This article is the fourth of a six part series which brings you Gyurme Dorje's extensive and remarkable introuduction to the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the flagship tantra of the Nyingma School of the Tibetan Buddhism.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: EULOGY TO THE WRATHFUL DEITIES
The purpose of this chapter is to present the continuum of the result, as fully manifested in the maôçala of wrathful deities.
The assembled host of Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, having perfectly presented these enlightened activities of the wrathful maôçala, then sings a eulogy to the naturally manifesting buddha-body and pristine cognition (v.1).
The actual verses of the eulogy are dedicated to the enlightened families of buddha-body (v.2), buddha-speech (v.3), buddha-mind (v.4), buddha-attributes (v.5) and buddha-activities (v.6), ie. to the central pairs of the Herukas and their consorts. These culminate in a particular eulogy to Mahottara Heruka and Krodhïâvarï, who embody the celestial palace of the wrathful maôçala itself (v.7).
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: THAT WHICH IS PLEASING AND RETAINED
The final chapter concerns the manner in which the Guhyagarbha Tantra is taught and entrusted to its worthy recipients or lineage holders.
Having perfectly revealed the peaceful and wrathful maôçalas of the Magical Net, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, now emphasises that this tantra-text must be firmly retained for the sake of posterity (v.1).
This tantra-text is considered to be the ground, path and result, and the very essence of all the tathägatas (v.2), while other paths associated with the different vehicles are merely stepping stones in its direction (v.3). It should not be given to those who would not benefit by receiving it since the preliminaries and lesser paths will suffice for them (v.4). The expositor who confers the empowerments and instructions associated with this tantra is actually identified with Samantabhadra (v.5).
This tantra which expounds the reality of the ground, path and result is the most secret of all teachings, devoid of exaggeration and depreciation, and is divulged only to worthy recipients (v.6). Prophetic declarations are given to the effect that those who retain and teach it will attain all levels and become awareness-holders (v.7).
Moreover, it is significant that on its conclusion, the teacher, Samantabhadra, and the assembled retinue of tathägatas reveal their continuing presence as ornaments in the buddhafield of the Bounteous Array, without change or transition, unlike the teachings of lesser vehicles where the five excellent circumstances surrounding the teachings fade at the conclusion of these teachings (v.8).
THE PERFECT CONCLUSION
Commenting on the original colophon of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, Longchen Rabjampa points out that it is derived from the Great Tantra of the Magical Net of Vajrasattva in One Hundred Thousand Chapters. In particular, within that cycle, it is known as the all-embracing universal transmission of all vehicles, and the supreme basis of the unsurpassed secret mantras.
8. TEN ASPECTS OF THE GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
In contrast to the structural approach, outlined above, which presents the content of the Guhyagarbhatantra in terms of the continua of the ground, path and result or from the standpoints of Mahäyoga, and Atiyoga, a quite different analysis is made by Ju Mipham Namgyel in his Summary of the Guhyagarbha entitled Nucleus of Inner Radiance (sPyi don 'od gsal snying po). This commentary focuses on the so-called ten topics or aspects of the mantras (mantradaâatattva), which are generally recognised, indicating how they are fully contained within the actual verses of the root-text. These ten aspects, each of which is discussed in turn, are enumerated as follows:
A view of reality, determinate conduct, maôçala array, successive gradation of empowerment, commitment which is not transgressed, enlightened activity which is displayed, fulfillment of aspiration, unwavering meditative stability, offerings which bring the goal to fruition, and mantra recitation accompanied by the sealing hand-gestures which bind [the practitioner to realisation].
VIEW (LTA BA), SPYI DON, PP. 66-113
This is generally defined as the intellectual perspective of reality once exaggeration and depreciation have been erradicated by means of discriminative awareness (shes rab). The status of sentient beings is ascertained, in terms of the true establishment of this view, to comprise those of no understanding, those of wrong understanding, and those who do not fully understand genuine reality (i.e., the adherents of the causal vehicles), as well as those who understand the meanings of spiritual discipline, intention, secrecy, and the naturally secret truth (i.e., the respective adherents of Kriyätantra, Ubhayatantra, Yogatantra and Mahäyogatantra).
In particular the view of Mahäyoga epitomised in this tantra is that phenomenal existence is ascertained to be fundamental reality by means of four axioms of correct view, namely, the axiom of the four kinds of realisation (rtogs pa bzhi), the axiom of the three purities (dag pa gsum), the axiom of the four modes of sameness (mnyam bzhi), and the axiom of supreme embodiment (bdag nyid chen po).
i) The four kinds of realisation are indicated in Ch. 11, v. 2:
Single basis and modality of the seed-syllables,
Blessing and direct perception:
Through [these] four kinds of excellent realisation,
All things are the great king, manifestly perfect.
Now, the axiom of single basis (rgyu gcig pa) establishes all things to be naturally present and uncreated, modality of the seed-syllables (yig 'bru'i tshul) establishes all things to be an unceasing display of pure appearance, blessing or consecration (byin gyis brlabs pa) establishes all things as an indivisible essence of uncreated sameness and pure appearance, and direct perception (mngon sum) establishes all phenomena [as the deities of the maôçala], without intellectual characteristics.
ii) The axiom of the three purities establishes the mundane world, its inhabitants and the mind-stream as a great purity.
iii) The axiom of the four modes of sameness, namely, emptiness, the coalescence of appearance and emptiness, the freedom from conceptual elaboration and sameness itself, establishes all things subsumed in relative and ultimate truth as a great sameness.
iv) The axiom of supreme embodiment establishes all things to abide primordially in the embodiment of a single pristine cognition (ye shes), which is the true nature of mind (sems nyid).
