Dialogue July - September, 2003 , Volume 5 No. 1
Interface of India with other Asian
A Chinese poet says: “The empires crumble, mountains and rivers remain”. The mountains of transcendence and the rivers of perenniality, spirituality and sensitiveness of Asia’s Eternal peep through millennia. In the Garden of Blessings are planted our seeds. India has symbolized profound necessities of the spirit, a vision of the infinite in an unbroken sky, the plenitude of the void, the embrace of the one and the zero, the union of abstraction and sensuality in art and life, intellection and meditation, an aesthesis beyond the eyes and reason, the universe as a working of mysterious and impersonal laws or as the Atharvaeda 19.53 says: “Time (K"ala) created the Lord of Creatures (Praj"apati)”. The solitary contemplative Arhats and Theras and Bodhisattvas who have renounced nirv"a]na to help living creatures have been the bread and being of Buddhist Asia. Dharma has been a radiant promise to the millions of Asia, the Truth of Life. ‘The barefoot light of their centuries has been the gods and goddesses, not as such, but as images of the Divinity of Man. Time has opened its doors to their soul, ablaze in the steps or seats of divine beings on lotuses. The entire cultural interflow has been a sharing of dreams, rather than borrowings or influences.
The inmost force that undergrids the symbiosis of Asian lands is the harmony of the human and the cosmic, or in the words of Goethe: “Was die Welt an innersten zusammenh§alt”. The ephemeral and eternal are endowed with a luminous consciousness. It finds varying intellection in accord with the texture of different ethnicities and ages. It is the blending of wisdom and life in the symbolism of three planes: sa=msk"ara, sa=msk_rta and sa^msk_rti. Sa=msk"ara is the inner consciousness where the collective psyche and individual experiences are the inexhaustible soul of the highest. Sa=msk|rta is its verbal (v"acika) expression so that the interior light, the antarjyoti of the Upani]sads, flows uninterrupted over spans of time to be inherited and enriched by the future. Its expression in concrete visual terms is sa=msk|rti, the embodiment (k"ayika) of the Eternal in the visual, verbal and performing arts: as sculptures in the round, as paintings in the flat, as prose and poetry, as music, dance and theatre. This trinity or trive]n$û of sa=msk"ara, sa=msk|rta and sa=msk|rti is the confluence of luminous nature.
The introduction of Buddhism into China was due to Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty who dreamt that a golden man came flying into the palace. When told by his courtiers that he was Buddha, the sage of the West, he sent an embassy to India to bring sutras and «srama]nas. They returned in AD 04 with Ka«syapa M"ata<nga and Dharmarak]sa. It was on Chinese initiative that the long pilgrimage of Buddhism began in her thought, literature and visual expression. It was a flux and reflux of two cultures with a new personality of its own.
The Chinese writer Tuan Ch’½eng-shih (ca AD 800-863) narrates a legend about the foundation of the city of Balkh in Tukhara. The Tocharians share linguistic features with the Celtic language as well as the textile technology of the Celts. Hundreds of Tocharian mummies have been found in the Tarim Basin and most of them have been dated to about 1000 BC, while the earlier ones from Loulan were buried as early as 2000 – 1800 BC. The Beauty of Loulan with blue eyes and light brown hair is dateable to 2000 BC. Hsuan-tsang speaks of the Tocharian kingdom (Beal 1884: 1.37) and says that the literature, customs and money used in commerce in Bamiyan were the same as those of the Tukhara kingdom. It seems that the Tocharians had settled in this region very early, and migrating to central Asia. The Bamboo Books record the travels of Emperor Mu of the Chou dynasty, who ruled for fortyfive years, 1001 – 945 BC. He crossed the Flowing Sand Desert on the north, ascended the K’un-lun Mountain to pay a visit to the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu). Prof. Dr. Wang Bangwei of the Peking University told me that she is Goddess Um"a. It seems that the Ud$"ucya region or North West India was in contact with Central Asia and China as early as the second millennium BC and these contacts increased in the first millennium BC.
