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Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna's (982 - 1054 A.D.) Royal Origin in the Chandra Dynasty of Vaṇgalā



Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (982 - 1054 A.D.) was an East Indian scholar and reformer of Tibetan Buddhism. Jobo, as he is also called by Tibetans, is primarily known as the father of the first Tibetan monastic order ever and enjoys special veneration among Tibetan monks to this day.

Even though Atiśa was the last great Buddhist scholar of India andis well-known among Tibetans and Bengalis, he is rather rarely known in the West. This is due to his influence in Tibet rather than in India, which goes hand in hand with a small portion of Tibetan sources dealing with his life there.

Therefore, there is a lack of information on Atiśa's youth. Although literary traditions around this prominent scholar and abbot of the Vikramaśila monastery, the main monastic seat of tantric teachings in India, counts up to 41 texts, only few of them provide us with information on his origin, youth and life in India before his departure to Tibet in 1041.

The paper thus aims to fill in this gap of our knowledge and focuses on Atiśa's place of birth and his family affiliation. It challenges the unanswered question of Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna's actual origin.

It has been said in various Tibetan sources that Atiśa was born in a royal family of Eastern India in the land of Vaṇgala (Tib. Bhaṃ ga la), in the domain of the Chandra dynasty with its capital in Vikramapura (Tib.

Bi kra ma ni pu ra). Unlike these specific local names provided, Atiśa's family lineage is identified by the textual sources only by the Tibetan names of his father Śrīkalyāṇa (Tib.

Dge ba'i dpal), mother Śrīprabhā (Tib. Dpal mo 'od zer) and his two brothers Chandragarbha (Tib.

Lta ba'i nying po) and Śrīgarbha (Tib. Dpal gyi snying po).

The venerable teacher Atiśa himself is referred to in texts as Padmagarbha (Tib. Pad+ma'i nying po).

The purpose of this paper is to answer the question whether in reality there was any kinship link between Atiśa and the Chandra royal dynasty.