Twelve deeds

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The Twelve Deeds of the Buddha

The twelve deeds (Skt. dvadaśabuddhakārya; Wyl. mdzad pa bcu gnyis) carried out by a supreme nirmanakaya buddha, such as the Buddha Shakyamuni, are:

  1. the descent from Tushita, the Joyous pure land (dga' ldan gyi gnas nas 'pho ba),
  2. entering the mother’s womb (lhums su zhugs pa),
  3. taking birth[1] (sku bltams pa),
  4. becoming skilled in various arts (bzo yi gnas la mkhas pa),
  5. delighting in the company of royal consorts (btsun mo'i 'khor dgyes rol ba),
  6. developing renunciation and becoming ordained (rab tu byung ba),
  7. practicing austerities for six years (dka' ba spyad pa),
  8. proceeding to the foot of the bodhi tree (byang chub snying por gshegs pa),
  9. overcoming Mara’s hosts (bdud btul ba),
  10. becoming fully enlightened (mngon par rdzogs par sangs rgyas pa),
  11. turning the wheel of Dharma (chos kyi 'khor lo bskor ba), and
  12. passing into mahaparinirvana [2] (mya ngan las 'das pa)


  1. In the case of Buddha Shakyamuni, this was in the Lumbini garden.
  2. In the case of Buddha Shakyamuni, this was in the city of Kushinagara.

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

Further Reading

  • Lobsang Dhargyay, 'The Twelve Deeds of the Buddha—A Controversial Hymn ascribed to Nagarjuna' in The Tibet Journal, Vol.IX, No.2, Summer 1984

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