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Seeing the Sacred in Samsara: Illustrated Guide to the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas

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Rare paintings set aside life stories of each of the eighty-four wild Buddhist saints of ancient India.

This exquisite full-color presentation of the lives of the eighty-four mahāsiddhas, or “great accomplished ones,” offers a fresh glimpse into the world of the famous tantric yogis of medieval India. The stories of these tantric saints have captured the imagination of Buddhists across Asia for nearly a millennium. Unlike monks and nuns who renounce the world, these saints sought the sacred in the midst of samsara. Some were simple peasants who meditated while doing manual labor. Others were kings and queens who traded the comfort and riches of the palace for the danger and transgression of the charnel ground. Still others were sinners—pimps, drunkards, gamblers, and hunters—who transformed their sins into sanctity.

This book includes striking depictions of each of the mahāsiddhas by a master Tibetan painter, whose work has been preserved in pristine condition. Published here for the first time in its entirety, this collection includes details of the painting elements along with the life stories of the tantric saints, making this one of the most comprehensive works available on the eighty-four mahāsiddhas.

Reviews

“Seeing the Sacred in Samsara is a gem that should adorn the library of every Tibetan Buddhist or that of anyone who has more than a passing interest in Tibetan Buddhism. This book brings to life the stories of the Indian mahāsiddhas, hugely important figures in the imagination of the
Tibetan Vajrayana tradition.”—Thupten Jinpa, Principal English Translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Commissioned from an artist in eastern Tibet by a senior member of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s government but never displayed or published before, these remarkable paintings offer fresh insight into the workings of a master painter and the conversion of religious concepts into images. Written with his characteristic clarity and elegance, Professor Lopez has produced a book that will be a delight for admirers of Tibetan painting and a wonderful resource for students of Tibetan Buddhism.”—Clare Harris, Professor of Visual Anthropology, University of Oxford

“This book makes available for the first time a beautiful set of paintings of the Indian siddhas from early twentieth century Tibet. Lopez’s introduction provides the reader with a marvelous overview of the siddhas, their social context, the tantric tradition to which they belonged, their doctrines, and their depiction in Tibetan art history. A feast for both the eye and the mind, Seeing the Sacred in Samsara is a superb primer on one of the most important and fascinating saintly confederations in all of Buddhist history.”—José Cabezón, Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, University of California Santa Barbara

Seeing the Sacred in Samsara is a wonder, a one-of-a-kind collection… It will serve as a timeless inspiration for all wisdom seekers for generations to come.”—New York Journal of Books

About the Author

Donald S. Lopez Jr. is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He specializes in late Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. His recent books include Gendun Chopel: Tibet’s Modern Visionary and Hyecho’s Journey: The World of Buddhism.

Book Details

  • ASIN: B07JD1Q2Y7
  • Publisher: Shambhala (May 28, 2019)
  • Publication date: May 28, 2019
  • Print length: 229 pages

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Mahasiddhas

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Mahasiddhas: La vie de 84 sages de l’Inde (French)

Mahasiddhas: La vie de 84 sages de l’Inde (French Edition) Abhayadatta (Author), Comité Padmakara (Translator)

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“Au début de notre ère, lorsque se répandirent les enseignements du Bouddha auxquels fut donné le nom de Grand Véhicule, apparurent nombre de maîtres remarquables qui devinrent célèbres sous le nom sanskrit de mahâsiddhas, “grands êtres accomplis”, parce qu’ils avaient atteint les siddhis, ou “accomplissements”.
La tradition a surtout retenu le nom de quatre vingt- quatre d’entre eux.
Voici l’histoire de leurs vies, appelées “libérations parfaites”, où se côtoient anecdotes insolites et enseignements profonds que couronne toujours l’Éveil libre de toute entrave : le Grand Sceau qui inspire à Ghandika ce chant de réalisation :

Comme le remède et le poison
Participent de la même essence
En produisant deux effets distincts,
Les actes négatifs et leurs antidotes
Ont la même nature et ne diffèrent point.
Ce que réalisant, les sages ne rejettent rien,
Mais les êtres puérils, dans leur ignorance,
Ne le réalisent pas et errent dans le samsâra,
Mûs par les cinq poisons.

Book Details

  • ASIN: B00ZI97BVY
  • Publication date: July 1, 2003
  • Language: French
  • Print length : 239 pages
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Amitayus Buddha – Amitabha Buddha in Sambhogakaya Form

“I Take Refuge in the Triple Jewel (Buddha Amitayus, Dharma, and Sangha)”

Amitayus (Skt. Amitāyus, Tib. ཚེ་དཔག་མེད་TsepakméWyl. tshe dpag med), ‘The Buddha of Boundless Life’ — a sambhogakaya aspect of Amitabha, particularly associated with longevity. He is mostly depicted sitting and holding in his hands a vessel containing the nectar of immortality. Amitayus is also one of the three deities of long life.” (RgWik)

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Akshobhya Buddha – Medicine Buddha in Sambhogakaya Form

