Lịch sử 18 vị La-hán trong Phật Giáo Trung
Từ 16 vị La-hán diễn biến thành 18 vị
Thích Phước Sơn
Sự tích 16 vị La-hán được chép trong sách Pháp Trụ
Ký. Sách này do vị Đại A-la-hán Nan Đề Mật Đa La (Nandimitra) trước
thuật và Tam Tạng Pháp sư Huyền Trang (600-664) dịch ra chữ Hán.
Ngài Nan Đề Mật Đa La (còn có tên là Khánh Hữu) người Tích Lan, ra đời
khoảng năm 800 năm sau Phật Niết bàn. Theo Pháp Trụ Ký (Fachu-chi), thì
Ngài chỉ lược thuật lại kinh Pháp Trụ Ký do Phật thuyết giảng mà thôi.
Sách này trình bày danh tánh, trú xứ và sứ mệnh của 16 vị La-hán. Các
Ngài đã đạt được Tam minh, Lục thông và Bát giải thoát, vâng thừa giáo
chỉ của Phật, kéo dài thọ mạng, trụ tại thế gian tại thế gian để hộ trì
chánh pháp và làm lợi lạc quần sanh. Mỗi khi các tự viện tổ chức lễ hội
khánh thành, làm phúc, cúng dường trai Tăng, các Ngài cùng với quyến
thuộc thường vận dụng thần thông đến để chứng minh, tham dự, nhưng chúng
ta không thể nào thấy được. Hiện nay, tuổi thọ trung bình của loài người
là 80 tuổi. Tuổi thọ này - theo Pháp Trụ Ký - sẽ giảm dần còn 10 tuổi là
giai đoạn cuối cùng của kiếp giảm. Sau đó, sang giai đoạn kiếp tăng,
tuổi thọ con người từ 10 tuổi tăng dần đến 70000 tuổi. Bấy giờ các Ngài
sẽ chấm dứt nhiệm vụ và nhập Niết bàn. (Bởi vì khi tuổi thọ loài người
đến 80000 tuổi thì đức Phật Di Lạc sẽ ra đời).
Danh tánh và trú xứ của các
Ngài như sau:
1. Tân Đâu Lô Bạt La Đọa Xà (S: Pindolabharadvàja), vị tôn giả này cùng
1000 vị A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú tại Tây Ngưu Hóa châu.
2. Ca Nặc Ca Phạt Sa (S: Kanakavatsa), vị tôn giả này cùng với 500 vị
A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú tại phương Bắc nước Ca Thấp Di La.
3. Ca Nặc Ca Bạt Ly Đọa Xà (S: Kanakabharadvàja), vị tôn giả này cùng
600 vị A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú tại Đông Thắng Thân châu.
4. Tô Tân Đà (S: Subinda), vị tôn giả này cùng với 700 vị A-la-hán, phần
lớn cư trú tại Bắc Cu Lô châu.
5. Nặc Cự La (S: Nakula), vị tôn giả này cùng 800 vị A-la-hán phần lớn
cư trú tại Nam Thiệm Bộ châu.
6. Bạt Đa La (S: Bhadra), vị tôn giả này cùng 800 vi A-la-hán, phần lớn
cư trú tại Đam Một La châu.
7. Ca Lý Ca (S: Kàlika), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1000 vị A-la-hán, phần
lớn cư trú tại Tăng Già Trà châu.
8. Phạt Xà La Phất Đa La (S: Vajraputra), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1100
vị A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú tại Bát Thứ Noa châu.
9. Thú Bát Ca (S: Jìvaka), vị tôn giả này cùng với 900 vị A-la-hán, phần
lớn cư trú tại trong núi Hương Túy.
10. Bán Thác Ca (S: Panthaka), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1300 vị A-la-hán
cư trú tại cõi trời 33.
11. La Hỗ La (S: Ràhula), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1100 vị A-la-hán, phần
lớn cư trú tại Tất Lợi Dương Cù châu.
12. Ma Già Tê Na (S: Nàgasena), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1200 vị
A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú tại núi Bán Độ Ba.
13. Nhân Yết Đà (S: Angala), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1300 vị A Lan Hán,
phần lớn cư trú tại trong núi Quảng Hiếp.
14. Phạt Na Bà Tư (S: Vanavàsin), vị tôn giả này cùng 400 vị A-la-hán,
phần lớn cư trú tại trong núi Khả Trụ.
15. A Thị Đa (S: Ajita), vị tôn giả này cùng với 1500 vị A-la-hán, phần
lớn cư trú tại trong núi Thứu Phong.
16. Chú Trà Bán Thác Ca (S: Cùdapanthaka), vị tôn giả này cùng với 600
vị A-la-hán, phần lớn cư trú trong núi Trì Trục.
Sau khi Pháp Trụ ký được dịch sang chữ Hán, Thiền sư Quán Hưu (832-912),
vốn là một họa sĩ tài ba đã vẽ ra hình ảnh 16 vị A-la-hán. Tương truyền,
nhân Thiền sư nằm mơ cảm ứng thấy được hình ảnh của các Ngài rồi vẽ lại.
Những hình ảnh này ngày nay người ta còn tìm thấy tàng trữ nơi vách
tường Thiên Phật động tại Đôn Hoàng thuộc tỉnh Cam Túc, Trung Quốc. Sau
Thiền sư Quán Hưu còn có hoạ sĩ Pháp Nguyện, Pháp Cảnh và Tăng Diệu cũng
chuyên vẽ về các vị La-hán.
