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The Story of the Scorpion

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The Story of the Scorpion

In addition to the aforementioned transmissions, there is another story about Padmasambhava’s receiving of the Phur-pa teachings from a scorpion. It was when Padmasambhava went to the charnel ground near Rajgir following the suggestion of Vajrapani who prophesied that Padmasambhava would attain

accomplishments there. In the charnel ground, he met a scorpion with nine heads, eighteen pincers, and three eyes on each head. The scorpion revealed the Phur-pa texts from a triangular-shaped stone box . As soon as Padmasambhava read the texts he understood them, and was given the title of “scorpion guru.”1

2 In the wrathful form of Padmasambhava, known as Guru-drag-po or Padma-drag-po, he is represented as holding a scorpion in his left hand. Beer further comments that as an emblem of the wrathful Phur-pa, the scorpion took a strong symbolic meaning in the early development of the rNying-ma school.3

Sog-bzlog-pa puts the story of the scorpion, not in the Sitavana charnel ground, but in Yang-le-shod after Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Silamanju practiced Phur-pa and gained accomplishments. According to Sog-bzlog-pa the gods transformed as demons to test them. All of sudden a gigantic iron scorpion

started to cause harm. Padmasambhava disguised himself as a pig and set out to devour the scorpion. Then he perceived Bhagavan Vajrakumara in a majestic

form like Mount Sumeru. As such, he passed the test and obtained the unhindered power with regard to the wrathful activities from the scorpion. In the Byang-gter-phur-pa tradition, there is also a story involving a scorpion but where


1 See the [[Phur pa [chos ’byung]] (p. 74.10-13) and Phurpa chos ’byung bsduspa (pp. 163.4-164.1): (based on Phur pa chos ’byung though there are slightly differences in Phurpa chos ’byung bsdus pd) yang bram ze mi thod kyis | mkha’gro ma las kyi dang mogtad | des mchod rten bde byed brtsegspargter du sbas |

de shrising has ’thon | de nos slob dpon pra hi te la bshad | de nos slob dpon padma la brgyud do || yang dag na rig ’dzin chen po padma ’byunggnas kyis rdo rje sems dpa’dngos lasgsang cing |.

4 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§5, p. 277, for the translation, see 10.5, p. 194). For some similar narratives, see the Phurpa chos ’byung (p. 75.25-28) and Phurpa chos ’byung bsduspalp. 168.2-4).


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

the scorpion is related the Che-mchog cycle of the Byang-gter-phur-pa tradition.1 It is said that Padmasambhava went to ask for teachings from Dhanasamskrta, who ordered his subjects and disciples to go to an island in a lake in order to engage in the practice of nectar medicine. As they stayed there, the local spirits were angered and they caused hindrances to their practice. As such they could not achieve accomplishments

and had to look for teachings in order to stop the hindrances. They traveled to the Sitavana charnel ground where they saw an iron scorpion with nine heads teaching dharma to himself. Then, Padmasambhava discovered a maroon leather casket which contained the instructions to the root Tantric scriptures but

which none of them could understand. Padmasambhava suggested to ask the iron scorpion, so they prepared a jewel throne for him, invited him, circled him,

presented him with offerings and prayed to him. Instantly the scorpion transformed himself into Bhagavan Vajrakumara, with nine head and eighteen hands uttering “kilaya hum

pad.” The transformed scorpion then taught the Vidyottama la ’bum sde of the outer Tantric scriptures and other texts. After listening to all the teachings, Dhanasamskrta and Padmasambhava pondered over them and took them to heart. They stabbed Phur-pa into the lake and subdued all the vicious gods and demons. They attained two kinds of accomplishments of Phur-pa.


2.2 The Early Transmissions of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Cycle in India, Uddiyana, and Nepal

When the scriptures of Phur-pa arrived in Yang-le-shod, all the obstacles were annihilated; There the three masters Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Silamanju engaged in the practice of rDo-rje-phur-pa and attained accomplishments. Then Padmasambhava compiled twenty scriptures dealing with the “lower”

[[Phur-pa {phur smad nyi shu]]). The twenty scriptures are classified into four categories by their theme and each includes five scriptures. The five categories are tantra, view, activity and sadhana. Padmasambhava even went to Nalanda to present the twenty scriptures to the five hundred^Wfft’tas who

tied the treatises on the top of banners to show their respect. Thereafter, the three masters, after having consulted the whole Vidyottama la ’bum sde, composed further treatises on the thirty-two Tantric scriptures such as rDo rje phur pa gsang ba’i rgyud by classifying them into commentaries, sadhanas, tikas