“I Take Refuge in the Triple Jewel (Buddha Akshobhya, Dharma, and Sangha)”

Akshobhya (Skt. Akṣobhya; Tib. མི་བསྐྱོད་པ་MikyöpaWyl. mi bskyod pa; Eng. ‘The Unshakeable’) — one of the Buddhas of the five families in saṃbhogakāya form. He is the Buddha of the vajra family, associated with the east, and is usually depicted as blue in color and holding a vajra. His buddha world is called Abhirati (Tib. མངོན་པར་དགའ་བ་ or མངོན་དགའ་ngönpar gawa, Wyl. mngon par dga’ ba).” (RgWik)

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“I Take Refuge in the Triple Jewel (Namo Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha)”

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Shakyamuni Buddha Siddhartha Gautama – “The Buddha”

“I Take Refuge in the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha)”

“Shakyamuni Buddha Siddhartha Gautama” (PDoB)

“Siddhartha Gautama (c.485–405 BCE) (Skt.; Pāli, Siddhattha Gotama). Name of the historical *Buddha. Siddhartha (meaning ‘One whose aim is accomplished’) was his personal name, and Gautama his clan or family name. His dates are still uncertain, but recent scholarship inclines to the dates shown as opposed to the more conventional ones of 563–486 BCE (see DATE OF THE BUDDHA). He was born into a noble family of the *śākya clan, and for this reason came to be known also as *śākya-muni (the sage of the śākyas). His father was *śuddhodana and his mother *Māyā. According to Buddhist sources his father was king of the city of *Kapilavastu, which was located just inside the southern border of present-day *Nepal. Siddhartha’s *birth was preceded by a dream in which his mother saw a white elephant entering her womb. From this the soothsayers foretold that the child would be either a Buddha or a Universal Ruler (*cakravartin). Seven days after giving birth Queen Māyā died. Siddhartha was married to *Yaśodharā (or *Rāhulamātā) and a son, *Rāhula, was born when the Buddha was either 16 or 29. Tradition recalls that the Buddha’s father shielded his son from the harsh realities of life until the young prince ventured outside the palace and was confronted by the sight of ‘fours signs’: an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a renunciate. These experiences brought home to him the reality of *suffering and the nature of the human predicament, and turning his back on family life he renounced the world and became a religious mendicant. He studied with two teachers, *Udraka Rāmaputra and *Āḷāra Kālāma, but after six years of unproductive *ascetic exercises renounced the path of austerities and embarked on a more moderate spiritual path which he characterized as the ‘Middle Way’ (madhyamā-pratipad). By following this he gained enlightenment (bodhi) at Bodhgayā at the age of 35 and became a Buddha. After his spiritual awakening he attracted a band of followers and instituted a monastic order (Saṃgha). He travelled throughout north-east *India as an itinerant teacher for the remaining 45 years of his life. He died at age 80 after being in ill health for some months and having eating a meal of contaminated pork (see CUNDA; MAHĀPARINIBBĀNA SUTTA; SŪKARA-MADDAVA).” (PDoB)

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Taking Refuge in Buddha-Dharma-Sangha Triple Jewel

“I Take Refuge in the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha)”

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Field of merit from the Longchen Nyingtik Ngöndro

Refuge with the Three Jewels 皈依三寶

This Refuge is peaceful indeed.
This Refuge is best.
This Refuge, if taken, frees one
   from all suffering.
(Dhammapada14:14)

Taking refuge with the Three Jewels is the way one becomes a Buddhist and enters the path to the ending of suffering that comes with full and proper ENLIGHTENMENT. In order to take refuge correctly, one should find a fully ordained BHIKSHU whose daily conduct is fully in accord with the Buddha’s teaching and request him to administer the Refuges and to become one’s teacher and guide on the Path.

In taking refuge with the Buddha,
I vow that living beings
Will understand the great Path,
And bring forth the unsurpassed
   resolve (for bodhi).

In taking refuge with the Dharma,
I vow that living beings
Will deeply enter the sutra treasury,
And have wisdom like the sea.

In taking refuge with the Sangha,
I vow that living beings
Will unite, forming a Great Assembly,
In which all will be in harmony.
(FAS Ch11 116-118)

SEE ALSO: Triple Jewel or Three Gems

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Ambapālī Great Arhat

“Ambapālī. A beautiful and wealthy courtesan of *Vaiśālī who became a follower of the *Buddha. She was named after the mango fruit (Pāli, amba) because she was reputed to have been found at the foot of a mango tree. It is narrated in the *Mahāparinibbāna Sutta that Ambapālī invited the Buddha to dine at her house on his last visit to Vaiśāli before his death. He accepted the invitation, declining a similar one from the local princes. Ambapālī donated to the *Saṃgha a residence constructed in her garden. She had a son who became an elder in the Order (Saṃgha) and she herself eventually renounced the world, gained insight into impermanence (anitya) through contemplating the ageing of her own body, and became an *Arhat.” (PDoB)

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Rāhula Great Arhat – Buddha’s Son