Vì sao 16 vị La-hán trở thành
Từ khi có hình ảnh 16 vị La-hán, các chùa thường tôn trí hình ảnh của
các Ngài, và từ con số 16 người ta thêm tôn giả Khánh Hữu thành 17 và
tôn giả Tân Đầu Lô thành 18 (nhưng không biết ai là tác giả đầu tiên của
con số 18 này).
Thật ra tôn giả Khánh Hữu (tên dịch nghĩa ra chữ Hán) vốn là Nan Đề Mật
Đa La (tên phiên âm từ chữ Phạn), người đã thuyết minh sách Pháp Trụ Ký;
còn Tân Đầu Lô chính là Tân Đầu Lô Bạt La Đọa Xa2, vị La-hán thứ nhất
trong 16 vị. Do khômg am tường kinh điển và không hiểu tiếng Phạn mà
thành lầm lẫn như thế!
Về sau, Sa môn Giáp Phạm và Đại thi hào Tô Đông Pha (1036-1101) dựa vào
con số 18 này mà làm ra 18 bài văn ca tụng. Mỗi bài đều có đề tên một vị
La-hán. Rồi họa sĩ Trương Huyền lại dựa vào 18 bài văn ca tụng của Tô
Thức mà tạc tượng 18 vị La-hán, nhưng lại thay hai vị 17 và 18 bằng tôn
giả Ca Diếp và Quân Đề Bát Thán. Do thế mà từ con số 16 lần hồi trở
thành con số 18. Từ đời Nguyên trở đi, tại Trung Quốc cũng như Việt Nam,
con số 18 này được mọi người mặc nhiên chính thức công nhận, con số 16
chỉ còn lưu giữ trong sổ sách mà thôi. Nhưng, tại Tây Tạng, ngoài 16 vị
trên, người ta thêm Đạt Ma Đa La và Bố Đại Hòa Thượng; hoặc thêm hai tôn
giả Hoàng Long và Phục Hổ, hoặc thêm Ma Da Phu nhân và Di Lặc để thành
ra 18 vị.
Ngoài ra, còn có hai sự tích
khác về 18 vị La-hán
1. Sự tích thứ nhất được kể trong tập sách viết bằng chữ Hán của thầy
Giáo thọ Hoằng Khai, trụ trì chùa Càn An, tỉnh Bình Định, vào năm Tự Đức
thứ tư (1851). Theo sách này thì nước Triệu có nàng công chúa tên là Hy
Đạt, vốn rất chí thành mộ đạo, nàng chuyên niệm danh hiệu đức Phật A Di
Đà. Năm 15 tuổi, nàng ăn một đóa hoa sen vàng rồi hoài thai đến 6 năm
mới sinh ra 18 đồng tử. Các đồng tử ấy về sau được đức Quan Âm hóa độ và
thọ ký để họ trở thành 18 vị La-hán.
Nội dung sự tích này khá lý thú, tương đối có giá trị về mặt văn chương,
nhưng cốt truyện lại pha trộn tinh thần Phật, Khổng, Lão nên ít có giá
trị về mặt lịch sử.
2. Sự tích thứ hai: tương truyền ngày xưa tại Trung Quốc có 18 tên tướng
cướp rất hung hãn. Về sau họ hồi tâm cải tà quy chánh, nương theo Phật
pháp tu hành và đắc quả A-la-hán.
Sự tích này tương đối có ý nghĩa, nhưng lại có tính cách huyền thoại, do
đó ít được người ta chấp nhận.
- Phật Quang Đại
Tư Điển, tr.359, 394, 4791, 6787;
- Phật học Đại
Tư Điển, tr. 2844-2845;
- Pháp Trụ Ký,
Hán tạng tập 49 tr.12;
- Phật Tổ Thống
Kỷ, quyển 33, Hán tạng tập 49, tr. 319;
- Phật Thuyết Di
Lặc Hạ Sanh Kinh, Hán tạng tập 14, tr.421
The Eighteen Lohans of Chinese Buddhist Temples.
of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1898.04, pp.329--347
you enter the chief hall of a Buddhist temple in China you cannot fail
to notice two rows of large yellow figures -- one along the east and the
other along the west wall. These figures, which are usually numbered and
labelled, are called the Eighteen Lohan, and if you ask your guide what
they are he will probably reply "belong jess." This answer may not be
deemed satisfactory, but further inquiry will only elicit the
information that these are images of Buddha's eighteen great disciples.
The names, however, show that this information is not quite correct,
some of them being unknown to the original Buddhist canon. If you go on
to Korea and visit the curious old Buddhist temples in that country, you
will find that Buddha's Hall has rows of similar figures, but sixteen in
number. If you continue your journey and visit Japan, you will find
there also Sixteen Rakan lining the side walls of the Buddhist temples.
