A Biography of Klong chen rab ’byams (21)

Publié le 22 Mai 2021 Exile in Bhutan

It is not surprising, therefore, that Klong chen rab ’byams had to go into exile in Bhutan when his patron Kun rin’s position collapsed.

Guenther places the exile at Bum thang in 1359, at the time when sGom chen Kun rin of ’Bri gung, enemy of Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal msthan, who dominated central Tibet at that time, launched a great armed rebellion against the latter. But Samten G. Karmay (The Great Perfection, p. 213), writes: “he subsequently fled Central Tibet and exiled himself at Bum thang in modern Bhutan around 1354.”

1354 marked the beginning of the hegemony of the Phag mo gru pa over Tibet - a reign that was to last until 1435. However, as we understand it, it was the political unrest in central Tibet that led the master of Gangs ri thod dkar to go into exile. Moreover, we know that he was in Bumthang in 1355: the colophon of the Flower Garden, an ode to the beauties of Bumthang, a divine hidden land (text no. 13 of the gSung thor bu, vol. I., pp. 235-246, Bum thang lha’i sbas yul gyi bkod pa la bsngags pa me tog skyed tshal, no. 168), specifies that it was composed by the Theg pa mchog gyi rnal ’byor pa Dri med ’od zer at Thar pa gling in Bum thang in the year of the female wooden sheep (“written in 1355 at Thar pa gling in Bum stang” according to the editor; the year is correct). As we shall see, in addition to this colophon, certain considerations drawn from the biographies of Khyab brdal lhun grub and Grags pa ’od zer rather corroborate Samten Karmay’s hypothesis. It is this body of evidence that certainly explains the date proposed by S. G. Karmay. However, nothing excludes that Klong chen rab ’byams had been in Bhutan for several years already in 1355.

According to Tülku Thondup, Klong chen rab ’byams had a daughter in 1351 from a Bhutanese woman called sKyid pa lags (sKyed pa yags according to Guru bKra shis), and then a son in 1356, Grags pa ’od zer, who was to succeed spiritually to Klong chen rab ’byams’ heir in the lineage, Khyab brdal lhun grub. The year of birth of Grags pa ’od zer is known from the fact (sMyo shul mkhan po, op. cit., I, p. 356) that he died in a year of the ox in his fifty-fourth year. Now, there is a year of the ox in 1409, which corresponds perfectly.

To reconcile all these dates, we can assume that from about 1350 onwards, Klong chen rab ’byams lived episodically in Bumthang, not without staying from time to time in Gangs ri thod dkar. As for this last point, we can assume, despite what sMyo shul mkhan po suggests, that the composition of the numerous works that the colophon informs us were written in Gangs ri thod dkar must have continued until the end of our author’s life. It should be remembered that Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan came to power in central Tibet in 1349. Now, if we can characterize the political attitude of the master of Gangs ri thod dkar as we have done, it is likely that the hostility of the Phag mo gru pa against Klong chen rab ’byams must not have begun with the Kun rin revolt ten years later.

Let us take up the biography of Klong chen rab ’byams as presented by sMyo shul mkhan po :

“[282] Then (de skabs), [i.e., in 1349], in the month of the monkey [seventh month, in August-September], on the tenth day, he saw in the sky, in the midst of a mass of light, the precious master of O rgyan [Padmasambhava], [283] surrounded by the ḍākiṇīs of the five families, radiant with brightness, gathered in a crowd of four thousand. Missing from it (lhags) were the ḍākiṇīs of Ti sgro, who had penetrated (zhugs) many people.[1] He heard [these ḍākiṇī-inspired people?] tell him that he should go to Bum thang [in Bhutan] and tell him of many hidden things, good and bad.[2]

He then went to Ti sgro, which in the meantime [since his last visit?] had been damaged and which he restored. He recited the ritual of confession [‘repair’] of the peaceful and terrible deities for three weeks; having gone by magic to places where people could not reach, [it was he himself] who put up the banners of victory and the gonfanons.”[3]

The narrative clearly gives the impression that from 1349 onwards, Klong chen rab ’byams became convinced of the need to go into exile in Bhutan; one has the impression, however, that he went there little by little, in stages, or, at least, that he did not settle there entirely at once.

