. It was at Sarnath, near Benares where he preached his first sermon [at the Deer Park]. (Watson p. 73; Wriggins pp. 101-108) He seemed to have first taught the Four Noble Truths: l. All existence is suffering, 2. Suffering it caused by selfish craving, 3. Selfish craving can be destroyed, 4. By following the Eight Fold Path.  The Eight Fold Path are eight Principals:  l. right views, 2. right thinking, 3. right speech, 4. right action, 5. right livelihood, 6. right endeavor, 7. right memory, and 8. right meditation. (Watson pp. 76-77) Lengthy sutras  (lectures or sermons) describe each of these twelve 'doctrines' for those who seek 'enlightment'. Compare these with the Thirteen Articles of Faith. There is a great difference, and the difference is great, it is revelation! Or as Elder Bednar writes: "Priesthood authority, priesthood keys, and eternal truths have been restored to the earth in the dispensation of the fullness of times.  The fullness of the Savior's gospel and the work of His Church have been reestablished and are rolling forth throughout the world. Today you and I have vital roles to play in enlarging the borders of Zion (D&C 82:14) In this final dispensation we are responsible to gather together in one eternal truths about the Father's plan and the Savior's Atonement, about ordinances, covenants, discipleship, and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and about knitting our hearts together in unity and in love by fulfilling our divine duty to serve and rescue the one." (Bednar p. 165)

Xuanzang had also sought out Vaisali where the Second Buddhist Council had been held about 110 years after the death of the Buddha (367 BC, or 383),  it had become one of the great centers of Buddhism in India. (Ikeda p. 27) But the holiest place of all for a Buddhist was the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. (Wriggins p. 116-117) For three hundred years after Xuanzang's visit, the temple lay neglected, major alterations were made in the eleventh century, but today it is essentially as he depicted it. It is the location of the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha achieved enlightenment- the place of his ultimate triumph!  Sort of equivalent to the Sacred Grove. 

THE ART RELICS AND STATUES OF BUDDHA

Xuanzang brought back seven statues of the Buddha: l. A sandalwood image, three feet five inches tall, of Buddha preaching his first sermon at Sarnath, a site near Benares which was where Shakyamuni preached his first sermon to the five ascetics; (Ikeda p. 165),  2. A sweet-smelling  sandalwood statue, two feet nine inches tall of the image of King Udayahna when he was desirous of seeing the Buddha. This statue was elaborate, the figure standing garbed in long robes with folds arranged in a very symmetrical fashion and with the hands assuming the gestures of reassurance and charity,  3. The largest of the statues was a shining silver Buddha fully four feet high representing the Buddha descending from heaven at Sankasya, 4. A three feet five inches high statue, perhaps of gold, of Buddha preaching the Lotus Sutra  at Vulture Peak, the Holy Mountain, where Xuangzang had himself gone to pay reverence. The Lotus Sutra was a favorite in China and the statue was well received. 5. A sandalwood statue about fifteen inches high carved of the Buddha's shadow left in the cave at Nagarahara. There, Xuangzang had the epiphany that made him consecrate his life to Buddha, there, a vision was vouchsafed to him of the Buddha. It was the first statue he had collected. 6.  A statue representing the Sarnath image of the Buddha turning the Wheel of the Law three feet three inches tall from the Dragon Cave at Pragbodhi Mountain near Magadha, 7. A sandalwood image of the Buddha making his daily rounds at Vasali, the site where he had preached his first of many sermons. (Wriggins pp. 188-189)  None of these are known to be still in existence today, though they may be in some remote cave or monastery retreat. Sacred as they were to Buddhists they may have been preserved.

