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In his vast work The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gDams ngag rin po che’i mdzod), Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, that most eminent of Tibetan Buddhist masters, collected together all the empowerments, instructions, and practices of the eight great chariots of the practice lineages. Not only that, but he himself received the complete transmissions for all the practices, accomplished them including the retreats, and preserved them in his own mindstream. He then passed on the transmissions to his own students and all who requested them.

The Treasury of Precious Instructions exemplifies how Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye’s whole life was dedicated to teaching and spreading the dharma, whether it be sutra or mantra, kama or terma, old or new translation school, free of sectarian bias. Without his supreme efforts, many traditions of Tibetan Buddhism would have been lost.

The teachings of the Buddha have now spread throughout the Western world, and there is a growing need for major texts to be translated into English so that Western dharma students and scholars have access to these essential teachings. I was, therefore, delighted to hear that having successfully published a translation in ten volumes of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye’s Treasury of Knowldege (shes bya kun khyab mdzod), the Tsadra Foundation has embarked on a second major project, the translation of The Treasury of Precious Instructions, and I would like to express my gratitude to them.

May their work be of benefit to countless sentient beings.

His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
February 21, 2016

Translator's Introduction[edit]

The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gDams ngag rin po che’i mdzod) is the fourth of the so-called five great treasuries compiled or composed by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye (1813–1900), also known as Karma Ngawang Yönten Gyatso, among many other names. Kongtrul was one of the greatest Buddhist masters of Tibet. His accomplishments were so vast and varied that it is impossible to do them justice here. The reader is referred to an excellent short biography in the introduction to the first translated volume of another of his great works, The Treasury of Knowledge, or the lengthy Autobiography of Jamgön Kongtrul. Even if his achievements had consisted solely of his literary output represented in these five treasuries, it would be difficult to comprehend his level of scholarship.

Unlike The Treasury of Knowledge, which is Kongtrul’s own composition, his other four treasuries may be considered anthologies. Kongtrul’s stated mission was to collect and preserve without bias the teachings and practices of all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly those that were in danger of disappearing. The English publication of The Treasury of Knowledge in ten volumes and the forthcoming translations of this Treasury of Precious Instructions, in some eighteen volumes, can attest to the success of his endeavor, perhaps even beyond what he had imagined.

The Treasury of Precious Instructions is, in some ways, the epitome of Kongtrul’s intention. He first conceived of the project around 1870, as always in close consultation with his spiritual friend and mentor, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892). The two of them, along with other great masters, such as Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa and Mipam Gyatso, were active in an eclectic trend in which the preservation of the texts of Tibetan Buddhism was paramount.[1] It was with Khyentse’s encouragement and collaboration that Kongtrul had created The Treasury of Knowledge—his incredible summation of all that was to be known—and compiled the anthologies of The Treasury of Kagyu Mantra and The Treasury of Precious Hidden Teachings. This next treasury expanded the scope by aiming to collect in one place the most important instructions of all the main practice lineages.

Kongtrul employed a scheme for organizing the vast array of teachings that flourished, or floundered, in Tibet during his time into the Eight Great Chariots of the practice lineages (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad), or eight lineages that are vehicles of attainment. This he based on a much earlier text by Sherap Özer (Skt. Prajñārasmi, 1518–1584).[2] The structure and contents of that early text indicate that the seeds of the so-called nonsectarian movement (ris med) of the nineteenth century in eastern Tibet had already been planted and just needed cultivation. The organizing principle of the scheme was to trace the lineages of the instructions for religious practice that had come into Tibet from India. This boiled down to eight “charioteers”—individuals who could be identified as the conduits between India and Tibet and who were therefore the sources of the practice lineages, all equally valid in terms of origin and comparable in terms of practicum. This scheme of eight practice lineages became a kind of paradigm for the nonsectarian approach championed by Kongtrul and his colleagues.[3]

The Treasury of Precious Instructions implements this scheme in a tangible way by collecting the crucial texts and organizing them around those eight lineages. The very structure of the Treasury thus stands as a statement of the nonsectarian approach. With all these teachings gathered together and set side by side—and each one authenticated by its identification with a direct lineage traced back to the source of Buddhism (India)—maintaining a sectarian attitude would be next to impossible. Or at least that must have been Kongtrul’s hope. In explaining his purpose for the collection, he states:

Generally speaking, in each of the eight great mainstream lineages of accomplishment there exists such a profound and vast range of authentic sources from the sutra and tantra traditions, and such limitless cycles of scriptures and pith instructions, that no one could compile everything.[4]