“Once when he was in Shug gseb, he had a vision in which, at the back of Jo mo kha rag, there was a huge crowned head without a body, rolling terrible eyes while its mouth vomited lightning. Towards Jo and Gong po ri, there was another head, even larger, black, rolling eyes, from whose mouth light shot out that went straight to Kha rag's head and, moreover, spread towards La stod[4]. Klong chen rab 'byams] saw that the whole of Tibet and Khams [or : the whole Tibetan region] was filled with hail and stone rain and that there was a chaotic light [streaked] with lightning. He understood that this was a sign of the misfortunes of Central Tibet during the troubles of the year of the earth pig (1359).”[5]

This is the passage which must have misled Guenther. There is no indication that the exile of Klong chen rab ’byams began in 1359; the biographies only tell us that it was in anticipation of the civil war which culminated in 1359 that the master of Gangs ri thod dkar decided to expatriate himself.

Moreover, the remark, a little earlier in the text, on “Ti sgro which, in the meantime [since his last visit?] had been damaged” leads us to pay attention to a point in the chronology which appears at the end of the Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo: in 1353 there was an earthquake in Tibet.[6] It is not impossible that the damage referred to, like that which affected Yer pa (as we shall see in the immediate continuation of the text), was caused by this earthquake. The episodes reported in this part of the text are therefore probably situated around 1353.

If this hypothesis is correct, Samten Karmay must be substantially correct in assuming 1354 for Klong chen rab ’byams’ exile in Bhutan; it is only important to specify that he must have begun to stay there episodically for some years. But let us resume reading the Chos 'byung of sMyo shul mkhan po :

“He had a plan to restore [a temple at] Yer pa,[7] which had been demolished, [284] and to have a chapel built at lHa sa [for the recitation of the mantra] Maṇi. But because of the troubled times he said that this would not be done and that he himself and his disciples should go to Bum thang. On the way (phebs zhor la) he went to lHa sa. Now this city had been surrounded by the army of the people of Yar klungs [supporters of Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan], who, because of Klong chen rab ’byams’ very close ties with the 'Bri gung pa, undertook to kill him.[8]

He used the miracle of invisibility and [his pursuers] did not find him; they said, ‘Where is he? But here he is! Did he run away? He is no longer here !’[9] – In a dream he had while sleeping that night, he was in front of the Jo bo, and from the latter’s body radiated a light like gold; above his head, in that light, were the seven [previous] Buddhas, the Therapist Buddha, the White Tārā and the Green Tārā, Cakrasamvara and Hevajra, Avalokiteśvara in the royal style as well as in his thousand-armed, thousand-eyed form and in the rGyal ba rgya mtsho form, around whom were the glorious protector Ber nag can, the Four Great Kings, bDud mgon seng gdong and Śrīdevī, who rose and looked up into the sky[10] .

The day he arrived at Brag ra klu phug, a mountain of precious rock crystal manifested itself very clearly to his mind. The next night, in a dream, he went to [285] Ti se, Tsa ri tra, etc., which he saw as if he were really there.[11] Then, as he arrived at Pho ma’i byang thang, the twenty-one upāsakas[12] and sMu ri escorted him and entrusted him with innumerable material goods.[13] Then, at the place called La yag man thang, several fortunate beings, headed by the great abbot Khyab brdal lhun grub, respectfully presented him with offerings, and he matured them by means of the precepts of the profound Path, such [as those of] sNying thig.”[14]

This last episode allows, as we will see a little further down (in the summary of the life of Khyab brdal lhun grub) to confirm that we are indeed in 1355 at the latest, at least not before 1353. Again, this confirms Pr. Samten Karmay’s hypothesis about the installation of Klong chen rab ’byams in Bhutan in 1354.

A close examination of the Flower Garden, Ode to the Beauties of Bumthang, Divine Hidden Land (no.168) does not reveal any precise elements relating to the life of Klong chen rab ’byams, apart from the date of its composition in 1355. However, in several passages, the author makes it clear that he took refuge in Bhutan to escape the troubles in central Tibet. More curious, unless we are mistaken, political passions do not seem to have cooled down entirely: in a series of verses following the comparison of Bhutan with central Tibet (pp. 241-242), the author accumulates syllables of the name sGom pa Kun rin, or alliterations that immediately remind the attentive reader of them, with an allusion to the universal monarch.

