Dakini To Dao An (Tao An) (Buddhism)


Dakinis are female semidivine beings who seem to have emerged out of the folklore of India and assumed prominent positions in Tantric Hinduism, whence they passed into Tibetan Buddhist lore. In Hindu lore, dakinis are generally negative beings—demonic in both appearance and behavior.

Dakinis assumed a much more positive position in Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism, seen as personifications of various levels of the spiritual universe. In Tibet they are known as khadromas and are assumed to exist on the highest spiritual levels. They are often pictured as nude, to symbolize the clarity of truth as it is unveiled.

While usually seen as a purely spiritual supernatural being, a dakini could also be a human female who had attained a high level of spiritual awareness and accomplishment, or even the incarnation of a deity. Padmasambhava (eighth century) indicated that no fewer than five of his female disciples were dakinis. It appears that these disciples, possibly consorts in sexual rituals, are the source of the other use of the term, to refer to the female partner in those Tantric yogas involving sexual intercourse. The most prominent of the five was Yeshe Tsogyal, who wrote not only the biography of Padmasambhava but her own autobiography. Naropa’s student Niguma (11th century) was also thought of as a dakini.

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama, or "teacher of the ocean of wisdom," is the title of the leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and, from the 17th century c.e. , political leader of Tibet. The title was first given to Sonam Gyatso by a Mongolian prince, Altan Khan, in 1578, as an honor. Sonam Gyatso subsequently applied the title to his predecessors, Gendun Drub (1391-1474) and Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542), and became known himself as the third Dalai Lama. There have since been 11 Dalai Lamas. The current one, Dalai Lama XIV, Tenzin Gyatso, is at the time of this writing living in exile in Dharmasala, India, where he fled in 1959.

The Dalai Lama is considered by those in the Tibetan tradition to be an incarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. In addition each is a tulku, or rebirth, of the preceding Dalai Lama.

Dalai Lama I, Gendun Drub (Pema Dorje)

(1391 -1474) first in line of Dalai Lamas

As a child of seven, Pema Dorje, possibly a relative of Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, was sent to study with the famous teacher. The Gelug school was a 15th-century reform movement in Tibetan Buddhism that drew heavily on the Kadampa reform instituted by Atisa in the 11th century. Tsong Khapa emphasized themes of universal compassion and the doctrine of emptiness. He also moved to reform the system of discipline of the monasteries and insisted on the avoidance of illicit sex and alcohol.

After years as a disciple, Pema Dorje, now known by his religious name, Gendun Drub, became the abbot of Gaden monastery, founded by Tsong Khapa, and then founded the Tashil-humpo monastery, west of Lhasa. This latter monastery soon became the largest in Tibet and the center of the Gelug school. Gendun Drub emerged out of the shadow of his teacher as a scholar of note and the author of a number of books, possibly the most famous of which was a commentary on the Abhidharma-kosa. He also wrote two well-known poems, one in praise of the Buddha and one in praise of Tsong Khapa. For a period, Gendun Drub established his residence at the Ganden Pho-dang, the Palace of Joy, at Drepung monastery.

The title Dalai Lama, roughly translated "ocean of wisdom," was not applied to the lineage of reincarnated lamas that began with Gendun Drub until the next century. it is the case that Gendun Drub emphasized the idea of looking for his reincarnation, which led to the establishment of the lineage through his successor, Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542), several years after his death.

Dalai Lama II, Gendun Gyatso

(14751542) second Dalai Lama

As a young boy, Gendun Gyatso was recognized as the reincarnation of the leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, Gendun Drub (1391-1474). According to the story, even as a child, he identified himself as Pema Dorje, the birth name of the Gendun Drub. He then indicated a desire to move to Tashil-humpo monastery, the community founded by Gendun Drub, to reside among the monks. The leadership at the monastery confirmed his identity as the return of their recently deceased leader.

