All the marvellous explanations of the profound and vast teachings excellently revealed by Lord Buddha which were composed by these scholars from the noble land of India can open the eyes of intelligence in anyone who has discerning awareness. That these teachings are still being studied, reflected and meditated upon today, and have not diminished after almost 2550 years, is due to the kindness of these great scholars. I therefore composed this prayer to remember their kindness and, with unwavering faith, aspire to follow in their footsteps.
At this time, when the whole world has witnessed tremendous advancement in the fields of science and technology, but we are also greatly distracted by the hustle and bustle of our hectic lives, it is crucially important for all of us who follow the Buddha to develop faith based upon an understanding of the Buddha’s Dharma teachings. Therefore we should investigate them, by analyzing and inquiring with an unbiased and inquisitive mind. If we are to develop this faith that is supported by understanding, the outstanding works of the profound and vast traditions composed by the masters universally renowned as the ‘Six Ornaments and Two Supreme Ones’, as well as others such as Buddhapalita and Arya Vimuktisena are indispensable. With this in mind, I commissioned the painting of a thangka depicting seventeen of the most learned and accomplished masters of Nalanda, adding nine other masters from the profound and the vast lineages to the traditional thangka arrangement for the Six Ornaments and Two Supreme Ones. Together with this, I felt inspired to compose a prayer such as this, out of heartfelt devotion to these great learned masters, and several of my sincere Dharma friends also encouraged me. So it was that I, the buddhist monk Tenzin Gyatso, who has gained confident and uncontrived faith in the excellent works of these learned masters and who belongs amongst the lowest of those to have studied their masterful compositions, wrote this ‘Prayer to Kindle the Three Faiths, Addressed to the Seventeen Great Panditas of Glorious Nalanda.’
It was completed at Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh in India, on the first day of the eleventh month of the Iron Snake year in the seventeenth calendrical cycle (15th December 2001), 2545 years after the Buddha according to the Theravadin system.
May it be virtuous!
Translated by Adam, who acknowledges his indebtedness to Lhakdor and Jeremy Russell for their fine translation of the same text.
A Prayer to Kindle the Three Faiths Addressed to the
Seventeen Panditas of Glorious Nalanda
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sunday, 25 June 2006
Perfectly arisen through the compassionate wish to benefit beings,
And more exalted even than the gods, you have reached the supreme level of protection, abandonment and realization,
And guide beings to liberation through teachings on dependent origination—
Mighty Shakyamuni, sun among teachers, in devotion I pay homage to you!
You brilliantly clarified the meaning of reality itself, the ultimate intent of the Mother Prajnaparamita,
With profound modes of logical reasoning based on dependent origination,
Founder of the Middle Way tradition of the supreme vehicle, prophesied by the Buddha himself—
Noble master Nagarjuna, to you I pray!
You were the foremost of his spiritual heirs, supremely learned and accomplished,
A master of all the infinite schools of philosophy inside and outside your own tradition,
And the glorious crowning jewel of all who follow Nagarjuna’s approach—
Bodhisattva Aryadeva, to you I pray!
You clarified the wisdom intent of the Aryas, the ultimate meaning of dependent origination,
As well as the profound and crucial point concerning merely nominal and imputed existence,
And reached the level of supreme accomplishment—
Noble Buddhapalita, at your feet I pray!
Great pandita, who founded the comprehensive system
In which extremes, such as the arising of true entities, are refuted,
And valid logic and commonly perceived outer objects are accepted—
Acharya Bhavaviveka, to you I pray!
You developed and elaborated upon the complete path of sutra and mantra,
Skilfully teaching the profound and vast, the Middle Way tradition
Of appearance and emptiness, in which the two extremes are dispelled
Through dependent origination and the mere fact of conditionality—
Glorious Chandrakirti, to you I pray!
You skilfully revealed to the assembly of fortunate disciples
The most wondrous and amazing path of great compassion,
In so many ways and with reasoning both profound and vast—
Bodhisattva Shantideva, to you I pray!
Founder of the tradition which skilfully combines Madhyamika and Pramana,
Teaching the Middle Way path of twofold emptiness according to the capacity of disciples,
And introducing the Buddha’s teachings to the Land of Snows—
Great Khenpo Shantarakshita, to you I pray!
