Guyargarbha Tantra Intro Chapter 2



According to the Nyingma tradition, some four hundred texts representative of these three inner classes of tantra were translated from Sanskrit and other languages, into Tibetan during the eighth and early ninth centuries, under the royal patronage of King Trisong Detsen and his successors. This great literary achievement was brought about at Drajurling in Samye through the combined efforts of invited foreign scholars (paôçita) and indigenous Tibetan translators (lo tsä ba), of whom the names of over sixty are recorded in the extant colophons of the texts they translated.

The texts were not publicly taught but applied in practice with great secrecy, in accordance with the ancient Indian tradition, by the first generation Tibetan students of Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and other great accomplished masters in the remote meditation hermitages at Chimphu, Dra Yangdzong, Chuwori, Yerpa and Sheldrak. Many of the neophytes, including Nyak Jñänakumära, are consequently said to have manifested the supreme and common spiritual accomplishments (siddhi), and to have established their own teaching lineages. For this reason, the esoteric higher classes of tantra were excluded from the lDan dkar ma catalogue of translations, which was compiled during the early ninth century by two foremost students of Padmasambhava, as a list of all the exoteric texts (sütras, vinaya and so on) that had been translated for wider propagation. Then, when concerted efforts were made in the early ninth century to standardise the terminology and orthography of the early exoteric translations, the more esoteric texts representing the three classes of tantra were left unaltered on account of their secrecy and great sanctity. This is recounted in the sGra sbyor bam gnyis, an important ninth century manual on the transliteration and translation of Sanskrit terms, which in fact says:

Because of their great strictness the inner tantras of the secret mantras are not here set forth.

During the persecution of King Langdarma (r. 841-846) which followed, the institutions of monastic Buddhism were dismantled in the Tibetan heartlands, but the esoteric practices of the inner tantras were secretly maintained by Nubchen Sangye Yeshe and his contemporaries in the vicinity of Lake Yamdrok. The subsequent assassination of Langdarma weakened the royal dynasty, and the country soon disintegrated in the wake of three catastrophic rebellions. Later, in the eleventh century, when the new wave of translations was introduced to Tibet by the likes of Rinchen Zangpo, Drokmi Lotsäwa, and Marpa Lotsäwa, polemical edicts were written against the practice of the early tantras by Lha Lama Yeshe-o (947-1024) the king of Gu-ge in far-west Tibet, who was a fifth generation descendent of Langdarma, and by Go Khugpa Lhe-tse. It is largely for this reason that these texts were not eventually included in the Tibetan Tripiåaka (Kangyur), which is essentially a 14th century compilation of the later translations. Even so, the Kangyur does includes a short selection of early tantras in its rNying rGyud section (T. 828-844), which may have, as Ngagi Wangpo claims, been inserted during the 14th century by Upa Losal Sangye Bum. These comprise only the principal texts representing each of the three classes, namely— the Tantra of the All-Accomplishing King (Kun byed rgyal po, T. 828) which exemplifies the Mental Class (sems sde) of Atiyoga, the Sütra Which Gathers All Intentions (mDo dgongs-pa ‘dus pa, T. 829) and its root the All-Gathering Awareness (Kun ‘dus rig pa, T. 831) along with the Flash of Splendour (Ye shes rngam glog, T. 830) which represent Anuyoga, and a series of tantras belonging to the Mahäyoga class, viz. T. 832-844, which will be discussed below (see pp. 00-00).

For such reasons, the complete Collected Tantras of the Ancient Tradition (rnying ma’i rgyud ‘bum) came to be compiled independently of the Tibetan Tripiåaka. It was through the determined efforts of the Zur family that the bulk of the early tantras, later to be excluded from the Kangyur, were stored at Ugpalung in Tsang, which was the main centre of Nyingma activity in the Tibetan heartlands from the era of Zurpoche àäkya Jungne (late tenth/ early eleventh century) until the fourteenth century. Zurpoche gathered these early tantras from all possible sources, including some in the possession of his contemporary Rok àäkya Jungne, who imparted them through their mutual student Zangom Sherab Gyalpo. Zurpoche then introduced the systematic study and practice of the tantras at his college and hermitage in Ugpalung, while his successors Zurchung Sherab Drak (1014-74) and Zur àäkya Senge (1074-1135) widely disseminated the teaching of the early tantras from their nearby hermitages at Drak Gyawo and Drophuk respectively.

