The Legacy of the Eight Teachings: Revelation, Ritual, and Enlightened Violence in Classical Tibet - ( 02)
As Gentry observes:
The theme of communal threat is so prevalent throughout the Treasure prophecies that we might regard this body of literature, and Treasure traditions more broadly, as particularly Tibetan strategies for gaining some purchase over the wild unpredictability of their surrounding material world of humanity and nature. Moreover, the centrality for Treasure traditions of the collective, material wellbeing of whole territories and populaces means that the Treasure revealer’s role overlaps considerably with the domain of governance. The prominent role in Treasure prophecies of violent object-oriented rites and substances in quelling the danger and volatility of the surrounding material world is rooted in the paradigmatic Tibetan Imperial past and its associated literary images of collaborations between royal and sacred power.
As the Eight Teachings corpus was originally paradigmatic of the Treasure tradition in its underlying historiography, and as its ritualism was so squarely concerned with “object-oriented violent rites”, we can see how it would have been a key source for the kinds of knowledge that were becoming important to Nyingmapa masters such as Zhigpo Lingpa and Sogdogpa. This background, then, may explain why the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was one of three corpora that 130 Düdjom 1991, 683. 131 Gentry 2014, 61.
Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje committed his energies to curating. Gongra’s sentiments in this regard were not inconsequential: as Gentry observes, “the vast majority of ritual and teaching cycles which then characterized the identity of the Old School had passed through Sogdokpa, Gongra, and his illustrious students.”132
Of the lineal descendents of Gongra, perhaps none was more illustrious than Gyurme Dorje, Terdak Lingpa (smin gling gter chen ‘gyur med rdo rje, gter bdag gling pa 1646-1714). Gyurme Dorje, along with his younger brother Lochen Dharmasri (lo chen dharma shri, ngag dbang chos dpal rgya mtsho, 1654-1717), was responsible for founding Central Tibet’s Ögyen Mindroling (o rgyan smin grol gling), arguably the most consequential institution in the history of the Nyingma. The Minling brothers enjoyed good favor with the Fifth Dalai Lama, and were able to rise above the sectarian and clan rivalries that embroiled their own lineal predecessors.
Mindroling became one of few Nyingma institutions to participate in the confederation of monasteries subordinated to Ganden’s centralized authority. This was a subservience that would elevate Mindroling to the apex of the Nyingma constellation of nascent institutions. In fact, as Dominique Townsend observes, “Mindroling played a key role in the Fifth Dalai Lama’s vision of a centralized Tibetan polity…becoming the main center of education for Central Tibetan government officials and other aristocrats from across the Tibetan Buddhist world”.133 It seems, then, that Mindroling and Ganden were mutually-supporting institutions (although Ganden was the bigger sibling, by far), and the revisioning of Nyingma institutional life that unfolded at Mindroling was, in many respects, in the image of Ganden Potrang. Thus, as Dalton and 132 Gentry 2014, 477.
Schaeffer suggest, the Minling brothers revised ritual traditions to resemble how the Ganden Potrang, under the leadership of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso (sde srid sangs rgyas rgya mtsho, 1677-1705), used public ceremony to cement state power.134 The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa would be one such ritual tradition to be curated at, and disseminated from, Mindroling.
As Dalton’s exploration of the history of the Gathering of Intentions Sutra’s initiation literature shows, Lochen Dharmasri undertook the project of revising the initiation protocols to create rites at once complex enough to support the work of myriad specialists, and simple enough to be digestible to the masses.135 Dharmasri disambiguated the ritual elements into a series of manuals covering topics ranging from mandala construction to ritual dance, providing, along the way, vocational opportunities for many specialists.136 This professionalization and publicization
of esoteric ritual mirrored regular ceremonies carried out at Ganden such as the Great Prayer Festival (smon lam chen mo). Dalton suggests that the mass-participation rituals hosted at Mindroling, especially the so-called “Sutra Initiation”, defined membership in newly envisioned constellations of institutional relationships.137 Likewise, Gentry observes that the development of regularized ritual intensives — often performed to mark calendrical transitions, such as the change of the lunar year — were related to the consolidation of power in central institutions.
134 See: Jacob Dalton, "Recreating the Rnying ma School: The Mdo dbang Tradition of Smin grol gling." In Power, Politics, and the Reinvention of Tradition. Tibet in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, edited by Bryan J. Cuevas and Kurtis R. Schaeffer, 91-100. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Also: Kurtis R. Schaeffer “Ritual, Festival, and Authority under the Fifth Dalai Lama.” In Power, Politics and the Reinvention of Tradition in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Tibet: Proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Xth Seminar, Oxford University, 2003, eds. Kurtis R. Schaeffer and Bryan J. Cuevas, 187-202. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
That is, the liturgical schedules regularized at central institutions such as Ganden and Mindroling could be adopted by peripheral affiliate temples to express affiliation and political subservience to the center. We will see this (at least rhetorically) in the case of the Eastern Tibetan temples’ adoption of the “Mindrol System” (smin gling lugs) of Kabgyé ritual.138
Gyurme Dorje and Lochen Dharmasri standardized several other cycles, including the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa. Gyurme Dorje was responsible for creating what would become a definitive Kabgyé ritual cycle, The Minling System of the Eight Teachings of Accomplishment (the sgub pa bka’ brgyad smin gling lugs), and Lochen Dharmasri wrote a collection of Kabgyé practice and commentarial texts.139 Though more modest than their treatment of the Gathering of Intentions, the “Minling System” (smin gling lugs) would nominally become the template for the annual Kabgyé Great Accomplishment rites (bka’ brgyad sgrub chen) carried out at the major
Nyingma “Mother Monasteries” in Eastern Tibet. Many of the Kabgyé ritual cycles at temples such as Katok, Dzogchen, Palyul, and Shechen claim to be derived from Gyurme Dorje and Lochen Dharmasri’s curation of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa rituals, and many texts included in those institutions’ Kabgyé ritual manuals are supplemented with commentaries and instructions attributed to Terdak Lingpa. However, it seems that the connection between Kabgyé ritual tradition at the Mother Monasteries and the Minling System was mostly rhetorical; our appraisal of ritual compendia in Chapter Three will reveal heterogeneity between these ritual cycles, and we shall see how the curation of such cycles provided an opportunity to express unique institutional identities.
138 Gentry, personal communication, June 2019.
139 ‘Gyur med rdo rje, bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa smin gling lugs; also, Lo chen d+harma shri, “bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa'i bsnyen pa'i go don lag len dang bcas pa'i yi ge rin chen sgron me”; “bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa'i bsnyen pa'i sgo don lag len”; “bde gshegs 'dus pa'i rgyud bklag thabs man ngag snang ba”; and “bde 'dus dang sbyar ba'i sman sgrub las tho” in d+harma shri gsung ‘bum.
The Kabgyé was an early source of inspiration for Gyurme Dorje, as he apparently received the empowerment for Chöwang’s cycle at the age of four, and was confronted by a vision of Guru Rinpoche while receiving the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa from his father at age eleven. This vision transformed the boy into a qualified master of practice and learning .140 Terdak Lingpa would go on to reveal several Kabgyé texts himself. It also seems that he was inspired by Gongra, his father’s master. Though they did not meet, Gyurme Dorje wrote Gongra’s
biography, and Gongra’s editorial work would have contributed to the systematization of Nyingma learning that unfolded at Mindroling.141 Indeed, if the account of Gongra’s editing of foundational Nyingma corpora is to be believed, from Gongra’s time forward the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa took the form of a voluminous compendium of doctrinal and ritual knowledge, particularly suited for institutional settings. Perhaps we can thus regard the inception of the Kabgyé corpus as a dissemenatable textual body – and one particularly suited for institutional settings – as lying with Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje, and its actual dissemination as coming from Mindroling.
We know that many masters from Eastern Tibet, in particular, came to Mindroling to gain training in ritual cycles such as the Minling System. We might think of Mindroling at its apex as a funnel through which most Nyingma contemplative and ritual traditions passed, and through which they were repackaged to fit institutional goals shared by expanding Nyingmapa institutions to the East. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was certainly part of this vision. 140 Düdjom 1991, 825-27. Also rnying ma ba’i grub mtha’ spyi bshad, 58. 141 For more on Mindroling’s role in the development of the Nyingma tradition, see: Dalton 2002, 2016; Townsend 2012; Schaeffer 2006; and Cuevas 2003.
From Central Tibet, the Kabgyé cycle spread east. The Kabgyé Great Accomplishment Rites would be instituted at each of the large Eastern Tibetan temples, and Khampa tertöns would prolifically reveal their own Kabgyé materials. Early exemplars include Karma Chagme (karma chags med, 1613-78) and the Degé Tertön Longsel Nyingpo (klong gsal snying po, 1625- 92), each of whom revealed Kabgyé cycles which became important at Zurmang and Katok, respectively.142 The Kabgyé was also important to Taksham Nuden Dorje (a.k.a. Samten Lingpa, 1655-1708), who revealed several Kabgyé texts, and, perhaps more influentially, included the
fifteen tantras of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in his Nyingma tantric canon. His arrangement of the foundational tantras would be preserved in later editions of the Collected Tantras of the Ancients (the Nyingma Gyubum, rnying ma’i rgyud ‘bum), and in the comprehensive Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions utilized in Kham and Bhutan. As these editions claim descent from Gongra’s redaction, it may be the case the Taksham was also working from Gongra’s edition. The dynamic Khampa duo of Dzogchen Pema Rigzin (rdzogs chen padma rig ‘dzin
1625-97) and Rigzin Nyima Drakpa (rig ‘dzin nyi ma grags pa 1647-1710), both students of Karma Chagme, also received Kabgyé initiations, perhaps from Karma Chagme or from Dundul Dorje (bdud ‘dul rdo rje, 1615-72). They also travelled together to Lhodrak, where they received training in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, perhaps at Mawochok from Ngadak Chökyi Wangpo, who 142 Karma chags med, “bka' brgyad khro bo rol pa'i mdos thabs bzlog thabs rgyas 'bring bsdus gsum bsam gtan cho ga dang bcas pa'i bca' thabs zin bris gsal bar bkod pa” in karma chags med gsung ‘bum, Nang chen rdzong: gnas mdo gsang sngags chos 'phel gling gi dpe rnying nyams gso khang, vol. 11, pp. 179-208; Klong gsal snying po, “bka' brgyad bde gshegs yongs 'dus chos skor”, in klong gsal snying po’i zab gter. Darjeeling: kargyud sungrab nyamso khang, 1997. vol 5.
was likely a descendent of Nyangrel Nyima Özer.143 This seems to suggest a remarkable continuity in the Kabgyé tradition at Mawochok, stemming back to Nyangrel’s son, Namkha Pel, five centuries earlier. Pema Rigzin and Nyima Drakpa also encountered Terdak Lingpa in Lhodrak, initiating a long-term discipleship. So the spectrum of Pema Rigzin and Nyima Drakpa’s Kabgyé training was complete, ranging from the hermitage at Mawochok to the scholastic halls of Mindroling, to the instructions of Kagyü lama Karma Chagme. This affirms that the Kabgyé was a widespread body of knowledge in the seventeenth century, spanning several types of institutions and lineages.
Also studying under Terdak Lingpa was Gyalse Sönam Detsän (rgyal sras bsod nams lde btsan, 1679-1723), the son of the famous Degé tertön Longsel Nyingpo (klong gsal snying po, 1625-92). Longsel Nyingpo is significant in the history of Katok for his role in elevating the study and practice of terma traditions there, a seminal moment in the ecclesiastical history of Degé.144 Longsel Nyingpo revealed a Kabgyé cycle, The Total Gathering of the Sugatas of the Eight Teachings (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs yongs ‘dus), which became a staple feature of Katok
liturgical practice, thanks to the curricular revisions of Getse Mahapandita Gyurme Tsewang Chokdrup (‘gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub, 1761-1829) in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.145 The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was, in fact, the first major cycle received by the young Getse at Katok, indicating that it had risen to prominence in the traditionally Kama- 143 Alexander Gardner, “The First Dzogchen Drubwang, Pema Rigzin”, Treasury of LIves. https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Dzogchen-Drubwang-01-Pema-Rigdzin/9126, accessed May, 2019. Also see: Gu ru bkra shis chos byung, 766-82.
144 See: Jann Ronis Celibacy, Revelations, and Reincarnated Lamas: Contestation and Synthesis in the Growth of Monasticism at Katok Monastery from the 17th through 19th Centuries. Ph.D.. dissertation, University of Virginia, 2009, chpt. 1.
