A Biography of Klong chen rab ’byams (22)

Publié le 23 Mai 2021 The return to central Tibet and the last years

For Samten Karmay, not much time passed between Klong chen rab ’byams’ return to central Tibet and his death. The colophon of the History of the Dharma (Chos ’byung) attributed to Klong chen rab ’byams would allow us to assume 1362 for the composition of this text; but, as we shall see, he cannot be its author. Overall, after the restoration of Zhwa’i lha khang, the chronology becomes virtually elusive, at least in the present state of research and available documentation. In any case, there are a number of converging clues suggesting that Klong chen rab ’byams must have begun his return to Tibet as early as 1360 or 1361. It is possible, however, that he began with cautious forays into the south and perhaps did not wait for Byang chub rgyal msthan's permission to leave present-day Bhutan. In any case, for this period, we can only follow the account of sMyo shul mkhan po as it stands, which, from the point where we left it, describes the gradual return of Klong chen rab ’byams to central Tibet:

“Then, invited again by the ‘Nine Great Ones’ (?) of lHo brag to La yag lHa lung and  other places, he dispensed the sNying thig empowerments and instructions to an assembly of thousands [of people] including the great abbot Khyab brdal lhun grub.[1]

Then, in Yar ’brog, the Myriarch (khri dpon) rDor rje rgyal mtshan having made offerings to him, he taught him the Dharma; one evening he said to rGyal sras bZod pa:[2]

‘I have expounded the mKha’ ’gro snying thig to the Myriarch rDor rje rgyal mtshan. It is good that you received it from Rin chen gling pa of Kong po and from Legs ldan pa (rGyal sras Legs pa) of Dwags po. [But,] in absolute terms, the master (bdag po) of this teaching is [287] me.[3] If you have nothing pressing to do, stay and listen to my teaching. It is on the stage that one sees who knows the music.”[4]

There he [gave the] mKha’ ’gro snying thig to fifteen tantric masters and spun the Dharma wheel widely before large gatherings.[5]

Because of his conflict with the ’Bri gung pa, the Ta si of Phag gru [Byang chub rgyal mtshan] had not held him in high esteem at first. But, later, he had faith in his knowledge, his [direct] understanding and his [prodigious] activities, and, at the [palace of the] government of g.Yor po, he paid him great and prolonged tributes. Before an assembly of two thousand people, [Klong chen rab ’byams] gave the consecrations and precepts of the sNying thig. The Ta [’i] si [tu] himself was amazed at the wisdom of this Dharma lord and honorably called him ‘Abyssal Doctor’ (Klong chen rab ’byams pa), a name by which he is known.[6]

In Gong dkar he gave various consecrations and precepts to [disciples and listeners] of which Si tu pa [Byang chub rgyal mtshan] was the main one. He founded in g.Yo ru in the dBus [the monasteries of] sKal ldan byams pa sdings, g.Yu sdings and sPang sdings, where he stayed for some time; they are called ‘the three eminent monasteries’ (grwa’i sdings gsum).[7] The Bla ma dam pa [bSod nams rgyal mtshan] of Sa skya having addressed him with questions on how to present the Basis, the Path, and the Fruit, he answered him with The Missive in Reply, a precious golden stūpa, which he concluded with [the following verses]:

‘This speech [whose meaning] is perfectly luminous [and whose form] is elegant
It is addressed to you from the mountain of the fundamental texts, heap of jewels,
[288] By a practitioner who has understood the essential thusness,
Gifted with the eye of the intelligence of the multiple Scriptures, reasonings and precepts,
And who is not blind to the arts of exposition, debate and composition.’

Dam pa pa [bSod nams rgyal mtshan] was satisfied with it and appreciated it [very much].[8]

In addition, he composed [at this time] many treatises on the sūtra and mantra in general, and in particular on the key points of the Great Perfection. He answered in person with a discourse, and later with a logical and well-founded epistle, questions [posed by Dam pa dam pa rgyal mtshan?] that were beyond the comprehension of such doctors as Grags pa bzang po of gSang phu.[9].The latter, having attained the ‘heat’ of certainty, had faith in his teaching and in his person, and was forced to give [Klong chen rab ’byams] the name that corresponds to the thing: that of the Omniscient Lord of the Dharma (kun mkhyen chos rje).[10] (…)

[289] Just as he was about to go to an invitation he had received from Ta si [Byang chub rgyal mtshan], a question [was addressed to him] by a valuable disciple (mtshams pa = ’tshams pa); as he did not have time to answer it on the [same] day, in the evening, Bla ma bZod pa [grags pa] made a letter for him[11] which they sent to him - the Lan ’don gyi rabs.[12]

