The Legacy of the Eight Teachings: Revelation, Ritual, and Enlightened Violence in Classical Tibet - ( 04)
contents of the corpora now in circulation. I take this schema to represent the contours of Mahāyoga practice – specifically, the normative practice regimes, teachings, and accomplishments of the Kabgyé – couched as a dkar chag, or bibliography. In this case, the bibliographic format has a narrative value, operating to instill a sense of formalization and sanctioning of the Kabgyé materials. It also participates in The Arising’s overarching goal of sanctioning wrathful practice in Mahāyoga buddhology. The text goes on to explain that,
although this scheme of doctrines and practices covers the maṇḍalas of both peaceful and wrathful deities, “the wrathful alone is the meaning”. Further, the wrathful deities may be understood as Chemchok Heruka, which is none other than the “unfabricated space of the ground of yoga, arranged as the assembly of the single sphere”.243 Thus, we are reminded that the myriad teachings and practices listed here are reducible to the wrathful iconography, which is itself expressive of the unmediated ground of reality. As in the opening narrative of The Arising, the wrathful is here elevated as a primary expression of tantric gnosis. This is one of the main purposes of the bka’ byung tshul auto-history: to validate the wrathful Kabgyé maṇḍalas,
showing them to be inherently tied to, and expressive of, primordial strata of reality. That this buddhological argument is couched in terms of history and bibliography is worth attention. After all, Nyangrel Nyima Özer was a historiographer, and much of his oeuvre is dedicated to authorizing a specific view of sacred Tibetan history.
A related architecture is given in Ngari Panchen’s Method of Explanation. Explicitly taking The Arising and the Clear Lamp Bibliography as his sources, Ngari’s Method celebrates the twenty foundational texts of the revelation cycle (i.e., the Five Great Tantras, the Ten Root 243 The Arising, 269: zhi khro gnyis kyang bsdus pas don la khro bo gcig pu la ‘dus shing tshang ngo/ khro bo yang bsdus bas zhi khro gnyis ka sku lnga rdzogs bas che mchog he ru kar ‘dus so/ che mchog kyang bsdus pas rnal ‘byor pa’i kun gzhi ma bcos dbyings kyi dkyil ‘khor la ‘dus so/ kun gzhi ma bcos dbyings kyi dkyil ‘khor ni thig le nyag gcig tu ‘dus par bkod do/
Tantras, and the Five Teachings), and mentions “Three Instructions” (mang ngag gsum) which come from the “Indian Vidyādharas” (rgya gar gyi rig ‘dzin). Using these Three Instructions as the overarching format, Ngari Panchen enumerates all the elements of an architecture of instruction and method derived from the Kabgyé tantric universe. Like The Arising’s list of interlocking five-fold sets (with which many of Ngari’s elements overlap), it is again unclear
whether this list of elements refers to specific texts, or modes and traditions of practice. My sense is that it includes both, and, taken together, these texts (The Arising, the Clear Lamp Bibliography, and Ngari’s Method of Explanation) communicate the manner in which the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa provides a comprehensive architecture of Mahāyoga knowledge and
practice. This taxonomy is meant to convey the density of materials, outline the kinds of topics that might, and indeed do, appear in the corpus, and to structure the contours of Mahāyoga practice according to this cycle. Such exegesis positions the cycle at the root of tantric knowledge, and sets up an enduring legacy for this corpus to underpin a distinctive approach to religious practice.
I elucidate all of this to bring out the prominence of bibliography and canon in this foundational narrative. This is in support of my position that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, both when regarded as a product of Nyangrel, and in its later reception at places like Mindroling and Katok, gained significance as a canon of materials that supported a specific approach to tantric practice: an approach best characterized as a wrathful ritualism incorporating apotropaic and
soteriological dimensions of tantric practice. As a collection, it supplied something supportive for Early Translation communities, conveying the force of lineage, the gravity of scale, and the intensity of its own antinomian imaginaire. The notable features of the foundational narrative as they appear in this auto-history – specifically, the buddhological connection between the Kabgyé
iconography and pristine cognition, the inclusion of Tibetan gods and demons, and the prominence of textual collation as an expression of the very structure of tantric knowledge – set up a corpus that is much more than a heterodox collection of ultra-wrathful esoterica. We are presented with something that could underpin a whole approach to Buddhist practice and salvation. This is very much in-line with Nyangrel’s general architectonics of Buddhist tradition
for his emergent Nyingma denomination. The Kabgyé was an essential feature of his project – a project that also included history, hagiography, devotional ritual, and transcendental mysticism. In drawing on The Arising’s story, later ecclesiasts could show that the Kabgyé was part of a larger dissemination of related materials in India, cementing the status of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa as a foundation of Nyingma canonical tradition. Thus, the idea of the Accomplishment Class, and the predilections of its experts, were validated as essential features of Nyingma religiosity.
The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is squarely associated with the Mahāyoga genre of Buddhist tantra. Mahāyoga developed in India out of the so-called Yogatantra tradition, and is characterized by its emphasis on elaborate self-visualization deity yoga practice (bskyed rim, Skt. utpattikrama or “Generation Stage”), along with “Completion Stage” yoga (rdzogs rim, Skt. sampannakrama) harnessing psycho-physiological experience. Classical Mahāyoga also entails a complicated supplementary ritualism, largely oriented towards harm-averting, or apotropaic, interventions. Mahāyoga literature features cosmogonic narratives describing the discourse and intercourse between the primordial buddha All-Good (Tib. kun tu bzang po, Skt.
Samantabhadra), and his consort, Kuntu Zangmo (Skt. Samantabhadri). These figures, representative of primordial gnosis in its agentive and receptive dimensions, copulate to produce the various maṇḍalas which are the object of visionary experience, and the main imaginal tools for self-cultivational practice. The unique buddhology expressed in such narratives accounts for the disclosure of non-dual reality (chos, or chos nyid: “reality itself”) in primordial, symbolically mediated, and material realms. As we shall see in our exploration of the foundational Kabgyé
tantras, the Deshek Dupa cycle features these definitive elements of Mahāyoga. However, Nyangrel’s Kabgyé Deshek Dupa also exemplifies unique features related to Nyangrel’s own context and literary intentions. This context included the emergence of the image of the harmaverting ritual adept as the paradigmatic Buddhist master, the anthologizatoin of ritual-centric wrathful tantras, and the influence of new tantric traditions proffered by the New Translation movement.
The foremost Mahāyoga tantra of Indian origin was The Secret Nucleus Tantra (Tib. gsang ba’i snying po rgyud, Skt. guhyagarbha-tantra). As the premier scripture of the Magical Emanation (Tib. sgyu ‘phrul, Skt. Māyājāla) family of Indian Mahāyoga tantras, The Secret Nucleus established the normative format for Mahāyoga doctrine and practice for the Early Translation adherents. We will see how the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa took up doctrinal and ritual templates of the Secret Nucleus, while advancing a new vision for religious mastery which conflated the soteriological and apotropaic dimensions of tantric practice.
This chapter will review the constituent elements of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa’s foundational texts, followed by a description of the tantric maṇḍala in its conceptual and praxical dimensions, and culminating in a descriptive summary of the King of Kabgyé Root Tantras and other tantras of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle. This description of the Kabgyé literature will be supplemented with a comparative analysis of the Secret Nucleus Tantra in the hopes of highlighting the innovations brought by the Eight Teachings’ distinctive vision of tantric mastery.
The Kabgyé’s foundational literature consists of a series of fifteen tantras providing the basic narratives and ritual formats of the Kabgyé tantric system. These fifteen foundational tantras of the Eight Teachings were allegedly present in Nyangrel’s Khoting revelation, and their standardization is clear in the earliest commentarial sources. The first five of these texts, collectively known as The Five Great Tantras (rgyud chen po lnga), provide the basic doctrinal and ritual formats for the entire cycle. These are followed by ten individuated tantras, called the Ten Root Tantras (rtsa ba’i rgyud bcu): one for each of the eight Kabgyé deities, plus one for Guru Vidyādhara (bla ma rig ‘dzin), and one for the forty-two Peaceful Sugatas.
The Five Great Tantras are as follows, listed with regularized titles:
As a whole, this sequence of tantras provides a progressively detailed map of narratives, doctrines, and practices associated with the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle. In this, the King of Root Tantras provides a set of cosmogonic narratives describing the basic elements of the Kabgyé maṇḍalas, while the Subsequent and Differentiated Tantras more fully disambiguate doctrines
and practices based upon the Root Tantra’s initial narratives and formats. These tantras (plus the individuated tantras of the Eight Herukas) cohere in their mythos, buddhology, and praxical elements, while gaining levels of detail as the corpus procedes. From these tantras are derived the contemplative practice texts and ritual liturgies, some of which are attributed to Padmasambhava or Nyangrel, but many of which were known to have been composed by later
promulgators of the Kabgyé tradition. Most of the contemplative and ritual text titles announce their association with the revelation by beginning with the stock phrase: “From Sugata-Assembly of the Eight Teachings” (“bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa las…”).
244 This fifth tantra has aliases that confusingly overlap with another tantra appearing in both the Katok and Tsamdrak chos skor editions. To briefly summarize a confusing situation: the fifth of the five foundational tantras is titled The Totally Differentiated Tantra (bde bar gshegs pa ‘dus pa’i rgyud rab tu ‘byed ba) in Katok, and is called the Differentiation Key Tantra (‘byed par lde mig rgyud) in both Tsamdrak and in The Manner of the Arising of the
Kabgyé Teachings (the bka’ byung tshul). This should not be confused with another tantra sometimes also called the Differentiated Key Tantra (‘byed pa lde’u bar migs gi rgyud). This other “Key Tantra” is included in both Katok and Tsamdrak, as well as in the Nyingma Gyubum, and appears under many different aliases. This other tantra is not one of the “Five Great Tantras” as described in The Manner of the Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings. It is a Deshek Dupa tantra which may be the one transmitted to Nyangrel by Rashak and Tertön Ngödrup.
We will examine the King of Root Tantras in some detail, and draw some comparisons with related materials, specifically the transmitted Assembled Sugatas Tantra (bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i rgyud), and also the Secret Nucleus Tantra. First, an initial discussion of maṇḍala, the foundational feature of Mahāyoga tantrism, is in order.
As the Kabgyé tantras are primarily concerned with laying out the various maṇḍalas, some discussion of this element of Mahāyoga tantrism will situate the narratives and practices described in the sources. The Tibetan term for maṇḍala is dkyil ‘khor, literally meaning “center and circle” or “center and retinue”. This term has both iconographic and phenomenological valances, referring at once to ritual iconography, self-cultivational visualization, and the interconnected nature of experiential phenomena according to tantric buddhology. In the
iconographic sense, the term refers to a circular diagram with a distinctive central icon and surrounding symbolic elements. From this diagrammatic perspective, the maṇḍala image provides an aerial-view of a palace (gzhal yas khang, lit. “measureless house”), which is meant to be visualized in meditation or ritual practice as a complete, three-dimensional environment containing a set of deities and other iconographic elements. In Mahāyoga practice, the adept visualizes his or herself in the form of a tutelary deity (yi dam, lit. “mind-bind”), usually in
sexual union with a consort, whilst imagining a surrounding environment filled with other deities and architectural elements, all representing different aspects of purified cognition and sacralized perception. These visualized elements are built sequentially in the imagination, which is said to progressively purify karmic constituents such as the propensity for taking different kinds of birth. Depending on the cycle, the visualized “palace” might be in the form of colorful palatial architecture, or, as in the wrathful maṇḍalas of the Kabgyé cycle, as a gruesome burial ground
with features such as blazing skeleton mountains and lakes of blood. Some maṇḍalas consist entirely of transliterated Sanskrit syllables, as is the case in the Secret Nucleus, in which fortytwo Sanskrit syllables are arranged, and out of which the forty-two peaceful deities emerge. Generally speaking, in the Kabgyé maṇḍalas, the practitioner first visualizes the environment as a horrific charnel ground with a skeleton-mountain palace at the center. The
practitioner is instructed to create (either in the imagination, or, in the case of the ritualized construction of a diagrammatic maṇḍala, in actuality) a seed syllable out of human blood or cremation ash. From this emerges the mental image of the practitioner in the form of the primary deity of that maṇḍala (e.g. Śri Heruka, Yamāntaka, Vajrakīlaya, etc.). The charnel ground palace
is subsequently populated with specific subsidiary deities, protector gods, and, in the case of the Kabgyé maṇḍalas, various types of demons. The appearance of each icon is described in the tantras with great detail, although little interpretation of the iconographic features is given in the texts. Such interpretations of the iconographic symbolism are reserved for the oral instructions and written liturgies of the tantric master. In this sense, the tradition is an esoteric one, as only
properly prepared adepts can receive the decryptive instructions from a qualified master. Practice liturgies (las byang or sgrub thabs, “methods of accomplishment”, Skt. sādhana,) enliven the visualization with a regularized program of supplications, praise, offerings, mantra, mudrā, and other ritualized gestures. These techniques engage the practitioner in an imaginative drama in which relationships between symbolic icons are established. In the case of the Deshek Dupa, these specific “methods of accomplishment” are generally not explicated within the tantras – although the titles of such texts are occasionally given – and are often left to be composed by the cycle’s masters for the benefit of student adepts.
