The Legacy of the Eight Teachings: Revelation, Ritual, and Enlightened Violence in Classical Tibet - ( 03)
The Nyingma Kama claims to represent the tantric literature that was dispensed to Tibet in the initial spread of Buddhism in the eighth through tenth centuries.200 In general, the structure of the Kama reflects the gradated doxography of the Nine Vehicles (thegs pa dgu), a taxonomy pioneered by Nubchen Sangye Yeshe and the other architects of the Gathering of Intentions Sutra.201 This organization of tantric literature and praxis seems not to have had a basis in Indian tradition per se, as Mahāyoga texts in India and from the early dispensation of Buddhism in Tibet presented themselves as being the highest approach to tantric practice.202 Be that as it may, the Nyingma Kama is structured around these progressive gradients of literature and practice, with texts representing Mahāyoga positioned between the Carya category and that of Ati. Within the Mahāyoga section of the Kama, we see something like a Kabgyé-inflected rubric for organizing the various materials; this, despite the fact that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa itself, as a revelation scripture, is not included. Specifically, tantric cycles associated with the five principal deities of the Kabgyé – Yamāntaka, Mahottara, Sri Heruka, Vajrakīlaya, and Hayagrīva – are
grouped together in an apparently discrete category distinct from the esoteric systems that follow (i.e., the Secret Nucleus, and other Magical Emanation scriptures.). I suggest the logic of this 200 The two circulating versions of the Nyingma Kama are Düdjom Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje’s bka’ ma rgyas pa and the more recently produced bka’ ma shintu rgyas pa. This “Very Extensive Kama” represents a massive inclusion of materials gathered under the auspices Katok Khenpo Munsel (d. 1993) . Many of these materials seem to be only loosely affiliated with the contents of Düdjom’s “Extensive Kama”, and thus gives the impression of a “grab bag” of tantric miscellany. That said, a more careful interrogation of the history of these canon-making efforts would certainly be worthwhile.
201 Dalton 2016, 3-5. 202 See: van Schaik, 2008.
grouping is influenced by the Kabgyé, which, as in the Gyubum, collated these very divinities as if they inherently belong together as part of one overarching taxonomy of tutelary deities. The presence of several texts in the Nyingma Kama with bka’ brgyad in their titles should be noted. Specifically, the Extensive Kama (bka’ ma rgyas pa) edition includes several texts organized under the term bka’ brgyad rdzongs ‘phrang (The Citadel and Ravine of the Eight Teachings), which is a Mind Class (sems sde) Great Perfection sub-cycle.203 While these texts
are categorized as “Kama”, and thus do not appear in any edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa revelation cycle, they seem to have been regularly bestowed to students in the context of receiving the Kabgyé terma cycle, as we see in the case of Khenpo Ngawang Palzang’s reception of transmissions from Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, and Je Öntrul.204 It is also mentioned by Ngari Panchen in his fifteenth century account of being trained in what seems to be a sort of Kabgyébased Perfection Stage (rdzogs rim) suite of practices under one of his Kabgyé preceptors. These
texts may very well represent a tradition of completion stage or Great Perfection contemplation in a Kabgyé context, and thus reflects the harmonization of Mahāyoga with an overarching transcendentalist view of Ati, or Great Perfection, that characterized the Nine Vehicle approach of the Nyingmapas. It is worth noting that Nyangrel is mentioned in lineage supplications associated with this sub-cycle, and the lineage traces itself to Nupchen Sangye Yeshe and other first-dispensation masters.
203 Bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa. Chengdu: kaH thog mkhan po ‘jam dbyangs, 1999. vol 29, pp. 7-576. This cycle of seven bka’ brgyad rdzong ‘phrang texts is the first of two sems sde sub-sections within the atiyoga division of the “inner yoga” (nang rgyud) section of the Resultant Vajrayana (‘bras bu rdo rje theg pa) category. 204 Palzang 2014, 145.
There is also one practice text by Getsé Mahapandita called The Enlightened Action of the Kabgyé Generation Stage (bka’ brgyad bka’ ma’i bskyed rim gyi ‘phrin las chog khrigs.205 This is a meditation manual bringing together the five “transcendental” Herukas and including supplementary apotropaic rites involving the visualization of the three “worldly deities”. This is certainly a Kabgyé practice text proper, and we might guess that Düdjom (or perhaps Jamgön Kongtrül) included it as a pithy practice guide for meditation on the fierce yidams featured in these cycles. The fact that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is a terma cycle does not seem to matter, and the inclusion of this practice text again reflects the sensibility for Nyingmapas that the Kabgyé assemblage represents an older taxonomic order.
Perhaps even more puzzling for our genric sensibilities is the inclusion of Mipham’s Kabgyé Namshe in the modern-day Very Extensive Kama (bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa). While inconsistent with our understanding of the Kama as an anthology of first-dispensation scriptures, the inclusion of Mipham’s commentary reflects its use in Nyingma scholasticism as one of the main commentaries for Mahāyoga practice. Thus, it is included in the Kama anthology of
Mahāyoga tantric practice systems, even though the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa itself, as a revelation scripture, is not included. It should be noted, however, that many texts of Tibetan provenance are included in the Very Extensive Kama, and so the presence of materials that are not of Indian origin should not be particularly surprising, once we have come to understand the eclectic nature of the Kama canon. Rather than regarding this eclecticism as somehow misguided, we might consider how our generic assumptions may not correspond to Tibetan anthologists’ intentions, and we may observe how anthologicization supports the articulation of institutional identities and historiographies.
205 ‘Gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub, “Bka’ brgyad bka’ ma‘i bskyed rim gyi ‘phrin las chog khrigs” in’gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub gsung ‘bum. Khreng tu: dmangs khrod dpe dkon sdud sgrig khang, 2001. Vol.5, 87-106.
In sum, we see that, although the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is not included in the Kama canon per se, it has influenced how materials are organized in the collection: non-Māyājāla deity cycles are grouped together just as they are collated in the Kabgyé, and several Kabgyé practice texts and a major commentary are included to supplement the practice and exegesis of the wrathful herukas. This attests to the centrality of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in how such deity systems were contextualized in a broader picture of Nyingma tradition.
Jamgön Kongtrül’s anthological activities are significant for how they reflect his ecumenical approach to propagating the traditions to which he had been exposed, and the way by which he sought to define a pan-denominational ecclesiastical vision. In appraising the work of Jamgön Kongtrül (and his so-called Rimé-pa colleagues), we cannot ignore the contextual forces which faced these luminary masters. Nineteenth century Degé was caught in a confluence of contestational forces: invasions from neighboring Nyarong, the advances of both Lhasa and Qing, and the attempts of the Degé court to retain autonomy as its neighbors began to redefine their statehood in increasingly concrete geographical terms.206 Kongtrül’s anthologizations can be interpreted as one aspect of a concerted effort to consolidate religious identities (and their cooperative potential) in the face of instabilities of all kinds. It was also, perhaps as much as anything, a reflection of his own polymathic interests.
We see in the Rinchen Terdzö a packaging of important revelation materials into a format that could be ritually transmitted and readily instantiated in institutional settings. We read, for example, that Khenpo Ngawang Palzang felt compelled to give the complete Rinchen Terdzö empowerments on three occasions, which he understood to be a necessary step in securing the 206 Gardner 2006, 152.
future of the denomination.207 Thus, anthologies such as the Terdzö and the Kama – both of which were well-formatted for ritual transmissions – were particularly suited to institutional propagation, and can be interpreted to be expressive of an emergent sense of institutional identity. The Rinchen Terdzö may have been inspired by The Excellent Wish-Granting Vase (‘dod ‘jo bum bzang), Terdak Lingpa and Lochen Dharmasri’s compendium of important
revelation cycles (which, curiously, does not include the Kabgyé), and which had been part of their efforts to consolidate Nyingma institutional identity. Incidentally, The Kabgyé’s absence from this collection may signal that it was thought to stand on its own as a definitive compendium of its practice cycles, and we may recall that Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje had already curated the Kabgyé cycle in the generation preceding Mindroling. At any rate, the ritual transmission of the Rinchen Terdzö continues to this day, and is a hallmark of the Nyingma’s unique way of continuing its lineages.
