Taranatha (1575–1634) was a Lama of the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is recognized as the most remarkable scholar and exponent.
Taranatha was born in Tibet, supposedly on the birthday of Padmasambhava. His original name was Kun-dga’-snying-po, the Sanskrit equivalent of which is Anandagarbha. He adopted the Sanskrit name Taranatha by which he was commonly known, as an indication of the value he placed on his Sanskrit scholarship in an era when mastery of the language had become much less common in Tibet than it had once been. He was also giving respect to his Indian teacher, Buddhaguptanatha.
His outstanding qualities are said to have been identified by others at a young age, as is often the case with great masters. He studied under such masters as Je Draktopa, Yeshe Wangpo, Kunga Tashi, and Jampa Lhundrup, although his primary teacher was Buddhaguptanatha.
Taranatha was recognized by Khenchen Lungrik Gyatso as the rebirth of Krishnacarya and Khenchen’s teacher, Jetsun Kunga Drolchok.
Taranatha was a prolific writer and a famous scholar. His best-known work is the 143-folio History of Buddhism in India of 1608, which has been published in English. Other works are The Golden Rosary, Origins of the Tantra of the Bodhisattva Tara of 1604 which has also been translated into English.
He was an advocate of the Shentong view of emptiness and wrote many texts and commentaries on this subject. English-language translation publications of his works on Shentong are The Essence of Other-Emptiness (which involves a translation of his Twenty One Profound Meanings) and his Commentary on the Heart Sutra.
In 1614 Taranatha founded the important Jonangpa monastery Takten Dhamchöling, in the Tsangpo Valley about 200 miles west of Lhasa. After the forceful take-over by the Gelug in 1642, it became known as Ganden Puntsokling.
After 1614, Taranatha went to Mongolia, where he reportedly founded several monasteries. He died probably in Urga. His rebirth became known as Zanabazar, the 1st Bogd Gegeen, and Jebtsundamba Khutuktu of Mongolia. His most recent reincarnation was the 9th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu, who died in 2012.
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