Treasury of Lives

Tracing Buddhist lineages onlineAlexander Gardner

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The life story of the Buddha is one of the central teaching tales in all Buddhist traditions. It is an inspirational story that is meant as a model for all people: a man turns his back on the pleasures and sufferings of human society, sets off on a rigorous path of practice and reflection, attains a state of freedom from suffering, and then teaches the theory and method of his accomplishment to others. Tibetans, who have produced what is possibly the largest collection of sacred literature in the world, adapted the format of the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment to the telling of the life stories of their own religious masters. These biographical works are known in Tibetan as namtar, which literally means “enlightenment.” The Tibetans have produced a dizzying number of them.

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