‘WISH-FULFILLING JEWEL: PRAISES TO CHAKRASAMVARA’ BY LOTSAWA RINCHEN ZANGPO AND POEM ‘DIAMONDS DANCING IN THE DUST’
Mesmerising expression, adorned with exquisite ornaments
To commence Losar, the new Tibetan Year of the Iron-Ox and the fifteen Days of Miracles with an auspicious offering, here is the first English translation of Wish-Fulfilling Jewel: Praise to the Lūipa Tradition of Glorious Cakrasaṃvara (dpal ‘khor lo bde mchog lU i pa’i bstod pa yid bzhin nor bu) by the renowned and
acclaimed 10th Century Tibetan Dharma translator, Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo. Cakrasaṃvara (Chakrasamvara) was the first Highest Tantra Yoga empowerment I received in this lifetime, from HH 17th Karmapa in Bodh Gaya, 2007. It was also the first Highest Tantra Yoga empowerment the 17th Karmapa gave in his lifetime. Since that time, I have felt a close and strong connection to not only the 17th Karmapa but also this particular deity.
In this post, I first give a brief overview of the three main Cakrasaṃvara traditions, Lūipa’s life and tradition and Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo. Second, the contents and source of the text with translation. Finally, I also offer my own ‘contemporary praise’ of Cakrasaṃvara, ‘Diamonds Dancing in the Dust’.
The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra is a Buddhist Tantra roughly dated to the late eight or early ninth century by David B. Gray (with a terminus ante quem in the late tenth century).The full title in the Sanskrit manuscript used by Gray’s translation is: Great King of Yoginī Tantras called the Śrī Cakrasaṃvara
(Śrīcakrasaṃvara-nāma-mahayoginī-tantra-tāja). The text is also called the Discourse of Śrī Heruka (Śrīherukābhidhāna) and the Samvara Light (Laghusaṃvara). Cakrasaṃvara may also refer to the main deity in this tantra as well as to a collection of texts or “cycle” associated with the root Cakrasaṃvara tantra.
According to the modern scholar and translator David B. Gray, “its study and practice is maintained by the Newar Buddhist community in the Kathmandu valley, as well as by many Tibetan Buddhists, not only in Tibet itself but in other regions influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, including Mongolia, Russia, China, and elsewhere, as Tibetan lamas have been living and teaching in diaspora.”
In the Tibetan classification schema, this tantra is considered to be of the “mother” class of the Anuttarayoga (Unsurpassable Yoga) class, also known as the Yoginī tantras. The text survives in several Sanskrit and Tibetan manuscripts. There are said to be at least eleven surviving Sanskrit commentaries on the tantra and various Tibetan ones.
Himalayan Art Resources has posted a brief overview of the three main traditions of Chakrasmavara of three Indian Mahasiddhas, Lūipa, Ghantapa and Krsnacarya. Why are they considered important? Because the primary commentarial literature on the tantra and practice come from these three.
Lūipa’s tradition is essentially a 62 deity mandala with the consort’s legs wrapped around the waist of Heruka, but they can vary. The deity Cakrasaṃvara is common to all the Sarma (New Translation) Schools of Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang and Gelug. Within the latter he is commonly referred to as ‘Heruka’ (Hero). Rinchen Zangpo who is a Kadampa master, also refers to the deity as Heruka in his Praises. Among the many different forms and mandalas of practice, the form with one face and two hands (see below) is said to have entered Tibet with the great translator Rinchen Zangpo in the 10th-11th century.
The noun samvara derives from a verb which means to “bind,” “enclose,” or “conceal,” and samvara commonly means “vow” and sometimes “sanctuary”. In the tantra it appears in various compounds, such as “the binding of the dakini net” (ḍākinījālasamvara), which is associated with the term “union with Śrī Heruka.” In this
sense, samvara can also refer to “union”, which is supreme bliss and supreme awakening. Samvara/Heruka is typically depicted with a dark blue-coloured body, four faces, and twelve arms, embracing his consort, the wisdom dakini Vajravārāhī (a.k.a. Vajrayoginī) in Yab-Yum (sexual union). Other forms of the deities are
also known with varying numbers of limbs and features, such as a two armed version. Among the many different forms and mandalas of practice this figure of Vajravarahi entwining the consort with both legs is common to the traditions of mahasiddha Lūipa and Maitripa.
