Text Section 41
The Victor, Buddha Śākyamuni, had prophesied that the dharma would spread in the future to Tibet, the snowy land [gangs ljongs]. The Indian scholar Śāntarakṣita [zhi ba ’tsho] came to Tibet and performed the original ceremony to ordain the first Tibetan monks at the monastery of Samye [bsam yas], the first Buddhist monastery formally established in Tibet. The Indian tantrika and spiritual teacher Padmasambhava tamed all the local spirits in Tibet and gave extensive teachings on all aspects of tantric Buddhism. These masters were invited to Tibet under the reign of the Dharma King Trisong Detsen, under whose rule Buddhism took firm root in Tibet.
King Trisong Detsen sent many young Tibetans to India on a mission to learn Sanskrit, to study with the great masters, so that they might be able to accurately translate the sūtras and tantras into the Tibetan language. Famous translators such as Vairocana, Kawa Paltsek [ska ba dpal brtsegs], Chokro Lui Gyaltsen [cog ro klu’i rgyal mtshan], Zhang Yeshe De [zhang ye shes sde], and others became the editorial heads of translation groups. King Trisong Detsen invited many Indian paṇḍitas to Tibet and so was able to ensure that the Sanskrit texts were in fact accurately translated into Tibetan.1
All these masters are considered emanations of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Therefore, Khenpo Kunpal’s preface salutes them as the treasure-trove of emanated translators and paṇḍitas [lo paṇ sprul pa’i dpyid].
Treasure-trove [dpyid] has the multiple connotations of
- ’perfection’ [phun sum tshogs pa],
- ’glory’ [dpal],
- ’treasure’ [gter],
- ’group’ [tshogs pa], and
- ’chief’ [gtso bo].
Without these masters, the dharma would never have taken root in Tibet, and a Tibet without the dharma would have been a country of spiritual darkness.
These masters illuminated Tibet by teaching buddha dharma and are, therefore, called eyes that gazed upon the snowy land [gangs ljongs snang ba’i mig]. Theirs are the eyes that clearly and directly saw the truth of the sublime dharma [dam pa’i chos gsal ba mthong mdzad pa’i mig].
Paltrül Rinpoche taught that three supreme emanations of Mañjughoṣa2 appeared in Tibet [bod kyi ’jam dbyangs rnam gsum]:
- Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltshen,3
- Lord Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa,4
- and the omniscient Longchen Rabjam.5
Khenpo Kunpal pays respect to all the non-sectarian lineages of the Old and New Schools [gsar rnying gi ris med brgyud pa rnams] without exception.
All the sūtras, tantras, and commentaries that were translated during the time of the three great dharma kings,
- Songtsen Gampo [srong btsan sgam po],
- Trisong Detsen [khri srong lde’u btsan],
- and Tri Ralpachen [khri ral pa can]
belong to this phase, known as the ‘Early Translation Period’ [snga ’gyur rnying ma].
This translation period began with the Tibetan translator and grammarian Thumi Sambhoṭa, who was assisted by the Indian scholar Devaviṭsiṃha.6 The last great Indian paṇḍita of this translation period was Smṛtijñānakirtī [dran pa ye shes]. The tantras, commentaries, and sūtras that were later translated by Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) and the translators after him belong to the phase known as the ‘Later Translation Period’ [phyi ’gyur gsar ma].
For the early accounts on the spread of Buddhism in Tibet see Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 510-522.2.
See Masters of Meditation, page 2093.
For biographical notes on Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltshen [sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan] (1182-1251) see mkhas btsun bzang po Vol. X, 137ff Luminous Lifes, pages 159-169.4.
For biographical information on Lord Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa [rje tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa] (1357-1419) see Leben des Tsongkhapa and Life of Tsong Khapa.5.
For biographical notes on the omniscient Longchen Rabjam [kun mkhyen klong chen rab ’jams] (1308-1363) see Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 575-596; Buddha Mind, pages 145-188; Masters of Meditation, pages 109-117 and klong chen rnam thar.6.
Devaviṭsiṃha [lha rig pa seng ge / lha rig pa’i seng ge / lha’i rig pa seng ge (?)] was the Sanskrit teacher of Thumi Sambhoṭa from whom he learned Pāṇini’s Sanskrit grammar. See Blue Annals, page 218 and History of Buddhism, page 185.