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Kamalashila, born in 740 in India, is the main disciple of the great abbot "Śāntarakṣita" and became the 12th Abbot of Nalanda University. He was known for his meditation treaties, died in 795, Tibet.

Kamalashila (Skt. Kamalaśīla; Tib. པདྨའི་ངང་ཚུལ་, Pemé Ngang Tsul; Wyl. pad+ma'i ngang tshul) (c. 740-795) — this master was the main disciple of the great abbot Shantarakshita.

According to the Tibetan tradtion, Kamalashila 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]


Dargyay, et al. (1977, 1998: p. 7) convey a lineage of transmission and translation of Śīla, Sutrayana Buddhavacana and the Six Pāramitā (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 Śāntarakṣita, Kamalaśīla, and his disciple Ye-śes-dbang-po, form a known group. These scholars were all defenders of the Madhyamaka school, which is based upon Nāgārjuna's teachings. First of all, however, they taught the ten rules of behaviour of the Buddhist ethics (śīla) and a summary of the teachings according to the canonic Sūtras of the Mahāyāna, as well as the virtuous works of the six pāramitās. 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.[2]

Debate of Samye

in 793 Trisong Detsen resolved that Moheyan did not hold the true dharma. Following intense protests from Moheyan's supporters, Trisong Detsen proposed to settle the matter by sponsoring a debate, the "Council of Lhasa", although it may actually have taken place at Samye, a considerable distance from Lhasa. Kamalaśila was invited to represent Vajrayana while Moheyan represented the East Mountain Teaching of Chan Buddhism. Most Tibetan sources state that the debate was decided in Kamasila's favour (though many Chinese sources claim Moheyan won)[3] and Moheyan was required to leave the country and that all sudden-enlightenment texts were gathered and destroyed by royal decree. This was a pivotal event in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, which would afterward continue to follow the late Indian model with only minor influence from China.[4] Moheyan's teachings were a mixture of the East Mountain Teachings[note 1] associated with Yuquan Shenxiu and with the teachings of Baotang Wuzhu.[5]


Trilogy of Stages of Meditation (bhāvanākrama)

Kamalaśīla is renowned for writing three texts, all called Bhāvanākrama (Stages of Meditation), which summarize and build upon aspects of the Yogacara tradition of Asanga, particularly as pertaining to aspects of meditation practice and mental cultivation (bhavana).[6] The first volume was translated into Classic Chinese.[7]

Commentary on Madhyamālaṃkāra

(Sanskrit: Madhyamālaṃkāra-panjika, Wylie: dbu ma rgyan gyi dka' 'grel)
Commentary on Difficult Points (Sanskrit: Madhyamālaṃkāra-panjika, Wylie: dbu ma rgyan gyi dka' 'grel) by Kamalaśīla

See also



  1. Chinese: 東山法門 tung-shan fa-men; given the appellation of "Northern School" Chan by Shenhui (670–762)


  1. Seyfort Ruegg, Literature, p. 94
  2. Dargyay, Eva M. (author) & Wayman, Alex (editor) (1977, 1998). The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet. Second revised edition, reprint. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd. Buddhist Tradition Series Vol. 32. ISBN 81-208-1579-3 (paper), p.7
  3. Powers 2004, pp. 38–44
  4. Yamaguchi 1997.
  5. Hanson-Barber 1985.
  6. Adam, Martin T. (2003). Meditation and the concept of insight in Kamalaśīla's Bhāvanākramas, Montreal: McGill Univ., Dissertation (includes translations)
  7. 廣釋菩提心論 Archived 8 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Hanson-Barber, A. W. (1985), "'No-Thought' in Pao-T'ang Ch'an and Early Ati-Yoga", Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 8 (2): 61–73 
  • Tucci, G. and Heissig, W. (1970). Die Religionen Tibets und der Mongolei. Stuttgart.
  • Yamaguchi, Zuihō (1997), The Core Elements of Indian Buddhism Introduced into Tibet'. In: Jamie Hubbard and Paul L. Swanson (ed.), Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-1949-1 
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