He grew up at the monastery and matured into a notable scholar and accomplished poet. He later authored a history of Buddhism, a volume of the different forms of Buddhism in India, and his autobiography. However, in his younger adult years, after assuming his post as head of the order, he concentrated on traveling and spreading the Gelug movement around the country. In 1509, he founded the picturesque Chhokhorgyal Monastery, adjacent to Lake Lhamo Latso, southeast of Lhasa. He then successively became the abbot of three additional monastic centers: Tashil-hunpo (1512), Drepung (1517), and Sera (1526). From these four monastic centers the Gelug school permeated Tibet and set the order in a position to reap the opportunity that would arise with Gendun Gyatso’s successor. Drepung soon surpassed Tashil-humpo as the largest Gelug center and became closely identified with the future Dalai Lamas.

Gendun Gyatso died at the Ganden Phodang, the Palace of joy, his residence at Drepung monastery. He was not, during his lifetime, known as the Dalai Lama. That title was applied to him posthumously by his successor several decades later.

Dalai Lama III, Sonam Gyatso

(15431588) first recognized Dalai Lama

Sonam Gyatso was born in Khangsar, a community not far from Lhasa. As a child he was identified as the reincarnation and successor of Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542), the head of the Gelug school of Buddhism and abbot of Drepung monastery. The leadership at Drepung recognized and verified his identity. The child would then grow up at Drepung and Chhokhorgyal monasteries. He became well known in Tibet and beyond as an outstanding scholar. In his many travels around the country, Sonam Gyatso took time to found the Champaling Monastery (in eastern Tibet), Kumbum Champaling (a monastery in northern Tibet), and Sandal Khang, the Sandalwood Temple, also in northern Tibet.

Life would change for both Sonam Gyatso and Tibet in 1578 when he visited eastern Mongolia at the invitation of Altan Khan (1507-82), the Mongolian ruler who was in the process of building a great empire. Altan Khan saw Buddhism as a tool that would unify the Mongol tribes. It was, of course, the Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism in its Gelug Tibetan form that he taught. Sonam Gyatso proved successful in his assigned task, and as he made plans to return to Tibet, he proclaimed Altan Khan the reincarnation of Kubla Khan and the embodiment of the bodhisattva of wisdom. These twin titles united the khan’s political and religious status. The khan then reciprocated by naming Sonam Gyatso the Dalai Lama, teacher of the ocean of wisdom. As the Dalai Lama he would also be seen as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara (or Guan Yin), the bodhisattva of compassion.

The Mongols subsequently built their first Buddhist monastery in 1586. In 1588, Sonam Gyatso visited Mongolia again, but he died on his way back to Tibet. His body was cremated and his ashes taken back to Drepung monastery, where he had resided.

Sonam Gyatso, as the incarnation of a lineage of high lamas, considered it only right that the title that had been given to him be applied to his predecessors, Gendun Drub (1391-1474) and Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542), who thus became known as the first and second Dalai Lamas, respectively.

Dalai Lama V, Lobsang Gyatso

(16171682) first politically powerful Dalai Lama

Lobsang Gyatso, the Fifth Dalai Lama, spent the early years of his life in some obscurity. He was identified as the new incarnate lama at the age of two. A year later he was publicly identified but not enthroned until he was eight (1625). This delay seems to be related to the political climate. The Gelug and the Kagyu schools were vying for control of different parts of the country. In the late 1630s, the Dalai Lama made common cause with the Mongol leader Gushri Khan (d. 1655). Gushri Khan marched into Tibet and made Lobsang Gyatso (the Dalai Lama) both the secular and the spiritual leader of the country and in addition, the head of all Buddhist groups in Asia.

With real political authority, the Dalai Lama proclaimed a new operating principle, Chhosi Shungdel, the integration of religion and politics. He began to define that principle through a claim that the lineage of the Dalai Lamas was the continuation of the lineage of the kings of ancient Tibet all the way back to Songsten Gampo (c. 618-650), the first king. Members of this lineage were to be seen as incarnations of the founder of the Tibetan race, who in turn was the product of the union of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, and Dolma, a feminine deity of wisdom.

