Michael Sheehy

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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Tāranātha (b. 1575–d. 1635), also known as Jetsun Tāranātha or Kunga Nyingpo, was one of the most consequential figures in the Jonang tradition of Buddhism, and one of the foremost scholars, historians, and statesmen of 17th-century Tibet. He was born into the patrilineal descendent of the famed 11th-century Buddhist translator Rwa Lotsawa Dorje Drak (b. 1016–d. 1128), and at the age of four, he was recognized as the re-embodiment of Kunga Drolchok (b. 1507–d. 1565), a former lineage-holder of the Jonangpa, Shangpa, and Sakyapa. Though his Tibetan name was Kunga Nyingpo, at a young age, he had a vision wherein an Indian adept bestowed on him the name “Tāranātha,” which he adopted as his personal name for the rest of his life. Tāranātha’s writings encompass a wide range of disciplines, including the Kālacakra Tantra and other major tantra systems of the Sarma or later transmissions, the zhentong view articulated by the Jonangpa master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (b. 1292–d. 1361), biography, ritual, and meditation instructions. Yet he is probably best known for his historical writings. Of these, his most famous work is his account of Buddhist India, inspired by his encounters with Indian yogins and scholars who traveled to Tibet, including his own guru Buddhagupta whom he met at the age of fourteen. Tāranātha spent much of his life reviving his Jonangpa tradition, building and refurnishing landmark monuments, commissioning world-class paintings and printings, and composing works that extended the literary heritage of the Jonangpa. By the end of his life however, Tāranātha became aware that much he had worked for throughout his life, including his monastic estate at Takten Phuntsok Ling and in fact much of the Jonang tradition, would become embroiled in local territorial struggles and fall under the siege of central Tibetan politics.

Article.  4276 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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