Atisha's Journey to Suvarnadvipa
by Gurugana Dharmakaranama

    Salutations to Arya Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara. 3 I, Bhikshu Dipankara Shrijnana (Atisha) set out on a visit to the guru Suvarnadvipa, a voyage that lasted for thirteen months. When five months had gone by, a son of Maheshvara, desiring to disrupt my bodhicitta, sent forth a tempest of contrary winds and a huge leviathan that blocked the way forward. Moreover, thunderbolts were hurled upon me from the sky. Whereupon, by fixing my contemplation on loving kindness and compassion, I calmed the tempest and the six great thunderbolts were seen forming a pattern in the sky. But still the leviathan blocked the way forward and, owing to the violence of the waves raised by that strong tempest, the ship trembled and leapt up like a banner whipped by the wind. Sometimes it leapt towards the sky and sometimes sank into the ocean as if thrown, so that the four great sails were blown away, even though four massive lumps of bronze had been cast down to the sea-bed as anchors. Then, as though great drums were being beaten in the four directions, there came a deafening noise; lightning and thunder terrified my trembling attendants. Again, while I was contemplating loving kindness and compassion, the pandita Bhumisara prayed thus to me, his guru:
    "Rise up, rise up O merciful guru.
    Assuredly you must have enemies on this earth,
    Else why was this dreadful phenomenon created by forces hostile to religion?
    Pray, out of your great compassion, calm the tempest.
    If it is destined that all beings are to be freed from the ocean of samsara
    Why are the evil ones allowed to afflict us so?
    Alas! See how the tempest blows and thunderbolts upon us!
    See the huge leviathan blocking our way forward! Pray save us from this danger.
    See how the ocean is blown by the wind.
    And the waves mount up to the sky!
    Dreadful is this thunderous din, dreadful this red lightning!
    Ah, how the ship shakes with the sea's buffeting,
    Swinging up towards the sky and hurtling down into the ocean troughs!
    Pray Lord, save us from this terror.
    Drawn by your knowledge unlimited as the sky,
    The hosts of attendants and guardians of religion flock to you like eagles.
    If these beings flying round in the sky are able to annihilate obstacles,
    Why do they not protect us in the face of obstacles today?
    How uncompassionate they are, those dwellers in solitary places!
    Now ye dakinis and guardians of the Dharma, who protect both tantric adepts and the others,
    Ye heroes and heroines, subduers of hostile forces and gods of wisdom,
    Ye gods who protect the virtuous and now encircle us on every side, here in this great ocean,
    Pray by your merciful powers, drive back our enemies!
    May the victorious tutelary deity, Red Bhagavan (Yama, god of death),
    Invincible to foes and surrounded by his fearful lictors,
    May the faithful attendants of the ten angry spirits,
    The protectors from eight fears, the devi of blessings and prosperity,
    All come to aid our holy guru! O exalted Buddha, lord of the Dharma.
    O spotless lord Avalokiteshvara,
    Ye who assuage the sufferings of all beings like holy rulers, father and son,
    The time has come to support your kindred by your great compassion !
    Rain down the pure water of your blessing continuously."
    Clearly I heard them uttering this marvellous prayer. Thereupon I transformed myself into the Bhagavan Yamaraj, with red complexion, mighty belly, darkish bristling hair, red eyes surveying the ten directions. Like me, other deities raised their weapons in fierce postures. Our right hands grasped vajras raised towards the sky; our left hands held nooses pointed in wrathful gestures (mudra). Thence we hurled the vajras, which, wheeling through the sky, crashed upon the mountains, smashing them to pieces, and then plunged into the depths of the golden earth. Simultaneously the great ocean was so shaken that the water boiled up red with the blood of the leviathan, whose bones were stripped of flesh. Then that creature appeared on the ship in the guise of a young girl of pale complexion. Having bowed down, she spoke these words with folded hands:
    "O, King of Wrath! possessed of mighty powers,
    Supremely merciful, sole protector of all beings,
    I am sick with terror. Now I pray you, spare me in your great compassion!"