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

In the PT 44, Padmasambhava not only sent two messengers to Nalanda to invite the Phur pa ’bum sde, he also went there himself. When he returned to Yang-led-shod with the [[Phur pa [’bum sde]], he practiced all the classes of yoga. Then he taught every instruction of Phur-pa from the Phurpa ’bum sde, and then

escorted the Phurpa ’bum sde back to Nalanda. Later he practiced in the Asura Cave together with the Nepalese Ser-po, In-tra-shu-gu-tu and Prabhase (Prabhahasti), and they all acquired the accomplishments of Phur-pa. However, the text lists those who got the accomplishments as being Padmasambhava, Shri-ri-’gugs-ta and Ser-po which is inconsistent with the above practitioners.1 dPa’-bo gTsug-lag-phreng-ba refers to a historical work of Phur-pa indicating that the three masters were Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Silamnju, who practiced in the Asura cave and obtained the accomplishments.3

Before the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings were taken to Tibet, they had already spread in India, Uddiyana, and Nepal. Vimalamitra transmitted the teachings to his consort Dam-pa, and together they gave the teachings to the Indian King Indrabhuti. In this way the teachings were spread in India. Padmasambhava

taught the doctrines to a Nepalese woman Sakyadevi, and together they taught them to the King of Uddiyana, called Dharmakosha, thus causing the teachings to flourish in Uddiyana. Also, Silamanju taught the Phur-pa teachings to Santi, a prostitute, who taught them to the prince of Nepal, called Gunapatala, who spread the teachings in Nepal.4

1 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§5, p. 277, 279, for the translation, see 10.5, p. 193,195). For some similar narratives, see the Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 75. 23-25, 76. 13-17), Phur pa chos ’byung bsdus pa (p. 168.1-2,170.1-4), and Byang Gter Phurpa lo rgyus (p. 186.5-6). The Byanggterphurpa lo rgyus (pp. 184.5-185.3) places the practice of the three masters in Yang-le-shod before the request of the Phur-pa scriptures to Yang-le-shod.

2 The PT 44 does not clearly tell where Padmasambhava escorted the Phur pa ’bum sde back to, simply saying “ ’bum sde | yang slar bskyal mu .” Since it says “escorted back (slar bskyal),” it is most likely Nalanda where the text came from, see Bischoff & Hartman 1971: 22. Kapstein renders it such that

the text was returned to Nepal, probably due to the statements that follow to the effect that Padmasambhava practiced in the Asura Cave, which is located in Yang-le-shod in Nepal, see Kapstein 2002: 158. Cantwell and Mayer do not specify the place, see Cantwell & Mayer 2008a: 60.

3 See the mKJiaspa’i dga’ston (pp. 308.30-309.1).

4 See the Phurpa lo rgyus (§5, p. 279, for the translation, see 10.5, p. 196), Phurpa chos ’byung (p. 76.18-22) and Phurpa chos ’byung bsduspa (p. 170.4-171.1), also see Boord 1993: 7-8; Boord 2002: xxvii.


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

2.3 The Early Transmissions of the rDo-rje-phur-pa Cycle in Tibet

2.3.1 The Transmissions from Padmasambhava

The rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings first spread to Tibet when Padmasambhava was invited there by King Khri-srong-lde’u-btsan, for the purpose of dealing with the difficulties during the construction of bSam-yas. The King sent messengers carrying gold to invite Padmasambhava from India, but there are many

different opinions regarding their number. The most widely accepted is three messengers, namely sNa-nam rDo-rje-bdud-’joms, mChims Sakyaprabha, and Shud-bu dPal-gyi-seng-ge.

1 The Klong chen chos ’byung accepts three messengers but only names sBa gSal-snang. In the bKa’ thang sde Inga (p. 361.1-2), the three messengers are the sKa-ba-dpal-brtsegs, sNa-nam rDo-rje-bdud-’joms, and Cog-ro Klu-yi-rgyal-mtshan.

In terms of texts asserting a fourth on top of the most widely accepted three, the Phur pa ’bum nag adds gNyags Jnanakumara, the Klong chen chos ’byung cites a source to the effect that the forth messenger is sNubs Nam-mkha’i-snying-po, and the Nor bu’i phreng ba adds rBa-mi-khri-gzher.4

There are also some who assert five messengers, namely sNa-nam rDo-rje-bud-’joins, lCe Jnanasiddhi, mChims Sakyaprabha, Brang-ti Jayaraksita and Shud-bu dPal-gyi-seng-ge. Another set of five messengers refers to the five ministers, but only explicitly names sNa-nam rDo-rje-bdud-’joms and Shud-pu dPal-gyi-seng-ge.6 Another set of five messengers are sBas-

1 See, for exmample, the iDe’u chos ’byung (p. 322.16-17), Phur pa lo rgyus (§6.1, p. 282; §10, p. 290, for the translation, see 10.6.1, p. 199; 10.10, p. 208), Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 77.10-11), Phur pa chos ’byun bsdus pa (p. 172.5), Alyangyul chos ’byung (p.129.19-p. 130.2), Bodsog chos ’byung (p. 510.20) and bDud ’joms chos ’byung (p. 377.2), also see Dorje & Kapstein 2002: 710.

4 See the Phurpa ’bum nag (A: p. 235.6-p. 236.1; B: p.17.2), Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 249.2), and Nor bu’i phreng ba (p. 242.6).

