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TIBETAN BUDDHIST AUTOBIOGRAP HY: 18 TH CENTURY TO PRESENT BY THERESA SELLERS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Anth ropology Under the sponsorship of Maria Vesperi Sarasota, Florida May 2010
ii This work is dedicated to the memory of BRONISLAW MALINOWSKI (1884 1942) whose own outer and secret lives have been an invaluable contribution to the understanding of what it is to be human
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Page: DEDICATION ii TABLE OF CONTENTS iii ABSTRACT iv CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 1 i. Project Limitations CHAPTER II: BACKGR OUND 8 i. Buddhism (in Brief) ii. History and Buddhism in Tibet iii. Writing Rangnam CHAPTER III: READING RANGNAM 22 i. The Life of Ani Chokyi ii. Dancing Moon in the Water and Dakki's Grand Secret Talk : Jigme Lingpa iii. Precious E ssence : Barway Dorje iv. A Gem of Many Colors : Jamgon Kongtrul CHAPTER IV: DISCUSSION 86 i. Rangnam as Tradition ii. Individuality and Author ity iii. Subjectivity and the Tibetan Experience CHAPTER V: POST INVASION AUTOBIO GRAPHY 100 REFERENCES 103
iv TIBETAN BUDDHIST AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 18 TH CENTURY TO PRESENT Theresa Sellers New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT The tremendous literary heritage of Tibetan Buddhist culture contains a number of autobiographical works known as rangnam or liberation stories, written as early as the eleventh century. In a style unique to Tibet, accomplished Buddhist masters would give accounts of their outer, inner, and secret lives on the path to enlightenment, n egotiating Buddhist ideals with the lived realities of Tibetan society via the written medium. This thesis will explore the genre of rangnam examining selected works of Tibetan Buddhists from the 18 th through 20 th centuries. Looking at how historically situated individuals lived and wrote in a traditional framework that also served as a conduit for change gives valuable insight into the richness and complexity of Tibetan culture as it existed prior to the Chinese invasion in the 1950s. It also provides a starting point for understanding the diversity of autobiographical material to come out of Tibet after the tremendous cultural upheaval experienced over the last six decades. _______________________ Maria Vesperi Division of Social Sciences
1 CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION Anyone who has been introduced to studies of Tibetan cultural history might know something of a Tibet that existed beyond the oversimplified extremes of Shangri La on the one hand and a depraved theocracy on the othe r. Tibet was a highly diverse, complex society that was unique among the world's cultures in many ways including its existence as a pre industrial society, well into the mid twentieth century, with a highly developed religious and literary culture. For anyone who has not been introduced to studies of Tibetan cultural history, a rich and fascinating body of knowledge awaits. I can only hope that the following pages will help illuminate some of it. In this thesis is I survey the autobiographical writing of Tibetan Buddhists, examining works from the 18 th century to the present. This choice of topic not only enabled me to further study two areas of personal interest, Tibet and Buddhism, but to do so from an enriching anthropological perspective. By study ing the life stories of historically situated individuals, I am able to take a human centered approach to my understandings of Tibetan cultural history and cultural change. The autobiographical materials I explore provide a unique level of insight into ho w individuals lived and wrote, negotiating and interpreting Buddhist ideals and the demands of Tibetan society in the 18 th through early 20 th centuries. I will show the way in which the autobiographers wrote within a traditional framework that also served as a conduit for change; I will also consider self presentation and authorship of these works in comparison with general Western European and Native American constructs.
2 I begin by providing an outline of Tibetan history, particularly as it relates to t he introduction and assimilation of Buddhism and the conditions in which autobiographical writing was developed. Next I will describe some of the general features of Tibetan autobiographical writing, before giving a more in depth analysis of four particul ar autobiographies spanning the 18 th to the early 20 th centuries. The subsequent analysis will include a discussion of autobiographical writing as a practice in Tibet Buddhist religious culture, and how these texts compare to predominate Western European notions of autobiography and authorship in literary theory. Finally, I will conclude with a chapter intended to give a broad overview of autobiographical writing in Tibet into the early 21 st century. After the cultural upheaval of the Chinese invasion o f Tibet in the mid twentieth century and the resultant Tibetan Diaspora, the diversity of inside and outside cultural influences on the lives of Tibetans and the way in which they choose to write their life stories allows, I can only recognize this diversi ty. Largely focused on historical materials, the aim of this project is to explore how tradition and social change are negotiated via the medium of life writing in Tibetan culture, and to appreciate these texts as products of culture and the creative huma n expression that shapes it. Autobiography is part of a rich Tibetan literary tradition that spans some 1,300 years and includes "works of history, epic, biography, story, drama, and several distinct verse genres" (Kapstein 2006:245). I first became a ware of Tibetan autobiography when I stumbled across a book on the secret autobiographies of Jigme Lingpa by Janet Gyatso (1998) which, in addition to providing translations of these fascinating works by an
3 eighteenth century visionary, also contains a g reat deal of interesting background information on Tibetan autobiographical writing. It was Gyatso's text that originally directed me to the fact that Tibetan Buddhists have been producing autobiographical works since as early as the twelfth century, and that the genre "virtually explodes" by reign of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the seventeenth century (Gyatso 1998:101). There are currently more than 150 Tibetan Buddhist autobiographies available, not including those written after the Chinese invasion o f Tibet in the mid twentieth century. The amount of autobiographical literature to come out of Tibet, and the circumstances in which it did so, debunk certain assumptions about autobiographical writing as an essentially Western' phenomenon either pro duced by Western authors or attributed to Western influences. "The presumption," Gyatso states, "is related to the realization in anthropology that the autobiographical accounts we have of persons from nonliterate cultures have been elicited, framed, and edited by ethnographers; that is, we would not have what we think of as those persons' autobiographies were it not for ethnographers" (1998:102). According to Cabezn and Jackson, literature itself "is a theoretical construct of Euro American intellectual culture, and as such it cannot be applied uncritically to other times and places" (1996:17). By extension, the same applies to genre. These scholars contend that it should nevertheless "be clear that Tibetans have developed implicit notions of both liter ature and genre the former perhaps embodied in the concept of writings on the cultural sciences', the latter inferable from the ways in which Tibetans have sought to organize their literary corpus" (1996:29). Constructing a typology of
4 Tibetan literatu re accordingly, Cabezn and Jackson after Tibetans themselves place history and biography within a single category. Traditional Tibetan life stories both autobiographies and biographies are called namthar (Tib. rnam thar) which literally means "ful l liberation [story]" (Gyatso 1998:6). A namthar covers not only the events in a highly attained person's life, but details his or her (usually his) path to liberation from endless rounds of rebirth. Mattheiu Ricard adds that "[m]ore than any other teach ing in fact, a namthar leaves a deep impression on the reader's mind. Far from abstract considerations, it puts in our hands a chart to guide us on the journey, a testimony that the journey can be accomplished, and a powerful incentive to set out swiftly on the path" (1994:xviii). The distinction between autobiography and biography is made by the addition of a reflexive prefix: autobiography is rangnam ,' (Tib. rang rnam, or rang gi rram thar), which means full liberation [story] of oneself (Gyatso 1998:1 03). Gyatso explains, however, that there is often some degree of overlap between biography and autobiography owing to Tibetan writing practices. Normally the text is a "joint" product on some level: a biography may have been an orally transmitted story d ictated directly to a scribe or, in the case of those composed centuries later, reproduced from oral or written sources stemming from the subject (1992:469). A work considered autobiography would not infrequently have been completed and perhaps edited by a disciple. Disciples regularly contribute to the texts, very often the concluding chapters of the autobiography that discuss the subject's death. But it was also common for them to edit the text with the insertion of honorific verbs, which from their pe rspective would be appropriate treatment of the illustrious subject of the life story. This in contrast to the
5 subjects' own presentation of self, in which self deprecatory or crude self references were in order, in accordance with "basic conventions of T ibetan speech and writing" (1992:469). Autobiography in Tibet may further be distinguished as outer, inner, or secret. The outer autobiography ( phyi'i rang rnam ) deals with the more open, public side of life, including such things as childhood, renuncia tion and religious training, rituals and other deeds, with varying levels of "psychological observations and inner dialogue regarding many matters" (Gyatso 1998:6). These works are often very lengthy. Inner autobiographies focus primarily upon teachings received, dreams, and meditative states on the path to spiritual development (1998:103). Gyatso notes that in practice, "it is often difficult to discern a real difference between these varying versions of a life" (1998:103). Finally the secret autobiogra phy details "only certain aspects of the life, but these are the ones that are held to be most important" (1998:6). The typical secret autobiography will focus upon such things as visions, mastery of yogic techniques, and memories of past lives (1998:6). The secret' autobiography is so labeled in part because the esoteric content: the tantric practices described in its pages are those whose practitioners must undergo initiation ceremonies before they may even be allowed to read about them. In the Ackno wledgements of Apparitions of the Self Gyatso says that "Tulku Thondup was also the first to assure me that translating the secret' autobiographies of his forbear would not violate the wishes of the traditional keepers of Lingpa's legacy, a question abou t which I was concerned and which I later raised with several other authorities as well"
6 (1998:xviii). She says later that her Tibetan consultants remarked that Jigme Lingpa's secret autobiographies did not describe these practices in such an open manner a s to be concealed from all but initiates; rather, they were more "self secret," in that their meaning would only be fully comprehended by those at the level of experienced initiate (1998:7). In fact, the members of Jigme Lingpa's lineage whom Gyatso consu lted had "questioned" her plan to translate the texts, concerned with "whether his nuanced and in this way secret writing could be rendered in a foreign language" (1998:8). Project Limitations In order for this project to be possible, I have had to re ly on translations of Tibetan literature and history. As almost all the scholars of Tibetan related works have noted, rendering the Tibetan language into English is an ungodly task with no commonly accepted system of transliteration. The name Jigme Lingpa may be written more closely to its Tibetan as Jigs med gling pa for example. Through the course of this thesis I have aimed to respect the aesthetic choices of individual researchers, but where a name recurs across numerous texts I have selected the mo st Anglicized transliteration, in the name of readability. It should also be kept in mind that since I am thus removed from the translation process of the original texts, the very selection of autobiographical materials was limited by what was available in English translation. Further, I cannot analyze these works on the basis of sentence structure, idiomatic phrases that may or may not have survived into English, or other linguistic particularities. Where I make inferences about a text, it is on the b asis of my knowledge of Buddhism and Tibetan cultural history. I am also
7 influenced by the interpretations of various translators whose footnotes, commentaries, and other insertions into the text have proved insightful at many points. A word on the use of historical sources is also in order. This project necessitated the use of a large amount of historical background material, and again I am indebted to the quality work of numerous Tibetologists. I have done my best to examine the bases of their under standings of Tibetan history, which derives in part from Tibetan Buddhist and non Buddhist historiography, records from other neighboring groups (such as Mongols and Chinese), archaeology, linguistics, and ethnographic data from anthropologists and others. Thus where I am relying secondary sources, it is with good faith in the scholarship.
8 CHAPTER II: BACKGROUND Buddhism (In Brief) Buddhism is based on the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha who lived and taught in India some 2,500 3,000 years ago, according to most estimates. In Buddhism it is understood that sentient beings are caught in a beginningless cycle of birth and death among six realms: those of gods, demigods, humans, animals, ghosts, and hell beings. The driving for ce of rebirth is karma, a system of cause and effect in which virtue and vice determine future experiences of pleasure or suffering, in this life or the next. The ten nonvirtuous actions are killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, ha rsh speech, senseless speech, covetousness, harmful intent, and wrong view; the opposites are the virtues that religious practitioners attempt to uphold. A variety of ritual means may be employed to avoid the fruition of past negative actions (Lopez 1997 :11,12). The ultimate basis for suffering in samsara is ignorance, the fundamental error in the conceptualization of things as having an inherent existence, rather than arising due to causes and conditions. All things, including the person, are empty of i ntrinsic nature; existing conventionally but not ultimately (Lopez 1997:13). Buddhism encompasses the system of thought and practice meant to overcome this habitual misapprehension of phenomena, which underlies all of the emotional and cognitive states th at bind one to suffering (Dalai Lama 1995:10). In the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle system of Buddhism that took root in Tibet, it is a profound experience of selflessness of not only the grasping ego but the entire spectrum of phenomena that enables one to achieve liberation from samsara (1995:11). To turn from worldly activities to religion one takes refuge in the Three Precious
9 Jewels of Buddhism: the Dharma (the teachings), the Sangha (the monastic community) and the Buddha. Often the guru is added a s a fourth refuge (Kapstein 2006:216). In Mahayana Buddhism the roll of the bodhisattva, a person who has vowed to become a buddha for the sake of leading other sentient beings out of samsara. This system also emphasizes the Buddha as an "eternal presenc e, associated physically with reliquaries (stupas) and texts that embody his words, a belief in the existence of myriad buddhas working in multiple universes for the benefit of all beings," and stresses the possibility for all beings to attain enlightenmen t (Lopez 1997:13). Included in the Mahayana system is Vajrayana, the Tantric Vehicle, a more rapid means to enlightenment in which practitioners of special system of ritual, visualization, and meditation might even gain a range of lesser magical powers, to increase life span, pacify the inauspicious and even destroy enemies (Lopez 1997:14). Practices that were normally prohibited, such as sexual intercourse and the consumption of meat and alcohol, could even be employed to speed progress (Lopez 1997:15). It was marked by sophisticated meditative practices of subtle coordination of mental and physiological elements (Dalai Lama 1995:11). There was a special emphasis on the role of the teacher as its specialized practices were not suitable for everyone and often shrouded in secrecy. History and Buddhism in Tibet An important understanding in approaching a study of Tibet is that Tibet, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism are three separate concepts. In this section I explore Tibetan history by way of a particul ar focus on how Buddhism was assimilated into Tibetan culture. In this section I delve into background on Buddhism in Tibet before focusing on the conditions that would have fostered the development of rangnam This
10 will lead to understanding of how, as Gyatso has noted, Tibetan autobiographical writing acquired its unique character from factors other than Buddhism but nevertheless operated in concert with Buddhist traditions (1998:122) Geographical Tibet encompasses a vast uplift extending from the Hima laya to the deserts of Inner Asia, with a mean elevation of over 12,000 feet and an area of roughly 1.2 million square miles. Moving east to west, it is often divided into "high and harsh western reaches, the agricultural valleys of its mid elevations, an d the rich pasturage and forested lowlands as one descends toward China" (Stein 1972:3). It is a vast and mostly inhospitable terrain that however permitted relative prosperity within a certain range of productive activities (Kapstein 2006:11). Agricultu re and pastoral nomadism, sometimes in combination, were the predominant modes of production within Tibet which, by the seventh century, was prosperous enough to become a formidable military power (2006:16). This despite the great distances and climate ex tremes, "in conjunction with a landscape broken by profound ravines and towering mountain ranges" that served to inhibit communications and foster division among the inhabitants of the Tibetan plateau (2006:25). Trade played an important role in the Tibe tan economy (Kapstein 2006:16), and trade contacts were a means by which Tibet was exposed to a number of foreign contacts and influences. Among these, of course, was Buddhism; as Tibet emerged onto the stages of history it was basically a "non Buddhist i sland surrounded by the vast Buddhist ocean of India, Nepal, Central Asia, and China" (2006:42). Buddhism in early antiquity was the most prominent cultural system of Central Eurasia, a region best described as "a cauldron of empire," notable for its "suc cessive waves of conquering peoples" (2006:51).
