A Biography of Klong chen rab ’byams (20)

Publié le 21 Mai 2021

To get back to the first episode of this biographical series, click here. General remark on the masters of Klong chen rab ’byams and the intellectual and spiritual life at the beginning of the fourteenth century in Tibet

About Tibetan religious life at the beginning of the 14th century, we were aware of the conflicts that agitated it between feudal clans linked to clerical factions; and we knew, on the other hand, that these political struggles, unlike what was to be seen in the following centuries, were not expressed ideologically – through sectarian forms. Certainly, already a century earlier, the polemical writings of Sa skya paṇḍita, whose targets were exactly determined by David Jackson, may have had a partly political motivation. But it seems to me that nothing solid can be summoned to support the tendency to read the philosophical debates of this time as pure ideological superstructures of more material, more down-to-earth fights, aiming at political domination. One should not be abused by a specious implicit parallelism that would be drawn, expressly or otherwise, between the Sa skya pas of that time and the dGe lugs power of modern times. In the century which occupies us here, there does not seem to be a notable parallelism between the confrontation of the parties and the Churches and what some would call its reflections in the camera oscura of the ideology. It is not that sectarianism did not exist; the allusions of the pseudo-Klong chen rab ’byams on this subject, in the Triumph over Error (’Khrul pa rab ’joms), are quite numerous. But our research on the masters of Klong chen pa has completed our conviction that it was almost impossible, in the fourteenth century, to determine rigorously, in an exclusive way, to which school this or that Tibetan cleric might belong.

If it is thus allowed to speak of a relative fluidity of the religious institutions in this century of political chaos, such a consideration seems to have to be counterbalanced by that of the existence of spiritual and intellectual circles, informal and trans-sectarian groups, more difficult to locate than churches or sects – within which was led, in certain cases, an intense intellectual work, at the same time as a great spiritual activity.

Klong chen rab ’byams seems to have been connected with at least three of these circles, which are quite distinct, but not without interference: (1) that of the kalyāṇamitras of gSang phu, the main centre for philosophical studies; (2) that of Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje; (3) less closely, that of Bu ston Rin chen grub, with whom several of his masters were in contact (this has been pointed out in passing). The gter chos masters of Nyang ral and Guru Chos dbang may or may not have formed a “milieu” in the same sense.

When one looks at the time of Klong chen rab ’byams, one quickly discovers the existence of (at least) two other important groups in contemporary Central Tibet: that of the Jo nang pas around Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan and a rather Sa skya pa group attached to Bla ma dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan. It should be noted that Klong chen pa’s links with the first of these two milieus are practically non-existent, whereas Dol po pa undeniably enjoyed extraordinary prestige in the first half of the fourteenth century, maybe superior to that of Bu ston itself. As for Bla ma dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, his group (which we still know very little about, since Klong chen rab ’byams must have played only a very minor role in it, probably towards the end of his life) may have taken over from that of Karma pa as a pole of religious life in Central Tibet, after the latter’s death.[1]

Bu ston, Dol po pa, Red mda’ ba, Tsong kha pa, Go rams pa, and Śākya mchog ldan, all, in one way or another, came out of the Sa skya pa school, whether they remained within it or came out of it; and yet their philosophical orientations are quite diverse. This is not only due to some richness in the original Sa skyadoctrine, for this school was not especially syncretic, unlike, for example, the Japanese Tendai. The Tendai gave birth to the schools of the Kamakūra period as it were by diffraction of what had been concentrated there when it was introduced from China to Japan. The same cannot be said for the ramification of multiple tendencies from the Sa skya pas: it is largely due, it seems to us, to the fact that these six masters, in addition to their initial more or less marked belonging to this school, were also integrated into currents of ideas, materialized by such human groups, whose institutional anchor points it would be precious to reconstruct, no less than the basic philosophical tendencies.

An in-depth study of this question of circles through the biographies of the masters from the 13th to the 15th century would undoubtedly reveal all sorts of constellations of individuals, more related to feudal allegiances than to the religious schools of the later period, a real social fabric or human infrastructure at the basis of the formation of doctrinal currents.

Perhaps we can find an approximate equivalent, mutatis mutandis, in the life of the courts of the Italian Renaissance, multiple centers of culture whose center of gravity is a prince patron rather than a doctrinaire leader.

One could, moreover, try to grasp concretely, in a global way, the character of this period with its social and political forms of transition and the evolution of the philosophy which is not entirely disconnected from it. The restoration of Zhwa’i lha khang (around 1348-1350)

Among the remarkable achievements of the master of Gangs ri thod dkar is the restoration of the Zhwa'i lha khang, the "Temple of the Mitre", as Toussaint calls it in the Dict de Padma.

It was thanks to the patronage of sGom pa Kun rin of ’Bri gung that Klong chen pa undertook the restoration of Zhwa'i lha khang; it was this lord who also gave him the monastery of O rgyan dgon (sMyo shul chos 'byung, p. 281). This figure seems to be of great importance in the history of this period: in the feudal struggles of Tibet at that time, he was one of the main adversaries of Tai Si tu Byang chub rgyal msthan (1302-1371, master of central Tibet in 1349 after his victory over the Sa skya pa).[2]

The beginning of the restoration work at the Zhwa’i lha khang can be dated quite precisely thanks to the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dKar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 233, p. 218 of the edition cited): a year of the earth ox, which can only be 1349.

