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Kamalaśīla

(c. 740—795)


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The 8th century ce Indian scholar-monk and student of Śāntarakṣita, who continued his teacher's work of disseminating Buddhism in Tibet during the period known as the ‘first diffusion’ (snga dar). During this period the influence of Ch'an Buddhism was strong, and a disagreement arose as to whether enlightenment (bodhi) was a sudden or gradual experience (see sudden enlightenment; gradual enlightenment). A debate took place at Samyé (see Council of Lhasa) in 792–4 ce in which Kamalaśīla represented the gradualist position and emerged victorious over his opponent the Ch'an master Hvashang Mahāyāna. In accordance with the conditions of the debate the views of the victor became the orthodox form of Buddhism in Tibet. Shortly after this in 795 ce Kamalaśīla was murdered, apparently by Chinese assassins. Kamalaśīla left a rich legacy of scholarship, mainly on Madhyamaka philosophy. His most important work is the Madhyamakāloka (Light on the Middle Way), and he also composed commentaries on two works by Śāntarakṣita, the Madhyamakālaṃkāra (Ornament of the Middle Way), and the Tattvasaṃgraha (Compendium of Reality). His own views are expressed in a trilogy on meditation known as the Bhāvanā-krama (Stages of Mental Cultivation).

Subjects: Religion


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