Commanding multiple skills- What we can learn from ancient China – 2

Continuing from the last post, this time I am going to put forward my observations about one of many respected people in Chinese history. This is also a respect to all those travelers, who spent considerable amount of their life time to find more about the other places and introduced them to their native people.

Xuanzhang, which is also known as Haveswang in Sanskrit, was one of those travelers in ancient China. He is known
for his wisdom, extra ordinary talent and translating many Buddhist text from Sanskrit to Chinese. But apart from it,
he is known and respected for the journey he has taken from China to India back in 6th century to explore the truth in Buddhism. Although, he studied Buddhism in China, he became the first person to experience this in India. He traveled across the country, spent 15 years, learn the language and later document his entire journey in a book. His journey of crossing harsh terrain(without much facilities), spending time in a foreign countries and even documenting lot of work has been inspirational for many travelers centuries after his death.

I have tried to sit and think about what was the reason, he was able to command so many different skills? What can we learn from him? It required me to think like a 6th century person and I came out with following observations.

1) Curiosity: All of us curious about something, it is an in-bound talent of being human. So. it will be partial to give him the credit of being curious. However, how many of us take the path of exploration to satisfy our curiosity? I guess, very few of us. Xuanzhang was curious to know the real truth about Buddhism. He believed that the spill over of Buddhism text reached in China during his time lacked some sense of clarity. He was curious to know the truth. He made an attempt to satisfy his curiosity, even it if requires him to travel far away from his home land. I think, things are much more easier these days with the arrival of Internet, but the art of curiosity is still with us and it just need small steps to satisfy it.

2) Risk taking: Xuanzhang traveled a long distance, risking everything. I believe, he is only defined what is natural in all of us. The risk taking abilities is a reason, our ancestors could do many things which were once seemed impossible. Xuanzhang did what very few people tried to do to explore new things, finding new paths and seeking the truth. In my view, this is something we all can learn from him. Taking some risks in life to pursue what we believe can make our life more beautiful. If Xuanzhang has not taken the risks to travel to India, may be Buddhism was not as widespread as it is now in many parts of Asia.

3) Documentation: I have reiterated in some of my previous post about the art of documentation. It helps to transfer the knowledge and discoveries to other people. Despite being many centuries old, his work can still be read and we can enriched from his profound knowledge. Documentation has been a major reason, we can still understand a lot about ancient China.

4) Humbleness: After traveling for more than 20 years to India, Xuanzhang has been greeted with many awards and offered a higher position upon his return to China. However, he refused everything and focused entirely into translating Buddhist scripture into Chinese. His humbleness did not cost him the respect he has earned for his journey and his work in spreading Buddhism in other parts of the world. He is still remembered and respected among the people.

Living in 21st century, I cannot even imagine the situations in the 9th century, but can only guess how it has been to him traveling so much distance. His journey of seeking truth, satisfying curiosity and putting his life at risk in his belief is an inspiration to all of us. In the age of Internet, when everything is so easily available about other nations, I think we all can take a time and give respect to some of these first travelers, cultural ambassadors and truth seekers.

(Appeared in The China Daily Blog Forum, 31-05-2015)

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