Gdams ngag mdzod Research Department Report

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The website you are currently viewing is a detailed catalog of the 1999 Shechen Printing of one of Jamgön Kongtrül's (1813-1899[1]) "Five Treasuries", The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod). The catalog, referred to as the "DNZ," is a database of information covering the eighteen volumes of the Shechen edition, including detailed information about each text, such as size, location, lists of people associated with each text, lineage data, lists of translations available, and comparisons with previous catalogs. All colophons, text titles, and author names are recorded in both Extended Wylie and Unicode Tibetan. The following discussion is an introduction to the various prints and catalogs of the gdams ngag mdzod, including statistics from the database and a discussion and report on the contents of the mdzod as a whole.

The gdams ngag mdzod is available in three printings:

  • Gdams ngag mdzod Kundeling Printing - W21811 - Published in 12 volumes in Delhi by Ngawang Gyaltsen and Ngawang Lungtok, 1971-1972. There were a few texts and pages missing from this edition.
  • Gdams ngag mdzod Dilgo Khyentse Printing - W20877 - Published in 18 volume pothi format in Paro, Bhutan, 1979-1981. This contained several of the rare texts missing from the Kundeling printing.
  • Gdams ngag mdzod Shechen Printing - W23605 - Published in 18 pothi volumes produced in 1999 under Tsadra patronage. This is the most complete and contained the few missing pages and texts that had been found since the 1979-1981 version. Produced in manuscript.[2]

In a 1993 publication of a catalog of the Paro edition of the gdams ngag mdzod Dan Martin writes:

The Gdams-ngag Mdzod has already been catalogued in the following publications:

Helmut Eimer, Tibetica Upsaliensia: Handliste der tibetischen Handschriften und Blockdrucke in der Universitätsbibliothek zu Uppsala, Almqvist & Wiksell International (Stockholm 1975). This is a title-indexed catalog of the Gdams-ngag Mdzod, Shes-bya Kun Khyab, and Bka'-brgyud Sngags Mdzod collections of Kong-sprul, acquired by Toni Schmid in 1962. The names of the authors of the individual texts of the Gdams-ngag Mdzod are not supplied. The order of texts within the volumes of the Gdams-ngag Mdzod differs from that of the reprinted versions. The author has carefully compared the contents of the Uppsala and the 1971-2 reprint versions.

Karjam Atsen,[3] Sgrub-brgyud Shing-rta Chen-po Brgyad-kyi Smin-grol Snying-po-rnams Phyogs Gcig-tu Bsdus-pa Gdams-ngag Rin-po-che'i Mdzod-kyi Dkar-chag Rin-chen Bum Bzang (=Gdams-ngag Rin-po-che'i Mdzod-kyi Dkar-chag Rin-chen Bum Bzang; =Gdams-ngag-mdzod Catalogue Rin-chen Bum-bzang, Kagyudpa Catalogue Series, vol. 1), Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology (Gangtok, Sikkim 1990) in xxiv plus 218 pages. Lists titles, authors and numbers of pages, in both Tibetan script and Roman transliteration. Introductions are in both Tibetan and English. At the end are indices of authors, titles and subjects.[4]

Since that time an outline of the Paro edition was created at TBRC and another claiming to be for the Shechen edition was also published online at The Shechen edition follows almost exactly the Paro edition, and the previous catalogs of the Paro edition were essential to the creation of this catalog of the 1999 Shechen edition. At the time of this writing there are still unanswered questions about the differences between the two editions, although it is thought that there are a few missing pages and short texts added that were not in the Paro edition but nothing of any real consequence in terms of size.[5] The specific pages and texts have yet to be identified.

As a survey of the gdams ngag mdzod has been compiled by Karl Brunnholzl for Tsadra Foundation already and another catalog has been created recently by Richard Barron, this report will summarize those findings and supplement them with statistics from a complete catalog of the gdams ngag mdzod, created by the Tsadra Foundation Research Department durring the months of May, June, July and August of 2010. This report will also review some of the problems with cataloging the gdams ngag mdzod and describe Tsadra's catalog in some detail by referring to the Gdams ngag mdzod DPL, a set of sortable tables of information pertaining to the catalog.