The ascertainment of this abiding nature of reality (gnas lugs) is indeed the fundamental view or goal of Mahäyoga, and its axiomatic exegesis is explored by Mipham Rinpoche in three topics which he outlines as follows:
i) The view of apparitional reality is the view that the mundane world and its inhabitants are present as a great purity in the maôçala of supportive buddha-body and supported pristine cognition, respectively.
ii) The view of reality itself is that all things partake of a great indivisible sameness.
iii) The view of intrinsic or intuitive awareness is that in which one is to become individually aware that the superior truth of the indivisibility of purity and sameness is the great buddha-body of reality (mahädharmakäya).
In the Summary entitled Nucleus of Inner Radiance (sPyi don 'od gsal snying po), pp. 69-107, he sets forth his statements in support of this view, comprising a proof of the superiority of the mantra view over that of the sütras and a proof of sameness, purity and indivisibility with reference to the mantra view itself. In conclusion (pp. 107-113) he shows how each of the other ten aspects of mantra depends on purity and sameness of view.
MEDITATIVE STABILITY (TING NGE 'DZIN), SPYI DON, PP. 113-127
This is essentially defined as the equipoised awareness abiding one-pointedly with reference to or in harmony with a visualised object, without obscuration or agitation. Meditative stability is initially acquired when a practitioner applies the appropriate motivation, effort, mindfulness, alertness, and equanimity. Then, the experience of tranquility (âamatha/ zhi gnas) is refined by nine kinds of skilful means which enable the mind to abide in its natural state, giving rise incidentally to experiences of bliss, radiance and non-conceptualisation.
According to the inner classes of tantra, meditative stability specifically refers to the practice of the generation stage (bskyed rim) and the perfection stage (rdzogs rim). The meditative stability of the generation stage, in its most extensive form, refines propensities associated with the four places of birth, develops the five awakenings during the course of one's life and the four rites of indestructible reality. In its middling form it refers to the so-called the three rites. These are both associated with Mahäyoga. Then, in its concise form it refers to the spontaneously perfect meditative stability associated with Anuyoga; and in its most concise form it refers to the instantaneous recollection, associated with Atiyoga.
The meditative stability of the perfection stage includes the path of skilful means (thabs lam) by which the energy channels, currents of vital energy and points of seminal energy (rtsa rlung thig le) in the subtle body are controlled and the coalescent path of liberation (grol lam), which concerns non-conceptualising yoga and is effected in three steps: willfully applied meditation, otherwise known as the yoga of blessings, effective meditation, also known as the yoga of the imaginary, and instantaneous meditation, also known as the yoga of perfection.
CONDUCT (SPYOD PA), SPYI DON, PP. 127-136
Conduct essentially refers to all the activities associated with body, speech and mind which are to be engaged when the practices of skilful means (thabs) and discriminative awareness (shes rab) are applied. It comprises spiritual discipline on the path of skilful means (thabs lam brtul zhugs kyi spyod pa) and careful restraint on the path of liberation (grol lam bag yod kyi spyod pa). In periods of meditative absorption, conduct refers to meditative stability itself, whereas in post-meditation, it concerns the phenomenal display which arises before the mind. The distinctive conduct associated with the practice of Mahäyoga includes the rites of sexual yoga (sbyor ba) which generate delight and rites of "forceful liberation" (sgrol ba), which are the wrathful application of compassion.
MAÒÇALA (DKYIL 'KHOR), SPYI DON, PP. 136-144
The term maôçala essentially refers to a central deity embodying fundamental reality surrounded by peripheral clusters of deities, but it may also be defined as the basis through which essential enlightened attributes are apprehended. It is classified according to the maôçalas of ground, path and result. The maôçala of the ground refers to the primordial presence of the mundane world and its inhabitants, respectively as the supportive meditational deities and supported pristine cognition. The maôçala of the path refers to the symbolic or illustrative images of meditation and the genuine maôçalas of buddha-body, -speech and -mind, while the maôçala of the result refers to the conclusive fruition, the "rank of Samantabhadra" whereon buddha-body and pristine cognition are present, without conjunction or disjunction.
EMPOWERMENT (DBANG BSKUR), SPYI DON, PP. 144-152
Empowerment is essentially defined as the initial disipation of stains covering the body, speech and mind, which facilitates the conferral of mature pristine cognition. It is generally classified according to the vase-empowerment ('bum dbang) which purifies the subtle body and its energy channels (rtsa) into the buddha-body of emanation body (sprul sku), the secret empowerment (gsang dbang) which purifies subtle speech and its vital energy (rlung) into the buddha-body of perfect resource (longs spyod rdzogs pa'i sku), the empowerment of discriminating pristine cognition (shes rab ye shes kyi dbang) which purifies the subtle mind and its point of seminal energy (thig le) into the buddha-body of reality (chos-sku), and the empowerment of word and meaning (tshig don gyi dbang) which purifies these three in equal proportion into the buddha-body of essentiality (ngo bo nyid kyi sku).
