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Gunabhadra (394–468) (simplified Chinese: 求那跋陀罗; traditional Chinese: 求那跋陀羅; pinyin: Qiúnàbátuóluó; Wade–Giles: Ch'iu-na-pa-t'o-lo) was a Mahayana Buddhist monk from India who translated a substantial number of scriptures into Chinese. He travelled to China by sea with Gunavarma in 435. Notably, he translated the Lankavatara Sutra from Sanskrit to Chinese; as such, the Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lankavatara School lists him as their first patriarch.

Gunabhadra's Teaching - From the Record of the the Masters and Disciples of the Lankavatara (J.C. Cleary trans.)

Life and Teaching

As soon as Gunabhadra reached China, he was invited by rhe ruler of the Liu Sung kingdom to his capital at Chienkang, where Gunabhadra worked for the next thirty years. There, he worked on translations, reportedly assisted by a staff of 700. During this time, he visited and stayed at Chihuan Monastery at Tanyang, where he completed his translated of the Lankavatara in 443. He was credited with translating around fifty other texts, including the Sandhinirmocana Sutra (another important Yogacara sutra) and the the Saṃyuktāgama Sutra.

Gunabhadra's version of the Lankavatara Sutra was one of two in existence when Bodhidharma arrived in China; Red Pine speculates that it is possible Bodhidharma even arrived early enough to have met Gunabhadra, but this is unlikely. What is known is that Bodhidharma and his disciple Huike preferred Gunabhadra's translation over that of Dharmakshema, and also over a third translation that was later produced by Bodhiruchi (during Bodhidharma's lifetime). As such, Gunabhadra's importance to the Northern School was far greater than his relative obscurity in modern Zen; around 200 years after his death, Gunabhadra, and not Bodhidharma, was considered the founder of the school.