Wylie:Lam dri ma med pa gser sgong dag pa'i skor
The “Egg Trilogy” is one part of a series of compendia of the sayings and songs of the great adepts of India known as the mahāsiddhas; the collection and importation of which are attributed to Dampa Sangye. Studies of these by Kurtis Schaeffer reveal that there are seventeen in all. Eleven can be found in the Tibetan Tengyur, where they constitute the majority of such anthologies. Most of them, with only one exception, are also found in the five-volume Zhije Collection, which also contains the six others, including our Silver, Golden, and Crystal Eggs.
The Egg Trilogy falls under the set of Pacification teachings known as Stainless (dri med). Each of the Eggs contains short sayings of fifty-four or fifty-five great adepts who were Dampa’s personal teachers and are included as a set in the lineage histories of the later transmission. They are known as the “common” or popular (mthun mong) male and female gurus, not because they were ordinary but rather because those gurus were held in common by many other disciples and were not unique to Dampa Sangye. Indeed, many of them are quite famous and can be seen to overlap with another set known as the eighty-four adepts (grub thob brgyad bcu bzhi). This group is also found in the Tengyur and many other places and has become the more official, standard list. But it is good to remember that there were just really a lot of great saints in India and the book is never closed. Dampa was extremely lucky.
Pa Dampa’s fifty-four or -five teachers are divided into five groups by Gö Lotsāwa in The Blue Annals and other places, such as in Distilled Elixir in this volume. They are as follows: eleven gurus who taught defining characteristics and Sanskrit grammar, eleven gurus who taught the movements of vital winds in the father tantras, eleven gurus who taught bliss experiences in the mother tantras, eleven gurus who taught symbols of mahāmudrā, and ten gurus who introduced pure awareness. Thus, the story continues, Dampa Sangye received all the instructions of the outer vehicle of characteristics and the inner father and mother tantras and practiced them. Unfortunately, the lists of names in these sources and in all the anthologies vary quite a bit, with no two being identical. This uncertainty is compounded by unreliable back-translations into their Sanskrit names as well as by ubiquitous scribal errors. So to attempt a definitive list here would just be aggravating. However, loosely speaking, the order of gurus in the three texts presented here more or less follows those five nominal group divisions.
That is the classification according to names. According to content, it would be difficult to precisely identify how each terse dictum fits into the above five categories. Nevertheless, one can see a rough pattern, with philosophical subjects appearing in the beginning, vital winds mentioned often in the next set, and so forth. In particular, and only in the Treasury editions, The Pure Silver Egg is divided into five sets named according to the traditional five paths (lam lnga) of Mahayana Buddhism. However, these five paths are presented in a unique and distinctive way in Pacification, as will become clear in the later texts in this volume. The five-path division here was apparently added by Kongtrul or Khyentse or an editor, and it may even have been an attempt to correlate the five sets of gurus with the five paths. The divisions don’t exactly correspond to the list of names, but they are close enough. So that is helpful.
It would be another matter entirely to find these actual sayings within the recorded works of those named adepts. Until someone undertakes that kind of research, we will have to be content to say that those great spiritual adepts probably did (or would) say something akin to what is recorded here.
A note on word choices: In texts such as these that have been copied since ancient times, the many editions have innumerable variations. While this is by no means a critical edition of the Eggs, I have included many of the variations in the notes in an effort to help find the meaning. But I have committed the terrible translator crime of choosing in some cases to override the Treasury version if other variations made more sense, were more common, or seemed more original. Finally, this edition of The Treasury of Precious Instructions luckily contains an interlinear note to support my translation of sgong (also sgo nga) as “egg.” It states that it means “a summary of the source scripture’s meaning” (gzhung gi don bsdus pa'o). This is the common word for “egg,” and pastoral allegories are everywhere to be found in the literature of Tibet. But perhaps it just does not carry a particularly spiritual ring to our modern ears, so far from the farm.
- Schaeffer, Dreaming the Great Brahmin, pp. 88–96; and “Crystal Orbs and Arcane Treasures,” pp. 5–73.
- For example, Abhayadatta, Lives of the Eighty-Four Mahāsiddhas. Grub thob brgyad cu rtsa bzhi’i rnam thar
- BA, vol. 2, pp. 1017–18. Translation in Roerich, BA, pp. 868–69.
- But see the comparative chart of at least four sets in Schaeffer, Dreaming the Great Brahmin, pp. 183–85.
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Information about Unicode Tibetan and the digitization of this text
As the only available unicode Tibetan text at the time, Nitartha International's version of the Paro Edition of the gdams ngag mdzod is provided here. However, note that it has not been thoroughly edited and that there may also be mistakes introduced through the conversion process. Eventually we will provide a fully edited version of the entire Shechen Edition, entered and edited multiple times by Pulahari Monastery in Nepal, but as of fall 2017 that project has not been finished. Note that the folio numbers that appear throughout were added by Nitartha Input Center at the time of input.