The master Atisha, who arrived in Tibet in 1042 A.D., and taught there until his death thirteen years later, had an overwhelming effect on the Buddhism of Central Asia. His teachings sent waves through all orders of Tibetan Buddhism and left impressions that, a millennium later, continue to exert their influence.
The present year, 1983, has been celebrated throughout India and Bangladesh as the 1,000th. anniversary of Atisha’s birth. In commemoration of this event Tibet House has compiled and published the present volume. It includes a short biography of Atisha by the fourteenth century scholar-saint Lama Tsong Khapa, as well as three texts by Atisha himself. The material is supplemented with a chapter by His Holiness the present Dalai Lama on the nature of the three higher trainings, essence of Atisha’s teachings in Tibet.
I am happy to know that TIBET HO USE will be publishing a booklet entitled: ATISHA AND BUDDHISM IN TIBET, containing three works by Atisha Dipankara in connection with the celebration of his Millennium Birth Anniversary.
Atisha Dipankara was a great Indian Buddhist Saint scholar Era immensely cherished the principles of altruism and compassion and had rendered invaluable service towards the promotion of Buddhism and is even today held in high reverence by Buddhists all over the world. Tibetans are particularly grateful to Atisha Dipankara, as it was he who toiled to revive Buddhism in Tibet, following the systematic destruction it suffered in the 9th century during the reign of 41st Tibetan King Lang Darma.
I hope that the publication of some of the works by Atisha Dipankara will further enhance Buddhists’ reverence and gratitude to the great Indian Saint.
Tibet House, founded in 1956 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and inaugurated by the then Minister of Education of the Government of India, Shri M.C. Chagla, is the Cultural Centre in New Delhi dealing with the learning, art, religion and literature of Tibet. This Institution conducts a number of programmes, amongst which publication ranks with importance. This booklet on the life and teachings of the eleventh century Indian Buddhist master Atisha is one of our efforts in this direction. It is brought out in conjunction with the anniversary of Atisha’s birth in Bengal one thousand years ago.
The master Atisha, who came to Tibet in 1042 CE and remained there until his death, provided Buddhism in Central Asia with a new thrust of spiritual vigour, inspiring millions of Buddhists over the generations that followed. Indeed, his lineages have come down to us today and still act as a major force in most schools of Central Asian Buddhism. Many of his texts are used even today as the basis of public sermons and discourses by eminent Lamas, especially his Lam-Don, or Light on the Stages in Spiritual Practice (Skt. Bodhipatha-pradipam).
Atisha was important to Tibetan Buddhism in many ways, one of the most fundamental being his presentation of all aspects of Buddha’s teachings—Hinayana, general Mahayana and Vajrayana—as complimentary, non-contradictory factors in training. He taught not only the various forms of Buddhism existent in North India at the time; in addition he widely disseminated several Indonesian lineages, which he had gained through twelve years of study in Indonesia at the feet of Suvarnadivipi Dharmakirti. In fact, he often referred to this master as his most kind teacher. These Indonesian lineages were particularly cherished by the Tibetans and still exist today. It is an auspicious omen that the recent completion by UNESCO of the restoration of the Borobodur Monument in Indonesia coincides with the bOoth anniversary of Atisha’s birth.
This volume contains four translations. The first of these is the brief account of Atisha’s life as given by Lama Tsong Khapa (1357-1419) in his Lam-rim-chenmo. The final three are from the Tenjur collection known as A Hundred Minor Texts (Tib. Jo-woi Chos-chung-brgya-rtsa). It is interesting to note that the last of these three (i.e. Chapter IV) was written at the request of an Indonesian King Guru-phala by name. The text in Chapter III is also written to a king, whose name is given in the text as Nirya-phala, though most scholars consider him to be King Nayapala of Magadha, India. This remains to be researched.
I would like to thank my friend Mr Glenn H. Mullin for his efforts in the translation and preparation of the manuscript for this work; and also my colleagues in Tibet House for their cooperation and assistance.
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