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''As for the Blessing of Vajravārāhī, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.'' WTF?

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Author: Marcus


“As for the Blessing of Vajravārāhī, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.” WTF?


by Sarah Harding


In the beginning, my work translating the Pakmo Namshe[1] by the 2nd Pawo Rinpoche Tsuklak Trengwa (dPa’ bo gtsug lag Phreng ba, 1504-1566) presented several surprises. I had always believed that this was a commentary about the secret practice of Vajravārāhı based on the sādhana by the Sixth Karmapa Tongwa Dönden (mThong ba don ldan, 1416-1453) that we had all practiced in three-year retreat. I had certainly used it as such. But as soon as I came across the actual words of the sādhana within the text, it was clearly not that. Tsuklak Trengwa gives the title of the sādhana as simply dPal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang ba’i grub thab, or Srı Vajrayoginı Guhya Sādhana, authored by Nāropa and translated by Marpa. Well that’s easy, I thought, because there’s a three-folia verse text in the Peking Tengyur by Nāropa, or rather Mahā Nāḍapāda, with just that Sanskrit name.[2] Great—only that was not it. Then I actually opened and looked at every single text attributed to Nāropa in the Tengyur, and could not find a match. Then for weeks there were random feverish searches on TBRC under every conceivable word, like “yoginī,” “secret,” “vajra,” “pig,” and so on. Finally one fine day brought up the Miscellaneous Works (gsung thor bu) of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (Dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193), and there I found it among several other secret Vajrayoginī practices, 29 folios and with no author, under the title dPal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang bsgrub [rdo?] rje btsun mo lhan skyes.[3] That was what I call a researcher’s moment of glory. It’s been all down hill from there.


The second big surprise was the nature of the text. I was looking forward to translating Pakmo Namshe because I understood it to be a practice commentary. Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa even says, “It is this sādhana exactly as presented by the bhagavatī herself that will be expounded here.” But after the first fifty pages I realized that it’s really a rebuttal, a giant polemic in defense of Kagyu practices. I’ve since found that many if not most Kagyu commentaries on Vajrayoginī written during this period, the 15th-16th centuries, are similarly on the defensive. At first I thought that if I could make it through the history section, just fourteen folios, then finally there would be the Dharma. But that naiveté was again shattered when a few pages into the so-called “actual instructions,” even in the section on the location in which to practice, (Mountain peaks and charnel grounds/ Lone tree trunks and empty caves/ Hermitages and isolated places,… ) the narrative bends around to start sections with that red warning flag of “mkhas pa kha chig gis,” and somehow launches into another tirade. The one most shocking for me was the quote early on that is the title of this paper, “As for the blessing of Vajravārāhı, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.” I mean, what? There’s been great controversy about mahāmudrā and maybe some suspicious creative innovations by lineage masters, such as evidenced by the accusations leveled at Gampopa. But Marpa? And he doesn’t even have the blessing? As I figure it, we’re screwed. So I decided to jump right in to the fray and try to figure out what’s going on here. Truly it is a can of worms, and I barely got the lid off. In order to make some use of the considerable time and energy that I already spent on Pakmo Namshe, although my work on it has now been set aside, I will present excerpts primarily from my translation of that, and some from other researches, especially Sakya Paṇḍita, Gorampa, Padma Karpo, Tashi Namgyal, and Lowo Khenchen. I’ll also make available a polished translation of the history section. What follows is basically a travelogue of my confusions, or my ‘khrul pa’i thob yig.


Separating the issues

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To get right to the sore point here, Tsuklak Trengwa’s shocking quotes are drawn from Sakya Paṇḍita’s sDom gsum rab dbye, written around 1232, when he was about fifty. It has been translated by Jared Rhoton as A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes, which includes the Tibetan. You probably know that this text is a scathing assessment of the state of Buddhism and particularly Vajrayāna in Tibet, barely disguised as a discussion of the three levels of vows. Sapaṇ’s primary motivation is certainly to clearly differentiate those three levels and to point out absolutely every incident and indiscretion of crossing-over, inaccuracy, hybridity, and misapplication. But the polemic goes far beyond just that, and with his searing logic, Sapaṇ calls into question many issues of lineage, appropriation, false advertising, false gurus, false empowerments and everything else false about particularly the Kagyu, though of course he is unbiased. (So “Keepin’ the Dharma pure.”) The two quotes that Tsuklak Trengwa references are as follows, taking the whole verses from sDom gsum rab dbye for context:


As for the blessing of Vajravārāhı, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it. For a holder of Marpa’s lineage to open the Dharma door using Vārāhı contravenes even their own tradition, not to mention that of tantra.


The second verse reads,


Later on, Vajravārāhı’s blessing, a dream-based (tradition of] bodhichitta, instantaneous creation in meditation of the yidam, the white single sufficient remedy, and many such perverse teachings that contravene the buddhadharma are spreading around these days.


First we have to briefly consider the mahāmudrā controversy within Kagyu which forms the background and overall picture of the Vajravārāhı issue. This in itself is a huge subject and there is considerable research already in English, so I refer the reader to those books and articles. There is of course the biggest bugaboo in Tibetan history constantly recurring here: the legend of debates held at Samyeling during the imperial period where the Chinese Chan monk referred to as Hvashang (upadhyaya) Moheyan and his perverse ideas of instant enlightenment were soundly, roundly, and forever defeated by the Indian scholar Kamalashīla (fl. 713-763), ensuring that Tibet would forever more be a gradualist Buddhist country and indebted only to India for the Dharma. But the pesky little idea keeps trying to resurface, especially in systems such as dzogchen and mahāmudrā. This post-debate debate that has never ended is too big of a topic for this paper so I will not indulge it, especially because it would actually be a substantive topic. (Okay well maybe just a little, so I can refer back to it with irony.) Moheyan’s main argument focused on the idea of mental nonengagement or inaction (yid la mi byed pa, Skt. amanasi) as the only way to directly experience ultimate reality, which, being inconceivable, cannot be approached conceptually or through any other method. Although officially trumped by the gradual path perspective of Kamalashīla, the language of the Hvashang’s argument is close, and occasionally identical, to that used in systems such as mahāmudrā. While no Kagyu would ever admit to being in league with the “instantaneanists”, they have often had to defend themselves against just such accusations. A special target was Gampopa, since he appeared to develop something like his own system of mahāmudrā teachings, and promoted the idea that mahāmudrā realization was in itself sufficient, sometimes calling it the dkar po chig thub—the single white remedy—or, as in David Jackson’s book where you can read all about it, Enlightenment by a Single Means. Worse yet, Gampopa even used the “mental nonengagement” word, and was known to have directly quoted known terrorists—I mean Hvashang Moheyanists.