“Rāhula. The only child of the Buddha, born shortly before the Buddha took his decision to renounce the world. The boy was named Rāhula, which means ‘fetter’, because the Buddha perceived his son’s birth as a tie that could bind him to family life and, according to some sources, therefore left home on the very same day. After his enlightenment (bodhi), the Buddha returned to his home town of *Kapilavastu and on departing was followed by Rāhula, who had been sent by his mother to ‘ask for his inheritance’. At the request of the Buddha, Rāhula was then admitted to the *Samgha by *Śāriputra. Following a protest by the boy’s grandfather *Śuddhodana, the Buddha agreed to the introduction of a rule thereafter requiring parental consent to the ordination of novices (śrāmaṇera). The Buddha preached several sermons to his son, and after hearing one of these, the Cūla-Rāhulovāda Sutta, he became an *Arhat.” (PDoB)

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Śāriputra Great Arhat

“Śāriputra(Pāli, Sāriputta). The chief Arhat disciple of the *Buddha. A lifelong friend of *Mahā-maudgalyana, the two renounced the world on the same day and first became disciples of the sceptic *Sañjaya Belatthiputta. Thereafter both converted to *Buddhism, and on the day of their *ordination the Buddha declared them to be his two chief disciples. Both soon became *Arhats. The Buddha declared Śāriputra to be a perfect disciple and second only to himself in transcendent knowledge (*prajñā). Śāriputra frequently preached with the Buddha’s approval, and for his contribution to the propagation of the faith was rewarded with the title ‘General of the *Dharma’ (Pāli, Dhammasenāpati). He had special expertise in analytical philosophy and is regarded as the originator of the Abhi-dharma tradition. śāriputra was renowned for his exemplary qualities of compassion, (karuṇā), patience, and humility. He was older than the Buddha and when he died a few months before him, the Buddha pronounced a eulogy.” (PDoB)

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Ānanda Great Arhat

“Ānanda. One of the *Buddha’s chief Arhat disciples and his first cousin, his father being a brother of *Śuddhodana, the Buddha’s father. It appears that he entered the Order (*Samgha) in the second year of the Buddha’s ministry and was ordained by the Buddha himself. According to the *Pāli accounts, after twenty years in which he did not have the same personal attendant all the time, the Buddha made known his wish for a permanent one. All the great disciples offered their services, but ānanda, not initially seeking the position, was eventually selected by the Buddha. He agreed to serve the teacher, provided a series of conditions were fulfilled. On one hand ānanda requested not to receive any extra benefits as a result of his position, such as choice clothes or food, separate lodgings, or the inclusion in the invitations accepted by the Buddha. On the other hand, he asked to be allowed to accept invitations on behalf of the Buddha, to bring to the Buddha those who came to see him from afar, to place before the Buddha all his perplexities, while the Buddha was to repeat to him any doctrine taught in his absence.

Ānanda was highly regarded by his colleagues who often consulted him and it is said that sometimes the monks, having heard a sermon from the Buddha, would ask Ānanda to give them a more detailed exposition since he had a reputation of being able to explain the doctrine clearly. Ānanda’s championship of the cause of *women is also well known. In particular, he is especially recognized for his role in the establishment of an order of *nuns. Ānanda was also revered for his powerful memory. For this reason, when the First Council was called in *Rajagṛha (see COUNCIL OF RĀJAGṚHA), following the Buddha’s *death, he was chosen by *Mahākāśyapa, president of the Council, to recite all of the sermons preached by the Buddha, thus establishing the canonical record known as the *Sūtra Piṭaka, or ‘Basket of Discourses’. Ānanda lived to be very old, spending his last years teaching and preaching. The details of his death are not reported in the *Pāli Canon.

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Council of Rājagṛha – The First Buddhist Tripitaka Council

“Council of Rājagṛha. The Council of *Rājagṛha, often called the ‘First Council’, is reported to have been held at Rājagṛha in the year of the *Buddha’s death with the objective of establishing the canon or at least two of its three divisions or ‘baskets’ (pi-taka). These include the collection of the Buddha’s discourses or sermons (sūtra/sutta) and the material relating to the organization and history of the order (Vinaya). A senior *monk, Kaśyapa, was charged with supervising the convocation made up of 500 *Arhats. He called upon *Ānanda (who gained *enlightenment during the proceedings of the council) to recite the Buddha’ discourses, and *Upāli to recite the rules of the Vinaya. Their utterances were accepted as accurate and decreed as constituting the content of the orthodox canon from that time on. It may be noted that the word translated as ‘council’ in this context is the Pāli word saṅgīti, which in fact means a ‘communal recitation’ of the kind that took place here. The early Buddhist ‘councils’, accordingly, should not be thought of as similar to their early Christian counterparts, which were usually convened to settle dogma. Modern research has cast serious doubts on the historicity of the traditional account of the First Council. In particular it is clear from internal evidence that the canon did not receive its final form until many years later, so it could not have been fixed at the early date the report claims. Most probably this claim was a device to retrospectively legitimize certain later literature as canonical.” (PDoB)

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