བསྟན་པ་ཚེར་རིང་ (Tenpa Tsering Batsang, IFRAE, INALCO)


རྩིམ་ཡིག་འདིར་དུས་རབས་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་ནང་སོག་པོ་ཇུན་གར་བས་བོད་ལ་བཙུན་འཛུལ་མ་བྱས་གོང་དགའ་ལྡན་ཕོ་བྲང་གི་དབང་འཛིན་མི་སྣ་དང་རྡོ་བྲག་རིག་འཛིན་པདྨ་འཕྲིན་ལས་སོགས་རྙིང་ཕྱོགས་ཀྱི་བསྟན་འཛིན་སྐྱེས་ཆེན་ཚོའི་དབར་གྱི་མཆོད་ཡོན་གྱི་འབྲེལ་བ་དང་། དེ་རྗེས་ཇུན་གར་བས་བོད་ལ་བཙན་འཛུལ་བྱས་པའི་བརྒྱུད་རིམ་ནང་རྙིང་བསྟན་བསྣུབས་པར་ཀུན་སློང་བྱེད་མཁན་སོག་རིགས་སྒོ་མང་མཁན་པོ་བློ་བཟང་ཕུན་ཚོགས་གཙོས་དགེ་ཕྱོགས་ཀྱི་བླ་གྲྭ་ཉུང་ཤས་མཉམ་ཞུགས་བྱས་ཡོད་པ་རྭ་སྤྲོད་ཀྱིས་གླེང་སློང་བྱས་ཡོད།


དགའ་ལྡན་ཕོ་བྲང་། རྒྱལ་དབང་ལྔ་པ་ཆེན་པོ། སྨིན་གྲོལ་གླིང་། རྡོ་རྗེ་བྲག ཇུན་གར་བ། རྙིང་བསྟན་བསྣུབས་པ། བཙན་འཛུལ། ཕྱོགས་ཞེན།


མིས་རང་གི་སྐྱེ་ཁུངས་མ་ཤེས་ན། །ནགས་ནང་གི་སྤྲེའུ་དང་འདྲ། །
མི་རང་གི་ཆོ་འབྲང་མ་ཤེས་ན། །སྒོ་ཁའི་ཕྱུགས་ཟོག་དང་འདྲ། །
ཡབ་མེས་ཀྱི་ཆེ་དགེ་ཡིག་ཚང་མ་ཤེས་ན། །མཛོ་རྒྱན་འཁྱམ་པོ་དང་འདྲ། །

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The Location of Zang zang lha brag according to Se ston Padma dbang chen’s General Presentation of the Northern Treasures and the Concealment of the Treasures

by Jean-Luc Achard

1. The identification of Zang zang lha brag

 According to Se ston Padma dbang chen’s Byang gter spyi bcings,1 the sanctuary where Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem’s Five Treasuries (mDzod lnga) were discovered is known as a rocky mountain similar to a heap of snakes (brag ri lto ‘phye spungs ‘dra).2 It is located in the north-west direction from Bu le glacier (Bu le gangs), close to a large river flowing to the north.3 It is to be found north-east of rGyal thang, in a location which is famous for being a place where Sa bdag and Klu gnyan gather together, and where the eight categories of gods and demons (lha srin sde brgyad) roam. It is also styled as a mountain where abide the five classes of bTsan spirits (btsan rigs sde lnga). It is actually called “the Rock of the Gods” (lha brag) because it is a place where serpents (lto ‘phye) present offerings to the gods. And since it is a region where the four categories of “naked earth lords” (sa bdag zang ma) abide, it is called “Northern Zang zang” (byang gi zang zang).