Nevertheless, he made a good start in The Treasury of Precious Instructions, which he kept expanding over the years until at least 1887. The woodblocks for the original printing—carved at Palpung Monastery, where Kongtrul resided in his nearby retreat center—took up ten volumes. An edition of this is currently available in twelve volumes as the Kundeling printing, published in 1971–1972.[5] With the addition of several missing texts, an expanded and altered version was published in eighteen volumes in 1979–1981 by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Finally, in 1999 the most complete version became available in the edition published by Shechen Monastery, which is the basis for the current translations.[6] The structure of this enhanced edition, of course, still centers on the eight lineages, as follows:

  1. Nyingma (“Ancient Tradition”), volumes 1 and 2;
  2. Kadampa (“Transmitted Precepts and Instructions Lineage”), volumes 3 and 4;
  3. Lamdre (“Path with Its Result”), volumes 5 and 6;
  4. Marpa Kagyu (“Precept Lineage of Marpa”), volumes 7 through 10;
  5. Shangpa Kagyu (“Precept Lineage of Shang”), volumes 11 and 12;
  6. Zhije (“Pacification”), volume 13, and Chöd (“Severance”), volume ::14;
  7. Jordruk (“Six Yogas [of Kalāchakra]”), in volume 15; and
  8. Dorje Sumgyi Nyendrup (“Approach and Accomplishment of Three Vajras,” also called after its founder “Orgyenpa”), in volume 15.

Volumes 16 and 17 are devoted to various other cycles of instruction. Volume 18 comprises mainly the Hundred Guides of Jonang and also includes the catalog to the whole Treasury.

Pacification of Suffering[edit]

The Holy Dharma That Pacifies Suffering (dam chos sdug bsngal zhi byed) is really a general name that was applied posthumously to the diverse teachings and lineages that trace to the South Indian master Dampa Sangye (d. 1117), also called Pa Dampa (“father Dampa”) and Dampa Gyagar (“Indian Dampa”). Both the man and the teachings that now constitute this sixth practice lineage are remarkable, even among the many wonderful masters and their practice systems that found a home in Tibet. The name Pacification of Suffering is usually identified with the similar phrase that introduces the mantra in the Heart Sutra: “the mantra that utterly pacifies all suffering.”[7] Although certainly the same could be said for all the Buddhadharma, this attribution places Pacification firmly within the collection of sutras known as the Perfection of Wisdom, later classified as the second turning of the wheel of dharma. Dampa Sangye himself says in an early source text called The Lamp of Enlightened Conduct:

To beings tormented by suffering,
Explain immaculate, comforting pacification.[8]

Innumerable citations from Sutra and Tantra support this claim, but Kongtrul explains the distinguishing characteristic of Pacification:

Other teachings first refine away the cause [of suffering]—afflictive emotions—thus averting the consequence of suffering. In this [system], the result—suffering—is directly refined and afflictive emotions are uprooted as a natural consequence of that. These are extraordinarily profound methods.[9]

These profound methods, which are elaborated in the texts of this volume, involve the kinds of creative techniques one finds in the Mantra vehicle (vajrayāna), while still informed by the view and conduct of the perfection of wisdom. To reconcile that, it is often said, and sometimes argued, that these teachings are the perfection of wisdom that is in common, or consistent, with Secret Mantra.[10] For the less discerning eye, the teachings found here and in other sources are every bit esoteric vajrayāna.

Dampa Sangye was the beneficiary of an extraordinary array of teachings from enlightened beings as well as Indian adepts. Most generally these are categorized as four legacies or transmissions (bka’ babs bzhi), identified in the earliest sources. Thus he received teachings from twelve sugatas, twentyfour gurus of ḍākinī blessings, thirty-six gurus of the amazing lineage of the celestial realm, and fifty-four (or fifty-five) great adepts of India (mahāsiddhas).[11] These are found throughout the texts here, especially in the “Egg Trilogy” and the empowerments of the later lineage. So it is no surprise that he imported an enormous array of teachings from India that were passed on to his disciples in Tibet on his numerous visits. There is no consistent account of these visits, the number of which ranges from three to seven. Jamgön Kongtrul, Gö Lotsāwa, and others describe five visits, listing the exact geographical points of entry and exit for each.[12] Others, such as Dan Martin, the preeminent scholar on the subject, insist on “three sojourns” based on textual evidence. The subject is significantly complicated by the belief that Dampa Sangye was identical to the Indian scholar Kamalashīla (c. 740–795) (from his Indian name, Kamalashrī or Kamalashīla) as well as the Indian patriarch of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, Bodhidharma (late fourth to early fifth centuries). This gives him a life span of some 570 years, which is explained by his practice of “taking the essence” (gcud len). Not only that, it situates him on both sides of the legendary philosophical debate that took place at Samyeling (circa 797) between factions headed by Indian Kamalashīla on the one side and the Chinese Ch’an monk Heshang Moheyan on the other, arguing over the question of instantaneous versus gradual enlightenment. As a brilliant teacher of paradox and contradiction, Dampa would have loved that!