King Songsten Gampo had founded Lhasa, and Lobsang Gyatso now made the city the seat of his government. Here he established two schools, the Tsedung and Shodung, to train the people who would assist him in running the country. He oversaw the construction of the Potala Palace built atop the site where Buddhism was introduced to Tibet and in 1649 moved there from the traditional residence of the Dalai Lamas at the Palace of joy in Depung Monastery.

It was for his public life that Lobsang Gyatso became one of the two Dalai Lamas called "the Great." Apart from his political activities, the Fifth Dalai Lama wrote a number of books, including the biographies of his immediate predecessors. He also composed a new code for the monastic orders.

Toward the end of his long life, the Dalai Lama quietly withdrew into a private world and left the country in the hands of a regent. He died in 1682, but it would be 1697 before a public announcement of his death was made. It appears that the regent wished to maintain the new order that the Fifth Dalai Lama had established. The delay seems to have had disastrous results as the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706), though officially discovered as a child, was not publicly acknowledged until his teen years. He turned out to be unsuitable for the task, and the Mongols invaded the country and deposed him. He disappeared (probably murdered) and died at the age of 23.

Dalai Lama VII, Kelzang Gyatso

(17081757) seventh Dalai Lama

The death of the Sixth Dalai Lama, under mysterious circumstances, and the discovery of a new child believed to be the real incarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama drew the Chinese into the affairs of Tibet in opposition to the Mongols, the traditional supporters of the Dalai Lama. Ousting the Mongols in 1720, it was the Chinese (of the Manchurian Qing dynasty) who backed the installation of Kelzang Gyatso as the Seventh Dalai Lama. They, in turn, left behind an official called the amvan, who actually held the political reins of the government. For the next century, the Dalai Lama’s political power remained quite limited.

Having little taste for politics, Kelzang Gyatso was a scholar and poet and took some interest in the religious life of his people. He founded the Tel-ing Monastery, located near his birthplace, Gethar. He died relatively young, during his 49th year.

Dalai Lama XIII, Thupten Gyatso

(18761933) reformist Dalai Lama

The 13th Dalai Lama rose to power after more than a century during which the authorities in Tibet adopted a more and more isolationist approach both to individual foreigners and to foreign countries. Much of this change was related to the decline of the Qing dynasty and a resultant weakening of the role of China in Tibetan affairs, and some to the growing power of the British in India. It fell to the new Dalai Lama to hold the country together.

A regent ruled the country while Thupten Gyatso was a minor. However, in 1904, at the beginning of his 19th year, the British invaded Tibet, using as an excuse the rising power of Russia. To handle the crisis, the regent ceded his power to Gyatso, who began to exercise his authority as the 13th Dalai Lama.

Soon after the British invasion, Thupten Gyatso fled to Mongolia. While in exile, he received a message from the emperor in Beijing requesting him to visit. When he returned to Tibet, he found the Chinese in control of his country and ready to depose him. He then left for India, where he tried to persuade the British to stop the Chinese. They refused to act and it was not until a popular revolution in 1911-12 toppled the Chinese forces in Tibet that the Dalai Lama was able to return. He declared Tibet independent of China.

His rule reestablished, the Dalai Lama moved to reverse Tibet’s isolationist policies, though he faced stiff opposition from the conservative majority. He was able to improve communications with a postal, telephone, and telegraph system. He extended the use of electrical power and began modernizing roads for the future use of automobiles. He also issued the first paper money. Among the few things he did approved by the conservatives was the reintroduction of monastic discipline.

Thupten Gyatso died on December 17, 1933. He was the second Dalai Lama to be honored with the title "Great." He made a prediction that Tibet could very well return to Chinese control.