At gSang mda’ of sKyi shod, he paid his respects to an assembly [of religious people] including the master Yon rgyam [Yon tan rgya mtsho][13] of gSang phu. While he had them a tea offering made, he answered every question [objection] that was put to him, for several hours (mda’ tshad ’ga’ re’i tshod);[14] the smugness [of Yon tan rgya mtsho and other scholars] was defeated, and [the latter] showered him with offerings of all sorts of things, including ten ounces of gold.[15]

When he went to lHa sa, he was greeted by [a hedge] of monks forming a ‘golden chain’[16]. For two weeks, on a religious throne (chos khri) that had been erected [for this purpose] between lHa sa[17] and Ra mo che, he amply spun the Wheel of Dharma on such [subjects] as the production of the mind of enlightenment. He totally triumphed over many arrogant scholars of the three monasteries of gSang[-phu] and mTshur [phu],[18] who took him as the object of their piety.[19]

Having [throughout his life] made generous offerings to [worthy] recipients and accumulated many sessions of teaching and practice, he reversed them so that what is good for the Doctrine and for the migrants might prosper. Having gone to Shug sgeb of Nye phu, [290] he matured by means of the profound path of the Great Completeness a crowd of more than a thousand fortunate beings.[20]

To the fully ordained monk dBon Grags pa, who was on his way to dBur stod, he told him to take a roundabout way [but the latter opted for a shortcut]. Thus, he warned him, just before his departure, of the horse accident that would injure him. Since his clairvoyance was boundless, he revealed all sorts of hidden things as if they were obvious. Many of his followers [him] were also prophesied by the ḍākiṇīs.[21]

At mKhar ba ri, Si tu Śākya bzang po presented him with offerings and [Klong chen rab ’byams] blessed him with various empowerments and precepts. [Si tu Śākya bzang po?] having paid him a fee for a summer retreat, he had the roof of Grog(s) O rgyan dgon re-roofed; [the crowd that came] to listen to his teachings [at O rgyan dgon] filled an expanse equal to the range of an arrow.[22]

To an assembly of up to three thousand people, including some forty Dharma teachers, such as the upādhyāya and the ācārya of ’Bri gung, as well as many religious and lay notables, he gave the consecrations and precepts of the Adamantine essence of the clear light with their complements (rgyab chos). He made various material offerings whenever he had the opportunity (byung ngo cog), either during ‘great distributions’ (’gyed chen), or on the tenth days [of the lunar months], during gatherings [held] from the ’Phan yul to rTse mo rgyal.[23]

Formerly, until about the time he started doing retreats, he [knew] how to expound with clarity (blo gsal) any of the great texts of the Prajñāpāramitā, logic, etc. [291] Thereafter, having resolved to do good to the migrants, he no longer cared much about teaching or studying them formally, nor about the monastic life. On the slopes of deserted mountains, living between the protective walls of caves and rock faces, in huts of straw with leafy roofs, he had no longer cared about entourages or possessions and had devoted himself exclusively to the practice of the Dharma.[24]

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[1] Slar yang Lho brag gi che dgus spyan drangs nas La yag lHa lung dang gNas sogs su mKhan chen Khyab brdal lhun grub sogs 'dus pa stong phrag du longs pa la gSang ba snying thig gi dbang khrid mdzad |

[2]  His name appears in the bDe skyid gtso mo ma bkra shis rdo rje’i glu (no. 117) as the dedicatee of this doha. He is undoubtedly the author (Bya bral ba bZod pa) of the mKha’ ’gro snying thig gi lo rgyus rin po che'i phreng ba which appears at the end of the mKha' 'gro snying thig, where it appears indeed that he received the teachings of both Klong chen rab ’byams, rGyal sras Legs pa, and Rin chen gling pa regarding the various branches of sNying tig. What he says about the teachings he received from Klong chen rab ’byams (op. cit., p. 604) is interesting, as is the information he gives about rGyal sras Legs pa. It is unfortunate, however, that he does not elaborate at all on the relationship between Klong chen rab ’byams and rGyal sras Legs pa. sMyo shul mkhan po calls him rGyal sras bZod pa grags pa in the list of Klong chen rab ’byams' disciples.

