A Biography of Klong chen rab ’byams (9)

Publié le 10 Mai 2021

[To return to the beginning of this biographical series, click here] The propitiation of Acala, Sarasvatī and Vajravārāhī

The various biographies mention, at this point, that in the course of his studies Klong chen rab ’byams performed propitiation of several deities, including Mi g.yo ba (Acala), dByangs can ma (Sarasvatī) and Phag mo (Vajravārāhī). He “saw their faces”[1] and their blessings are said to have enabled the full development of his intellectual faculties, contributing to his reputedly prodigious success in his studies. It is said that it was then that he obtained the nickname of bSam yas lung mang pa, the “[monk] of bSam yas who masters many fundamental texts,” or: “who has in his memory many quotations” (lung can also have this more restrictive meaning, unlike gzhung, which really refers to complete texts).

sMyo shul mkhan po specifies that Sarasvatī blessed him with his hand and that he had a vision of the “four continents and the axial mountain” for seven days and “obtained intellectual power [to which] nothing was an obstacle” (thogs pa med pa’i blo gros kyi mthu grub pa yin te...). He relates two verses of the PraiseHappy youthful entertainment (bsTod pa gZhon nu rol dga’, no. 170) to this episode:

O wonder, blessed goddess,
What I wished for a long time is going to be accomplished today[2]... Did Klong chen pa meet with the first Zhwa dmar?

Grags pa seng ge (1283-1349?), whom later tradition considers the first Zhwa dmar pa (red-hat Karma pa) evolved in the same milieu as Klong chen rab ’byams. Indeed, like him, he was close to the third Karma pa, a student in gSang phu for seven years (Blue Annals, p. 525) and a disciple of Ku ma rā dza (ibid, p. 529).

Now, in the biography of the latter (Blue Annals, p. 528 ff.), we find the following anecdote, whose narrator is Grags pa seng ge himself:

Once when Dharmasvāmin Rang byung ba [Rang byung rdo rje] felt indisposed, he told us, “There is someone on the gTsang side who has cast a spell on us (...). You, the followers, should do a ritual!” – So he gave us the ingredients for the ritual. Some of us performed the ceremony of [long] life (Tshe grub), others recited the mantra of rNam ’joms (Vajravidāraṇa nāma dhāranī). Tshul blo and I did the “defensive rite” of Yamāntaka (gShin rje’i bzlog pa). After a month, the whole country, as far as Sa skya, appeared to me as a vision of prabhāsvara, and during this vision I heard that in a monastery many Indians [Bhutanese ?] (mon bu) were moaning loudly. The next day I went to the Dharmasvāmin and told him that I had had such a vision and that something must have happened to the magicians.

Couldn't the Tshul blo who performed the rite with Grags pa seng ge be Klong chen rab ’byams (Tshul khrims blo gros) himself? A few lines further on, we find that it was on this occasion or soon after that Gags pa seng ge gave his first consecration (dbang), that of the lNga tshan to about twenty disciples including “Tshul blo.”

The lNga tshan is considered by Roerich to be a rite related to the Kalacakra. But this may be a mistake, according to the continuation of Gene Smith’s message to [be mentioned in a note]: "Regarding the various lnga tshan, I remember a description in the gsung ’bum of Mi bskyod rdo rje (going back to Dus gsum mkhyen pa) and in the gter chos of Sangs rgyas gling pa (Bla ma dgongs pa ’dus pa las: lNga tshan lnga’i ngo sprod gsang rdzogs rol pa rgya can).”

We have only been able to consult the second text (vol. xi of the Bla ma dgongs 'dus[3] of Sangs rgyas gling pa [1340-1396], pp. 211-223). According to the colophon, this gter chos was discovered in a year of the “wood dragon” which can only be 1364, the same year of Klong chen rab 'byams’ death; it is therefore obviously not the one that the future master of Gangs ri thod dkar would have received from Grags pa seng ge around 1326-27. However, it is worth reading as an illustration of a possible lNga tshan “genre.”

It appears that the “pentads” (lnga tshan) are the five clans or families (rigs lnga) of Buddhas. If we speak of “five pentads,” it is in the sense of the correspondence of the following five groups of five elements: five Bodies (sku lnga), five principled knowledge (ye shes lnga), five aggregates (phung po lnga), five elements (’byung ba lnga) and five colors that illustrate them (mtshon byed lnga). The general theme of the text is the recognition of the pure and divine essence of the elements of phenomenal existence, allowing the attainment of enlightenment “in one life, with this body.”

If we try to date this episode, it is clear, at least, that it takes place between 1308 and 1332, based on the dates expressly given in the biography of Grags pa seng ge as it appears in the Deb ther sngon po. It probably takes place in Tshur phu at a time when the third Karma pa is there; but the latter did not leave for his first trip to China until 1332, which makes it impossible to specify the date. On the other hand, it is known that Grags pa seng ge remained in retreat for five years, among other activities, between the initiation of the lNga tshan and 1332. Therefore, the date would be 1327 at the latest. If “Tshul blo” is indeed the young Klong chen rab ’byams, which is quite plausible, this would date his association with the third Karma pa back to these years, to the beginning of his studies at gSang phu.

The next section is here.


[1] sMyo shul chos 'byung (p. 256); that is, he had the vision.

[2] E ma lha mo skal bzang ma | yun ring smon pa de ring 'grub |

[3] Special thanks to Gene Smith for providing us with a copy of the TBRC CD edition of Bla ma dgongs 'dus. [This note is from a time when TBRC was not yet a website with everything easily accessible !]

Rédigé par Stéphane Arguillère

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