As for the Kabgyé’s inclusion in the Rinchen Terdzö, we see Kongtrül expand the scope of Kabgyé materials to include practice texts drawn from twelve different Kabgyé cycles. This exceeds Tsewang Norbu’s earlier effort to organize Kabgyé revelations under the five-fold rubric of enlightened body, speech, mind, quality, and action cycles.
Figure 5: The twelve Kabgyé cycles included in the Rinchen Terdzö:
1) bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa (revealed by mnga' bdag nyang ral) 2) bka' brgyad gsang ba yongs rdzogs (revealed by gu ru chos kyi dbang phyug) 3) bka' brgyad drag po rang byung rang shar (revealed by rig 'dzin rgod ldem) 4) bka' 'dus chos kyi rgya mtsho (revealed by o rgyan gling pa; renewed by 'jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po) 5) bka' brgyad yang gsang thugs kyi me long (revealed by pad+ma gling pa) 6) bka' brgyad yang gsang dregs 'dul (revealed by bde chen gling pa; renewed by 'jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po)
207 Palzang 2014, 127.
In the Rinchen Terdzö, these Kabgyé cycles are arranged as the “Practice of the Eight Yidams as a Group”, which is the first sub-category of the “Root of Achievement, the Yidams” section (see figure 6, below). In the case of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, twenty-four texts are included in the collection. For this, Kongtrül generally compiled practice, empowerment, and other ritual texts attributed to Terdak Lingpa, Khyentse Wangpo, and himself. Such ritual texts
generally entail segments of terma texts reconfigured and annotated with instructional remarks by the author. Thus, for example, Kongtrül’s empowerment ritual begins with short lines of supplication and praise, followed by instructions for determining the appropriate occasion and arrangement of the ritual materials, and more elaborate instructions for constructing and consecrating the mandala. A terma text is then included for the actual visualization procedures
involved in bestowing the empowerment.208 Thus, the Rinchen Terdzö tends to consist of hybrid compositions including instructional material from Nyingma exegetes, and rearranged segments of root texts extracted from Nyangrel’s cycle. In some sense, this anthology may be understood as a ritual cycle, as its main praxical function is to propagate Nyingma tradition in a ritualized format.
208 “sgrub chen bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa'i sngags sgrub nar ma'i dbang chog pad+ma shel phug ma bltas chog tu bsdebs pa dngos grub bum bzang” in Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo pod bcu bzhi pa vol. 14, pp. 781-821. New Delhi: Shechen Publications, 2007-2016.
In the context of the empowerment ritual for the entire Rinchen Terdzö, the Kabgyé takes on a more thoroughgoing significance, as the Kabgyé format structures the entirety of yid dam category of tantras. Thus, just as in the Kabgyé, all the Mahāyoga deities are arranged as five transcendent deities (representing body, speech, mind, quality and action), plus one semitranscendental deity (Mamo Bötong), and two worldly deities (Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak).
In the five transcendent deities, characters from the Kabgyé are included alongside ones that are not, such as Amitāyus, Manjushri, Amitābha, Vajrasattva, Vajrapāni. Thus, we see that the Kabgyé functions not just as a specific cycle, but as representative of the very logic of how ritual practices might be arranged.
II. Instructions for Performing the Rinchen Terdzö
III. Development Stage, Mahāyoga (Ground)
A. Tantras (profound) [1-26] B. sādhanās (vast) [27-781] 1. Root sādhanās a) sādhanās Combining the Three Roots [27-49] b) Individual Specific sādhanās (1) Guru (the root of blessings) (a) Outer (Supplication) [50-54] (b) Inner (Peaceful) (i) Dharmakaya [60-61] (ii) Sambhogakaya [62-65] (iii) Nirmanakaya (a) Main Practices [66-194] (b) Auxiliary Practices [195-206] (c) Secret [207-250] (2) Yidam (the root of siddhis) (a) General sādhanās of peaceful and wrathful deities [251-274] (b) Specific practices of the Eight Logos (i) Five Transcendent Deities (ii) 1. Manjushri (enlightened body) (a) Peaceful Manjushri [275-284] (b) Wrathful Manjushri (Yamāntaka) [285-300] (iii) 2. Padma Speech (enlightened speech) (a) Peaceful 163 (i) Amitayus [301-335] (ii) Amitabha [336-341] (iii) Avalokiteshvara [342- 408] (b) Wrathful Hayagrīva (i) Red Hayagrīva [409- 431] (ii) Black Hayagrīva [432- 436] (iv) 3. Samkyak (enlightened mind) (a) Peaceful Vajrasattva [437-438] (b) Wrathful Vajraheruka [439-450] (c) Vajrapani [451-462] (v) 4. Amritaguna (enlightened qualities) (a) Main Practices (men drup) [461- 478] (b) Branch Practices (rasayana or ‘chu-len’ practices) [479-482]
a) General Rituals [624-635] b) Rituals for Enacting Specifc Kinds of Activity (1) Supreme Activity [636-637] (2) Ordinary Activity (a) For Various Activities [638-640] (b) For Specific Individual Activities [641-781] IV. Completion Stage, Anuyoga (Path) [782-790] V. Atiyoga (Fruition) A. Practice Instructions 1. Mind Section [no empowerments] 2. Space Section [no empowerments] 3. Oral Instruction Section a) Ati (1) Vimalamitra [793-807] (2) Padmakara [808-849] (3) Vairochana [850 and 851] (4) those three united into one view [852-858] 164 b) Chiti  c) Yangti [860-885] [The teachings on the Very Secret, Uncommon Oral Linage] B. Conclusion: the essence of the three virtuous yogas combined into one [886-893]
The Kabgyé’s inclusion in various Nyingma anthologies – as a set of coherent revelation cycles, as an organizing rubric for related materials, and as a template for ritual transmission – speaks to the depth to which the Eight Teachings stands as a foundation of Nyingma identity. Interestingly, there is diversity in how the Kabgyé is treated in these contexts. Its influence in the Nyingma Kama is spectral, providing an organizational sensibility for a variety of materials that were thought to cohere around a common history and orientation towards ritual practice. In the
Gyubum, the Kabgyé takes a more central role, its main tantras outright included within the Accomplishment Class category, formalizing a distinction long taken to represent what was thought to be a natural consilience between certain materials, and which may have reflected old vocational predilections. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, as the eldest and most voluminous of early revelation cycles, naturally takes a central place in the Rinchen Terdzö, providing a template for the organization of all the empowerment rites therein. In each of these anthological attempts to consolidate Nyingma literary and doctrinal identity, we see the Kabgyé as a foundational element of the Nyingma inheritance. It has come to stand not only for a group of specific scriptures, but also for a very category of tantric practice and experience.
Tradition tends to regularize its current state to suggest that these organizational schemes represent the tradition as it has always been. But, from a historical perspective, we can recognize the ways in which this tradition has morphed to meet the expectations and needs of its custodians. While the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was always significant for how it collated several tantric systems, it is clear that it gained in coherence and scale at the hands of ecclesiastical
editors who leveraged its mytho-historical narratives and formal characteristics to organize Nyingma scriptural tradition. Treatment of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa — as a canon of practices that had long-resonated with Early Translation practice, as a massive resource for ritualism and a statement about Early Translation identity, or as a source of learning and practice that could underpin the greatness of emerging institutions — reflects the concerns of its literary custodians.
