29. 11th Karmapa 1676 - 1702
“As that same being, you manifest your kaya out of compassion for as many eons as there exist beings to be tamed like us and bestow supreme great bliss the very instant you are recalled. Yeshe Dorje, we supplicate at your feet.”
-- “Supplication to the Karmapas”
A wonderful supplication prayer to the Eleventh Gyalwa Karmapa, entitled “The Song of Götsangpa” (in “The Rain of Wisdom”) and that is attributed to Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje, who (as we saw in the essay on Orgyenpa in this series of life-stories) was the supreme head of the Drukpa Kagyü Lineage in the 12 th century:
“I supplicate the incomparable Yeshe Dorje. These phenomena are all deception. This world of relative truth is the gadgetry of illusion. The rock at my back is transparent.”
-- “The Song of Götsangpa” -- Like the root text of the “Supplication to the Karmapas” by Ven. Mikyö Dorje, this prayer was also supplemented during the time of each successive master.
The Eleventh Gyalwa Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje, was born in the year 1676 in the Treschöd or Golog region of East Tibet to a devoted Buddhist family. Treschöd was also the district where the First, Seventh, and Ninth Karmapas were born. The Sixth Goshir Gyaltsab, Norbu Zangpo Rinpoche, and Shamar Yeshe Nyingpo Rinpoche recognized Yeshe Dorje as the very manifestation and embodiment of Chöying Dorje, the Tenth Gyalwa Karmapa in accordance with the instructions they had received from him. The Seventh Shamarpa took Yeshe Dorje to his monastery, Yangpachen, and then to the main seat of all Karmapas, Tsurphu Gon at Tölung Dechen Dzong where he enthroned him with the Black Vajra Crown as the Eleventh Gyalwa Karmapa.
Yeshe Dorje received the entire Mahamudra Lineage transmissions and teachings from the Shamarpa. Taksham Nüden Dorje and Yongey Mingyur Dorje imparted the ”Terma Teachings” of the Nyingma Lineage to him; they are the concealed treasure teachings of Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, that were discovered by a Tertön, a “treasure revealer.”
The Kagyü Office of His Holiness the Karmapa tells us: “For many years, Abbot Shantirakshita and Guru Rinpoche taught Sutra and Tantra extensively in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche taught the highest classes of the Tantras to his twenty-five principal disciples. These disciples became the first wave of Tibetan yogis to attain realization; their supreme spiritual accomplishments benefited countless sentient beings. (…) Guru Padmasambhava hid hundreds of teachings and instructions as treasures, in the forms of scriptures, images, and ritual articles, to be revealed at an appropriate time in the future. He saw that though the time was not ripe for him to teach them at that time, many of the teachings would benefit future generations. Since that time, more than one hundred tantric masters have revealed these treasures and taught them, as instructed by Padmasambhava, to their students. In this way, the Terma-Lineage emerged.“ In the introduction to “The Vajra Garland – The Lotus Garden,” Yeshe Gyamtso wrote: “There are many types of treasure, but the most common varieties are physically concealed treasure and mentally concealed treasure. Physically concealed treasure can include earth treasure, lake treasure, sky treasure, and more. Sometimes, for the sake of simplicity, they are all collectively called ‘earth treasure.’ When used in this wider sense, earth treasure includes any treasure that is physically concealed and discovered. Mentally concealed treasure is what is called ‘thought treasure.’ It is concealed in the mind of the disciple, and arises from his or her mind when the time of its revelation is at hand.”
