Guyagharba Tantra Introduction Chapter 3

 

3. THE TEXTS OF MAHÄYOGA
The texts of Mahäyoga are divided into two classes— tantras (rgyud sde) and means for attainment (sgrub sde). The former (Derge vols. 9-14, Tingkye vols. 14-19) comprise the exoteric corpus of literature from which the latter, the esoteric practices (Derge vols.15-24, Tingkye Vols. 20-33), are drawn. Tingkye vols. 31-32 also respectively contain the general tantras (spyi rgyud) and the particular tantras (sgos rgyud) associated with the original Indian gter ma recension of the Tantra of the Gathering of the Sugatas of the Eight Transmitted Precepts (sGrub chen bka’ brgyad dbe ‘dus kyi rgyud), from which the later Tibetan gter ma cycles of the Eight Transmitted Precepts (bka’ brgyad) derive.
The class of means for attainment (sgrub sde) has five main sections, corresponding to the five supramundane meditational deities, viz. Yamäntaka (‘Jam dpal gzhin rje gshad pa’i rgyud skor, Derge vols. 15-17, Tingkye vols. 20-22, T. 838), Hayagrïva/ Aâvottama (dPal rta mgrin padma dbang chen rta mchog rol pa’i rgyud sde rnams, Derge vols. 17-18, Tingkye vols. 23-24), àrïheruka (dPal yang dag thugs kyi rgyud sde rnams, Derge vols. 18-19, Tingkye vol. 25), Vajrämöta (‘Chi med bdud rtsi yon tan gyi rgyud sde rnams, Derge vols. 19-20, Tingkye vol. 26, T. 841), and Vajrakïla/ Vajrakumära (bCom ldan ‘das dpal rdo rje phur pa’i rgyud sde rnams, Derge vols. 20-22, Tingkye vols. 27-29). The following three mundane meditational deities are also included: Mätaraë (Ma mo srid pa’i dzong lung chen mo yum bzung ma’i dngos grub chen mo’i rgyud rnams dang ma mo rtsa rgyud ‘bum tig gi skor, Derge vols. 22-23, Tingkye vols. 30-31, Vol. 33, T. 842), Lokastotrapüjä (bstan srung ‘jig rten mchod bstod, Derge vol. 24, Tingkye vol. 32, T. 844), and Vajramantrabhïru (rmod pa drag sngags, Derge vol. 24, Tingkye vol. 32, T. 843).

The class of tantras (rgyud sde) is otherwise known as the Eighteen Tantrapiåaka of Mahäyoga, a basic cycle of texts traditionally held to have been subdivided from the Hundred Thousand Verses of the Magical Net (sGyu ‘phrul stong phrag brgya pa) by Kukkuräja, on whom see below, pp. 00-00. Different enumerations of these Eighteen Tantrapiåaka have been recorded in the works of Longchen Rabjampa, Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa, Terdak Lingpa, Zhechen Gyaltshab Pema Namgyel and others.
