IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF XUANZANG: TAN YUN-SHAN AND INDIA
WRITINGS OF TAGORE, NEHRU AND TAN YUN-SHAN
Culture" is a new term coined by myself about fifteen years ago. It
has come into current use since the foundation of the Sino-Indian Cultural
Society in both the countries, India and China, in 1934 and 1935
in my humble opinion and to put it in a vary simple way, is the
cultivation of the whole of human life, and not only of the spiritual side
of civilization as is usually regarded. It is the compass, as well as the
pilot, of the progress of human society. It gives significance, to human
life and distinguishes human life from that of plants and animals. It
helps man to realise at the first stage the real meaning and value of
life, and ultimately to reach its real goal, in which alone there is
eternal peace, love, joy, freedom and blessing. In this respect, there is
not only much similarity but much identity between the culture of India
and that of China, The most striking feature and analogy of these two
cultures is the spirit of Ahimsa.
is a word negative in form but with a positive sense. Mahatma Gandhi
translated it into English as "Nonviolence". The ancient Chinese
Buddhist scholars translated it into Chinese as "Pu-Hai" meaning
"Non-hurting". Its positive form is "Love",
"Universal Love". That is "Maitri", in Sanskrit;
"Jen", in Chinese. These couples of words, Ahimsa and Maitri, or
Non-violence and Universal Love, or Pu-Hai and Jen, were born married. And
they could never and would never be divorced or separated. They always
carry the same message and disseminate the same gospel together. But the
Chinese prefer to use the positive form rather than negative, while
Indians on the other hand prefer to use the negative one. Therefore the
Chinese and the Indians have also become an unseparated couple in culture.
was the negative word preferred by the Indians? Gandhiji once explained
this by saying :--
life the flesh exists by some violence. Hence the highest religion has
been defined by a negative word, Ahimsa. The world is bound in a chain of
destruction. In other words, violence is an inherent necessity for life in
the body. That is why a votary of Ahimsa always prays for ultimate
deliverance from the bondage of the flesh."
Andrews: Mahatma Gandhi's Ideas, p.
Chinese sage, Mencius, put it in another way. He said:--
must be decided on what they will not do, and then they are able to act
with vigour in what they ought to do."
a man wants of do things good, he must first not do things evil. So also
if a man wants to love people and other beings he must first not hurt
them. If a man preaches Love or Maitri or Jen but does not practise
Ahimsa, or Non-violence or Pu-Hai, then his Love is no reality. It is
merely a false expression or hypocricy. Therefore almost all the great
religions in the world uphold a set of precepts to govern the acts of
in Sino-Indian culture is not only a very prominent feature but also an
ancient tradition. It is as ancient as the culture itself. Or as Gandhiji
and Non-violence are as old as the hills."
India, Ahimsa is one of the most cardinal virtues and doctrines of almost
all the religions and philosophical sects. It had been repeatedly taught
and expressly stated by the Rishis in the ancient scriptures, such as the
Aitreya Brahmana, the Satapatha Brahmana, the Chandogya Upanishad, the
Vamana Purana and Manu's Book of Law. Therefore it was thus declared in
the Mahabharata :-
is the supreme Religion."
Gandhiji did recite the same words on several occasions.
Andrews : Mahatma Gandhi's Ideals.)
the gospel of Ahimsa was first deeply and systematically expounded and
properly and specially preached by the Jain Tirthankaras, most prominently
by the 24th Tirthankara, the last one, Mahavira Vardhamana. Then, again by
Lord Buddha. And at last it was embodied in the thoughts, words and deeds
and symbolized by the very life of Mahatma Gandhi.
Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and doctrines of almost all the
philosophical and religious systems in India, so also it is in China. The
only difference is, as mentioned above, that instead of using the negative
word Ahimsa, the Chinese preferred to use the positive word Jen.
has a vast volume of meanings and a lot of diversities of interpretations.
