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Introduction to the Term rDo rjephur pa

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i.i Introduction to the Term rDo rjephur pa

The termrdo rje phur pa, in a broad sense, has three layers of meaning.

The basic meaning is a ritual implement used by certain Tantric practitioners or as an attribute of some deities. In this case, the simplified form phur pa is more often used. It can also refer to the wrathful deity of Tantric Buddhism

who also bears the name rDo-rje-gzIion-nu (Vajrakumara). The third meaning is a cycle of teachings that belongs to the sadhana section (sgrub sde) of the Mahayoga system according to the rNying-ma Tantric tradition, although we may find the rDo-rje-phur-pa doctrine explained in the light of, for example, the

Great Perfection (rdzogs chen). The three meanings are interrelated. For instance, the Phur-pa implement is considered to be the materialized presence of the deity and the deity is the embodiment of the implement. The cycle of Phur-pa teachings usually includes instruction on how to use the implement and visualize the deity.

There are some instances in which phur pa can be replaced with phur bu or phur ba. The term phur bu (kilaka), a diminutive form of phurpa, is limited to describing the ritual implement. In early scholarly works that deal with the implement, phur bu is preferred. Samten

1 As this study discusses rdo rje phurpa or phurpa from various aspects, not only as a term but also as specialized Tantric teachings and deities, it is necessary to distinguish them regarding the format. I write “Phur-pa” or “rDo-rje-phur-pa,” capitalized, romanized, and hyphenated when I refer to the

pertinent Tantric system or tradition, Tantric cycle, Tantric philosophy or theory or practice, and the like. However, I write phur pa or rdo rje phur pa,

in low case, italicized, and not hyphenated, when I treat it as a term (also put in parentheses as foreign terms) and as an object or implement. When rdo rje phurpa or phurpa occurs within work titles, it is itacilized but not hyphenated, and the first basic script (minggzhij is capitalized when it occurs as the first word of the title.


Origination, Transmission, and Reception of the Phur-pa Cycle

Karmay observes phurpa and phur bu are used so freely that no differentiation is made in later texts.1 In the Amdo area, pa is very often written as ba, so phur ba has almost no distinction horn phur pa, but is seldom used nowadays.2 3 4

F. A. Bischoff analyses these forms from the aspect of etymology and suggests that etymologically both forms,phur pa phur bu, appear to proceed from the verbs ’phur ba and phur ba. ’Phur ba means “to scratch,” and phur ba has two meanings: one is the same with ’phur ba, and the other is “to emboss.”

Therefore, he explains that ^dw' bu means “scratcher” or “embossing needle,” phurpa, “the one who scratches.” He further indicates that the form phur pa must have puzzled many generations of copyists, since time and again one encounters the form phur ba. He provides an example: Regarding the

title rDo rje phur pa rtsa ba’i rgyud kyi dum bu, Hermann Beckh comments that the Berlin bKa’ ’gyur manuscript reads phur ba and it can only f phur ba or phur bu.i

The phur pa is usually translated as “dagger,” “peg,” or “spike.” Prior to the use ofphur pa as a Buddhist ritual implement, it was perhaps used as tent pegs. As a ritual implement, foe phurpa has various appearances and can be fashioned from different materials. Usually, it is made of brass, copper, wood, bone, or even ivory. It consists of two parts. The lower part is a three-edged blade, tapering to a point, which is

considered to be the distinguishing feature of foe phur pa. The upper part, which serves as the hilt or handle, has three components, the lowest of which bears the decorative design such a knot, a head of a deity or an animal, and so forth. The central part of the hilt, where foe phurpa is grasped, varies in the design and can be, for example, a vajra, a lotus petal, rings, an octagonal shaft, a series of heads, the anthropomorphic body of

a deity, or even plain. The top of the phur pa is a head or the heads of deities—such as Hayagriva, Mahakala, and Vajrakila—on all except the very simplest phur pad Pfoephur pa is used in the rites of securing the boundaries of a sacred place, subduing evil spirits and enemies, controlling the weather and so forth. In Tantric deity practices, the Phur-pa ritual can help practitioners to achieve their soteriological goal of Buddhahood.

1 See Karmay 1998c: 136. This view can also be found in Bischoff & Hartman 1971:14.

2 For a discussion about the distinction ofphur pa,phur bu, andphur ba, see Cantwell & Mayer 2004:139 & 2008a: 247, fn.i.

3 See Bischoff & Hartman 1971:14. The meanings of the verbs he provides are from Chandra Das’ Tibetan-English Dictionary.

4 For a general description of the Phur-pa, see Meredith 1967:138. For different types of Phur-pa, see Huntington 1975.

5 For the usages of the Phur-pa, see Cantwell & Mayer 2008a: 250-254 and Huntington 1975: 4.


i.i.i The Sanskrit Equivalent of the Term rDo rje phur pa: Vajrakila or Vajrakilaya'!

The Sanskrit equivalent of the term rdo rje phur pa has been discussed by scholars. These discussions center around vajrakila or vajraktlaya and debate which one of the two is more original and authentic. The root of the terms vajrakila and vajraktlaya is the verb kil, meaning “to bind, fasten, stake, or pin.” Kilaya could be the second person singular causative imperative, which frequently occurs in Sanskrit mantra’s,, sometimes after

the word vajra, which is more likely meant in the vocative case. If there is the string vajra + kllaya, it is always possible to read it not as two words, vocative followed by imperative, but as one word, an imperative vajrakilaya. The dative singular form of the noun vajrakila, which is vajraktlaya, has not yet been attested in Sanskrit Tantric texts.1

Bischoff points out that the Sanskrit term for the magical dagger is kila and quotes a Chinese transliteration of a mantra suggesting kildya is the dative singular of the classical Sanskrit kila.2, However, the standard singular dative form of the noun kila should be kildya. He also states that although the form kilaya (with or without the long i and a) seems to be the most usual rendition he could not find it in the dictionaries.1 2 3

Martin Boord, who prefers Vajrakila, explains why Tibetans assert the Sanskrit form ofphur pa is kilaya, while all dictionaries and Sanskrit works agree the word to be kila (or kilakd). It is probably because of the indiscriminate use by Tibetans of the dative singular kildya. This form would have been

familiar to them in the simple salutation namo vajrakilaya from which it could easily be assumed by those unfamiliar with the technicalities of Sanskrit that the name of the deity is Vajrakilaya rather than Vajrakila.

As Robert Mayer has indicated, although the Tibetan tradition has, from the earliest Dunhuang documents until modern times, consistently understood the deity’s correct Sanskrit name to be Vajrakilaya, modern scholars argue that Tibetans erroneously use the dative form vajrakilaya in place of the “correct”

nominative, vajrakila. However, he strongly refutes this argument and insists that vajraktlaya is the correct form. He presents two reasons to support his opinion. First, he found that in the great majority of instances, Tibetans render the

name as vajrakilaya not the dative form vajrakilaya. Second, he found that Sa-skya-pandita Kun-dga’-rgyal-mtshan (1182-1251, hence forth Sa-pan) consistently rendered the name as Vajrakilaya and in other early Sa-skya masters’ works it is also like this.1 Taking these findings into consideration, vajrakilaya seems to be a more authentic Sanskrit equivalent of the term rdo rje phur pa. In this study, I will use the Tibetan word rdo rje phur pa or fast phur pa.

Concerning the origin of the rDo-rje-phur-pa, there are two different opinions. Early scholars, such Georgette Meredith, J. John C. Huntington, R. A. Stein, and Keith Dowman agree that the rDo-rje-phur-pa is indigenous to Tibet, while some recent scholars, such as Matin Boord and Robert Mayer, suggest the Phur-pa originated in India.1 2 In the following paragraphs I will examine their opinions one by one.

Meredith states that the term klla, or vajrakila, does not seem to be mentioned in Indian Tantric literature and no object that fits its description appears in Indian Buddhist art. She holds the opinion that the Buddhist rDo-rje-phur-pa is derived from a similar implement which already existed in the

Bon tradition. Specifically, she suggests that those deities who carry the Phur-bu are the ones who have been incorporated into “Lamaism” directly from the Bon religion, and several Bon deities associated with the Phur-pa recruited by Padmasambhava and his followers prove the existence and the magical use of

the Phur-bu before the advent of Buddhism in Tibet.3 Huntington shares this view. He states that the rDo-rje-phur-pa deity may have pre-existed the advent of Buddhism in Tibet and that he was assimilated into the Buddhist pantheon at an early date. The deity was probably brought over or “converted” from the

Bon religion and “Buddhicized” by the addition of the term vajra to his name.4 R. A. Stein thinks the actual form and shape of the phur pa implement


seems to be purely Tibetan. Although he concedes some kind of klla was known in India, he claims that he cannot establish that the Indians ever knew it in the form used in Tibet.5 Dowman suggests that the


1 See Mayer 1996:165, fn.i. For more about his discussion on this issue, see Cantwell & Mayer 2004:139, 2008a: fn.i on 247, and 2013b: 38.