Slightly later, in 1192 or 1206, Drogon Namka Pelwa, the son of the illustrious treasure-finder Nyangrel Nyima Ozer, commissioned a new manuscript edition of the early tantras, inscribed in gold (rgyud ‘bum gser bris ma), probably based on the Ugpalung collection, at his ancestral residence of Mawachok in Southern Tibet. This was undertaken as an act of devotion, coinciding with the death of his father.

Then, in the early 14th century, a descendent of the Zur family named Zur Zangpopel utilised the material resources, which he had obtained in the form of commissions and gifts from the Mongol emperor Buyantu (r. 1311-1320), to prepare printing-blocks for twenty-eight texts of the early tantras and their commentaries, which were preserved at Ugpalung, including the Guhyagarbha Tantra (T. 832), and its celebrated Indian commentary by Viläsavjara, the so-called sPar khab Commentary (Guhyagarbhamahätantra-räjaåïkä, P. 4718). He is said to have printed a thousand copies of each and distributed them to students. This account cannot be corroborated because the xylographs and their copies are no longer extant, but, if true, the project would certainly rank among the earliest Tibetan attempts to introduce woodblock printing. It is possible, as Bryan J. Cuevas has noted, that the manuscript version of the Collected Tantras that was formerly preserved at Thandrok Monastery in Kongpo was brought there around this time, because the third generation lineage-holder of Karma Lingpa, one Gyarawa Namkha Chokyi Gyatso (b. 1430) received the transmission there.

At any rate, the dissemination of the early tantra texts remained somewhat tenuous until the fifteenth century, when the treasure-finder Ratna Lingpa (1403-1471) made great efforts to gather source materials from all quarters, including the provisional set of the Collected Tantras which was preserved at Ugpalung, and he received their complete transmission from the aged Megom Samten Zangpo of Tsang, who alone held their continuous lineage at that time. Later, Ratna Lingpa integrated these texts with certain other tantras in his possession, including some that had been revealed as gter ma in the preceeding centuries, and he compiled two new manuscript editions of the Collected Tantras in 40 short-length volumes, at Lhundrub Palace, his residence in Drushul, the earlier one inscribed in black ink, and the later one in gold. He transmitted the collection many times to ensure their continuity through the succession of his own familial line and that of the treasure finder Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), which are both intimately connected with the Lhodrak border region and neighbouring Bhutan. In this way, the lineage was transmitted from Ratna Lingpa through: Tshewang Drakpa (his elder son); Ngawang Drakpa (his younger son); Ngawang Norbu (his grandson); Norbu Yongdrak; Gyelse Norbu Wangyal; Peling Sungtrul III Tshultrim Dorje (1598-1669); Garwang Tsultrim Gyeltsen of Bonlung; Peling Thuk-se IV Tendzin Gyurme Dorje (1641-ca1702); Rigdzin Terdak Lingpa of Mindroling (1646-1714); Peling Sungtrul IV Ngawang Kunzang Dorje (1680-1723); Peling Thuk-se V Gyurme Chodrub Pelbar (ca. 1708-1750); Pema Dondrub Drakpa; Peling Sungtrul VI Kunzang Tenpei Gyeltsen (1763-1817); Bakha Kunzang Rigdzin Dorje; Peling Sungtrul VIII Kunzang Tenpei Nyima (1843-1891); Bakha Rigdzin Khamsum Yongdrol; Orgyan Namdrol Gyatso; and Gendun Gyatso; from whom it subsequently descended to the late Dudjom Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904-87).

