The Tang Emperor Keeps Faith and Holds a Great Mass,
Guanyin Appears to the Reincarnated Golden Cicada
Emperor Taizong decides to hold a mass for the rebirth of lonely souls in the underworld. He issues a notice summoning monks to come and hold a mass in Chang`an. The notice travels throughout the empire and local officials everywhere recommend that holy and venerable monks go to Chang’an for the service. By the end of the month monks arrive in Chang’an from all over the empire. Three court officials assemble all the monks at the altar among rivers and hills, and they go through them all one by one. Reverend Xuanzang is chosen from among all the monks. On hearing his name Taizong thinks deeply for a long time and then asks, “Is that the Xuanzang who is the son of Grand Secretary Chen Guangrui?” “Your subject is he,” replies Xuanzang with a kowtow.” Then you were indeed well chosen,” says the Emperor with satisfaction. The third day of the ninth month of that year is chosen an auspicious day on which to start the seven times seven days of the Great Land and Water Mass. This is all reported to the throne, and at the appointed time Taizong, the high civil and military officials, and the royal family go to the service to burn incense and listen to the preaching. On his dais Xuanzang reads through the Sutra to Give Life and Deliver the Dead. Guanyin, who has chosen Xuanzang to be the man who will fetch the Scriptures goes up to the dais, hits it, and shouts out at the top of her voice:
“Why are you only talking about the doctrine of the Little Vehicle, monk? Can you preach about the Great Vehicle?” “That doctrine of the Little Vehicle of yours will never bring the dead to rebirth; it’s only good enough for a vulgar sort of enlightenment. Now I have the Three Stores of the Buddha’s Law of the Great Vehicle
that will raise the dead up to Heaven, deliver sufferers from their torments, and free souls from the eternal coming and going.”
Xuanzang asks where the Buddha’s Law of the Great Vehicle is and Guanyin answers that it is in the Thunder Monastery in the land of India in the West, where the Buddha lives. The Emperor then asks those present in the monastery, “Who is willing to accept our commission to go to the Western Heaven to visit the Buddha and fetch the scriptures?” Before he has finished his question, the Master of the Law comes forward, bows low in greeting, and says, “Although I am lacking in ability, I would like to offer my humble efforts to fetch the true scriptures for Your Majesty and thus ensure the eternal security of your empire.” The Tang Emperor, who is overjoyed to hear this, goes forward to raise him to his feet. “Master,” he says, “if you are prepared to exert your loyalty and wisdom to the full, not fearing the length of the journey or the rivers and mountains you will have to cross, I shall make you my own sworn brother.” Xuanzang kowtows to thank him.
At court the next morning Taizong assembles his civil and military officials and writes out the document Xuanzang will need to fetch the scriptures, stamping it with the imperial seal that gives the right to travel freely. The Tang Emperor asks, “Brother, what is your courtesy name?” “As I am not of the world, I do not have one,” replies Xuanzang. “The Bodhisattva said that there are Three Stores of scriptures in the Western Heaven. You, brother, should take a courtesy name from this. What about Sanzang?” “Dear brother, when will you return from this journey to the Western Heaven?” “I shall be back in this country within three years,” Sanzang replies.
Great are the Three Jewels, and honoured be the Way;
The Four Kinds of Life and Six Paths are all explained.
Whoever knows and teaches the law of Man and Heaven,
Can pass on the lamp of wisdom when he sees his original nature.
It protects the body and makes it a world of gold,
Leaves body and mind pure as an ice-filled jar of jade.
Ever since Buddha made his cassock.