You brilliantly set out the stages of meditation according to both sutra and mantra,
Combining the view of the Middle Way beyond extremes with the unity of shamatha and vipashyana,
And clearly revealed the unmistaken teachings of the Buddha in the Land of Snows—
Noble Kamalashila, to you I pray!
Guided and cared for by Maitreya, you worked brilliantly to further all the Mahayana teachings,
And skilfully set out the approach of vast conduct,
Founder of the tradition of Mind Only, prophesied by the Buddha—
Noble master Asanga, to you I pray!
You upheld the tradition of the seven treatises of Abhidharma and twofold emptiness,
And clarified the philosophies of Vaibhashika, Sautrantika and Vijnanavada,
Most excellent of scholars, renowned as a second all-knowing Buddha—
Acharya Vasubandhu, to you I pray!
Master logician who granted the eyes of intelligent reasoning,
By revealing hundreds of ways to arrive at valid cognition,
Illuminating the Buddha’s teachings with incontrovertible logic—
Noble Dignaga, at your feet I pray!
You understood entirely all areas of logic, both inside and outside your own tradition,
And, through the path of reasoning, brought a definitive knowledge of the profound and vast approaches of Sautrantika and Mind Only,
Skilfully conveying the marvellous approaches offered by the Dharma—
Glorious Dharmakirti, at your feet I pray!
You set alight the Lamp which illuminates the text of the Ornament of Realization,
And the meaning of transcendent wisdom passed down by Asanga and his brother,
In accordance with the Madhyamika tradition beyond all extremes of existing and not existing—
Arya Vimuktisena, at your feet I pray!
As prophesied by the Buddha, you explained the Mother Prajnaparamita,
And, according to the instructions received from the protector Maitreya,
Clarified the three ‘Mothers’, the supreme scriptures of transcendent wisdom—
Acharya Haribhadra, to you I pray!
You brilliantly summarized the meaning of the vast Vinaya collection,
According to the tradition of the Sarvastivadins,
And explained the Pratimoksha superbly and without mistake—
Supremely disciplined and learned Gunaprabha, at your feet I pray!
You gained the precious treasure-like qualities of the threefold training,
And brilliantly explained the meaning of the extensive scriptures,
In order to preserve the flawless teachings of monastic discipline—
Supreme holder of the Vinaya, Shakyaprabha, at your feet I pray!
You imparted all the profound and vast teachings given by the Buddha,
By explaining the paths for beings of the three levels of spiritual capacity,
And caused the Buddha’s teachings to flourish within the Land of Snows—
Kind and precious Lord Atisha, to you I pray!
Through these prayers of mine, made with a mind of vivid and unshakeable faith,
To these most brilliant of scholars, who, like ornaments, enhanced and beautified the world,
And were the supreme sources for so many wondrous and excellent teachings,
May my mind be blessed so that it is matured and brought to liberation!
May I be blessed so that I plant the foundation for the path to freedom:
May I understand the fundamental nature of reality and the meaning of the two truths,
Gain certainty about the four truths and how samsara is perpetuated or discontinued,
And, through valid cognition, develop stable and lasting faith in the Three Jewels.
May I be blessed so that I come to master uncontrived bodhichitta,
Together with its roots: a mind of renunciation seeking the goal of perfect liberation,
In which all forms of suffering and their causes are thoroughly pacified,
And a compassionate wish to protect all beings, as limitless as space itself.
May I be blessed so that I arrive easily at a definitive understanding
Of all the profound points of the paths of the transcendent perfection vehicle
And the vajrayana, through studying, reflecting and meditating
Upon the meaning of the great pioneering masters’ classic works.
In life after life, may I always find the perfect situation and take up the threefold training,
May I work for the good of the teachings, just like the great pioneering masters of old,
And, through teaching as well as through practice,
May I maintain and enhance the transmission and understanding of the Dharma.
In every community may there be more and more great scholars and practitioners,
Who avoid entirely all unethical and mistaken forms of livelihood,
And devote their time to study and reflection, teaching and meditation,
So that the whole world is enhanced and made beautiful to behold!
Through the power of this, may I swiftly traverse all the paths and stages
Of the complete approach combining sutra and mantra,
To reach the level of an omniscient buddha spontaneously benefitting myself and others,
And may I continue to fulfil the wishes of beings for as long as space exists!