Another commonly accepted tale from Dampa Sangye’s journeys to Tibet is how he lost his original body. In one version, he comes across a dead elephant that was blocking a village access, and performed the consciousness transference of entering a residence (grong ’jug ’pho ba), walking off as the elephant. Meanwhile, a dark-skinned Indian adept named Dampa Nakchung, who had the same talent, animated Dampa’s beautiful abandoned corpse, leaving Dampa no choice but to inhabit Nakchung’s ugly one. On arrival in Tibet, he thus gained yet another name: “Little Black One” (nag chung).[13] There is so much more about this extraodinary person that could be imparted, but not here.

However many times Dampa did or did not visit Tibet, he was there long enough to impart a range of teachings that are traditionally counted in three transmissions of early, middle, and later (or last) (snga phyi bar gsum). The middle transmission is further divided into three separate successions, so there were five main lineages holding separate teachings, as well as three main minor lineages[14] and fifteen various instructions of the miscellaneous lineage. (The details of the five major lineages can be found in Dharmashrī’s extensive summary called Distilled Elixir in chapter 27 of this volume and in the translator’s introduction to it.) It is no wonder, then, that the difficulty of pinpointing what it is that “Pacification” actually refers to is so often noted. This difficulty inspired Jamgön Kongtrul to explain why each sojourn in Tibet produced such variety and yet overall coherence:

On all those occasions, [Dampa Sangye] would intuit the exact character and faculties of each individual and liberate them through a few appropriate instructions. Thus there is no single primary source or systematic tradition that one could ascribe to them all. Nevertheless, [we could say] that he principally based himself in the source texts Ālikāli Great River Tantra, Mahāmudrā Symbol Tantra, and others. The methods he used, consistent with his own life example, were the three levels of vows as the support, ascetic exertion as the path, and activities for the welfare of others as the fruition. Multitudes of beings possessed of the [right] karma—as numerous as the stars in the sky—were liberated into the state of buddha.[15]

Two Source Tantras[edit]

Segments of the Ālikāli Tantra are presented as the first text in this collection, while the Mahāmudrā Symbol Tantra is mentioned only as the source of specific quotations. As the sources of the tradition, however, they deserve a bit more attention here.

The Ālikāli Inconceivable Secret Great River Tantra is found in several collections, including the first volume of the Zhije Collection, volumes 92 and 125 of Bodong Chokle Namgyal’s collection, and in the first volume of the recent Dingri Volumes. It consists of twenty-four chapters in the form of questions and answers between Vajrapaṇi and the Buddha. The colophon reveals that Dampa Sangye himself played an intimate role in the history of the tantra. In fact, it seems that he may have been the author, or at least the scribe who recorded his visionary experiences. The overarching concern of the tantra is the vowels (āli) and consonants (kāli) of the Sanskrit alphabet and the benefits of repeating various combinations of syllables. The sounds themselves carry tremendous spiritual power without the need for lexical meaning, such as mantras have. Sound itself is seen as the essence of all phenomena (dharma), as well as that of the Buddha’s teachings (dharma).

In the teaching of the victorious sugatas of the three times,
the sounds of great earth, water, fire, wind, and space,
plants, forests, earth, stone, mountains, cliffs,
and all beings are saying the sounds of the teaching.[16]

These alphabetic practices hark back to both sutric and tantric practices of India, which use phonemes as mnemonic devices in a culture where writing down the mysteries was considered polluting, and they are still practiced today by certain Indian cults.[17] In these tantras, the sounds no longer carry mnemonic value as they did in certain sutras and dhāraṇī but are used purely for their supernatural powers, through repetition in various configurations.

Mahāmudrā Symbol Tantra, the Secret in the Hearts of All Ḍākinīs[18] is found only in Bodong Chokle Namgyal’s collection, though there are many other texts in the Pacification literature that bear the name of “mahāmudrā symbol” but are not the source of the quotations referred to in these texts as Mahāmudrā Symbol Tantra (phyag chen brda’i rgyud). This tantra consists of twenty-one chapters presenting basically the same message of alphabetical practices. In fact, three whole chapters are given over to the explanation of just the suchness of letters (yi ge’i de kho na nyid). The main speaker is not the Bhagavān Buddha but the Bhagavatī Buddha, mistress of the realm, surrounded by goddesses and ḍākinīs. She appears, but doesn’t. She says “a a a” without saying anything. She is a mystery. The interlocutor is none other than a certain “Kamalashrī,” which is not so mysterious, since it is Dampa Sangye’s Indian name. The last chapter and the colophon are very clear in giving an exact date, writing medium, and location. Spoken in the Year of the Pig, it would have been composed in 1107. Dampa’s monastery of Dingri Langkhor is named as the place, while he and Zhama Lotsāwa are the translators. It would be hard to argue that these are not, in fact, apocryphal tantras.