In the instructions on the Second Gyalwa Karmapa that Venerable Chöje Lama Phuntsok presented in Hamburg, he taught that Tertön Mingyur Dorje, who was a Tertön, brought the Guru Yoga-practice of Karma Pakshi to light due to having realized Dzogchen. Chöje Lama said: “Actually, Mahamudra and Dzogchen are not different - ultimately they are the same. They differ as long as devotees are practicing the path. There is, of course, only one Guru Rinpoche, but he manifests eight aspects and therefore has eight different names, just like the Gyalwa Karmapa has manifested seventeen times and therefore each manifestation has a different name. Yet, all Karmapas are one and the same. Which aspect of Guru Rinpoche is Karma Pakshi, then? Dorje Drolo, whose energy and force is indivisible with Karma Pakshi. There are many great Tertöns and many exceptional Termas, and the Terma revealed by Yongey Mingyur Dorje is that of Dorje Drolo. So Karma Pakshi, Dorje Drolo, and Mingyur Dorje are not different and distinct from each other.” The eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche are: Guru Shakya Senge, Guru Padmasambhava, Guru Nyima Özer, Guru Senge Dradrok, Guru Dorje Drolö, Guru Tsokye Dorje, Guru Padma Gyalpo, and Guru Loden Choksey.
Chöje Lama Phuntsok added: “Yongey Mingyur Dorje contributed immensely to the Kagyü Tradition. It happened that due to political upheavals during those times the Karma Kagyü Lineage was split apart in the regions of Ü and Tsang, i.e., the central and northern provinces of Tibet were fighting. The Terma of Mingyur Dorje was very important for the Kagyü Tradition, because its practice strengthened the Karma Kagyü School in the region of Kham, East Tibet, enabling practitioners in that area to turn back enemies and bring peace. And that is why the practice did not become extinct and get lost. Mingyur Dorje was poor and took on the outer appearance of a beggar, but his nature was not separate from Dorje Drolo, the wrathful manifestation of Guru Rinpoche. The ritual of Karma Pakshi is a Gongter, i.e., it is a revelation directly within the mind and is not found through a material substance. Teachings envisioned and revealed in this way were planted within the indestructible sphere when the Tertön in a former life was one of Guru Rinpoche’s disciples.”
Upon having imparted the sacred Terma Teachings to Yeshe Dorje, Mingyur Rinpoche proclaimed: “The Eleventh Karmapa is the Lord of gods and men.” And so, the prophecy that Padmasambhava once made was fulfilled, in which he foretold that the Eleventh Gyalwa Karmapa would become a Lineage-holder of the Terma Teachings.
During his short but precious life in this world, the Eleventh Karamapa blended the Kagyü and Nyingma teachings. He was a great visionary and performed many miracles. He found and recognized Chökyi Döndrub, the Eighth Shamarpa, who became his close student and the next Kagyü Lineage-holder. His other close disciples were Karma Döndrub Nyingpo and Karma Tenpa Dargye. But, his life was the shortest of all Glorious Karmapas.
After having given Chökyi Döndrub a detailed prediction letter concerning his next incarnation, the Eleventh Gyalwa Karmapa passed into Parinirvana in the year 1702 when he was only 27 years old.
“For anyone, man or woman, who has faith in me, I, the Lotus Born, have never departed – I sleep on their threshold.”
A Brief Account of Padmasambhava & How Buddhism was Brought to Tibet
Recorded history of Tibet for academia begins when local chiefs united under the rule of 33 successive kings. The earliest records from Dunhuang speak of rival chiefs living in forts along the Tsangpo River that flows through Central Tibet. Forts and burial sites in the Yarlung Valley have been identified as those of an early Zhang Zhung kingdom, its people being adherents of the general term that is used for their culture, which is Bon. Latri Khenpo Nyima Dakpa wrote: “The Bon religion has existed in this world for 18,000 years. Yungdrung Bon originated as the teaching of Tonpa Shenrab in Olmo Lung Ring (an enlightened realm). From there the teachings spread to Zhang Zhung and from there throughout most Asian lands. The assassination of Emperor Ligmincha of Zhang Zhung at the end of the 8 th century by King Trisong Detsen ended Zhang Zhung’s independence. Thereafter, Zhang Zhung’s land and culture were assimilated into Tibet and they eventually disappeared.” The ancient kingdom had been forced to give way to the heroic age of the Tubo kings.