The issue of the Vajravārāhı blessing and empowerment emerged within this greater context, and while we can avoid investigating the whole mahāmudrā controversy, there is one issue that is directly relevant to our subject: where do the mahāmudrā teachings fall in the three-tiered scheme of sdom gsum, because if they are Vajrayāna in nature, then they must be preceded by a highest yoga tantra empowerment, which would then render any mere blessing insufficient. From our late nineteenth-century perspective, that is Jamgön Kongtrul’s perspective, mahāmudrā is classified into three: sūtra tradition, mantra tradition, and essence tradition. This view has seemingly prevailed these days and been accepted without question, as taught, for example, at Nitartha and other canonizing institutions. But even Kongtrul could not assert this classification without admitting its controversial nature, quoting, again, Sakya Paṇḍita, who said, “Mahāmudrā is not designated in the tradition of the perfections. The pristine awareness of mahāmudrā only arises from empowerment.” The assertion is that mahāmudrā, as the highest in the set of four mudras, is revealed only in the fourth empowerment of a highest yoga tantra empowerment, as the experience of bliss-emptiness. The claim, which supposedly started with Gampopa, that the term mahāmudrā is basically synonymous with perfection of wisdom, and that even beginners can practice it without empowerment, is considered totally misguided. Essence mahāmudrā presents even more issues, which I won’t develop here. We can see that, true to form, Sakya Paṇḍita and his supporters are still primarily concerned with not mixing up apples and oranges. There has been a multiple-defense strategy developed by the Kagyus, from which I’d like to mention just three tactics.
First is to try to provide Indic sources for mahāmudrā teachings in non-tantric form. This is really not too difficult, since the tradition of Indian mahāsiddhas is replete with such teachings. Such pursuits were followed by Tibetans and currently by westerners alike. In one article, Klaus-Dieter Mathes concludes, “…it should be noted that sūtra-based mahāmudrā teachings have Indian roots which can be clearly identified. To sum up, the blending of the Sūtras with the Tantras is something that definitely started in India and not in Tibet.”

4-Arms chenresi.jpg

That notwithstanding, the Kagyu lineages holders felt the need to present further lines of defense, sometimes redundant or even contradictory. A second favorite is to defend Gampopa’s choices based on his omniscient skillfulness and compassion. Thus, for instance, Tashi Namgyal (whichever one wrote Phyag chen zla ba’i ‘od zer—not going there!) says,


The teachers of this meditational lineage up to Milarepa meditated mainly on the key instructions of the Mantrayāna mysticism while at various times incorporating vital instructions on mahāmudrā from the discourses on the yogas of inner heat and lucid awareness. Yet, the great master Gampopa, having been moved by immeasurable compassion, expounded mainly on the quintessential instructions on mahāmudrā. As a result it became widely known as the single path for all predestined seekers. In connection with this there appeared to be a special causal link established in the past, which may be briefly mentioned.


The last is a reference to another sub-strategy, which I’ll call the prophecy-proof, also employed by Tsuklak Trengwa. That is to cite Gampopa’s previous life as the healer Candraprabha Kumarabhuta and his special connection with the Samādhirāja Sūtra, wherein is also found a prophecy of the future life of Gampopa. The Samādhirāja Sūtra is claimed as a major source of the Kagyu mahāmudrā tradition, so since it was a sūtra, and since Gampopa is in it, it is proved!


Another version is more based on lineage, perhaps a bit sectarian. Kongtrul says:

(Gampopa) taught his regular disciples the Kadampa stages of the path and the meditative absorption from the sūtra tradition that is adorned with the name mahāmudrā. He taught the uncommon mahāmudrā of the mantra connected to Lama Mila’s path of methods to his extraordinary disciples.



Dakpo Rinpoché induced the realization of mahāmudrā even in beginners who had not received empowerment. Therefore this is the tradition of the perfections. These are instructions arising primarily from the Kadampa tradition.

So, blame the Kadampas! Mikyö Dorje attempts to clarify:

The authentic spiritual power of mahāmudrā in the Kagyu, the lineage of the great Nāropa that began with Vajradhara, is only attained by actualizing the example and authentic ultimate pristine awareness by means of the higher three supreme empowerments. The system of guidance in calm abiding and higher insight taught these days that is shared with the causal vehicle of the perfections comes from the lineage of Lord AtıŸa. It is the esoteric instruction of The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Lord Gampopa and the protector Pakmo Drupa have given this the name of “joined coemergent mahāmudrā” (phyag chen lhan cig skyes sbyor) just for the sake of those disciples in the degenerate age who would like a “really high” vehicle.

What I love about this second defense of sūtra mahāmudrā is that it is based on the claim that Gampopa, in his infinite wisdom and compassion, was able to determine the level and capacity of the disciples and employ appropriate stages to guide them. In other words, it is a gradualist excuse for teaching supposedly instantaneous mahāmudrā. Kamalashila and Hvashang Mohayen united at last. It makes me wonder if this line of reasoning worked on the very reasonable Sakyas?

Finally, I would like to return to Tashi Namgyal for what he says is Gampopa’s own version. He recounts from Gampopa’s works three different lists of three approaches. In all three, mahāmudrā constitutes a separate and autonomous path, standing outside both sūtra or tantra. Therefore, Tashi Namgyal concludes, ” (Gampopa) considers mahāmudrā to be a separate path and independent of the sūtras and tantras.” He goes on to say, “According to the practice of Lord Gampopa himself, the ripening empowerment conferral is unnecessary.”
On that, the case could be closed, since any empowerment requirement would be vitiated. But then, Tashi Namgyal continues, the problem is that:

In recent times meditators of mahāmudrā sought to make adjustments according to both the sūtras and the tantras. They have incorporated [in the mahāmudrā tradition) many practices that require preparations such as the…empowerment that sows the seed of a spiritual blossom, devotion to preliminary exercises, and methods of enhancing experiences. It is for that reason that it is not contradictory to regard mahāmudrā as identical with the common and profound path of the sūtras and tantras, due to the fact that many superior and inferior minds are going to benefit from it.

108 42A.jpg

That’s our so-called “phyag chen mngon ‘gro” we’re talking about. So, yes, even if mahāmudrā is proved to be Indian and sūtra-based, or proved to be autonomous, now we need empowerment because some mashuguna affixed preliminaries. So back at square one, what kind of empowerment, and from whence?


I’ll take the whence first, since much of my research proved totally inconclusive. To me it seems that part of the problem of sources must certainly stem back to the fact that there is no Vajrayoginī cycle of tantra per se. That is, all Vajrayoginī material ultimately derives from Chakrasa˙vara tantras. Vajrayoginī was literally snatched out of his arms—one can easily imagine why. The lack of sources is often mentioned in these debates. Thus, for instance, Sakya Paṇḍita argues:

“But,” some contend, “the Sow-Head
and other initiations are also found here.”
Rites like these, however, are not exactly initiations.
They have not been expounded in any tantra,
and even if, perchance, they could be found there,
they are still not initiations but authorizations.

