Kadampa Bibliography

Tibetan Renaissance Seminar > Weekly Calendar Of Activities > Week 9


David Germano, Amy Sims Miller, and Carrie Frederick Frost

Overview of Subject

The Kadampa traditions traces its origins to Atiśa, the most famous Indian figure in Tibet during the 11th century and one of the most prominent exponents of Buddhism internationally during this time period. Atiśa was a monk and an outstanding representative of scholastic Indian Buddhism. His journey in Tibet began with a trip to Western Tibet (Ngari) at the invitation of a King there, and then later moved on to Central Tibet where he was associated with his most famous disciple, Dromtönpa, and ultimately passed away. Atiśa was portrayed by his Kadampa disciples as a fairly conservative figure stressing Buddhist morality, monasticism, the strict framing of Tantra with Mahāyāna study and practice, gradual approaches to the Buddhist path, and exoteric scholastic study. He was thus seen as a "reformer" who tried to correct the excesses of the 11th century with its supposed behavioral excesses, explosion of tantric movements, and figures/movements whose enthusiasm for Buddhism outstripped their learning and ethical rigor. He was immediately manipulated by the Kadampa as the saintly figure around which they built their identity, and much later in the fifteenth century, the Geluk tradition assimilated that mantle by portraying themselves as latter day reformers styled the "new Kadampa" with their stress on monasticism, morality, scholasticism, and gradated paths. Despite this, some evidence suggests that in fact Atiśa's own interests were very tantric in character, and far more free wheeling than his profile suggests.

The Kadampa themselves are one of the earliest clear sectarian configurations to emerge in the Renaissance period. While often focused on for their ethical orientation, gradated Buddhist path, and non-tantric orientation, they also played important roles in the popularization of Buddhism amongst Tibetans, and the creation of the Avalokiteśvara cult. They also did have an involvement with tantra as yet poorly documented.

State of Scholarship

The quantity of scholarly work on the Kadampa tradition is meager in comparison to other fields of study within Tibetology. Most references to the Kadampa come from broader contexts: studies of Atiśa’s life or a general view of the Tibetan Renaissance, etc. Those scholars who have focused on Kadampa tend to be German in nationality, most notably Roesler, Erhard, and Eimer.

Dr. Amy Sims Miller, whose work is in the Kadampa tradition, notes that the field of Kadampa schoarlship is still young, and the early attempts to study the tradition have been more about understanding Kadam Literature (tantric cycles, biographies, translations), rather than situating the Kadampa historically.

The field anticipates an upcoming volume which focuses on The Book of Kadam by Thupten Jinpa.


Translations and General Kadampa Resources

Dalai Lama XIV. Four Essential Buddhist Commentaries. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (1982). This is the brief text on blo sbyong by Geshe Langri thangpa.

Ehrhard, Franz-Karl. “The Transmission of the Thig le bcu drug and the Bka’ gdams glegs bam.” The Many Canons of Tibetan Buddhism, ed. Helmut Eimer and David Germano. Leiden: Brill (2002) 29-56.

Ehrhard, Franz-Karl. “The Transmission of the dMar-khrid Tshem-bu lugs and the Maòi bka’ ‘bum.” Vividharatnakaraòçaka: Festgabe fur Aldeheid Mette. Indica et Tibetica, ed. Chr. Chojnacki, J.-U. Hartmann, and V. M. Tschannerl. Swisttal-Odendorf (2000) 37, 199-215.

Ehrhard, Franz-Karl. Early Buddhist Block Prints from Mang-yul Gung-thang. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute (2000) Series 2.

Gyatso, Kelsang. Heart jewel : the essential practice of Kadampa Buddhism. Tharpa (1991).

Kun-dga’-rgyal-mtshan, Las-chen. Bka’ gdams kyi rnam par thar pa Bka’ gdams chos ’byu•n Gsal ba’i sgron me: a detailed account of the spread of the Kadampa sect in Tibet New Delhi : B. Jamyang Norbu (1972). This is also available as an electronic resource; a block print Scanned by Tibetan Buddhist Research Center. This massive work of over 1250 folio sides details the many lineages tracing themselves back to the Indian master Atisha, lineages collectively known as the Kadampa tradition. Beginning with a definition of the the term Kadam and a brief systematic overview of the Kadampa teachings, it then presents a lengthy life story of Atisha, as well as biographies of his most prominent Tibetan disciples. The central chapters detail the development of Kadampa institutions in Cental and West-Central Tibet. The final chapter is dedicated to the New Kadampa, a tradition later to be known as the Gelukpa. It includes a biography of Tsongkhapa, as well as Gendun Drupa, later known as the First Dalai Lama. From external link: THDL Kadampa Biographies.

