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Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, June 23, 2007

Kumarajiva (5th Century CE)

Kumarajiva (C. 353-413 )

Kumarayana was an India-born Brahmin minister in Kucha, a Central Asian Kingdom. The princess of the kingdom named Jiva fell in love with him and they got married. They called their son Kumarajiva.

The mother who was a Buddhist, brought Kumarajiva to Kashmir for education. Kashmir was a famous seat of all learning in those days. After completion of his education, Kumarajiva went back to Kucha, which was a well-known centre of Buddhism in the whole Central Asian region. He became a king later.

The Chinese invaded Kucha and took away Kumarajiva as a prisoner. He stayed at Chinese capital of Changan and between 401 and 412CE, he was assigned the task of translating Sanskrit Buddhist works into Chinese. He organized a board of editors comprising of hundreds of monks who were sound scholars and reputed to have already translated ninety four Buddhist texts. Kumarajiva is remembered as the greatest translator of Buddhist texts, from Sanskrit into Chinese.

Kumarajiva translated "Saddharma Pundarika" which was reputed to contain Buddha's final sermon on the Vulture Peak (Griddhra-Kuta) near Rajagriha. This work turned to be foundation of new Buddhist school of philosophy, known as the Tien-Tei school.

Contemporary Chinese records speak of Kumarajiva as honest, loyal, human, tolerant, and skilful in adapting. The Chinese emperor highly impressed with his extra-ordinary brilliance persuaded him to marry and Kumarajiva obliged. He had sons and grandchildren, none of whom had his brilliance.

Kumarajiva was honoured with the title of Kuo-Shih (National Preceptor). Till his death in 413, CE he kept himself busy with translations. He is reputed to have 3,000 disciples.

See Also:
• Buddhism Potpourri -- Topics on Buddhism in India

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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