Matthew T. Kapstein was introduced to Buddhist studies through the courses of Richard H. Robinson (1926–1970) at the University of Wisconsin and subsequently earned his A.B. in Sanskrit at the University of California (Berkeley) and PhD in philosophy at Brown University. During periods of travel and residence in India, Nepal, and Tibet, he studied with leading contemporary Buddhist teachers, including S. N. Goenka, H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche, and H. H. the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, among many others. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, where he is currently professor emeritus of Tibetan studies. In 2018 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Kapstein has published over a dozen books and numerous articles, among which are a general introduction to Tibetan cultural history, The Tibetans (Oxford 2006); a translation of an eleventh-century philosophical allegory in the acclaimed Clay Sanskrit Library, The Rise of Wisdom Moon (NYU Press, 2009); and, most recently, The Many Faces of King Gesar (Brill, 2022), with anthropologist Charles Ramble. With Kurtis Schaeffer and Gray Tuttle, he has authored and edited Sources of Tibetan Traditions, published in 2013 in the Columbia University Press Sources of Asian Traditions series. Kapstein collaborated with the late Gyurme Dorje on the translation of H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche’s renowned Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History, a milestone published by Wisdom Publications in 1991. His other Wisdom publications are Reason’s Traces: Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought (2001) and an edited volume, Buddhism between Tibet and China (2009).
“An excellent book: lucid, well-written, and enjoyable to read.”
—Chicago South Asia Newsletter
Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought
Reason’s Traces addresses some of the key questions in the study of Indian and Buddhist thought: the analysis of personal identity and of ultimate reality, the interpretation of Tantric texts and traditions, and Tibetan approaches to the interpretation of Indian sources. Drawing on a wide range of scholarship, Reason’s Traces reflects current work in philosophical analysis and hermeneutics, inviting readers to explore in a Buddhist context the relationship between philosophy and traditions of spiritual exercise.
Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.
Learn more about the following masters at the Treasury of Lives:
- 496 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 inches
- ISBN 9780861712397
- 496 pages
- ISBN 9780861717545
Kālacakra and the Tibetan Calendar
Kālacakra and the Tibetan Calendar describes the contents of current Tibetan almanacs, from the most basic mathematics to the symbolic and historical information they contain. Essential for understanding the Kālacakra Tantra’s first chapter, it traces and describes the origin of the calendrical systems in the Kālacakra Tantra, and it translates and elucidates the key relevant sections from the famous commentary to this Tantra, the Vimalaprabhā.
The main calendars in use in Tibet today have remained unchanged since the fifteenth century, when lamas in several different traditions tried to make sense of the calculation systems they had inherited from India, and to adjust them to remove increasingly obvious errors in their results. This book analyzes the main systems that survive today, assessing their accuracy and comparing them with the methods described in the original Tantra.
The Kālacakra Tantra
This is the first complete English translation of the fourth chapter of the esoteric Buddhist Kālacakra Tantra text and its eleventh-century commentary, the Stainless Light (Vimalaprabhā). Building upon the Chapter on the Cosmos and particularly the Chapter on the Individual (AIBS, 2004)—which provide the theoretical background to the Chapter on Sādhanā, and the reasons for the given structure and contents of the Kālacakra sādhana practice—this fourth chapter illuminates the intricate connection between the practice of the Kālacakra sādhana and the Kālacakra Tantra’s worldview. This fourth chapter describes Buddhist Tantric generation stage practices (utpatti-krama), including instructions on protecting the place of practice, the meditative practices of the origination of the body and the deities abiding in the body, and the diverse mundane sādhanas designed to induce the mundane siddhis. It then also describes the more advanced Buddhist Tantric completion stage practices (saṃpatti-krama), designed to lead directly to the attainment of buddhahood, called here the “Ādibuddha” (Primordial Buddha).
The translation is supplemented with annotations and references to Tibetan commentaries and other esoteric Buddhist works. It also includes the first critical edition of the Mongolian version of the fourth chapter.
This is the first complete English translation of the second chapter of the esoteric Buddhist Kālacakratantra text, and its eleventh-century commentary, the “Stainless Light (Vimalaprabha),” often accorded pride of place as the first volume of the Tibetan Tengyur. This chapter elaborates the human “individual” in terms of the cosmic human who embodies the cosmos within, showing the homology of macrocosm and microcosm, the outer and inner aspects of the person. The translation is supplemented with copious references to Tibetan commentaries, and includes the first critical edition of the Mongolian version of the second chapter.
