Shakya Shri Bhadra

Shakya Shri Bhadra

The Kashmiri Mahapandita

In the year 1127, one of Dorje Shugden’s previous incarnations took rebirth in a Brahmin family in Dasobhara, Kashmir. Little is known of Shakya Shri Bhadra’s family except that he had a brother by the name of Buddhacandra. He was given the traditional Brahmin education of the time, studying grammar under the Brahmin Laksmidhara at the age of 10. When he turned 23, Sukhasribhadradeva bestowed upon him the novice vows and the name Subedha.

In fulfillment of a prophecy, Shakya Shri Bhadra traveled to Magadha, the heartland of ancient Buddhist India, when he was 30. There, he met and received many initiations and full ordination from Santakaragupta alongside other gurus like Dasabala and Dhavaraka. He practiced intensely and had visions of deities like Tara, Cakrasamvara and Kalachakra. He even travelled as far as Bihar in order to receive Dharma teachings.

In this manner, Shakya Shri Bhadra mastered the five sciences (language, science, logic, art and Buddhist philosophy) and established himself as a great master. He was awarded the title of Mahapandita and ascended the Abbot’s throne in Nalanda Monastery and later Vikramashila, following a long line of illustrious Abbots including Atisha over 150 years before. He was highly sought after as a teacher and would give teachings to over 12,000 monks at Odantapuri. While on pilgrimage through Bodhgaya and Varanasi, he had visions of Buddha Shakyamuni, Tara and Chenrezig.

At the turn of the twelfth century, Turkic invaders were encroaching on Eastern India over Bihar and Bengal. Eventually, the invaders overran the ancient city of Varanasi and consequently, Vikramashila Monastery was completely obliterated and the entire sangha community of Odantapuri was slaughtered mercilessly. In the onslaught of the invasion, the Mahapandita Shakya Shri Bhadra had to flee eastwards but soon returned to Bihar to continue spreading the doctrine despite the risk to his life.

Shakya Shri Bhadra was invited to Tibet by Tropu Lotsawa Rinchen Sengge when he was seventy-seven. The young translator travelled to the Chumbi Valley and when he finally met Shakya Shri Bhadra in a town called Vanesvara, he made his request. Shakya Shri Bhadra was surprised to see how young the translator was and was inclined towards remaining in India. However, he changed his mind upon hearing the young translator debate with the other panditas that accompanied Shakya Shri Bhadra. The grand old master finally arrived in Tibet in the year 1204.

Several Indian companions accompanied Shakya Shri Bhadra on his journey to Tibet. They were all great masters including the likes of Sugatasri, Jayadatta, Vibhuticandra, Danasila, Sanghasri, Candavyakaraṇa, Jivagupta, Mahabodhi and Kalacandra. Each master was an expert in the field of Madhyamaka, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya, Sanskrit Grammar, Abhidharma, logic, Maitreya’s treatises, Bodhicaryavatara and Kalacakra. Besides his companions, Shakya Shri Bhadra also brought to Tibet the relics of the Buddha that his brother, Buddhacandra, had received from a Sinhalese master. These relics were meant for a Tibetan master, Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel.

While in Tibet, Shakya Shri Bhadra traveled to various monastic seats to give teachings during every summer retreat including Tropu, Lemoche, Sinmori, Solnagtang, Gyangong, Nyangme, Rinchengang, Sakya, Luggudong in Shang and Purang. While at Tropu, he taught Prajnaparamita, Pratimoksa and Mahayanasutralamkara. He also taught the Mahayanasutra again at Nartang and travelled to Samye, Tsurpu, Reting and Tangpoche in order to give extensive teachings.

While he was at Samye, Shakya Shri Bhadra requested the local chieftain, Jowo Lha, for access to the Sanskrit texts within the vaults of the monastery. While going through the various texts, he was reported to have seen a Sanskrit text of the Guhyagarbha Tantra. This was taken to be an important validation for the Nyingma tradition as the text affirms the Indian source of its lineage. Shakya Shri Bhadra is also widely regarded as having validated the lineage of the Vajrakilaya practice.

During the first decade of the 13th century, the Nyingma lama Drogon Namkha Pel had invited the Kashmiri master to preside over the consecration rituals of the funerary stupa of the Nyingma lama’s late father, Nyangrel Nyima Ozer.

In his early travels through Tibet, Shakya Shri Bhadra met a young man who was travelling with funerary offerings following the passing of his father, Pelchen Opo. This young man would eventually become known as the great Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen. Shakya Shri Bhadra was said to have given him teachings on logic. From this connection, Shakya Shri Bhadra is often credited with introducing the Indian lineage of logic into the Sakya School.

Shakya Shri Bhadra also had a strange connection with the Drigung Kagyu School. It was said that Vibhuticandra, one of Shakya Shri Bhadra’s Indian attendants, was against the idea of accepting an invitation to teach at Drikung and was reprimanded by his master. The previous year, a student of Drikung requested ordination from Shakya Shri Bhadra but was refused. However, the man continued to hold on to Shakya Shri Bhadra’s robes, pleading to be accepted. In the end, Jose Nyima, one of the Tibetan attendants, had to forcibly push him aside and the ensuing scuffle left the man with a bloody nose.

Later, when Shakya Shri Bhadra propitiated Tara (which he did on a daily basis), Tara appeared to him in a vision with her back facing him. He enquired the reason for this and she replied that one of his attendants had mistreated a disciple of Nagarjuna. This anecdote supports the Drikung Kagyu claim that Jikten Gonpo was a reincarnation of Nagarjuna. Shakya Shri Bhadra was also said to have heard Nagarjuna’s name mystically emanating from a small stream near Drikung Monastery.

Over the course of his travels, Shakya Shri Bhadra had accumulated a vast amount of offerings only to donate the considerable amount solely to the construction of a large statue of Buddha Maitreya at Tropu, for which he also performed the consecration ritual. He also delivered the Buddha’s relics from his brother to Jikten Gonpo at Drikung Monastery. Throughout his travels, Shakya Shri Bhadra ordained innumerable monks into the Kashmiri Vinaya system that eventually became prevalent in the Sakya, Kagyu and later Gelug traditions.

Despite repeated requests to remain in Tibet, Shakya Shri Bhadra decided to return to Kashmir, his homeland. On the journey homewards, he spent some time in Lato with Tropu Lotsawa and offered him much gold as a parting gift. After that, he travelled to Ngari, spending the summer retreat in Purang, and finally left Tibet’s borders in 1214. Shakya Shri Bhadra spent the remainder of his life in Kashmir repairing temples, ordaining monks, and giving teachings. In 1225, he entered clear light at the age of ninety-nine and was widely believed to have reincarnated in Tibet as Buton Rinchen Drub (1290-1364).

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  1. Thank you for this beautiful biography of Shakya Shri Bhadra! We are so blessed to come across such holy name. His lifestory is awesome and so inspiring!

    May we be close to the lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa always!
    May the Dorje Shugden Ban be lifted quickly and smoothly!
    May we be protected by holy Dorje Shugden always!

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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