2 There is another view that has the rDo-rje-phur-pa originating in Mesopotamia, see Hummel 1997: 25 and Marcotty 1987: 12.

3 See Meredith 1967: 246,247, and 250.

4 See Huntington 1975:3.

5 R. A. Stein’s opinion about the origin of the rDo-rje-phur-pa is in his article “La guele du Makra” (1977) which


Chapter i: A General Introduction

Bon tradition has an independent and “pre-Buddhist” use of the Phur-pa implement.1 However, Siegbert Hummel disapproves of Meredith’s claim that the Phur-pa implement cannot be found in Indian Tantric literature and is the invention of the Bon tradition. He suggests that the word vajrakila is a later

construction of Tibetan Buddhists and assumes that the phur pa implement and the Phur-pa deity both came from the rNying-ma tradition to the Bon tradition.

Per Kvserne seems to be the first to have doubted the Phur-pa’s Tibetan origin and says that there is no evidence dating from the pre-Buddhist period to prove the existence of the Phur-pa in Tibet before the arrival of Padmasambhava. Though he does not explicitly express the Indian origin of the rDo-rje-phur-pa, he lists a few references that point to its existence in India.3 Later, Cantwell and Mayer published many articles trying to

prove that not only was the klla as a ritual implement known and used in India, but also that the Tibetan phur pa implement is of Indian provenance.4 They do admit that the phur pa in India is a subsidiary ritual element within other Tantric cycles, while in Tibet it enjoys huge popularity as an independent Tantric cycle. No Tantric scriptures that are dedicated to Phur-pa as the main deity have been found in India. Martin Boord

agrees on the Phur-pa’s Indian origin. He traces the root of the Phur-pa mythology back to the Rgveda and devotes one chapter in his book to clarifying the cultural milieu out of which the Phur-pa deity arose.5 The scholars who support the Phur-pa’s Indian origin provide much solid literary and archeological evidence, which makes their point of view more convincing.


1.2 Previous Studies

1.2.1 Introductory Remarks

The rDo-rje-phur-pa has drawn scholarsattention since the late nineteenth century. There are some references to it in the works that first introduced Tibetan Buddhism to the West.

4 Although almost every article or book about the Phur-pa teachings or transmissions that they have published emphasises its Indian origin, two articles published in 1990 and 1991 are especially relevant, see

Emile de Schlagintweit discusses a woodblock design ofphurpa printed on a paper charm in 1881, which seems to be the first mention ofphurpa in western scholarship, although it is not a dagger.

1 L. Austine Waddell refers to the “Vajra phurba” several times in his The Buddhism of Tibet, either as the tutelary demon of the Sa-skya and rNying-ma school, or as a weapon.

1 2 The Phur-pa is considered to be a form of the deity Hayagriva (rta mgrin) not only by Albert Griinwedel but also in two books on Tibetan Buddhism in general.3 Giuseppe Tucci, in his famous Tibetan Painted Scrolls, describes Phur-pa as “the magic nail, kila, with which the exorcist nails to a given

surface the hostile forces, after having vanquished them and rendered them harmless by virtue of the mantra (magic formula).”4 Nebesky-Wojowitz provides

many instances where the Phur-pa appears as the instrument of a deity.5 Stephen Beyer lists rDo-rje-phur-pa as one of the five fierce patrons of the Five Buddha families and also as a deity of the Eight Sadhanas.6 Meredith provides an overview

of the early studies on x\\ophur pa implement and related cult and teachings, in which she mentions two articles written by Sarat Chandra Das and Siegbert Hummel. She also points out the references to the phur pa implement in most cases in other secondary studies including the work by Schlagintweit,

Griinwedel, and Giuseppe Tucci, and two of the best-known reference books on Tibetan religious art.7 Although there are many secondary studies mention Phur-pa or rDo-rje-phur-pa, in the following I will focus on monographs and articles that exclusively deal with it.

The book, The Phur-pa: Tibetan Ritual Daggers, written by Huntington provides a systematic iconographical and stylistic study on thephurpa implements and classifies them into four categories—namely the Tibetanphurpa, the Nepalesey/w^t?, the Chinesephurpa, and the


1 As I have not seen Schlagintweit s article titled “Le Bouddhisme au Tibet” (1881) and this information is from the article of Georgette Meredith (see Meredith 1967: 236), it is not sure if the phur pa refers to the deity or the implement.

Bon po phur pa—among which the Tibetan phur pa is the largest category. He classifies the Tibetanphur pa into seven categories, which include more than twenty subtypes and several unique versions of the implement. Each type is illustrated with actual Phur-pa figures, and each figure is described detailing

its material, technique, length, region of origin, and date. He also adds an explanation following the basic description. In the Nepalesephurpa section, Huntington found that all the Nepalese phur pa he came across were in the forms of Vis-varupasamvara and his female counterpart, Papagandevi. Thus he made

two categories of the Nepalese phur pa correlating to the two deities depicted in the handle. Besides this, he also lists a type of generalized Nepalese phur pa with vajra and peacock feathers as the termination of the hilt. The last category of the Nepalese phur pa is a Siva-emanated phur pa which has Siva

as its principle deity. He thinks this shows the unity of Buddhism and Saivism in Nepal. As for the Chinese phur pa, Huntington presents only one example from northern China, which has some characteristics that seem to be non-Tibetan. The bon po phur pa listed in this book belonged to Bon priests and is different from any of the Buddhist phur pa although it shares some fundamental similarities. Before his iconographical introduction to the phur pa implement, Huntington also discusses the nomenclature of the termphur pa, the use of the phur pa

implement, Padmasambhava’s connection with the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings, and its position in the rNying-ma and Bon traditions. In a review of Huntington’s work, Per Kvaseme points out several mistakes regarding some opinions advanced by Huntington and the explanations of the Tibetan names of deities. However, he still speaks highly of this work regarding its valuable contribution to the study of Tibetan art and iconography.1

The book, Dagger Blessing: The Tibetan Phurpa Cult: Reflections and Materials, is the outcome of Marcotty’s sojourns in the Himalayan region and studies with rDo-rje-phur-pa practitioners who were living in Switzerland and other European countries. This book covers a wide range of themes on the rDo-rje-

phur-pa including its origin, categories, iconography, and effects. He suggests that the origin of the phur pa implement has no relation to Buddhism, and that the Phur-pa cult and Mahayana Buddhism coexist by mere coincidence in the same region. Believing that the primary purpose of the Phur-pa practice is to turn unhappy people into happy ones, not in a life after death but here and now, Marcotty introduces the cult

of rDo-rje-phur-pa from the aspect of practitioners, the use of mantras, the function of gestures, the rules of peaceful coexistence, the phases of exorcism rituals, and auspicious times and places. At the end of the book, he provides translations of four Tibetan texts that are a table of contents of a manual for Phur-pa priests, two treasure texts discovered by Ratna-gling-pa (1403-1475), and excerpts from the root Tantric scripture of the rDo-rje-phur-pa.1

In her review, Cantwell points out this book’s two defects. First, the research is poor or partial because Marco tty did not investigate the broader context of the rNying-ma teaching lineages. Second, his perspective is highly dubious and sometimes self-contradicting. Cantwell further refutes his idea

about Buddhism and the Phur-pa having different historical origin and insists that the rDo-rje-phur-pa Tantric scriptures preserved by the rNying-ma-pa go back to Sanskrit origin. Having listed other shortcomings of this book, Cantwell evaluates it as “disappointing” and wonders why he published a book at such a provisional stage of research.1 2

Mayer’s book, A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Canon: The Phur-pa bcu-gnyis, published in 1996, is a critical study of a Phur-pa scripture, the Phur pa bcu gnyis, included in the rNying ma rgyud ’bum.3 He provides a critical edition of this scripture (only the first three and the final chapters) based on

five versions.4 In the section that precedes the critical edition, he first presents summaries of the translations of all the chapters, although he

translated the whole scripture of twenty-four chapters. He then surveys the history of the rNying ma rgyud ’bum editions, and a provisional stemma of the five versions of the Phur pa bcu gnyis is included at the end.