There are plenty of rejoinders. In the Pakmo Namshe, Tsuklak Trengwa, while admitting that not all the sources made it to Tibet, responds as follows:

Many Tibetan scholars refute [Vajravārāhı practices] and claim that they are not based on all the tantras, just because they [personally] have not even seen the parts of the tantra that do exist now in Tibet and merely because they are not compatible with their own interests. This is not a scholarly attitude.

And again:

Without even seeing the explanation in the Vajrayāna, not seeing even these few tantras extant these days in Tibet, they proclaim that there is no explanation that is based on all the tantras. [Darmakīrti's] expression “Just because it is not seen does not [mean] it doesn’t exist” is germane here.

Tsuklak Trengwa goes on to describe the lineage of the transmission, which started with Telopa receiving it directly from the Æākinī in Uḍḍiyāna. Telopa fully transmitted it to Nāropa, who also received it again directly from Vajrayoginī. Then it passed to Marpa, as Tsuklak Trengwa explains it:

(Marpa) went to the charnel ground of Sosadvıpa and met the glorious Innate Mother in person. She conferred the four empowerments by means of symbols, and opened her heart with a crystal hooked knife to display the mantra wheel. She bestowed all the creation and completion [practices] just as the guru had foretold. Then she prophesied, saying, “Go to the Vajra Seat [in Bodhgaya) to see our Teacher’s eye-tooth and go to Tibet.” After seeing the tooth at Vajra Seat, Marpa found and brought out the esoteric instructions of creation and completion, just as the guru and the dakini had revealed, written in Singhalese letters in vermilion on Palmyra leaves.


I think this is interesting in its specificity. My confusion here is that there are two transmission situations in these discussions, always. On the one hand, there is the pressure to prove that it is in the original Indic tantric sources originating from the Buddha. On the other hand, Vajradhara or, in this case, Vajrayoginī herself is a good enough proxy to the buddha and that is the lineage that must be continued. If, in that case, it stands outside of the tantric literature, why then must we prove tantric origins? Tsuklak Trengwa even says, in this same section:

In short, one does not gain spiritual powers from tantras without the esoteric instructions. [On the other hand], accomplished adepts who extract the essence of the esoteric instructions and practice them without relying on the tantras are beyond count.

In Marpa’s rnam thar, it states clearly that he received Chakras˙avara empowerments and then fifteen, seven, and five-deity Vajrayoginī separately through a sindura mandala, then a symbol empowerment by means of the mandala of the guru’s body, speech, and mind. But this is perhaps one source of the problem.
Another rebuttal comes from the omniscient Padma Karpo (1527-1592) in his commentary to the Vajrayoginī practice called the Formless or Bodyless Æākinī. Refuting the misconceptions of sDom gsum rab dbye was one of the two reasons that Padma Karpo gives for writing this commentary, since, he says, they were tiring him out. His response to the our chosen verse about Marpa is as follows:

Worrying about the reasons for (Marpa) having it or not is like [worrying about] whether a rabbit’s horns are sharp or dull. Although suspicions arose, they were entirely based on thinking that this kind of fourfold empowerment of symbols was untenable. Therefore he made out that the sources were not clear in the Chakrasa˙vara root and explanatory tantras. In this, no matter what Vajravārāhı explains, the rebuttal (rtsod spong) [shows] a lack of understanding. Whatever has been presented of the opponents’ position in this debate (phyogs snga ma) has not sunk in (things pa). Therefore, [just] this empowerment of four symbols is the rebuttal. He himself said, “It is said ‘this has the activities of empowerment of the Sow-Headed (Vārāhīshīr˝ha) and so forth.’” [He] also said “if it is in accordance with the tantra, it is appropriate to accept it.” Since it cannot be stated definitively whether it is in accordance or not in accordance, the opponent falls into the position of defeating himself.

I’ll return to Padma Karpo later. Meantime, one more happy quote for good measure, attributed to Tsurbu Gukshrıwa (mTshur bu Gug shrı ba):

Ananda was familiar (rgyus) with Shakyamuni, you Sakyapas are familiar with Virūpa, and we Dvagpo Kagyus are familiar with Nāropa and Marpa. Therefore whether or not there existed the Six Dharmas after Mila and whether Marpa had an initiation rite for Vajravārāhı is known by us, but not by you…”


It is important to remember that most of the rebuttals to sDom gsum rab dbye come way after the fact. Jared Rhoton put the first documented written reply to a few passages as coming from the fourth Zhamar, Chökyi Drakpa (1453-1524) some two and a half centuries later. So it may often be the case that they are responding not to Sakya Paṇḍita per se but to some later commentators. I believe such is the case with one major lineage issue that Tsuklak Trengwa takes by the horns, that of a character called Kor Nirūpa (sKor Ni rū pa). Yet this person is not mentioned by name in sDom gsum rab dbye. It is only in the commentaries, such as the one by Gorampa Sönam Senge (1429-1489) composed in 1463, that we learn that it was he, Kor Nirūpa, who is to blame for Sapaṇ’s accusation concerning Marpa. Gorampa explains that the custom of granting uninitiated beginners access to tantric practice by conferring the Sow-head blessing (Vārāhīshīr˝ha or phag mgo’i byin rlabs),

“originated in the time of Gampopa Dakpo Lhaje Sönam Rinchen (1079-1153). He sent his pupils to request initiations of other teachers. Most of them did not return but settled [elsewhere], and because Dakpo had urged that every group [of students] must have its own bestower of initiations, he consented when Kong Neruwa inquired of him, ‘What if I were to perform the Sow-Head initiation?’ [The latter] conferred the Sow-Head blessing and then expounded the Six Doctrines of Nāro[pa], the Great Seal, and other precepts. From that time onward, [the custom] developed of winning access to the doctrine through instructions expounded by a master from whom initiation had been requested, i.e., the door to the Six Doctrines being opened merely by a conferral of the Vajra Sow-Head blessing, even though the initiation of Chakrasmvara had not been [previously] obtained.”