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  1. P. 9, quoting the Lam byang gsal ba’i sgron ma (p. 9). []
  2. Se ston’s main sources for this section of his work are the Lam byang gsal ba’i sgron ma and the ‘Dzeng rdo dkar po’i shog dril gnyis pa. []
  3. Bu le gangs itself is a large mountain in lower La stod. See Wangdu & Diemberger, Shel dkar chos ‘byung, p. 47. See also, Thubten K. Rikey, “The Nature-Deities of Tibet”, p. 136, where Bu le gangs is presented as a place inhabited by gods and demons (lha ‘dre) according to the Padma bka’ thang by O rgyan gling pa. See however the very same O rgyan gling pa’s dPal bka’ ‘dus kyi rig ‘dzin brgyud pa’i gsol ‘debs ‘bring po, in which Bu le gangs is described (p. 337) as an agreeable or charming secluded place (dben gnas nyam dga’ ba). Note also that, as we shall see below, Jo bo Bu le is also the name of the Treasure Lord (gter bdag) to whom scrolls of the Northern Treasures were entrusted. His other name is Nor bu bzang po. []

The Lineage of the Ka dag rang byung rang shar according to the Preliminaries known as The Five Nails (gZer lnga)

by Jean-Luc Achard

The Natural Emergence of the Self-Arisen Primordial Purity (Ka dag rang byung rang shar) revealed by Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408) in 1366 in Zang zang Lha brag is sometimes regarded as a secondary or complementary rdzogs chen cycle associated with the famed Transparent Contemplation of Samantabhadra (Kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal).1 Here I shall briefly introduce the structure of its preliminary practices (sngon ‘gro) and present its two main lines of transmissions.2 The principal source for this short note is The Five Nails making up the Key Points of the Precious Preliminaries (sNgon ‘gro rin po che gnad kyi gzer lnga) which is the second text belonging to the collection.3

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  1. See the complete analytical description of this cycle in Peter Schwieger, 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, pp. 114-132. []
  2. These lines of transmission are described in Schwieger, op. cit., p. 115. We shall see another line of transmission according to the main Supplication (gSol ‘debs) text of this cycle (duly described in Schwieger, ib., p. 116) in a forthcoming short note to appear on this website. []
  3. On this system of five preliminary practices described according to the dGongs pa zang thal, see Tulku Thondup, Boundless Vision, pp. 65-79; id., The Five Nails, passim. See also S. Arguillère, Manuel de la transparution immédiate, p. 117 et seq. []

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. []

The Lineage of the Kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal according to the rDzogs pa chen po dgongs pa zang thal brgyud ‘debs

Copyright © BDRC 2023, Work no. W2PD17457.

Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS, CRCAO)

Prayers to the lineage (brgyud ‘debs) are specific supplications aiming at receiving the blessings (byin rlabs) of the lineage holders of a given cycle of teachings. They are great sources for identifying the main masters who are invoked and for understanding the potential various lines of transmission that may be found within a single collection of texts. In the present context, the line of transmission is that of the Kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal with the following successive masters:

  1. Samantabhadra
  2. Vajradhara
  3. Vajrasattva
  4. dGa’ rab do rje
  5. ‘Jam dpal bshes gnyen (Mañjuśrīmitra)
  6. Shrī Shingha (Śrī Siṃha)
  7. Padmasambhava
  8. Vimalamitra
  9. Vairocana
  10. Chos rgyal Khri srong lde btsan
  11. (Ye shes) mTsho rgyal1
  12. gTer ston Rig ‘dzin smug nag2
  13. rNam rgyal mgon po (1399–1423)3
  14. rDo rje rgyal mtshan
  15. Sangs rgyas bstan pa
  16. Shākya bzang po (15th-16th c.)4
  17. mKhyen ldan dbang po
  18. Sangs rgyas blo gros
  19. Nam mkha’ rin chen
  20. ‘Chi med tshe ring
  21. Zil gnon rdo rje5
  22. Kun bzang klong yangs (1646–1714)
  23. Chos dbang rdo ‘dzin rtsal (= Kun mkhyen rDo rje gzi brjid, Chos kyi dbang phyug, b. 1679)6
  24. Kun bzang gar dbang ‘Phrin las rnam rgyal (1696–1748).

