The Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism

1. The Dharma in India and Tibet

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The Dharma in India and Tibet

FOUR SCHOOLS of the Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna appeared in India, the land of the noble ones, and the Old and New mantra systems of the four main schools, along with their subdivisions, appeared in Tibet. We should have confidence that these are all part of the Conqueror’s inconceivable and unobjectified activity, derived from his compassion and appropriate to the various abilities of students. Holding the Three Jewels as our refuge, we should accomplish the unique teaching of the Buddha by means of the cause that resembles its effect, practicing the four mudrās that authenticate the view.

With this in mind I will establish the context by teaching how our guide, the precious teacher, the sage who possessed the ten powers, appeared in our worldly realm. Then I will write a preliminary historical account of the gradual propagation of the teachings in the noble land of Tibet. In order that this may be a cause for intelligent readers to develop conviction, and be relevant and coherent, it will be taught in three parts: the origin of the precious teachings of the Buddha in the world in general, the propagation of the teachings in Tibet in particular, and the duration of the teachings.

The first of these is in four parts: the life of the Teacher, the way he expounded the Dharma, the way the teachings were compiled, and the lives of the saints who upheld the teachings.


According to the definitive meaning, the Conqueror should not be a subject of calculation, reduced to no more than an enumeration that constructs and measures a series of lifetimes as periods of time in a particular world. As was said by the saint Jamgon Sakya Paṇḍita:


To say that he lived only at this particular point

entails that he was limited to that particular point,

which runs contrary to the scriptures of the Leader of Beings;

therefore we should analyze his limitless intention.

On the other hand, according to the indirect meaning, in this fortunate eon a thousand nirmāṇakāyas have appeared in succession at the self-arisen vajra seat in Magadha, which is in the middle of the land beautified by the tree of Jambu, located in this enduring world system. They have shown the way to buddhahood and then turned the wheel of the Dharma. Then came our teacher, the Lord of Sages, the Fourth Guide.

The divisions of this enduring world system in which the Conqueror appeared are usually made according to the Abhidharmakośa:

The four continents, the sun and moon,

Mount Meru, the gods’ desire realm,

and the thousand worlds of Brahmā—

a thousand of these worlds form the upper part.

A thousand sets of these form the second thousand,

which is the middle world system.

And a thousand sets of those form the third thousand;

these worlds all come into being together.

These billion world systems, each of which contains four continents, are encircled by a single iron ring. Our system of a thousand worlds to the power of three is called the enduring world system. The creation, abiding, and destruction of these worlds occur simultaneously.

So the conditions for the appearance of a nirmāṇakāya are known as “this enduring world system” and “this golden age.” Enduring means “to withstand,” for it withstands the three poisonous defilements and cannot be stolen away by them. It is enduring due to the mental fortitude of the Sage. As is said in the Karuṇāpuṇḍarīka Sūtra:

Why is this world system called enduring? These sentient beings endure attachment, they endure aversion, and they endure ignorance. They endure the chains of affliction. That is why this world system is known as enduring. In this world system there 15arises what we call the great golden age. Why is it called the great golden age? Because in this great golden age, among sentient beings performing acts of attachment, aversion, and ignorance, a thousand perfect buddhas, blessed ones endowed with great compassion, will appear.

There are also omens of the coming of the thousand buddhas. Before they came to this very world and this corrupt age, a thousand golden lotuses appeared in the middle of a lake. The gods of the pure abodes examined them and knew them to be an omen of the coming of a thousand buddhas. “Amazing!” they said. “This is the golden age.” And that is why, according to the Karuṇāpuṇḍarīka Sūtra, this became known as the golden age.

So how did our teacher, the Lord of Sages, come into this world? According to Nāgārjuna’s Aṣṭamahāsthānacaityastotra:

First he roused the supreme awakening mind

and gathered the accumulations over three incalculable eons.

Subsequently he conquered the four Māras.

Homage to the lionlike Conqueror.

There are many ways of teaching the way in which he roused his mind. According to the Mahāyāna, it was when he was born as a chariot puller in the hell realms. When he tried to protect his weaker companions, he was stabbed again and again by the guards of hell. At this point he developed the awakening mind. He spoke of this in the Sūtra on Repaying Kindness and the Bhadrakalpika Sūtra:

In a previous life, I had been born into the lower realms,

yet because I made an offering

to the Tathāgata Śākyamuni,3

this was the first time I roused the supreme awakening mind.