According to Mahäyoga in particular, there are three categories of empowerment: those of beneficence (phan dbang), ability (nus pa'i dbang) and profundity (zab dbang), the first two of which correspond to the vase empowerment and the last to the other three.
COMMITMENT (DAM TSHIG), SPYI DON, PP. 152-185
Commitment is essentially defined as a limit which is not to be transgressed. When classified, there are general commitments including the monastic vows concerning individual liberation (prätimokêa), the bodhisattva vows concerning the cultivation of an altruistic intention (sems bskyed) and the commitments of the tantras, as upheld by the Sarmapa mantra traditions. In particular, according to Mahäyoga, there is an enumeration of twenty-eight commitments, or another comprising five basic and ten ancillary commitments. The five basic ones are not to abandon the unsurpassed teachings of Mahäyoga, to venerate the spiritual teacher, not to interrupt the continuity of mantra recitation and sealing hand-gestures, to maintain loving kindness for neophytes entering the path of the sacred teachinsg which leads to buddhahood, and not to divulge secrets to unworthy recipients. The ten ancillary commitments are not to abandon the five poisons and to accumulate the five nectars.
ATTAINMENT (SGRUB PA), SPYI DON, PP. 185-202
Attainment is essentially defined as the acquisition of supreme and common spiritual accomplishments through the extraordinary means of the secret mantras. It is therefore classified according to the accomplishments (dngos grub) which are either supreme or common. The ancillary supports (rten) of attainment include material sacraments, mantra recitation, meditative stability, and physical postures. The essence (snying po) of the practice which brings about spiritual attainment is the generation and perfection stages of meditation; and its modalities (sgrub tshul) are the so-called four aspects of ritual service and attainment (bsnyen sgrub).
In particular, Mahäyoga includes the extraordinary attainments of the feast-offerings (tshogs), whereby male and female yogins attain the rank of the awareness-holders by means of the four aspects of ritual service and attainment.
OFFERING (MCHOD PA), SPYI DON, PP. 202-215
Offerings are essentially defined as the means for venerating and producing delight in the meditational deities because the making of offerings precedes all virtuous actions and engagement in all activities. When classified, offerings include the outer offerings of everyday resources (phyi nyer spyod kyi mchod pa), the inner offerings of commitment (nang dam rdzas kyi mchod pa), the secret offerings of sexual yoga and "forceful liberation" (gsang ba sbyor sgrol gyi mchod pa), and the real offerings of great sameness (de kho na nyid mnyam pa chen po'i mchod pa). These are all integrated in the course of the feast-offering ceremony.
ENLIGHTENED ACTIVITY (PHRIN LAS), SPYI DON, PP. 215-226
Enlightened activity is essentially defined as the extraordinary skilful actions, expressed by bodhisattvas for the sake of others through the four immeasurable aspirations (tshad med bzhi). It is classified, according to its diverse goals, into supreme and common activities, the former generating the seed of liberation in other minds and the latter manifesting provisional blissful results.
Also, among the ancillary supports for enlightened activity, there are outer activities that relate to the external sacraments and inner activities of body, speech and mind. Now, some activities are said to benefit sentient beings while others eradicate obstacles, notably the four rites of pacification (zhi), enrichment (rgyas), subjugation (dbang) and wrath (drag). When the motivation behind activities is considered, there are common self-centred activities and supreme altruistic activities. All these may be attained through the practice of the perfection stage, the generation stage or through the recitation of mantras.
SEALING (PHYAG RGYA), SPYI DON, PP. 226-237
Sealing is essentialy defined as the means of resolutely securing the buddha-body, -speech, -mind and -activities. It is classified generally according to the seals of ground, path and result. Among these, in the case of the generation stage of meditation, the seals of the path comprise: the Great Seal of buddha-body (sku phyag rgya chen po), the Teaching Seal of buddha-speech (gsung chos kyi phyag rgya), the Commitment Seal of buddha-mind (thugs dam tshig gi phyag rgya) and the Action Seal of buddha-activity (phrin las las kyi phyag rgya). In the case of the perfection stage, these same four seals are secured by engaging with a female consort (gzungs ma), by cultivating the path to buddhahood, or through the four resultant pristine cognitions. The act of sealing is symbolically represented by the diverse hand-gestures.
MANTRA (SNGAGS), SPYI DON, PP. 237-259
Mantra is essentially defined as "the extraordinary skilful means which protects the subtle mind and its discriminative awareness". Now, the syllables of buddha-speech, including all the vowels and consonants, are considered to abide naturally within the subtle body, to generate the celestial palace of the meditational deities, to generate the miraculous emanational array of the meditational deities, and to be vocalised as sounds and letters. These four modalities of buddha-speech have their corresponding attainments since they respectively relate to the essential nature of actual reality, or emptiness, to the nature of apparitional reality, to the blessings of the buddhas, and to the unimpeded potency of their speech. The results attained through the recitation of mantras include both provisional and conclusive levels of realisation.
In terms of their practical application, mantras are said to be of three kinds: secret mantras (gsang sngags), gnostic mantras (rigs sngags) and retentive mantras (gzungs sngags), the first so-called because their skilful means is secret, the second because their essence is awareness or pristine cognition, and the third because consecration occurs when they are retained.
