Buddhist Texts

♦ The third Āryadeva!

To solve the problem of who the author of the Skhalitapramathanayuktāhetusiddhi (SPHYS) was, is a very difficult task. In order to fix a starting point, however, let us begin by admitting that his name was really Āryadeva, as is referred in all the colophons.1 Moreover, I take for granted that he was a later namesake of the famous third century CE Āryadeva, who was in his turn a disciple of Nāgārjuna and compiler of the Catuḥśataka. In support to this perspective we have, for instance, the fact that in the excerpt dedicated to the Cārvāka philosophy, the author mixed up different Lokāyata and Cārvāka doctrines as if he were convinced that they belonged to one single school. This was possible only by the fourth century onwards, because “no much earlier than the fourth century CE, lokāyata came to mean materialism”.2 Before the fourth century, indeed, the term lokāyata did broadly refer to certain dialectical methods used by some groups of brāhmaṇas, but not at all to materialism stricto sensu. And this determines that our Āryadeva cannot be identified with his homonymous standard-bearer of the Madhyamaka school of philosophy.

However, it seems that he cannot be identified either with the other Āryadeva, the tantric teacher who belonged to the Ārya school of the Guhyasamāja tradition and wrote important tantric works, such as the Cittaviśuddhiprakaraṇa and the Caryāmelāpakapradīpa. It is opinion of Christian Wedemeyer, indeed, that the terminus post quem of the Caryāmelāpakapradīpa must be placed “into at least the mid-to-late ninth century”.3 If we take seriously into account this dating, the problem arises insofar as, according to its colophons, the SPHYS has been translated into Tibetan by the two scholars Sarvajñādeva and dPal-brtsegs, who lived straddling the eighth and ninth centuries CE, that is, fifty or more years before the compilation of the Caryāmelāpakapradīpa.

As is well known, Tāranātha refers that Sarvajñādeva flourished during king Mahīpāla’s reign and was a contemporary of Jinamitra. Mahīpāla ruled over 52 years and died more or less in the same period in which also the Tibetan king Ral-pa-can passed away.4 According to the chronicles, Ral-pa-can held the scepter from 814/817 and 836 CE.5 Consequently, we infer that Mahīpāla’s reign should have begun by the eighties of the eighth century. This must be the period in which also Sarvajñādeva started his monastic career. As regards dPal-brtsegs, on the other hand, we know that he translated into Tibetan a considerable amount of Sanskrit texts together with several other scholars, among whom we can mention here Vimalamitra,6 Vidyākarasiṃha7 and Jinamitra.8 Now, it seems that at least two Vimalamitra(s) lived almost in the same period, the one little after the other. The first Vimalamitra would have been a contemporary of Kamalaśīla, and would hence have flourished during the reign or a period of the reign of the king KHri-sroṅ-lde-btsan (755-797 CE; according to ’Gos lo-tsā-ba: 755-780),9 whereas the second Vimalamitra is said to have been a contemporary of Sarvajñādeva and, thus, to have flourished during the reigns of Mahīpāla and Ral-pa-can.10 According to the chronicles, moreover, dPal-brtsegs succeeded Pūrṇavardhana and Jinamitra in the line of transmission of Asaṅga’s Abhidharmasamuccaya.11 It is well known also that Pūrṇavardhana was a contemporary of Buddhaguhya, of king Dharmapāla and of KHri-sroṅ-lde-btsan.12 Furthermore, Vimalamitra (with all probability, the second one) is listed among the direct disciples of Buddhaguhya.

These observations suggest to us the following conclusions. (a) dPal-brtsegs lived straddling the eighth and ninth centuries CE, probably in a period little after the passing away of Kamalaśīla (whose assassination took place during KHri-sroṅ-lde-btsan’s reign). (b) Because dPal-brtsegs succeeded Jinamitra, it is likely to think that he was younger than both Vimalamitra and Sarvajñādeva. On the basis of the information collected so far, hence, we infer that the SPHYS must surely have been written at least some decades before Ral-pa-can’s epoch. However, we have also to reflect upon the fact that a text, during this time, was probably considered eligible to be translated into Tibetan only if it enjoyed good esteem within this or that Buddhist circle… and of course the – so to speak – process of eligibility requires time. Nonetheless, this consideration allows us to conclude, with a good degree of plausibility, that the author of the SPHYS flourished between the fourth-fifth and the eighth centuries CE. Even if this is a wide span of time that represents only a first and imperfect appraisal of the matter, our conclusion is nonetheless sufficient in order to determine that the author of the SPHYS should not be identified with none of the other two Āryadeva(s), the Madhyamaka and the tantric one.