Different scholars of different schools have explained it at different
times. Even the greatest saint of China, Confucius, gave it a good many
different explanations to different persons on different Jccasions. Once
asked by his disciple named Fan-Chieh: What about Jen? The Master said :-
is to love all people."
another time asked by another disciple called Yen-Yuan, about the same, he
subdue one's self and return to propriety; this is Jen."
answering the same question asked by another disciple, named Chunk-Kung,
the Master said:-
do to others what you would not wish done to yourself."
be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes
asked what they were, the Master said:-"
generosity, sincerity, earnestness and kindness."
man of Jen will always rest in perfect virtue."
the Man of Jen can always love people."
man devoted to Jen will have no hatred."
Yi-Ching, the Book of Change (the Vedas of China) it has been said
superior gentleman realized in the virtue of J,en will nurture
great virtue of Heaven and Earth is life, The great jewel of the saint is
his position. How to maintain his position? lt is by Jen."
Shu-Ching, the Book of History, it is written :-
people have no fixed affection, but always think of the virtuous of
Chung-Yung, the Doctrine of the Golden Mean, it was said thus :-
is the characteristic element of humanity and the great exercise of it is
in loving all people, especially relations."
passage in ancient Chinese scriptures are rather too many to be quoted one
by one here. In general, Jen means Universal Love. Some European savants
rendered it into English as Benevolence and Perfect Virtue, The Chinese
classical scholars of Sung Dynasty also explained it as: "The entire
virtue of the heart." I think the Sanskrit word Maitri as understood
by Buddhist religion and philosophy is the nearest enquivalent to it.
Gospel of Jen was first properly taught and preached in China about
twenty-five centuries ago by the greatest Chinese saint Confucius (551-479
B.C.). Then again it was more profoundly and systematically expounded and
disseminated by the great Chinese sage Mencius (372-289 B.C.). Afterwards
almost all the classical scholars of all the dynasties of China's long
history cherished, promoted and propagated the same message but explained
and interpreted it according to their own ways. In modern times, Dr. Sun
Yat-sen, the Father of the Chinese Republic had scientifically explained
the lofty ideal of Jen in his San Min Chu Yi, the Three People's
Principles, for his national movement of Chinese emancipation and the
renaissance of Chinese culture.
was the first sage who attempted to apply this perfect doctrine ot
practical politics. When he first met King Hui of the Leang State, the
King asked : "Venerable Sir, since you have not counted it far to
come here, a distance of a thousand miles, may I presume that you are
likewise provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?" He replied :
"Why must your Majesty use that word 'profit'? What I am 'likewise'
provided with, are counsels to Jen and Yi or benevolence and
righteousness, and these are my only topics. If your Majesty says. What is
to be done to profit my kingdom?' The great officers will say, 'What is to
be done to profit our families? and the inferior officers will say, 'What
is to be done to profit our persons?' Superiors and inferiors will try to
snatch this profit, the one from the other, and the kingdom will be
endangered....... There never has been a man trained to Jen or benevolence
who neglected his parents. There never has been a man trained to Yi or
righteousness who made his sovereign an After consideration. Let your
Majesty also say, Jen and Yi or benevolence and righteousness and these
shall be the only themes. Why must you use that word 'profit'?"
Works of Mencius.)
this noble mission, Mencius went from state to state and preached to and
discussed with the Kings one after another. Although none of them did
actually act on his wise advice and made real avail of his presence, he
had left behind an inextinguishable spirit of love, mercy and benevolence
in the Chinese polity through all the long centuries. A few passages from
his exhortations to the heads of the different states and his discoureses
with his disciples will illustrate a little more his lofty ideals.
man of Jen has no enemy."
with the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that the
elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; Treat with
the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young
in the families of others shall be similarly treated."
carrying out of his kindly heart by a prince will suffice for. the love
and protection of all within the four seas, and if he does not carry it
out, he will not be able to protect his wife and children."
or benevolence is the most honourable dignity conferred by Heaven and the
quiet home in which man should dwell."
is the tranquil habitation of man, and righteouness is his straight
benevolent man loves others. The man of propriety shows respect to
or benevolence is man's heart, and Yi or righteousness is man's
subdues its opposite just as water subdues fire. Those, however, who
now-a-days practice benevolence do it as if with one cup of water they
could save a whole wagon-load of fuel which was on fire, and when the
flames were not extinguished, were to say that water cannot subdue fire.