Apart from the critical edition and translation, the study is divided into three chapters. The first chapter deals with the canonicity and authenticity of rNying-ma-pa texts in general. In the second chapter, he argues that the Tibetan gTer-ma tradition, to which the Phur-pa scripture belongs, is primarily a Tibetan elaboration of the Buddhist system. It was

1 These were translated respectively bv dGe-bshes Blo-ldan-shes-rab-dar-rgyas, Amy Heller, Ime Nvomba Nat-sok Kune Zakhan, and Amy Heller.

4 The five versions are the sDe-dge xylographic edition, the Kathmandu Manuscript held in the National Archives, the mTshams-brag Manuscript preserved in the National Library in Thimphu, the Thimphu reprint of the gTing-skyes dGon-pa-byang Monastery, and the Waddell Manuscript preserved in the Indian Office Library in London.

already well attested in Indian and Chinese literature many centuries before the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet—indicating that it was not a syncretic development derivative of the indigenous Tibetan religion, nor a Buddhist invention entirely unique to Tibet. The third chapter is a discussion of the

origin of the Phur pa bcu gnyis with the aim of showing to the extent to which the scripture is Indic, and the extent to which it is Tibetan. He finds out that ninety percent of its contents are indistinguishable from the type of materials found in attestable Indic texts, and there is no absolutely conclusive evidence of indigenous Tibetan material but rather it seems to be a Tibetan reformulation of the Indic materials.

This section will introduce two monographs on the rDo-rje-phur-pa written by Cantwell and Mayer. The first monograph, The Kilaya Nirvana Tantra and the Vajra Wrath Tantra: Two Texts from the Ancient Tantra Collection, published in 2007, is a study of two Tantric scriptures related to the rDo-rje-phur-pa in the rNying ma rgyud ’bum. In the first part, Cantwell and Mayer provide a general introduction to the rNying ma rgyud ’bum and the two Phur-pa Tantric scriptures. The reason for the choice of these two Tantric scriptures, namely the rDo rje phur bu my a ngan las ’das pa’i rgyud chen po and the rDo rje khros pa, is their comparatively early indigenous Tibetan compilation, though they are heavily dependent upon Indic

materials. Cantwell and Mayer also discuss the textual criticism of the rNying ma rgyud ’bum tradition. The second part is a summary of the two Tantric scriptures. In the third part, they provide extant versions of the texts, the stemmatic relations between the extant versions, and critical editions of the two texts.

The second monograph, Early Tibetan Documents on Phur pa from Dunhuang, is dedicated to Dunhuang Phur-pa materials based on a project to decipher, transcribe, and translate the Dunhuang archaeological legacy concerning Phur-pa, including both the Phur-pa texts and related Phur-pa materials. Before

examining the Dunhuang Phur-pa texts, Cantwell and Mayer provide a general introduction, an investigation into the reasons for the Phur-pa’s prominence in Tibet, and a survey of the Dunhuang Phur-pa corpus. In their investigation into the Phur-pa’s prominence in Tibet, they give nine hypotheses from the

aspects of cultural affinities and social conditions. In the survey of the Dunhuang Phur-pa corpus, they classify the texts into two categories. One is for practical magic usages, the other is for Tantric deity practices focused on enlightenment.

The main part of the book is a study of each of the Dunhuang Phur-pa manuscripts. Each manuscript is totally or partially transliterated, and some are translated and commentated. It is worthy mentioning that the PT 44, which is said to be possibly the oldest document in existence referring to

Padmasambhava, is translated and studied again after the pioneering work of Bischoff and Hartman.1 1.2.2.5 Martin Boord (1993, 2002, 2010,2013,2015,2017)

Martin Boord is a prolific scholar specializing in the Norther Treasure tradition of Phur-pa (byanggter phurpa). So far, he has published five monographs on this topic. The one published in 2013 is almost a repetition of the one published in 1993 with the addition of two further collections of the Byang-gter-phur-pa. I have not seen yet the two published in 2015 and 2017, and therefore I will only introduce the three books published in 1993, 2002, and 2010.

The first book, The Cult of the Deity Vajrakila, surveys the cult of the wrathful deity rDo-rje-phur-pa as represented by the literature and living tradition of the Northern Treasures school of Tibetan Buddhism.1 2 It is divided into three parts. The first part traces the origin and development of the

Northern Treasures tradition. The second part examines the following three topics: the origin of the kila and its Buddhist assimilation, the iconographic details of the Phur-pa deities, and the traditional history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa. In the third part, Boord examines two root Tantric scriptures of the Byang-gter-phur-pa revealed by

Rig-’dzin-rgod-ldem-can, summarizing and assessing their contents. He also introduces other texts which are centered on the empowerment rites, the meditation for the performance of the black deity, the attainment of unsurpassed enlightenment, controlling mischievous spirits, the violent rituals to

destroy all enemies and obstructers, the longevity ritual, and meditations to accompany the preparations of miniature stupas (tsha tsha'). The contents of the three Byang-gter-phur-pa collections are listed as appendices. He also provides a critical edition of the rDo rje phur pa spugri nagpo rab tugsang ba’i

rgyud in the appendix. Erberto Lo Bue thinks this book may be regarded as the first dealing systematically with the Phur-pa: “starting from a detailed analysis of the traditional teachings known as Northern Treasures, Boord places the kila tradition within its historical, cultural, religious, ritual and iconographic context, and discusses


Chapter i: A General Introduction it in evolutionary terms

The second book, A Bolt of Lightning from the Blue, is a translation and study of the Phur grel ’bum nag, a commentary on the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings. In the section preceding the translation, Martin Boord discusses the characteristics of this text, its Indian origin, the arrangement of the text, subsequent

spread of the doctrines, and its doctrinal themes. He also provides a translation of the Phur pa rtsa ba’i dum bu and the Phur pa spu gri na po’i rgyud. The third book, A Roll of Thunder from the Void, incorporates eight texts related to the Byang-gter-phur-pa. Boord presents both the translation and the original Tibetan, hoping it will be of practical value for meditators.

The first scholar who wrote an article devoted to the Phur-pa seems to be Chandra Das.1 2 In this article, he classifies the Phur-pa into two kinds namely metaphysical and ordinary. The metaphysical Phur-pa, according to Chandra Das, can be compared with all intellectual accomplishments. For instance, the

Phur-pa of knowledge destroys ignorance which is the prime cause of sin. The ordinary Phur-pa is categorized into four kinds based on their functions, namely peace (zhi ba), abundance (rgyaspa), power (dbang) and fearfulness {dragpa). He describes their appearance and power respectively. Despite the

obvious shortcomings of this article, such as no sources being provided, Meredith states that none of Chandra Das’ descriptions fit any of the examples seen by her.

In the article published in 1952, “Der Lamaistische Ritualdolch (Phur-bu) and die alt-vorderorientalischen ‘Nagelmenschen’,”4 Hummel first describes the iconographical features of the Phur-pa, and mentions that, although the deity most often represented on the handle is Hayagrlva, other gods, such as Mahakala and Vajraklla, are also represented. Then he

concludes that the Phur-pa is meant to be the materialized presence of a deity. He also speculates about its origin in the west of Tibet. From the correspondences in shape and function between the Phur-pa and the both Sumerian and Hittite dirk figures, Hummel draws the conclusion that the Phur-pa

derives from the old Middle Eastern dirk deities. He further surmises that the Phur-pa could have a phallic origin.

Georgette Meredith’s article, “The Phurbu: The Use and Symbolism of the Tibetan Magic Dagger,” published in 1967, deals mainly with the actual Phur-pa implement with regard to its appearance, related deities, usage, and cultural concept behind it. She first gives a detailed description of the Phur-pa

based on the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. She divides the Phur-pa into blade, lower hilt, central hilt, and upper hilt. For each part, she not only presents its typical designs and related deities but also digs outs its genesis or relation to other religions or cultures.

She also observes that the deities who carry the Phur-pa are incorporated into Lamaism directly from the Bon religion. This is why Hayagriva, a deity imported from India, does not have a Phur-pa as an attribute, despite the fact that Phur-pa is often considered to be a manifestation of this deity. From

her analysis of the use of Phur-pa, she concludes that the Phur-pa itself is the result of the superimposition of a Buddhist magical implement on an implement already in use in Tibet that had much the same power.

