The Info List - Kumārajīva

--- Advertisement ---

(Sanskrit: कुमारजीव, simplified Chinese: 鸠摩罗什; traditional Chinese: 鳩摩羅什; pinyin: Jiūmóluóshí; Wade–Giles: Chiu1 mo2 lo2 shih2, 344–413 CE)[1] was a Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator from the Kingdom of Kucha. He first studied teachings of the Sarvastivadin schools, later studied under Buddhasvāmin, and finally became an adherent of Mahayana
Buddhism, studying the Mādhyamaka doctrine of Nāgārjuna. Kumārajīva
settled in Chang'an
during the Sixteen Kingdoms
Sixteen Kingdoms
era. He is mostly remembered for the prolific translation of Buddhist texts written in Sanskrit
to Chinese he carried out during his later life.


1 Life

1.1 Family and background 1.2 Childhood and education 1.3 Early fame in Kucha 1.4 Capture, Imprisonment and Release 1.5 At Chang'an

2 Translation style 3 Legacy 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 External links

Life[edit] Family and background[edit] Kumārajīva's father Kumārāyana
was from the present day Kashmir[2][3][4] and his mother was a Kuchan princess who significantly influenced his early studies. His grandfather Ta-to is supposed to have had a great reputation. His father, who was a Brahmin[5][6] became a monk, left Kashmir, crossed the Pamir Mountains and arrived in Kucha, where he became the royal priest. The sister of the king, Jīva, also known as Jīvaka, married him and they produced Kumārajīva. Jīvaka joined the Tsio-li nunnery, north of Kucha, when Kumārajīva
was just seven. Childhood and education[edit] When his mother Jīvaka joined the Tsio-li nunnery, Kumārajīva
was just seven but is said to have already committed many texts and sutras to memory. He proceeded to learn Abhidharma, and after two years, at the age of nine, he was taken to Kashmir
by his mother to be better educated under Bandhudatta. There he studied Dīrgha Āgama, Madhyama Āgama and the Kṣudraka, before returning with his mother three years later. On his return via Tokharestan
and Kashgar, an arhat predicted that he had a bright future and would introduce many people to Buddhism. Kumārajīva
stayed in Kashgar
for a year, ordaining the two princely sons of Tsan-kiun (himself the son of the king of Yarkand) and studying the Abhidharma
Piṭaka of the Sarvastivada under the Kashmirian Buddhayaśa, as well as the four Vedas, five sciences, Brahmanical sacred texts, astronomy. He studied mainly Āgama and Sarvastivada
doctrines at this time. Kumārajīva
left Kashgar
with his mother Jīvaka at age 12, and traveled to Turpan, the north-eastern limit of the kingdom of Kucha, which was home to more than 10,000 monks. Somewhere around this time, he encountered the master Suryasoma, who instructed him in early Mahayana
texts. Kumārajīva
soon converted, and began studying Madhyamaka
texts such as the works of Nagarjuna. Early fame in Kucha[edit]

The Statue of Kumārajīva
in front of the Kizil Caves
Kizil Caves
in Kuqa County, Xinjiang, China

In Turpan
his fame spread after beating a Tirthika
teacher in debate, and King Po-Shui of Kucha
came to Turpan
to ask Kumārajīva personally to return with him to Kucha
city. Kumārajīva
obliged and returned to instruct the king's daughter A-kie-ye-mo-ti, who had become a nun, in the Mahāsannipāta and Avatamsaka Sutras. At age 20, Kumārajīva
was fully ordained at the king's palace, and lived in a new monastery built by king Po-Shun. Notably, he received Vimalākṣa who was his preceptor, a Sarvāstivādin monk from Kashmir, and was instructed by him in the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya Piṭaka. Kumārajīva
proceeded to study the Pañcaviṁśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, one of the longer Prajñāpāramitā texts. He is known to have engaged in debates, and to have encouraged dialogue with foreign monks. Jīvaka is thought to have moved to Kashmir. Capture, Imprisonment and Release[edit]