In the Thunderous Melody of Brahmä, A General Introduction to the Mantras (sNgags kyi spyi don tshangs dbyangs ‘brug sgra), Longchen Rabjampa (1308-63) classifies the eighteen according to buddha-body, -speech, -mind, -attributes, -activities, and all-embracing universality as follows:
Langchen Rabok, the tantra representing the body aspect of buddha-body (sku’i sku rgyud Glang po rab ‘bog);
Langpo Churjuk, the tantra representing the speech aspect of buddha-body ( sku’i gsung rgyud Glang po chur ‘jug);
Buddhasamäyoga, the tantra representing the mind aspect of buddha-body (sku’i thugs rgyud Sangs rgyas mnyam sbyor);
Riwo Tsekpa, the tantra representing the body aspect of buddha-speech (gsung gi sku rgyud Ri bo brtsegs pa);
Padma Wangchen, the tantra representing the speech aspect of buddha-speech (gsung gi gsung rgyud Padma dbang chen);
Candraguhyatilaka, the tantra representing the mind aspect of buddha-speech (gsung gi thugs rgyud Zla gsang thig le);
Tsemo Dupa, the tantra representing the body aspect of buddha-mind (thugs kyi sku rgyud rTse mo ‘dus pa);
Cikle Tropa, the tantra representing the speech aspect of buddha-mind (thugs kyi gsung rgyud gCig las ‘phros pa);
Guhyasamäja, the tantra representing the mind aspect of buddha-mind (thugs kyi thugs rgyud gSang ba ‘dus pa);
Dronme Barwa, the tantra representing the body aspect of buddha-attributes (yon tan gyi sku rgyud sGron me ‘bar ba);
Dutsi Samaya Bumde, the tantra representing the speech aspect of buddha-attributes (yon tan gyi gsung rgyud bDud rtsi samaya ‘bum sde);
àrïparamädya, the tantra representing the mind aspect of buddha-attributes (yon tan gyi thugs rgyud dPal mchog dang po);
Paltreng Karpo, the tantra representing the body aspect of buddha-activities (phrin las kyi sku rgyud dPal phreng dkar po);
Mamo Gyulung, the tantra representing the speech aspect of buddha-activities (phrin las kyi gsung rgyud Ma mo rgyud lung);
Vidyottama Bumde, the tantra representing the mind aspect of buddha-activities (phrin las kyi thugs rgyud Bidyotamala ‘bum sde);
Thabzhak, the tantra representing the body aspect of all-embracing universality (spyi’i sku rgyud Thabs zhags);
Damtshik Kopa, the tantra representing the speech aspect of all-embracing universality (spyi’i gsung rgyud Dam tshig bkod pa);
Guhyagarbha-Mäyäjäla, the tantra representing the mind aspect of all-embracing universality (spyi’i thugs rgyud gSang ba sgyu ‘phrul).
Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (1504-66) in his Scholar’s Feast of Doctrinal History (Chos ’byung mkhas pa’i dga’ ston), enumerates the eighteen differently, but with the same basic sixfold classification:
Sangs rgyas mnyam sbyor, Glang chen rab ‘bog, Glang chen mtshor zhugs te sku’i rgyud gsum;
Zla gsang thig le, gCig las ‘phro pa, Du ma ‘phro pa ste gsung gi rgyud gsum;
gSang ba ‘dus pa, Ri bo brtsegs pa, rTse gcig ‘dus pa ste thugs kyi rgyud gsum;
dPal mchog dang po, bDud rtsi mchog dang po, Yid bzhin nor bu’i rgyud ste yon tan gyi rgyud gsum;
Karma ma la, sGron me ‘bar ba, Kilaya yig ‘bru bcu gnyis te phrin las kyi rgyud gsum;
sGyu ‘phrul dra ba, Dam tshig bkod pa, Thabs kyi zhags pa ste spyi’i rgyud gsum.