The Range of the Bodhisattva, a Mahāyana Sūtra (Ārya-bodhisattva-gocara)
This is a study and the first complete English translation of the Mahāyāna Sūtra, the Bodhi-sattva-gocara, which presents one of the only Buddhist teachings extant on what might be called a “Buddhist theory of war.” The main body of the text takes the form of a dialogue between King Caṇḍapradyota and the Nirgrantha sage, Satyaka, who is later revealed by Śākyamuni Buddha to be a bodhisattva of high attainment.
The author’s introductory essay traces the ways in which the later Indian and Tibetan commentarial traditions have drawn on this sūtra in order to expound upon key themes in Buddhist ethics, law, and state policy, to highlight their positions in opposition to their non-Buddhist contemporaries. From the author’s analysis, it is clear that this sūtra has been seminal in the ethical reflections of generations of Indian and Tibetan Buddhists, though it appears that it was not well known in East Asia.
A companion volume of a Tibetan critical edition will also be available.
A History of Buddhism in India and Tibet
The first complete English translation of an important thirteenth-century history that sheds light on Tibet’s imperial past and on the transmission of the Buddhadharma into Central Asia.
Translated here into English for the first time in its entirety by perhaps the foremost living expert on Tibetan histories, this engaging translation, along with its ample annotation, is a must-have for serious readers and scholars of Buddhist studies. In this history, discover the first extensive biography of the Buddha composed in the Tibetan language, along with an account of subsequent Indian Buddhist history, particularly the writing of Buddhist treatises. The story then moves to Tibet, with an emphasis on the rulers of the Tibetan empire, the translators of Buddhist texts, and the lineages that transmitted doctrine and meditative practice. It concludes with an account of the demise of the monastic order followed by a look forward to the advent of the future Buddha Maitreya.
The composer of this remarkably ecumenical Buddhist history compiled some of the most important early sources on the Tibetan imperial period preserved in his time, and his work may be the best record we have of those sources today. Dan Martin has rendered the richness of this history an accessible part of the world’s literary heritage.
Maitreya’s Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes (Madhyāntavibhāga)
Maitreyanātha’s Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes (Madhyāntavibhāga) was transmitted to us by the noble Asaṅga, great saint and champion scholar of fourth century CE Indic Buddhism—along with Vasubandhu’s commentary on the text. It is one of the five seminal texts of what the Tibetans call the “magnificent deeds tradition” of universal vehicle Buddhism, according to its spiritual focus and ethical impact. Its emphasis on the nondual, primarily mental nature of reality most powerfully supports the great messianic vow of the bodhisattva, the entry into the universal vehicle lifestyle. In his study introducing the translation, Dr. D’Amato analyzes and elucidates the teachings of this text and its associated school with great learning and insight.
A Catalogue of the Comparative Kangyur
This is the first volume of a two-volume set providing detailed cataloging information for the recently published Comparative (dpe bsdur ma) recension of the Tibetan Tripiṭaka.
The catalogue includes cross-references to seven other Kangyur recensions used in the compilation of the Comparative Kangyur, including the previously uncataloged “Litang” (li thang) Kangyur. In addition, errors found in the “tables of contents” (dkar chag) and “cross-reference tables” (re’u mig) to the published edition have been corrected and verified against the published volumes and original blockprints. Indices to Tibetan and Sanskrit titles, translators, and revisers have been added, along with concordance tables aligning catalogue numbers between the various recensions.
Ratnakīrti’s Proof of Momentariness by Positive Correlation (Kṣaṇabhaṇgasiddhi Anvayātmikā)
The Kṣaṇabhaṇgasiddhi is a masterpiece of skillful reasoning by the eleventh-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Ratnakīrti. This renowned scholar taught at the great Buddhist University of Vikramaśīla and was a master of almost every classical philosophical school that preceded him.
The present work is informed by centuries of debate between Buddhist advocates of momentariness and archrival Nyāya philosophers who believed that both selves and things endure.
This book is the first published translation of Ratnakīrti’s proof based on positive correlations, and includes a commentary explaining each step of his reasoning.