THE HAND GESTURES OF THE BUDDHAS

One must pay attention to the hand gestures of the images of the Buddha, they are extremely important and very indicative. In many of the images and sculptures of Buddha there is the right hand raised to the square or in front of the body with the palm out, the fingers close together pointing upwards, the thumb extended, it is the most frequent hand expression of Buddha images. This is the gesture of 'Fear Not'. The left hand was at the square pointed forward, either with the palm down, fingers close together, thumb extended, or the hand was in cup shape.  Many images to emphasize this gesture, show the left hand reaching out with an actual cup in the palm.  (Gaulier plate 40) There are other arrangements depending on what gesture or aspect of reassurance it was desired to convey. The two hands in cup shape one holding the other in front of the Buddha, most often in sitting stance, was indicative of the intensity of meditation,   commitment and concentration. In this stance, one fully relaxes and takes on a restful expression reflecting the Buddhist ideal of detachment from all desires and worldly things. During the Kamakura Period in Japanese history, before 1333 AD, they erected the Giant Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, in Kamakura, Japan. The Buddha is hollow, it is most interesting to go inside and peer out its eyes. My wife and I spent some time in Kamakura, in and around the Buddha. If you see pictures of it notice the hands. "The principal episodes in the life of Sakayamuni (The Buddha) were evoked by gestures of the hands which were later codified." (Gaulier p. 6)

THE EMPEROR GAOZUNG AND THE BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA

The emperor Xuanzang knew so well was succeeded by his ninth son Gaozong, who as the new emperor also held Xuanzang in high esteem and provided support, even a great monastery for his translating activities until Xuanzang's death. Xuanzang had boldly suggested an Indian style pagoda on the site of the Monastery of Great Maternal Love, which would house the vast array of scriptures and the images he had brought back to China.  It was to be so high that instead of stone it was advised that it be of brick. While smaller than what he had in mind, it still was an imposing five stories and 175 feet high. (See PHOTO of the pagoda )  The pagoda is still standing, in Xian, China. When I visited it in 1981, one could no longer enter it as it had been damaged by an earthquake, and though remaining standing, it was no longer safe. (Wriggins p. 201)  But, nearby they had built the Little Goose Pagoda, a smaller replica of the big one, and with it a temple complex. I was guided through the pagoda and temple complex by a chemical engineer who spoke excellent English and we had some very good heart  to heart talks. His father and brother had been killed by the Japanese during the war, his mother had converted to Christianity and for decades had prayed to no avail, in great despair she finally died. Her son, my guide, had turned agnostic and a little cynical. As we coursed through the temple complex where ancient translators had been busy for centuries, we tried to find the care taker to ask if anything was left of Yuan, (as my guide said the name of  Xuanzang, he pronounced  it: 'waw'an', but most often the ancient monk is called:  'e-yen'). The caretaker turned out to be a young Chinese girl who when asked about any relics of Yuan's that might remain in the temples, she asked back, "who I was and what was it I wanted?" My guide told her I was  a geologist and archaeologist and very much interested in China, its history, and its great master-teacher.  Convinced I was more than just a tourist she gave him a key and told us to return to the first temple of the complex, the Little Goose Pagoda, find the main stair well, and follow it to a mezzanine where the key would provide us access to some of Yuan's work.  We returned, found the stair well, found the door, entered an immaculately kept room with slanted book, or scroll, reading benches and shelves and open documents. One document, my guide quickly pointed out, had the signature of Yuan! I was astonished! There was also  a visitor's record book, the last signature of one who had last studied in the room was that of a Japanese before the war. I suddenly realized that here in western China were some ancient records that would confirm to the Chinese at some future time that the claims Mormon's make of a restoration of doctrine were right here in China and had been for 1300 years. My guide could plainly see that I was having a deep spiritual experience and he exclaimed: "How am I going to know there is a God?" I replied: "You will know there is a God when they build a temple in western China." I wasn't sure I should have said that out loud. But several days later in Peking in the hotel dining room we met Elder Holland and Elder Packer, when asked what they were doing in China, they replied they had been recording, for eight months, the genealogical records of the Chinese. The cultural revolution had ended in 1979, things had changed and China was now accessible and the Church was there to prepare for the time the restoration would be brought to the Chinese. When asked about the future they insightfully said there would be a temple built in western Chine. Recalling my experience in the Little Goose Pagoda, which I kept to myself, I immediately wanted to contribute to that temple's construction and soon after I did make a donation. So I know that there will be a temple built in western China. Whether I see it built in my life time or not, like I did the Japanese temple who I was first to donate to, is not important, just to know that someday there would be a temple in western China was enough. The shadow of the Large Wild Goose Pagoda, while a lasting monument for the Sakyamuni Buddha and Xuanzang, it is the shadow of the Little Goose Pagoda that will cast the longest image because that is where some of the ancient records are kept.  (See  CD 12, THE CAVE OF 1000 BUDDHAS and CD 38, GREAT ADVENTURES IN CHINA)  