Lohan and Rakan are for A-lo-han, the Chinese way of expressing the
Sanskrit word Arhan for Arhat. Suppose you could go back and travel to
Lhassa, there also you would find Sixteen Arhats, or as they are called
there, Sthaviras, in the Chief Hall of Buddha's temples. Tibet, however,
seems to have also its Eighteen Lohan, imported from China apparently in
When we examine the Buddhist literature preserved in the libraries of
the great monasteries in China, we find in it mention of only sixteen
great Arhats, the number eighteen being apparently unknown even to the
comparatively modern native treatises. As for the pictures and images of
these sixteen, they are mainly derived from the works of one or two
painters of the T'ang dynasty. About the year 880 an artist named Kuan
Hsiu made pictures of the Sixteen Lohan, which were given to a Buddhist
monastery near Ch'ien-t'ang in the province of Chekiang. These became
celebrated, and were preserved with great care and treated with
ceremonious respect. In the reign of Kien-lung of the present dynasty an
official, while on duty in the district, had copies of these pictures
made by competent artists and sent them to the emperor. His Majesty had
further copies made, and ordered them to be printed and distributed. It
was found that wrong names had been given to several of the figures, so
the emperor ordered that all the names should be compared with the
original and correctly transcribed according to the new system. But the
question remains, who are these Arhats? and the answer is to be found in
the Buddhist scriptures. They are patrons and guardians of Sakyamuni
Buddha's system of religion and its adherents, lay and clerical.
An early mention of spiritual protectors of Buddha's religion after his
decease is found in the "Sutra of Sari putra's Questions," No. 1,152 in
Mr. Bunyio Nanjio's Catalogue. We do not know when or by whom this book
was translated or when it Teas brought to China, but its translation has
been referred to the fourth century of our era. In this treatise the
Buddha is represented as com mitting his religion to the protection of
Sakra and the four Devarajas. He also entrusts the propagation of his
system after his death to four "Great Bhikshus." The names of these are
given as Mahakasyapa, Pindola, Kun te-pan-t'an, and Rahula. These men
were to remain in existence and not experience final Nirvana until the
advent of Maitreya as Buddha. Three of these names are well known, and
the unknown one is apparently the Kun-t'ou p'o-han of the "
Tseng-i-a-han-ching " (ch. 23). These characters evidently represent the
Pali name Kundo-vahan, which means Mungoose-bearing, a name to be
remembered in connection with what follows. The composition of this
sutra may probably be referred to the end of the last century B.C. Then
in a sastra, the name of which is restored as "
Arya-Vasumitra-bodhisattva- sangiti-sastra," Nanjio, No. 1,289, we find
mention of sixteen "Brahmans" over whom Buddha is lord. These are
probably the Sixteen Arhats, although a note added to the text gives the
name of the second one as Ajita- Maitreya. This treatise, which was
probably composed in the first century of our era, was translated in the
In another treatise called the "Ju-ta-sheng-lun," the "
Mahayanavataraka-sastra" of Nanjio, No. 1,243, we have further mention
of guardians of Buddhism. Here we have ninety-nine lakhs of " great
arhats" and also sixteen called "Great Sravakas." Of these only two
names are given, Pindola and Rahula, the reader being supposed to be
acquainted with the sutras from which the author quotes. These guardians
of Buddha's religion are dispersed over the world, the names of some of
their spheres being given. Among these are Purva-Videha, the Wheat
(Godhuma) region, the Chestnut (Priyangu) region, the Lion (Simha)
region, and the "Bhadrika place." This sastra was corn posed by the
learned Buddhist Sthiremati, and translated into Chinese by Tao-t'ai and
others about A.D. 400.
The test, however, from which all our knowledge of the names of the
Sixteen Arhats or Lohan of Buddhist temples in China, Japan, and Korea
may be said to be derived is that entitled "
Ta-A-lo-han-Nan-t'i-mi-to-lo-so-shuo-fachu-chi." This means "The record
of the duration of the law, spoken by the great Arhat Nandimitra." The
treatise, which was translated by the celebrated Yuan-chuang (Hiouen
Thsang), is No. 1,466 in Nanjio's Catalogue. The name of the author is
not known, but he must have lived long after the time of Nandimitra, and
apparently he was not a native of that arhat's country. There seems to
have been also a previous translation of the same or a similar original,
and to it Yuan-chuang and other writers appear to have been indebted.
The book begins with the statement that according to tradition within
800 years from Buddha's decease there was an arhat named Nandimitra at
the capital of King Sheng-chun in the Chih-shih-tzu country. Nanjio took
Sheng-chun to be Prasenajit and Chih-shih-tzu to be Ceylon according to
the Chinese notes in the " Hsi-yu-chi." But Prasenajit's capital was
Sravasti in Kosala, and we do not find any king with that name in the
annals of Ceylon. The " Chih-shih-tzu " country of this passage is
probably the Shih-tzu-kuo which we know from the 16th chapter of the "
Tseng-i-a-han-ching " was in the Vrijjian territory. The original home
of the Aryan immigrants into Ceylon was not far from this district, and
the name Simhala-dvipa may have been derived from this Lion-country. The
words Sheng-Chun may stand for either Prasenajit or Jayasena. (1)
The sutra then proceeds to narrate how the great Arhat Nandimitra
answered the questions of his perplexed and desponding congregation
about the possible continued existence of Buddhism in the world. He
tells his hearers that the Buddha when about to die entrusted his
religion to sixteen great Arhats. These men are to watch over and care
for the religious welfare of the lay-believers and generally protect the
spiritual interests of Buddhism. They are to remain in existence all the
long time until Maitreya appears as Buddha and brings in a new system.