White Horse Pagoda, Dunhuang, commemorating Kumarajiva's white horse which carried the scriptures to China, c. 384 CE

In 379 CE, Kumārajīva's fame reached China
when a Chinese Buddhist monk named Seng Jun visited Kucha
and described Kumārajīva's abilities. Efforts were then made by Emperor Fu Jian (苻堅) of the Former Qin
Former Qin
Dynasty to bring Kumārajīva
to Qin capital of Chang'an.[7] To do this, his general Lü Guang was dispatched with an army in order to conquer Kucha
and return with Kumārajīva. Fu Jian is recorded as telling his general, "Send me Kumārajīva
as soon as you conquer Kucha."[8] However, when Fu Jian's main army at the capital was defeated, his general Lü Guang declared his own state and became a warlord in 386 CE, and had Kumārajīva
captured when he was around 40 years old.[9] Being a non-Buddhist, Lü Guang had Kumārajīva
imprisoned for many years, essentially as booty. During this time, it is thought that Kumārajīva
became familiar with the Chinese language. Kumarajiva was also coerced by Lü into marrying the Kutcha King's daughter, which resulted in his chastity vow being negated.[10] After the Yao family of Former Qin
Former Qin
overthrew the previous ruler Fu Jian, the emperor Yao Xing made repeated pleas to the warlords of the Lü family to free Kumārajīva
and send him east to Chang'an.[11] When the Lü family would not free Kumārajīva
from their hostage, an exasperated Yao Xing had armies dispatched to Liangzhou in order to defeat the warlords of the Lü family and to have Kumārajīva
brought back to them.[11] Finally the armies of Emperor Yao succeeded in defeating the Lü family, and Kumārajīva
was brought east to the capital of Chang'an
in 401 CE.[11] At Chang'an[edit] At Chang'an, Kumārajīva
was immediately introduced to the emperor Yao Xing, the court, and the Buddhist leaders. He was hailed as a great master from the Western regions, and immediately took up a very high position in Chinese Buddhist circles of the time, being given the title of National Teacher. Yao Xing looked upon him as his own teacher, and many young and old Chinese Buddhists flocked to him, learning both from his direct teachings and through his translation bureau activities. Kumārajīva
appeared to have a major influence on Emperor Yao Xing's actions later on, as he avoided actions that may lead to many deaths, while trying to act gently toward his enemies. At his request, Kumārajīva
translated many sutras into Chinese. Yao Xing also built many towers and temples. Because of the influence of Kumārajīva
and Yao Xing, it was described that 90% of the population became Buddhists.

The second era of translators A. D. 400 was that of Kumaradjiva of Kashmir. There can be no doubt that he made use of SH and S as separate letters for he never confounds them in his choice of Chinese characters. The Chinese words already introduced by his predecessors he did not alter, and in introducing new terms required in the translation of the Mahayana
literature, the texts of the 大乘 Dacheng, or "greater vehicle," he uses SH for SH and usually B for V. Thus the city Shravasti was in Pali
Savatthi and in Chinese Sha-ba-ti. Probably Kumaradjiva himself speaking in the Cashmere dialect of Sanscrit called it Shabati.[12]

Translation style[edit]

Section of the Diamond Sutra, a handwritten copy by Zhang Jizhi, based on Kumarajiva's translation from Sanskrit
to Chinese

Kumarajiva revolutionized Chinese Buddhism, in clarity and overcoming the previous "geyi" (concept-matching) system of translation through use of Daoist and Confucian terms. His translation style was distinctive, possessing a flowing smoothness that reflects his prioritization on conveying the meaning as opposed to precise literal rendering.[13] Because of this, his renderings of seminal Mahayana texts have often remained more popular than later, more literal translations, e.g. those of Xuanzang.[14] Sengrui had some influence on this final polished style, as the final editor of his translation works. Kumarajiva has sometimes been regarded by both the Chinese and by western scholars as abbreviating his translations, with later translators such as Xuanzang
being regarded as being more "precise." According to Jan Nattier, this is actually an erroneous and mistaken view, and the main difference was due to the earlier versions of Kumarajiva's source texts:[15]

