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...


Through the spirituality of the conquerors,
The profound and extensive meaning of this Tantra.
The utterly marvelous, infinite
And most secret nature of Himamahāsāgara,[1]
Who, in the perceptual range of those of sublime intelligence.
Is quiescent like space, entirely unblemished.
Inwardly radiant from the beginning, uncompounded.
And who quantitatively perceives (phenomena)
And qualitatively perceives (the view).
Was manifested to living beings,
And it somewhat illuminated this Range of Snow Mountains.[2]

That meaning has been adorned by the golden net
Of the eloquence of successive scholars.
Yet even now the doctrinal ocean of word and meaning.
Hard to traverse, is not entirely clear.
A most secret treasury.
Extremely hard to realise.
This is not an object of perception for all beings.
But it is the supreme and most secret (nature)
Which abides in the minds of those beings
Who belong to the enlightened families.

The forms of its variegated word and meaning
Have manifested here, in the lotus grove of my intellect.[3]
Illuminated by a share of bliss, which resembles
The reflection of the moon arising in a clear pool.
And is filled with its entirely pure maṇḍala
Which permeates and adorns these waters.
It is ornamented by the deities' display
And their most marvelous and purest spirituality.

Accordingly, at the request of the genuine one
bLo-bzang dGe-ba'i 'Byung-gnas, a supreme student of good fortune.
And Śāk-ya Ye-shes bZang-po who is supreme among the faithful. Praiseworthy for their generosity,
A Yogin who experiences the truth of just what is
Has brought forth the nature of this Tantra
And its profound meaning,
And then established it in the place called O-rgyan rDzong,
At the neck of Gangs-ri Thod-dkar, core of gemstones.[4]

Although the truth of just what is has been divulged,
Contradiction and error are naturally present
Because the meaning of the Tantra and its verses
Of indestructible reality are profound;
For I have not obtained the sublime level.
May I therefore be forgiven by the conquerors.
Their sons, the host of gurus, and all those
Who possess supreme Intelligence,
As well as by the cloud-mass of Ḍākinīs
Generated by pristine cognition
And the oceanic oath-bound (protectors).

In a past life in the forest of Bhelaheta
In the eastern direction of Kāmarūpa,
As Mahāmitra, a follower and student of Padma,
I learned all the points of outer and inner accomplishment.[5]

Comins thence to this land, I had a genuine intellect
In which the Sūtras and tantras were dispositionally clear.
Mollified by nectar which is the nucleus of profound meaning,
I venerated this tradition of the Secret Nucleus.[6]

Nowadays, the treasure of gemstones.
Which is the Conqueror's teaching.
Has nearly vanished,[7] though it does possess
A thousand lights of spiritual and temporal well-being
And even the eyes of excellent beings are mostly closed.
Since doctrinal traditions like this are rare anywhere.
Earnestly develop study, thought and essential meaning.

Ever impermanent, the lifespan of living creatures moves on.
It disintegrates like a bursting bubble.
And one wanders through existences
In a cycle of happiness and suffering.
But on the death of saṃsāra.
One passes beyond that existence
To the grove of blissful peace.[8]
This is why one should prepare with perseverence,
And Instead enter upon the excellent path of liberation.
Disillusioned with existence from today.
Determine from this very moment
That one is powerless to remain even for a day.[9]

Striving in all ways, try to accomplish well
All excellent attributes of clear light—
The most marvelous, clear and profound oceanic treasure,
Which is that of Jñānahimamahāsāgara,[10]
Among (all Buddhas) who are endowed with treasure-stores.

At all times one should please the genuine unsurpassed Guru
Who performs the deeds of the conquerors of the three times.
Guard the commitments and vows appropriately
And without transgression.
Meditate on pure superior thought,
And profound superior contemplation.[11]

By this excellently taught doctrinal tradition of quiescence,
The pleasant sounding drumbeat of Brahmā,
May the three world-realms intoxicated by the sleep
Of ignorance awake instantly therefrom.
May they abide on the level of genuine pristine cognition,
Reach the conclusion of the original ground.
And manifest the maṇḍala of the Buddha-body of form
Within the immaculate expanse of the body of reality.

May the outer containing world and its inner sentient contents
Be naturally pure without exception
In the fields of the five enlightened families.
May conflicting emotions be immaculate pristine cognition.
And recollection and awareness be the supreme maṇḍala of Buddha-mind.
May the two suddenly arisen obscurations be purified
Because they are primordially present and radiant as such;
And may all things, existing nowhere apart from in name.
Become Samantabhadra himself.

By this excellent composition, an array which clarifies
This original manifest awakening,
A glorious joyful meadow of non-dual nature
Throughout the ten directions and four times.
May living beings become well absorbed
In the expanse of quiescence.
Naturally and without effort.
May the lotus of Buddha-hood enclose them
Because Buddha-body and pristine cognition
Are without conjunction or disjunction.