THE DEATH OF XUANZANG

Of the many Buddhist documents Xuanzang brought back, the most popular and in greatest demand was  The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.  Under pressure he had translated this Sutra. It consisted of sixteen long sermons of the Buddha.  He had collected three copies which he began to translate in 660.  Some wanted an abridgement made, but in a dream he was convinced to translate the whole of it and collate the three copies he had brought back. Three years later he completed the last of the 600 chapters, a work more than eighty-four times the length of the KJ Bible. He now considered how his life work had been fulfilled. (Wriggins pp. 205-207) Then he had fallen, injured his thigh and had a relapse in his health.  A dream of the suddenly toppling of the high Pagoda assured him his time was limited. Xuanzang made arrangements for his death and the distribution of his artifacts and relics. From time to time he stayed in silent meditation, reciting a newly retranslated famous passage of the Heart Sutra, the verse he had learned as a very young man and which he had recited over and over again when he nearly died of thirst in a desert portion of his journey. "Form is unreal. Perception, thought, action, knowledge, are unreal.  The eye, the ear, the mind are all unreal. Consciousness through the Five Senses is unreal. All the twelve Causes, from ignorance to Old Age and Death, are unreal. Enlightenment is unreal. Unreality itself is unreal." (Wriggins p. 209) What had he really learned?  What had he not learned? Modern existentialists rephrase this to read:  "Life is an order of absurdities, or just an absurd order!" It was not a question, it is a declaration. This reaches into the heart of Buddhism.  But the most important documents, those on Zoroastrianism, Nestorianism, Manichaeanism and Mandaeanism, that he had had translated, had gone essentially unnoticed, these were yet to be recognized. Ultimately, in time, it will be those documents that will really give meaning to the life and journey of Xuanzang, and will be more important than his Buddha translations.

At midnight on the Sixth day of the second month of the year 664, after assuring his disciple Pu Giang that he was sure he would return in the future in the Inner Courtyard of the Maitreya, he stopped breathing and died. (Wriggins p. 210)  He underwent the great change that he knew was coming. He had no fears and no regrets. (Watters p. 13)  He chose to assure his disciple Pu Giang that his expectation was to go to Maitreya's paradise where he could expect an early rebirth, and not to Sukhavati, the heaven far away in the extreme west of the world where who knows how long he might await a rebirth. (Stein p. 205) He left a legacy that is yet to be recognized. 

THE FUNERAL OF XUANZANG

A million people attended his funeral. The ceremony was arranged with five hundred white canopies, religious pennants, and funeral music. The silk makers of the eastern market of Xian had used 3,000 pieces of silk of different colors from the 'Nirvana wagon.'  But Xuanzang had requested that his disciples were to wrap him in a bamboo mat, and bury him in a quiet place by the side of a mountain stream far from a palace or monastery.  The silk was sent back, and it was as he had requested.  Earlier the Emperor  had "bestowed  on Xuanzang a magnificent golden cassock, which had been made by the ladies of the palace; it was worth 100 pieces if gold and was so finely sewn, no stitches were visible. The pilgrim had been in the habit if giving away whatever gifts he received, but this one present he did keep, and after he died, he was buried in it." (Wriggins pp. 197-198) In a quiet secluded place in the nearby mountains, far, far away.