[W]here Kumarajiva's work can be compared with an extant Indic manuscript – that is, in those rare cases where part or all of a text he translated has survived in a Sanskrit
or Prakrit
version – a somewhat surprising result emerges. While his translations are indeed shorter in many instances than their extant (and much later) Sanskrit counterparts, when earlier Indic-language manuscript fragments are available they often provide exact parallels of Kumarajiva's supposed "abbreviations." What seems likely to have happened, in sum, is that Kumarajiva was working from earlier Indian versions in which these expansions had not yet taken place.

Legacy[edit] Among the most important texts translated by Kumārajīva
are the Diamond Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa
which was a commentary (attributed to Nagarjuna) on the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra. Kumarajiva had four main disciples: Daosheng, Sengzhao, Daorong (道融), and Sengrui. See also[edit]

Chinese Translation Theory Silk Road transmission of Buddhism


^ Pollard, Elizabeth (2015). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. 500 Fifth Ave New York, NY: W.W. Norton Company Inc. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-393-91847-2.  ^ Upinder Singh, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Education India (2008), p. 523 ^ Moti Chandra, Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, Abhinav Publications (1977), p. 180 ^ David Howard Smith, Chinese Religions From 1000 B.C. to the Present Day, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1971), p. 115 ^ http://www.pib.nic.in/newsite/feacontent.aspx?relid=69558 ^ http://old.longquanzs.org/eng/articlecontent.php?id=1342 ^ Kumar, Yukteshwar. A History of Sino-Indian Relations. 2005. p. 107 ^ Duan, Wenjie. Dunhuang
Art: Through the Eyes of Duan Wenjie. 1995. p. 94 ^ Nan, Huai-Chin. Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism
and Zen. 1997. p. 84 ^ Sun Yat-sen Institute for Advancement of Culture and Education, Nanking (1938). Ching-hsiung Wu, ed. T'ien hsia monthly, Volume 7. Kelly and Walsh, ltd. p. 455. Retrieved 2011-05-29. (Original from the University of Michigan) ^ a b c Kumar, Yukteshwar. A History of Sino-Indian Relations. 2005. p. 108 ^ The Chinese recorder and missionary journal, Volume 3. FOOCHOW.: American Presbyterian Mission Press. 1871. p. 217. Retrieved 2010-06-28. (Original from Harvard University) ^ Nattier 1992, pg. 186 ^ Nattier 1992, pg. 188 ^ Nattier, Jan (2003), A few good men: the Bodhisattva
path according to the Inquiry of Ugra: p. 60


Nattier, Jan. The Heart Sutra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Vol. 15 (2), 153-223 (1992). Puri, B. N. Buddhism
in Central Asia, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, 1987 (2000 reprint) Lu, Yang (2004). Narrative and Historicity in the Buddhist Biographies of Early Medieval China: The Case of Kumārajīva, Asia Major, Third Series, 17 (2), 1-43  This article incorporates text from The Chinese recorder and missionary journal, Volume 3, a publication from 1871 now in the public domain in the United States.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kumarajiva.

Works by Kumārajīva
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Kumārajīva
at Internet Archive

v t e


Glossary Index Outline


Three Jewels

Buddha Dharma Sangha

Four Noble Truths Noble Eightfold Path Nirvana Middle Way

The Buddha

Tathāgata Birthday Four sights Physical characteristics Footprint Relics Iconography in Laos and Thailand Films Miracles Family

Suddhodāna (father) Māyā (mother) Mahapajapati Gotamī (aunt, adoptive mother) Yasodhara (wife) Rāhula
(son) Ānanda (cousin) Devadatta

Places where the Buddha stayed Buddha in world religions

Key concepts

Avidyā (Ignorance) Bardo Bodhicitta Bodhisattva Buddha-nature Dhamma theory Dharma Enlightenment Five hindrances Indriya Karma Kleshas Mind Stream Parinirvana Pratītyasamutpāda Rebirth Saṃsāra Saṅkhāra Skandha Śūnyatā Taṇhā
(Craving) Tathātā Ten Fetters Three marks of existence