I do not translate these verses, whose content is not of capital interest for our purpose; but here is the Tibetan text where I have underlined the relevant syllables. In fact, in addition to the syllables of sGom pa Kun rin’s name (Kun dga’ ’od zer Rin chen), there is also a complex set of words which are close in sound; but we have retained only the most striking passages. The general effect is quite clear and, when one begins to guess it, one sees appearing in filigree in the text whole sentences which one could reconstitute, according to a common process in Tibetan poetry, from words scattered in the successive verses:

De dra’i yul dbus padma’i lte ba la | rab sna’i ri rgyal kun nas mdzes pa ni | | ’khor los sgyur rgyal kun nas bskor ba bzhin | phyogs kyi ri rnams ’di la ’khor bar ’dud | | Rin chen ’dzin ma’i lhun po chen po yang | | sna tshogs bkod pa’i ’od zer stong ’phro zhing | | grub pa'i bsti gnas bzang pos brgyan pa ni | shar ri lag na padmoi bzhugs gnas bzhin | dbyar dus anda rnyil gyi sa dzin la | | nor bu nyi zla od kyi mdangs tsher ba | | sngon med lha yi Rin chen lhun po yang |... And, on the next page: sna tshogs bkod pai od zer gyed la ltos | | dedrai lhun po Rin chen mchog tshogs can |...

sMyo shul mkhan po gives some indications about the activity of Klong chen rab 'byams in Bhutan:

“Then, having gradually moved to the southern [region of] Bum thang in Bhutan, he founded the famous eight ‘gling [park, garden, vihāra] monasteries’ there: Thar pa gling in Bab ron, bDe chen gling in Shing mkhar, Or gyan gling in sTang, the Kun bzang gling of Ku re stod, ’Bras bcags gling in sNgan lung, Rin chen gling in Kho thang, the Kun bzang gling of Men log, and bSam gtan gling in sPa gro.[15]

In these places and in their vicinity, he made springs gush out [by the force of his] meditation and he left many imprints of his feet and hands on the rocks. In Men log, when Dam pa rin chen, the descendant of ’Brug sgom Zhig po[16] came to visit him on foot, he made the mountains [that were] opposite him fly away, inverted them (phan tshun) and melted them (bzhud), etc.[17]

Thus he subjugated the remote regions where the very name of the Dharma was not known [286] by means of various prodigies, [in which] he encountered no limits. There he correctly implanted the use of the ten virtues, and he matured and liberated [the people] by means of a Dharma proportionate to the temperament of each person[18]. He brought under his control the negative spirits, garuḍa, demons (bdud), gdong zur and fairies (sman mo), whom he made his servants. Even today [in Bhutan] these amazing deeds of the one called "Bla ma la snga ba (?) Dri med 'od zer"[19] are spoken of with the greatest reverence.

In Thar pa gling, he [re-] hid as treasures (gter) the Kun bzang dgongs pa kun 'dus and, in addition, some instructions.”[20]

To read more, please click here.

[1] That is to say, apparently, they inspired or possessed these people.

[2] De skabs sprel zla’i tshes bcu’i nyin nam mkhar ’od phung gi dkyil O rgyan rin po che [283] ḍakki sde lngas bskor ba ’od zer ’phro ba yang gzigs shing khrom bzhi stong tsam ’dus pa la | Ti sgro mkha’ ’gro rnams lhags nas mi mang po la zhugs te Bum thang phyogs su ’byon dgos pa dang lkog gyur gyi legs nyes mang po smra ba byung |

[3] Ti sgror byon te gnas de bar skabs nyams ’dug pa gsos nas zhi khro’i skong ba bdun phrag gsum ring dang | mi yis mi thar ba’i sar rdzu ’phrul gyis gshegs te rgyal mtshan dang cod pan ’dzugs par mdzad |

[4] Shug gseb tu bzhugs pa’i skabs shig thugs nyams kyi snang bar Jo mo kha rag gi rgyab nas lus med pa’i khro bo’i mgo shin tu che ba zhig mig ’phrul ’phrul kha nas glog ’khyug pa dang | Jo dang Gong po ri na de bas kyang che ba’i mgo nag po gcig mig ’phrul zhing kha nas ’od ’phro ba'i ’od de Kha rag gi mgo de’i thad du song ba dang | de med par ’od de La stod na yar song bas...

[5] ...Bod khams kun ser ba dang rdo char gyis gang zhing glog dang ’od kyis khyom khyom ’dug pa gzigs pas | sa phag gi rtsod pas dbus gtsang mi bde ba'i rtags su mkhyen te...

[6]  The Zhwa padma dbang chen gyi dKar chag gtsigs kyi yi ge zhib mo (no. 232, p. 205) speaks of earthquakes, which suggests that the restoration of Zhwa'i lha khang would have been made necessary by an earthquake. But in fact, the text is too general for us to conclude that it is the one of 1353 that we are talking about, which, moreover, would upset our entire chronology.

[7]  Klong chen rab ’byams composed a hymn to the beauties of Yer pa, of great poetic quality, the Yer pa’i gnas bstod padma dkar po'i phreng ba - gSung thor bu, vol. I, pp. 189-192 (no. 267). Unfortunately, there is no indication of historical or biographical interest; there is not even a date of composition.