The actual prayer is divided in three parts (not numerated). The first one enumerates the masters listed above, adding very few details, in particular their potential mudrā or the implements that they hold. The second part of the prayer follows the exact same list but gives more information about the place where the lineage masters lived, taught or are originating from.

After # 23, the prayer is dedicated to the root-master who probably is Kun bzang gar dbang ‘Phrin las rnam rgyal (# 24), in which case the author of the prayer in its present form should be the latter’s main disciple. The third part of the text is concerned with the supplication to the Protectors of the teachings, and with an aspiration prayer for realizing the principles of the Great Perfection in this life or in the Bardo.

The last master mentioned in the list—Kun bzang gar dbang ‘Phrin las rnam rgyal—has authored an interesting Guidance Manual (khrid yig) associated with the rDor sems thugs kyi me long cycle which had been previously discovered by mNga’ ris paṇ chen (1487–1542).7 According to his biography, he was born in 1696 (me byi lo)8 and studied numerous cycles of instructions, including the rDor sems thugs kyi me long until all signs of success manifested. Later on, he took a secret spouse (gsang yum) named Karma Chos sgron bde mo who gave him a son named Padma ‘jigs bral who would become his heir in the gCod lineage.9 He also had a daughter named bDe chen dbang mo with his second wife Nyi zla dbang mo. ‘Phrin las rnam rgyal passed away at the age of 52 (in 1748, ‘brug lo).10


Anonymous  rDzogs pa chen po dgongs pa zang thal brgyud ‘debs, in sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 2, pp. 1047-1053.

Ehrhard, Franz-Karl  A Rosary of Rubies, The Chronicle of the Gur-rigs mDo-chen Tradition from South-Western Tibet, Collectanea Himalayica 2, Indus Verlag, München, 2008.

Gar dbang ‘phrin las rnam rgyal (16th c.?)  rDor sems thugs kyi me long las/ gar dbang ‘phrin las rnam rgyal gyis (=gyis) mdzad pa’i ‘khrid (=khrid) yig, in mKhas dbang raghu wīra dang lokesh tsandra rnam gnyis kyis nyar tshags byad pa’i dpe tshogs, bdr:MW1KG26281), vol. 41, 37 folios (img. 143-218).

Ngag dbang bstan ‘dzin nor bu (1867–1940)  gCod yul nyon mongs zhi byed kyi bka’ gter bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar byin rlabs gter mtsho, Ngagyur Nyingmay Sungrab, vol. 21, Gangtok, 1972, pp. 262-277.

Sanders, Fabian & Pansa, Margherita  “The Appearance of gcod in the rNying ma School”, in Perspective on Tibetan Culture – A Small Garldand of Forget-me-nots Offered to Elena De Rossi Filibeck, edited by Michela Clemente, Oscar Nalesini, and Federica Venturi, Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, no. 51, Juillet 2019, pp. 323-336.

Solmsdorf, Nikolai Treasure-Traditions of Western Tibet, Rig-‘dzin Gar-dbang rdo-rje snying-po (1640–1685) and His Activities in Mang-yul Gung-thang, Collectanea Himalayica 4, Indus Verlag, München, 2014.

Valentine, Jay Holt The Lords of the Northern Treasures: The Development of the Tibetan Institution of Rule by Successive Incarnations, PhD, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, 2013, 361 pages.