Training in this kind of visualization is thought to reformat the habituated perceptualcognitive apparatus of a practitioner. Repeated engagement in the mandalic visualization rehabituates an adept to understand his or her own perceptions to be expressive of sacralized modes of cognition. Doctrinally speaking, the visualization of one’s self as a deity, and of the environment as its palace, triggers recognition that all perception is really a function of the
natural expressivity of the primordial ground nature, which is the very nature of consciousness: a substrate at once free from positionality or ownership (i.e., it is “empty” (stong pa nyid) of essence), but also brilliantly lucid and expressive (i.e., gsal zhing rig pa, “clear and knowing”). Ordinary perception is faulty in the bifurcation of internal self and external environment, and this mistaken dualistic perception may be replaced by a gnostic one in which such dualism is immediately overcome through imaginative transposition. Because the visualization is generated
from the “nature of mind” (sems kyi ngo bo) – i.e., its appearance in the imaginative apparatus consists of vivid insubstantiality – it patently arises as the expressivity of the gnostic ground: emptiness-brilliance. Training in this perceptual mode is thought to reformat the continuous perceptions of the practitioner, thoroughly purifying and transforming experience into a non-dual consciousness in which all thoughts, perceptions, and experiences are understood to be reflections of the emptiness-brilliance of the primordial substrate of consciousness. Mahāyoga tantrism is primarily characterized by this kind of “deity yoga” practice, with
self-visualization of a meditational deity in a mandalic environment, built sequentially along with mantric vocalization and mudric gestures, defining Mahāyoga “Generation Stage” (bskyed rim) ritual. Mahāyoga systems also include a subsequent “Completion Stage” (rdzogs rim), in which visualization is replaced or supplemented with the manipulation of bodily experiences, often in simulation of sexual bliss, to generate a lucid, blissful mind attuned to primordial gnosis.
Interestingly, any mention of the Completion Stage is missing from the root tantras, although there are plenty of Completion Stage meditation texts included in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle. Mahāyoga is generally known in the Nyingma tradition for an emphasis on complex Generation Stage practice, while Anuyoga was credited for its focus on the Completion Stage. Atiyoga, or The Great Perfection (rdzogs pa chen po) is said to surpass these in a transcendental eschewal of contrived practice. While the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is a definitive cycle of the
Mahāyoga variety, it subordinates itself to the conceits of the Great Perfection, as seen in The Arising’s doxographic themes. Even though the terms rdzogs pa chen po or mahā ati are absent from the root tantra, the narratives make much of the primacy of the primordial ground and its unmediated gnosis. This will be part of an important buddhological argument validating the arresting iconography and ritualism of the Eight Teachings.
In material terms, a maṇḍala is constructed as a symbolic support for Mahāyoga ritual. For initiation (dbang) or Great Accomplishment (sgrub chen) ceremonies, maṇḍalas will be made from colored sand, or sometimes built in three dimensions as a massive sculptural rendition. Ritual action unfolds around the physical maṇḍala, which is an essential link between the gestures, vocalizations, and imagination of practitioners and the divine realm with which they
engage. Major Great Accomplishment ritual intensives will also conclude with ‘cham dancing, in which the monastic assembly will physically enact the maṇḍala and its mythic dramas. Wearing colorful masks and brilliant robes, the dancers represent the deities and subsidiary characters of the maṇḍala. With spectacular leaping movements choreographed to pounding drums and blasting horns, they enact the mythic narrative of the maṇḍala’s arising and soteriological action. The violent subjugation of a stock demonic character is generally at the center of the drama.
The maṇḍala, as a buddhological concept, also entails cosmological dimensions. While Buddhism explicitly rejects theistic cosmogenesis, the language of divine creation is appropriated in Mahāyoga tantric sources to describe the emanation of mandalic realms by the primordial buddha, Kuntu Zangpo.245 In these narratives, discourse and intercourse between Kuntu Zangpo and his consort signifies the naturally expressive capacity of the universal
substrate to manifest as realms – mandalic domains that are, in nature, pure expressions of the empty and expressively brilliant character of the ground itself. Training in visualization of the maṇḍala, then, reverses perceptual misconceptions, returning the consciousness of the practitioner to a non-dual sensory world directly connected to the gnostic ground. This kind of self-cultivational technology and its undergirding narrative idioms are central to the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa literature, as we will see in our exploration of the cycle’s root tantra.
The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa root tantra, fully entitled The King of Root Tantras of the Sugata-Assembly of the Eight Teachings (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po, hereafter The King of Root Tantras), entails eighteen chapters providing mythic narratives and detailed descriptions of the Kabgyé maṇḍalas.246 Its maṇḍalas include those of the Five Buddha Families (rigs lnga), the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zhi khro), a general 245 Germano and others have tied the development of mandalic cosmogenesis in Indian Buddhist tantra to earlier Mahayāna literary precedents, specifically in the Sutric motif of the generation of pure realms from the compassionate intention of Bodhisattvas; e.g., the creation, from a vow of compassion, of Amitabha’s Western Pure Realm.
246 “bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po (the King of Root tantras of the Kagye Deshek Dupa)” in Katok: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor, vol. 1, text 4, pp. 273-352; Aliases for this King of Root Tantras in Nyingma Gyubum editions include the bcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa, and the zhi khro ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud le’u bco brgyad. Confusingly, these aliases are shared by a different text appearing in the Gyubum and Deshek Dupa editions – a text I have regularized as the bde gshegs ‘dus pa rgyud – but the eighteen-chapter root tantra is mostly known as the King of Root Tantras, and is generally treated as the basis for the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa system altogether.
wrathful maṇḍala, and the specific maṇḍalas of the individuated eight Kabgyé herukas. Some of these maṇḍalas, such as those of the Five Buddha Families and the maṇḍala of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, are derived from the Magical Emanation anthology of Indian Mahāyoga scriptures. The Māyājāla, and its Secret Nucleus Tantra in particular, had long been the main source of esoteric knowledge for Early Translation practitioners. These tantras generally revolve
around a foundational mythology describing Kuntu Zangpo’s emanation of Vajrasattva (rdo rje sems pa) at the center of the maṇḍala of Five Families, and the emanation of myriad maṇḍalas associated with the assembly of One Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities. The maṇḍala of the Five Families, as well as the Peaceful/Wrathful deity complex, are included in the Kabgyé cycle, both as a feature of this root tantra, and in individuated revelation texts included in the corpus.
The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa brings together these maṇḍalas and deities of the Magical Emanation with non-Māyājāla deity systems such as Yamāntaka, Hayagrīva, and Vajrakīlaya, which had circulated in Tibetan tantric communities from the time of the initial dispensation. The Kabgyé thus embraced Māyājāla templates while collating other important tantric deities to yield a new format for tantric practice that met the needs of Early Translation tantrists.
Apart from providing basic iconographical descriptions and specifying the unique mantras associated with these maṇḍalas, there is little praxical instruction beyond listing the names of rituals (cho ga), and some titles for “methods for accomplishment” (sgrub thabs, Skt. sādhana). The emphasis seems to be on the use of cosmogonic narratives – specifically, stories of the emanation of maṇḍalas by primordial buddhas – to communicate Mahāyoga buddhology
I. Introduction: Introductory narrative describing the emergence of Kuntu Zangpo and Kuntu Zangmo from the primordial ground. Intercourse and discourse is held between Kuntu Zangmo and Kuntu Zangpo. Their union produces the maṇḍalas of the Five Buddha Families.
II. The Teaching of the Method of Accomplishing the Hundred Sacred Ones: Vajrasattva from the Five Families maṇḍala supplicates for a maṇḍala of accomplishing the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful deities. This maṇḍala, and a basic outline of deity yoga practice according to Mahāyoga tradition, is then described in detail by Kuntu Zangpo.
VI. The Accomplishment by the Single Form: Vajrasattva supplicates for the maṇḍala of the Five Families by a Single Form (i.e., visualization of individual deities of each the Five Buddha Families). Kuntu Zangpo describes.
VII. The Emanation of Manifest maṇḍala of the Wrathful Ones: Kuntu Zangmo enters into union with Chemchok Heruka, and supplicates him to arise in the enjoyment body as Śri Heruka, and to display, teach, and liberate. Śri Heruka then describes the manifestation of an elemental maṇḍala out of seed syllables, and lists the teachings (titles only) for the consummation of different vehicles. Then, from their intercourse are produced subjugating deities, and then the wrathful Kabgyé maṇḍala emerges from her feminine space.
VIII. The Authentic maṇḍala of the Great Wrathful Terrifier: Four Herukas of the Kabgyé maṇḍala supplicate Śri Heruka to teach the wrathful maṇḍala of the “great terrifier” (‘jigs byed). Śri Heruka describes a detailed maṇḍala and gives mantras. 247 Padmasambhava’s composition of the sādhana of the Single Family of the Great Secret is described in Nyangrel’s zangs gling ma, in the chapter detailing Padmasambhava’s teaching activity in Tri Song Detsän’s court. Yeshe Tsogyal, The Lotus Born. trans. Erik Pema Kunsang. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2013, 125. 2
X. The Extremely Condensed Accomplishment With Reference To The Accomplishment As The General Wrathful Ones: Śri Heruka also describes a condensed accomplishment maṇḍala, called “the Authentic Meaning of Reality”. XI. The Accomplishment of the Qualities of Chemchok: The Four Herukas request the method for accomplishing the good qualities (yon tan) of all sugatas, and Śri Heruka describes the wrathful deity maṇḍala of Chemchok
XII. The Accomplishment of the Authentic Mind: Vajra Heruka arises and requests the accomplishment of mind (thugs), the accomplishment of Yangdak, which is given as a Vajra Heruka maṇḍala with many subsidiary deities.248
XVI. The Accomplishment of Mamo Bötong: Chemchok Heruka arises and requests the accomplishment maṇḍala of the enlightened actions of Mamo Bötong. Śri Heruka instructs the generation of a Chemchok maṇḍala, and from the union of Chemchok and consort, a maṇḍala of all-female wrathful divinities is emanated.
248 In Māyājāla tantras, Vajra Heruka is the wrathful version of Vajrasattva, presiding over a wrathful iteration of the Five Family maṇḍala. His use in the narrative here is curious, but may be due to the fact that Śri Heruka is the one doing the teaching; i.e., it would make little narrative sense for Śri Heruka to emerge and ask Śri Heruka for the teachings of Śri Heruka. Thus, Vajra Heruka stands in, and supplicates Śri Heruka for the Enlightened Mind (thugs) maṇḍala usually associated with Śri Heruka himself in the Kabgyé system. 205
XVII. The Accomplishment of Jigten Chöten:249 The Haughty Tamer of All (dregs pa kun ‘dul, the heruka of the Jigten Chötö mandla) requests the method for accomplishing Jigten Choten for the purpose of “taming the inappropriate”. Śri Heruka describes a maṇḍala of demon-taming demons: the demonic dregs pa surrounded by a retinue of demons (bdud) of the “Eight Classes” (srin mo lha / sprul pa’i sde brgyad).
XVIII. The Accomplishment of Möpa Drangak: The Powerful Black Heruka (stobs ldan nag po) supplicates the Great Warrior (dpa’ bo chen po, i.e., Śri Heruka), for the method of Möpa Drangak. A maṇḍala populated by various dü, tsän, lú, za and divine lha is described, and the vital mantra given. The root tantra entails several notable elements worth sustained attention. These include the distinctive mythic narratives around which the text is built, the character of the maṇḍalas described therein, and the fascinating demonology which achieves full expression in the latter sections of the tantra.