According to legend, Yumbu Lhakhang (overlooking the Yarlung Valley that is considered the cradle of the earlier kingdoms on the Tibetan Plateau) was built in the 2 nd century B.C. by Nyatri Tsenpo. Another legend says that in the 4 th century King Lhatotori Nyentse ruled Tibet from his seat at Tagtse Palace in the Yarlung Valley. In any case, academic consensus purports that King Songtsen Gampo (approx. 569-650 C.E.), King Trisong Detsen (approx. 742-797), and King Tritsug Detsen, who is referred to as Ralpachen (born approx. 805), were enthroned in the Yumbu Lhakhang.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote: “In Tibet, the Land of Snow, Buddhism has flourished for more than a thousand years. Over three successive centuries, three great Tibetan kings - Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen, and Tri Ralpachen - each developed great faith in the teachings of the Buddha and the practice of meditation, and they established in Tibet the necessary conditions for the spread of the teachings. Through succeeding centuries, Tibetans have sustained their great faith in the Three Jewels and have been able to incorporate the meaning of the Buddhist Dharma into their lives.”
King Songtsen Gampo succeeded his father Nyatri around 627 C.E. as ruler of the Tubo Dynasty, with his residence at Tagtse Palace. The Yarlung Empire stretched from the borders of Bactria to those of Han China and from Nepal to the borders of Mongolia. Songtsen Gampo is credited for the first transmission of Buddhism to Tibet when he took Princess Bhrikuti Devi from Nepal as his wife. Her father, Anshuvarrnan, was ruler of the Licchavi Kingdom with its seat in Kathmandu (the Licchavi Dynasty declined in the late 8 th century and was followed by the Newari era). Princess Bhrikuti Devi is said to have converted her husband to Buddhism and the marriage helped establish Buddhism as the state religion. King Songtsen Gampo built the Jokhang Temple in present-day Lhasa to house the Akshobhya Buddha statue that she brought as dowry, the reason why the main gate of the Jokhang faces westward to Nepal.
Having been refused Princess Wengcheng Kongjo as bride in 634, the king attacked and defeated the people who lived around Lake Kokonor in Amdo and therefore he was able to control major trade centres along the north-eastern Silk Road into China. After a successful campaign, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty agreed to the marriage and thus the relationship with China became stable. Princess Wengchen left her homeland in 640 to marry King Songsten Gampo and arrived in Yarlung a year later. We may not forget to mention that the small temple that Princess Wengchen erected before she arrived at court is situated approx. 10 km away from the Thrangu Monastery in the Yushu County of Kham and is the home of the source of the three Asian rivers, the Yellow River, the Yangtze Kiang, and the Mekong. The Thrangu Monastery has thrived over 1000 years and the Wengchen Temple is more than 1300 years old. Both have been the source for the spread of Buddhism in Kham and especially of the Karma Kagyü Lineage. The very auspicious place is indeed situated in a pure land where emanations of Buddha Amitabha and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara have manifested many times.
