About the Book
Kamalasila is one of those distinguished acharyas who went to Tibet from India, stayed there and wrote scholarly treatises on Buddha dharma. His historic debate with and victory over the Chinese monk, Hoshang, is considered as a landmark in the annals of the spread of Buddhism in Bod. 'Bhavana-krama' is one of his more important writings and comprises three chapters. Fortified with extensive quotes from innumerable sutras, it delineates the 'krama' or sequence of meditational practice a seeker should undertake in order to attain 'sarvanata', the true knowledge of things.
The present work is the first-ever English rendering from original Sanskrit done at the suggestion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Parmananda Sharma, a long-time student of comparative religions, taught English language and literature for about four decades l5efore retiring as Principal, Government College, Dharmsala (Himachal Pradesh). Author of People of the Prayer- wheel, a treatise on Tibetan history and culture, he has written many original books in English and Hindi including Chenresi, a long poem on the life of H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Tibetans will always remain grateful to such great Indian scholars and adepts as Shantarakshita, Padmasambhava and Dipamkara Shrijnana, who brought the Buddha's teachings to the Land of Snows. Despite the difficulties they faced, they spent the best part of their lives propagating and explaining the teachings of Sutra and Tantra for the welfare of all sentient beings. Kings, ministers, scholars and a whole class of translators worked unceasingly to render Sanskrit texts and their commentaries into Tibetan.
Acharya Kamalashila (9th century CE), a disciple of Shantarakshita, was the first Indian scholar to live and compose his writings in Tibet. Bhavana-krama (Stages of Meditation) is one such work. It comprises three parts which were probably written at different times. The focus of Bhavana-krama is the cultivation of meditative concentration and special insight. It details the sequence of meditational practices essential for understanding the true nature of phenomena.
While Tibetan and Sanskrit editions of Bhavana-krama have been in existence for centuries, no English translation of this remarkable classic was readily available. Therefore, in response to my own suggestion, Professor P.N. Sharma has undertaken the task of translating it into English. I am confident that whether they have an academic and.historical view of the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet or a wish to put these teachings into actual practice, English readers will find this translation of great value.
Padmasambhava, Santaraksita, Dipankara Srijnana and Kamalasila together make the foursome of the great masters who made the Dharma what it came to be in Tibet. To Santaraksita and Kamalasila - the teacher-pupil duo - goes the credit of propagating, preaching and developing Buddhism in Bod in all its varied nuances, thus lending it purity, originality and authenticity.
Kamalasila wrote his 'Bhavanakrama ' in Tibet itself, keeping in view the special requirements of his Tibetan audience. Hence, his style here is that of a lucid prose-writer who deliberately clothed his lofty and abstract theme in simple, intelligible Sanskrit which is quite different from his diction in other works.
'Bhavanakrama ' is the first-ever Sanskrit text written by any Indian acharya on the soil of Tibet. With the passage of time, copies of Bhavana-krama manuscripts dwindled in the monastic libraries of the country as the study of Sanskrit declined. The second chapter in original totally disappeared and whatever manuscripts remained became truncated. Of course, the Tibetan version continued to be extant in its entirety. Prof. Tucci retrieved Chapter I from Tibet and Chapter III from Russia in original Sanskrit and he published the two in Roman script.
Not much, by way of biographical information on Kamalasila, is on record. He appears to have visited Tibet during the reign of Trison-De-tsen, the 37th King (742-798 A.D.), who invited, among others, Acharya Santaraksita of Nalanda and later Padmasambhava from Urgyan to Tibet. The latter succeeded where the former had failed; the Tibetans took readily to the teachings and practices of the 'mahasiddha ' rather than to the intellectual scholasticism of Santaraksita who went back to India only to return later and leave his mortal coil on the soil of Tibet after many years of missionary work. Before Santaraksita died, he had predicted, it is said, that a time would come when the Indian and Chinese schools would come into sharp conflict on the concepts of gradual and instant enlightenment as respectively advocated by the two sides. So he had instructed that when the exigency arose Kamalasila, his able pupil from Nalanda, should be invited to defend the Indian point of view about the interpretation of Sutra. A religious debate was arranged between acharya Kamalasila and Hoshang, the Chinese monk. It was held at Samye and covered a period of two years (792-794 A.D.). The Chinese Hoshang was defeated and the king, himself a great scholar, declared Kamalasila the victor. To mark the great Indian acharyas triumph, a royal proclamation was also issued in letters of gold inscribed on blue paper. This document was ordered to be preserved as a court document. The main features of the proclamation were as historic as the occasion that had led to it; the Three Gems (' tri-ratna ') to be never abandoned; monasteries to be maintained and supported; all succeeding kings and members of royalty to uphold the Proclamation. Ministers and princes and army commanders took oaths of loyalty to the document of which thirteen copies were made for record. Feasting, singing and dancing festivities followed in which the royal family, including the king, cabinet members and other high dignitaries participated. The king even composed a poem to mark the occasion:-
With great toil have I gathered the treasure
and I am happy to spend without measure
in spreading the faith of the Buddha,
gleaned from the land of India,
It was in Tho-tho-ri Nyantsen's reign
that The Secret first here came;
translated in Songtsen Gampo's time,
it has become established in mine.
It is said that the Chinese circles felt extremely piqued over their defeat; it was a total loss of face for them. They were not the ones to take their defeat sportingly, their hired assasins murdered the acharya in cold blood. The great teacher's tragic death broke the king's heart who too passed away soon after.
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