Atisha

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Atish Dipankar (982 - 1054 CE) was a Buddhist teacher who reintroduced pure Buddhism into Tibet. He studied and mastered all of the traditions of Buddhism in India and travelled to Sumatra to receive instruction on Training the Mind (Tib. lojong) from a teacher named Serlingpa. Atish brought this teaching back to India and later to Tibet.

Contents

Early life

He was born in the village Vajrayogini in the Bikrampur region of Bengal, currently in Bangladesh, in 980 CE. His childhood name was Chandragarbha. From a very young age he showed an extraordinary aptitude for Dharma and studied sincerely under more than 100 teachers. He received, practiced, and mastered the instructions on the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism and was regarded highly by all the traditions of Buddhism in India at the time.

Preaching in Sumatra and Tibet

In 1011 CE, Dipankar, along with more than 100 disciples, went to Suvarnadwipa Sumatra in what is now Indonesia and became a disciple of Acharya Chandrakirti, under whom he studied the various branches of Buddhism for twelve years. He then returned to Magadha where he met great Buddhist scholars who all acknowledged his superior knowledge and scholarship.

In the 11th century, the king Byang-chub 'Od invited Dipankar to come from Bengal to Tibet, in order to help him raise money to build a large statue of Manjuśri. Atiś composed his famous "Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment". It is a short text on lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment.

Atisha, together with his principal disciple, Dromtonpa, established what is known as the Kadampa tradition. This was later revived by the Tibetan teacher Je Tsongkhapa (Btsong-ka-pa), the founder of the Gelug or New Kadampa tradition.

Suvarnadvipa is generally taken to mean insular Southeast Asia. In Atisha's time the area was dominated by the great empire of Srivijaya which was known as a seat of Buddhist learning.

Writings

Dipankar wrote, translated and edited more than two hundred books, which helped spread Buddhism in Tibet. He discovered several sanskrit manuscripts in Tibet and copied them himself. He translated many books from Sanskrit to Bhot (Tibetan). He also wrote several books on Buddhist scriptures, medical science and technical science in Bhot. Dipankar wrote several books in Sanskrit, but only their Tibetan translations are extant now. Dipankar earned considerable fame with Tyanjur, in which 79 of his books have been preserved in Tibetan translation. Following are his most notable books-

  • Vodhipathapradipa,
  • Charyasanggrahapradipa
  • Satyadvayavatara
  • Vodhisattvamanyavali
  • Madhyamakaratnapradipa
  • Mahayanapathasadhanasanggraha
  • Shiksasamuchchaya Abhisamya
  • Prajnaparamitapindarthapradipa
  • Ekavirasadhana
  • Vimalaratnalekha

Vimalaratnalekha is a Sanskrit letter to Nayapala, king of Magadha. Charyasamgrahapradipa contains some kirtan verses composed by Dipankar.

Death

After staying for thirteen years in Tibet, Dipankar died in 1053 CE in a village called Lethan, near Lhasa, at the age of 73. The site of his last rites at Lethan has turned into a shrine. His ashes were brought to Dhaka, Bangladesh on 28 June 1978 and placed in Dharmarajika Bauddha Vihara.

References

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