[3] Yar ’brog tu Khri dpon rDo rje rgyal mtshan gyis mchod cing chos gsungs dus nub gcig rGyal sras bZod pa la Khri dpon rDo rje rgyal mtshan la mKha’ ’gro snying thig bshad par byas yod | Khyod kyi Kong po Rin chen gling pa dang Dwags po nas Legs ldan pa gnyis la mKha’ ’gro snying thig zhus ’dug pa legs | Don dam par chos ’di’i bdag po [287] nga yin |

[4] Khyod rang rings rgyu med na sdod la chos nyon | Glu gang mkhas bro rar bcug na gsal bya ba yin gsungs | – This last expression is a bit curious; the proposed translation (very literal) is perhaps too loose as regards the style, but it does convey the meaning: if rGyal sras bZod pa attends the teaching, he will be forced to see, in view of his virtuosity, that it is indeed Klong chen rab ’byams who is the master of this teaching.

[5] Der dpon slob bco lnga tsam la mKha’ ’gro snying thig dang | ’dus pa mang por chos ’khor rgya cher bskor |

[6] Phag gru Ta si sngar ’Bri gung pa’i stabs kyis ha cang gus pa med kyang mkhyen rtogs dang phrin las la rjes su dad nas g.Yor po gzhung du rnyed bkur bzang pos yun ring du mchod cing nyis stong du longs pa'i ’dus pa la sNying thig gi dbang khrid mdzad cing | Ta si Chos rje ’di[i mkhyen rab la ha las te Klong chen rab ’Byams pa zhes gus par mdzad pas phyis su mtshan de ltar du grags |

It is not the name “Klong chen rab 'byams” that is then (supposedly) given by Byang chub rgyal mtshan to the master of Gangs ri thod dkar, but that of “Klong chen rab 'byams pa.” The former (as we shall see) means “profusion (without discontinuity) of the vast sphere” and finds its meaning in the context of rDzogs chen. In the variant under discussion here, the addition of the syllable -pa alludes to the title of scholar, indicating unlimited knowledge. Assuming that the anecdote is not contrived (cf. Van Der Kujip [2003], p. 394: “Ta’i si tu does not once mention him, let alone recount their meeting, in his autobiography”), it should not be interpreted to mean that all the works signed “Klong chen rab 'byams” in the colophon were composed later - in the last few years of the author’s life. This would be as implausible as the assumption that the entire output of Gangs ri thod dkar was composed in 1338-1343. Rather, we believe that Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan (if, again, this story is to be believed) made one of Klong chen rab ’byams’ pen names into a kind of official honorific title, as Chinese emperors used to award to the illustrious masters of their time, by means of a slight pun.

[7] Gong dkar du Si tu pa gtso bor gyur pa la dbang dang gdams pa du mas rjes su bzung | dBus kyi g.Yor ru skal ldan Byams pa sdings | g.Yu-sdings | sPang sdings rnams kyi dgon pa btab ste ci rigs su bzhugs pas grwa’i sdings gsum du grags |

[8] Sa skya bla ma Dam pas | gzhi lam ’bras bu'i bzhed tshul gyi dri ba mdzad pa’i lan du Zhu-yig rin po che gser gyi mchod sdong mdzad pa’i rjes su | rab gsal snyan par smra ba’i ngag ’di ni | [288] ’chad rtsod rtsom pa’i gnas la ma rmongs pa’i | lung rig man ngag du ma’i blo mig can | snying po’i de nyid rtogs pa'i rnal ’byor pas | | gzhung ri rin chen brtsegs pa’i gnas nas phul | | zhes pa phul bas mnyes shing gces spras su mdzad |

[2021 : At the time this thesis was defended (2002) and even when it was published (2007), few of Bla ma dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan's works were available; but since then, the vast collection of his complete works has been reconstructed and published (W3CN3409, 26 vols.). Unfortunately, this collection is not yet readable via TBRC/BDRC. It would be worthwhile, when the time comes, to at least look through the table of volumes for evidence of possible interactions with Klong chen rab 'byams in the last years of his life.]

[9]  This is certainly Klog skya Grags pa bzang po who appears on the TBRC website [P3933] with the following information: “born in the thirteenth century, disciple of Chos kyi 'od (also born in the thirteenth century), master of Dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, belonging to the bKa’ gdams line.” The text in question is certainly the missive on The Basis, the Way and the Fruit; we know of no other text addressed to Dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan.

[10] gZhan yang mdo sngags spyi dang khyad par rDzogs pa chen po'i gnad ’gag gi bstan bcos mang du mdzad pa | gSang phu Grags bzang sogs mkhas pa phal gyi blor ma shong ba’i dri ba rnams la dngos su ’bel gtsam dang brgyud nas rigs shing ’thad pa'i dris lan phrin yig mdzad pas | nges shes ’drod nas chos dang gang zag la dad pa thob cing Kun mkhyen Chos rje zhes don dang mthun pa’i mtshan shugs ’byung du thogs |

[11]  I think that we should understand: Klong chen rab ’byams wrote a letter to him, bZod pa grags pa serving as secretary. This is why I opt for the plural for the end of the sentence. This epistle does not seem to be preserved in the gSung thor bu.