Then, according to Nandimitra, the Sixteen Arhats will collect all the
relics of Sakyamuni and build over them a magnificent tope. When this is
finished they will pay their last worship to the relics, rising in the
air and doing pradakshina to the tope. Then they will enter an igneous
ecstasy and so vanish in remainderless nirvana. At his hearers' request
Nandimitra gives the names of these Protectors of the Faith, their homes
or spheres of action, and the numbers of their retinues. These Arhats
are the Sixteen Rakan of the Japanese and Koreans and constitute sixteen
of the Eighteen Lohan of the Chinese. They have incense burnt before
their images, but generally speaking they are not worshipped or
consulted like the gods and P'usas of the temples.
The names of the Sixteen Arhats or Lohan, together with their residences
and retinues, are now given according to this sutra of the Duration of
the Law and in the order in which that work gives them. Variations as to
the names which have been noticed in other lists and in different
temples are also given. But as to the pictures and images of the Sixteen
we must remember that these, whether merely works of art or consecrated
to religion, are not supposed to be faithful representations of the men
indicated by the names attached. The pictures and images are to be taken
merely as symbols or fanciful creations. (2)
Pindola the Bharadvaja.
He has a retinue of 1,000 arhats, and his place is the Godhanga region
in the west. Sometimes the name of this arhat is transcribed Pin-tou-lo,
and sometimes he is styled Bharadvaja simply. Pindola was one of
Buddha's great disciples, became an arhat, and was distinguished as a
successful disputant and defender of orthodoxy, with a voice like the
roar of a lion. (3) But he had a weakness for exhibiting his magical
powers before all sorts of people, and sometimes for unworthy objects.
On one occasion, according to the Pali and other editions of the Vinaya,
in order to show his superhuman powers, he rose in the air, took a
sandal-wood bowl off a very high pole, and floated about with it for a
time over the heads of an admiring crowd. This proceeding brought a
severe rebuke from the Master, and was the occasion of a rule
prohibiting the use of sandal-wood bowls. (4) The Buddha also on this
occasion announced to Pindola that he was not to "take Nirvana," but was
to remain in existence protect Buddha's system until the coming of
Maitreya. (5) We read also of Pindola working a miracle with a hill in
order to go to a breakfast given by Sudatta's wife, and some make this
to be the occasion on which Buddha rebuked him and told him he was to
remain in existence to foster Buddhism until the advent of Maitreya to
bring in a new system. (6) But Pindola sometimes wrought miracles for
good purposes, and his exhibition of magical powers at Rajagriha led to
the conversion of an unbelieving lady. (7)
Pindola has been living ever since Buddha's time, and he has appeared on
several occasions to pious workers for Buddhism. In India it was once
the custom for lay believers when giving an entertainment to the
Buddhist monks to " invite Pindola." The arhat could not be seen, but
the door was left open for him, and it was known by the appearance of
the flowers or the condition of the mat reserved for him whether he had
been present. (8) When King Asoka summoned his great assembly Pindola
was living on the Gandhamali (or Gandhamadana) mountain with a company
of arhats 60,000 in number. Called to the assembly, he flew swan-like to
the place of meeting, and on account of his undoubted seniority he was
chosen president. He was then a very old man with white hair and long
eyebrows, which he had to hold back with his hands in order to see." (9)
As he often has very long eyebrows in his pictures and images, the
Chinese have come to know him popularly as the "Ch'ang-mei-seng" or
"Long-eyebrowed Monk." But Lohans with other names also have this
characteristic in the fancy portraits which adorn temples and pictures.
In the seventh century Pindola came to China and appeared to Tao-hsuan,
the great Vinaya doctor and signified his approval of the work which
that zealous monk had been doing. (10)
We find the name Pindola explained in Chinese com mentaries as meaning
Pu-tung or Unmoved, but this cannot have been intended for a translation
of the word. The Tibetans give "Alms-receiver" as the equivalent,
connecting the name with pinda, but it may have been derived from the
name of a place transcribed Pin-t'ou in Chinese. This was a town or
village in the Kosala country in Buddha's time. In a far-back existence
Pindola had been a bad son and a cruel man, and owing to his bad Karma
he had to suffer in hell for a very long period. Here his food was
"tiles and stones," and even when he was born to be a pious arhat of
wonderful powers, he retained a tendency to live on "tiles and stones."
(11) We cannot wonder that he was thin and ribbed.
Some pictures and images represent Pindola sitting and holding a book in
one hand and his alms-bowl in the other; others have him holding a book
reverently in both hands; and sometimes we find him with an open book on
one knee and a mendicant's staff at his side.
2. Ka-no-ka-Fa-tso, Kanaka
This arhat is appointed to Kashmir with a retinue of 500 other arhats.
He was originally a disciple of Buddha, and it was said of him that he
comprehended all systems good and bad. (12) The Tibetans, in their usual
manner, have translated the name literally "Gold calf."
Karaka the Bharadvaja.
This arhat's station is in the Purva-Videha region and he has 600 arhats
under his authority. He is sometimes pictured as a very hairy old man,
and some paintings give him a small disciple at his side.
4. Su-p'in-t'e, Subhinda.
His sphere of action is the Kuru country in the north, and he has a
retinue of 800 arhats. This name does not occur in several of the lists,
but it is found in the temples in China, Korea, and Japan. Instead of it
we find occasionally Nandimitra, and the new recension and the Tibetan
give A-pi-ta, which may be for Abhida. The Tibetan translation of the
name is inseparable or indissoluble, and this seems to point to an
original like Abhinda or Abhida.
