Buddhism in Kashmir has the contributions of sixteen professors from India, Hongkong, Moscow, Berlin, Kathmandu and Bangkok.
It details the work of Kashmiri masters in the transmission of sutras to China, the legendary visit of Lao-tzu to Kashmir, the role of Kashmiri teachers in Khotan and Tibet, the articulation of Vaibhasika doctrines by Sanghabhadra in a Chinese translation by Xuan-zang, Buddhist terracottas, stupas and monastery in Ambaran (Jammu), deification of the Buddha in the Hindu pantheon, comparison of Naropa's Maharnudra-
upadesa and Kashmir Saivisrn, mind-body problem in Buddhism, Buddhist art and architecture of Kashmir, language of advice in early Chinese Buddhist 'texts, Kumarajiva's contribution. Buddhism of Kashmir and Tibet; Sunyata in Lal Ded and Nund Rishi, twilight period of Buddhism in Kashmir, Rin. chen. bzan. po's renaissance,
Kashmir meditation propagated by Buddhabhadra in fifth century China,
Sarvastivada synod in Kashmi. Buddhism and contemporary Kashmiri culture. A basic study of the role of Kashmir in the development and dissemination of Buddhism.
Meem Hai Zaffar, a poet and crrtic of Kashmiri language has been trained in logic and philosophy- at Aligarh Muslim University and Rajasthan University, Jaipur, India, is deeply interested in the spiritual and mystical traditions of the sub-continent, particularly those of Kashmir. Has been associated with various cultural and literary organisations. In addition to a collection of poems has written and published a number of papers on various philosophical and literary issues in various national and international journals. Has participated in numerous national and international seminars related to Philosophical and cultural themes and has himself organised scores of such seminars at The Institute of Kashmir Studies and in other academic and cultural institutions. Is presently working in the field of Kashmir Sai vism, is engaged in the translation of some of its basic texts from Sanskrit to Kashmiri. Has represented Kashmiri Saivism in different national and international forums. Has got quite a few awards as a recognition of his work in the field of Kashmir Studies. Zaffar is presently associated with the Institute of Kashmir studies, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, J & K. India.
Nirmala Sharma is an Art Historian and Professor of Buddhist Studies at the International Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi. She is working on a project of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts on "Iconography of the mandalas of the Dukhang of Alchi". She has two master degrees: one in Fine Arts, and the other in Ancient Indian History Culture and Archaeology. Her PhD thesis was on the Ragamala paintings. She has been a senior fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies.
The Kashmir valley has, over the centuries, been an extraordinary palimpsest of religions and cultures. Believed to be one of the areas where the ancient Vedic rishis expressed their illumination in estatic language in the Upanishads, it later became a centre of Buddhism famous throughout the whole of South and South-East Asia when Emperor Kanishka held the third international Buddhist Conference there. The great Kumarajiva, who carried Buddhism tChina, was also a Kashmiri. Later still, there was the remarkable Hindu revival with the emergence of what is known as Kashmir Shaivism, a unique chapter in India's philosophical history, which produced such outstanding thinkers as Acharya Abhinavagupta, who must rank among the greatest in the entire Indian tradition. Yogini Lalleshvari marked confluence between Shaivism and the incoming Sufi influx in the 14th century, which then resulted in the steady Islamization of the valley which, however, retained many of the older customs and traditions.
It was only in the mid 19th century when my ancestor Maharaja Gulab Singh founded the composite State of Jammu & Kashmir that there was a substantial Hindu revival, although the majority of the people remained Muslims. All this is only regarding the Kashmir valley. If we were to add other parts of the composite J&K State, the picture becomes even more complex. Leh has remained a major centre for Tibetan or Vajrayana Buddhism, while in Ambaran, near Akhnoor in the Jammu region, fresh archeological evidence points to the existence of a Buddhis vihara in ancient times.
The present volume, however, ably edited by Prof. Nirmala Sharma, under the guidance of the great scholar Prof. Lokesh Chandra deals essentially with Buddhism in the Kashmir valley. It flows from a seminar on Buddhism in Kashmir that was held under the auspices of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in Leh (Ladakh) in Oct. 2011. That in turn flowed from a suggestion made to me by Prof. Saifuddin Soz at a parliamentary meeting that the ICCR should organise such a seminar.
A number of eminent scholars visited Leh to participate in this gathering, and many of them contributed important and well researched essays which are now being brought out in this volume. This is part of the ICCR's mandate to honour and articulate India's multi-faced cultural heritage in which Buddhism plays so important a role. I am sure this book will be of great interest to Buddhist scholars, not only in India, but around the world.
Kashmir has been the poetic space of the Buddhist world whence philosophy, meditation, hieratic discipline, monastic life, and so on have travelled to far-off lands for centuries, as Buddhist monk-scholars sought the ecstasy of new images. Kashmir with its intense alpine cold confined human to the intimacy of their homes and thence arose profound ideas, oneiric beauty of diction, and they became a vital impulse to the threshold of being. Kaniska was a great and powerful overeign who studied Buddhist sutras in leisure hours. As monks gave him contradictory interpretations the King fell into helpless uncertainty. He issued summons to the holy and wise bhiksus in his realm. They came in crowds and the King selected only those who had attained four degrees of perfection. 499 arhats were selected and the rest dismissed. It was decided to hold the Council in the cool of Kashmir. Venerable Vasumitra presided over the deliberations. The Council composed commentaries on the Sutras, Vinaya and Abhidharma, each a hundred thousand stanzas in extent. The general sense and terse language of the original texts was made clear and distinct. Returning to his kindgom, Kaniska renewed Asoka's gift of all Kashmir to the Buddhist Sangha (Watters 1904:1.271-278). Ever since Kashmir has been the heartland of the Buddhist ecumene where it thought has flourished and evolved in absolute sublimation. The shorter and longer commentaries, Vibhasa and Mahavibhasa, on Abhidharma compiled by the Five Hundred Arhats in the Kashmir Council were translated into Chinese. The Vibhasa (T 1546, Nj 1264, K 951) was translated by Buddhavarman and Tao-t'ai in 437-439 AC in the Hsien-yii Monastery. The Mahavibhasa (T 1545, Nj 1263, K 952) was translated by Hsuan-tsang in 656-659 AC.
Arhats who have attained the highest level, and whose defilements and passions have been extinguished; have been the ideal as those free from the ten fetters of existence (samyojanai) and as those who have freed their minds through perfect understanding. They have been the most imposing panorama in the Halls of Five Hundred Arhats (WU Pai Lo han T' ang) in the monasteries of China. The wall setting of rocks and waves behind their images transpose the ambience into that of a hermitage transcending into rhythms of the sublime. They are traced back to the ancient Buddhist council in India.
They are the object of deep religious reverence, for example, the 500 Arhat Halls in the Ling yin Monastery near Hangchow, Kuei yuan Monastery at Hanyang (Hupeh), Hua Lin Monastery at Chungking (Szechuan), Ch'ung Chu Monastery at Hsi Shan (Yunnan), and so on (Prip-Moller 1937: 114-119). These halls are the visible metaphors of the Great Council of Kaniska held in Kashmir. The Five Hundred Arhats are mentioned as the authors of the shorter commentary on Abhidharma as early as 437 AC. Ever since they have been the philosophical and spiritual symbols of the various aspects of the Teaching as enunciated at the Council of Kashmir.
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