Subsequently he gathered the accumulations; the Mahāyāna account of this is given in the Sūtrālaṃkāra:

This bhūmi is stated to be the first.

On it for an incalculable eon . . .



By perfecting his practice for three incalculable eons,

he completed the path of meditation.

One incalculable eon is reckoned to be sixty calculable eons. For three of these periods, he gathered the accumulations of merit and wisdom and actualized the tenth bhūmi. For the first incalculable eon, he attained the first bhūmi through devoted conduct.4 In the second eon he reached the seventh bhūmi, and in the third he attained the tenth bhūmi.

The way he attained final liberation, as understood in the Lesser Vehicle, is set out in the Abhidharmakośa:

The Teacher and the solitary ones achieve enlightenment

purely on the basis of the final contemplation;

prior to that they are merely in accord with liberation.


He became a buddha after three incalculable eons.

While on the path of accumulation, he gathered the virtues conducive to liberation. Then in his final life as Prince Siddhārtha, in the body of an ordinary person, he conquered Māra at Bodhgaya as twilight fell. In the middle period, relying on the four absorptions as his main practice, he advanced to the path of application. From dusk until dawn he perfected the six perfections, completing them at the moment of sunrise. Then he reached full enlightenment and became glorified by the marks and signs of a fully ripened rūpakāya. Having understood all, he resolved to come to the aid of those who could be taught, bringing everyone throughout space to nirvāṇa.

According to the ordinary Mahāyāna, three incalculable eons after he developed the awakening mind, he was born on the tenth bhūmi as the sacred child of the god Śvetaketu, just a single birth away from enlightenment. After this existence as a bodhisattva of the tenth bhūmi, he was born as Prince Siddhārtha and achieved buddhahood in this realm of ours.

In the tradition of the extraordinary Mahāyāna, each of the thousand buddhas of the golden age achieve buddhahood in the richly adorned realm 17of Akaniṣṭha, and only then do they display the activities of a buddha in Jambudvīpa. As it says in the Ghanavyūha Sūtra:

All buddhas reside in Akaniṣṭha;

they do not achieve buddhahood in the realm of desire,

nor do they carry out the activities of a buddha.

And in Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra:

Transcending even the pure heavens,

the perfect buddha achieved buddhahood

in Ghanavyūha Akaniṣṭha,

and a nirmāṇakāya became a buddha here.

Other examples can be seen in sūtras like Pitāputrasamāgama Sūtra. This sūtra tells how the tathāgata Indraketu attained buddhahood three incalculable great eons in the past. He too displayed like a magical illusion the activities of developing the awakening mind, training in the path, and awakening. According to these sūtras, all buddhas achieve buddhahood while based in Akaniṣṭha. In buddhahood the saṃbhogakāya possessing the five certainties and the dharmakāya possessing the two purities are inseparable. Without moving from that state, like the appearance of the moon in ten million jugs of water, they display the activities of transferring from the Tuṣita heaven and so on in a billion Jambudvīpas.

In the sūtras, the main activities of these emanated compassionate teachers are summarized in twelve sections. These stages are given in Maitreya’s Uttaratantraśāstra:

He knew the world through his great compassion;

having seen all worlds,

without moving from the dharmakāya,

through its manifold nature of emanation,

he was born into the highest birth:

transferring from his abode in Tuṣita,

he entered the womb and was born.

He became skilled in the arts,

sported with princesses,


renounced all and practiced asceticism.

Coming to the seat of enlightenment,

he vanquished Māra’s hosts and became fully enlightened.

Then he turned the wheel of the Dharma and went to nirvāṇa.

And so in impure lands,

he teaches for as long as saṃsāra remains.

Let us tell the story according to these stages. The first stage is the encouragement of the buddhas of the ten directions. Our teacher was once born into an exalted family of brahmans. After he died, he was reborn in Tuṣita as the sacred child of the god Śvetaketu, a bodhisattva who was one life away from enlightenment. While he was residing as a Dharma teacher of the Mahāyāna, sitting on a lion throne in a high mansion, he was encouraged by the buddhas of the ten directions. Their words of encouragement spontaneously came forth as a melodious song: “The time has come to train the beings of Jambudvīpa. Do you realize that you possess oceans of merit due to the power of your previous aspirations and the blessings of the conquerors of the ten directions? Your limitless intelligence produces light rays of wisdom! You have a multitude of unequaled powers and vast magical skills! Consider the prophecy that was made by Dīpaṃkara!” When the bodhisattva thought about these words and considered their meaning, he realized that the time had come.