145 Ronis 2009, 211-25.
oriented institution.146 The Kabgyé’s importance at Katok would thereafter persist, both as a topic of study and as a format for group ritual practices.147 Pema Rigzin and Nyima Drakpa eventually returned to Kham, where Pema Rigzin established the community that would later, under the direction of his incarnation Gyurme Tekchok Tendzin ('gyur med theg mchog bstan 'dzin 1699-1758), become the great Dzogchen Monastery (rdzogs chen dgon). Pema Rigzin putatively became known as the first Dzogchen Drupwang, the progenitor of a lineage that would become one of the main incarnation lines in the major Khampa monasteries. Nyima Drakpa would eschew such grand appointments, but his
incarnation line became very influential in Degé. Much like Sogdokpa, Nyima Drakpa was renowned as a ritualist and an expert in war magic, skills which he employed as he defended Degé against hostile forces in the late 1700s.148 A third Khampa, Rabjam Tenpai Gyaltsen (zhwa lam rab ‘byams bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan, b. 1650), had traveled with Pema Rigzin and Nyima Drakpa, and returned to the highlands outside of Degé to establish Shechen Tenyi Dargye Ling
(zhe chen bstan gnyis dar rgyas gling) monastery in 1695.149 Each of these masters were known to have received and propagated the Kabgyé, and we can thus see the influence of the Eight Teachings in the ritual and scholarly dimensions of institutional life at these Nyingma ma dgon. 146 Ronis 2009, 173; also, Ngawang Palzang, Wonderous Dance of Illusion: The Autobiography of Khenpo Ngawang Palzang. Trans. Heidi L. Nevin and J. Jakob Leschly. Boulder: Snow Lion Publications, 2014, 149.
147 Katok famously maintained a preference for Kama traditions into the nineteenth century, as Mindroling-trained ritual specialists were invited by Getse Mahapandita to Katok in 1791 to train the community in the practice and study of thirteen Kama mandalas (Ronnis 2009, 194). It was later, in the nineteenth century, that the third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso, seems to have more fully infused Katok with Kabgyé study and ritual. 148 Gu ru bkra shis chos ‘byung, 820-59, esp. 852-55.
Following the destruction of Mindroling by the Dzungar Mongols in 1717, other important lamas, including Terdak Lingpa’s son and heir, Gyurme Rinchen Nyamgyal (‘gyur med rin chen rnam rgyal 1694-1758), were hosted at Katok. But once Mindroling had been reestablished as the seat of the Minling line, many lamas travelled there from Eastern and Northeastern Tibet to receive training in Mindroling ritual programs. Significant visitors in this period included Shechen Öntrul Thubtop Namgyal (zhe chen dbon sprul mthu stobs rnam rgyal, 1787-1854), who trained there for several years before returning to Shechen to work with the ritual master Wangchen Bum (dbang chen ‘bum) to compose a complete set of ritual manuals,
which continue to be utilized by Shechen’s affiliate temples in Tibet and Nepal.150 Shechen Öntrul was also a primary teacher of the likes of Jamgön Kongtrül, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Patrul Rinpoche, and the second Katok Situ, Chökyi Lodro. His importance, then, in the propagation of the Nyingma lineage cannot be ignored. Back at Mindroling, Rinchen Namgyal trained the Rebkong lama, Pelden Tashi (dpal ldan bkra shis 1688-1743) in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, which Pelden brought back to Rebkong, bestowing its transmissions and initiating the annual practice of the Kabgyé Great Accomplishment there. This Mindrol Kabgyé Drupchen is still practiced annually at the sgnags pa stronghold of Rigzin Rabpel Ling.
Between Pema Rigzin, Nyima Drakpa, Rabjam Tenpai Gyaltsen, Longsel Nyingpo, and Rinchen Namgyal, a wave of Nyingma expertise of both Kama and terma varieties flowed to the east, and with it came the Kabgyé world of ritual and practice. The Kabgyé has been a key feature of liturgical and contemplative life at Dzogchen, Katok, Palyul, Rabsel Ling, and Shechen ever since. As late as the twentieth century, Eastern Tibetan lamas proudly claimed to uphold the Mindroling Kabgyé tradition, as seen in the autobiography of Khenpo Ngawang 150 Matthieu Ricard, Introduction to zhe chen lugs srol cho ga’i lag len skor. New Delhi: Shechen Publications, 2001.
Palzang (ngag dbang dpal bzang, 1879-1941), who shares stories of his master, the Third Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso’s (chos kyi rgya mtsho 1880-1923) favor of Mindrol-style Kabgyé practice and ritual. The list of teachings that Ngawang Palzang received at Katok from Chökyi Gyatso and Öntrul Rinpoche prominently features the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, indicating that it was a bit of a speciality at Katok in this time. 151 The third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso, was the founder of the monastic college at Katok, and was the nephew of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
( 'jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse dbang po 1820-92), who also practiced and commented upon the Kabgyé, mastery of which he is said to have attained in dream-visions at the hermitage of Dzongshö Deshek Dupa.152 Likewise, Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayè (jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas 1813-99) regarded the Kabgyé as one of his main practices, and Kongtrül composed several short daily meditation practices centered on the Kabgyé. Interestingly,
Kongtrül specifies that he received his Kabgyé training from the Kagyüpa Zurmang Tulku Garpel (zur mang sprul sku gar dpal, a.k.a the gar dbang sprul sku), who was in the lineage of Karma Chagme.153 It should also be noted that one of Jamgön Kongtrül’s other principal masters was the first Shechen Öntrul, who had established the Kabgyé ritualism at Shechen, where Kongtrül, Khyentse, and Patrul had all studied. So Kongtrül, ever the ecumenist, represented the confluence of two lineages of Kabgyé – that of the Kagyüpas and Nyingmapas – in the nineteenth century.
151 Palzang 2014, 154; 139-46. 152 Düdjom 1991, 858. 153 Kongtrül 2003, 63.
Nyingma Identity Confirmed: ris med, scholasticism, revelation, and ritual in Degé Before detailing the Kabgyé’s role in the specific ecclesiastical developments in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Eastern Tibet, it is appropriate to reflect on the socio-political context of this era, particularly in the Degé Kingdom. I suggest that, as was the case in seventeenth century Ü-Tsang, an environment of contestation and pressure in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Kham stimulated important developments in the institutionalization of the Nyingma denomination, and that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was an important element of the articulation of Nyingma institutional identity in this period.
The late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries saw a period in which the Nyingma denomination was forced to secure its identity in the face of multiple pressures, this time in Kham’s Degé Kingdom. There is no question that the large Nyingma institutions in the region, such as Katok, Palyul, and Dzogchen, became of sufficient size and stature so as to secure their existence as hubs for learning and practice. However, there was also significant turmoil embroiling the polities to which these monasteries were closely tied.154 The eighteenth century saw periodic involvement from Qing in the military, political, and economic affairs of certain
areas of Kham. In addition, the upstart warlord Gönpo Namgyal (dgon po rnam rgyal 1799- 1865) of Lower Nyarong began expansionist campaigns in the mid 1800s, resulting in the siege and invasion of Degé and a brief conquest of much of Eastern Kham. Degé appealed to both Lhasa and to the Qing for assistance, and Central Tibetan military forces came to Degé’s aid in 1865. These forces from Ü-Tsang succeeded in driving back Nyarong, but then took control of Degé themselves for a period of time before a later perfunctory restoration of Degé rule. Later, in 154 See Tsomu (2015) and Phuntshok (2017) for a historical overview of political conflicts in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Degé.
1895, Qing soldiers made their way across the highlands, where they absconded with the Degé king, leaving him to die in a Chengdu prison. Qing eventually withdrew, but a successional dispute between the king’s sons left one of them, Denjel Rinchen, to seek refuge in Lhasa, while the prevailing prince ceded the kingdom back to Qing, leaving control of Degé with the Chinese until 1918, after which they temporarily withdrew to attend to turmoil in the east. Degé was at the forefront, then, of a centuries-long struggle between Lhasa and China to
define their mutual borders – something of growing importance to Qing as it began to transform its self-concept from an older model of concentric spheres of imperial influence towards a defined nation-state with definite borders.155 In the midst of this, Degé and its ecclesiastical leaders strove to maintain autonomy not just for the kingdom, but for the region of Kham altogether. They would do this partially through new religious formats and identities (or, as Robert Campany would describe it, “repertoires” and “imagined communities”).156 Such ecclesiastical developments included the growth and reformation of major monastic institutions,
the formation of new scriptural canons, the development of ecumenical approaches to exegesis and practice (ris med), an efflorescence of scripture revelation (gter ma), the development of public tantric ritual programs (sgub chen), the inception of comprehensive curricula for exegetical study of exoteric and esoteric traditions (bshad grwa), and the close involvement of certain luminary masters with the Degé court.
The co-occurence of these ecclesiastical developments with the political contestations embroiling the Degé Kingdom is probably not accidental. It is plausible that major temples – specifically, those of the Nyingma, Kagyü, and Sakya denominations – sought to secure their 155 Gardner 2006, 152
156 This was accomplished, for example, in Chögyur Lingpa and Jamgön Kongtrül’s gazetteer of twenty-five sacred places. As Gardner shows, this map neglects everything having to do with Gelukpa institutions, and was thus essentially a sectarian tool for articulating denominational autonomy through narrative geography.
status in the face of tumultuous circumstances by replicating the institutional formats that had so succeeded in undergirding the Central Tibetan Gelukpa hegemony. Such strategies included the reformation of monasticism and formalized scholastics at places like Katok and Dzogchen, the printing of tantric canons which included materials left out of the gsar ma’s bka’ ‘gyur canon,
and the development of mass-participation rituals along the lines of Mindroling’s seventeenthcentury replication of Ganden’s ritual festivals. All of these developments mirrored the highly institutionalized practice of Buddhism as it was deployed by the Geluk reform tradition and the Dalai Lama’s Ganden Potrang. The Nyingma temples replicated these modes of institutionalized Buddhism, while incorporating their own distinctive traditions by including the study and practice of transmitted and revealed tantric corpora.
Debate continues as to what degree the rise of the era’s distinct modes of scholasticism, ritualism, and ecumenism is attributable to the extrinsic threats facing the Degé kingdom. Some, such as Alexander Gardner, suggest that things like the emergence of a newly “ecumenical” (ris med, lit. “without bias”) approach to exegesis and practice was actually an inter-denominational sectarian response to the growing dominance of the Gelukpa across Eastern Tibet. It is true that Ganden’s influence in Kham increased through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as it
succeeded in converting several major Eastern Tibetan temples to the Geluk denomination. From this point of view, Nyingma temples in Degé could retain their autonomy by mimicking Central Tibet’s powerful institutions, while also advancing new approaches that would project a united front. Gardner points out that ris med “ecumenism” was expressly neglectful of Gelukpa tradition, and thus constituted a kind of “non-sectarian sectarianism”.157 Eric Haynie supplements this view with the suggestion that the rhetoric of ecumenism could be broadly 157 Gardner 2006, 145.
deployed to support various positions, such as in its use as a political trope that bolstered the Degé king’s stature.158 On the other hand, there is little direct evidence that the reformers and powerful figures of Degé’s Nyingma institutions were actively transforming their denomination in the template of, and in response to, Ganden. Thubten Phuntsok insists that developments at Katok, Palyul, and Dzogchen in the nineteenth century had nothing to do with the expansion of the Gelukpa, or the military contests between Lhasa and Qing.159 Indeed, autobiographical
writings of the period’s luminaries tend to downplay, or outright ignore, these political problems. It is possible that the great lamas who left behind autobiographical records felt such events to be unimportant next to the pedagogical significance of the details of their religious life-stories. An exception, however, is found in Jamgön Kongtrül’s autobiography, which details the delicate ecclesiastical role he was forced to play in ministering to all sides of the conflict: alternatively to the Degé royal family, to its enemy, Gönpo Namgyal, and to Lhasa.160 Kongtrül recounts the destruction of area temples and the intervening rites – often drawn from the Kabgyé – that he and Chögyur Lingpa were asked to conduct. Luckily, Kongtrül evaded the misfortunes that befell some of his compatriots at the hands of Nyarong or Lhasa.
While all this deserves further scholarly attention, it is undeniable that the region at this time saw an unprecedented flowering not just of innovative religious exegesis, but also of scriptural production, revelation, anthologization, and ritualism. I suggest that the pressures surrounding Degé and its religious institutions – pressures ranging from the military encroachments of Nyarong, Lhasa, and Qing, as well as the expansion of the Geluk denomination everywhere – were indeed contextual factors that would have contributed to the 158 Eric Haynie, International Seminar of Young Tibetologists, September, 2018. 159 Personal communication, October, 2017. Also see: Phuntshok 2017.
160 Gardner 2006, 147.
period’s great efflorescence of religious activity. The era witnessed a suite of coherent institutional developments consisting of newly regularized curricular models, the curation of scriptural canons, and the enfoldment of the landscape into sacralized narratives and rites, all stimulated by contestations embroiling the region on the eve of modernity. The work of luminary Nyingma masters – tremendous literary contributions that emphasized contemplation, learning, and ritual – were indeed in a spirit of “ecumenism” which actually bolstered the stature of the Nyingma in particular. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was, without a doubt, a central feature of this literary, contemplative, ritual, and visionary world.
