Category Archives: Tantric practices

An Unknown Master of Rig ‘dzin rgod ldem: Sba ston/rGa ston dpal ba and Mañjuśrī’s Dzogchen

Rigdzin Gödem – Unknown source.

An Unknown Master of Rig ‘dzin rgod ldem: Sba ston/rGa ston dpal ba and Mañjuśrī’s Dzogchen: Rig ’dzin rGod ldem in the ’Jam dpal rDzogs chen lineage stemming from Sar ban phyogs med (XIth century) and its possible connections with ’Jam dpal tshe bdag

During my preliminary investigation in the fifth Dalai Lama’s Record of Teachings Received (gSan yig), I spotted the presence of Rigdzin Gödem in the context of a little-known lineage, that of ’Jam dpal rdzogs chen. There is actually no doubt about his identity, as the next figures in the lineage are very well-known masters of the Northern Treasures.

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Recovering the tantras of the Brahmin Cycle of the Dzogchen Yangti (rDzogs chen Yang ti bram ze’i skor)

In Rigdzin Gödem’s biographies, it appears that his father, Lopön Düdül (sLob dpon bDud ’dul, or Sidüdül–Srid bdud ’dul), was a practitioner of the Yang ti bram ze. What do we know about this little-known cycle of Dzogchen tantras?

There are clearly none extant practice instruction manuals (khrid yig), let alone masters who would know the practice in concrete terms. I could not even find a precise list of the tantras of this class. After a discussion with Jean-Luc Achard, I understood that we were indeed in such a total vagueness that his own efforts produced only a tentative list of these tantras by starting from the idea that the Yang ti was subdivided into two–Yang ti nag po and Yang ti bram ze. The Yang ti nag po being a living tradition, its tantras are well known (or at least, there is no ambiguity as to their list). It would therefore be possible to reconstitute the list of tantras of the Yang ti bram ze by eliminating the tantras of the Yang ti nag po from the whole of the tantras of the Yang ti (assuming that there are indeed only these two classes–which is not self-obvious, as, sometimes, one also finds mention of the Yang ti sangs rgyas mnyam sbyor, to which a cycle revealed by Guru Chöwang (Gu ru Chos dbang) belongs).

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The First Practice in which Rigdzin Gödem Obtained Signs of Accomplishment as a Teenager

It is said that in his 13th year (so, in Western style, when he was twelve), Rigdzin Gödem obtained accomplishments through ‘The Wheel of Activities of Black Leprosy.’

This is a tantra that is not unknown, as it is found (under another title) in the Collection of the Ancient Tantras;* unfortunately, though it has in its colophon marks that show that it is a ‘hidden treasure,’ there are no clues about its discoverer that would help us to know more about the lineages that transmitted it.

In fact, though there is no clear information about the origins and transmission lineage of this tantra, it is clearly connected to Yamāntaka, not in his form ‘Mañjuśrī Master of Life,’ (’Jam dpal tshe bdag) more connected to the termas of Gyazhangtrom (and very much practised nowadays in Dorjedrak and its branch monasteries), but in the form Nāgarakṣa–to be understood, in this context: ‘Demon for the Nāgas,’ or ‘Guardian against the Nāgas,’ the chtonian spirits supposed to cause all sorts of illnesses that are put in the general category of ‘leprosy,’ but which in fact includes all kinds of diseases affecting body tissues that would be classified otherwise in moderne medical science–from eczema to cancerous tumours.

Nāgarakṣa is described as an ‘extraordinary wrathful form of the deity Mañjuśrī; he is black, either with ten heads and eighteen arms, the principal face being that of a rākṣasa and extremely wrathful or with nine wrathful faces; either way nine snake’s heads move in the air above; on the crown of the central snake’s head is the conqueror Akṣobhya; eight right hands hold knives or swords; eight left serpent nooses, while the first pair are together at his heart; his upper body is that of a rākṣasa; his back leaning on Mount Meru; his lower body is the tail of a snake, coiled in the depths of the sea; all his mouths are emitting hissing sounds; trampled beneath him a black caṇḍāla (outcaste), he abides amidst a blazing mass of fire.’

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