The second stage is the transference from Tuṣita. As we have seen, the bodhisattva was residing on the Dharma throne. He taught his devoted entourage of divine beings the 108 doorways to the Dharma, such as “the doorway to the Dharma is single-mindedness.” Then he introduced the awakening mind, patience, and the pure vision of Dharma. Then the bodhisattva took his own crown and placed it on the head of Maitreya, empowering him as his regent.

The bodhisattva had five visions: that he would live one hundred years, that he would be born in the continent of Jambudvīpa, in the country of India, and into the royal caste, and that an exceptional woman was to bear him. Then with a voice like a lion, he said to his entourage: “The time has come for me to go to train the beings of Jambudvīpa.” Thus he made them aware of his intentions.

Then he assumed the form of a sacred elephant and was visited by countless gods from the mountain realms of the Four Great Kings, the heaven of 19the Thirty-Three, the heaven Free from Strife, the heaven of Controlling Others’ Emanations, Brahmā’s heaven, and Akaniṣṭha. They came bearing a multitude of different kinds of offerings.

The third stage is the entry into his mother’s womb. He saw that Jambudvīpa was superior to the other three continents. He also saw that when sentient beings live a long time, it is rare for them to become disenchanted, and when they live for less than a hundred years their impurities increase so quickly that they have no opportunities. Thus he considered a hundred years an appropriate span of time for training. He saw that in Magadha the royal caste was highly esteemed. So on the fifteenth day of the last month of spring, the vaiśākha month of the fire-hare year, he entered the left side of Queen Mahāmāya, the wife of King Śuddhodana of Kapila, when she was observing the fast of repentance. Due to the bodhisattva’s previously acquired merit, he perceived the queen’s womb as a palace of sandalwood, richly arrayed with many different luxurious offerings. While the bodhisattva resided in her womb, his mother’s realization came to equal his own.

The fourth stage is his birth. During the ten months spent in his mother’s womb, he ripened 3.6 billion gods and men in the three vehicles. When the thirty-two omens of birth arose simultaneously, his mother was observing the fast of repentance (poṣadha) in the majestic heights of the forests of Lumbini. On the full-moon day of the eleventh lunar mansion in the earth-dragon year, known as the treasury, his mother grasped a pāla tree, and without any harm coming to her, the bodhisattva was born from her left side, unstained by the uterus, and fully clothed. The gods and nāgas offered him ablutions of nectar, while Brahmā gave him garments of Benares cotton. Then he took seven steps in each of the four directions, at every seventh step proclaiming himself the greatest in the world. There was the sound of cymbals, and everywhere was filled with light. In Magadha, the bodhi tree began to grow. All of the realms were filled with a billion billion omens of virtue, such as the spontaneous surfacing of five thousand treasures. Therefore he was given the name Sarvārthasiddha, “he who accomplishes all aims.” Even the gods worshiped him and honored him with the name Devātideva, “god among gods.” The learned astrologers predicted that if the prince stayed inside the palace, he would become a universal sovereign, but if he renounced it he would become a buddha. He was cared for by eighty-four nursemaids.


The fifth stage is his training in the arts. When he had grown into boyhood, he learned the alphabet from the writing instructor Viśvāmitra. In a similar way he learned astrology, archery, and swimming. With his knowledge, prowess, beauty, and learning, he overpowered every arrogant person he met. When he rested under the Jambu tree, the shade did not leave his body.

The sixth stage is his sporting with the princesses. The bodhisattva understood that all of the objects of desire are like optical illusions. However, in order to guide sentient beings and show how to abandon that which is improper, he decided to train in the same way as previous conquerors. He chose the daughter of Śākya Daṇḍapāṇi to be his wife. Then he took part in contests of writing, counting, archery, strength, and magical feats and destroyed the arrogance of all challengers. Thereafter he lived surrounded by an entourage of sixty thousand princesses, including Yaśodharā-Gopā, and Mṛgajā, achieving the benefit of beings through pleasure and play.