11 When Tibet finally became a formidable military power at the beginning of what is known as its Dynastic Period (7 th 9 th centuries BCE), it encountered Buddhism in about every direction it expanded its empire and would have been inclined to participate in a "generally Indianized, and notably Buddhist, international culture" (2006:65). Songtsen Gampo (r. 617 650 CE) came to power in Tibet the traditional way: by conquering local chieftains. The resources and manpower made available allowed him to continue expanding the Tibetan empire into Inner Asia. His reign marked the beginning of the Dynastic Period as well as the official introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, backed by royal patronage. At this time Budd hism was most likely restricted to the court and its Indian or Chinese priests (Snellgrove 1986:77). Also attributed to his reign was the invention of the Tibetan script, modeled on "one or another of the writing systems based on the ancient Indian Brahmi script" that were then being used in various Indianized regions of Central Asia (1986:59). Written Tibetan would serve as an important tool for the administration but also, crucially, for the transmission of culture. Throughout the seventh and eighth ce nturies, literacy "facilitated the redaction and regularization of indigenous Tibetan laws and traditions; the governance of the tremendous territory ruled by the old Tibetan empire, with its diverse peoples and customs...and, crucially, the absorption by the Tibetans of vast quantities of alien learning" (Kapstein 2000:10). It made possible the translation of a substantial corpus of Buddhist scriptures growing to vast proportions under the auspices of royal patronage into the mid ninth century (Kapstei n 2006:72). For at least its first century in Tibet, Buddhism "was subject to an oscillating fate, sometimes tolerated, occasionally banned," but certainly not permitted to replace
12 established Tibetan beliefs and practices (Snellgrove 1986:60) which in ma ny ways it never would. As Trisong Detsen came to power and adopted Buddhism as the court religion in the eighth century, Buddhism had its roots more firmly established in Tibet. Detsen ordered the construction of the Samye monastic complex, completed in 779 CE, and continued supporting enormous translation projects with state patronage (Stein 1972:60). Trisong Detsen invited Indian teacher Santaraksita for the ordination of the first Tibetan monks at Samye. Santaraksita is said to have "determined tha t the demonic disruption of the construction work at Samye Monastery could be dispelled only by the occult power of a certain Padmasambhava" who was extended an invitation (Kapstein 2006:69). This figure, of dubious historical existence, was a "renowned y ogin sage, skilled in magic and mysticism, who probably came from Swat" (Snellgrove 1986:78). Santaraksita and Padmasambhava are important figures in Tibetan Buddhist history, and came to represent different forms of Buddhist practice the one "conventio nally academic and monastic, and the other mystical and ritual" (1986:78). In general, the Tibetan court around this time was very restrained toward esoteric tantric Buddhist traditions with the single notable exception of those traditions associated wit h Vairocana. Much evidence supports the presence of a cult of Vairocana that was "widely promulgated with imperial support" and which expressed "a significant homology obtaining between, on the one hand, emperor and empire, and on the other, Vairocana and his realm" (Kapstein 2006:63 64). Kapstein suggests that Trisong Detsen and his successors drew on the "ritual and symbolic resources" of the tantras to "make use of these in a thorough going mandalification' of the kingdom that surely also
13 involved the promotion throughout Tibet of temples, teachers, book copying, ritual practices, and much else besides" (2006:65). Buddhism enabled Trisong Detsen to adopt a framework of universal law in order to manage his expanding empire, for in the days prior to Ti bet's expansion, the people of Tibet lived within a very localized system that "held a common family of sacred powers in reverence and were subservient to the direct power of their chieftain" (Kapstein 2006:71). He was able to redefine the aura of sacrali ty surrounding the kingship in Buddhist symbolism. The mandalification' at Samye was a way in which Trisong Detsen was actively melding Buddhism with some of the "central motifs in the ethos of early Tibet" which was conceptualized as a divinely ordained realm in which rulers were regarded semi divine, justifying both their rule and "the hierarchical divisions of society that were entailed" (Kapstein 2006:36). Under Trisong Detsen's greatest successors, Tri Desongsten (r. 804 815) and Ralpachen (r. 815 838) royal patronism of Buddhism continued and expanded, to the point that the clergy were involved with the education of rulers and high ranking monks were shown favoritism by being granted ministerial positions and large estates (Kapstein 2006:75). By the reign of the former, Buddhism was "fully integral to the Tibetan polity and its diplomacy" (2006:77). However, by the time Ralpachen come to power and was generously funding the clergy, the main source of revenue Tibetan expansion into Inner Asia had been brought to an end through pressure from the Chinese and Uighur empires. The imperial coffers dried up, and a coup d'etat replaced Ralpachen with the infamous Lang Darma. Buddhist activity "virtually ground to a halt" following an
14 alleged persecu tion of Buddhism under emperor Lang Darma (which some sources suggest may have actually been little more than a reduction of patronage) and following his assassination ca. 842 (Snellgrove 1986:94). The end of the Dynastic Period was followed by a sort of dark age' in Tibet. Buddhism in central Tibet "was virtually eclipsed, at least as a formal religion," though retaining something of its formal monastic framework in both east and west Tibet (Snellgrove 1986:94). Tibetan was certainly kept alive as a li terary language in this period in surviving Buddhist circles, leading to the Buddhist domination of literacy. After the collapse of the dynasty, the more archaic language of civil and military administration fell out of use and Buddhist usage slowly repla ced it as the standard (Kapstein 2000:11). And the Buddhist domination of literacy would have important consequences. For one, Kapstein notes, some "such development would have contributed to the iconizing of Buddhism and its originally Indian context as the paradigms of the learned (that is, literate) and prestigious culture" (2000:11). Over time it would also come to shape Tibetan thought, as "narratives and ideas derived from Buddhist writings became the naturalized media for Tibetan self expression" (2000:12). The Tibetan "Renaissance" of the 11 th 13 th centuries was marked by a massive influx of Indian Buddhist tantric teachings, which in turn led to the development of different orders and great monasteries differentiated by particular techniq ues and lineages of teachers (Stein 1972:73). The renewed patronage of religious culture was fueled by economic recovery and renewed exchange starting in the 10 th century (Kapstein 2006:89). Once again, Buddhism was inextricably bound with political and economic
15 developments in Tibet. The decline of patronage for Buddhist institutions in India also played a role by compelling many Indian masters to leave India for Tibet. Tibetan adherents to new teachings gained valuable symbolic capital in the form of authoritative transmission of esoteric knowledge, such that "mastery of tantrism came to play a special role in authenticating new sources of power, prestige, and authority" (Kapstein 2006:100). At this time it was no longer sufficient to become a learne d ritual master without the possession of Buddhist teachings that could be traced directly to Indian sources (2006:108). Different lines of transmission of mystical Indian teachings caused a new proliferation of schools and sects, but also caused older re ligious lines to reassert themselves. The indigenous religious practices of Tibet, to the extent that were codified into a single system known as Bon, was heavily influenced by Buddhist doctrine and practices but nevertheless continued to survive. The N yingmapa order of Buddhism began uncovering concealed teachings in the form of spiritual treasures, or termas that had been hidden by Padmasambhava for the sake of future generations (2006:108). The Old Translation New Translation schools to emerge over time were the Kagyu, Sakya, and Geluk. The continued lack of a centralized authority was such that the formation of "strong bonds between religious communities and locally powerful clans was very much the rule" (Kapstein 2006:102). Buddhist establishme nts tended to remain dependent on centers of political and material power as sources of patronage (Kapstein 2006:103). At the same time, as Buddhism had "established its monopoly in the sphere of learning and culture" and dominated the "ostensible value s ystem of Tibet" the nobles increasingly relied on the cooperation of leading religious figures for legitimacy (Snellgrove
16 1986:149). The development of the tulku system, in which the rebirth of a religious hierarch or saint could be recognized as part of a more formalized institutional practice, became a major source of tension, however. As it was widely adopted by religious orders, this system enabled the transmission of rights and properties within monastic establishments which "freed them from depend ence upon familial inheritance in the lines to which those orders were bound" (Kapstein 2006:109). The influence of Buddhism throughout Tibet was so widespread that the Mongols, conquering Tibet in the 13 th century, would take on Buddhist initiations. A part from any personal interest they may have had for Buddhism, served the purpose of legitimating them within the value system of their subject populations. The Sakyapa monastic order came to be favored above all, and within this system of foreign patron age the Sakyapas were granted religious and secular leadership of Tibet (Kapstein 2006:111 112). At the local level, the priest patron relationship enabled monasteries to thrive with the support of wealthy patrons; at the national level, increasing power ful Buddhist leaders played a diplomatic role, engaging with foreign armies that were a frequent presence on the Tibetan landscape. It was not until the Fifth Dalai Lama was granted authority to reign over Tibet by Gushri Khan that all of Tibet was, for the first time, officially united under a single religious authority (nominally, at least) since the fall of the early Tibetan Dynasty in the mid ninth century. But nor did this constitute the end of political intrigue and animosity between various facti ons within Tibet. The reigns of the Great Fifth' Dalai Lama and his regent were "noteworthy for their upsurge of literary activity and of cultural and economic life" (Stein 84) while the political factions, be they primarily secular or
17 religious, remaine d unpacified. And it was during this time that autobiographical writing began to flourish (Gyatso 1998:101). What is often understood as Tibet's isolation' in common Western stereotypes is related to the imperial control that, in 1792 the Manchu Empero r declared over Tibet's communications with foreign countries, which did not sever Tibet's relations with Inner Asia and China, but meant that "relations of Europeans with Tibet were conducted from the borderlands" (Lopez 1998:5). Tibet was not isolated, but prior to the Chinese invasion in the 1950s it had little in the way of European influences through imported technologies or education systems associated with "modernity" (Lopez 1998:5). Writing Rangnam I have already touched upon how Tibetan rangnam were shaped by the autobiographer's disciples not only were they sometimes written and edited by them, but the works were intended to aid the present and future disciples in religious matters. However, autobiographies are recognized as having been writ ten "in a variety of contexts, and with a variety of intentions," (Gyatso 1998:369) and in addition to soteriological purposes they served a variety of purposes in this life as well. Among the reasons that one might write an autobiography was "to demons trate their own spiritual progress, to contextualize and cast legitimating light on their other writings, and to attract students and patrons" (Gyatso 1998:369). These were important in the context of a Buddhist society that, throughout its history, was i ncreasingly characterized by relations between religious communities and locally powerful clans.
18 From the eleventh century onward, the proliferation of new lines of transmission resulted in the sectarianism, marked by competition for crucial sources of pat ronage in which "the personal virtues of the individual lama were often the deciding factor" (Gyatso 1998:120). Apart from disciples, lay patrons thus formed a large and influential part of the readership of Tibetan autobiographies. The relationship betwe en a lama and powerful lay political figures was one in which the latter "would request Buddhist teachings from a master and in return would offer vital economic and political support for the master's projects and community of followers" (1998:370). Autob iographical writings sometimes even reflect the master's attitude "concerning these figures' affluent life styles and the unlikelihood of their developing genuine religious insights" (1998:370). The assertion of legitimacy would have been crucial in this c ontext, and autobiography would have served a useful means by which adherents of new sects and schools could trace their lineage to their Indian roots. For the older religious lines, seeking to assimilate new influences and revive old elements of their tr aditions, they could use this medium to make proclamations of "new revelations in the form of terma texts and religious objects" that were now being rediscovered (Kapstein 2006:108), and show how it "traced back to a past master such as Padmasambhava, and eventually, to one of the buddhas of the Mahayana or Vajrayana pantheon" (2006:148). Because of the special, revealed nature of these texts, it was of even greater importance for the master to circulate literature to engender greater confidence in himsel f and the authenticity of his discovery. This was the domain of the secret autobiography.
19 More generally, writing within a competitive context also served the purpose of establishing group loyalty within one's religious sect, first of all, but family an d clan origins as well. The autobiography serves as another form in which origins are publicized, and so "achieves something of powerful import in the Tibetan context" in which the presentation of something's "genealogy is tantamount to an assertion of its legitimacy" (Gyatso 1998:117). In particular, vertical allegiances are stressed over horizontal; this was often manifested in one's praising "the superior virtues of his lineage of teachers, while denigrating his charlatan contemporaries" (Gyatso 1998:12 0). Moreover, autobiographical writing meant the production of a book. In Tibetan culture, the book itself was "variously the embodiment of the Buddha's voice, a principal tool in education, a source of tradition and authority, an economic product, a fi nely crafted aesthetic object, a medium of Buddhist written culture, and a symbol of the religion itself" (Schaeffer 2009:vii). According to Schaeffer, a book may have been a handwritten manuscript or a hand carved wood block print (2009:15), either way a very valuable object. Yet even after the introduction of writing in Tibet, orality/aurality continued to be a crucial component of Tibetan culture. The written tradition was preceded by a highly developed oral tradition that counted epic poetry, folk songs, legendary narratives, and material on law and politics among it forms. Because Tibetan culture was one of restricted literacy, many continued to rely on oral transmissions. Many Buddhist traditions that came to be such an important part of later T ibetan cultural identity were transmitted orally, even among the literate, because it "is an assumption of virtually all
20 Tibetan Buddhist traditions that the most essential religious knowledge is conveyed not through texts, but in oral transmission from ma ster to disciple" (Cabezon 1996:14). Sometimes this was at odds with the publication of texts, for, as Schaeffer points out, "[i]f orality was a part of the rhetoric of authenticity and efficacy, it was also a powerful defense of intellectual property" (2 009:3). But books played an important role in economic exchange between both individuals and institutions. They may have been given as offerings, donations, repayment for teachings, or bestowed as gifts from wealthy supporters. By extension, "practice s of book production," such as recitation of texts, were part of this economy as well. To recite texts from memory "seems to have been a significant form of employment" in Tibet, often done by house priests (Schaeffer, 2009:127). Further, by funding the production of books, "the patron, his or her region, and its inhabitants were guaranteed to be blessed by the Buddha himself, assured merit for themselves and their communities" (2009:5). Institutions such as Drakar Taso and Rechungpuk that disseminated t he biographies and songs of famous Indian and Tibetan masters became widely recognized as centers of meritorious activity (2009:69). Print publication had the advantage over monument restoration in this sense because prints could travel beyond their produ ction location and so advertise it; monuments were stationary (unless smaller models were made and distributed). (2009:69,70). Schaeffer even relates how one early Nyingmapa disciple who was unable to continue studies in tantra or making copies of the required books for such practice was urged by his master to marry the daughter of wealthy patrons. In addition to being
21 meritorious for the patrons, the marriage enabled the disciple to use his wealth to receive tantric initiations and to copy books (2009 :122). This is not to suggest that autobiography would have been restricted to the upper strata of Tibetan society. Monasticism, which was encouraged on a massive scale following the rise to power of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, helped insure the pervasive influence of Buddhism throughout the Tibetan cultural world (Kapstein 2006:219). The circulation of autobiographical writing through monastic institutions, and on to more local areas and into oral traditions, meant that the lives of the masters had the p otential to inspire and influence religious life on a more intimate level. If they did not follow fully the path to liberation, they might find advice for a pilgrimage route. The general public had an interest in supporting Buddhist monastics, for soterio logical and social reasons that overlapped with those of Tibetan elites. As Kapstein notes, the devotees were encouraged in their generosity by a belief that donations toward the religious community served a powerful means to gain merit. The resultant go od karma helped insure a favorable rebirth, perhaps even success in this life (Kapstein 1997:356). This was especially important for those nomadic groups who sought to counterbalance the karmic weight of animal slaughter, an unavoidable part of their live lihood (2006:219). It was also a concern of those who, by matching the charity of peers, if not surpassing it, one could advance their social status (1997:356). Concerns of status were intricately connected to Buddhism at all levels of Tibetan society; t he autobiographies are an interesting exploration of how this affected its expression in more elite sectors.
22 CHAPTER III: READING RANGNAM The actual model for rangnam genre seems to have been developed in Tibet, for there are no "significant analogues" to book length life stories in Indian or Chinese literary traditions (Gyatso 1997:369). From the life of the Buddha himself, it has not been uncommon to record the deeds of holy persons; in fact, the life stories of "Indian masters, teachers, and saints are zealously preserved" by Tibetans. But most have often been written by Tibetans themselves, and Tibetan translations of Indian biographies are relatively rare (Robinson 1996:57). Nevertheless, in general the author of a rangnam would start off with so me disparaging remarks toward himself and his own work. According to Richard Barron, this was a literary style that Tibetan Buddhists had inherited from their Indian forerunners. As with any commentary on the Buddha's words, following an expression of ho mage the author would provide a statement of intent in composing the work, a "formal expression of self abasement" so as to lessen the author's pride toward his composition, and then some words of inspiration to engender faith toward the message in the wor k (2003:468). A number of such formalities are observed in these works. In approaching this literature, it is important to consider that some scholars are inclined to refer to Tibetan rangnam as "hagiography" owing to the miraculous events related in th em. James Burnell Robinson discusses Tibetan biographies of Indian siddhas, in which actual historical figures were capable of such feats as flight, resurrecting pigeons, and "stopping the sun to pay one's bar tab" (1996:64). The "rationality of common s ense," he says, "has an inherent limitation; it is by definition
23 founded on the ordinary experience of ordinary people" (1996:64) and these are extraordinary people. Likewise, the authors of rangnam by the very act of writing these liberation stories, we re assumed to be highly attained spiritual beings thus beyond the comprehension of ordinary persons. But while Robinson cautions that common sense is "a cultural postulate and an assumption," (1996:64) Schaeffer provides a different perspective. He ha s observed that the "veracity of relics and miracles in the lives of saints was not accepted uncritically by all Tibetan writers, and it is possible that...explicit claims to authenticity by appeal to public witness were motivated by critiques of relics an d miracles" (Schaeffer 2004:124). In the Mahayana tradition, furthermore, sutras may be understood as either definitive or interpretable on the basis of reason, which takes precedence over scripture (Dalai Lama 1995:41). In the following section I will ex amine some autobiographical materials on their own terms looking at the circumstances of their production, the readership, and the way the life was recounted. Because I am examining secret, inner, and outer autobiographies, there is not a consistent met hodology I can employ in comparing these works to one another. Instead I recount their most prominent stylistic features, prose or poetic; the author's justification for writing an autobiography; how he or she describes or suggests their spiritual develop ment. Often I have attempted to look at particular details of the social setting, including exchange systems with gurus and powerful laypeople, the various roles of women, and indications of tensions between lived reality and Buddhist ideals. I proceed c hronologically, beginning with the Life of Ani Chokyi which stands apart as one of the few rangnam written by a woman. Next I look at the secret
24 autobiographies of 18 th century yogin Jigme Lingpa. Then I turn to the works of the 19 th century masters wit h the inner autobiography of Barway Dorje, followed by the primarily outer autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul. THE LIFE OF ORGYAN CHOKYI Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun contains the complete translation of the autobiography of an a ni (nun) from Dolpo, a region in northwest Nepal that is on the outskirts of, but still very much a part of, the Tibetan cultural world. Orgyan Chokyi was born to a peasant family in 1675 and died prematurely in 1729, at the age of 55, when a wooden beam fell on her head during a ritual. The autobiography of Orgyan Chokyi consists of an introduction and ten chapters. The introduction is written in part by an unidentified editor, and in part by Chokyi. After this, only the first nine chapters are attribut able to Chokyi herself. The tenth chapter was written by the editor to relate the matters of her death and her cremation. The American translator of the work, Schaeffer, writes that contemporary scholarship "knows of perhaps two thousand biographies of Tibetan Buddhist figures from the eighth to the twentieth centuries," among which over one hundred and fifty are autobiographies (Schaeffer 2004:4). Of these, "only three or four are by women," and that of Orgyan Chokyi is "the earliest by some two hu ndred years" (2004:4). The manuscripts of her autobiography were made available "thanks to the joint efforts of the
25 Nepalese and German goverments in preserving texts from across the Nepal Himalaya" (2004:4). In addition to translating the work, Schaeffer inserted section headings within the chapters to "help the reader to negotiate the often random changes in scene and subject," and to bring out what he understands to be the important events ( Schaeffer, 2004:11). Other editorial decisions on his part con cern translation, as the "manuscripts upon which this translation is based abound in orthographic variation, some of which may be due to regional variation and much of which is simply loose or incorrect spelling, at least when judged by the more refined ma nuscripts and blockprints of central Tibet" (2004:11). That this manuscript exists today is also thanks in part to a number of women of Chokyi's own time period, apart from Orgyan Chokyi herself. Some of these were other wordly dakinis. In the introd uction of her autobiography, Ani Chokyi relates the scene in which she requested, and was denied, permission to record her life story by her master. "I have good reason to write a few words on my joys and sufferings," I said some time ago. "Therefore I pray of you master, write it down." When I said this [the master] said, "There is no reason to write a liberation tale for you a woman." And thinking on this woman's words he added, "You must be silent!" Many tears fell from my eyes, for I did not m yself know how to write. "If I knew how to write," I said, "I would have reason to write of my joys and sufferings." Later, when I was dying, amazing omens of my death arose, and I thought, "I have been struck with the spiritual instruction of the dakin i." The impediment of not being able to write disappeared, and I wrote. (Schaeffer 2004:131 132) Thus Ani Chokyi overrides her master's refusal by attaining the blessings of the dakini. Then at the end of the autobiography are dedications by manuscript patrons that
26 is, those people who paid for Orgyan Chokyi's autobiography to be reproduced. Both the patrons named are women: In this life may the patroness Khandro Chokyi be happy and live long, and in the next may she be born in a heavenly realm. By t he benefit of commissioning this life story of the dakini Orgyan Chokyi, emanation of the Mother Guhyjnana, may the patroness Ani Chozangmo of Samten Ling be born in a pure land of sky goers, in the presence of Avalokitesvara in the Potala. (Schaeffer 2004 :184) Indeed, although Orgyan Chokyi was highly respected at the end of her life in chapter 10 she is even referred to as "the dakini" numerous times throughout her autobiography she is devalued as a woman, and she herself laments her female body. G ender and suffering are the two most pervasive themes of the autobiography, and indeed they are connected from the very beginning. In chapter One, Ani Chokyi tells how her parents had been hoping for a boy. That she was a girl depressed her mother, and h er parents gave her the name Kyilo, meaning "Happiness Dashed" (Schaeffer 2004:133). Her mother hated her, as did her father who, until his early death, beat her occasionally. Throughout the work, suffering is addressed in relation to the female body. I n chapter three, for example, after a dzomo and her calf are chased off a cliff by a predator, Ani Chokyi and two other nuns weep. Drolzang the monk comes upon them and asks them why they are weeping. When they explain the deaths of the animals, he rebuk es them: "What will come of this crying?' the monk said. You should go tell the master about this'" Ani Chokyi later sings this lament: Humans, horses, dogs, all beings, Male and female all think alike, But the suffering of life comes to females as a matter of course. I could do without the misery of this female life.