So who is this guy? Actually, he is two guys. A disciple of Karopa, who in turn was a disciple of Maitrīpa, he was known as Nirūpata Naljorpa. This person’s dates are given as 1008-1081. In 1081, in his seventy-fourth year, Karopa told him to go to Tibet, while some ḍākinıs prophesied his journey to Nepal. While in Nepal, he met a young Tibetan named Korchungwa (sKor chung ba, also known as Dampa sKor), and decided to “take up residence” (grongs ‘jug ‘pho ba) in this better body. Leaving his old body to be cremated, he then went to Tibet as a nineteen year-old. He met Karopa and his wife, who were briefly visiting Tibet, and one might imagine that it was on this occasion that he was “recognized” as his old disciple. In any case, he became known as Kor Nirūpa, and would sometimes wear Indian clothes and sometimes Tibetan. He taught in Tibet for twenty-one years, dying in 1102. In the Blue Annals, Gö Lotsāwa equates him with Prajñāshrījñānakīrti, the author of a major commentary on Saraha’s dohas. This also brings up the questionable authorship of the latter two of Saraha’s doha trilogy and the suspicion that Kor Nirūpa was somehow associated with their forgery. In any case, this name is definitely tarnished in some circles through association with the suspect mahāmudrā lineage of Maitrīpa, even without the Vajravārāhı blessing issue. This must be why Tsuklak Trengwa launches unexpectedly into a the following full-scale defense of him that follows directly on the quote about Marpa:

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Also certain of (Sakya Paṇḍita's] followers say, “The Dharma-perverter called Kor Nirūpa made a fake empowerment called Vārāhı Empowerment of Four Symbols (Phag mo brda bzhi’i dbang). That is refuted.” They rush to utter such meaningless chatter. The great Kor Nirūpa was a direct disciple of the mighty master Maitrıpa and was a great lotsāwa. From Lord Maitrıpa he received and brought out Chanting the Names, Unpolluted, the root tantra Completely Nondwelling, the explanatory tantra Unimaginable, and Secret Nondual Tantra. Thus, Kor Nirūpa’s Five Tantras are well-known and all of them, moreover, are commentaries on the view and meditation of mahāmudrā without mental engagement (yid la mi byed pa).

Furthermore, the Seven Texts of Accomplishments, the Six Cycles of Essence, and the Twenty-four Dharma Cycles of Amanasi-kara, were all brought out by him. Since he taught primarily on those, he became known as “Amanasi Man.” The scholar-adept Khyungpo Naljor requested them all from him. That is why it is explained that [Nirūpa] told him, “I currently have disciples in number equal to three measures of white mustard seeds, but in terms of perfecting all the teachings there is no one better than you, Khyungpo Naljor.” [He also] certainly brought out many cycles of Vārāhı, however [this is not] the tradition of Vārāhı’s Empowerment of Four Symbols.

One minor point here is that in the biography of Khyungpo Naljor, the similar statement is what makes Khyungpo doubt Kor Nirūpa, and thus all the teachers in Tibet, and causes him to leave for India. But Tsuklak Trengwa leaves out that part, and so I will too. There’s a much bigger problem here with all this character-assassination and counter-commendation. While Tsuklak Trengwa claims Kor Nirūpa as a disciple of Maitrīpa, and even if he is at the very least a disciple of Maitrīpa’s disciple Korapa, how can he also be a disciple of Gampopa? Even if the event under discussion, that is, requesting Gampopa’s permission to bestow the Vajravārāhı blessing, happened in the very last year of Kor Nirūpa’s life in 1102, that would make Gampopa twenty-three years old (if the dates 1079-1153 are correct for him). The chances of ordering around a 40-year old disciple of Maitrīpa some quarter century before the founding of Dakpo Kagyu seems remote. That’s why the ever-omniscient Padma Karpo had this to say, after first pointing out that the discussion originating from sDom gsum rab dbye did not even concern the correct Vārāhı transmission:

The Small Red Lady (dMar chung ma) was by Tri Saraha. Then it passed to Kor Nirūpa. One of his disciple’s brought it to Tibet. But this lineage is not this tradition, because this does not teach the four symbols. Therefore, [when] it says in the great commentary to the sDom gsum of dGa’ sdod (?) “Dakpo Rinpoche did not give his disciples the empowerments, so he was losing disciples to others. At that time included among the disciples was Kong Niruwa, and he said ‘I have something like this” and that’s how the four-symbol empowerment came to be,” one can not determine that it is Kong Niruwa. And no one has ever heard such talk as this from him. You can go ahead and ascribe such talk to Dakpo, [but] it’s a lie [because the empowerment) was given to Rechungpa and the other disciples of Mila. You should know that the old man damaged his prāna [saying such things].

But maybe it was not old man Sapaṇ, but his faithful commentator Gorampa who was confused. But for sure I’m confused. If it were somehow proved that Kor Nirūpa, the disciple of Maitrıpa and Korapa, had a flawed lineage, then maybe one could say Marpa did not have Vajravārāhı’s proper blessing. But in Gorampa’s direct commentary on our name-sake verse here, he again makes out that, “Opening the door of doctrine with the Vajravārāhı blessing originated with Kong Neruwa and, since it was not extant until then, it is contradictory to consider it Marpa’s transmission.” If Kor Nirūpa postdates Marpa (which we’re pretty sure is not true anyway) then he basically has nothing to do with Marpa. And finally, why can’t Gorampa even spell his name correctly? (And yes, I searched in vain among many lists of Gampopa’s disciples for a “Kong Neruwa”).
It seems to me that while there are still some doctrinal issues remaining on what constitutes empowerment, the questions of lineage can now be gingerly laid aside.



Aside from the question of lineage, there are many, many more objections and defenses concerning the Vajravārāhı empowerment question, ranging from the most abstract theoretical issues of what empowerment means, to bickering over the exact shape of the mandala. I’ll try to only address to what I believe to be the most substantive.

What is the Four Symbol empowerment?

The focus of the objection by Sakya Paṇḍita is specifically aimed at something called “Vārāhı Empowerment of Four Symbols (phag mo brda’ bzhi’i dbang). Tsuklak Trengwa follows a path of investigation that mentions some possibilities, including Kor Nirūpa’s system as quoted above as well as that of Saraha’s dohas. But these, he says, are not the Vārāhı empowerment in question. The only one not so dismissed he calls sKu gsung thugs kyi rgyud mdzad ma, and mentions that this name is also applied to the Two-face Yoginī (Zhal gnyis ma) Blessing. Without really defending it, he explains the great benefits:

These empowerments of four symbols, then, have the ability to tame those of sharp faculties. It is explained that a vajra master who accomplishes awareness and knows the constitution and mindstream of those to be tamed and teaches them, accomplishes the goal. This is not advising that “you should just confer (empowerment) on as many listeners as you can get.” The mere droplets of the sophists cause great bloating. Don’t give credence to the arrogant bastards who make [droplets] into great oceans of Dharma.

The difference between blessing and empowerment

It seems fair to give time to another Sakya lama, Lowo Khenchen Sonam Lundrup (Glo bo mkhan-chen bSod nams lhun grub, 1456-1532), who in 1489 wrote a commentary on sDom gsum rab dbye addressing just these issues. I quote at length because this unusual version seems quite interesting:

(Sakya Paṇḍita made statements such as] “The guidance called Nāropa’s Six Dharmas were nothing but that until after Mila did not exist” (vs. 505) and “The blessing of Vajravārāhı, Marpa of Lhodrak does not have it.” (vs. 504) and ” [if there is] the blessing, it is not the empowerment”.

