The Legacy of Atiśa: A Reflection on Textual, Historical and Doctrinal Developments to Enrich Buddha Dhamma from the Azimuth of Vikramśilā to Modern Era

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Sanjoy Barua Chowdhury PhD Candidate at the International Buddhist Studies College (IBSC), Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU), Thailand. Email:


Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna (982-1054 CE) was a great Bengali Buddhist legend and a former Nālandā scholar (paṇḍita) who came to Tibet to propagate Buddha Dhamma in the 11th Century. He promulgated Mahāyāna and Vajrāyāna traditions in Tibet among that subsequently transmitted to Southeast, Central and East Asia. Ācāriya Atīśa’s monumental compositions, such as Bodhipathapradīpa (A Lamp for the Path to Awakening), Satyadvayavatara, Bodhisattvamanyavali, Madhyamakaratnapradipa, Mahayanapathasadhanasangraha, Shiksasamuccaya Abhisamya, Prajnaparamitapindarthapradipa and compilations of Dhamma texts have enriched Buddhist commentarial literature and doctrinal contents, revealing subtle and profound Buddhist teachings.

This paper explores the legacy of Atīśa through demonstrating his dharma endeavors around Asian countries along with illustrating his compilation of masterpiece-texts in order to propagate Buddha Dharma. It is a comprehensive review, and assessment of the meticulous research on the influence of Atīśa’s scholarly works and composition of Tibetan epic texts, such as The Jewel Ornaments of Liberation by Gampopa (1079-1153 CE.), Lam Rim Chen Mo by Tshongkhapa (1157-1419 CE.) along with doctrinal contributions of Tibetan Buddhist schools namely Geluk and kadam.

The paper further investigates the influences of Atīśa’s teachings from the point of the azimuth of Vikramśilā (a sister university of Nālandā) to modern day Buddhism, especially focusing on the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.

Keywords: Atīśa, Bodhipathapradīpa, Lam Rim Chen Mo, Vikramśilā, Tibet, Dalai Lama, Karmapa.