Having examined the Phur-pa’s elements in the Na-khi tradition, Bon art, and preBuddhist Tibetan mythology, Meredith suggests that the four main attributes of the Phur-pa—the horse, Garuda, Naga, and thunderbolt—are derived from a common source and found their way into Tibet and India separately. With the

introduction of Buddhism, these concepts and symbols were reintroduced into Tibet, where the forms that had developed independently but in parallel ways were superimposed one on the other, both conceptually and symbolically. 1.2.3.4 F- A- Bischoff & Charles Hartman (1971)

Bischoff and Hartman’s study on the Dunhuang manuscript PT 44, which is considered by Tucci to be a strong evidence of the historicity of Padmasambhava, provides both a transliteration and a translation of the manuscript. Its theme is the summoning of the Vidyottamatantra

{Phur bu’i ’bum sde) from Nalanda to the Asura cave at Yang-led-shod in Nepal. At the beginning of the article, they assume that this manuscript is an early version of some (possibly even canonical) rNying-ma-pa text, and the Phur bu ’i ’bum sde is contained somewhere in the Rin chengter mdzod, which, however is not included. They also analyze the Sanskrit, Tibetan and Mongolian terms that designate the magical dagger.

As the article “A Propos des Documents Anciens Relatifs au Phur-bu (Kila)” by R. A. Stein, published in 1978, is in French, I use Mayer’s comments on it for the following introduction.1 In this article, Stein makes a wide-ranging analysis of ancient texts concerning the Phur-pa, including two Dunhuang texts

(PT 44 and PT 349), as well as various materials from the later canonical collections of the bKa’ ’gyur, bsTan ’gyur, and the rNying ma’i rgyud ’bum. What remains valid is his important identification of a strong connection between the Phur-pa materials and the Guhyasamdja tradition; and also the importance

of the occurrence of the shared identity of the forms Vajraklla and Amrtakundalin.1 2 What has become more questionable, however, are some of Stein’s minutiae in historical and textual data.

Cantwell and Mayer have for decades devoted themselves to the study of the rDo-rje-phur-pa. They have published numerous articles in addition to the four listed above, which are incorporated in one of their monographs. In an article published in 1991, titled “Observations on the Tibetan Phur-pa and Indian

Kllas,”3 Mayer challenges the consensus that the Phur-pa is of autonomous Tibetan provenance. He also posits that not only was the klla known and used in India in some form or another, but that characteristic form that we now call the “Tibetan-style” Phur-pa might also be of surprisingly orthodox Indian

provenance. He uses a myth and an important Vedic ritual implement, theyz/^z, to justify the Phur-pa’s India origin. To be more specific, the myth is an account of creation in which Indra slays the serpent Vrta, thus allowing the world to come into existence. It introduces the crucial notion of the klla as


1 For the following introduction, see Mayer 2004:129-132.

2 Mayer believes that Steins’ article was the first to remark that the deity rDo-rje-phur-pa and the deity Amrtakundalin often and on significant occasions share a merged identity, see Mayer 2004:130.

3 An incomplete and primitive presentation of this paper was published in 1990, see Mayer 1990.


the cosmic mountain Meru (also called Indrakila).

The modern Tibetan Phur-pa is associated with the mountain Meru (or Mandara), both in liturgy and also sometimes in iconography. The yupa is the derivation of the Phur-pa both in iconography and functions. The eight-faceted shaft and the knotted rope are standard features of the Tibetan Phur-pa. The two ritual

meanings of the yupa, namely the pathway to the gods and the marker of sacred boundaries, correspond to the two functions of the Phur-pa. In the end, Mayer concludes that the Tibetan Phur-pa, both in its iconographical forms as well as in its ritual meanings, appears to very accurately embody all the essential aspects of both the indrakila and theyw/w, which could suggest an Indian rather than Tibetan origin.

Another two articles, both published in 2013, are dedicated to a comparison study of the Ka ba nagpo, n famous Bon Phur-pa Tantric scripture, and the rNying-ma-phur-pa texts. In the article, titled “Neither the Same nor Different: The Bon Ka ba nagpo in Relation to Rnying ma Phur pa Text,” Cantwell and

Mayer first point out the difficulty in assessing the recensional history of this Tantric scripture. Due to methodological constraints, they adopt a perspective more literary than historical, relying on the received contents of the text. They then use Schafer’s threefold analytic structure of lemmata,

microform, and macro form to expose the underlying logic of the composition of early Tibetan Phur-pa Tantric scriptures. They find that at the level of lemmata the Ka ba nagpo asserts its Bon identity and its sectarian difference from the rNying-ma-pa. Less differentiation is effected at larger composite levels of microforms and macro forms.

In the other article, “The Bon Ka ba nagpo and the Rnying ma Phur pa tradition,” they explore some of the still puzzling complexities of the origin of the Bon-po-phur-pa, of how it is in some respects quite distinct from Buddhist Phur-pa but, in other respects, dependent upon it. They discuss this from three

interconnected strands of evidence: the external historical circumstances, the contents of the early Buddhist Phur-pa texts in general, and the contents of the early Bon-po-phur-pa texts. After the analysis, they assume that the Ka ba nag po was authored with an exceptionally complete understanding of the

ritual, doctrinal, and contemplative principles of the existing Tibetan Phur-pa tradition, laboriously recreating the entire system anew, using numerous indigenous building blocks.

From the above review of the previous studies on the rDo-rje-phur-pa, it can be seen that the early studies are devoted mostly to the phur pa being an instrument, focusing on its

1 In PT 44, the Phur-pa is called ki la ya ri rab, which is further evidence supporting the above notion. For the record of ki la ya ri rab in other Tibetan sources, see Cantwell & Mayer 2008: 55.

shape, material, usage, origin, presented deity, and so forth. Then, scholars slowly started to pay attention to its religious and cultural signification. Recent studies show a tendency among scholars to study the related texts, such as the Dunhuang manuscripts, the Northern Treasures texts, and the rNying ma rgyud ’bum. Despite the various studies on the rDo-rje-phur-pa, a systematic and comprehensive study on its transmission is still a desideratum.


1.3 Tibetan Sources on the Transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Cycle

The present study is centered on the transmission history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle and makes use of sources that provide any information regarding it. To give an overall impression of the sources, they are divided into five categories, namely sources about the general history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle,

sources specific to a particular transmission, sections in historical works, sections in explanatory texts, and records of teachings received ( thob yib/gsan yig}. In the following, I will introduce its text by summarizing their key content.


i.3.i Sources on General Transmission

The first text is the PT 44, which is probably the earliest historical account of the history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle.1 It tells the story of Padmasambhava and his disciples taking the Phur bu’i ’bum sde from Nalanda to the Asura cave in Nepal, during which time he tamed the four bse goddesses

and made them protectresses of the teachings. Then he gave back the Phur bu’i ’bum sde and practiced with other masters in the Asura Cave. As a result, they saw the deity Vajrakumara and obtained miraculous powers. The text also records the first bestowing of the Phur-pa teachings by Padmasambhava and

lists the recipients’ names. The rest of this text deals with the practice and meditation ritual of the rDo-rje-phur-pa. Cantwell and Mayer suggest that PT 44 closely resembles later historical texts on the Phur-pa {phur pa lo rgyusj, presenting its history, lineage, doctrine, and the fruits of successful practice.


The next historical source is the Phur pa lo rgyus written by Sog-bzlog-pa Blo-gros-


rgyal-tshan (1552-1624) in 1609/ This text, which is the longest and most comprehensive historical account of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle, records its lineage from its transmission by the Buddhas in the celestial realm to the time of the author. It focuses mainly on its transmissions in the rNying-ma

school but also introduces its early transmission in the Sa-skya school. As this text is the basis of the present study, a critical edition and an annotated translation are provided.

gTsang-mkhan-chen ’Jam-dbyangs-dpal-ldan-rgya-mtsho (1610-1684) composed two texts, Phurpa chos ’byung and Phurpa chos ’byung bsdus pa, a longer one and a shorter one.1 2 The longer one, as the title indicates, not only includes the transmission history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa but also the discourse on the Phur-pa Tantric scriptures. The shorter one excludes the discourse on the Phur-pa Tantric scriptures and focuses

on the historical part. In both texts, the historical part, starting from the origin of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle, covers its main traditions until the time of the author but is not as detailed as Sog-bzlog-pa’s Phurpa lo rgyus.