The first foundation of this temple, according to tradition, dates back to the royal period; it is said to have been made by Myang (or Nyang, or Nyang ban) Ting ’dzin bzang po, a disciple of Vimalamitra, contemporary of Khri ldeu btsan (755-797) according to tradition, and linked to his son Khri lde srong bstan (alias Mu khri btsan po ?) during the latter’s youth. H. E. Richardson briefly describes this temple, as it existed in Tibet before the Chinese invasion, in the article “The Chapel of the Hat” (1983, reprinted in High Peaks, Pure Hearth, 1998, pp. 724-726):

“Late in the afternoon we skirted around yet more rocky foothills and came to a wide valley where a tributary of the Lhasa River flowed; and there, not far away, was the chapel, protected by a fold in the ground. Three smiling young monks in rags came to meet us. They took the bridle of our horses and led us into a courtyard sheltered by poplars, where the superior, very dignified and affable, but somewhat ragged, received us with an exchange of white ceremonial scarves. He led us to the gate of a small but massive three-story stone building, whose walls were painted red at the base and white above. My eyes lit up at the sight of two beautiful stone pillars with inscriptions on either side of the door. (…)

We were led up a steep ladder and past a side chapel in honor of the Protectors of the Faith (...). Through a narrow window at the rear of the building we could see a small cloister, the middle of which was filled by a large white stūpa, beyond which, through the door of the main temple, [we glimpsed] the glow of a golden image which butter lamps illuminated. (…)

I asked why this place was called ‘Temple of the Mitre’ and was told that the hat of a famous lama was kept in the stūpa outside. (…)

The next morning I was shown into the chapel, and sure enough, there was[3] Excellent Meditation [Ting’'dzin bzang po], an elderly, comely figure with a shaven gray head, dressed in a white robe with a yellow mantle, sitting on a silk cushion, his right hand making the gesture of teaching.”

We shall see later what Klong chen rab ’byams himself wrote of the restored Zhwa’i lha khang; I do not know to what extent the monastery visited by Richardson is as the master of Gangs ri thod dkar left it, or whether it has, in the meantime, undergone further development or new outrages, possibly followed by successive restorations.

Here is how sMyo shul mkhan po (op. cit., I, p. 216 ff), paraphrasing the Lo rgyus chen mo of the Bi ma snying thig (p. 188 ff), relates the foundation of the temple:

“rDo rje legs pa made hail fall on the Khams and carried away (byung?) five hundred camel loads of barley. Nyang having thrown a nine-pointed golden vajra into the sky, he brought [rDor je legs pa] back to his old oath (dam tshig) and [the latter] offered him the barley and asked him to [use it to] erect the Zhwa’i lha khang; [rDo rje legs pa] was instituted its protector. In this temple, built with the property and wealth of such a non-human being, [Ting ’dzin bzang po] hid the three cycles of tantra (bka’ rgyud) of the Quintessence, explanatory tantras, [namely, the seventeen tantras that form the basis of the Bi ma snying thig] in three successive cavities; He hid the golden essence of the unsurpassable secret, sovereignly shining sun, inside three lodges within the pillars (ka ba’i sam le?). He sealed them [with vows] for the sake of a fortunate being of future generations [who would find them] - and he made [these texts] invisible until then.”

It is the fact that the texts of the secret quintessence (gSang ba snying thig) of the Great Completion are supposed to have been hidden there that gives this temple its importance. On the part of Klong chen rab ’byams, restoring it was also to appropriate, in a way, this prestigious heritage of the Vimalamitra tradition.

The oral lineage of Myang Ting nge ’dzin bzang po was, according to the tradition, passed on to his disciple sBas Blo gros dbang phyug; but the texts were not rediscovered until one hundred years later (sMyo shul chos ’byung, p. 221) by the disciple of the latter's disciple, lDang ma lhun rgyal. This discovery is located one thousand three hundred and eighty-eight years after the nirvāṇa of the Buddha by the Lo rgyus chen mo of the Bi ma snying thig, which would give, according to Achard, 907[4] for the rediscovery of the hidden texts at the “Temple of the Miter.” This seems too early to coincide with the other elements of the chronology, as we shall see.

The dates of lDang ma lhun rgyal are not known; only those of rGyal ba Zhang ston (1097-1167), disciple of his principal disciple, lCe btsun Seng ge dbang phyug, are fairly well established. However, if one may extrapolate from the fact that the tradition seems to indicate that Zhang ston was in his twenty-fifth year when he met lCe bstun and that the latter seems to have taught him immediately and then to have vanished without rest (mi snang bar gyur), one may conjecture 1121 as a date of death for lCe bstun. However, he is supposed to have lived one hundred and twenty-five years; he would therefore have been born around 997.

lDang ma lhun rgyal is supposed to have taught the sNying thig to lCe bstun at an indeterminate date, fifteen years after his discovery of the texts. There is obviously an inconsistency, for even assuming that he taught lCe btsun in the cradle, we would only arrive at 982, seventy-five years later than the date calculated by Achard following to the Lo rgyus chen mo of Zhang ston. Our estimate would imply that Myang Ting ’dzin bzang po (“one hundred years earlier”) died around 864. This would imply a prodigious longevity, if he is really contemporary with Khri srong lde’u btsan. However, it could be assumed that Nyang was, for example, only twenty years old at the time of the king’s death and that he was therefore born in 777.

