A Biography of Klong chen rab ’byams (8)

Publié le 9 Mai 2021

[To return to the beginning of this biographical series, click here] gZhon nu rgyal po, sometimes confused with Ku ma rā dza

sMyo shul mkhan po adds that Klong chen rab ’byams studied under the master gZhon nu rgyal po, which is confirmed by the Lo rgyus rin chen phreng ba (p. 70), by the gTer ’byung rin po che'i lo rgyus (p. 123), by the mThong snang ’od kyi dra ba (p. 244) and by the mThong ba don ldan. The text of sMyo shul mkhan po differs only in the placement of the anecdote in the text: at the cost of a permutation, it suggests that Klong chen pa was taught by this teacher in gSang phu. However, this is also what can be drawn from the reading of the gTer ’byung rin po che’i lo rgyus (mKha’ ’gro yang tig).

What is curious is that the only gZhon nu rgyal po mentioned in the Deb sngon (Blue Annals, p. 198) is Kumārarāja,[1] Ku ma rā dza, who, as will be seen, must have been the author's primary master, especially with regard to rDzogs chen snying thig. The TBRC database [when consulted for the 2007 French publication], does equate gZhon nu rgyal po with Ku ma rā dza. But if they were indeed the same person, it would be astounding that Klong chen rab ’byams did not specify this in passing in the Lo rgyus rin chen phreng ba and the gTer ’byung rin po che'i lo rgyus. Indeed, the encounter with Ku ma rā dza, which occurs later in our author's life, is described as a great and unprecedented shock. This would become odd if it were one of the teachers with whom he had studied in his youth; or, at least, if it were, biographers would be sure to point out this curious fact. Finally, the teachings given to him by this gZhon nu rgyal po, while perhaps not beyond the competence of Ku ma rā dza, who was learnate, do not correspond same to what we are led to believe that the latter gave to his disciples. Let us assume, therefore, until further notice, that this is merely a chance homonymy.

By this gZhon nu rgyal po, according to sMyo shul mkhan po (who merely clarifies the mThong ba don ldan, which, in its present state at least, is often confusing and inconsistent), Klong chen rab ’byams studied Nāgārjuna’s works, divided into three groups: gtam gyi tshogs, narratives illustrating the teaching of the first revolution of the Wheel of Dharma, rigs pa’i tshogs, argumentative texts demonstrating the content of the second revolution, and bstod tshogs, hymns evoking the substance of the third.[2]

The gTer ’byung rin po che’i lo rgyus (p. 123) is more specific about the teachings transmitted and mentions “the Prasannapadā and the Madhyamakāvatāra [of Candrakīrti], etc.”. The same elements are confirmed in the mThong snang ’od kyi dra ba (p. 244). dPang lo tsā ba chen po Blo gros brtan pa Some elements of identification

From Blo brtan dPang lo chen po, i.e., dPang lo tsā ba chen po Blo gros brtan pa, he is said to have received the explanation of the seven sections of the theory of knowledge (tshad ma sde bdun)[3] and the “Five Profound sūtra, such as the Samādhirāja,” as well as the Kāvyādarśa (sNyan ngag me long) of Daṇḍin. This dPang lo tsā ba is known to us from the Deb sngon (Blue Annals, pp. 785 ff. in particular), which lists him as born in 1276 and presents him as a scholar of the Kālacakra, also versed in poetics (kāvya), a translator of Sanskrit texts, a scholar of the theory of knowledge and abhidharma, a scholar unsurpassed in his day, connected with the monasteries of gSang phu ne’u thog, Gung thang, sTag lung, and Bo dong.[4]

He was to die, according to the same chronicle, in 1342. In the biography of Chos rje Ratnākara (1300-1361, op. cit., pp. 634 ff.), we learn further that the latter had benefited from the teaching of dPang lo tsā ba at Sa skya. The association of this scholar with the master sa skya pa Dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, mentioned elsewhere, is confirmed in this passage, which is not without significance for us, since a small work attributed to Klong chen rab ’byams (already mentioned, no. 136) has the form of an address to this Dam pa dam pa rgyal mtshan.