The Gu bkra’i chos ’byung reports two historical accounts associated with the Phur-pa composed by gTer-bdag-gling-pa, one is the Phur pa ’i chos ’byung ngo mtshar rgya mt-sho’i rba rlabs-, the other is the Phur ’grel

’bum nag.3 However, neither is thought to be extant. A treasure text, rDo rje phur pa lo rgyus ngo mtshar snang ba, was first composed and concealed by Lo-tsa-ba Vairocana, and later copied by Las-rab-gling-pa (1859-1926) at the Kah-thog Monastery. It does not cover the entire transmission history of the rDo-

rje-phur-pa but focuses only on its spread in the Akanistha realm and the human realm. Concerning the spread in the human realm, the text records Padmasambhava’s obtainment of the teachings from rDo-rje-’dzin-pa and his first proclamation of them in Tibet. There is also a story about how

Padmasambhava was requested to give the teachings: Ye-she-mtsho-rgyal refused requests for the Phur-pa teachings three times from three different beings

and permitted them to receive the teachings not from herself but rather from Padmasambhava. Another text, called the Phur pa che mchog lo rgyus, which is very concise (only three folios) and belongs to the Northern Treasures, focuses on the scorpion story, which I will discuss in 2.1.3, P- 32-

3 See the Gur bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 1047.17 -19). This gTer-bdag-gling-pa could be gTer-bdag-gling-pa ’Gyur-med-rdo-rje (1646-1714), the founder of the sMin-grol-gling Monasteiy.


1.3.2 Sources Specific to Particular Transmissions

The Yang gsang spa gri’i byung tshul, written by A-mes-zhabs Ngag-dbang-kun-dga’-bsod-nams (1597-1659), records briefly how the Phur-pa-yang-gsang-spu-gri cycle was first concealed by Padmasambhava and later revealed by Guru Chos-kyi-dbang-phyug. It also mentions different cycles of the bKa’-brgyad treasures and the emergence of nine mandalas during the time of bestowing the initiation of bKa’-brgyad-yongs-rdzogs.

The Byanggter phur pa dbanggi lo rgyus, written by ’Phrin-las-bdud-’joms (1725-1789), deals with the history of the Byang-gter-phur-pa.1 The beginning of the text introduces the transmission of the Mahayoga teachings through the three lineages. Concerning the sGrub-sde section of the Mahayoga, the text tells the story of the distribution of the eight caskets of the bKa’-brgyad, during which Padmasambhava received the

casket of the Phur-pa teachings. After the general introduction, the text concentrates on the transmission of the Phur-pa teachings, including Padmasambhava and his two friends’ requesting the Phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti, their practice in Yang-le-shod, Padmasambhava’s arrival in Tibet, the transmission of the teachings in Tibet, and the contest between Lang-lab Byang-chub-rdo-rje and Rwa Lo-tsa-ba (1016-1128/1198).

Following that, the remainder of the text is the speech of Padmasambhava to the king, which tells how Padmasambhava hid many kinds of Phur-pa implements and Phur-pa teachings in different places in Tibet. A


Tantric scripture, the rTsa rgyud rang byung rang shar, is cited to prophesy the revelation of the Byang-gter-phur-pa by Rig-’dzin-rgod-ldem-can. Then, after a brief introduction to Rig-’dzin-rgod-ldem-can and his

discovery of the Byang-gter-phur-pa cycle, the text describes the transmission of the treasure teachings to Rig-’dzin Pad-ma-gsang-sngags. The author identifies three traditions of the Byang-gter-phur-pa, namely Phur-pa-lha-khrag, Phur-pa-lha-nag, and Phur-pa-lha-’dus. In the end, it discusses five topics related to the Phur-pa empowerment.

The Phur pa rgyud lugs las chos ’byung ngo mtshar snang byed, written by ’Jigs-med-gling-pa (1730-1798), divides the transmission of the Phur-pa-rgyud-lugs into the previous Tantric transmission {rgyud kyi lugs) and the later instructive transmission {man ngaggi lugs). His focus is on the latter, in which the

transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings from Ye-shes-mtsho-rgyal to the four disciples of Lang-lab is introduced. The text also adds some description oflCam-lugs, Phur-pa-lha-nag, and Phur-pa-lha-khra. The bDud ’jomsgnam Icags

1 ’Phrin-las-bdud-’joms was a student of Rig-’dzin-tshe-dbang-nor-bu and the teacher of Chos-kyi-dbang-phyug, see Bo ORD 1993:10. This text has been used by Martin Boord for his study of the history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle and many parts have been loosely translated by him, see Boord 1993: 95-125.

spugri lo rgyytis by bDud-’joms ’Jigs-bral-ye-shes-rdo-rje (1904-1987) is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle in general, from its origin to its flourishing in Tibet. The second part is devoted to the revelation of the gNam-lcags-spu-gri cycle revealed by bDud-’joms-gling-pa (1835-1904).


1.3.3 Passages in Historical Works

In addition to the above historical works that are devoted to the general transmission or a particular transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle, there are passages in some historical works dealing with its transmission. The Nyang ral chos ’byung is probably the first historical work that introduces the nine

transmissions of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle.1 The Deb ther sngon po does not have a section specific to the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle, but mentions its transmission in the accounts of other teachings or masters. In the mKhas pa’i dga’ ston, there is a record of Padmasambhava receiving the Phur-pa teachings

from Prabhahasti, the accomplishments of the three masters following the Phur-pa practices, and Padmasambhava’s taming of the four bse goddesses. It goes

on to tell the story of the Phur-pa-lcam-lugs and mentions that many Phur-pa siddhas from various clans existed. Before the arising of the new translation tradition, Yang-dag and Phur-pa protected the life essence of deities and the teaching guardians in Tibet.1 2 *

The Nor bu’iphreng ba places the transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle twice as the fifth of the Eight Sadhanas. The first time, the text tells of the way in which the teachings of the Phur-pa descended to the human realm and how they were received by Padmasambhava. An account of the early life of


Padmasambhava is also provided. It then states that Padmasambhava went to Nalanda to take the Phur-pa scriptures and obtained the accomplishments of the Phur-pa, together with Vimalamitra and Sllamanju.- The second time, the text focuses mainly on the transmission of the Phur-pa teachings in Tibet, in which

a short biography of Ye-shes-mtsho-rgyal is added. It provides some new transmissions that were not provided by other sources, such as the Phur-pa-lha-nag-jo-mo-lugs, rTsa-thung-gdams-ngag-can-gyi-lugs, and so forth.4

In the mTha’gru’i rgyan by ’Jigs-med-gling-pa (1730-1798), there is a part devoted to the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle that introduces eight sub-traditions of the Phur-pa and tells the story of’Dar-phya-ru-ba, a Phur-pa siddha of the gTer ma transmission.1 It also briefly mentions the Phur-pa transmision in the context of the Eight Sadhanas in the bKa’-ma and gTer-ma transmissions.1 2

The Gu bkra ’i chos ’byung devotes a very long section to the history of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle. It covers almost every sub-tradition of the cycle and introduces each in detail. Some parts may be based on the Phur pa ’bum nga, the Deb ther sgnon po, Sog-bzlog-pa’s Phur pa lo rgyus, and ’Jigs-med-gling-pa’s Phurpa rgyud lugs chos ’byung, and the mTha’gru’i rgyan.

In the bDud ’joms chos ’byung there is a chapter dealing with the transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle that is almost identical to that in the mTha’gru’i rgyan.3 Moreover, the transmission of the Phur-pa is briefly mentioned within the Eight Sadhanas, from the aspect of both the bKa’-ma and gTer-

ma transmissions.4 In the Bod sog chos ’byung (pp. 509.17-510.13) by the fifth Shing-bza’ sKal-bzang-chos-kyi-rgyal-mtshan (1928-1998), there is a concise introduction to some sub-traditions of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle.


1.3.4 Other Kinds of Literature

The explanatory texts of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle also provide some brief information regarding its transmission, for instance, the Phur ’grel ’bum nag ascribed to Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Silamanju, the Phur pa sgrub thabs mam bshad by A-mes-zhabs Ngag-dbang-kun-dga’-bsod-nams, and the Phur pa ’i

mam bshad by Mag-gsar-kun-bzang sTobs-ldan-dbang-po (1781-1828). In the records of teachings received, such as the A met zhabs thob yig, Ganga’i chu rgyun, and Kongsprulgsan yig, various Phur-pa transmissions are mentioned.


Tibetan Accounts of the Origination and Early Transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa

It is widely accepted that Padmasambhava was the introducer of the scriptures and teachings of rDo-rje-phur-pa to Tibet. PT 44 attributes to him not only the redaction and ordering of the Phur-pa Tantric scriptures but also the transmission of its practice lineages in Tibet and the appointment of its

protective deities at Yang-le-shod in Nepal.1 Padmasambhava is the key figure in the transmission of rDo-rje-phu-pa and can be seen as the originator of all the Phur-pa lineages of Tibetan Tantric Buddism. The ways in which he received the teachings of Phur-pa and them spread them in Tibet will be the two

main focuses of this chapter. The purpose of this chapter is neither to establish the historical facts of the origination of rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings nor

to distinguish the historical materials from the legends, but rather to investigate the narratives or the concepts relating to how Padmasmabhava received and brought the Phur-pa teachings to Tibet.

