Dharmakīrti of Kedah: The life, work and troubled times of Sriwijaya’s last philosopher

About the Seminar
Dharmakīrti, also known as Serlingpa, the ‘Golden Isles Guru’, was a major Sriwijayan thinker. In the early eleventh century, the famous monk Atiśa “Dīpaṃkara” travelled across the Bay of Bengal to study with him. Yet little is known about what Dharmakīrti taught, why Atiśa went to meet him or even where he lived. This lecture presents original findings on Dharmakīrti’s impacts, uncovering his traces in China, Nepal and Southeast Asia.

Although Dharmakīrti is assumed to have been based in Sumatra, it is more evident that his home was in Kedah. The evidence includes the itinerary of Atiśa’s hazardous sea journey, the remains of Kedah’s monasteries, and the fact that a king of Kedah sponsored Dharmakīrti. The authorship of seven works attributed to Dharmakīrti will be investigated, as well as a recently discovered Sanskrit text from the ‘Golden Isles’. It will be argued that Dharmakīrti belonged to a pan-Asian cohort that anticipated Buddhism disappearing and sought to defend it with tantric practices. Near the end of Dharmakīrti’s life, Buddhist Sriwijaya was broken up forever by the Chola Empire. Questions surrounding the Chola invasion, including the role of pre-Temasek Singapore, will then be reexamined, and Dharmakīrti’s contemporary legacy will also be acknowledged.

About the Speaker

Dr Iain Sinclair is a Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He studies the histories and civilisations of Asia using primary sources in classical languages. His research at the Centre explores exchanges taking place between the Malay Archipelago and the Indo-Himalayan region between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. His PhD dissertation (Monash University, 2016) examined the late period of South Asian and Nepalese Buddhism. He has published several book chapters and journal articles on Asian art, literature, ritual, inscriptions, and manuscripts.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg by 4 July 2019.


Jul 05 2019


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2