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The Atisa You Did Not Know

The Atisa You Did Not Know

《A Prince Who Loved Buddhadharma Not Wealth and Luxury》
Atisa, not his actual name but a respectful appellation given by the people, means ''magnificent'' or ''absolutely unhindered.'' Born a prince of Sahor Kingdom in Eastern India, Atisa's actual given name was Candragarbha. He was gifted with natural talent and high intelligence from birth. Although a noble prince, Atisa was never attracted by worldly pleasures and desires. To Atisa, life in the palace was like being in prison.

While still very young, Atisa visited every cultivation venue in India, calling on high practitioners everywhere. He studied Buddhadharma at Nalanda, a sacred Buddhist temple, and took refuge in countless Buddhist masters. He was an eminent scholar and cultivator well versed in both Vajrayana and Sutrayana scriptures and treatises. He prevailed in debates with innumerable heretics and restored to Buddhism many Buddhist temples and monasteries that had been taken over by heretics. Atisa's status in India was extremely high.

Despite mastering the teachings of Vajrayana and Sutrayana, Atisa was still not satisfied as he fervently sought a method to quickly attain Buddhahood and truly benefit sentient beings. At the age of 31, he determined to travel to Jambi in Indonesia, take refuge in the guru Serlingpa, and learn the path to Buddhahood. At the time, Serlingpa was quite well-known.

《Deep Affinity Between Master and Disciple. Supreme Bodhicitta Dharma Transmitted》
In 1012 AD,Atisa,along with more than 100 companions, travelled from India to Jambi, Indonesia, where Serlingpa was teaching the dharma. Atisa, however, did not immediately visit Serlingpa and take refuge in him. Atisa and Serlingpa followed the Vajrayana rule by observing each other for 12 months without personally meeting each other. After coming to a mutual understanding of their respective abilities and determining that transmission of the dharma was acceptable, Atisa conducted a solemn ceremony, made abundant offerings, and formally took refuge in Serlingpa. From that time on, Atisa and Serlingpa deeply appreciated each other and formed a guru-disciple relationship.

Atisa attended Serlingpa wholeheartedly for 12 years. During that time, Serlingpa transmitted precious Buddhist teachings to Atisa. The Bodhicitta Practice, the swiftest road to Buddhahood, was the rarest and most precious of these teachings. Sakyamuni Buddha told Atisa, ''It is through reliance on compassion and bodhicitta that one accomplishes Buddhahood.'' After the completion of his studies, Atisa expressed his infinite gratitude and reverence for Serlingpa. No matter where he was, upon hearing any mention of the name Serlingpa, Atisa would fold his hands, raise them to his crown, and recite four lines of praise to his guru. Only then would he speak the name of Serlingpa.

Atisa commemorated all his gurus' day of parinirvana once a year, but Serlingpa's parinirvana was done monthly. Moreover, he always wore Serlingpa's sariras close to his body. Atisa would always say ''I have a great many lineage gurus. Many of these gurus are great adepts, and there is not the slightest difference in their cultivation skills. But, it was due to the grace of Serlingpa that I was able to obtain the extremely rare practice of bodhicitta. This is a whole different level of grace!''

In fact, the guru-disciple relationship between Serlingpa and Atisa spanned many lifetimes. Actually, Serlingpa was the White Lotus King. In his present lifetime, Living Buddha Lian-sheng is not only the reincarnation of Atisa, but also the reincarnation of the White Padmakumara. In Living Buddha Lian-sheng's current lifetime, his guru, the monk Liaoming, is the reincarnation of Serlingpa. Ven. Liaoming and Grandmaster have thus continued the guru-disciple relationship in this lifetime as well. The two are so close they cannot be separated from each other.

《The Profound Influence of Atisa on Tibetan Buddhism》
Atisa became a great lineage master of Buddhadharma. After Atisa returned to India, and while he was widely propagating Buddhadharma there, the King of Tibet sent numerous emissaries to invite Atisa to spread Buddhadharma in Tibet. Finally, the King of Tibet himself went to meet Atisa and personally invited him to Tibet. Because of the King's resolution and the sincerity of his invitation, Atisa, at the age of 59, at last agreed to come to Tibet and spread the Buddhadharma, ignoring the fate that his life might be shortened by 10 years.

