October 26, 2015


Have you heard of a wild claim that Atiśa had been a kind of captive in Tibet, that is, in the sense that he was forbidden to teach whatever he wanted to teach? He was a guest and had to, so to speak, do whatever the host wanted him to do. One can, of course, dismiss such a claim! But is the claim really wild? But was there an iota of truth in it? Do Atiśa’s biographies document such an account? If to randomly speculate, three points seem to vaguely support this claim. First, Mi-la-ras-pa is reported to have stated that some Tibetans were possessed with Māras and did not allow Atiśa to give Tantric teachings. Second, Atiśa is said to have primarily given teachings on refuge taking that some became concerned that he might be called a “Refuge-Taking Guru” (skyabs ’gro bla ma). He said he would not mind with such a nickname. This also suggests that he mostly gave basic teachings. And possibly he was indeed restricted to give esoteric Tantric teachings. Third, his hosts and disciples (e.g. ’Brom-ston-pa) seem to have been those who were concerned about what they believed were malpractices of Tantric teachings and it could well be that Atiśa was indeed restricted from giving Tantric teachings. It would interesting to watch out for additional sources and hints.


  1. I thought the usual story was that Atisha, although indeed a master of it, wasn't allowed to teach Mahâmudrâ.

  2. Hi Dorji,

    Just to tell you I pointed a link towards this post (http://hridayartha.blogspot.fr/2015/11/les-problemes-dintegration-datisa.html).
    I never heard about the idea of Atiśa being held captive in Tibet, but it is clear to me that he wasn't happy with the resistance he was met with when trying to carry out his Dharma project.

    Very curious to read the reactions on your post.