Queen Wengchen is said to also have converted her husband to Buddhism and the marriage firmly established Buddhism as state religion. The king had Buddhist temples built around geomantic sites in Tibet and Bhutan but did not found monasteries. Alexander Berzin wrote that “the major one was constructed eighty miles from the imperial capital, at the site that later became known as ‘ Lhasa’ (Lha-sa, ‘Place of the Gods’). At that time, it was called ‘Rasa’ (Ra-sa, ‘Place of the Goats’). Western scholars speculate that the Emperor was persuaded not to build the temple near the capital (in Yarlung) so as not to offend the traditional gods.” The Ramoche Temple was constructed due to Queen Wengchen’s efforts to house the Jobo Buddha that she brought as dowry, the reason the main gate faces eastward. Ramoche Lhakhang, the older of the two first Buddhist temples in Tibet, was erected by King Songtsen Gampo to house both the statue of Akshobhya Buddha that Princess Bhrikuti Devi brought to Tibet when she married the king in 632 as well as the statue of Jobo Buddha that Princess Wengchen brought when she, too, married the king in 641. Legend says that the work completed on the Ramoche Lhakhang each day was mysteriously undone each night, until the demoness who exerted negative influences was appeased. It is recounted that after her husband’s death Queen Wengchen took the sacred Jobo out of Ramoche Lhakhang and hid it from an impeding Chinese invasion in the Jokhang, where it is today and remains the most venerated and visited shrine in Tibet. She buried the Akshobhya statue outside the city walls. After the uncalled-for invasion, the sacred statue of Jobo was kept in the Jokhang and the blessed statue of Akshobya was placed in the Ramoche Lhakhang.
Both queens were Buddhists and therefore their presence on the Tibetan Plateau changed the course of history. They not only, as is told, persuaded King Songtsen Gampo to wear silk instead of sheepskin, but, as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche wrote, “the two queens can be credited for a great part of his cultural awareness. Bhrikuti brought the traditions of Himalayan Buddhism. Princess Wengchen brought a treasure trove of ancient Chinese wisdom. She travelled across the steppes to her husband with a collection of Chinese classic literature and texts on sacred astrology, geomancy, and medicine.”
Berzin continued his account and wrote: “Further evidence of Songtsen-gampo’s policy of using foreign invention to boost his political power is his adoption of a written script for the Tibetan language. Taking advantage of Zang-zhung’s long history of cultural and economic relations with Khotan, Gilgit, and Kashmir, the Emperor sent a cultural mission, led by Tonmi Sambhota, to the region.” Khyentse Rinpoche wrote: “No Tibetan translations of the Buddhist scriptures existed and it was Songtsen Gampo who instructed his minister Thonmi Sambhota to travel to India, study Sanskrit, and develop a Tibetan script. He then commissioned the translation of several thousand texts.” In the introduction to the Tibetan-English Dictionary, Sarat Chandra Das quoted H.A. Jaeschke, who had also written one of the first Tibetan-English dictionaries: “His (Thonmi Sambhota’s) invention of the Tibetan alphabet gave two-fold impulses: for several centuries the wisdom of India and the ingenuity of Tibet laboured in unison and with the greatest industry and enthusiasm at the work of translation. The tribute due to real genius must be accorded to these early pioneers of Tibetan grammar. They had to grapple with infinite wealth and refinement of Sanskrit; they had to save the independence of their own tongue, while they strove to subject it to the rule of scientific principles, and it is most remarkable how they managed to produce translations at once literal and faithful to the spirit of the original.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche noted: “As a reminder of the great empire that Songtsen Gampo ruled, a large pillar still stands before the Potala in Lhasa, erected during his reign, on which is inscribed the agreement between the Tibetan and Chinese rulers to respect each other’s borders. He studied Chinese, became skilled in the art of leadership, and most importantly, he adopted sacred codes of conduct from Buddhist scripture.”
King Songtsen Gampo, who died in 650, played a decisive role by introducing Buddhism to Tibet, which explains why he is revered so deeply and is considered a human emanation of ‘Phagpa Chenrezig, the “Lord of Compassion.” The following oath indicates the strength and stability of royal authority at that time:
“Never will we be faithless to King Song-tsen-gam-po, to his sons and his descendants!
Never ever at any time will we be faithless to the King and his offspring, whatever we do!
Never will we seek other overlords among other men!
Never will we interfere with food and mix poison with it!
Never will we address the first word to the King!
If one of our offspring, male or female, acts faithlessly, never will we not confess that such a one is faithless!
Never shall our sons befriend those who are faithless!
If we perceive that anyone else is faithless to the King, never will we not confess it!
Never shall there be calumny or envy towards our comrades who are without fault!