In addition, the Deb ther sngon po states (Blue Annals, p. 193) that another disciple of lDang ma lhun rgyal was Kha rag sGom chung, whose precise dates are also unknown, but who was also a student of two fairly well situated bka’ dgams pa masters: ’Dzeng dGon pa ba[5] (1016-1082 according to the Deb sngon - Blue Annals, p. 266) and Po to ba (1031-1105, op. cit., p. 269). This would place lDang ma lhun rgyal in the early eleventh century rather than in the middle or early part of the previous century, unless Kha rag sGom chung was older than his teachers. We know from a short biography in the bKa' gdams chos ’byung (op. cit., p. 106) that he lived a holy and austere life for seventy-five years, but this does not allow us to place him more exactly.

In fact, it is likely that there is some confusion in the Blue Annals about the second disciple of lDang ma lhun rgyal. Indeed, dPa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba’s mKhas pa'i dga’ ston (vol. I, p. 575) calls him Bal po sGom chung and does not equate him with Kha rag sGom chung; sMyo shul mkhan po speaks of Kha rag (toponym), without specifying anything further - which is very typical of his way of drawing attention to a dubious aspect of the tradition without criticizing it head-on. In the Lo rgyus chen mo of the Bi ma snying thig, there is indeed mention of a “Bal po sGom chung from Kha rag,” of which there is no guarantee that it is the bka' gdams pa Kha rag sGom chung. From then on, there seems to be nothing to prevent us from moving Dang ma lhun rgyal back to the tenth century.

However, an additional element complicates this arrangement, for the Lo rgyus chen mo tells us (pp. 194 ff) that ’Brog mi lo tsā ba was present at the funeral of lDang ma lhun rgyal; yet ’Brog mi died in a year of the wooden dragon that is generally agreed to be 1064. It is not at all clear at what age he died, but the abundant evidence of his activities suggests that his life was not unreasonably short. In many respects this is consistent with making him a contemporary of lCe btsun, whose birth we have assumed to be in 997. But this prevents, for example, the setting back of lCe btsun and lDang ma lhun rgyal by one sexagesimal cycle, which, moreover, would have forced us to assume an even more incongruous longevity for lCe btsun than that which the tradition attributes to him.

If Zhang ston Chos ’bar, the disciple of lCe btsun, is the author of the Lo rgyus chen mo of the Bi ma snying thig, this implies that he himself rediscovered all the texts (Lo rgyus chen mo, p. 201) fifty years after they were rediscovered by lCe sgom nag po, an obscure figure in the transmission of the Bi ma snying thig. However, this last rediscovery is apparently, according to the same text, thirty years later than the death of lCe btsun.[6] Since Zhang ston (1097-1167) did not live for eighty years, it follows that he could not have been the direct disciple of lCe btsun, in spite of what the tradition reports elsewhere. In conclusion, it would seem that either the Lo rgyus chen mo is corrupt, or Zhang ston is not the author of this text. The second hypothesis is unlikely, given the cluster of clues that converge on this character; or else it would be a deliberate forgery.

However, there is another solution: the formula “lCe btsun left for the Land of Invisibility” (lCe bstun mi snang ba'i sar gshegs[7]) would not apply to the death of lCe btsun in the ordinary sense, but to the attainment of the ultimate spiritual accomplishment. Indeed, in the hagiographies of lCe btsun, he is supposed to have reached, after seven years of meditation, a state called “attainment of the Body without residue of aggregates” (phung po lhag med kyi sku grub); it is as if he had in fact dematerialized at the age of seventy-five, and then continued his activity for another fifty years, appearing in various places according to the needs of beings to be converted.

We arrive at the following chronology:

997: Birth of lCe bstun, who is, then, a contemporary of ’Brog mi ;
1071: lCe btsun obtains the transfiguration of his body into light;
1091: Rediscovery of texts by lCe sgom nag po ;
1097 : Birth of rGyal ba Zhang ston ;
1107: Meeting of lCe sgom nag po and rGyal ba Zhang ston, in the eleventh year of the latter (sMyo shun chos 'byung, p. 225);
1117: Rediscovery of the sNying thig texts by rGyal ba Zhang ston ;
1121: Final disappearance of lCe btsun.



In any case, this places the discovery by lDang ma lhun rgyal of the texts hidden in the Zhwa’i lha khang towards the end of the tenth century. Moreover, if one assumes that Kha rag sGom chung was of the generation of dGon pa ba, or even a little older, it is not entirely impossible that he is identical to Bal po sGom chung: lDang ma lhun rgyal could have died around 1040, for example, and there is nothing to prevent Kha rag sGom chung from being born around 1015. This would allow the latter to have been the disciple of the former, without it being possible, at this stage, to be more affirmative on this point.

