Illuminating the Threefold Faith

An invocation of the seventeen great sagely adepts of glorious Nalanda

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    1. The God of Gods, arisen from the compassionate wish to benefit wandering beings,
      Has attained transcendent protection, abandonment and realization,
      And liberates sentient beings through teaching dependent arising.
      I bow my head to you, the Conqueror, Sun among Teachers.

    2. I call to mind esteemed Nagarjuna, who, as prophesied, introduced
      The Madhyamaka system, the excellent path, and who was skilled in clarifying
      The meaning of suchness, free of extremes, the intention of the Mother of the Conquerors,
      Through the profound logical presentation of dependent arising.

    3. I call to mind the bodhisattva Aryadeva,
      His principal spiritual son, peerlessly learned and accomplished,
      Who traversed the ocean of Buddhist and other philosophical systems,
      Who is the glorious crowning jewel amongst all the holders of Nagarjuna’s teachings.

    4. I call to mind esteemed Buddhapalita,
      Who clarified the ultimate meaning of dependent arising, the thought of the Superior,
      The essential point of the profound, (existence as) mere designation and name
      And who has ascended to the utmost state of accomplishment.

    5. I call to mind Acharya Bhavaviveka,
      Who introduced a philosophical system
      That refuted such extremes as truly existent production
      And accepted the shared perception of valid cognizers and external objects.

    6. I call to mind Chandrakirti, who promulgated the complete path of the Sutras and Tantras,
      Who was skilled in expounding the profound and vast Middle Way system,
      In which appearance and emptiness eliminate the two extremes
      Through dependent arising and the merely conditional (nature of things).

    7. I call to mind the bodhisattva Shantideva,
      Who was skilled in teaching the host of fortunate disciples
      The truly marvelous path of great compassion
      With the versatile means and reasons of the profound and the vast.

    8. I call to mind the great abbot Shantarakshita,
      Who introduced the Middle Way to suit the disciples’ mental dispositions,
      Was well versed in expounding the rationale of the Middle Way and valid cognition,
      And disseminated the teaching of the Conqueror in the Land of Snows.

    9. I call to mind esteemed Kamalashila,
      Who thoroughly explained how to meditate systematically on the Middle Way thought free from extremes,
      And the union of meditative quiescence and special insight according to the Sutras and Tantras,
      And flawlessly clarified the Conqueror’s doctrine in the Land of Snows.

    10. I call to mind esteemed Asanga,
      Who Maitreya inspired and looked after,
      Who was adept in disseminating all the Mahayana sets of discourses,
      Who revealed the vast path and as prophesied, blazed the trail of the Mind Only system.

    11. I call to mind esteemed Acharya Vasubhandu
      Who, by maintaining the doubly empty system of the Seven Treatises of Abhidharma,
      Clarified the philosophical theories of the Vaibhashikas, Sautrantikas and Vijnavadas,
      The foremost sage, renowned as a second Omniscient One.

    12. I call to mind esteemed Dignaga,
      The logician who gave us the discerning eye of fine discrimination
      By thoroughly opening a hundred epistemological doors
      To reveal the system of Buddha’s scriptures through the power of natural logic.

    13. I call to mind esteemed Dharmakirti,
      Who fathomed the vital points of Buddhist and others’ systems of knowledge,
      Granting conviction in the vast and profound paths of the Sautrantika and Chittamatra,
      And who was adept in expounding the marvelous ways of the Dharma.

    14. I call to mind esteemed Vimuktisena,
      Who lit the lamp illuminating the meaning of the Ornament (of Clear Realization)
      In accordance with the Middle Way system, free from the extremes of existence and non-existence,
      The meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom as it came from the Asanga brothers.

    15. I call to mind esteemed Haribhadra,
      Who clarified the three Mothers, the supreme Perfection of Wisdom scriptures,
      In line with Maitreyanath’s pith instructions,
      And who the Conqueror prophesied would expound the meaning of the Mother.

    16. I call to mind esteemed Gunaprabha, excelling in stability and learning,
      Who integrated the intentions of a hundred thousand categories of Vinaya,
      And in accordance with the Mulasarvastivadin system
      Thoroughly and unmistakenly explained individual liberation.

