Master Kamalashila (c. 740-795) holds a special place in the transmission of the Buddhadharma in Tibet. At the time of Trisong Detsen, one of the great Dharma kings of Tibet, various traditions of Buddhist thought and practice found their way to the Land of Snows. This caused some confusion among the followers as to which school to follow. To resolve the issue, the king summoned representatives of both the Indian and the Chinese traditions to his court to hold a debate. The lineage of the winner of the debate would ultimately be supported by the king and become the official tradition to be followed in Tibet.
Kamalashila, who was chosen to represent the Indian lineage of Buddhism at the debate, was originally trained at the great monastic university of Nalanda in India. He was a student of the great scholar Shantarakshita, who was responsible for introducing the monastic and scholastic lineages of Indian Buddhism to Tibet. His Chinese opponent became known as Heshang Moheyan and represented the meditative Chan tradition.
The debate, which must have taken place over the course of a few years, centered around the questions of gradual vs sudden awakening, and the importance of the accumulation of merit for the path. Kamalashila was declared the winner of the debate and subsequently his tradition flourished in Tibet.
He also composed three works entitled Bhavanakrama (The Stages of Meditation 1-3), in which he laid out the views he presented and defended during these debates.
In this 20 day-long course, Khenpo Jamyang Tenzin and Khenpo Ngawang Jorden teach Book One of the Stages of Meditation, on the basis of the only known classical commentary on this trilogy by the Sakya master Rongton Sheja Kunrig.
The course also includes a series of guided meditations led by Julia Stenzel, a teacher in her own right with many years of practice experience. The first meditation session on the practice of special insight (vipashyana) is guided by Khenpo Jamyang Tenzin himself.
The text covers the following topics:
1. Great Compassion
3. The union of method and wisdom
4. The goal of non-abiding nirvana
5. The development of wisdom
6. The cultivation of calm abiding (shamatha)
7. The cultivation of special insight (vipashyana)
8. Elimination of obscurations
9. Progression along the path and the attainment of buddhahood