  1. According to the traditional history of the cycle, Ye shes mtsho rgyal received the dGongs pa zang thal directly from Padmasambhava and took part in the cache of the Treasure in Zang zang lha brag. After her, the lineage goes through Treasure revelation. []
  2. This is another name of Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408) who excavated the Treasure in 1366. []
  3. He was a son of Thang stong rgyal po (1385–1464 or 1361–1485). []
  4. Dates recovered from Jay Valentine, The Lords of the Northern Treasures, p. xiv. []
  5. On this master see Franz-Karl Ehrhard, A Rosary of Rubies, p. 104 n. 4. []
  6. His mother was actually the daughter of Zil gnon rdo rje (# 21); see Solmsdorf, Treasure-Traditions of Western Tibet, p. 60 n. 94. See his biography in Ngag dbang bstan ‘dzin nor bu, gCod yul nyon mongs zhi byed kyi bka’ gter bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar byin rlabs gter mtsho, pp. 181-262. []
  7. The text is simply entitled rDor sems thugs kyi me long las/ gar dbang ‘phrin las rnam rgyal gyi (=gyis) mdzad pa’i ‘khrid (= khrid) yig, 37 folios. It also appears in the gCod lineage of the Northern Treasures; see Sanders & Pansa, “The Appearance of gcod in the rNying ma School”, p. 328 n. 23. []
  8. Ngag dbang bstan ‘dzin nor bu, gCod yul nyon mongs zhi byed kyi bka’ gter bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar byin rlabs gter mtsho, pp. 263. []
  9. This can be deduced from the fact that Ngag dbang bstan ‘dzin nor bu bases his account on ‘Phrin las rnam rgyal’s biography of the latter’s master (Kun mkhyen Chos kyi dbang phyug) and on that of the latter’s son Padma ‘jigs bral (id., op. cit., p. 262). On Padma ‘jigs bral’s biography, see op. cit., pp. 277-305. []
  10. The biography says 53 but since Tibetans count the gestation year, this should be counted as 52 according to our comput. []

Notes on the History of the Revelation of the Treasure (gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus)

Jean-Luc Achard

Copyright © BDRC 2023, Work no. W2PD17457.

The text summarized below is the first work opening the dGongs pa zang thal cycle included in the initial volume of the sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs collection published in India, in 2015.1 It relates the history of the revelation of the Treasure (gter ma) that would make up the dGongs pa zang thal itself, during the spring season of 1366. It is a fascinating narration since the largest part of it is told in the first person by Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408), highlighting the events that would later be incorporated—practically verbatim—in the rGod ldem biography.2 In its last part (p. 6), the narration appears a little rambling but it synthesizes in a few words the events that took place and the importance of both the location of the Treasure site (gter gnas) and the influence of the teachings discovered therein.

[P.2] The gter ma of the dGongs pa zang thal was hidden by ācārya Padmasambhava on the rocky mountain looking like a heap of poisonous snakes. The mountain itself is not named but it is Mount Zang zang lha brag (although the name Zang zang lha brag seems to be also used for the actual cave where the treasure was found).3 The key necessary for opening the treasure site was also hidden by Padmasambhava, this time on the peak of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang.4 The Index (kha byang) and the Itinerary Manual (lam byang) were hidden in a place called Grom pa rgyang, located in gTsang. Actually, from the biography of Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem, this is a reference to a temple built in this location.5

On the eighth day of the snake month of the year 1366,6 during the conjunction of the rGyal and Phur bu constellations,7 dNgos grub rgyal mtshan (i.e., Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem) and a couple of devoted companions8 headed out to excavate the Treasure. At dawn, they saw a sign manifesting in the form of a luminous white ray coming from the eastern direction and entering Mount Ri bo bkra bzang.9 The exact place was a spot where snow had just fallen on a rock. They started to dig below it and found a stone reliquary that had been hidden amidst a charcoal deposit.10 Within that rGod ldem extracted a white stone having the shape of a pillar and the length of a finger span.11

[P. 3] Then, on the fourth day of the sheep month,12 again at the period corresponding to the conjunction of the rGyal and Phur bu constellations, rGod ldem stated that it was time to excavate the Treasure. Thus, together with Ri khrod pa Sangs rgyas bstan pa and Rig ‘dzin mgon po, they started the journey to Zang zang but on their way they encountered numerous demonic obstacles. So they decided to stop and recite prayers to Padmasambhava,13 after which a five-colored rainbow started to shine continuously in the sky.
When they reached the foot of the mountain looking like a heap of poisonous snakes, three rainbows looking like stretched out white silk arose. For two days, they searched the middle part of the great rocky mountain until they actually found the place, a discovery that was marked by the manifestation of rainbows. They started to recite prayers and after sunset, the cave where they were practicing began to tremble and shake. They understood that this was a sign indicating the coming of the Lord of the Treasure (gter bdag).14