This arhat appears as a venerable sage with a scroll in his right hand,
or as sitting in an attitude of meditation. He is also represented as
sitting with an alms-bowl and an incense-vase beside him, holding a
sacred book in the left hand, while with the right he "cracks his
fingers." This gesture is indicative of the rapidity with which he
attained spiritual insight.
5. No-ku-lo, Nakula.
The sphere of this arhat's action is Jambudripa, that is, India, and his
retinue is composed of 800 arhats.
This name is found in the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese temples, but in
some lists instead of it we find Pa-ku-la or p'u-ku-lo, that is, Vakula.
This was the name of one of Buddha's great disciples, often mentioned in
the scriptures. Vakula became an arhat, but he led a solitary,
self-contained life; he never had a disciple and he never preached a
word. He was remarkable for his wonderful exemption from bodily ailments
and for the great length of life to which he attained. When King Asoka
visited his tope and showed his contempt for Vakula by offering a penny,
the arhat was equal to the occasion and refused the coin. (l3)
We must, however, go by Yuan-chuang's text and read Nakula. This word
means Mungoose, and we remember the arhat called Kundo-vahan or
Mungoose-bearer already mentioned. We read also of a Nakula's father, in
Pali. Nakula-pita, who became a devoted lay adherent of Buddha's
teaching. Nakula was a Vrijjian resident at Uruvilva, but we do not find
much about him in the scriptures. He may be the same person with
Nakulapita converted when he was 120 years old, but made young and happy
by Buddha's teaching. (14)
Nakuls is often represented, as in the Tibetan picture, with a mungoose
as his emblem, and sometimes instead of that animal he has a
three-legged frog under his left arm. Sometimes he is represented as
meditating or as teaching with a little boy by his side.
6. Po-t'e-lo, Bhadra.
This arhat was appointed to T'an-mo-lo-Chow, that is, Tamra-dvipa or
Ceylon, and he was given a retinue of 900 other arhats. We sometimes
find him called Tamra Bhadra, apparently from the name of his station.
The Bhadra of the Buddhist scriptures was a cousin of the Buddha and one
of his great disciples. He was a good preacher, and could expand in
clear and simple language the Master's teaching. Hence he is often
represented as expounding the contents of a book which he holds in one
hand. He took his profession very seriously and aimed at spiritual
Bhadra often appears in pictures and images accompanied by a tiger which
he soothes or restrains, but he is also represented without the tiger
and in an attitude of worship.
7. Ka-li-ka, Kalika or Kala.
This arhat has 1,000 other arhats under him and resides in Seng-ka-t'a.
This has been supposed to be Ceylon, but it is evidently the name of
some other region. The Chinese characters may stand for Simhata, and
something like this may have been the name of the "Lion country " in the
Vrijjian territory already mentioned. (l5)
This arhat is apparently the great disciple called "Lion King Kala", who
attained arhatship and was honoured by King Bimbisara. (16) He is
represented as studying a scroll or sitting in meditation, or holding a
leaf of a tree, or he has extremely long eyebrows which he holds up from
He has 1,100 arhats and resides in the Po-la-na division of the world,
that is, in Parna-dvipa perhaps.
In some temples and lists of the Lohan the name is given as Vajriputra.
This may be the Vajjiput of the village of the same name who became a
disciple and attained to arhatship. (17) He is represented as very
hairy, or as very lean and ribbed.
9. Shu-po-ka, Supaka perhaps.
This arhat is stationed on the Gandhamadana mountain and has an
establishment of 900 arhats. Instead of the character for Shu we find in
some places Kie, that is Ka, making the name Kapaka, but this is
evidently wrong. In the new transcription we have Kuo-pa-ka, that is,
Gopaka. The Tibetans have the two Chinese transcriptions Kapaka and
Supaka, but their translation is Sbed-byed, which requires the form
Gopaka (or Gopa), meaning protector. We do not know of any disciple of
Buddha named Supaka, but we read of one named Gopaka, a sthavira at
The representations of this arhat often show him with a small figure of
a saint above his right shoulder or close to his side, but he also
appears with a book or a fan in his hand.
10. Pan-t'o-ka, Panthaka or
This arhat's sphere is the Trayastrimsat Heaven, and he is attended by
He is sometimes called simply Pantha or Panthaka, and sometimes Ta or
Maha-Panthaka, Great Panthaka, to distinguish him from his young
brother, who is No. 16 of this list. The name is explained as meaning
way or road, or "born on the road," and a legend relates how it was
given to the two boys because their births occurred by the roadside
while their mother was making journeys. (l8) But we find the name also
explained as meaning "continuing the way," that is, propagating
Buddhism, and the Tibetan translation gives "doctrine of the way" as its
signification. But this explanation belongs rather to the younger
brother, who also is frequently styled simply Pantha or Panthaka. We
occasionally find in books Pa (or Sa) -na-ka for Pan- thaka, apparently
a copylst's error. Pantha is also found transcribed Pan-t'a, and for the
second syllable we find t'u or t'e.
Panthaka was distinguished as among the highest of Buddha's disciples,
who " by thought aimed at excellence." (19) He was also expert in
solving doubts and difficulties in doctrine for weaker vessels, and he
had extraordinary magical powers. (20) He could pass through solids and
shoot through the air, and cause fire and water to appear at pleasure.