The introduction of Buddhism into China was a novum. It meant a new intellectual elite in which persons of diverse origins could engage. The monastic ideal created a new form of social organization in which the rigid class boundaries were effaced. The Chinese word ssu for a Buddhist monastary originally meant a “government office”. The transcription of Buddhist terms into Chinese followed the system in the Accounts of the Western Regions in the Annals of the Han and Later Han dynasties. Sanskrit masters entered China on Serindian horses sought after by Chinese emperors. In AD 148 the Parthian prince-monk An Shih-kao arrived at Loyang and initiated intense literary activity that lasted for a millenium. Sutras, sculptures and paintings coming from the Buddhist kingdoms ushered new perceptions in the Chinese mind. An Shih-kao began an era of transcreations of Sanskrit works into Chinese, which became an impressive achievement of the Chinese intellectuals from all walks of life in contradistinction to the Confucian class of mandarins. Palace Culture was invigorated by a new Peoples Culture wherein brilliant monks came to the mainstream of cultural and intellectual life without any class distinctions. The «srama]nas and s"utras on horses led to a symbolism in which superior horses were equated with superior human beings. The noble steed in Chinese polity and poetry was “Power and Virtue”, as the State was conditioned by the value systems of the Sutras. The translation of the Sukhv"avati-vy"uha by An Shih-kao left China spell-bound: (i) firstly by the genius of a non-Han, (ii) by the deeper realms of wisdom wherein Avalokite«svara saw that the five skandhas in their own-being were empty ("arya-Avalokite«svaro bodhisattvo…svabh"ava-«s"uny"an pa«syati sma: Nothingness is the fragrance of the beyond); and thirdly that there are many universes where definitions disappear, and the undefined reigns. It was a new awaking, in which the classical Confucian Sino-centrism was enriched by polycentrism, the non-Han barbarian emerged as a magnetic center, the peripheries became universes in their own right, the Central Kingdom had a counterpart in the Western paradise of Sukh"avat$û. Sukh"avat$û became vivid as beauties of Iranian Parthia danced in the joyous tenderness of their vibrant movements. Buddhism was associated with fiery steeds of victory, with caravans laden with affluence, with the passionate beauty of life, and with the enlightenment of the mind.
All the four accounts of the foundation of Khotan (two in Chinese and two in Tibetan) associate it with the son and ministers of Emperor A«soka in the third century BC. A collection of coins of the first centuries AD from Yotqan the ancient capital of Khotan bears Chinese legends and Prakrit legends in Kharsth$û. The Chinese used to get jade for Imperial rites from Khotan. The ideogram yu for jade is a metaphor for purity, nobility and beauty. A jade woman means a beautiful woman. This phrase refers to the charm of Iranian ladies of Khotan who must have come to the Imperial Court along with jade, with their jade-smooth skin. The Chinese were fascinated by the beauties, by the music and by the dances of the Serindian peoples of Central Asia. As early as the Chou, which is 1027-256 BC, the Chinese got music of the Western Barbaraians and played it on special occasions to vaunt their political might. Jade, the product of heaven itself, traveled from Khotan to China. Khotan was also famous as a center of Buddhism and of Sanskrit texts. The Chinese expression ‘to obtain the doctrine’ meant to procure Sanskrit sutras, e.g. Chinese monk Chu-Shih-hsing undertook the arduous journey from Loyang to Khotan to get a copy of the Pa±ncavi=m«sati-s"ahasrik"a Praj±n"ap"aramit"a. In the fifth century eight Chinese monks traveled in search of sacred texts. They reached Khotan at the time of the pa±ncavar]sika ceremonies held every five years. Here the most distinguished bhiksus from all over Central Asia embroidered their sermons with parables. The Chinese monks put them together at Turfan on their way back to China in 445, under the title “Book of the Wise Man and Fool”. This was translated into Tibetan and Mongolian, and, was widely read in the Lamaist world. In the mural at shrine II of Dandan Uiliq, H"ar$ût$û has Sino-Khotanese features.
The westward probing and expansion of China led to the introduction of Buddhism after the consolidation of the centralized state in 221 BC. The Xiongnu raids were a constant threat to China’s agricultural border regions. The Chinese formed alliances with people further west to establish bases in their rear. They exported goods of sinic gracious living to corrupt the simple martial spirit of the Xiongnu. Han garrisons were stationed all along the route to Khotan that occasioned cultural contracts. The first millenium culminated in the tenth century, when Buddhism ushered in the beginning of modern times with large-scale printing in the Song dynasty. The first printed Buddhist Tripitaka started in Chengdu in 971 arrived at Tun-huang around the year 1000.