    17. I call to mind esteemed Shakyaprabha, the ideal Vinaya holder,
      Master of the treasure of the three precepts’ qualities,
      Who, in order to ensure the longevity of the flawless Vinaya teaching,
      Thoroughly explained what the vast scriptures meant.

    18. I call to mind Jowo Atisha,
      The kind lord who caused the Conqueror’s teaching to flourish in the Land of Snows,
      Who expounded in the paths of the three individuals
      The doctrines of the vast and profound that are the complete teaching of the Conqueror.

    19. Making such invocations with an unflinchingly pure mind
      To these exceedingly fine sages, who are the ornaments for the world
      And the source of stupendous, elegant teachings,
      May I be blessed that I may mature my mindstream and achieve liberation.

    20. By understanding the meaning of the two truths, the way things exist,
      We ascertain through the four truths how we arrive in and how we leave the cycle of existence.
      Engendered by valid cognition our faith in the three refuges will be firm.
      May I be blessed to establish the root of the path to liberation.

    21. May I be blessed to perfect an uncontrived awakening mind of bodhichitta
      Which is rooted in renunciation-the aspiration for liberation and
      The total purification of suffering and its source-
      And that boundless compassion that wishes to protect wandering beings.

    22. May I be blessed to be able to develop a quick and easy conviction
      About the profound paths of all the paths of the Perfection of Wisdom and the Vajrayana
      By listening to, contemplating and meditating
      On the meaning of the commentaries of the great pioneers.

    23. May I, in life after life, obtain the good basis (of a human life) possessing the three precepts
      And contribute to the doctrine as the great pioneers did,
      With respect to upholding and propagating
      The words and insights of the teachings through explanation and practice.

    24. May all religious assemblies be filled with noble sages and practitioners
      Passing their time in hearing, contemplation and explanation
      And having totally given up wrong livelihood,
      May the ground of this great world be adorned in this way.

    25. By such power may all the grounds and paths of the Sutras and Tantras be traversed
      And by quickly achieving the state of an Omniscient Conqueror,
      Spontaneously fulfilling the two purposes,
      May I work for sentient beings as long as space remains.

    Concerning the teachings of the profound and vast given by the Fully Enlightened Supramundane Victor, the Buddha, the foremost sages of the Holy Land of India have, as mentioned above, composed numerous excellent, meaningful texts that can open the eyes of those possessing fine discriminative awareness. During this time more than two thousand five hundred years have passed, but still those teachings (dealing with) hearing, contemplation and meditation survive undiminished. Therefore, I recollect the kindness of those who were the cream of sages and aspire to follow them with unflinching faith.

    Picture of a statue of buddha's praying hand

    It is extremely important that those of us who follow the Buddha should have faith based on knowledge of his teaching. (Photo by Xomiele)

    At the present time, when in the ordinary world there is great advancement in the fields of science and technology, but we are also distracted by the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, it is extremely important that those of us who follow the Buddha should have faith based on knowledge of his teaching. Therefore, we should examine the reasons for it with an unbiased and inquisitive mind, analyzing them closely. If we are to develop faith supported by an understanding of the reasons, these excellent texts concerning the profound and vast by such renowned masters among the Six Ornaments and Two Supremes as Buddhapalita and Arya Vimuktisena are indispensable. With this in mind I have had a new thangka composed, depicting the seventeen sagely adepts of Nalanda. This collection was achieved by adding nine teachers to the existing way of depicting the Six Ornaments and Two Supremes.

    Consequently, I developed an urge to compose an invocation with whole-hearted respect for each of these supreme sages and some of my aspiring Dharma friends encouraged it. This is how it came about that I, the Shakya Bhikshu, Tenzin Gyatso, who am placed in the back row of those studying the works of these sages, have composed this text Illuminating the Threefold Faith—an invocation of the seventeen great and renowned sages of Nalanda—having developed unfeigned conviction in the superb works of these sublime masters.

    It was completed at Thekchen Choeling, Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh, India on the 1st day of the 11th month of the Iron Snake Year in the seventeenth Tibetan rabjung, corresponding to 15th December, 2001 of the western calendar, 2545 years, according to the Theravada system, after the Buddha’s passed away.

    May Peace Prevail.

    Translated by Venerable Lhakdor and edited by Jeremy Russell in Dharamsala, February 26, 2002.

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