He could also reduce his own dimensions little by little until there was
nothing left of him. (21) These magical powers were called into request
by Buddha when he made his expedition to subdue and convert the fierce
dragon-king Apalala. (22)
The various pictures and images represent Panthaka as sitting under a
tree or teaching from an open book, or as holding a scroll, or as
sitting in profound meditation with his arms folded. He is also
frequently depieted in the act of charming a dragon into his alms-bowl.
This Panthaka is not to be confounded with the Upasaka of the same name
who accompanied Mahinda in his mission for the conversion of Ceylon.
11. Lo-hu-lo, Rahula.
To Rahula was assigned the Priyangu-dvipa, a land of aromatic herbs,
(23) and he had a suite of 1,100 arhats.
Rahula, the son of Buddha, was distinguished as a disciple for his
diligent study of the canon and his uncompromising thorough strictness
in carrying out the rules of his profession. He is often represented in
pictures and images as having the large "umbrella-shaped" head,
prominent eyes, and hooked nose which some books ascribe to him. But in
many cases he is apparently represented without any distinctive features
or attribute. It is his lot to die and return to this world as Buddha's
son for several times, and he is not to pass finally out of existence
for a very long time.
12. Na-ka-si-na, Nagasena.
This arhat was appointed to the Pan-tu-p'o or Pandava Mountain in
Magadha, with a retinue of 1,200 arhats.
Nagasena is, I think, the disciple called Seni in the "
Tseng-i-a-han-ching " and the "Fen-pie-kung-te- lun." In the former this
bhikshu is selected for praise as an orthodox expounder of the
principles or essentials of Buddhism. The latter treatise also calls him
first in exposition. It adds that he was a bhikshu thirty years before
he attained arhatship, because he made the laying down of dogma the one
chief thing postponing to this release from sin, that he was skilled in
analysis and the logical development of principles, and that he left a
treatise embodying the results of his studies. (24)
Now this Se-ni is, I think, the Nagasena who composed the original work
which was afterwards amplified into the '" Questions of Milinda." In the
" Tsa-pao-tsang-ching " We have this Nagasena, called also Se-na, a man
of commanding presence, proud and learned, subtle-minded and
ready-witted, and he is put through a severe ordeal by a king called
Nan-t'e or Nanda. (25) Then these Nanda and Nagasena are evidently the
Min-lin-t'e and Nagasena of one translation of the ''
Abhidharma-kosa-vyakhya-Sastra '' and the Pi-lin-t'e and Lung-chun,
Dragon-host of the other translation. (26) They are also the Mi-lan and
Na-hsien of the " Na-hsien-pi-chiu-ching " (27) and the Milinda and
Nagasena of the " Questions of Milinda." (28)
This Nagasena was, or was taken to be, a contemporary of the Buddha and
Sariputra, although he is also supposed to be living long after Buddha's
time. He is called arhat by the author of the introduction to the
"Questions," but in the body of the book he is not an arhat. In this
treatise he defends against his cross-examiner the unity and consistency
of Buddha's teachings, and explains and expands hard doctrines with
great learning and richness of illustration. He became the head of the
Church in Milinda's country to watch over and maintain Buddhist
orthodoxy. His treatise must have existed in various lands and in
different forms from a comparatively early period. The "
Abhidharma-kosa-sastra " and the " Tsa-pao-tsang-ching " quote from a
text which is neither the "Na-hsien-pi-chiuching" nor the "Questions,"
and these two last differ very much.
13. Yin-kie-t'e, Angida.
This arhat's station is the mountain called Kuaug-hsie or Broad-side,
that is, Vipulaparsva, and he has a retinue of 1,300 arhats. In one
place I have seen Mu instead of Yin, and the Tibetans have Angija, but
all other tran- scriptions are apparently either Angida, or Angila.
One of Buddha's great disciples was named Angaja, and he was noted for
the cleanness and fragrance of his body. (29) Another great disciple was
Angila, who was described as being perfect in all things. (30) These two
names may possibly indicate only one person.
The Lohan called Angida is sometimes the fat, jolly creature who is
supposed to be Maitreya or his incarnation. Other pictures or images
make him a lean old monk with a staff and a book containing Indian
writing. This latter is the old traditional representation handed down
from the period of the T'ang dynasty.
14. Fa-na-p'o-ssu, Vanavasa.
A Korean temple has Fa-lo-p'o-ssu, giving Varavasa, but all the other
transcriptions seem to have Vanavasa.
This arhat, who has a retinue of 1,400 other arhats, is stationed on the
K'o-chu or Habitable Mountain. He is sometimes represented sitting in a
cave meditating with eyes closed, or his hands make a mudra, or he
nurses his right knee.
15. A-shih-to, Asita or
These characters do not represent Yuan-chuang's ordinary transcription
either for Asita or Ajita, and it is probable that here he adopted the
transcription of a predecessor. The new authorized reading gives Ajita,
and it is so in the Tibetan. But Ajita is Maitreya, and that
Bodhisattva, according to all accounts, remains in Tushita Paradise
until the time comes for him to become incarnate on this earth.
So he cannot properly be a guardian of Sakyamuni's system, which must
have passed away before he can become Buddha.
This arhat, whom we may call Asita, resides on the Gridhrakuta Mountain,
and has 1,500 arhats in his suite. It cannot be that he is the old seer
Asita who came from his distant home to see the newly-born infant who
was to become Buddha. The images and pictures generally represent the
arhat as an old man with very long eyebrows, nursing his right knee or
absorbed in meditation.