The seventh stage is his leaving the palace and practicing asceticism. When the bodhisattva was twenty-nine and living in the palace, the blessings of the tathāgatas of the ten directions brought forth a song to tell him that the time had come to renounce it all. This produced in him the wish to leave home. When he was on his way to the pleasure grove of Udyāna, he saw a man exhausted and tormented by old age at the eastern gate of the city of Kapila. At the southern gate he saw a man oppressed by illness. At the western gate he saw the body of a man who had died being lifted onto a bier and taken away to the charnel ground. At the northern gate he saw a calm renunciate wearing saffron-colored religious robes. These sights made him understand the shortcomings of saṃsāra and the noble qualities of renunciation. He returned to the palace and began to get ready to leave home.

The king, having heard of this, had powerful warriors guard the four gates of the city and commanded the attendant princesses to delay the bodhisattva by behaving in seductive ways. But the bodhisattva’s mind was firm and could not be swayed. Seeing this, the king gave his permission. The bodhisattva ascended to the top of the royal residence and accepted the fabled steed that was offered to him by Chandaka. The guardians of the four directions bowed at his feet, and Brahmā and the other gods came from the sky to worship him in the same way. Then he set off toward the holy stūpa at Vaiśālī, twelve yojana to the east.5

There the bodhisattva gave his clothes, ornaments, and horse back to 21Chandaka. He accepted a set of saffron-colored robes from a god who had taken the form of a hunter and cut off his own hair. These were taken to the god realms by Indra, where a stūpa was erected.

In Vaiśālī and Rājagṛha he studied with Arāḍakālāma and Udraka, eventually equaling the attainments of his teachers in the absorptions on nothingness and the pinnacle of worldly existence. Yet he came to realize that this would not free him from saṃsāra. On the banks of the river Nairañjanā, with five disciples, he practiced asceticism for six years, resting in the all-pervading absorption. After this time he wished to free himself from the limits of asceticism itself, so he ate some coarse bread to fortify his body. The five disciples lost faith in him and left for Vārāṇasī.

The eighth stage is his coming to the seat of enlightenment.6 On his way to the vajra throne, the bodhisattva was offered the refined cream of a thousand cows by a farmer’s daughter, which was the ultimate auspicious sign, and he became surrounded by light to a distance of six feet. Then he accepted the gift of some grass from a mower called Svastika. Then he laid the grass at the foot of the bodhi tree, circumambulated the tree, and sat down. Then he made the following oath:

I will remain here for long as it takes to attain enlightenment;

even if my body withers away,

even if my skin, bones, and flesh decay,

I will not move my body from this seat.

And he remained there unmoving until he attained enlightenment.

The ninth stage is his conquest of Māra’s hosts. The bodhisattva summoned Māra’s maṇḍala by projecting light from between his eyebrows. Māra the evil one arrived to mock the bodhisattva, surrounded by millions of soldiers from his mountain realm. They took on horrifying forms and with fearful illusions attempted to overwhelm the bodhisattva. The beautiful daughters of Māra attempted to beguile him with their deceitful ways. But through his blessings the weapons turned into flowers, and the daughters of Māra became old and decrepit. With his loving kindness, the bodhisattva overcame them all. Then Sthāvarā the earth goddess came and gave witness to the bodhisattva’s accomplishment and completion of the two accumulations over many eons.

The tenth stage is his attainment of full enlightenment. It was the night of 22the fifteenth day of the water-tiger year, known as the virtuous. During the first part of the night, the bodhisattva produced the four kinds of absorption,7 and during the middle period, the three kinds of knowledge.8 Then in the later part of the night, in the time it takes to beat a royal drum, he attained the inexhaustible wisdom, complete buddhahood. He grew to the height of seven palm trees and announced: “My path has come to an end.”

The gods laid flowers that piled up to his knees, worshiped, and exalted him. All the world became filled with light, and the earth shook six times. The gods of the ten directions sang his praises.

The eleventh stage is his turning the wheel of the Dharma. Seven weeks after the attainment of buddhahood, the merchants Trapuṣa and Bhallika gave him honey. The four great kings offered him vessels made from precious stones, but he rejected them and took the honey in an ordinary vessel. Then he spoke auspicious words to them, explaining that this nectar is not experienced by mere philosophers, and announced that despite the merit of turning the wheel of the Dharma, he would not do it:

I have found a Dharma that is like nectar,

profound, peaceful, free from elaboration, luminous, and uncompounded;

even if I taught it, nobody would understand it.

So I will stay here in the forest, without speaking.

