Author Topic: The great story of Kamalasila  (Read 6454 times)

Big Uncle

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The great story of Kamalasila
« on: June 28, 2012, 11:43:39 PM »
Kamalasila (fl. 713-763) was an Indian Buddhist of Nalanda Mahavihara who accompanied ??ntarak?ita (725–788)[1] to Tibet at the request of Trhisongdetsen.

Dargyay, et. al. (1977, 1998: p. 7) convey a lineage of transmission and translation of Sila, Sutrayana Buddhavacana and the Six Paramita (viewed principally through the Mahayana teachings of Nagarjuna), from India to Tibet (pandit in this context denotes a Sanskrit scholar):

The Indian pandits, represented mainly by Santaraksita, Kamalasila, and his disciple Ye-shes-dbang-po, form a known group. These scholars were all defenders of the Madhyamaka school, which is based upon Nagarjuna's teachings. First of all, however, they taught the ten rules of behaviour of the Buddhist ethics (Sila) and a summary of the teachings according to the canonic Sutras of the Mahayana, as well as the virtuous works of the six paramitas. These exercises are supposed to lead, in a long seemingly endless way, to the gradual ascent to the acquisition of higher intellectual abilities finally culminating in Buddhahood. This trend was intensified after the debate of bSam-yas had taken place in the years 792 to 794; the exact outcome of this debate is still debatable.

Teaching story

There is a morality tale, allegory and teaching story inherent within the transmission of Chöd to Tibet that has been culturally remembered as a Cham Dance. In this sacred dance, Moheyan is generally depicted as of ample girth, goaded by children. Chöd is a product of both the Indian and Chinese transmissions of Buddhism into the Himalaya. For a discussion of the Dunhuang fulcrum of the entwined relationship of Chinese and Indian Buddhism see van Schaik and Dalton (2004).

For simplicity, the Indian tantric transmission may be characterized as "gradual" (Tibetan: rim gyis ‘jug pa; Chinese: tun-wu) and the Chinese Ch'an transmission may be characterized as "direct" (Tibetan: cig car gyi ‘jug pa; Chinese: chien-wu). It needs to be emphasized that this neat dichotomy in characterization of these two approaches to the Dharma, is only valid for the historical context of the great debate between Kamala??la and Moheyan, arranged by Trisong Detsen and even then it is still open to dialectic. This debate has been named the "Council of Samye" by Giuseppe Tucci but is generally known as the "Council of Lhasa". According to the general Tibetan tradition, the two years of the debate transpired at Samye, a significant distance from Lhasa. According to the lore of the orthodox, prevailing Tibetan cultural tradition, Kamala??la, a mahapandita and scholar educated at Nalanda, advocated the "gradual" process to enlightenment; whereas, Moheyan, as a trance and meditation master, advocated the "direct" awakening of original mind through the nirodha (Sanskrit) of discursive thought, the cessation of the mind of ideation. The historicity of this debate has been drawn into question by Tucci & Heissig (1970), Gomez (1983) and Ruegg (1992) though this does not lessen its importance in defining the religious and cultural traditions of Tibet. Kamalasila was very handsome and a great orator and historically "won" the debate: though there are conflicting primary sources and secondary accounts.

One hagiography asserts that directly after this debate with Moheyan, as Kamalasila was making his way down from the Himalaya to the Indian lowlands, he was incited to enact phowa through compassionate duress, transferring his mindstream to animate a corpse polluted with contagion; and thereby, safely moving the hazard it presented to a nearby community. As the mindstream of Kamalasila was otherwise engaged, a Mahasidda by the name of Padampa Sangye came across the vacant kuten or "physical basis" of Kamalasila. Padampa Sangye, was not karmically blessed with an aesthetic corporeal form, and upon finding the very handsome and healthy empty body of Kamalasila, which he perceived as a newly dead fresh corpse, transferred his mindstream into Kamalasila's body. Padampa Sangye's mindstream in Kamalasila's body continued the ascent to the Himalaya and thereby transmitted the Chöd. The mindstream of Kamalasila upon endeavouring to return to his kuten was unable to do so and resorted by necessity to the vacant body of Padampa Sangye. The mindstream of Padampa Sangye continued in this body, and it is in this handsome body that the transmission of Chöd was made to Machig Labdrön, his consort.