As sinologist Timothy Wilson observes, anthologization of scripture serves ideological ends and politicized orthodoxies, and is always embedded in a nexus of practices aimed at fixing tradition: “Anthologies are invariably ensnared in a web of other texts”. 209 In a similar vein, Dalton suggests that the accretion of new materials and formats to textual corpora responds to perceived gaps between received and lived tradition.210 Thus, the reception and publication history of an important corpus such as this must be understood within the context of specific historical forces and ideological objectives. In the case of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, special curatorial attention was afforded to this cycle in moments of inter-institutional pressure and within the context of
reformative efforts for the Nyingmapas. Doctrinal, ritual, and commentarial materials were created and curated as part of ongoing efforts to shore up and articulate Nyingma identity, often in the face of contestation from outside forces. While those contestive forces go unaddressed within the volumes and compendia that emerged between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, we can see how the Kabgyé was leveraged to articulate types of doctrines and practices that were known to undergird Nyingma religiosity. The Minling System, for example,
represented attempts to develop templates for ritual practice that would be digestible to more broadly defined religious communities, and was redolent of an emergent strategy to express 209 Thomas A. Wilson, Genealogy of the Way: The Construction and Uses of the Confucian Tradition in Late Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995, 6-8. 210 Dalton 2016, xv.
centralized power through the regularization of ritual cycles. The Dzogchen ritual cycle greatly expanded this kind of format to render the Kabgyé into a genre of ritualism that included the many cycles and traditions underwriting the heritage of that institution. Likewise, the Kabgyé was leveraged as a template and broad category within Nyingma anthologies as it sought to define the contours of its own tradition vis-à-vis newly- deployed scriptural taxonomies. In this,
the Kabgyé came to be imagined as a crucial foundation of the Nyingma tradition: a source for the doctrines, doxographies, and styles of practice distinctive to the Early Translation Elders. It is to the imaginal world of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa that we will now turn as we explore the foundational texts’ literary qualities, narrative themes, and imaginal conceits. This literary exploration will supplement Part One’s historical treatment to complete our picture of the Kabgyé tradition as a force for identity, agency, and religious subjectivity.
The texts of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle entail nearly every element of Mahāyoga tantrism. From narrative dramas framing the root tantras, to detailed explanations of the requirements of tantric practice; from ritual procedures for cursing and destroying obstructive forces, to meditational guidance in ritual and transcendental self-cultivational practice, the Kabgyé offers a full suite of materials for undertaking Tantric Buddhist practice, especially as envisaged by the architects of the Nyingma tradition. This vision for Tantric practice in Tibet
drew on Mahāyoga traditions while incorporating idioms and imageries drawn from Tibet’s ritual culture. The Kabgyé cycle also advanced a distinctive vision for buddhist mastery which enfolded soteriological and apotropaic dimensions of tantric practice. Finally, in proffering a comprehensive program of doctrine, contemplation, and ritual – a program undergirded by a distinctively resonant imaginal world of wrathful soteriology and harm-averting ritualism – the Kabgyé was a force for articulating collective religious identities and configuring agentive subjectivities. The identity-bolstering capacity of the Eight Teachings was related to the
Kabgyé’s participation in a broader vision of religious history curated by Nyangrel Nyima Özer, and is carried out in the distinctive literary features of its unique texts. The scale of this corpus is far too vast to allow for treatment of every major text. Rather, I will take a detailed look at several of the foundational texts which communicate the distinctive features of the Kabgyé cycle. These will include the “auto-history” of the cycle as articulated in The Manner of the Arising of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa Teachings (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus
selection of apotropaic ritual texts which appear across Kabgyé practice cycles.211 In this exploration, we will contextualize these foundational texts alongside other materials from within, and outside of, the Kabgyé cycle. These include the transmitted Assembled Sugatas Tantra (bde gshegs ‘dus pa rgyud), the narrative bibliographies found in the Clear Lamp Bibliography (dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron ma) and Ögyan Lingpa’s Five Chronicles (bka’ thang sde lnga) revelation
cycle, as well as the Secret Nucleus Tantra (gsang ba’i snying po rgyud, Skt. Guhyagarbhatantra). Our analysis of the foundational Kabgyé texts will focus on the ways in which Early Translation adepts and Nyingma ecclesiastical figures innovated core Mahāyoga narratives for communicating tantric buddhology, and developed ritual templates and idioms to incorporate familiar features of Tibet’s indigenous ritual culture. We will also see how the scriptures of the Kabgyé cycle established doxographical sensibilities which would inform the organization of
tantric literature for the Nyingmapa. In these texts are found the buddhological, historiographic, ritual, and doxographical bases that allowed for a continual reformulation of esoteric knowledge towards the articulation of distinctive Nyingma identities. We will also appraise the literary qualities of these texts, observing how the histories, tantras, and ritual scriptures advanced a comprehensive imaginal world with which practitioners could engage, and thereby confirm, articulate, and construct identities and agentive subjectivities which found consilliance with emergent understandings of the history of Buddhism in Tibet.
211 In general, I have used the texts from the Katok edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa. The Katok edition, which was supplied to its publisher by Düdjom Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje in the late 1970s, is widely regarded as authoritative in Nyingma institutions in China and in exile. The xylograph is clearly printed and easy to read. The equally voluminous Tsamdrak edition is perhaps more comprehensive in its inclusion of variant versions of specific texts, but I have generally observed consistency in the texts I have closely read between the Katok and Tsamdrak. As a manuscript, the Tsamdrak also entails more spelling and orthographical errors.
Like any major tantric cycle, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa supplies its own origin myth. This is to be found in the Manner of the Arising of the Teachings of the Eight Teachings of the Collected Sugatas (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i bka’ byung tshul, hereafter, “The Arising”).212 This is the first treasure text of the thirteen-volume Katok edition, although not the first text; it is preceded by The Stainless Proclamations biography of Nyangrel, and Ngari Panchen’s commentary, The Wheel Dispelling Darkness: The Method of Explanation (‘chad
thabs mun sel nyi zla ‘khor lo). Notably, The Arising is absent from the Tsamdrak edition, and we do not know whether it played a role in Gongra’s initial redaction in the seventeenth century. 212 “bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i bka’ byung tshul (The Manner of the Arising of the Teachings of the Kagye Deshek Dupa)” in Katok: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor, vol. 1., text 3, pp. 243-84.
It is also not included in the nine-volume manuscript from Eastern Tibet that I take to be the forebear of the thirteen-volume Katok. However, it is listed in the dkar chag for Taksham Nuden Dorje’s Gyubum as the opening text of the fourteenth volume (pha), which contains the fifteen foundational Kabgyé tantras. It is also mentioned, alongside the Clear Lamp Bibliography (dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron me, also a terma text)213 as one of the main sources for Ngari Panchen P ema Wangyal’s early sixteenth century commentary and history of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa. It is worth noting, too, that elements of The Arising are found verbatim in Ögyan Lingpa’s fifteenthcentury Five Chronicles revelation, although these segments are contextualized a bit differently in his account. Specifically, the Five Chronicles lists all the texts (and in the same order) that The Arising specifies were disseminated to the Eight Vidyādharas at the Śitavana charnel ground. However, there is no mention of the Eight Vidyādharas in the Five Chronicles; these texts are
listed as the personal library (phyag dpe) of Tri Song Detsän, said to constitute the “future inheritance of the royal lineage” (ma 'ong rgyal brgyud nor skal).214 While we cannot definitively say whether the Five Chronicles derived its information from The Arising, or whether The Arising represents an enrichment of Ögyan Lingpa’s material, we can conclude that there was a sense of the Kabgyé providing a rubric for the organization of non-Māyājāla Mahāyoga materials, at least by the fifteenth century.
Despite the opacity of The Arising’s origins, its narrative of the Kabgyé’s initial dispensation to Eight Vidyādharas in India, and its onward dissemination to Tibet with Padmasambhava, became a normative and well-known account of the origins of both the Kabgyé and the entire Accomplishment Class (sgrub sde) of Mahāyoga tantric literature. As I will show, 213 “dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron me (The Clear Lamp Bibliography)” in Katok: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor, vol.1., text 9, pp. 615-60.
The Arising, and also other texts such as the Stainless Proclamations biography, as well as the revealed Clear Lamp narrative bibliography, underwrite a broad sense of the Kabgyé’s foundational character and origins in Buddhist India.
The Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings serves many functions: it articulates a buddhological basis for revelation via the doctrine of “three lineages”; it maintains a doxography of tantric doctrines involving a subordination of Mahāyoga to the Great Perfection vis-à-vis the concept of nine vehicles; and it incorporates a typology of autochthonous spirits (lha ma srin sde brgyad – the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons), tempering their demonic value and officially drawing them into the Buddhist cosmos in general, and into the history of this corpus in
particular. The text also supplies, couched in the narrative of the cycle’s dissemination amongst its first human practitioners, a catalog of tantras and supplementary works associated with the eight Kabgyé divinities. This is an important feature of the foundational narrative, as the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa itself functioned like a canon, bringing together, perhaps for the first time, disparate non-Māyājāla tantric systems popular in Early Translation communities into one textual body. I will suggest that, in the world of this particular cycle, canon itself becomes a mode of communicating dharma; that is, the classification of scriptures and supplementary
documents that we see carried in this text also articulates a structure for the contours of Mahāyoga tantric knowledge and experience. The very notion of canon thus registers on several levels, and will prove central to what this Kabgyé system does for its adherents. It will also put into motion a method for organizing tantric knowledge which would come to undergird the development of Nyingma canons, anthologies, and curricular structures.