Impermanence Dukkha Anatta

Two truths doctrine


Ten spiritual realms Six realms

Deva (Buddhism) Human realm Asura realm Hungry Ghost realm Animal realm Hell

Three planes of existence


Bhavana Bodhipakkhiyādhammā Brahmavihara

Mettā Karuṇā Mudita Upekkha

Buddhābhiseka Dāna Devotion Dhyāna Faith Five Strengths Iddhipada Meditation

Mantras Kammaṭṭhāna Recollection Smarana Anapanasati Samatha Vipassanā
(Vipassana movement) Shikantaza Zazen Kōan Mandala Tonglen Tantra Tertön Terma

Merit Mindfulness


Nekkhamma Pāramitā Paritta Puja

Offerings Prostration Chanting

Refuge Satya


Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Sati Dhamma vicaya Pīti Passaddhi


Five Precepts Bodhisattva
vow Prātimokṣa

Threefold Training

Śīla Samadhi Prajñā


Four Right Exertions


Bodhi Bodhisattva Buddhahood Pratyekabuddha Four stages of enlightenment

Sotāpanna Sakadagami Anāgāmi Arhat


Bhikkhu Bhikkhuni Śrāmaṇera Śrāmaṇerī Anagarika Ajahn Sayadaw Zen
master Rōshi Lama Rinpoche Geshe Tulku Householder Upāsaka and Upāsikā Śrāvaka

The ten principal disciples

Shaolin Monastery

Major figures

Gautama Buddha Kaundinya Assaji Sāriputta Mahamoggallāna Mulian Ānanda Mahākassapa Anuruddha Mahākaccana Nanda Subhuti Punna Upali Mahapajapati Gotamī Khema Uppalavanna Asita Channa Yasa Buddhaghoṣa Nagasena Angulimala Bodhidharma Nagarjuna Asanga Vasubandhu Atiśa Padmasambhava Nichiren Songtsen Gampo Emperor Wen of Sui Dalai Lama Panchen Lama Karmapa Shamarpa Naropa Xuanzang Zhiyi


Tripiṭaka Madhyamakālaṃkāra Mahayana
sutras Pāli Canon Chinese Buddhist canon Tibetan Buddhist canon


Theravada Mahayana

Chan Buddhism

Zen Seon Thiền

Pure Land Tiantai Nichiren Madhyamaka Yogachara

Navayana Vajrayana

Tibetan Shingon Dzogchen

Early Buddhist schools Pre-sectarian Buddhism Basic points unifying Theravāda and Mahāyāna


Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan Cambodia China India Indonesia Japan Korea Laos Malaysia Maldives Mongolia Myanmar Nepal Pakistan Philippines Russia

Kalmykia Buryatia

Singapore Sri Lanka Taiwan Thailand Tibet Vietnam Middle East


Western countries

Argentina Australia Brazil France United Kingdom United States Venezuela


Timeline Ashoka Buddhist councils History of Buddhism
in India

Decline of Buddhism
in India

Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution Greco-Buddhism Buddhism
and the Roman world Buddhism
in the West Silk Road transmission of Buddhism Persecution of Buddhists Banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal Buddhist crisis Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism Buddhist modernism Vipassana movement 969 Movement Women in Buddhism


Abhidharma Atomism Buddhology Creator Economics Eight Consciousnesses Engaged Buddhism Eschatology Ethics Evolution Humanism Logic Reality Secular Buddhism Socialism The unanswered questions



Temple Vihara Wat Stupa Pagoda Candi Dzong architecture Japanese Buddhist architecture Korean Buddhist temples Thai temple art and architecture Tibetan Buddhist architecture



Tree Budai Buddharupa Calendar Cuisine Funeral Holidays

Vesak Uposatha Magha Puja Asalha Puja Vassa

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Kasaya Mahabodhi Temple Mantra