These tantras, plus the surprising use of alphabetical practice in the conferral of the empowerments,[19] give the impression that this was a crucial aspect of the teachings that Dampa Sangye learned in India and initially brought to Tibet. Such practices existed in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist tantric traditions in India. But very little of that is left in Tibet, as it seems to have gradually given way to other forms of vajrayāna practice. Dampa Sangye’s teachings on the specific subject were said to be contained in the elusive “Black Guide” (nag khrid) of the later transmission, which at present is not available as a whole, other than some warnings of the evil inherent in writing things down.[20] Still, this aspect of Pacification teaching remains a fascinating window into early India. Also see Essential Precious Segments of the Inconceivable Secret Tantra (chapter 1 in this volume) and its introduction.

Sources in the Tengyur[edit]

Although none of the texts in this volume is present in the Tengyur, Dampa Sangye’s contributions in it are substantial and should not be overlooked. The Tengyur, the translated treatises or commentaries (bstan ’gyur), was finalized by Butön Rinchen Drup (1290–1364) in the fourteenth century. The texts relating to the Pacification lineage are found mostly in two chunks in volume zhi of the Derge printing (Toh. 2315–2329 and 2439–2453). One lonely page, a short sādhana on Mañjushrī, Lion of Speech, is in volume nu (Toh. 2703), for a total of thirty-one. The first set consists of the nine “Lamps” (sgron ma), including the Three Lamps considered the early source texts of the first transmission of Pacification: the lamps of Conduct, Path, and Mind.[21] There is one instruction and the rest are short rituals, no longer than one page each, with the author listed as Kamalashīla or Dampa Gyagar (“Indian Dampa”), and the translator usually Jñānaguhya, the Kashmiri recipient of Dampa’s first transmission.

The second set consists primarily of spiritual song (mgur) or “expressions of realization” (rtogs brjod) from the deities and great adepts of India. Here, those purported sources are sometimes listed as the authors. For instance, the twelve sugatas are the “authors” of the first anthology called (again) Mahāmudrā Symbol Lineage (Phyag rgya chen po brda’i brgyud pa, Toh. 2439), with Dampa Sangye (“Nagu”) and Zhama Lotsāwa as the usual translators. Preliminary studies of this set have been done by Kurtis Schaeffer, demonstrating the importance of these anthologies, along with those brought by the great adept Saraha.[22] The “Three Eggs” in the present volume are very similar in style to those in the Tengyur.

Although these thirty or so texts are all included in the Tengyur, it is interesting that its compiler, Butön, makes no mention of the Pacification teachings in his History of Buddhism. Is it possible that the author’s name in the Tengyur texts, Kamalashīla, was mistaken for the other Kamalashīla?[23]

It seems likely that Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo were well aware of these contents, with access to the Derge edition of the Tengyur published in the nearby Derge print house (1737–1744), and that the choice not to include them in The Treasury had everything to do with their stated mission to collect and preserve texts that were in danger of being lost, and not necessarily those already so preserved.

The Early Zhije Collection[edit]

Perhaps the earliest collection currently available is what we are calling the Zhije Collection, published in five volumes in 1979 as The Tradition of Pha Dam-pa Saṅs-rgyas: A Treasured Collection of His Teachings Transmitted by Thugs-sras Kun-dga. It informs us that it was “reproduced from a unique collection of mss. preserved with ’Khrul-zhig Rinpoche of Roṅ-phu Monastery at Diṅ-ri Glaṅ-skor. Edited with an English Introduction by Barbara Nimri Aziz.” The scholar Dan Martin has done an enormous amount of research and writing on this anthology, which any interested reader must consult. He has determined the original was printed in four volumes and has reconstituted the title as “Among Zhije Teachings that Lay at the Heart of the Holy Dharma, This Is the Text of the Later Oral Transmission Known as The Exceptionally Profound.”[24] What is noticeable in this title is the specific reference to the later transmission, which betrays the mistitling of the work in the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) database as relating to all three transmissions.[25] Martin has tentatively dated it as being constructed after 1245 (when the lineage holder Rok Zhikpo died), but before 1280 when the compiler Sangye Repa (a.k.a. Rinchen Mönlam) died, probably some time closer to the former date. It is largely based on an earlier gold-inked collection compiled by Zhikpo from 1207 to 1210.[26] This puts it at the earliest of our sources so far and likely used by the later ones. The Dingri Volumes discussed below represents the entire collection held by Trulshik Rinpoche, which includes this one.

Other Collections and Histories[edit]

The Collected Works of Bodong Chokle Namgyal (1376–1451) is the other major source of texts relating to the Pacification lineage. It represents one of the early comprehensive anthologies that might have rivaled Butön’s Tibetan Buddhist canon if things had worked out differently. Of the 137 volumes published by Tibet House in 1976 as Encyclopedia Tibetica, two are devoted to Pacification texts. Volume 92 consists of ten texts, including the two tantras discussed above, as well as practice rituals, biographies, instructions, and songs. Volume 125 has nine texts, four of them shared with volume 92. These two volumes, so far apart in the collection and partially redundant, were obviously added from separate collections. Some of the texts are found elsewhere, but many are not. They are a treasure trove awaiting further excavation.