THE LEGACY OF XUANZANG

What Xuanzang had considered important were the 657 sacred books of Buddhism, some of which were full of mystical charms able to put to flight the invisible powers of mischief. (Watters p. 12) Xuanzang was very well aware of MARA, the evil adversary, almost an exact equivalent of Lucifer or Satan in Mormon doctrine, with his monstrous army making an assault on mankind. (Gaulier p 18) His personal record inspired generations of archaeologists and art historians. Beginning in the nineteenth century Sir Alexander Cunningham, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, followed in the pilgrim's footsteps, traversing the length and breadth of the land, locating principal cities and Buddhist monuments and sacred sites. Cunningham's guides for his Ancient Geography of India, covering the Buddhist Period to the eighth century, were Alexander the Great and the travels of Xuanzang. "...the fortunate discovery of the travels of several Chinese pilgrims in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries of the Christian era [such as the pious Faxian (Fa-hsien) and Zhiyan (Chih-yen)], has thrown such a flood of light upon the hitherto dark period, that we are now able to see our way clearly to the general arrangement of most of the scattered fragments of the Ancient Geography of India." (Wriggins p. 212; and map by the Royal Asiatic Society, 1905 in Watters) This applies equally to the northern and southern roads of the Silk Road.

In 646 Xuanzang completed his autobiography and presented to the Emperor as his Record of the Western Regions, it became very popular. He had also received a request from the King of Assam with whom Xuanzang had stayed two months, for a translation of the classic Daoist (Taoist) work The Way and Its Power (Daode jing:Tao Te Ching) into Sanskrit. The emperor commissioned this work, and later was to make this comment: "Looking at these Buddhist works is like gazing at the sky or sea. They are so lofty that one cannot measure the height, so profound, one cannot measure the depths... Confucianism, Taoism and our other schools when compared to it are like mere puddles measured against a mighty ocean." (Wriggins pp. 195-196)  Wait until they compare all of what they think they have with the revelations of the restoration. It will be like comparing the Cosmos with a puddle.  But when one compares the doctrine of the restoration to any of the ancient orders, it is Buddhism that seems to be the puddle, the rest are much smaller moist patches! So it will be very instructive to look briefly at a few of the other documents and religious teachings Xuanzang had gathered and brought back.

ZOROASTRIANISM

While Xuanzang had learned something about Zoroastrianism, one of the great religions of  Central Asia, at the Merchants Market in the capital city, he began to get first hand information as he reached Tashkent and then Samarkand, he had passed near to, if not actually visiting, the ancient city of Sogdiana. In 660 Sogdiana became part of China. (Kagan p. 132) The ruins of the City of Sogdiana after the later conquest of the area by Islam were never rebuilt, today the region is in Uzbekistan. There were many Sogdian documents in the collection from Cave 17, they were among the first to be translated. The ancient city had not been rebuilt after the Islamic conquest destroyed it. When I visited the  ancient ruins in 1984 excavations were well in progress. Russian archaeologists had found ancient Sogdian documents stuffed in animal skins which are readily read today, but few are being translated into English. (See CD 36 DISCOVERIES IN RUSSIA THAT CONFIRM THE RESTORATION, where I quote from a recent translation of Sogdian.)

"It has been said of ancient India that 'there can be no question that beside the royal families a spiritual aristocracy, powerful and wealthy, and provided with its own sacred literature, existed before we have any evidence for a Brahman caste." (Boyce p. 9) "...the great Iranian prophet [Zoroaster, Zorosthrusta] cannot be assigned to a time before his people acquired their separate identity in parting from their close cousins, the Indians, and forging their own distinctive languages and literature.'' But the doctrinal details and content preceded him by centuries. He was a restorer of ancient teachings. "The Indo-Iranians lived together as nomads on the broad Asian steppes, stretching from the lower Volga eastward to the Boundary of Kazakhastan. It is generally held that they began to drift apart during the third millennium BC, and it is thought that the composition of the oldest Indian work, the Rig veda (supreme sacred knowledge), should be set as beginning sometime around 1700 BC." (Boyce p. 3) The language of its hymns, (Doctrines) in their surviving form, is very close to that of the Gathas, the hymns of Zoroaster, with strikingly archaic elements in their content, though the actual man, Zoroaster, cannot have lived later than about 1000 BC,  The linguistic evidence show that he must have been among the Iranians of the north-east known as the "Avestan people" and mostly along the land of Khwarezmia on the Oxus River (Amy Darya)  where the newly identified Oxus Civilization rivals any of the ancient centers of civilization. One crosses the Amu Darya that flows into the Aral Sea, dividing the ancient countries called Bactria and Chorasmia (or Khywarazm), the territory between the Amu Darya and the Hindu Kush Mountains. Then perhaps through the original homeland of Zarathustra, the first Aryan prophet, (Kriwacek p. 205) on the way from the Dzungarian Gap through the mountains, to the kingdoms of Bactria, Sogdia, Ferghana, Parthia, Margiana, mostly of Soviet Central Asia, (Boyce pp. 4-5) now divided between Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen and Kirghiz republics.