16. Chu-ch'a, (t'a)
The first part of the name is also given as Chou-li or Chu-li. These
transcriptions stand for the Sanskrit Kshulla and Pali Chulla (or
Chula), and Chota is a dialectic form still preserved in the vernacular.
The words mean little, small, and this Panthaka received the above name
in order to distinguish him from his elder brother already noticed. He
is also called Hsiao-lu or Little Road, the elder brother being Ta-lu or
Chota-Panthaka has a household of 1,600 arhats, and his station is the
Ishadhara Mountain, a part of the great range of Sumeru. As a disciple
Little Pantha was at first and for a long time exceedingly dull and
stupid, the result of bad Karma. He could not make any progress in the
spiritual life, being unable to apply his mind or commit to memory even
one stanza of doctrine. (31) He was accordingly slighted by the Brethren
and their lay patrons, but the Master always had pity and patience. On
one occasion the King invited Buddha and the disciples to breakfast, but
Little Pantha was excluded. When Buddha discovered this he refused to
sit down to breakfast until the despised disciple was bidden to the
feast. (32) And when Little Pantha was expelled by his elder brother as
being incorrigibly dull and stupid, Buddha brought him back and would
not allow him to be expelled. He comforted the sorrowing disciple and
gave him the words "Sweeping broom" to repeat and keep in mind. In the
effort to do so the intellectual faculties of the poor dullard were
stimulated, and he came to see that the two words meant that all
attachment to things of this world was defilement and to be swept away
by the broom of Buddha's doctrine. (33) Having entered on the good way
he went on towards perfection, and became noted as one of the first
disciples in "mental aiming at excellence"; he was chiefly occupied with
the mind and mental contemplation. (34) By his determined perseverance
he attained a thorough insight into religious truths, and expounded
these with such power and eloquence that even giddy nuns, who came to
laugh and mock, remained to be impressed and edified. (35) In process of
time Little Pantha attained arhatship, with the powers of flying through
the air and of assuming any form at pleasure. He had also other
miraculous powers, and on one occasion he produced 500 strange oxen and
proceeded to ride one of them. (36)
This arhat is sometimes pictured as an old man sitting under and leaning
against a dead tree, one hand having a fan and the other held up in the
attitude of teaching. He is also represented as a venerable sage sitting
on a mat-covered seat and holding a long staff surmounted by a hare's
17 and 18.
There does not seem to be any historical account of the first
introduction of the Lohan into the Halls of Buddhist temples, nor can it
be ascertained when the number of these guardians was raised from
sixteen to eighteen in Chinese temples.
In some of these, down to the present time, the number of the Lohan is
still sixteen, e.g. in the Pao-ning-ssu, near Mount Omi, visited by Mr.
Baber. (37) Some Chinese have supposed that there were formerly eighteen
gods regarded as protectors of Buddhist temples, and that the Lohan took
their places. But we know nothing about these gods, and the supposition
need not be taken into consideration. Another suggestion, and one which
seems not improbable, is that the Buddhists in this matter imitated a
certain Chinese institution.
When we read the history of the reigns of T'ang Kao Tsu and T'ai Tsung,
we find the record of an event which may have given the idea of grouping
the Lohan in the Chief Hall of a temple and of raising their number to
eighteen. In the year 621 T'ai Tsung instituted within the palace
grounds a very select college composed of eighteen members. These dons
were officials of high standing, of sound learning and good literary
attainments, and faithful adherents and personal friends of the founder.
Among them were such famous men as Tu Ju-mei and his friend Fang
Hsuan-ling; Yu Chi-ming, learned scholar and loyal statesman, who wrote
the preface to Yuan-chuang's " Hsiyu-chi "; Lu Te-ming, and K'ung
Ying-ta. The members took their turns in batches of three in attending
on duty, and while in the college they were liable to be visited and
interrogated by the emperor. He had portraits of the members made for
the college, and each portrait was furnished with a statement of the
name, birthplace, and honours of the original. The merits of each were
described in ornate verse by one of the number, Chu Liang. These
favoured men were called the Shih-pa-hsue-shih or Eighteen Cabinet
Ministers, and they were popularly said to have teng-ying-chou, to have
become Immortals. It is this Hall of the Eighteen which I think may have
led to the installation of the Eighteen Arhats in Buddha's Hall. The
names of these venerable ones are given, and sometimes their stations
and retinues are added. There are also temples in which the Lohan are
arranged in groups of three.
But these Eighteen Lohan have never received authoritative recognition,
and they are not given even in the modern accepted Buddhist treatises.
We find them, however, occasionally in modern Chinese works of art. The
South Kensington Museum has a pair of bowls on which they are painted,
and the British Museum has them on an incense-vase. This vase is
remarkable for departing SO far from the established doctrine of the
Lohan as to represent three of the eighteen as boys or very young men.