Before the probable date of birth of lCe btsun, all chronology is lost in the sands. But our purpose here is not the ancient history of the Secret Quintessence; and, to bring us now closer to the time we are concerned with, tradition records that the spiritual lineage and literary corpus of the Bi ma snying thig passed from rGyal ba Zhang ston (1097-1167) to his son mKhas pa Nyi ’bum (1158-1213), then from him to his nephew Guru Jo ’ber (1196-1231), then from the latter to ’Khrul zhig Seng rgyab pa (dates unknown, born between 1197 and 1215, died between 1260 and 1278 [8]), then from this master to Me long rdo rje (1243-1303), who passed them on to Ku ma rā dza (1266-1343), who passed them on to Klong chen rab ’byams.

After lDang ma lhun rgyal, there is no longer any mention in the history of this tradition of the Zhwa’i lha khang, which, during this interval of four centuries, had ended up being abandoned and falling into decay.[9]

A very beautiful hymn to the site where Zhwa’i lha khang is located is found in the first volume of Klong chen rab ’byams’ gSung thor bu (p. 192-203). This text of great literary quality is also interesting for the obviously geomantic elements it contains. A systematic comparison of texts of this kind with Chinese geomancy should be undertaken, and it would be valuable to determine to what extent it is or is not the source of the considerations that lead Tibetans to consider such or such a location as suitable for the construction of a temple. In any case, if I get the opportunity one day to write a really extensive biography of Klong chen rab ’byams, less arid in form than the present one, I will not omit to translate this text and insert it in it. As far as the present research is concerned,[10] however, its interest is meager, insofar as it does not seem to us to contain the slightest allusion that would make it possible to date it or to fix more precisely the circumstances of the restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang.

Another text of Klong chen rab ’byams about this temple, the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dkar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232, p. 209 ff.), includes a lengthy quotation from a sūtra entitled ’Phags pa glang ri lung bstan pa'i mdo, with a prophecy that seems to apply perfectly to the restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang by the master of Gangs ri thod dkar.

In Klong chen rab ’byams’ biographies, the episode of the restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang follows almost immediately after the death of Ku ma rā dza, or rather, the composition of the Theg mchog mdzod. sMyo shul mkhan po mentions just one month of debates with doctors (dge bshes), including Dam pa Seng ge and[11] Slob dpon dPal mchog,[12] who allegedly objected to him about the sNying thig whose precepts he was dispensing to them at rGya ma gnas. Klong chen rab ’byams is said to have “crumbled the mountain of their presumption of science with [a shower of] iron meteors of scriptural scholarship and logical reasoning.”

Klong chen rab ’byams had a vision in which Vimalamitra pointed in a southeasterly direction, a prophecy indicating that he would restore the Zhwa’i lha khang. Tülku Thondup (Buddha Mind, p. 158) indicates that Klong chen rab ’byams was then forty-two years old, which would put us in 1350; but if we assume instead that Tülku Thondup means, in the Tibetan way, that Klong chen rab ’byams was in his forty-second year, then everything fits. According to Klong chen rab ’byams himself (no. 232, p. 218), it was in fact in 1349, “on the eleventh day of the second month” (in March-April, probably), that the building materials were gathered; it was at about the same time that the rites of “re-consecration” of the place began. sGom pa Kun rin of ’Bri gung provided him with the materials necessary for the restoration of this temple and presented him with the gift of Grog O rgyan dgon. Klong chen rab ’byams gave him teachings and, it is said, established him on the liberating path.

Tülku Thondup (op. cit., p. 160) reports exactly the legend about the conversion of sGom pa Kun rin by Klong chen rab 'byams:

“Gompa Kunrig (sGom pa Kun rig) of Drigung (’Bri gung) became his disciple and Klong chen rab ’byams, fulfilling a prophecy of Padmasambhava, turned him away from the path of war. In this prophecy, Guru Padmasambhava had said:

In the place called Dri (’Bri)
There will be a son of demons called Kunga (Kun dga’).
On his body there will be the mark of a sword.
After his death, he will go to hell.
But if an emanation of Mañjuśrī from the south [of Tibet]
Succeeds in subjugating him,
He will be able to be delivered from [the necessity of] being reborn in hell.”

Kunrig recognized himself as the subject of this prophecy, for he had the mark of a sword on his back and planned to wage war in the Wü (dBus) and Tsang (gTsang) provinces of Tibet. He commissioned a Lama called Palchogpa (dPal mchog pa) to seek the emanation of Mañjuśrī. At that time, there was no one more knowledgeable than Klong chen rab ’byams in Central Tibet. Therefore, at the end of his search, the Lama became convinced that Klong chen rab ’byams was the emanation of Mañjuśrī. Kunrig received many teachings from Klong chen rab ’byams and gave him a monastery by the name of Trog Ogyen (Grog O rgyan). Drikung Kunrig was the most powerful rival of Tai Situ of Phagtru (Phag gru), the ruler of Tibet; thus Klong chen rab ’byams prevented a very serious war in Central Tibet. »

The Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dKar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232) indeed reports (p. 217) the words of Slob dpon Kun dga’ ’od zer rin chen (sGom pa Kun rin) entrusting Klong chen rab ’byams with the task of rebuilding the temple and underlines the role of a character who was to be Kun rin’s steward, dPon gnyer Tshul khrims rin chen, in supplying the materials needed for the restoration; their delivery was the work of the “general secretary” (dPon yig) gZhon nu bkra shis. Another person, mGon po bkra shis (p. 218), seems to have played an important role thereafter.

