RNgog blo ldan shes rab's Topical Outline of the Ratnagotravibhāga Discovered at Khara Khoto

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RNgog blo ldan shes rab's Topical Outline of the Ratnagotravibhāga Discovered at Khara Khoto
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Citation: Kano, Kazuo. "rNgog blo ldan shes rab's Topical Outline of the Ratnagotravibhāga Discovered at Khara Khoto." In Contributions to Tibetan Buddhist Literature, edited by Orna Almogi, 127–94. PIATS 2006: Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Königswinter, 2006. Halle (Saale), Germany: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH, 2008.

Article Summary

1) Among the fifty or so compositions of Rngog lo, most are still unavailable and only nine works have so far been published. To these works we can add our topical outline of the RGV (rgyud bla ma’i bsdus don) preserved in a folio discovered at Khara Khoto, which originally consisted of two folios. Its authorship could be confirmed from its colophon as well as by comparing its contents to another lengthy RGV commentary (the Essential Meaning) ascribed to Rngog lo. Our manuscript is thus the earliest Tibetan text that systematically outlines the RGV, and it has made a fundamental contribution to the development of the Tibetan exegetical tradition of the RGV.

2) Rngog lo seems to have used the term bsdus don (or its equivalents) to refer to two kinds of works, namely “topical outline” and “essential meaning,” for he composed two works on the RGV―a brief topical outline and a lengthy essential meaning―which bear titles containing the term bsdus don and its equivalent don bsdus pa, respectively. Among Rngog lo’s available writings, our Khara Khoto manuscript and the Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa’i don bsdus pa offer the only testimony that bsdus don (and its equivalent don bsdus pa) refers to a “topical outline,” as he often uses the term bsdus don to indicate a lengthy "essential meaning" in his other commentarial works. The first usage was common among Tibetan masters during the early and middle phyi dar period, whereas the latter was generally rare. This rare usage is most likely influenced by the piṇḍārtha sub-genre of Indian commentaries.

3) Our manuscript has some serious textual problems, such as missing words, illegible words, syntactic ambiguity, and a missing folio. However, we can solve many of those problems by referring to corresponding sentences in the other two works on the RGV, namely, Rngog lo’s Essential Meaning and Phywa pa’s Topical Outline.

4) The colophon of our manuscript does not tell us when the work was composed or copied. We can only deduce an approximate date of the manuscript to be some time between ca. 1092 (a possible terminus post quem of the composition of the work) and 1374 (the year of the destruction of Khara Khoto). The contents of our manuscript and other relevant works discovered at Khara Khoto show that the Tibetan scholastic tradition of the Bka’ gdams pa had spread there. (Kano, conclusion, 170)