Finally, the Tsadra Foundation’s recent publication entitled The Volumes of the Root Teachings of the Sacred Dharma Pacification of Suffering, and the Subsidiary, Severance of Evil Object (Dingri Volumes) represents the most complete collection yet. It consists of twelve volumes of digitally entered texts, including beautiful reproductions of original illustrations, and one volume of the titles with mostly back-translated Sanskrit. The six volumes of Pacification material contain all that was in the five (originally four) volumes of the Zhije Collection and much more. Thankfully the texts had been held and preserved in the library of Kyapje Zhadeu Trulshik Rinpoche, who also wrote a small companion booklet called The Seed of Faith describing the nine sacred inner relics of Dampa Sangye’s monastery at Dingri Langkhor. Together with the six volumes of Severance texts (gcod), this collection is the most complete and final representative of the work of collection and preservation exemplified by Jamgön Kongtrul’s treasuries, such as this Treasury of Precious Instructions.

The Blue Annals by Gö Lotsāwa Zhönnu Pal (mGos lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal, 1392–1481) is the primary source of the history of Pacification, as well as so many other systems. This book is a remarkably detailed history of most of the Buddhist lineages in India and Tibet, full of captivating stories of the lives of the masters. It is all the more incredible that Gö Lotsāwa began the massive project in 1478, at the age of eighty-four! Its early translation into English in 1949 by George N. Roerich has assured its place as the scholar’s choice (though I would advise always checking in with Gö Lotsāwa’s original). There do exist earlier histories of Pacification, such as Gyalwa Tene’s biography of his guru Patsap in the Zhije Collection and the biographies by his disciple (“lowly monk beggar”) in the Bodong collection, but these are more concerned with the later transmission that was bequeathed to Bodhisattva Kunga. “The chapter on the early, middle, and later lineages of Zhije” (zhi byed brgyud pa snga spyi bar gsum gyi skabs) in The Blue Annals covers them all. The many other shorter and longer histories of Pacification subsequent to this one seem more or less borrowed. In particular, The Religious History of Pacification and Severance composed by Khamnyön Dharma Senge in the late nineteenth century has been highly useful, although not without the issues of copying the same stories over many centuries.

The Chöd Connection[edit]

It is taken for granted that the cycle of Severance (gcod; “Chöd”) teachings developed by Machik Lapdrön (1055–1149) originated in the Pacification teachings, and Kongtrul joins others in classifying it as a branch of Pacification. So it is surprising not to find any texts at all on Severance within any of the collections of Pacification, and indeed not even a mention. The available histories, on the other hand, contain a detailed narration. Again, all versions seem to hark back to The Blue Annals. The dramatic and confusing story is told as part of the “male lineage” of Severance (pho gcod) in the chapter on Object Severance (gcod yul),[27] whereas in the Pacification chapter it is merely mentioned as part of a “separate lineage” (brgyud pa thor bu pa) stemming from the middle transmission.[28] There is no room for the whole story here, and it would take much more research to sort out all the differences in details of the many versions. Briefly, Dampa Sangye imparts the Severance precepts in the form of “Six Pieces” (’brul tsho drug) to four people: Kyo Shākya Yeshe, Mara Serpo, and two boys with leprosy. With a secrecy injunction on the teachings, Kyo Shākya Yeshe gave them only to his nephew, Kyo Sönam Lama. This is Machik Lapdrön’s main guru, and through him she received a partial Severance empowerment called Opening the Sky Door, an important event retold in the many biographies of Machik. Meanwhile, Mara Serpo goes home and successfully practices Severance (as do the two now-cured lepers), keeping it to himself until finally bestowing it on Tönpa Borey (or Bere Nyönpa) and so on in a one-to-one line until the important lineage holder Rokben Sherap Ö (1166–1244). Thus it seems to enter mainstream Pacification, but still without any paper trail of actual guidebooks.

Now, there is a text called Molten Gold: The Source Text of the Six Instruction Pieces of Severance, the Perfection of Wisdom[29] in the Chöd section of the Dingri Volumes that purports to be this very teaching, and it includes its own version of the above story. But where all other versions diverge after Borey to Machik Lapdrön’s story, this text continues with the still-secretive transmission within the Pacification lineage, ending with one Lama Tholjung (possibly the author, calling himself “random lama”), seven lineage holders after Borey. Machik Lapdrön herself is not listed in this lineage. So one is left with the impression that she received only Kyo Shākya Yeshe lineage’s. And according to that story, she received only four (which four?) of the six “pieces,” but enough to bring about her total realization. The six chapters of this text, which are apparently the “six pieces,” contain both exoteric and esoteric instructions that may have been the foundation of Machik’s Chöd, though nothing like the fully developed teachings that have come down to us in the present.

