Running the Numbers for the Path of Mantra: Distinguishing the Thirteenth Bhūmi in Fifteenth-Century Tibet
3.1. The Śūraṃgama Samādhi Is Not zung ‘jug
- The union of calm and insight;
- A particular understanding of the relationship of two truths;
- *A special kind of “buddha”;
- * In the Guhyasamāja cycle, the fifth of the five stages in Nāgārjuna’s Pañcakrama;
- “the union of clarity and emptiness” (gsal stong zung ‘jug).
3.3. “No More Training” and “Nothing Higher”
3.4. The Citation
3.5. Tibetan Legacies of Differentiation
- what they eliminate (spangs pa): the subtle defilement of seeing saṃsāra and nirvāṇa as different;
- what they realize (rtogs pa): penetrating the nondual nature of dharmas;
- their transformation (gnas ‘gyur): channel body, channels letters, heart wisdom wind, bodhicitta.
4. Materials and Methods
Conclusion: Ripening the Fruits of Liberation
Conflicts of Interest
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(Ngor chen) Kun dga’ bzang po (1382–1456), Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation of the Ground of Union Vajradhara (Zung ’jug rdo rje ’chang chen po’i sa mtshams rnam par bshad pa log rtod ngan sel), in Gsung ’bum: Kun dga’ bzang po. Ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po’i bka’ ’bum. Compiled by Bsod nams rgya mtsho and reproduced from the Sde dge block prints. Dehra dun: photomechanical print from a set of prints from the Sde dge dgon chen blocks. BDRC W1157. vol. 1, pp. 659–91.
For an extensive study of Ngor chen’s life, including inventories of his textual production, see (Heimbel 2017).
More recently, Heimbel also mentions this text briefly in his chapter on “Ngor chen’s Involvement in Religious Disputes.” See (Heimbel 2017, p237 & p239 fn141).
On Gorampa, see (Go-rams-pa Bsod-nams-seṅ-ge et al. 2007); (Ngawang Jorden 2005); and (Kassor 2011). On Shakya Chogden, see works by Komarovski, including (Komarovski 2011).
Tshul khrims rin chen, “Spyod pa bsdus pa’i sgron ma,” in bstan ’gyur (sde dge). TBRC W23703. 35: 115–214. Delhi: Delhi karmapae choedhey, Gyalwae sungrab partun khang, 1982–1985. For a study and translation of this text, see (Wedemeyer and Āryadeva 2007).
For a translation and study of the sūtra, see (Lamotte et al. 2003). Drewes describes the śūraṃgama samādhi as a state manifested by tenth ground bodhisattvas enabling them to remain bodhisattvas and still in a sense be buddhas and to die without entering nirvāṇa. (Drewes 2018, p. 82).
I am grateful to Alexander von Rospatt for bringing Dhammajoti’s text to my attention as well as for sharing his thoughts on the category of aśaikṣa.
These meanings of yuganaddha as “yoked together,” “union,” and “joining,” share a quality of bringing together two members of a set (Buswell and Lopez 2013, p. 1042). In additional to meanings within tantric literature, Buswell and Lopez provide instances from the Pāli treatises in which yuganaddha indicates the way in which the practitioner unites samatha and vipassana by ‘alternating’ between them. Thurman proposed “communion” as a viable translation of the term in the tantric context of the Guhyasmāja. For a critique of this choice, see (Tomabechi 2000).
Zung ’jug (yuganaddha) displays a diverse range of precise technical meanings within different tantric cycles. For an astute discussion of polysemy in tantric literature, see (Davidson 2002).
For a useful chart envisioning zung ’jug’s place within the larger context of the Guhyasamāja practice, see (Wedemeyer and Āryadeva 2007, p. 83). On the terminology, see p. 148 fn46.
For a description of this bodhisattva in terms of the “Hundred Aspects of the Heroic Progress,” see (Lamotte et al. 2003, pp. 119–26). This bodhisattva is capable of manipulating form and evening of transforming their sex.
The commentary referred to here is from Nāgabodhi’s commentary: Tshul khrims rin chen, “Rim pa lnga pa’i bshad pa nor bu’i phreng ba,” in bstan ’gyur (sde dge). TBRC W23703. 37: 29–315. Delhi: Delhi karmapae choedhey, gyalwae sungrab partun khang, 1982–1985. See 120–21 for relevant section. For Ngor chen’s citation, see Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 677.1–77.3.
Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 672.6.
(Red mda’ ba) Gzhon nu blo gros, “Dpal gsang ba ’dus pa’i ’grel pa sgron ma gsal ba dang bcas pa’i bshad sbyar yid kyi mun sel zhes bya ba’i legs bshad rgya mtsho’i tshogs,” in Gsung ’bum: Gzhon nu blo gros. TBRC W23629. 3: 7–760. (Kathmandu): Sa skya rgyal yongs gsung rab slob gnyer khang/, 1999. I refer to Red mda’ ba’s text throughout this article as the Yid kyi mun sel.
For a rich inquiry into Red mda’ ba’s life and works, see (Roloff 2009, p. 6).
The potential of the Guhyasamāja sadhana as a tool for recreating one’s reality and purifying the stages of death, bardo, and rebirth were especially at stake in these differing interpretations. See (Bentor 2016, pp. 109, 115, and 118).
In his work on philosophical exchanges involving Ngor chen’s student Go rams pa, Cabezón introduced the term “sectarian differentiation” to push back against scholarly tendencies to use “sectarianism” to interpret polemical exchanges within Tibetan scholasticism in reductionist ways (Go-rams-pa Bsod-nams-seṅ-ge et al. 2007, p. 7).
For the section of Ngor chen’s text in which he lays out the views of his own tradition (rang lugs bzhag), see Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 674.4–677.6. The texts adheres to a common triadic polemical formula known in Tibetan as dgag bzhag spong, first laying out the objectionable view, then establishing one’s own position, and finally casting off potential objections.
Ngor chen refers to the source of this citation as simply the rgyud phyi ma. It appears within the Yang dag par sbyor ba’i thig le of the Sge dge bka’ ’gyur. For the section citing the metaphor of the elephant, see Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 676.1–676.5.
For this section of Ngor chen’s text in which he casts off objections (rtsod pa spong ba), see Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 677.6–691.3.
For an illuminating study of the intersection of narrative and ritual in Indian tantric accounts of the Buddha’s enlightenment, see (Dalton 2019).
See Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 682.6–683.3.
This citation appears to be from Nāgabodhi’s commentary on the Pañcakrama.
Tshul khrims rin chen, “Rim pa lnga pa’i bshad pa nor bu’i phreng ba,” in bstan ’gyur (sde dge). TBRC W23703. 37: 29–315.
See Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 683.3–686.1.
rab tu gsal zhing dga’ ba’i rang bzhin gyi de kho na nyid lhan cig skye pa thob par byed pa ma yin pa’i (685.3) phyir ro. Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 685.2–685.3. I have emended gyis to gyi here.
yang gal te/(688.4) phyag rgya chen po bde ba’i ye shes ni/stong pa dang snying rje zung ’jug yin la/de ni rnal ’byor rgyud man chad las kyang gsungs bas na lam mtshungs par ’gyur ro.zhe na mi ’gyur te/nyan thos gyi theg par sangs rgyas kyi yon tan sogs bstan kyang/stong nyid (688.5) ma bstan pas/theg chen la khyad par yod pa bzhin/rnal ’byor rgyud man chad du/sangs rgyas kyi bde ba sogs bstan yang/de mngon du byed pa’i thabs ma bstan zhing ma bsgoms pas ’bras bu la khyad yod do. Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 688.3–688.5.
de bas na rgyu dman pa’i phyir ’bras bu’ang cung zad dman pa yin te. Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 689.2.
See Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 689.2–689.5.
Tshul khrims rin chen, “Sems kyi sgrib pa rnam par sbyong ba zhes bya ba’i rab tu byed pa,” in bstan ’gyur (sde dge). TBRC W23703. 35: 214–225.
The citation discussed below appears at 219.3–219.4 of this edition.
de bas na sems kyi sgrib sbyong las/ji ltar ’jig rten phal las/rnal (689.6) ’byor pa ni ’jig rten rgyal. gong ma gong ma’i blo khyad kyis/rnal ’byor pa’ang rgyal bar ’gyur. shes rab che dang thabs che dang/brtse ba che dang mos pa nyid/theg pa chen po yang dag bstan. sems can chen po’i spyod yul yin. Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 689.6.
Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 689.6.
Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po (1382–1456), “Overcoming objections to the Three Tantras” (Rgyud gsum gnod ’joms) in Ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po’i bka’ ’bum = The Collected Works of Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po/compiled by Bsod nams rgya mtsho. Tokyo: Sa skya pa’i bka’ ’bum = The Complete works of the great masters of the Sa skya sect of the Tibetan Buddhism; vol. 9–10. The Toyo Bunko, 1968–1969, vol. 9: 155d–157a.
Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po (1382–1456), “Commentary on Overcoming Objections to the Three Tantras” (Rgyud gsum gnod ’joms kyi ’grel pa), in Ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po’i bka’ ’bum, The Toyo Bunko, 1968–1969, vol. 9: 157a–164b.
Note that Ngor chen only quotes the first section of the passage in this text. See Ngor chen, Commentary on Overcoming Objections, 161d.2–161d.3.
For Ngor chen’s complete argument on the order of teaching, see Ngor chen, Commentary on Overcoming Objections, 161c.1–161d.3. See also Hevajra Tantra II.viii. v. 10.
de lta na ni/dang por grub mtha’ ’og ma gnyis la bslab/de nas rnam rig pa la bslabs nas bzod dbu ma bstan de/dbu ma’i lta ba rtogs pa’i gang zag de slar yang rnam rig pa la jug par ’gyur te/ rgyud ’di lta ba rnam rig tu gnas shing/ dbu ma’i rjes la rgyud ’di la bslab par gsungs pa’i phyir ro. ’dod na dbu ma las rnam rig pa dag khyad par du ’phags par ’gyur zhing/rnal ’byor pa’ang blo khyad kyis/ gong ma gong ma rnams kyis gnod par yang mi ’gyur la. Ngor chen, Commentary on Overcoming Objections, 161c.6–161d.2.
See Ngor chen. Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 690.1–690.4.
The section extends from 70.3–77.1 of Red mda’ ba’s text. 72.3–74 matches Ngor chen’s citation of the mistaken view almost precisely. See Ngor chen, 660.4–662.3.
Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 69.6–70.1.
Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 70.3.
Tshul khrims rin chen, “Tshul gsum gyi sgron ma,” in bstan ’gyur (sde dge), TBRC W23703. 78: 14–54. Delhi: Delhi karmapae choedhey, Gyalwae sungrab partun khang, 1982–1985. For citation, see Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 70.5–70.6.
Drakpa Gyatso, International Buddhist Academy, personal communication, January 2021.
Kun dga’ snying po, Bsod nams rtse mo, Grags pa rgyal mtshan, Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan, Blo gros rgyal mtshan, “Theg pa’i rnam dbye bsdus pa,” In Sa skya bka’ ’bum. TBRC W00EGS1017151. 15: 532–535. (Kathmandu): Sachen international, 2006.
In Reply to the Questions of Dokorwa the Kadampa, translated in (Sa-skya Paṇḍi-ta Kun-dga-rgyal-mtshan and Scott 2002, fn1).
Sherburne translates Tripiṭakamāla’s verses there as follows: “The teachings on mantra are eminently superior when mastered by one of keen abilities, because of the many Means (they offer) without austerity-provided the one and only Goal is kept, unobscured.” He also notes that Atiśa cites this same Indian author at the conclusion of his section on the perfections vehicle. See p. 183 fn1.
See relevant section in Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 71.3–71.4.
Gang bdag bsam gyis mi khyab pa’i gnas ma thob pa de ni/ bde bar gshegs pa ste sangs rgyas kyi sa yin no. mtshan gzhi mtshon par byed pa ni/rdo rje sems dpa’ yang dag par gsungs so. Samputa Tantra as cited in Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 71.6.
See especially Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 674.4–674.3.
‘phags pa yab sras kyi gzhung la brten nas/ kho bo ’ba’ zhig gis legs par rtogs kyi/ gzhan dag gis ni ji bzhin bshad par mi sems so. Red mda’ ba, Yid kyi mun sel, 76.6–77.1.
Drakpa Gyatso, International Buddhist Acedemy, Personal communication, January 2021.