The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature (Mahāyānasūtrālaṁkāra)
The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature (Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra) was transmitted from the bodhisattva Maitreyanātha to Āryā Āsaṅga, the fourth-century Indian Buddhist scholar-adept. The most foundational of the set of the famous Five Teachings of Maitreya, the Discourse Literature is considered the wellspring of what the Tibetans call the “magnificent deeds trend of the path,” the compassion side, which balances the “profound view trend of the path,” the wisdom side. The Discourse Literature is also considered to be metaphysically aligned with and foundational for the Idealist (Vijñānavādin) school of Mahāyāna thought. Translated from Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese by Lobsang Jamspal, Robert Thurman, and the AIBS team, the present work contains a fully annotated, critical English rendition of the Discourse Literature along with its commentary (bhāṣya) by Āsaṅga’s brother, Vasubandhu. It also includes an introduction covering essential historical and philosophical topics, a bibliography, and a detailed index. This long-awaited work is the founding cornerstone of the AIBS Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences series.
Sounds of Innate Freedom, Volume 4
Sounds of Innate Freedom: The Indian Texts of Mahāmudrā are historic volumes containing many of the first English translations of classic mahamudra literature. The texts and songs in these volumes constitute the large compendium called The Indian Texts of the Mahāmudrā of Definitive Meaning, compiled by the Seventh Karmapa, Chötra Gyatso (1456–1539). The collection offers a brilliant window into the richness of the vast ocean of Indian mahamudra texts cherished in all Tibetan lineages, particularly in the Kagyü tradition, giving us a clear view of the sources of one of the world’s great contemplative traditions.
Besides the individual dohās (couplets), vajragītis (vajra songs), and caryāgītis (conduct songs) in this second volume in publication, the three extensive commentaries it contains brilliantly unravel enigmas and bring clarity not only to the specific songs they comment on but to many other, often cryptic, songs of realization in this collection. These expressive songs of the inexpressible offer readers a feast of profound and powerful pith instructions uttered by numerous male and female mahāsiddhas, yogis, and ḍākinīs, often in the context of ritual gaṇacakras and initially kept in their secret treasury. Displaying a vast range of themes, styles, and metaphors, they all point to the single true nature of the mind—mahāmudrā—in inspiring ways and from different angles, using a dazzling array of skillful means to penetrate the sole vital point of buddhahood being found nowhere but within our own mind. Reading and singing these songs of mystical wonder, bliss, and ecstatic freedom, and contemplating their meaning, will open doors to spiritual experience for us today just as it has for countless practitioners in the past.
In Vimalakīrti’s House
Over the course of nearly half a century, Robert A. F. Thurman has left an indelible mark on numerous fields of study, including Buddhist literature, Tantric Buddhism, Tibetan studies, and the comparative sciences of mind. To celebrate his seventieth birthday, Thurman’s students and colleagues have come together to pay tribute to these contributions and to Thurman’s ongoing leadership in these fields by assembling a collection of essays of their own that extend and supplement his groundbreaking research.
In Vimalakīrti’s House is the result of this collaboration and represents a broad spectrum of cutting edge studies in areas central to Thurman’s own scholarly project. The resulting volume is itself a kind of “treasury of the Buddhist sciences,” insofar as its authors explore wide-ranging problems in art, literature, epistemology, history, ritual, buddhology, and lexicography.
Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (Sngags rim chen mo)
Tsong Khapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (Sngags rim chen mo)—considered by the present Dalai Lama to be one of Tsong Khapa’s two most important books (along with his Lam rim chen mo)—is his masterful synthesis of the principles and practices of all four classes of Tantra, which formed the basis of his innovation in creating the esoteric “Tantric College” institution and curriculum in the early fifteenth century. With detailed reference to hundreds of works from the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur, the chapters presented and studied in this volume concern his treatment of the creation stage (bskyed rim) meditations of Unexcelled Yoga Tantra. This includes a detailed analysis emphasizing how and why such creation stage practices—utilizing deity yoga to transform death, the between, and life into the three bodies of buddhahood are indispensible to creating a foundation for successfully entering the culminal yogic practices of the perfection stage. (A subsequent volume will present the perfection stage chapters of this essential masterwork.)
An important work for both scholars and practitioners, this annotated translation is supplemented with extensive support materials.
