Dharmaraksha () (1) ［竺法護］ (n.d.) ( Jiku-hōgo): A monk from Tun-huang who went to China during the Western Chin dynasty (265–316). Considered the most significant translator of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese prior to Kumārajīva, his translations played an important role in the development of Chinese Buddhism. According to one account, he lived from 239 through 316 (from c. 233 through c. 310, according to another account). Descended from the Yüeh-chih, a nomadic people of Central Asia, his ancestors settled and continued to live in Tun-huang, an oasis town in Central Asia, for successive generations. Therefore Dharmaraksha was also called the Bodhisattva of the Yüeh-chih or Bodhisattva of Tun-huang. Among his works is the oldest extant Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra, titled the Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law. He became a monk at age eight. Apparently gifted with intelligence and wisdom, he extensively studied the Buddhist scriptures. In his early thirties, he traveled with his teacher to the kingdoms of Central Asia in search of Mahayana sutras. During India’s Kushan dynasty, Mahayana Buddhism was flourishing and its scriptures were still being compiled. During his travels in Central Asia, Dharmaraksha is said to have mastered thirty-six languages spoken in the region and brought to Ch’ang-an and Lo-yang in China a large number of Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit and in the languages of Central Asia.
At that time, only a few Mahayana sutras existed in China. Thereafter, for more than forty years until 308, he devoted himself to translation work with his assistants Nieh Ch’eng-yüan and Nieh Tao-chen, who were father and son. He is said to have translated more than 150 scriptures, including the Wisdom, Vimalakīrti, Buddha Infinite Life, Multitudinous Graceful Actions, and Flower Garland sutras. The sutras he translated, such as the Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law and the Vimalakīrti Sutra, have greatly influenced the development of Buddhist thought through the ages.
(2) ［曇無讖］ (385–433) ( Dommushin or Dommusen): A monk from central India and a translator of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. As a youth, he became a monk and studied the Hinayana teachings. When he read a manuscript of the Nirvana Sutra, he was so moved that he converted to Mahayana. It is said that at age twenty he memorized a large number of scriptures, and that, gifted with supernatural powers, he was favored highly by his ruler. But he soon left India, bringing with him the beginning sections of the Nirvana Sutra and other Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. Traveling eastward to Central Asia, he passed through Kucha and then Tun-huang, and in 412 he reached Ku-tsang, the capital of Liang-chou.
There he received special favor from the ruler Chü-ch’ü Meng-hsün of the Northern Liang kingdom and later served him as royal advisor. He was requested by the ruler to translate the Buddhist scriptures he brought with him, but Dharmaraksha was not yet versed in Chinese. Therefore he first devoted himself to the study of Chinese, and then began to translate the scriptures. In order to translate the entire Nirvana Sutra, he returned to his homeland to obtain the remaining portions of the Sanskrit manuscript and finally completed the Chinese translation of the Nirvana Sutra titled the Mahāparinirvāna Sutra (Chin Ta-pan-nieh-p’an-ching), or the so-called northern version consisting of forty volumes. His other translations include the Great Collection Sutra, the Golden Light Sutra, the Compassionate White Lotus Flower Sutra, the Upholding the Bodhisattva Stage Sutra, the Great Cloud Sutra, and the Precepts for Laymen Sutra. Then he set out again on a journey westward to seek another Sanskrit version of the Nirvana Sutra, but was murdered along the way. The ruler Meng-hsün, suspecting that Dharmaraksha was moving to the rival Northern Wei kingdom, had sent an agent to assassinate him. He had feared his gifted advisor, whom he believed had supernatural powers, would end up supporting his enemies.