According to Mahāyoga tantras, the primordial buddha Kuntu Zangpo is the originary theogenic figure. Kuntu Zangpo is associated with the primordial dimension of reality: a fundamentally unconditioned, yet innately manifest strata, or “ground” (gzhi, or chos nyid, “reality itself”, Skt. dharmatā) undergirding apparent reality and free from the various conceptual polarities imposed by distorted perception. Kuntu Zangpo is nothing other than the agentive character of the ground-nature, the substrate of consciousness, and the narrative opens with a description of the features of his “domain”:
secret body, speech, and mind, the ground that transcends measure and analogue, adorned with the ornament of primordial total purity, the 249 Jigten Chötö (‘jig rten mchod bstod, “Worldly Praise and Offering”), and the term Jigten Chörten (‘jig rten mchod rten, lit., “worldly offering-base”) seem to be used interchangeably. Of course, mchod rten is the word for reliquary stupa, but stupas seem to be irrelevant to the content of this part of the tantra. Rather, this section supplies a maṇḍala for tantric practices that inculcate autochthonous and personal divinities as a means for subduing obstacles to virtue and enlightenment.
crystallization of the ten directions, neither inner nor outer, the adornment of total purity, the place of primordially self-arisen beginninglessness and endlessness: [here] dwells the Glorious Victor Kuntu Zangpo, the unborn dharma-body, free from elaboration, the dream within the great bindu of the unfabricated ultimate. 250
The language here is of purity (dag po), a term which typically stands for the unfabricated nature of the universal substrate. The reference-point-less character of the ultimate is also emphasized, articulated as a transcendence of imposed spatial and temporal distinctions. This “unborn” (skye ba med pa) ground nonetheless gains expression in the agentive potential of the Primordial Buddha, who is described in terms of dreamlike (mnal) insubstantiality.
Kuntu Zangpo’s conjugal counterpart is the female primordial buddha, Kuntu Zangmo. According to tantric doctrine, masculine imagery symbolizes agentive compassion (thabs, Skt. upāya, “method”), while the feminine signifies wisdom (shes pa, Skt. prajñā). The union of masculine and feminine, which expresses the inseparability of unfabricated compassion and wisdom (thabs shes) in the ground-nature, is depicted in the sexual union of male and female
divinities (yab yum, “lord and lady”). This conjugal imagery is pervasive in tantric iconography, particularly in Mahāyoga sources. This imagery also suggests the soteriology of bliss associated with tantric practice. Many tantric practices, specifically Completion Stage practices harnessing sexual response, aim to utilize blissful corporal experience to stimulate gnosis. While detailed
exposition of sexual yogic practice (sbyor ba, “union”) is not provided in this Kabgyé root tantra (as it is, for example, in the Secret Nucleus), the incorporation of sexuality in Mahāyoga tantrism would be expected and understood, and is clearly operative in the framing narrative of the tantra. 250 The King of Root Tantras 274.2-275.3: ‘di skad bdag gis thos pa’i dus gcig na/ ‘og min gyi gnas chos kyi dbyings kyi pho brang/ sku gsung thugs gsang ba mchog gi gnas/ ye nas rnam par dag pa’i rgyan gyis brgyan pa/ dpe dang tshad las ‘das pa’i sa/ phyi nang med par phyogs bcur ‘grigs pa/ rnam par dag bas klu bas pa/ thog ma dang tha ma med par ye nas rang byung gi gnas na/ bcom ldan ‘das dpal kun tu bzang po/ chos kyi sku skye ba med pa spros pa dang bral ba/ don dam pa ma bcos pa’i thig le chen po’i ngang la mnal te bzhugs so/
Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo are both present from the (beginningless) beginning, and exegesis holds these two primordial buddhas to be equally primary, although the narrative suggests something different, as Kuntu Zangmo is relegated to a supportive, albeit necessary, role. In this root tantra, Kuntu Zangmo’s role is to stimulate Kuntu Zangpo into agency. Kuntu Zangmo sings out to Kuntu Zangpo, repeatedly requesting him to “teach” (ston pa). Emaho. From the panoramic space of the total purity of emptiness, the imperceivable arising of equanimous compassion; from the pure dharma body of ultimate wisdom, teach the sky-compassion of uninterrupted methods. Ho.251
To this request, Kuntu Zangpo initially remains silent, implying the immovability of the “vajra state” of unconditioned gnosis. We might note that his silence is also redolent of the historical Buddha’s reticence to teach following his enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Kuntu Zangmo supplicates three times, and Kuntu Zangpo finally responds with a declaration of his creatorship and mandalic sovereignty:
This theogenic language is striking in the context of the decidedly non-theistic orientation of Buddhism. However, tantric rhetoric often gains impact in reworking the doctrinal formulations of orthodox Buddhism, and theogenesis here communicates the naturally expressive character of the primordial ground. According to tantric doctrine, the unconditioned (skye med, “unborn”) ground does not constitute a void space; rather, it is endowed with an expressive gnosical quality: 251 The King of Root Tantras, 276.1-2: e ma ho/ stong nyid rnam par dag pa’i klong yangs nas/ snyoms pa’i thugs rje ‘byung bar mi dmigs kyang/ shes rab don dam chos sku dag pa las/ ma ‘gags thabs kyi snying rje nam mkha’ ston/
it is gsal zhing rig pa – “lucid and aware”. This naturally expressive lucidity is inherently compassionate and manifests as the enlightened activity (phrin las) of “teaching” (bston pa), broadly defined. According to Mahāyoga buddhology, the unfabricated compassion of the ground-nature spontaneously manifests maṇḍalas in visionary realms, and the articulation of verbalized teachings in the coarser reality of the “hearing lineage” (snyan brgyud) of human beings. Those of extreme realization capable of perceiving subtle visionary realities, such as the
“awareness holders” (rig ‘dzin, Skt. vidyādhara) or bodhisattvas (byang chub sems dpa’), can apprehend maṇḍalas emanated out of the primordial ground by Kuntu Zangpo. These symbolic “teachings” must then be redacted into language in the form of the Buddhist teachings to be comprehended by humans. The Arising has told us how this was accomplished by the Eight Vidyādharas who first received the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa via the guidance of charnel ground
ḍākinīs, the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons, and the bodhisattva Vajradharma at Śitavana. As the narrative action of this King of Root Tantras takes place in the atemporal space of the primordial ground, Kuntu Zangpo’s “teaching” will consist entirely of the emanation of maṇḍalas in an auto-disclosure of symbolic forms. Kuntu Zangpo clarifies this special kind of symbolic pedagogy in the text:
Emaho. The assembly [i.e., the maṇḍala] that is the sign253 of the spoken word of all the Buddhas: by being elaborated it is the self-character of the entreaty; by being assembled, it is the meaning that is the sign of reality.254
Translation of this passage into English proves awkward, but Kuntu Zangpo essentially explicates that the maṇḍala (in the case of the Kabgyé, the assemblage of wrathful maṇḍalas) is 253 phyag rgya: skt. mudrā, here in the sense of sign, or symbolic iteration; i.e., the assembly (tshogs), or maṇḍala, is the “sign” or symbolic iteration, of the teachings.
nothing other than the variegated revelation of singular ultimate reality, spontaneously generated out of compassion in response to Kuntu Zangmo’s entreaty (bskul ba), which is itself contained within the auto-expressive activity of the ground nature. It is a self-contained dialog, reflecting the doctrine that everything arises from, and within, the primordial ground.
It is at this point that Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo enter into sexual union, and maṇḍalas emerge from their copulation: “from the space of the Sugatas of inseparable lord and lady was emanated the maṇḍala of Ocean of Victors along with a divine mansion…” 255 It will be from their union – symbolic of the inseparability of gnosis and compassion in the ground nature – that all the maṇḍalas of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa will manifest. This gynogenesis is suggestive of the soteriology of bliss that marks Mahāyoga tantrism, as well as the productive capacity of wisdom
according to tantric buddhology. Wisdom is thematized as the female consort, Kuntu Zangmo, and so the production of maṇḍalas in her “feminine space” (yum kyi mkha’ klong) represents the disclosure of phenomena out of the noumenal space of the unconditioned ground. The narrative elements of discourse, intercourse, and mandalic production are repeated several times in the tantra. The initial drama described above results in the production of Five Sugata Family (bde gshegs rigs lnga) and Peaceful/Wrathful (zhi khro) maṇḍalas, and another episode of song and union between wrathful versions of Kuntu Zangpo and Kuntu Zangmo will produce the series of wrathful Eight Heruka maṇḍalas:
‘By the power of the totally non-existent emptiness yoga, from the space of reality, are built the close samayas, the expanse of total liberation, the ocean of gnosis, built from the space of reality, unabiding and unseen.’
[Then], Glorious Kuntu Zangpo, from within emptiness itself, having arisen as the manifest body of Chemchok Heruka, and seeing the sky-face of the lady of secrets, engaged in various dharmic enjoyments [i.e., entered into union].
Then, with this song of the great play of the lady, [[[Kuntu Zangmo]]] supplicated: ‘Deity of the space of the ultimate completion of two accumulations! You, great, glorious, good Chemchok Heruka of the great play of Sambhogakāya: by the method of play from the space of great bliss, arise!’...
‘E ma! From the sun-like sacred wish-fulfilling body, a treasury of loving Chemchok blessings, the body of yawning cloud banks of splendor, teach the display of the play of unobstructed Chemchok. E ma! From the sacred wish-fulfilling speech like the sky, make shine the intimate blessings of Chemchok. Teach the inexhaustible ocean of extensive limbs [of teachings]. With the lion’s roar, teach the ocean of secrets. E ma ho! From the sun-like essence of wisdom,
grant the Chemchok gnosis blessings, the non-conceptual mind free from elaborations. Teach the display of ascertaining liberation itself, liberation by the method shackling the ocean of suffering, the samsaras of laziness, stupidity, and ignorance. For the benefit of those blinded by the darkness of obscuration, reveal! By the one who plays the ocean of samsara, there is liberation. Like giving medicine in accordance with the disease, arise as the body with the power to tame, and liberate beings.’
Then the great terrifier, Glorious Heruka, within the great all-pervading dharmatā, from the primordial ground of all, the primordial transcendent space, the nature of the five wisdoms, the emergent magical display; For the erection of the five kinds of totally pure arisings [in] the Lady’s space [gave the wrathful maṇḍala]...256
Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo here entreat each other in song (glu ‘dis bskul lo), and a session of mutual praise prefaces their union. Once they join, maṇḍalas are sequentially produced in what is at once an act of eroticism, world-making, and symbolic pedagogy.