Kabul, as a great center of Buddhism, had the unique honour of sending the largest number of eminent Buddhist teachers to China to translate sutras into Chinese. The first teacher was Gautama Sa<nghadeva who arrived at Ch’ang-an in AD 383 and rendered Âgama and Abhidharma texts. Sa<nghabh"uti of Kabul translated the Buddhacarita into Chinese in AD 381-385. The Chinese monk Shih Chi-yen came to Kabul to obtain Sanskrit texts. Gunavarman a son of the King of Kabul came to Nanking in AD 431 and translated ten works.
The Fa-t’a stupa, dominating the oasis city of Shantan in the Kansu province, contains a Hair of King Aœoka. A stone inscription of the T’ang dynasty at the Mo-gao Caves Tun-huang states that its first cave was constructed by an Indian monk LoTs’un in AD 366 and was called the “Cave of Unequalled Height”. It may have been inspired by the colossi of Bamiyan. The Northern Wei emperors were not of Han origin. These barbarians demonstrated their cultural excellence to the Chinese through the magnificent cave temples, the grandeur of colossal statues at Y¥un-kang, and the profound thought of the Buddhist sutras. The sinocentric view of the Chinese underwent a new realization of the existence of other cultural universes, at times deeper and more subtle than their own. The first series of caves 16-20 at Y¥un-kang, begun under the supervision of T’an’yao in 460 for the Northern Wei sovereigns, are reminiscent of bamiyan. Buddhist sculpture and painting gave a new ambience to China wherein funerary bas-reliefs were replaced by glowing divine forms, smile on their faces, youthful features endowed with serenity of compassion, drapery falling in subtle and gracefully flowing lines Buddhist art spread with rapidity endowing the vast spaces of China with the glory and grace of the divine, accessible to the nobility and literati as well as to the humblest and lowliest in the land. The caves of T’ien-lung-shan, which date before 750, display influences of late Gupta style.
In AD 490 Hsieh Ho established the “Six Aspects” of painting. They have remained the criteria for Chinese art criticism. They echo the six elements of painting in the K"amas"utra (r"upabheda, pram"a]na, bh"ava, l"ava]nya-yojana, s"ad|r«sya, var]nik"a-bha<nga). They impart a vital tone and atmosphere that is moving and alive, in a rendering of ‘bones’ (essential structure) and essence, rather than mere outward aspect. The divine and human became one, dissolving into ripples of the mind.
In the seventh and eighth centuries, the Chinese were fascinated by the new science of astronomy, calendrical knowledge and mathematics in Sanskrit texts which were known as the ‘P’o-lo-men or Brahmin Books’. Indians were appointed presidents of the Imperial Board of Astronomy, for instance, K"a«syapa headed it around AD 650. It is paradox that we owe to Gautama Siddha the greatest collection of ancient Chinese astronomical fragments. He introduced from India the symbol of the zero, an early form of trigonometry and other innovations. To the Chinese, Sanskrit was the language of Exact Sciences, of statecraft, of military tactics, and of surveying the sidereal locations of cities from Tashkent to Vietnam. An emperor of the T’ang dynasty sent a military mission against the king of Champa (on the coastal region of modern Vietnam) to bring his library of 1350 Sanskrit manuscript as war booty to China.
Dance, music and musical instruments are resplendent in the depiction of the Western Paradise of Amit"abha. The angels dancing in Sukh"avat$û paradise have been painted all over East Asia, for the last two millennia. Some of the finest murals at Tun-huang (the Ajanta Caves of China) are of dancing goddesses in the joyous tenderness of their vibrant movements. These dancing angles are Indian for they wear no raiments on top. Tun-huang caves show three types of female dresses: (i) the flowing drapery of Chinese ladies, (ii) the tight wear of Central Asian beauties, (iii) and the sensuous elegance of the bare bodies of Indian belles who bid the on-looker to accompany them into worlds of luminous beauty.
The origins of printing in China also go back to Sanskrit. The first printed sheet has the goddess Pratisar"a in the center with mantras in Sanskrit letters written concentrically around her. It is dated AD 757 and was excavated in 1944 from a grave near Beijing. The technology of printing developed in rapid strides for the immense project of the publication of the Buddhsit Tripitaka. As large quantities of paper were required for the extensive Tripitaka, paper industry flourished to such an extent that the use of paper became universal.
The earliest known manuscript with stanzas from the three mah"ak"avyas of K"alid"asa was preserved in the P’u-an monastery in China. The great Chinese master of dhy"ana Pao-chang got it from India in AD 1057.
