Admission at the Dharmas Gate was written in the female fire pig year, 1167/1168 A.D., by Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182 A.D.), who was born in Tibet at a time when Buddhism, and the principles of learning, moral living, and the pursuit of a higher wisdom that came with it, had been the state religion for almost four hundred years. In writing Admission at Dharmas Gate he did not provide any information that would have been new. Yet this book has received the highest praise throughout Tibetan history. Sakya Pandita considered the release of Sonam Tsemos book so important that he used its publication to mark the years for reckoning time. This book is famous not for providing new information, but for the skill with which Sonam Tsemo drew from throughout the vast literary heritage of the Buddhist tradition to present an account that would be interesting and meaningful to the people of Tibet.
The book is written in a style by which everyone would enjoy it: children that are learning to read, illiterate villagers who never learned how to read, or serious scholars looking for exemplary composition. The book takes nothing for granted, starting out with basic questions about what the Dharma is and whether there is any use for, leading into clear accounts that touch on even the most sophisticated of philosophical concerns. It is well known that different understandings of Buddhism, and differential presentations of its teaching, are present in our world. Sonam Tsemo does not skirt these issues, but brings them to the fore, addressing them head-on in a way that will help readers understand how these differentials were understood in twelfth century Tibet. We also get an account of the previous lives and present life of the Buddha. These are presented in a colloquial style that makes the content immediately interesting and relevant to its audience.
Admission at Dharma's Gate (Sakya Kongma Series: Volume 3), Sonam Tsemo, Suvarna Bhasa, paperback, 159 pages, 2014, $25.65
Christopher Wilkinson began his career in Buddhist literature in 1972 at the age of fifteen, taking refuge vows from his guru Dezhung Rinpoche. In that same year he began formal study of Tibetan language at the University of Washington under Geshe Ngawang Nornang and Turrell Wylie. He then received many instructions from Kalu Rinpoche, completing the traditional practice of five hundred thousand Mahamudra preliminaries. He became a Buddhist monk at the age of eighteen, living in the home of Dezhung Rinpoche while he continued his studies at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1980 with a B.A. degree in Asian Languages and Literature and another B.A. degree in Comparative Religion (College Honors, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). After a two year tour of Buddhist pilgrimage sites throughout Asia he worked for five years in refugee resettlement in Seattle, Washington, then proceeded to the University of Calgary for an M.A. in Buddhist Studies where he wrote a groundbreaking thesis on the Yangti transmission of the Great Perfection tradition titled "Clear Meaning: Studies on a Thirteenth Century rDzog chen Tantra." He proceeded to work on a critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the 20,000 line Perfection of Wisdom in Berkeley, California, followed by an intensive study of Burmese language in Hawaii. In 1990 he began three years' service as a visiting professor in English Literature in Sulawesi, Indonesia, exploring the remnants of the ancient Sri Vijaya Empire there. He worked as a research fellow for the Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation for several years, playing a part in the early development of the famous Rubin Museum of Art. In the years that followed he became a Research Fellow at the Centre de Recherches sur les Civilisations de l'Asie Orientale, Collge de France, and taught at the University of Calgary as an Adjunct Professor for five years. He is currently completing his doctoral dissertation, a study of the Yoginitantra first translated into Tibetan during the Eighth century of our era, at the University of Leiden's Institute for Area Studies.