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Council of Lhasa


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A name used somewhat misleadingly by certain Western Scholars to refer to a debate held at Samyé (and not the Tibetan capital, Lhasa) in the year 742 ce on the disputed question of whether enlightenment (bodhi) was a sudden or gradual process. The two main protagonists were the Indian monk Kamalaśīla, and the Chinese Ch'an master Hvashang Mahāyāna (Chin., Ho-Shang Mo-ho-yen). The latter taught that enlightenment was a spontaneous experience in which all the defilements (kleśa) are destroyed in a single moment. Kamalaśīla defended the traditional Indian gradualist position in terms of which enlightenment is the natural outcome of a long process of personal transformation accomplished by following a pre-ordained religious path. The Tibetan side won the debate and Indian gradualism became the orthodox form of Buddhism there from that time. Soon after the council Kamalaśīla was murdered, allegedly by an assassin dispatched by his defeated Chinese opponent. Although some scholars doubt the historicity of this debate, it epitomizes the rejection of Chinese forms of Buddhism by the Tibetans. Some scholars, however, believe that Ch'an Buddhism continued to exert an influence on the Nyingma andKagyü schools even after the council.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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