One may wonder what connection there is between sGom pa Kun rin and a disciple of Klong chen rab 'byams called Bla ma O rgyan pa.[13] Indeed, this figure seems to be closely linked to the ’Bri gung pa and is also attributed with the offering to Klong chen rab ’byams of the monastery of Grog O rgyan dgon as well as of materials for the restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang. O rgyan pa is certainly a nickname that came to him because he was appointed superior of O gyan dgon after the death of Klong chen rab ’byams - a monastery of which he was perhaps the bla ma even before it was transferred to the master of Gangs ri thod dkar. An attempt should be made to identify this personage more precisely in the entourage of sGom pa Kun rin from the chronicles of the ’Bri gung tradition, recently published.[14]

Here is the account given by sMyo shul mkhan po (paraphrasing the usual sources) of the episode of the restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang:

“[281] When [Klong chen rab ’byams] went to Ti sgro, the ḍākinīs welcomed him and they too offered him the place. When he arrived at Zhwa’i lha khang, a man dressed in white, with a white hat, addressed him in prostrations; he pointed his fingers in the gesture of conjuration. Since rDo rje legs pa [thus] invited him, [Klong chen rab ’byams] knew that the time had come [indeed] to restore Zhwa’i lha khang.[15]

At the back of the pinnacle there were many hidden treasures; [Klong chen rab ’byams] took out some gold and the sadhana of the twelve bsTan ma goddesses and of rDo rje legs pa, etc., as useful supports (mthun rkyen) [for the success of his enterprise].[16]

As the rubble was being cleared away, [the skulls of various species were found] of those who had been subjugated previously. As they worked to subdue them [again], wonders [were manifested], such as a rain of earth and stones, a very strong wind and a twilight darkness. The people around [Klong chen rab ’byams] cowered in fear and were at a loss.[17] Then he pacified [these demonic signs] by means of the following prodigy:] reciting mantras with a terrible voice and [assuming] the [appropriate] bodily attitudes, he trampled on the skulls which jumped into the air with a terrible crash. Some say [that] they saw him [282] really [in the form of] Guru drag po.”[18]

This episode, classic in all of Klong chen rab ’byams’ hagiographies from that of Chos grags bzang po, is not found as such in the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dkar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232), although it mentions (p. 226) some worrying signs at the beginning of the construction. On the other hand, he details (p. 218 ff.) all the rites performed to allow the work to proceed smoothly.

Guru drag po, as it is well known, is a terrible form of Padmasambhava, invoked to triumph over demons. The Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dkar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232) places great emphasis on the function of subjugating the enemies of both Tibet and the Dharma assigned to this temple because of geomantic features. Even if the building itself is modest, as can be seen from Richardson’s description, it was considered - at least by Klong chen rab ’byams - to be a place of power of outstanding magical importance. Moreover, by re-consecrating it, Klong chen rab ’byams symbolically places himself in the position of both Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Nyang Ting ’dzin bzang po.

On the 11th of the third month of the same year (April 1349?), the craftsmen (bzo rig) were assembled (op. cit., p. 219). Klong chen rab ’byams himself acted as master builder. We even know the names of the principal craftsmen from this text, which shows, in an interesting way, that they were considered quite equal to what we would call artists - the two things, art and craft, not being distinguished in Tibetan culture. We can assume that each name does not represent an isolated craftsman, but a workshop, a team working under his direction. The master carpenter was Dam pa mgon po; the sculptor (lha bzo) was the “omniscient” Dam pa bzang po; the chief painter (ri mo mkhan) was rGya ma lha bzo. The master builder of the stūpa was Slob dpon ’Jam dbyangs[19]; the caligrapher (yig mkhan) was dPon Tshul khrims dpal; the ironwork was the work of dPon A ’bum; it was dPon rGya ma ba who was in charge of what is called in Tibetan zhal ba, which includes everything that is plastering and painting in building. The master builder of the masonry was dPon Rin chen skyabs. Klong chen rab ’byams (ibid, p. 220) emphasizes the speed with which the work was completed.

It was also during this year 1349 that Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan of Phag mo gru took power in central Tibet. Here is the continuation of the story of sMyo shul mkhan po :

“In particular, there was a child with a turquoise earring, who helped the workers every day and who, in the evening, went off to who knows where. As we were worried about him, once when everyone was watching him, we saw him disappear into a wall [as if he was passing through]. Thus Dam can [rDo rje legs pa] indicated without [pointing] out [as such] all the good and the bad [i.e., what to do or avoid][20] .