[P. 4] Thereafter, around midnight, using butter lamps for progressing in the dark, rGod ldem saw a rock on the south-west, marked with a vajra-cross (rdo rje rgya gram) and inserted the key below it. A hidden door opened in the rock and rGod ldem could see there was a small cave inside, containing small brook pebbles and charcoal.15 He cleared this material away and found a square blue stone-box with door ornaments sealing it with silver-colored nails. On the top of the stone was a light blue snake figure, with a yellow belly.16 Its head was turned towards the south-east and at the level of its heart were three protruding precious jewels. Inside the snake, rGod ldem found a scroll and some jewels. The entire inner part of the serpent artifact was of golden color and contained a thumb-sized jewel but since nothing was mentioned about it in the Index or Inventory Guide (Kha byang),17 rGod ldem decided to leave it there.
Then, he opened the central door of the Treasure and found three scrolls (shog dril), three phur bu, all fully wrapped into a brown piece of silk. From the four directions within the central cache, he found two sets of mother and son texts in scroll form, as well as the carved seed-syllables of the four female gate keepers (sgo ma bzhi)18 and eight mother and sons texts about medicine. From the four other caches around the central one, he found various kinds of jewels, including four royal soul-turquoises (bla g.yu) which the Lord of the Treasures ordered him not to take out. Inside the key itself, he found seven scrolls including an Inventory Guide of Treasures (gTer gyi kha byang).

[P. 5] He then filled the treasure-box with slivers of a Ficus tree,19 as well as grains and five kinds of jewels, the whole being used as substitute for the Treasure (gter tshab).20 The actual revelation of the Treasure took place at the exact time of the breaking of dawn.21 Having taken the Treasure with them, rGod ldem and his companions left the location. At that time, a ray of light coming from the sun directly entered the cave in the form of a rainbow, while a heavy rain started to fall in all the region.22 Wherever they went, rainbows would fill the sky in the manner of five-colored domes and as they arrived at the foot of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang, rays of light spread toward the west within a sky of a ruby color, a pure vision that was witnessed by all, great and small. During the night, there was an earthquake and numerous impressive omens occurred. After that, wherever they went, there were indications that people would have faith in the Treasure.

At this point of the narration, there is an implicit break where the text refers to the Seven Principles of the Precepts (associated with) the Key Points of the Heart Drops (sNying tig gnad kyi man ngag don bdun)23 explaining that vulture feathers started to appear on rGod ldem’s head when he was twelve and that they turned into white hair when he was twenty-one. One day, when he was twenty-seven,24 as he was in front of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang, he found a round leather pouch (rgyal pa) of an oily color, as if filled with milk. Upon tasting it, he found that it was actually filled with amṛta (bdud rtsi).25

[P. 6] As a synthesis, the last part of the text recalls that at the age of 30 (in 1366),26 rGod ldem revealed the “Great Treasure” (gter chen), i.e., the dGongs pa zang thal collection. The following year, in 1367 (lug gi lo), together with a party of devoted followers, he went back to the place where he had discovered the Treasure key in Ri bo bkra bzang and found out that a tree had grown there.27 Upon reaching the top of the mountain, numerous auspicious omens occurred that were witnessed by all those accompanying him. 

During this degenerate age, the teaching of this Treasure will, for a time, bring happiness to the realm of Tibet. The very place where the Treasure was excavated will also bring prosperity around.

In the future, Speech and Mind Emanations (gsung dang thugs kyi sprul pa) will come from Yang le shod in Nepal to sKyid rong in Mang yul, and in Ri bo bkra bzang itself they will find a self-arisen practice sanctuary (rang byung gi sgrub gnas) where they will see signs of Padmasambhava’s Body, Speech, and Mind. This will bring great benefit to beings. These teachings will be spread by fortunate ones at the southern frontier of Tibet.