As I have tried to suggest, these narratives are illustrative of buddhological doctrines specific to Mahāyoga tantrism. The expressivity of the primordial ground, the originary nature of compassion, the non-linguistic character of gnosis, and the utility of bliss are all conveyed in the narrative of Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo’s interaction. But what are the advantages of
narrativizing tantric doctrine, as we see in these Mahāyoga tantric scriptures? Matthew Kapstein has posed this question in regards to tantric mythology, concluding that myth is a meta-historical discourse that accomplishes philosophical goals. He states: “We cannot desist from being tellers of tales: so long as philosophy remains anchored in our common experience it will have need of
256 The King of Root Tantras, 299.6 – 302.3: gsang ba’i yum khro mo gnam zhal mar gyur nas/ gsang ba’i glu ‘di blangs te bskul lo/ ho/ yod med stongs pa shin tu rnal ‘byor mthus/ chos kyi dbyings las dam tshig nye bar bzhengs/ ye shes rgya mtsho rnam par grol ba’i klong/ mi gnas mi dmigs chos kyi dbyings nas bzhengs/ zhes bskul bas/ dpal kun tu zang po stong pa’i nyid kyi ngang las/ che mchog he ru ka’i sku mngon par phyung nas/ gsang ba’i yum gnam zhal ma la gzigs te/ rol pa’i chos sna tshogs mdzad do/ de nas yum gyi rol pa chen po’i glu ‘dis gsol ba btab po/ tshogs chen gnyis rdzogs don dam dbyings kyi lha/ longs spyod rdzogs mdzad rol pa chen po yi/ che mchog he ru ka bzang dpal chen khyod/ thabs kyi rol pas dbe chen dbyings nas bzhengs/ zhes bskul bas/ cho ‘phrul chen po’i rnam pas kun la khyab par mdzad do/ de nas yab yum gyis yab la cho ‘phrul ‘byung ba’i glu ‘dis gsol ba btab bo/ ho ye shes sgyu ma rnam par rol pa’i sku/ thabs dang shes rab che la mnga’ brnyes pa’i / thugs rje sprul pa mnga po ‘byung ba’i gnas/ bde gshegs bde bar gshegs mdzad sku/ /bzhengs shig/ ces bskul bas/ dpal chen po drag po ‘jigs byed ‘bar ba’i skur bzhengs so/ de nas yum kun tu bzang mo ‘khor nang bcas pa de dag/ mgrin gcig tu glu ‘dis bskul te gsol ba btab po/ E ma yid bzhin sku mchog nyi ma lta bu las/ byams pa’i byin brlabs che mchog gar mdzod cig/
gzi byin sprin phung rol pas bsgyings pa’i sku thogs med che mchog rol ba’i cho ‘phrul ston/ E ma/ yid bzhin gsung mchog nam mkha’ lta bu las snyen pa’i byin brlabs che mchog brjid mdzod cig/ yan lag rgya mtsho mi ‘dzad bkod pa’i gsung/ seng ge’i sgra yis gsang pa’i rgya mtsho ston/ E ma ho/ ye shes snying po nyi ma lta bu las/ ye shes byin brlabs che mchog de mdzod cig/ thig le spros bral rnam par mi rtog thugs/ rnam grol de nyid nges ba’i cho ‘phrul ston/ mi she blun rmongs ‘dam bying ‘khor ba rnams/ sdug bsngal rgya mtshor bcings pa thabs kyis khrol/ ma rig mun pas ldongs pa don gyis phye/ ‘khor ba’i rgya mtsho rol pa’i rang gis sgrol/ nad dang mthun pa’i sman gtong ji bzhin du/ gdul bya’i dbang du sku bzhengs ‘gro ba sgrol/ zhes bskul lo/ de nas ‘jigs byed chen po dpal he ru kas cho nyid dpal ba chen po’i ngang/ kun gzhi ye nas ‘das pa’i dbyings gdod ma/ skye ba’i cho ‘phrul ye shes lnga’i rang bzhin/ yum gyi mkha’ klong rnam par dag pa ‘byung ba rnam pa lnga brtsegs pa ni/
plentiful tales, and some of these tales will be myths.”257 I must agree. I suggest that tantric narratives in the Eight Teachings function to a) tackle the philosophical difficulty of accounting for the appearance of variegated phenomena out of a profoundly unconditioned substrate, while b) aestheticizing doctrine in the service of the corpus’ broader goal of building a soteriological imaginaire. In Mahāyoga mythology, the trans-lingustic, non-conceptual originary ground is given voice in its personification as primordial buddhas. A strata beyond the scope of language,
ideation, and differentiation is dramatized as a domain in which expressivity, compassion, and the arising of emotion is possible. In these narratives, primordial entities – characters so originary that their status as entities is questionable – are humanized. In dramatizing the expressivity of the ground, emotions, including the conventionally “negative” ones around which tantric discourse circulates, are sanctioned. As we will see, maṇḍalas full of deeply violent, transgressive, and sexual imagery will be born from the union of Kuntu Zangpo and Kuntu Zangmo, and so this
narrative tells us that, despite the arresting content of the Kabgyé imagery, these iconographic elements are inherently rooted in the compassionate expressivity of the primordial ground itself. The story sanctions wrathful practice, contextualizes threatening imagery, and solidly embraces the humanity and distinctive vision of adepthood that would define the Early Translation
community. In addition, the aestheticization of profound buddhology – the expression of deep philosophical positions in narratives entailing lyricism, imagery, and dramatic action – serves a broader goal of defining an imaginal world by which adherents may confirm collective identities and author agentive subjectivities. As I will suggest in Chapter Seven’s exploration of the “Kabgyé imaginaire”, tantric mythologies advance an imaginal world that communicates
doctrinal positions while providing the setting for ritualized practices aimed at facilitating 257 Matthew T. Kapstein “Samantabhadra and Rudra: Innate Enlightenment and Radical Evil in Tibetan Rnying-mapa Buddhism.” In Discourse and Practice, eds. Frank Reynolds and David Tracy, 51-82. Albany: SUNY, 1992, 82.
subjective transformations and confirmations of identity. The evocative narratives that frame the foundational texts of this corpus are vital features of the broad capacity for this cycle to direct the subject-constituting potential of a complete practice system.
The first maṇḍala produced from the “space of inseparable union” (yab yum gnyis su med pa’i mkha’ nas) is that of the “Five Sugata Families” (bde gshegs rigs lnga). The Five Families are a collection of Sambhogakāya Buddhas important in what became known in Tibetan doxography as the “inner tantras” of Yoga, Mahāyoga, and Anuyoga. These five peaceful icons symbolize the five aggregates of the putative self (phung po, Skt. skandha), five types of emotional experience in their purified (gnosical) manifestation, as well as the five physical elements, primary colors, and cardinal directions. Thus, the Five Sugata Family maṇḍala provides a homological model for Buddhist psychology, ritual iconography, and cosmology. As Ronald Davidson observes, the iconography of the Yogatantra system centered on a “royal idiom” in which coronation and splendorous authority provided the general ethos of tantric iconography and ritual. Such imagery is indeed present in this Five Families maṇḍala, as the iconographic description emphasizes the gentle magnificence of these divinities: “These [[[Sugatas]]] are soft in body, pliant, embracing, vibrating in the mode of youth; shining, glittering, massive and dignified.”
Following the emanation and some interpretative explication of the Five Families maṇḍala, the chief Sambhogakāya Buddha, Vajrasattva, emerges and supplicates Kuntu Zangpo to emanate a maṇḍala of the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful (zhi khro) deities: 258 The King of Root Tantras, 281.5-6: de dag thams cad kyang sku mnyen pa dang scug pa dang/ ‘khril pa dang/ ldem pa dang/ gzhon tshul can dang/ gsal ba dang/ ‘tsher ba dang/ lhun stug pa dang/ brjid chags pa dang/
“E ma ho! Victor, great purity, lord of the families, the family of families, creator of the maṇḍala: I supplicate you to teach the method of the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful ones of the Assembled Sugatas.”259
In response, Kuntu Zangmo emanates a series of maṇḍalas based on the iconography of the Peaceful/Wrathful deity complex, with particular emphasis on the Forty-Two Peaceful, and also further iterations of the Five Families maṇḍala. Kuntu Zangpo also supplies a rare instance of didacticism, as he outlines the basic procedures for tantric practice. This description of proper practice includes instruction in the “Three Samadhis”, (ting nge ‘dzin rnam pa gsum), a sequence of contemplations on the unity of emptiness and compassion which generally preludes Mahāyoga deity yoga.
In response to a series of entreaties by Vajrasattva, Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo sequentially emanate maṇḍalas of the Forty Two Peaceful Deities, the Five Buddha Families, the Single Family of the Great Secret, and individuated maṇḍalas of the Five Buddhas. This initial series of maṇḍala emanations centers on peaceful iconography drawn from the Yoga and Mahāyoga systems in general, and the Māyājāla genre in particular. In including the Five Families, Vajrasattva, and the Peaceful/Wrathful deity complex, the tantra represents the contours of the tantric traditions inherited from India. The inclusion of these systems in this Assembly of the Sugatas signals an effort to collate important iterations of tantric practice distinctive to the Early Translation communities. But it is in the next series of emanations – the
emanation of wrathful maṇḍalas of the Eight Herukas – that the Kabgyé is truly distinguished, making a bold statement about the possibilities of tantrism in inculcating the idiom of enlightened wrath and the ritual practice of harm-averting violence.
259 The King of Root Tantras, 283.1-2: E ma ho/ bcom ldan gas (sic)/ dag che/ rigs kyi rigs te rigs kyi gtso/ dkyil ‘khor kun gyi byed pa po/ bde bar gshegs pa kun ‘dus pa’i/ zhi ba dam pa rigs brgya yi/ bsgrub thabs bdag la bshad dug sol/ zhes gsol pa/
As described previously, the disclosure of the wrathful maṇḍalas unfolds on the heels of discourse and intercourse between wrathful versions of Kuntu Zangpo and Kuntu Zangmo. In this, Kuntu Zangpo reveals himself as Chemchok Heruka, and union with the “wrathful skyfaced” Kuntu Zangmo produces a general heruka maṇḍala:
By the radiance of taking great pleasure in the sky-faced wrathful lady, by gazing and making the offering of pleasure in the body of the Lady, from the space of the Lady and from light rays of bodhisattvas, from the proliferation of inconceivable wrathful emanations in the ten directions, Lord Chemchok, liberated the worldly haughty demons, the twenty-one great gods, and so forth. Having subjugated and annihilated them, the eightfold assembly again took position in the eight directions: Vajra Heruka appeared in the East out of enlightened mind; to the South appeared Zhinje of enlightened body; from enlightened speech, in the West, was emanated Tamdrin; in the North was the emanation of enlightened action, Youthful Dorje [[[Vajrakīlaya]]]; in the Southeast was the splendorous and powerful Śri Heruka; in the Northwest was the all-taming Jigpa Drekpa [Jigten Chötö];
emerging in the Northeast was Mighty Black One [[[Möpa]] Drangak]; in the Southwest, Rigzin Vajradharma, all with their retinues and consorts. The assembly of wrathful ones, along with nine palaces, became clarified as the emanation from the space of union of Lord and Lady.260
The sexual and gynogenic imagery here is striking, as the text specifies that the radiance of sexual bliss (“taking pleasure in the sky-faced lady”) powers the emanation of wrathful enlightened forms, and the “liberation” of the worldly demons (dregs pa) and gods (lha). The term “liberation” in this context is multivalent: while sgrol ba could refer to the stimulation of sentient beings into enlightenment, in the context of Mahāyoga ritualism, sgrol ba is also a
euphemism for the violent dispatch of enemies. Indeed, sgrol ba (“liberation”) and sbyor ba 260 The King of Root Tantras, 306-307.1: yab che mchog gis yum khro mo gnas zhal ma la dgyes pa chen po’i mdangs kyis gzigs te/ yum gyi sku la dgyes pa’i mchod pa phul bas/ yum gyi mkha’ las byang chub kyi sems kyi ‘od zer las sprul pa’i khro bo bsam gyis mi khyab pa phyogs bcu thams cad du ‘phros pas/ ‘jig rten gyi dregs pa can/ lha chen po nyi shu rtsa gcig la stsogs pa thams cad bsgral te/ bdul zhing tsar bcad nas/ slar phyogs brgyad du ‘dus pa las/ shar du thugs las sprul pa ba dzra he ru ka zhes bya ba dang/ lhor sku las sprul pa gzhin rje’i gshed po zhes bya ba dang/ nub tu gsung gis sprul pa dpal rta mgrin dang/ byang du phrin las kyi sprul pa rdo rje gzhon nu dang/ shar lhor brjid pa’i stobs chen dpal he ru ka dang/ nub byang du ‘jigs pa’i dregs pa kun ‘dul ba dang/ byang shar du gyad kyi stobs chen sprul pa stobs ldan nag po dang/ lho nub rig ‘dzin rdo rje chos la stsogs pa so so’i ‘khor tshogs yum dang bcas pa ‘dus te/ khams gsum ‘jigs par//byed pa’i khro bo’i tshogs/ pho brang dgu dang bcas pa/ yab yum gyi mkha’ las sprul te gsal bar gyur to/
From this maṇḍala, the herukas Yamāntaka, Hayagrīva, Śri Heruka, and Vajrakīlaya urge Chemchok to “Tame the realm of samsara with the compassionate wrath of a Buddha!”261 Chemchok responds: “Listen, Herukas of the Four Families: by their arrogance, the prideful Rudras have not been tamed by pacification. The wrathful buddha-compassion is the sacred allterrifier!” 262 An extensive general wrathful maṇḍala called the Maṇḍala of the Great Terrifier is
then laid out by Chemchok, followed by a listing of maṇḍalas and rituals (titles only) for wrathful practice, called the “Authentic Collection of Accomplishments”. As in The Arising, we are given, within the narrative action, a bibliography of practices and texts supportive of Kabgyéstyle practice, and we may recall how the notion of collation (‘dus pa) is an essential aspect of the mythos undergirding the Kabgyé cycle.