Just as the revision of Nyingma tradition at Mindroling in the late seventeenth century had marked a newly institutionalized approach for the Nyingma, monastic life and education in Kham in the late 1800s took on an increasingly formalized profile. This ostensibly began with the founding of Dzogchen’s Sri Singha shedra in 1842 by Gyaltse Shenpen Thaye (rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha’ yas, b. 1800), followed by the development of Nyingma scholastic institutions at Katok (f. 1906 by Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso), and Palyul (f. 1922 by Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang). The Sakya monastic college at Dzongsar was established by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro in 1918, and the nearby Kagyü temple and college at Palpung had been active for some time, having been founded in 1727 by Situ Panchen for the study of the “five knowledges”. For the Nyingmapas, Khenpo Shenpen Chökyi Nangwa (gzhan phan chos kyi snang ba, a.k.a. Khenpo Shenga, 1871-1927) was also an important curricular innovator in his introduction of
Indian philosophical treatises and annotation commentaries.161 This is not to suggest that this was the first time that exoteric and esoteric exegetical study was available in the Nyingma Mother Monasteries; there had always been scholastic education available at these monastic hubs. However, perhaps with the exception of Palpung, it was only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that discrete institutional entities (bshad grwa, lit. “ explanation division”, or “exegetical college”) were formed for regularized study.
Curricular standards at the monastic colleges centered on the study of Sutric tradition, and also distinctively Nyingma esoteric studies. Transmitted tantras, as opposed to terma cycles, were most important in this context, and so, with the exception of the study of the Kabgyé Subsequent Tantra (bka’ brgyad phyi ma’i rgyud) at Katok, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa itself was generally not present as a matter of exegetical study. However, Mipham’s commentary on the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, called The Essence of Accomplishment: The Explanation of the General
Meaning of the Eight Teachings (the bka' brgyad kyi spyi don rnam bshad dngos sgrub snying po, Kabgyé Namshe for short), would be utilized as a commentary on the practice of Mahāyoga altogether. In general, Mipham’s commentary on the Secret Nucleus Tantra would come to be treated as the definitive exegesis on Mahāyoga esoteric doctrine, while the Kabgyé Namshe would serve as a key commentary on Mahāyoga self-cultivation and ritual.
Underwriting the new emphasis on scholasticism were the editorial efforts of people like Getse Mahapandita and Jamgön Kongtrül. This period, in general, saw the curation of several canons by which the Nyingma articulated their doctrinal authority. These included the xylographic mass-production at Degé of the Nyingma Gyubum, Jamgön Kongtrül’s editing of the Nyingma Kama, and Kongtrül’s assembly of the Rinchen Terdzö (The Precious Treasury of 161 Christopher Hiebert, personal communication, November 2017.
terma, an anthology of gter ma initiations and practice traditions). In each of these anthologies, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is either included, or provides an organizational template for Mahāyoga materials, attesting to its status as a core feature of the Nyingma literary inheritance. As we will see in our exploration of these anthologies in the next chapter, the inclusion of the Kabgyé and the use of its doxographical formats to organize tantric knowledge in the emergent canons of the Nyingma demonstrates how this scriptural system was leveraged to provide a resource for the ongoing authorship of institutional religious identity as carried out through doxography, narrative imagination, and in ritualized practice.
Nineteenth and twentieth century Kham also witnessed a resurgence of treasure revelation by Nyingma, Kagyü, and Sakya masters. Much of this revelation activity focused on Great Perfection mysticism and related contemplative formats, but Kabgyé contemplation and ritual was also strongly present in the resumés of certain Khampa tertöns. Most prominently, Chögyur Lingpa (mchog gyur gling pa 1829-70), Düdjom Lingpa (bdud ‘joms gling pa 1834- 1904), Nyala Pema Dündul (nyag bla padma bdud 'dul 1816-72), and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-92) were able to reveal Kabgyé texts, mostly devoted to tantric meditation practices and exorcistic rituals (bzlog pa). Khyentse Wangpo revealed his Kabgyé revelations at the hermitage of Dzongshö Deshek Dupa, the location where Jamgön Kongtrül undertook his compilation of the Rinchen Terdzö.162 The eccentric and prolific Chögyur Lingpa became, despite initial hesitation on their side, a close collaborator with Jamgön Kongtrül and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. The trio, known in Degé as the “Three Jewel Masters” (mkhyen dkon chog sde gsum) became the central figures in a flurry of institution-building and priestly activities in 162 Matthieu Ricard, preface to the Shechen Edition of the Rinchen Terdzod Chenmo, http://rtz.tsadra.org/index.php/Main_Page
Degé throughout the decade of the Nyarong war.163 In Nyarong itself, Pema Dündul was the progenitor of a terma lineage that proved prolific and influential over several generations. This lineage was even adopted by the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso (thubs ldan rgya mtsho 1876- 1933), and was, at the same time, celebrated by Nyingmapa luminaries in Degé, such as Jamyang Khyentse and Jü Mipham.
Generally speaking, wrathful heruka iconography and ritualism was at the core of much of the revelation activity of these Tertöns. Pema Dündul’s chief disciple, Rangrik Dorje, the first Kusum Lingpa, (rang rig rdo rje sku gsum gling pa, 1847-1903) particularly stands out for his massive compendium of Kabgyé-based revelation texts, consisting of nearly one hundred texts and taking up at least two volumes of his revelation corpus.164 Rangrik Dorje gives thorough treatment to each of the Kabgyé deities, supplying meditation and apotropaic ritual practices for each. The influence of this tertön remains to be determined, but this Kusum Lingpa (not to be
confused with the twentieth-century tertön Öyan Kusum Lingpa (d. 2009)) was closely associated with Mindroling: having been invited there from his Nyarong home on the basis of a Nechung Oracle prophecy under the auspices of the 13th Dalai Lama, Kusum Lingpa’s son married the daughter of the eighth Minling Trichen, and thus Kusum Lingpa’s grandson was enthroned as the ninth abbot of Mindroling. Rangrik Dorje also established the monastery of Lumorab (klu mo rab dgon) in the Abse valley of Upper Nyarong, and the monastic college there
was, for a time, known as “Mindroling-East”. The current temple custodian there, an elderly monk, told me that the Kabgyé Drupchen based on Rangrik Dorje’s revelations was regularly practiced until the monastic numbers dwindled too much to carry out the complicated rituals. 163 Alexander Gardner, “Chögyur Lingpa”, Treasury of Lives. https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Chokgyur-Dechen-Lingpa/TBRC_P564 164 Rang rig rdo rje, gter chos, vols. 5, 19, 32, 33.
While Chögyur Lingpa, Düdjom Lingpa, Pema Dündul, Khyentse Wangpo, and Rangrik Dorje all revealed Kabgyé materials in this period, Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgön Kongtrül, and Jü Mipham composed manuals and commentaries for Kabgyé contemplative and ritual practice. The aforementioned Third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso, was a close student of Mipham, as was the fourth Shechen Gyaltsap, Padma Namgyal (padma nam rgyal, 1871-1926), and so we get the
picture of a network of Kabgyé practice and study between Dzogchen, Katok, Palyul, and the Shechen lamas persisting into the early twentieth century. This is not to say that the Kabgyé was, by any means, the main object for study across these institutions and lineages. However, the Kabgyé persistently appears to greater or lesser degrees in the resumés of all these ecclesiasts, and from the way it supplied an organizational rubric for Nyingmapa anthologies, to how it participated in the emergent scholastic curricula, and how it was drawn upon as a source for ritual knowledge, the Kabgyé can certainly be declared to be of central importance to the Nyingma tradition altogether in this period.
The Kabgyé tradition was disseminated directly from Nyangrel through his sons and incarnations within Nyingma family lineages, fanning out across not only the Nyingma, but also within Kagyü communities through the fifteenth century. Between Lhoter and Jangter sects, most Nyingmapas and certain Kagyü groups would have been exposed to at least one of the three major Kabgyé cycles. Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje, a disciple of the powerful ritualist
Sogdokpa, allegedly redacted the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa into a multi-volume format. The lineal transmission of its ritual and contemplative materials was then solidified through Mindroling, as students of Terdak Lingpa and his successors brought the Kabgyé east and north-east, where it took hold at Dzogchen, Katok, Palyul, Shechen, and at Rebkong. In the late seventeenth century,
we know that Kabgyé training was available at the scholastic center of Mindroling, the ancient practice center of Mawochok in Lhodrak, and through Kagyü lineages. At Mindroling, the performance of Kabgyé rituals was regularized in the Great Accomplishment (sgrub chen) format, a move made possible by the curation of the corpus by Gongra two generations prior. It is also known that Terdak Lingpa transmitted the Eight Teachings to the Fifth Dalai Lama, and
so all lineages but the Sakya would have had exposure to Kabgyé traditions. In the east, the Kabgyé became part of the institutional identity at Dzogchen, Palyul, Shechen, and even at the relatively conservative Katok, and we see certain lamas such as Shechen Öntrul, Jamgön Kongtrül, and the Third Katok Situ heavily favoring the Kabgyé contemplative and ritual systems. This all set the stage for its publication at Katok as a well-edited print, likely in the early twentieth century.
I have intended to show that periods in which the Eight Teachings cycle was afforded particular attention by Nyingma ecclesiastical figures were ones demanding of the reformation and bolstering of Nyingma identity. From the post-fragmentation period into which Nyangrel Nyima Özer was born, to the tumultuous shuffling of political power in seventeenth century Central Tibet, and in the complexity of nineteenth century Degé, we see Nyingma masters turn to the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa as a resource for defining tradition and strengthening agency. This was
accomplished by its curation into a canon of contemplatively-oriented tantras distinctive to the Early Translation style of practice and ritual vocation, and the later formatting of the cycle for use in institutional settings that came to define a newly centralized Nyingma lineage. This solidified the Kabgyé’s stature as part of the core identity of Nyingmapas as they commented, anthologized, and ritualized their way towards an increasingly coherent institutional response to pressures in Eastern Tibet. Throughout this history, the Kabgyé has been a source of myth115
history, esoteric knowledge, self-cultivational technique, and ritual technology that adepts have drawn upon again and again in their efforts to carry out authentic tantric practice. I do not suggest that the Eight Teachings was somehow the most important cycle in all of Nyingma religiosity. Rather, I have intended to point out a pattern of use and accretion wherein this cycle has been turned to in times of contestation and reformation.
To what shall we ascribe this pattern? Let us recall that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was an early collation of materials reflecting the kinds of practices maintained by Early Translation communities through the period of fragmentation. This collation emerged in the context of pressure from neo-conservatives, competition between aristocrat-backed monastic institutions, and tantric communities heralding ever-new contributions to Tibetan Tantra. The Early Translation communities were certainly in a defensive position of having to proffer something to compete with new scriptural imports and to fend off critics. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa fit this bill. As we will see in Part Two, the very notion of collation (‘dus pa, to “assemble”) takes on a multivalent significance within the cycle’s literature, and some of the cycle’s root texts emphasize bibliography as a key component in a myth-history that defines the authority of this system and the Early Translation tradition altogether. In addition, the Kabgyé celebrated a mode
of ritualism – specifically wrathful, apotropaic, and material – that reflected the vocational predilection of adepts like Nyangrel. While lay ritualists were affiliated with every Buddhist denomination in Tibet, the Nyingmapa were always strongly associated with lay tantric practice, and Nyingma “mantrins” (sngags pa) have long been called upon to ritually intercede with harms of all kinds. Additionally, the Kabgyé mythos and praxis implicates a distinctively Tibetan cast of characters: the Eight Classes of Gods and Spirits. Incorporating these entities into the foundational myths and practices of this Mahāyoga cycle was an important step in the
assimilation of tantric Buddhism, and the production of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa participated in Nyangrel’s efforts to author Nyingma history and define the parameters of a Buddhist adepthood to include harm-averting ritual practice. Thus, we get in the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa an unparalleled resource authorizing Early Translation practice and advancing a vision for that denomination’s identity via recourse to a specific brew of myth, history, doctrine, and mastery. The Kabgyé made an immediate impact, and did not take long to stand as a central feature of the core curriculum of the training of Nyingma adepts.
Not all cycles enjoyed such continuous longevity for the Nyingmapa. As Dalton shows, Gathering of Intentions Sutra was once valued for its doctrinal formulations, only later to be transformed into a ritual-only offering. The Kabgyé also transformed over time, gaining increasingly thick layers of ritual materials. But it never really waned from view, and was always one of the treasures to which Nyingmapas have turned. This is attributable to the way that the Deshek Dupa participated in a wider narrative and imaginal world established by Nyangrel Nyima Özer in his architecture of Early Translation practice. The Kabgyé, according to its own history, was one of the main inheritances from Padmasambhava, and thus stands out as
something with direct ties to a golden age in which this kind of tantrism was at the center of Tibet’s conversion. This is a story curated by Nyangrel, and one in which he emplots himself and his community at the center of a recursive sacred history with profound significance for the advancement of Buddhism altogether. Practice of the Kabgyé recalls the activities at the heart of this conversion, and, as a revealed treasure (gter), implicitly recalls the imaginal presence of empire with its divine lord and priest. Also, in its resonance with indigenous Tibetan ritual culture, the Kabgyé marked a contribution to the hybridization of Buddhism in Tibet, and its distinctively wrathful imaginaire served to advance a specific approach to Buddhist practice. One
can only imagine the empowerment that such materials would provide adepts whose very way of life was under attack by conservative voices, whether of the Gugé or Ganden ilk. The Kabgyé amplifies the very modes of tantrism decried by ecclesiastical rivals, and so the cycle makes a daring statement about the properties and authenticity of Nyingma religiosity.