This is just to clarify the glaring absence of Severance texts within the Pacification tradition and to point out that the close connection between Dampa Sangye and Machik Lapdrön is perhaps more tenuous than the oral tradition likes to recount. Kongtrul’s classification of Severance as a branch of Pacification may have had more to do with its Tibetan and female origin than actual shared instructions.[30] In any case, the universal spread of Severance has far outstripped the unfortunate near-demise of Pacification. Perhaps this book might help.

Volume 13[edit]

This volume of The Treasury of Precious Instructions follows the same structure as the others: a tripartite classification into source texts (rtsa ba), empowerments (dbang), and instructions or guides (gdams khrid). The compilers and scribes of the source texts are not listed, but the texts themselves may all be considered the words of Dampa Sangye in one way or another. The empowerments, which constitute more than half of this volume, are all composed by Lochen Dharmashrī. Most of the instruction section is also by Dharmashrī (all of these texts are found in his collected works), with one instruction on the later lineage by the early lineage-holder All-Knowing Sönam Pal. Several aspiration prayers and conversations have been added, perhaps later, which may also be considered to be Dampa’s words. Introductions to each text or section have been added by the translator, so more is not needed here.


Kyapje Kalu Rinpoche was the initial inspiration who started his wayward child–translators on the first project of rendering Jamgön Kongtrul’s Treasury of Knowledge into English. That tremendous undertaking was finally completed thanks to the unflagging determination of all the translators and the generous support of the Tsadra Foundation, which averted our flagging just in time. It is fitting and auspicious that we now advance Rinpoche’s intention with the translation of another of Kongtrul’s great treasuries, which contains the actual instructions that were the subject of The Treasury of Knowledge. Ringu Tulku Rinpoche has long envisioned such a translation of The Treasury of Precious Instructions, and his encouragement has provided further momentum and support. H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche expertly conferred the needed empowerments and transmissions at Benchen Gönpa in Nepal over a two-month period in 2014. Through it all, Eric Colombel and the Tsadra Foundation have remained the steadfast benefactor. Truly I cannot adequately express my gratitude and admiration.

I want to thank those Tibetans whom I constantly pestered for clarification, especially Āchārya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. I pestered Dr. Dan Martin even more, and owe him a debt of gratitude for sharing some of his research. Finally, I thank my indexer and Sanskritchecker, L. S. Summer, and my editor Tracy Davis, whose propensity for precision is a perfect counterbalance to my perplexity.

Technical Note[edit]

The anthology of Tibetan texts translated here is the thirteenth volume (pa) of the Shechen edition of The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gDams ngag rin po che’i mdzod). This volume is titled simply Pacification, Volume One (Zhi byed pod dang po) and covers the range of practices called Pacification of Suffering (sdug sngal zhi byed) that trace back to the Indian adept Dampa Sangye (Dam pa Sangs rgyas). Page numbers in curly brackets { } throughout the texts indicate the Arabic page numbers of the Shechen edition. (Cross-references found in the endnotes to the texts in this volume refer to these bracketed numbers.)

In addition to the Shechen edition of The Treasury of Precious Instructions, the Kundeling and Palpung editions were also consulted, as well as a newer, edited digital collection (Dingri Volumes) containing most of these texts. Another important source was the Collected Works of Lochen Dharmashrī, and I made use of any other editions of individual texts that were available to me. It was not practical to cite every mistake or variance in words, so only the most significant have been mentioned in the endnotes, where variant translations or enhanced explanations of certain passages are provided.

Throughout this book, any text found in square brackets [ ] has been added by the translator. Section headings, however, were occasionally added without brackets. Interlinear notes that were added to the Tibetan text by later editors are displayed in small type.

With a few exceptions, Tibetan and Sanskrit technical terms have been rendered into English to the best of my ability. However, the range of texts, authors, historical periods, and dialects represented in this anthology is so wide that a given term cannot always be translated in the same way every time it occurs. Wherever similarity in context and meaning permits it, I have tried to maintain consistency in translation.

In the main body of the translations, Tibetan names of persons, spirits, and places appear in the phonetic system that has been developed for The Treasury of Precious Instructions by the translators of the Tsadra Foundation. This includes the use of the umlauted ö (as heard in the English push and pull). A final e in Tibetan words is pronounced as ay. In the endnotes and bibliographies, Tibetan words are transliterated according to the extended Wylie system, with the modification that the initial root letter is capitalized in proper nouns and text titles to help recognition.