The enumeration which generally gained acceptance from the time of Rigdzin Terdak Lingpa onwards and which corresponds quite closely to the structure of the Tingkye manuscript edition of the Collected Tantras is that given by Zhechen Gyaltshab Pema Namgyel (1871-1926) in his Pool of White Lotuses: an Abridged Discourse on the Origin of the Eight Chariots forming the Lineage of the Means for Attainment (sGrub brgyud shing rta brgyad kyi byung ba brjod pa’i gtam mdor bsdus legs bshad padma dkar po’i rdzing bu), and inferred by Dudjom Rinpoche in The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History:
The five great tantras of buddha-body, speech, mind, attributes and activities are respectively Buddhasamäyoga (Derge vols. 11-12, Tingkye vol. 16, T. 366-7), Candraguhyatilaka (Derge vol. 12, Tingkye vol. 16, T. 477), Guhyasamäja (Derge vol. 12, Tingkye vol. 17, T. 442-3), àrïparamädya (Derge vol. 12, Tingkye vol. 17, T. 487), and Karmamäla (Derge vol. 12, Tingkye vol. 17); the five tantras concerned with means for attainment are Heruka rol pa (Derge vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 18), rTa mchog rol pa (Derge vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 18, T. 839), sNying rje rol pa (Derge vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 18, T. 840), bDud rtsi rol pa (Derge vol 13, Tingkye vol. 18), and Phur pa bcu gnyis pa (Derge vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 19); The five tantras concerned with conduct are Ri bo brtsegs pa (Tingkye vol. 6), Ye shes rngam glog (Derge vol. 7, Tingkye vol. 12, T. 830), Dam tshig bkod pa (Derge vol. 5, Tingkye vol. 12), Ting ‘dzin rtse gcig (Derge vol. 2, Tingkye vol. 8), and gLang chen rab ‘bog (Derge, vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 19); the two supplementary tantras are rNam snang sgyu ‘phrul drva ba (Tingkye vol. 19, T. 466) and Thabs kyi zhags pa (Derge vol. 13, Tingkye vol. 19, T. 835); and the single tantra which summarises all the others is Guhyagarbha (Derge vols. 9-11, Tingkye vols. 14-16, T. 832-837).
All these doxographical systems in common give precedence to the Guhyagarbha Tantra and its cycle of texts, known as the Magical Net (Mäyäjäla/ sGyu ‘phrul drva ba), whether it is classified as the tantra representing the mind aspect of all-embracing universality (spyi’i thugs rgyud), the tantra of universality (spyi rgyud), the universal among tantras of universality (spyi’i spyi rgyud), or the single tantra which summarises all the others (thams cad kyi bsdus don lta bu’i rgyud sde gcig). This is also implicit in the name of the original basic tantra from which all these eighteen texts were reputedly subdivided by Kukkuräja.

4. THE MÄY ÄJ ÄLA CYCLE
The corpus of tantra texts known as the Magical Net (Mäyäjäla), to which the Guhyagarbha Tantra belongs, comprises both an eightfold and a fourfold division. It is indeed remarkable that this extensive cycle of texts has until relatively recently been ignored by western scholarship, when it would seem to merit the same attention given by Edward Conze and his successors to the Prajñäpäramitä literature, a renowned voluminous cycle within the sütra tradition. Early historical and literary references to certain texts connected with the Mäyäjäla cycle are found in the Dunhuang manuscripts, as well as in the writings of Nubchen Sangye Yeshe (fl. 9th century) and Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (fl. 11th century), as S.G. Karmay has indicated. Among Nubchen’s compositions there is reported to have been a Commentary on the Realisation of the Eighty Chapter Magical Net (sGyu ‘phrul brgyad cu pa’i mngon rtogs ‘grel) which is no longer extant.
The earliest extant specific references to the eightfold and fourfold divisions per se are probably to be found in the various recensions of the Injunctions of Padmasambhava (Padma’i bka’ thang), among which the Injunctions of Padmasambhava Discovered at Crystal Rock (Padma bka’ thang shel brag ma), an extant gter ma source attributed to Yarje Orgyan Lingpa (1323-c.1360) contains the following verses:
The fourfold division of the Magical Net including the Magical Net of Vairocana (rNam snang la sogs sgyu ‘phrul sde bzhi dang),
The eightfold division of the Magical Net including the Guhya[garbha], Magical Net of Vajrasattva (gSang ba rdor sems sgyu ‘phrul sde tshan brgyad).
The same text additionally asserts that Padmasambhava himself drew up the eightfold division of the Mäyäjäla cycle (sGyu ’phrul sde brgyad) with the assistance of the translators Kawa Paltsek and Chokrolui Gyeltsen.