There are five Chinese inscriptions at Bodhgaya, the only ones in India, which were put up in the 10/11th century by a mission sent by the Chinese emperor to pay homage to the holy places in India.
On 6 June 1988 Christie’s offered for sale a blue-and-white Chinese bowl, which was sold for £ 209,000 to Mr. C.C. Teng of Taiwan. It was made for the personal use to of the Ming Emperor Hsüan-te who ruled from 1426-36. It has a Samskrit benediction and bìjas all around as a ritual jar:
r"atrau svasti, div"a
svasti, svasti maddhyandine sthite/
svasti sarvam ahor"atram triratn"ani bhavantu va]h//
A Princess of Ayodhy"a arrived from India to Korea in AD 48 at Kimhae aboard a ship, with the Three Treasures of statues, s"utras and «srama]nas (monks). She became the queen of the founder of the first Korean state of Karak. She established the first national capital and named it Gaya. From a tribal order Korea emerged as a state. In gratitude to the Sea that allowed safe passage to the Queen to his shores, the King built Haeunsa ‘Temple of Sea Grace’ that stands to this day near the top of Punsongsan Mountain.
Buddhism was officially introduced into Korea during the period of the Three Kingdoms: Koguryo received it in 372, Paekche in 384, and Silla in 527. The Indian Master Mall"ananda brought Buddhism to Paekche in 384. It gave the Three Kingdoms a new meaning: the became civilization. In its first energy and freshness it filled the country with benefits, nourished art, diffused education, made roads, established resting places, promoted beneficence and multiplied comforts in thousand forms. It made vivid and tangible the presence of a profound social and cultural order.
In 535 the first great cathedral of Buddhism was founded and called Pulguksa. It is the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery of Korea, that has determined the tonality of Korean life for centuries. The most skilled workmen were summoned to make it a monument of restrained dignity and quiet peace. To this day, newly married couples begin their conjugal life by seeking the blessings of Pulguksa.
The pensive images of Maitreya’s disciples are coeval with the period of the consolidation of the Korean state. Maitreya cult was practiced at the Silla court by young aristocratic warriors who formed a fraternity known as the Hwarang ‘Perfumed Followers of the Dragon Flower’. This name is an allusion to the n"agapu]spa tree under which Matitreya Boddhisattva will become a Buddha. They had an enormous importance in the government both during the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla dynasty. They were responsible for national unity. The Buddhist kingdom of Silla accomplished the unification of the Three kingdoms and formed the nation-state of Korea for the first time in history. Ever since, Korean Buddhism was the destiny and defence of the land. Monk Wolkwang formulated the “Five Worldly Commandments” to form the basis of a national ethos.
The Korean monk Hyecho became a disciple of the Indian teacher Vajrabodhi as a youth of sixteen years. Later, he traveled to India by the Sea route and returned in December 727 via Central Asia. In Samarkand he records one Buddhist monastery with one monk. Hyecho is last pilgrim on the Silk Route (or better Sutra Route) before the monasteries and monks perished in the Islamic onslaught. He details this wounded time in his Travel Records which are on par with those of his celebrated predecessor Hsuan-tsang.
To ward off the Mongol invasion, the King of Korea had 81,258 wooden blocks of the Tripi|taka Koreana engraved. Completed in AD 1251, they have been preserved in perfect condition to this day at the Haeinsa monastery on Mount Gaya. They reflect the glory of national unity. This Tripi|taka done for the defence of the country, is a marvel of Korean technology seven centuries ago. As the evening mist pervades the valleys and mountains dull into darkness, the windows of the monastery are lit one by one by monks preparing to cross over the 108 passions to the sea of Buddha’s wisdom.
The last Indian 'Ac"arya to visit Korea was Chikong (Dhy"anabhadra). He arrived in Korea in the 1340s and established the Juniper Rock Monastery on the pattern of the Nalanda University. Its foundations can be seen near Seoul. He wrote Sanskrit dh"aranî-mantras on the gigantic Yonboksa Bell for the liberation and peace of the Korean People from Mongol domination. An inscription at the Juniper Rock Monastery dated 1378 records the life and work of Dhy"anabhadra and informs us that the King of Kanchi was his nephew. it gives a glimpse of Buddhism in India in the 14th century, from Kanchi in the South to Jalandhar in the North. The mill for making sattu installed by Dhy"anabhadra still lies at the site of this Monastery.