As published in the Katok edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, The Arising consists of what seems to have been two separate texts. I have also descriptively divided the text into three narrative movements: Parts I and II (an account of the cycle’s origins in India and a description of its dissemination in Tibet, respectively) make up the first proto-text, while Part III appears to have been a separate text, later combined to make the bka’ byung tshul as it appears in the Katok.
II. In Tibet:
b) Detailed contents of the Deshek Dupa, typologized in a scheme of interlocking fivefold lists.
[p 233-237] The text opens with a description of the general architecture of the Buddhist teachings in terms of the myriad dharmas, vehicles, and piṭakas, which are all subordinated to (lit. “assembled as”, dus par) the “unborn Ati, the Great Perfection” (skye ba med pa A ti rdzogs pa chen po) .215 The text goes on in narrative mode to define the nature of the primordial Buddha, Kuntu Zangpo (kun tu bzang po, Skt. Samantabhadra, lit. “All Good”), and demonstrate his commensurability with the wrathful male and female herukas.216 This section, then, serves to define wrathful Mahāyoga as a method encapsulating all dharmas, while ultimately subordinating those dharmas to the transcendental vision of reality communicated in the doctrines of the ultimate vehicle of “Ati / Great Perfection”.
The text continues to describe the “Lineage of the Conqueror’s Mind-State” (rgyal ba’i dgongs pa brgyud) in terms of the nature of primordial reality and its auto-articulation (rang sgra) by Kuntu Zangpo. The primordial (skye ba med pa, lit. “uncreated”) reality, present and auto-expressed within Kuntu Zangpo’s mind state (dgongs pa), is “assembled” (‘dus pa) as the myriad teachings and vehicles, comprehended (lit. “listened to”) by the Five Enjoyment-Body Buddhas (longs spyod rdzogs pa'i sku rigs lnga’i sangs rgyas kyis nyan), and the wrathful herukas. They take wrathful forms for dealing with “those untamable by peaceful means”, and for “the purpose of annihilating the demons along with enemies”.217
received and recorded these teachings in golden volumes, classifying them as Five Great Tantras (rgyud lnga chen po), the Five Teachings (lung chen po lnga), and Ten Root Tantras (rtsa ba rgyud bcu). These are entrusted to the ma mo (Skt. mātṛkā), mkha’ ‘gro (Skt. ḍākinī), and the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons (lha ma srin sde brgyad), who separate them out into respective caskets made from precious gems. They argue about where to conceal them, with each class of god or demon arguing for concealment in their own realm. The ḍākinīs eventually
adjudicate, telling them to hide the corpus in a stupa within the Cool Grove charnel ground (bsil ba’i tshal, Skt. Śitavana ), which has many good, albeit fearsome, qualities.218 [p 243-255] Through their supranormal meditative powers, the Eight Vidyādharas (rig ‘dzin brgyad), dwelling in their own charnel grounds, become aware of the wonders surrounding the Cool Grove, and decide to converge there. They request the ḍākinīs, gods, and demons to reveal the nine caskets and to teach the contents. The Vidyādharas are given their respective caskets, and a list is provided of what is found in each one.219 They also supplicate for a comprehensive edition – the Deshek Dupa – which is accordingly revealed from within the stupa.
218 The Śitavana cremation ground is mentioned in several early Indian Buddhist sources, including in the Vinaya and Anathapinkikasutra. In these sources, it is said to have been the haunted location where the Buddha met the prominent disciple Anathapindika. In the Mahaprajnaparamitaśastra, Śitavana is mentioned as the open burial ground adjacent to Vulture Peak in Rājagṛha.
219 According to this, Mañjuśrīmitra was bestowed 39 Yamāntaka tantras; Nāgarjuna received 29 Hayagrīva tantras; Humkara was granted 19 tantras associated with Śri Heruka; the 44 Phurba texts were given to Padmasambhava; Vimalamitra received 10 Mahottara texts; Dhanasamskrita was bestowed all 52 mamo tantras; Rambuguhya received 8 Jigten Chötö texts in which were encapsulated “inconceivable” (i.e. not delineated here) varieties of demon-taming practice; and Santigarbha was entrusted with 5 inconceivable anthologies of Möpa
Drangak practices. The Arising lists each of these texts (none of which are formally part of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle as it has circulated in Tibet) by name; some are known texts of the first dispensation, appearing in early anthologies or codified in the Eighteen Mahāyoga Tantras, the Nyingma Kama, or even the Kangyur. Other texts have fallen out of circulation, if they existed at all. Notice, too, that the materials associated with Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak are not precisely enumerated. This is probably because, as far as I can tell, these cycles did not circulate as discrete cycles in India such that they were transmitted to Tibet during the imperium.
[p 255-258] Each master accomplishes his own class, and Padmasambhava then wanders around India and up to Nepal, where he opens the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa maṇḍala at Yangleshö with his Nepali consort.220 Having been invited by Tri Song Detsän to Tibet to “tame the earth” (sa gzhi ‘thul ba), Padmasambhava arrives and tames the meddlesome land-spirits, and glorious Samyé was “spontaneously erected”.221
[ 258-259] Then, at Samyé Chimpu, Padmasambhava bestows the Kabgyé empowerments to eight disciples, including Tri Song Detsän.222 Each disciple is able to accomplish his or her cycle and achieve the supranormal powers of a vidyādhara. But Tri Song Detsän laments his inability to practice meditation due to the distractions inherent to his office, and requests further instruction. Padmasambhava prophecies that the king will be able to complete his practice in a final rebirth, and that the Deshek Dupa and ancillary texts should be concealed for that future time. Then, back at Chimpu, the manuscripts were transcribed into Tibetan over the course of a year by the Tibetan translator, Denma Tsemang.
220 This brief mention of Yangleshö belies a complicated constellation of narratives regarding Padmasambhava’s deeds in Nepal. Nyangrel’s revealed hagiography of Padmasambhava, the zangs gling ma, does indeed describe Padmasambhava’s practice of Yangdak Heruka and Dorje Phurba at Yangleshö, resulting in the subjugation of several classes of obstructing demonesses and the return of the rains to the drought-stricken Kathmandu valley (The Lotus Born, p 52-55). Nyingma lore also holds that it was at the upper Asura cave of Yangleshö that Padmasambhava tamed twelve Tenmo demonnesses (the btstan ma bcu gnyis) through mastery of Jigten Chötö,
binding them by oath to protect Tibet. Interestingly, Dalton has discovered reference to Yangleshö in Dunhuang’s PT44, which describes the tantric master Acharya Padma’s mastery of all tantric yogas there, culminating in the accomplishment of Vajrakīla (Dalton 2004, 762). Dalton dates this text to the late tenth century, indicating that it is an older version of the story than is found in Nyangrel’s revelation of the gzangs gling ma, or the bka’ byung tshul. 221 The Arising, 256.3: sa gzhi ma thul bas rtsig tu ma thub nas/ yang le shod kyi brag phug nas slob dpon pamda ‘byung gnas spyan drangs na/ ‘grub par zhal ‘cham nas/ sob dpon spyan drangs nas thugs kyis dgongs nas byon/ bod kyi lha srin gtug pa can thams cad kyang btul/ lha ma srin sde brgyad thams can mnga’ ‘og tu bsdus nas/ dpal bsam yas lhun gyis grub pa bzhengs/
222 The eight recipients of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in Tibet were: Tri Song Detsän (receiving Mahottara as his tutelary deity); Lhodrak Namkha Nyingpo (receiving Śri Heruka); Nubchen Sangye Yeshe (receiving Yamāntaka); Gyalwa Chog Yang (Hayagrīva); Yeshe Tshogyal (Vajrakīlaya); Nyang Tenzin Zangpo (Lama Rigzin); Drog Palgyi Sengye (Mamo Bötong); Langchen Palgyi Sengye (Jigten Chötö); Vairotsana (Möpa Drangak);
[p 259-269] The text makes a break there, with the customary annotation signaling the end of a terma text (rgya rgya rgya, gter rgya). But the narrative picks up again with an account of the discourse between Tri Song Detsän and Padmasambhava, again reporting the transmission of the cycle in Tibet and its transcription by Denma Tsemang. A detailed catalog of materials follows, arranged in interlocking sets of five groupings, for a total of 140 “ancillary dharmas” (chos kyi cha lag) of the Kabgyé teachings. Herein is included an entire array of tantric methods, not only of the wrathful variety, but representing the structure of Mahāyoga tantric knowledge altogether. What is ostensibly a list of texts here doubles as a structure for Mahāyoga doctrine and esoteric practice.