5 This is stated by Taranatha in the annotation to sNa-nam through citing from sBa gSal-snang and Seng-gong-lha-lung, see Myangyul chos ’byung (p. 130.6-9): sbagsal snang dang | senggong lha lunggnyis Us | gyog sna snam rdo rje bdud ’joms | Ice dznya siddhi | mchims shakyapra bha | brang ti dzaya raksi ta | shudphu dpalgyi sengge dang Inga btang bas slob dpon gyi mngon par shes pas mkhyen te mang ytdgung thang du byon pa dang mjal nas rimgyi spyan drangs sogsungs |. Also see mKhaspa’i dga’ston (p. 169.15-17).

6 See the iHo brag rje btsun mam thar (A: p. 861.3-5; B: p. 646.4): sna nam rdo rje bdud ’joms | shudphu dpal gyi sengge chos bion Inga brdzangs te | slob dpon padma gdan drangs .


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

mang-po-rje gSal-snang and Seng-mgo-lha-lung together with three servants.1

On his way to Tibet, Padmasambhava overcame many hindrances caused by the local spirits. Right after he arrived in Tibet, he carried out the earth taming liturgy of bSam-yas, after which bSam-yas was fully completed and Padmasambhava performed consecration for it. Thereafter, Padmasambhava gave the first transmission of the rDo-rje-phur-pa teachings in Tibet. The King, Jo-mo mKhar-chen-bza’, and the three messengers

received its empowerment and as a result there formed five systems of rGyal-po-lugs, sNa-nam-lugs, Shud-bu’i-lugs, mChims-lugs, and Jo-mo-lugs. Later, Padmasambhava also bestowed the teachings of Phur-pa to Rong-ban and ’Khon Klu’i-dbang-po, the Rong-zom-lugs and ’Khon-lugs also arose.1 2 It is also said that Padmasambhava taught the Phur pa ’bum sde to the Khri-srong-lde’u-btsan and some fortunate subjects after the king decided to introduce Buddhism to Tibet.3

The first recipients of the Phur-pa teachings in Tibet recorded in PT 44 are quite different from the above, including Ba-bor Be-ro-ca (Pa-gor Vairocana), Kha-rce [rtse] Nya-ma-si-ga, Dre Ta-tha-ga-ta, ’Bu-na-a-nas, mChims Sag-kya, sNa-nam Zhang rDo-rje-gnyan, Byin Ye-shes-brtsegs[brcegs], gNyan rNyi-ba-btsan[bcan]-ba-dpal, and lDe-sman-rgyal-mtshan [[[mchan]]] .4


2 See the Phur pa lo rgyus (§7, p. 287, for the translation, see 10.6.1, p. 199), Phur pa chos ’byung (p. 78.14-18) and Phur pa chos ’byung bsdus pa (p. 176.1-3). Byanggter phur pa lo rgyus (p. 188.4-6) also lists the above traditions adding the lCam-lugs from lCog-ro-bza’. According to the Phurpa rtsa ba’i ’grelpa (p. 51.1-2), the rGval-po-lugs, Jo-mo-lugs and lCam-lugs are considered to be the main traditions. Other bKa’-ma traditions derive from them.

3 See the bDud ’jonis chos ’byung (p. 130.6-7, for the translation, see Dorje & Kapstein 2002:517.)

4 See Bischoff & Hartman 1971: 23, Kapstein 2000:158, and Cantwell & Mayer 2008b: 61-62. Ba-bor Ba-ro-ca might be Ba-gor Vairocana, who is said to have learned the Phur-pa teachings from Srisimha in India, see karmay 2007: 25. sNa-nam Zhang rDo-rje-gnyan is rendered differently by scholars due to the confusing separations in the original text which reads sna nam zhang rdo | rjegnyan la mchis |. Bischoff and Hartman

renders it to be one person called rDo-rje-gnyan, who is the zhang (uncle) of sNa-nam, see Bischoff & Hartman 1971: 23. Kapstein and Cantwell & Mayer also take it as one person and do not analysis his name, see Kapstein 2000: 158 and Cantwell & Mayer 2008: 62. However, Luo separates it into two parts. The first part refers to Zhang-rdo-rje from the sNa-nam clan and the second part refers to the gNyan clan, see luo 2007:

662. In addition to the above recipients, another person also performed the accomplishments of Phur-pa, see the PT 44: mkhan po ’bum tang kyis | kyis brag la mye bdang/btang bas | thebs ||. Scholars have different understandings of the phrasemkhan po ’bum tang kyis.” Bischoff & Hartman take “’bum tang kyis

as the mKhan-po’s name, similarly, Luo only takes “’bum tang” as his name, see Bischoff & Hartman 1971: 23 and luo 2007: 662. However, Kapstein and Cantwell & Mayer render “’bum tang” as a place name to qualify the following “rock” (brag'}, see Kapstein 2000:159 and Cantwell & Mayer 2008: 62. Further in depth study would be required in the future to accurately identify them all.



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