Om mani padme hum

Mudra Music Pilgrimage

Lumbini Maya Devi Temple Bodh Gaya Sarnath Kushinagar

Poetry Prayer beads Prayer wheel Symbolism

Dharmachakra Flag Bhavacakra Swastika Thangka

Temple of the Tooth Vegetarianism


Abhijñā Amitābha Avalokiteśvara


Brahmā Dhammapada Dharma
talk Hinayana Kalpa Koliya Lineage Maitreya Māra Ṛddhi Sacred languages

Pali Sanskrit

Siddhi Sutra Vinaya


Bahá'í Faith Christianity

Influences Comparison

East Asian religions Gnosticism Hinduism Jainism Judaism Psychology Science Theosophy Violence Western philosophy


Bodhisattvas Books Buddhas


Buddhists Suttas Temples

Category Portal

v t e

Indian philosophy


Atheism Atomism Idealism Logic Monotheism Vedic philosophy


Hindu: Samkhya Nyaya Vaisheshika Yoga Mīmāṃsā Vedanta

Acintya bheda abheda Advaita Bhedabheda Dvaita Dvaitadvaita Shuddhadvaita Vishishtadvaita


Pratyabhijña Pashupata Shaivism Shaiva


Ājīvika Ajñana Cārvāka Jain

Anekantavada Syādvāda

Buddhist philosophy
Buddhist philosophy
and Early Buddhist schools

Śūnyatā Madhyamaka Yogacara Sautrāntika Svatantrika


Abhinavabharati Arthashastra Bhagavad Gita Bhagavata Purana Brahma Sutra Buddhist texts Dharmashastra Hindu texts Jain Agamas Kamasutra Mimamsa Sutras

All 108 texts Principal

Nyāya Sūtras Nyayakusumanjali Panchadasi Samkhyapravachana Sutra Shiva Sutras Tarka-Sangraha Tattvacintāmaṇi Upanishads


Vaiśeṣika Sūtra Vedangas Vedas Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali Yoga
Vasistha More...


Avatsara Uddalaka Aruni Gautam Buddha Yajnavalkya Gargi Vachaknavi Buddhaghosa Patanjali Kanada Kapila Brihadratha Ikshvaku Jaimini Vyasa Chanakya Dharmakirti Akshapada Gotama Nagarjuna Padmasambhava Vasubandhu Gaudapada Adi Shankara Vivekananda Dayananda Saraswati Ramanuja Vedanta
Desika Raikva Sadananda Sakayanya Satyakama Jabala Madhvacharya Mahavira Guru Nanak Vidyaranya More...


Abhava Abhasavada Abheda Adarsana Adrishta Advaita Aham Aishvarya Akrodha Aksara Anatta Ananta Anavastha Anupalabdhi Apauruṣheyā Artha Asiddhatva Asatkalpa Ātman Avyakta Brahman Brahmi sthiti Bhuman Bhumika Chaitanya Chidabhasa Cittabhumi Dāna Devatas Dharma Dhi Dravya Dhrti Ekagrata Guṇa Hitā Idam Ikshana Ishvaratva Jivatva Kama Karma Kasaya Kshetrajna Lakshana Mithyatva Mokṣa Nididhyasana Nirvāṇa Niyama Padārtha Paramatman Paramananda Parameshashakti Parinama-vada Pradhana Prajna Prakṛti Pratibimbavada Pratītyasamutpāda Puruṣa Rājamaṇḍala Ṛta Sakshi Samadhi Saṃsāra Sankalpa Satya Satkaryavada Shabda Brahman Sphoṭa Sthiti Śūnyatā Sutram Svātantrya Iccha-mrityu Syādvāda Taijasa Tajjalan Tanmatra Tyāga Uparati Upekkhā Utsaha Vivartavada Viraj Yamas Yoga More...

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 106964949 LCCN: n50052023 ISNI: 0000 0000 8172 1598 GND: 104083298 SUDOC: 050795228 BNF: cb13547195r (data) NLA: 36730695 NDL: 00318891