[p 269-271] The narrative returns to discourse between Padmasambhava and Tri Song Detsän, wherein the king reiterates his concern that he will not be able to practice these precious teachings, and Padmasambhava predicts his accomplishment in his future, and final, lifetime. Padmasambhava declares he will teach the cycle to no one else, and they conceal the text (perhaps there at the Red Rock hermitage near Samyé (brag dmar mgrin); the text does not specify), and they command the treasure protectors and entrustment protectresses to guard it until the appointed individual returns for them.
Several features in this text are worth sustained attention: a) The myth-history of the cycle, which entails a buddhological argument for revelation and wrathful practice; b) a unique demonology which embraces a spectrum of entities not usually associated with the propagation of sacred materials; c) a pair of bibliographies that do much work to advance the mythic underpinnings of the revelation cycle and to structure Mahāyoga tantrism; and d) a prophetic
The text opens with an account of Truth’s (chos) auto-articulation in primordial, symbolically-mediated, and apparent dimensions of reality: Moreover, the blessings from within the equality, unborn suchness, and the truthbody, Buddha All Good [[[Samantabhadra]]], is explained as the self-utterance of suchness. [It is] listened to by the Buddhas of the Five Families of the completely perfect Enjoyment Body. Having emanated as wrathful forms for taming those
who are untamable through peaceful means, emanating as the wrathful bodies of awareness holders as well as the worldly and transcendental [[[spirits]]] for the purpose of annihilating the demons and arrogant ones, it is explained.223 This account is distinctively oriented towards the idiom of wrath from the very beginning, connecting the emanational forms of the Primordial Buddha – in this case, “wrathful forms”
(khro sku) – to the primordial dimension of reality, suchness itself (chos nyid). What is supplied from the beginning is a buddhology of enlightened wrath and a soteriological incorporation of all sorts of entities, transcendental and mundane (‘jig rten pa dang/ ‘jig rten las ‘das pa’i). This theme of the connection of soteriological wrath to primordial reality itself will undergird the doctrines, rituals, and meditations of the Kabgyé cycle.
To describe how the naturally expressive nature of unconditioned reality is articulated in ways comprehensible to myriad beings, Mahāyoga tradition generally speaks of the lineages of “Mind, Sign, and Word” (properly: “The Lineage of the Conquerors’ Mind-State” [[[rgyal ba]] dgongs pa’i brgyud], the “Symbolic Lineage of the Awareness Holders” [[[rig 'dzin]] brda'i 223 The Arising, 237.1: De yang chos sku kun tu bzang po dang/ skye med don gyi chos nyid mnyang pa nyid kyi ngang las byin gyis brlabs te/ chos nyid kyi rang sgras bshad/ longs spyod rdzogs pa’i sku rigs lnga’i sangs rgyas kyis nyan/ zhi bas mi thul ba rnams la khro skur sprul nas/ bdud dang srin po dregs pa can tshar bcad pa’i don du ‘khor ‘jig rten pa dang/ ‘jig rten las ‘das pa dang/ rig ‘dzin rnams la sbrul pa’i sku khro bor sprul nas bshad do/
brgyud], and “The Hearing Lineage of Humans” [[[gang zag snyan brgyud]]]).224 The Lineage of the Conquerors’ Mind-State refers to the auto-articulation of truth/reality (chos) in the unconditioned primordial substrate (chos nyid) by the primordial buddha Kuntu Zangpo (kun tu bzang po, Skt. samantabhadra, lit. “All Good”).225 These “teachings”, transcendent of thought or language in their original nature, naturally radiate due to the power of compassion in a symbolic manner, comprehended by divine beings such as the Bodhisattvas and Vidyādharas, and are promulgated through mystic signs.226 Such signs generally include the visionary appearance of
maṇḍalas, or, in some Mahāyoga and Atiyoga lore, the sounds and sights of the natural world, which are said to communicate the primordial reality of the dharmatā (chos nyid) to the spiritually advanced. Only adepts of extreme realization, the Awareness Holders (rig ‘dzin, Skt. vidyādhara), may comprehend this so-called Sign Lineage (brda brgyud), and it is through them that the teachings are then made comprehensible to humans in the manner of a “Lineage of
Word” (technically, the “Hearing Lineage of Persons: gang zag snyan brgyud). It is in this way that the very words and iconography of a Mahāyoga system such as the Kabgyé participate in, and directly express, a deep reality that transcends word or concept. It is this notion of the Three Lineages that allows for scriptural revelation in the first place, as novel expressions of truth can continually and spontaneously arise from the naturally expressive unconditionality of the 224 See: Kapstein 2000, 164, for a summary of this doctrine. After Trungpa (2013), I designate these as the lineages of Mind, Sign, and Word.
225 Dgongs pa is often translated as “intention” or “consideration”, or even ideation (as in Tshig Mdzod Chen Mo entry 1: “bsam blo gtong ba”), but dgongs pa is also the honorific for sems (TMCM, entry 2: “sems kyi zhe sa”), and can thus refer to the mind of the Buddha. Thus, the dgongs pa of the rgyal ba dgongs pa’i brgyud most fully refers to something like the transcendental mind-state of divine entities, which necessarily entails the intentionality to benefit beings, and so “lineage of conqueror’s intention” works, too.
226 While Mahāyoga systems share this account of the teachings’ dissemination through lineages of Mind, Sign, and Word, each system distinctively identifies the divine entities associated with these lineages. For example, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa identifies the Bodhisattva Vajradharma (an emanation of Vajrapani) as the lineage-holder of Signs, while other Mahāyoga systems identify Vajrasattva, Manjushri, or Vajrapani in that role.
primordial ground- nature. Thus, the tantras in general, and the revealed scriptures in particular, can claim authenticity without a direct line to the historical Buddha. As for the Three Lineages in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, The Arising summarizes the Lineage of the Conqueror’s Mind: “The blessings from within equality, the unborn dharma, and the dharmakāya All-Good, is the self-utterance of the dharmatā, listened to by the five buddha families of the complete perfect enjoyment body…”227, and continues with the Sign and Word lineages, as summarized in my descriptive synopsis above. So it was that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa – a cycle combining eight major Mahāyoga divinities and their contemplative techniques – was auto-articulated by Kuntu Zangpo, redacted through Vajradharma and the ḍākinīs in the Sign Lineage, and received by a congregation of human beings, The Eight Vidyādharas, of whom Guru Padmasambhava was a member. The individual tantras of the Eight Herukas were individually bestowed to these eight masters, and allegedly propagated in India and Nepal.228 But the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa that Nyangrel claimed to have revealed purports to be the special comprehensive edition, brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava himself.
One unique feature of the Kabgyé’s foundational narrative is the incorporation of divine, semi-divine, and autochthonous (i.e. landscape-based) entities in the story of the cycle’s propagation. While the inclusion of such characters in Tantric and Mahayāna Buddhist literature in general is expected, The Arising’s narrative stands out for the unexpected role that customarily demonic entities take in propagating and preserving Buddhist materials. According to the text, the whole series of the Kabgyé tantras was entrusted to “the mamos accomplished from wisdom 227 The Arising, 237.3: De yang chos sku kun tu bzang po dang/ skye med don gyi chos nyid mnyang pa nyid kyi nang las byin gyis brlabs te/ chos nyid kyi rang sgras bshad/ longs spyod rdzogs pa’i sku rigs lnga’i sangs rgyas kyis nyan.
and karma, and the ḍākinīs, along with the retinue gods and demons of the eight classes (lha ma srin sde brgyad) ”.229 These characters, according to the story, work together to manufacture special treasure chests for the Kabgyé materials, and are entrusted by Vajradharma with their concealment.