Having thus taught a little on his state of being, he remained there for seven weeks without expounding the Dharma. Then Brahmā and six million others brought a thousand-spoked golden wheel, while the lord of the gods, Indra, came with an entourage of ten million to offer a right-turning conch shell. They asked the Buddha to turn in this world the wheel of the Dharma, this miraculous nectar that he had discovered. The Buddha accepted their gifts immediately.

The Buddha spoke the words, “I agree to turn the wheel of the Dharma!” He was heard as far away as the heaven of Akaniṣṭha, and every god came bearing offerings to present to the Buddha. Remembering his previous aspirations, he saw that his five worthy disciples were in Vārāṇasī, and so he traveled there. When he arrived at the deer park called Ṛṣipatana, the five disciples were there. They had agreed not to bow to the Tathāgata, but that agreement was destroyed by the sight of his brilliance.


Then a thousand jeweled thrones appeared all around the Buddha. He circumambulated those of the three previous buddhas and sat down on the fourth. The throne on which he sat radiated light, and the others disappeared. Then to his five excellent disciples and eighty thousand gods, he turned the Dharma wheel with four truths that expound the middle way that is free from the two extremes. He taught these three times and then turned the wheel of the twelve aspects of dependent origination. After this the whole of his audience saw the truth, and the five disciples each attained the level of an arhat.

Then on Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, for those of an appropriate mindset, he turned the Dharma wheel teaching non-identity. Then in an indeterminate location he turned the final Dharma wheel that fully disclosed his intention. At the same time as these marvelous wheels were being turned, the Buddha taught in solitary places, turning limitless Dharma wheels concerning the general Mahāyāna and the special secret mantra in four classes. In between teachings he displayed an inconceivable number of miraculous activities, such as reuniting a father and son, displaying magical emanations, taming a wild elephant, and pacifying the avaricious Nanda, the aggressive Aṅgulimālā, and the ignorant Jaṭilakāśyapa.

The twelfth stage is his passing into nirvāṇa. To encourage those who believe in permanence to turn to the Dharma, and to make people understand the rarity of a buddha, the Buddha traveled to the land of Kuśinagara, the land of the Mallas, where he set up a throne between two śāla trees and concentrated his mind upon nirvāṇa. He performed his final activities of personally training the king of the gandharvas, Sunanda, and his disciple Subhadra.

Then the Buddha removed the garment covering the upper part of his body and said: “O monks, it is rare to see a tathāgata, so look upon the body of the Tathāgata! O monks, after this I shall speak no more. O monks, everything that is compounded is subject to destruction. These are the final words of the Tathāgata.” Then, at the very beginning of the earth-bird year, known as the all-embracing, his bodily form passed away.

Then Ānanda crossed the river Vasumatī, where a stūpa was erected, girded round with the crowns of the Mallas, and the body was placed before it. When the body was cleansed it was transformed into a heap of relics. The Mallas of Kuśinagara and others each took one eighth of the relics away to their own kingdoms, building stūpas for them, instituting worship at the 24stūpas, and declaring the Buddha’s passing a holy day. A portion of the relics that had been given to Rāvaṇa was stolen by the nāgas and worshiped by them. Thus the Tathāgata, the greatest of beings, the source of all refuge, remained for eighty years in Jambudvīpa. From the Vibhāṣākośa:

The Sage, supreme being,

lived for one year each

at the place where he turned the wheel of the Dharma,

at Vaiśālī, Makkolam, and in the god realms,

Śiśumāra Hill, Kauśāmbī,

Āṭavī, Caityagiri,

Veṇapura, Sāketu,

and in the city of Kapilavastu.

He passed twenty-three years in Śrāvastī,

four years in Bhaiṣajyavana,

two years in the Jvālinī Cave,

and five years in Rājagṛha.

He had spent six years practicing austerity

and twenty-nine years in the palace.

So it was that the Conqueror,

the supreme and holy sage,

passed into nirvāṇa at the age of eighty.9


Initially the Bhagavan turned the wheel of the four truths in Vārāṇasī in order to guide his five disciples, who were of the śrāvaka lineage. He said: “Monks, there is the burden, and there is the one who carries the burden,” teaching thus the existent nature of the apprehender and the apprehended. If he had taught unreality from the beginning, the disciples would have been terrified. So as to avoid this problem, he taught an indirect meaning that requires interpretation. By doing 25so, he averted any clinging to nonexistence. However, clinging to existence came to prevail, so in places like Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, he turned the intermediate Dharma wheel of non-identity for those trainees who had entered the Mahāyāna. In the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras he taught that all phenomena, from form to omniscience, are in their very essence without any inherent nature. By doing so, he averted any clinging to existence. However, clinging to the nonexistence of phenomena came to prevail, so in places like Śrāvastī he turned the Dharma wheel of final disclosure for those trainees who had entered into both the Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna.