Rinchen Zangpos’ Praises are of the Lūipa tradition. Lūipa (c. 10th Century) is listed as one of the 84 great mahasiddhas of India. He was also a poet and writer of a number of Buddhist texts. as Keith Dowman writes in his bio of Lūipa:
“Lūipa’s first place in the eighty-four legends could reflect the belief of the narrator, or the translator, that Lūipa was First Guru (adi-guru) of the Mahamudra-siddhas in either time or status. The other claimant to this title is Saraha. Regarding time, Lūipa was born after Saraha, but although Lūipa’s
Guru was Saraha’s disciple, their lifetimes probably overlapped. Regarding status and personal power, whereas Saraha’s reputation lies to a large extent in his literary genius, Lūipa’s name evokes a sense of the siddha’s tremendous integrity and commitment, the samaya that creates the personal power demonstrated
in his legends. Both Saraha and Lūipa were originators of Samvara-tantra lineages, but it was Lūipa who received the title of Guhyapati, Master of Secrets, to add to his status of adi-guru in the lineage that practiced the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Lūipa; he received direct transmission from the
Dakini Vajra Varahi. If Lūipa obtained his original Samvara revelation in Oddiyana, the home of several of the mother-tantras, he would have been one of the siddhas responsible for propagating this tantra in Eastern India. But whatever the tantra’s provenance, Lūipa became the great exemplar of what Saraha
preached, as confirmed in his own few doha songs, and his sadhana became the inspiration and example for some of the greatest names amongst the mahasiddhas: Kambala, Ghantapa, Indrabhuti, Jalandhara, Krsnacarya,
Tilopa and Naropa were all initiates into the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Lūipa. Marpa Dopa transmitted the tantra to Tibet, where it has remained the principal yidam practice of the Kahgyu school until today.”
The name Lūipa was translated into Tibetan as The Fishgut Eater (Nya Ito zhabs). However, it has been noted that the root of the word is probably Old Bengali lohita, a type of fish, and Lūipa is thus synonymous with Minapa and Macchendra/Matsyendra. Luhipa, Lohipa, Luyipa, Loyipa, are variants of the name. Dowman recounts the story of how he got his name from a dakini:
“Lūipa was a master of the mother-tantra, and his Gurus were Dakini Gurus, mundane Dakinis, embodiments of the female principle of awareness.’ The Dakinis who indicated his sadhana was a publican and whore-mistress, for liquor shops doubled as brothels. The “royal pride” she discerned in his heart can be
rendered more precisely as “racial, caste and social discrimination,” and with her putrid food she pointed at a method which can best be described as the path of dung eating. Cultivate what is most foul and abhorrent, and consciousness is thereby stimulated to the point of transcendence; familiarize yourself with
what is most disgusting and eventually it tastes no different from bread and butter. The result of this method is attainment of the awareness of sameness that is at the heart of all pride, all discrimination and prejudice, and transmutes these moral qualities, that are the mental equivalent of fish-guts, into
emptiness. To elaborate the Dakini’s parting sally: so long as you fail to perceive the inherent reality of emptiness in every sensual stimulus, every state of mind, and every thought, you will remain in dualistic
samsara, judging, criticizing and discriminating. To attain the non-duality of nirvana find the awareness of sameness in what is most revolting, and realize the one taste of all which is pure pleasure.”
Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo – Acclaimed Translator, who first introduced the Cakrasaṃvara tantra to Tibet
Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po) (958-1055) is considered to be one of the greatest translators of the New Translation period in Tibet. He was born in Reni (rad ni) in the district of Khyungwang in Ngari, western Tibet nad was ordained at the age of 13 by Yeshe Zangpo in Ngari, western Tibet, and went to
Kashmir three times. Later, it is said he maintained a team of ten lotsawas and kept them continuously busy with translation. He edited or revised over 150 texts such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra. Among the texts he translated is the Chanting the Names of Manjushri. For an online English biography of Zangpo, see the one here by Dr. Alexander Gardner at Treasury of Lives:
“Neither of his parents were Buddhist, yet, at least according to tradition, they supported his childhood aspiration to immerse himself in the religion. He was ordained at the age of thirteen by Khenpo Yeshe Zangpo (mkhan po ye shes bzang po, d.u.). In 975, while still a teenager, he convinced his parents to allow
him to go to India to study Buddhism. (As will be mentioned below, later histories have it that he was sent to India by royal decree.) He set off with a travelling companion named (according to some sources) Tashi Tsemo (bkra shis rtse mo) and food provided by his mother. On the road they met considerable difficulties,
including theft, illness, and bizarre customs, passing into Kashmir via Spiti and Kulu. In Kashmir he met his first teacher, Śrāddhakaravarman, and began studying Sanskrit texts on philosophy and tantric practice. He remained there for seven years, after which he went to the southeast, to Vikramaśila for several years, before returning again to Kashmir.”