Dalai Lama XIV, Tenzin Gyatso

(1935- ) 14th Dalai Lama

The current Dalai Lama was born in Takster, a village in northeast Tibet. At the age of two he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and taken to Lhasa for his education. His formal enthronement took place in Lhasa in 1940. He completed the Geshe Lharampa degree, roughly equivalent to a doctorate, in 1959. Prior to that he completed his examinations at the three main universities, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden,with a final examination at jhokang Monastery during the Tibetan New Year, as is the custom.

The Dalai Lama held meetings with both Chinese and Indian leaders beginning in 1950. He attempted to broker an end to border tensions between China and India, which eventually culminated in the Sino-Indian border war of 1962. The relations between China and Tibet worsened after a popular uprising in 1959, which was quickly put down. At that time the Dalai Lama concluded that it was best for him and his government to leave Tibet. He took 80,000 followers with him. Today there are 120,000 Tibetans living in exile in India. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile, which he leads, is centered in Dharmasala.

Since arriving in India the Dalai Lama has concentrated on the well-being of Tibetans in exile as well as preserving Tibetan culture. Numerous monasteries—more than 200—have been established worldwide. The Dalai Lama acts as spokesperson for his organizations as well as his religious order, the Gelug Buddhists. As leader of a government-in-exile he oversaw the promulgation of a (proposed) new constitution for Tibet, in 1963, as well as a five-point peace plan for Tibet, in 1987. These efforts have met no response from the Chinese government, which does not recognize the Dalai Lama’s political authority.

The Dalai Lama has been more successful in contacts with other political and religious leaders. He has visited more than 40 countries and met with both Pope Paul VI (r. 1963-78) and Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005), the latter on numerous occasions. His position on other religious traditions seems to fit the mood in many Western multicultural societies. Contact with other religions is to be encouraged, in his opinion, because "each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one’s own faith." Through constant media exposure the Dalai Lama has become a world-renowned figure. His status as an international celebrity reached a peak when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. "The prize," he said at the time, "reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated. our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."

Today the Dalai Lama exists as both a spiritual and a political leader. As a spiritual leader he is widely admired; indeed he represents the achievements of a cultured civilization that has given special attention to spiritual attainment. He has made it his job to focus the world on spiritual themes and values. He has emerged in the popular consciousness as a spokesperson for Buddhism in general, a position at times reinforced by the language used in his many books, lectures, and public pronouncements, though in fact he speaks out of his own segment of the Buddhist community. As a political figure, he has had limited effectiveness. He chose exile rather than cooperation with the Chinese authorities and in the intervening years has been forced to deal with China from a position of confrontation. While he has had some success in mobilizing support for his cause on the international level, his efforts have not been able to prevent the dramatic changes that continue in Tibet; nor has he been allowed any input in guiding those changes.

The Dalai Lama’s years of leadership of Tibet were the subject of a book, Seven Years in Tibet, written by the explorer Heinrich Harrer, who spent World War II in Tibet. His book was made into a movie in 1997.

Dam Luu

(1932-1999) Vietnamese nun

Dam Luu lived in a monastery from the age of two and was ordained as a bhiksuni when she was 19. In 1980 she emigrated to the United States. She founded Duc Vien Temple, which is now located in San Jose, California. In 1983 she established the first Vietnamese nunnery in America. She has championed the chanting of sutras and prayers in vernacular language.


Dana, "giving," is a concept found in both Theravada and Mahayana contexts. In Theravada dana relates to merit building, while in Mahayana it generally refers to donations.

Buddhist monastics were always supported by lay contributions. Such contributions were interpreted as acts that would generate a store of merit for each individual. in return the lay people would receive the Dharma from monastics, in the form of blessings or teachings. Both types of transactions are dana.

In Mahayana theory dana is one of the six paramitas, or perfections, which the cultivator on the bodhisattva path will practice. The bodhisattva gives completely, to the extent that the ego is overcome and all action is selfless. in practice Mahayana communities today also encourage extensive almsgiving to the sangha.