In the second and third Dharma wheels, distinctions can be made between indirect and definitive meanings, and between hidden and clear intentions. The Buddha first taught that the imputed nature does not exist, the dependent nature exists conventionally, and the absolute nature exists ultimately. He then clarified the great path of the Madhyamaka in order to avert clinging to the extremes of existence and nonexistence.

The first of the three wheels is contained in the scriptural collections (piṭaka) of the Hīnayāna, and the second and third are in the scriptural collections of the Mahāyāna. The first wheel presents the view of the śrāvakas, the intermediate wheel presents the view of the Mādhyamikas, and the final wheel presents the view of the Cittamātrins. Therefore the intermediate wheel is the definitive meaning, and the other two are the indirect meaning. The correct understanding of this is taught in the Sandhivyākaraṇa Tantra:

Without conceptualization or delusion,

the unique vajra words that please the mind

come forth in a multitude of specific forms

in dependence on the dispositions of trainees.

And from the Avataṃsaka Sūtra:

A single sermon contains the voices of an ocean of different aspects.

Therefore, in the pure melodious speech of all the conquerors,

there are as many melodies as there are dispositions among all beings.

Thus in a single sermon delivered without conceptualization by the Bhagavan, he taught every aspect of the Dharma, both sequentially and simultaneously.

How was the Dharma wheel of the extraordinary Vajrayāna turned? Were the tantras of secret mantra expounded by our Teacher or not? They were expounded by his emanations in three ways. First, the tantras that were 26heard in an ordinary place and by an ordinary audience, such as the five disciples, were expounded through the display of the Buddha’s speech. The exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra was heard in an extraordinary place, the stūpa of Dhānyakaṭaka, and by an extraordinary audience, the Dharma king Sucandra. It was expounded through the display of the Buddha’s body.

The second way involves tantras like Tattvasaṃgraha and Cakrasaṃvara. It says at the beginning of the Tattvasaṃgraha that as soon as it was completed it descended into the realms of men. This means that the Teacher came to Jambudvīpa to teach it. This is explained by the master Bhavyakīrti in his commentary on the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra:10

This enumeration of Dharma is a beginningless continuum, in which the Bhagavan Śākyamuni has abided from the dawn of time. When teachings like the Prajñāpāramitā decline at the end of the eon in which everything is burned up by the power of time’s passing, the Bhagavan Śākyamuni will expound them again. But the glorious Cakrasaṃvara is not like this. The tantra was received by heroes and heroines in a buddha realm beyond verbalization, and because it remains there it can never decline. This is how it was taught. On the other hand, most tantras, such as the Guhyasamāja, were expounded here by emanations of the Buddha himself.

Thus the third way is exposition by an emanation of the Buddha himself. The Bhagavan Śākyamuni displayed the bodily form of Guhyasamāja and taught the Guhyasamāja Tantra. He displayed the bodily form of Yamāri and taught the Yamāri Tantras. As it says in the Guhyasamāja:

Then Vajrapāṇi, lord of all tathāgatas, spoke to all of the tatāgatas and all of the bodhisattvas: “This is how the Guhyasamāja was expounded. When the Bhagavan was residing in the city of Śrāvastī, there was a country called Oḍḍiyāna three hundred leagues to the west. There lived a king called Indrabhūti. One morning the king saw a multitude of monk-like forms flying through the sky. Not knowing what they were, he consulted his ministers. The ministers did not know either, so they asked the people. One person said: ‘Three hundred yojana to the east 27of here, in the city of Śrāvastī, there resides a son of King Śuddhodana who has attained buddhahood. Those monks are his followers.’ The king was overjoyed, and bowed down in that direction while holding a flower in his hand.