I suggest that the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa’s impact was mediated by its distinctive literary qualities. As our analysis of the cycle’s foundational narratives, tantras, and rituals in Part Two will demonstrate, unique buddhologies, narrative tropes, and ritual idioms supplied a potent imaginal world with which Nyingmapas could engage, effectuating articulations of identity and configurations of agentive subjectivity that were particularly salient for practitioners in the contexts described above. Before delving into the world of these texts, however, an account of the Deshek Dupa’s publication history will complete the picture of the Kabgyé’s reception in Tibet.
Despite the regularizing claims of tradition, a scriptural cycle such as the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is sure to endure significant change over centuries of life in diverse institutions. While the lore surrounding Buddhist terma revelation suggests that cycles are retrieved in their entirety, always remaining whole and unadulterated, well-known patterns of accretion and editorial agency in Tibetan Buddhism ensure that a major cycle such as the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa would have undergone many transformations. What may have originally been a collection of
manuscripts recovered or received by Nyangrel in Lhodrak (something like the fifteen foundational tantras, five teachings, and sundry practices and oral instructions) was subsequently reproduced by hand in the context of temple life within related thirteenth and fourteenth-century Early Translation communities. These manuscribal reproductions likely accreted further devotional, ritual, and self-cultivational materials. By the time Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje curated his edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in the mid-seventeenth century (if he indeed did
so), many ritual texts representing sub-traditions from localized settings may have been included. We do not, at this point, have direct literary evidence for what it was that Gongra compiled. But it seems that efforts such as Gongra’s reflected an increasingly coherent and comprehensive sense of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa’s place in Nyingma tradition. By the fourteenth century, and perhaps from the very beginning, the Kabgyé was thought of as a rubric for the overall organization of Mahāyoga tradition, and as the source for a wide variety of doctrines and practices deemed related in content and origin. Thus, the Kabgyé came to stand as a corpus representing the very origins and logic of Mahāyoga tantrism, and its inclusion in the great Nyingma anthologies reflects this evolving conception of its significance.
In lieu of complete textual evidence, our picture of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa’s development will be somewhat circumstantial, but does accord with well-known patterns of textual proliferation in Tibetan Buddhism. In proceeding with a publication history, we will commence with a look at what are now widely regarded as the definitive editions of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle. These massive editions, which circulate in Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, do not
necessarily represent the Kabgyé as Nyangrel produced it, but rather reflect what must have been centuries of accretions, rearrangements, and collations, particularly of ritual materials. We will also look at related literature, specifically an assortment of major ritual cycles, and also at the Kabgyé’s inclusion in important Nyingma anthologies, to get a general picture for how the Kabgyé was treated as a literary body. Most of this literary evidence will be from the
seventeenth century onwards; after all, it is with Mindroling that the corpus was leveraged as part of a newly emergent vision of the Nyingma as a coherent and institutionalized tradition. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was certainly a key element of this vision.
What is now widely accepted by Nyingmapas to represent the complete body of Nyangrel’s Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is a thirteen-volume collection of historical, doctrinal, contemplative, and ritual materials, totaling over 8,000 folio sides. This survives in two major iterations: a xylograph that was once in the possession of Düdjom Jikdral Yeshe Dorje (1904- 87), and published in Gangtok by Sonam Topgay Kazi in 1978 as part of his Nyingma anthology series (hereafter, “the Katok”), and a manuscript edition from Tsamdrak (mtshams ‘brag) in Bhutan, also in 13 volumes (the “Tsamdrak”).165 The editors’ preface to Tsamdrak claims that 165 Katok: bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa’i chos skor. Ngagyur nyingmay sungrab series, v. 75-87. Gangtok: Sonam Topgay Kazi, 1978; Tsamdrak: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor. Paro: Ngodrup, 1980.
these share descent from one printed at Katok Dorje Den (or perhaps at nearby Gajé (dga’ rje)), which was itself derived from the editorial efforts of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje in the midseventeenth century.166 This claim of descent from Gongra is tenuous, as little internal publication data exist in either collection. This attribution is stated in the colophons of several texts included in the Tsamdrak, and may also have come from Düdjom himself.167 However, I have yet to find any other primary sources suggesting a connection between Gongra and the
curation of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa. At any rate, I date the publication of the Katok xylograph to have been sometime in the early twentieth century or late nineteenth century. Accounts from Khenpo Ngawang Palzang, Jamgön Kongtrül, and Getsé Mahapandita all refer to a nine-volume edition with which they worked through the late nineteenth century. Kongtrül mentions that this edition had been published at Degé, and a nine-volume manuscript recently digitized by the Buddhist Digital Resource Center at Chengdu (the “Chengdu”) may indeed represent this ninevolume edition.168 Thus, it would have been after the time of these masters (or perhaps during the
later career of Ngawang Palzang) that the Katok thirteen-volume edition was created. There was a printing house at Katok, which the Third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso, utilized in bolstering the literary holdings of the monastery and monastic college there in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A little before Chökyi Gyatso’s tenure, Jamgön Kongtrül does mention a “newly codified” Deshek Dupa for which he and Chögyur Lingpa performed the associated 166 Tsamdrak, vol. 1 preface
167 For example, the colophon to Tsamdrak’s zhi ba ‘dus pa’i rgyud highlights the role of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje in this text’s transmission history. Tsamdrak: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i chos skor, vol. 3, 75. 168 Kongtrul 2003, p 217, 283. Chengdu: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa (TBRC W2PD20239). Analysis of this edition shows that it is closely related to the Katok, and so may represent the nine-volume bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa that preceded the thirteen-volume edition.
sgrub chen rites in 1867.169 Whether this refers to the thirteen volume edition, I cannot tell, but, given the Third Katok Situ’s editorial initiatives and his evident favor for the Kabgyé, I am inclined to date the publication of the Katok xylograph to be in the very early twentieth century. It is tempting to presume that the Katok edition was the parent to the Tsamdrak, as many Bhutanese masters were known to have come to Katok to receive training throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But there are some major differences between the contents of the two thirteen-volume editions: The Tsamdrak contains multiple versions of tantras, and some
tantras that do not appear at all in the Katok, making for a larger number of foundational tantras in the edition. Also, quite notably, the Tsamdrak does not contain the Stainless Proclamations (dri ma med pa rgya can) biography of Nyangrel, and also lacks the cycle’s auto-history, The Manner Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings ( the bka’ brgyad bka’ byung tshul). The Tsamdrak also contains significantly fewer supplementary rituals, particularly of the apotropaic variety. In some ways, the Tsamdrak seems to be more coherently organized around genres, and is more comprehensive in its inclusion of variants of the main tantras, and may thus have been an
editorial refinement of the Katok edition, curated for ease of use as a comprehensive reference manual in institutional settings. On the other hand, as a manuscript, the Tsamdrak is more prone to spelling errors, which I have especially observed in the ritual texts. This is expected, given that the Tsamdrak is a manuscript. The Tsamdrak does include the Clear Mirror biography, suggesting that its editors may have eschewed what was the less-normative revelation narratives found in The Stainless Proclamations and The Arising. These differences deserve further appraisal, as their analysis may uncover distinct rescensional lines and sub-denominational communities with different notions of what constituted valid revelation activity. 169 Kongtrül 2003, 147.
Also from Bhutan is a ten-volume edition which has been digitized under the supervision of Dr. Karma Phuntso for the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme.170 These manuscripts, of varying quality and orthographic style, were recently discovered and photographed at Phurdrup Gompa (phur sgrub dgon) near Thimpu, and are roughly dated to be from between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. This edition bears similarity to the Tsamdrak in the selection and order of texts, although it is much more modest in scale,
particularly in terms of the inclusion of ritual materials. It may be the case that the Tsamdrak edition was an expansion of this one, or its recensional family. Whether this ten-volume edition is related to the nine-volume manuscript from Kham would be a very worthwhile question to explore, as it may reveal something about the history of exchange between Degé and Bhutan in the eighteenth century or before.
Another edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is a manuscript preserved at the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives in Dharamsala.171 At four volumes, this one is much more modest than the Katok corpus, and contains fewer supplementary ritual materials. This edition claims to have been delivered to India by one Lama Kunzang, who hailed from the Kyirong (skyid grong) region to the southwest of Lhasa. The Kyirong edition lacks many of the ritual,
commentarial, and historiographical texts included in both the larger editions, and most of its self-cultivational rituals (sgrub thabs and las byang ) have no analogue in the Katok and Tsamdrak. Also included in the Kyirong (and absent from the others) is a collection of biographies of the six genetic and lineal descendents of Nyangrel, the “Nyang Princes”, who served as abbots of Mawochok; a praise text for the region of Lhodrak, and a short biography of 170 Phurdrup: bka’ brgayd bde gshegs ‘dus pa. London: British Library Endangered Archive Programme, EAP 310/3. https://eabl.uk/collection/EAP310-3-1 (accessed July 18, 2019).
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol (rtse le sna tshogs rang grol, b.1608), the Kagyü-Nyingma adept hailing from Kongpo. These features suggest that this edition may represent a different recensional lineage than Gongra’s – in this case, a lineage centered to the south of Lhasa and involving Kagyü-Nyingma practitioners. If this is true, then the contents of this corpus may represent the tradition prior to its regularization by Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje in the mid-seventeenth century.172
As previously mentioned, Gongra took it upon himself to edit several collections at the Ngesang Dorje Ling scriptorium in the mid 1600s, resulting in the production of a proto- Nyingma Gyubum, an edition of the Seventeen Esoteric Instruction Tantras, and the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa.173 His curatorial work thus encompassed the “transmitted” (Kama, bka’ ma) tradition, Great Perfection mysticism, and Mahāyoga revelations, and perhaps gives us a sense for what Gongra and his milieu thought of as the “core-curriculum” of the Early Translation school. The modern introduction to the Tsamdrak edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa claims descent from Katok, and from Gongra before, presumably by way of Mindroling. We have to
take this claim at face value, since there are no materials within these corpora beyond terse colophonic statements relating the specific editorial history of the collection. The thirteen-volume edition is certainly more voluminous than the corpus that, one way or another, came to Nyangrel in 1150. The Clear Mirror biography puts the number of Kabgyé 172 It is worth noting that Tsele Natsok Rangdrol was a student of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje, and possibly did receive training in the Kabgyé from him. However, the Kyirong edition of the Deshek Dupa bears little enough resemblance to the Katok and Tsamdrak that I proceed with the hypothesis that it represents a different recension. 173 As noted in the previous chapter, the claim that Gongra accomplished all three of these editorial tasks is not found in any single account. Rather, different sources credit him with different editorial accomplishments, and so we do not know if he truly managed such a remarkable undertaking. It is clear, however, that he was a major figure in his day, as according to the concern that he garnered in the mind of the fifth Dalai Lama. We also know that Ngesang Dorje Ling was a significant temple, as it was converted by order of the Dalai Lama following Gongra’s death.
texts recovered by Nyangrel at 130, and the cycle’s auto-history, The Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings, mentions 140 ancillary teachings (chos kyi cha lag ). In contrast, the thirteen-volume Katok edition contains 236 individual texts, all marked with gter tsheg, and including similar (but not uniform) colophonic revelation accounts. They mostly purport to be treasure texts taught by Padmasambhava (generally, rgya gar gyi mkhan po slob dpon chen po padma ‘byung gnas), requested, translated, and arranged by Vairotsana (bod kyi lo tsa ba bdag be ro tsa nas bsgur cing zhus te gtan la phab pa), belonging to Tri Song Destsen (rgyal po bla phyag dpe), and
concealed as treasure for the benefit of future generations (phyi rabs don du gter du sbas). In general, no mention is made of Khoting, Nyangrel, or any role for Padmasambhava’s consort, Yeshe Tsögyal, whom later tradition credits with concealing virtually all of Padmasambhava’s Treasure Teachings. We may also note the discrepancy in the attribution of translation: the texts’ colophons generally state that Vairotsana was the translator/transcriber, while The Arising specifies Denma Tsemang. This is the only mention of Denma Tsemang that I have seen in
Kabgyé materials, but does conform to other accounts of Padmasambhava’s teaching activity, such as those found in Ögyan Lingpa’s Five Chronicles (bka’ thang sde lnga) revelations. It seems, then, that the colophons represent normative ideas about Padmasambhava’s treasureconcealing career, consistently advancing stock narrative statements to normatively authenticate these revelation scriptures.