In 1446 the sage-like emperor Seijong invented a new Korean alphabet and moveable printing types. This alphabet continues to this day as the Hangul or “Proper Writing”. Dr. Kei Won Chung in his dissertation to the Princeton University says that the Korean alphabet was composed on the principles of the Sanskrit alphabet. With the new alphabet, learning became accessible to a large mass of people.
Seoul has the only Buddhist Broadcasting Station in the world. A restaurant called “Perfume of Grasses” recalls the cuisine of 'Ac"arya Dhy"anabhadra. It serves “tea of honey-stick”. Honey-stick is madhu-yasti or liquorice (muleth$û in Hindi).
In 1991, Korea dedicated the world’s largest bronze image of Maitreya at Popchusa monastery. This 100 feet high statue embodies the aspirations of the Korean people for national re-unification. The Popchusa was built in 553. Two centuries later, in 776, monk Yulsa erected a 40 feet gilt bronze Maitreya for national prosperity and unity of the people. During the Eye-Opening Ceremony in April 1991, three rainbows appeared in the clear sky: “Isn’t this a sign that we can even move heaven when are truly devoted? When we build an image of Maitreya in our hearts too, all lives on earth will turn into lotus flowers, and the very world around us will become a pond of joy” (Chief Abbot Yu).
In 552, Buddhism was officially introduced into Japan when the King of Paekche (Kudara) sent a gilt bronze image of Lord Buddha and sutras. A host of secular technologies accompanied the new Buddhist order: writing, administration, weaving, metallurgy, calendar & architecture. Shotoku Taishi (574-621) is rightly acclaimed as the builder of Japanese civilization. As a thanksgiving to the new order, he created Shitennoji at Osaka in AD 593, an architectural achievement of the age. This temple to the Four Lokap"alas (Shitenno) symbolized unity of the east, south, west and north of Japan as a nation-state. He promulgated the first written Constitution of 17 articles in AD 604 in which the Triratna gave a humanised face to administration. He gave birth to Japanese literature by his commentaries on Hokke (Saddharma-pundar$ûka-s"utra), Yuima (Vimalak$ûrti-nirde«sa), and Sh"oman (¯Srim"al"a-s"utra). Japan had wrought a miracle in the short span of half a century. Her literature and Imperial palaces were on par with those of continental China. Japan emerged as a state when Prince Shotoku substituted tribal rivalries by a centralized system of Japan as a Buddha-k]setra.
From the Buddhist monasteries established by Prince Shotoku, the Horyuji “The Temple for the Flourishing of Dharma” (Dharma-vardhana-vih"ara) still stands as the most ancient wooden building in the world. Its kond"o or golden hall is adorned with murals, whose style has close affinities to that of India. It reflects the artistic achievements of the seventh century. In the years AD 643-646, 648-649, and 657-661 the entourage of the Chinese envoy Wang Hs§uan-ts’e copied the frescoes on the walls of monasteries in India. Later on these paintings were compiled in 40 fascicules. Some of them were taken to Japan by the Korean artist Honjitsu, and they became the models for Horyuji murals. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Horyuji, with a rich patina of centuries, evince a particular purity of line, surface and decoration and a desire to see humanity, flesh and blood, fused in most abstract of deities. The Horyuji monastery has yielded one of the most ancient Sanskrit manuscripts of the U]s]n$û]sviijay"a-dh"ara]n$i in the Gupta script.
As early as the sixth century, an Indian yogin lived in the Kataoka village by begging alms. Shotoku Taishi wrote a poem on him. In the middle of the seventh century Dharmabodhi came via China and settled in Hokkezan. He had a small image of Thousand-armed Kannon. He restored the Emperor to health, when all the royal physicians had failed. In 651 he instituted the festival of the Tripi|taka (Daizoe).
The Japanese state found an invigorating stabilization in Buddhism. The Daibutsu at Todaiji was the culmination of Japanese resourcefulness and technology. It was consecrated by the Indian Bodhisena who reached Osaka in 773. He taught Sanskrit at Daianji that showed the way to a phonetic system to suit the needs of the Japanese language.
The V$ûn"a under its Japanese form biwa is an integral characteristic of the Japanese Sarasvat$û. The most ancient biwa known today is preserved in the Shosoin Repository, dating to AD 757.