The 18 volumes (ཀ་ through ཚ་) of the gdams ngag mdzod are divided into nine sections corresponding to the "eight great conveyances that are lineages of attainment" (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad)[6] plus a volume of Jo nang pa texts and two volumes of assorted khrid yig. Thus we are presented with (in order) two volumes for gsang sngags rnying ma, two volumes for bka' gdams, two volumes for sa skya lam 'bras, four volumes for mar pa bka' brgyud, two volumes for shangs pa bka' brgyud, two volumes for zhi byed and gcod yul, and one volume for both dus 'khor and o rgyan bsnyen sgrub, rounding out the eight lineages. At the end (volumes 16-18) we have two more volumes of khri skor sna tshogs (assorted texts of instructions) and then one final volume shared by the jo nang khrid brgya and the dkar chag (catalogue for the whole mdzod) and brgyud yig (lineage of transmission).

Prior to research done by Tsadra Fellows and the Tsadra Research department, catalogs of the Shechen and Paro editions of the gdams ngag mdzod record 392 or 393 text titles.[7] However, upon further inspection, many of the "text titles" listed are simply section headings. Previous outlines and catalogs are sometimes simply giving page numbers for sections of volumes that contain many texts. At times this is obvious, as when the "title" is simply an indicator of several topics. However, other sections give only the title of the first text, leading one to assume that the text listed is perhaps fifty folios long, when in fact there are ten other texts found in that page range. The previous catalogs all, for obvious reasons, base themselves on the dkar chag-s given at the beginning of volumes that start major sections of the mdzod. However, the dkar chag is not always completely clear. For instance, in volume 13, "text 2" is supposed to have a set of ten texts inside of it, but looking at the pages themselves it is not clear where these start or end or who authored them. Furthermore, there are texts in the volumes that are not listed in the dkar chag. For an example see the Sdig sbyong man ngag, which was initially listed as spanning pages 96-187, but in fact contains many small texts, most of which would have been missed in our catalog if not for Thupten Jinpa's translation work, appearing in Mind Training. We continue to find more texts, and at the time of this writing, we have identified 91 more texts than those listed in the TBRC outline. The total number of texts can be estimated, at this time, to somewhere just short of 500. Texts range from 1 page to 157 pages and vary greatly in content, less so in terms of formatting. Most pages contain 7 lines each uniformly across all volumes. There is an average of 267.83 folios per volume, with the largest volume being number 12 (་ of the shangs pa bka' brgyud) with 387 folios and the smallest being number 6 (ཆ་ of the sa skya lam 'bras) with 212 folios.

Cataloging Process

The Tsadra Foundation Research Department chose to catalog the Shechen edition of the gdams ngag mdzod using MediaWiki software. This allowed for unique web pages to be created easily for each text in the mdzod and collection of metadata about each text to be streamlined and standardized. The catalog is based on the earlier efforts of those who outlined the Paro edition of the gdams ngag mdzod: TBRC's outline, Richard Barron's catalog of the mdzod, Dan Martin's 1993 catalog, Ringu Tulku's 1999 catalog, and Karl Brunnholzl's Survey of the gdams ngag mdzod. Karma Lekshay Ling's website and an outline of the Shechen edition published electronically on were also consulted. The metadata collection process was loosely based on the work done on's Tibetan Canons Project, which catalogs several versions of the Kangyur and Tengyur. Following their lead, we endeavored to produce "deep cataloging" of each text, which includes recording the colophons, describing the pechas, recording average number of lines, the print on left and right sides of recto and verso, and so on. Each volume of the gdams ngag mdzod was analyzed and each text title found was recorded in both Tibetan script and Wylie transliteration. Along with other titles found in the dkar chag's at the start of each volume, colophons and information pertaining to the classification of each text, pagination, and line frequency were recorded in both Wylie and Tibetan script. Citations for each text were created, along with a host of other bibliographic data, which can be searched easily on the gdams ngag mdzod DPL page. Where possible, persons associated with the text were recorded, also in both Wylie and Tibetan script. There is a unique webpage outlining the whole of the Shechen edition, a page outlining each volume, and two pages for each text, one for the Tibetan Script of the text and one for the cataloging information, which includes both Tibetan script and Wylie transliteration. Along with each of these, comes a host of browse-able categories of information, including author lists, translators, and scribes that allow you to see all the texts associated with a particular person in one place. We continue to attempt to record lineage data for texts when given in the colophon and list other people associated with the text, either as donors or requestors.