Ḍākinīs (Tib. mkha’ ‘gro) and the tempestuous feminine ma mo (Skt. mātṛka) figured prominently in the dreams and visions of Nyangrel Nyima Özer, and came to be regularly affiliated with the concealment and retrieval of treasure in Tibet. As such, they were clearly part of the general religious imagination of adepts in this period. Looking for earlier precedents for the concealment of scriptures, Tibetan terma apologists often noted the role of aqueous nāga (Tib. klu) spirits in the concealment of Mahayāna scriptures according to Indian Buddhist literature. But in the foundational narrative of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons – an eightfold list of semi-divine, autochthonous, and demonic entities – play a central role, and the involvement of such decidedly maleficent and landscape-based entities is distinctive. According to this particular text, The Eight Classes include: Lú (klu, Skt. nāga, aquatic spirits), za(gza’, Skt. rāhu, planetary gods), Dü (bdud Skt. māra, harmful demons), Mú (rmu / dmu, malignant spirits, also an ancient Tibetan term connected to lore about the human
progenitor-gods), Nöjin (gnod spyin, Skt. yakṣa, guardian demons), Srinpo (srin po, Skt. rakṣa, cannibal demons), Gek (bgegs (obstructing entities, Skt. vighna), and Tsän (btsan, violent spirits, sometimes associated with deceased kings, no Sanskrit equivalent). In this, the Kabgyé provides an early example of what would become a common template for the organization of semi-divine entities in Tibetan Buddhist contexts, a literary history outlined by Françoise Pommaret and 229 The Arising, 239.2: gsang sngags kyi rgyud sde thams cad rig ‘dzin rnams kyis ye shes dang las las grub pa’i ma mo dang kha’ ‘gro ma rnams dang ‘khor lha ma srin sde brgyad dang bcas pa la gtad de bzhag go//
addressed in the “Demon Taming” subsection, previous.230 Lists of the “Eight Classes” tend to be highly variable, and even the eightfold lists found at various junctures within the Deshek Dupa corpus are not mutually coherent. It seems that the very idea of “Eight Classes” provided a way to enfold entities known to Tibetan ritual culture into a Buddhist scheme, and the foundational myth of the Eight Teachings cycle evidences this.
Returning to the narrative: after sealing the texts in treasure chests made from precious stones, a debate unfolds between these entities regarding where the cycle should be concealed: ...desiring to conceal it as treasure, the mamo, khandro, and Gods and Spirits of the Eight Classes conferred: the khandro replied to conceal it in the wish-fulfilling tree; the lú replied to conceal it in the depth of the sea; the za said to conceal it in the space of the sky; the dü demons said in the island of the dark demon land; the
lha said in the cupola of the victorious peak of Mount Meru; the mu kings said in the peak of the mu palace in the lower rock cave; the nöjin said in the palace of Vaishravana in the northeast mountain ring, the srinpo said in the nine-storied srin castle in Purang Sri Lanka, the gek said in the great radiant grey-light demon castle in the land of the northeastern gek. The tsän said to conceal it at the threshold of the Samten Rock, at the maroon tsän fortress…231
This fascinating exchange gives us a catalog of the Eight Classes (although there seem to be ten listed here), and tells us something about how these entities and their abodes were to be imagined. Ultimately, the ḍākinīs intervene and unilaterally decide to conceal the corpus in the Śitavana charnel ground stupa. Beyond adding color and a bit of humor to the narrative, the inclusion of these entities in the foundational narrative of the cycle tells us something about the imaginal and vocational milieu out of which this text emerged. The world of Nyangrel and his 230 For a diachronic overview and summary of the various eightfold categorizations of Tibetan Buddhist divinities, see: Pommaret ed., 2003.
231 The Arising, 240: ...ma mo dang mkha’ ‘gro ma dang lha ma srin sde brgyad bka’ bsgos pa/ mkha’ ‘gro ma rnams na re/ dpag bsam gyi shing la sba zer/ klu rnams na re/ rgya mtsho’i gting du sba zer/ gza’ rnams na re/ nam mkha’i mthongs su sba zer/ bdud rnams na re/ bdud yul mun ba’i gling du sba zer/ lha rnams na re/ gnya’ shing ‘dzin gyi byang shar na lcang lo can gyi pho brang na sba zer/ srin po rnams na re/ srin yul lang ka pu rangs su srin mkhar dgu brtsegs la sba zer/ bgegs rnams na re/ byang shar bgegs kyi gling na ‘dri mkhar skya bo ‘od po che la sba zer/ btsan rnams na re/ bsam gtan brag gi them pa la btsan mkhar smug po lde ma pa la sba zer/ de ltar lha ma srin sde brgyad kyis bka’ re stsal nas/
associates was a uniquely visionary one, and the physical environment was highly imposing. Unseen forces associated with the land would have been a prominent part of any yogin’s (and perhaps any Tibetan’s) everyday experience, at least at the level of ritual culture, if not in visionary experience. We know that Nyangrel, in particular, performed demon-averting rituals for his livelihood. It makes sense, then, that a tantric system flowing through Nyangrel would include these entities, being, as they were, a fact of life in twelfth-century Tibet. And, as we will see, the Kabgyé cycle altogether is oriented towards apotropaic practice, with the theme of
demon control emerging again and again in the narratives, doctrines, and practices that populate this cycle. As one of the arguments of this dissertation suggests, the Kabgyé represented an enfoldment of the soteriological and apotropaic functions of tantric ritual, and so it makes sense that the gods and demons with which such practices dealt were prominently featured in the cycle’s auto-history. As we will also see, these Eight Classes of Gods and Demons will also provide the basis for the maṇḍalas and rituals of the “worldly” cycles of Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak, and in these sections we will see the strongest evidence for the indigenization of Mahāyoga through a uniquely geomantic take on the “taming and liberating” (‘dul ba and sgrol ba) idioms of wrathful tantrism.
Key to understanding the significance of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is to acknowledge its character as a collection (a ‘dus pa) of scriptures associated with the tantric systems and ritual protocols already practiced by Early Translation adepts. As we have described, there were traceable traditions involving five of the eight Kabgyé deities over the centuries preceding Nyangrel: Hayagrīva (rta mgrin), Śri Heruka (yang dag), Mahottara (che mchog), Yamāntaka (gshin rje), and Vajrakīlaya (rdo rje phur ba). Adepts who officiated tantric learning and practice would typically be trained in one or more of these cycles, as we see in the predilection of
Nyangrel and his family for Hayagrīva. However, there seems to have been no coherent canon of such texts or unified curriculum to be inherited by Tibetan Buddhists in the First Dispensation, and it is in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa that these particular deity-systems are brought together into something coherently united under a single mythology and soteriological idiom. The Arising is an essential force in this effort, and the notion of ‘dus pa – to “assemble” – plays out in the text on several registers.
In the foundational narrative of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, the notion of collation is essential, carrying buddhological, bibliographic, and historical dimensions. Specifically, the term ‘dus pa (the perfective tense of ‘du ba: to “assemble”, or “gather”, nominalized as ‘dus pa: “assembly” ) is omnipresent in the opening passages of The Arising.232 This text begins by explaining how doctrines, vehicles, and maṇḍalas were “assembled” (‘dus pa), “having been generated by the compassionate wisdom of the unborn dharma body, the primordial Buddha
Kuntu Zangpo”.233 Thus were “assembled” (‘dus pa) the 84,000 dharmas in response to 84,000 afflictions, further “assembled” into the causal and resultant vehicles, with the three baskets and nine yānas. These are further “assembled” into the wrathful maṇḍala at the heart of the Kabgyé.234 Technically, it is Buddha All-Good, Kuntu Zangpo, who is the progenitive redactor of these doctrines and pedagogical modes in the Lineage of Mind, transmitting them onward to the members of the Sign and Word lineages. However, ‘du ba is a tha mi dad pa verb, requiring
232 Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo, p. 1397: ‘du ba: (tha mi dad pa) ‘dus pa/ ‘du ba/ ‘dus// : tshogs pa. [intransitive, to assemble].. Note that ‘du ba is marked tha mi dad pa, i.e., the agent goes unmarked by an agentive case marker, and thus suggests a lower degree of agency.
no agentive particle (byed sgra) to mark the agent, thus suggesting a low degree of agency.235 In other words, it is more faithful to the Tibetan grammar to render it that the dharmas, vehicles, maṇḍalas, etc. “were assembled” out of compassionate wisdom (mkhyen pa’i thugs rje las), than it would be to say Buddha All-Good “assembled” them (again, kun tu bzang po is not marked with the agentive particle, gis, in reference to the assembling).236 This conforms to the subtle buddhology of the Three Lineages, as the teachings of the Mind and Sign Lineages naturally
percolate out of the singular space of dharmakāya (gnyis su med pa’i dbyings) by the force of unproduced (skye med pa’i , i.e. spontaneous) compassion, which is the natural expressivity, or “self-utterance” (rang sgra), of the primordial ground. In this way, “assembling” takes on a curiously intransitive dimension, and does not have to refer to the active condensation of a multiplicity into something singular (as in making “an assembly”), as in the ordinary sense of the word, but instead to a spontaneous extension of a multiplicity of doctrines out of the singular primordial truth.