27 How I lament this broken vessel, this female body. I could do without this female body and its misery. Ranting thoughts dwell in this woman's body. From within the body, spreading outwa rd, From the center of the mind misery comes unchecked. Like the yak protecting her calf, They give up life for their children. This female body is itself samsara the rounds of existence. May I attain a male body, and keep the vows, May I never again be born in the body of a woman! (Schaeffer 2004:143) At many points in her autobiography she mourns the suffering of animals particularly mothers who become separated from their offspring that are sold or killed. In chapter two, she tells the anguish of a mare after a leopard kills its foal, and sings this lament: When I ponder our female bodies I am sorrowful; impermanence rings clear. When men and women couple creating more life Happiness is rare, but suffering is felt for a long time. May I not b e born again in a female body. May the mare not be born as a mare. The steed follows yet another mare. When I see the shamelessness of men, [I think:] May I be born in a body that will sustain the precepts (Schaeffer 2004:142) When she ponders the suffe ring of animals and suffering in general, she is particularly sensitive to the female body as a source of misery in fact, to her it is "itself samsara". Another recurring theme in her autobiography, evoked here, is "the shamelessness of men" for alth ough she laments the female body, having a male body does not necessarily mean that one sustains the precepts. Many of the male animals are shown to
28 be insensitive; the stallion follows another mare; in one instance a mother cow's milk is "stolen from the mouth of the child, causing great sadness, while the yak and the bull just trotted around" (Schaeffer 2004:164). One time a mare is swept away while crossing a river, and she sings in lament, "May each and every mare be reborn a stallion" (Schaeffer 200 4:144). Her sympathy for female animals, and disdain for males, becomes clear. Her value of female human company is implied as well. At one point she sings I pray that I may meet Women friends with a similar religion. May I not meet for even a moment, T hose who are lazy in religion. (Schaeffer 2004:178) It is not clear whether she is referring to men when she speaks of those "who are lazy in religion." But at points, there is even tension between her and her master. In the beginning, he blows off her request to write her life story, after which she goes to a higher authority the female dakini. There is also when the master says to her, Your woman's mind does not understand great philosophy,'" and You are like an old woman who needs a lesson on how to get started!'" Ani Chokyi writes: I am not an old woman,' I thought. I have no burning desire, so he speaks falsely'" (Schaeffer 2004:149 150) Once, she tells him of wanting to leave her kitchen work, and "You are wrong to be unhappy at the kitchen," he replied, "Men are just right for the field, Women are just right for the kitchen. Therefore, you will look after our guests for one or two years." (Schaeffer 2004:160) While males come across rather poorly in the Life, the only woman Ani Ch okyi speaks poorly of is her mother, whom she at one point refers to as "that demoness" (Schaeffer 2004:134). Otherwise, the women with whom Ani Chokyi interact are
29 positively portrayed, particularly one Ani Drupchenmo who plays the role of an important m entor in Ani Chokyi's life. She also evokes important religious female figures of the past Gelongma Palmo, Mother Macig, and Nangsa Obum although placing herself humbling in comparison, says that she is not able to act like them (Schaeffer 2004:163) But this brings up another interesting aspect of this autobiography: although Ani Chokyi is part of a rich spiritual tradition, she does not extol her place in this tradition by praising the masters of her lineage. Near the end of chapter Nine, she hum bly pays homage to Ani Drupchenmo, the men and women of her religious center, her companions, and the monastic leader. She also pays homage to great figures as Dakpo Gampopa, Drupchen Padmasambhava, and Guru Chowang (2004:179). But at no point does she t race a specific spiritual lineage in which she a part, as is commonplace is other autobiographies often to elevate oneself by means of praising one's tradition. Where Orgyan Chokyi's autobiography does situate itself in tradition is through the gener al theme of suffering. By Schaeffer's count, there are "nearly 40 references to tears or weeping in The Life of Orgyan Chokyi, and more than 120 references to sadness, suffering, depression, or pain" (Schaeffer 2004:81). With each scene of sorrow she evo kes the Buddhist notions of impermanence, samsara, and the like, as suffering "plays a fundamental role in Buddhist ethics, cosmology, and soteriology" (2004:70). Suffering, according to the Buddhist tradition, is pervasive in human life as well as their literature. It was a "popular subject of poetry throughout the Himalaya" (2004:71). Schaeffer notes that Chokyi likely "developed the image of suffering and sorrow in the Life...in
30 conversation with several works listed in Chapters Four and Nine, includ ing her own master's Self Luminous Dharma Realm of the Profound Essence one or more renderings of the Life of Milarepa and a host of Lives from the hagiographic collections of the Kaygu schools known as the Golden Rosaries (2004:70). But Chokyi's tears are sometimes met with disdain, if not outright disapproval. At points those around admonish her useless tears or become annoyed. However, Chokyi does not seem to agree with their criticisms. Early in her autobiography she records how Lawang Rinchen of Jatang sees her weeping for a killed goat and states, "This girl knows mercy. If she were to practice the Dharma, she would preserve compassion in her mind" (Schaeffer 2004:137). Frequent references to weeping may be a way for her to stress her own comp assionate nature. Another aspect that the Life of Orgyan Chokyi shares with more traditional works is its nature poetry. Once she is finally in retreat, having abandoned her loathed kitchen duties, she sings in praise of her meditation cave. She evokes both the natural beauty of the cave and its surroundings and the freedom she feels while meditating within. Schaeffer relates her work to that of the famous 19 th century yogin, Shabkar Natsok Rangdrol, who "is renowned for his odes to the natural surround ings of his contemplative endeavors" (Schaeffer 2004:85). According to Schaeffer, Chokyi "participated in a tradition of poetic expression that spanned the Tibetan cultural world from Dolpo in the southwest to Amdo in the northeast" (2004:85). Excerpts h e provides of Shabkar's work, followed by part of Chokyi's hymn to her cave, show a very similar style indeed. In the fifth chapter, Chokyi gives an overview of some of the holy sites she visited on a pilgrimage to Kathmandu Valley. Schaeffer points ou t, interestingly, that the list
31 holy places she gives is "almost exactly the same as the list given in another guide to the valley's Buddhist hotspots, the 1680 work of Nelug Dorje, a student of the 17 th century Kagyu master Rangrik Rechen" (Schaeffer 2004 :113). Whether the similarity is due to Chokyi having read this account, used it as a pilgrimage guide, or that both texts are related to an older common source, Schaeffer contends that the similarity suggests the intertextuality of Tibetan literature as well as a "relatively stable pilgrimage route" traveled to the valley by the Buddhists (2004:113). And finally, there are no less than six separate visionary experiences described in the Life as well as miracles described at her death in the tenth chap ter (written by an editor). Many of her extraordinary attributes are assigned to her by this editor; the Introduction is followed by an "Editor's Note," in which the editor quotes from the Dakini Tantra and the Ten Thousand Signs of the Dakini to briefly describe the signs of a dakini and notes that "externally Orgyan Chokyi was replete with the signs on her body." It additionally notes that "internally she had great faith and compassion, and in arcane terms she had little of either the three or the five poisons" (Schaeffer 2004:132). This outside voice lends some authority to the text by confirming Orgyan Chokyi's good qualities, backed by Buddhist scriptures. Then the editor remains anonymous and outside of the text except for notes at the end of the i ntroduction and chapter nine, and chapter ten may be fully attributed to this person or persons. In the note at the end of chapter nine, he or she states that "[s]ome of the prose passages were set into verse" but assures the reader that "[n]othing else w as modified" (2004:180). But this note (at the end of chapter Nine) also states that this "is a condensed written account" and that if "the Life of the dakini were written down from the beginning,
32 it would be nothing more than a copy of the Life of Nang sa Obum so it was not written" (Schaeffer 2004:180). While it appears that the words are those of Chokyi herself, only modified so that some passages were put into verse, it seems that editorial decisions regarding how much of her life to include were ma de by someone else. It is curious that it is compared to the Life of Nangsa Obum Nangsa Obum is one of Tibet's most popular female folk heroes, but her story bears little resemblance to that of Orgyan Chokyi apart from a theme of "self determination in religious practice" (2004:59). Nangsa Obum's story belongs to a genre of narratives "dedicated to people who have died, traveled through the land of the dead, and returned to impart ethical teachings on the living" (2004:61). Chokyi did have a vision of hell that Schaeffer says is reminiscent of Nangsa Obum's visit to hell, but was by no means an actual revenant (2004:120). This note has left scholars scratching their heads. Another interesting aspect of her life story that bears pondering is how it bec ame so "ensconced in local memory" (Schaeffer 2004:4). At the opening of the book, Schaeffer relates how anthropologist Corneille Jest heard an oral version of Chokyi's life while conducting fieldwork in Dolpo, in 1961. No written versions of the tale we re available in the village at that time. It was a local Buddhist leader who told him about "Chokyi the nun" who herded animals and was continually distraught by the manner of their sufferings and deaths, before going on a pilgrimage and returning to stay in meditation at the local temple. This informant continued that she was repeatedly asked to marry, but did not; participated in fasts; and when she died she remained in meditative posture for three days as rainbows appeared over her head. And so it was a "short tale of goats, marriage proposals, fasting, and rainbows," (2004:4) but one that was related for over three centuries after her death. In
33 the late twentieth century, Chokyi "was still remembered and celebrated in the villages near her shrine in the form of dances, fasting prayers, and oral retellings of her tale" (2004:127). It is possible that the manner of Chokyi's death certainly shocking to those around her might have led to her subsequent elevation in status, and attention to her writin gs that were initially deemed worthless by her master. However, her own merits as a practitioner and her manner of speaking to worldly suffering she was intimate with, cannot be ignored in considering her ensuing popularity, Dolpo's celebration of its own local dakini. A GREAT SECRET: AN EXPRESSION OF REALIZATIONS ABOUT MY VISIONARY EXPERIENCES ENTITLED DANCING MOON IN THE WATER and DAKKI'S GRAND SECRET TALK: AN EXPRESSION OF MY REALIZATIONS CONCERNING THE LONGCHEN NYINGTIG As the titles suggest, the se are Jigme Lingpa's expressions of realizations; they belong to the genre of secret autobiography that covers the most hidden, and important, aspects of one's life. In these works he describes his visionary experiences, particularly as they relate to hi s discovery of a Treasure text the Longchen Nyingtig They are secret in part because of the personal implications they would have for its author, whose grandiose claims might invite ridicule if the work were too widely disseminated. Gyatso's informant s also told her that Lingpa wrote these works to be self secret', such that much meaning is conveyed poetically and metaphorically and directed at more experienced initiates. It is further nuanced by what Gyatso reports as "difficult
34 vocabulary, replete with technical meditative terminology, poetic allusions, and idiosyncratic colloquialism" (1998:7,8). In the Great Perfection tradition of the Nyingma school in which both Ani Chokyi and Lingpa were trained, an absolute distinction between dreams and wak ing visions is not made. In Lingpa's work this comes through in the narration. Schaeffer notes that dreams are "a powerful metaphor in Buddhism for the illusory nature of the physical world," and in Tibetan esoteric literature, as Lingpa's secret autobio graphies, frequently provide the "principal occasions in which to contemplate the relation between human consciousness and external appearances" (2004:117). The practice of lucid dreaming "is held to be a powerful means to gain insight into the fundamenta l principle underlying Great Perfection theory, namely, that reality is in fact nothing more or less than the self expression of a primordial awareness pervading reality" (Schaeffer 2004:117 118). Gyatso notes that both texts, which relate events of Lin gpa's life beginning in his later twenties, would have been composed when Lingpa was in his late thirties (1998:5). They proceed more or less chronologically, with dates or Lingpa's age given along the way; one of Gyatso's Tibetan informants suggested tha t Lingpa would have kept rough diaries during his retreat and consulted them later when writing his autobiographies (1998:103). Dancing Moon is comprised mainly of narrative verse, interspersed with atemporal sequences of verse that reflect Buddhist theme s and more narrative prose passages. Secret Talk is primary narrative prose, and the few verse passages in this brief text are from revealed treasures, with the exception of a short segment in which he relates the words a dakini spoke to him.
35 Owing to the nature of the material, both works were written by Lingpa himself; there is no suggestion of an editor. While Dancing Moon and Secret Talk are two separate works, there is a passage within Dancing Moon in which Lingpa suggests that, chronologically, S ecret Talk be inserted and read; my analysis will proceed in such an order. Dancing Moon begins with introductory verses of homage, flowing into a statement of intent: it is "for the sake of guiding faithful disciples" that Lingpa decides to "make manife st" his "visionary experiences a dancing moon on the water" (1998:16). One of the earliest experiences he relates at this point, described as a "delusive dream," involves him experiencing his own death; journeying through the bardo stages until he a rrives at the bardo of becoming in which he see his own corpse being set aflame, and his father lamenting. He states I thought, in my residual fleshly form's mind "The unreal mind is without such designations as birth' or death.' Since I've seen the t ruth, bliss and sorrow are false. Poor Father!" (1998:19) Lingpa then reflects that Lord Padma had prophesied he would "burn the seeds of the six destinies," that is, liberate himself from taking rebirth in any of the six realms. Since this dream, he st ates, "I don't know where all the lice eggs on my body went; I became clean" (1998:19). In this passage he is not only evoking a fearful experience, he is revealing his understanding of it; even if it is describes as a "delusive" dream. To this practitio ner, whose liberation has already been prophecied by Longchenpa, the six realms are no more than lice eggs.
36 From this he goes to note that "there is some incompatibility here...between the discussions in the Old and New Secret Mantra [traditions]" that have lead to all manner of explications and sectarian disputes (1998:19). He asserts, drawing on Yangonpa's analysis of the bardo of becoming, that "our current dreams and the bardo to come have the same basic point," such that the various ways in which t he bardo is explained are unnecessary (1998:20). This is not so much a condemnation of sectarianism, which will be a more important theme in other works in this project, but an assertion of Lingpa's own understanding as overriding unnecessary doctrinal dif ferences. In the opening pages, the visions he recounts are held to be delusive, despite their apparent lucidity and didactic value. They are followed with explication, as if the visions are related as they occurred and reflected upon as mastery has been gained. One account of a meditative experience follows with an extended passage that describes one of Longchenpa's visionary experiences. After this Lingpa states, "Since this explanation accorded in meaning, without difference, from what I had experien ced, I gained confidence in [my experience] and an indestructible staff of soulful devotion to Great Omniscient One came to be implanted in me" (1998:25). Concerned with his progress, he corroborates his own experiences with that of Longchenpa; a reader m ight be inclined to use Lingpa's secret autobiography in the same fashion. Approximately one third through Dancing Moon Lingpa states that, concerning his "vision of the paradise," his account of Dakki's Grand Secret Talk should be inserted into the tex t. The reference to some vision of paradise' makes sense only with the knowledge of the contents of Dakki's Grand Secret Talk in which he has a vision of the
37 paradise of Sampa Lhundrup This leads Gyatso to suggest that the reference is not positioned with "chronological precision" (1998:73). It may also be a means of provoking curiosity in the reader. In Dakki's Grand Secret Talk Lingpa opens with a line of homage to the Dharma body dakini of primordial consciousness, for whom the work is named a nd owes its existence. In a brief statement, he relates his intent to tell of the "coming into being" of the Longchen Nyingtig treasure cycle (1998:55), before referring to the Sealed Prophecy Word the revealed text of an earlier treasure discoverer, in which it is written In the south, an emanated body with the name of Ozer Will guide beings with a Nyingtig teaching that is deep in meaning He will launch whoever is connected to him into the heaven of the awareness holders (1998:55) Lingpa, coming f rom the south of Central Tibet, and having been previously named Padma Khyentse Ozer upon taking upasika vows (1998:92), places this prophecy at the outset of his work, which is essentially a description of how he fulfills it. By this he takes the authori ty to claim that "[i]n accordance with what that says," his aspirations matured at the proper time, by virtue of Padmasambhava's "great wave of compassionate enlightened activity" (1998:55). The account given takes place within a particular period of a th ree year retreat in which he finds himself with "a fierce sense of renunciation and unbearable sadness at the painful nature of samsara" and has incredible visionary experiences. One of these is a dream in which he see the paradise, Sampa Lhundrup : In t he midst of it, riding a dragon, was Dorje Trolo in the reveling mode, heroic and nonmaterial, shining forth like a rainbow, in motion.