Following Chemchok’s disclosure of the General Wrathful maṇḍala of the Great Terrifer, a series of entreaties by each of the eight Kabgyé herukas to Śri Heruka results in the emanation of the specific maṇḍalas of the Kabgyé assemblage. First, the maṇḍala of Chemchok is disclosed as the accomplishment of enlightened qualities (yon tan). Then, the Vajra Heruka maṇḍala is given as the accomplishment of authentic mind (yang dag thugs); Zhinje supplicates for the
Yamāntaka maṇḍala of melodious body (‘jam dpal sku); Tamdrin requests the accomplishment maṇḍala of lotus speech (pad ma’i gsung), and Vajrakumāra (“youthful vajra”, a name for Vajrakīlaya) requests the maṇḍala for accomplishing enlightened action (phrin las). These five maṇḍalas are described by Śri Heruka in iconographic detail, and the imagery is overwhelmingly 261 The King of Root Tantras, 307.4: sang rgyas thugs rje khros pa yis/ ‘khor ba’i gnas na ji ltar gdul/ 262 The King of Root Tantras, 307.5-6: nyon cig rigs bzhi he ru ka/ dregs pas khengs pa’i ru tra rnams/ zhi bas thul bar ma gyur nas/ sangs rgyas thugs rje khros pa ni/ thams cad ‘jigs pa’i mchog yin te/
bloody. The maṇḍala palaces are built upon skeleton mountains, the seed syllables drawn in blood or human ash. The maṇḍala is populated with demonic entities bearing weapons and instruments of torture, trampling enemies and brandishing human skins. The central icons, in union with wrathful ḍākinīs, display terrifying countenances and wield instruments of destruction.
According to the Buddhist take on tantrism, the wrathful soteriological idiom communicates the incisive character of gnosis and the uncompromising nature of compassion. The essential technology in this kind of self-cultivational practice is the reclamation of conventionally negative states to undo delusion itself. In psychologized exegesis, this has to do with the distillation of the intensity of emotions to power gnosis and overcome the “demons” of ego fixation. Such exegetical glosses, however, are not supplied in the Kabgyé root tantra, and
the imagery and rhetoric in the root tantra is exclusively that of ”taming” (‘dul ba): “This is the life essence of the lineage of blood drinking gods. The repositories of fury [in] the forms of menacing, blazing wrath; for the sake of doing this, for the sake of taming enemies, the savage ones shall accomplish [this]”.263 We thus see the Kabgyé enfold the soteriological and apotropaic functions of tantric practice, contextualizing tantric mastery in terms of a demon-control that sees demonic figures assigned to the center of the tantric mandala. This is featured most prominently
in the Kabgyé tantras of the three “Worldly Ones” (‘jig rten pa): Mamo Bötong, Jigten Chötö, and Möpa Drangak, all of which are notable for their inclusion of a specifically Tibetan demonology. The Eight Classes of Gods and Demons populate the maṇḍala of Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak, and the imagery of the Mamo Bötong maṇḍala of many demonesses reflects a complex dialogue between Indian tradition and Tibetan ritual culture.
263 The King of Root Tantras, 263.6-264.1: khrag ‘thung lha rgyud srog snying yin/ zhe sdang can gyi snod dag gis/ ‘bar ba gtum khro rngam pa’i gzugs/ drag shul can gyis spyad pa’i phir/ dgra bgegs ‘dul phyir bsgrub par bya/
The sections on the three “worldly” (‘jig rten pa’i) deity maṇḍalas – Mamo Bötong, Jigten Chötö, and Möpa Drangak – provide us with the most interesting case of assimilation between Mahāyoga tantrism, the idioms of Yogīni siddhism, and Tibetan indigenous ritual culture. This becomes evident in the incorporation of Tibetan indigenous gods and demons in the heruka maṇḍalas of these deities, and in the blending of the soteriological and apotropaic dimensions of religious practice.
The maṇḍala of Mamo Bötong (ma mo rbod gtong, lit. “Summoning and Dispatching the Fierce Goddess”) features an assemblage of wrathful demonesses, with the three-faced “Eternal Queen” (rtag pa’i rgyal mo) at the center. She has four legs and six hands, each grasping skulls and other implements of violence. In the four directions are animal-faced ḍākinīs, such as the lion-faced Sengé Dongma (seng ge gdong ma), the cow-faced Banlang Dongma (ban glang gdong ma), and the bird-faced Dorje Chu Dong (rdo rje mchu gdong), along with a host of other female demonic characters.264 265
In both Indian and Tibetan traditions, the iconography of the ḍākinī carries multivalent significance.266 From her Puranic origins as a flesh-eating demoness in the retinue of Kālī, and as a nature spirit in non-Brahmanical ritual culture, up to her apotheosis in late tantric traditions as 264 The King of Root Tantras, 338.5-340.
265 Similar animal-faced ḍākinīs are also featured in the Secret Nucleus maṇḍala as the supporting wrathful retinue of the Five Sugatas. In that context, there are eight animal-faced piśācī, who are the retainers of the eight matārah goddesses. According to Chöying Thubten Dorje’s (chos dbying thub bstan rdo rje 1785-1848) commentary, the eight matārah represent the eight sense consciousnesses, and the eight piśācī represent the sense objects. These divinities were once terrifying demonesses, tamed by Mahottara (che mchog) and incorporated into the Guhyagarbha wrathful maṇḍala. These kinds of animal-headed protectresses are an Indian convention, but taken up in Tibetan iterations, especially in the context of protective deities. 266 See Judith Simmer-Brown, Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston & London: Shambala, 2002, chapter 2, for a concise overview of the development of ḍākinī iconography in Indian and Tibetan tradition.
the expression of gnosical illumination, the ḍākinī figure has come to signify many different aspects of tantric ritual culture and soteriology. In general, Buddhist and Shaivite iterations of Indian tantrism depict the ḍākinī as an animal-headed female retinue deity, as seen in the Secret Nucleus’s Five Sugatas maṇḍala. Perhaps under the influence of Kaula Shaivism, Yoginī (Tib. ma rgyud, “Mother Tantra”) traditions elevated the ḍākinī to a central maṇḍala position, to be visualized in more anthropomorphic forms and taken as a tutelary deity in the manner of
Generation Stage deity yoga. Nonetheless, despite her apotheosis in traditions such as the Chakrasamvara Tantra (‘khor lo bde mchog) and in Vajrayoginī (rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma) traditions, the ḍākinī continued to represent maleficence, particularly in early Buddhist Tibet, where she was enfolded into indigenous conceptions of landscape demonesses. Thus, a bipartite concept of the ḍākinī is preserved in Tibet, where she may be classified in “worldly” (‘jig rten pa’i), or “transcendent” (‘jig rten las das pa’i) terms.
The category of the worldly ḍākinī, sometimes known as the “flesh-eating ḍākinī” (sha za mkha’ ‘gro), includes the category of mamo, which is typically listed as one of the Eight Classes of autochthonous gods and demons. The mamo, like the flesh-eating Srinmo demonesses, seem to have some association with the landscape, as evidenced in lore of Padmasambhava’s subjugation of the “supine demoness” as he geomantically secured Tibet’s Buddhist conversion. Dalton suggests that elements of this lore may represent an incorporation of Nepali and North
Indian mythology of seven Mātṛka goddesses.267 In Tibet, the mamo are thought to be highly tempestuous, responsible for plague, warfare, and various related calamities. They are depicted with matted hair and dark skin, waving bags of pestilence (nad rkyal), eating corpses, wearing animal or human skins, and wielding implements of torture. However, these mamo, like other 267 Dalton 2004, 766.
autochthonous entities, are not entirely anti-social. They can be inscribed into relationships of reciprocal favor through ritual intercessions, and the story of Padmasambhava very much hinged on his thaumaturgical ability to bind such gods and demons “by oath” (dam tshig), thus converting them from dangerous enemies to willful protectors of Buddhism. The worldly ḍākinī also played a major role in the career of Nyangrel Nyima Özer, as his biographies tell of his visionary encounters with fierce female spirits who directed him in his pursuit of revelation. There ultimately came to be some overlap in Tibetan tradition between the worldly and divine status of these demonesses, as some mamo, such as Palden Lhamo (dpal ldan lha mo, “Splendid Goddess”) and Ekajati (e ka dza ti, the mamo-queen protectress of the Great Perfection tradition) were elevated to the status of transcendent protectors, or even tutelary deities (yid dam). The Kabgyé maṇḍala of Mamo Bötong may have been a seminal expression of this divinization of the demoness.
The transcendent ḍākinī (mkha’ ‘gro, khandro, lit. “sky goer”) is associated with the Yoginī systems brought to Tibet in the second spread of tantra in the eleventh century. Iconographically, a tutelary ḍākinī such as Vajrayoginī is at once wrathful and seductive, depicted as voluptuously naked, dancing, while wielding the blade and drinking blood from a human skull. Deity yoga focused on such a ḍākinī is meant to induce recognition of the empty luminescence of pristine cognition, which is the result of the transmutation of desire into gnosis. The sexualized imagery also communicates the soteriology of bliss that is implicated in the “Higher Tantra” (bla med rgyud) approach to tantric self-cultivation. The iconography of Mamo Bötong is generally centered on the worldly ḍākinī in her most fearsome aspect (the flesh-eating mamo), but also entails some elements of the transcendental ḍākinī. This combination of idioms speaks to the unique enfoldment of apotropaic and
soteriological technologies that these Kabgyé maṇḍalas exhibit. As we will see in all three of the Kabgyé “worldly” maṇḍalas, demon-taming and Generation Stage self-cultivation are combined to yield a practice system in which harm-averting thaumaturgy is synonymous with fully qualified religious practice. In the maṇḍala of Mamo Bötong, the terms mkha’ ‘gro and ma mo seem to be used interchangeably, and while the imagery of these principal ḍākinīs is indeed wrathful, the emphasis is also on a distinctive luminescence: “The illumination and clear light of Vairocana blazes. Friendly light blazes and light fluctuates. The brightness that blazes is
endowed with authentic glory.”268 This luminescent imagery reflects the śakti doctrine of Indian religion, by which the goddess-consort represents the generative power of the principal Indian gods. The principal figures in this Mamo Bötong maṇḍala – the Eternal Queen and her four animal-faced ḍākinīs – communicate the śakti principle, while the many subsidiary mamo are decidedly fierce, and of strange and threatening appearance: each wears animal or human-skin raiment, beating drums, wielding bags of pestilence. Some wear garlands of skulls, hold notched magical sticks, and thrust tridents or clubs. These subsidiary demonesses are beholden to the
Eternal Queen; forging a self-cultivational connection with her results in mastery over them. According to the text, the purpose of practicing this maṇḍala is to “accomplish enlightened actions” (phrin las bsgrub), specifically the “summoning and dispatching” (rbod gtong) of the goddess/demoness to “tame obstructing enemies” (dgra bgegs ‘dul ba). Thus, taken together, the khandros and mamos of this maṇḍala are essential features of a special kind of practice that accomplishes demon- taming through the gnosical realization activated in meditation upon the cosmic feminine in demonic form.
Mamo Bötong is known as a “semi-transcendent” maṇḍala, entailing both soteriological and worldly objectives. This is as opposed to Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak, which are “worldly” in as much as they focus exclusively on taming, liberating, and destructive rites aimed at worldly enemies. The Mamo Bötong maṇḍala bridges these two dimensions of religious practice, which is evident in the different kinds of imagery – the blissfully luminescent and the terrifying – which are present in the narrative. There is necessarily some ambiguity here concerning the roles of the khandro and mamo, and the terminology becomes blended as both terms are used interchangeably in this root tantra and also in The Arising narrative, where the Eight Classes (of which mamo are one member) are elevated as facilitators of visionary experience.