Relating the transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle in the scheme of the ten descents of the Tantric teachings (gsang sngags ’gyur bcu or gsang sngags kyi babs lugs bcu) to Tibet, which is brought up in the iDe’u chos ’byung, one hundred and one activities of Phur-pa-zil-gnon were established by

Padmasambhava based on Vajrakumara, in the first descent, as one of the four branch activities (yan lag ’phrin Im bzhi).‘In the eighth descent, when Vimalamitra was invited to Tibet, five sadhanas—bDud-rtsi, Phur-pa, Padma-dbang-chen, Yang-dag and gShin-rje—appeared in Tibet.1 2


2.1 Narrative of Padmasambhava Obtaining the rDo-rje-phur-pa Teachings

There are various versions of the story of Pamasambhava obtaining these teachings. These versions can be divided into two categories in general. The first is the independent transmission of rDo-rje-phur-pa in the bKa’-ma tradition. The second is together with the gTer-ma transmission of the eight sadhana, of which rDo-rje-phur-pa is an integral part.


2.1.1 Independent Transmissions in the bKa’-ma Tradition

It is said that all the teachings of the three inner Tantric scriptures of the rNyin-ma school are transmitted through three stages (bstan pa’i bab lugs chen mo gsum), namely the mind transmission of the Buddhas (rgyal ba dgongs pa’i brgyud pa), the symbolic transmission of the Vidyadharas {rig ’dzin

rigpa’i brgyud pd) and the oral transmission of human beings (gang zagsnyan khunggi brgyud pd)d In the case of the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings, according to Sog-bzlog-pa’s Phur pa lo rgyus, in the first stage, the Primordial Buddha Samantabhdra

proclaimed the rDo-rje-phur-pa Tantric scriptures, such as the Vidyottama la ’bum sde, in the Akanistha realm. Before the teachings were transmitted to the next stage, the Buddha himself, Vajrasattva, Vajrapani, dak-inis,, a Brahmin called Mi-thod-can and so forth codified the rDo-rje-phur-pa Tantric scriptures.4

1 See the iDe’u chos ’byung (p. 303.16-17). There is also a scheme of the seven descents and four processes of the Tantric teachings (gsang sngags byung tshul babs bdun tshul bzhi). The earliest account of this scheme is by Rong-zom-pa, the original text does not exists, but is mentioned in later

historical sources such as the Nor bu’i phreng ba (p. 289.6-291.5). For accounts of the seven-descent scheme, see the Nyang ral chos ’byung (p. 435.4-11),

Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 267.1-380.15), Nor bu’iphreng ba (p. 270.5-291.5) and Zhe chen chos ’byung (p. 74.n-76.11). For a study of the seven-descent scheme of the Tantric teachings see Germano 2002: 225-263.

2 See the iDe’u chos ’byung (p. 318.16-17). ff(' -Vor bu’iphreng ba (p. 286.4) associates the five sadhanas with Prajnavarman in the seventh descend. ’ See the rDzogs chen chos ’byung (p. 35.9-14).

4 See the Phurpa lo rgyus (§2, p. 270, for the translation, see 10.2, p. 186). For some similar narratives, see the


Chapter 2: Tibetan Accounts of the Origination and Early Transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Cycle

In the second stage, in the world of dakinis, rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings were taught by Samantabhadra to the five Buddha Families (padma, vajra, ratna, karma, and buddha), Va-jrakumara and Vajrapani who together taught them to the Four Buddha Families from whom Padmasambhava received the teachings.1

In the third stage, in the world of human beings, it is Vajrasattva who transmitted the teachings to dGa’-rab-rdo-rje (i. e. Prahevajra). Afterward the the teachings were taught successively to bZhad-pa’i-rdo-rje who is the emanation of Vipas'yin Buddha, the King Urushane, the dragon’s daughter rGya-mtsho-ma

and the King Indrabhuti/Indrabodhi. Then the King Indrabhuti/Indrabodhi taught [them] to the three Acaryas *Dhanasamskrta (Dhanasangtrita), Dhanaupaya, and Blo-ldan-mchog-sred. *Dhanasamskrta taught [them] to the three Acaryas Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Nepalese Silamanju.* 1 2

In addition to the above transmission of rDo-rje-phur-pa, Sog-bzlog-pa provides another transmission through the King Tsa/Dza in which Padmasambhava is not mentioned. From King Tsa/Dza, who got the teachings from Vajrasattva, the teachings were transmitted through the princess Gomadevi, prince Sakrapuri then flourished in India, Nepal and Tibet.3

King Tsa/Dza is said to be the first human to receive the Tantric teachings and he inaugurated the third lineage of the three transmissions.4 5 He is sometimes identified with the King Indrabhuti by rNying-ma scholars. Indrabhuti is a key figure in the early transmission of the Vajrayana teachings and he is said to have received all the eighteen Mahayoga Tantric scriptures, including the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle.' As pointed out by Dalton, the rNying-ma

Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 74.2-4), Phurpa chos ’byung bsduspa (p. 162.3-4) andgNam Icags spugri lo rgyus (p. 14.2-3).

1 See the Phurpa lo rgyus (§2, p. 271, for the translation, see 10.2, p. 187). For a similar narrative, seegNam Icags spugri lo rgyus (p. 14.3-4). 2 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§2, p. 271, for the translation, see 10.2, p. 187). For some similar narratives, see Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 74.4-8), Phur pa chos ’byung sduspa (pp. 162.5-163.2) and^Nizm Icags spugri lo rgyus (p. 14.4-6).

3 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§2, p. 271, for the translation, see 10.2, p. 188). For some similar narratives, see the Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 74.8- 10), Phur pa chos ’byung sdus pa (p. 163.2-3), andgNam Icags spugri (p. 15.2). Namdrol also states that King Dza initiated the third transmission which is the oral transmission of individuals in the whole transmission procedure of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Tantric scriptures, see Namdrol 1995: 23. 4 See Dalton 2002: 66.

5 Many scholars agree that there are more than one person designated as Indrabhuti. For example, Keith Dow-man lists three persons called Indrabhutis among whom the first one revealed the Tantric scriptures of rDo-rje-phur-pa and transmitted them to Dhanaraksita who then to Pdamsambhava, while the second obtained the Anuttarayogatantra which fell upon his palace and Kukkuripa explained the texts to him, see Dowman 1985:


Origination, Transmission, and Reception of the Phur-pa Cycle scholars preferred the name King Tsa/Dza.

Karmay suggests that the story of Indrabhuti is probably the original source of the legend of King Tsa/Dza.* 1 2

In the Phur rtsa ’grel pa, Kong-sprul provides a different transmission through the three stages. The first stage starts from Samantabhadra who took the form of the five Buddha families and taught the Phur-pa teachings to fulfilled Bodhisattvas such as those in his retinue Vajrasattva, Avalokites'vara,

Manjusri, Vajrapani and so on. In the second stage, the lords of the three families, namely the Avalokitesvara, Manjusri and Vajrapani taught the doctrines to gods, nagas and yaksas. Subsequently, the doctrines were taught to King Tsa/Dza of Uddiyana from whom they were transmitted to the three masters

Padmasambhava, Vi-malamitra and Sllamnju.3 Of three lineages of rDo-rje-phur-pa provided Khenpo Namdrol, the first two are very similar to Kong-sprul’s. The third lineage is from King Tsa/Dza then though King Kukkuraja, King Indrabodhi, Simharaja and Gomadevi. Each of them had thousands of disciples who obtained accomplishments of Phur-pa.4

mKhyen-rab-rgya-mtsho presents another transmission through which Padmasmab-hava obtained the Phur-pa teachings of Phur-pa. This transmission is not divided into three stages but includes King Tsa/Dza. It too originates from Samantabhadra, who in the form of Dharmakaya, empowered the five Buddhas Families and Karmaheruka. They caused the gSang-ba’i-bdag-po emerge as the Nirmanakaya, who in turn entrusted the

Phur-pa teachings to the fortunate King Tsa/Dza. Then the teachings were transmitted in sequence through Up-araja, Prabhahasti and Dhanasarnskrta. Padmasambhava received the teachings from the last three.5

The aforementioned transmissions show the different ways the Phur-pa teachings descended to the human world. In most of them, Padmasambhava is mentioned and obtained the Phur-pa teachings either as a

vidyadhara or a human. From Kong-sprul’s point of view, Padmasambhava is actually Vajrakumara himself and manifests seeing the Phur-pa deities and receiving the entire Phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti for the sake of sentient beings.6 Sim

ilarly, Khenpo Namdrol believes that Padmasambhava is originally and primordially enlightened, indivisible from rDo-rje-phur-pa, but for the benefit of sentient beings, he went through the motions of practicing rDo-rje-phur-pa, receiving the teachings of its Tantric scriptures and so on. In this way, he received the entire transmission of rDo-rje-phur-pa directly from the deity.1

Another way Padmasambhava is reported to have received the Phur-pa teachings is from Prabhahasti, who according to the bKa’-ma tradition of the eight Sadhanas is the recipient of the Phur-pa cycle.1 2 Many historical sources record that Padmsambhava obtained the Phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti twice.