38 A man whom I thought was Damchen, not [fully] a Mongol nor a monk, said, This is With Orgyan indivisible from the y idam deity There is no doubt that the son will get the father's wealth' (1998:56) According to Gyatso, Sampa Lhundrup is a popular prayer written by Padmasambhava and not often associated with a paradise. Dorje Trolo is an emanation of Padmasambhava, and Damchen is one of the three primary Nyingmapa guardian deities. Different legends of Damchen's origin describe him as the ghost of a sinful monk or a Central Asian warrior god. In this passage, Damchen points out to Lingpa that his vision of Dorje T rolo is one of Padmasambhava, and that should Lingpa (the son) take Padmasambhava (the father) as his yidam deity, he will inherit the father's wealth that is, reveal treasure (1998:93). It should also be noted that describes the figure as a man he thou ght was Damchen; it is common throughout this work for figures' outward appearances to not correspond to the identity Lingpa somehow knows them to hold. A few days later, Lingpa again finds himself "spacing out into the vast reaches of a radiant light v ision," in which he finds himself encountering "in actuality, the Dharma body, the face of the dakini of primordial consciousness" (1998:56) who hands him a flattened wooden box and states In the perception of the pure circle, You are Trisong Detsen. On t he face of what is perceptible to impure disciples, You are Senge Repa. This is the Treasure of Samantabhadra's heart mind, the symbol of the great expanse of Awareness Holder Padma, the great secret repository of the dakinis. Symbol's dissolved!' (199 8:57)
39 With this she suggests that those with proper insight will recognize him as an emanation of the great king, but lowly disciples will regard him as a nobody (Senge Repa is a common name). She presents the treasure, and announces the end of her vi sionary revelation, at which point she vanishes with a "Symbol's dissolved" an esoteric utterance that typically concludes a revelation (1998:94). Lingpa provides a descriptive account of opening the box, pulling out yellow paper and crystals, his feeli ngs of excitement and apprehension all with extraordinary vividness. He describes the shifting shape of the written text, its "scrambled secret dakini sign letters" turning into Tibetan and manifesting their meaning on the surface of Lingpa's mind. He states, "it was as if I did not know how to read it in sequential order; it is difficult to explain" (1998:57). He describes reading more texts and his excitement growing. Before long, another dakini swoops down from the sky. This dakini chides him for "being overly pleased to show it" and demands that he eat it. He swallows all the crystals and rolls of paper without chewing, such that "all of the words and their meaning were printed on [his] mind," which was "wonderful beyond measure" (1998:58). He later reports this to his lama, whom he paraphrases as saying that "the revelations of our sort of adept lineage are genuine, our Treasure line is unbroken... Nevertheless it was extremely important for [my experiences] to be kept secret from others for a while, and so forth" (1998:58). Next he reflects upon how claims of having Treasure and Pure Visions in his "degenerate age" are "far too numerous" and the cause of much doubt (1998:58). He warns that if one does not hold in the palm of one's hand a sig n that one has the ability to control the great secret treasury of the dakinis, then to identify the scattered
40 verses that dawn on one through the natural display energy of clarified channels and elements as Pure Vision and so forth becomes the cause f or a great wave of [bad] karma. One sees and hears much of that sort. Still, if something like an urging certificate from the heroes and dakinis does come to one, one will not have the power not to [its bidding], since [not to do its bidding] would damag e the connections of one's life and enlightened activity. (1998:58). Lingpa waited seven years before revealing the terma, until he finally meets Longchenpa three times in meditation, and Longchenpa urges him to commit the work to writing. He then relate s that after the principal dakini of the five families had initiated the occasion for breaking the code, I gradually caused it to appear in succession on he surface of a white paper" (1998:59). This is in keeping with the prophecy of the Key Certificate : Encouragement will come thrice from the awareness holders, heroes, and dakinis At that time, open the treasury of clear expanse realization with the memory dharani of no forgetting the Zerdug Nekyi Demig (1998:59) The last two lines contain references t o texts or devices that are highly esoteric, and which Gyatso's informant declined to discuss with her. The Key Certificate also contained a prophecy describing the day that being the tenth day of the Monkey month in the Monkey year Lingpa would meet w ith Padmasambhava's real face, receive his blessing, and make the Longchen Nyingtig public. In accordance with this, he performed special rituals on that day to ensure the fulfillment of the prophecy; Padmasambhava appeared in a vision to Lingpa just as h e told Lingpa he would (1998:60). After this point, Lingpa slowly spread the teaching. But he notes that the Key Certificate also contained the following: Because of botching many deep connections
41 with Grand Master Padma and so forth... there will be a variety of opposing conditions when in the future, the time arrives for [working for] the benefit of beings And in particular, followers of the demon minister and the class of broken oath sri will deceive you in all sorts of forms They will especially betray kindness and commitments (1998:60) The reference to botched connections implies a certain level of criticism of Lingpa, who had failed to cultivate all his connections to Padmasambhava. But the demon minister and his retinue are to be understood as a "covert reference...to certain unnamed humans who betrayed Jigme Lingpa" (1998:97). Relating this ominous prophecy, Jigme Linpa remarks that he has faced numerous obstacles, but states simply that he recognized them as karma and was not intimidated. "Through such vigilant perception," he says, "in the manner that an illusionist understands the game playing of illusion, I managed to endure all the perversity and depression" (1998:61). Dakki's Grand Secret Talk ends with the following exhortation : Don't explain to an unsuitable receptacle even one letter of this cycle of key instructions on the profound meaning. Don't show it. Don't make known a mere word, even to the winds. Hold it like a wish fulfilling gem, and do the practice in your heart (1998:61). To return to Dancing Moon in the Water puts one at the "year of the Ox Wrapped in Clothes of Fire," or, more simply, the Fire Ox year corresponding to 1757. Gyatso notes that this date would put this section out of the chronological ord er in which the rest of the text largely unfolds. As it was also the "tenth day of the Miracles month," and the calculation of such ritually important days may cause discrepancies with official
42 calendars, it may have been the Earth Tiger Year (1758). Reg ardless, he begins by stating how he remembered Venerable Father Orgyan from his heart and With a wave of tears flowing from my eyes, a resounding lamentation of longing issued forth in speech. Upon remembering that Father Second Buddha's life story and k indness, I composed a prayer commemorating his [deeds on the] tenths [of the months]. (1998:30). This sort of longing is related throughout the work: Lingpa is intensely emotional toward Padmasambhava to the point that he is moved to tears. The passage also underscores the importance of life stories of the masters in inspiring faith in practitioners. Later on in the text, Jigme Lingpa hints at past lives in reference to his discovery of a particular cave: I distinctly recalled traces [of my prev ious life], such that I thought that this would be the cave in which the master meditated after he had received the Great Perfection teachings from Nyangban Tingzin. (1998:40) The legend that Trisong Detsen had meditated in this area had developed someti me in the twelfth century; Detsen is related specifically to the Nyingmapa tradition by way of Nyangban Tingzin, who was a prominent monk and royal tutor at that time, associated with the Nyingtig teaching (1998:80). Lingpa's memories of his past life as this great king lead him to rediscover this cave. He subsequently opens this cave up as a holy site, and cites a prophecy in which "an emanation of Vima holding the name of Padma" would open the door of a holy site based upon Pure Vision. Again, Lingpa h ad already received the name of Padma from a vow taken in his youth; he had considered himself an emanation of Vimalamitra.
43 He names this holy site Flower Cave, before adding: And yet on account of the local people of that area, who through former acqua intance had seemed to be my close friends, and the great strength of certain persons' hatred attachment, I am maintaining [that this discovery] was mere serendipity, like a herdsman finding shelter in the rain nothing more so I have no need whatsoe ver to clear up what is true and what is a lie (1998:40 41). It is to be understood that this revelation was kept secret in order to avoid detractors, with the theme of secrecy and the malice of unnamed persons that is a concern of Lingpa's throughout th e text. But overall, the passage should draw one's attention to the fact that masters as Lingpa were responsible for imbuing the landscape of Tibet with meaning through the discovery of such holy sites. Another particularly interesting exchange is one in which a "flesh eating dakki, in the form of a young girl" requests instruction from Lingpa; Kyeho! In an inexpressible, inconceivable beautiful house is a slender body, the perfectly pure great field. Beautiful, with a countenance free from the formula tions of the eight extremes, and hung with the ornaments of primordially free equanimity, she is relaxed, her behavior unfabricated and spontaneous. Who will take this medicine for themselves? In general, she is the lover of all adepts. In particular wh en I, the youthful hero of awareness join with her, I join in expansive union. When I liberate, I liberate the conceptual thinking of the five poisons. (1998:43)
44 Describing an idealized beauty that he joins with, Lingpa is suggesting his mastery of sexu al yoga culminating in the liberation of conceptual thinking and also seems to be advertising it. In this passage he goes on to describe, "in accordance with Longchenpa's experience," yet nevertheless in his own poetic flourish, the activity of vital winds in the major channels that occur during sexual fulfillment yoga. He comments that this "is sweet lion's milk!" and those who experience it are rare; the practice is often misapplied by "those who masquerade" as practitioners and "use passion on impu lse" (1998:45). He then returns to addressing the dakini directly: Woman seeker who would query a person such as me! Join with the hero of inexpressible awareness in the field of Samantabhadri's spatial depths! Place [awareness] in the state of bliss em ptiness beyond thought. There is no need to wish for a worldly sweetheart Those who think that one who has no husband and worldly trappings has no fortune or key instruction have a very gravely deluded conception (1998:45 46). He encourages her to s tudy the Vajrayana, and maintain secrecy about this practice which "is not to be practiced by everyone" and is sealed "as if it were a stolen gem" (1998:46). He adds that the dakini was pleased, such that she composed for him a long life prayer in conjunc tion with a narrative of his previous lives; his vision then vanishes (1998:46). What is particularly interesting is that this passage Lingpa seems to address, alternately, a dakini and a human female. One would understand the "hero of inexpressible aw areness," as a male consort, particularly with attention to Lingpa's self designation as "hero of awareness" earlier in the passage. The reference to
45 Samantabhadri's spatial depths is likely a reference to female penetration, Samantabhadri being the conso rt of Samantabhadra. The woman is instructed on where to place her awareness, though, and is recognized as a seeker in her right encouraged along the secret path of Vajrayana over that of worldly pursuits. In one visionary experience of the Stick mont h of the Bull year (1761), Lingpa meets two Indian "dzokis" dzoki being a pejorative term for a yogin in Tibetan usage. Lingpa tells one of the dzokis that upon circumabulating the mountain he will meet eighty adepts; the dzoki pauses and reflects, and then says to Lingpa: I saw you holding a ne u le in your right hand, leaning upon an [auspiciously] marked consort at your side, holding up your cheek with your left [hand] and singing a mind captivating song. Now this time I've been introduced [to you a s you] really are. But I fear that the minds of other people won't have room for it. So okay, I'll keep quiet! (1998:48 49) This is to suggest that the dzoki recognizes Lingpa as an important figure. The ne u le is a sort of mythical mongoose that vom its jewels, and is held in the hand of certain Buddhist guardian deities. In response Lingpa asks for the name of that adept, so as to not admit that the adept is himself. The dzoki responds: Known as Caveman, it seems. I'll take that critical point of t he Leading the Dog to the Deer instructions," he said. "I absolutely have no such text," I said. "In general, when one's roaming around the mountain retreat of yogins, it's not appropriate to be thinking about curses and evil mantras."
46 Then a friend of t he yogins came up and said, "If it benefits the teachings, it's needed." (1998:49). At that moment Lingpa awakens from this visionary experience. The dzoki, whose speech is markedly colloquial, is now requesting instruction in black magic. Lingpa refus es. But a "friend of the yogins in the standard Tibetan translation, not the pejorative sense suggests that such instructions are needed if they benefit the Buddhist teachings. That Lingpa does not provide further commentary on this issue is telling ; it is suggestive of ambivalence toward black magic on his part. Gyatso, privy to his outer autobiography, relates elsewhere that later in life (that is, 1788 and subsequent years) Lingpa and other lamas were asked to perform destructive rituals against the Gurkhas during conflicts between the Tibet and Gurkhas. Though he complied, in his autobiography he protested the use of black magic and regretted having killed enemies by conducting such rites (1998:135). The rest of Dancing Moon relates more visio nary experiences and commentary. Most notably, he sees the face of Longchenpa three times; these are the most crucial signifiers of his achievement, and were alluded to in Dakki's Grand Secret Talk In the first sighting, he "encountered, like an optical illusion," the figure of Longchenpa, dressed as a monk and mature in age. Upon sight of his, Lingpa remarks that "such unbearable faith and veneration arose in me that I was as if about to lose consciousness" (1998:51). He grasps Longchenpa's hands and places them on his head in veneration. Nearly fainting, he beseeches him: "Know, O omniscient Dharma king!" four times; Lonchenpa replies, "In later times someone saying that will come" (1998:51). Lingpa writes,
47 I understood that this was a complaint, s ince as he had said in his Congestion with a Rosary of Flowers and so forth, beings low in merit during the time he actually was alive had lacked faith and devotion, and due to the force of the great perversity they perpetuated, his heart had become deject ed. (1998:51) Lingpa assures Longchenpa of his veneration, to which Longchenpa responds that the understandings of his teachings have been transferred to him and that he is to teach widely to "the fortunate ones" (1998:51). He adds, "Your songs come fo rth extremely well," before vanishing. In the second, he was in retreat when Longchenpa appeared in a vision and handed him a text clarifying the obscure points of the Great Chariot which had been Longchenpa's commentary to one of his own earlier teachi ngs, the Semnyi Ngalso At the end of this passage, he refers to this sighting as a "speech blessing and granting of permission to compose teachings" (1998:53). Lingpa's third vision of Longchenpa occurs a few months later, and he describes in vivid det ail his sight of the master who merely appeared and displayed a symbol of a tantric class of buddhas in union with their consorts, to initiate Lingpa "into the radiant light pervasive purity" (1998:53). In this vision a glowing, youthful Longchenpa gave h im "a heart mind blessing" and granted him "permission to be a master of the meaning continuum realization" (1998:53). From this point forward, Lingpa is awakened into the "self liberation of open determination" and describes his decision to compose parti cular texts. Here he has fulfilled the prophecy alluded to in Secret Talk in which he meets with Longchenpa three times before bringing his revealed texts into the open. Reflecting on his authorial activity he notes that "great meditators do not give hig h priority to exegetical feuds and conceptual distinctions" (1998:54), adding
48 In particular, we [already] have these teachings of Great Omniscient One, which are unlike the teachings whose terminology is based only on hearing and thinking and have been c ommitted to writing only by virtue of a conceit that the meaning of the ineffable situation has been understood... Thus, thinking that there is no need to manufacture my own great volume, which would be like the light of a firefly, I wished to stay relaxed (1998:54). Nevertheless, he elects to spread the teachings, citing a popular Tibetan prayer that "Even if faith is aroused only once, it will turn into the most precious of pure merit" (1998:54). And so, he states, he sets out the meanings of Longche npa's various teachings in the manner that the meaning "itself dawned out from the depths" of his realization, and has produced key instructions, and clarified those issues most critical to practitioners (1998:54). Lingpa, whom by this point the reader wo uld assuredly recognize as a great meditator, ends with the suggestion he is to spread the superior teachings of Longchenpa for what little benefit it might serve others. From what is known about Lingpa from other sources, including his outer autobiogra phy, the autobiographies of others, and other historical records in Tibet, Lingpa was instrumental in reviving traditions of the Nyingma school after it had just been suppressed and suffered the destruction of many of its major centers. He garnered the su pport of patrons in the Lhasa aristocracy, of which he was a part, as well as royalty of Derge, and forged alliances with a number of religious hierarchs in central Tibet. Among his disciples were some of the most influential lamas of eastern Tibet. His Longchen Nyingtig has "inspired most religious practice in the Nyingma school for the last two centuries" (Gyatso 1998:3).
49 PRECIOUS ESSENCE: THE INNER AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TERCHEN BARWAY DORJE The autobiography of Terchen Barway Dorje is a vastly differen t work. This work was published in 2005 in the United States by KTD Publications. KTD Publications are a part of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, which "under the spiritual guidance and protection of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa" is "devoted to the authe ntic representation of the Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism" (www.ktdpublications.org). The translator was Yeshe Gyamtso, about whom little information is provided except for an excerpt on the back inside flap of the book jacket which states that he "wa s trained in a traditional three year retreat," has "served as an interpreter for many eminent teachers, including His Holiness the Seveneenth Karmapa and Bardor Tulku Rinpoche," and that this is his first major written translation. The Translator's Int roduction provides a few paragraphs of introductory material to introduce the text. The editor was Kagyu Tashi of Kyodrak Monastery, who according to the translator "was a renowned teacher, scholar, and siddha in his own right, although he adopts a veil o f modesty here in his role as a devoted disciple requesting his master to tell of his life and deeds" (2005:ix). He then became one of the principal holders of the Barom Kagyu teachings of Barway Dorje and of his teachings in general" (ix). Kaygu Tashi a lso authored an account of the funeral observances of Barway Dorje, which along with Barway Dorje's inner and outer autobiographies comprises the three biographies of Barway Dorje written (2005:x).
50 The editor introduces "The Hidden Meaning of the Glorio us Noble Guru's Life" with a prayer to Barway Dorje, and states that "in order to describe merely to lotus seeds" of his guru's life there are three sections: Virtue in the beginning, a description of the circumstances under which the autobiography was composed; Virtue in the middle, the actual autobiography; Virtue in the end, the conclusion of the autobiography. (2005:4) The middle' is actually broken into two sections: "First, an Account of Previous Lives," and "Second, an Account of the Essenc e of This Life." Both sections are framed by the editor's presence, asking Dorje to tell about his life, and paying homage to him after he does. In "The Circumstances," Dorje responds to the editor's first supplication that he write his outer, inner and secret lives by pointing out that despite a lifetime of practice, his abilities are incomplete and would not please holy ones. Moreover he describes himself as degenerate on the basis of his laziness, his consumption of delicious meat "without doing anyth ing in return" and his efforts to "please laymen and women" (2005:12). Furthermore, he states: To please most people you need to be like them, To lie and sound good doing it. I'm unskilled in such explanations, So I lack a story worth telling. Beca use of my great years, I've forgotten whatever I've done And remember no stories worth telling. So, please don't speak pointlessly. (2005:12) The editor writes that "[a]fter saying that, he wrote only his outer life story; the inner and secret ones r emained unwritten" (2005:12). In the next supplication, the editor says, "Now I ask that you tell me properly/ Your holy story" (2005:13).