(Kamalasila is also know to be earlier predecessor of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche)
« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 12:06:38 AM by Big Uncle »


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Re: The great story of Kamalasila
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 09:58:08 AM »
Other information about Kamalasila with his picture


Kamalashila (Skt. Kamala??la; Tib. ?????????????, Pemé Ngang Tsul; Wyl. pad+ma'i ngang tshul) (c. 740-795) — this master was the main disciple of the great abbot Shantarakshita.
He famously defeated a Chinese master of the Hashang school (whose personal name is sometimes given as Mahayana Hashang) in the great debate at Samyé, which took place around 792 AD, thereby ensuring that the Tibetans followed the Indian tradition of Madhyamika which had flourished at the great Nalanda Monastery. He died in Tibet in around 795.[1]

Principal Writings

His most famous compositions are the three texts entitled Stages of Meditation (Skt. Bh?van?krama), on which H.H. the Dalai Lama has taught several times.
 ?????????, The five bhavanakrama of Kamalasila and Vimalamitra: a collection of texts on the nature and practice of buddhist contemplative realisation

His other works include:

* Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Compendium of Reality (Tattvasa?graha-pañjik?)
* Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Ornament of the Middle Way (Skt. Madhyamak?la?k?rapañjik?; Tib. ???????????????????????????, Wyl. dbu ma'i rgyan gyi dka' 'grel)
* Light of the Middle Way (Skt. Madhyamak?loka; Tib. ????????????, Wyl. dbu ma snang ba)

Big Uncle

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Re: The great story of Kamalasila
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2012, 05:00:08 PM »
Here's a greater explanation of the great debate between the Indian faction lead by Kamalashila and the Chinese faction, which was lead by Hvashang/ Mo-ho-yen. The result of the debate shaped the future of the Tibetan Buddhism and it lead to what it became today...

(taken from
Tibetan king Khri srong lde btsan/Trisong Detsen (742–797) invited the Chan master Mo-ho-yen (whose name consists of the same Chinese characters used to transliterate “Mahayana”) to transmit the Dharma at Samye Monastery. Mo-ho-yen had been disseminating Dharma in the Tun-huang locale, but, according to Tibetan sources, lost an important philosophical debate on the nature of emptiness with the Indian master Kamalasila, and the king declared Kamalasila's philosophy should form the basis for Tibetan Buddhism. However, a Chinese source says their side won, and some scholars conclude that the entire episode is fictitious.

Pioneering Buddhologist Giuseppe Tucci speculated that Hwashang's ideas were preserved by the Nyingmapas in the form of dzogchen teachings. According to A. W. Barber of the University of Calgary, Chan Buddhism was introduced to the Nyingmapa in three principal streams: the teachings of Korean Master Kim, Kim Ho-shang, (Chin ho shang) transmitted by Sang Shi in ca. 750 AD; the lineage of Master Wu Chu of the Pao T'ang School was transmitted within Tibet by Ye-shes Wangpo; and the teaching from Mo Ho Yen, (Tibetan: Hwa shang Mahayana) that were a synthesis of the Northern School of Chan and the Pao T'ang School. John Myrdhin Reynolds and Sam van Schaik hold a very different point of view. Reynolds states "Except for a brief flirtation with Ch'an in the early days of Buddhism in Tibet in the eighth century, the Tibetans exhibited almost no interest at all in Chinese Buddhism, except for translating a few Sutras from Chinese for which they did not possess Indian originals." Schaik emphasises that Chan and Dzogchen are based on two different classes of scripture, Chan being based on sutras, while Dzogchen being based on tantras. Schaik further states "apparent similarities can be misleading."