For Sanskrit phonetics, traditional diacritics for romanization are used with the following modifications in proper names to aid in pronunciation: ṛi, ch, sh, and ṣh rather than , c, ś, and . Mantras remain in standard diacritics. Reconstructed Sanskrit is indicated on first instance and in the endnotes with an asterisk. If a Tibetan or Sanskrit term has entered common English usage and appears in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, then it is treated as an English word (e.g., lama, chakra, mandala). Special mention must be made of the problems of syllable sequences and mantras in Sanskrit. There is tremendous variation in the editions, and in the case of the alphabetic practices there is no way to determine which is correct or original. I therefore stayed closest to the DNZ Shechen version unless other sources were uniformly agreed, or in some cases mantras had been standardized. Variations are only sometimes noted.

In the bibliography and endnotes, the various references from classical Indian works in the Kangyur and Tengyur are identified whenever possible according to the numbers in the Tohoku catalog (Toh.) of the Derge edition of these collections: A Complete Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons (Bkaḥ-ḥgyur and Bstan-ḥgyur), published by Tohoku Imperial University. Citations and references from various Tibetan masters are often located in their respective collected works (gsung ’bum) or as autonomous texts that most often may be located in the indispensable digital library at the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC, formerly TBRC) using their catalog numbers.

The majority of the texts in this volume are liturgical practices, commentaries, rituals, or a combination of all of those. Wherever the Tibetan is written in metered verse, the translation follows roughly the same line breaks to give a sense of its rhythm. However, it is quite impossible to replicate in English the repetitive, exact meters of the monosyllabic Tibetan, which lends itself so well to chanting. Nevertheless, I hope that something of the lyrical quality comes through this cumbersome rendition that is perhaps too attached to accuracy.