[12]  [289] Ta sis spyan ’dren 'byor nas phebs kha zhig tu slob ma ’tshams pa zhig gis dri ba phul ba la nyin thugs brel gyis ma skabs pas | nub mo Bla ma bZod pas yi ge mdzad de Lan ’don gyi rabs bya ba bskul bar mdzad |

[13] We have not been able to identify it so far.

[14] mDa' tshad is normally a spatial and not a temporal measure; but here we cannot find a meaning otherwise.

[15] sKyid shod gSang mdar gSang phu’i Slob dpon Yon rgyam sogs ’dus pa rnyed bkur pa dang | gsol ja mchod ring dri ba tshig re zhus par mda’ tshad ’ga’ re’i tshod kyi lan mdzad pas spobs pa bcom zhing gser srang bcu la sogs pa’i yo byad mang pos tshim par mdzad |

[16]  This expression is explained in the Tshig mdzod chen mo as meaning a hedge of honor formed by religious people holding offerings.

[17] That is, certainly, the Jo khang.

[18]  The expression gSang mthsur sde gsum gyi mkhas pa (which seems to mean: “At gSang mtshu (?), ... the arrogant scholars of the three monasteries” would be obscure if one did not realize that gSang and mTshur must be gSang phu and mTshur phu, which indeed comprise three monasteries, since gSang phu is divided into “superior” and “inferior.” This locution is interesting, since it makes us aware of the existence of the representation of “three great monasteries” well before the foundation and rise of Se ra, dGa’ ldan and ’Bras phung.

[19] lHa sar byon pa na dge ’dun mang pos ser spreng gis bsus shing | zla ba phyed kyi ring lHa sa dang Ra mo che’i bar du chos khri brtsigs pa’i steng nas sems bskyed sogs chos ’khor rgya cher bskor | gSang mtshur sde gsum gyi mkhas pa nga rgyal can mang po lung rigs kyis rmeg med du btul nas dad pa’i gnas la bkod |

[20] gNas rten rnams la mchod pa dang bshad sgrub kyi sde mang por tshogs bsags rgya cher spel nas bstan ’gro’i phan bde rgyas pa'i bsngo bar mdzad | sNye phu Shug [290] gseb tu phebs nas skal ldan gyi ’dus pa stong phtag brgal ba la zab lam rDzogs pa chen pos smin par mdzad |

[21] dGe slong dBon Grags pa dBur stod du ’gro ba la lam ring bskor gsungs kyang nye ba la phyin pas rta brdan te bsnad pa’i tshul gsungs pa sogs mngon mkhyen la thogs pa mi mnga’ bas lkog gyur gyi gnas mngon sum bzhin gsungs | Slob ma yang mkha’ ’gros lung bstan mang |

[22] mKha’ ba rir Si tu Śākya bzang pos mchod cing dbang dang gdams pa du mas byin gyis brlabs | dByar bzhugs kyi phogs phul nas Grogs O rgyan dgon pa’i phu’i rdza ’dabs nas mda’i brag rtsa yan gang ba’i chos nyan |

[23] ’Bri gung gi mkhan slob sogs chos ’chad kyi slob dpon bzhi bcu tsam dang | mi chen skya btsun mang pos mtshon ’dus pa sum stong du longs pa la ’od gsal rdo rje snying po’i dbang khrid rgyab chos dang bcas pa gsungs shing | yo byad du mas ’gyed chen dang tshes bcu byung ngo cog la ’Phan yul nas rTse mo rgyal bar gyi tshogs pa rnams la mchod pa mdzad |

[24] sNgon dben par gshegs nas mi ring ba’i dus yan chad du phar tshad sogs [291] gzhung che ba ’ga’ yang blo gsal ci rigs par gsungs shing phyis ’gro don mngon gyur du phyogs nas bstar chags kyi ’chad nyan dgon gnas la brten pa cher ma bskyang kyang | dben pa’i ri ngogs rnams su phug pa dang rdo ba’i skyob rtsig rtswa dang lo ma’i bla gab can gyi khang bu tsam la rten nas zang zing gi ’khor dang longs spyod kyi ’khri ba bcad nas sgrub pa kho na la bzhugs kyang...

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

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