Three catalogers with graduate level knowledge of Tibetan worked for four months on the project, although not all catalogers were full time and several weeks of vacation time were taken during the period. They made use of the Shechen edition of the gdams ngag mdzod downloaded from Marcus Perman designed and directed the project and Tim Walton and Adam Krug diligently poured over each text and entered colophons and other pertinent data into the templates created in MediaWiki. Research continues to be done, but we should note that particular use has been made of Cyrus Stearns' Luminous Lives and Taking the Result as the Path, Sarah Harding's Machik's Complete Explanation and Esoteric Instructions, as well as Thupten Jinpa's Mind Training: The Great Collection and The Book of Kadam. Colophons and titles were recorded in Extended Wylie and in Unicode Tibetan script, with illegible or misspelled words footnoted. Persons identified in the text as creators, translators, editors, etc. were recorded according to the spellings given in the texts, with their more commonly known names given (when known) in parentheses. The system set in place required the creation of unique web pages in both Tibetan script and Extended Wylie for all people and texts. Where authorship was unclear or contested, reference to the above mentioned texts, surveys and outlines was pursued. Questions and issues for further research were collected and organized by area of specialty in the hopes that Tsadra Fellows and other scholars could be consulted. The Unicode Tibetan text was kindly donated by Nitartha International and will be added as each text is edited and checked for errors.

One of the most difficult issues facing a catalog of this kind is classification of texts in terms of topics or subject headings. Each lineage of texts has its own indigenous classification system such that even if one where to classify a particular text as "khrid yig" (guidebook or instruction manual) the meaning would not necessarily transfer across volumes within the gdams ngag mdzod. Each of the lineages represented has its own system of subclassifications and genres and so one can only repeat Kapstein's note: "Because all of the traditions mentioned above have generated abundant literature devoted to their own distinctive gdams ngag, including both texts immediately concerned with the details of practical instruction and systematic treatises that attempt to formulate the distinctive perspective of a particular gdams ngag tradition in its relation to Buddhist doctrine broadly speaking, it will not be possible to attempt to survey here the extraordinary volume of materials that are illustrative of these many differing traditions."[8] In order to introduce some order, the classification scheme used in the texts themselves, as recorded on the left and right edges of the pechas of texts in each volume, was used to provide scholars with some sense of the content of texts. One can easily browse these here: A sortable table of the contents of the gdams ngag mdzod. Richard Barron also attempted to introduce order by classifying all the texts in terms of three categories: instruction manual, empowerment manual, and liturgy. Of course, many texts actually include some of all three. The difficulty in classifying Tibetan texts in general was attested to at the recent IATS Seminar (2010) in which a whole day's panel was devoted to the discussion of genre and the fact that many Tibetan texts fit in several genres at once. In any case, all texts were also cataloged using Barron's system, again simply to give at least a hint of organization to an otherwise vast and unwieldy assortment of texts.

In a best case scenario, one would need a specialist from each tradition to catalog each section of the mdzod, because only those scholars would be able to untie the knots of complexity that are the provenance of each text. Although at first glance it appears that most texts in the mdzod have clear title pages, the fact is that many texts lack both title pages and clear colophons ending the text. It is possible that some texts escaped the notice of Tsadra catalogers because they may have had little or no heading at all to signify their start or end. However, the main issue encountered by catalogers of the mdzod was the lack of clarity in the dkar chags and colophons and difficulties arising from attempts to detail the authors and contributors to the texts. While the first text in a volume might be obvious, the next might simply provide a list of lineage holders at the end without comment as to who actually composed the text. Many texts have no colophons at all and in those instances, other specialists have to be consulted as to the author's traditionally attributed. Furthermore, some texts are well known to scholars and there is debate as to who actually composed the text (which was noted in the catalog when found). Our small group of three graduate level Tibetologists were simply not up to the task of divining the information for some of the texts in the mdzod. However, the overall benefit of the current catalog is that it far surpasses any other catalog in detail, and also provides a space for each text and each section to be examined by anyone who wishes to study the content of the mdzod. We have also managed to pull together a partial list of translations of texts in the mdzod. Furthermore, the catalog is an editable document, one that specialists from the field can modify as needed. Publishing the catalog as a wiki allows for collaboration that should overcome any mistakes and problems in the catalog over time. There is even space in the wiki for discussion of each text and it is hoped that people might use the catalog itself as a place to start research, discussion, and translation of texts in the gdams ngag mdzod. Furthermore, this model, should it prove fruitful, is one that could be easily modified for use in future projects.

