Category Archives: Non classé

The Proto-Historical Origins of the Northern Treasures according to Se ston Padma dbang chen (15th c.)

Jean-Luc Achard

In the first part of his Garland of Jewels (Rin chen ‘phreng ba), Se ston Padma dbang chen briefly describes the origins of the Northern Treasures tradition, dating it back to the imperial period. We shall briefly recall here the well-known narrative that structures these origins. Se ston explains that in “earlier times” (sngon gyi dus na),2 there came an emanation of Mañjughoṣa (‘Jam pa’i dbyangs) who manifested as a king protecting Dharma under the name of Khri srong lde’u btsan (r. 755–797). At the age of thirteen, the young prince took hold of the royal seat and started to govern the country.3 Soon, his heart started to turn toward virtues and he became interested in Buddhist teachings. At the time, he was eighteen. He financed the building of temples (gtsug lag khang) that would lay the basis for the spread of Buddhism in the Tibetan kingdom, styled as a “region of darkness” (mun pa’i gling). To ensure this diffusion he decided to invite important masters from India, starting with the abbot Śāntarakṣita who was born in Zahor and whom Tibetans nicknamed “Abbot Bodhisattva”. The Abbot performed the ritual for subjugating the soil (sa ‘dul) and workers started to build the first Buddhist temple in bSam yas. However, as the now famous story goes, what was built by humans during the day was destroyed during the night by ill-intentioned demons.

Since the abbot failed to succeed in the building of the temple, the king was rather displeased. To counter the situation, Śāntarakṣita advised him to invite the ācārya Padmasambhava from India. Presented as having been miraculously born from a lotus on a lake, this master was described as not covered by the impurities of the womb. He had furthermore obtained the immortal Diamond Body (‘chi ba med pa rdo rje’i sku) and was said to be able to perform the activities of a thousand Buddhas.4 In India itself, he was already renown as an Emanation Body (sprul pa’i sku) capable of binding the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons (sde brgyad) into servitude.5 In reality, he was the concrete manifestation of Buddha Amitābha, living in the cave of Yari Gong (g.Ya’ ri gong) in India. Thus, three envoys were dispatched with gold in order to invite him.6 They met him in India and owing to the latter’s aspiration prayers formulated in a previous rebirth, Padmasambhava accepted the invitation to go to Tibet.7 The anachronistic date of their departure for Tibet is said to have been the 15th of the middle winter month of an Earth-Male-Horse year.8

Continue reading

  1. Thanks to Marianne Ginalski and to Jay Valentine for their suggestions and corrections. []
  2. I.e., during the 8th century. []
  3. At that time, the kingdom of Tibet was not limited to Central Tibet but embraced large parts of Central Asia, Northern China, most of the Himalayan regions, and so forth. However, this state of affairs was not to last long. []
  4. With such a Body, Padmasambhava is said to have obtained power over his lifetime (tshe la dbang ba). []
  5. On these eight classes, see Samten Karmay, “Une note sur l’origine du concept des huit catégories d’esprit”, passim. []
  6. These three envoys were sBa mi khri zher (of Yar klung), Śākya pra ba (of the ‘Chims clan), and Shud pu dPal gyi seng ge. []
  7. His aspiration prayers associated with a previous rebirth are an explicit reference to the legend surrounding the Bya rung kha shor (Bodnath) Stūpa on which see sNgags ‘chang Śākya bzang po, mChod rten chen po bya rung kha shor gyi lo rgyus thos pas grol ba, pp. 302-339. See the excellent translation of this work by Adam Pearcey, “Liberation Upon Hearing —The History of the Great Jarung Kashor Stūpa”, passim. []
  8. P. 4: sa pho rtsa dgu zla ‘bring po’i tshe bco lnga. The date is anachronistic because the addition of the element (‘byung ba) only happened after the introduction of the Kālacakra calendar in Tibet in the mid-11th century. []

A Line of Transmission of the dGongs pa zang thal according to the History of the Lineage known as the Garland of Gems (brGyud pa’i lo rgyus nor bu’i ‘phreng ba)

Jean-Luc Achard


The brGyud pa’i lo rgyus nor bu’i phreng ba is a late work that has been included in some of the later editions of the dGongs pa zang thal.1 It was authored by one ‘Jam dbyangs bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po who is supposed to have been the 25th Sa skya khri chen, also known as Grags pa blo gros (1563–1617).2 I have so far been unable to identify any reference to the transmission of the dGongs pa zang thal in his biography, nor have I succeeded in locating in the same biography any interest of this master for rDzogs chen teachings. However, in the present narrative, he explains the lineage from which he has received transmission, including direct teachings from Chos kyi rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po, Rig ‘dzin Nam mkha’ grags pa and rNam rgyal mgon po, among others. This direct proximity raises questions about his dates.3 He states (p. 68) that the transmission he obtained from Nam mkha grags pa occurred 74 years after the gter ma revelation by rGod ldem. This would correspond to 1439 (sa mo lug).4 He also explains that the transmission lasted until 1441 (lcags mo bya), covering a period during which he received the various empowerments of the dGongs pa zang thal.5 The teachings he received are connected to the following line of transmission:

  1. ‘Od mi ‘gyur ba/Samantabhadra (pp. 45-46)6
  2. Buddhas of the Five Clans (rigs lnga) (p. 46)
  3. Mahā Vajradhara/Vajrasattva (p. 46)
  4. Vajrapāṇi (pp. 46-48)7
  5. dGa’ rab do rje (pp. 48-49)
  6. ‘Jam dpal bshes gnyen (Mañjuśrīmitra) (pp. 49-52)
  7. Shrī seng ha (Śrī Siṃha) (p. 52)
  8. Padmasambhava (p. 52)
  9. Vairocana (p. 52)
  10. Vimalamitra (p. 52)8
  11. Chos rgyal Khri srong lde btsan (p. 53)
  12. (Ye shes) mTsho rgyal (p. 53)9
  13. gTer ston Rig ‘dzin smug nag (p. 56)10
  14. bSod nams bzang po (p. 66)
  15. Rig ‘dzin chen po Nam mkha’ grags pa (p. 66)11
  16. rNam rgyal mgon po (p. 68)12
  17. Sa skya ‘Jam dbyangs bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po (p. 69)

The issue about the author of this text is thorny because his dates on the Sa skya side seem to be well established while they in fact do not fit with the chronology he himself gives of the transmission he received. A solution would be to suggest there has been two Sa skya ‘Jam dbyangs bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po-s, but I think it is pretty much unlikely.




sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, s.l., 2015, 63 volumes, BDRC W2PD17457.

Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408)

— Byang gter phyogs bsgrigs: sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, s.l., 2015, 63 vol. BDRC W2PD17457.

— Byaṅ gter rdzogs chen dgoṅs pa zaṅ thal and Thugs sgrub skor, Collections of texts from two cycles of rediscovered teachings of the Byaṅ-gter or Rdo-rje-brag tradition of the Rñyiṅ-ma-pa school, revealed from their place of concealment by Rig-‘dzin Rgod-kyi-ldem-‘phru-can. Reproduced from ancient manuscripts from the monastery of Gsaṅ-sṅags-chos-gliṅ in Spiti. Published by Orgyan Dorji, Suma, Kinnaur Distt., 3 volumes, 1978.

‘Jam mgon A mes zhabs (1597–1660)

sNgags ‘chang grags pa blo gros kyi rnam par thar pa bying rlabs char ‘bebs zhes bya ba, in The Biographies of Sa-skya Lo-tstshā-ba ‘Jam-pa’i-rdo-rje (1485–1533) sṄags-‘chaṅ Grags-pa-blo-gros (1563–1617), and ‘Jam-dbyaṅs bSod-nams-dbaṅ-po (1559-1621), Reproduced from clear prints of the Sde-dge Dgon-chen blocks, Sakya Centre, Dehradun, 1984, pp. 39-91.

‘Jam dbyangs bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po (*1563–1617)

brGyud pa’i lo rgyus nor bu’i phreng ba, in sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 1, pp. 43-71.

Schwieger, Peter

Die Werksammlungen Kun-tu bzaṅ-po’i dgoṅs-pa zang-thal, Ka-dag raṅ-byuṅ raṅ-śar und mKha’-‘gro gsaṅ-ba ye-śes-kyi rgyud, Tibetische Handschriften und Blockdrucke, Teil 9,  Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1985.


  1. It is not, for instance, included in the 1978 three volume edition of the Byang gter rdzogs chen dgongs pa zang thal and Thugs sgrub skor. Nor is it contained in the A ‘dzom chos sgar edition. []
  2. About his life, see ‘Jam mgon A mes zhabs, sNgags ‘chang grags pa blo gros kyi rnam thar, pp. 39-91. His name is given on p. 43 as sNgags ‘chang Grags pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po, and as ‘Jam dbyangs bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po on p. 48. []
  3. The fact that he belong to the Sa skya lineage and that he therefore might really be the 25th Sa skya khri ‘dzin, is hinted at in the Nor bu’i phreng ba itself in which he introduces himself at one point as being of Sa skya lineage (p. 69: bdag sa skya ‘jam dbyangs bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang pos/…). []
  4. There is a discrepancy of about one century and a half when comparing these dates with those that are traditionally associated with the 25th Sa skya khri ‘dzin. []
  5. The list he gives enumerates: spros bcas dbang, spros med dbang, shin tu spros med dbang, rab tu spros med dbang, as well as thugs dbang, and rtsal dbang. []
  6. ‘Od mi ‘gyur ba (“Immutable Light”) is the name of the primordial Buddha as it appears in several Tantras of the dGongs pa zang thal (and elsewhere). This name can be interpreted as symbolically referring to the natural state (gnas lugs) which is defined as the nondifferentiation of Emptiness and Clarity (stong gsal dbyer med). The Emptiness aspect (stong cha) of this state is to be associated with the “Immutable” (mi ‘gyur ba) Essence (ngo bo) of the Buddha, while the “Light” or Clarity aspect (gsal cha) is connected to his Nature (rang bzhin). See also P. Schwieger, Die Werksammlungen Kun-tu bzaṅ-po’i dgoṅs-pa zang-thal, p. xix. []
  7. Starting with the next in the line of transmission, i.e., dGa’ rab rdo rje, all masters belong to the human realms, while nos. 1-4 were associated with divine abodes. []
  8. Padmasambhava, Vairocana, and Vimalamitra are traditionally presented as having all been disciples of Śrī Siṃha, although not at the same time. []
  9. She was a disciple of Padmasambhava (no. 8), not of Vairocana or Vimalamitra. And even though she had been married to king Khri srong lde btsan she was in no way his disciple either. []
  10. This is of course Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408). In the lineage of the Ka dag rang byung rang shar (Byang gter phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 3 p. 11), he is described as a great Knowledge-Holder (rig ‘dzin chen po) having a dark red or brown complexion (sku mdog dmar smug). []
  11. bSod nams bzang po and Nam mkha’ grags pa are both direct disciples of Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem. []
  12. He was Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem’s son. []