In the course of his summary, Mipham Rinpoche concludes each of these ten sections with a statement showing how all the ten aspects of the secret mantra practice are completely interrelated. For such reasons, the Guhyagarbha Tantra fulfils all the criteria required of an unsurpassed tantra-text.
9. ORIGIN OF THE GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
Any discussion of the historical position of the Guhyagarbha Tantra must take note of the controversy regarding its origin which prevailed in Tibet in the centuries immediately following the later propagation of the Buddhist teachings. We have already observed that dissemination of the ancient tantras was restricted in consequence of their secrecy and the danger of their misapplication. In the eleventh century, Lha Lama Yeshe-o and others sought to outlaw the teaching and practice of tantra, accusing the adherents of this tradition of engaging in sbyor sgrol rites, ie. sexual practices and wrathful expressions of buddha-activity. The Guhyagarbha, one of the main texts expounding these methods, was subjected to criticism. Other such texts, including the Guhyasamäja Tantra, were paradoxically exempted from this attack. Nonetheless, as we shall see in our examination of the text itself, the expression of these techniques in the Guhyagarbha appears to have a particularly subtle enlightened intention when contrasted with the overt sexual and macabre descriptions found in certain other tantras. Further study of the Collected Tantras of the Nyingmapa, particularly of its Anuyoga and Atiyoga texts, would, it has been suggested, reveal that the ancient translations appear to have their own distinct terminology and a literary style better suited to the Tibetan language than the rigid formalism present in many of the later translations, giving some weight to Rongzompa's early critique.
An incident from the life of Zurchungpa Sherab Drak alludes to this controversy with some humour. When four students of the Kadampa teacher Khyungpo Drak-se were defeated by Zurchungpa in debate and agreed to become his disciples, having understood the profundity of his view, Khyungpo Drak-se announced:
"Anyone who kills one like Zurchungpa, who harbours perverse opinions and leads everyone astray, will certainly attain buddhahood!" Zurchungpa, on hearing this, remained silent without thought of anger and was later seen smiling. On being asked the reason for his mirth, he answered,
"As for doctrines, this, my secret mantra-tradition of the greater vehicle, is it! For it is the tradition of secret mantras that maintains that buddhahood may be attained by "liberation"; the dialecticians do not think so. Now, even such a great dialectician as Khyungpo Drak-se has said that anyone who kills one like Zurchungpa will attain buddhahood. So, in his innermost heart, he has turned to my doctrine. Therefore, I am delighted!"
Another eleventh century figure, Go Khugpa Lhe-tse, reputedly nursing a grudge because he had been refused instruction by Zurpoche, in his Broadside ('Byams yig) sought to refute the authentic origin of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, imputing it to have "four faults" (skyon bzhi), and claiming that it was not known in India. The tantra was generally considered by Go to lack the five excellent circumstances (phun sum tshogs pa lnga), i.e. those of teacher, retinue, location, teaching and time. He imputed it to have a flawed introduction (klong log), i.e., that unlike other tantras it had no audience of bodhisattvas; a flawed sense of time (dus log), i.e., that it speaks of four times instead of three; a flawed maôçala (dkyil 'khor log), i.e., that Vajrasattva appears at the centre of the maôçala instead of Vairocana; and a flawed text (rgyud log) because it refers to other tantras when indicating the auspicious times and days for its practice.
Slight variations on these "four faults" have been reported in the later writings of Sodokpa Lodro Gyeltsen, Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa, and others. Sodokpa, in his Dialogue which is a Dragon's Roar of Scriptural Transmission and Logical Reasoning (Dri lan lung dang rig pa'i 'brug sgra), p. 33, holds Go Lhe-tse to have imputed the Guhyagarbha to be flawed in word (sgra skyon), flawed in meaning (don skyon), flawed by contradiction (gal skyon) and flawed by disconnection (ma 'brel ba'i skyon).
Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa in his Scholar's Feast of Doctrinal History (Chos 'byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston), p. 179, speaks of "four errors" (mi rigs pa bzhi), namely, the error of the Guhyagarbha's introductory statement "At the time of this explanation" ('di skad bshad pa'i dus na ces mi rigs pa), the error of its maôçala which is said to have an immeasurable ground (gzhi tshad med mi rigs pa), the error of its explaining the three times as four times (dus gsum la dus bzhir bshad pa mi rigs pa) and the error of Vajrasattva being the central deity of the maôçala instead of Vairocana (dkyil 'khor gyi gtso bo rdo rje sems dpas byas pa mi rigs pa).
The Nyingma response to these four flaws, faults or errors is disclosed by Longchen Rabjampa in the course of his commentary entitled Dispelling the Darkness of the Ten Directions (Phyogs bcu mun sel), a complete annotated translation of which forms the main part of this book. Vigorous counter-refutations have also been made, in particular by Chomden Rigpei Raldri, and the aforementioned authors- Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa and Sodokpa Lodro Gyeltsen.
Chomden Rigpei Raldri's commentary is entitled Ornamental Flowers: A Proof of the Secret Nucleus (gSang snying sgrub pa rgyan gyi me tog). No longer extant as a distinct work, most of it survives or is cited in other texts, including Gyel-se Thuchoktsel's Precious Treasury of Doctrinal History (Chos 'byung rin po che'i gter mdzod), II, f. 357-61, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama's Stream of the Ganges: Record of Teachings Received (gSan yig gan ga'i chu rgyun), Vol. 4, p. 397, the Collected Writings of Sodokpa, Vol. 1, pp. 500-509 and 524-526 (= Nges don 'brug sgra), and Longchen III Tashi Namgyel's Ganges Stream of Immaculate Eloquence (Legs bshad dri med gaû ga'i chu rgyun), p. 20. References to this treatise are also found in Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa's Scholar's Feast of Doctrinal History (Chos 'byung mhas pa'i dga' ston), p. 178.