In AD 799 an Indian was washed ashore somewhere in the Mikawa province. A young man of twenty years, with nothing to cover his body except a straw coat and short drawers, he was stranded in a country where none understood him. Years later when he became conversant with Japanese he said that he had come from India. He had seeds of cotton with him. He lived at the Kawadera temple at Nara. Two ancient chronicles Nihon-koki and Ruiju-kokushi mention that he introduced the cultivation of cotton which became the most important clothing material. The Japanese words wata or hata for cotton are derived from Sanskrit pata (iV).
With the advent of the ninth century, Japanese life had been transformed by assimilation with Buddhist civilisation. The blossoming of the great continental culture in insular surroundings reached its culmination in the personality of Kobo Daishi (AD 774-835), who visited China to drink at the purest springs of Dharma. Kobo Daishi’s new denomination of Shingon or Mantray"ana was a new moral consciences of the country. He proclaimed Buddhahood to be the potential privilege of all as against the predestined few. He became an outstanding genius in Japan’s cultural evolution. For the first time he founded a school for the children of common people. Till then the academies were open only to children of families above the fifth rank. To achieve this historic democratisation, he created the Japanese kana syllabary of fifty sounds: a i u e o, ka ki ku ke ko, etc. based on the Sanskrit alphabet. It was to spread education to the common man. The new syllabary was a revolutionary step in Japan’s civilization: what was hitherto the prerogative of the pre-destined few became the potential privilege of all. The entire alphabet was woven into a poem wherein every syllable occurs once. This poem is called Iroha. It is based on the Mah"aparinirv"a]na-s"utra.
The Japanese have longed to be pilgrims to India. In AD 818 Kongo-sammai (Vajrasam"adhi) came to India via China. He makes a realistic observation that millions of flies swarmed the dining rooms of Nalanda but disappeared when the monks settled down to eat. In the 850s Hôdo undertook a hundred day long meditation. On the 70th day a beautiful lady entered the room and he fell in love. In remorse, he travelled to China and thence to the Vulture Peak in India to expiate his sin. The monk Myoe Shoin (1163-1122) was unable to visit India. He consoled himself by giving the Sanskrit name Pr"agbodhi to the hill in front of his monastery and calling the stream flowing by as Naira±njan"a. In the Tokugawa period, a great scholar of Avata=msaka Hotan washed his feet in sea water at a beach in the thought that the water extended to the shores of the motherland of Buddhism.
Near Kyoto is the Golden pavilion (Kinkakuji) which was the hermitage of Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu as a Zen monk. It is a picturesque pavilion sitting in the pond, lending grace to the garden of Rokuonji temple. Here arises the ethereal pavilion of nirv"a]na overlooking the ocean of existence (bhava-s"agara). It recalls the Golden Temple of Amritsar. The Kinkakuji in the center of the pond is the emergence of Brahm"a from the primal waters.
The wonderful art of Ikebana, which means putting living plants in water, is to love flowers as living beings and to tend them with kind feelings. The Japanese bow before the flowers after they have arranged them. An aesthetic creation is the essence of life itself. It is pervaded by the warmth of the human heart, whereby one gives expression to the universal heart. Japanese tradition speaks of “Indian monks who, in their universal love, were the first to pick up plants injured by the storm or parched by the heat, in order to tend them with compassion and endeavour to keep them alive”.
India’s austerity was Japanese elegance: minimum of lines to express plenitude of form. It is the aesthetic appreciation of stark poverty, of austere form, “the sanny"asa of r"upa”. Haiku is the incarnation of loneliness, of minimal words. The dusty leaf-hut of India is an abode of meditation in Japan with not a single particle of dust. The Ryoanji garden with its naked expanse of white sand acting as a setting for stones takes us back to the sea, to the ocean of existence (bhava-s"agara). This supremely abstract monument, the kare sansui, the “dry landscape” garden, was designed in the late fifteenth century. The rocks, tiny mounts Fuji, simply mean fuji, not two that is, peerless, the abolition of all distinctions, the advaya. They are both literal levels and symbolic tangents thereof, crossing the sea of illusion towards the shore of satori “illumination”, to cross over the dry sandy ripples of the ocean of existence, the bhava-s"agara.
Zen is a product of the Chinese and Japanese soil from the Buddhist seed of Enlightenment, India’s hut and Japanese bamboos, India’s sophisticated thought and Japan’s bizarre koans: all leading to self-reliance (jiy"u) and self being (jizai).
