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...

Commentary (the maṇḍala of contemplation)—Introduction

[Commentary (224.4-261.1):]

[The commentary (on Ch. 6—the maṇḍala of contemplation which emerges from the cloud-mass of syllables) includes an overview and an interlinear commentary.]

[Overview (224.5-229-2)]

The overview comprises a general explanation of the verbal definition of the term "maṇḍala" and a detailed teaching on its classifications. As to the former: The Tibetan dkyil-'khor, derived from the Sanskrit term "maṇḍala" means that the central deity (etso-bo) is encircled by a retinue ('khor).

The latter refers to the three maṇḍalas of the ground, path and result:

i. The maṇḍala of the ground Indicates that the containing world and its sentient contents attain Buddha-hood primordially—respectively in the nature of the celestial palace and of the deities. These (fundamentally) abide as the maṇḍala. Outer phenomena which appear as the elements primordially abide as the maṇḍala of the female consorts, inner phenomena which appear as the components abide as the maṇḍala of the male consorts, and all accumulated ideas and sensory activity fields abide as the maṇḍala of bodhisattvas or spiritual warriors of enlightenment.

It is said in this Secret Nucleus (Ch. 2, 2):

The aspects of the component of indestructible reality
Are known as the five perfect buddhas.
All the manifold activity fields and sensory bases
Are the nature of the maṇḍala of Bodhisattvas.
Earth and water are Buddhalocanā and Māmakī.
Fire and air are Pāndaravāsinī and Samayatārā.
Space is Dhātvīśvarī.
The three realms of existence are primordial Buddha (fields).
All things that there are, without exception.
Are not extraneous to the buddhas themselves.
Phenomena extraneous to the buddhas themselves
Have not been found by the buddhas themselves.

And in the Root Tantra of Cakrasaṃvara (T. 368):

These living beings abide in a naturally present maṇḍala.

Furthermore, appearances primordially abide as the maṇḍala of Buddha-body, sounds as the maṇḍala of buddha-speech, and all recollections and awareness as the maṇḍala of buddha-mind.

It says in the All-Accomplishing King (T. 828):

O! Concerning the nucleus or maṇḍala of buddha-body,
Arrayed by the All-Accomplishing King, teacher of teachers:
All that appears and abides in accordance with it
Is arrayed in the disposition of reality's uncreated expanse.
Concerning the nucleus or maṇḍala array of his buddha-speech:
All that resounds and abides in accordance with it
Are words arrayed as buddha-speech in the uncreated expanse.
Concerning the nucleus or maṇḍala-array of his awareness:
All the entire recollections, awareness and thoughts
Which are in accordance with it
Are aware of the uncreated All-Accomplishing One himself.[1]

This maṇḍala is itself revealed to be the basis of everything because It is primordially and spontaneously present.

The same text says:

O! The centre is the nucleus of unerring truth.
The periphery is endowed with the supreme bliss of saṃsāra and nirvana.
This is the basis of all essential maṇḍalas. 
All maṇḍalas without exception are realised to be gathered therein.

ii. The second is the maṇḍala of the path which, when classified, has three aspects: There is the maṇḍala of illustrative images; the maṇḍala of genuine buddha-body, speech and mind; and a teaching on the classification of the threefold maṇḍala.

As to the first of these, it is said in the Cakrasaṃvara (T. 368):

The essence of the two artificial types (of maṇḍala)
Is that their description accords with the goal.[2]

In this context also, (the illustrative maṇḍalas) are entered by those of both dull and mediocre intelligence, and are established through the radiance of contemplation. Four sorts (of Illustrative maṇḍala) are indicated, two of which are essential and two subsidiary. These are respectively the maṇḍala drawn on cotton, the maṇḍala of coloured powders, and the incidental maṇḍalas of focal points and flower-clusters.[3]

The same text also says:

There is the ritual for drawing (the maṇḍala).
And the sequence in which colours are applied on its lines.

As for the three maṇḍalas of (genuine) buddha-body, speech and mind: The first, the maṇḍala of buddha-body, is that in which the physical body becomes radiant as the deity, and is visually created (simply) as a single heruka (dpa'-bo gcig-pa) and so forth, as far as (elaborate creation of) the deities and a celestial palaces of the entire maṇḍala.[4]

This text also says (Ch. 9, 33-34):

...manifestly perfect
Throughout the ten directions and four times.
The Buddha-field, pure and unthinkable.
In which there is there is the celestial palace
Free from spatial dimensions,
With its ornamental (form) on the wheel.
And the assembly of its display,
Comprises all unthinkable maṇḍalas, without exception.