    Then, taking a vajra-sceptre in my hands, I cried: "HUM! I am the master of all that lives. 4
    Mine is the power of great compassion and therefore have I not destroyed you.
    Henceforth to my disciples you shall not preach the heretic religion, nor the words of fortune-tellers or liar priests nor any false doctrine, for I am the master of your life!"
    Thereupon she spoke in a melodious voice, saying: "O greatly compassionate lord, listen to me.
    To the followers you convert, I shall never preach the false religion.
    Therefore, I beg you to bestow your affectionate regard on me, since my life is in your power." When she had spoken thus, a white-complexioned man appeared from near the galley and uttered the following stanzas:
    "Do not make the journey to the Himalayas, Nor sail in this ship, Balpo,
    To the islands of Tamradvipa or elsewhere. Cease your journeying!
    Put a halt to your voyage!"
    Then was heard a (divine) voice crying: "Droom Hri Yasha!" The tempest, waves, lightning and thunder all subsided and the great ship rode tranquilly. The ship's company regained their senses and engaged in joyful talk among themselves. Then I, the guru, still in the form of wrathful Yama, perambulated the deck and affixed the vajra-bolt to the vessel. Thereupon the great ship came to a standstill, motionless as an island; and, on going to discover the cause, I heard the laughing voices of some maidens and peered about to find them. Then, still determined and in the guise of the Wrathful King, I stepped into the ocean, which came only to my knees and drove the boat forward from east to west like a young man handling a wooden trough, the crown of my head lost among the clouds. From the sides of the ship, twenty-one maidens, 5 looking backwards, cried; "If we sisters had not been here, would you have been so powerful today?"
     To them I prayed:
     "Salutations to the Tara who gives protection from the eight fears!
     Salutations to the Tara who intensifies prosperity.
     Salutations to the Tara who blocks the gates leading to undesirable states.
     Salutations to the Tara who leads beings to the path of heaven.
     Always we have been protected by you and still we seek your refuge."
     To this prayer, the ladies replied:
     "If you had not been here, we should have gone to Savabhavana, the city of heretics to smash it to atoms,
     Then hearing the sound of your prayer, we stopped to discover who it was.
     Really you are the noblest among all beings.
     Therefore have we, too, come here to support you.
     Oh let not the power of this pale young girl wax stronger.
     It would lead to great disasters. Never let this youth out of this ship, Balpo, from now on."
     Then calling upon Bhumisara 6 they cried:
     "Reverend one, cast these flowers of the sky upon Savabhavana and we who belong to an order of beings strongly inclined (to religion) will accept bodhicitta and seek refuge in the Triple Gem."
     Hearing this, pandita Bhumisara, making a threatening sign with his fingers, picked up a vajra-bolt. and sent it wheeling through the sky to Savabhavana, the city of heretics in the north, where Devi Caracaka dwelt, obliterating the temple and the goddess. Again he cast a vajra-bolt upon the dwelling of the Maheshvara and smashed it to the ground. A part of its flash struck that king of heretics and destroyed half his body. Another flash of lightning fell upon the palace of the ruler of the Turuks and interrupted communications between the Mongols and Buddha Gaya for thirteen years. One flash of lightning fell on the black tent of the Shangshung King and demolished the devotees of Bonpo, except for one or two survivors who fled to the Himalaya mountains. One flash of lightning destroyed the black palace in the southern poisonous ocean and blocked the progress of the malady called cancer. One flash of lightning fell upon Lanka and smashed the palace of Lanka's cannibal demon king to pieces, whereupon the eating of human flesh ceased.
     Then Bhumisara uttered these words of pride:
     "I am the master of this earth.
     I shall smash the forces of evil to the ground.
     The Great Hero 7 is my master.
     King Hayagriva, who neighs fearfully in the land of Udyana, Destroy and pulverize Maheshvara into dust. And utterly demolish the power of the Bonpo's deities!
     OM Padma Takrita Vajra Krota Hayava Hulu Hulu HUM PHAT!"