Along a road stands an egg-like rock on a flat roundish base of another rock, with the Sanskrit monogram RO Sanskrit letters implying deeper levels. A modern Japanese girl in mini, her hair dyed blonde and perhaps with styrene injection for a rounded feminine form, stops by, graciously puts a tangerine on a piece of paper as an offering to the planets (nava-graha): RO is the symbolic b$ûj"ak]sara for nava-graha-p"uj"a. Such are the frozen levels of culture echoing at different strata of existence and consciousness.
In our own times, the Japanese Okakura Tenshin stayed at the home of poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1902. It led to the cultural renaissance of India. Out of his talks with the Indian poet, Tenshin crystallised his essay on The Ideals of the East. The pioneers of modern Indian painting, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandlal Bose, and others, used Japanese brushes and colours and reflected the diaphanous aura of Japanese paintings in their new creativity. This cultural encounter left a deep impression on our national ethos. Some of our revolutionaries sought refuge in Japan. The heroic struggle of Tenshin prevented the wholesale destruction of the cultural heritage of Japan in the orgy of foreignism sweeping the country. Yet, he spoke of humanity; in his own words “humanity has met in a tea-cup”.
Let us go to South East Asia. Emperor A«soka sent his son Mahinda and daughter Sa<nghamitr"a to King Devanampiya Tissa of Srilanka in the third century BC. In the list of gifts, as recorded in the D$ûpava=msa, sent by A«soka is nandy"avarta whose meaning has been debated. It has been interpreted as a type of jasmine, or a gold vessel in the shape of crow-claws, or a gold flower. Nandy"avarta is an architectural term: it is a six-storeyed palace in the M"anas"ara 24.24 or a pavilion with 36 coloumns in the Suprabhed"agama 31.103. A«soka sent eighteen guilds of artists, craftsmen and painters along with Mahinda, well aware of the power of art to attract people to Dharma. By the time Mahinda died there was an art gallery (cittas"al"a) in the capital of Anuradhapura. Promoting piety through painting has lingered throughout the centuries. Mah"ava=msa mentions painted cases in the reign of Devanampiya Tissa in 307 BC. A very early extant painting of the second century BC showing the Vessantara-j"ataka has been found in the relic-chamber of the Ruvanveli Seya from the period of King Dutugemunu (161-137 BC). There are other paintings of the second century BC in the Karambagala cave (ancient Kurandaka Lena), which are mentioned by Buddhaghosa in the Visuddhi-magga.
The world famous painting in the rock citadel of Sigiriya (Skt. Si=mhagiri) were done during the reign of King Kassapa I (479-497), who had come to the throne by murdering his father. He ruled the kingdom for 18 years surrounding himself with lissome women, trying to forget his aching conscience. The twentyone figures of sensuous ladies at Sigiriya bear a close resemblance to the art of Ajanta. Bejamin Rowiand compares these maidens to the sculptures of Amaravati, whence Srilanka derived its sculptural style.
King Kassapa, who transformed it into the most impregnable fortress, identified himself with Kubera, the God of Riches, who was then held in high veneration. The abode of Kubera is on Mount Kail"a«sa. On Sigiriya and its environs King Kassapa tried to create the verisimilitude of this Mount, especially after the lyrical Meghad"uta of K"alid"asa. The gallery is a 500 feet long concavity which has been constructed to accord with the passage of the cloud in the Meghad"uta, where the cloud is told to proceed northwards on its flight to Kail"a«sa through an aperture in the Krau±nca mountain. The high polish of the Mirror Hall of Sigiriya mirrors the heavenly damsels of the poet K"alid"asa. The artistic treatment of the world-famed damsels, depicting them waist above clouds, together with their location in the Rock, portrays the lightning and clouds in the region of cloud-land above which rises the peak of Kail"a«sa where Lord Kubera resides. Actually, this part of the rock is girdled by clouds in December and early January. The princesses of Lightning or vijju-kum"ar$û are fair and the Cloud Damsels or megha-lat"a are dark. These marvellous paintings precede their immortal counterparts at Ajanta. These damsels could be goddesses bringing blessings of heaven to assuage the gnawing remorse of parricide in the heart of King Kassapa.
When Sigiriya passed out of eventful history, Anuradhapura came into its own. It was here that Dutthagamani, the national hero reigned. It was here again that the Buddhist works were committed to writing in Aluvihara or the Caves of Illumination. In the heart of this city is the venerable Bo tree with a recorded history of over two and a quarter thousand years. It is a branch of the tree at Bodhgaya under which Lord Buddha gained Bodhi.