Tajikastan, host to ancient and modern Samarkand, with its magnificant reconstructed Madrasas (Islamic Colleges) and ancient Sogdiana, is one of my favorite places. The ancient texts were scattered and lost for centuries until re-codified six hundred years after Alexander as a sacred "Canon." (Kriwaczek pp 4; 208)  There are  "many parallels between the institutions, customs and ways of thought of the Vedic Indians and the Avstan Iranians." (Boyce p. 13) More work has to be done to determine when the Iranians occupied Central Asia.  "The presence of Aryans on the Iranian plateau comes, surprisingly, from the south-west of the land; for in Babylonia about 1760 BC." (Boyce p. 14) This estimate by Boyce pushes the possible origin of Zoroastrian doctrines close to the time and geography of the maturing lives of the six sons of Keturah, the third wife of Abraham, and one son in particular, Ishbak (Ishabah)! Ancient Zoroaster, the restoration prophet, lies in the distant prehistory of that that region, it is held he lived to a venerable old age, but was struck down by an assassin. (Boyce p. 191) But he appeared on the scene some seven hundred years after Ishbak had been sent east by his father Abraham. Zoroaster tried to restore that which had been had before. Elements of the ancient gospel were preserved in all this work.  Otherwise how do we account for their presence in Central Asia?

"It was on Thursday, 16 April, [1393] the town of Mardin [in Central Asia] surrendered to Timur [Tamerlane who raged across Central Asia from1379 to 1402 and was buried at Samarkand). The next day a courier sent by Queen Saray-Mulk khanum...brought the news...of the birth of a boy to [one of the other wives of Timur] a seventeen year old...[Shahruka, Gauhar-Shad Agha]...Timur spared the population...and released them from payment of contribution ...imposed on them."(Barthold pp. 43-4) The boy was Ulugh Beg [Great Prince] Muhammad Taraghay. Besides being a favored son of one of the great conquering figures of ancient times, he was also one of the great early observational astronomers  with an observatory, the ruins of which are very impressive, at Samarkand, but so far, far away. (See PHOTO and my journal: Journey to Samarkand, 1984.)