51 Barway Dorje is recorded as saying that as he'd "never, in this life, had a high social position or behaved like a holy person" he had never intended to write an autobiography, and nor "kept records of what [he] did or thought" (2005:15,16). So, I won't be able to describe events in detail or in the correct sequence. Because of my age, I won't be capable of fine w ords. However, in order to fulfill the hopes of you disciples...and because some might feel they've made the mistake of relying upon an ordinary old man as the lord of their family, I will tell you a little. Write it down without adding or removing anyth ing (2005:16). He says he "wouldn't boast in the company of others" but can't turn away the editor's faith, so he offers all he remembers. He states that they "are true and undistorted," and that there "is no fault in the spontaneous recounting" of his "vague recollections" (2005:17). Apart from the editor's framing presence, the narration of the Middle proceeds as a stream of events, chronologically, but rarely referencing any dates. This gives the work the feel of someone who is unconcerned with th e passage of time. As I analyze this work, I will follow it chronologically, because otherwise there is almost no way for me to give the reader a sense of when events happened in relation to one another. Once Barway Dorje begins telling about his life, h e drops his humble pretensions rather quickly. He soon reveals his source of emanation to be Manjushri, and notes that the "births that emanated from him, both superior and ordinary, are beyond anyone's reckoning. However, to mention a few of the most si gnificant ones..." (2005:22). From there he names a number of his previous incarnations and their significant achievements in dharma. He ends with reasoning that since he had been Sangye Yeshe, and "that lord
52 had mastery over karma and birth," his "eman ations must have included ordinary people, birds, beasts, bridges, boats, medicine, and everything else that is of direct or indirect benefit to one and all a vast cloud of magical display" (2005:26). When it comes to the whether he actually remembers p ast lives, Dorje states "[a]lthough I'm usually unable to remember my past actions and lives, at times, through the blessing of my personal deities, in the experience of sleep combined with luminosity, when I have gone to places with which I was very famil iar in the past, and when I have met certain individuals, various thoughts have arisen within me" (2005:26). "However," he says, "I see no need to talk about that in detail" (2005:26). He alludes to memories of past lives as "various thoughts" that he is unconcerned with; neither to deny or fully confirm his ability to actually remember them. In the second part of the Middle, Barway Dorje relates the story of his birth directly to the will of Guru Rinpoche, who looked upon his father and mother and caus ed his birth to happen. He was born to Rakshul Menlha Targyay, "a rebirth of Takkar Apo, an exemplary man by either standard, of noble family" and his "mother, a rebirth of Monmo Tashi Khyidren, descended from the family of Jangpon Dopal. He refers to h is birth as the "way in which this body...arose like a magical illusion as the miraculous appearance of compassion for beings of the present time of degeneration" (2005:30). The record of his memory of "the eight months of my stay in my mother's womb" whi ch he perceived as "a palace of crystal, and could see and know everything surrounding us, such as a discussion of the provisions and yaks my Uncle Chopak was going to take on his journey to Central Tibet" (2005:31). In this way he relates his aristocrati c
53 background at the same time he claims to be a blessing for beings of this degenerate age. His memories of awareness in the womb would suggest supernatural abilities, including a sharp memory that would seem to undermine claims he has made elsewhere. Do rje notes, "I was vaguely aware, in a childish way, of many past, present, and future events; this gradually disappeared as I got older" (2005:31). This is actually a common theme in the autobiographies of many masters the special abilities one has as a child are lost over time due to defilements, not being taken seriously, or other circumstances beyond their control while dependent upon others. Also, as a child he "continually saw Yogyal and the other spirits of [his] area; they were extremely protect ive of [his] family" (2005:33). Even for Dorje, having the favor of local spirits is important. An interesting anecdote occurs on page 36 (by this time he is around the age of sixteen) when he records a dream in which Datrul Rinpoche appeared to him i n the sky and taught him a "wondrous" meditation technique. "When I subsequently asked him about this in person, he said that there would be benefit in my meditating on and teaching it" (2005:37). Two paragraphs down (we can assume that, at the very leas t, a few nights have passed) he writes about Datrul Rinpoche's visit to Surmang in order to bestow novitiate and full monastic vows, which Barway Dorje's tutor tells him to take. Barway Dorje writes, "I privately asked Rinpoche what I should do, given tha t I was of a passionate disposition and had the tendency to discover treasure" (2005:37). The translator (Yeshe Gyamsto) provides an endnote to explain that it is customary for treasure revealers to marry. Datrul Rinpoche replies to Barway Dorje that "th ere would
54 be no contradiction in my taking monastic vows at that time, and that he would see about the future'." In the next paragraph Dorje mentions that "As my sister, Dechen Chodron, was the predicted treasure consort of the precious great revealer of treasure, I presented her to him" (2005:37). In this section, Dorje enters into a system of exchange with Datrul Rinpoche (later referred to as the Terchen) that begins with Dorje recognizing the Rinpoche's special ability to appear in other peoples' dre ams to give instruction, and reporting his dream to Rinpoche in waking life. Later on, when the Rinpoche comes to Dorje's residence at Surmang, Dorje confides in him his special affinity for treasure discovery. The Rinpoche reassures him that for time be ing, taking full monastic vows would be acceptable, and that the future was an open question. At this point it appears that Dorje offers his sister to his guru as part of an exchange perhaps also to strengthen ties to the guru via family bonds. After this he and his guru are much closer, enjoying the father son type relationship that characterizes most descriptions of feelings between a guru and a disciple. But the mutual exchanges continue. In the following passage he states "Through the noble Terc hen's blessing, I remembered a few of my previous lives, and was able to properly perceive his qualities. I felt the joy of a son reunited with his father; our minds became as one" (2005:38). It is as the Terchen recognizes Dorje's connection to importan t figures of the past that Dorje becomes able to recognize the Terchen's special qualities.
55 Something that surprised me, while reading this work, was the amount of recounted anecdotes have to do with Dorje failing to live up to ideals and compensating fo r it in some way. The following passage provides a prime example: When I was painting the murals at the newly built Dechentse Hall at Surmang, I became extremely drunk one night and rested the next morning. I knew that my painting assistant, Chokro Ajik thought badly of me, so I painted a depiction of the noble Milarepa, as accurate a rendering of what was in my mind as a reflection in a mirror, in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea. This mural later became famous as having been miraculously paint ed by me (2005:39). Another sensitive topic that Dorje speaks of frequently in his autobiography is his use of consorts. The following passage relates how he was first given permission to rely on a woman for tantric practice: "One night, my body appe ared as the transparent form of the deity, and I saw, clearly and distinctly, the structure of the channels, winds, and drops. At times, the coming and going of my breath became unapparent and my penis was retracted into my body. Khenchen Dabzang Rinpoch e was at Karma Monastery then...He gave me progressive instruction and the permission to rely upon the body of another. In accordance with the command of both Terchen Rinpoche and Drupwang Tsoknyi, I took Zandrontso, a woman of good family, as my first co nsort, and practiced bliss emptiness" (2005:44). He presages the event with description of his mastery of his own body. He then relates the names of a few respected masters from whom he received both permission and insistence that he partake in this p ractice. The woman, of course, is of good family'. The manner of self aggrandizement is particularly strong in a number of passages. Over the course of two pages (most episodes of his inner life are related in a paragraph or two), he describes in great length a dream, replete with vivid imagery including a palace and various emanations of deities and demons. The dream climaxes with Barway Dorje's meeting with Guru Rinpoche, who bestows upon him the name "Palchen Traktung
56 Gaway Yeshe Dechen Barway Dorje ," Great Splendor Blood Drinker Joyous Wisdom Great Bliss Blazing Vajra. At the end of this dream sequence, Barway Dorje writes that he recounted it to Terchen, who indicated that "it had meaning" and so Barway Dorje' became his name at that point (2005: 47). This by way of stating that he received his name from Padmasambhava himself, related in a dream which he shared with the Terchen. It was a matter of the Terchen agreeing that this dream was significant that Barway Dorje attained his name. It is al so around this time that he, in accordance with Khenchen Dabzang Rinpoche's previous advice, takes as "a long term companion a young woman from Putsang" (2005:47). She "bore the marks of a dakini" and was named Celestial Lady' upon being given the vow of refuge (2005:47). A couple of paragraphs later, he remarks that In the Water Dog Year  a son was born to my companion. Datrul Rinpoche came, performed the ablution, and bestowed the name Karma Trinlay Palzang. The Terchen declared him to be a n incarnation of So Yeshe Wangchuk. Later, when Taklung Matrul Rinpoche came to Kham, he commanded me to found a family lineage, which I did. (2005:48). This long term companion', about whom little is related apart from her name, area of origin, and t he fact that she bore marks of a dakini' may have been something of a wife for Dorje. It is interesting to note how immediately after birth his son is recognized as an incarnation, and the Taklung Matrul Rinpoche retroactively commands him to found a fam ily lineage. At another point, he recounts another interesting drunken anecdote:
57 Because I was very drunk, I slipped on the rocks outside the practice cave. I stuck my hand out to brace myself against the outside of the cave, and left an impression of m y fingers and my mala in the rock, which everyone saw (2005:64). Next he writes that the "the water of accomplishment that had previously flowed to the left of the cave's front had dried up. I wrote the letter NAM on the rock with my saliva and the acco mplishment water subsequently started to flow again. On the day we were there, rainbow clouds gathered above the place and a rain of flowers fell. On the cave's right was a spring containing medicinal lime. In it, I saw for a moment a medicine goddess w earing a veil of white silk. I therefore think it would be good for physicians to take their lime from there" (2005:64). The above is just another interesting example of some of the small miracles that Dorje relates throughout his life. In another passa ge, he reveals his association with a powerful lay figure, which would have been common. He recounts going to Ga, where he "gave Sonam Rinchen, the son of a local ruler, extensive instruction on the channels and winds, and on generation and completion" (2 005:73). This young man "practiced in extreme secrecy and various signs of attainment arose," and whenever he encountered problems, Dorje "appeared to him either in a dream or in a vision and provided whatever guidance was necessary; his mind was at ease" (2005:73). Such a passage might serve a number of purposes: it first of all relates the name of a lay patron in the autobiography, which may in turn have enhanced this person's prestige and support. But it also shows Dorje's talent as a teacher; he is n ow donning instruction, as needed, in people's dreams just as his own guru had done for him initially.
58 Another important political figure, who bears but brief mention, is the Dalai Lama. One morning, upon seeing the Potala lit by the rising sun, he stat es, "I gained certainty about my dream of the night before, and the faith that the Dalai Lama, the Lord of Victors Trinlay Gyamtso, was actually Avalokite" (2005:87). At one point, his companion gives birth to "a boy with remarkable marks and signs," ( 2004:94) his third son. The identity of the companion is unclear that is, whether she is one of his long term or, by default, short term companions. Mention of the birth of the second son was brief and the date given for this event was off by ten years according to the translator's calculations and corroboration with other of Dorje's autobiographical works. But the third son's birth is interesting for the way in which he is recognized as a reincarnation: Terchen Rinpoche said he was the rebirth of N gedon of Lithang, and gave him the name Orgyen Kunzang Dorje. I came to think that he was an emanation of Lachen Gongpa Rapsel. Taklung Ma Rinpoche said that he was an emanation of Kawa Paltsek. Whoever's rebirth he is, he certainly isn't the rebirth of a donkey! This son of mine has accomplished benefit for the teachings and beings visible to all. I don't think more than that is necessary. (2005:94). This is an interesting attitude to take toward the naming of rebirths; not one I have encountered in other works. Another important aspect of Dorje's inner life is the frequency with which he meets local deities, in waking life as well as dreams. One such meeting might occur as when Dorje was on his way "to Sharda and was in Rongpa Palthang," and a "han dsome, well dressed young man gave [him] a small image of the Bhagavat Akshobhya made of bell metal" (2005:112). Dorje asked who he was, and "he pointed to the area of Gyam,
59 saying, I'm from up there.'" Dorje goes on to assert, simply, "He was the local deity Dhoti" (2005:112). In one passage, Dorje relates how because he and the leader of Nyatso were related on Dorje's father's side, Dorje "thought it would be beneficial" if this powerful figure became his patron. However, this man's "mind was turned against [Dorje] by a few laymen and monks, and it didn't happen" (2005:116). This underscores the continuing importance of family ties in winning patronage, although one's enemies may disrupt the possibility for banking on such relationships. There are also a number of seemingly random passages, as when Dorje states, "A patron gave me a blue yak. It died suddenly one night. Because it was the rebirth of a Mongolian bull, and might therefore have become vicious, it was liberated by the dharmapalas" (200 5:116). I am not sure what to make of such statements. Another passage returns us to Barway Dorje's womanizing. He speaks to an aristocratic woman, in a song spontaneously composed at their departing: "KYE HO! Listen, fortunate one! First, you were bo rn in a good family. Your birth is not inferior; you were born as a dakini. But then you were cast into the crowd of the worldly, And were somewhat corrupted by vulgar bewilderment. ... However, your actions were good; you are devoted to dharma. You met a holy, qualified guru. You tasted the amrita of instruction. You are fortunate to have met me (2005:119).
60 This song was meant to comfort the woman, distraught by Dorje's parting. Like most women he seems to have met, she was of noble family and was an exceptional woman a dakini. Her fortunate circumstances led her to an encounter with a qualified instructor. What is more interesting is how Dorje states that she was "an example of the almost fifty women of authentic family with whom [he] formed a phy sical connection" (2005:124). "I don't think you could say that my touch bestows liberation," he states, "but I always did my best to plant the seed of liberation in my companions. They all have engaged in the usual virtuous actions" (2005:124). Dorje s uggests that rather than merely engaging in self indulgent activities, he is doing a beneficial service for these women. It is likely that his actions were subject to critique, because he further explicates: As for my behavior in this connection, I was never uncontrolled in my thee gates and never cavalier or uncaring. I always applied, in my own experience, the profound secret instructions that came from that treasury of such, the mind of Orgyen Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa...I have no shame, in either the s ocial or moral sense, about having correctly put into practice what was taught me by both deities and gurus (2005:125). The term connection' is a technical term in Buddhist philosophy and psychology to "indicate the presence of a karmic link" (Lopez 1997:81). To be sure, it can also serve as a euphemism. Whether this was the translator's decision or Dorje's, however, is unknown. The context in which Dorje might form a physical connection' with a woman was not confined to tantric instruction. At one point, Dorje relates having a severe case of dropsy and states that his "medical attendant was a young woman of the Sharpo Kyangtsang family who eventually gave birth to a boy who bore unmistaken signs of being [his] son" (2005:197). He soon "received the prophecy that [the boy] was the
61 rebirth of a good lama of the Drikung Kagye, and an emanation of Namkhai Ningpo" (2005:197). Although this would technically bring his number of sons to at least four, he only recognizes three as legitimate spiritual a nd biological sons. This may be due to the manner of his relationship with the companion[s] who gave birth to these three. Near the end of the autobiography, Dorje seemingly out of nowhere gives a long and detailed description of some political even ts with the Chinese that were causing widespread anxiety. "At that time all of Tibet was involved in a great conflict. A great army from China was approaching Tibet, led by a general known as Yaktruk. He had conquered the eighteen districts in the eaas t and all districts west of them up to Black and White Khyungpo. Many of the greatest monasteries of Tibet had been sacked and destroyed. This large army from China had appeared in Ga, and many of the area's leaders had been deposed. Chingtu Rinpoche wa s forced to go there. I was extremely concerned, and sent my son Padma Tsewang with a scarf of greeting. When I had previously restored the stupa of Ridong, the protector Kugyal Shene gave me a piece of the stupa. I sent this offering to Chingtu Rinpoch e for the interdependence of political stability. He sent back a generous gift and his assurance that he was in no physical danger. From that time on, I was unable to travel and remained in retreat praying all day and night for the protection of all Tibe t and especially of our region. In particular, I performed the protection and reversal rituals of the Shvanas from my treasures and the forceful thread cross ritual of the White Umbrella. Signs of benefit were manifested" (2005:201). A master who migh t otherwise be above worldly concerns here shows a great deal of anxiety with respect to the political situation of Tibet. This passage also demonstrates the role of prayer and rituals in an attempt to offer protection for Tibet. Also interesting is a re lated passage in which Dorje states that "[s]ince the protector of the invaders from the borderlands was the god Maheshvara," he befriended this deity, in accordance with the prophecies of Guru Rinpoche (2005:202). He then "gained control of Maheshvara's vital force, and earnestly entrusted him with activity" (2005:202). Having become aware
62 of malicious spirits sent by "many non Buddhist siddhas" to destroy the Buddhadarma, he states that he won them over with offerings and "turned the curses back onto th eir originators" (2005:202). "This," he states "and the magic performed by other lamas affected Yaktruk, who was executed by decapitation" (2005:202). However, his "household experienced a great upheaval caused by the curses of barbarians" and his son Padma Tsewang "passed away at the age predicted by Taklung Matrul Rinpoche in his recognition letter" (2005:210). He entrusted the cremation and funerary services to his other sons Trinlay and Kunzang and a number of miraculous signs appeared, that it was "therefore certain that he had gone to the celestial realm" (2005:210). But he also notes that "[s]ome people criticized [him] for not officiating at the funeral services on account of the feast dance assembly" (2005:211). "But," he states, "it was not my intention to be callous or disrespectful. For one thing, the performance of the feast dance was the instruction of my gurus and deities; for another, I was definitely sent to Tibet by Guru Rinpoche for its benefit" (2005:211). This latter statement is expanded upon, in what appears to be a strong line of defensiveness. Since the "victors and their children cause their blessings to enter into those called lamas' for the benefit of their disciples," he notes, "it is the victors and their children who ca re for disciples through their guru" (2005:211). Therefore, he notes that it is "unfitting to doubt one's teacher. It is hard for anyone other than those with karma and good fortune to see their guru's qualities as they are, because we project our own fa ults onto others" (2005:211). The implications of these statements are that an insult to a lama is also an insult to victors and their children', and all of these people are
63 appearing out of compassion for disciples. Furthermore, those who see faults in their guru are liable to be normal people who are merely projecting faults onto this emanation. In addition to his anxiety over the political situation in Tibet, Dorje also relates his fear of and susceptibility to serious illnesses. In one passage, he notes that some people from his area had gone on a pilgrimage and contracted the "black pox," which they brought back with them. "Before anyone had become aware of it," he noted, "it had spread, and at least nine people, including the infant son of a woma n from the Sharbu family, had died. We all become afraid" (2005:217). But again, Dorje turns to practice this time, the "giving and taking with concentrated bodhicitta" to turn things around (2005:217). He then falls ill, but says that from the time h e "became ill, twenty one men and women who were suffering...began to recover, and the epidemic ceased. It seems you could say that I actually took upon myself the suffering of others" (2005:217). Despite the misfortune that befalls Dorje, he recognizes his actions to have been effective in helping others. But after this point, Dorje now advanced with age remains weak from illness. The rest of his autobiography is his preparation for death. He makes note of the accomplishments of various individual s in his retinue, including Kagyu Tashi, the editor. He gives advice to everyone around him. At one point, he notes his refusal to give empowerments and transmissions to a high standing lama, Gar Rinpoche, claiming that although he "wished to fulfill his request, [he had] never dared to designate as inheritors of [his] dharma persons of high standing on that basis" (2005:221). But this is after he had noted that Gar Rinpoche had been instructed by other high lamas to meet him, but