In Sodokpa's version, Rigpei Raldri is quoted as follows:
This [Guhyagarbha] Tantra is genuine for the following reasons: The master Viâvamitra in his Great Commentary on the Glorious Guhyasamäja (dpal gsang ba 'dus pa 'grel chen, T. 1844), in the course of his comments on the passage [from the Guhyasamäja]:"How far does the Being of Pristine Cognition reach?..." cites the Guhyagarbha (Ch.1, v.3) as follows:
In the abode of Akaniêåha without extremes or centre, on the radiant wheel of pristine cognition that is the limitless ground, there is his celestial palace blazing forth with jewels of pristine cognition, completely uninterrupted throughout the ten directions...
And also (Ch.1, v.6):
In every inconceivable [world-system], he appears universally as diverse [forms of] buddha-body, -speech, and -mind.
Then, in commenting on the [Guhyasamäja] passage: "The stüpa should be known to be the palatial abode of all buddhas..." he cites the Guhyagarbha (Ch.1, v.3) as follows:
Its spire is the pristine cognition central to all, in which all maôçalas of the buddhas of the ten directions and four times without exception are not distinct from one another, and are of a single essence.
Then, commenting on the passage, "Substantial existence is based on insubstantiality..." he cites (Ch.2, v.6):
Emaho! This wondrous marvelous reality
Is the secret of all the perfect buddhas.
All is created through the uncreated.
At creation itself there is no creation.
Then, while explaining the meaning of the "secret" [empowerment] he says, "The Guhyagarbha (Ch.10) speaks of five empowerments."
Moreover, he quotes the passage (Ch.6, vv. 9-11) beginning:
Their [body-colours] are dark blue, white, yellow, scarlet...
...[Pervasive] without extremes or centre,
[It is an unthinkable] spontaneously present [maôçala].
and he says, "According to the Guhyagarbha, there are three realities."
In these and all other such instances Viâvamitra begins [his commentary on the Guhyasamäja] by quoting from the Guhyagarbha.
The four perverse faults, et cetera, [criticised by Go Lhe-tse] are also to be rejected:
1. [When texts begin with the words] Thus I have expounded, it traditionally means that they were compiled by the buddhas themselves, for it is impossible for even the tenth level bodhisattvas to compile all the teachings of the buddhas. As it says in the Verification of the Secret (àriguhyasiddhi, T. 2217), composed by master Saroruha as a commentary on the Guhyasamäja:
Most masters claim
That the most radiant tantra,
The glorious Guhyasamäja,
Had as its compiler
The spiritual warrior called Lokeâvara.
But by the kindness of my venerable guru
I know that the compiler of the glorious Guhyasamäja
Could not have been any other,
And so the being who propounded it
Was that tantra's author,
The indestructible reality of mind.
In accord with this explanation, there is a tradition whereby the exponent himself is the compiler.
2. As for the immeasurable ground: the Abhidharma, too, explains that Akaniêåha is immeasurable.
3. Concerning the four times: Viâvamitra's Great Commentary (T. 1844) says: "Thus, the fourth time should be known to be sameness..." Moreover, the phrase, By all the lords of the ten directions and four times is also found in the new translations. Buddhaguhya explains that it refers to the four aeons.
4. Regarding Vajrasattva's appearance at the centre [of the maôçala]: even the new translations explain that the foremost figure in the maôçala may change positions.
Concerning the passage: The final punctuation dots (tig) indicate the discriminative awareness through which names are formed (Ch. 4, v. 15): the Indian manuscript of the Guhyagarbha reads sütrï prajñä tiêyati. Sütrï ("thread") is the Sanskrit word for thig ("measuring line"). Süryaprabhäsiæha's commentary (Guhyagarbhatattvanirôayavyäkhyäna-åïkä, P.4719) explains [tig as being equivalent] to thig. Tig is an archaicism.
As for the reference to other tantras [which is found in the Guhyagarbha]: All the tantras expounded later on, such as the Hevajra (T. 417-8), also refer to [texts such as] the Summation of the Real (Tattvasaægraha, T. 479) which had been delivered first.
Rigpei Raldri's argument thus seeks to establish the authenticity of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, citing quotations from it which occur in celebrated Indian texts of the Guhyasamäja cycle. While certain tantras may have been written down directly in the Tibetan language, there is no evidence to include the Guhyagarbha among these.
Further criticisms levelled by Drigung Peldzin at the Atiyoga system in general and at Padmasambhava's Garland of Esoteric Instructions (Man ngag lta 'phreng), a well-known commentary on Chapter Thirteen of our text, have been examined by Sodokpa and Jigme Lingpa, and more recently by the contemporary scholars Namkhai Norbu and Samten Karmay. The latter has noted passages from this commentary which occur in Nubchen's early work, Lamp for the Eye of Meditative Concentration (bSam gtan mig sgron), and translated the entire text as reproduced by Rongzompa. In addition, he has brought to our attention the existence among the Dunhuang documents of certain passages from Süryaprabhäsiæha's Indian treatise, Commentary which Elucidates the Real Nature of the Glorious Guhyagarbha (Guhyagarbhatattva-nirôayavyäkhyänaåïkä). These early literary and historical sources therefore tend to favour the traditional view that the text was introduced during the late eighth century.