There were [also] two steles that had been previously overturned and could not be straightened by any means; [Klong chen rab ’byams] ‘enunciated the force of truth’ by whipping [the air from a corner] with his surplice (sku chos = chos gos) and [the steles] were immediately plumb.[21]

When he performed the consecration, he manifested himself in the form of Samantabhadra, from whose heart shone rays of light, at the end of each of which was a Buddha surrounded by innumerable bodhisattvas, who littered [the Zhwa'i lha khang] with flowers ; some fortunate beings had this vision in concert.[22] [Klong chen rab ’byams then] had a vision of Śākyamuni and Maitreya around whom the sixteen arhats were circling. Maitreya, pointing to him, gave him this comforting prophecy (lung bstan cing dbugs dbyung bar mdzad), ‘After two rebirths, you will be, at the Pure Field of the Stacked Lotuses, the Victory Banner Winner of the Axial Mountain Lamp’.”[23]

The completed temple is described in the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dKar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232, pp. 221 ff). Its facade is said to be similar to an elephant holding a sword in its trunk; the door faced east; the stūpa was of the kind “that subdues demons” (bdud ’dul mchod rten) “with many angles” (zur mang);[24] there was, all around, an ironwork gate surmounted by one hundred and eight (small) stūpa; the interior was arranged like a maṇḍala; the walls were plastered (zhal) with twenty-five coats of plaster (plastering, painting...?), etc.

All these elements were thus arranged by virtue of an operative symbolism - the omen arranged with knowledge magically causing the event it announces. We will not continue the enumeration in all its details. However, the main statue represented Padmasambhava in his peaceful form (Padma dbang chen zhi ba'i sku); Amitayus was represented there[25] with the deities of his retinue; to the south of the shrine (probably in a small chapel, if the building complex is made like a maṇḍala), there was another depiction of Padmasambhava with his entire entourage; and to the north, there was an image of Śākyamuni setting in motion the Wheel of Dharma at Benares, with his listeners – that is, the first five disciples. In the middle - that is, if we can conjecture from Richardson's description, in the “small cloister” apparently at the back of the main temple and between three other chapels, “a stūpa of the witches (phra men)[26] of the five clans was built.” In addition, there was a chapel of guardian deities; the logic of the text would suggest that it was placed to the west of the central stūpa, but this is not stated. The following mentions various elements, which it is rather difficult to determine whether they are other rooms or - more likely in most cases - images and decorative elements arranged in the various buildings.

Klong chen rab ’byams (op. cit., p. 225) insists that his temple is a perfect model for later generations, and this gives him the opportunity to express his disdain for the decadence of the times, something he does not fail to do on occasion. In this case, he speaks of temples of his time, made in a fanciful way and, accidentally, of bad omen. Above all, he prescribes restoring the ancient buildings as close as possible to their original conformation. The whole construction would have been completed (op. cit. p. 227) in the space of seven months - eight, counting the consecration. One can therefore consider that the work was completed around November-December 1349.

Overall, a close examination of the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dkar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo does not give a picture of Klong chen rab ’byams’ relationship to the political situation of his time that would coincide exactly with that maintained by tradition. The latter holds that he was drawn unwillingly into political conflicts to which he was a complete stranger. However, a careful reading of the text in question gives the impression, on the contrary, that Klong chen rab ’byams, in his concern to see an end to the war between the various feudal lords of Tibet, quite consciously took a side which, judging by the event, turned out to be the wrong one.

The whole conception of the temple and all the details of its symbolism dispose it as a magical instrument of pacification, that is to say also of domination, of Tibet - the key to the end of the troubles that were agitating it. Indeed, in the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dkar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo, Klong chen rab ’byams presents the reconstruction and possession of this temple as the operative symbol of the unification of central Tibet into a reconciled kingdom. One only has to read, towards the end of the text (p. 231), the series of verses containing the syllables of the name Kun dga’ rin chen (sGom pa Kun rin): the restoration of the Zhwa temple is dedicated to him as to his main patron; he is called “a sublime man” (mi mchog Kun dga’ rin chen) in verses clearly expressing wishes for the success of his policy. The restoration of the Zhwa’i lha khang places Klong chen rab ’byams in a position that is symbolically that of Padmasambhava and it makes his patron sGom pa Kun rin the counterpart of the great king Khri srong lde’u btsan as he appears in the mundus imaginalis of the rNying ma pa.

We have shown above what was at stake symbolically in the possession of this temple, given its legendary link with the sNying thig tradition. Through this undertaking, Klong chen rab ’byams seems to pose as the master and possessor of the Vimalamitra tradition, just as other episodes in his life show that he conceived of himself as the most authentic holder of the mKha’ ’gro snying thig (in contrast to rGyal sras Legs pa, Rin chen gling pa or the third Karma pa, all three of whom may have claimed to play this role). On the other hand, his entire work is a very learned and deeply thought-out justification of the idea that the sNying thig is the theoretical and practical keystone of the whole edifice of Buddhism.

It is therefore not difficult to suppose that Klong chen rab ’byams saw himself, in his forties, as the spiritual pole of the highest teaching, and that he conceived of articulating this mystical centrality on a political power. sGom pa Kun rin would have been the holder of this power and he himself would have been the religious inspiration and magical support, at the same time as this secular power would have become the tool for the dissemination of this religious tradition. The Zhwa’i lha khang would have been in a way the pivot, the point of articulation of the spiritual and temporal edifice. But the master of Gangs ri thod dkar proved to be, as far as can be judged with the hindsight of centuries, less of a political genius than he was a great spiritualist, a great Buddhist scholar, a great poet and a great thinker.

