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International Seminar: “Kumarajiva: Philosopher and Seer”

An International Seminar “Kumarajiva: Philosopher and Seer” was held for 3 days from February 3 to 5, 2011 in New Delhi. Yoichi Kawada, director of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP), and Katsuhisa Yamada, Commissioned Research Fellow of IOP attended the seminar.
The organizer, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, states the aim of the seminar as follows. “Buddhist savants who traveled from India to China had contributed to the evolution of Sino-Indian relation in the ancient period. Buddhist monks nourished not only to the spread of Buddhism but also for the understanding of social and economic relations of the past. Buddhist monks were the torchbearers of Indian civilization to Central Asian and China. Unfortunately ancient records of India are silent about them. But we have the documents preserved in Chinese language and may be even in Central Asia languages. This seminar is one such effort to know about the great monk Kumarajiva.”
Kumarajiva (334–413 CE) was a prolific translator of Buddhist texts. He translated 35 works in 294 volumes, accomplishing this in a mere ten years. Prominent among these are the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Amitaba Sutra, the Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra, Malamadyamakarika and the Astasahasrika-prajnaparimita Sutra. 

At the seminar, IOP director Yoichi Kawada presented his research on Kumarajiva and Nichiren, describing how Nichiren learned the essential teachings of Buddhism from the Lotus Sutra and then expressed its essence as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which Nichiren asserted could help individuals to awaken to their inherent Buddha nature.

Matsuhisa Yamada, professor emeritus of Osaka Kyoiku University and Commissioned Research Fellow of IOP, visited Kumarajiva’s birthplace and other places which are related to Kumarajiva’s life, and observed his lifetime. At the seminar, he delivered a presentation “A report on the life of Kumarajiva and the towns associated with his –Kashgar, Tumushuk, Kupa, Loulah, Dunhuang, Liangzchou and Chang’an.”

The titles of other main speeches delivered at the seminar are as follows:
“Kumarajiva’s date of birth,” “Kumarajiva in Dunhuang manuscripts at the British Library: A Few Examples,” “Kumarajiva in Eighteen-century Tibetan Sources,” “Rethinking the Debate between Kumarajiva and Buddhabhadra: Themes, Background and Influences,” “Kumarajiva and his contemporaries,” “Kumarajiva: His connections with Kashmir and Propagation of Buddhism,” “Principles and Philosophy of Tantric Buddhism reflected in the Works of Kumarajiva” “From Kumarajiva to Nichiren-Connected Through Myoho-Renge-Kyo,” “Kumarajiva and Early Cave-temples of China,” “Kumarajiva and Abhidharma,” “Kumarajiva’s contribution to Chinese Literature: focusing on his translation of Vimalakirti-nirdesa-sutra,” Two Traditions of Sravaka meditation: Kumarajiva’s Zuo chan san meijing and Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga,” “The added topic-shift Markers in the Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures: A Sanskrit-Chinese Comparative Analysis of the Lotus Sutra”, and others.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Lokesh Chandra, director of International Academy of Indian Culture, introduced a historical perspective on how the Buddhist texts translated by Kumarajiva were brought to Japan and eventually became foundation of the Soka Gakkai’s philosophy and its activities for the promotion of peace and human dignity.

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