In sum, the various uses of the term – ‘dus pa as an assembly of Sugatas, ‘du ba as a decidedly intransitive, redactive-yet-proliferative act of articulating complex doctrines, and a ‘dus pa as a collation of texts – constitutes a nifty piece of rhetoric that invokes a sense of divinely-sanctioned collation that I think is essential to what this corpus is meant to do: to collect together and sanction several tantric systems with resonance for Early Translation practitioners.
235 tha mi dad pa means “indivisible”, referring to the indivisibility of an action and the recipient of the action (which often indicates the agent), such as in the case of mthong ba (to perceive). Tha dad pa means “divisible”, and suggests that the action and its direct object abide in separation, as in the case of lta ba (to look at something). The tha dad pa / tha mi dad pa distinction has been characterized by Western grammarians as one of transitivity, but, as in the case of mthong ba (see) and lta ba (look) the notion of transitivity does not always adhere perfectly to the TDP/TMDP distinction.
236 To be precise, the text specifies that, “having been born from Kuntu Zangpo’s compassion” (…thugs rje dang gis skyes nas), the maṇḍalas etc. “were assembled” (‘dus pa). The agentive particle (gis) refers to the manner by which they were produced (skyes), and having been produced, (skyes nas), they became assembled (the intransitive ‘dus pa).
As such, I suggest that the revelatory production of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa through Nyangrel was a mode of canon-formation. When we consider the context of competition and pressure surrounding Early Translation communities, it becomes clear why such an attempt to curate a coherent canon of contemplative scriptures – one firmly rooted in the wrathful salvational idiom and the vocation of ritual demon control – was welcome.
Two catalogs of Kabgyé materials appear within The Arising’s narrative. In the first, the text details the contents of each of the eight precious chests that were bestowed to the Eight Vidyādharas at Śitavana. The narrative specifies that Mañjuśrīmitra received thirty-nine Yamāntaka tantras, Nāgarjuna received twenty-nine Hayagrīva texts, Hūṃkāra obtained eighteen Yangdak Heruka tantras and commentaries, to Padmasambhava was bestowed forty-four Phurba
tantras, Vimalamitra got ten Chemchok tantras, Dhanasaṃskṛta received fifty-two mamo texts, Rambuguhya’s Drekpa casket held eight tantras, and Śāntigarbha was given five Möpa Drangak texts. The Arising enumerates the titles of these two hundred and five texts in full detail. Some of the titles are known scriptures, attested in the Nyingma Gyubum, the Nyingma Kama, and even in the Kangyur. But I have not located the vast majority of the texts mentioned in any available Tibetan collection. This does not mean that they never existed: unattested texts may have
circulated in Tibet or India, with less-important cycles disappearing with disuse or proscription. But, given its placement and function within this narrativized myth-history, it is my theory that this catalog of wrathful Mahāyoga materials functioned as an imaginative act of canon formation, meant to underscore the antiquity of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle by associating it with an entire family of literature – a collection that would become known as the sgrub sde, or Accomplishment Class – that hypothetically existed in India’s ground-zero for siddha tantrism. Beyond simply authenticating a new corpus with an imagined history, this narrative act gives a
sense of coherence, or branding, to a certain type of tantric materials. We are given a family of practices rooted in the imaginaire of sacred wrath, utilizing heavy ritualism involving sexual and violent elements, and favorable to ritual professionalization: all features of the Buddhism that defined Early Translation communities, and which were under scrutiny by rivals in Nyangrel’s time.
If The Arising was truly a constituent feature of the initial Kabgyé Deshek Dupa revelation, we might treat it as the eldest instance of a proto-Accomplishment Class taxonomy. Its information is also replicated in The Clear Lamp Bibliography (dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron ma), which is a terma text also included only in the Katok edition. A third text from the Katok corpus replicates this Kabgyé bibliography yet again: Ngari Panchen’s (1487-1542) Wheel of the
Sun and Moon Dispelling the Darkness: A Method of Explanation (‘chad thabs mun sel nyi zla’i ‘khor lo).237 This early sixteenth-century Kabgyé history reiterates the idea that the many non- Māyājāla Mahāyoga tantras from India were first bestowed to the Eight Vidyādharas in the context of the dispensation of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa at Śitavana, although its catalog of tantras is somewhat truncated as compared to The Arising’s. Interestingly, Ngari Panchen uses
the plural term “Accomplishment Classes” (sgrub sde bcu, and sgrub sde rnams) to refer to categories of texts associated with the Kabgyé deities (as in, the “Accomplishment Classes” of Mahottara, Śri Heruka, Yamāntaka, etc., plus Rigzin and the Peaceful Ones, for a total of ten “Accomplishment Classes”).238 This differs slightly from the later anthological use of the term 237 Mnga’ ris pan chen, ‘chad thabs mun sel nyi zla’i ‘khor lo
238 Mnga’ ris pan chen, ‘chad thabs mun sel nyi zla’i ‘khor lo ,176: “[these were] translated by the great master Padmasambhava and Vairotsana; they are the tantras of each accomplishment class” (slob dpon chen po padma sambha wa dang ve ro sa ‘gyur te bsgrub sde so so’i rgyud yin no/); 201.3: “As for the Five Great Tantras of this Deshek Dupa… they are the root of the teachings as the principal essential accomplishment of the ten accomplishment classes. They are like the seed of the subsidiary tantras explained above.” (... bder gshegs ‘dus pa ‘di la spyi rgyud lnga ni bsgrub sde bcu’i dril bsgrub la gtso bor ston pa’i rtsa ba yin te/ gong du bstan pa’i yan lag gi rgyud thams cad kyi sa bon lta bu yin no/)
sgrub sde in the singular (i.e., “The Accomplishment Class”) to refer to the entire collection of tantras not included in the Māyājāla cycles and the canon of eighteen Mahāyoga tantras. However, Ngari’s text nonetheless exemplifies a way of associating all sorts of materials with the constituent elements of the Kabgyé, a taxonomical sensibility which would undergird later anthologies. Ngari Panchen’s text is the earliest in which I have seen the term sgrub sde used in such a way.
Interestingly, the fourteenth-century Five Chronicles revelation (bka' thang sde lnga) recovered by Ögyan Lingpa provides a nearly identitical bibliography of Mahāyoga materials categorized under the Kabgyé rubric. This account appears in an enumeration of the cycles entrusted to Tri Song Detsän in a sub-section of The King’s Chronicle (rgyal po bka’ thang), entitled “The Manner of How the Future Inheritance of the Royal Lineage Was Concealed” (Tib. ma ‘ongs rgyal brgyud nor skal ji ltar sbas tshul).239 Interestingly, this section makes no
mention of the Kabgyé’s origins in India, or of the Eight Vidyādharas. It does specify that these cycles were taught by Padmasambhava to the emperor and his court at Samyé, where the Five Chronicles themselves were revealed. The Five Chronicles’ list is a bit smaller than The Arising’s, but where they overlap, the resemblance is verbatim. So while we cannot know
whether The Arising or the Five Chronicles is elder, we can conclude that the affiliation of all sorts of non-Māyājāla texts with the category of the Eight Teachings was underway between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. As The Arising is mentioned specifically as a source for Ngari Panchen’s Method of Explanation, and is included in Nüden Dorje’s seventeenth-century Nyingma Gyubum as the preface to its volume devoted to the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, we know that the bka’ byung tshul itself was in circulation in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. It 239 O rgyan gling pa, bka’ thang sde lnga: rgyal po bka’ thang, 153 – 227.