[8] ...Yer par zhig gsos dang | lHa sar ma ṇi’i khang bu [284] zhig rtsig bsam ste dus ’khrug cig yong bar ’dug pas da res mi ’grub par gda’ | rang re dpon slob Bum thang du ’gro ba yin gsungs te phebs zhor lHa sar byon pa na ’Bri gung pa dang ’brel chos stabs kyis Yar klungs pa’i dmag gis mtha’ bskor te bkrong par brtsam pa na |

[9] Mi snang ba’i rdzu ’phrul mdzad pas da ci ’di na yod pa yin te bros tshar ba yin nam mi ’dug zer te glags ma brnyed |

[10] De nub bar khang du gzims pa’i mtshan lam du de nyid Jo bo’i drung na bzhugs pa la Jo bo’i sku las ’od zer gser lta bu ’phro ba dang dbu thog tu ’od kyi nang na | sangs rgyas rab bdun | sMan bla | sGrol ma dkar sngon | bDe mchog dGyes rdor | sPyan ras gzigs rgyal po lugs | Phyag stong spyan stong | rGyal ba rgya mtsho rnams kyi mtha’ ’khor na | dPal mgon Ber nag can | rGyal chen sde bzhi | bDud mgon seng gdong | dPal ldan Lha mo rnams bzhengs nas nam mkhar gzigs pa zhig dang |

This theophany deserves attention because the main “characters” belong to the modern pantheon (gsar ma pa) and more particularly to that of the Karma bka’ brgyud pa, as regards Ber nag can and rGyal ba rgya mtsho. Ber nag can is neither a central guardian deity of the rNying ma pas in general nor of Klong chen pa personally. There may be an intention here.

[11] Brag ra klu phug tu byon pa’i nyin mo shel gyi ri chen po zhig thugs la wal wal ’char ba’i nub mo mnal lam du | Gangs [285] Ti se dang Tsa ri tra sogs su byon te de dag gi tshul mngon sum lta bur gzigs |

[12]  These are the main mountain deities of Tibet. See Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Oracles and Demons of Tibet (pp. 222-223) for a complete list. We do not know, however, what is sMu ri; probably a mountain deity as well. sMu, dMu and rMu are normally interchangeable and are related to the divine origin of the early kings of Tibet (the “rMu rope,” etc.). In any case, the meaning of the episode is clear: all the main spirits of the Tibetan land honor and protect Klong chen rab ’byams; his exile does not prevent Tibet from being symbolically his.

[13] De nas Pho ma’i byang thang du phebs dus dge bsnyen nyer gcig dang sMu ris bsu ba byas te ’dod yon mtha’ yas pa bstabs |

[14] La yag man thang gnas su mkhan chen Khyab brdal lhun grub kyi dbus skal ldan du mas gus pas mchod cing sNying thig sogs zab lam gyi gdams pas smin par mdzad |

[15] Rim gyis lho Mon Bum thang phyogs su gshegs te | dgon gnas gling brgyad du grags pa | Bab ron Thar pa gling | Shing mkhar bDe chen gling | sTang Or gyan gling | Ku re stod Kun bzang gling | sNgan lung 'Bras-bcags gling | Kho thang Rin chen gling | Men log Kun bzang gling | sPa gro bSam gtan gling rnams btab cing...

[16] Both figures are unknown to me.

[17] ...De dag dang khad nye bar sgrub chu bton pa dang | rdo la phyag zhabs kyi rjes mang du bzhag cing | Men log tu 'Brug sgom Zhig po'i gdung bSod nams Rin chen gyis zhabs nas btegs te bzhugs dus ri logs phan tshun 'phur nas gshegs bzhud mdzad pa sogs...

[18] mTha' 'khob kyi yul gru chos kyi sgra tsam yang mi grogs pa de dag [286] tu thogs rdugs med pa'i rdzu-'phrul ya ma zung du mas btul te dge bcu'i lam srol la yang dag par bcug nas so so'i rgyud dang 'tshams pa'i chos kyis sgrol du mdzad cing |

[19] Khyung bdud dang gdong zur sman mo sogs mi ma yin gdug pa can rnams rtsis la phab te bran du bkol bas | Bla ma la snga ba Dri med 'od zer zhes ngo mtshar ba'i mdzad pa de dag da lta'i bar du gleng zhing mchog tu gus par byed |

[20] Thar pa gling du Kun bzang dgongs pa kun 'dus kyi chos skor rnams dang gzhan yang man ngag du ma zhig kyang gter du sbas |

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

Pour être informé des derniers articles, inscrivez vous :
Commenter cet article