Unacknowledged expansion of a cycle with inserted materials following its original dissemination is absolutely consistent with patterns of Tibetan literary production, and many materials could have been added to the cycle by well-intentioned exegetes and adepts over time. These appended texts might have been incorporated and considered to be original components of the corpus by the power of association, by well-meaning editorial slight-of-hand, or even
according to the custom that materials with deeply commensurate content could be considered essentially connected to the original textual body.174 Given the fact that Gongra and his milieu, like Nyangrel, were professionals in the execution of harm-averting rituals, it would be no surprise if the many apotropaic rites included in the Gongra-based redactions of the cycle were ones that had become associated with the corpus at the hands of ritualists in Gongra’s lineage over several centuries. Since his works were destroyed by order of the Fifth Dalai Lama, we can
unfortunately retrieve nothing about Gongra’s editorial process itself, and we are left to wonder whether, in the manner of contemporary attempts to reconstruct and enlarge the Nyingma Kama, he or his entourage scoured central Tibet in search of scattered Kabgyé texts which he then united to constitute a revived Deshek Dupa, or whether his edition simply entailed the publication of a coherent body that Gongra had received wholesale from someone like
Sogdokpa. I suspect the former to be the case, and it is unfortunate that we have no window into Gongra’s adventures in pulling together his edition. However, attending to the accretion of new ritual materials is important, for, as Dalton points out, the addition of new ritual materials often addresses perceived gaps between ancient texts and lived tradition.175
At any rate, the Katok blockprint, owned by Düdjom Rinpoche, was obtained by Sonam Topgay Kazi, who published it in Sikkim in 1978 as part of his Nyingma anthology series. Based on stylistic evidence such as differences in carving style and decorative features, it appears that there were four or five separate bodies of printed texts that were assembled for this complete edition, with specific print and layout styles tending to correlate to specific genres and topics. We might suppose, then, that there were several bodies of Kabgyé block prints – each associated 174 Hirshberg 2016, 101-02; Cantwell and Mayer 2010. 175 Dalton 2016, xv.
with specific doctrinal, ritual, or exegetical purposes – that were newly conglomerated for this overall edition. This conglomeration presumably happened at the Katok printery, perhaps under the direction of the Third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso (1880-1923) or his immediate successors. This Third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso, was nephew and close student of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and a disciple of Jamgön Mipham, and made great efforts to bolster
academics at Katok by revitalizing the library and printing house there.176 Katok Situ’s principal disciple, Khenpo Ngawang Palzang (ngag dbang dpal bzang, a.k.a., Khenpo Ngakchung, 1879- 1941), mentions his master’s preference for Kabgyé rituals, and how he received many Kabgyé transmissions after first arriving at Katok.177 In this context, Ngawang Palzang reports that he received the reading transmission of a nine-volume Kabgyé Deshek Dupa. This agrees with Jamgön Kongtrül’s account of working with a nine-volume edition, allegedly published out of Degé.178 There is also mention of a nine-volume Kabgyé in a list of Katok’s current library holdings from a 1995 survey.179
A newly digitized nine-volume bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa manuscript has recently emerged from Kham, processed for the Buddhist Digital Resource Center out of Chengdu. I have not yet been able to learn about the origin of this manuscript, but an analysis of its contents reveals that it closely resembles the organization and specific contents of the Katok xylograph. Notably, this edition includes the Stainless Proclamations (dri ma med pa rgya can) biography 176 Jan Ronis, Katok Monastery THL Place Dictionary, 2010. http://places.thlib.org/features/17421/descriptions/239
177 Palzang 2014, 149. 178 Kongtrül 2003, 217, 283. 179 Dkar mdzes khul gyi dgon sde so so’i lo rgyus gsal bar bshad pa, Beijing: krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1995. See: vol. 3, pp. 122-124 for a catalog of Katok’s literary holdings. 127
of Nyangrel, which is otherwise only found in the Katok xylograph. However, the nine-volume manuscript does not include The Arising (bka’ byung tshul) auto-history. The absence of this text from the Chengdu, and also the Tsamdrak, is puzzling, as The Arising was clearly an important text in the early Kabgyé tradition, and supplies the vital historical narratives tying this cycle to its origins in India. At any rate, the organization of materials in Chengdu is otherwise quite similar to the Katok’s, and I would aver that the Katok xylograph is an expansion of this nine-volume
edition. It is, quite possibly, the very redaction referred to by our Eastern Tibetan sources. The thirteen-volume Katok corpus must therefore have been published at the very end of the nineteenth century, or in the first decades of the twentieth, after the time of Kongtrül and Palzang, and was likely an expansion of the nine-volume version. It is conceivable that this was overseen by an elderly Chökyi Gyatso, or by his successors. It is clear that the massive Katok version was a conglomeration of xylographs, organized to be a comprehensive sourcebook for Kabgyé knowledge. The processes of its accretion of ritual and commentarial materials likely resembled Gongra’s similar curation three and a half centuries before.
The specific contents of the thirteen-volume Katok edition can be summarized as follows. Volume 1: Hagiography of Nyangrel Nyima Özer (the dri ma med pa), exegetical commentary by Ngari Panchen (‘chad thabs nyi zla mun sel khor lo), auto-history (bka’ brgyad bka’ byung tshul) and lineage supplication, Root Tantra (bka’ brgyad rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po) and Subsequent Tantras (phyi ma rgyud and sngags rgyud phyi ma’i phyi ma rgyud), Amendment Tantra (ma tshang ba kha skong ba'i rgyud), mantra manual, and a Kabgyé narrative bibliography (dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron me) [9 texts]
Volume 2: Differentiated Tantra (rgyud rab tu‘byed pa), Deshek Dupa Tantra (bde ghegs ‘dus pa’i rgyud),180 Peaceful Deity Tantra, and Chemchok Tantra [4 texts] 180 This bde gshegs ‘dus pa rgyud goes by several aliases, as noted in the internal subtitle for this text. Specifically: the zhi khro 'dus pa'i rgyud, 'byed par 'byed pa lde 'u par mig gi rgyud, bder gshegs 'dus pa'i rgyud, dngos grub gter gyi rgyud, or the dpal kun tu bzang po'i dgongs pa bkod pa'i mdo. I suggest that this text, which is included as a miscellaneous item in major redactions of the Nyingma Gyubum, may represent the transmitted bka’ brgyad said to have circulated prior to Nyangrel’s revelation.
Volume 4: Commentarial texts [7 texts]
Volume 7: Deity yoga liturgies of varying lengths [11 texts]
Volume 10: Harm-averting and sorceristic rites: libation offerings (gser skyems), summoning (bskul ba), cursing (dmod pa), repelling (bzlog pa), impalement (gzer ka), effigy sacrifice (gtor bzlog), and “liberation” (sgrol ba) [34 texts]
Volume 11: Offering, praise, and confessional liturgies [14 texts]
Total texts: 236 Total folio sides: 8,660
The corpus is massive. Not only does it entail distinct tantras for each of the nine deities, including root, supplementary, and commentarial tantras and teachings, it also provides a collation of hundreds of contemplative and ritual materials, leaving no aspect of Mahāyoga tantrism unaddressed. At a glance, one can discern that the overarching emphasis of the corpus is distinctively wrathful. Beyond the eight wrathful herukas and their liturgies, we find dozens of sorceristic rites that involve summoning, cursing, impaling, sacrificing, and repelling of
obstructive forces. In general, these rituals are characterized by the texts’ subtitles as “wrathful play” (khro bo rol pa), which can be interpreted as the compassionate activity of “destruction” (drag po’i ‘phrin las – the “enlightened activity of wrath”). Volumes Nine, Ten, Twelve, and Thirteen entail almost exclusively this kind of material, in 115 separate texts. However, we should also note that the corpus is not exclusively wrathful and thaumaturgical: there is an entire
volume devoted to the mandala of Peaceful Deities drawn from the Peaceful/Wrathful (zhi khro) deity complex of the Magical Emanation tantras.181 This shows the intended concordance of this cycle with the Mahāyoga esoteric traditions of the first dispensation, specifically those of the Māyājāla (Magical Emanation) genre. This is significant if we wish to understand Nyangrel’s intention to curate a practice-oriented Mahāyoga corpus that, while offering something novel in its scale and its inclusion of distinctively Tibetan elements, also cohered with the prominent texts in this category inherited from India.
Again, we ought to note the discrepancy between the wide scope of this edition and the more modest (yet still voluminous) size that the source texts suggest the initial revelation entailed. The Clear Mirror states that Nyangrel retrieved 130 texts in two caskets “from the back of” (rgyab nas) the Vairocana statue in the Khoting temple.182 The Stainless Proclamations biography says that Nyangrel was given the “twenty ‘bde gshegs pa’ tantras and teachings” in
seven volumes by Lama Rashak.183 The Arising states that the “branch teachings” consisted of a total of 140 texts. While we cannot know what Nyangrel actually retrieved or produced, an 181 Interestingly, some funerary rituals are included in the volumes dealing with the peaceful and wrathful deities, suggesting continuity with (or antecedence of) the bar do genre exemplified by Karma Lingpa’s 14th-century bar do thos grol revelation.
exploration of references to Kabgyé materials over time does yield the picture that the core corpus always entailed the fifteen tantras, five teachings (lung lnga), and a selection of contemplative practices and tantric rites pertaining to the main deities of the Kabgyé mandala.184 What remains to be known is whether the overwhelming abundance of thaumaturgical and apotropaic rites seen in this Katok corpus reflect what Nyangrel revealed so many centuries
earlier, were composed by Nyangrel himself, or represent the accreted compositions of Nyangrel’s lineal heirs, who devoted themselves to packaging and disseminating Nyangrel’s Kabgyé Deshek Dupa revelation. It is true that Nyangrel was a thaumaturge himself, a ritual professional specializing in demon-taming and harm-aversion. It is also said that his revelation activity included the retrieval of sorceristic ritual implements from the earth.185 It is thus
probable that some of the thaumaturgic and apotropaic texts in this cycle at least represent Nyangrel’s general orientation to ritual practice. However, the discrepancy in contents between Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions, as well as the propensity to associate the Kabgyé with broader categories of tantric doctrine and scripture over time, suggests that there has been a long history of accretions of Kabgyé-type practices that may not have been present in the initial revelations. This accretion is entirely consistent with patterns of textual proliferation within revelation tradition. As Hirshberg observes:
...treasure cycles typically acquire many supplementary texts over the course of their transmission, and so expand considerably beyond the original compeniums. In many respects this is of necessity, as the pithy foundations of a cycle may lack much of the ritual and commentarial architecture to support and transmit it:
mythologies of the cycle’s origins, rites for the initiation of devotees, elaborate deity yoga sadhanas for intensive solitary retreat and regular group practice, 184 These core texts of the cycle are listed in the bka’ byung tshul, Ngari Panchen’s ‘chad thabs, in the cycles’ internal dkar chag, and in Orgyan Lingpa’s bka’ thang sde lnga revelation. There are some discrepancies in these bibliographies, but the central features appear identically across these sources.
185 Hirshberg 2016, 128.
rituals to effect mundane objectives and enhance soteriological accomplishment, as well as commentarial advice for any of these - all can become integrated and transmitted within a single treasure cycle. In some instances later revealers introduce such supplements from their own finds; others are simply authored but often acquire treasure status through their transmission with and function within the larger cycle...post-recovery creative emendation was part and parcel of treasure recovery for Nyangrel rather than some disingenuous process of fabrication that was considered entirely distinct from it.186
The Tsamdrak manuscript claims to be derived from the redaction of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje and the Katok xylograph. Like Katok’s, it entails a variety of styles, layouts, and orthography, but this is unsurprising given that it is a manuscript edition, necessarily requiring the work of many different hands. The Tsamdrak collection is smaller than the Katok, at 150 texts over 7,484 folio pages. But the range of materials is similar, with several of the volumes being almost identical between the two editions. However, several major differences will be worth our attention, as described below.
Volume 1: Root Tantras (2 variants: rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po and bde bar gshegs pa rtsa ba’i rgyud in twenty chapters ), Subsequent Tantras (phyi ma’i rgyud and two variations of the gsangs kyi rgyud phyi ma’i phyi ma rgyud), Amendment Tantra (ma tshang ba kha bskong ba’i rgyud) and the Differentiated Tantra (here called the ‘byed par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud, in seventeen chapters divided into peaceful and wrathful sections) Volume 2: Deshek Dupa “Key” Tantra (‘byed par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud, a.k.a. Zhi khro gnyis pa ’dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud – a variant of the bde gshegs ‘dus pa rgyud in sixty-seven chapters), Nyangrel hagiography (the gsal ba’i me long), Namkha Pel hagiography, siddha Hagiographies (grub thob gi rnam thar).