The maṇḍala of Buddha-speech refers to the mantra-syllables of the basic deity, surrounded by the mantras of the retinue, which are pronounced and visualised.

As this text says (Ch. 7.23):

Those (meanings) that are distinctly clarified are themselves
The supreme indestructible buddha-speech.

The maṇḍala of buddha-mind refers to the five poisons which are made Into the path as the five pristine cognitions, so that saṃsāra is inherently pure without being renounced.

As (the Secret Nucleus. Ch. 6.2) says:

Pristine cognition is considered
In terms of the four directions and centre.
The unthinkable spontaneous maṇḍala is Great Perfection,
And the Yogin who realises this experiences
The origin of all in that great maṇḍala.

As for the teaching on the classification of the threefold maṇḍala, it comprises: the maṇḍala of the supporting celestial palace; the maṇḍala of the supported deities; and the maṇḍala of great non-dual pristine cognition.

The first of these is the excellent location, the maṇḍala in which the axis of the main (palace) is surrounded by a circumference of spatial array. The second is the excellent teacher, the maṇḍala of deities in which the central deity is surrounded by the assembled host of the retinue. The third is the maṇḍala of pristine cognition where naturally present pristine cognition is surrounded by the consciousness of recollection and awareness.

As is said in this same text:[5]

In the pristine cognition of the Great Identity
Are beheld the five pristine cognitions of the retinue.

And in the All-Accomplishing King (T. 828):

O! I, the All-Accomplishing King, teacher of teachers.
All-pervasively enveloped, without coming or going.
By the uncreated maṇḍala of Bodhisattvas.
Penetrate through realisation the uncreated truth.

Now, the naturally present pristine cognition is the nature of Samantabhadra, the pristine cognition which abides in oneself without all the conceptual elaborations of the unstable subjectobject dichotomy. The accumulated thoughts such as the five poisons which issue from its disposition are revealed to be the forty-two buddhas including the five Tathāgatas, and, as such, are pristine cognition in its state of energy. Thus awareness both in its abiding and emanational states is revealed as the primordial maṇḍala. The Yogin who knows this is never separated from the origin of all things, the disposition of the great maṇḍala.

As for the maṇḍala of the result; When the path has been concluded and the rank of Samantabhadra then obtained, this state is described as the buddha-body and pristine cognition without conjunction or disjunction, in which the ground is directly liberated.

This (Secret Nucleus. Ch. 6.22) says:

And the buddha-body of pristine cognition which knows all things—
At this time, all five buddha-bodies are indeed perfect.[6]

The result therefore refers to the spontaneous presence of the buddha-body of reality, the buddha-body of perfect rapture, the maṇḍalas of the three buddha-bodies and five pristine cognitions, the five maṇḍalas of buddha-body, speech, mind, attributes, and activities, and so forth.

[Interlinear Commentary (229.2-261.1)]

The Interlinear commentary includes a description of the causal basis for the emanation of the maṇḍala and an exegesis of the actual maṇḍala which is emanated thereby.

[The former (229.3-229.5, comments on Ch. 6.1):]

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Footnotes and references:


The All-Accomplishing King (kun-byed rgyal-po) is a synonym for Samantabhadra or dharmakāya. See also Eva K. Dargyay, "A Preliminary Study of the Rñin-ma Text, Kun Byed Rgyal Po'i Mdo" in STC.


The two artificial types (bcos-ma gnyis) are those maṇḍalas drawn on cotton and with coloured powders, which are Indicated in the following paragraph. They are so-called because they are held to be inferior to the body-maṇḍalas described below, Ch. 9, pp. 812ff.


"maṇḍala drawn on cotton" (ras-bris-kyi dkyil-'khor), "maṇḍala of coloured powders" (rdul-tshon-gyi dkyil-'khor), "maṇḍala of focal points" (thig-gi dkyil-'khor), and "maṇḍala of flower-clusters" (tshom-bu'i dkyil-'khor).


Tibetan dpa'-bo gcig-pa, Sanskrit ekavīra, refers to a single two-armed wrathful deity, without consort.


N.L. However these verses are reminiscent of Ch. 13, section 8, 1. 5-6.


In this context, the second line actually reads de-tshe sku-lnga lhun-gyis rdzogs. However cf. p. 675. de-tshe sku-lnga kun-kyang rdzogs: also see above, p. 204, note 41.

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