In March 1917, Sir John Marshall wrote to the Acting Director of the Colombo Museum, to make copies of two paintings in the Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva, which are of the 12th century, because “we have scarcely any painting in India of this period”.
The Simhala language is in line with Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and others. Simhala has even preserved interesting words which are lost or have become obsolete in modern Indian languages. While Sanskrit a«sva is nearly forgotten in modern Indian tadbhavas, Simhala has ‘as’ in the literary language and in several compounds like as-govva ‘horse-keeper’, as-hala ‘stable’. The Simhala language is important for understanding the evolution of modern Indian languages in their time-context: for in it we are able to follow the development through more than two thousand years, first in inscriptions and then in literary works. It affords time-points to locate the histories of words.
The interface of the cultures of India and South East was, in the words of Paul Mus: “India seen from the East”. The famous Chinese writer, Lady Han Suyin, speaks of the Indian initiative in South East Asia, as narrated in the Chinese dynastic annals. She writes: “One night two thousand years ago, a god visited a youth in India and said to the young man, named Kau]n]dinya: “Find a bow, board your boat, sail toward the rising sun.” Kau]n]dinya went to the temple next moring and there found, on the floor, a bow with a quiver full of arrows; he embarked and the god-driven wind blew him across the elephant-backed sea to a shore where Willowleaf, the beautiful queen and leader of the Khmer amazons, reigned. The queen launched her war canoe to repel Kau]n]dinya, but the youth shot it through with his arrows, and she submitted to him. They were married, and thus was born the dynasty of the first Khmer kingdom”.
Thus the kingdom of Funan, was founded by sage Kaundinya, who married the N"ag$û queen Som"a. This kingdom is referred to in Chinese texts from the third to the seventh century. Sanskrit was the official language of Funan. The use of the Pallava script speaks of the cultural majesty of the Pallava kings.
Cambodia is the only country named after a rsi or sage: Kambuja kings were descendants of Kambu Sv"ayambhuva and Mer"a.
Jayavarman II came to the throne in the ninth century. He liberated Cambodia from Javanese vassalage. There is an unbroken line of rulers from him to modern times. He founded Angkor around the fertile area of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap that is inundated by the Mekong. The word Angkor is the Cambodian pronunciation of Sanskrit nagara. The Cambodians believe that Angkor was built by Indra who moulded the city in clay, poured over it a sort of icing whereby it solidified. Great Indra looked upon his favourite land of the Khmers, noted that its King and Queen were childless. He gave a son to the Queen and showed the child glories of his T"avati=msa paradise. The son ruled over the Khmers and copied the heavenly realm at Angkor. Great Indra visited the earth for the coronation of his son, to give to his child’s realm its name of Kambuja, and to give the Sacred Sword which is the Lightning of Indra. It is kept to this day in the royal palace, and used in coronation rites. The coronation ceremonies are events of great pomp. The King is robed in the colour of the day (purple if it is a Tuesday). He is received in the palace by the Grand Master of the Order of the Baku, carrying an image of god Vi]s]nu. The royal feet are washed in coconut juice and perfumed essences by the Prea Reamea Reachea Thippedi (r"ama-r"ajya-adhipati). The Grand Master hands the statues of ®Siva and Vi]s]nu in the right and left hands of the King. When he hands over the Sacred Sword, he proclaims the formula: “Take, for thou art the Lightning of Indra”.
Angkor flourished for six hundred years. The city was captured in 1431 by the Thais, and a curtain of darkness descended upon Angkor and the entire Cambodian civilization.
The Cambodian kings transferred their capital to Phnom Penh, then called Chadomukh. With the advent of the new dynasty in the 15th century, the construction of temples and writing of Sanskrit inscriptions ceased, as the elite had been wiped out. When King Ponhea Yat founded the capital at Phnom Penh he gave it the imposing title:
Krong chadomukh mongkol sokkala kampucheathipdei
prqeqZ[k eaxy ldy dEcqtkf/kifr
sereisothor parava intaputta borei rattharachasema mohanokor
Js"B ije bUnzizLFk iqjh jk"Vªjktlhek egkuxj
Over a thousand Sanskrit inscriptions in ornate k"avya style reveal the religious, social and political life of Cambodia. Th