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Sándor Csoma Kőrösi

Sándor Csoma Kőrösi (1784 - 1842)

There can't be many Europeans whom Buddhists revere as a saint but the Hungarian Sándor Csoma Kôrösi is one. His grave, which lies at the foot of the Himalayas, is a place of pilgrimage and in Japan a pagoda has immortalised his name. When the Dalai Lama visited Hungary he also spoke of Kôrösi as being a saint, and if anybody is qualified to make a pronouncement on this subject it is his Holiness.

Sándor Csoma Kőrösi was born in 1784 in the village of Kőrös in the Transylvanian county of Háromszék, which is now part of Romania. Members of his family served as border guards. At elementary school Kôrösi was such a bright student that his teacher recommended him for a place as a non fee-paying student at the famous Nagyenyed Collage. He began his studies there in 1799 and after pasing his final exams he stayed on at the school as a teacher until 1811. Kőrösi had a gift for learning foreign languages but his main interest was researching into the ancient homeland of the Hungarians. While studying at Göttingen University he became hugely excited when he came across a source that mentioned a people called "Hiung-nu", who were the supposed ancestors of the Hungarians and about whom there were chronicles kept in a Buddhist monastery in Lhasa in Tibet. After his return home from university Kőrösi had only one aim - to get to the monastery in Tibet as quickly as possible.After learning Tibetan he set off in 1818 and travelled on foot through Turkey and Iran.

He lived in Tibet from 1823 to 183O staying in various Buddhist monasteries, sleeping in unheated monks' cells and living off gruel and yak-butter tea. During this time he studied and made notes on hundreds of scrolls. In addition, working for the East India Company, he compiled English-Tibetan and Tibetan-English dictionaries and wrote a book on Tibetan grammar with notes in 16 languages. In recognition of Kőrösi's work the East India Company, which was preparing to colonise Tibet, made him a member of the company and gave him a post as librarian, while the Hungarian Academy of Sciences made him a member of this illustrious body.

After completing these scholarly works, in 1842, at the age of 58. he set out for Tibet once more, intending to concentrate his studies in the Dalai Lama's library in Lhasa on the ancient ancestors of the Hungarians. Tragically, in Darjeeling, at the foot of the Himalayas he contracted malaria and died. The Asiatic Society erected a commemorative column beside his grave on which, in accordance with his wishes, the following Latin inscription was carved :

Alexander Csoma de Kőrös
Sicolo - Hungarian

His grave is looked after by both India and Hungary. Some years ago a pilgrim set out from Kőrösi's Székely homeland and made the journey to his grave on foot. Today Kőrösi is recognised as the founder of Tibetology.



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