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[1] [2021: This all is, so far, very speculative, but I still believe that we should reason in terms of concrete sociology, and highlight the groups that really exist and are spiritually] and intellectually active, rather than reason in terms of lineages and schools.]

[2] [On sGom chen Kun rin, see Elliot Sperling, “Some notes on the Early ’Bri gung sgom pa”, p. 37-38, in Journal of the Tibetan Society, Silver on Lapis, 20th anniversary special (1987), p. 33-56.]

[3] It is obviously a fresco.

[4] The Pearl Essence of the Secret (p. 81). Achard refers, in a note, to his earlier work, Le Pic des Visions (DEA dissertation, unpublished), where he may have worked on this chronology.

[5]  Fact confirmed by the bKa' gdams chos ’byung of Ngag dbang kun dga’ bsod nams grags pa rgyal mtshan (ed. cit. , p. 105). dGon pa ba was a disciple of ’Brom ston pa, himself a disciple of Atiśa.

[6] De ltar lCe bstun mi snang ba'i sar gshegs nas lo sum cu na Rong gi mNar mda'i lCe sgom nag pos phyi nang gsang gsum gyi bka' brgyud rnams bton nas rang las gzhan la ma spel bar gdams pa'o | dBus gTsang du dar zhing rgyas par mdzad do | lCe sgom gyis thon nas lo lnga bcu na bdag gis gsang ba bla na med pa'i skor 'di rnams bton nas rang las [202] gzhan la ma spel bar gdams pa'o |

[7]  This is the formula found in the sMyo shul chos 'byung. Compare with the Lo rgyus chen mo where (p. 196) lCe bstun receives the prophecy that if he meditates for seven years in secret, “his impure aggregates will be[come] invisible” (des ni zag bcas phung po mi snang ba yin no |).

[8] It is  known that in his twentieth year he received religious consecration (“ordination”) from two masters, lDe’u sgang pa and bKra shis sgang pa. There is (Blue Annals, p. 292) a bka’ gdams dge bshes of this name, a disciple of Bya yul ba (1075-1138) and Nyag mo ba, and himself a master of Glang lung pa (1123-1193), which places his activity at the beginning of the 12th century. It is therefore not the monk from whom ’Khrul zhig Seng (ge) rgyab pa received the vows. Seng rgyab pa also received teachings from Tsā ri pa, nephew of Lo ras pa (1187-1250) and his successor, and from gZhon nu ’bum. If the latter is indeed the gZhon nu ’bum of sKam dgon referred to in Blue Annals on p. 316, his dates can be restored as 1200-1268 (by a calculation based on the dates of dBon ston rin po che and the chronology of his abbatial throne succession). There is thus no doubt about Seng rgyab pa’s situation in the early thirteenth century. He died in his sixty-fourth year (sMyo shul chos ’byung, I, p. 237); his disciple, Me long rdo rje, was in his eighteenth year when they met, and there is nothing in the latter's biography that mentions Seng rgyab pa later. We can therefore say that he was alive in 1260; so he was born in 1197 at the earliest.

[9] This is indicated in a text by Klong chen rab ’byams, the Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dKar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232), p. 212: gTsug lag khang ’di mchod pa’i rkyen du ma bab cing mchod pa dang | bkur sti byed pa med pa las |... The author makes the decadence of the Zhwa’i lha khang start very early, since he sees it as the main cause of the collapse of the Tibetan Empire. All the goods and evils that have occurred in Tibetan history are presented in this text as a reflection of the successive degradations and restorations of this temple.

[10] [2021: The 2007 French  book is mostly about Klong chen pa’s thought, so the way the biography is written is more focused on the studies and the writings than on the other elements.]

[11] I have already searched who were the religious people named bSod nams seng ge active at the time of Klong chen rab ’byams, especially Ru mtshams bSod nams seng ge. See the index [in the 2007 French book].

[12] Unknown to us, but it is probably the same one who reappears a little later as charged by sGom pa Kun rin to recognize an incarnation of Mañjuśrī.

[13]  Which obviously has no relation to the Siddha O rgyan pa (1229/30-1309), master of the third Karma pa. The personage referred to here survived the master of Gangs ri thod dkar.

[14] ’Bri gung chos ’byung de 'Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho ; ed. Mi rigs dpe skrun khang (Minority Publishing), Beijing, 2004. ISBN 7-105-06017-4; 783 pp. - Information from E. Gene Smith, July 20, 2004.

[15] Ti sgror byon tshe ḍakkis bsu ba byas shing gnas kyang phul | Zhwa’i lha khang du byon pa na mi dkar zhwa dkar can zhig gis phyag byas te lha khang la sdigs mdzub gtad pa rDor rje legs pas bskul te gso ba’i dus la babs par mkhyen nas |

[16] dBu rtse’i rgyab na gter mang du ’dug pa las mthun rkyen du gser phran bu dang | bsTan ma bcu gnyis | rdo rje legs pa sogs kyi sgrub thabs du ma spyan drangs |

[17] Sa ro bsal dus sngar gyi mnan pa’i thod pa ris mi gcig pa mang po ’dug pa gsos te mnan par brtsams pa na sa rdo’i char dang rlung ’tshub mun sros pa lta bu’i cho ’phrul gyis ’khor rnams bag ’khums shing ci bya gtol med du gyur pa na...

