RNgog lo-tsā-ba's Commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga: An Early-20th-Century Lhasa Printed Edition

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RNgog lo-tsā-ba's Commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga: An Early-20th-Century Lhasa Printed Edition
Citation: Jackson, David. "rNgog lo-tsā-ba's Commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga: An Early-20th-Century Lhasa Printed Edition." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995, Vol. 1, edited by Helmut Krasser, Michael Tortsen Much, Ernst Steinkellner, and Helmut Tauscher, 439–56. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997.

Article Summary

rNgog Io-tsa-ba Blo-ldan-shcs-rab (1059-1109) was more than anyone else responsible for the establishment of Tibetan Buddhist scholasticism.[1] He founded in Tibet not only the main enduring lineages of logic and epistemology (Tshad-ma: Pramāṇa) studies but also of two other major branches of Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy and doctrine—those of the Five Dharmas of Maitreya (Byams chos sde Inga) and of the Svātantrika Yogācāra-Madhyamaka.[2] rNgog-lo furthermore trained virtually the entire next generation of important Tibetan scholastics, his "four chief spiritual sons" being: (1) Zhang Tshe-spong-ba, (2) Gro-lung-pa Blo-gros-'byung gnas, (3) Khyung Rin-chen-grags, and (4) 'Bre Shes-rab-'bar.[3] Yet in spite of rNgog's central position in the history of Tibetan philosophical and doctrinal studies, until recently only a very small number of his works were known to survive, and of these the two most extensive and important have remained for decades largely inaccessible outside of Tibet, existing only as isolated xylographs in private collections.[4] Now, however, with the reprinting of two of his major works by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, including his very important commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga described here, some of the seminal contributions of rNgog-lo can at last be easily assessed in the original.[5]
      Both of these major works of rNgog-lo were commentaries on fundamental works of the Maitreyanātha tradition within the Yogācāra branch of Mahāyana Buddhism,[6] namely on the Ratnagotravibhāga and Abhisamayālaṃkāra.[7] The works thus reflected another aspect of his illustrious career, for in addition to—and indeed in tandem with—his importance as a great teacher, he was also of crucial significance as a composer of commentaries on the works he expounded. (Jackson, "rNgog lo-tsa-ba's Commentary of the Ratnagotravibhāga," 339–340)
  1. Klu-sgrub-rgya-mtsho 113: phar tshad la sogs pa mdo phyogs kyi bstan pa lung rigs kyi sgo nas 'ur phyil pa de rngog lo tsā ba'i drin yin /. For a discussion on "scholasticism" as a comparative category, see J. I. Cabezón 1994: 11 ff.
  2. For more on the life of rNgog-lo and his importance, see the article D. Jackson 1994. For other references to his important contributions, see also Karen C. Lang 1990: 132; L. van der Kuijp 1983: 42, 46, and 271, n. 91; and S. Onoda 1989: 205. On his successors at gSang-phu, see S. Onoda 1989, 1990, and 1992; and L. van dcr Kuijp 1987.
  3. Klu-sgrub-rgya-mtsho 113.
  4. The only Western scholar who, to my knowledge, has used rNgog-lo's Ratnagotravibhāga commentary to date is Prof. D. Seyfort Ruegg. See D. Seyfort Ruegg 1969: 302–304.
  5. A xylogrnphic print of both commentaries (including rNgog-lo's Phar phyin bsdus don) had been preserved in the personal library of Dwags-po Rin-po-che in Paris, whose kind cooperation has made this reprint edition possible.
  6. Historically this was their origin, though the dGe-lugs-pa traditions considered the Ratnagotravibhāga and Abhisamayālaṃkāra to represent two different Madhyamaka philosophical positions.
  7. Besides these two commentaries, just two other works of his—very minor and brief ones—had become accessible. One is his versified epistle sPring yig bdud rtsi thig pa, for which there exists the commentary by Shākya-mchog ldan, sPring yig. (See for instance D. Jackson 1987; 167 and 179, note 9.) And as previously reported in D. Jackson 1987: 148, n. 8, one brief work is a mDo sde rgyan gyi bsdus don, preserved in an anthology of bKa'-gdams-pa writings edited by Don-grub-rgyal-mtshan, Legs par bshad pa bka' gdams rin po che'i gsung gi gces btus nor bu'i bang mdzod (New Delhi, 1985), as Leonard van der Kuijp informed me long ago. To date, no work on Buddhist logic- epistemology (Tshad-ma), one of his main scholastic interests, has yet been published, though a copy of his Pramāṇaviniścaya commentary is known to survive.