SOME TENETS OF ZOROASTRIAN RELIGION

The Christian world is familiar with some Zoroastrians, the Magi. These are mentioned in sacred scriptures (Mathew 2:1-12) Where did they come from? Where did they go back to? If they were Kings who did they rule over?  Where is there a record of such things? What was their relationship to Ishbak (Ishabah) and Abraham?  (See CD 25, THE MAGI, ARCHAEOLOGY REVEALS WHO, WHAT, AND HOW MANY and on the Web Site: ISHABAH). And what did they teach? All of this is of great interest because "Zoroastrian dualism (God and the Devil, etc.) has been systematized into a compact theology." (Zaehner p. 15)  Many academics contend that Judiasm, and by extension, Christianity, has links to these dualistic teachings of ancient Zoroastrian religion, but don't all such related religions ultimately trace back to the original revelations of the gospel given to Adam? The main tenets of the Zoroastrian religion include such fundamentals as the nature of God, (Ohrmazd), the Devil, (Ahriman), a Saviour, the genesis of the Universe, the reasons for its manifest imperfection, man's situation in the universe, the purpose of religion and the ethical system that followed on that purpose. They taught the correct doctrine of a Godhead: A "supreme, Divine Being,[Ohrmazd] ... a transcendent Creator God, an absolutely Just Ruler of His Universe in accord with Law as ordained by Him, the Law of Righteousness, Truth and Order...never deviated [deviating] from the strictest observance of His own Law...the immortality of the soul and its judgment by God after death, heaven and hell, bodily resurrection, final judgment and second death or eternal bliss." (Mehta pp. 91-92)  "...deeds are the criterion by which alone a man can be judged...at the end of time men's bodies will be resurrected again and will participate in what is called the 'Final Body'...all evil will have been expelled..The transformation is brought about by 'Soshyans' or Saviour', who appears at the end of time to initiate the reign of eternal beatitude after there has been a final purification of all souls." (Zaehner p. 20) and "(the way of) darkness, and of the finiteness utter misery, death , and wickedness which belong to the accursed Destructive Spirit (Ahriman) who once was not in this creation, [world] and again will not be in the [future] creation of Ohrmazd, and who in the end will be destroyed." (Zaehner p. 22)  "The soul will be severed (from the Body) and ...the body...will be dissolved...judgment (of the soul at death), the rising of the dead and the Final Body."  Zaehkner p. 23)  "Ahura Mazda [Soshyans] had brought forth life and growth and happiness through his Holy Spirit, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) introduced decay and death and misery into the world." (Mehta p.90)  The "highest heaven [is] Garo-demana. For you will sing the song of Eternal life...therefore never abuse the body in any way whatsoever. Revere it as the Temple of the Most High." (Mehta p. 63) 

"Zarathushtra [Zoroaster] 'sees' Ahura Mazda and the Holy Immortals, 'converses' with them and receives the Revelation and the Divine Mandate to teach the Good Religion, save humanity, and prepare the world for the Renovation at the end of time." (Mehta p. 85) The first Vision he experienced was when he was about thirty. Upon returning to the bank of a river where he had gone to fetch pure water. "He saw standing on the bank a shining being clad in a garment like light itself... who revealed himself as Vohu Mana [Good Intention]. By him Zoroaster was brought into the presence of Ahura Mazda [Lord of Light]...and other...Immortals [Shining Ones]...he did not see his own shadow upon the earth, owing to 'their' great light...the first of a number of times when Zoroaster saw the Lord, or felt conscious of his presence, or heard his words...a visible manifestation...he had 'seen' and perceived the Lord...[who] called the prophet imperatively to his service a summons which he wholeheartedly obeyed.  'For this I was set apart as yours from the beginning'...while I have power and strength, I shall teach men to seek after the right." (Boyce p. 185)

The ancient records include, the Rig Veda, the Avestan (daeva)and Gathas and Vedas.  The Avesta are known as the sacred books and are later than the Rig Veda; the Gathas are songs or odes ascribed directly to Zoroaster and may approach the Rig Veda in age, hints which may go back as early as 1760 BC. (Boyce p. 190). The Yashts are sacrificial hymns, added over time, the Vendidad are the Law against the demons, but the Gathas are the most useful and at best they are fragmental, but considered direct teachings of Zoroaster. The Avestan (daeva) and Vedas (deva), had collective terms for divine beings, the deva or deava, were ancient words for the 'Shining Ones'.  The Vedic asura, the Avstan ahura, are titles meaning 'Lord', used in both  instances or languages for 'Gods'. "However, only three gods are ever addressed as ahura.  They form a group appearing closely linked in concept and function; and it seems very likely that it is these three who were the original 'Lords' of the Indo-Iranian pantheon." (Boyce p. 23)  The ancient teachings, Rig-Veda, had evolved into a polytheism "against which Zoroaster rebelled." (Zaehner p. 14) He tried to restore and reform an ancient order. (Boyce p. 7)The underlying cause of his zeal: was "the meeting with God...a visible manifestation...he had 'seen' and perceived the Lord." (Boyce p. 184)

