A note about Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) as a treasure revealer of the Ḍākiṇīs' Heart Essence

Publié le 28 Avril 2021

In this Ruth Gamble's excellent book, The Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje – Master of Mahāhāmudra (Shambhala, 2020) there is (p. 85) a short paragraph about Rangjung Dorje finding «the Ḍākiṇīs' Heart Essence» as a terma.
First remark: the author sounds embarrassed by this attribution (maybe because the common tradition makes Pema Ledreltsel the discoverer of this cycle?). She should not be. If once carefully checks the colophons and the narratives about the beginning of this tradition, it is quite plain that, odd as it may seem, the Khandro Nyingthik has been «discovered» (as a whole or in parts) by at least three other people who are more or less contemporaries: (1) Pema Ledreltsel, (2) Longchenpa (who appears in many colophons as the treasure discoverer, not merely the editor / commentator that he also was) and (3) another less known figure, Rinchen Lingpa (Me ban Rin chen gling pa – b. 1274? 1286 - d. 1353? 1365?).
[On these issues, see e.g. my Profusion de la vaste sphère, p. 103-105]
In Longchenpa's biographies, a vision is mentioned in which Longchenpa is encouraged to teach the Khandro Nyingthik, while he hesitates because maybe Rangjung Dorje or Rinchen Lingpa would be more legitimate to do so. But then the Ḍākiṇīs encourage him and tell him that he should boldly do so, as they «do not like» the way either Rangjung Dorje or Rinchen Lingpa presented it. According to my estimations, this episode occurred around 1337-1339, so at the very end of Rangjung Dorje's life. It is a quite odd passage in the biographies, as Longchenpa otherwise always shows respect and affection to the 3rd Karmapa, it seems to me (tough it is earlier in his life that they were really in touch; in the late 1330s, Rangjung Dorje was not any longer in Tibet, I think).
Anyway, there are extant texts ascribed to Rangjung Dorje that show a «vast and profound» knowledge of the Khandro Nyingthik and it would not he shocking that he contributed in some way to the very odd story its discovery.
Second remark: I think we should not anymore call this cycle «the Ḍākiṇīs' Heart Essence», but: «the Ḍākiṇī's Heart Essence». In my opinion, the mention of «Ḍākiṇī(s)» is just about Yeshe Tsogyal, not the many deities of this name.

Note 257, p. 231 of this book, contains two errors that need to be corrected, not to annoy Ruth Gamble, but in order to give the full measure of the work of / attributed to her hero, Karmapa Rangjung Dorje in the field of Dzogchen.

(1) The author cites only one Dzogchen text by Rangjung Dorje, but an examination of the colophons in the Mang ngag nges pa section of the Khando Nyingthik reveals five (the largest and most important is n°3, a nearly 70 p. practice manual for the Khando Nyingthik):

1. Shin tu spros med kyi dbang - Composed by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje by combining the text of dGa’ rab rdo rje and the complements (rgyab yig) of Vimalamitra. - pp. 216-232.
2. Rab tu spros med kyi dbang - Composed by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje by combining the text of dGa'-rab rdo-rje and the complements (rgyab yig) of the lineage masters. - pp. 232-247.
4. Nyams len lag khrigs ma'i khrid ngo mtshar can - Composed by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje a year of the bird. - pp. 260-329.
5. Small abridgment of the path, untitled, incipit: na mo Bi ma la mi tra bhya...- Composed by Karma pa Karmapa Rangjung Dorje.  - pp. 329-331.

(2) The text Ruth Gamble mentions in her note is as follows:

rDzogs pa chen po snying thig spros bcas kyi dbang lce btsun gyis mdzad pa (pp. 176-197 of the edition consulted).

Two remarks: 

(a) The author (op. cit., p. 231) does not understand the title of the text. It does not at all mean: “An elaboration on great completion: the empowerment of venerable tongues.” The spros bcas kyi dbang [elaborate empowerment] is the first of a set of four or five empowerments in the Dzogchen Nyingthik system, which corresponds roughly to the initiation of the vase (bum pa'i dbang) in the higher tantras of the “Modern” schools.

As for the “venerable tongues,” it escapes Ruth Gamble that one of the principal masters of the Bima Nyingthik lineage is Chetsün Senge Wangchug (lCe btsun Seng-ge dbang-phyug). The grammar should have enlightened her: lce btsun gyis mdzad pa clearly means: “composed by Chetsün.”

(b) Which brings me to my second point: this writing is thus apparently not by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, or at least he does not attribute it to himself, or at most as an editor. It appears in fact in the particular lineage that appears in the colophon: 

  • Zhang mon-pa, 
  • lHa rje Rang rig, 
  • lHa rje Ye shes mgon, 
  • Bla ma Khyung tshang pa, 
  • rDzong khab rGyal ba blo gros, 
  • Bla ma Kun dga' don grub, 
  • rJe rin po che Rang byung rdo rje (the third Karmapa).

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

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