     This utterance I heard. Then after a while, the Bhagavan Yamaraj vanished and I changed myself into a holy bhikshu. My followers fell into an ecstasy of rejoicing and thus they prayed:
     "You, the spiritual king, can be likened to the jewelled mountain which sprang forth miraculously and was not made by human hands.
     By the power of your glorious wisdom signs,
     Make us enjoy profound satisfaction.
     Excellent, O master of power!
     Go with us over this ocean,
     Lord, And, when danger threatens,
     We shall take shelter at your feet.
     Pray be sure to save us!"
     After that, for twenty-one days we dared not proceed, but when the, fear of danger was past, we raised the four great sails and drew up the bronze anchors into the ship. Then, sailing with a favourable wind day and night, we spent two and a half months continuously on the great ocean. Again, seven months (from the start of our voyage) the tempest assailed the bow of our ship, driving it back for a distance of about one day's voyage. However, the tempest subsided on our praying to the Triple Gem, the dakinis and protectors of Dharma. But, as no favourable wind blew, we had to stay in that place for a half month, which was due to our accumulation of evil karma. Again taking maitri, karuna and bodhicitta as the objects of our contemplation as before, we sailed with a good wind and thus reached land after sailing for another two months and twenty-six days.
     This ends the summary of how Atisha encountered difficulties in his quest for his guru and the Dharma and of how he defeated the Maheshvara of the ocean.
     Salutations to Arya Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara. After crossing the great ocean, we approached the six meditator disciples of guru Suvarnadvipa dwelling at the Golden Stupa of Sukhagati established by a Tibetan king. It was surrounded by the Suvarnadvipa forest in the north, by beautiful lotus in the south, by thick bamboo forest in the west and by crocodile country in the east. There we lived with them for fourteen days making detailed enquiries about guru Suvarnadvipa, such as to what degree of Dharma he had attained, which tradition the immaculate monk followed, how much knowledge of scriptures he possessed, the depth of his comprehension of that knowledge, and so on. All these enquiries were addressed to the meditators. The meditators narrated to us the life story of their guru without additions and exaggerations. Thereafter we felt as much joy as if we had attained the parthama bhumi (the ten stages of saintly perfection of a bodhisattava).
     The meditators, too, made enquiries about my life story from pandita Bhumisara and the others, who related how I had entered into the sangha after renouncing my kingdom, and how I had mastered the countless scriptures after attending innumerable gurus. When they described the vastness of the knowledge that their master possessed, the meditators asked: "Well, this great pandita is an Indian abbot known by the name of DipankaraShrijnana 8 is he not?" Bhumisara replied:
     "Yes, he bears the name of the second Buddha, well known on this earth.
     Highly honoured is he by all the fifty-two famous panditas.
     Admired is he by followers of the schools of Buddhism, both the Greater and Lesser (Mahayana and Hinayana).
     Well-famed indeed is the name of our great Indian abbot!"
     The meditators continued:
     "How excellent that the master of the earth has come here to this place.
     Hearing his sweet voice, we feel moved to see him.
     We are fortunate to be here on the day that the great scholar has arrived by ship.
     Were you not obstructed by mara on the way?
     Did you come to no harm from leviathans or storm?
     And, during the long voyage, did not shortage of food cause you trouble?"
     Bhumisara replied:
     "During our voyage of thirteen months, the great Maheshvara sent forth a leviathan to oppose us and raised a great tempest.
     By our immediately fixing our contemplation on loving kindness and compassion,
     Mara was subdued and all was well again.
     Sailing once more in our ship, our Lord entered the Akashakosh samadhi and all evil forces grew tranquil, so no fatigue has fallen upon his one hundred and twenty-five followers."
     The meditators, on hearing these words from pandita Bhumisara, came to me in great joy and uttered this humble discourse:
     "We heard of your reputation even from very far away.
     Now that we have the happiness to meet you, we are full of joy.
     Now, the great pandita has come here among us and we, so deep was the darkness of our ignorance, did not even know of your approach.
     Now with body, speech and mind, we pay you most humble respects."
     So saying they prostrated themselves at my feet.
     I, in return, having relinquished pride, paid homage to them.