The "Time of  Ohrmazd were and are and evermore shall be. (D&C 93-24)  Ahriman...has no beginning but has an end. 'he was and is, yet shall not be'...he will be forever powerless...(D&C 93:24; D&C 76:24-39) The battlefield is this material universe, created by Ohrmazd...in which Ahriman and his demons struggle for victory...(D&C 88:113-114) Man's role in this world is to co-operate with nature on the natural plane and to lead a virtuous life of 'good thoughts, good words, and good deeds' in the moral plane...It is man's bounden duty to take himself a wife and to rear up for himself sons and daughters ...human life on earth is a sheer necessity if Ahriman is to be finally defeated...who am I? To whom do I belong? From whence have I come? and whether do I return... what is my function and duty on earth? and what is my reward in the world to come?" (Zaehner pp. 19-21; For details of Zoroastrian doctrines see CD 24, THE PAHLAVI TEXTS AND MORMONISM) Review the above short summary, see how many comparisons there are to LDS Doctrine.  Note that few of the comparisons are to be found in any modern Christian Doctrinal summary, but most are very similar to exact teachings revealed to Joseph Smith under inspiration forming the doctrines of the restoration.  The legacy of Xuanzang will be continued in PART 6 of this series.

                                                            BIBLIOGRAPHY

AIKMAN, David, Jesus in Beijing, Regnery Publishing Co., Washington D.C., 2003

BALDWIN, James M., Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, Peter Smith, New York, Vol. 11, 1940

BARTHOLD, V.V., Four Studies on the History of Central Asia,  Vol. 11, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1958

BOYCE, Mary, A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. l, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1989

DOWLEY, Tim, Ed. The Baker Atlas of Christian History, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1997

FRANZMAN, Majella, Jesus in The Manichaean Writings, T&T Clark, New York, 2003

GAULIER, Simone, & Robert Jera-Bezard & Monique Maillad, Part One, Buddhism in Afghanistan and Central Asia Part l, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1976

GRAHAM, T., The Reconstruction of Popular Buddhism in Medieval China using Select Pien- Wen from Tun-Huang [Dun Huang], University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1975

HUNT, Norman B., Historical Atlas of Ancient Mesopotamia, Checkmark, New York, 2004

IKEDA, Daisaku, Tr. B. Watson, Buddhaism the First Millennium, Kodansha International Ltd., Tokyo, 1977

KAGAN, Neil, Ed. Concise History of the World, National Geographic, Washington D.C., 2006

KALUPAHANA, David & Indrani, The Way of Siddhartha, A life of the Buddha, Shambhala, Boulder & London, 1982

KRIWACZEK, Paul, In Search of Zarathustra, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003

KLIMKEIT, Hans J., Manichaean Art and Calligraphy, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1982

LIEU, Samuel N., Manichaeism in Central Asia & China, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1998

LUPIERI, Edmondo, The Mandaeans, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2002

MANDEL, David, Who's Who in Tanaka, Ariel Books, Savyon, Israel, 2004

MEHTA, P.D., Zarathushtra, Element Books, Longmead, Great Britain1985

MONTEFIORE, Simon S., Jerusalem, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012

MOYER, Elgin S., Who Was Who in Church History, Moody Press, Chicago, 1968

ORT, L.J.E., Mani, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1967

SADDHATISSA, H.,  The Life of the Buddha, Harper & Row, New York, 1976   

STEIN, M. Aurel, Ruins of Desert Cathay, Vol. 11, Dover Publications, New York, 1987

WATSON, Burton, Tr, The Living Buddha, by Daisaku Ikeda, Weatherhill, New York, 1976

WATTERS, Thomas, On Yuan Chang's (Xuanzang's) Travels in India, Royal Asiatic Society, London, by Munshi Ram Manchur, LAL NAI, Sarak, Delhi, India, 1961

WRIGGINS, Sally H., The Silk Road Journey with Xuangzang, Westview Press, Persus Books,    Group, Boulder Colorado, 1996                                                                               

YOUNG, Frances, From Nicaea to Chalcedon, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1983        

ZAEHNER, R.C., The Teachings of the Magi, A Compendium of Zoroastrian Beliefs, Sheldon Press, London, 1975  This the most important book on Zoroastrian beliefs.

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
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