Dharmapala of Nalanda

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Dharmapāla (traditional Chinese: 護法, pinyin: Hùfǎ) (530-561 CE). A Buddhist scholar, he was one of the main teachers of the Yogacara school in India. He was a contemporary of Bhavaviveka (清辯, c. 490-570 CE.), with whom he debated.[1]

Xuanzang, the famous Chinese pilgrim, tells that Dharmapāla was born in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. He was a son of a high official, and betrothed to a daughter of the king, but escaped on the eve of the wedding feast, entered the order, studied all views,[2] from Hinayana as well as Mahayana, and attained to reverence and distinction. He studied in Nalanda as a student of Dignāga. Later he succeeded him as abbot of the University. He spent his last years near the Bodhi tree, where he died.[3]

Dharmapāla developed the theory that the external things do not exist and consciousness only exists. He explains the manifestation of the phenomenal world as arising from the eight consciousness.[4]

Through the teachings of his disciple Silabhadra to Xuanzang, Dharmapāla’s tenets expanded greatly in China.[5] His works survive in Chinese translations.


  1. Williams, Paul (1989) Mahayana Buddhism. The doctrinal foundations. London: Routledge, p.88
  2. Beal, Samuel (2001) Life of Hiuen-Tsiang , Routledge, pp 138-9
  3. Lusthaus, Dan (2002) Buddhist phenomenology, a philosophical investigation of Yogacara Buddhism. Routledge, Chap. Fifteen, p. 395
  4. Swati Ganguly, Xuanzang, et al (1992) Treatise in thirty verses on mere consciousness , Motilal Banarsidass , p.11
  5. Williams, P.,id. p.88
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