The incorporation of indigenous gods and demons is most explicit in the maṇḍalas of Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak. These final chapters of the King of Root Tantras are short, and provide no instruction in tantric or thaumaturgical practice beyond giving the iconography of the respective maṇḍalas and the powerful mantras to be used in deity yoga practice. However, the inclusion of the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons, the ultra-violent imagery, and a unique nomenclature in these chapters signal that these maṇḍalas are especially rich with distinctive
significance for the Kabgyé cycle. These sub-cycles provide the basis for many of the apotropaic rituals which came to be included in the comprehensive Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions. And, as we will see in our comparison of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa with the Secret Nucleus Tantra, these sections innovate the Mahāyoga themes of “taming” (‘dul ba) and “liberation” (sgrol ba) to offer a unique (and uniquely Tibetan) take on the union of apotropaic and soteriological practice. The Jigten Chötö (‘jig rten mchod bstod, “Worldly Praise and Offering”) maṇḍala – here called, for some reason, Jigten Chöten (‘jigs rten mchod rten,“Worldly Offering-Support”) –
consists of a central heruka called Glorious Demon All-Tamer (dpal dregs pa kun ‘dul), surrounded by representatives of the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons (lha ma srin sde brgyad, or dregs pa sde brgyad). Within the framing narrative, the disclosure of this maṇḍala results from the supplication of Demon All-Tamer to Śri Heruka for a method for taming the “inappropriately toxic” (ma rung gdung pa): “E Ma! Great glorious expert in methods, for the purpose of taming the inappropriately toxic, teach the method of Jigten Chöten. Thus the great warrior supplicated.”269 In response, Śri Heruka describes a maṇḍala of entirely wrathful imagery, incorporating a full range of Tibetan deities:
In the abode of cruel demon gods, having swept it clean, sprinkle various kinds of blood. With various kinds of blood write the form of an ...[Generate] a blazing charnel-ground palace; a four-spoked wheel is the courtyard with four doors, surrounded by poisonous beasts. Having generated this very terrifying scene, [[[visualize]]] Great Glorious Demon All- Tamer with three heads and six hands. The faces are dark brown, red-brown,
and blue-black. In the first [hands] are a vajra and skull cup of blood; the middle likewise [[[grasp]]] the eight gods; and the lower two hands likewise hold the heads of eight nāgas. The feet trample the heart of the arrogant demons (dregs pa). The great consort, Tamer of the Three Worlds, holds a vajra and a skull cup of blood. Meditate [on them] as the antidote that tames the arrogant demons.
The retinue of that horrible tamer arises as the types of drekpa: the dark blue Mahādeva with a crooked blade and with the skull cup filled with the blood of the three roots, along with the consort Umādeva; the black Lord of Death, the king of existence, bearing a club, a skull, and a cudgel. The Black Murderess is in his arms. Encircled by the retinue of existence, the darkblack Lord Of All Demons, [[[grasping]]] a corpse on a plank; and the black Demoness Remati holding a bag of pestilence and rotten blood. The Chief of
Vampires, Black Lightning Rosary, with lightning and the light of phenomena raging, embraces the Blood-eyed Vampiress, holding red-black bloody phurba and skull. The Nöjin Blazing Fire, with dark black body, holding a jewel and blade, a black mamo as his consort, in her two hands a razor and shewolf. The great cosmo-demon Rāhu, smoke-colored and brandishing a bow and arrow and a snake lasso, with a lightning storm
demoness, pink lightning and hailstones falling. The black Serpent Demon with nine heads, the bottom-half a smoke-colored snake and holding up a bag of pestilence, [with the consort] called the Black She-Serpent, a female 269 The King of Root Tantras, 343.3: E ma dpal chen thabs la mkhas/ ‘jig rten mchod brten bsgrub pa’i thabs/ ma rungs gdug pa ‘dul ba’i phyir/ dpa’ bo chen pos bshad du gsol/
form with the body of a serpent-demon. The Chief of all the Gods of Existence, with a flag and crystal sword, the lord of the beings, the great divine god, lord of beings, white, holding a white sword, the body-color white, the Chief of Demons, holding a flag and sword. The King of the Cosmic mamos, white, holding a wheel and mirror, [the consort] Ngakpung Ekajati, blue-black and grasping a turquoise wolf. Palden Nagmo, on
horseback, [black] colored and holding a bag of pestilence. The dark red Vajra Demon Tamer, with blood and a measure of white mustard seeds descending. The lord of the vitality-eating red tsän, brandishing a leather shield, spear arrow and bow. And the cosmic red-ghost tsän, eating beef and weilding a noose; the Black Heathen holding a skull cup of blood of the three roots; the King of the Black Obstructors, holding in his hand a skull;
the lord of all the mú demons: blue black with a leather shield with bow and arrow; chief of all the brahmin gods, holding a sun and razor knife; the king of the Father Lineage Gods, lord of all, white in color, holding a razor knife and a noose; the chief of the Secret Body Gods, holding a dorje and lance; the protector Mahakala, black with hand implements and hooked knife. The thirty drekpa generals, each one with their various costumes. 200,000 with the two retinues of emanations and inconceivable re-emanations; Meditate on the body as brilliant and blazing, and recite this essence...270
270 The King of Root Tantras, 343.4: gdug rtsub lha ‘dre gnas pa’i sar/ dkyil ‘khor byi dor byas nas ni/ khrag sna tshogs pa’i chag chag gdab/ sna tshogs khrag gis E dbyibs bri/...dur khrod ‘bar ba’i gzhal yas khang/ ‘khor lo rtsibs bzhi bar khyams dang/ sgo bzhir bcas pa gsal ba la/ gdug pa’i gcan gzan ‘dabs chags ‘khor/ shin tu ‘jigs pa bskyed nas ni/ dpal chen dregs pa kun ‘dul ni/ dbu gsum phyag kyang drug pa ste/ kham nag smug nag mthing nag zhal/ dang po rdo rje dung khrag dang/ lha brgyad de bzhin klu brgyad kyi mgo bo de bzhin phyag gnyis pa’i ‘og ma dag gis ‘dzin pa ‘o/ dregs pa’i snying ka zhabs kyis brjis/ yum chen khams gsum spyi ‘dul ma/ rdo rje dung khrag thogs pa ni/ dregs pa ‘dul ba’i gnyen por bsgom/ ma rungs ‘dul byed de yi ‘khor/ dregs pa’i sde rnams bskyed par bya/ mthing nag ma ha de ba ni/ gri gug dang ni rtsi tata ‘dzin/ rtse gsum thod pa khrag bcas pa’i/ yum de ba’i yum dang bcas/ gzhin rje nag po srog gi bdag/ be con thod pa’i dbyug pa ‘chang/ gsod byed nag mo’i lag pa na/ srid pa’i
‘khor lo bskor ba dang/ mthing nag bdud rnams kun gyi bdag/ khram shing dang ni ti ra’o/ bdud mo nag mo re ma ti/ khrag bam dang ni nad rgyal thogs/ nag po glog phreng srin gyi gtso/ thog dang srid pa ‘khrugs pa’i ‘od/ ‘dzin dang srin mo khrag mig ma/ dmar nag khrag phur thod pa ‘chang/ gnod sbyin me dbal mthing nag sku/ rin po che dang mtshod ‘dzin pa/ ma mo nag mo de yi yum/ sbu gri spyang mo phyag gnyi sna‘o/ gza’ bdud chen po ra hu la/ dud kha mda’ gzhu sbrul zhags bsnams/ gnas sman thog gi bu yug ma/ dmar skya thog dang ser ba ‘bebs/ klu bdud nag po mgo dgu bo/ dud kha sbrul zhabs nad rkyal thogs/ klu mo nag mo zhes bya ba/ mo gzugs klu bdud cha lugs
can/ srid pa’i lha rnams kun gyi gtso/ sku dar mdung dang zhel gyi gri/ gnam gyi lha chen skyes bu’i bdag/ dkar po ldan dkar ral gri ‘dzin/ sku mdog dkar po spyi yi bdud/ dar mdung ral gri phyag char ‘chang/ ma mo srid pa’i rgyal po ni/ me long tsakra ‘dzin pa dkar/ sngags spung E ka tsa ti ma/ mthing nag g.yu spyang tsi tata ‘dzin/ dpal ldan nag mo mgyogs byed ma/ tshon dru dang nad rgyal thogs/ dmar nag rdo rje bdud ‘dul ni/ khrag dang yungs dkar thun ‘bebs pa’o/ srog zan dmar po btsan gyi rje/ bs mdung mda’ dang gzhu yang mtshon/ srid pa’i btsan ‘gong
dmar po ni/ sha glang zas kyi zhags pa bsnams/ mu stegs kA la nag po ni/ rtse gsum thod pa khrag can ‘dzin/ mthing nag bgegs kyi rgyal po ni/ ka TaAM thod pa lag tu ‘chang/ rmu bdud yongs kyi rje bo ni/ mthing nag shag glang mda’ dang gzhu/ tshangs pa lha rnams kun gyi gtso/ spu gri nyi ma;i zer thogs pa’o/ pho rgyud rgyal po yongs kyi bdag/ mdog dkar zhags pa spu gri ‘dzin/ gsang ba sku lha’i gtso bo dkar/ rdo rje dang ni ru mtshon ‘chang/ mgon po ma hA kA la ni/ mthing nag bing dang gri gug thogs/ dregs pa’i sde dpon sum cu po/ sna tshogs gos gon re re’ang/ ‘bum phrag gnyis gnyis ‘khor dang bcas/ sprul pa yang sprul bsam mi khyab/ gsal ‘tsher ‘bar ba’i skur sgom te/ snying po ‘di yang bzlas par bya/
The central figure of the maṇḍala, Glorious Demon All-Tamer (dpal dregs pa kun ‘dul), is at once a demon (dregs pa), and a divine demon-tamer himself. He and his consort trample and strangle other drekpa demons, and are surrounded by an incredible retinue of demonic characters, also called drekpa, representing the Eight Classes of autochthonous gods and spirits, as well as other types of Tibetan divinities. These additional entities include the Gods of
Existence (srid pa’i lha rnams), the paternal lineal gods (pho lha), and the Gods of the Secret Body (gsang ba’i sku lha). The drekpa are distinguished by terrifying demonic imagery, while the lha are depicted with the martial equestrian iconography distinctive to Tibetan mythology. The term dregs pa comes from the intransitive verb “to be prideful” or “arrogant” (rgyags pa'am khengs pa), but is also commonly used to refer to tempestuous spirits of the land, as in the dregs pa sde brgyad.271 In the case of this Jigten Chötö mandala, drekpa refers both to the mandalized divinities as well as the demonic brethren that they tame.
The mandalization of drekpa, and their elevation to the status of tutelary deities, reflects the special tantric soterio-apotropaic technology of inhabiting the demonic so as to tame it. In a psychologized interpretation, this can reflect the tantric embrace of purified aggression to uproot the negativity of ego-fixation, but it also serves as an actual technology for controlling an unseen world with real influence. As in the Mamo Bötong maṇḍala, the approach is to deeply identify
with the principal maṇḍala deity and thus gain control over its mandalic retinue. As the maṇḍala here consists of the various gods and demons of Tibet, and the central character of the maṇḍala is himself a powerful drekpa, the practice of Jigten Chötö signifies the reclamation of dangerous forces to advance the apotropaic goals of Buddhist practice. Adepts in this practice could thereby bring together Buddhist soteriological techniques and Tibetan ritual culture in a comprehensive 271 Bod rgya tshigs mdzod chen mo, p.1335: 1. [tha mi dad pa] rgyags pa’am khengs pa [haughtiness or arrogance]… 2. nga rgyal [[[pride]]].
approach to religious practice which entailed the ideals of Buddhist salvation, and the ongoing and necessary work of interceding with unseen entities. This vision of religious practice marks one strategy for the indigenization of Tibetan Buddhism; it was a strategy for bringing together vocational predilections of a certain class of Tibetans, it enfolded the Tibetan landscape and society more fully into a Buddhist cosmos, and it provided a familiar idiom for a practice of Tantric Buddhism. It is entirely imaginable that such incorporations of ritual culture with its harm-averting emphasis would have been incubated in the Age of Fragmentation, and Nyangrel’s recovery of these practice systems may have crystallized the ongoing blending of soteriological and apotropaic idioms in Tibetan religion.
To fully incorporate the goals of apotropaic ritual culture, and to fully elevate the ritualist as the paragon of Buddhist adepthood, a system for Buddhist thaumaturgy (sorcery) would also have to be included. This is supplied in the final, and most arrestingly wrathful, section of the King of Root Tantras, the maṇḍala of Möpa Drangak, “Wrathful Malediction” (dmod pa drag sngags, lit. “fierce mantra curse”) . This short chapter gives a simple yet horrifying maṇḍala, generated in response to the supplication of a heruka called the Powerful Black One (stobs ldan nag po).