Jinpa, Thupten. Mind Training: The Great Collection. Wisdom Publications Library of Tibetan Classics (2005).

McLeod, Ken; trans. The Great Path of Awakening. Boston & London: Shambhala (1987) 77-84. Two alternative translations of the same text by the Kadampa master Chekawa Ye shes rdo rje (1102-1176).

Meisezahl, R. O. “La Biographie Du Glorieux AtiŸa D’Apres Le Manuel Bka’ Gdams Pa.” Oriens (1990) 32, 443-450.

Mishra, Ramprasad Bodhipathaprad¯ipa of D¯ipa•nkara *Sr¯ijñ¯ana : a guide for realising the path of bodhi reconciling the M¯adhyamika *S¯unyav¯ada, Vijñ¯anav¯ada of Yog¯ach¯ar¯ina and the doctrine of Mah¯ay¯anic s¯utras. Delhi : Kant Publications (1998, c1995). Study of Bodhipathaprad¯ipa of At¯isa, 982-1054, work on doctrines of Kadampa sect of Tibetan Buddhism with Sanskrit text, English translation and critical annotation. Onoda, Shunzo. “Abbatial Successions of the Colleges of gSang phu sNe’u thog Monastery.” Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology (Osaka) 15, no. 4 (1990) 1049-1071.

Rai, Meenakshi . Kadampa School in Tibetan Buddhism Delhi: Saujanya Publications (2006).

Roesler, Ulrike. "Zum ursprünglichen Titel der 'Rūpyāvatī'-Geschichte", Śikhisamuccayaḥ. Indian and Tibetan Studies. (Collectanea Marpurgensia Indologica et Tibetologica), edited by Dragomir Dimitrov, Ulrike Roesler and Roland Steiner, Wien: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2002 (Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde. 53), pp. 203-210

Roesler, Ulrike. Kadampa Sites of Phempo. A Guide to Some Early Buddhist Monasteries in Central Tibet. Kathmandu: Bauddha Books (2004).

Sweet, Michael. “Mental Purification (blo sbyong): A Native Tibetan Genre of Religious Literature”. Tibetan Literature, ed. Jose Cabezon and Roger Jackson, Ithaca:Snow Lion Publications (1996) 244-260.

Tsongkhapa. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment, Vol. 1-3. Snow Lion Publications (2001). Even though its author is Tsongkhapa, this three volume translation includes many citations from Kadam masters.

van der Kuip, Leonard. The Abbatial Succession of Gsang phu ne'u thog Monastery from ca.1073 to 1250. Berliner: Indologische Studien (1987) vol. 3, 103-127.

van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. "Tibetan Historiography." Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, ed. Jose Ignacio Cabezon and Roger Jackson. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications (1996) 39-65. Brief overview of the early development of Tibetan historical writing.

Wangyal, Geshe. The Door of Liberation. New York: Maurice Girodias Associates (1973) 119-169. Selections from the bKa' gdams thor bu, a collection of precepts given in a dialogue form from Teachers in the bKa' gdams pa tradition.


Atiśa. “Atiśa’s A Lamp for the Path to Awakening”. Buddhism in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez, Princeton: Princeton University Press, (1997) 290-301. This contains the root verses of the entire piece along with an introduction and is translated by Ronald Davidson.

Boussemart, Marie-Stella. Dromteunpa l’humble yogi ou le renouveau du bouddhisme au Tibet XIeme siecle. Marzens: Editions Vajra Yogini (1999).

Decleer, Hubert. “Atiśa's Journey to Tibet.” Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez, Princeton: Princeton University Press (1997) 432-40.

Decleer, Hubert. “Atiśa’s Journey to Sumatra.” Buddhism in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez, Princeton: Princeton University Press, (1995) 531-40.

Decleer, Hubert. Master Atiśa's in Nepal: The Tham BahÐl and the Five Stápas’ Foun¬da¬tions according to the ’Brom ston Itinerary. Journal of the Nepal Research Centre 10 (1996) 27-54.

Eimer, Helmut. Berichte uber Das Leben Des AtiŸa (DÐpaôkaraŸrÐjìåna). Eine Untersuchung der Quellen. Asiatische Forschungen. Monographien zur Geschichte, Kultur und Sprache der Völker Ost- und Zentralasiens. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz. (1977) vol. 51.

Eimer, Helmut. “The Development of the Biographical Tradition concerning Atiśa (DÐpaôkaraŸrÐjìåna).” The Journal of Tibet Society 2 (1982): 41-51.