There are two categories of dana, acts of pure charity and those that seek personal benefit. There are further distinctions, including divisions into three (goods, doctrine, and courage).

Tharmanay Kyaw, a contemporary Burmese teacher, notes the distinction between material giving and cetana, or the volition that leads to the act of giving. In response to a question from Anathap-indikata, a lay follower, the Buddha himself stated: "Householder, whether one gives coarse alms or the finest alms, if one gives casually, without thought, not with one’s own hand, with no thought to the future, then, wheresoever that almsgiving bears fruit, his mind will not turn to the enjoyment of excellent food, of fine clothes and rich carriages, the enjoyment of the five senses; and his sons and daughters, slaves, and workers will not respect and honor his words. Such, householder, is the result of a deed done casually."

Dao (Tao)

Dao is the central concept in Daoism. Indeed, as a term it is found in all religious discourse, including Buddhism, Confucianism, folk religions, and Christianity, throughout all the cultures of East Asia.

Dao is a linguistic term in Chinese and other languages. Its many meanings include "way" of proceeding, "way" of doing, and, in philosophical discourse, "way" of action and thought—in other words, an ideology. The Buddhists used this term to translate the Sanskrit marga, in particular the path of Dharma, that is, Buddhism itself. Dao can also be used as a verb, meaning "to speak."

In Daoist philosophy Dao has several senses. Most important, it signifies an absolute, ultimate reality that lies beyond the visible. This is the Dao of the first line of the Daodejing: "The Way which can be spoken of is not the true way." Here Dao is a primordial substance that makes up the universe, including all life.

But the Dao is also something of a great mystery. The Chinese created a special term to describe that sense of mystery, xuan, perhaps best rendered by the Latin mysterium. This mystery presumably results from the limitations of the human condition. Because we cannot possibly comprehend all facets of the unlimited Dao, much remains hidden. By extension this implies we can only connect with the Dao through quieting our everyday mind, stilling our desires. Approaching the Dao was always a goal of Daoist cultivation.

Dao is more than a static lump of material, however. It is in constant change. The Daoist conception of the universe was extremely dynamic, with Dao constantly reinventing itself. In philosophical Daoism the Dao predated all matter; the myriad things—in the Chinese expression, the 10,000 things—issued from the Dao as an expression of itself.

Dao is thus a dynamic that creates change while it ensures existence. Practically speaking, he who has access to a direct understanding of this Dao is one who has true power. "He who holds fast to the Way is complete in Virtue," according to the Daodejing.

In the Heavenly Masters school, that first definable school of religious Daoism that arose in the second century c.e., Dao also represented the central deity, who was none other than Laozi, the purported founder of Daoism. Laozi was the incarnation of the Dao in flesh, a concept not unlike Christ’s nature in Christianity. However, unlike Christianity, Daoism added a string of additional god figures to the altar, in practice reducing the relative significance of Laozi. of course the additional deities were also products of the ultimate Dao. Thus in religious Daoism the Dao represented a creator force behind the universe.

The Dao then became an element in the religious theology of Daoism.

Dao An (Tao An)

(312-385) early Chinese Buddhist priest and translator

Dao An was a leading monk in Chang An, the capital of the Former Qin dynasty, just before the time the master translator Kumarajiva arrived and began his epic translation work in 401 c.e. Before that time Dao An had completed a catalog of the sutras that had been translated into Chinese. This list, which has now been lost, enabled later Chinese scholars to organize the Tripitaka, the Buddhist canon. Dao An had already decided to stop using the facilitating technique of geyi, "matching terms," which clouded many early translations of Buddhist works. Thus Dao An’s work in a sense laid the foundation for Kumarajiva’s translations.

Dao An and his followers were so dedicated in spreading the word of Buddhism that he sent followers to all corners of China. His disciples included Hui Yuan (334-416 c.e.), who later went on to found an important center of practice on Mt. Lu.

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