Records of the High Sanghans -
The Venerable Vighna
High Sanghan Vighna was from India. His grandfather and father were both externalists who cultivated the worship of fire. Fire for them was the supreme ultimate, and they kept a fire constantly burning in their home, respecting, revering, and worshipping it as one would the Buddha.
One day a Shramana -- a monk -- who cultivated dharmas of the Lesser Vehicle and was an expert in the use of extremely efficacious mantras, passed by Vighna's household at dusk and asked to spend the night. He received permission from Vighna's father, but because the family cultivated an externalist way, they were reluctant to welcome the Shramana.
"What are we going to do with him?" they worried. They finally told him, "You can stay here, but not in the house; you'll have to sleep outside." They were taking precautions lest someone try to destroy their religion.
Applying his spiritual penetrations, the Shramana recited a "fire-extinguishing mantra" and their object of worship, the fire on their altar, died. This alarmed everyone in the famly. They knew they had done something wrong. In panic, they rushed outside, and so as to repent, they bowed before the Shramana. He was then invited inside to spend the night.
Inside, the Shramana recited a "fire-producing mantra," and the altar fire suddenly reappeared. The family of fire worshippers thought, "This is strange. We've been serving fire a long time, but we don't have his spiritual penetrations. It's miraculous!"
Upon seeing these awe-inspiring feats which far surpassed those of his family, Vighna believed in the Shramana and wished to leave the home life to follow him and cultivate the Way. His parents, recognizing the power of the Shramana, gave their consent. After he left the home life, Master Vighna concentrated on reading and reciting Sutras. In one day he was able to read and learn to recite from memory twenty or thirty thousand words.
In the third year of the reign period Huang Wu, in the Eastern Wu Dynasty, Master Vighna went to the state of Wu where he studied Chinese -- remarkably slowly! Neither he, nor his companion Lu Yen, could master the language, but nonetheless they proceeded to force some translations. How did they do it? They used dictionaries to look up every word. Since they translated in this way, their writing was stilted and cumbersome. They translated many short Buddhist Sutras this way.
The only existent copies were written out in large characters, and these Sutras were lost when the original copies disintegrated. Nevertheless, the merit of these two Dharma Masters is great. Having previously been followers of an externalist way, they took refuge with the Triple Jewel and translated Sutras at a time when no Chung Wen translations of Sutras existed. It was much more difficult to translate then, than it is today, when scientific devices help speed the process. Although Master Vighna's ability with the Chung Wen language was not very good, he dared to translate, and his courages efforts should be remembered by all of us.
Records of High Sanghas, p. 25 - 26