Rinchen Zangpo promoted several tantric traditions, particularly Yogatantra, translating numerous commentaries on the Sarvatāthagatatattvasaṃgraha, and he was the first to introduce the Cakrasaṃvara tantra to Tibet. He also is credited with disseminating the “mother” (ma rgyud) and “father” (pha rgyud) classes of the Anuttarayoga tantra .
“When Rinchen Zangpo was eighty-five he first met Atiśa at Toling. At Atiśa’s request he listed his accomplishments and outlined his understanding. Atiśa exclaimed “If there are men like you in Tibet, then there was no need for me to come here!” But when Atiśa asked him how one should practice the tantras, and
Rinchen Zangpo replied that one should practice each tantra in its own way (or, more specifically, Guhyasamāja on the ground floor, Hevajra on the second floor, and Cakrasaṃvara on the top floor), Atiśa exclaimed “Rotten translator! Indeed there was need for me to come! The tantras should all be practiced together!” Atiśa then gave him instruction and told him to enter meditation retreat.
“Rinchen Zangpo is equally famous for his contribution to the creation of temples; he is said to have constructed one hundred and eight temples, a number that Tibetans use to signify a considerable amount. His fame is such that perhaps even more than that number of small temples are now claimed to have been built by him.”
Finally, turning to the text itself, the colophon simply states that the verses were composed by Rinchen Zangpo. The text is available online in a collection of Kadampa works, which includes many rare
manuscripts, written by masters during the Kadam period (bka’ gdams gsung ‘bum phyogs bsgrigs thengs dang po/). There is also a critical edition of the Tibetan text I found online. The text can be read below or downloaded as a .pdf on request.May it be of benefit!
Whoever is distressed and stricken by samsara
Remembering gently the one who conquers it,
Upon the seat of a fearsome, decaying skeleton
Mesmerising expression, adorned with exquisite ornaments
I prostrate to Vajravārahi!
To Khaṇḍakapālina, Mahākaṅkāla, Kaṅkāla, Vikaṭadaṃṣṭriṇa, Surāvairiṇa,
Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, 14th February 2021. Copyright Adele Tomlin/Dakini Publications.
A surfer riding a bone-breaking white wave
Sky-blue space kissing soft, silky sands
A brilliant, black bassist with a horny, rocking vibe
Balmy, warm breeze wafting Balearic beats
Mind-blowing, deep pulsating orgasms
A scarlet-hot bikini on a vermillion Vespa
Fresh coffee and croissants, strawberries and cream
The sexual seduction of a romantic rose
A scintillating smile and belly-ache laughter
A hilarious hoax and heart-breaking melody
Fiery-crimson sunsets reflected in turquoise seas
Ecstatic, wild dancing under a moonlit sky
The kind, warm hand of a total stranger
Always present, in every split second.
Composed by Adele (Zangmo) Tomlin, published 14th February 2021. Dedicated to all beings and to the embodiment of Chakrasamvara, precious root lama and three roots, 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. May your life be long and free from all obstacles!
 There are three genres of Cakrasaṃvara literature: “explanatory tantras” (vyakhyatantra); commentaries; and ritual literature (sadhanas, mandala manuals, initiation manuals). The explanatory tantras refers to independent tantras that are seen as being part of the Cakrasaṃvara cycle.
The main explanatory tantras (given by Buton Rinchen Drub) are: the Abhidhānottara, the Vajradāka; Ḍākārṇava, Herukābhyudaya, Yoginīsaṃcāra, Samvarodaya, Caturyoginīsaṃpuṭa; Vārāhī-abhisambodhi, and the Sampuṭa Tantra. Most of these texts show no internal evidence they consider themselves as subsidiary to
the root Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, and it is likely they were grouped into this category by the later tradition. Furthermore, it seems the root Cakrasaṃvara Tantra is not as important in the Newari tradition, which instead privileges the Samvarodaya.
Jayabhadra of Laṅka (early to mid 9th century scholar at Vikramashila), Śrī-cakrasaṃvara-mūla-tantra-pañjikā. The oldest, word-for-word commentary. It survives in two Sanskrit manuscripts and Tibetan translation.
