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Kamalaśīla's "Stages of Meditative Cultivation" (Bhāvanākrama): New Perspectives on Buddhist Classics

Time: 26-29 June 2017
Venue: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens
Hollandstraße 11-13, 1020 Vienna, room to be announced
Organisation: Birgit Kellner


The three eponymous treatises by the Indian scholastic philosopher Kamalaśīla (ca. 740-795 CE) entitled "Stages of Meditative Cultivation" can justifiably be called "classics" of Mahāyāna Buddhist literature. They are linked with a historically momentous confrontation between Indo-Tibetan and Sino-Tibetan currents in late 8th century imperial Tibet, which has become emblematic in the cultural memory of Tibetan traditions, where it is prominently depicted as a victory of Kamalaśīla over the Chinese Chan master Hva shang Mahāyāna in a debate at the monastery of Bsam yas presided over by the Tibetan emperor. As magisterial expositions of a complete Mahāyāna Buddhist path, combined with polemical refutations of opponents' views, the Bhāvanākramas evidently respond to a problem-situation that called for a clarification supported by philosophical argument and scriptural authority. The Bhāvanākramas were held in high esteem especially in those Tibetan traditions that emphasized and elaborated a gradual path to liberation, and came to play a significant role in recent attempts to promote Buddhism in the West.

Although the first editions of Bhāvanākrama I and III – Bhāvanākrama II is not known to have survived in Sanskrit – by Giuseppe Tucci (1958, 1971) were the basis of numerous translations into modern languages, new studies of extant manuscripts and the canonical Tibetan translations have shown that these pioneering editions can be improved upon in many places, so that new editions are fully justified. In this workshop, connected with a seminar at the University of Vienna focusing on BhK III, selected passages from BhK I that relate to Kamalaśīla's core argument stressing the soteric value of rational, philosophical analysis will be read and discussed in Sanskrit and Tibetan on the basis of Francesco Sferra's new edition of the Sanskrit text.

Selected Passages

§9-11 and from §16 onward (paragraph numbering from Tucci's 1958 edition).


  • Francesco Sferra (Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale)
  • Birgit Kellner (IKGA)
  • Serena Saccone (IKGA)
  • Pei-Lin Chiou (IKGA)
  • Ryūsei Keira (Hōsei University/IKGA)

Sessions are planned for the following times every day: 09:00-10:30, 11:00-12:30, 14:00-15:30, 16:00-17:30. The workshop is open to guests. Please register in advance with Pei-Lin Chiou ( to facilitate our planning.

Öster­reichi­sche Aka­demie der Wissen­schaften
Institut für Kultur- und Geistes­geschichte Asiens
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