That many of the Nyingma tantras were unknown in eleventh century India is not surprising when one considers that their translations are attributed to the eighth century and that the majority of them were said to have been imported into eighth century Tibet, not from the Magadha heartland of North India, but from Oççiyäna and adjacent regions in the north-west. Atiâa, on a visit to the library at Pehar Kordzoling in Samye, is known to have marvelled at the existence of tantras which no longer survived in North-Central India.
The arguments raised by Lha Lama Yeshe-o and Go Lhe-tse against the Guhyagarbha Tantra lost their controversial impact by the fourteenth century. Indeed, they became dead issues for Tibetan historians such as Go Lotsäwa Zhonpel (1392-1481) who personally acquired the Sanskrit manuscript of the root-tantra which had been rediscovered at Samye in the interim.
In consequence, Sodokpa could credibly present the following sixteenth century account of its introduction and translation in his treatise entitled Dispelling Mental Darknesss Concerning the Biography of Master Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha (Slob dpon sangs rgyas gnyis pa padma 'byung gnas kyi rnam par thar pa yid kyi mun sel): Therein (p.128), perhaps following Sangye Lingpa's Golden Rosary Injunction of Padmasambhava (bKa' thang gser 'phreng), p.400, he states that the Sanskrit manuscripts of the Eightfold Division of the Magical Net (sGyu 'phrul sde brgyad) were taken from Nälandä Vihära by Padmasambhava and then translated at Gyakar Drajurling, on the south side of Samye. The texts were then kept at the Ketshang in Chimphu when no longer extant in India.
In his Dialogue which is a Dragon's Roar of Scriptural Transmission and Logical Reasoning (Dris lan lung dang rig pa'i 'brug sgra), p. 12, Sodokpa then repeats Go Lotsäwa's account of the rediscovery of the Sanskrit manuscript in Samye by the great paôçita àäkyaârï (1127-1225). The latter entrusted it to Taton Ziji, from whom it passed into the hands of Sha-ge Lotsäwa and thence to Chomden Rigpei Raldri who composed the aforementioned treatise in defence of the tantra. Subsequently, Tharpa Lotsäwa is said to have retranslated the Sanskrit version of the root-text known as the rGyud phyi ma, with two additional chapters (either Chs. 21-22 or Chs. 23 and 24) for the first time, and these were revised by Go Lotsäwa Zhonupel in person.
Later Nyingma writers such as Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa refused to debate the specific points of Go Lhe-tse, considering that the past refutations of Chomden Rigpei Raldri and Sodokpa were unanswerable. That similar views were also held by followers of the New Translation Schools is evidenced by the following dismissive response of the Sakyapa scholar, Zilungpa àäkya Chokden (1428-1507):
It is not necessary to prove laboriously that
The Nyingmapa doctrines were translated from Indian originals.
It is enough that they are proven to be
The teaching of the emanational master [Padmasambhava].
Although they do not conform with the mantras and symbols
Of those translated from India later on,
The proof of their validity is infallible accomplishment
Through their supreme and common attainment.
They may be compared with the doctrines taken
By supreme, accomplished masters from various, great lands,
And which were not translated in India
From their respective volumes;
For it is said that with Vajrasattva's consent
The compilers of those transmitted precepts
Were themselves permitted to teach them
In the language of each different country.
The Nyingmapa doctrinal traditions that definitely were
Translated from India require no proof.
Having formulated arguments one might prove
The indefinite ones to be treatises,
But the great ones who came before in Tibet,
Discovering this to be an artificial, conceptual path,
Have avoided wandering upon it,
As they themselves have explained.
10. THE INDIAN TRADITIONS OF THE GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
The following account of the Indian and Tibetan historical lineages associated with this tantra is based on sources compiled by HH Dudjom Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje in The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Book 2. These include: Go Lotsäwa's The Blue Annals (Deb ther sngon po); Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa's Scholar's Feast of Doctrinal History (Chos 'byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston); Täranätha's History of Buddhism in India (Dam pa'i chos rin po che 'phags yul du ji ltar dar ba'i tshul gsal bar ston pa dgos 'dod kun 'byung); Longchen Rabjampa's Great Lecture on the History of the Innermost Spirituality, Mother and Son (sNying thig ma bu'i lo rgyus gtong thun chen mo); Lochen Dharmaârï's Lamp which Illuminates the Essence of Tantra, Transmission, and Esoteric Instruction: a General Exposition of the Empowerment of the Sütra Which Gathers All Intentions (mDo dbang gi spyi don rgyud lung man ngag gi gnad sel byed sgron me); Jamgon Kongtrul's Lives of the Hundred Treasure-finders, a Beauteous Rosary of Precious Beryl (gTer ston brgya rtsa'i rnam thar rin chen bai çürya'i phreng mdzes); and the aforementioned catalogues of the Collected Tantras compiled by Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa and Gyurme Tshewang Chodrub respectively.
