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An Exhibition on the Legacy of Kumarajiva: Philosopher and Seer

An Exhibition on the Legacy of Kumarajiva: Philosopher and Seer
Item Code: NAG833
Language: English
Edition: 2011
Pages: 72 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 11 inch X 8.5 inch
weight of the book: 395 gms



After the silence of centuries and a long historic amnesia India celebrates the monumental tranquillity of thought and transcendence that Kumarajiva carried to the lands of Eastern Asia. This exhibition tries to portray this mega-movement of transcultural renaissance ushered in by the literary colossus Kumarajiva, who, lovingly carved out of logographic and inflectionless Chinese a magnificent idiom to explore the frontiers of human thought. The four preceding centuries of masters struggling to translate Sanskrit Sutras had to use the ko-i principle of matching Buddhist concepts with Taoist and Confucian terms. The ideas underwent disastrous changes and these tears of language awaited the advent of Kurnarajiva. With his mastery of Sanskrit and Chinese, and the crystalline texture of his mother tongue Kuchean, he gave a new vocabulary, a self-referentiality, an autonomy to Buddhist Chinese. In his luminous words, the renderings of the sacred texts became a community of Sino-Indian values, an organicity of the Sanskrit Sutras and Sinic culture. They touched the people and have continued to do so all these long sixteen centuries. Chinese, Korean and Japanese monk-scholars, philosophers and artists have been able to dig deeper roots in the new transgeneric prose of Kumarajiva.


The magnetic pulse-beats of Kurnarajiva’s renderings have become murals, reliefs and sculptures that have moved the people and have become a journey of Dharma. The lucidity of Kumarajiva’s expression has been the radiance, the silent spell, the magnetic joyfulness of the Buddhist life of East Asia. Today his translation of the Lotus Sutra is the sound, grace and rapture of East Asian Spirituality of values, for instance in the lovely blue of the Soka Gakkai International steeped in the strivings of President Daisaku Ikeda. The Six Principles of Painting of Hsieh Ho go back to Kumarajiva’s translation of the Satya-siddhi-sastra. These principles have been and still are the bedrock of East Asian aesthetics.


This exhibition is the homecoming of Kumarajiva. Here we can see the austere landscape of his land, the idyllic serenity of the murals in the caves in the glory of their colours, in spite of vandalism and natural decay. These masterpieces brimming with the subtle flavor of dharma portray the flowering of the mind. The manuscripts of Kumarajiva’s works discovered in the ancient ruins are the lyric forest of our inner calling, of course obscure to those to whom Chinese is the unknown.


The members of the IGNCA have put in hard work to invite scholars from all continents to elucidate the many-sided genius of KumarajIva. The exhibition is a visual slip into the times of Kumarajiva who gave to Asia a pure river whose waters flow abundantly to nourish spiritual roots of humankind. The IGNCA incarnates the spirit of the Hsiao-yao Garden, which was placed at the disposal of Kumarajiva by Emperor Yao Hsing where a thousand monks sat in daily sessions to transcreate the Satras. Hsiao-yao means pleasant abstraction to cross the bounds of this physical universe to a blissful infinite domain beyond (Giles, Chinese - English Dictionary, no. 4303): gate gate parasangate bodhi svaha. The dedicated “monks” and equally zealous “mandarins” of the IGNCA bring to us, in this exhibition, the unique light of Kumarajiva from the tremendous silence of time.


What a coincidence that the European ethnicity and European mother tongue (Kuchean) of Kumarajiva unwittingly finds resonance in the participation of the British Library of London and the Museum fur Asiatische Kunst of Berlin. Kumarajiva was the trifluence of the three major alphabetic cultures of his time: Indian (Sanskrit as the classical language of his learning), Kuchean (his mother-tongue) and Chinese (medium of his immortal writings). The exhibits sent by Japanese scholars and devotees complete the global heritage of Kumarajiva, where roots and laurels are woven together.