Total Texts: 150 Folio sides: 7,484
Both the Tsamdrak and Katok editions unfold over 13 volumes, and share a general structure entailing the placement of the foundational tantras, hagiographies, and mytho-historical materials at the beginning of the collection, followed by self-cultivational and apotropaic ritual texts in the final volumes. But the specific order of these materials, as well as the titles and subtitles of some of the root texts, varies widely between the editions. The Tsamdrak includes variants of texts in what seems to be an attempt to collate multiple versions of Deshek Dupa tantras in circulation. Included are two versions of the King of Root Tantras: the rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po in eighteen chapters, and the bde bar gshegs pa rtsa ba’i rgyud le’u nyi zhu pa in twenty chapters. There are also two versions of the Subsequent Tantra: the nges par ‘byung ba phyi ma’i rgyud and the phyi ma’i rgyud le’u bcu dgu pa, and the Subsequent-Subsequent
Tantra: the phyi ma phyi ma’i rgyud le’u nyi shu rtsa lnga pa, and the phyi ma’i phyi ma sngags kyi rgyud. The Differentiated Tantra is here called the ‘byde par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud, which is given in two texts, pertaining to the peaceful and wrathful deities, respectively; while a ‘byed par byed pa lde mig gi rgyud le’u drug cu rtsa bdun pa (alias zhi khro gnyis pa ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud) corresponds to the Deshek Dupa Key Tantra of the Katok collection. We see, then, that
the Tsamdrak edition collates versions of the five foundational tantras of the cycle with differing lengths and layouts, even retaining duplicated titles between two unrelated texts. Rather than including variants in the manner of Tsamdrak, the Katok edition regularizes the collection, and uses subtitles to suggest other titles by which a text might be known.187
The Tsamdrak additionally includes The Clear Mirror biography of Nyangrel, and not the less-normative Stainless Proclamations. This leads me to conclude either that The Stainless Proclamations circulated (or was stored somewhere) in Eastern Tibet alone, or that the editors of Tsamdrak replaced it with the more normative Clear Mirror. Also notable is the absence of the
cycle’s auto-history, The Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings, which appears at the beginning of the Katok edition. Similarly missing is the revealed Kabgyé bibliography, The Clear Lamp, A Table of Contents (dkar chag gsal ba’i sgron me), which is included in Katok’s Volume One. These texts both give us a catalogue of all sorts of Mahāyoga materials, typologized in a Kabgyé rubric and couched in the mytho-historical narrative of the cycle’s origins in India. It is thus somewhat surprising that these are absent from Tsamdrak (and also from the Chengdu, and the Kyirong edition detailed below).
187 For example, the bsgrub pa bka’ brgyad ‘dus pa’i rgyud in Katok is sub-titled with a list of alternate titles by which this or similar text might be known: zhi khro 'dus pa'i rgyud ces 'ang bshad/ 'byed par 'byed pa lde 'u par mig gi rgyud ces bya ba bzung/ bder gshegs 'dus pa'i rgyud/ dngos grub gter gyi rgyud/ dpal kun tu bzang po'i dgongs pa bkod pa'i mdo. This is the text that I refer to as the Deshek Dupa Tantra and which, I argue, may have been received by Nyangrel from Lama Rashak.
Returning to the specific features of the Tsamdrak, this edition shows signs of being more coherently edited in terms of the structuring of volumes around specific genres and themes. Both Katok and Tsamdrak organize their materials around types of practice. The Tsamdrak does this more tightly, however, and provides a clean array of materials with obvious connection to the other contents of their respective volumes. As for the supplementary ritual materials, the
Tsamdrak does contain apotropaic rites, but nowhere near the extent found in Katok. The entirety of the materials featured in Katok volumes Twelve and Thirteen, for example, are missing from Tsamdrak. On the other hand, Tsamdrak does include a variety of meditational materials (las byang and sgrub thabs) that are missing from Katok. This gives the impression that the Tsamdrak edition was oriented more towards meditation and classical modes of tantric ritual than it was towards wrathful apotropaic ritualism. Whether this discrepancy between the two editions has to do with differences in recensional lines, or whether the Tsamdrak was curated especially for institutional life in Bhutan, we cannot, at this point, say. Kyirong
The four-volume edition held by the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives and published by Damchoe Sangpo in 1977, is said to have been reproduced from dbu can manuscripts delivered by Kyirong Lama Kunzang. This collection includes the fifteen tantras and teachings common to all editions: the root, subsequent, commentarial, amendment, and individuated tantras of the Kabgyé mandala. It does not include the five instructional texts (lung lnga) found in the Katok and Tsamdrak, and referenced in The Arising, which is itself also
absent. The Kyirong also harbors discrepancies in Volumes Three and Four in the selection of self-cultivational and ritual materials as compared to Katok and Tsamdrak. These manuscripts exhibit alternate spellings (and errors) in the texts’ titles and contents, and are largely lacking in colophons. Where colophons do exist, they do not demonstrate the standardized form seen in the
Katok edition. There are some texts in common between Kyirong and the thirteen-volume editions, but twenty-eight of the texts in the fifty-nine text corpus that claim to be Nyangrel termas cannot be corroborated with Katok or Tsamdrak.
Kyirong also includes a selection of texts drawn from Chöwang’s Sangwa Yongzok cycle, and the edition concludes with a las byang practice text authored by Terdak Lingpa, and drawn from his seminal Minling System (smin gling lugs) Kabgyé ritual compendium. I suspect that these materials were added to the corpus (obviously after Tedak Lingpa’s time in the eighteenth century) in reflection of the influence of Mindroling in determining the contours of Nyingma tradition.
This Kyirong edition includes several biographical texts that are not found in Katok. These include a version of The Clear Mirror hagiography of Nyangrel, a collection of abbreviated autobiographies of Nyangrel’s genetic lineage of Mawochok abbots, a praise of the region of Lhodrak, and a short biography of Tsele Natsok Rangdröl. However, some of these are actually missing from the specific exemplar to which we have access – they are reported to be
included in the edition according to the them yig, but are partially or fully missing in the copy we have. These lacunae include a Kabgyé-based biography of the deeds of Padmasambhava, the full-length Clear Mirror Nyangrel biography, and, interestingly, a short biography called Stainless. Does this Stainless (labeled simply dri med) refer to the Stainless Proclamations hagiography featured in the Katok? We don’t know, but the them yig suggests that this one is very short at a mere three pages. Perhaps it was a summary of The Stainless Proclamations. In this collection, The Clear Mirror is certainly the authoritative rnam thar, as it is included in its entirety.
I interpret the evidence to indicate that this edition represents an alternative recensional lineage to Gongra’s. Like the Katok and Tsamdrak editions, this one entails a preponderance of apotropaic rituals –exorcisms (bzlog pa), impalement rituals (gzer ka), incineration sacrifices (sbyin sreg), and libation offerings (gser skyems) – to supplement the main tantric materials. But many of the specific texts found in the Kyirong are not included in the Gongra-based editions, and the scale of these volumes is very much smaller. We do not get the impression that this
edition of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa was a massive compendium of thaumaturgy as we do with Katok. But the overall emphasis clearly trends toward harm-averting rites and tantric ritual. The presence of spelling errors in text titles and lack of colophons suggests it was not as carefully edited as were the Katok and Tsamdrak, and it seems that this Kyirong edition was a received collection of Kabgyé materials held by a lineage connected to Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, and designed to be a reference for Mahāyoga knowledge and the execution of apotropaic rituals.
Jigten Chötö, and Drangak tantras.
In comparing these available Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions, we might conclude that Katok and Tsamdrak are related, and the Kyirong may represent a different recensional stream. The main tantras are common to all three collections, and all three have a distinctive wrathful, apotropaic, and thaumaturgical orientation. Despite its smaller size, the Kyirong is focused on such rites, as it lacks many contemplative materials such as sgrub thabs, las byang, or sgom rim,
which appear in the other collections. The Katok gives us an absolutely massive compendium of wrathful ritual magic, with over a hundred and fifteen individual harm-aversion and sorceristic ritual texts, as well as commentaries on the performance of “wrathful play”. The Tsamdrak also has some of these, but not to the same scale, although its careful organization suggests that it was tailored for institutional religious life and traditional scholarship.
As for the relationship between the Katok and Tsamdrak, they are quite similar in the basic design of the thirteen volumes. In both cases, the initial volumes in the collection are devoted to the root tantras and teachings, and the following volumes compile practices, rituals and commentaries dealing with the Peaceful Deities, the Peaceful-Wrathful deity complex, classical tantric practice of the wrathful variety, and harm-averting thaumaturgy. While the specific order of these materials differs between the two editions, and while the Tsamdrak is
more coherently edited in this regard, both corpora share this general structure. It does seem that the Tsamdrak intended to collate variants of the foundational tantras, while the Katok regularized them. This suggests different motivations behind the editing of these collections: the editors of Katok seem to have been interested in producing a coherent resource including a comprehensive array of ritual practices, while the Tsamdrak was more “academic” in its commitment to including variants of the constituent texts side-by-side. If it is true that they both derive from the redaction of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje in the early or mid-seventeenth century, we thus get
a sense of the results of Gongra’s editorial efforts. It suggests that Gongra curated a package of tantric, self-cultivational, and apotropaic materials, thematically arranged for ease of reference for people using these materials to supplement exegetical, self-cultivational, and liturgical life. It should be noted that such a collection lent itself to institutionalized settings: it is hard to imagine itinerant individuals easily obtaining or travelling with an 8,000 page package of manuscripts,
not to mention the work involved in duplicating such a collection. Its design serves the use of exegetes and liturgists who could turn to specific volumes to draw texts for ritual use or for reference. As canon-formation was a way to forge and announce denominational identity, this Kabgyé Deshek Dupa makes a statement about the kinds of practices that were implicated in an evolving Nyingma religiosity. That Gongra curated the Deshek Dupa alongside the Nyingma Gyubum and a canon of seventeen Great Perfection scriptures, conveys a picture of what Nyingma tradition was, at least for the likes of Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Dorje and his milieu.
There exist several published Deshek Dupa ritual compendia (sgrub skor) associated with the Nyingma “mother monasteries”. These include the ones still used at Shechen, Palyul, Katok, and Dzogchen, both in China and at their affiliated temples in Nepal and India.188 These range in scope from the thirteen-text Minling System (smin gling lugs), to the 1300-page Dzogchen Tradition Great Accomplishment Ritual Liturgies (rdzogs chen ring lugs sgrub chen ‘don chog) in 112 texts. These manuals are still used for the execution of annual Great Accomplishment
Rites (sgrub chen, drupchen) ritual intensives, as well as for the performance of ad hoc rites. In general, these compendia are hybrid compositions: ritual instructions, commentaries, and liturgies by masters such as Ngari Panchen, Terdak Lingpa, and Jamgön Kongtrül are interwoven with ritual texts taken directly from Nyangrel’s cycle. Occasionally, the corpus may be filled out with texts drawn from Chöwang, Gödem, or Terdak Lingpa’s revelation cycles. There is some
Minling: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa smin gling lugs. Dehra Dun: Khochen Trulku, 1977. Katok: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa. New Delhi: Jamyang Norbu, 1971. Palyul: bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa sgrub skor. Byllakuppe: Penor Rinpoche, 1985. Dzogchen: snga ‘gyur grub dbang rdzogs chen pai ring lugs ltar bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i sgrub chen ‘don chog. rdzogs chen, 2007.
overlap with the doctrinal cycles in as much as some of the materials appearing in these ritual compendia are also present in the comprehensive chos skor editions. However, there are many ritual materials that appear in no Kabgyé doctrinal cycles, and yet claim to be derived from Nyangrel’s Kabgyé revelation.
The specific features of some of these ritual compendia are briefly outlined below. Tracing the contents of these editions gives us a sense for the development of the Kabgyé ritual tradition in terms of its role in an evolving vision of institutional religion for the Nyingmapa.
The Minling System of the Assembled Sugatas of the Eight Teachings (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa smin gling lugs) is the oldest extant ritual compendium for Kabgyé practice in an institutional setting.189 In this Minling System, we see Kabgyé practice reduced to an essential core of self-cultivational and apotropaic ritual procedures. This core program is well-suited to an institutional setting wherein the Kabgyé rites could be carried out in several days as part of an annual liturgical cycle, or on an ad hoc basis. This treatment of the Kabgyé ritual materials conforms to what we know about the seventeenth-century efforts of Gyurme Dorje, and his
brother, Lochen Dharmashri, to further institutionalize the Nyingma through the reformatting of tantric ritual protocols for some degree of public participation.190 While the Minling brothers have been celebrated for their treatment of the Gathering of Intentions Sutra and the resurrection of the Kama body of transmitted scriptures, it seems that revelation cycles such as the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa and the Kabgyé Sangwa Yongzok, as well as other cycles from Nyangrel and the 189 Cantwell (2019) notes that ritual manuals associated with Chokyi Wangchuk and even Nyangrel himself indicate a sort of proto-drupchen format for communal tantric practice within their communities. Cantwell 2019, p. 156. 190 Dalton 2016, 97-114; also: Dalton in Cuevas and Schaeffer, eds. 2006. early tertöns, were included in Gyurme Dorje and Lochen Dharmasri’s efforts to institutionalize
The Minling System is attributed to Gyurme Dorje, who edited the compendium around core texts and specific lines extracted from the Deshek Dupa terma. Containing only fifteen texts, the compendium represents a ritual program that could be accomplished in a couple of days. But its elements can be taken to represent what was thought to be the essential features of Kabgyé practice, especially as it might be executed in a temple setting. The sequence of rituals begins with lineal supplications and a deity yoga liturgy composed by Gyurme Dorje, followed
by a program of fire offerings and a deity yoga practices drawn from Nyangrel’s terma. Two medicinal alchemical rituals (sman sgrub) come next, one of which was drawn from the Heart of Vajrasattva (do sems thugs) cycle revealed by Terdak Lingpa himself. But the longest text of the cycle by far is The Surpassing of the Demons: The Procedure of the Effigy Sacrifice of Wrathful Play (khro bo rol pa’i gtor gzlog las rim bdud dpung zil gnon). This apotropaic rite, a terma text taken from Nyangrel’s Deshek Dupa cycle with annotations by Gyurme Dorje, involves the
dispatching of demons through effigistic sacrifice. The ma mo, the dregs pa of Jigten Chötö, and the mantras of Möpa Drangak are all featured in this lengthy practice. It is followed by an instructional text on the topic by Gyurme Dorje.