If we are appointed as officials, never will we act unfairly towards those who are subject to us!
Never will we be disobedient to whatever command the King may give.”
But, the kingdom started waning because of a power-struggle that weakened the Yarlung court and its military presence along its borders. The struggles arose between Tridu Song (approx. 677-704) and his ministers because Tibet allied itself with the Eastern Turks to defend its provinces against invasions from the Tang Empire in China.
Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche offered teachings at Kamalashila Institute on how Buddhism became established in Tibet. He said: “King Trisong Detsen (approx. 742-797) contributed decisively in establishing Buddhism in Tibet by inviting the Indian Bodhisattva Shantarakshita from India to speak about dependent origination and the ten virtuous actions and to build the first Buddhist monastic academy at Samye, which is situated along the southern banks of the Tsangpo River in Central Tibet. The local spirits were hostile to Shantarakshita and intentionally obstructed his efforts. Therefore, he advised the king to invite Padmasambhava, the tantric adept from India, to deal with the malicious spirits. Accordingly, Padmasambhava came to Tibet and subdued them. Once vanquished, the spirits were bound by oath to act as Dharma protectors. Both teachers, Khenpo Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava, represent two different forms of Buddhist practice, the monastic academic and the mystical. They taught and spread the Dharma in Tibet. Shantarakshita prophesied that Buddhism would be obstructed in later years. He advised the king to then invite his student Kamalashila to come to Tibet and quell the troublemakers so that the authentic Dharma would not be distorted.”
Padmasambhava - also known as Padmakara or Padmaraja, in Tibetan Padma Jungne, which means “Lotus Born” - brought the Tantric School of Buddhism to Tibet. In Bhutan and Tibet he is known as Guru Rinpoche, “Precious Master.” Followers of the Nyingma School see him as the Second Buddha.
In one of his main works, “Rinchen Terzöd,” Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye tells us: “In this world of Jamudvipa, Guru Rinpoche is known as just one nirmanakaya who tames beings, but according to the different capacities and giftedness of people he is perceived in various ways. The history of the ‘Oral Transmission of Kilaya’ and most Indian sources explain that he was born as the son of a king or a minister in Uddiyana, while the terma treasures (his ‘hidden teachings’) for the most part narrate that he was miraculously born. In some texts he is said to have appeared from a bolt of lightning on the summit of Mount Malaya. Each of these wondrous stories differs in many ways. This is indeed a topic that lies far beyond the reach of an ordinary person’s intellect. (…)
“Padmasambhava manifested as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom on Lake Dhanakosha (in the region referred to as Uddiyana, situated in the outer reaches of the western Himalaya Mountain Range). The local king who married him to one of his daughters, Mandarava, recognized his special nature. Padmasambhava’s other main consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, was also a realized practitioner. His ability to memorize and comprehend esoteric texts in a single hearing established his reputation as a master above all others. Accused of the mystical killing of an evil minister, he was banished from court.”
Guru Rinpoche accepted the invitation of King Trisong Detsen and came to Tibet. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye wrote: “The king requested empowerment and instruction from Padmakara. At Chimbu, the hermitage above Samye, the great master disclosed the mandala into which he initiated nine chief disciples including the king. Each of them was entrusted with a specific transmission and all nine attained siddhi through practicing the respective teaching. Padmakara gave numberless other profound and extraordinary teachings to many destined students headed by the king, his sons, and the twenty-five disciples in Lhodrak, Tidro, and many other places.”The main disciples of Padmakara, Guru Rinpoche, were: Vairotsana, Mandarava, Yeshe Tsogyal, Gyalwa Chogchang Namke Nyingpo, Pälgi Senge, Yeshe Chang, Yeshe De, Pälgi Dorje, Trisong Detsen, Kharchen Pälgi Wangchug, Gyudra Nyingpo, Pälgi Senge, Ma Rinchen Chog, Sangye Yeshe, Dorje Düjom, Gyalwa Lodrö, Denma Tsemang, Kawa Pältseg, Odren Wangchug, Jnana Kumaravajra, Sogpo Lhapäl Zhonnu, Langdro Kongchog Chungne, Gyalwa Changchub, Drenpa Namkhe Wangchug, Khyechung Khading, Chogru Lu’i Gyaltsen, and Tingnezin Wangpo.