This conduct, moreover, greatly encourages those who are not
The Works of Mencius.)
another of the greatest saints of China, elder than Confucius, was perhaps
the only Chinese sage who preferred to use the negative rather than the
positive phraseology in discourses on his principles. He would like to lay
stress more on the passive side of things rather than on the active side.
For instance, the Confucianists used to say : "the heart of Heaven is
Benevolence and Love," but he said :-"
and Earth are not benevolent ; they treat all created things like straw
dogs we use at sacrifices, The saint .is not benevolent; he looks upon the
people in the same way."
: Tao Te Ching.)
is eternally inactive, and yet it leaves nothing undone. If kings and
princes could but hold fast to this principle, all things would work out
their own reformation. If having reformed, they still desired reformation.
If having reformed, they still desired to act, I would have them
restrained by the simplicity of the nameless Tao, The simplicity of the
nameless Tao brings about an absence of desire. The absence of desire
gives tranquility. And thus the Empire will rectify itself."
was also perhaps the first sage, not only in China but in the world at
large, who openly and strongly opposed the use of violent force and
weapons and condemned war. He said :-
who serves a ruler of men in harmony with Tao will not subdue the Empire
by force of arms. Such a course is wont to bring retribution in its
troops have been quartered, brambles and thorns spring up. In the track of
great armies there must follow lean years."
good man wins a victory and then stops ; he will not go on to acts of
violence. Winning, he boasteth not; he will not triumph; he shows no
arrogance. He wins because he cannot choose; after his victory he will not
are instruments of ill omen, hateful to all creatures, Therefore he who
has Tao will have nothing to do with them."
: Tao Te Ching.)
went even so far as to say :-
violent and stiff-necked die not by a natural death."
best soldiers are not warlike; The best fighters do not lose their temper.
The greatest conquerers are those who overcome their enemies without
: To Te thing.)
great Chinese saint who preached the same gospel of Ahimsa or Non-violence
as Lao-Tzu and of Jen or Love as Confucius and Mencius but in a different
way from them PII, was MO-Tzu.
lived a little later than Lao-Tzu and Confucius but earlier than Mencius.
He was born about 500 B.C. The mode of his life, his ideals and works are
very similar to that of the ancient Indian Buddhist Bodhisattva
Ksitigarbha and that of Gandhiji. I therefore, have sometimes called MO-Tzu
the ancient Mahatma of China and Gandhiji the modern MO-Tzu of India.
Mencius described him by saying : "If there is benefit for the world,
he will, do it even by grinding away his body from crown to heel."
preached the gospel of non-violence and opposed war not only by words but
also by action. Once when he heard of the news that the Ch'u State was to
attack the Sung State, he immediately went from his native State Lu,
walked for ten days and ten nights, to see the King of Ch'u and persuaded
him to stop the aggression, and he succeeded in his efforts.
to MO-Tzu's philosophy, all people should only love one another, should
not fight and hurt anybody; this is the will of Heaven. He said :-
wishes people to love and benefit each other, and does not want people to
hate and hurt each other, Why ? Because He loves all and benefits
do we know that Heaven loves all and benefits ail? Because He possesses
all and feeds all."
to follow the will and wish of Heaven? That is to love all people and
thought that Non-Loving is the only cause of chaos and calamities; and
attacking a country and killing people are the greatest sins in the world.
Thus he said : -
were chaos and calamities caused? They were caused by people not loving
each other. A thief loves his own house and does not love the others'
house, he therefore steals the others' house for the benefit of his own
house. A murderer loves his own body and does not love the others' body,
he therefore murders the others' body for the benefit of his own body . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .. Officers, each loves his own family and does not
love others family, they therefore exploit others' families for the
benefit of their own families, The state kings, each loves his own country
and does not love others' countries, they therefore attack others'
countries for the benefit of their own countries . . . . . ........... If
all look upon others' houses as their own house, who will steal? If all
look upon others' body as his own body, who will murder? If all look upon
others' family as his own family, who will exploit? If all look upon
others' country as his own country, who will attack?