This means the following: the tantras teach both empowerment conferral (dbang bskur) and blessing (byin rlabs). In particular, in the Sampuṭa (Tantra) it says “Having obtained the empowerment and permission (bkas gnang)” and so on. So there are the authentic empowerment conferral and the blessing permission (byin rlabs bkas gnang). Of those two, the authentic empowerment conferral is a method to sow the seeds of fivefold awareness in the unimpaired vajra body. The basis of refinement and that which refines is unmistakably set up by means of the rites of outer, inner, and secret contingency…


As for blessing, once matured by the empowerment, in order to engender the qualities that have not [yet] arisen in those individuals possessed of the sacred pledges, or for the sake of maintaining and increasing [those qualities] that have already arisen, the method for imbuing the blessings of Body, Speech and Mind are done according to the rites of the individual lineages. In particular, in the Sarma tradition of the secret mantra of Tibet, there are many [cases] concerning the blessing of Vajravārāhı: the greater and lesser Don grub ma, great and lesser dBu bcad ma, Nāropa, Maitrī mkha’ spyod, the blessing of White Vārāhı and so forth. [We] don’t know if Lord Marpa received these or not. The Vārāhı blessings of the lineage of esoteric instructions of the Nāro tradition were received by Marpa, who gave them to Mila and so on. But thinking that the tradition of the Nyingma mantra, this Blessing of Four Symbols of Vārāhı, was not received by Marpa and not given to Mila and so on, [is the reason for] saying that Marpa of Lhodrak does not have the Vajravārāhı blessing. As to the question of whether there is a blessing of Vajravārāhı or not, the Chakrasa˙vara explanatory tantra Abhidhāna explains the complete four empowerments of Vajravārāhı. In that viewpoint, Khyab ‘jug gsang ba and Kurmpatra both [had] explained both the thirty-seven and the thirteen-deity mandalas. The lineage from Tsami and Galo has both the empowerment permission (dbang bka’) and explanation permission (bshad bka’) and so forth that previously appeared in Tibet for sure. Now there is nothing but the manuals (yig cha). It is said that there are many fourfold empowerments from the Garland and from Kriya, so those also exist. The Dharma Lord Sapaṇ received the Three Cycles of Vārāhı that are taught in the Garland from Shākya Shrī. Marpa Lotsāwa also presumably received the four empowerments blessing of Vārāhı of Lord Nārotapa. Therefore, the Dharma Lord Sakya Paṇḍita in no way could say that “there is no empowerment of Vajravārāhı.”

The sDom gsum rab dbye [is a reference to] the Nyingma tradition of the Sow-headed One (Phag-mgo), the Archer (mda’ gzhu), Mirror (me long) and so forth that have a symbol blessing attached. The taking of the vows of the five families and so on, the prelude (sta gon), entering ritual, distributing the vase water upon entering the main part, and adding on the concluding (auspicious verses] at the end were done by the old Dri[gungs] sentinels (‘gri rgan gyi chos sgo ba). This does not constitute an authentic empowerment conferral, and it is not the lineage coming from Marpa Lotsāwa. It is also not the true pure tradition of the Nyingma. (Sakya Paṇḍita) was thinking that it was a shame to bestow the Sarma instructions of Nāropa’s Six Dharmas through opening the door of a great counterfeit Dharma, and [therefore] he refuted it.

Blame it on the Drigungpas. I can live with that.

While it appears to be true that officially the blessing is given only after the receipt of a full-fledged authentic empowerment, Tsuklak Trengwa still insists that this is not true of those of highest acumen, but only for those who need the gradual maturation that is affected in the highest yoga tantra empowerment. He turns the argument around to gain the final moral high ground:


A vajra master who has accomplished mahāmudrā will mature such a (disciple of highest acumen] through blessing and teaching the path of creation and completion. When they come to understand, then they will practice because of the desire to become enlightened in a short time for the sake of sentient beings. In the case of disciples who would [only] later become suitable recipients, who at present have many discursive thoughts, they should be given the extensive ripening empowerments and guided gradually according to the three guidance manuals (zin bris rnam gsum). In that way one won’t waste disciples.

As it is explained in such sayings as “the great medicine of the instantaneous [approach] is great poison for a gradualist,” disciples must be guided according to the measure of their being. Though [given] the maturing (empowerment), there are some with most excellent faculties who will [anyway] become matured and liberated in the same instant just by seeing the face of the master or by a blessing. Those of sharp faculties, in whom the awareness will be born just by the blessings of meditative absorption such that they will have complete confidence without any doubts—that’s what’s called maturing the being.

[Some] individuals are naturally characterized by great discursiveness or are [stuck] in the mire pit of various views in this life, a pool filled with the waters of sophistry. After pouring even the last droplet of the water that has washed a thousand times the vessel of the milk of secret mantra, [they will think] this is the so-called “ocean of milk of Vajrayāna” and will grasp on to this white, sweet essence as the milk. Those (people) spread this pile of ignorance and make their living as masters. There are many [such as these] in Tibet. [When those masters) guide people in that way, the disciples become disturbed. Maturing them through wordy rituals with many elaborations to perform makes them happy. Therefore, in the blessing from the oral instructions of Lord (Tongwa) Dönden, there is the generation of elaborations such as entering into the mandala and the empowerments of five families. It is to satisfy those self-proclaiming as dull or sharp faculties. The actual blessing which comes from the oral instructions is talking about maturing those of sharp faculties.

Therefore, without any recourse to giving guidance according to the measure of a disciple’s mind, many pseudo-masters practice Dharma with the hook of enticing material goods. These pseudo-masters draw a picture of a nice house in the sand (i.e. mandala), and gather beside it many wealthy brutes who would not produce even a tiny thought of the difficulty of attaining this free and endowed (human life) even [if they] were to meet a thousand buddhas. Limiting [the empowerment) to twenty-five (disciples) or whatever, [they] tie on blindfolds and leave them there while they read through the mandala ritual, once in a while beating the drum, ringing the belld flicking drops of water and such. By just this they gather disciples and make a living. They do not see whether or not [the disciples) are maturing. [But] it is obvious that those disciples do not manifest any difference at all before and after. These days here in Tibet it appears that (people) are howling like the wind about whether such (empowerments) cause maturation or not. But the only result that will manifest for those masters is that, if they happen to have mantra vows, they will accrue the downfall of proclaiming secrets along with some material goods.


Tsuklak Trengwa continues:

Of course it is wonderful that you all hold empowerment to be so highly valuable. But if you don’t recognize the empowerment itself, what it is and what actually happens when one is matured by it and so forth, then it’s like the story in the sūtra: A man was singing the praises of sandalwood for making a living. Later someone asks “do you have some sandalwood?”, and the man replies, “I’ve never seen any sandalwood.” [When it is] said that in the future there will be those who praise the Dharma as a livelihood but don’t practice the Dharma—there is danger that it could happen here. So please take care.