     Again, the meditators enquired: "For what particular purpose has the great pandita come here?
     We are here to help you; so pray let us know."
     I replied: "I have come to the princely Suvarnadvipa,
     I have come to make full use of this noble endowment of a human body.
     Therefore, all of you must soon approach the guru and pray him to fulfil my desire."
     Thereupon, the meditators went to the noble guru Suvarnadvipa and said to him:
     "Pray listen to us, noble guru. Today, there has come to this island an Indian abbot called Dipamkara Shrijnana together with his one hundred and twenty-five followers. Sailing across the vast ocean for thirteen months, they subdued maras, heretics and the great Maheshvara by contemplating maitri and karuna. They arrived at the place where we stay with no sign of fatigue of body, speech or mind and we, having listened to his Dharma discourses for fourteen days, are filled with rejoicing and delight. Now, he desires to pay you a visit. The great pandita wishes to study the Prajnaparamita (the Wisdom Teachings) which have given birth to all the buddhas of the three periods, and also to develop bodhicitta and the accomplishments that stem therefrom to the stage of highest bliss. He desires, too, to practise the Mahayana and also other doctrines culled from the ocean of the guru's teaching, day and night continuously. Therefore, in your great compassion, grant him this opportunity."
     On hearing these words, guru Suvarnadvipa thus replied:
     "Excellent, the master of earth has come!
     Excellent, the son of the king has come!
     Excellent, the lord of all beings has come!
     Excellent, the great hero has come!
     Excellent, he has arrived with his followers!
     Excellent, he has overcome all obstacles!
     Excellent, he has won a vast reputation!
     Excellent, he has come in full sincerity!
     O monks, put on your robes and prepare the reception of this noble one."
     Presently five hundred and thirty-five monks clad in three robes of similar color stood holding holy water vases and metal cymbals, looking as impressive as arhants. As they were accompanied by sixty-two novices, led by guru Suvarnadvipa, they totalled five hundred and ninety-seven persons who had renounced the world. From far away, we could see them standing in line to receive us.
     Thereupon we experienced the utmost pleasure, excitement and rejoicing as if we were in the presence of the exalted Buddha encircled by arhants. At once I requested four upasakas to unpack the articles loaded on the backs of two elephants. Among us to pay honor to the guru were panditas well versed in the five sciences and bhikshus expert in the Tripitaka. All these bhikshus wore slippers and were clad in three robes excellently dyed with (the juice of) crocus of Kashmir, that being the admirable costume of the Mahasangika school of Buddhism. Auspiciously, each carried a standard iron bowl in good condition, a cylindrical copper pot fashioned in Magadha and used as a measuring jug with a capacity of one drona, and a metal wand, all as decreed by the exalted Buddha, as well as other beautifully fashioned ritual objects. All the panditas humbly wore their panditas' caps and wielded white fans. Of great panditas, there were Sukhagati, Dharmamittra, Kasalasambhava, Shuravajra, Devamati, Ravigupta, Bhumisara, Jannasara, Veghaindra, Danashrimittra, Prajabhadra, Suchandra, Samantabhadra, Guptasara, Anantamati, Samadravici, Rajsemeru and Shuralalita, among others; Bhikshu Jannabadra and other experts on the Tripitaka, one hundred and sixty-eight bhikshus, thirteen shamaneras and four other great bhikshus totalling one hundred and eighty-five in all, followed after me. So spaced that they were neither too close to nor too far from one another, they walked in line like a colourful rainbow to the place where Guru Suvarnadvipa dwelt.
     Devas, on seeing this display of the three perfections, namely, grace, glory and wealth, showered down a rain of flowers. Although I had had a spiritual relationship with that guru since time immemorial, yet, being there to receive Dharma exhortations which I had not heard before, and for the sake of the panditas who followed after me, I prostrated myself at his feet. Then the followers of the guru perceived that all my disciples were at one in observing the practices and holding right views, since they had all been taught by me. The disciples of guru Suvarnadvipa, observing all these things, were overcome by the glory of my great followers and in turn prostrated themselves to us.
