ⓘ Bhāvanākrama. The Bhāvanākrama is a set of three Buddhist texts written in Sanskrit by the Indian Buddhist scholar yogi Kamalashila of Nalanda university. These ..


ⓘ Bhāvanākrama

The Bhāvanākrama is a set of three Buddhist texts written in Sanskrit by the Indian Buddhist scholar yogi Kamalashila of Nalanda university. These works are the principal texts for mental development and the practice of shamatha and vipashyana in Tibetan Buddhism and have been "enormously influential". The texts survive in full Tibetan translation, part 1 and 3 also survive in Sanskrit. The Bhāvanākramas are also one of the favorite texts of the 14th Dalai Lama, who has translated and written a commentary on the middle Bhk.


1. Outline

According to Martin T. Adam "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." In the Tibetan tradition they are seen as outlining Kamalashilas refutation of the Chinese Chan doctrine of sudden enlightenment which is said to have occurred during a series of debates at Samye C. 792-794, Tibets first Buddhist monastery. Kamalashilas main argument is that one must gradually cultivate the causes and conditions which make the arrival of awakening possible. Two aspects of the path are necessary, moral cultivation of the paramitas and "the discernment of reality" bhutapratyaveksa through the practice of tranquility and insight meditation. In Kamalashilas attacks against his opponents, he tries to show their approach is lacking elements of these two key aspects of cultivation and is thus a lower teaching or Sravakayana.

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. 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." Other important topics include compassion, bodhicitta, and the Bodhisattva stages.

An overview of the path outlined by Kamalashila is as follows:

  • Practicing vipassana
  • Accumulation of merit
  • Generation of bodhicitta
  • Meditation on great compassion
  • Importance of practice
  • Attainment of perfect enlightenment as a result by integrated practice of wisdom and compassion.
  • Practicing samatha
  • Practice of skillful means

2. English Translations

  • Pannananda Shanna 1997, all 3 books.
  • Stephen Beyer 1974, Bhk 1.
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Bhk 2.
  • Yen. Geshe Sopa 1998, with Yen. Elvin Jones and John Newman, Bhk 2.
  • Robert F. Olson and Masao Ichishima 1979, Bhk 2.
  • Thrangu Rinpoche, Essential Practice: Lectures on Kamalashilas Stages of Meditation 2002, Bhk 2.
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