The Adamantine Songs (Vajragīti)
Presented here in English for the first time is a set of three of Saraha’s “Adamantine Songs” (Skt. Vajragīti; Tib. rdo rje’i glu), poetic works that play a central role in the Great Seal (mahāmudrā) tantric tradition of both India and Tibet. The tantric adept (siddha) Saraha was among the most notable figures from India’s late first millennium, a time of rich religious and literary activity. His influence on Buddhist practice and poetry extended beyond the Indian subcontinent into Tibet, where it continues to affect every tradition that engages the practice and philosophy of the esoteric Great Seal.
In these songs, Saraha’s views on the nature of mind are presented as both evocative poetry and theoretical exegesis. These songs offer a new perspective on the religious life of Buddhist India and the figure of one of its most famous adepts.
Braitstein opens the door to this important set of texts by Saraha through her elegant translation, critical edition of the Tibetan texts, and in-depth analysis of the three poems. She situates Saraha and his work both in the Tibetan Buddhist sphere and in a broader South Asian literary and religious context, closely treating the central themes in Saraha’s poems, highlighting the specific siddha worldview espoused in his oeuvre, and at the same time unpacking the cryptic references contained in the songs’ individual verses. With this book, Braitstein substantially increases the amount of Saraha’s poetry available to an English-speaking audience and contributes to the ever-increasing movement to explore the culture of the tantric adepts.
Nāgārjuna’s Reason Sixty (Yuktiṣaṣṭikā)
The Reason Sixty is the most concise philosophical work by the second-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna. It is one of that master’s works most often cited by Centrist (Madhyamaka) commentators, and it is included in the Sixfold Canon of Reason (rigs tshogs drug) which forms the textual basis for Centrist studies in the Tibetan philosophical curriculum. Standing midway between his other masterpieces on philosophy and religion, in the Reason Sixty Nāgārjuna describes the central thrust of his therapeutic philosophy of language—the elimination of cognitive bias and affective resistances to the gradual cultivation of nondualistic wisdom and compassion.
The seventh-century Centrist master Chandrakīrti, concerned with applying his language therapeutic method to define the social epistemology of Centrism, likewise links the critical hermeneutic-pedagogy and the practical therapeutic-anthropology of his other works in his acclaimed Reason Sixty Commentary.
Includes detailed introductory essays, annotated translations, critical Tibetan editions, trilingual glossary, intellectual-historical and biographical tables, bibliography, and index.
Questioning the Buddha
In the forty-five years the Buddha spent traversing northern India, he shared his wisdom with everyone from beggar women to kings. Hundreds of his discourses, or sutras, were preserved by his followers, first orally and later in written form. Around thirteen hundred years after the Buddha’s enlightenment, the sutras were translated into the Tibetan language, where they have been preserved ever since. To date, only a fraction of these have been made available in English. Questioning the Buddha brings the reader directly into the literary treasure of the Tibetan canon with thoroughly annotated translations of twenty-five different sutras. Often these texts, many translated here in full for the first time, begin with an encounter in which someone poses a question to the Buddha.
Peter Skilling, an authority on early Buddhist epigraphy, archaeology, and textual traditions, has been immersed in the Buddhist scriptures of diverse traditions for nearly half a century. In this volume, he draws on his deep and extensive research to render these ancient teachings in a fresh and precise language. His introduction is a fascinating history of the Buddhist sutras, including the transition from oral to written form, the rise of Mahayana literature, the transmission to Tibet, the development of canons, and a look at some of the pioneers of sutra study in the West.
Sutras included in this volume are: Four Dharmas Not to Be Taken for Granted; The Benefits of Giving; The Exposition of Four Dharmas; The Merit of the Three Refuges; Four Dharmas Never to Be Abandoned; Advice for Bodhisatva Dharmaketu; Advice for Bodhisatva Jayamati; Sūtra Comparing Bodhicitta to Gold; Bodhisatva Maitreya’s Question about the Gift of the Dharma; Four Summaries of the Dharma Spoken to the Nāga King Sāgara; The Stanza of Dependent Arising; The Heart Formula of Dependent Arising; Prediction of the Boy Brahmaśrī’s Future Buddhahood; Kṣemavatī’s Prediction to Future Buddhahood; The City Beggar Woman; An Old Woman’s Questions about Birth and Death; The Questions of Śrīmatī the Brahman Woman; The Questions of the Laywoman Gaṅgottarā; Brahmā Sahāṃpati’s Question; Advice to King Prasenajit; Passage to the Next Life; Instructions for King Bimbisāra; Instructions for King Udayana; Buddhas as Rare as a Grain of Golden Sand; and Predictions on the Eve of the Great Final Nirvāṇa.