The first time is in the context of Padmasamb-hava’s early life. Padmasambhava was the son of a King in Uddiyana called Manusita.3 One day he killed the son of another King by accident and was banished.4 During his escape, he came across two men who were on their way to receive teachings from the Upadhyaya

of Za-hor. Regretting his previous behavior, he joined them to look for teachings. On their way, they met the Acarya Sakyabodhi from whom they received the discipline of the novice and were given the names Sakyaprabha, Sakyamitra and Sakya-seng-ge.5

On their way to Za-hor, they met Acarya Prabhahasti who bestowed upon them the yoga initiations. Two of them were satisfied and left while Sakya-seng-ge in order to passing a test, learn all the yoga teachings and received the initiations of Mayajala and all the teachings

2 This view has been accepted in many sources, for example, the Vaidurya gya’ sei (p. 1033.6), m Thagru’i rgyan (p. 121.1-2), Gu bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 107.7-8, for the translation, see Dorje & Kapstein 2002: 481.), rDzogs chen chos ’byting (p. 49.12), bDtid ’jonis chos ’byung (p. 92.10-11), and

Namdrol 1999: 24. Some of them even specify that Padmasambhava received the Phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti eighteen times. However the mKhas pa’i dga’ston (p. 308.29) refers once to a historical work of Phur-pa that holds the same opinion as the aforementioned sources, but in another place (p. 306.30) it states that Padmasambhava learned the Phur-pa teachings from Sakyadeva.

3 In the Zangs gling ma (p. 4.2 and 11.9, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: 31 and 36.), Klong chen chos ’byung (p.233.2), Nor bu’iprheng ba (186.2-3), mKhas pa’i dga’ston (p. 306.15) and bSam yas chos ’byung (p. 58.22), the king’s name is Indrabodhi.

4 According to the Zangs gling ma (p. 12.1-2, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: 37), Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 238.1-2), mKhaspa’i dga’ston (p. 306.19), and the bSam yas chos ’byung (p. 59.20-21), he killed the son of the most influential minister.

5 The Byanggterphurpa lo rgyus (p. 183.6) also records that the teacher who ordained the three was Sakyabodhi. Boord suggests Sakyabodhi is most likel v Prabhahasti, see Bo ORD 1993:103. However, this is not so likely because right after Sakyabodhi, Prabhahasti appears as a different person whom

they met on their way to Za-hor in the east of India, see the Byang gter phur pa lo rgyus (p. 184.1). The Nor bu’i phreng ba (p. 189.1-2) only records that Padmasamhava was ordained and named Sakya-seng-ge by Sakyabodhi. But in the mKhaspa’i dga’ston (p. 106.23) it is Prabhahasti who ordained Padmasambhava and named him Sakya-seng-ge.

related to the Phurpa ’bum sde. Thus, he attained many accomplishments such the command over life span and so forth.1

mKhyen-rab-rgya-mtsho calls these three, who were the disciples of Prabhahasti, sdkya friends (shakya mched gsum) and points out that Sakyamitra is Vimalamitra, Sakyaprabha is Sangs-rgyas-gsang-ba, and Sakyasimha is Padmasambhava.1 2 In the Byang gter phur pa lo rgyus the two friends of Padmasambhava

are Sakyamitra and Shakya-bshes-gnyen who are considered to be Vimalamitra and Sllamanju.3 For Padmasambhava’s meeting with Prabhahasti, some sources provide a slightly different account. In Padmasambhava’s escape, he first met two monks,

Sakyamaitri and Sakya-bshes-gnyen, who were on their way to request teachings from Prabhahasti and suggested that Padmasambhava ask for teachings from Prabhahasti in Brag-dmar-bya-khung. Padmasambhava met Prabhahasti who ordained him and named him Sakya-seng-ge.4 Then Padmasambhava went to see Prabhahasti

again after his journey in several charnel grounds in order to receive all the Phur-pa teachings from him. Thus, Padmasambhava had a vision of the Phur-pa deities.5

The second time Padmasambhava received the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti occurs as part of the background of the famous Yang-le-shod story. In order to accomplish the vidyadhara on Mahamudra, Padmasambhava practised Yang-dag-grub-pa-mar-me-

1 The above narrative about the early life of Padmasambhava is based on the pertinent records in the Phurpa lo rgyus (§4.1 & §4.2, pp. 272-275, for the translation, see 10.4.1 & 10.4.2, pp. 189-191). For a similar narrative, see the Byanggter phur pa lo rgyus (pp. 183.4-184.4). For other sources that

record this part of Padmasambhava’s early life, see the Zangsgling ma (pp. 3.1-21.8, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: ti-44), Klong chen chos ’byung (pp. 232.17-242.13), Nor bu’iprheng ba (pp. 186.2-189.2) and mKhaspa’i dga’ston (p. 306.15-24), and bSarn yas chos ’byung (pp. 58.20-62.7).


4 See the Zangs gling ma (pp. 17.5-15, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: 41-42). For some similar narratives, see the Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 240.8-14) and bSamyas chos ’byung (p. 60.16) in which Padmasambhava joined the two monks, Sakyamitra and Sakya-bshes-gnven, to visit Prabhahasti. The bDud ’joms chos ’byung (p. 80.8-14, f°r Te translation, see Dorje & Kapstein 2002: 469-470) also mentions Padmasambhava’s meeting with Prabhahasti and receiving

an ordination and name Sakya-seng-ge from the latter. It does not record other two friends and Padmasambhava’s acquisition of the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings from Prabhahasti, while mentions he obtained the teachings of the eight Sadhanas in general.

5 See the Zangsgling ma (p. 20.8-9, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: 42-43). For a similar narrative, see the Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 242.2-

4) and bSarn yas chos ’byung (p. 61.13-14). But in the Klong chen chos ’byung it is said that it was from Sog-skya-dhe-ba and not Prabhahasti that Padmasambhava received the Phur-pa teachings and had a vision of the Phur-pa deities.


Chapter 2: Tibetan Accounts of the Origination and Early Transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Cycle

dgu using Sakyadeva as his mudra and support in Yang-le-shod. At that time, inauspicious things occureed that were obstacles to his striving for awakening. He prepared offerings and made an invocation to the deities. Then a sound appeared in the sky telling him to request the rDo-rje-phur-pa scriptures from

Nalanda in India. To this end, Padmasambhava sent two Nepalese disciples carrying gold as offerings to the panditas. Thepanditas told the two disciples that Prabhahasti had the teachings of rDo-rje-phur-pa, which were remedy against these obstacles. They met Prabhahasti, who agreed to sent two-person’s load of texts from out of

the one hundred thousand cycles of rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings. After the texts arrived in Yang-le-shod, all the obstacles disappeared. Impressed by the power of the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings, Padmsambhava decided to spread them and composed a sadhana combining Yang-dag and Phur-pa based on Tantric scriptures, Heruka gal po and Vidyottama ’bum sde. He practiced the sadhana and attained the accomplishments of Mahamudra.1

PT 44 also briefly records that Padmasambhava went together with two messengers to request the Phur pa ’bum sde from Nalanda to Yang-le-shod and even names the two messengers as Shag-kya-yur and I-so.1 2 In the Zangs gling ma and bKa’ thang sde Inga, the two messengers are identified as Ji-la-ji-sa and Kun-la-kun-sa.3 And the Nor bu’iphreng ba states


1 See the Zangsgling ma (pp. 29.16-31.17, for the translation, see Kunsang 2004: 52-54) and Klong chen chos byung (p. 246.13-248.5). Through the comparison of the aforementioned parts in the Zangs gling ma and Klong chen chos ’byung, it is clear that many details correspond and therefore this par of

the Klong chen chos ’byung might rely on the Zangs gling ma. Similar narratives can be found in the bKa’ thang sde Inga (pp. 13.16-14.10), Nor bu i phreng ba (pp. 190.5-191.3), Phur pa lo rgyus (§4.3, pp. 275-277, for the translation, see 10.4.3, pp. 275-