[18]  ...Nyid kyis gsung sngags drag po dang bcas sku’i ’gyur ba stang stabs kyi thod pa rnams thug chom gyi sgra dang bcas ’phar ba zhabs kyi mnan pas cho ’phrul mod la zhi | ’Ga’ zhig gis [282] Gu ru drag po dngos su yang mthong |

[19]  This remark, combined with the extent of the destruction described in the preceding pages of the same text (fires, etc.), suggests that the stūpa mentioned by Richardson can hardly be earlier than the time of Klong chen rab ’byams, and, consequently, that the legend according to which it contained the miter of Ting ’dzin bzang po would require further investigation.

[20] Khyed par byis pa g.yu rna can zhig gis nyin bzhin bzo bo’i ’grogs byas te nub mo gar song cha med pas | dogs te lan gcig kun gyis bsrung pa na rtsig gseb tu thim pa sogs legs nyed thams cad mi lab pa bzhin bstan |

[21] rDo ring gnyis sngas thang ’gyel du song ba thabs ’phrul gang gis kyang ma lhongs pa bden stobs gsung zhing sku chos kyi g.yab mo mdzad pas de ma thag lhongs |

The existence of these stelae until the contemporary period is confirmed by the testimony of H. E. Richardson who describes them in the article "The Chapel of the Hat" (1983), reprinted in High Peaks, Pure Hearth (1998, pp. 724-726). Cf. also, for the text of the inscriptions appearing on these stelae, by the same author, “Inscription at Zhwa’i lha khang” in A Corpus of Early Tibetan inscriptions (Royal Asiatic Society, James G. Forlong Series, no. XXIX, p. 43): “On each side of the entrance is a tall stone pillar inscribed with a record of privileges granted at different times to Ban de Myang Ting nge ’dzin who founded the temple and who, as seen from the inscriptions, was the guardian of Khri lde srong btsan when younger and later, as a minister of state, was instrumental in establishing him on the throne.” I am indebted to Katia Buffetrille for these two pieces of information and for communicating the first article.

“To state the force of truth” is most certainly to recite the formula that is invariably found (probably with some variations) in the ’gugs pa, i.e., the part of the exorcism rites (sgrol ba) where demons, etc., are summoned in the liṅga : Rig 'dzin rtsa brgyud kyi dpal ldan bla ma dam pa rnams kyi bka’ bden pa dang | sangs rgyas kyi bka’ bden pa dang | chos kyi bka’ bden pa dang | dge ’dun gyi bka’ bden pa dang | gsang sngags rigs sngags gzungs sngags snying po phyag rgya ting nge 'dzin gyi bka' bden pa dang | chos nyid ngo bo gdod nas dag cing chos can rgyu ’bras bslu ba med pa’i bka’ bden pa dang | khyad par du yi dam rtsa gsum lha tshogs mgon po pho ryud lha mo mo rgyud srung ma dam can rgya mtsho’i tshogs dang bcas pa rnams kyi bka’ bden pa dang | gZa’ bdud dug gi spu gri gdong po mched bzhi gza' chen po brgyad bka' srung las mkhan drag rtsal can rnams kyi bka' bden pa dang | bden pa chen po’i mthu dang nus pa la brten nas |, etc. (cf, for this variant, Klong chen snying thig gi ’don cha thengs gsum gsar bsgrigs pod dang po, pp. 603-604).

[22] Rab gnas mdzad dus nyid Kun tu bzang po’i skur snang ba’i thugs nas spros pa’i ’od zer re re’i rtse la sangs rgyas dang byang chub sems dpa’ grangs med pas bskor ba | de dag gis me tog ’thor ba bskal ldan du ma’i mthun snang du bstan cing |

[23] gZigs snang du Thub dbang dang Byams pa la gnas brtan bcu drug gis bskor ba’i Byams pas phyag mdzub gdengs mdzad de | khyod skye ba gnyis ’das pa’i ’og rol tu Padma rnam par brtsegs pa’i zhing du rGyal ba Ri rab mar me’i rgyal mtshan zhes bya bar ’gyur ro | | zhes lung bstan cing dbugs dbyung bar mdzad do | – It is probably to this prophecy that Khenpo Ngaga’s Vow concerning the Writings of the Great Omniscient and the Seventeen Tantras of the Great [Teaching] alludes, which I have translated (p. 38 ff.) in my preface to the French version of sMyo shul mkhan po’s poems. The name of the Buddha and of his paradise are, however, slightly different.

[24]  This stūpa seems not to be the one described by Richardson, which must have been outside the building.

[25] Perhaps above the head of Padmasambhava; this would be a fairly classical arrangement and consistent with a number of ritual texts.

[26] [2021: animal-headed goddesses.]

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

Publié dans #Klong chen pa

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