This Drangak maṇḍala is generated on top of a “demon-murder mountain” (srog chags bsad pa ri ‘dre’i sa ), on a bloody surface adorned with a blazing triangle and a vampire throne (srin po khris pa). The Powerful Black One, with three terrifying faces and six arms, tramples the demons (bdud) and obstructors (bgegs), brandishing the hearts of the Eight Gods and Eight Nāgas, (lha brgyad klu brgayd tsi tta bsnams), and trampling the mother and father Drekpa. The Black One’s consort, the Lady of Five Elements (‘byung ba lnga yi bdag mo), pins down the earth and holds up the sky with her hands (mkha’ ‘degs sa gzhi gnon pa’i phyag). She radiates
the five elements from her face (zhal nas ‘byung ba lnga ‘char). They are surrounded by a retinue of various gods and demons: the Black Lord of Death (gshin rje nag po) with skull and knife; the Black Blazing Fire Demon (bdud nag me ‘bar), the Torture-Rack Demons (khram shing bdud), murderous vampires and vampiresses (yum dang srin po gsod byed) with swords and severed heads, the human-skin wielding Nöjin of Total Goodness (gnod spyin gang ba bzang po), the white Mahādevas with crystal swords, the Black Liberator (thar pa nag po) dispensing torma (mchod gtor gtor ma ‘chang), black Tsän spirits (mthing nag btsan), the Black Heathen (mu stegs nag po), the god of the comet Ketu (du ba mjug ring gza’), the War God of the Black Torture Rack (nag po khram shing dgra lha), and further retinues of Tsän, Lú, Drekpa, and Srinpo.272
No interpretation of this horrific iconography or ritual instruction beyond the vital mantra is supplied in this short chapter. We are only told that this is for the accomplishment of the dmod pa drag sngags: “cursing with fierce mantras”. This is clearly in the idiom of black magic: the violence of the imagery is absolute, and there is no doubt that the practice of this maṇḍala is associated with extreme modes of enemy-subjugation. Again, as a deity-yoga maṇḍala, the thaumaturgy communicated in Möpa Drangak overlaps with tantric technique: by identifying
with the image of the Powerful Black One, and by harmonizing perception to his mandalic world – in this case a maṇḍala of bloody demons and powerful gods – these evil forces come under one’s own power, and mantric curses may be deployed to tame the “inappropriately toxic”. The powerful forces that may be tamed in this manner are represented by both demonic and godly imagery: the terrifying and bloody dü stand alongside the radiant and kingly lha. Forces of the land, the body, patrilineage, and the power of evil itself can be harnessed to accomplish the goals 272 The King of Root Tantras, 347.3 – 349.5.
of this practice. But we may wonder whether taming and liberation in this context can mean anything other than cursing and murder. The efficacy of the practice of Möpa Drangak is taken quite seriously by adepts exposed to this cycle, and stories persist in Nyingma communities of rival lamas and dangerous heretics who were felled by the wrathful malediction of the Powerful Black One.
The King of Kabgyé Root Tantras stands as the foundational tantra of the Kabgyé revelation system as organized in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions and in Nyingma anthologies. However, it is not the only, and perhaps not even the eldest, foundational tantra of the Kabgyé tradition. Nyangrel’s Stainless Proclamations biography mentions Nyangrel’s reception of Deshek Dupa materials (the text says bde gshegs pa rgyud rlung nyi shu: the “twenty Sugata tantras and teachings”) from his teachers, Lama Rashak and Tertön Ngödrup.273 This story stands in contrast to the normative revelation narrative in which the Kabgyé was said to have
been recovered from the Vairocana icon within the halls of Khoting temple, in Lhodrak. Some have assumed that the Sugatas Tantra bestowed to Nyangrel by Lama Rashak and Tertön Ngödrup referred to the King of Root Tantras of the Kabgyé revelation, and have puzzled over this discrepant story of the Kabgyé’s origin. However, an Assembled Sugatas Tantra (bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i rgyud, or bde bar gshegs pa rgyud; also known as the ‘byed bar ‘byed pa lde mig gi rgyud, or the zhi khro‘dus pa’i rgyud), included as a piece of miscellany in the Nyingma Gyubum
and in the thirteen-volume Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions, may be this very text.274 275 Like the King of Root Tantras, this tantra includes the maṇḍalas of the Five Families in peaceful form, the Peaceful-Wrathful deity complex, and a wrathful maṇḍala consisting of the Eight Herukas (plus the ninth character, Lama Rigzin). However, this tantra is quite different from the King of Root 273 The Stainless Proclamations, 92.4.
274 Nyingma Gyubum inclusion: Mtshams brag vol. 23, no. 6; Sde dge vol. 15, no. 9; dpal brtsegs: vol. 18, no. 12. 275 As it appears in the Katok Kabgyé chos skor, this text subtitles itself with several aliases, presumably alternate titles by which this tantra circulated: the zhi khro 'dus pa'i rgyud (The Tantra of the Assembly of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities), the 'byed par 'byed pa lde 'u par mig gi rgyud (The Tantra of the Key Differentiating the Differentiated), the bde gshegs 'dus pa'i rgyud (The Tantra of the Assembled Sugatas), the dngos grub gter gyi rgyud (The Tantra of the True Accomplishment Treasure [or, perhaps this refers to the text belonging to the revelations of Terton Ngödrup?], and the dpal kun tu bzang po'i dgongs pa bkod pa'i mdo (The Sutra of the Architecture of Kuntu Zangpo’s Mind)
Tantras in several regards, and I suggest that it could very well have been in development and circulation in the centuries preceding Nyangrel. Specifically, this Assembled Sugatas Tantra is somewhat more technical than the King of Root Tantras: for each maṇḍala, an extensive list of mantras and visualization descriptions are provided for both the main and subsidiary maṇḍala constituents. This is most unlike the King of Root Tantras, which generally does not provide mantras or much ritual instruction beyond the general maṇḍala visualization and one vital mantra for each central deity. Second, the Kabgyé herukas in the Assembled Sugatas Tantra are
explicitly mapped onto the Five Sugata Families in a manner quite redolent of the Secret Nucleus. The King of Root Tantras, in contrast, affiliates the herukas with enlightened Body, Speech, Mind, Quality, and Action, rather than the Five Families (although tradition tends to loosely equate these five-fold dimensions of enlightened nature, along with several other pentads according to Mahayoga doctrine). Third, the framing narratives of the Assembled Sugatas Tantra – which, like those of the King of Root Tantras and also the Secret Nucleus, revolve around the discourse and intercourse between Kuntu Zangpo and Kuntu Zangmo – are, in my opinion, significantly less lyrical and thano-erotically evocative than are the King of Root Tantras’. However, perhaps the most telling difference between these foundational Kabgyé tantras is
exemplified in the maṇḍala of Jigten Chötö. Whereas the King of Root Tantras’ section on Worldly Praise and Offering entails the subjugation and mandalization of the Eight Classes of Gods and Spirits, the Assembled Sugatas Tantra’s Jigten Chötö maṇḍala consists of an arrangement of twenty-four gods of both Indian and Tibetan provenance. Among those included are Isvara Mahadeva, Yama, Rāhula, Nāgaraja, and Māra, alongside distinctively Tibetan gods such as lha rab sham po (likely yar lha sham po – the progenitive mountain god of the Tibetan imperial lineage), the srid pa’i ma mo e ka dza ti (a demoness queen, later known as protectress
of the Ati teachings), dpal ldan nag po, brag ä srog zan dmar po ( red-rock Tsän spirits, thought to be the ghosts of deceased kings), btsan‘khong yab shud dmar po (another Tsän ghost), bgegs rgyal byin ya ga (an obstructive spirit), and rgyal po chen po pe dkar (one of the local gods bound by guru Rinpoche at Samyé, later made into the famous guardian spirit Pehar). With the inclusion of these Indian and Tibetan entities, this list is distinctively hybridic. The classification and terminology of the Eight Classes is totally absent, and we might note the affiliation of several of the Tibetan gods mentioned with lore surrounding the imperial ritual cult and early Buddhist period. In sum, this Jigten Chötö maṇḍala in the Assembled Sugatas Tantra does not
bear the degree of “Tibetanization” that we see in the King of Root Tantras, specifically in its inclusion of explicitly Indian gods and the absence of the Eight Classes typology. I also take its overall resemblance to Māyājāla tantric templates and its unique hybridity – especially the inclusion of Tibetan gods aligned with the imperium – to suggest that it may have developed in the imperial or immediately post-imperial era in Central Tibet. If this is true, it really may have been transmitted to Nyangrel by his teachers, and perhaps the fifteen foundational tantras of the revealed Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle – and the King of Root Tantras, in particular – were a
reformulation of the unique approach to Mahāyoga first exemplified in this Assembled Sugatas Tantra. Indeed, Ngari Panchen’s sixteenth-century Kabgyé history confirms that there was a transmitted tradition of Kabgyé practice, received by Nyangrel, and then enfolded into Nyangrel’s version as he “mixed of the rivers of Kama and terma” (bka’ gter chu ‘dres). This Assembled Sugatas Tantra is included in the comprehensive editions of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, but appears under several different titles along with a confusing list of aliases. In the Katok edition, it is listed as the Tantra of the Assembled Kabgyé Accomplishment (bsgrub pa bka’ brgyad ‘dus pa’i rgyud); in the Tsamdrak it is called the Thoroughly Differentiated Key
Tantra in Sixty-Seven Chapter (‘byed par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud le’u drug cu rtsa bdun pa; not to be confused with the Differentiated Key Tantra, which also goes by the title byed pa ‘byed par lde mig gi rgyud in the Tsamdrak chos skor). Other aliases and subtitles include the Tantra of the Assembled Peaceful and Wrathful Deities ( zhi khro ‘dus pa’i rgyud), the Deshek Dupa Tantra (bder gshegs ‘dus pa’i rgyud), The Treasure of Accomplishment Tantra (dngos grub gter gyi rgyud), and even the Sutra of the Architecture of Kuntu Zangpo’s Mind (dpal kun tu bzang po’i dgongs pa bkod pa’i mdo). While the Differentiated Key Tantra (‘byed pa lde mig gi rgyud)
is listed as one of the five foundational tantras of the cycle according to the cycle’s auto-history and received doxographical lore, it is not clear whether it refers to this text, or to the Differentiated Tantra (byed par‘byed pa rgyud) in two sections, which is also sometimes called simply The Key Tantra (lde mig gi rgyud). Still more confusing is the fact that the King of Root Tantras is sometimes listed as the Assembled Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zhi khro ‘dus pa) or the Deshek Dupa (bde gshegs ‘dus pa), which are known aliases of this Assembled Sugatas Tantra. We see, then, that there has been bibliographic confusion in the anthologization of Kabgyé materials, at least at the level of text titles. Luckily, the texts are distinguishable by their number of chapters (e.g., the King of Root Tantras always has eighteen chapters, the
Differentiated Tantra has seventeen, regardless of how they are titled). But the overlapping titles suggests a multiplicity of recensions that anthologists had to deal with in creating the Deshek Dupa editions, and in assembling Nyingma canons. At any rate, this Assembled Sugatas Tantra is clearly important enough to be included in the comprehensive editions of the Deshek Dupa, as well as in the Nyingma Gyubum, and its many aliases suggest both that it was circulated, and also of ambiguous connection to, the rest of the Kabgyé cycle. As my cursory analysis suggests, it is a 233 candidate for the “transmitted” iteration of the Kabgyé, and may have been the very foundation of Nyangrel’s Kabgyé revelation itself.
The tantras of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa are at once mimetic and innovative in how they proffered a Mahāyoga mythological world, supplemented with distinctively Tibetan ritual idioms. In general, the Kabgyé mirrors the structure of the Magical Emanation tantras, and especially The Secret Nucleus Tantra (gsang ba’i snying po rgyud, Skt. Guhyagarbha-tantra) in the inclusion of the Five Sugata Families, the Peaceful/Wrathful deity complex, and the wrathful maṇḍala of taming and liberation. These features represent the selection of Mahāyoga divinities, practices, and narrative idioms to be included in a comprehensive architecture of myth, doctrine,
and practice for the “Inner Tantras”. It is no surprise that the format of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa (both the King of Root Tantras, and the above-mentioned Assembled Sugatas Tantra) replicates that of the Secret Nucleus. After all, the Guhyagarbha had long been upheld by Nyingmapas as the preeminent Mahāyoga tantra, coming to stand at the center of the 18-fold Mahāyoga canon (at least as it was curated by the Zur system), and at the heart of the eight Magical Emanation tantras according to the Nyingma Gyubum.