We see, then, that the ritual program of the Minling System revolved around the selfcultivational practice of deity yoga, and the apotropaic rites of effigistic sacrifice (gtor bzlog, tordok). While many Kabgyé rituals existed at the time of Terdak Lingpa, it is notable how the scope of Kabgyé practice could be reduced to this core regime of self-cultivation and harmaversion. This is consistent with later treatments of the cycle as it was curated to bring together soteriological and apotropaic dimensions of Buddhist practice, and Terdak Lingpa’s efforts
While the Minling System offers a pithy vision of a comprehensive Kabgyé practice, it seems to be the case that Kabgyé ritual practices at Mindroling also entailed far more complex iterations. Returning from a three year period of intensive study at Mindroling, Shechen Öntrul Thutop Namgyal (zhe chen dbon sprul mthu stobs rnam rgyal,1787-1854) composed a manual for the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa Great Accomplishment ( bka’ brgyad sgrub chen) as he learned it in Central Tibet.191 This manual, now published as a two-volume book from Shechen Publications, includes an extensive drupchen routine, including deity yoga, mandala construction (dkyil ‘khor), fire offerings (spyin sreg), and various effigy sacrifices (gtor bzlog). Also included are medicinal preparation rites, and a ritual dance (‘cham) program drawn from Chöwang’s Secret Guru (bla ma gsang ‘dus) cycle. Volume Two includes year-ending harm-averting rites from Nyangrel’s Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, and rituals from Terdak Lingpa’s Lord of Death
Overcoming the Arrogant Ones (gzhin rje dregs ‘joms) terma cycle. The format of this manual suggests the principal uses for Kabgyé rituals according to Shechen tradition: the drupchen for the forging of soteriological and apotropaic connections to the cycle’s principal deities, the alchemical sman sgrub ritual for the preparation of blessed substances for special occasions or patrons, and harm-averting tor-dok rites for the end of the year. Unlike the Minling System, this manual specifies the timing for these ritual programs: The drupchen and dances are to be performed on the tenth day of the fifth lunar month in commemoration of Guru Rinpoche, while the apotropaic rituals drawn from the Deshek Dupa and the Yamāntaka cycles are for the 191 Ricard 2001, preface.
dispelling of year-end obstacles, at the end of the eleventh and twelfth Tibetan months, respectively. This timing is still observed both at Shechen and at Mindroling in exile. It is interesting that this Kabgyé ritual program includes rites drawn from other cycles – Chöwang’s ‘cham dances and Terdak Lingpa’s dgu chen from his Lord of Death (gzhin rje dreg ‘joms), in particular. This suggests that the Kabgyé was appropriated as the main cycle to be associated with observance of these liturgical occasions at Shechen, but what had become considered a complete regime of ritual practices could not be entirely assembled form Kabgyé materials alone. Katok
The Katok sgrub skor contains seventy-seven ritual texts. Roughly two-thirds of these are drawn from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa terma cycle itself, and many of the remaining texts were composed or arranged by Terdak Lingpa. The corpus is arranged in a sequence of texts which would be followed in a multi-day drupchen intensive. Given the replication of several types of practices and rituals, it is clear that the compendium also provides options for the extraction of ritual texts for ad hoc observances.
The Katok compendium begins with a series of lineage supplications (gsol ‘debs) and invocations of blessings (byin ‘bebs), followed by a “middle-length” deity yoga practice (the skyed rdzogs 'bring po'i chog sgrigs rin chen phreng ba, in 86 pages) featuring creation and completion stage practice based on the eight Kabgyé herukas. This is supplemented with a series of mantric recitations for invocation (‘dzab bskul), protection (srung), and expiation (bskang),
and also libation offerings to the Eight Classes (sde brgyad gser skyems). A list of further purificatory amendments, praises (bstod pa), and requests (bskul ba) closes the first volume. The second volume focuses almost exclusively on apotropaic rites. These include many kinds of effigistic exorcisms (gtor bzlog), rituals for reversing bad signs (brda than bsgyur ba), the creation of sorceristic effigies (zor gtor bskyed), and the invocation (spyan 'dren, rbod) and
deployment (bka’ sgo, gtong ba) of powerful thaumaturgical entities. Nearly all of these short texts are taken directly from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa, and can be found in the Katok edition of the corpus.
This ritual cycle, then, is largely oriented towards thaumaturgy and the performance of fierce rituals to avert harm. This is consistent with the use of this cycle at Katok-affiliated temples, where the Kabgyé Drupchen is performed at the end of the year to avert obstacles on behalf of the institution and its surrounding community. Absent from this cycle are the extensive
self-cultivational rituals (sgrub thabs), medicinal preparation rites (sman sgrub), and ritual dances (‘cham) that we see in the Shechen collection. Unlike the Shechen manual, this ritual cycle seems less oriented towards the soteriology of forging a communal connection to the Eight Herukas than with thaumaturgy and apotropaic ritual interventions. I have been told that, given the esoteric and particularly risky nature of these rituals, only a select group of ten senior Katok lamas is tasked each year with carrying out these rites on behalf of the entire institution and its patrons.
The contemporary Dzogchen Kabgyé ritual cycle, The Ritual Liturgies for the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa Great Accomplishment in Accordance with the Tradition of the Early Translation Dzogchen Masters (snga ‘gyur grub dbang rdzogs chen pa’i ring lugs ltar bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa sgrub chen ‘don chog) reached its current iteration in 2009 under the direction of one Khenpo Chöga (rdzogs chen mkhan po chos dga’). This 1300-page corpus purports to be an expansion of a previously-circulating compendium of block prints held at Dzogchen monastery in Kham.192 As the Dzogchen monastery was entirely destroyed in the mid-twentieth century, we might imagine that this older version of the ritual cycle upon which the contemporary volume is 192 Dzogchen, pp. 1-5
built was itself a product of the last twenty or thirty years. The specifics of Kabgyé practice before the tumult of the twentieth century, then, must be gleaned from the autobiographical writings of masters such as Ngawang Palzang, who does mention Kabgyé ritual practice at Dzogchen in the late nineteenth century. But these records generally only report that a master “received” the Kabgyé, or that the monastic community engaged in a Kabgyé ceremony, and, just as in more ancient sources, we are often left to interpret what “reception” and “the Kabgyé” meant in context.
This compendium is marked by a tremendous diversity of materials, relatively few of which are actually drawn from Nyangrel’s Kabgyé Deshek Dupa terma cycle. Included are prayers, rituals, and deity yoga practices authored or revealed by a diverse cast of tertöns and exegetes. Works by Terdak Lingpa, Ratna Lingpa, Sangye Lingpa, Rinchen Namgyal, Jamyang Khyentse, and the Dzogchen Drupwangs, among many others, are all included. Excerpts from terma cycles entirely unrelated to the Kabgyé revelations include materials from the Khandro
and Longchen Nyingthik (mkha’ ‘gro / klong chen snying thig) cycles, the Lama’s Intention (bla ma dgongs ‘dus) revelation of Sangye Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse’s Wheel of Lama Samvara (bla ma bde mchog ‘khor lo), the Collected Inner Heart Essence (thugs sgrub yang snying 'dus pa) of Ratna Lingpa, and others. In each of these cases, the liturgical texts are not drawn from the Deshek Dupa itself, but rather center on the characters and topics somehow associated with the Kabgyé cycle or its mythological context. Many of the rituals in this cycle are focused on
ritual intercession with entities such as the mamo, the za(gza’), the Tsän (btsan), Nöjin (gnod spyin) and other types of Dü (bdud) demons, often through the rites of the tor-dok or other liturgical practices such as “expiation” (bskang ba). Deity yoga is also an important feature of the ritual action, and the Short Creation And Completion Stage practice from the Deshek Dupa
(the bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa’i bskyed rdzogs chung ba), and Terdak Lingpa’s Play of Great Bliss (bde ba chen po rnam rol) are the primary sādhanās in the cycle. Ostensibly a program for the Kabgyé Drupchen ceremony to be practiced annually to conclude the year at Dzogchen monastery and its affiliated temples, the one hundred and twelve rituals are arranged in a sequence that includes lineage supplications (gsol ‘debs and brgyud ‘debs), confessions (bshags pa) and expiations (bskang ba), deity yoga (las byang and sgrub thabs), effigy offerings (gtor mchod), harm-reversing effigy sacrifices (bzlog pa), libation
offerings (gser skyems), and entreaties (bskul ba). This kind of sequence is repeated for the propitiation of several types of divinities, notably the heruka Hayagrīva, various Tsän demons, an assortment of female divinities (ma mo and lha mo), za, and nöjin. This drupchen unfolds over ten days, and the above rituals may be supplemented with empowerment rites (dbang bskur) and ‘cham dances which are not included in the ritual cycle edition. At a glance, the ritual program seems less cohesive than the sequence performed at Shechen and Katok (and their source
template in the Minling System), but it is also clear that this Dzogchen program draws on many of the traditions and cycles that sustain the Dzogchen heritage, and would thus resonate in particular ways for members of that institution. Without serious ethnographic work, it is impossible to describe the coherence that a Dzogchen lama would find in this ritual program, but we may presume that the logic behind its arrangement reflects the distinctive sense of heritage undergirding this particular institution.
Just as the Kabgyé came to represent an entire class of tantric materials as it was incorporated into the Nyingma anthologies, these ritual compendia suggest that Kabgyé ritual practice also came to stand for a family of practices, and a distinctive ritual idiom. That is, Kabgyé ritualism came to entail a range of practices drawn from a variety of sources – not all of
them from Kabgyé cycles, and not all of them Mahāyoga, as the inclusion of Nyingthik materials at Dzogchen suggests – and was defined by the inclusion of specific types of gods and demons, and a fierce harm-averting ritualism. These ritual cycles represent a sensibility towards ritual practice in which intercession with the Eight Classes and violent rites for harm-aversion constituted a family of powerful techniques. This expansion of the meaning of the Kabgyé to
refer to a distinctive type of ritualism attests to the Kabgyé’s influence in the development of the Nyingma imaginaire, and the articulation of a distinctive vision for religious practice. The ritual cycles of Mindroling, Shechen, Katok, and Dzogchen provide a glimpse into the development of Nyingma ritual in institutional settings. While the Minling System defined Kabgyé ritualism around a core of self-cultivational and apotropaic procedures that could be carried out in temple settings, the Shechen cycle evidences a trend towards expanding the Great Accomplishment program to undertake a more broadly-conceived praxis. In supplementing
Kabgyé rituals with ones drawn from other cycles and sources, we see how the Kabgyé was appropriated to fulfill a broad, but specific, ritual function. The orientation of all of these ritual cycles is, of course, apotropaic (as we see in full measure at Katok), and the Dzogchen compendium demonstrates how the Kabgyé came to function as something like a “genre” of
ritual practice. In the case of Dzogchen, the Kabgyé drupchen manual includes relatively few Kabgyé materials per se, but the very idea of the Kabgyé, along with its taxonomies of characters and rites, provides a template for a broadly-conceived vision of harm-averting ritualism. This is, in part, what I refer to as a “Kabgyé ritualism”: a family of practices participating in wider conceptions of history, buddhology, vocational identity, and social relationships. In the case of the Kabgyé, this family, or type, of ritualism was distinctively oriented towards both selfcultivational and intercessionary relationships with Tibetan gods and demons through the
performance of violent, object-based thaumaturgical rites. A similar broadening of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa to refer to distinct typologies of doctrines will also be seen as we trace the Kabgyé’s participation in Nyingma anthologies.