It appears that two extant manuscript versions of the Collected Tantras, those of Tsamdrak (mtshams brag) and Gangteng (sgang steng) in Bhutan, could well be derivatives of Ratna Lingpa’s compilation. The latter has recently been photographed by Robert Mayer, but not yet catalogued. The former, in 46 short-length volumes, has been reprinted in photo offset format in Chengdu. A printed index to this edition was initially prepared by Anthony Barber in Taipei and included within the Taipei edition of the Tibetan Tripiåaka. More recently, this has been expanded into a full internet version, including all chapter titles and colophons, by David Germano’s project at the University of Virtginia.

Yet, the proceess of redaction did not end with Ratna Lingpa. During the early seventeenth century Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje (1594-1654), a native of Sikkim, studied under Peling Sungtrul III Tshultrim Dorje and Sodokpa Lodro Gyeltsen (1552-ca1624); and he is best known as a teacher of Sangdak Trinle Lhundrub (1611-62), the father of Rigdzin Terdak Lingpa, of Mindroling. He prepared manuscript copies of the Collected Tantras on three occasions, integrating the compilations of Zur Zangpopel and Ratna Lingpa. The first copy was retained at his monastery of Gongra Nyesang Dorjeling in Tsang, while the other two were despatched to Kham and Kongpo. The Sakyapa lama Sangye Dorje is reported to have brought one of these manuscripts to Takbu Drakmar Monastery in the Yangtze gorge region around this time.

The great treasure-finder Rigdzin Terdak Lingpa (1646-1714), founder of Mindroling Monastery, who enjoyed the patronage of the Fifth Dalai Lama, is known to have prepared a new manuscript of the Collected Tantras in 23 long volumes (pod chen), inscribed in silver and gold, and based on four earlier manuscripts in his possession: those of Ugpalung, Kongpo Thangdrok, Tsangrong Monastery, and his own ancestral seat at Dargye Choling. According to his brother Lochen Dharmaârï (1654-1717), this new manuscript edition had a more methodical structure and also a catalogue in one volume, but it is, alas, no longer extant, Mindroling having been sacked by the Dzungar Mongols in 1717. However, one of his students Dalai Qutuqtu Ngawang Sherub Gyatso from Amdo succeeded in copying the manuscript, and on returning to Amdo, he prepared a newer version in 30 volumes, inscribed in black ink. This was one of the sources utilised in the compilation of the Derge xylographic edition and it was considered at that time to be accurate and reliable.

Meanwhile, in the late 17th century, another copy of the Mindroling manuscript was brought to Takbu Drakmar monastery by Kunzang Namgyel and Kunzang Lodro, who integrated it with the earlier manuscript from Gongra Nyesang Dorjeling, and produced their own version. Their compilation was yet another important source utilised in the preparation of the Derge xylographic edition.

Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798), a native of Chongye Pelri, whose revelations of the Innermost Spirituality of Longchenpa (Klong chen snying thig) are widely practised at the present day, resolved to prepare a new manuscript edition of the Collected Tantras following the destruction of the Nyingma monastic centres of Dorje Drak and Mindroling by the Dzungar Mongols. Backed by numerous sponsors, headed by Chakzam Rinpoche of Chuwori, during the years 1771-2 he did prepare a new manuscript edition in 25 volumes— 26 with the addition of his own catalogue, including altogether 384 texts, with the first five pages of each volume written in ink made of the five precious substances: gold, silver, turquoise, coral and pearl, and the remaining folios in black ink on a white background (skya chos). The manuscript included fifty frontispience icons depicting lineage-holders, two on the first page of each volume, and it was housed at his native residence in Chongye Pelri. The sources that he utilised included the provisional collection from Ugpalung that had been recompiled by Kunpang Drakyel, the aforementioned manuscript from Thangdrok in Kongpo, the 40 volume manuscript of Ratna Lingpa from Drushul, the 23 volume manuscript from Mindroling, and the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Record of Teachings Received (gSan yig). Although his manuscript is no longer extant, he was the first to prepare a detailed catalogue and history of this collection, entitled the Narrative History of the Precious Collected Tantras of the Ancient Translation School; the Ornament Covering All Jambudvïpa (sNga ‘gyur rgyud ‘bum rin po che’i rtogs pa brjod pa ‘dzam gling tha grur khyab pa’i rgyan). All later compilers have relied on this catalogue which is included in the nine volumes of his Collected Works. The structure of this catalogue suggests that the tantra texts of Atiyoga occupied the first nine volumes (in the sequence: Mental Class, Spatial Class and Esoteric Instructional Class). The tantra texts of Anuyoga were contained in volumes 10 and 11, while those of Mahäyoga occupied volumes 12-25.