Jamgon Kongtrul also tells us: “Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 55 years and 6 months; 48 years while the king was alive and 7 years and 6 months afterwards. He arrived when the king was 21. The king passed away at the age of 69. Padmakara stayed for a few years after that.” Furthermore: “Knowing that a descendant of the king would later try to destroy Buddhism in Tibet, Padmakara gave many predictions for the future. Conferring with the king and the close disciples, he concealed countless terma teachings headed by the 8 personal treasures of the king, the 5 great mind treasures, and the 25 profound treasures. The reasons for hiding these termas were to prevent the teachings of Secret Mantra to be destroyed, to avoid that the Vajrayana be corrupted or modified by intellectuals, to preserve the blessings, and to benefit future disciples. For each of these hidden treasures Padmakara predicted the time of the disclosure, the person who would reveal them, and the destined recipients who would hold the teachings.”
Specifically in “The History of the Source of the Profound Treasures and the Treasure Revealers,” quoted in “The Retreat Manual,” Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye wrote: “In general, Guru Rinpochay himself concealed in India, Nepal, and Tibet an infinite number of treasures – instructions, riches, medicinal essences, statues, consecrated objects, etc. – in consideration of the needs of future disciples and the prolongation of the doctrine. Here in the Himalayan region he gave general spiritual instructions that reflected his skill in training his disciples in whatever way was appropriate to them. In particular he taught an infinite number of profound instructions and activity rituals connected to the transmissions of the tantras of the three yogas. All of these teachings were collected by the queen of teachings, Yeshay Tsogyal, through her perfect memory. She recorded them on yellow parchment in the symbolic scripts of the five classes of dakinis and secured them in various treasure containers with an indestructible seal. These were concealed and entrusted to the treasure guardians by Guru Rinpochay and her alone or together with the king and the closest disciples of the master. In particular, after Guru Rinpochay had left Tibet for (the realm of) Tail-Fan Island, Yeshay Tsogyal, who lived for more than one hundred years, concealed and secured the sites of an inconceivable number of treasures throughout upper, lower, and central Tibet.”
In “Rinchen Terzöd,” Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye concluded the most reliable account of Padmasambhava that is available to us: “At present he dwells on the vidyadhara level of spontaneous presence in the form of the regent of Vajradhara, unshakable for as long as samsara remains. Full of compassion he sends out emanations to benefit beings. Even after the teachings of the Vinaya have perished he will appear among the tantric practitioners. There will be many destined disciples who attain rainbow body. In the future, when Buddha Maitreya appears in this world, Padmakara will emanate as Drowa Kundul and spread the teachings of Secret Mantra to all worthy people. - This short biography is just a partial narration which conforms to what was perceived by some ordinary students.”
“Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual” offers a quotation from “An Impartial History,” in which he speaks of the treasure revealers, who are either the rebirth or the writer of the treasure or one of his or her disciples and are called Tertöns in Tibetan: “Those who are known as the one hundred major and the one thousand minor treasure revealers are actual reincarnations or emanations of those who were destined to be brought to spiritual maturity within the indestructible configurations of deities by the great (master from) Oddiyana … The treasures (they reveal) consist of whatever is appropriate to help beings at a particular time – spiritual instructions, riches, consecrated objects, medicine, areas of sacred ground, etc. This activity will continue until the appearance of the doctrine of (the next Buddha,) Loving-Kindness.”