  1. 1 ’Jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse dbang po (1820–1892), mChog ’gyur bDe chen going pa (1829–1870), Mi pham rgya mtsho (1846–1912), and many more masters were involved in this movement, including Kongtrul’s guru Si tu Pad ma nyin byed (1774–1853). See E. Gene Smith, “’Jam mgon Kong sprul and His Friends,” in Among Tibetan Texts, pp. 247–50; Jamgön Kongtrul, Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions, pp. 25–48; Ringu Tulku, The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great, etc.
  2. 2 The specific text by Shes rab ’od zer that expounds the eight chariots is Meditation’s Ambrosia of Immortality (sGom pa ’chi med kyi bdud rtsi). A study of this has been done by Marc-Henri Deroche: “’Phreng po gter ston Shes rab ’od zer (1518–1584) on the Eight Lineages of Attainment.” According to Deroche, “This text may be considered as an (if not the) original source of the ‘ris med paradigm’ of the eight lineages of attainment” (p. 17). It is interesting to note that the eight lineages are arranged in a different sequence in that text—Nyingma, Kadampa, Shangpa Kagyu, Lamdre, Marpa Kagyu, Zhije, Jordruk, Dorje Sumgyi Nyendrup—which may have been more chronological than Kongtrul’s preferred order.
  3. 3 One finds this idea developed in the volume on esoteric instructions in The Treasury of Knowledge, where Kongtrul describes in incredibly condensed detail the basic principles and sources of these eight lineages. It is expounded in the catalog of The Treasury of Precious Instructions (DNZ, vol. 18), published in English as The Catalog of The Treasury of Precious Instructions, trans. Richard Barron (Chökyi Nyima). Also see Stearns, Luminous Lives, pp. 3–8, where the verse from Prajñārasmi was first brought to my attention.
  4. 4 Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, Catalog, p. 21. Translation by Richard Barron.
  5. 5 The Treasury of Precious Instructions. gDams ngag rin po che’i mdzod (DNZ), 12 vols. (Delhi: N. Lungtok and N. Gyaltsan, 1971–72). Known as the Kundeling printing.
  6. 6 The Treasury of Precious Instructions. gDams ngag rin po che’i mdzod (DNZ), 18 vols. (Delhi: Shechen Publications, 1998). Known as the Shechen printing.
  7. 7 Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom (Heart Sutra). Bhagavatīprajñāpāramitāhṛdaya. bCom ldan ’das ma shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa’i snying po (Toh. 21).
  8. 8 Kamalashīla (Dampa Sangye). Bodhicaryāpradīpa. Byang chub spyod pa’i sgron ma (Toh. 2321), f. 264a.
  9. 9 TOK, vol. 1, p. 539. Translation in Jamgön Kongtrul, Treasury of Knowledge: Buddhism’s Journey to Tibet, p. 357. Also see Roerich, BA, p. 866.
  10. 10 For instance, in Dharmashrī, Distilled Elixir, ch. 27. This phrase—“the perfection of wisdom that is consistent with Secret Mantra”—is repeated in almost all Zhije histories. See Roerich, BA, pp. 976–78, for further discussion of classifications regarding which yāna to ascribe to Zhije.
  11. 11 bka’ babs chen po bzhi. Described in perhaps the earliest source (ZC, vol. 1, pp. 213–368): mchog gi brgyud pa bde bar gshegs pa bcu gnyis kyi bka’ yi dam kyi lhas gsungs pa, thun mong gi brgyud pa tshig brgyud rnam gsum, ngo mtshar gyi brgyud pa dpal ldan sum cu rtsa drug gi bka’, mkha’ ’gro ma rnams kyi skyes chos / khyad par gyi gdams pa chen po brgyad. See Dan Martin’s outline on BDRC W23911.
  12. 12 “He came to Tibet five times. The first time he journeyed to Tsari via Dringtang. He set foot in all areas of Do-Kham, predicting the spread of the doctrine there. The second time he came from Kashmir and arrived in Ngari, where he accepted the disciples Zhangzhung Lingkawa and Bönpo Trotsang Druklha. On the third visit he came from Nepal to Tsang and gave instructions to Yarlung Mara Serpo and Kyotön Sönam Lama. On the fourth he arrived at Nyal via Sha-uk Tak and purified the obscurations of his mother. In central Tibet he benefited Ma, So, and Kam. On the fifth visit he first went to China, where he stayed for twelve years before returning to Dingri [until his death in 1117].” TOK, vol. 1, p. 539. Also see Roerich, BA, pp. 870–71.
  13. 13 See Edou, Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd, pp. 32–34, for several versions of this story.
  14. 14 Those are Drapa, Che, and Jang, lineages coming through Geshe Drapa (dGe bshes Grwa pa, 1012–1090), Che Tsandrakirti (lCe Tsandra kir ti), and Jang Kadampa (lJang bKa’ gdams pa), respectively.
  15. 15 TOK, vol. 1, p. 539.
  16. 16ZC, vol. 1, ch. 4, p. 20.
  17. 17 “writing is polluted”: Jan Nattier, “The Proto-History of Buddhist Translation: From Gāndhari and Pāli to Han-Dynasty Chinese” (lecture, Conference on Translation and Transmission, Boulder, CO, June 2, 2017). See, for instance, Frits Staal, Ritual and Mantras: Rules Without Meaning.
  18. 18 mKha’ ’gro ma thams cad kyi thugs kyi gsang ba phyag chen brda’i rgyud.
  19. 19 Somewhat evident in the empowerment texts of this volume, but especially experienced firsthand by the translator in the empowerments conferred by H. E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery, Swayambhu, Nepal, in November 2014.
  20. 20 In Clarified Elixir Instructions (bDud rtsi zhun ma’i gdams pa), for instance, Bodhisattva Kunga states that writing down the letters is like a king degenerating into a commoner. DV, vol. ga, p. 97. To follow me further down this rabbit hole, see Harding, “Phadampa Sangye and the Alphabet Goddess” on http://tsadra .org.
  21. 21 TOK, vol. 3, p. 408. Translation in Jamgön Kongtrul, Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions, p. 261.
  22. 22 See Kurtis Schaeffer, “Crystal Orbs and Arcane Treasuries: Tibetan Anthologies of Buddhist Tantric Songs from the Tradition of Pha Dam pa sangs rgyas” and Dreaming the Great Brahmin: Tibetan Traditions of the Buddhist Poet-Saint Saraha. And, of course, the work of Dan Martin, mostly on tibeto-logic.blogspot .com.
  23. 23 Butön Rinchen Drup, Butön’s History of Buddhism, p. xiv.
  24. 24 'Dam chos snying po zhi byed las / brgyud pa phyi ma’i snyan brgyud zab khyed ma. See Martin, “New Padampa Manuscripts” (notes from a paper delivered at IATS conference in Bergen, Norway, 2016),
  25. 25 Zhi byed snga bar phyi gsum gyis skor. Attributed there to Bodhisattva Kunga (Thugs sras Kun dga’). (BDRC W23911) Do see the outline there by Dan Martin for a list of all contents.
  26. 26 Dan Martin, personal communication, December 31, 2017.
  27. 27 Roerich, BA, ch. 12, “The Early, Later and Intermediate Lineages of zi-byed” p. 911; Gö Lotsāwa, p. 1063.
  28. 28 Roerich, BA, ch. 13, “The (system) of gCod-yul and Kha-rag-pa,” pp. 996–99; Gö Lotsāwa, pp. 1158–62.
  29. 29 Shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa gcod kyi gdams pa brul tsho drug pa’i gzhung gser zhun ma. In DV, vol. ja, pp. 53–96. This may or may not be the same as another text titled with ’Brul tsho drug found in recent discoveries from Bhutan, held by the British Library’s Endangered Archives project. See Dan Martin, “New Padampa Manuscripts,” from a paper delivered at the IATS conference in Bergen, Norway, 2016.
  30. 30 For an interesting discussion of the relationship between Dampa and Machik, see Kollmar-Paulenz, “Ma gcig Lab sgron ma: The Life of a Tibetan Woman Mystic between Adaptation and Rebellion.”