.,,.................... Therefore, when all love each other, there will be
peace; and when all hate each other, there will be chaos and
kill one man is called wrongful and must receive one death punishment.
Accordingly to kill ten men is ten times wrongful and must receive ten
death punishments, And to kill hundred men is hundred times wrongful and
must receive hundred deaths punishments . . . . . . . . . . . . Now the
greatest wrong is to attack a country but receive no punishment . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Is this right?"
are the greater ones among the evils of the world? They are those actions
of the big countries attacking the small countries, of the big families
disturbing the small families; and those deeds of the strong robbing the
weak, of the group of many oppressing the group of few, of the clever
deceiving the dull, of the high class scorning the low. These are the
greatest evils of the world.
foregoing paragraphs have dealt at sufficient length with the ideals and
messages of the Chinese saints and sages. Now, come to India again.
India, Mahavira Jaina and Sakyamuni Buddha preached almost the same gospel
in the same way. The fundamental principles and teachings of both of them,
such as the "Pancha Silani" or the five rules are nearly the
same. Those of Buddha are: first, non-killing; second, non-stealing;
third, non-adultery; fourth, non-lying; and fifth, non-drinking. And those
of Jaina are: first, speaking the-truth; second, living a pure and poor
life; third, non killing; fourth, non-stealing and fifth, observing -
Three Jewels (Triratna) of Jaina, namely: (1) Samyag-Darsana, right
conviction, faith and perception combined; (2) Samyag-Jnana, right
knowledge; (3) Samyak-Charitra, right conduct; are all included in the
Eightfold Noble Path (Aryamarga) of Buddha, namely, (1) Samyag Dristi,
right.views; (2) Samyak-samkalpa, right thought; (3) Samyag-Vat, right
speech; (4) Samyak Karmanta, right conduct; (5) Samyag-Ajiva, right
livelihood; (6) Samyag-Vyayama, right effort; (7) Samyak-smriti, right
remembrance and (6) Samyak-Samadhi, right meditation. Both of these sets
of items are right ways leading to the same goal Nirvana.
both, Mahavira Jaina and Sakyamuni Buddha believed in the doctrine of
Karma and Samsara. They both denied the omnipotent and omniscient God; and
believed that only one's own zeal and effort could work out one's own
similarity between the two religions, Jainism and Buddhism, is so great
that some Western savants mistook them for one and the same. The real
facts are that from the religious point of view they were indeed very
similar to each other, but from the metaphysical point of view they are
the most striking feature of the two religions is the same teaching, the
same gospel of Ahimsa in both its positive and negative senses; in its
negative sense of "absolute and perfect harmlessness towards all
living beings", and its positive sense of "absolute and eternal
happiness for all living beings."
Love is the indissoluble partner of Ahimsa as stated before, Truth is
another inseparable companion of Ahimsa. As Gandhiji once said:--
"Ahimsa, and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather a smooth unstamped metallic disc. Who can say, which is the obverse, and which the reverse ?"
(From Yeravada Mandir, 13)
its positive for, Ahimsa means the largest love, greatest charity. If I am
a follower of Ahimsa, I must love my enemy. I must apply the same rules to
the wrong-doer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my
wrong-doing father or son. This active Ahimsa necessarily includes truth
and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, 346.)
is the extreme limit of forgiveness. But forgiveness is the quality of the
brave. Ahimsa is impossible without fearlessness."
us now examine the root of Ahimsa. It is uttermost selflessness.
Selflessness means complete freedom from a regard for one's body. If man
desired to realise himself, i.e., Truth, he could do so only by being
completely detached from the body, i.e., by making all other beings feel
safe from him. That is the way of Ahimsa."