64 "had been too busy to do so" (2005:221). In addition to elevating certain persons around him, he also makes sure to put down a particular individual. Tashi provides another section, "Virtue in the End," in which he recounts the final days of his guru. He describes Dorje' s calmness and confidence as he faced death, and recounts numerous passages of more advice that Dorje gave to his disciples and patrons before parting. It is a tender and respectful treatment of Dorje's final days. Tashi also writes down Dorje's instruct ions on how to find his next emanation. Dorje states that there "will appear one like the sun who will uphold this seat. Ask the Lord Maitreya, Tai Situ Rinpoche, to find him" (2005:230) and thus leaves the manner of locating his rebirth very unspecific. In a final song Dorje composed for his disciples, recorded in this section, he gives a reason for his own death: I, a yogin of space with nothing to do Am beyond birth and death in absolute truth. However, why should I not expose the hidden nature of th e composite? (2005:232) And so he suggests that although a being of his stature does not need to be concerned with worldly matters such as birth and death, he is demonstrating death as a lesson for others. Also, looking at the people he addresses in this song, he suggests that he may have intended this work to reach a relatively broad readership. He states: All you men and women of this vast land, Don't talk about how bad the times are Without seeing how bad your own behavior is! ... Rulers, don't do sh ameful things. Subjects, don't agitate improperly. (2005:232)
65 This may however have been directed at members of his retinue, among whom this work would have circulated more guardedly, to give them a sense of what Dorje felt to be proper behavior in contra st to what he observed. The autobiography comes to an end with a statement by Tashi in which he writes that this "illumination of the hidden aspects of the life of the sovereign lord of all families...was received by me, as the ambrosia of his speech, dur ing my repeated attendance at his lotus feet. I wrote it down as he spoke, starting in his seventieth year and continuing into his eighty third year" (2005:237). This may help to explain its flowing construction of anecdotes and passages that seem to mov e chronologically, with relatively few references to dates. But also, after some verses of homage, Tashi concludes the autobiography with an interesting message about the work: "May it serve to revive the memories of our guru's heart sons, who possess eye s of discernment as wide open as space. I ask that they therefore make any necessary corrections and then disseminate it widely" (2005:238). It is interesting that this work is open to editing by any of Dorje's heart sons', and widely disseminated, as it is alleged to be an inner' autobiography and reflective of his more personal meditative and spiritual advancements. Although this is speculation on my part, looking back I think it is possible that some of his students or other acquaintances took lib erties to slip in comical or otherwise image damaging anecdotes into this work. It would have been simple to do; especially owing to fact that books in Tibet were not bound; they were a set of sheets held together between two cover boards. One could eas ily slip in a whole new page. Furthermore, the
66 Seventeenth Karmapa states that only one handwritten edition of this work exists; because it was not block printed its form was not fixed for wide dissemination. This would explain a number of passages, usual ly shorter in length, that are hard (from my perspective, at least) to take seriously: In the Valley of Human Skin, I saw a huge human skin stretched out above the valley, but I didn't know what that meant (2005:83). At the Feast Vessel of Dakinis I saw, for a long time, a lot of women dancing (2005:83). I passed a boulder containing an obstructive spirit at Mokpu Pass. I harassed the spirit by urinating fearlessly on his boulder. On the way back, I noticed my handprint in the rock, made when I had lean ed on it while urinating (2005:134). Yeshe Tsogyal told me that at Darong Mountain of Fire she had concealed a treasure which, like a flint stone that can produce fire in an instant held the key to controlling the whole land. She said that if I extracted it, it could ensure the longevity of dharma in, and the stability of, all Tibet and especially the meditation colleges of upper Kham. However, I left it where it was, undecided of its true benefit (2005:134). These passages usually occur on the same pag e, as well. Of course, they are only a subtle departure from the copious amounts of eyebrow raising material that make up much of this autobiography. It is thus difficult to know for sure how much of Dorje's autobiography was actually recounted by him an d how much was inspired by him. Nor have I encountered any scholarship that suggests this sort of editorial tampering; however, there is also little in the way of literary studies of autobiographical materials to come out of Tibet, as most works are studi ed for historical data such as names, dates and events. But one could always go out of his or her way to justify the behavior of Dorje on any number of bases: he was, after all, an emanation body, and by default beyond the
67 judgment of normal humans. But there was also his own explication of Kagyu philosophy, related in Virtue in the End, in which he states: In brief, if you are aware that samsara and nirvana are like the front and back of a hand, you are a buddha; if you are unaware of that, you are a se ntient being. Therefore don't forget the nature of self arisen awareness. There is nothing other than this, nothing better than this, to be done (2005:229). Regardless, Dorje's continuing importance to Kagyu communities today is clear from the circumst ances of the autobiography's publication and availability in the United States. It is clear that many continue to uphold him as a true master. In fact, there is an interesting footnote in Dorje's final song. After Dorje says that "[b]oth central and out lying areas are tormented by war/ Now, when the destruction of the dharmachakra is near..." the translator adds a footnote that states, "This appears to predict the invasion of 1950" (Gyamtso 2005:251). A GEM OF MANY COLORS: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMGON K ONGTRUL THE GREAT, AND ACCOUNT OF THE ORIGINS OF LODRO THAYE, THE MERE REFLECTION OF A VIRTUOUS PRACTITIONER, WHO HAS UNBIASED AND NONSECTARIAN RESPECT FOR ALL TEACHINGS This work seems to be more autobiographical in the stricter sense of being written by Jamgon Kongtrul himself, from his introductory verses of homage to his concluding verses, and recounted from the perspective of someone reflecting on his development as he relates it. The work is followed by an editor's chapter, The Marvelous Gem Like Vision: An Account of the Passing and Funeral Observances of the All Seeing Lord, the Venerable Jamgon Ngag gi Wangchuk Yonten Gyatso written by Kongtrul's student Nesar Karma Tashi Chopel, who also edited the autobiography proper. Included with the
68 work is also The Mirage of Nectar: A fragmentary account of the past lives of Pema Gargyi Wangchuk Thrinle Drodul Tsal, a mere reflection of a renunciant, who had only three ideas in mind which was again penned by Kongtrul himself as suggested by the self e ffacing description. The three ideas in mind' translated from the compound Sanskrit term bhusuku, refer to someone preoccupied with eating (bhuj), sleeping (sup), and pottering around (kutim gata) (Barron 2003:468). Kongtrul obviously had more than three ideas in mind. He was a prolific writer and a proponent of the Rime movement, a nonsectarian tradition that, as Gene Smith described, tended toward simplification; finding the underlying commonalities so as to "eliminate many controversies that aro se through variant exposition of the same texts by different Tibetan exegetes" (2001:246). His enormous legacy in the form of his Five Treasuries an "extraordinary body of literature" which through compiling Kongtrul "ensured that teachings that might o therwise have died out have been brought back into the mainstream'" (Barron 2003:xxi). Kongtrul was promoting sectarian tolerance at a time of intense political conflict in Kham. The principality of Derge, in Kham, was the administrative and cultural c enter of a portion of Eastern Tibet, with a semi autonomous status under the central authority of the Dalai Lama's cabinet and some control over the surrounding regions, from which it collected taxes. Despite near incessant warfare among local chieftains, which even incurred Chinese intervention, Kham enjoyed a cultural renaissance during the nineteenth century. The driving figures of this were Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820 92), the principle figure of the nonsectarian Rime movement, and Jamgon Kongtrul, its most important figure besides. Khyentse, who claimed Jigme Lingpa among his previous
69 incarnations, figures prominently in this autobiography as both a mentor and student of Kongtrul. Kongtrul's autobiography is long and detailed rituals are describ ed at length, teachings and initiations given and received are duly recorded. Social conditions are described and commented on, especially with respect to the political intrigues and intolerance Kongtrul observed and encountered. He reports dreams and vi sions as well; his own development as a master, as well as the obstacles on his path, are laid out. If Kongtrul meant to offer this as a path to liberation, he is recording every step. If readings Kongtrul's autobiography seems like a task, editing it must have been much worse. This is the sense I got from the editor of the work. When editor Tashi Chopel says he "had hoped to compose this account as a fitting conclusion" to what refers to (at various points) as Kongtrul's "lengthy autobiography" (2003 :399). While he states that he received permission from three great masters, whom he names, he that this was reinforced by the learned Tsering Tashi, who served Lord Khyentse, and who impressed upon me the necessity of writing this" (2003:399). Chopel' s chapter fulfills the traditional role of relating the master's final days, reflecting on his life, and describing his funeral. But it is done with what seems to be a subtle irony that, if intended, would suggest that this section is meant to criticize t he master, not to praise him. For example, according to Chopel, Kongtrul had related his wish to live in solitude in the mountains, but was not given permission by a certain guru. He quotes Kongtrul as stating, "From that point on, people began showing up haphazardly in my retinue. This was due to some karma I accrued in the past, so there was nothing to be done about it. Now, of course, I have no choice but to look after them"
70 (2003:377). "This statement," remarks Chopel, "showed the scope of his condu ct as a bodhisattva, and those of us who have been part of his retinue know that we were extremely fortunate. So much for my somewhat parenthetical remarks" (2003:377). But before addressing any sort of conflicting image of Kongtrul that Chopel might be suggesting, it is necessary to examine the one that is developed in Kongtrul's life story itself. The rangnam progresses in chronological order, with dates or Kongtrul's age given frequently so that the reader has a clear sense of time. The work is stru ctured much like a diary in that respect; it is clear, even in the text, that Kongtrul had kept records and intended to write an autobiography. When Kongtrul was around thirty years of age, he says that he had "composed some verses which seem to be someth ing of an autobiographical statement, and so I have included these lines of verse here as an interlude" (2003:52). The autobiographical statement in verse' that follows gives a basic outline of his early life, and one that is revealing his emotions. It is also, importantly, the only point in which he writes in verse elsewhere he suggests his disdain for this kind of writing. While writing the biography of Khyentse Rinpoche, for example, Kongtrul states that "interspersing the text with verse would mer ely be the caprice of a poet, so it didn't seem to matter whether this biography contained them or not" (2003:247). He also bemoans the fact that his guru did not leave behind any records apart from a verse narrative, upon which the biography was based (2 003:247). In the Gem Like Vision Chopel writes that Kongtrul "took no pleasure in compositions with many verses and clever stylistic
71 flourishes" (2003:383). Upon instructing Chopel to write a letter, on his behalf, to another lama, Kongtrul had told him that "the letter...should be very fine, so write it with many pleasing verses at the beginning and end. This will be the fruition of the useful fact that you have no difficulty composing verses. Don't worry about formal meter, for none of you will be up to it" (2003:383). As for the "main point" of his own guru's life example, Kongtrul says: ...he seemed to me to be such an embodiment of the infinite and amazing that someone such as I couldn't possibly recount his life with complete accuracy. But it s eemed very important that the text be as detailed as possible, even though it was only form the viewpoint of what I had seen for myself. (2003:247). Kongtrul's awareness of the importance of namthar is placed in the opening of his own autobiography, in which he explains their importance in planting seeds of faith and leading disciples to liberation. In contrast, he notes that he has no "personal acquaintance with, or experience of, any qualities worthy of praise, in either a spiritual or secular contex t" to justify "the cost of writing this book," adding that whatever meritorious aims accomplished would at any rate "disappear as a matter of course" (2003:6). Nevertheless the "genuine traces" that form the basis of his account are "at least like the see ds of a lotus" (2003:6). And so he writes, at great length and detail, his life story. Kongtrul's "nominal father" was a lay Bon priest, and his mother was a woman of admirable qualities, who had even "recited the six syllable mantra Om mani padme hum on e hundred fifty million times" (2003:6). He tells us of the "legendary origins" of his clan, the Khyungpo, in detail (2003:7). Early on, Kongtrul was raised in the Bon teachings, but writes of behaviors and dispositions in his youth, observed by others as well, that would suggest an inclination
72 toward the Buddhist teachings: a result of past karma, no doubt. His attitude toward Bon is hard to surmise, though. While he extols the qualities of his Bon masters, and praises Bon among the teachings he seeks t o preserve, in his autobiographical verse he writes: ...by the power of the Three Roots from an early age my mind has inclined to virtue. Casting aside the way of Bon, I have entered the door of the Buddhist teachings. (2003:53) Later, in his travels he comes to the palace of Karsho where, Kongtrul notes, "I was very impressed when I looked over some of the one hundred or so Bonpa texts stored there, editions commissioned by the ruler of Throkyap, adding, "I saw clear signs of guardian deities surrounding them" (2003:69). Not only does he consider these texts valuable, the presence of guardian deities would support this. However, it is the Buddhist teachings that Kongtrul pursues. And in addition to a predisposition toward Buddhism, the violence of the surrounding area gives further impetus for him to leave home and pursue studies. He is urged by his mother, about whom he writes: So this old mother of mine, who was initially and fundamentally kind in giving birth to me in this body, also became a spirit ual friend who freed me from entrapment in the life of a householder in samsara and caused me to enter the door of Buddhism. This sort of kindness is very difficult to repay (2003:14). The frankness with which he relates much of his consideration for o thers comes through not only with respect to his mother, who shows up at various points in Kongtrul's life and is mentioned in brief references, but also with respect to the needs of the common people, for which he shows a marked concern throughout the tex t. In one instance: On the way to Lao Monastery, we were met by a woman carrying the corpse of her small dead son. She pleaded with Karmapa to pray for the boy, wailing loudly in her
73 distress. Taking pity on her, I performed the visualization for the tr ansference of consciousness repeatedly, and that evening wrote down some amazing observations of what was likely to befall the child's consciousness for three or four lifetimes to come (2003:33). A major theme running through this work is death. While a ll masters relate worries of longevity, and the Buddhist teaching to urge one to practice, as death may strike at any moment, in Kongtrul's work concerns of impending death are many: his dreams, especially in his youth, are replete with premonitions of dea th. In his thirties he notes: As I had had many signs of impending death previously, so there were many such premonitions about this time. I dreamed over and over of many women and of taking part in feat gatherings; since for the most part these were obv iously signs of my possible demise, I performed a ritual for cheating death. (2003:57) Kongtrul is constantly plagued with poor health throughout the work as well. At times, he accords his health problems to disorders of the humors, interference of dem ons or other evil spirits, or the ill will of others. At one point it is also pointed out by another lama, from a treasure text, that: There is mention of you being one of the successive rebirths of the great translator Bairotsana. Due to the karmic obs curation that Bairotsana incurred in bringing smallpox on Margyenma, that naga's influence is felt wherever that rebirth occurs, causing such afflictions as smallpox. Your eye disease is due to nothing but this; your eyes are affected by smallpox. (2003:1 01) Physical harm is threatened by ordinary humans as well. One point, also around his thirties, Kongtrul receives a "disturbing letter" from a person named Kuntrul, whom Kongtrul had never met, but had been expelled from Palpung by going against the edi cts of Kyabje Rinpoche. As Kongtrul was the official representative of Palpung Monastery, Kuntrul wished to "settle an old score," and set about establishing the support of the family of the chieftain of a different region before "inciting the chieftan's partisan faction
74 to raise an army, and by bribing several of the townspeople" as part of his plans to have Kongtrul killed and the rest of his party seized (2003:73). Luckily, Kongtrul is able to diffuse the situation over time, and even succeeds in appea sing Kuntrul with gifts. Another major theme running throughout this work is that of misappropriation of property, to which Kongtrul attributes most of his karmic obscurations. The sources of this misappropriation are not always clear, although at one po int as Kongtrul is about thirty years of age, and nearly impoverished, he notes that the Jadra clan provided his basic necessities and this was preferable to receiving support from his own monastery. "Although my spiritual master's staff at Palpung woul d have given me my salary and my share of the donations made to the general assembly of monks," he says, "I did not ask for a thing, and so the obscurations due to misappropriation were less from this time on" (2003:58). And as he noted in his autobiograp hical verse, he notes: I eat and wear only what is misappropriated from those living or dead. Even now, I sell the sacred teachings, gathering possessions through empowerments, oral transmissions, and instructions. (2003:55). Reflecting on some the fantas tic dreams of his youth he notes that later in his life, "such excellent dreams and visions have all faded away like clouds in the sky; this is certainly due to the influence of contaminated or misappropriated offerings" (2003:12). He adds that he once fa inted "outside the shrine of the protective deities belonging to the clan of the administrator of Rongyap, and dreamed of a gathering of many people, muttering among themselves. The year following this dream, the children of the administrator's family, wh o were brothers, had a falling out and the estate had to be divided" (2003:12). In such a misappropriation and contaminated offerings are related to
75 the conflicts plaguing the region, regarding control of property. But in another passage he notes that: Phulungwa, commander of the government forces, commended me on the service I had rendered the government, with my divinations on behalf of his troops being so accurate and my attention to the ceremonies he required of me over the months being so meticulous By way of compensating me, he conferred on me the deed to the nomadic pastureland in the region of Pa Ok Tsetru, both the main tract and some smaller plots. For some time these had been the property of whoever was strong enough to take them, but now la y unclaimed. (2003:142) He is careful to describe the circumstances by which he came into possession of this and other valuables; he is also attentive to details of proper distribution of materials throughout his autobiography. But this passage may be re ad as either a defensive statement, to allay critics, or more critically suggestive of hypocrisy. The number of non material exchanges, as those that take with other lamas throughout the work, are interesting. When the Nera clan needed a particu lar ritual performed and requested Kongtrul's participation, he was unable to go and sent another master, Kyater, as his representative. Kyater later wished to meet Kongtrul's guru, and asked Kongtrul to "help him by sending a letter of introduction" (200 3:100). Kongtrul does, reflecting that "Kyater was a person of such fine character and other qualities...quite unlike other people, so I felt that he might be a terton" (2003:100). Although he had "had a terma called Lotus Ushnisha ," he "had no letters o f authentication, nor had he composed any works of his own" (2003:100). Barron notes that highly realized lamas would customarily be asked to write letters to verify the authenticity of their termas or teachings, in order to allay suspicions (2003:334). So Kongtrul asks his guru to "examine the situation," whereupon his guru confers
76 empowerments upon Kyater, sends Kyater to request empowerments and teachings from Kongtrul, and Kongtrul in turn requests ritual ablution and an empowerment from Kyater (2003: 100). At one point Kongtrul enjoyed private audience with the Karrmapa, and states, "I offered him an account of my activities as a terton and he was most impressed" (2003:114). He also observed the Karmapa "perform the ceremony of wearing his crown, whi ch brings liberation on sight" and requested of him "a copy of secret prophecies that he had written down in his own hand" (2003:114). In one instance we also catch a glimpse of Kongtrul's attitude toward the Dalai Lama, with whom he did not have any sort of close relationship. He writes: About that time Phunrapa, the governor of Nyarong, received an order from the Dalai Lama in central Tibet saying that either my lord guru or I had to come to Lhasa to carry out the preparation of precious pills', which involved the refining of mercury. Phunrapa insisted that I be the one to go, which upset me very much and even made me physically unwell. I respectfully insisted that I be excused from this duty, but felt that the governor was not going to relent. Just then word came from central Tibet that the Dalai Lama had passed away, at which point all discussion of this project naturally came to a halt. (2003:179) The Twelfth Dalai Lama, Thrinle Gyatso, passed away in 1875 at approximately 20 years of age; he wa s one of the four "notably short lived" Dalai Lamas of the 19 th century who were suspected by many, including later historians, to have been victims of poisoning (Kapstein 2006:160). But what Kongtrul is relating is his relief at having been excused from preparing the prestigious precious pills', no other concerns, apart from the relentlessness of the governor, are expressed. Kongtrul's lack of confidence, expressed at various points, manifests itself in his tendency to eschew major projects on account of his unworthiness, or to undertake them only with explicit directions from a guru.
