Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs

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“This is the most important book on Saraha in a generation—and arguably in the past sixty years. Saraha, the ‘Great Brahman,’ is a key poet and theorizer of Indian tantric Buddhism and a vital figure for Tibetan Buddhists, who consider him the human source of their teachings on mahāmudrā, the great seal. He remains, however, elusive to modern scholars. With Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs, Klaus-Dieter Mathes and Péter-Dániel Szántó help to dispel some of the fog surrounding the Saraha, providing fresh editions and translations of the key South Asian and Tibetan texts that contain his greatest work, the Treasury of Dohās (Dohākoṣa), in some cases drawing on previously unstudied manuscripts. Their philology is first-rate, their translations are precise yet readable, and their introduction and notes provide an informed perspective on who Saraha may have been and what he may have taught. Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs will be the foundation for any serious study of Saraha and his Treasury of Dohās for many decades to come, and all students of South Asian and Tibetan Buddhism should be profoundly grateful to Mathes and Szántó for having collaborated on this landmark work.”—Roger R. Jackson, author of Mind Seeing Mind

“For the first time, the most important work of spiritual poetry from late Buddhist India is now available together with its only existing Sanskrit commentary as well as the defining commentary for the reception of Saraha’s poetry in Tibet. Together these three major works illuminate a rich and dynamic period of Buddhist thought and practice. A magnificent achievement.”—Kurtis Schaeffer, author of Dreaming the Great Brahmin


With the Commentaries by Advayavajra and Mokṣākaragupta

Klaus-Dieter Mathes Péter-Dániel Szántó

“Completely abandon thought and no-thought, and abide in the natural way of a small child.” —Saraha

To find liberation and realize the true nature of reality, the Indian Buddhist master Saraha says we must leave behind any conceptual assessment of reality, since no model of it has ever been known to withstand critical analysis. Saraha’s spontaneous songs, or dohās, represent the Buddhist art of expressing the inexpressible. The most important collection of Saraha’s songs is the Dohākoṣa, the Treasury of Spontaneous Songs, better known in Tibet as the Songs for the People, and the Tibetan mahāmudrā tradition, especially within the Kagyü school, has done the most to preserve the lineage of Saraha’s instructions to the present day. 

But Saraha was also widely cited in Indian sources starting around the eleventh century, and one Indic commentary, by the Newar scholar Advayavajra, still exists in Sanskrit. In addition, we have independent root texts of Saraha’s songs in the vernacular Apabhraṃśa in which they were recorded. These Indian texts, together with their Tibetan translations, are here presented in masterful new critical editions, along with the Tibetan translation of the commentary no longer extant in Sanskrit by Mokṣākaragupta. Finally, both commentaries are rendered in elegant English, and the authors offer a brisk but comprehensive introduction. 

Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs provides the reader with everything needed for a serious study of one of the most important works in the Indian Buddhist canon.

Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.

book information
  • Hardcover
  • 592 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • $69.95
  • ISBN 9781614297284
  • ebook
  • 592 pages
  • $46.99
  • ISBN 9781614297444
about the author
Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs

Klaus-Dieter Mathes earned his doctorate at Marburg University and is a Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He previously worked as a research fellow and lecturer at the Asia Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and as a Professor of Tibetology and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. His research in progress deals with the Indian origins of Tibetan Mahāmudrā traditions. He is also a regular contributor to the Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies.

Other books by Klaus-Dieter Mathes:
A Direct Path to the Buddha Within

Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs

Péter-Dániel Szántó started his studies at ELTE Budapest (Tibetology, Indology). He read for a DPhil in Oxford, where he also held two junior research fellowships (Merton College, All Souls College). He also worked as a postdoc in Hamburg and Leiden and was visiting professor at Leiden and Vienna. He is currently associate professor at ELTE Budapest, where he is also head of the Department of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. His main research areas include esoteric Buddhism, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Sanskrit belles-lettres, and medieval South Asian history.

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