After coming to Tibet, Atisa rectified evil practices. In addition to teaching about cause and effect, Atisa emphasized wholehearted refuge in the Three Jewels and the importance of renunciation and bodhicitta. He also taught the stages of cultivation and the essential oneness in spirit of Sutrayana and Vajrayana teachings. By doing so, Atisa helped resolve an important problem of the time; the belief that Sutrayana and Vajrayana were no more compatible than fire and water.
During this period in Tibet, Buddhism was in a rather chaotic state. But as a result of Atisa's teachings, the Buddhadharma was rectified. It was also during this time that Atisa established the Kadam School in Tibet.

Atisa widely propagated Buddhadharma in Tibet for 12 years. He guided all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism to common ground and unification. During this time and afterwards, there were no schools of Tibetan Buddhism that were not influenced by the Kadam School. Atisa manifested parinirvana in Tibet at the age of 73, leaving behind all his most precious teachings. His influence on Tibet was extensive and profound, so much so that Atisa's dharma teachings can be found in every cell of Tibetan Buddhism.

Two to three hundred years after Atisa's parinirvana, Buddhism in Tibet had gradually slipped back into chaos. It was during this time that Tsongkhapa arrived as a fresh wave to reform this corruption. Tsongkhapa established strict stages of cultivation and emphasized abiding by precepts and the importance of ethics. He upheld and maintained the Buddhist teachings of Atisa, established the Gelug Sect (also called the New Kadam Sect), and injected a new energy into Tibetan Buddhism which continues to this day. Tsongkhapa was the reincarnation of Atisa, and through Tsongkhapa, a great adept's compassionate heart to save sentient beings once again manifested for the benefit of mankind.

《The Demeanor of a Great Adept》
In the 21st century, Atisa has reincarnated as Living Buddha Lian-sheng. These two great adepts, Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng, have much in common. For example, Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng both manifested total mastery of Sutrayana and Vajrayana teachings. Furthermore, Living Buddha Lian-sheng has mastery of the Taoist teachings as well.

Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng both hold numerous lineages including lineages derived from space. From a very young age, Atisa travelled to all corners seeking teachings from great adepts. He took refuge in many gurus and held numerous lineages. Living Buddha Lian-sheng is the lineage holder of all the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as holding lineages in Sutrayana and Taoism.

Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng both strictly abide by the precepts, and consider abiding by precepts to be the foundation of all virtuous dharma teachings. Atisa adhered absolutely to all the major precepts and never violated them. If he did unintentionally slightly violate a minor precept, he would conduct a repentance ritual on that very day. Living Buddha Lian-sheng also strictly abides by the precepts. If his emotions are even slightly agitated, he immediately reflects on the error and repents to the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Both Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng pay utmost respect to their gurus. Atisa's reverence and deep feeling for all his gurus, especially Serlingpa, is indeed very touching. Living Buddha Lian-sheng is even more renowned for respecting his gurus. He maintains his root gurus above his crown at every instant, and prior to giving a discourse, he pays homage to his four root lineage gurus. Both Atisa and Living Buddha Lian-sheng have infinite, boundless compassion and bodhicitta. In order to to save more tormented beings, Atisa went to Tibet without the slightest hesitation, even though this meant sacrificing ten years of his lifespan. He wholeheartedly helped sentient beings in Tibet, leaving behind all his most precious dharma teachings. Similarly, Living Buddha Lian-sheng has made a great vow to save sentient beings even if this means breaking his body and smashing his bones. He will teach sentient beings all his precious practices without reservation even if he needs lay his viscera on the ground and let beings step on them.

Described above is the demeanor of a great adept. Such demeanor does not change over time. As buddha sons, we should practice with our full strength, learn to be a buddha from the inside out, act like a buddha, and ultimately attain the fruit of Buddhahood.

Translated by True Buddha Translation Team
Translators: DJ Chang and Henry Wolf
Editors: Henry Wolf and DJ Chang
Source: TBSN
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