Kambala (possibly 9th century), Sādhana-nidāna-nāma-śrī-cakrasaṃvara-pañjikā. This is another early commentary that was very influential and relied upon by various later authors.
Bhavabhaṭṭa (late 9th century scholar at Vikramashila), Śrī-cakrasaṃvara-pañjikā-nāma. This is a larger work which relies on Jayabhadra but also sometimes contradicts him. It also replies older Shaiva readings with more Buddhist oriented ones.
Devagupta’s Commentary which is basically an expansion of Kambala’s
Bhavyakīrti (early 10th century scholar at Vikramashila), Śrī-cakrasaṃvarasya-pañjikā-śūramanojñā-nāma. This is a shorter and more conservative commentary which stays closer to the Jayabhadra commentary.
Indrabuti’s Commentary which relies on Kambala’s
Vīravajra’s two 11th century commentaries. Gray states that “They are very sophisticated works, and represent a high point of Indian tantric Buddhist scholarship. His commentaries are also among the most
thorough. He relies both upon Jayabhadra and Kambala, as well as Bhavabhaṭṭa and Durjayacandra, and he is also quite erudite, quoting from a number of other sources, including Yogacara texts and a number of other tantras.”
 Dowman explains: “More light is shed on Luipa’s practice by considering what fish meant in his society. First, fish is the flesh of a sentient being and therefore anathema to the orthodox brahmin; but left-over fish-guts is fit only for dogs, the lowest life-form on the totem pole. Such a practice, if
indeed Luipa performed a literal interpretation, would have made him unclean in the eyes of his former peers, untouchable and unapproachable. Self-abasement and humiliation is the corollary of “dung eating;” destroy every vestige of those associations with former birth, privilege and wealth, and in an existential
pit discover what there is in human being that can inspire real pride, divine pride, that is inherent in all sentient beings. Second, fish is a symbol of spirituality and sense control, and Luipa’s Samvara sadhana, which is not described here, involves transformation of his universe into that of a god in his paradise, and attainment of control of his energies (prana) and thus of his senses.”
 Sarma ( gsar ma) — the New Schools of Tibetan Buddhism which followed the later translations made from the time of the great translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) onwards, i.e. Kagyü, Sakya, Kadampa and Gelug.
 Rinchen Zangpo is credited with promoting the Prajñāpāramitā literature in Tibet, having translated several important works, including the Prajñāpāramitā in 8,000 verses (Aṣṭasāhastrikā), as well as in
20,000 verses, and the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, one of the most important commentaries on the Prajñāpāramitā literature. In addition to his translation work he also composed commentaries on topics such as Prajñāpāramitā, sādhāna, and abhiṣeka.
 “Following his encounter with Atiśa, Rinchen Zangpo practiced for ten years. According to tradition, he wrote three inscriptions above consecutive doors to his medication cell, each corresponding to one of the three vehicles (Mahāyāna, Hīnayāna, and Vajrayāna); above outer door to his meditation cell: “Within this
door, should a thought of attachment the phenomenal world arise for even a single moment, may the dharmapāla split open my head.” Over the middle door he wrote: “Should a thought of self-interest arise for even a single moment, may the dharmapāla split open my head.” Over the inner door he wrote: “Should an ordinary thought arise for even a single moment, may the dharmapāla split open my head.”
 “Most of the attributions to Rinchen Zangpo must be taken with some suspicion, as they are the invention of later tradition. Some of the more notable contributions he is said to have made include what would have been his first major temple, after Toling, Khachar (kha char; also spelled ‘kha’ char and ‘khab char), a royal temple sponsored by either King Lhade (lha lde, 996-1024), the nephew of Yeshe Wo and the uncle of Jangchub Wo (byang chub ‘od, r. 1037-57) who invited Atiśa Dīpaṃkara (982-1054) to Tibet, or, alternately, by King Khorre (khor re, r. 988-996), Lhade’s father and the brother of Yeshe Wo. This temple
is likely near a town called Langka northwest Ladakh. Another temple was named Nyarma (mya ma), now a pile of ruins near Thiksay in Ladakh. He is also credited with establishing the famous Tabo Monastery in Spiti in 996.” – from Treasury of Lives bio.
 Made available in the framework of the project “A Gateway to Early Tibetan Scholasticism” by P. Hugon and K. Kano. Please refer to the project website for more information: https://www.oeaw.ac.at/ikga/forschung/tibetologie/materialien/a-gateway-to-early-tibetan-scholasticism/