- Learn more about the Classics of Indian Buddhism series.
The Lamp for Integrating the Practices (Caryāmelāpakapradīpa)
The Lamp for Integrating the Practices (Caryāmelāpakapradīpa) by Āryadeva, is a systematic and comprehensive exposition of the most advanced yogas of the Esoteric Community Tantra (Guhyasamāja-tantra) as espoused by the Noble (Nāgārjuna) tradition, an influential school of interpretation within Indian Buddhist mysticism. Equal in authority to Nāgārjuna’s famous Five Stages (Pañcakrama), Āryadeva’s work is perhaps the earliest prose example of the “stages of the mantra path” genre in Sanskrit. Its systematic path exerted immense influence on later Indian and Tibetan traditions, and it is widely cited by masters from all four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.
This volume presents the Lamp in a thoroughly annotated English translation. It includes an introductory study discussing the history of the Guhyasamāja and its exegetical traditions, surveying the scriptural and commentarial sources of the Nāgārjuna tradition, and analyzing in detail the contents of the Lamp. The book also features a detailed, trilingual glossary.
Simultaneously presented online for scholars are a version of its Sanskrit original, critically edited from recently identified manuscripts, and a critical edition of the eleventh-century Tibetan translation by Rinchen Zangpo, including notes on readings found in “lost,” alternative translations.
The Roar of Thunder
An essential collection of texts and instructions for the practice of the wrathful wisdom deity Yamantaka. With pith instructions from famed siddhas and masters of the Gelug school, The Roar of Thunder offers an unprecedented panoramic perspective on the entire spectrum of Yamantaka practice. Also included in this amazing volume is the extensive sadhana of the Solitary Hero composed by Pabongkha Rinpoche that can be used as a reference to facilitate a more thorough understanding of the commentaries.
“The Roar of Thunder is the definitive collection of Geluk Yamantaka practice texts: essential rituals, generation and completion stage teachings, and the history of the lineage. David Gonsalez, himself a dedicated Yamantaka yogi, has provided us with reliable and readable translations of these amazing texts, truly an extraordinary gift of Dharma. Kudos to Wisdom Publications for its commitment to this new collection, the Dechen Ling Practice Series.”
—José Ignacio Cabezón, Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, UC Santa Barbara
The Dechen Ling Practice Series from Wisdom Publications is committed to furthering the vision of David Gonsalez (Venerable Losang Tsering) and the Dechen Ling Press of bringing the sacred literature of Tibet to the West by making available many never-before-translated texts.
The material in this book is restricted.
This book may be read only by those who have received a highest-yoga-tantra empowerment. If, on the other hand, you intend to practice Yamantaka, it would be best if you have received the empowerment of Yamantaka together with the commentary and oral transmission. At the very least you must have received the empowerment.
Sounds of Innate Freedom, Volume 5
Sounds of Innate Freedom: The Indian Texts of Mahāmudrā are historic volumes containing many of the first English translations of classic mahāmudrā literature. The texts and songs in these volumes constitute the large compendium called The Indian Texts of the Mahāmudrā of Definitive Meaning, compiled by the Seventh Karmapa, Chötra Gyatso (1456–1539). The collection offers a brilliant window into the richness of the vast ocean of Indian Mahāmudrā texts cherished in all Tibetan lineages, particularly in the Kagyü tradition, giving us a clear view of the sources of one of the world’s great contemplative traditions.
This first volume in publication contains the majority of songs of realization, consisting of dohās (couplets), vajragītis (vajra songs), and caryāgītis (conduct songs), all lucidly expressing the inexpressible. These songs offer readers a feast of profound and powerful pith instructions uttered by numerous male and female mahasiddhas, yogīs, and ḍākinīs, often in the context of ritual gaṇacakras and initially kept in their secret treasury. Displaying a vast range of themes, styles, and metaphors, they all point to the single true nature of the mind—mahāmudrā—in inspiring ways and from different angles, using a dazzling array of skillful means to penetrate the sole vital point of buddhahood being found nowhere but within our own mind. Reading and singing these songs of mystical wonder, bliss, and ecstatic freedom, and contemplating their meaning in meditation, will open doors to spiritual experience for us today just as it has for countless practitioners in the past.