The independent kingdom of Derge was a vital centre for the evolution of the non-sectarian (ris med) movement during the 18th and 19th centuries. King Tenpa Tsering (1678-1738) brought Derge to the zenith of its power by conquering the outlying grasslands of Dzachuka, where Dzogchen and Zhechen monastereies are located. In 1729 he founded the celebrated Derge Parkhang, which was completed in 1750 by his successors. Here, a new xylographic edition of the Kangyur was edited by Situ Chokyi Jung-ne of Pelpung (1700-74) and a new edition of the Tengyur commentaries by Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen. Although Derge Gonchen itself espoused the Ngor tradition of Sakya, Nyingma influence reached its height here during this period. The king’s successor Sawang Zangpo died in his 25th year and power was then held by his Queen Gajeza Tsewang Lhamo during the infancy of the crown prince. The queen was closely aligned with Jigme Lingpa’s student Dodrubchen I Jigme Trinle Ozer (1743-1821), who aroused her interest in and devotion to the Nyingma tradition in particular.

In 1794 Rigdzin Thok-me Lingpa, a student of the influential treasure-finder Nyima Drakpa, donated one thousand silver srang to support the carving of a set of xylographs for the Collected Tantras. The queen then commissioned Getse Paôçita Gyurme Tshewang Chodrub of Katok and Pema Namdak to collate and edit a new master edition, which was prepared between 1794 and 1798, along with further sets of xylographs for the Collected Works of Longchen Rabjampa and Jigme Lingpa. This new compilation of the Collected Tantras, which is still extant in Derge Parkhang, having survived the Cultural Revolution intact, comprises 26 long-folio volumes, and 414 texts, printed in vermilion ink. There are 56 icons depicting lineage holders, from Samantabhadra to Prince Tsewang Dorje Rigdzin of Derge, two on the frontispiece folio of each volume.

This compilation is renowned for its distinct editorial methodology, outlined by Getse Paôçita himself, in his accompanying catalogue, entitled Discourse Resembling A Divine Drum (bDe bar gshegs pa’i sde snod rdo rje theg pa snga ‘gyur rgyud ‘bum rin po che’i rtogs pa brjod pa lha’i rnga bo che lta bu’i gtam.) which was written in 1797. As he states therein, various sources for the Collected Tantras were consulted, including the aformentioned manuscripts from Chongye Pelri, Amdo, and Takbu Drakmar, as well as others from Katok, Pelpung, Gonjo Jasang Solu, and Dzogchen— the last of these having been compiled by Dzogchen II Gyurme Thekchok Tendzin (1699-1757) on the basis of the earlier Gongra and Mindroling manuscripts. Individual texts within the collection were then compared with other well established editions, including the Seventeen Tantras of the Esoteric Instructional Class (rDzogs chen man ngag rgyud bco bdun). In some cases, texts, such as Guhyasamäja Tantra, overlapped with the tantras of the new translation schools, and in others the terminology was checked against that employed in the Seven Treasuries of Longchenpa (Klong chen mdzod bdun). Sanskrit transcriptions were standardised, and archaicisms sometimes replaced by new orthography. The proof readers also claim to have frequently resorted to intellectual reasoning during the editorial process.

The actual catalogue to the Derge edition of the Collected Tantras, which is appended to Getse Paôçita’s treatise, naturally follows the order of the texts as they were compiled in Derge. Volumes 1-6 (KA-CHA) contain the tantra texts of Atiyoga, here ordered in the sequence: Yang ti cycle, sPyi ti cycle, Esoteric Instructions (Yang gsang bla med cycle, gSang ba cycle, Phyi nang cycles), Spatial Class and Mental Class. Volumes 7-8 (JA-NYA) contain the text of Anuyoga, and Vols 9-24 (TA-YA) the texts of Mahäyoga. Volume 25 (RA) contains supplementary texts of Atiyoga, and the catalogue is placed at the end, in Volume 26 (A).