77 It was not until the Fire Rat Year of 1876 1877 that Kongtrul, around the age of 63, is actually recognized as a lama. It was during this period that Kongtrul was first summoned to Derge to direct the construction of a stupa of great power' there. In preparation, he requests a number of teachings from his guru and from another lama received authorization for a particular practice in addition to, importantly, his "forma l investiture as a lama" (2003:181). This is to suggest that it was conferred upon him in order that he be able to undertake such an important government project. The stupa of great power' was a significant undertaking as some masters had received prop hecies regarding the need to erect it. "In more recent times," states Kongtrul, "malevolent spirits had gathered in increasing numbers there, until the road was impassable due tot he great disturbances people encountered there" (2003:184). While the Derg e government had repeatedly sent orders that Kongtrul oversee its construction, it was in the following Fire Ox Year that an escort arrived to take him to Tsezuldo and Kongtrul obtained "detailed instructions from [his] lord guru on the entire procedure fr om start to finish" (2003:184) and he finally set out. He writes: Masters and students, together we performed a ritual based on the Vajrakila, beginning with the taming of the site, the exorcism, and the ritual dances. We made a lhasang offering to esta blish harmony and an offering of a golden libation, and performed a ritual to bind gods and demons to their oaths of allegiance. We sought out the power center of the site, where we laid out the diagram of the serpent Mahoraga, buried the treasure vase, a nd so forth. We then prepared he chakra diagram and other necessary articles. As for the spirit stones for the demons who are harbringers of foes, death, ruin, discord, and broken samaya, these needed to be sought in the four cardinal directions and in t he center of the area. All the psychic impressions I had of where to find these proved to be accurate, which gave me confidence in our endeavor (2003:184). In such a way, he might not only record important ritual details, but also engender the reader's confidence in his abilities. Around this time he also records a number of
78 magnificent dreams, and is visited by two dakinis that give him "many prophecies encoded in symbolic language" (2003:186). They reappear later to tell him of an important terma "c oncealed to the east" and upon awakening, he notes that he could recall details about the terma clearly, as well as an impression of his guru (Khyentse Rinpoche) giving him prophecies and explaining the meanings of symbols on scrolls; he also "many mental images of the region where the terma was concealed and the hidden teaching itself" (2003:186). He then shifts directly back into details of his outer life: he speaks of ceremony held by the Queen of Derge, empowerments given "in private for the aristocrat s" and public, and a group ritual, stating that with "all of this...everyone saw the whole of Mesho valley filled from top to bottom with rainbows" (2003:187). Following this, he began a personal retreat in which, the very first night, he dreams that: Or gyen Rinpoche himself, taking the form of my lord guru Khyentse, showed me a volume of yellow pages on which many columns of symbolic letters were written. He opened the book an explained the symbolism of the whole work to me, beginning with an instructi on on how to chant the Seven Line Prayer. Although I had many other significant dreams, I did not record them. During this time there were many shimmering white rainbow clouds... (2003:187). Here he is echoing the kind of visionary experiences I hav e already explored in Jigme Lingpa's work: the appearance of a guide, disguised as someone else. In this case, he is drawing a connection between his guru and Padmasambhava, from whom he is given explanations of revealed text. The work thus shifts betwee n more secret and outer levels. Editor Chopel remarks in the Gem Like Vision that the secret level "can be ascertained from the few passing references in his extensive autobiography" to visions, prophecies, and other experiences that Kongtrul "tends to me ntion as though they were simply dream images" (2003:374). Not only is he shifting between inner and outer levels
79 of experience, he is also alternating from expressing a lack of confidence toward his undertakings and writing clear demonstrations of his co mpetence as a practitioner. Kongtrul he goes on to note that he "also had some meditative experiences," and writes: For example, at one point, I found myself entering a large stupa, only to be told that due to harm inflicted by an injurious earth spirit th ere was a flaw on the southwest corner of the lowest step; if the view and philosophy of the Jonang tradition were restored to its former glory, I felt, the stupa would have no such flaw. In a similar vein, someone who appeared to be a scholar read to me from many writings that discussed the need for the respective systems of other philosophical schools to be preserved just as the founders had envisioned. (2003:187) Throughout this life story, Kongtrul's inspiration to collect and preserve the Buddha's t eachings come from his own philosophy, as well as urgings from his contemporaries and not infrequently the divine; in this example, visionary experiences. Not only does Kongtrul record his own dreams, he records in detail dreams related by other individ uals that concern him. At one point he writes of one of Khyentse Rinpoche's dreams, which this guru had related to him out of concern for his safety. Khyentse Rinpoche had dreamt of a statue of Padmasambhava, whom a woman had told him was identical to Ba irotsana, housed in a chapel that exploded into fragments. In another dream, Khyentse Rinpoche meets with another lama, Zhechen Ontrul, whom he consults about the meaning of the previous dream. Ontrul warns him that it was sign that Kongtrul would face a real crisis in the next year and advises that Kongtrul go into strict retreat for a year, focusing on deep practice, especially that of The Lotus Distillation (2003:199). This is to show the interesting manner in which lamas consult one another, and drea ms and sometimes, one another in dreams, as Ontrul had been dead at the time
80 of this experience. It is by the inferred meanings of such dreams that individuals guide their lives: Kongtrul does go into retreat, after seeking another lama to divine an app ropriate location (2003:200). In the beginning of the autobiography, Kongtrul quotes a certain Garwang Chokyi Wangchuk, (whom the translator was unable to identify definitively) in his skepticism of the many people in whom "there is no integration of in ward practice, outward deportment, and the qualities which arise from these" and relates it to how the "Buddha said, Only I, and those like me, can gauge the measure of an individual'" (2003:5). Accordingly, Wangchuk states that for all those whose outwa rd deportment suggests corruption, "I maintain only an appreciation of the sacredness of their circumstances, and I will not offer any criticism" (2003:5). This is the same attitude Kongtrul adopts throughout this autobiography. But it is held in tension with his pronounced disdain for sectarianism, regarding which he is highly critical, although he does not point to specific individuals: In particular, in these latter times there are many who, while they themselves do not act forthrightly and do not have a pure spiritual outlook, still speak of the relative superiority and inferiority of different Buddhist traditions, or the relative purity or impurity of different lineages... To say nothing of other traditions, they are full of meaningless suspicions and resistance concerning even their own traditions, like the proverbial skittish old yak that causes himself to shy (2003:86). The editor certainly made a point of this and other such tensions in his chapter, in which a number of contradictory elements of Kongtrul's life are brought into the fore. And at a point when editors usually relate the miraculous achievements of their masters that the masters themselves have left out of their autobiographies, Chopel writes that
81 Kongtrul had a cat that lived with h im, and, being very fond of it, made an offering and performed a ritual to guide the animal's consciousness when it died. He notes Kongtrul's confidence that the cat "achieved a fine human rebirth" (2003:375). Chopel notes: Because in the ultimate sense Kongtrul Rinpoche actually dwelled on a level of advanced spiritual development, there should be no need to consider such trifling spiritual experiences, visions, and omens. But I am discussing them, without exaggerating anything, as some small means of nurturing faith in the minds of us spiritually immature people who are preoccupied with things of this world. (2003:375). This might be another of Chopel's ironic statements. Chopel's treatment of Kongtrul's final days also seems irreverent. He write s of how Kongtrul, when advanced in age, was continuously falling ill and recovering. This process is drawn out, rather than simply being an account of frailty and death. He also includes how "for many days from morning until night [Kongtrul] regaled his attendants and others in his retinue with countless and varied stories of the religious and secular histories of India and China, from early times until the present day," some of the topics he speaks in length about, and to whom (2003:379). Once Kongtrul has finally passed, Chopel describes, in detail reminiscent of (or mocking) the style of Kongtrul himself, the carrying out of funeral rituals and the construction of an exceedingly lavish stupa in his memory. But the detail that stuck out to me was unde r the section about Kongtrul's tomb, when the editor mentions a young woman named Ayudharma. He writes: By way of showing her gratitude, the young woman Ayudharma, who had been an attendant of my lord guru, demonstrated her noble and altruistic motivatio n by sponsoring the offering of a garland of one hundred lamps every day during nine days of the commemorative rites to her guru, as well as
82 sponsoring one hundred thousand repetitions of The Aspiration to Noble Conduct' (2003:390). The translator's ex planation is lengthy, and quite interesting: he admits that this woman may have been a consort for Kongtrul, for whom, as a fully ordained monk, "to associate even socially.... was something that scandalized members of his retinue, who tried to prevent the woman from having private audiences with their master. This is only one example of the way in which spiritual masters can find themselves at the mercy of those around them! It is possible that Ayudharma was this consort" (2003:405). It is interesting, not only that she is mentioned but also in connection with The Aspiration to Noble Conduct This, I feel, is another example of the editor's means to destabilize our image of Kongtrul. Chopel states, My lord guru was definitely someone who exemplifi ed the incredible conduct of a spiritually advanced being. I am not exaggerating or misrepresenting things because he was my guru; it will be clear to anyone with intelligence whether or not I am relating what was actually the case (2003:378). As Chopel 's chapter draws to a close and the narrative becomes more reflective of Kongtrul's over contributions to the teachings and his widespread influence, it takes a tone of what seems to be genuine admiration for this figure. Looking more carefully into Kong trul's own concluding remarks, it seems as though the same sort of ambiguity is at play in his work. After praising the Buddha's teachings, and his good fortune to have been able to encounter them, he writes: Such circumstances seem practically impossibl e ever to find within the bounds of samsara, but even though I have enjoyed them, due to the powerful influences of my karma and past aspirations, as well as the fact that my personal freedom has been sacrificed for others, I have not truly been able to ap ply myself to the essentials of spiritual practice in the way that I intended. Instead, I have been
83 distracted by an uninterrupted process of projects activities that I never intended to pursue. Nevertheless, from an early age I have, as a matter of co urse, rejected things of this world. I have not been given any title as some great incarnation. I have not been burdened with the effects of unintentional misappropriation incurred by anyone overseeing a monastery. I have had no need for any such activi ties, but rather have, up to the present, strived solely at positive and spiritual activities. (2003:252). This segment should be read carefully. It is followed by the statement, "This is the very essence of what someone's biography should contain, and up until my thirties I had not been affected by any misappropriation of support offered by the faithful or offerings made on behalf of deceased individuals," before Kongtrul goes on to discuss how the karmic obscurations have weighed down on him over time and his negative habits have become more prevalent. He then describes, based on the teachings, the four ways in which moral failings occur and notes that due to such flaws, he himself is dreading a lower rebirth, for which he feels destined. In the next section, he goes on to give extensive lists of his accomplishments in the three spheres of activity erudition, renunciation, and projects (2003:253). Another fundamental aspect of Mahayana Buddhism, which might be pertinent to this work, is the principl e of the four reliances that His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama describes as crucial to the hermeneutic approach of distinguishing between those scriptures held to be interpretable and those held to be definitive (to be read literally). These four are: relia nce on the teachings, not the teacher; reliance on the meaning, not the words that express it; reliance on the definitive meaning, not the provisional meaning; and reliance on the transcendent wisdom of deep experience, not on mere knowledge (His
84 Holiness 1995:25). This is a means by which one draws out the implicit meanings of a text. It seems likely that Kongtrul was aware of the contradictions in his own life and text; as a writer himself, and someone who had read and composed numerous biographies, th e composition of his own autobiography would have entailed a number of conscious decisions on his part of what to include and what to leave out. It may have been that he sought simply to record everything, as it was, without discrimination, as a means of conveying a more honest portrait of himself and reflect on it or perhaps as part of a challenge for disciples to read the text more critically. I would suggest that Kongtrul intended for such a critical reading. This would have been innovative on his p art: at least, no scholarship has suggested, and nothing else I have read, would indicate that rangnam are meant to be read in a way that so thoroughly destabilizes the image of the guru. Chopel's addition to the text could also be seen as an extension of his master's project, which would explain his own ironic stance toward Kongtrul that combines and ends with a fully reverent treatment of him. There may be a number of other interpretations; my concern here, as it has been throughout this thesis, is simpl y to explore possibilities that might best account for the intelligence and creativity of individuals. Finally, in the last section entitled The Mirage of Nectar Kongtrul's own accounts his past lives and treasure discoveries are in large part similar to what has already been related in the text. He does not profess to remember his past lives, but rather offers a history of those individuals whom others have insisted are his previous
85 incarnations. Barron notes that the emergent themes in Kongtrul account s of his past lives are "those of tolerance, intelligent investigation, and a commitment to the authentic principles of spiritual development" (2003:xxi). As for his treasure discoveries, these are more like a condensed version of what he had related thro ughout his lengthy autobiography. This work would have served as an additional source of information about and perhaps authentication of his past lives and present discoveries.
86 CHAPTER IV: DISCUSSION In this thesis I elected to provide historical background material on Tibet prior to exploring the autobiographies themselves, in order to provide the reader a broader sense of the context in which these individuals were writing (or dictating) their life stories. But in fact, autobiographi cal materials such as those I have examined here have long been rich sources from which many historians of Tibetan culture have drawn upon for their understanding of pre modern Tibetan society. Tibetan historiographies and autobiographies are mutually inf ormative. Kapstein, for example, reflects on the yogin Shabkar's autobiography (an example of a classic rangnam ) as it extends beyond its religious and literary dimensions into such aspects of early nineteenth century Tibetan life with "the author's remar ks on pilgrimages, on the donation and redistribution of wealth in connection with religious affairs, on brigands and thieves, and occasionally on politics" as an invaluable glimpse into "a now vanished world" (1996:ix). Professional anthropologists have made a number of contributions to Tibetan cultural studies. Ethnographic research into Tibetan society has flourished since the 1960s, with fieldwork concentrated on ethnographic Tibetan areas of the southern Himalaya such as Ladakh and Nepal, or focused on interviews with refugees, and was carried out primarily for the purpose of reconstructing a model of Tibetan society as it existed prior to the Chinese invasion of the mid twentieth century (Shakya 1999:xxi). Consequently much of this work emphasized a static, isolated Tibetan society, focusing on small communities more distant from international developments (1999:xxi). More recently, ethnographic studies of Tibetan societies have centered on the common
87 anthropological themes of how individuals negoti ate elements of tradition and modernity, construct notions of authentic' Tibetanness and other issues addressing the sweeping cultural changes following the invasion. Other ethnographic studies have been criticized for overemphasizing the role of Buddhi st doctrine in the interpretation of ethnographic Tibetan social forms (Ramble 1980; Huber 1998). This is the case for Sherry Ortner's otherwise remarkable work on Sherpa societies in Nepal throughout the 1970s, in which she employs practice theory to gai n insight into social forms and practices of Sherpa communities. Human agency, in her work, is informed by "key scenarios" or "cultural schemes," which are: preorganized schemes of action, symbolic programs for the staging and playing out of standard soci al interactions in a particular culture... every culture contains not just bundles of symbols, and not even just bundles of larger propositions about the universe ("ideologies"), but organized schemas for enacting (culturally typical) relations and situati ons. (1989:60) In her work, Ortner had not focused on those crucial issues of power in shaping "key scenarios" themselves. Attention to power relations is critical to understanding how Buddhism, originally a foreign cultural system, came to be adopted an d propagated in Tibetan society to begin with and the extent to which it replaced, shaped, or was shaped by Tibetans. The autobiographies, as well as knowledge of the historical contexts in which they were written, enable one to begin reconstructing wha t might be seen as a Tibetan Buddhist cultural scheme, but better understood in terms of Raymond Williams' (1977) description of hegemony. Rangnam are part of a privileged glimpse into the ways in which Buddhist ideals might have interpreted and negotiate d by historically situated individuals; it is here that they had their most powerful expression in the lives of Tibetans, who in turn came to shape them.
