Kaḥ thog Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita's Doxographical Position: The Great Madhyamaka of Other-Emptiness (gzhan stong dbu ma chen po)

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Kaḥ thog Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita's Doxographical Position: The Great Madhyamaka of Other-Emptiness (gzhan stong dbu ma chen po)
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Citation: Makidono, Tomoko. "Kaḥ thog Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita's Doxographical Position: The Great Madhyamaka of Other-Emptiness (gzhan stong dbu ma chen po)." Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies 12 (2011): 77–119.

Article Summary

This paper cxplores the doctrinal position of Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita ’Gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub[1] (1761-1829) namely, the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness (gzhan stong dbu ma chen po). Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita was the first of the Dge rtse reincarnation lineage, and served as an abbot of the Kah thog monastery of the Rnying ma school of Tibetan Buddhism in Khams, in eastem Tibet.[2] Apart from the fact that Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita edited the Sde dge edition of the Rnying ma rgyud ’bum,[3] little is known of him or his own works.[4]
      This paper will examine Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s doxography, considering the way in which he attempts to demonstrate that the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness is ultimate within the Buddhist doctrinal history originating from India. According to Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness is said to have been the intent of the Last Tuming of the Wheel of the Dharma which is of definitive meaning, teaches the Buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha), and, as pointed out by Duckworth, "accords with the Great Perfection"[5] (rdzogs chen). Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s gzhang stong view is explicitly taught in the following doxographical texts: the Bde gshegs snying po'i rgyan, the Grub mtha'i rnam gzhag nges don dgongs gsal, the Rton pa bzhi ldan gyi gtam, the first chapter of the Rnying ma rgyud 'bum dkar chag lha'i rnga bo che,[6] and the Sangs rgyas gnyis pa'i dgongs pa'i rgyan,[7] which is Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita's commentary on the Gsang sngags lam gyi rim pa sal ba'i sgron me, a gter ma of Nyang ral Nyi ma 'od zer (1124/1136-1192/1204).
      This paper will also suggest that Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita should be recognized as a forerunner of the ris med movement in Khams, as supported by the following facts: his view on the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness embraces the major practice lineages (sgrub brgyud)—Jo nang pa, Bka' brgyud pa, Sa skya pa, early Dge lugs pa, Rnying ma pa, and Zhi byed—within a single overriding intent of the Buddha’s teachings;[8] Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita as the teacher of Zhe chen dbon sprul ’Gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal, also known as Zhe chen Mahāpaṇḍita (b. 1787), who was a gzhan stong pa,[9] and who in tum was the teacher of the three masters Kong sprul (1813-99), Mkhyen brtse'i dbang po (1820–2), and Dpal sprul (1808-87).[10] Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s Legs bshad gser gyi thur ma, which is his response to the Lta ba'i gsung mgur by Lcang skya Rol pa'i rdo rje (1717-86),[11] would hint at the seeds of the ris med movement which grew up among the three schools, the Sa skya, Bka' brgyud, and Rnying ma.[12] With this paper, then, I hope to add to our understanding of the practice lineages of Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka. (Makidono, introduction, 77–80)
  1. Kapstein notes that “Dge-rtse Pandita, in fact, came to be regarded as an emanation of Dol-po-pa himself.” See Kapstein, 1995: 462; Steams, 2010: 356n325; Ngag dbang yon tan bzang po (1928-2002) mentions Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita. See Jo nang chos 'byung dang rje jo nang pa chen po'i ring lugs, 90; Burchardi, 2007: 4; Duckworth, 2008; for biographical information relating to Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, see Kaḥ thog lo rgyus, 108-111; Achard, 2003; Ronis, 2009.