The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa came to be included, both as a corpus and as an organizing template, in the key anthologies at the core of Nyingma tradition. Its main tantras are included outright in the Collected Tantras of the Ancients (rnying ma’i rgyud ‘bum, the Nyingma Gyubum), and a selection of its practice texts and empowerment rituals are included in the Precious Treasury of Terma ( rin chen gter mdzod, the Rinchen Terdzö). Its influence is also
noticeable in the organization of the Transmitted Teachings of the Ancients (rnying ma bka’ ma, Nyingma Kama). Interestingly, the Kabgyé root texts can also be found in compendia from other denominations, such as in the modern Drikung Kagyü Great Treasury of Dharma (‘bri gung bka’ brgyud chos mdzod chen mo).193 The Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ‘gyur) also includes the Kabgyé root tantras of Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak in its 100th volume, the final of three volumes recording the Early Translation tradition, according to Narthang’s editors.194 All told,
the inclusion of the Kabgyé in these anthologies tells us how anthologists understood the place of the cycle within the literary geography of their own tradition, and therefore serves as important evidence for a denomination’s evolving sense of its literary and ritual identity. For the Nyingma and other denominations, anthologization and canon-formation served
as methods for articulating authority, consolidating denominational identity, configuring institutions, and enabling transmissions. In some cases, the curation of canons as a way to 193 ‘bri gung bka’ brgyud chos mdzod chen mo. Lhasa, 2004. esp. vol. 107. 194 The colophons of these texts attribute their dissemination to Padmasambhava, but, as the Kangyur tends not to recognize terma, no mention is made of the Kabgyé corpus in its transmitted or revealed iterations.
respond to inter-denominational pressures. The development of the multiple canons of the Nyingmapa – the Nyingma Gyubum, the Nyingma Kama, the Rinchen Terdzö, and more specific collations like the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa – are good evidence for a history of pressure and response, and we can look to these anthologies to see how the doctrinal identity of the
Nyingmapas was imagined at various junctures in specific historical contexts. In this regard, it is my observation that Nyingma scriptures were often anthologized to articulate ideology and institutional identities in times of sectarian and political contestation. A brief overview of the development of major Nyingma canons, particularly as they relate to the inclusion of Kabgyé materials, will preface a more detailed exploration of the role of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa in these anthologies.
As is accepted by literary historians of Tibet, it was in response to the development of the Kangyur (bka’ ‘gyur) by New Translation ecclesiasts in the fourteenth century that Ratna Lingpa is credited with first compiling Nyingma tantras that had been excluded from the Kangyur efforts. While “tantra collections” (rgyud ‘bum) were curated before Ratna Lingpa’s time, his fourteenth-century compilation is normatively thought of as the progenitor of the Nyingma
Gyubums in circulation.195 We know that Jigme Lingpa (1729-98) curated a Nyingma Gyubum in a way that would inform later xylographic productions, although it does also seem that Gongra Lochen Zhenpen Doje (1594-1654) may have had a hand in things, as discussed in the previous chapter. Taksham Nüden Dorje (1655-1708) also created a Gyubum in the seventeenth century, for which we only have a table of contents. Nüden Dorje’s Collected Tantras includes the fifteen
foundational Kabgyé Deshek Dupa tantras, and also The Arising auto-history, arranged in a 195 An early figure who is credited with assembling something like a Nyingma tantric canon is Drogön Namkha Rinchen Pel, son and heir of Nyangrel Nyima Özer. (Hirshberg, “Namkha Pel” Treasury of Lives, https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Namkha-Pel/6010 accessed July, 2019).
format that was replicated by the Katok and Tsamdrak doctrinal cycles, and in the “Revealed Treasures” sub-section of the Degé and Tsamdrak Gyubum. A Bhutanese recensional line, with potential origins in the fifteenth century, also includes the main Deshek Dupa materials, but the nomenclature of Eight Teachings (bka’ brgyad) is entirely absent. Rather, the cycle is known as the Assembly of all the Victor Sugatas (lcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa) in Bhutanese versions.
Unlike the Collected Tantras, which includes transmitted (bka’ ma) and revealed (gter ma) materials, the Nyingma Kama has been an ongoing attempt to anchor Nyingma authority in an unbroken transmission from India. The Kama movement originated in the attempts of the Zur patriarchs to organize the esoteric materials with which their communities were concerned. According to Dalton, it was at Mindroling that this collection was remade to suit the concerns of centralized institutions, as Gyurme Dorje and Lochen Dharmasri brought the Zur and Rong
traditions together, while creating ritual formats to perpetuate what they thought to represent the Nyingma inheritance from India.196 The proto-Kama was revived at Dzogchen and at Katok by Ati Tenpe Gyeltsen (a ti bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan, 1759-1792) and Getsé Mahapandita, respectively, as they invited masters from Mindroling to perform initiations for some thirteen tantras thought to comprise the transmitted canon. It was Dzogchen Gyelsé Shenpen Thayé – the founder of Sri Singha monastic college at Dzogchen – who first committed the Kama to xylograph in 1845. This was the basis for Jamgön Kongtrül’s anthology of the Nyingma Kama, later expanded in 1982 by Düdjom Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje as the Extensive Kama (bka’ ma rgyas pa). This has been supplemented more recently through the efforts of Katok to include much Kama-related miscellany as a massive “Very Extensive Kama” (bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa), a 196 Dalton 2016, 101-113.
version of which is also currently under xylographic production at Palyul. So while the literary materials at the core of the Kama canon were ostensibly traceable to the early days of the proto- Nyingma communities, the form and function of this canon very much evolved over many centuries, and is, in some sense, still a work in progress with shifting rhetorical value for the identity of the Nyingmapas. In this, the Kama was not just the name of a canon; it also represented the concept of unbroken doctrinal and exegetical lineage, an idea which advanced a specific vision for institutional authority.
While Terdak Lingpa and Lochen Dharmasri are celebrated for their attempts to delineate Kama materials, a century-and-a-half later saw the curation of the many revelation texts that had been at the heart of Nyingma practice for centuries. This was undertaken by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodro Thayé (1813-99), as part of a broader project to anthologize five bodies of literature: The Treasury of All Knowledge (shes bya kun khyab mdzod), The Treasury of Advice (gdams ngag mdzod), The Treasury of Kagyü Mantra (bka’ brgyud sngags mdzod) , The Treasury of Extensive Teachings (rgyu chen bka’ mdzod), and The Treasury of Precious Terma (rin chen gter mdzod, Rinchen Terdzö). This final anthology brought together ritual elements – primarily the initiation rites (dbang bskur) – of the major revelation cycles of all tantric vehicles. In this, Kongtrül structured the Mahāyoga section around a Kabgyé-inflected rubric, including practices and empowerments from twelve different Kabgyé revelation cycles that had been in circulation for Tibetans between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries.
In these anthologies, the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa is either included outright, or used as an organizational rubric for tantric texts thought to be related in content or origin. A specific look at its inclusion in these anthologies will reveal how the Kabgyé came to be thought of as a
A relatively early exemplar of the Nyingma Gyubum is Taksham Nüden Dorje’s edition, created in Eastern Tibet sometime in the late seventeenth century. The table of contents for this edition is still available, and it includes the fifteen tantras of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa (with the Differentiated Tantra broken up into two texts for the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities,
respectively, making for a total of 16 tantras, as is also the custom in some Kabgyé Deshek Dupa editions), filling the entirety of his fourteenth volume, and arranged just as they are delineated in earlier Kabgyé commentaries and bibliographies. An even earlier example of the Kabgyé’s inclusion in the Collected Tantras is in the Bhutanese Gangteng (sgang steng) edition, which may have its origins in the fifteenth century. In the Degé xylographic edition of the Gyubum, the Kabgyé foundational tantras likewise appear together, this time organized under the
“Accomplishment Class: Two Revealed Treasures” (sgrub sde gter byon gnyis ) sub-category. Bhutanese recensions, such as the Tsamdrak (mtshams brag) and related Gangteng (sgang steng; which may represent a quite early transmission) also contain the same list of Kabgyé tantras, although in a slightly different order and grouped as the Assembly Of All The Victor- Sugatas (lcom ldan ‘das bde bar gshegs pa thams cad ‘dus pa).197 The Manner of Arising of the Kabgyé Teachings (bka’ byung tshul) auto-history is not included in these Gyubum versions.
Kha: The Root Tantra of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities in Eighteen Chapters from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa (bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa las zhi khro ‘dus pa rtsa ba’i rgyud le’u bco brgyad) [this is the same text as the King of Kabgyé Root Tantras]
The Degé edition organizes Mahāyoga literature in two categories: the Tantra Class (rgyud sde) and the Accomplishment Class (sgrub sde). The Tantra Class contains eight transmitted Magical Emanation (sgyu ‘phrul, Skt. Māyājāla) cycles, Eighteen Great Tantras (tantra chen mo sde bco brgyad), as well as a set of eighteen explanatory tantras (bshad pa dang cha mthun gyi rgyud tantra sde bco brgyad), all thought to have been directly transmitted from
India and maintained in unbroken exegetical lineage. The Accomplishment Class refers to non- Māyājāla cycles, and has two subcategories: the Two Revealed Treasures (gter byon gnyis), and the Eight Transmitted Cycles (bka’ ma brgyad). The Revealed Treasures includes the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa’s root tantras, and Sangye Lingpa’s Lama’s Intention (bla ma dgongs ‘dus) cycle.
The Eight Transmitted Cycles (bka’ ma brgyad) contains transmitted texts grouped under headings of the eight Kabgyé herukas. These include myriad transmitted cycles of deities such as Hayagrīva, Vajrakīlaya, and Yamāntaka, as well as a wide variety of tantric texts centering on other wrathful and apotropaic practices. Some of these texts are extracted from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa and other Kabgyé cycles, while some of them seem to be first-dispensation texts, cross-listed in the Kangyur and Kama canons.
1. Tantra Series (rgyud sde) 1. The eightfold set of root Māyājāla Tantras ( rtsa bar gyur sgyu 'phrul sde brgyad) 2. The Eighteen Explanatory Tantras (bshad pa dang cha mthun gyi rgyud tantra sde bco brgyad) 3. The Eighteen Great Tantras (tantra chen mo sde bco brgyad) 4. Miscellaneous 2. Accomplishment Class 1. The Two Revealed Treasures (gter byon gnyis) 1. The Assembled Highest Intention (bla ma dgongs 'dus) 2. The Kabgyé Deshek Dupa (bde gshegs 'dus pa) 3. Miscellaneous 2. The Eight Transmitted Cycles (bka' ma brgyad) 1. The Mañjushrī Cycle on Enlightened Form ('jam dpal sku'i skor) 2. The Lotus Tantras on Enlightened Communication (pad ma gsung gi rgyud) 3. The Real Tantras on Enlightened Mind (yang dag thugs kyi rgyud) 4. The Nectar Tantras on Enlightened Qualities (bdud rtsi yon tan gyi rgyud) 5. The Sacred Dagger Cycle on Enlightened Activities (phrin las phur pa'i skor) 6. The Cycle on Invoking the Fierce Ma-mo Deities (ma mo rbod gtong skor) 7. Offerings and Praises to Protect the Teachings (bstan srung mchod bstod) 8. The Cycle on Fierce Mantras (drag sngags skor) 9. Miscellaneous
This Eight Transmitted Cycles (bka’ ma brgyad) sub-category of the Accomplishment Class is curious: it presents a variety of tantric scriptures as belonging to the taxonomy of deities found in the Kabgyé. But many of these texts, according to their colophonic translation statements, circulated in Tibet before the time of Nyangrel, and don’t make any internal claims 199 Adapted from: Catalogue Index, in “Catalogue of the Master Edition of the Collected Tantras of the Ancients”, Tibetan and Himalayan Library http://www.thlib.org/encyclopedias/literary/canons/ngb/catalog.php#cat=ng Accessed: May 2019.
about belonging to any Kabgyé corpus. Some acts of editorial slight-of-hand are also evident upon closer inspection: some texts from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle (for example, the tantras of Jigten Chötö and Möpa Drangak) appear in both the Revealed and Transmitted sub-categories. It seems, then, that the structure of the Kabgyé was wielded to organize materials as if they had a common source or inherent connection. The implication is that there was a “long lineage” (ring brgyud) of Kabgyé materials that was maintained in unbroken lineages from India, in addition to the “close lineage” (nye brgyud) terma cycle of the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa.
The origins of this idea are quite old, and lie within the Kabgyé cycle itself. As we have noted, several terma texts from the Kabgyé Deshek Dupa cycle, notably The Arising auto-history, and the Stainless Lamp internal bibliography, present a catalogue of many Mahāyoga cycles arranged under the rubric of the Kabgyé, and described as part of the original dispensation of Kabgyé materials to the Eight Vidyadhāras in India. The list of tantric texts in these sources – more than two hundred separate tantras centering on Yamāntaka, Hayagrīva, Vajrakīlaya, Sri Heruka, Mahottara – are either unattested, or, in some cases, found included in collections such
as the Eighteen Mahāyoga Tantras, the Nyingma Kama, and even the Kangyur. At least some of the texts mentioned in these narrative bibliographies were first-dispensation tantras that were in circulation before the Kabgyé revelation. There is no evidence, however, that these cycles were actually collated under a Kabgyé rubric outside of Kabgyé tradition. This seems to be an attempt from within the Kabgyé tradition to organize related materials as if they shared a single origin. It was a doxographical conceit which proved quite influential: later editors would draw upon this in their anthologization efforts to yield the highly cohesive format of the “Accomplishment Class” of Mahāyoga scriptures in Long and Close lineage iterations. This all reflects the deep influence