Copies of this Derge xylographic edition and catalogue are to be found outside Tibet. Short modern catalogues of the compilation, omitting chapter titles, have been produced by Thubten Chodar (op cit, pp. 58-254), Jean-Luc Achard (electronic journal, 2003), Giacomella Orofino, Cathy Cantwell, Adelheid Pfandt and others. Partial longer catalogues including all chapter titles and colophons have also been prepared in unpublished formats by Giacomella Orofino and Jean-Luc Achard. Much of this previous work is now being transformed into an internet version at the University of Virginia.

There is also an elegant extant manuscript of the Collected Tantras, that bears some doxographical relationship to the Derge edition, in thirty volumes (originally 33 vols.), twenty-nine of which are housed in the India Office Library in London (Waddell Collection, 1904-5), and the other (vol. 1) in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It has been suggested that this manuscript, now known as the Rigdzin edition, is possibly the work of Trinle Dudjom Gonang Choje (1726-1789), a student of Katok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755) whose icon is given pride of place in the introductory volume. The manuscript has been comprehensively catalogued by Robert Mayer and Cathy Cantwell in an internet version, and a published paper version is forthcoming (see Cantwell, Mayer and Fischer, 2000).

Then there is the Kyirong manuscript, attributed to students of Trinle Dudjom Gonang Choje, and preserved in Kathmandu. The Kyirong area where Katok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu himself passed away is known to have been a centre for Nyingma activity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This manuscript has been documented by Franz Karl Ehrhard, who also made available photocopies of a traditional catalogue for the Nubri edition of NW Nepal, with which it has a doxographical relationship.

In 1973, a new Indian reprint of the Collected Tantras was prepared under the patronage of HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche based on a manuscript preserved at Tingkye. This reprint comprises thirty-six volumes, of which vols. 1-10 include the tantra-texts of Atiyoga, vols. 11-13 include the sütra and tantra-texts of Anuyoga and vols. 14-33 include the texts of Mahäyoga. Volume 34 contains Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa’s catalogue, while volumes 35-36 contain the index of Gyurme Tshewang Chodrub. A modern catalogue to this edition of the Collected Tantras by Eiichi Kaneko was published in Japan in 1982, and this work is currently being reformatted for internet publication at the University of Virginia.

The reader should also be aware that there are other partial extant compilations, some of which correspond to sections of the Collected Tantras, such as the Seventeen Tantras of the Nyingma School (rNying ma’i rgyud bcu bdun), and others which contain considerable variations, such as the The Rgyud ‘bum of Vairocana. In fact, since so many distinct manuscript versions of the Collected Tantras have been produced over the centuries by diverse lineage-holders with their own distinctive regional affiliations, it is not surprising that they frequently differ in their content and arrangement.

It is on account of its widely recognised editorial accuracy that reference numbers to the prestigious Derge xylographic edition are given precedence in the present work. However, some references are also made to the Tingkye edition, on account of its convenience and accessibility. Readers should also be aware that the arrangement of the Derge edition differs markedly from that of Jigme Lingpa’s earlier catalogue by including extensive series of tantra texts discovered as gter ma, as well as Lochen Dharmaârï’s commentaries on the Guhyagarbha Tantra and a supplementary anthology of Atiyoga texts in volume 25.

Although at this juncture, a systematic study of the literature contained in Derge vols. 1-8 (KA-NYA) and vol. 25 (RA) would contribute definitively to our knowledge of Atiyoga and Anuyoga, it is the immediate concern of this introduction to focus on the texts of Mahäyoga, since it is within the Mahäyoga category of the ‘Gyud ‘bum that the Guhyagarbha Tantra is to be found, despite the connection with Atiyoga which has been drawn by some later Tibetan commentators.

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