King Trisong Detsen, who had officially declared Buddhism the official state religion of Tibet, sent Bodhisattva Vairocana, one of the seven first monks ordained at Samye Monastery, to India to search out more teachings. He brought back both Dzogchen and Buddhist medical texts, supervised translations from Sanskrit into Tibetan on a large scale, and invited the Indian Dzogchen Master Vimalamitra to bring more texts. As we saw in the life-story of the Third Gyalwa Karmapa in this series of life-stories, Vimalamitra was one of the greatest masters and scholars of Indian Buddhism. He also went to Tibet, taught, and translated numerous Sanskrit texts and, together with Padmasambhava, was one of the principal forefathers of Dzogchen. Shortly after the great debate between Kamalashila and Hwashang-Mahayana at Samye, Vairocana was exiled from Tibet after Indian abbots slandered him for having revealed too many teachings, so he buried more Dzogchen texts. Vimalamitra, too, buried texts in order to save them from being destroyed and for the benefit of future generations.
It did not take long and Tibet became ground for differing schools of thought. In the instructions he presented in 2006, Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche tells us: “In accordance with Bodhisattva Shantarakshita’s prophecy, a man named Hwashang-Mahayana came from China to spread his approach of the Dharma in Tibet. As a result, people were a little perplexed as to which method was right. Hwashang-Mahayana taught that just as black clouds cover space and the sun, white clouds also cover space and the sun. ‘Similarly,’ he said, ‘both non-virtuous and virtuous thoughts and actions obstruct the omniscient state of a buddha.’ Hwashang-Mahayana said that one only needs to be without any thoughts at all in order to accumulate merit and wisdom. Kamalashila, on the other hand, taught that the accumulation of merit and wisdom is like the two wings of a bird - both are needed in order to fly.”
Thrangu Rinpoche continued: “ King Trisong Detsen followed the advice of Khenpo Shantarakshita and asked the Indian Pandit Kamalashila to present the Indian Buddhist School and the famous Chinese Monk Hwashang-Mahayana to present the Chan School in a debate at Samye Monastery. Kamalashila made the long journey from India to Tibet and met Hwashang-Mahayana. Kamalashila thought, ‘If he has knowledge, we can meet in debate. If he is a fool, we cannot meet in debate.’ In order to see whether or not Hwashang-Mahayana had knowledge, Kamalashila circled Hwashang’s head three times with a stick, thereby posing the question, ‘From what cause do the three realms of cyclic existence arise?’ Because Hwashang had great knowledge and good qualities, he understood the gesture that Kamalashila made and withdrew his hands inside the sleeves of his robe, thereby replying, ‘The three realms of cyclic existence arise from the ignorance that conceives of the apprehended and the apprehender’ (i.e., subject and object). Therefore Kamalashila knew that Hwashang-Mahayana possessed knowledge and that they could meet in debate. And so, people gathered for an official debate at the Monastery of Samye that had become the principal Buddhist center of learning.”
Thrangu Rinpoche then recounted the story: “The king, a witness, Kamalashila, and Hwashang-Mahayana were sitting together, and the king placed one garland of flowers in the hands of Kamalashila and another in the hands of Hwashang-Mahayana. The king then said, ‘Two systems of Dharma have arisen; the Dharma of sudden realization and the Dharma of gradual realization. Because of that, people have become confused about how to practice Dharma. To clarify this confusion, please debate. When you have debated, the loser should, without pride, offer his garland of flowers to the victor. Then, whoever loses should leave Tibet.’ Then they debated. Kamalashila asked questions and defeated Hwashang-Mahayana. Having lost, Hwashang-Mahayana offered his garland of flowers to Kamalashila and returned to China.”