  2. Eimer and Tsering, 1981: 13-14; Ronis, 2009.
  3. Achard, 2003; Cantwell, 2002: 364; Derbac, 2007: 22-27, 70—156; Martin, 1997: 143; Mayer, 2006: 105; according to Dorje and Kapstein, the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism by Dudjom Rinpoche derive in part from Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s Rnying ma rgyud ’bum dkar chag. See Dorje and Kapstein, 1991: 398; Thondup notes that Dge rtse Maliāpandita “wrote the history of the Ancient Tantric tradition and the catalogue for the new publication.” See Thondup, 1997: 182; van Schaik, 2000: 5; Rnying ma rgyud 'bum gyi dkar chag gsal ba'i me long, 15-16, 38-254; also Tibetan Literary Encyclopedia, under http://www.thlib.org/encvcloDedias/literarv/canons/ngb/: see Cantwell, Mayer, and Fischer, 1999-2003, which provides the catalogue of Rig ’dzin Tshe dbang nor bu’s edition of the Rnying ma 'i rgyud 'bum, together with the concordance of various editions, under http://ngb.csac.anthropology.ac.uk/Title_page_main.html.
  4. Guenther, 1987; The Dharmacakra Translation Committee, 2006; Duckworth, 2008; Ronis, 2009.
  5. Duckworth, 2008: xix, n33.
  6. Rnying ma rgyud 'bum dkar chag lha'i rnga bo che consists of five chapters, of which the fourth is the dkar chag. The Rnying ma rgyud 'bum dkar chag lha'i rnga bo che consists of the 35th (waṃ) and 36lh (śrīḥ) volumes of the Gting skyes Rnying ma'i rgyud 'bum. See Cantwell, 2002: 375; Cantwell and Mayer 2006: 13nl3; Derbac, 2007: 23, 70-156; Kaḥ thog Rig 'dzin Tshe dbang nor bu (1698-1755) is a gzhan stong pa who edited another Rnying ma'i rgyud 'bum. See Cantwell, 2002.
  7. Sangs rgyas gnyis pa'i dgongs pa'i rgyan was studied by Zhe chen Mahāpaṇḍita. See Zhe chen dbon sprul 'Gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal gyi rnam thar, fol. 25b2, p. 70.2.
  8. Cf. Kong sprul, Gdams ngag mdzod. See Smith, 2001:264; also, Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita refers to the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-82) as the maker of "non-sectarian doctrines" (ris su ma pa'i bstan pa). See Rnying ma'i rgyud 'bum dkar chag lha'i rnga bo che, A, vol. 8, fol. 122b6-7, pp. 244.6- 7; B, fol. 268b3-4, p. 538.3-4; C, (śriḥ), fol. 190a4-6, p. 379.4-6; TT, vol. 2, 367: spyir Inga pa chen po ni chos rgyal khri srong lde'u btsan slar yang bod 'bangs kyi bde skyid spel phyir thugs bskyed smon lam dus su babs nas byon pa ste \ gangs Ijongs 'dir ris su ma chad pa'i bstan pa dang chos 'khor mams la sri zhu bla Ihag tu mdzad....
  9. Zhe chen Mkhan po Gang shar (1925-1958/59) sets forth the lineage of great gzhan stong masters such as Yu mo ba (s.a./1027), Dol po pa (1292-1361), Tāranātha (1575-1634), Rang byung rdo rje (1284-1339), Klong chen pa (1308-64), Smin gling Gter bdag gling pa (1646-1714), Rdo grub chen ’Jigs med phrin las ’od zer (1745-1821), Kah thog Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, Zhe chen Mahāpaṇḍita Dbon sprul Mthu stobs rnam rgyal, and the Third Dge rtse ’Gyur med bstan pa mam rgyal (1886—1952). See 'Phrul gyi Ide mig, fol. 7a5-7b4, pp. 271-72; see also, Karma and Wangdu 2009:4.
  10. See the “Preface” in the Zhe chen dbon sprul 'Gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal gyi rnam thar, Ronis, 2009: 241–43; Ghose, 1970: 30–31.
  11. In his Lta ba'i gsung mgur, Lcang skya Rol pa'i rdo rje criticizes the Sa skya, the Bka' brgyud, and the Rnying ma. There are at least three commentaries on the Lta ba'i gsung mgur, such as the Lta ba'i gsung mgur gyi 'grel pa tshig gi sgron me by the Second 'Jam dbyangs bzhad pa (1728–1791), the Legs bshad gser gyi thur ma by Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, and the Lta mgur 'grel chung by Mi pham (1846-1912); also, see the Dbu rdzogs lta mgur zab mo by Lcang skya Rol pa'i rdo ije, Mi pham, and Gang shar dbang po.
  12. Gene Smith describes the difficulties faced by the Rnying ma pa in the eighleenth century (Smith, 1969: 8), and draws a connection between this and the rise of the ris med movement (Smith,1970: 24); also see van Schaik, 2003: 201–202; Achard 2002: ln2; Gyatso, 1998: 142n112.