So who is mature?

So what exactly is smin byed as in smin byed kyi dbang? Personally I prefer to translate the term as “maturing,” I guess because I myself would rather be described as “mature” rather than “ripe”. The last discussion concerns a description of a proper empowerment and how it really should mature the disciple. This seems to me to be the only really meaningful subject. However, some quirky devil on my shoulder couldn’t help whispering that it does sound an awful lot like the maturing process for, say, an American fifth-grader (maybe not so different than a monk). Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa describes each stage of maturing in response to the attacks:

If you hold that position, then you don’t even understand the meaning of maturation. In the Highest (Yoga Tantra), when there is only maturing [through] extensive elaborations, at first the disciple’s fortune is examined by the preparatory “tagön” (lta gon). If [the disciple) is known to be suitable, he or she is allowed in. Bound by the vows of the common five families and the arousing of the vajra mind of awakening, they are brought into the colored sand mandala and the sacred pledges are proclaimed. Once their mindstream is stabilized, the descent of the timeless awareness [being] bestows the deity’s blessing on their being. Even the least of them gets a little (experience) of the timeless awareness of bliss-emptiness. They toss the flowers and their special deity is identified. By those (rites), they are matured appropriately to be shown the mandala. Otherwise, if they see the manifestation of the male and female deities [in union], there is the danger of losing faith. Rather, by doing it in those stages, [they will] fear failing the sacred pledges and the blessings will change their mindstream. [Then] lack of faith will not arise upon seeing the male and female deities.

By presenting and explaining the mandala to someone matured in that way, they gain confidence and faith in both the guru and the mandala; then they are suitable to receive the vase empowerment.
In the (vase empowerment), the conferral of the five awareness empowerments refines away the impure five aggregates and introduces the five aggregates as the five families. Giving the blessing of Vajrasattva’s yogic conduct (brtul zhugs), the empowerment of the mantra, and the empowerment of a (vajra) master all make [the disciple) temporarily suitable to be a master. Understanding the environment and its contents as the five families frees them from an ordinary outlook and is the attainment of the vase empowerment.

Since the viewing of the body mandala and the secret substance taken from the “secret sky” and so forth no longer give rise to concepts concerning [ordinary] characteristics, [the disciple) has been matured as a suitable recipient of the secret empowerment. The conferral of that secret empowerment blesses the three doors, like adding yeast to grain, so that the timeless awareness of clarity-emptiness enhanced by joy and happiness arises in their mindstream. Free of attachment to [mere] shapes as deities, this is the attainment of the secret empowerment.
Thoughts of desire have no power to bind, and the concepts concerning characteristics of path and no path are diminished. Then when there are no concepts concerning characteristics about engaging the yogic conduct of a wisdom consort [according] to the guru’s orders, [the disciple) has been matured as a suitable recipient of the third empowerment. By the conferral of the third empowerment, the eighty natural conceptions are blessed by bliss and then all phenomena are known as a single flavor in the essence of one’s own intrinsic awareness, bliss-emptiness. This is the attainment of the third empowerment.


In the revelation of all phenomena as primordially pure, to thoroughly integrate it without anxiety [indicates that the disciple) is matured as a suitable recipient of the fourth empowerment. The conferral of the fourth empowerment purifies fixation on one’s own intrinsic awareness and bliss-emptiness. The nature of all phenomena is seen as the ultimate reality, like a maiden’s divination (powers). Then the fetters of doubt are severed and the fourth empowerment is attained.

I assume that this little foray into what were once critically important issues has left you just about where you were to begin with. Same here. However it has given me a new perspective on our current situation. If we look around at what’s going on now, maybe even with some of our own friends and colleagues, we might be horrified with what seems to be a corruption of traditional forms of Buddhism that we have learned. Perhaps most of all with regards to Tibetan Buddhism and its tantric ritual forms, which had a level of complexity that is hard to maintain. But now we could just think of such people, “oh, he’s just pulling a Gampopa, or “she’s cool as Marpa,” and try not to be a Sapan Stick-in-the-mud.



1. dPal rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang ba’i sgrub thabs kyi rnam par bshad pa zab mo rnam ‘gyed, known as Phag mo’i rnam bshad or Phag mo’i rnam bshad for short.

2. Peking 4668, rgyud ‘grel, phu 11a4-13b5. It bears a clear colophon which reads, “The Secret Sādhana of Glorious Coemergent Yoginī that remains extremely hidden, was exquisitely acquired from the mouths of Vajradhara and the ḍākinī, arriving in the heart of Guru Telopa. The Great Learned Nāropa, Lord of Yogins, composed it.”