277'l-> mKhas pa i dga ston (p. 307.13-20), Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 75.11-23), Phur pa chos ’byung bsdus pa (p. 166.5-168.1), mTha gru i rgyan (pp. 119.21-120.10), and Byanggterphurpa lo rgyus (pp. 185.3-186.2). There are discrepancies among the sources. First, the mKhaspa’i dga’ston does not specify Padmasmabhava’s practice of Yang-dag-mar-me-dgu, while the mTha gru’i rgyan mentions his practice is

Yang-dag-zla-gam-dgu-ba. Second, except the Zangs gling ma, mKhas pai dga ston and mTha’gru’i rgyan, other sources do not mentions that Padmasambhava used Sakyadeva as his consort and support. Third, in the bKa’ thang sde Inga, Nor bu’iphreng ba, Phur pa chos byung, Phur pa chos byung bsdus pa, mTha’gru’i rgyan, and Byang gter phur pa lo rgyus, it is not fiom Prabhahasti that the two Nepalese men obtained the

scriptures but from the panditas. Fourth, what Padmasambhava composed is also not identical and no composition is mentioned in the bKa’ thang sde Inga, mKhas pa i dga ston, Nor bu i phreng ba, mTha gru’i rgyan and Byanggter phur pa lo rgyus. Fifth, the mTha’gru’i rgyan also records that after the


hindrances disappeared in Yang-le-shod, Padmasambhava engaged in a practice combining Yang-dag and Phur-pa, then twelve goddesses offered their life essence and were bound by the samaya.

3 Kun-la-kun-sa is written as Kun-la-kun-sa-zhi in the bKa’thang sde Inga, see the bKa’thang sde Inga (p. 14. 4-6): shing kun balpoji la ji sa dang\\ mtshan brag bal mo kun la kun sa zhi \\pho mo gnyis lagser phye bre gangbrdzangs 11. and Zangsgling ma (p. 30.14-16): thugs kyi slob ma balpo ji la ji sa dang | kun la kun sagyis la gser bye brag gang spy an gzigs su bskur nos |. The bKa’thang sde Inga indicates that the two messengers are one

the two messengers were Bal-po Kun-zhi and Bal-mo Byi-la-byi-sa. ’Jigs_med-gling-pa refers to a historical text of Phur-pa saying that the two were Bal-po Silamanju and Bal-po Kun-zhi.1

The Gu bkra’i chos ’byung and bDud ’joms chos ’byung tell the Yang-le-shod story differently. Hindrances arose when Padmasambhava aimed to realize the accomplishments of Mahamudra. Then he practiced relying on the Bi to ta ’bum sde, consequently Vajrakumara manifested and conquered all the hindrances. He

bound twelve goddesses and four Sa-bdag-ma under the samaya. Additionally, he received the Phur-pa Tantric scriptures eighteen times from Prabhahasti and became the master of all the Phur-pa teachings.* 1 2

The bDud ’joms chos ’byung also provides another version of the Yang-le-shod story. When Padmasambhava was practicing Yang-dag with his consort Sakyadeva in Yang-le-shod, obstacles appeared. So he sent messengers to India to acquire scriptures from his previous teachers. They sent him the Phur-pa Tantric scriptures and as a result, all the obstacles disappeared. Although the teaching of Yang-dag can bring great accomplishments, it is like a merchant who has a lot of hindrances, and Phur-pa, like his indispensable escort, is helpful to him. Having realized this, Padmasambhava composed sadhanas combining Yang-

dag and Phur-pa and also bound all the mundane spirits, including the sixteen protectors of Phur-pa. With the help of the miraculous powers of Phur-pa, Padmasambhava made water flow from a dry riverbed, diverted a wide river underground, and annihilated the extreme deities who caused harm to Buddhist teachings.3


2.1.2 Transmitted as one of the Eight Sadhanas in the gTer-ma Tradition

As the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle is one of the eight Sadhanas of the Mahayoga system, its transmission is closely related to the eight Sadhanas. There are many different narratives of the transmission of the eight Sadhanas, leading to inconsistencies in the description of the rDo-rje-phur-pa transmission. This section will examine the different narratives related to the rDo-rje-phur-pa transmission in the eight Sadhanas.

The Dakini Las-kyi-dbang-mo obtained the five general Tantric scriptures and ten spe Nepalese man and one Nepalese woman, and they are a couple, while the Zangs gling ma only emphasises that Ji-la-ji-sa is a Nepalese man.

2 See the Gu bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 109.2-10) and bDud ’joms chos ’byung (pp. 92.10 93.4, for the translation, see Dorje & Kapstein 2002: 481). The narratives in the two records are almost identical to each other.

cial Tantric scriptures on the eight Sadhanas and the related oral transmission from the Bodhisattva Vajradharma. She put each of the eight cycles of Sadhanas into eight different caskets made of precious jewels and concealed them within the body of the Sankarakuta stupa in the Sitavana charnel ground

(gsil ba’i tshal). When the eight Vidyadharas assembled around the stupa, Mahakarmendrani brought forth the caskets and distributed one casket to each Vidyad-hara. However the distribution of the eight caskets varies in different accounts, some state that the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle was entrusted to Prabhahasti and some say to Padmasambhava.1

It is also noteworthy that in some sources there is a ninth casket, containing the treasure of bKa’-brgyad-bde-gshegs-’dus-pa which subsumes all the aforementioned cycles and it is Padmsambhava who managed to open this casket. This enables him to surpass other masters and become more prestigious.

However, Nyang-ral’s bDe ’dus bka’ mgo and bDe ’dus byung tshul do not specify who the opener of the ninth casket was but only that the casket was opened after the eight vidyadharas complete the meditation and offering to the Ma-mos and dakinis, which greatly differs from the later sources.1 2

In the Phur pa lo rgyus, Sog-bzlog-pa records a lineage of Phur-pa that looks like the gTer-ma transmission. It originated from Samantabhadra and then transmitted sequentially to Vajrakumara, a Brahmin called Mi-thod-can, and Dakinl Las-kyi-dbang-mo-che who concealed them as treasures under the

Sankarakuta stupa. Srlsimha revealed these teachings and taught them to Prabhahasti who gave them to the princess Upadana from whom Padmasambhava finally obtained the teachings.3 However, gTsang-mkhan-chen’s record is slightly different. After the Brahmin entrusted the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings to the Dakinl Las-kyi-dbang-

1 The sources that support it being Padmasambhava are the mKhas pa’i dga’ ston (p. 314.3), Vaidurya gya’ sei (p. 1038.6), and G11 bkra chos ’byung (p. 107.21) . The source that supports it being Prabhahasti is Guru Chos-dbang’s Yongs rdzogs khog ’bugs (p. 306.1): ’phrin las kyi rig ’dzinpra ha ti,

where Phur-pa is not explicitly mentioned, however. The above listed sources are from the presentation in the IATS conference (Bergen 2016) by Guy Grizman. In a comparative study of the bKa’-brgvad narrative in Nyang-ral’s bDe ’dus bka’ mgo (p. 503.4 & 504.4), Ju Mi-pham s bKa’ brgyad mam bshad (p. 526.2), and

bDud ’joms chos ’byung (p. 93.19), all three narratives all attributes the rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle to Padmasambhava, see Grizman 2014. In the bKa’ brgyad mam bshad (p. 526.5), Mi-pham offers a narrative of other chronicles which states that it is Prabhahasti who received the Phur-pa casket. Other sources which

support Padmasambhava obtaining the Phur-pa casket are the bDe ’dus byung tshul (p. 255.3), mTha’gru’i rgyan (p. 123.4-5), and Byanggterphurpa lo rgyus (p. 182.3).

2 For the sources that record Padmasambhava opening the ninth casket, see for example the mKhMpa dga’ston (p. 314.5-6), Gu bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 108.7-8), bKa’ brgyad mam bshad (p. 527.2-3), and bDud ’joms chos ’byung (p. 94.4-6).

3 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§2, p. 271, for the translation, see 10.2, p. 188). For a similar narrative, see the gNam Icags spugri lo rgyus (p. 15.2-

3) where, however, it does not mention that the teachings were concealed as treasures.

po who buried the them under the Sankarakuta stupa. Srisimha discovered and transmitted them to Prabhahasti who taught them to Padmasambhava. He also adds that in actuality Padmasambhava received the Phur-pa teachings directly from Vajrasattva.



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