KING JA & KUKKURÄ JA:
The legendary appearance of the Mahäyoga tantras in ancient India is associated with King Ja of Sahor, who is considered to be the subject of various prophetic declarations, such as the following from the Subsequent Tantra of the Emergence of Cakrasamvara (Saævarodayottaratantra):
One hundred and twelve years from now,
When I have vanished from here,
A quintessential doctrine,
Renowned in the three divine realms,
Will be revealed by the Lord of Secrets
To one who is named King Ja,
Who will appear by virtue of great merits
At Jambudvïpa's eastern frontier.
And in the Tantra which Comprises the Supreme Path of the Means which Clearly Reveal All-Positive Pristine Cognition (Kun bzang ye shes gsal bar ston pa'i thabs kyi lam mchog 'dus pa'i rgyud, Tingkye Vol. 3):
The Mahäyoga tantras will fall onto the palace of King Ja. The Anuyoga tantras will emerge in the forests of Siûghala.
While the identity of this figure is obscure- he has been conflated with Indrabhüti the Great, his son, or even a later Indrabhüti contemporaneous with Kukkuräja, Kambalapäda, Saroruha, and Jälandharïpä - the tradition clearly recounts that:
While the king was sitting absorbed in the meditative cultivation of the yoga of the lower tantras, a volume containing the Mahäyoga tantras, including the Buddhasamäyoga (T. 366-367) and an image of their compiler Guhyapati Vajrapäôi, reportedly fell upon the royal palace, just as in his dream. Then, having performed prayers, he intuitively understood the chapter entitled the "Vision of Vajrasattva" and practised meditation for seven months, relying on that and on the image of Vajrapäôi. As a result he had a vision of Vajrasattva and received from him the empowerment of pristine cognition. Thus, he came to understand the symbolic conventions and meanings of that volume in their entirety.
King Ja first taught these tantras to Uparäja, a renowned scholar of Sahor, but without success. He then taught the master Kukkuräja, who intuitively understood the chapter on the "Vision of Vajrasattva" derived from the Eightfold Division of the Magical Net of Vajrasattva (rDor sems sgyu 'phrul sde brgyad, Tingkye vol. 14), now contained in the Eighty-chapter Tantra from the Magical Net (brGyad bcu pa, Ch. 74), and received a prediction that Guhyapati Vajrapäôi would subsequently reveal the meanings of this tantra. Accordingly Kukkuräja is said to have been empowered by Guhyapati and verbally instructed by Licchavi Vimalakïrti. He then divided the Mahäyoga texts into the eighteen great tantrapiåaka and taught them to King Ja. The latter composed a number of commentaries on the Guhyagarbha including the extant treatises entitled Array of the Path of the Magical Net (sGyu 'phrul lam rnam bkod, P.4737, NK Vol. 81) and Instruction on the Two Stages of the Guhyagarbha (àrïguhyagarbhakramadvayoddeâa, P. 4771, NK Vol. 81) which are both connected with the Mäyäjäla cycle. He himself says in the former:
In the eastern domain of Indrabhüti,
At Vajrakuåa, in India,
I, the noble Indrabhüti,
Practised the Magical Net,
Having been taught by the Lord of Secrets, himself.
I actually realised Vajrapäôi,
With his retinue of fifty thousand.
Being empowered in wholesome action,
By the practice of disciplined conduct,
I was free from sin, and reached [an exalted] level.
Kukkuräja, known as the "king of dogs" because he reputedly taught the doctrine by day in the guise of a dog to a thousand spiritual warriors and yoginïs, and by night went to the charnel grounds with them to perform feast-offerings and other sacramental practices, proceeded to Oççiyäna where he gave a detailed explanation of the five inner tantrapiåaka of Mahäyoga, including the Buddhasamäyoga (T. 366-367), on which he had composed treatises such as the èadguhyärthadharavyüha (T. 1664-1669), and the Sarvamaôçalänuvartipañcavidhi (T.1670). He transmitted the eighteen tantrapiåaka of Mahäyoga to àakraputra, or Indrabhüti the younger, who was the king's son; he to Siæharäja; he to àakrabhüti, or Uparäja; and finally to the daughter Gomadevï. As is said in the Sequence of the Path of the Magical Net (Mäyäjälapathakrama, P. 4736):
Then, to the east of Jambudvïpa,
Which rests on the Indestructible Seat,
In a holy palace of precious gems,
In an auspicious and sacred room,
Kukkuräja and Indrabhüti,
Together with Siæharäja, Uparäja,
Daughter Gomadevï, and others,
Received the empowerment of the Magical Net.
They actually attained the maôçala as an assembly;
And manifestly reached the level of Vajradhara.
Our sources recount that the lineage then descended to Viläsavajra and Buddhaguhya.
