Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Berkeley

A Gift of the Dharma: The Life and Works of Vanaratna (1384-1468)


The fifteenth-century Buddhist monk and paṇḍita Vanaratna lived a remarkable life that unfolded across the length and breadth of South Asia and crossed the Himalayan range. As a teacher, author, and pilgrim, Vanaratna traveled through and lived among many of the diverse Buddhist communities of his time and witnessed a tumultuous yet vibrant period in the regions’ history. Vanaratna’s life is particularly compelling for the fact that he counts among the last of the Buddhist paṇḍitas of Indic descent to leave an impression in the historical record. Active in eastern India, Sri Lanka, southern and northern India, Nepal, and Tibet, Vanaratna’s life is accessible to us through a rich and extensive body of Sanskrit and Tibetan literature, as well as art-historical and material sources. This study is not the first to give Vanaratna the attention he merits, but it does aim to be the first to take into consideration this large body of material available on his life that has previously been underutilized or not considered at all. The primary witnesses for Vanaratna’s life examined closely here include the Tibetan biographies (rnam thar) of Vanaratna composed by his immediate disciples, the Tibetan biographies of his students and colleagues, his extant works preserved in Sanskrit and Tibetan translation, and art-historical materials that record his life and deeds. These materials will be coordinated with the broader historical record in order to remedy both the dearth of comprehensive studies of Vanaratna’s life and the scarcity of primary sources on the political and religious history of fifteenth-century South Asia, Nepal, and Tibet.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View