The Guhyagarbha has twenty-two chapters covering a full range of tantric topics, including the buddhology of pristine cognition and mandalic emanation, the techniques of generation and completion stage practice, theoretical and applied perspectives on meditative selfcultivation and ritual, and protocols for tantric initiation, harm averting rituals, and so forth. Unlike the King of Root Tantras, the Guhyagarbha is quite didactic, and the majority of this content is communicated in the chapters associated with peaceful mandala of the Five Sugata Families, or in the mandalas of the Peaceful-Wrathful deity complex. However, beginning with the fifteenth chapter, the Guhyagarbha also provides narratives, doctrines, and ritual techniques
oriented towards the edification of the “hard to tame” through the wrathful mandala of taming and liberation. The chapter’s tantric narrative describes the taming of various obstructive entities, including the elemental bhuta spirits (Tib. ‘byung po), and also the great gods of the Maheśvara class: the dbang phyug rgyal po, or dregs pa in Tibetan translation. Just as in the Kabgyé, the central icon of the Secret Nucleus is the heruka of the Buddha Family, Mahottara. He is surrounded by the herukas of Vajra, Ratna, Padma, and Karma. According to the narrative, the union of Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo generates the wrathful mandala, within which the five herukas and countless wrathful enlightened beings arise to subdue obstructive demons, who are beaten, torn apart and consumed in an act of abject violence. They are eventually expelled out (defecated) into the heruka maṇḍala as fully tamed entities, bound by oath to serve the herukas.276 The obstructive spirits are mandalized, or socialized under the authority of the Buddhist herukas, as they are violently transformed into controllable members of the heruka retinue. Their subjugation also hinges on an act of sexual violence: the five herukas steal these gods’ ṡakti consorts, seducing them, and impregnating them such that they give birth to hosts of ḍākinīs born into the perimeter of the heruka mandala.277 Altogether, this kind of subjugation
276Gsang ba’i snying po, 15.18: “Mahesvara and the others, the collection of vile ones: their hearts and sense organs were ripped out, all their entrails were disemboweled, and all their limbs amputated, their flesh was eaten, their blood was drunk, and all their bones were chewed up” (dbang phyug chen po sogs/ gdug pa chen po’i tshogs de dag gi snying dang dbang po kun phyung/ nang khrol kun drangs/ yan lag kun bcad gtubs nas sha kun zos/ khrag kun ‘thungs/ rus pa kun ‘chos so/); 15:30: “Mahesvara and the others were expelled from the bowels of the great wrathful Victor.” (...dbang phyug chen po la sogs pa thams cad/ ‘com ldan ‘das khro bo chen po de dag gi bsnam nas btom to/); 15:33: “Then they shook greatly with terror and, totally subdued, roared: “Make us your subjects! Make us your subjects!”... and swearing to become subjects, they took their seats in the mandala.” (de nas de dag shin tu ‘dar zhing byed pa rab tu zhum pa’i nga ros/ ‘bangs su mchi/ ‘bangs su mchi/...ces ‘bangs su mchi bar mna’ bor nas/ dkyil ‘khor gyi gdan du bzhag go/.
277 Gsang ba’i snying po, 15:20: “Then they gathered together the highest queens of all the spirits, the consort of the great arrogant demon king and so forth, the female spirits without exception.]..the spirit queens became agitated with desire and they entered into union with the body of the glorious heruka.” (de nas ‘byung mo ma lus pa’i rgyal po’i yang rgyal po dregs pa chen po la sogs pa’i chung ma’i byung po thams cad kyi rje mo’i yang rje mo/...bsdus so/…’byung po’i rgyal mo rnams shin tu chags pa’i yid g.yos nas/ ...dpal khrag ‘thung chen po rdo rje’i sku la ‘khril lo/;
hinges on socialized conceptions of mandalic authority, as well as gendered ideas from Indian tradition, and it inculcates violence as the basic activity of enlightened agents. We see in this narrative several elements in common with the Kabgyé tantric narrative: the maṇḍala-producing intercourse of Kuntu Zangpo and Zangmo in wrathful form, the subjugation of worldly gods, and their ultimate mandalization as divine forces under the power of the Heruka Buddhas. But there are also notable differences between the framing narratives in these two cycles: The Kabgyé does not explicate the buddhology of demonhood (as in the
Guhyagarbha’s account of how the misinterpretation of wrathful deity yoga practice and the ascent from hell in past lives results in rebirth as a demon), and the Kabgyé King of Root Tantras replaces Rudra and the twenty-eight Iśvara with the Eight Classes of Gods and Spirits. The Secret Nucleus specifically refers to twenty-eight obstructive entities, with their king, the dregs pa rgyal po, and their stolen consorts. The twenty-eight drekpa retainers, according to the Guhyagarbha, are twenty-eight gods of non-Buddhist Indian religion: these include famous gods such as Brahma, Mahesvara (Shiva), Satakratu (Indra), Visnu, Kartikeya, Narayāna, Surya,
Candra, Danda, Mahakala, Nandikesvara, Balabhadra, Kamadeva, Vasuraksita, Pavena, Agni, Mahavaraha, Yāma, Ganapati, Varuna, Mahavisada, and also malign figures from Hindu mythology such as Māra, Rakṣa, and other gods and demons all representing staple figures from non-Buddhist Indian traditions. This demon-taming narrative essentially signifies the dominance of Buddhism over the Indian religious landscape. The wrathful maṇḍalas of the Kabgyé Deshek 15:25: “Then, with pleasure, they cried “Ha”, and from the clouds of their generative fluids emerged the hosts of [eight matarah]. The hosts of matarah, with their respective hand emblems and wonder dispersed, and then, starting in the East, took their places on the blazing spokes of the wheel with their terrifying forms and hand emblems.” (de nas dgyes te ha zhes brjod pas/ byang chub sems kyi sprin las/ dkar mo’i tshogs dang/ rkun mo’i tshogs dang/ rmongs mo;i tshogs dang/ thal byed mo’i tshogs dang/...ma tshogs ma’i tshogs rnams rang rang gi lag cha dang/ ngo mtshar dang bcas nas ‘thon to/ ‘thon nas kyang ‘bar ba chen po ‘khor lo’i rtsibs mchan shar phyogs nas ‘bor bar ‘jigs pa’i gzugs rang gi lag cha dang bcas nas ‘khod do/)
Dupa – and in particular the maṇḍalas of Mamo Bötong, Jigten Chötö, and Möpa Drangak – also communicate the subjugation and transformation of negative forces, but here the “prideful ones” (dregs pa) are not the gods of Indian religion, but are the autochthonous gods of Tibet: The Eight Classes of Gods and Spirits. The Kabgyé narrative thus resonates with the geomantic harmaverting ritualism that was at the heart of Buddhism’s origin-story in Tibet. The Kabgyé narrative of taming and liberation of the drekpa adopts the basic Mahāyoga template given in the Secret Nucleus, but hybridizes it to represent uniquely Tibetan ritual conceptions, rendering the cycle into a resource supportive of an emergent understanding of the historical and soteriological function of demon-taming.
In both of these Mahāyoga cycles, the ritual/contemplative technology is to inhabit the demonic so as to tame it. And in both cases, the story, set in the primordial reality, proffers a mythological narrative that defined the parameters of religious practice in a way that was constructive of collective identities. Whether in the case of the Guhyagarbha’s narrative of the subjugation of the twenty-eight great gods, or the Kabgyé’s subordination of the “Eight Classes of Prideful Demons” to the divine heruka maṇḍala (dregs pa in both cases), these mythic narratives suggest distinctive visions for the place of Buddhist tantra and its thaumaturgical practices.
As mentioned, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle includes fifteen foundational tantras: The King of Kabgyé Deshek Dupa Root Tantras (bka’ brgyad bde ghsegs ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po), the Subsequent Tantra of the Assembly of All Victor Sugatas (bcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa phyi ma’i rgyud), the Subsequent- Subsequent Tantra of the Mantra[[[yana]]] Tantras of the Assembled Victor Sugatas (bcom ldan ‘das bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i
sngags rgyud phyi ma phyi ma’i rgyud), the Tantra of Amending Incompletions (ma tshang ba kha skong ba’i rgyud), the Differentiated Key Tantra of the Assembly of Sugatas (bde bar gshegs pa ‘dus pa’i rgyud rab tu ‘byed pa lde mig gi rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Assembled Peaceful Ones (zhi ba ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of Assembly of the Great Sacred One (Mahottara) (che mchog ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud) , the Root Tantra of the Assembly of Glorious Blood Drinker (Śri Heruka) (dpal khrag ‘thung ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Assembly of the Victor, Glorious Lord of Death, the Destroyer (Yamāntaka) (bcom ldan ‘das
dpal gshin rje gshed ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Assembly of Glorious Victor, Great Power (Hayagrīva) (dpal bcom ldan ‘das dbang chen ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Dagger, the Assembly of Enlightened Actions of All the Sugatas (Vajrakīlaya) (bde bar gshegs pa thams cad kyi phrin las ‘dus pa phur ba rtsa ba’i rgyud) , the Root Tantra of the Assembly of the Fierce Goddess (ma mo ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Assembly of the Awareness Holder (rig pa ‘dzin pa ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), the Root Tantra of the Accomplishment of Worldly Praise and Offering (‘jig rten mchod btsod sgrub pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), and the Root Tantra of the Adamantine Assembly of Wrathful Mantra (drag sngags ‘dus pa rdo rje rtsa ba’i rgyud).
As this dissertation limits itself to the reception history and appraisal of the role of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in the development of the Nyingma denomination altogether, we will not look closely at the contents of each of these tantras. However, a cursory look at the basic themes and formats of these texts will enrich our picture of what the full Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle was in its received iterations.
The Subsequent Tantra of the Assembly of All Victor Sugatas (the bcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa phyi ma’i rgyud), and the Subsequent- Subsequent Tantra of the Mantra[[[yana]]] Tantras of the Assembled Victor Sugatas (the bcom ldan 'das bde gshegs 'dus pa'i sngags rgyud phyi ma phyi ma'i rgyud) provide terse supplementary statements and instructions for the practice of Kabgyé self-cultivation, couched in the narrative format of discourse between the central wrathful deity Glorious All Good Heruka (dpal kun tu bzang he ru ka) and the male and female maṇḍala retinue (the khro bo and khro mo, the rig ‘dzin pho mo, and the slob dpon and slob ma).278 The Subsequent Tantra uniquely includes reference to both male and female
members of this retinue, and there seems to be coded references to sexual practice (sbyor ba) throughout this abridged tantra. In the case of the Subsequent Tantras, the contents include an exposition on the characteristics of the tantric preceptor (slob dpon / slob ma), a cursory outline of the bestowal of initiation rites (dbang bskur), and pithy remarks about topics such as the Five Gnoses (ye shes lnga), and the goals of tantric practice. These brief statements, called the “seals” (phyag rgya) of the respective herukas, are enigmatic on their own, but have traditionally provided the basis for more complex exegesis, as is the case at Katok, where students study this Subsequent Tantra as part of the Mahāyoga curriculum.279 The inclusion of terminology with
erotic overtones (specifically, the use of the term phag ryga, which can refer to the tantric sexual consort), and the inclusion of coupled maṇḍala deities, Vidyādharas, and preceptors, may imply a layer of erotic meaning, and there is a sense that this text is oriented toward experiences 278 “bcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa phyi ma’i rgyud (The Subsequent Tantra of the Assembly of All Victor Sugatas)” in Katok: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor, vol. 1, text 5, pp. 353-374; “bcom ldan 'das bde gshegs 'dus pa'i sngags rgyud phyi ma phyi ma'i rgyud (The Subsequent- Subsequent Tantra of the Mantra Tantras of the Assembled Victor Sugatas)” in Katok: vol. 1 text 6, pp. 379-424. 279 I was told this by the presiding Khenpo at Katok’s monastic college in August, 2017.
associated with Completion Stage practice; an area of Mahāyoga praxis that is somewhat missing from the King of Root Tantras, but is supplied in commentarial literature. The Subsequent-Subsequent Tantra is likewise terse, and consists mainly in the listing of essential mantras (snying po’i sngags) of the Kabgyé deities and retinue. Also supplied are some didactic remarks about the nature of the Sanskrit syllables and their inherent sonic connection to gnosis.