The master Viläsavajra, also known as Lïlävajra, was born in èaæêara and ordained as a monk in Oççiyäna, where he studied the tripiåaka and became particularly learned in the philosophical tenets of Asaûga, the ordinary sciences, and all the tantrapiåakas, the Magical Net in particular. On an island in Oççiyäna called Madhima he practised and became accomplished in the Tantra of Mañjuârï from the Magical Net ('Jam dpal sgyu 'phrul drva ba, Tingkye vol. 15), otherwise known in its later translation as the Litany of the Names of Mañjuârï (Mañjuârïnämasaûgïti, T. 360). During his ten years at Nälandä, he composed many treatises and expounded them in detail. Those that are still extant, concerning the Magical Net include: a Commentary on the Litany of the Names of Mañjuârï ('Jam dpal mtshan brjod kyi 'grel ba, T. 2533) according to the interpretations of the Unsurpassed Yogatantra; the sPar khab Commentary on the Secret Nucleus (àrïguhyagarbhaåïkä, P. 4718, NK Vol. 63); the Innermost Point (Cittabindu, P. 4723, NK Vol. 81); the Sixfold Sequence (Kramaêaåka, P. 4741, NK Vol. 81); the Clarification of Commitments (Samayacitraprakäâa, P. 4744, NK Vol. 89); and the Propensity for the Commitments (Samayänuâayanirdeâa, P. 4745, NK Vol. 89). Among the students of Viläsavajra, the most prominent were Buddhaguhya and Buddhajñänapäda, who both studied the Magical Net cycle.
The master Buddhaguhya, a native of Central India, was ordained at Nälandä, where he and master Buddhaâänti were both disciples of Buddhajñänapäda during the early part of the latter's life. On attaining spiritual accomplishment through Mañjuârï, he travelled to Oççiyäna, where he met Viläsavajra, and studied the Yogatantras, the Five Inner Unsurpassed Tantrapiåaka, and the Magical Net in particular. He composed a great many works, including the following which are extant: the Analytical Commentary on the Tantra of the Secret Nucleus (gSang ba'i snying po la 'grel ba rnam bshad/ rnam dbye kyi 'grel, NK Vol. 80); the Sequence of Indestructible Activity (Mäyäjälavajrakarmakrama, P. 4720, NK Vol. 80); the Significance of the Maôçala Doctrine (Dharmamaôçalasütra, T. 3705, NK Vol. 80); the Holy Ornament of the Appearance of the Real (Tattvälokaparamälaækära, P. 4735, NK Vol. 82); the Lesser Net (Sükêmajäla, P. 4734, NK Vol. 80) and the Greater Net (drva chen, P. 4733, NK Vol 80); the Greater Sequence of the Path (Mäyä-jälapathakrama, P. 4736, NK Vol. 83) and the Lesser Sequence of the Path (sGyu 'phrul lam gyi rnam bshad chung ba, NK Vol. 81, Dz. Vol. 1); as well as treatises on other tantras.
Another lineage of the Mahäyoga tantras also passed from King Ja and Kukkuräja through Sukhasidhi (Garab Dorje) to Vajrahäsya and thence to Prabhähasti of Sahor. Garab Dorje and Vajrahäsya are recognized as the authors of the short Lamp of the View entitled Determination and Distinction (La shan lta ba'i sgron ma, P. 4727, NK Vol. 80). Prabhähasti was a principle teacher of Padmasambhava, who also received the Magical Net cycle directly from Buddhaguhya. Padmasambhava composed the Great Exegesis of the Guhyagarbha Tantra (sGyu 'phrul rnam bshad chen mo), the Precious Garland Commentary on the Sequence of the Path of Secret Mantra (gSang sngags lam rim 'grel pa rin chen phreng ba, NK Vol. 82), and the Precious Blazing Lamp of Sun and Moon: a Commentary on the Litany of the Names of Mañjuârï ('Jam dpal sgyu 'phrul drva ba'i 'grel pa rin po che nyi zla 'bar ba'i sgron ma, NK. Vol. 60), among other works, and in Tibet he also taught his autocommentary on Chapter Thirteen of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, entitled Garland of Views, a Collection of Esoteric Instructions (Man ngag lta phreng, P. 4726, NK Vol. 88) to King Trisong Detsen and his subjects.
A native of Hastivana in western India, Vimalamitra mastered the sciences and their branches, the sütras of the lesser and greater vehicles, and the tantras under many masters including Buddhaguhya. He was particularly learned in the Magical Net cycle; and he composed many treatises, for instance: the commentary on the Guhyagarbha entitled An Illuminating Lamp on the Fundamental Text (sGyu 'phrul man ngag khog gzhung gsal ba'i sgron me, P. 4739, NK Vol. 80); the Removal of Darkness: A Commentary on the Tantra of the Supreme Spiritual Teacher, from the Magical Net (sGyu 'phrul bla ma'i 'grel ba mun sel); the Eye-opening Commentary on the Tantra of Supplementary Points, from the Magical Net (Vajrasattvamäyäjälatantraârïguhyagarbhanäma-cakêuêåïkä, P. 4756); the Abridged Commentary on the Eighty-Chapter Tantra from the Magical Net (brGyad bcu pa'i bsdus 'grel); Opening the Eye of Discriminative Awareness (Mahäyogaprajñäpraveâacakêurupadeâanäma, P. 4725); the Three Stages (Mäyäjälopadeâakramatraya, P. 4742, NK Vol. 81); Meditative Absorption in the Mudräs (Mäyäjälamudrädhyäna, P. 4732, NK Vol. 82); a Ritual for Burnt Offerings (Mäyäjälahomasaækêiptakrama, P. 4746, NL Vol. 80); the Garland of Cremation Rituals according to the Magical Net (Mäyäjälaâavasaæskärakarmävali, P. 4747, NK Vol. 80); Ritual Geometry (Thig rim, NK Vol. 81); and the Short Commentary on the Guhyagarbha (Guhyagarbhapiôçärtha, P. 4755, NK Vol. 80).