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Bhavana-krama (Skt. Bhāvanā-krama; Tib. སྒོམ་རིམ་, Wyl. sgom rim) or Stages of Meditation, is a set of three texts written in the late eigth century by the Indian scholar-yogi Kamalashila.[1][2]

These texts present the "gradual path" to enlightenment as taught in the Indo-Tibetan tradition, in contrast to the teaching on the "sudden path" to enlightenment, as taught by the Northern Chan school of this time period.

According to the Tibetan tradition, the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen arranged for a debate between representatives of these two competing views ("gradual" vs. "sudden" enlightenment) at Samye monastery in Tibet. In this debate, the Indian scholar Kamalashila represented the view of the "gradual path," and the Chinese master Moheyan represented the view of the "sudden path."

The king declared Kamalashila the winner of the debate, and then asked Kamalishila to write a text that presented his views on the gradual path. In response to this request, Kamalashila wrote the three books of the Bhavana-krama.[2]

The Bhavana-krama has been "enormously influential" within Tibetan Buddhism.[1] The three books of the Bhavana-krama are the principal texts for the practice of shamatha and vipashyana in this tradition.[1]

The texts survive in full Tibetan translation. The first and third book also survive in Sanskrit.[1]

The Bhavana-krama is also one of the favorite texts of the 14th Dalai Lama, who has translated and written a commentary on the middle text of the collection.[3]



Martin T. Adam states:

Taken as a whole the Bhāvanākramas appear to constitute a kind of apology or justification for a gradualist approach to the Mahayana Buddhist goal of Awakening. The Tibetan tradition regards them as a summary of arguments employed by Kamalasila in the successful refutation of a Chinese Ch'an (Skt. dhyana) doctrine of "sudden" awakening that was being advocated in Tibet during the eighth century.
Whoever Kamalasila's opponents really were, it is clear that they were regarded by him as misguided as to the true nature of the Mahayana path. As I read the Bhāvanākramas, Kamalasila is primarily concerned to stress two aspects of the gradual path as necessary to the attainment ofthe Mahayana goal of Buddhahood. The first is method (upaya, thabs): acting for the benefit of others through the cultivation of virtue. Without moral cultivation, Kamalasila argues, awakening cannot be achieved. The particular path of moral cultivation he advocates is framed primarily in terms of the theory of perfections ('paramitas), but is also theoretically connected to the first of the two so-called accumulations of merit and gnosis (Puṇyajñānasaṃbhāra).
Secondly, and connected to the accumulation of gnosis, Kamalasila is intent on demonstrating the necessity of "the discernment of reality" (bhūtapratyavekṣā, yan dag pear so sor rtog pa).[1]


The first book consists of a summary of Mahayana doctrine and teachings and the three kinds of wisdom (associated with study, thinking and meditation), the second book focuses on cultivation (bhavana) and method (upaya) and the third book explains the fruit of the meditative path - wisdom (prajña).[1] Kamalashila opens the first book by stating: "The Bhāvanākramas is briefly set forth with regard to the regulation of conduct of a beginner in the Mahayana sutras."[1] Other important topics include compassion, bodhicitta, and the Bodhisattva stages.

English Translations

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Adam 2002, Introduction.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Bhāvanākrama.
  3. Dalai Lama 2003.


External links

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