In the course of his spiritual growth, Buddha first generated Bodhicitta, the pure aspiration to attain Enlightenment for the benefits of all sentient beings, accumulated merit and wisdom for three countless aeons, and finally attained Enlightenment. Then, he manifested in innumerable forms in countless universes to benefit sentient beings.
Buddha came into this world from the Tusita Buddha-field by entering the womb of Queen Mahamaya, wife of the Sakya King Sudhodana of Kapilvastu, on the day of the full moon of the fourth Tibetan month. He was born in 563 B. C. in Lumbini on the present-day border of India and Nepal. As a prince, he was trained in all branches of learning and Nepal. As a prince, he was trained in all branches of learning and led a luxurious life. He was married to Yasodhara, and for thirteen years they lived happily together. However, at the age of twenty-nine, the Prince, who had just become a father, came across "The Four Sights" - a sick man, an old man, a corpse and a monk-and these made his realize that the real nature of cyclic existence was suffering. The sight of the monk gave him an idea of his future mission, and he determined to free himself and other from this suffering round. He renounced his princely life, lift his palaces, went in search of spiritual teachers and engaged in religious austerities. Not satisfied with his progress, he became a solitary hermit subjecting himself to inconceivable self-mortification. After six years, however, he came to understand that extreme practices were not the way to Liberation, and he took the path of moderation. He walked to Bodh Gaya (in the modern Indian State of Bihar), where in deep meditation and after defeating the Maras, he reached Enlightenment.
Seven weeks after his Enlightenment, he went to Varanasi and turned the First Wheel of Dharma for the five ascetics, who had left him when he gave up his extreme practices, as well as for many other followers. This was the teaching of the Four Noble truths, which are the Truth of Suffering, the Causes of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering. These five ascetics became the first Buddhist monks and attained Arhatship. This First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma included such teachings as Teachings as Teachings on Disciplinary Rules, Sutra on Close Contemplation, Extensive Sutra, Sutra of One Hundred Actions and Hundred Jataka Stories.
Then the Buddha went to Rajagriha and accepted Sariputra, Maudgalyayanaputra and Mahakasyapa and their followers as his disciples. Gradually his fame spread far and wide, and thus his father, King Sudhodana, heard news of him. At his father's repeated request, the Buddha gave teachings to a large gathering of Sakyapas near the river Rohita at Serky town. There, he taught the sutra Meeting of Father and Son.
At the age of 41, the Buddha went to the Tusita god realm in order to repay the kindness of his mother and to turn the minds of the gods towards the dharma. There he taught The Sutra Liberating from Lower Rebirth, The Wealth Possessing Dharani, The Dharani of the Supreme Ornament of the Victorious, The Sutra of the Essence of Interdependence and The Unshakable Tantra. He stayed in Tusita for the three months of summer season retreat and then came back to earth on the 22nd day of the ninth Tibetan month.
At the age of 57, Lord Buddha subdued the six non-Buddhist teachers at Sravasti with the Performance of miracles.
Then he returned to Rajagriha and at Vulture's Peak (Gridhrakuta) he turned to the Second Wheel of Dharma with the Teaching of The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, which showed the profound meaning of emptiness to countless Bodhisattvas, Sravakas, Devas, Nagas etc. Also included were the teaching of The King of Concentration, The Innumerable Buddhas, The Compilation of Supreme Rarity and Others.
At Vaisali and other places, Buddha turned the Third Wheel of Dharma with such teachings as The Sutra Unravelling the thoughts.
One the basis of these three turning of the Wheel of Dharma, four philosophic schools or systems of tenets developed, i.e. the Vaibhasikas, Sautrantikas, Cittamatrins and Madhyamikas. Of these four systems, the first two propound substantially existent external objects and follow the first wheel. Madhyamikas, who assert that there are no entities which exist inherently, follow the second wheel and the Cittamatrins (also known as Yogacarins) follow the third wheel. Vaibhasika and Sautrantika are the Hinayana schools, and Cittamatra and Madhyamika are Mahayana schools.
Concerning tantric teachings, it is said that the Buddha taught all four classes of Tantra in the form of Sambhogakaya Buddha Vajradhara in different places to different levels. Buddha taught the practices of Avalokitesvara on the Potala Hill and Usnisa in the Thirty-Third God Realm; these are action Tantras. In the highest realm,, Akanista, Buddha taught Vairocana Abhisambodhi and Vajrapani Abhiseka, which are performance Tantras. He taught Anuttara yoga Tantras such as Kalacakra to Candrabhadra, the King of Sambala at the Glorious Dhanyakataka Stupa. The Guhyasamaja Tantra, was taught to king Indrabuti at Odiyana. Buddha placed all these Tantras under the care of Vajrapani.
In Brief, the Tripitaka (the Three Baskets of the Teachings) and the four classes of Tantras were all taught by Buddha himself. He taught 84, 000 categories of Dharma according to the varying capacities of sentient beings.
Towards the end of his life, the Buddha went to Kusinagar in order to lead Kuntugyu Rabsang and Drisay Gyalpo Rabga onto the path of Dharma, and there at the age of 80 (483 B. C.) he passed into Maha-parinirvana.