The Lo rgyus rin chen phreng ba (p. 69) does present dPang lo tsā ba, without any possible equivocation, as one of the masters with whom Klong chen pa studied in gSang phu.

He appears, moreover, alongside Bu ston Rin chen grub (1290-1364) in the list of disciples of Brang ti Dar ma snying po (Blue Annals, p. 345). This is not unimportant, insofar as the attribution to Klong chen rab ’byams of the Triumph over Error (no. 31), presupposes (as a necessary but not sufficient condition) that he may have had knowledge of some of Bu ston’s works. However, this is not without its difficulties, given the doubts that one may have about the rapidity of the diffusion of the written texts at that time in Tibet.[5] Remarks on g.Yag sde paṇ chen, who should perhaps also be counted as one of the masters of Klong chen rab 'byams

Moreover, dPang lo is mentioned among the principal masters of g.Yag sde paṇ chen (1299-1378), who, it should be added, received the rDzogs chen [Bi ma] snying thig from Ku ma rā dza and the mKha’ ’gro snying thig from the master g.Yung ston pa rDi rje dpal and was also a disciple of Bu ston, Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje and “dPal ldan bla ma dam pa,” i.e., Sa skya pa dam pa rgyal mtshan. TBRC gives g.Yag sde paṇ chen as one of our author’s teachers. We do not know what his source may be; certainly some biography of g.Yag sde paṇ chen. But even without TBRC’s superiorly informed opinion, the probability of a meeting between Klong chen rab ’byams and gYag sde paṇ chen would be at least very strong, since they both obviously occupied a fairly considerable place in the same circles.


[1] gZhon nu rgyal po is the Tibetan equivalent of Kumāra rāja.

[2] We shall return to Klong chen rab ’byams’ doctrine as to the respective status of the three revolutions of the Dharma Wheel, or three cycles of the Buddha's teaching. This should be a matter of perplexity for present-day rNying ma pa, especially since ’Ju Mi pham (1846-1912, the father of contemporary rnying ma pa scholasticism), while claiming it, deviates from it. This is, moreover, a central point in comparing the doctrines of Klong chen rab ’byams and Dol po pa.

[3]  The seven treatises by Dharmakīrti : Pramāṇavārttika, Pramāṇaviniścāya, Nyāyabindu, Saṃbandhaparīkṣa, Samtānāntarasiddhi, Vādanyāya and Hetubindu.

[4]  Here is a summary of the record for this character found [in 2007] on TBRC: his main monastery was Bo dong; he is known to have composed a treatise entitled dPag bsam khri shing gi mchan ’grel, a sGra ṭīk shog gcig ma and a Tshad ma rnam 'grel gyi ṭīk chen. Its name is given with some variants: Blo gros brtan pa; dPang lo tsā ba; dPang lo tsā ba Blo gros brtan pa; dPang lo chen po. He was born in 1276 in La stod lHo Gyam and died in 1342. TBRC confirms that he gave teachings in Klong chen rab ’byams around 1326. It names some of his teachers: Chos rje Byang gling pa, mKhan chen gSer khang pa, Me ston ’Dul ’dzin. He had studied in Nepal and was active in Ne’u thog, Gung thang and sTag lung. TBRC refers to Ming mdzod (p. 993) and Tshad ma’i ’byung khungs (p. 68). dPang lo is mentioned in passing by Cyrus Stearns as having expressed admiration for Dol po pa and having sent him the one who was to become one of his important disciples, the future Jo nang lo tsā ba Blo gros dpal (The Buddha from Dolpo, pp. 26 and 189).

[5] We are grateful to Mrs. A. M. Blondeau for having drawn our attention to this material dimension of the diffusion of ideas in the Tibet of that time.

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

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