Thrangu Rinpoche then said: “After the debate that lasted from 792-794, King Trisong Detsen asked Kamalashila to compose a text explaining the stages of meditation from the Indian Buddhist tradition and told him, ‘You have seen the trouble that arose here. In order that the teachings of the Buddha not be distorted similarly in the future, please compose a reliable treatise that is easy to understand and of great benefit.’ To guide the new Tibetan monks who were studying at Samye Monastery, Kamalashila composed a text in three volumes, called ‘ Stages of Meditation – Bhavanakrama.’ ”
After signing a peace treaty with China in 821, Emperor Ralpachen, successor of King Trisong Detsen, made the Abbot of Samye head of the state council. He decreed that seven families support one monk. He also formed a council to authorize terms to be included in a large Sanskrit-Tibetan compendium of translation terms he commissioned. Snellgrove and Richardson wrote that no tantric terms were included. Berzin explained: “Most likely due to the excesses of Emperor Ralpachen, his successor and brother, Emperor Langdarma, closed monasteries and persecuted monks from 836-842. The Buddhist libraries and the lay tradition, however, were preserved. The first buried treasure texts were recovered by accident at Samye in 913.” Langdarma was assassinated in 846, but members of his family had managed to flee to West Tibet and started a new dynasty of kings there. Yet, the period of the first kings of Central Tibet had passed.
Kagyu Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, “Kagyu Lineage histories” & “The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism” (2008).
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, “ Rinchen Terdzo - The Great Treasury of Precious Termas,” vol. 1, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Rangjung Yeshe Publ., Boudhanath, 1990.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, “Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual,” transl. & intr. by Ngawang Zangpo, Tsadra Foundation, N.Y. & Colorado, 1994, page 106.
“Treasure Biographies of Padmakara and Vairochana,” transl. by Yeshe Gyamtso, Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, N.Y., 2005, translator’s introduction, pages ix-x.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, “An Introduction to Chöd,” presented at the Kamalashila Institute for Buddhist Studies in Germany in 2006, unpublished manuscript.
Chöje Lama Phuntsok,”The Second Gyalwa Karmapa, Karma Pakshi,” presented at Theksum Tashi Chöling in Hamburg in 2006, in: “Audio, Teachings and others – Teachings by Lamas of Lekshey Ling Institute,” website of KLLI, Nepal, 2008.
“The Rain of Wisdom. The Vajra Songs of the Kagyü Gurus,” transl. under the direction of Chögyam Trungpa by the Nalanda Translation Com., Boston & London, 1980, page 270.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones,” Boston & London, 1992, page 166.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, “ King Songtsen Gampo,” in: “ The Great Patrons of Buddhism Series,” part V, Khyentse Foundation Communique, winter 2004-2005.
Latri Khenpo Nyima Dragpa, “Opening the Door to Bon,” Ithaca, N.Y., 2006.
Simhanada, “The 11 th Karmapa Yeshe Dorje” (2008).
RangjungYesheWiki, “The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche” & “The twenty-five main disciples of Padmasambhava” (2008).
David Snellgrove & Hugh Richardson, “A Cultural History of Tibet,” Colorado, 1968, spec. pages 27-28.
H.A. Jaeschke, in: Sarat Chandra Das, “ A Tibetan-English Dictionary with Sanskrit Synonyms,” The Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, Calcutta, 1902; 7 th reprinted edition by Rinsen Book Co., Japan, 1985, pages vii-viii.
Alexander Berzin, “Dzogchen“ & „The Rule of the Empresses,“ in: Berzin Archives (2006).
“May the merit gathered here - past, present, and future - benefit sentient beings . May the path of practice continually develop awareness of body, speech, and mind. And may that luminosity dispel the darkness of ignorance in the minds of all sentient beings. Furthermore, may this form the foundation of a strong path leading all beings to the accomplishment of the Mahayana. As they conduct themselves in accordance with the teachings and instructions of this path, may the merit and virtue of all sentient beings be the cause of happiness for all.”
-- Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
(With sincere gratitude to Khenpo Karma Namgyal for all that he is doing, compiled & written for English-speaking visitors of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute by Gaby Hollmann, apologizing for all inadequacies, Munich, 2008; copyright.)