This natural Secret Nucleus, well taught.
Is a most radiant palanquin of clouds
Of glorious enlightened attributes.
With a bountiful downpour of spiritual and temporal well-being
Which fills space with the motion of its activity.
By the merit of its extensive exegesis
May all creatures of infinite space
Obtain the abode of Samantabhadra.[12]
May they cross the ocean of existence
With its deeds and conflicting emotions;
May they accomplish the levels, paths, retentions, and contemplations.
May they perfect all hopes, provisional and conclusive.
And see the pure fields entirely filled by conquerors.

May the host of obstructing spirits, elementals.
Ogres and Ḍākas be pacified.
May they be well endowed with longevity, glory, and fortune.
And by rites of pacification, enrichment, subjugation and wrath.
May the supreme gemstone of the twofold benefit
Excellently emerge for living beings.

May this doctrinal tradition also perform acts of benefit.
Which, for the sake of living beings.
Endure as long as space itself endures.
And may all directions be pervaded
By great spontaneous deeds which resemble
The supreme sun and moon, and a supreme vase
Of wish-fulfilling gemstones.

May this tradition continually benefit others
For as long as the River Ganges continues.
Like the supreme nectar of the stars
May it dispel the torments of confliciting emotion:
Like a cloud-mass of wish-fulfilling gemstones
May it fulfil the hopes for all that is desired:
And like the supreme sun of the four terrestrial continents,[13]
May it dispel the darkness of the expanse of the mind.

This doctrinal tradition, like the form of the autumn moon,[14]
Has a band of constellations of eloquence.
The jasmin flowers of clear Intelligence are opened
By its white light of radiant meanings.
Without obscurations and defective aspects.
It is the glorious one, dispellins the darkness of ignorance.
Propelled by a carriage drawn by five horses of intelligence,
It illuminates those living beings who are fortunate.

May those who wish to know the outer and inner meanings,
And those who wish to behold through the eye of analysis
The very meaning of just what is.
Present in the oceanic textual tradition.
Greatly increase their joyous intelligence
When they perceive this doctrinal tradition.
May they become extremely learned in the tradition
Of its variegated words and meanings, known and unknown.

One who desires to cross to the other side
Of the ocean of the meaning of Tantra
Should embark on this precious ship of eloquence.
And unfurling the sails of profound meaning
Should correctly acquire the two kinds of benefit.
Which accord with its word and meaning.

The meaning of Tantra, in this work
Is a supreme ocean of milk.
Well churned by the fine analysis of my own intellect.
Distilled into elixir like the disposition of the nucleus.
It has been manifested for living beings of the future.
Unbiased, it clarifies all meanings.
Unknown externally, it is devoted to others' benefit.
The meaning of this doctrine is not found externally,
But it is perceived as external.
It is not a defective exegesis, but an ocean of eloquence.

Like a palace of variegated gems of pristine cognition,
Like a rainbow, or nightime.
Like supremely bright variegated sunlight.
And a meadow of nectar-like moon-beams—
This nature of ground, path and result
Has been well illustrated.
The supreme meaning of the secret Great Perfection
Is this genuine Secret Nucleus.
Which reveals all things in a single nature.

More beautiful than a web of lotus flowers
Touching the nucleus of the stars,
And endowed with a most secret store of nectar.
Which is an offering of gods, humans or any beings.
This path which reaches the resultant Secret Nucleus
For all who have been the mothers of the conquerors,[15]
Is an extensive tradition, excellently taught.
And hailed as supreme by the great ones.

All who enter this path become supremely fortunate
And abide as awareness-holders of the excellent level.
They are venerated by the foremost beings in the supreme
World-systems of gods and humans, and by those who are sages.
Endowed with the resultant twofold benefit in this lifetime,
They become the extensive genuine beings of the Buddha-fields.
The storehouse in which these attributes emerge
Is therefore this ocean-like exegesis.

Those who wish for liberation should reverently accept
This supreme doctrinal tradition as a crown ornament.
Its excellent virtues extensively appear.
Emanating as the wish-fulfilling clouds of autumn.
Its diverse light-rays permeate all directions
And illuminate ten million Buddha-fields.
All those without exception who are steadfast in this path
Will accomplish the supreme excellent result.
Strongly exhorted by all the lords of the ten directions,
This has been composed at the behest of all.[16]

This commentary entitled "an analysis of the kingly Magical Net, the glorious Tantra of the Secret Nucleus Definitive with respect to the Real, which actually dispels all the darkness of the ten directions through the great appearance of its sunlit and moonlit clouds" (dpal gsang-ba'i snying-po de-kho-na-nyid nges-pa'i rgyud-kyi rgyal-po sgyu-'phrul drya-ba'i rnam-bshad nyi-zla'isprin-gyi snang-ba chen-pos phyogs-bcu'i mun-pa thams-cad nges-par sel-ba) is a natural lotus-lake of intelligence, filled with the growing flowers of extensive study and excellent refinement in the ocean-like traditions of mantra and transcendental perfection.[17] It was brought forth in the clearest manner by the intellect of rDo-rje gZi-brjid,[18] a Yogin of the greater vehicle, who for the benefit of others has subsumed the many great commentaries of the past, the collection of the manifest eloquence of his gurus, and the essence of many tantras, literary transmissions and esoteric instructions. This excellent work was completed at the neck-like (geomantic centre) of Gangs-ri Thod-dkar at sunrise on the auspicious fifteenth day of the first autumn month in the dragon year.[19]