The history of the excavation of the Treasure of the rocky mountain resembling a heap of poisonous snakes by Rig ‘dzin rGod kyi ldem phru28 can was redacted at the practice sanctuary (sgrub gnas) of gNa’ mo lung.




Byang gter lugs kyi rnam thar dang ma ‘ongs lung bstanCollected Biographies and Prophecies from the Byaṅ gter tradition, Reproduced from manuscripts from the library of Bla-ma seṅge of Yol-mo, Gangtok, 1983.

Herweg, Jurgen Wilhelm

The Hagiography of Rig ‘dzin Rgod kyi ldem ‘phru can And Three Historic Questions Emerging from It, MA, University of Washington, 1994, 329 pages.

Makhija, I.K; Sharma, I.P.; Khamar, D.

“Phytochemistry and Pharmacological properties of Ficus Religiosa: an overview, Annals of Biological Research, 2010, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 171-180.

Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem  (1337–1048)

 gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus, in sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, s.l., 2015, vol. 1, pp. 1-6. BDRC W2PD17457. Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod, Leh, 1979, vol. 93, pp. 1-7.

— Ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshadgNas chen byin ‘beb kyang zer: ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshad yang zer: bod khams kun la dgos pa’i lung bstan ces kyang zer ba, in Drag po rang ‘byung rang shar chen po’i rgyud dang bka’ brgyad kyi bsnyen thabs ‘das pa’i zhal lung sogs bcasA Collection of Byang gter Texts, Delhi, 1975, vol. 2, pp. 145-169. BDR:W30291.

Sangs rgyas bzang po (15th c.?)

Legs par bshad paʼi gter mdzod blo gsal yid la dgaʼ ba ster byed, in bKaʼ gdams gsung ʼbum phyogs bsgrigs thengs gnyis pa, vol. 16, Si khron dpe skrun tshogs pa si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2007, pp. 33-115. BDRC bdr:MW1PD89084_1850BB.

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche            

Hidden Teachings of Tibet, An Explanation of the Terma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, edited by Harold Talbott, Wisdom Publications, London, 1986.

Turpeinen, Katarina Sylvia

Vision of Samantabhadra – The Dzokchen Anthology of Rindzin Gödem, PhD, University of Virginia, 2015, 276 pages.


