SANKASYA. BUDDHA'S ASCENT TO AND DESCENT FROM THE TRAYASTRIMSAS HEAVEN, AND OTHER LEGENDS.
From this they proceeded south-east for eighteen yojanas, and found themselves in a kingdom called Sankasya, 1 at the place where Buddha came down, after ascending to the Trayastrimsas heaven, 2 and there preaching for three months his Law for the benefit of his mother. 3 Buddha had gone up to this heaven by his supernatural power, 4 without letting his disciples know; but seven days before the completion (of the three months) he laid aside his invisibility, 4 and Anuruddha, 5 with his heavenly eyes, 5 saw the World-honoured one, and immediately said to the honoured one, the great Mugalan, "Do you go and salute the World-honoured one." Mugalan forthwith went, and with head and face did homage at (Buddha's) feet. They then saluted and questioned each other, and when this was over, Buddha said to Mugalan, "Seven days after this I will go down to Jambudvipa;" and thereupon Mugalan returned. At this time the great kings of eight countries with their ministers and people, not having seen Buddha for a long time, were all thirstily looking up for him, and had collected in clouds in this kingdom to wait for the World-honoured one.
Then the bhikshuni Utpala 6 thought in her heart, "To-day the kings, with their ministers and people, will all be meeting (and welcoming) Buddha. I am (but) a woman; how shall I succeed in being the first to see him?" 7 Buddha immediately, by his spirit-like power, changed her into the appearance of a holy Chakravartti 8 king, and she was the foremost of all in doing reverence to him.
As Buddha descended from his position aloft in the Trayastrimsas heaven, when he was coming down, there were made to appear three flights of precious steps. Buddha was on the middle flight, the steps of which were composed of the seven precious substances. The king of Brahma-loka 9 also made a flight of silver steps appear on the right side, (where he was seen) attending with a white chowry in his hand. Sakra, Ruler of Devas, made (a flight of) steps of purple gold on the left side, (where he was seen) attending and holding an umbrella of the seven precious substances. An innumerable multitude of the devas followed Buddha in his descent. When he was come down, the three flights all disappeared in the ground, excepting seven steps, which continued to be visible. Afterwards king Asoka, wishing to know where their ends rested, sent men to dig and see. They went down to the yellow springs 10 without reaching the bottom of the steps, and from this the king received an increase to his reverence and faith, and built a vihara over the steps, with a standing image, sixteen cubits in height, right over the middle flight. Behind the vihara he erected a stone pillar, about fifty cubits high, 11 with a lion on the top of it. 12 Let into the pillar, on each of its four sides, 13 there is an image of Buddha, inside and out 14 shining and transparent, and pure as it were of /lapis lazuli/. Some teachers of another doctrine 15 once disputed with the Sramanas about (the right to) this as a place of residence, and the latter were having the worst of the argument, when they took an oath on both sides on the condition that, if the place did indeed belong to the Sramanas, there should be some marvellous attestation of it. When these words had been spoken, the lion on the top gave a great roar, thus giving the proof; on which their opponents were frightened, bowed to the decision, and withdrew.
Through Buddha having for three months partaken of the food of heaven, his body emitted a heavenly fragrance, unlike that of an ordinary man. He went immediately and bathed; and afterwards, at the spot where he did so, a bathing-house was built, which is still existing. At the place where the bhikshuni Utpala was the first to do reverence to Buddha, a tope has now been built.
At the places where Buddha, when he was in the world, cut his hair and nails, topes are erected; and where the three Buddhas 16 that preceded Sakyamuni Buddha and he himself sat; where they walked, 17 and where images of their persons were made. At all these places topes were made, and are still existing. At the place where Sakra, Ruler of the Devas, and the king of the Brahma-loka followed Buddha down (from the Trayastrimsas heaven) they have also raised a tope.
At this place the monks and nuns may be a thousand, who all receive their food from the common store, and pursue their studies, some of the mahayana and some of the hinayana. Where they live, there is a white-eared dragon, which acts the part of danapati to the community of these monks, causing abundant harvests in the country, and the enriching rains to come in season, without the occurrence of any calamities, so that the monks enjoy their repose and ease. In gratitude for its kindness, they have made for it a dragon-house, with a carpet for it to sit on, and appointed for it a diet of blessing, which they present for its nourishment. Every day they set apart three of their number to go to its house, and eat there. Whenever the summer retreat is ended, the dragon straightway changes its form, and appears as a small snake, 18 with white spots at the side of its ears. As soon as the monks recognise it, they fill a copper vessel with cream, into which they put the creature, and then carry it round from the one who has the highest seat (at their tables) to him who has the lowest, when it appears as if saluting them. When it has been taken round, immediately it disappeared; and every year it thus comes forth once. The country is very productive, and the people are prosperous, and happy beyond comparison. When people of other countries come to it, they are exceedingly attentive to them all, and supply them with what they need.
Fifty yojanas north-west from the monastery there is another, called "The Great Heap." 19 Great Heap was the name of a wicked demon, who was converted by Buddha, and men subsequently at this place reared a vihara. When it was being made over to an Arhat by pouring water on his hands, 20 some drops fell on the ground. They are still on the spot, and however they may be brushed away and removed, they continue to be visible, and cannot be made to disappear.
At this place there is also a tope to Buddha, where a good spirit constantly keeps (all about it) swept and watered, without any labour of man being required. A king of corrupt views once said, "Since you are able to do this, I will lead a multitude of troops and reside there till the dirt and filth has increased and accumulated, and (see) whether you can cleanse it away or not." The spirit thereupon raised a great wind, which blew (the filth away), and made the place pure.
At this place there are a hundred small topes, at which a man may keep counting a whole day without being able to know (their exact number). If he be firmly bent on knowing it, he will place a man by the side of each tope. When this is done, proceeding to count the number of men, whether they be many or few, he will not get to know (the number). 21
There is a monastery, containing perhaps 600 or 700 monks, in which there is a place where a Pratyeka Buddha used to take his food. The nirvana ground (where he was burned 22 after death) is as large as a carriage wheel; and while grass grows all around, on this spot there is none. The ground also where he dried his clothes produces no grass, but the impression of them, where they lay on it, continues to the present day.