Agustus 05, 2014

Compassionate Legacy: Mahayana Buddhism in Sumatra and its Connections with Tibet


IN THIS paper, I will explore the connections between the reformation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 11th century and the extensive monastic university at Muara Jambi in Sumatra, Indonesia, that was established in the early seventh century, during the Sriwijaya era. Muara Jambi, near the present day city of Jambi, was Dharmakirti Serlingpa Suvarnadvipi’s center for teaching. He was considered the greatest scholar of his time throughout South East Asia during the 11th century – the master of bodhicitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, and great compassion. Atisha Dipamkara Srijnana traveled to Muara Jambi at this time and stayed there for 12 years in order to receive extensive teachings from this esteemed teacher.

Compassion, the wish for all beings to be free from suffering, can be understood in a broader context as being part of a Buddhist concern for social justice, particularly in the modern era when Buddhism has expanded in the West. It is a transformative way of changing a society into one based primarily on loving-kindness, equality, empathy, and respect toward others, which comes through recognizing the needs and rights of others within a community. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama points out: “I believe that at every level of society – family, tribal, national, and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion.”

This paper will demonstrate the impact of Serlingpa’s teachings about bodhicitta, which Atisha took back with him to Tibet. These precious teachings precipitated a resurgence of Buddhism in Tibet in the 11th century and remained intact there until the 20th century, when they found their way to the West.[]


Annie McGhee, “Compassionate Legacy: Mahayana Buddhism in Sumatra and its Connections with Tibet”, Paper will be presented at 14th Sakyadhita International Conference, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, June 23-30, 2015.

Program of the conference is available here.

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