Eimer, Helmut. “Zur Faksimile-Ausgabe eines alten Blockdruckes des bKa’ gdams glegs bam.” Indo-Iranian Journal 27 (1984): 45-7.

Eimer, Helmut, ed. and trans. Rnam thar rgyas pa. Materialen zu einer Biographie des AtiŸa (DÐpaôkaraŸrÐjìåna). Asiatische Forshungen, Band 67. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz (1979).

Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Universal Compassion: A Commentary to Bodhisattva Chekhawa's Training the Mind in Seven Points. London: Tharpa Publications (1988) 13-21, 143-155. This is a translation of the brief text by the Kadampa master Chekawa Ye shes rdo rje (1102-1176) in which he formulates Atiśa's teachings of mind training (blo sbyong) into seven points.

Sherburne, Richard. A Lamp for the Path and Commentary by Atiśa. London: Allen and Unwin, (1983) 5-12 & 165-182. The former contains the entire root verses, while the latter contains the commentary for the final seventh chapter on Tantra.

Sherburne, Richard Faust. A Study of AtПa’s Commentary on His Lamp of the Enlightenment Path.”Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1976.

Sherburne, Richard, S.J. The Complete Works of AtПa, õrÐ DÐpaôkara Jìåna, Jo-bo-rje: The Lamp for the Path and Commentary, Together With the Newly Translated Twenty-five Key Texts. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 2000.

In Tibetan

Rgyal-sras Thogs-med Bza•n-po-dpal. Rgyal ba’i sras kyi lag len sum cu so bdun ma b*zugso. Simtokha (1976). Kadampa verse work in Tibetan on the practice of Mahayana Buddhism and the realization of the ideal of the Bodhisattva state.

Atiśa Bho dhi pa tha pra d¯i pa pa•m (sic) pri tti = Bya•n chub lam gyi sgron me’i dka’ ’grel. Dharamsala : The Council of Cultural and Religious Affairs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 1969. In Tibetan; prefatory matter in English. Atiśa. Theg pa chen po’i lam gyi rim pa’i g*zu•n Bya•n chub lam gyi sgron ma *zes bya ba b*zugs so, bka’ gdams g*zur gdams man •nag gi rtsa ba. Ka-sbug : Phun-gli•n gsu•n rabs ñams gso rgyun spel las byed (1965). Basic teachings of the Kadampa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Translation of: Bodhipathaprad¯ipa. Xylographic print from blocks carved in Kalimpong and later located in the Tibetan Craft Community, Palampur.

Nag-dba•n-bstan-’dzin-nor-bu, Rdza Ro•n-phu Bla-ma Rgyal sras lag len so bdun ma’i ’grel pa g*zu•n da•n gdams •nag zu•n ’jug bdud rtsi’i bum bza•n *zes bya ba b*zugs so. Nepal : s.n. (1970). Xylographic print from the Rongphu (Ro•n-phu) blocks now preserved at Thupten Choling (Thub-bstan-chos-gli•n) Monastery in Solu. Commentary on the Rgyal sras lag len so bdun ma by Rgyal-sras Thogs-med-dpal-bza•n-po, 1295-1369, practical instruction into Buddhist practice according to the Kadampa sect.

Western Tibet

Karmay, Samten. "The Ordinance of Lha bLa-Ma Ye-Shes-'Od". Tibetan Studies in Honor of Hugh Richardson, ed. Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi. Warminster: Aris and Phillips (1979) 150-162. Both of Karmay’s two articles contain 11th century polemics directed against such Nyingma tantric practices such as supposedly reflected in The Guhyagarbha Tantra.

Karmay, Samten. "An Open Letter by Pho-Brang Zhi-Ba-'Od to the Buddhists in Tibet". The Tibet Journal (1980) vol. 5 #3.

Vitali, Roberto. The kingdoms of Gu-ge Pu-hrang : according to Mgna’-ris rgyal rabs by Gu-ge Mkhan-chen Ngag-dbang-grags pa. Dharamsala, India (1996).

Kadampa Art

Linthrothe, Rob and Kerin, Melissa. “Deconsecration and discovery: The art of Karsha's Kadampa chorten revealed (Déconsécration et découverte: L'art du Kadampa Chorten de Karsha révélé),” Orientations (2001) vol. 32, no10, pp. 52-63.

Kadampa Tradition in Relation to Other Tibetan Traditions

Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press (2005).

Kapstein, Michael. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2004).

Kapstein, Michael. The Tibetans. Blackwell Publishing Limited (2006).