  1. dGongs pa zang thal, vol. 1, pp. 1-6. It is also included in the Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod collection, vol. 93, Leh, 1979, pp. 1-7. However, the text is missing from the A ‘dzom sgar edition as already noted by Turpeinen (in Vision of Samantabhadra – The Dzokchen Anthology of Rindzin Gödem, p. 27). []
  2. Most of the events related to the discovery are told in the biography and can be found in Herweg, The Hagiography of Rig ‘dzin Rgod kyi ldem ‘phru can, passim, although my understanding differs from his on several details. []
  3. There is a very puzzling statement in Herweg, op. cit., p. 16 n. 46, about this toponym. The mountain itself is called Dug sprul spungs ‘dra (“Like a Heap of Poisonous Snakes”) which is attested in other sources, starting with the gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus. []
  4. Ri bo bkra bzang is the main sacred mountain next to rGod ldem’s birth place. See rGod ldem, Ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshad, passim. []
  5. Herweg, pp. 85-86 (I thank Jay Valentine for sharing with me his ocrized version of Herweg’s Master of Art thesis). Grom ba rgyang is a hermitage (dben gnas) with a temple (gtsug lag khang) that was probably the place where these texts were discovered. This was for instance a place where bKa’ gdams Sangs rgyas bzang po wrote some of his personal composition; see inter alia his Legs par bshad paʼi gter mdzod blo gsal yid la dgaʼ ba ster byed in which the colophon (p. 115, last line) indicates that Sangs rgyas bzang po wrote his work in the great temple of Grom pa rgyang, the hermitage enjoyed by numerous accomplished scholars (…mkhas grub du ma nye bar rten pa’i dben gnas/ grom pa rgyan gyi gtsug lag khang chen por…). []
  6. Corresponding, according to Herweg (p. 93), to Sunday, 19th April, 1366. []
  7. This refers to a very precise manner of calculating time which eludes me. What I have understood of these calculations is that this conjunction corresponds to early morning, around 7:00 am, given the month of April (it should be a different hour in autumn, winter and summer). This is an issue that should be corrected if needed. []
  8. They are identified below as being Ri khrod pa Sangs rgyas bstan pa and Rig ‘dzin mGon po. []
  9. Most evidently, the place where the ray hit the mountain indicated the precise location where they had to dig. []
  10. Charcoal appears regularly in the narratives about gter ma revelation. It is used to prevent dampness and underground insects to deteriorate Treasures, even though the latter are generally placed in stone-boxes or stone-caskets (but see Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet, p. 70, who indicates that the sgrom bu (chest or casket) containing the gter ma can be “made of precious gems, metals, wood, clay, or stone”). []
  11. Since the place where this object was discovered is Ri bo bkra bzang, according to prophetic guides (lung byang) it is clear that it is the key (lde mig) necessary to open the Treasure in Zang zang lha brag. []
  12. Corresponding, according to Herweg (p. 94), to Sunday, 14th June, 1366. []
  13. He is simply referred to as the gu ru in the text. []
  14. The main guardian of these teachings is Ekajāti under the form named rDo rje khro gdong ma. []
  15. We have seen the potential role of charcoal above in note 8. The use of gravel or chippings—and in the present case brook pebbles (chu rdo)—is clearly made for preventing dampness and enabling drainage. The presence of these tangible, practical elements gives weight to the reliability or trustworthiness of these narratives. []
  16. This was not a living reptile or a drawing but rather a three-dimensional artifact. []
  17. This text is possibly the Kha byang gter gyi bang mdzod included in Collected Biographies and Prophecies of the Byaṅ gter tradition, pp. 265-272 (thanks to Jay Valentine for identifying the text). As we shall see just below, during this discovery, rGod ldem found another “inventory” text simply entitled gTer gyi kha byang. []
  18. These four guardians are counted among the Zhi khro and despite their outer wrathful appearance are said to belong to the peaceful deities (zhi ba). They are: 1) She with a Horse head (rTa gdong ma) holding a hook, 2) She with a Sow head (Phag gdong ma) holding a lasso, 3) She with a Lion Head (Seng gdong ma) holding a chain, and 4) She with a Wolf Head (sPyang gdong ma) holding a bell. []
  19. byang chub kyi shing bu, the Ficus Religiosa (the Pipal or Ashvatta tree). It is under a Ficus that Śākyamuni obtained Buddhahood, hence the sacred nature of this species. In Ayurveda, parts of the tree are used to treat several illnesses (from dysentery to tuberculosis and so forth; see Makhija et al., “Phytochemistry and Pharmacological properties of Ficus Religiosa”, p. 172 et seq.) and in the practice of bcud len, it is also included in pills aimed at rejuvenating the body and getting rid of stress (not to mention the treatment of type 2 diabetes; see id., p. 175). []
  20. When a gter ston reveals a Treasure, he is supposed to leave a “treasure substitute” (gter tshab) to the Treasure Lords, in exchange for the substances, artifacts or texts he excavates. As shown by Tulku Thondup (op. cit.,p. 84 and 257 n. 240) the contents of these substitutes might be indicated in the Prophetic Guide (Lung byang) that the gter ston is supposed to have discovered before excavating the Treasure. Such a Guide may also have been previously discovered by another gter ston who may then hand this list to the predestined gter ston. []
  21. As an auspicious sign, indicating the favorable dissemination of the teachings in the future, the light of dawn dispelling the darkness of the night symbolically illustrates the light of knowledge (gained through the practice of the gter ma) dispelling the darkness of ignorance. []
  22. This is an indication of the purification of sins being potentially still active in the gter ston and his assistants. Actual meteorological events and their symbolic meaning are here again totally fused together. []
  23. dGongs pa zang thal, vol. 3, pp. 285-303. []
  24. Most certainly around 1364 (the year Klong chen pa passed away). []
  25. This is most probably not a casual discovery but something that must be counted among his gter ma. Finding peculiar substances such as those liberating upon taste (myong grol) are not rare among Treasure revelations. See Thondup, op. cit., pp. 152-153. []
  26. He was actually twenty-nine according to our comput. []
  27. Since only a year had elapsed, the “tree” might simply have been a shrub at that time. Or this is again a symbol annunciating the perennity of the dGongs pa zang thal revelation. []
  28.  Phru in the text but it should be corrected to ‘phru. Apparently the sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs editor did not use the Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod version which had been corrected and provided the reading ‘phru in which the ‘a chung was added as a correction. []

