Guhyagarbha Tantra (with Commentary)

by Gyurme Dorje | 1987 | 304,894 words

The English translation of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, including Longchenpa's commentary from the 14th century. The whole work is presented as a critical investigation into the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, of which the Guhyagarbhatantra is it's principle text. It contains twenty-two chapters teaching the essence and practice of Mahayoga, which s...

8. Appearance and Translation of the Māyājāla Cycle in Tibet

'Jigs-med gLing-pa, In his Catalogue to the Collected Tantras of the rNying-ma-pa. p. 464, 1-3, states that the Guhyagarbha was definitively translated by Vimalamitra, gNyags Jñānakumāra and rMa Rin-chen mChog. Previously, it had been translated by Buddhaguhya and Vairocana, and in an Intervening period by Padmasambhava and gNyags Jñānakumāra.

At Mount Kailash, Buddhaguhya instructed sBas 'Jam-dpal and Bran-ka Mu-kti among others on texts belonging to the Guhyagarbha cycle, including the man-ngag rnam-par bkod-pa (P. 4737). In collaboration with Vairocana, he made the earliest translation of the root-tantra.

Padmasambhava instructed gNyags Jñānakumāra in the Guhyagrabha and in his own Garland of Views: A Collection Esoteric Instructions (man-ngag ltar-phreng. p. 4726). Together they made the intermediate translation. Jñānakumāra instructed the Sogdian dPal-gyi Ye-shes; and, with Zhang rGyal-ba'i Yon-tan, he Instructed gNubs Sangs-rgyas Ye-shes. Vimalamitra then expounded the Eight Sections of the Magical Net of Vajrasattva (sgyu-'phrul sde-brgyad. NGB. Vols. 14-15), including the Guhyagarbhatattvaviniścayatantra, which is the root of the Eighteen Great Tantra-piṭakas. He expounded them to rMa Rin-chen mChog, and translated them with the latter’s assistance, and that of gNyags Jñānakumāra. Their version is therefore the latest of three, and it is known as the basic translation.

Later, the manuscript was translated by Thar-lo Nyi-ma rGyal-mtshan and 'Gos lotsâwa gZho-nu dPal. Their version is called the “creative translation” (rtsal-'gyur) because they had no supervising paṇḍita. In addition, the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters were also translated by Thar-lo in accordance with the rediscovered Sanskrit manuscript.

kLong-chen-pa (1308-1363), having examined the extant Tibetan version in great detail, made the following observation in his phyogs-bcu mun-sel concerning certain appended verses of the tantra:[1]

Now, certain persons hold that these appendices are absent in this root-tantra but were extracted from other texts in the cycle of the Magical Net and Inserted into their respective chapters by rMa Rin-chen mChog, and that (the versions of the text) were divided by gTsug-rum Rin-chen gZhon-nu into those which have appendices and those which do not.

Again, there are some who hold that the version without the appendices was translated by gNyags Jñānakumāra, and that the version with appended passages had them inserted into the translation by rMa Rin-chen mChog. There are even some who say that rMa himself concealed them out of envy at La-gsum rGyal-ba Byang-chub.[2] But the truth of the matter is that the appendices are lacking in both the earliest translation made by Buddhaguhya and Vairocana and in the intermediate translation which was made by Padmasambhava and gNyags Jñānakumāra. They are present in the later translation which was made by Vimalamitra, gNyags Jñānakumāra and rMa Rin-chen mChog. Therefore it is clear that the Sanskrit manuscripts themselves had a number of redactions. Should anyone wish to know that this is the case, the Transcendental Perfection of Discriminative Awareness In Eight Thousand Lines (T. 8) itself had a number of manuscripts, extant in the three redactions of the parivrājika gZo-sbyangs, 'Phreng-ba-can, and sDe-can; and in certain texts such as the Sitātāpatra (T. 3083, 592) a number of redactions is similarly found. Therefore it is not certain that these (variant passages) were inserted by the Tibetans. One should know that the discrepancies in the translations of this tantra were to be found in the Sanskrit manuscripts. Numerous redactions of Sanskrit manuscripts occur because there is a distinction between those (versions) in which the meaning is clearly expressed and those in which it is not.

rMa Rin-chen mChog instructed gTsug-ru Rin-chen gZhon-nu and Kye-re mChog-skyong, who both Instructed Zhang rGyal-ba'i Yon-tan and Dar-rje dPal-gyi Grags-pa. The former taught this tantra many times in Central Tibet, gTsang, and Khams, and the lineages descended from him became known as “the transmitted precepts of mChims-pu”, or as “the lineage of esoteric Instructions”.

Footnotes and references:


phyogs-bcu mun-sel. Ch. 6, pp. 246-248.


La-gsum rGyal-ba Byang-chub, who, like rMa Rin-chen mChog, was one of the eight major translators and one the seven monks who were originally tested for ordination, was empowered by Padmasambhava at Khra-brug, and in consequence was able to assume a meditative posture in the sky. See K. Dowman, Sky Dancer. pp. 283-4 and passim; Yeshe Tsogyal, The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava. Part II, p. 592: also NSTB, Book 2, Pt. 4, p. 185.

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