3. In vol. 2 of Selected Writings of the first zwa-nag karma-pa dus-gsum-mkhyen pa, TBRC W2365, ff. 175-232, Gangtok: dzongsar chhentse labrang, 1980. (Reproduced from rare manuscripts from the library of zwa-dmar rin-po-che). The title page in Tibetan reads dPal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang bsgrub [rdo?] rje btsun mo lhan skyes. This title does not appear again within the text. There is no real colophon, and no reason it couldn’t be by Naropa.
4. Phag mo’i rnam bshad, p. 19. (All page numbers of this text refer to the English numbered pages in Rumtek edition, 1975.
5. Naropa, Secret Sādhana, f. 1b4-5.
6. rdo rje phag mo’i byin rlab ni/ mar pa lho brag pa la med/ mar pa’i bryud pa ‘dzin bzhin du/ phag mos chos sgo ‘byed pa ni/ rgyud dang ‘gal ba lta ci smos/ rang lugs dang yanggal ba yin. Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltshen 2002. Verse 504, pages 162 and 321 (for the Tibetan).
7. phyi nas phag mo’i byin rlabs dang/ sems bskyed rmi lam ma la sogs/ yi dam bsgom pa dkrongs bskyed dang/ dkar po chig thub la sogs pa/ sangs rgyas bstan dang ‘gal ba yi/chos log du ma deng sang ‘phel/ Ibid., verse 610, p. 175 and 326.
8. Jackson 1994; Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltshen 2002; Mathes 2003; Brunnhölzl 2007; Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 2007; Toni Huber 2003.
9. David Jackson 1994.
10. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 2007, p. 212.
11. Klaus-Dieter Mathes 2003, p. 225.
12. Zla ‘od gzhon nu (“Youthful Moonlight”) in Tibetan. See Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, p. 119. Tibetan xylograph edition, Rumtek, ff. 108b-110b.
13. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 2007, p. 138-139.
14. Ibid., 212
15. Ibid., 213.
16. mdo sngags gnyis ka las logs su gyur pa’i gseng lam zhig yin par bzhed cing, Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986,. 112; f.101F.
17. Ibid, 114a3-4: rje sgam po pa nyid kyi phyag bzhes ltar smin byed kyi dbang bskur mi dgos shing/
18. Ibid 112. (f. 101a2-6) īphyis kyi sgrub brgyud pa dag gis/ mdo snags gnyis ka dang sgo bstun pa’i dbang du byas nas/ smin byed du dbang dgos pa dang sngon ‘gro’i skor dang.
19. English 2002, 6-7 in general and 109 in particular: “We will see how Vajravārāhī’s maṇḍala is carefully adapted from the sixty-two-deity maṇḍala of Cakrasaṁvara, which appears in embryonic form in the Cakrasaṁvaratantra (e.g., chs. 2-3) and in various presentations in its derivative literature, such as the Yoginīsaṁcāratantra (e.g., paṭalas 6-8), the Saṁvarodayatantra (e.g., chs. 8 and 13), the Abhidhānottaratantra (e.g., chs. 9 and 14), and in exegetical literature, such as Lūyīpāda’s Herukābhisamaya.”
20. Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltshen 2002, p. 96; vs.11.
21. Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa, Phag mo rnam bshad, p. 6.
22. Ibid., p. 96. This proverb can be found in Dharmakirti’s Tshad ma rnam ‘grel (ATG).
23. In Tsuklak Trengwa’s Condensed Essence (sNying po bsdus pa 149; f.2a2-3) it says “yi ge bris pa’i dpe byang bu zhig rnyed de spyan drangs pas bskye rdzogs gnyis kyi dper snang.” dpe byang bu can be “inscription written on a board, or label”. This would seem more like: “Marpa found a labeled text written in Singhalese letters in vermilion on Palmyra leaves, and brought it out (to Tibet). [This] is the basic text (dper) of creation and completion.”
24. Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa, Phag mo rnam bshad, pp. 6-7.
25. Tsang Nyön Heruka 1982, p. 90.
26. Lus med mkha’ ‘gro’i chos sde’i rnam par bshad pa chos kyi nying khu
27. Ibid. p. 4/ f.2b4: sdom gsum rab dbye’i spyi ti ga byed pa dag thang chad do… and p. 5/f.3a1: de dar ba dgag par ‘dod pa
28. The quotation here is ‘di la phag mgo la sogs pa’i/ dbang bskur bya ba yod ces zer. It appears to be taken off the verse in sDom gsum, but is slightly changed, perhaps to suit the argument. Quoted on p. 96 (Tibetan p. 295. verse 11), with note 8 on p. 184 says Gorampa attributes this to Lama Shang Tsalpa (1123-1193), who would predate Sapan (1182-1251).
29. de yang rgyud dang mthun na blang du rung Find in Sakyapa
30. This is dGe bshes kong ting Gug sri ba, quoted in sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu bye ba’i dris lan lung gi tshad ma ‘khrul spong dgongs rgyan, by Glo bo mkhan-chen bsod nams lhun grub (1456-1532) a Sakya master from Mustang, f. 52a2-3. Mentioned in Jackson 1994, p, 124.
31. Sakya Pandita 2002 , p. 27.
32. Gorampa, sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu dbye ba’i rnam bshad rgyal ba’i gsung rab kyi dgong pa gsal ba, f. 88a-b (p. 177), commenting on vs. 4. Translated by Jared Rhoton in Sakya Pandita 2002, p. 184, n. 5.
33. Nirūpata rNal ‘byor pa, Roerich 1976, p. 853.
34. Ibid. p. 851. Also see Schaeffer 2005, 66-67.
35. These are: (1) ‘Jam dpal mtshan brjod, Skt. MañjuŸrīnāmasamgīti, DgK. rgyud vol. ka 1b1-13b7 (Toh. 360) (2) rGyud kyi rgyal po dpal rnyog pa med pa, transmitted by Vajrapāṇi (11th cent.), vol. 1: 1-8 of the mahāmudrā collection Nges don phyag rgya chen po khrid mdzod (TBRC W23447), (3) rtsa rgyud Rab tu mi gnas pa, Skt. Aprasahaprakāza, (4) bshad rgyud bSam gyis mi khyab pa), and (5) gSang ba gnyis su med pa’i rgyud.
36. Grub pa sde bdun. Listed on page 7 and explained in detail on pages 7-28 in Padma dkar po, Phag rgya chen po’i man ngag gi bshad sbyar rgyal ba’i gan mdzod, Vajra Vidya Institute Library, 2005. “Drub pa” does not seem to mean siddhas here. gZhon nu dpal (BA 856-57) identifies these seven texts written by these figures as fundamental texts of Tantric Buddhist history; the seven are in Derge Tengyur, Toh. 2217-23. These were among the teachings that Vajrapāṇi transmitted to Nepal and Tibet.
37. sNying po skor drug, Padma dkar po, ibid. 28-37. Also see Deitle’s article (?)
38. See Padma dkar po, ibid. 37. According to BA, Roerich 845, the A-ma-na-si’i skor nyer drug is a set of 26 texts (DgT. rgyud, Toh. nos. 2229-2254) most of which are attributed to Advayavajra (gNyis med rdo rje). All of them apparently concern yid la mi byed pa. Padma Karpo says there are 25, all listed in rGyal ba’i gan mdzod, page 3 7-on. Six of them available in Sanskrit, according to Khenpo Trashi (personal communication to ATG). Padma Karpo also explains three ways to understand the term yid la mi byed pa or amanasi-kara, ibid. p. 38-42.
39. (Shangpa Texts, vol. 1, 67; f. 5a2-3). This was the statement that made Khyungpo Naljor decide to finally go to India, since he wasn’t interested in common spiritual powers and because if he himself was as good as the greatest siddhī in Tibet (i.e. Kor Nirūpa), then he should search for something better in India. Since this was a cause for Khyungpo Naljor’s doubts, it is a strange defense of Kor Nirūpa. However the story in the biography confirms the transmissions that were passed on by Kor Nirupa, which seems to be the point here.
40. Padma Karpo is defending the Bodyless Vajravārāhī, while according to him Sakya Paṇḍita is attacking the four-faced, twelve-armed manifestation.
41. Lus med mkha’ ‘gro’i chos sde’i rnam par bshad pa chos kyi nying khu, ff. 3b3-4a1.
42. To give you an idea of the range, here is a list of a section of Gorampa’s outline that is superimposed on just a part of Sapaṇ’s verses in A Clear Differentiation: The Refutations of misconceptions about the process of maturation: (1) That a mere blessing may serve as a maturative rite, (2) that initiation in a defective mandala constitutes a maturative rite, (3) That the erroneous initiation of an indefinite number of neophytes constitutes a maturative rite. (4) That initiation is unnecessary for practice, (5)That oblational and meditation-initiatives may serve as maturative rites, (6) That practice may precede initiation (7) That maturation may be obtained from the master’s body-mandala, (8) That the three lower classes of tantra are also equipped with the four initiations, (9) That doors to Vajrayāna doctrine other than initiation are available, (10) that four alternatives obtain in initiation and (11) that initiatory pledges need not be kept. Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltshen 2002, p. 274.
43. Phag mo’i rnam bshad zab mo rnambyed, 13.
44. Sampuṭanāmamahātantra, an explanatory tantra of Hevajra, Dg.K. rgyud ‘bum, vol. Ga, ff. 73b-158b (Toh. 381).
45. Since this is mentioned as an explanatory tantra (bshad rgyud) it is probably Abhidhānottaratantra, Dg. K., rGyud ‘bum, vol. Ka, ff. 247a-370a (Toh. 369). However the root tantra is also known as Srīheruka-abhidhāna, and since some commentators reverse these two, it is not definite.
46. Tsa mi (should be rTswa mi) Sangs rgyas grags pa, a Kālachakra master who composed the Yogamālā (sByor ba’i phreng ba, Toh. 1376), abbot of Nālandā in the twelfth century, and Rong po rGa lo (1203-1282?), in his immediate lineage. See Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 2007, p. 290
47. Phreng ba, could refer to the Yogamālā mentioned above, or to theYogaratnamālā (Toh. 1183). the most important commentary on the Hevajra tantra, written by Kāṇha, which passed through to Nāropa and Marpa.
48. Shākya Shrībhadra or Kha che paṇ chen Shākya Shrī, 1127-1225.
49. sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu bye ba’i dris lan lung gi tshad ma ‘khrul spong dgongs rgyan 53b3-55a1
50. Quoted in Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, p. 123 (Phyag chen zla ba’i ‘od zer, f.112b5) as being from the earlier and later hapramāṇasamyak (“Kapey Sarnying” Ka dpe gsar rnying?) But that is probably a mistake for jñasamyakpramāṇa (bKa’ yang dag pa’i tshad ma, Toh. 2331) and bKa’ dpe phyi ma (Toh. 2332) by Telo and Nāro, respectively.
51. Phag mo’i rnam bshad, pp. 23-25 (ff.12a5-13a2)
52. This story is also referenced by Tsongkapa in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (vol.1, 74), where it is attributed to the King of Absorption Sūtra.
53. Phag mo’i rnam bshad, p. 25 (f.13a4-6).
54. Ibid., pp. 26-28 (ff.13b5-14b1).