88 A Marxist cultural theoretical framework, as articulated by Raymond Williams provides a useful fra mework for understanding Tibetan Buddhist culture, and autobiographical writing as a practice within it. To begin with, it provides a useful sense of hegemony that goes beyond a definition of culture as a whole social process' by an insistent recognition of inequalities in power and influence. Hegemony' also takes us beyond a sense of ideology', which is often generalized as a set of meanings, values, beliefs, in a relatively formalized, articulate, if not abstract system (1977:596). The concept of h egemony' does not exclude this formalized system developed and propagated by dominant classes but rather than equating it with class consciousness, understands it as it exists within the wider whole of experienced reality; as organized in a lived syste m of meaning and value. As Buddhism was assimilated into Tibetan society, it enjoyed a hegemonic status in all its active, formative, and transformational processes, in addition to its limitations. For the hegemonic, while by definition dominant, is nev er total or exclusive. The active hegemonic process is not a "simple transmission of an (unchanging) dominance" but one that is engaged with alternative and oppositional forms that may threaten its dominance. In Tibet, a major shaping force of the expre ssion Buddhist hegemony comes from "residual" cultural elements, those that have been formed in the past but remain active parts of present cultural process. As Williams explains, such elements are fully incorporated into the dominant culture, or in the c ase of those "experiences, meanings, and values" that "cannot be expressed or substantially verified in terms of the dominant culture," nevertheless continue to be lived and practiced and may maintain some level of
89 alternative, oppositional relation to the dominant culture (1977:605). The autochthonous religious practices of Tibet those rituals and practices intended to regulate relationships between humans and a dense population of local gods and spirits could be understood largely as fully incorporat ed, residual elements. Also included may be divination and categories of ritual practice that involve the expulsion of various types of evil forces, including disease, ghosts, inclement weather, war, and even gossip. The adaptation of such rituals for Bu ddhist use may vary according to local tradition and sectarian differences; however it is the content, not the broad general principles, that is at variance (Kapstein 2006:211). Other residual elements reflect the central motifs of early Tibet that stres sed the sacred character of dynastic rulers in a divinely ordained realm, as well as the hierarchical divisions of society that were entailed. These monarchs ruled over chieftains representing different clans the primary identifying characteristic of an y individual from early time (Kapstein 2006:15). As Buddhism was established, notions of divine kingship found a new expression in the good Buddhist ruler; societal divisions could be justified on the basis of previous karma that determined one's lot in l ife. But clan based ancestral lineages resided sometimes in tandem with and sometimes in a more uneasy relationship with lineages based on transmission of Buddhist teachings depending on whether they were in competition with them, allied with them, or c oincided with them. These alternative and oppositional forms of the hegemonic system may be made within or against a specific hegemony; those irreducible to its terms may be considered independent. Williams notes that it "can be persuasively argued that all or nearly all initiatives and contribution, even when they take on manifestly alternative or oppositional
90 forms, are in practice tied to the hegemonic: that the dominant culture, so to say, at once produces and limits its own forms of counter culture" (1977:599). Because of the different lines of transmission that provided the basis for different schools, Buddhism was able to maintain its hegemonic status by encompassing a number of divisions within a common body of instruction and tradition. Alrea dy much of this may be explored in the content of the rangnam I was struck by the extent to which the subjects' worlds were populated by local spirits and divinities, and the time and energy masters devote to maintaining proper relationships with them th rough propitiations and other rituals. Much of their personal power was illustrated by the extent to which they were able to effect changes in their surroundings to bind wily spirits to good behavior, to bring rain, improve health, and so forth. They p rovided their services in these areas to individuals of all strata of Tibetan society. As these masters were representative of the cultural elite, these elements would an integral part of an elite form of Buddhist practice not just common features of an uneducated peasantry. The rangnam I examined were also, to a great extent, concerned with issues of lineage and sectarianism. The subjects identified their ancestral roots even though it was part of the worldly life they sought to renounce. But of prima ry concern were their lineages based on Buddhist teachings not only to reflect their participation within a particular transmission of teachings, but also against a backdrop of sectarian conflicts. In particular, this is reflected in the work of Kongtru l in which he actively condemned sectarianism and promoted his Rime approach. Dorje's work also exhorts against
91 sectarianism even though it actively promotes the Kagyu sect. In all cases, respect for the teachings was encouraged on the basis that they all came from the Buddha, after all. A hegemony may be understood as a "more or less adequate organization and interconnection of otherwise separated and even disparate meanings, values, and practices, which it specifically incorporates in a significant cul ture and an effective social order" (1977:600). Rangnam is tied to one of the key elements of this process of incorporation: tradition. As an "intentionally selective version of a shaping past and a pre shaped present," tradition is a powerful part of th e "process of social and cultural definition and identification," an active process of connection with a particular past that provides historical and cultural ratification of the contemporary order. (1977:600). Rangnam is first of all part of a long sta nding tradition, extending back to India of relating the life story of an enlightened being meant to inspire adepts. In the act of writing or dictating, autobiographical subjects were forging a meaningful connection to a Buddhist past through their very person. They placed themselves in the ranks of highly attained spiritual beings, assuring members of the Tibetan cultural world that these beings continued to emanate among them, and providing a guide for the path to liberation. It also served as a mean s by which links to the past were forged through lines of transmission of Buddhist teachings; the autobiographer and his or her tradition in the present were situated in relation to a glorified Buddhist past, sometimes by way of prophecies handed down by f amous Tibetan Buddhist historical figures themselves (in particular, Padmasambhava).
92 But the nature of autobiographical writing has important implications for rangnam as tradition. As Gyatso has noted, the "unique and unrepeatable qualities of the aut hor that are represented in autobiography are permeated with culture, politics, psychology, and even the body, all of which elude the systematic consistency to which ideology aspires" (1998:211). Engaging the past as historically situated individuals, and putting forth an exemplary life story accordingly, the autobiographers had considerable leeway to not only ratify the social order but also to shape it. To the extent rangnam were traditional, and thereby past and present oriented, they were also futur e oriented, as the others meant to leave a legacy of their own their exemplary life. Rangnam were conduits for conservative change: within a hegemonic Buddhist context, authors of rangnam did not aspire to undermine or challenge any of the overarching bel iefs or power structures nor did they even flout the formal stylistic conventions of the genre. Rather, they set out to promote new teachings, revive old ones, or enhance their own reputations (it would ultimately benefit themselves and their lineage). In a context in which the social "order' was marked by competing factions within a Buddhist hegemony, rangnam was uniquely suited as a medium in which tensions could be addressed. Rangam also allowed for a more creative route for the transmission of Budd hist teachings received in dreams and visions from past buddhas, growing increasingly important over time with respect to those teachings discovered and decoded with the help of dakinis. The influence of any particular rangnam on Tibetan society was lar gely a matter of the status of its subject, which in most cases was a prerequisite for writing one to begin with. Writers of rangnam would have depended on their consociates other masters who
93 are often mentioned in the texts before being able to conve y the extent of their connection to past masters and particular teachings, laid out in descriptions of prophecies, visions, and extensive information on these past lives. But the claims of these masters were not uncritically accepted; and this has been ma nifested in various means of masters' defense of the validity of their accounts. Status was contested, and might be played out in the tensions between Buddhist ideals like the understanding of one's teacher as a buddha, versus the hermeneutic principle of the acceptance of teachings based on their merits, not those of the teacher. Where the authenticity of teachings was called into question, it was on the basis of revealed terma in which case it was not the validity of terma in general, or the ontologic al status of dakinis that was at issue. It depended on the status of the discoverer. Individuals, not fundamental Buddhist ideals, were at issue. Considering the figure of Ani Chokyi, whose celebrity status was a localized phenomena, status was not simpl y a matter of connections among monastic hierarchs and lay aristocrats; it was also informed by importance to the local populations, and how the figures met their needs as well. Both the symbolic status and the social status of the figures should be taken into consideration with respect to how the individuals' life stories were influential, as well as how that played out for members at different levels of Tibetan society. In Kongtrul's autobiography, for another example, editor Chopel records how "ordinar y men and women gathered like clouds massing to have their individual needs met" with various levels of empowerments, instructions, transmissions to guide the consciousness of the dead, "or even something as simple as an exorcism, a blessing with the hand, or an audience" (2003:397).
94 Individuality and Author ity Throughout this project I have referred to the subjects of the autobiographies as individuals. This is the sense Jane Fajans distinguishes between the "person as a bounded entity invested with specific patterns of social behavior, normative powers, and restraints, and the individual as an entity with interiorized conscience, feelings, goals, motivations, and aspirations" (Krupat 1992:210). The Tibetan autobiographical subjects are characterized by a marked interiority; their inner worlds are the basis for inner and secret autobiographies, and even in the outer works, dreams and visions receive an extended treatment. In his study of Native American autobiography, Krupat found that Native America ns tended to construct themselves as persons, rather than individuals, reflecting a trend amongst most of the world's (non Western) peoples (1992:210). According to Krupat the "egocentric individualism associated with the names of Byron and Rousseau, the c ultivation of originality and differentness, was never legitimated by native cultures," in which autonomy of the individual was most often subordinated to communal and collective requirements. Like most scholars unaware of Asian literature, he understands autobiography as a European invention marked by "egocentric individualism, historicism, and writing" (1989:29). The individual of Tibetan rangnam often mirrors that of European origin, although the notions of egocentrism in the two cultures are informed b y vastly different philosophical systems. Ideally, the authors of rangnam would be highly realized beings with an understanding of the self as an illusion, and ego clinging as the source of so much suffering. But the extent to which the subject conveys self aggrandizing egotism for its own sake as (s)he advertises the mastery of Buddhist
95 practices, or whether this is an integral part of an overriding didactic purpose, is a judgment call on the part of the reader. As the rangnam I have studied in this th esis would suggest, there is variation, and even the members of a master's own retinue might be critical of his projected self image. Individual variation, nuances of translation, and the fact that it takes a buddha to know a buddha must all be taken into consideration. What Krupat referred to as Indian autobiographies had "no prior model in the collective practice of tribal cultures" and were produced in collaboration with "some white" who ultimately determined its form. As rangnam were part of a traditi onal genre, with little in the way of outside cultural elements (apart from those which had been adopted by Tibetans) they were nevertheless part of a collaborative effort, and not just in reference to the aid of dakinis who inhabited a different plane of existence. The extent to which rangnam were ensconced in tradition has implications for notions of authorship as well. As Foucault has noted: ...a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, bu t not an author; and similarly, an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a soci ety. According to Krupat, American Indian discourse "until very recently, has been notoriously lacking in its possession of named authors" (1989:10). The author in European and Euramerican culture developed in tangent with the individual. By the eight eenth/nineteenth centuries the author ity of the author stresses original creation, his work "derives not from his predecessors and their productions, nor from his contemporaries and theirs, but, instead, from his personality, his imagination or, arriving
96 at the ultimate mystification, from his individual genius which transcends the society that would seek to constrain it" (1989:11). Native Americans, on the other hand, lacking the same sorts of individualism, private property, and writing were also lackin g the same sort of author. The Native American variant on the author function was one in which narrators, in a voice at once individual and collective, "not only convey' but comment, adding, deleting, and supplying emphases that alter as well as merely r eproduce the already given" (1989:15). Apart from how rangnam may be dictated to a disciple, and more often than not edited by one, the derivation from the particular individual is a key feature. But the overall responsibility for the text does not easi ly correspond to conventional Western European notions of authorship, nor its absence thereof, as with Krupat's Native Americans. The originality and individualism are likely to be manifest in the illustration of particular, awesome qualities that set the capable guru apart from his contemporaries, or the particular circumstances he or she wishes to address. The manner of detailing the life story, and the stylistic flourish with which it is done, leave plenty of room for personal style. But ultimately th e autobiographical subjects are transmitters of Buddhist teachings, even if they have filtered them through their own life example. The template for a life story couched in introductory verses of homage, a humble statement of intent, and the general con cept of a narrated path to liberation are all traditional features, and intertextuality is common in works that seek to corroborate with other teachings. Moreover, portions of the individual's life may be prophesied by other buddhas, or consist of discus sions with dakinis and thus have an altogether other worldly origin. A
97 major portion of a given rangnam then, might not be originated by the subject but this is what gives it its significance. That the rangnam is recognized as categorically separat e from namthar is an important recognition of the autobiographical subject as more directly responsible for relating the story, as a direct link between a sacred past and the (degenerate) present. The authors do not serve as originators of doctrine and pr actice, but exemplary transmitters of it part of a "great chain of masters who receive faithfully the teachings from those before them and convey compassionately to those coming after them" (Robinson 1996:57). The attribution of authorship to these figu res is the reassurance that highly realized beings continue to emanate among Tibetans, to instruct and guide them in ways suited to their needs. What is important is not a matter of how they have stood out against the world, but the manner in which they h ave appeared in it and upheld the Buddha's teachings. Subjectivity and the Tibetan Experience Notions of authorship can may be explored in relation to other works in the Tibetan corpus. Even the rangnam examined in this thesis masters have alluded to a number of their other works: from Jigme Lingpa's Longchen Nyingtig and other commentaries to Jamgon Kongtrul's celebrated Five Treasuries Works composed as commentaries or syntheses of Buddhist teachings, revealed or not, had authors in recognition of t he great mind responsible for its generation. But the autobiographical subject figures importantly as the author of the rangnam because of the way in which rangnam not only relates teachings, but characterizes experience as well. Rangnam may
98 be closer in this sense to works of the Tibetan poetic tradition that spans works rooted in indigenous Tibetan culture to later Indic forms. Roger Jackson writes that "neither the Buddhist doctrine of no self' nor some mythical Oriental' subjugation of ego has e ntailed the elimination of a distinctly subjective, autobiographical point of view" from poetic forms that relate "direct, personal reports of experience and claims to attainment, whether secular or religious, physical or psychological" (1996:377). Nyams mgur or songs of experience, make up a relatively small portion of the Tibetan poetic corpus but contain a disproportionate number of its most popular poems. This poetic tradition relates, on the most personal level, the spiritual experiences of individu als in terms of both the obstacles of a deluded mind or the attainments of positive progression on the path to enlightenment (1996:383,384). Comparing nyams mgur with the poetry of "modern Westerners," Jackson points out: Just as modern poets faithfull y reflect the central, if not universal, concerns of their culture, e.g., the individual's quest for meaning and certainty in an ambiguous world, so Tibetan poets have faithfully reflected their culture's normative, if not universal, concern: the ind ividual's relationship to the attainment of enlightenment (1996:384,385). Jackson contends that this type of poetry does not represent a narrow range of human experience, as might the "religious poetry" in modern Western European cultures. Rather it c ontains a wide range human experience expressed in relation to the central concerns of the culture. Given the potential for relating all experience and phenomena, "no matter how conventionally insignificant," with respect to the ultimate reality of emptin ess, individuals are indeed able to bring a broad spectrum of experience into a meaningful context (1996:385).
99 In Tibetan poetry one does not find "subjectivity conceived or expressed in exactly the same way" as that of Western European cultures since t he rise of Romanticism (Jackson 1996:377). The same may be said for rangnam in relation to autobiographical works of the Western literary tradition. And just as the widely celebrated nyams mgur speaks to the important experiences of Tibetan culture in su ch a way as to go beyond the "religious poetry" of Western traditions, so too does rangnam go beyond "hagiography." As I have explored in this thesis, the range of concerns reflected in rangnam are such that these works are a valuable glimpse into Tibetan Buddhist culture as it was actively negotiated by some of its visionary beings. In the contemporary world, these stories continue to take on meaning as paths to liberation by expanding the range of possibilities for being in the world and writing about i t, for connecting with the past to shape the present and future. ...a person is always several people when he is writing, even all alone, even his own life Philippe Lejeune (1971:235) ...I thought, I have been struck with the spiritual i nstruction of the dakini.' The impediment of not being able to write disappeared, and I wrote. Ani Chokyi (in Schaeffer 2004:132)
100 CHAPTER V: POST INVASION AUTOBIOGRAPHY On October 6, 1950 the Communist Chinese government launched a full sc ale military invasion and occupation of Tibet ((Shakya 2008:61). From this point forward, liberation' took on a different meaning for Tibetans, as Communist China invaded Tibet to liberate' Tibetan serfs and turn their exploitative, feudal society towar d modernity. The new political and administrative control of Tibet was coupled with "Tibet's first encounter with the modern world specifically, an engagement with a technologically advanced society imbued with a modern and materialistic ideology" (Shaky a 2008:61). It was also marked by immeasurable violence and oppression. In 1959, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, disguised as a layman, finally fled to safety in India with his entourage. He was followed into exile by some 80,000 100,000 Tibetan peopl e that would go on to create a diaspora community that now spans India, Nepal, Europe, and the United States (Cabezn 1996:12). Within Tibet, widespread cultural destruction continued, becoming most severe during the Cultural Revolution (1966 76), as the C hinese "emphatically denied the existence of a separate Tibetan identity," suppressing all aspects of Tibetan culture as they imposed "total uniformity on culture and lifestyle throughout China" (Shakya 2008:62). It was not until the death of Chairman Mao and the rise of new leadership in the PRC, under Deng Xiaoping, that this assimilationist policy was abandoned in favor of greater cultural autonomy for minorities. Tibetan Buddhism was also revived, having been suppressed for twenty years (2008:64). Ti betans gained a somewhat greater degree of freedom of cultural expression, so long as it did not take any form that might be
101 perceived as a call for Tibetan independence or autonomy, which to this day can result in imprisonment. Tibet prior to the invasio n had great inequalities power monopolized by a small elite class of aristocrats and various religious hierarchs. But this would still serve many as the foundation of an idealized Tibetan past, after the devastating effects of Chinese policies that "res ulted not only in the destruction of monasteries, temples, texts, and works of art, but also in the death of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans" (Lopez 1998:8). Studies of rangnam generally exclude those Tibetan autobiographies written after the events of the Chinese invasion. Since the sudden and tremendous cultural changes that Tibet has undergone, Tibetans now write autobiographies that speak to different audiences, from different parts of the world, with different visions of a Tibetan past, present, and future. Often they speak through others, of other languages and cultures in the form of as told to, transcribed, or ghostwritten accounts. Central to many contemporary works are the events of the invasion, the hardships and losses suffered in flight t o exile, endurance of torture and imprisonment, and life as dislocated individuals as they seek to garner support for the cause of Tibetan independence and create records of pre invasion Tibetan culture. Others focus on the ways in which individuals have found contentment in the modern world. I have counted approximately fifty autobiographies that have been written by Tibetans since the 1960s, for the most part directed at Western English speaking audiences. By no means are these representative of the ran ge of voices and perspectives of Tibetans within Tibet, China, or exile who are negotiating identity and language
102 through the medium of autobiographical writing. After reading a number of these, as well as studies on the changes in post invasion Tibetan l iterature, it became clear that there would be too much variation to account for in the scope of this thesis. This neglect of contemporary Tibetan autobiographies is not owing to a lack of interest on my part; it is due to the difficulties I would encount er in approaching a study of what is now a wide and varied range of autobiographical material, and giving each work the attention it deserves. I encountered one autobiography The Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom: the Life Story of Kalu Rinpoch e (1985) that had all the features of a traditional rangnam But there may be countless other ways Tibetans are writing life stories intended to inspire others along a path to freedom, spiritual or otherwise, adapted to the contemporary situation. I can only hope that readers continue to engage the works of these individuals and those of any culture, for that matter with an appreciation for the sacredness of the human life described in its pages.
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