Davidson suggests that the influence of his father’s work in especially evident in the first chapter of Bsod nams rtse mo’s text and that Sa chen’s text may itself have been based on one by Mgos khug pa lhas btsas. For Sa pan’s text, see Kun dga’ snying po, Bsod nams rtse mo, Grags pa rgyal mtshan, Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan, Blo gros rgyal mtshan, “Rgyud sde spyi’i rnam par gzhag pa,” in Sa skya bka’ ’bum/. TBRC W00EGS1017151. 3: 7–164.
Bsod nams rtse mo’s tantric classificatory schema also parses the niruttara tantras into “father, mother, and nondual.” (Dalton 2005, pp. 159–60). On Bsod nams rtse mo’s contributions to the “stages of the doctrine” (bstan rim) genre and his degree of influence upon Sa pan’s Thub pa’i dgongs gsal, see (Jackson 1996, pp. 229–43). See especially pp. 235–39.
Kun dga’ snying po, Bsod nams rtse mo, Grags pa rgyal mtshan, Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan, Blo gros rgyal mtshan, “Rgyud sde spyi’i rnam par gzhag pa,” in Sa skya bka’ ’bum/. TBRC W00EGS1017151. 3: 7–164. (Kathmandu): Sachen international, 2006.
I base these remarks on Bsod nams rtse mo’s defense on Davidson’s assessment in (Davidson 2005, pp. 363–64).
(Bentor 2017) refers to a related passage in Ngor chen’s text. The equivalent section in the version I use in this article is Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation, 673.6–674.2. The passage appears at the end of Ngor chen’s refutation of the problematic view (de dag dgag). Ngor chen’s interpretation of passages from the autocommentary of the Madhyamakāvatāra in this section merits future research.
Mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang (1385–1438), Ocean of Attainment of the Guhyasamāja Generation Stage (Gsang ’dus bskyed rim dngos grub rgya mtsho), New Zhol par khang edition of Gsung ’bum: Mkhas grub rje (zhol). TOH 5481. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva. 1980–1982. BDRC W384, vol. 7, pp. 5–384.
Khenpo Choying Dorjee, Personal communication, UC Berkeley, Spring 2011.
“Two underlying premises of Sapan’s work are that every Buddhist practice can be associated with one of three distinct systems of discipline- the prātimokṣa vow of the Śravaka schools, the bodhisattva vow of the Mahāyāna schools, or the vidyādhara vow of the Vajrayāna lineages-and further, that those three are not separate but become, in fact, “of a single nature” through transformation during Vajrayāna initiation.” (Sa-skya Paṇḍi-ta Kun-dga-rgyal-mtshan and Scott 2002, p. 23). See fn76 & 77 for further detail on this notion of “single nature” and its relationship to the ideas of Sa pan’s predecessors such as Grags pa rgyal mtshan.
I am grateful to Drakpa Gyatso for bringing this verse to my attention. Komarovski also cites and translates the verse in (Komarovski 2016,p. 150 & fn23).
Tsong kha pa likewise critiques Ratnarakṣita’s perspective as one in which qualities belonging only to highest yoga tantra are erroneously used to distinguish sūtra from tantra as a whole. See (Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang-grags-pa 2016, p. 132).
I address the implications of Ngor chen and Red mda’ ba’s exchange for understandings of tantric corporeality in greater depth in a future article.
Cited in Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 666.5–666.6.
Stearns translates key texts of the Path and Fruit in (Stearns 2006).
On Ngor chen’s contributions to the textual legacy of the Path and Fruit, see (Sobisch 2008).
mdor na pha rol tu phyin pa’i lam sngon du ma song ba’i sngags kyi (691.3) lam med pa sngags lam bsten par ’bras bu sa bcu gsum pa thob pa med do. Ngor chen, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings, 691.2–191.3.
Drakpa Gyatso, International Buddhist Academy, Personal communication, January 2021.
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Dachille, R. Running the Numbers for the Path of Mantra: Distinguishing the Thirteenth Bhūmi in Fifteenth-Century Tibet. Religions 2021, 12, 175. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030175
Dachille R. Running the Numbers for the Path of Mantra: Distinguishing the Thirteenth Bhūmi in Fifteenth-Century Tibet. Religions. 2021; 12(3):175. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030175Chicago/Turabian Style
Dachille, Rae. 2021. "Running the Numbers for the Path of Mantra: Distinguishing the Thirteenth Bhūmi in Fifteenth-Century Tibet" Religions 12, no. 3: 175. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030175