(1) This is not at all an outlandish observation. Indeed, to Āryadeva are attributed texts that actually have not been written by this author as, for instance, the Madhyamakabhramaghāta, which is nothing but an excerpt of Bhāviveka’s Tarkajvālā (see Lindtner 1982: 173, note 21).

(2) Bhattacharya (2009: 195).

(3) Wedemeyer (2007: 13).

(4) Chattopadhyaya D. (1997: 284-285).

(5) On Ral-pa-can see Chattopadhyaya A. (1996: 250-265).

(6) Roerich (1995: 102).

(7) Roerich (1995: 331).

(8) Bu-ston (Obermiller 1999: 191) refers to us that, together with kLu’i-dbaṅ-po (*Nāgendra) and others, dPal-brtsegs compiled a catalogue of the Sanskrit texts translated into Tibetan, accompanied by adhyāya and śloka indexes.

(9) Chattopadhyaya A. (1995: 212-220). See also Tucci (1971).

(10) Chattopadhyaya D. (1997: 422-423), who refers from Roerich (1995: 191-192).

(11) Roerich (1995: 344).

(12) Chattopadhyaya D. (1997: 276). 


Lindtner, Christian. 1982. “Adversaria Buddhica”, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 26: 167-194.

Wedemeyer, Christian K. 2007. Āryadeva’s Lamp that Integrates the Practices (Caryāmelāpakapradīpa): The Gradual Path of Vajrayāna Buddhism According to the Esoteric Community Noble Tradition, Columbia University Press, New York.

Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna. 2009. Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Società Editrice Fiorentina, Firenze.

Roerich, George N. 1995. The Blue Annals (Parts i & ii Bound in One), Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi rep.

Chattopadhyaya, Alaka. 1996. Atīśa in Tibet, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi rep.

Chattopadhyaya, Debiprasad et al. 1997. Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism in India, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi rep.

Tucci, Giuseppe. 1971. “The Validity of Tibetan Historical Tradition”, in Giuseppe Tucci, Opera Minora II, Dott. Giovanni Bardi Editore, Roma. 453-466.

One thought on “♦ The third Āryadeva!

  1. Interesting discussion of a difficult problem! I thought it might be interesting to include the remarkable early 20th century discussion of the problem by a Tibetan writer: Rdza-sprul Ngag-dbang-bstan-‘dzin-nor-bu (1867-1940), Gcod yul nyon mongs zhi byed bka’ gter bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar byin rlabs gter mtsho, Sonam T. Kazi (Gangtok 1972), at p. 10, line 4. He distinguishes a King Āryadeva, an Ācârya Āryadeva, and a Brahmin Āryadeva.

    des arya de wa la gnang / de ni rgya gar du arya de wa gsum yod de / rgyal po arya de wa / slob dpon arya de wa / bram ze arya de wa dang gsum / rgyal po arya de wa ni rgyal srid mtshal ma’i thal ba bzhin dor nas grub pa thob pa de yin / slob dpon arya de wa ni / mgon po klu sgrub gyis slob ma tshe’i rig ‘dzin [‘ga’ zhig dam pa’i bla ma ‘dir ngos ‘dzin pa’ang mdzad mchan] brnyes pa de yin / ‘dir [11] bstan pa’i arya de wa bram ze arya de wa rgyud kyi gdams ngag gis bcud bsdus mtshan nyid drug dang ldan pa ste / de ni sgra tshad la sbyangs yun ring bas phye’i rgol bas rtsod par mi nus pas mtshan nyid dang ldan sgra’i bstan bcos nyer gnyis la sogs pa la mkhas pa pandi ta gzhan gyis brnyas par mi nus pa’i mtshan nyid dang ldan / rdo rje’i sku thob pas sku la ‘das grongs mi mnga’ ba’i mtshan nyid dang ldan / srog rtsol gyis rlung gnyis las su rung bas / phyi ‘byung ba bzhi’i gnod pas rdzi bar mi nus pa’i mtshan nyid dang ldan / yi dam gyi lhas zhal gzigs pas ‘byung po mi dang mi ma yin gyi gnod pas mi tshugs pa’i mtshan nyid dang ldan / gsang sngags dbang bzhi la mnga’ dbang ‘byor bas sngags kyi don la ma rmongs pa’i mtshan nyid dang ldan cing / dam pa sangs rgyas kyi rigs kyi zhang po yang yin la bla ma ru’ang bstan par mdzad des dam pa la gnang ngo //

    Of course, if your author were to be identified with the maternal uncle of Padampa (d. 1105/1117), then it looks like he would have been active in the early part of the 11th century. And that’s truly impossible if your text was translated by the early 9th-century Dpal-brtsegs. So the “Brahmin Āryadeva” is out of the question here. I just thought to point out that arguments about plural figures with the name Āryadeva are nothing new.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s