“Traveling to Śrāvastī, the king saw the Teacher with his followers and became full of devotion. ‘O Bhagavan, omniscient and compassionate one, illusion-like honored one, please come to my kingdom at midday tomorrow,’ the king requested. So at midday on the following day, the Bhagavan and his followers arrived in Oḍḍiyāna. The king and his entourage worshiped the Buddha and made a formal request: ‘We are tormented by the objects of desire. May we have a method for liberation that does not require us to abandon them?’ At that moment the Buddha, in order to help ordinary beings who are full of desire, entered the bhaga of the vajra queen and gave empowerment to Indrabhūti in the middle of a circle of his queens. At the moment of empowerment Indrabhūti was liberated, the Vajrayāna was expounded, and the king’s entourage was liberated as well. So it is spoken.”

As for the Hevajra Tantra, it was expounded first by the Saṃbhogakāya, in the middle by the supreme emanation, Hevajra, and finally by Śākyamuni himself in Jambudvīpa. As it says in the Commentary to the Vajramā:

Subsequently, in order to subdue the four Māras, the glorious Hevajra Tantra was taught here in Jambudvīpa. This teaching included the extensive tantra, the concise tantra, and the explanatory tantra.

And the master Kāmadhenu has said:11

In his eighty years in Jambudvīpa, the Bhagavan did not expound the precious tantras one after another. There was a unique exposition that happened all at once in a single moment. Therefore that time, and no other, is the uniquely special one.

According to these authors, the Buddha taught a limitless array of secret tantras in a variety of ordinary experiential domains such as Akaniṣṭha, on 28top of mountains, and in Oḍḍiyāna, the land of ḍākinīs, to various marvelous audiences all at the same time. On the other hand, the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti teaches that the secret mantra is expounded by the buddhas of the three times:

This was expounded by the buddhas of the past,

it will be expounded again by the buddhas of the future,

and it is the source of the perfect Buddha of the present.

Again and again, it will be expounded.

According to the Guhyasamāja, the tantra had previously been expounded by the bhagavan, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfect Buddha Dīpaṃkara, and then in the intermediate period by the great sage Kāśyapa Buddha. One may object: “How can this be? The Bhagavan taught the essential points of the great secret, but because sentient beings were lacking good fortune at the time of Dīpaṃkara and Kāśyapa, they did not expound the secret mantra when they taught.” The teaching that all of the buddhas of the three times expounded the secret mantra is intended for superior trainees. The teaching that they did not expound it is intended for ordinary trainees. This was explained by that protector of beings, Chogyal Pagpa.


With regard to the ordinary vehicles, it is generally agreed that three councils were convened. The first council is summarized in the Vinayakṣudrāgama:

During the summer that followed the Teacher’s nirvāṇa,

in a secret cave in Rājagṛha,

Ajātaśatru provided sustenance

for a council of five hundred arhats,

and the Tripiṭaka was compiled.12

As it says, shortly before the compassionate Teacher had passed into nirvāṇa, his two supreme disciples (Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana) and their entourages had passed into nirvāṇa. The gods chastised the monks, saying: “The words of the Teacher are now just smoke from a dead fire. Since the best of the monks have passed away, there is nobody to proclaim the Sūtras, 29the Vinaya, or the Abhidharma.” In response to this, Elder Mahākāśyapa convened a meeting of the saṅgha in the Nyagrodha cave at Rājagṛha during the summer monsoon retreat in the year following the Buddha’s nirvāṇa, under the patronage of King Ajātaśatru.

When Gavāṃpati heard that the Teacher had passed away, he passed into nirvāṇa. This meant that the arhats were one short of the five hundred needed to convene a council of the saṅgha. Mahākāśyapa made the remaining monks agree not to pass away into nirvāṇa, and he saw that Ānanda could be cultivated through censure. He chastised Ānanda thus:

You are guilty of eight faults: (1) asking [for women to be admitted to the saṅgha], (2) not asking [the Buddha to prolong his life], (3) commenting inappropriately [on the Buddha’s teachings], (4) [treading on the Budddha’s] robe, (5) [offering the Buddha muddy] water, (6) [not querying when] the precepts can be relaxed, and (7, 8) displaying [to women the secret parts of the Buddha and the Buddha’s golden body].13

Having accused Ānanda of these eight faults, he sent him away. Due to this, and encouraged by Vṛjiputra, Ānanda freed himself from mental contamination by actualizing the instructions of the Teacher and attained the state of an arhat. He returned to the gathering of the saṅgha, where Mahākāśyapa appointed him to gather the sūtras. Ānanda sat upon the lion throne, on which the five hundred arhats had placed their garments, and recited the entire collection of sūtras as they had been spoken by the Buddha. Everyone was overjoyed that every single word had been preserved.

Then in order t

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