India, 4-1 l-1926, 348-385.)
what is the truth of Ahimsa? The truth is this, All living beings in the
world have the same life and the same soul. They belong to the same
mother, come from the same origin and will return to the same home. It is
like a tree of which the stem, branches, leaves, flower, and fruits all
came into being from one and the same roots. It is also like an ocean, of
which all individual beings are but its separate drops, We therefore
belong to all, and all belong to us. Thus the Chinese sages said :-
Earth and I were born at the same time and all
beings are one and the same
: Tsi- Wu Lun.)
things are one" and "Love all beings; Heaven and Earth are one
and the same body."
: Quoted by Chuan-Tzu.)
things are already complete in me."
: Books of Mencius.)
people are my brethren and all things are my fellows".
such, we therefore should love not only all people but all living beings.
We must treat all of them as ourselves and must not hurt any of them,
causing them pain, following the Golden Rule in the great Epics taught by
the ancient Indian sages: "Do naught to others which if done to thee
would cause thee pain." Jesus Christ and Confucius also gave us
exactly the same message, Jesus Christ said in His Sermon on the Mount:
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even as to
them." Confucius said in answer to a question as to "What is the
most simple way one may follow for his whole life time?" Put by his
disciple. "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to
Mahavira illustrated this message in an even more lucid way in the
following passages :--
man also, who still lives in the house, should in accordance with his
creed, be merciful to all living beings: we are bidden to be fair and
equal with all."
your fellow-creatures be not hostile that is the Law of Him who is rich in
beings hate pain: therefore one should not kill them."
man who insults another will long whirl in the cycle of births; to blame
others is not good."
cruel man does cruel acts and is thereby involved in other cruelties but
sinful undertaking will in the end bring about misery."
Kraipga, S.B.E. Series.)
happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures
as we regard our own self, and should therefore refrain from inflicting
upon others, such injury as would appear undesirable to us, if inflicted
is the reason why most Hindus, especially the Jainas and the Buddhists,
would refrain from taking any flesh for their food. The Jain Sadhus and
Sadhwis would even refrain from taking fresh vegetables, because they are
living, and to hurt any living thing is in Jainism a deadly sin. They go
even so far as to drink only boiled water or even breathe with a cloth
across their mouth to avoid insects and unseen Jivas inhabiting the air.
They would also sweep their path lest they may tread on insects. According
to them, under the law of Ahimsa, killing of vermin is also forbidden, so
that asylums have been established for decrepit animals rather than that
they should be put out of their misery by the destruction of life.
may think that the way which the Jains preach and follow is rather
impracticable and therefore unreasonable. This is a wrong notion. It may
be impracticable but is not absolutely unreasonable. It is impracticable
because humanity has not yet
progressed enough. When humanity has sufficiently developed and reached a
certain higher stage this law of Ahimsa should be and would be followed by
what has been said above we can have an outline of the spirit of Ahimsa in
Sine-Indian Culture, The facts related and the passages quoted are only
those which came readily to my mind and were easily available. Similar
facts and passages of the same kind and too numerous in Chinese and Indian
literature and scriptures to be quoted in full. It is even difficult to
make the best adequate selection of them. These facts and passages were
not merely religious ideals or ethical principles but actual and real
events in history. Looking over the histories of India and China, from the
very begining to the present day, these two countries have never attacked
or invaded any other country, never exploited any other people, though
they have often been attacked, invaded and exploited by other warlike
peoples. But those who invaded India and China were often assimilated and
absorbed by Indian and Chinese cultures, and have enjoyed with the Indian
and Chinese people their national wealth and harmony of life.
has been therefore my firm belief, and also my humble mission, that we
Chinese and Indians, the two greatest peoples of the world, should
culturally join together and mingle together to create, to establish and
promote a common culture, called Sino-Indian Culture, entirely based on
Ahimsa. By creating, establishing and promoting this common Sino-Indian
Culture, we shall further create, establish and promote a common World
Culture on the same basis. By creating, establishing and promoting a
common World Culture, we shall create and establish a great union of the
World. And by creating and establishing a great Union of the World, we
shall lead the world to real and permanent peace, love, harmony and
©1999 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
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