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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The Life of Gönpo Wangyal (1845-1915)

Thanks to Dr. Martin Boord and David Cowey for the kind revision of the version of this text that is about to be printed in the introduction of our translation of Tülku Tsullo’s practice manual for the Direct Revelation.

Gönpo Wangyal: vignette from the 16-volume edition of the Complete Works of Tülku Tsullo: vol. 5.

Gönpo Wangyal (mGon po dbang rgyal, 1845-1915) was a Nyingma master, active in the Golok area. He was the nephew and successor of Terchen Nüden Dorje of Khordong (‘khor gdong gter chen Nus ldan rdo rje). He was the head of the Khordong monastery for many years and did much to make it a stronghold, in the Golok area, of both the Jangter and the revelations of his uncle Terchen Nüden Dorje. He was himself a tertön who mostly had revelations connected to the practice of Chöd (gcod).

Here is a short summary of Gönpo Wangyal’s biography by Tülku Tsullo (sprul sku tshul khrims bzang po, 2014: vol. 8 p. 1-110). I also used a shorter one (30 p.) in the History of the Jangter (Byang gter chos ’byung) by Chöying of Khordong (Byang gter phyogs bsgrigs : vol. 62, p. 757-787).

Tsullo’s biography starts with a summary of Gönpo Wangyal’s previous lives in India and Tibet. He was regarded as an emanation of Buddhas’s disciple Ananda, of Atsara Sale (Yeshe Tsogyal’s legendary male consort), Phadampa Sangye, Drapa Ngönshe, and, as for his Jangter connections, of Legdenje (Legs ldan rje) and Yölmo Tülku Tendzin Norbu (Yol mo sprul sku btTsan ‘dzin nor bu), etc.

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Table of Contents of the 1978 Edition of the Byaṅ gter rdzogs chen dgoṅs pa zaṅ thal and Thugs sgrub skor

by Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS, CRCAO)

Copyright © BDRC 2023, Work no. W4CZ1105.

The two cycles from the Northern Treasures catalogued in the list below are the rDzogs chen kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal and the Thugs sgrub kyi rtsa ba gsang ba rin po che’i ‘dus pa, both discovered by Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408). The reproduction of the texts is based on “an ancient manuscript from the monastery of Gsang-sngags-chog-gling in Spiti, H.P.” In other words, what has been published in this collection in three volumes is a handwritten copy in dbu med based on the original manuscripts.

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Northern Treasures Works by mNga’ ris paṇ chen Padma dbang rgyal (1487–1542) kept in the Potala

by Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS, CRCAO)

There is one single volume, in manuscript form, of works attributed to mNga’ ris paṇ chen Padma dbang rgyal (1487-1542), collated under the reference “Potala number 01272” and kept in the Potala Library. This volume contains only eleven individual texts which merely give an incomplete picture of the numerous works authored and revealed by Padma dbang rgyal. These eleven texts are:

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