Posts written by Bill M. Mak

Siddham and Uṣṇīṣavijayadhāraṇī – Public lecture and seminar in Belgium (May, 2016)

A lecture on “Siddham — Sacred Indian Script in Buddhist Asia” (May 3) at Université catholique de Louvain.


Since the beginning of the first millennium when Buddhism was first introduced to China through the land and maritime Silk Roads, the East Asian Buddhists had a fascination with not only the teachings of the Buddha, but also the sacred Indian teachings in their written forms. Coming from a highly literate culture, the Chinese Buddhists in the following thousand years engaged in a large-scaled translation project and produced voluminous Buddhist canons which profoundly impacted the Chinese language and culture. Meanwhile, Sanskrit, the canonical language of Mahāyāna Buddhism, took on a more abstract role and became an object of awe and veneration in the East Asian psyche. However, unlike the Indians who placed great emphasis on sound rather than the written words, the East Asians turned Sanskrit orthography into a serious yet esoteric learning. From sophisticated phonetic analysis to highly ornate calligraphy, the study of Siddham encompasses an aspect of Indian culture which might have been marginal in its native land, but has remained a great source of inspiration in East Asia. In this lecture, we shall examine the identity and aesthetic of Siddham, which was transmitted as far as to Japan where both its knowledge and practice are still preserved as a living tradition.

Affiche ols-5 Mak


A seminar on “Les stèles bouddhiques” (May 4) at Université Libre de Bruxelles.

ULB Séminaire Asie

The seminar will be the beginning of an interesting international project on the Uṣṇīṣavijayadhāraṇī – a powerful “ritual ideology which swept across Asia with attendant ceremony and iconography” (as Peter Skilling put it) in the seventh century CE.

Buddhist Astral Science in Asia

Buddhist Astral Science in Asia



1 Content of Astral science

2 Buddhist astral science in practice: Astral science in Thai Buddhism (patithin, horasat)

3 Astral science in Pāli Canon (Uposatha and the recitation of Pāṭimokkā; Eclipses; Abhidharma)

4 Mahāyāna texts: Astronomy and astrology in Śārdūlakarṇāvadāna, Mahāsaṃnipāta 

5 Kumārajīva’s astral science and Amoghavajra’s Xiuyao jing

7 Planetary science and planetary worship (navagrahaśāntipūja)

Kumārajīva’s astral learning

On 24 Apr., 2016, I gave a presentation titled “Kumārajīva’s astral learning as seen in his translation/compilation of Dazhidulun” at the “International seminar on Kumārajīva studies” organized by the World Buddhist University. Five years ago I read a paper titled “Kumārajīva and Prajñāpāramitā” in Delhi at the conference “Kumārajīva: Philosopher and Seer” organized by the IGNCA. The paper was published last year. In my presentation, I discussed the source of Kumārajīva’s astronomical and astrological knowledge which he was renowned for. The analysis of Kumārajīva’s “four types of months” (solar, civil, lunar, and sidereal) was presented in 2014, at the XVII Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (Universität Wien, Vienna) and was published in the journal Historia Scientiarum 24-2 (2015): 59-75. The Dazhidulun (*Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa) is truly a Buddhist encyclopedia. Lamotte’s annotated French translation, though not complete, remains one of great works of modern Buddhist scholarship.