Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, is often regarded as the most important Tibetan philosopher. He is known for systematically reinterpreting, synthesizing, and clarifying the significant Buddhist teachings in fourteenth-century Tibet. With the publication of The Splendor of an Autumn Moon: The Devotional Verse of Tsongkhapa, another dimension of this scholar-saint is open to English readers: Tsongkhapa as devotional poet. In these exquisite poems, expressions of heartfelt reverence to buddhas, bodhisattvas, and to his teachers, Tsongkhapa reveals an intimate faith for the teachings and a profound compassion.
Gavin Kilty, with three decades of translation work behind him, has done a superb job articulating the literal meaning of these poems, while maintaining Tsongkhapa's poetic spirit. Thus, for those interested in the relationship of devotional poetry to philosophy in Buddhist traditions, and in Tibet specifically, this translation demonstrates how dharma can be taught and expressed with compelling affectivity as well as reason. These verses will also be a great resource for anyone who is herself or himself a Buddhist practitioner, for they are indeed inspiring, and move the reader to a sacred space of receptivity to the dharma, and gratitude for the teachers. These verses invite the reader to participate in the experience of profound compassion and devotion. The historian of Buddhist studies will also find much that is fascinating here, for example in Tsongkhapa's use of metaphor, his treatment of particular Buddhist themes, and indeed the very decision of which themes to treat poetically. Students of Tibetan language will also appreciate Kilty's work, for it provides both the Tibetan text and the translation on opposite pages, making it easy to follow along.