Footnotes and references:


Tibetan [ye-shes] gangs-chen mtsho or Vairocana in the form of Jñānahimamahāsāgara, said to be the frame around which all world-systems appear. See above. Ch. 1. note 79; also NSTB. Book 1, Pt. 2, pp. 53b-54a; Book 2, Pt. 1. pp. 10-11.


Gangs ri'i khrod, of course, indicates Tibet.


I.e. that of kLong-chen Rab-'byams-pa.


O-rgyan rDzong is the celebrated cave and hermitage of kLong-chen-pa at Gangs-ri Thod-dkar, situated above 'On-chang-rdo Lha-khang in the mountain range known as Tibet's Ri-bo rtse-lnga. See the biography in NSTB, Book 2, Pt. 4, pp. 238-277; A. Ferrari et. al., Mk'yen Brtse's Guide to the Holy Places of Central Tibet. pp. 73. 166. The expressions "neck" (mgul) and "core of gemstones" (rin-cen snying-po) liken this location to a geomantic centre. On the geomantic centres of Tibet, see dPa'-bo gTsug-lag Phreng-ba, mkhas-pa'i dga'-ston. Vol. Cha, 35a-39bff.; also M. Aris, Bhutan, pp. 15-41.


Tibetan kang-ru'i shar-phyogs, kLong-chen-pa claims that formerly, before his series of lives in Tibet, as a direct student of Padmasambhava he had mastered the teachings of the outer and inner vehicles.


On kLong-chen-pa's former lives in Tibet, especially as Padma Las-'bral rtsal, and his discovery of the mkha'-'gro snying-thig, see NSTB, Book 2. Pt. 4, pp. 213-215,


Until kLong-chen-pa's extensive dissemination of, and compositions on, the philosophy and history of the rNying-ma school, there were few such lineages during the fourteenth century. See NSTB, Book 2, Pt. 4.


Tibetan zhi-bde'i nags-khrod is a synonym for quiescence or nirvāṇa.


Concerning the analytic meditation on Impermanence (mi-rtag-pa, Sanskrit anitya) and its benefits, see e.g., Mi-pham rNam-rgyal, byed-sgom 'khor-lo-ma:, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, pp. 41-54.


Tibetan mdzod-ldan-rnams-kyi ye-shes gangs-can-mtsho.


Tibetan Ihag-bsam rnam-dag Ihag-pa'i ting-'dzin zab-mo bsgom. This phrase, in combination with the previous verse on commitments and vows, indicates the three correct trainings (yang-dag-pa'i bslab-pa gsum) of superior śīla, citta, and prajñā. See also NSTB, Book 1, Pt. 1, pp. 16ab.


For skye-rgu yongs-kyi read skye-rgu yongs-kyis.


I.e. Pūrvavideha in the east, Jambudvīpa in the south, Aparagodanīya in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north. See the chart in NSTB, Book 1, Introduction.


Tibetan ston-ka'i ri-bong 'dzin-gzugs.


Tibetan rgyal-ba'i yum-gyur kun-gyi.


Among the various motivations which justify the composition of treatises, outlined in NSTB, Book 1, Pt. 1, pp. 28a-41a, there are those composed after prophetic declarations and exhortations have been obtained. The works of kLong-chen-pa are considered within this category.


"mantra and transcendental perfection" (sngags-dang pha-rol-du phyin-pa'i tshul), respectively mantranaya and pāramitānaya, indicate the resultant and causal vehicles. See NSTB, Book 1, Pts. 3-4.


The name given to kLong-chen Rab-'byams-pa by Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal in a vision concerning the redaction of the mkha'-'gro snying-thig. See NSTB, Book 2, Pt. 4, pp. 238-277 and notes.


This dragon year would have to be be either 1340, the year in which he taught the snying-thig teachings at bSam-yas mChims-phu, or 1352. Since the biography clearly states that he moved to Gangs-ri Thod-dkar after this initial dissemination of Atiyoga, and then systematically arranged his writings and discoveries in that location, the latter date is the more likely. The first autumn month (ston-zla ra-ba) indicates the seventh month of that year. According to the tables in D. Schuh, Untersuchungen Zur Geschichte Tibetischen Kalenderrechnung, the fifteenth day of that month would correspond to 28 July, 1352.—The edition of the commentary is concluded at this point by a eulogy in praise of the author and a further colophon, added by 'Gyur-med rDo-rje, the son of A-dzom 'Brug-pa Grub-dbang Dri-med kLong-yangs who had been responsible for publishing this edition but had died during the printing of its final pages.

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