Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0


From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
557dfg69 n.jpg
20ea z.jpg

Shantarakshita (Skt. Śāntarakṣita; Tib. ཞི་བ་འཚོ་, Shyiwa Tsho, Wyl. zhi ba 'tsho), also called Khenpo Bodhisattva, ‘Bodhisattva Abbot’.

This great Indian pandita of the Mahayana school was abbot of the Buddhist university of Nalanda.

He was invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen where he founded the temple and monastery of Samyé and ordained the first seven Tibetan monks, thus establishing the Tibetan Sangha, according to Nagarjuna’s Sarvastivadin tradition.

He worked extensively to uphold and maintain the Buddhist teachings, and so began to establish the Buddhadharma in Tibet.

However, indigenous forces that opposed and were hostile to the Dharma were increasing in strength.

Neither the might of the king, Trisong Detsen, nor the power of the great abbot Shantarakshita could subdue them, and so they invited Guru Rinpoche to come to Tibet.[1]



  1. See pages 13-14 and 32-33 of A Great Treasure of Blessings.

Further Reading

External Links

Śāntarakṣita (Sanskrit: शान्तरक्षित) (725-788) was a renowned 8th century Indian Buddhist Brahmin and abbot of Nalanda University.

Śāntarakṣita founded the philosophical school known as Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka, which united the Madhyamaka tradition of Nagarjuna, the Yogacara tradition of Asanga and the logical and epistemological thought of Dharmakirti.

He was also instrumental in the introduction of Buddhism and the Sarvastivadin monastic ordination lineage to Tibet which was conducted at Samye.

Padmakara Translation Group (2005: p. 3) ground Shantarakshita's Dharma in Buddhism and the Hinduism from which it, Buddhism, seceded:

Shantarakshita's writings, lost for the most part in Sanskrit but preserved in Tibetan translation, give evidence of the encyclopedic range of his learning, which embraced all the religious and philosophical currents of his time, Hindu and Buddhist alike.

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Śāntarakṣita (Devanagari: शान्तरक्षित, also called Shantarakshita, Santaraksita, Santiraksita, Zhi-ba-tsho, and Acarya Bodhisattva )


There are few historical records of Śāntarakṣita, with most available material being from hagiographic sources.

Some of his history is detailed in a 19th century commentary by Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso drawn from sources like the Blue Annals, Büton, and Taranatha.

Śāntarakṣita was the son of the king of Zahor. Some identify 'Zahor' with a place in ancient Bengal

Śāntarakṣita was brought to Tibet at the instigation of King Trisong Detsen sometime before 767 CE.

One account details his first trip as unsuccessful and he spent six years in Nepal before returning to Tibet. Once established in Tibet, Śāntarakṣita oversaw the translation of a large body of scriptures into Tibetan.

He oversaw the construction of the first Buddhist monastery at Samye in 787 CE and ordained the first monastics there.

He stayed at Samye for the rest of his life, another 13 years after its completion, and this was considered significant by Tibetans later that he stayed and did not return to India.

In some accounts he left Tibet for a time due to the antipathy of followers of the traditional Bön tradition and interference from local spirits.

He then thought that a teacher possessed of super-natural powers and mystic charms would be able to move deeply the people of Tibet, steeped in sorcery exorcism and the like.

Accordingly, he advised the King to invite the celebrated Buddhist teacher Padmasambhava to Tibet and subdue the Tibetan devils and demi-gods.

His philosophic views were the main views in Tibet from the 8th century until it was mostly supplanted by Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasaṅgika Madhyamaka in the 15th century.

In the late 19th century, Ju Mipham attempted to promote his views again as part of the Rime movement and as a way to discuss specific critiques of Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasaṅgika.


We know that Śāntarakṣita focused his early teachings in Tibet directed to the 'seven that were tested' upon the 'ten virtues' (Tibetan: དགེ་བ་བཅུ, Wylie: dge ba bcu; Sanskrit: daśakuśala; Pali: dasa sikkhapadani or dasa sila) and 'the chain of casual relation' (Sanskrit: pratītyasamutpāda).

The ten virtues are the opposite of the 'ten non-virtues' (Tibetan: མི་དགེ་བ་བཅུ, Wylie: mi dge ba bcu; Sanskrit: daśākuśala).


Haribhadra (Seng-ge Bzang-po)


Śāntarakṣita's synthesis of Madhyamaka, Yogacara, and Pramana was expounded in his text Madhyamākalaṃkāra. Within the Yogacara in that text he also included the Sautrantika and "consciousness-only" views specifically when referring to 'conventional truth', one of the two truths doctrine.

His view is therefore categorized as "Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka" by later Tibetans, but he did not refer to himself that way.

In his synthesis text, readers are advised to adopt Madhyamaka view and approach from Nagarjuna and Aryadeva when analyzing for ultimacy and to adopt the mind-only views of the Yogacarans Asanga and Vasubandhu when considering conventional truth.

He also incorporates the logic approach of valid cognition and the Sautantrika views of Dignāga and Dharmakirti.

Śāntarakṣita is also known for his text Tattvasamgraha "Compendium on Reality", which is a more encyclopedic treatment of the major philosophic views of the time and survived in translation in both Tibet and China.

A Sanskrit version of this work was discovered in 1873 by Dr. G. Bühler in the Jain Dharma temple of Parshva at Jaisalmer. This version contains also the commentary by Śāntarakṣita's pupil Kamalaśīla.

Ju Mipham's Revival of Śāntarakṣita's Tradition

In the 19th century, a movement funded by the secular authorities in Derge, Kham began to establish centers of learning encouraging the study of traditions different from the dominant Gelug tradition in central Tibet.

This now called rime movement revitalized the Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma traditions who had been by almost supplanted by the Gelug hegemony.

As part of that movement the 19th century Nyingma scholar Ju Mipham wrote the first commentary in almost 400 years about Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara.

According to his student Kunzang Palden, Mipham had been asked by his teacher Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo to write a survey of all the major Mahayana philosophic shastras for use in the Nyingma monastic colleges.

Mipham's commentaries now form the backbone of the Nyingma monastic curriculum.

Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara, which was almost forgotten by the 19th century, is now studied by all Nyingma shedra students.