Before he passed away, the Buddha had appointed Mahakasyapa as his successor. Mahakasyapa held a summer retreat in a cave near Rajagriha, with 500 Arhats. This was sponsored by King Ajatasatru. The First Council (In 483 B. C.) took place on that occasion. Ananda recited all the Buddha's sutra teachings; Upali recited all the Buddha's Vinaya teachings, and Mahakasyapa recited the Abhidharma teachings.
After the Buddha's Maha-parinirvana, the doctrine was held successively by the seven patriarchs. These were Mahakasyapa Ananda, Sanvasika, Arya Upagupta, Arya Dhitika, Arya Krisna and Arya Sudarsana.
One hundred years after the Buddha's passing away (383 B. C.), the second council was held. It was sponsored by King Asoka (according to Tibetan sources). Seven hundred Arhats, led by the Arhat Kirti participated. At that time all the monks, especially those from Magadha, who did not follow the Buddha's disciplinary rules were expelled. It is said that the third Council was held during the reign of King Kaniska in order to end the existing disharmony among the gangha members (many text claims that King Asoka's) sponsored the Third Council, which was held at Pataliputra). The doctrine of Buddha spread to Sri Lanka during King Asoka's time and to the north-west of Indian during the reign of King Kaniska. By that time, the doctrine of the Buddha had divided into 18 schools of Vaibhasika. In addition, the Hinayana schools disagreed with the Mahayana schools, and furthermore there was friction between non-Buddhists and Buddhists.
Thus, the doctrine of the Buddha degenerated in accord with his prophecy. Then Arya Nagarjuna came and revitalized the doctrine and illuminated the Mahayana and the Middle View. He is said to be the father of the Great Vehicle, the one who opened the Madhyamika School. His four primary spiritual sons were Aryadeva, Sakyamitra, Nagabodhi and Asvaghosa. Thus the wisdom (Shunyata) lineage of the Buddha's teachings is traced from the Buddha through Manjusri, Nagarjuna, Candrakirti, Vidyakokila and Avadhuti to Atisa.
Nine hundred years after the Buddha's passing away, Arya Asanga was born. He went to the Tusita realm and brought back Maitreya's teachings and illuminate the Buddhist doctrine. He founded the Yogacarya (Cittamatra) Philosophical school. His younger brother, Vasubhandu, also illuminated the doctrine of the Buddha. The lineage of the Buddha's teachings on method (Bodhicitta) is traced from the Buddha through Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubhandu, Arya vimuktisena, Battara Vimuktisena, Pramasena, Vinayasena, Santiraksita, Simhabhadra, Kusali (Ratna Bhadra), Kusali the younger (Ratnasena) and Suvarnadvipa to Atisa.
Atisa was the last of the famous Buddhist masters in India. He went to Tibet and, with much effort, revived the degenerated Buddhist doctrine there by passing on all the unbroken lineages of the Buddha's teachings.
When the Buddhist doctrine had recovered, there appeared many monastic institutions in Tibet, such as the famous monasteries of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden. Between 5,000 and 10,000 monks studied at each of these monasteries at any one time. These monks learned both the Indian texts the Tibetan commentaries. Their curriculum was based on five main groups of texts: 1) Pramana (logic) texts written by Acarya Dignaga and Dharmakirti; 2) Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) Sutras and works by Maitreya, Asanga and Vimuktisena; 3) Madhyamika (Middle View) texts by Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Bhavavaveka and Candrakirti; 4) Vinaya (Code of Discipline) works by Gunaprabha; 5) Abhidharma (Metaphysics) texts by Vasubhandu. In each of these divisions, the curriculum included commentaries by the great Tibetan masters. Thus the monks of the major Tibetan monastic institutions relied upon the Indian monastic institutions which, in turn, relied upon the Indian Buddhist Pandits.
Not only Tibetans, but also many other Buddhist scholars carefully studied the writings of the great Indian Pandits in order to comprehend the Buddha's teachings (i.e. Sutra). In view of the importance of their work and in an endeavour to repay their kindnesses, I have translated the life stories of some of the great Indian pandits.
We are happy to publish Indian Buddhist Pandits translated from original Tibetan text by Lobsang Norbu Tsonawa, former member of our Translation Bureau.
We are sure the life and works of these great Indian Buddhist masters will inspire our readers to a better understanding of both the theoretical and practical aspects o the Buddhist philosophy. We would like to thank our Thangka Master Artist Sangye Yeshi for providing us with excellent illustrations of the great Indian Masters included in this book.
Back of the Book
Indian Buddhist Pandits, describing the life and works of the major Buddhist Masters of Ancient India, translated from the second volume of The Jewel Garland of Buddhist History, compiled by the Tibetan Masters, will surely serve as an inspiration to all the students and scholars of the Buddhist philosophy. Between the covers of this slim volume, the reader is offered glimpses of the courage, compassion, dedication and the devotion with which luminous Buddhist Masters like Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Chandrakirti, Santideva, Santiraksita and Dharmakirti, etc. upheld the Buddhist philosophy and contributed to its enrichment and propagation. Above all, this volume offers a well-abridged biography of the beloved Atisa, the Indian Buddhist Master, who arrested the decline and fall of Buddhist in Tibet and revived it once again with his chief disciple Dromtonpa.
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