1929 Institute of Oriental Culture 東方文化学院 in Kyoto


Story behind a church-like building near my house, possibly where my office will be later this year — This beautiful building — reputed to be one of the best architectural pieces of the period – now belongs to the Institute of Research of Humanities, Kyoto University. I was so impressed by its stone staircases and stained glass windows when I was asked to give a talk there on my work on the Yavanajātaka manuscript last year. It was built originally by the Shōwa government as the Institute of Oriental Culture 東方文化学院. When the Manchurian Empire lost the war to Japan, the latter demanded the Chinese a hefty indemnity. After the Manchurian Empire was overthrown, anti-Japanese sentiment continued to grow in China. With part of its funding coming from the indemnity, the establishment of the Institute in 1929 was conceived as a means to further collaboration between Chinese and Japanese academics. Regardless of its background and the colonialist agenda behind it, the institute produced generations of great scholars, including Yabuuti Kiyosi, whose works on Oriental Astronomy attracted worldwide scholarly attention. Last year I joined all the great teachers and disciples of Professor Yabuuti to celebrate his 14th memorial anniversary.





The Siddham Alphabet in the Mantra of Pu’an – A case of sinicization of Buddhist mantras


In this paper, the source and construction of the Mantra of Pu’an, one of the most popular Buddhist mantras in sinicized Sanskrit, attributed to the twelfth century Zen Master, are examined. Although the language of the mantra was described as “bastard Sanskrit,” the construction of the mantra is clearly modeled on Sanskrit phonetics, as well as the content of a textbook on Sanskrit orthography known as Xitan zhang or “Chapter of Siddham” which was widely circulated in Central Asia and China during the first millennium. Furthermore, the mantra is shown to be connected with Dharmkṣema’s translation of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra where the Sanskrit alphabet was described, and also the tradition of religio-magical chanting of the Arapacana alphabet described in the Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra. Ultimately, to complete the process of sinicization, the Mantra of Pu’an was written down, canonized in one of the Chinese Tripiṭakas and even “resanskritized” with Chinese pronunciation, which was thought to be authentic and authoritative.


“Bukkyō mantora-no chūkokuka-no ichirei — Fuanshu-ni okeru shittan jibo-ni tsiute” 仏教マントラの中国化の一例—普庵咒における悉曇字母について”. Tōhō gakuhō東方学報88: 189-219, 2013.

Mak 普庵咒 2013

Simran (smaraṇa), Sati (smṛti) and the effect of mental repetition

This is a subject that ought to be studied more carefully from a comparative point of view. The Buddhists have developed a complete science based on various techniques – from Ānāpānasati (mindfulness of breathing) to Nianfo (repetition of names of Buddha) ; in most religions, there are often sacred words or prayers believers repeat, not for understanding but for entering into a peaceful, meditative state. In most situations when the mind is severely disrupted or traumatized, these techniques help to calm the mind and prevent the person from spiraling down into depression or even psychosis. These days we all hear so much about physical health, but so little about mental health. Regular practice on such mental repetition is like building up an immune system against sudden mental or emotional onslaughts. Even if you have no spiritual beliefs, don’t lose your cool, just count “one, two, three”.