Marcus Perman
Director of Research
Tsadra Foundation

Overview of the གདམས་ངག་མཛོད་

Table Showing Relative Size of Volumes

Volume # Pages Folios Relative Size
Vol 1 478 239 14th
Vol 2 497 249 12th
Vol 3 544 272 6th
Vol 4 646 323 3rd
Vol 5 506 253 11th
Vol 6 424 212 18th-smallest
Vol 7 542 271 7th
Vol 8 486 243 13th
Vol 9 526 263 9th
Vol 10 552 276 5th
Vol 11 530 265 8th
Vol 12 774 387 1st-largest
Vol 13 454 227 16th
Vol 14 446 223 17th
Vol 15 626 313 4th
Vol 16 510 255 10th
Vol 17 470 235 15th
Vol 18 630 315 2nd

The 18 volumes in nine sections:

  • gsang sngags rnying ma
  • bka' gdams
  • sa skya lam 'bras
  • mar pa bka' brgyud
  • shangs pa bka' brgyud
  • zhi byed dang gcod
  • dus 'khor dang o rgyan bsnyen sgrub
  • khri skor sna tshogs
  • jo nang khrid brgya dang dkar chag brgyud yig

Comparison of Assorted Catalogs

This table presents the number of texts in each volume of the gdams ngag mdzod according to six different catalogs, three based on the Paro edition and two based on the Shechen edition, and one from (Karma Lekshay Ling, Nepal) that seems to be incomplete. The numbers in parentheses are the total number of texts in the volume including texts found "inside" of others (That is, where a volume's dkar chag only notes one text title but multiple texts are found). Numbers in bold are different from other catalogs. The catalogs are given in order of most texts identified.

Volume # Tsadra (Shechen) Dan Martin (Paro) Ringu Tulku (Paro) RyWiki (Shechen) TBRC (Paro) DharmaDownload
Vol 1 18 (23) 19 18 18 18 18
Vol 2 20 (26) 20 20 19 20 19
Vol 3 16 16 18 16 16 16
Vol 4 25 (46) 25 25 25 25 25
Vol 5 12 (18) 12 12 12 12 12
Vol 6 23 (29) 23 25 23 23 23
Vol 7 13 (34) 29 13 13 13 13
Vol 8 24 24 24 24 24 24
Vol 9 27 26 27 28 27 26
Vol 10 31 31 31 31 31 31
Vol 11 20 (31) 20 20 20 20 18
Vol 12 36 36 36 35 35 35
Vol 13 7 (12) 7 7 7 7 7
Vol 14 21 (26) 21 21 21 21 21
Vol 15 26 26 26 26 26 26
Vol 16 30 30 30 30 30 7?
Vol 17 29 (32) 29 29 29 29 29
Vol 18 15 15 15 15 15 15
TOTAL 393 (482) 409 397 392 392 365


  1. or January 1900
  2. Above notes and TBRC references provided by E. Gene Smith. Personal communication, January 25, 2010.
  3. At the time of this writing we have not yet had a chance to go through this entire work and check it against our catalog. If anyone reading this has access to this catalog please email
  4. Martin, Dan. A Catalog of the Gdams-ngag Mdzod. n.p.: n.p., 1993, pg 1.
  5. E. Gene Smith. Personal communication, January 25, 2010.
  6. Kapstein's translation.
  7. The exception is Dan Martin's catalog, which is more complete and follows the dkar chag-s very closely. However, at the time of this writing, we have not yet had a chance to go through this entire work and check it against his catalog.
  8. Ibid. 280.
  9. Martin, Dan. A Catalog of the Gdams-ngag Mdzod. n.p.: n.p., 1993, pg 1. The lineage of transmission of The Treasury of Knowledge (given by Ringu Tulku):
    1. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye
    2. 11th Situpa Pema Wangchog Gyalpo
    3. 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpai Dorje
    4. 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche Karma Dakpa Tenpa Yarpel Migyur Gocha Thinley Kunchab Palzangpo