Sangye Lingpa (1340-1396) in the Golden Rosary Injunction of Padmasambhava (bKa’ thang ser phreng), provides the following complete enumeration of the eightfold division, indicating the distinct emphasis of each text:
1. Tantra of the Secret Indestructible Reality, from the Magical Net, which reveals mind and pristine cognition to be naturally [manifesting] (sems dang ye shes rang la bstan pa’i rgyud sGyu ‘phrul rdo rje gsang ba);
2. Forty-chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net, which presents the aspects of buddha-activity (phrin las kha tshar ston pa’i rgyud sGyu ‘phrul bzhi bcu pa);
3. Tantra of the Indestructible Spiritual Teacher, from the Magical Net, which crystalises the essence of the empowerments (dbang gi ngo bo mngon du gyur pa’i phyir sGyu ‘phrul rdo rje bla ma’i rgyud);
4. Tantra of Supplementary Points, from the Magical Net, which discloses the commitments and the esoteric instructions concerning the view (dam tshig dang lta ba’i man ngag ston pa sGyu ‘phrul le lag don bsdus kyi rgyud);
5. Eight-chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net, which is the key to this entire tantra [cycle] (rgyud kyi lde mig tu gyur pa’i rgyud sGyu ‘phrul le’u brgyad pa);
6. Tantra of the Goddess, from the Magical Net, which manifests the play of spiritual emanation (rol pa mngon du gyur par bya ba’i phyir Lha mo sgyu ‘phrul gyi rgyud);
7. Eighty-chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net, which supplements the preceding texts (de rnams kyi ma tshang ba kha skong ba’i rgyud sGyu ‘phrul brgyad bcu pa);
8. Tantra of Manjuârï, from the Magical Net, which expounds the supreme ultimate pristine cognition (don dam ye shes chen po bshad pa ‘Jam dpal sgyu ‘phrul drva ba’i rgyud).
This, significantly, is the enumeration of the eightfold division to have been accepted by later historians and commentators, such as Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (1504-1566), Sodokpa Lodro Gyeltsen (1552-1624), and Lochen Dharmaârï (1654-1717). In Pawo’s Scholar’s Feast of Doctrinal History (Chos ‘byung mkhas pa’i dga’ ston), these eight primary texts are described in the following terms:
1. Guhyagarbha, the root-tantra which presents all things as naturally manifesting (thams cad rang snang du ston pa rtsa rgyud gSang ba’i snying po);
2. Tantra of the Goddess from the Magical Net, which clearly describes the play of spiritual emanation (rol pa mngon par brjod pa Lha mo sgyu ‘phrul);
3. Eight-chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net, which is a presentation of the maôçalas (dkyil ‘khor ston pa sGyu ‘phrul brgyad pa);
4. Forty-chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net, which is a presentation of buddha-activities (phrin las ston pa sGyu ‘phrul bzhi bcu pa);
5. Tantra of the Spirtual Teacher, from the Magical Net, which emphasises the empowerments (dbang gtso bor ston pa sGyu ‘phrul bla ma);
6. Eighty-chapter Tantra from the Magical Net, which conclusively presents the array of buddha-attributes (yon tan mthar phyin par ston pa sGyu ‘phrul brgyad bcu pa);
7. Great Tantra, from the Magical Net, which comprehensively presents all the piåakas (sde snod yongs la khyab par ston pa sGyu ‘phrul dra ba chen po);
8. Tantra of Supplementary Points, from the Magical Net, which emphasises the commitments (dam tshig gtso bor ston pa sGyu ‘phrul le lag).
The same author also provides a set of four exegetical tantras (bshad rgyud), which do not correspond to the so-called fourfold division of the Magical Net (sGyu ‘phrul sde bzhi), namely:
1. Nucleus of Pristine Cognition, which gradually presents the path of liberation (grol lam rim gyis ston pa ye shes snying po);
2. Mirror of Indestructible Reality, which immediately presents [the path of liberation] (cig char ston pa rDo rje me long);
3. Penetration of Indestructible Reality, which gradually presents the path of skilful means (thabs lam rim gyis ston pa rDo rje thal ba);
4. Ocean of Indestructible Reality, which immediately presents [the path of skilful means] (cig char ston pa rDo rje rgya mtsho).
