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Śāntarakṣita (Devanagari: शान्तरक्षित) was a renowned 8th Century Indian Buddhist pandit and abbot of Nalanda University. Śāntarakṣita founded the philosophical school known as the Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka which united the Madhyamaka tradition of Nagarjuna, the Yogacara tradition of Asanga with the logical and epistemological thought of Dharmakirti. He was also instrumental in the introduction of Buddhism and the Sarvastivadin monastic ordination lineage to Tibet which was conducted at Samye.

Padmakara Translation Group (2005: p.3) ground Shantarakshita's Dharma in Buddhism and the Hinduism from which it, Buddhism, seceded:

Shantarakshita's writings, lost for the most part in Sanskrit but preserved in Tibetan translation, give evidence of the encyclopedic range of his learning, which embraced all the religious and philosophical currents of his time, Hindu and Buddhist alike. [1]

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Śāntarakṣita (Devanagari: शान्तरक्षित, also called Shantarakshita, Santaraksita, Santiraksita, Zhi-ba-tsho, and Acarya Bodhisattva[2])

  • Tibetan: ཞི་བ་ཚོWylie: zhi ba tsho where 'zhi ba' holds the semantic field: beatitude, quiescence, inner peace, tranquility, serenity and 'tsho' holds the semantic field: complexion, comportment.


There are few historical records of Śāntarakṣita, with most available material being from hagiographic sources. Some of his history is detailed in a 19th century commentary by Ju Mipham drawn from sources like The Blue Annals, Büton, and Taranatha. Śāntarakṣita was the son of the king of Zahor.[3]

Śāntarakṣita was brought to Tibet at the instigation of King Trisong Detsen, some time before 767 CE. One account details his first trip as unsuccessful and he spent six years in Nepal before returning to Tibet.[4] Once established in Tibet he oversaw the translation of a large body of scriptures into Tibetan. He oversaw the construction of the first Buddhist monastery at Samye in 787 CE and ordained the first monastics there. He stayed at Samye for the rest of his life, another 13 years after its completion, and this was considered significant by Tibetans later that he stayed and did not return to India.

In some accounts he left Tibet for a time due to the antipathy of followers of the traditional Bön tradition and interference from local spirits.

"He then thought that a teacher possessed of super-natural powers and mystic charms would be able to move deeply the people of Tibet, steeped in sorcery exorcism and the like. Accordingly, he advised the King to invite the celebrated Buddhist teacher Padmasambhava to Tibet and subdue the Tibetan devils and demi-gods."

His philosophic views were the main views in Tibet from the 8th century until it was mostly supplanted by Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasangika Madhyamaka in the 15th century. In the late 19th century, Ju Mipham attempted to promote his views again as part of the rime movement and as a way to discuss specific critiques of Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasangika.


We know that Śāntarakṣita focused his early teachings in Tibet directed to the 'seven that were tested' upon the 'ten virtues' (Tibetan: དགེ་བ་བWylie: dge ba bcu; Sanskrit: daśakuśala; Pali: dasa sikkhapadani or dasa sila[6]) and 'the chain of casual relation' (Sanskrit: pratītyasamutpāda). The ten virtues are the opposite of the 'ten non-virtues' (Tibetan: མི་དགེ་བ་བཅུWylie: mi dge ba bcu; Sanskrit: daśākuśala).[7]


Haribhadra (Seng-ge Bzang-po)


His synthesis of Madhyamaka, Yogacara, and valid cognition was expounded in his text Madhyamakalamkara. Within the Yogacara in that text he also included the Sautrantika and Consciousness-only views specifically when referring to 'conventional truth', one of the Two Truths. His view is therefore categorized as "Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka" by later Tibetans, but he did not refer to himself that way.

In his synthesis text, readers are advised to adopt Madhyamaka view and approach from Nagarjuna and Aryadeva when analyzing for ultimacy and to adopt the mind-only views of the Yogacarans Asanga and Vasubandhu when considering conventional truth. He also incorporates the logic approach of valid cognition and the Sautantrika views of Dignaga and Dharmakirti.

Śāntarakṣita is also known for his text Tattvasamgraha (English: Compendium on Reality), which is a more encyclopedic treatment of the major philosophic views of the time and survived in translation in both Tibet and China. A Sanskrit version of this work was discovered in 1873 by Dr. G. Bühler in the Jain Dharma temple of Parshvanatha at Jaisalmer. This version contains also the commentary by Śāntarakṣita's pupil Kamalaśīla.


For detailed discussion refer Madhyamakalamkara.

Ju Mipham's Revival of Śāntarakṣita's Tradition


  1. Shantarakshita (author); Ju Mipham (commentator); Padmakara Translation Group (translators)(2005). The Adornment of the Middle Way: Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara with commentary by Jamgön Mipham. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-59030-241-9 (alk. paper): p.3.
  2. Murthy (1989) p.18-27, 41-43
  3. Shantarakshita & Ju Mipham (2005) pp.2-3
  4. Contribution of Indian Buddhists in Nepal
  5. Banerjee, 1982 p. 3 [1]
  6. [2]
  7. [3]


  • Banerjee, Anukul Chandra. Acaraya Santaraksita in Bulletin of Tibetology, New Series No. 3, p.1-5. (1982). Gangtok, Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology and Other Buddhist Studies. [4]
  • Blumenthal, James. The Ornament of the Middle Way: A Study of the Madhyamaka Thought of Shantarakshita. Snow Lion, (2004). ISBN 1559392053 - a study and translation of the primary Gelukpa commentary on Shantarakshita's treatise: Gyal-tsab Je's Remembering The Ornament of the Middle Way.
  • Doctor, Thomas H. (trans.) Mipham, Jamgon Ju. Speech of Delight: Mipham's Commentary of Shantarakshita's Ornament of the Middle Way. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publicaions (2004). ISBN 1559392177
  • Ichigō, Masamichi(ed. & tr.). Madhyamakālaṁkāra of śāntarakṣita with his own commentary of Vṛtti and with the subcommentary or Pañjikā of Kamalaśīla". Kyoto: Buneido (1985).
  • Jha, Ganganath (trans.) The Tattvasangraha of Shantaraksita with the Commentary of Kamalashila. 2 volumes. First Edition : Baroda, (G.O.S. No. Lxxxiii) (1939). Reprint ; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, (1986).
  • Murthy, K. Krishna. Buddhism in Tibet. Sundeep Prakashan (1989) ISBN 8185067163.
  • Prasad, Hari Shankar (ed.). Santaraksita, His Life and Work. (Collected Articles from "All India Seminar on Acarya Santaraksita" held on August 3-5, 2001 at Namdroling Monastery, Mysore, Karnataka). New Delhi, Tibet House, (2003).
  • Phuntsho, Karma. Mipham's Dialectics and Debates on Emptiness: To Be, Not to Be or Neither. London: RoutledgeCurzon (2005) ISBN 0415352525
  • Shantarakshita (author); Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso (commentator); Padmakara Translation Group (translators)(2005). The Adornment of the Middle Way: Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara with commentary by Jamgön Mipham. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-59030-241-9 (alk. paper)
  • Sodargye, Khenpo (索达吉堪布) (trans.) . 中观庄严论释 (A Chinese translation of the Mipham's Commentary of Ornament of the Middle Way). online version

See also

External links


et:Šāntarakšitaja:シャーンタラクシタ ru:Шантаракшита zh:寂護

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