National TreasureJomyogenron (Jingming xuan lun; Commentary on the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra)

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  • Kyoto National Museum
  • B甲671

This eight-volume commentary, Jômyô genron in Japanese, presents the essential points of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra (J. Yuimakyô). The original text was written by Jicang of Jiaxiang Temple (J. Kajô Daishi Kichizô, 549-623), the priest who established the Sanlun (J. Sanron) School of Buddhism during the Sui dynasty (581-619) in China. Jômyô is a translation of the Sanskrit name Vimalakirti (spotless fame), which can be transliterated into Japanese as Yuimakitsu or simply Yuima. The Vimalakirti Sutra, which relates the story of the enlightened layman Vimalakirti, is a favorite text among lay Buddhists and has stimulated learned commentary in both China and Japan.
The fourth volume of this set has a colophon that reads: Recorded on the fifth day of the twelfth month of 706 (Keiun 3). The end of the sixth volume is dated the eighth day of the twelfth month of the same year. These scrolls are the oldest extant text-Buddhist or secular-using the Japanese dating system; the year 706 falls within the Asuka period (600-710) of Japanese history. However, volume 1 was supplemented in the Heian period (794-1185), and additions were made to volumes 2 and 5 in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The prefaces of three of the volumes (all but numbers 7 and 8) were also copied later.
The paper used for this manuscript is a high-quality, thin, white hemp paper believed to have been imported from China. The calligraphy is in the manner of the Six Dynasties period (3rd to 6th centuries), with each line containing from about twenty to forty characters. Most examples of this kind of sutra commentary (primarily works like annotations and commentaries composed in China) were written without concern for maintaining the standard of seventeen characters per line found in sutra copies. At the top and bottom of the sections where the individual sheets of paper are joined together, pinholes and small cuts marking the guidelines can be found. White marks indicating the proper reading of the Chinese characters in Japanese also appear. These notations, probably added in the early Heian period, are a valuable early resource for the study of the Japanese language.
The manuscript was originally in the possession of Tôdai-ji Temple. Later, it passed into the hands of the scholar Kanda Kiichirô (1897-1984), after which it was donated to the Japanese government.