The standard enumeration of the fourfold division of the Magical Net (sGyu ‘phrul sde bzhi) is that given by Longchen Rabjampa in the following passage from his Dispelling the Darkness of the Ten Directions (Phyogs bcu mun sel), and already implied in the writings of Yarje Orgyan Lingpa:
This [cycle of the Magical Net] also comprises four sections, namely, the Tantra of Vajrasattva, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10), which presents all things of cyclic existence (saæsära) and nirväôa to be naturally manifesting and indivisible; the Tantra of Vairocana, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye vol. 19, T. 466) which extensively presents ritual activities and feast-offerings; the Tantra of the Goddess, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 11, Tingkye vol. 15, T. 836) which clearly presents the play of spiritual emanation; and the Tantra of Mañjuârï, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye vol. 15, T. 360) which comprehensively presents the vehicles [that lead to buddhahood].
Longchen Rabjampa additionally claims that the eightfold division is a subclassification of the above-mentioned Tantra of Vajrasattva, from the Magical Net, providing us with a different enumeration:
The Tantra of Vajrasattva from the Magical Net itself has eight sections, namely, the Tantra of the Secret Nucleus (Guhyagarbha Tantra, Derge, vol. 9, Tingkye vol. 14, T. 832) which presents mind and pristine cognition as naturally manifesting; the Forty-Chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye Vol. 14) which perfectly presents the buddha- activities; the Eight-Chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye Vol. 14) which perfectly presents the maôçalas; the Tantra of the Spiritual Teacher, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 11, Tingkye vol. 14, T. 837) which clearly presents the empowerments; the Tantra of Supplementary Points, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye Vol. 14) which emphatically presents the commitments; the Eighty-Chapter Tantra, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 11, Tingkye Vol 14, T. 834) which extensively presents buddha-attributes; the Mirror of Indestructible Reality (Derge vol. 11, Tingkye Vol. 15, T. 833) which clearly presents the symbolic body-colours and hand-held implements of the hundred deities; the Oceanic Tantra, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 10, Tingkye Vol. 15) which clearly presents the generation stage of meditation; and the Penetrating Tantra, from the Magical Net (Derge vol. 11, Tingkye Vol. 15) which clearly presents the path of skilful means.
Of the texts included in the eightfold division by Sangye Lingpa, and later by Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa, Sodokpa Lodro Gyeltshan and Lochen Dharmaârï, Longchen Rabjampa assigns the Lha mo sgyu ‘phrul and the ‘Jam dpal sgyu ‘phrul to the fourfold division, substituting for them three exegetical tantras— rDo rje me long, sGyu ‘phrul rgya mtsho, and sGyu ‘phrul thal ba.
The tantra texts of this Mäyäjäla cycle which are now extant comprise three volumes of the Derge xylograph collection (vols. 9-11) and two volumes of the Tingkye manuscript (vols. 14-15), along with a substantial portion of volume 16 and one text in volume 19. In Tingkye they are hierarchically arranged, with the texts accepted by both systems as root tantras (rtsa rgyud) first, followed by the exegetical tantras, although one should note that there is some ambiguity because three of the latter are held to be root-tantras by Longchenpa and another two are held to be root-tantras by Sangye Lingpa and Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa. The titles of these extant tantras are listed below, along with a brief resume of each. The detailed contents of the three versions of the Guhyagarbha in particular are given in the tables which follow, and the Tibetan chapter titles and pagination for the entire section may be found in the modern catalogues published by Kaneko and others.

This article is the second of a six part series which brings you Gyurme Dorje’s extensive and remarkable introuduction to the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the flagship tantra of the Nyingma School of the Tibetan Buddhism.

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