     From the time of my studying there, I was honoured by all both in Tibet and in India. At the time of my visit, I possessed a jewelled vase, its lower half a great bulb flattened at the bottom, its neck long and so shaped that water came out in a straight line from the spout. This jewelled vase, which was completely transparent so that all its contents could be seen from outside, I now filled with precious objects—gold, silver, pearls, coral and malachite—and offered it to the guru. My followers, too, offered a gold coin to each of the disciples of guru Suvarnadvipa.
     Then the noble guru Suvarnadvipa spoke in verse about the difficulties experienced on my way, saying:
     "Do you faithfully practise vinaya, reverend sir?
     Do you hold to shila, reverend sir?
     Do you cling to the practice of mahakaruna, reverend sir?
     Have you come here as a king of religion?
     I have heard of your fame from far away
     And, on meeting you today, how can we not rejoice at your coming, reverend sir?
     In performing your extensive works in the holy land of India for the sake of all beings,
     Did you protect them all by your great compassion without partiality, reverend sir?
     Have you striven well (for religion) since becoming a pandita, reverend sir?
     Did many gurus not protect you, reverend sir?
     Did many panditas not take responsibilities to bestow the Dharma on you, reverend sir?
     Today it is fortunate that you have arrived at this place. O lord of beings, I have heard that for thirteen months you sailed across the ocean.
     How truly marvellous that you overcame such baffling difficulties!
     I have heard that you subdued the Maheshvara.
     How wonderfully you have made your name resound!
     It is amazing that you overcame your fears
     pandita, having travelled from so far away,
     Are you not exhausted both in mind and body?
     Were no obstacles created by the evil powers?
     And did you not feel dismayed, sir?
     How auspicious is this day of the great pandita's arrival!
     Some of my disciples are meditating in scattered places,
     But the rest of us have come here to receive you.
     How fortunate we are to meet you here!
     Let us proceed now to the monastery,
     Where many are gathered in the grove.
     The circumstances of your journey we shall discuss later.
     Come, let us now converse on spiritual matters."
     To this I replied: "Yes, reverend one,
     I have come from the central part of India.
     And, in accordance with the Dharma, I have tackled obstacles,
     Thanks to the unceasing power conferred by the Triple Gem.
     The black Maheshvara was defeated owing to his accumulation of evil karma.
     We have preserved our three endowments of body, speech and mind from the powers of evil and arrived well and unfatigued.
     Do you dwell here in good health, unwearied by your efforts for the benefit of beings, sir? Do you dwell serenely here, discoursing on the inimitable Dharma, sir?
     Do you dwell here with an ever-widening ocean of wisdom as you subdue the hordes of mara, sir?
     I have heard that you, O guru, are a master of religion dwelling here in Suvarnadvipa and preaching to all beings day and night with the deepest loving-kindness and compassion.
     Therefore, I pray you, O omniscient one, be my guru.
     With your knowledge infinite as the sky,
     I pray you to increase my wisdom." Thus I besought him.
     "How fortunate that the noble man has come!
     We, too, shall take pleasure in hearing the Dharma with you," cried the monks with one voice.
     Then our whole company proceeded to the grove, where I paid respect to an aged mahathera bhikshu who was preaching Dharma to some disciples there. At that time he made no return to my gesture of respect. Afterwards, when I was seated in the chamber of the guru in the Golden Umbrella Palace, that mahathera, having finished preaching, approached and, paying me respect, spoke thus:
     "Fortunate are we that the noble man has come here! My failure to welcome you just now was not due to pride; it was because I remembered that the best way to please a noble one is to continue one's religious works."
     On hearing these words, I replied with joy: "It is admirable that you have so well understood both the Dharma and (the nature of the) person (you addressed)." Then, when we were well settled in our quarters, the guru preached to us, an abhisamayalankara course of fifteen sessions, giving us a lucid exposition on the law of dependent origination.
     After that, I spent day and night in listening, pondering, and contemplating in the Palace of the Silvery Umbrella.
     Thus ends the story of how Atisha went to Suvarnadvipa and met the guru.

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