is hard to say, however, why it is excluded from every Kabgyé Deshek Dupa edition other than the Katok. It may be the case that its narrative of the Deshek Dupa’s concealment at Samyé was too discrepant with the normative story of Nyangrel’s revelation at Khoting. A second bibliographic act transpires towards the end of The Arising. It seems this part of the work was once a separate text, as the preceding section comes to a close with the
customary marks indicating the end of a terma text (rgya rgya rgya: sealed, sealed, sealed).240 This second section picks up where the first leaves off, replicating several passages from the end of the first section, suggesting it was once separate and alternative to the bka’ byung tshul . It is now included as a continuation of the narrative, and consists mostly of a description of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa as taught by Padmasambhava to Tri Song Detsän as a list of five
interlocking sets of “ancillary, mother, and child teachings” (cha lag ma bu chos), for a total of 140 “limbs” (yan lag) of teachings. This is essentially a notice of contents (dkar chag) embedded into the narrative of the cycle’s dispensation in Tibet, formulated as a complex scheme of interlocking sets of five elements, doubling as a taxonomical structure of Mahāyoga practice.241
I. The Five Great Tantras (rgyud chen lnga), the Five Teachings (lung lnga), and Ten Root Tantras (rtsa ba’i rgyud bcu), making the fifteen tantras and five teachings found in the complete cycle.242 These are the core doctrines of the cycle and are
242 According to The Arising (pp. 260-61), the Five Great Tantras are listed: The Root Tantras (rtsa ba’i rgyud), The Subsequent Tantra (phyi ma‘i rgyud), The Subsequent-Subsequent Tantra (phyi ma’i phyi ma rgyud), The Tantra Amending Incompletions (ma tshang ba kha skong ba’i rgyud), The Differentiation Key Tantra (‘byed par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud). The Ten Root Tantras are: The Root Tantra of the Assembly of Peaceful Deities (zhi ba ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Mahottara Assembly (che mchog ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), The
Root Tantra of the Blood Drinker Assembly [Sri Heruka] (khrag ‘thung ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Assembly of the Lord of Death [[[Yamāntaka]]] (gshin rje ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Assembly of the Powerful One [i.e., dbang chen, Hayagriva] (dbang ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Phurba Assembly [[[Vajrakilaya]]] (phur ba ‘dus pa rtsa ba'i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Assembled mamos, ( ma mo 'dus pa rtsa ba'i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Awareness Holders Assembly (rig pa 'dzin pa 'dus pa rtsa ba'i rgyud), The Root Tantra of the Assembly of Haughty Ones [‘jig rten mchod btsod] (dregs pa ‘dus pa rtsa ba'i rgyud), The
II. Subsidiary to those are: the Fivefold General Structure of the Secret Mantra (gsang sngags spyi ‘chings lnga mdzad), The Treasury of Secret Mantra Teachings (gsang sngags lung gi bang mdzod), The Full Teachings of Secret Mantra (gsang sngags bka’i tha ram), The Key of the Secret Mantra Teachings (gsang sngags lung gi lde mig) and The Apex Doctrines of the Secret Mantra Teachings (gsang sngags lung gi bka’ mgo). These are actual texts included in the various chos skor editions.
III. Derived from those tantras and teachings (rgyu dang lung de rnams brtan nas) are: the Five Peaceful Means of Accomplishment (zhi ba la sgrub thabs lnga); The Hundred Sacred Ones [i.e., the peaceful and wrathful deities] arranged as the Five Great and Minor Peaceful Ritual Actions (dam pa rigs brgya la las chen lnga dang las chung lnga cha lag); The Five Means of Accomplishment of the Forty-Two Peaceful Buddhas (zhi ba bhu ddha bzhi bcu rtsa gnyis la bsgrub thabs lnga); The Five Modes of Accomplishment of the Hundred Buddha Families (rigs brgya la bsgrub lugs lnga); The Five Modes of Accomplishment of the Single Family of the
Great Secret (gsang chen rigs gcig don la bsgrub lugs lnga); and The Mode of Accomplishment of the Wrathful Assembled Sugatas (bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i khro bo la yang bsgrub lugs). These are a taxonomy of the main self-cultivational practices and rituals associated with the primary maṇḍalas of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, inclusive of both peaceful and wrathful sections.
IV. These are supplemented with: The Five Accomplishment Systems (bsgrub lugs lnga); The Supplementary Methods of Accomplishment (bsgrub thabs rnams kyi cha lag), which include The Five Great Accomplishments of the Great Invocation and Middling Blessings (bskul che ‘bring bying brlabs kyi bsgrub chen lnga); The Five Types of Great Actions (las chen rnam pa lnga); The Five Great Spikes of Enlightened Activity (phrin las kyi gzer chen lnga); The Five Extensive and Middling Praise and Invocations (bstod bskul la rgyas ‘bring lnga). These are all
supplementary tantric rituals, including yogic techniques of the higher vehicles, expiations, offerings, preparation of ritual materials and purifications. Root Tantra of the Assembly of Wrathful Mantra (drag sngags 'dus pa rtsa ba'i rgyud). The Five Teachings are: The Teaching of the True Meaning of the Secret Mantra, (gsang sngags nges pa don gyi lung), The Teaching of the Divine Deeds of Magical Display (mdzad pa cho ‘phrul lha’i lung), The Teaching of Accomplishing Total Enlightened Activity (phrin las mthar phyin bsgrub pa’i lung), The Teaching of the Distant Melody of Compassion (thugs rje dbyangs thag gnas kyi lung), and the Teaching of the Illuminating Lamp (gsal bar byed pa sgron ma’i lung).
V. The Five Requisite Conditions (dgos ba’i cha rkyen lnga): Five Tantric Schemata (rgyud kyi chings lnga); The Five Fastenings to the Teachings (lung gi sdebs pa); and The Five Ways of Applying the Methods of Accomplishment (bsgrub thabs kyi sbyor lugs lnga). These are methods for applying teachings to religious practice VI. The Essential Instructions of the Secret Mantra (gsang sngags man ngag): The Five Common Yogas (thun mong gi rnal byor lnga); The Five Particular Completion Stages (khyad par gyi rdzogs rim lnga); The Five Teachings of the Methods of
Accomplishment (bsgrub thabs kyi lung lnga); The Five Limbs of Mantra (sngags yan lag lnga), and The Five Points of the Three Bodies (sku gsum gzer lnga). These are general instructions for different layers of tantric practice. VII. A further re-arrangement of the above contents is given as The Five Great, Middling, Small, and Secret Modes of Accomplishment. Specifically, The Five Great Modes: The Five Modes of Accomplishment as the Forty-Two Buddhas; The Five Modes of Accomplishment as the Five Families of Reality; The Five Modes of Accomplishment as the Single Family of the Great Secret; and The Five Modes of Accomplishment as
the Generation and Great Completion of the Wrathful, with the Thirty Sections of Teachings Regarding the Peaceful Ones in General. The Five Middling, Small, and Secret of those are: The Five Modes of Accomplishment as the Wrathful Mantra of the Assembled Blissful Ones, the Five Near of Those, The Five Great Accomplishments, The Five Great Actions, The Five Great Spikes, The Five Great and Twenty-Five Middling Invocations and Praise, The Fifty Sections of Teachings of the Wrathful, The Five Fastenings of the Secret Mantra, The Five Ordinary Yogas, The Five Stages of Completion, and The Five Teachings of the Generation, Completion, and Great Completions, The Five Limbs of the Secret Mantra, and The Five Spikes of the Three Bodies.
My above reproduction only enumerates the category headings; the specific contents of each of these fivefold categories are listed in the text, ultimately resulting in a list of 140 specific elements, which are called the “limbs of teaching sections” (chos tshan gyi yan lag brgya bzhi bcu). While the fifteen main tantras and five teachings mentioned at the outset are indeed the main textual elements of every Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle, it is unclear whether the rest of the elements of the list all refer to actual texts, or modes of instruction and practice. Some of the entries do correspond to practice texts found in the corpus, and there is a general sense in which the thirteen-volume editions mirror the contours of these categories of practice. However, if this is a table of contents of texts as it purports to be, it bears little specific resemblance to the