The modern Chinese artist, followed by the Japanese, apparently takes
the Lohan to be Immortals, and he shows them crossing to the Happy Land
of Nirvana or leading lives of unending bliss among the pines of the
As to the persons who should be admitted as guardian Lohans of Buddha
and his religion, there has been a great diversity of opinion, and
consequently different worthies have been added in different places. In
many old temples we find the 17th and 18th places given respectively to
Nandimitra and a second Pindola. This Nandimitra, in Chinese Ch'ing-yu,
is the arhat already mentioned as describing the appointment and
distribution of the Sixteen Arhats. As one of the additional Lohans we
sometimes find the well-known Imperial patron of Buddhism, Liang Wu Ti
(A.D. 502 to 550), or Kumarajiva, the great translator who flourished
about A.D. 400.. In some temples we find Maitreya or his supposed
incarnation the Pu-tai-ho shang, or Calico-bag (cushion) Monk. This monk
is said to have lived in the sixth century A.D., but he was not honoured
as a Lohan until modern times. He is the special patron of
tobacco-sellers, and his jolly fat little image often adorns their
shop-fronts. Another interesting person sometimes found among the
Eighteen Lohan is the Indian Buddhist Dharmatara (or Dharmatrata), in
Chinese Fa-Chiu. This is perhaps the Dharmatara who was a great master
of Dhyana and learned author, and lived about the middle of the first
century of our era probably. He is sometimes called a great Upasaka, and
is represented as receiving or introducing the Sixteen (or Eighteen)
Lohan. Writing about Lhassa the learned Mr. Chandra Das has the
following: "In the Na-chu Lha Khang Chapel erected by one of the Sakya
Lamas named Wang Chhyug Tsondu, were the most remarkable statue-like
images of the Sixteen Sthaviras called Natan Chudug, arranged to
represent the scene of their reception by Upashaka Dharma Tala, one of
the most celebrated and devout Buddhists of ancient China." (38) In
Tibet the Sixteen Arhats are called Sthaviras, and "Natan Chudug" means
Sixteen Sthaviras. Then "Dharma Tala" is for Dharmatara, who was Indian,
not Chinese. He is also now one of the Eighteen Lohan in Tibet as in
China. Another illustrious personage installed as one of these Lohan in
many temples is Kuanyin P'usa. He appears as such in his capacity as
Protector of Buddhism and Buddhists.
(1) The " Chih-shih-tzu-kuo"
of this sutra and the " Shih-tzu-kuo" of the " TSeng-i-a-han-ching" are
probably the Simhadvipa of Schiefner's " Tara- natha," S. 83. This last
cannot be Ceylon, and the mention of the Lusthain. in it reminds us of
the garden in the Shih-tzu-kuo. In the Sarvata Vinaya Yao-shih, ch. 8,
we have mention of a Shih-tzu district which lay between Sravasti and
(2) For illustrations and
details of the Lohan see Anderson's "Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese
Paintings in the British Museum"; Pandar's "Das Pantheon d. Tschangtscha
Hutuktu, " S. 83f.; Hsiang-chiao-p'i-pien, ch. 2.
(3) Tseng-i-a-han-ching, ch.
3 (Bun., No. 543, tr. A.D. 385) ; Fo-shuo-a-lo-han-chu-te-ching (Bun.,
No. 897, tr. about 900).
(4) Vinaya Texts, iii, p. 79.
(or-fa) (Bun., No. 1,348, tr. 457).
(6) Tsa-a-han-ching, ch. 23
(Bun., No. 544, tr. between 420 and 479).
(7) Tsng-i-a-han-ching, ch.
(9) Divyavadana, p. 402;
Burnouf, Introd., p. 397; Tsa-a-han-ching, l.c.
Vinaya Yao-shi, ch. 16 (tr. by I-ching about 710)
chs. 3, 23.
(14) Tsa-a-han-ching, ch. 5;
(15) In the Sarvata Vinaya
Yao-shih, ch. 8, we find mention of the "Lion Town" which lay between
Sravasti and Rajagriha.
(16) Sarvata Vinaya Yao-shih,
(17) Tsa-a-han-ching, ch. 29.
(18) Fen-pie-kung-te-lun, ch.
5 (Bun., No. 1,290, tr. perhaps about 200).
pa-kan-tu-lun, ch. 27 (Bun., No. 1,273, tr. 383).
(21) Tseng-i-a-han-ching, ch.
(23) But the Chinese pilgrims
were taught that priyangu was the Indian name for the chestnut.
(24) Tseng-i-a-han-ching, ch.
3; Fen-pie-kung-te-lun, ch. 5.
(25) Tsa-Pao-tsang-ching, Ch.
9 (Bun., No. 1,329, tr. 472).
Abhidharma-kosa-vyakhya-sastra, ch. 22 (Bun., No. 1,269, tr. 565) ;
Abhidharma-kosa-sastra, ch. 30 (Bun., No. 1,267, tr. 652).
(Bun., No 1,358, tr. between 317 and 420).
(28) " The Questions of King
Milinda Milinda," translated from the Pali by T. W. Rhys Davids.
(29) Tseng-i-a-han-ching, ch.
(31) Tseng-i-a-han-ching, ch
11; Fen-pie-kung-te-lun, ch 5; Sarvata Vinaya Yao-Shih, ch. 17. Compare
the account of Chulla-Panthaka in Jataka (Chalmers), p. 14, and see note
at p. 20.
(32) Fa-chu-pi-yu-ching, ch.
2 (Bun., No. 1,353, tr. about 300) ; Ch'u-yao- ching, ch. 19 (Bun., No.
1,321, tr. 399).
Abhidharma-pa-kan-tu-lun, ch. 27 (Bun., No. 1,273, tr. 383) ;
Abhidharma- fa-chih-lun, ch. 18 (Bun., No. 1,275, tr. about 660).
(35) Fa-chu-pi-yu-ching, I.c.
chs. 3 and 22.
(37) " Travels and Researches
in Western China," p. 31.
(38) "Narrative of a Journey
to Lhasa," p. 145.
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