Gorampa Sönam Senge (Go rams pa bSod nams seng ge). sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu dbye ba’i rnam bshad rgyal ba’i gsung rab kyi dgong pa gsal ba in vol. 9 of The Collected Works of Kun-mkyen Go-rams-pa bsod-nams-seng-ge. Dehra Dun: Sakya College, 1979. TBRC W11249-0439.

Lowo Khenchen Sonam Lhundrub (Glo bo mkhan-chen bsod nams lhun grub), sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu bye ba’i dris lan lung gi tshad ma ‘khrul spong dgongs rgyan in vol. 7 of gsung ‘bum/ bsod nams lhun grub. TBRC W00KG01660.

Mahā Nāḍapāda, rDo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang sgrub, or Srī Vajrayoginī Guhya Sādhanā, Peking 4668, rgyud ‘grel, phu 11a4-13b5. TBRC W23702.

Naropa, dPal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang bsgrub [rdo?] rje btsun mo lhan skyes, Skt. Srī Vajrayoginī Guhya Sādhana (“Secret Sadhana”), in vol. 2 of Selected Writings of the first zwa-nag karma-pa dus-gsum-mkhyen pa, TBRC W23651, ff. 175-232, Gangtok: dzongsar chhentse labrang, 1980. (Reproduced from rare manuscripts from the library of zwa-dmar rin-po-che).

Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (dPa’ bo gtsug lag Phreng ba),
Phag mo’i rnam bshad /dPal rje btsun rto rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang ba’i sgrub thabs kyi rnam par bshad pa zab mo rnam ‘gyed (“Revealing the Profound”)
1. Printed from 16th century central Tibetan blocks. Rumtek, Sikkim: Dharmacakra Center, 1975.
2. A manuscript transcription of an ancient blockprint in the library of Nam mkha’ rdo rje by Kandro. Bir, Dist. Kangra, H.P.: Kandro, 1974. TBRC: W30282
3. Phag mo’i rnam bshad zab mo rnam ‘gyed. Seattle, WA: Nitartha International Publications, 2009.

_____ sNying po bsdus pa (rDo rje rnal ‘byor ma lhan cig skyes ma’i bsked rim gyi lha khrid rnam bshad zab mo rnambyed kyi snying po bsdus pa) (“Condensed Essence”). Xylograph copy, mtsur phu’i grva chen po, N.D.

Padma Karpo (pad ma dkar po), Lus med mkha’ ‘gro’i chos sde’i rnam par bshad pa chos kyi nying khu in vol. 20 (wa) of gsung ‘bum of kun-mkhyen padma-dkar-po. Darjeeling: Kargyud Sungrab Nyamso Khang, 1973-1974. TBRC W10736

_____ Phag rgya chen po’i man ngag gi bshad sbyar rgyal ba’i gan mdzod, Vajra Vidya Institute Library, 2005.

Sampuṭanāmamahātantra, Dg.K. rgyud ‘bum, vol. Ga, ff. 73b-158b (Toh. 381).
Tantrarāja-Śrīlaghusamvara-nāma. rgyud kyi rgyal po dpal bde mchog nyung ngu zhes bya ba. Trans. by Padmākara and Rin chen bZang po. Toh 368, Dg.K. rgyud ‘bum, vol Ka, 213b- 246b.

Tsangnyon Heruka Rupa’i Gyenchen. Life of Milarepa. rNal ‘byor gyi dbang phyug dam pa rje btsun mi la ras pa’i rnam thar thar pa dang thams cad mkhyen pa’i lam ston. xylo. Ku lu mun li ci ṭa ri’I sgrub sde. n.d.

Takpo Tashi Namgyal. Phyag chen zla ba’i ‘od zer. Tibetan xylograph edition, Rumtek, ff. 108b-110b.


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Posted in Conferences, Fellows' Writings, Presentations, Tsadra Meetings | Tags: dpa' bo gtsug lag phreng ba, Marpa, Pakmo Namshe, Pawo Rinpoche, Sapan, Sarah Harding, Vajravārāhī
One Response to ““As for the Blessing of Vajravārāhī, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.” WTF?”

    on Karma Pakshi, Mikyö Dorje and empowerment… | Ganachakra:
    June 22, 2011 at 07:29

    [...] by the wonderful lama/lotsawa Sarah Harding that I found on the Tsadra Foundation blog entitled: “As for the blessing of Vajravarahi, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.” WTF?. I can’t recommend her post enough- it is long, detailed, and treats in great detail the [...]