The mind of mother Jiva swimming in the cosmic waters of Dharma finds expression in the joyful hard work of Prof. Shashibala from searching eminent minds from the world academia and sending them invitations to the curating of this exhibition. She complements the words of men of eminent learning with the sparkle of eyes in the exhibition. Who knows that Jiva, the mother of Kumarajiva, admires in her angelic gaze the glory of her illustrious son in this exhibition of his birthplace, of the ruins of monasteries and caves where he studied and meditated, of the stupa that commemorates the horse that brought him to the metropolis of China, the sancta of Ch’ ang-an where he wrote, and the stupa of his final repose. Mother Jiva blesses this exhibition that crystallizes and radiates the magnificent life and heart of her son Kumarajiva.


The seminar, exhibition and book are the trinity of the present Sangiti (seminar). Prof. Nirmala Sharma is striving hard against all odds of time to bring out her book Kumarajiya: the Transcreator of Buddhist Chinese Diction, so that Kumarajiva is with us still, deep within us, in the overflowing tide of her words.


The Chinese literati venerated the sacred Leaf Books written on palm leaves to evoke the atmosphere of Buddhist devotion. The poets spoke of pattratalipot leaves” paired with candana “sandal”: frankincense and palmyra were the smell and feel of the Light of India. Likewise, this Sangfti is the incense, the luminosity, the tranquillity where the mind’s jewel emerges from the blossoming petals of Sutras.




Brilliance of Kumarajiva ushers through his legacy, enshrined in the thousands of monasteries in China, Korea and Japan, preserving an outstanding heritage-his translations of the sacred Sanskrit texts copied over the last sixteen centuries. His works have inspired members of Imperial houses, Emperors and Empresses, writers and artists, pilgrims and philosophers. The canvas covering his life and legacy spans from Kashmir to Japan, running through mountains and snow-covered hills, cloudless deserts and green valleys. His angelic presence can still be felt in the monastic establishments, in the sound of recitation of sutras, in the perfumed smoke emerging from burning incense, in the sand and stones of ravaged temples and, above all, in the lives of the people inspired by the translations of Kumarajiva.


The exhibition is a reflection of the land of masters and pilgrims, the stones of the ruined monasteries at Subashi, Kucha, Kashgar and Kashmir, touched by the feet of Kumarajiva, which have witnessed his wisdom and vision, where he was born and where he studied and meditated. It displays the stupas that mark the sacred places where his tired horse passed away, the sancta where he worked and finally went into nirvana. It brings to light the hidden splendour of Kizil caves, paintings from Tunhuang (Dunhuang) and other art objects created on the basis of Kumarajiva’s translations of Vimalakirtinirdesa and Saddharma-pundarika Sutras. It acknowledges the dedication of pure minds - Prince Shotoku Taishi whose idea of governing the country was based on the philosophy of Lotus Sutra and Empress Komyo who was seen as a living Buddha. The exhibition displays manuscripts of sutras translated by Kumarajiva and containing his biography. Kokera Sutras discovered recently in Japan can also be viewed. They were copied as offerings on special occasions and immersed into water later on by the temples. These sutras, murals and reliefs, painted scrolls and sculptures, and other artistic creations following the philosophy of the works of Kumarajiva, have enlightened the pure minds and the East Asian spiritual values are still drawn from them.


I pay my gratitude to the IGNCA for inviting me to organise this event, to Prof. Lokesh Chandra for his visionary support, to all the museums, research and educational institutions, temples, organisations, offices and scholars who have sent material, given permissions, written research notes and given the required support. I am thankful to the Institute of Oriental Philosophy for displaying their exhibits on Lotus Sutra and Life of Kumarajiva on this occasion. I must acknowledge the dedicated efforts of all the scholars who have come from various parts of the world to join us with their researches to discuss important aspects of the life and legacy of Kumarajiva.


This exhibition is not merely a visual delight, it is a homage to the great soul-creator of transcultural renaissance, to whom humanity is indebted for centuries.










Kumarajiva - His Life and Legacy


The Influence of the Sutras translated by Kumarajiva on the development of Mahayana Buddhism in Japan


Beautiful Kannon, Mirror Image of Empress Komyo


The third case Unearthed Kokera sutra copy of


Diamond Wisdom Sutra translated by Kumarajiva

The Culture and Art of the Lotus Sutra


List of Exhibits



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