The Life and Works of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim
The Life and Works of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim publishes the collected works of the early Kadam master Kyoton in clear uchen type based on the manuscripts in the bka gdams gsung 'bum, which are very difficult to decipher in the old Ume scripts. The book contains many short works on buddha-nature and several other important subjects. It also includes a detailed introduction from Karma Phuntsho about the life and works of Kyotön. This publication was supported by Tsadra Foundation.
Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim, the abbot who led Narthang monastery at the peak of its history, was an illustrious figure of his time in Central Tibet. A resolute monk, a meditation master, a learned scholar, author, and public figure, he epitomized the high ideals, practices, and approaches of the Kadam school and championed its traditions of scriptural exegesis and meditation instructions. A Kadam luminary, he also left behind religious writings which hold great significance for Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and practice today.The writings of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim appear in volume 50 of the second batch and volume 61 of the third batch of the Collected Works of Kadam series published in 2007 and 2009 by Paltsek Bodyig Penying Zhibjugkhang and Sichuan People's Publishing House. (Source: Karma Phuntsho, Preface, page iii.)
|Citation||Phuntsho, Karma, ed. སྐྱོ་སྟོན་སྨོན་ལམ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་ཀྱི་མཛད་རྣམ་དང་གསུང་རྩོམ། The Life and Works of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim. Bhutan: Loden Foundation, 2023.|
- ༡. དཀར་ཆག i
- ༢. གླེང་བརྗོད། Preface iii
- ༣. ངོ་སྤྲོད། Introduction 1
- ༤. སྐྱོ་སྟོན་རྣམ་ཐར་ལྷུན་པོ་རིན་ཆེན་བཞི་པའི་མཛེས་རྒྱན། 63
- ༥. སྐྱོ་སྟོན་སྨོན་ལམ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་ཀྱི་གསན་ཡིག 133
- ༦. མཆིམས་ནམ་མཁའ་གྲགས་ཀྱི་རྣམ་ཐར་རིན་ཆེན་གཏེར་མཛོད། 161
- ༧. མཆིམས་ནམ་མཁའ་གྲཊ་ཀྱི་རྣམ་ཐར་ཡྟོན་བསྔགས་པའི་ཕྲེང་བ། 183
- ༨. ཆོས་འཆད་ཉན་ལ་འཇུག་པ་སྣང་བྱེད་འོད་ཟེར། 244
- ༩. མདོ་སྡེ་རྒྱན་གྱི་མན་ངག 276
- ༡༠. དབུས་མཐའི་མན་ངག 285
- ༡༡. ཤེར་ཕྱིན་མན་ངག་གསལ་བའི་མེ་ཏོག 303
- ༡༢. མངོན་རྟོགས་རྒྱན་འགྲེལ་ལེགས་བཤད་སྐྱེས་བུའི་དོན་སྒྲུབ། 320
- ༡༣. ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་བཞག་ས། 601
- ༡༤. འོད་གསལ་སྙིང་པོའི་དོན། 611
- ༡༥. སྐྱེས་བུ་གསུམ་གྱི་ལམ་ཁྲིད་། 615
- ༡༦. སྙིན་ཞག་རེའི་གསག་སྦྱང་གི་རིམ་པ། 628
- ༡༧. སྡེ་སྣོད་བཅུད་བསྡུས་མང་ངག་སྙིང་པོ། 630
- ༡༨. རྟེན་འབྲེལ་ལག་ལེན་དུ་དྲིལ་བ། 637
- ༡༩. གདམས་ངག་ཁ་གཏམ་ལོ་རྒྱུས། 681
- ༢༠. ལག་ཁྲིད་ཀྱི་གདམས་པ་བཅུ་གཉིས། 686
- ༢༡. ཞི་བ་ལྷའི་སེམས་བསྐྱེད་ཀྱི་ཆོ་ག 690
- ༢༢. ཞི་ལྷ་ནས་བརྒྱུད་པའི་བྱང་སེམས་སྦྱོང་ཐབས། 698
- ༢༣. སྤྱོད་འཇུག་གི་འཁོར་ལོ་ལྟ་བུའི་སྒོམ་དོན། 705
- ༢༤. བསླླབ་བཏུས་ཀྱི་གདམས་པ། 717
- ༢༥. མར་མེ་མཛད་ཀྱི་དབུ་མའི་མན་ངག 719
- ༢༦. མར་མེ་མཛད་ཀྱི་དབུ་མའི་མང་ངག་བསྡུས་པ། 725
- ༢༧. ཐེག་ཆེན་རྒྱུད་བླ་མའི་གདམས་པ། 729
- ༢༨. ཆོས་ཉིད་ཀྱི་ཁྲིད་། 742
- ༢༩. འདའ་ཀ་ཡེ་ཤེས་འཆི་ཁ་མའི་མན་ངག 750
- ༣༠. མི་གཡོ་བའི་དམིགས་པ་སྐོར་གསུམ། 755
- ༣༡. རོ་སྙོམས་གསུམ་གྱི་གདམས་ངག 759
- ༣༢. ཕྱོགས་བཅུ་མུན་པ་རྣམ་སེལ། 778
Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim, the abbot who led Narthang monastery at the peak of its history, was an illustrious figure of his time in Central Tibet. A resolute monk, a meditation master, a learned scholar, author, and public figure, he epitomized the high ideals, practices, and approaches of the Kadam school and championed its traditions of scriptural exegesis and meditation instructions. A Kadam luminary, he also left behind religious writings which hold great significance for Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and practice today. It was his short works on buddha-nature which initially drew the interest of modern scholars and my own attention as I began my work as writer-in-digital residence for the Tsadra Foundation. These short tracts, like the rest of his writings, were discovered about two decades ago in the library of Drepung and published by Paltsek Bodyig Penying Zhibjugkhang (Dpal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ’jug khang, དཔལ་བགས་ད་ག་ད་ང་བ་འག་ཁང་) under the aegis of Alak Zengkar Rinpoche. At the invitation of Karma Delek, who was at that time leading the project on the ground, I witnessed the work of listing and scanning these books in Drepung in 2002 during my first trip to Tibet. Without their massive and sustained initiative to preserve and make accessible the literary wealth of Tibet, which has suffered colossal damage and destruction in the twentieth century, we would not have much knowledge of Kyotön and many other masters of Tibet.
The writings of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim appear in volume 50 of the second batch and volume 61 of the third batch of the Collected Works of Kadam series published in 2007 and 2009 by Paltsek Bodyig Penying Zhibjugkhang and Sichuan People’s Publishing House. Volume 50 contains most of his writings, making up a full book containing 24 titles with 425 pages, and volume 61 in the third batch contains only five titles ranging from pages 117–166. The titles in volume 61 were discovered after publishing the first set in volume 50 and thus were added later. The original books are stored in Nechu Lhakhang, the temple in which the statues of the Buddha and the sixteen arhats are located, in Drepung monastery in Tibet. They are books in loose leaf (poti, ་ ་) format and written in obscure Ume (dbu med, ད ་ ད་) script, which, in numerous cases, are abbreviated, faded, or poorly inscribed. The texts also contain many annotations in small cursive letters, most of them added after the books were written, inserted between the lines or al་ong the margins. The books are marked “external” (phyi, ་) to perhaps indicate that they were brought from outside and housed in Nechu Lhakhang in Drepung monastery. Apart from this, there is no information available on the provenance of the books before they reached the library in Drepung where they have remained sequestered for several centuries. It is quite likely that these books along with thousands of other titles, including those that are now lost, were deposited in Drepung as the Ganden Phodrang rose to political power in Tibet in the middle of the seventeenth century. For the recensions of these texts in this book, we used the scanned copies of the texts as exemplars, as we did not have direct access to the original manuscripts. We had initially used the scans available on the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, but due to their poor resolution we subsequently used the higher resolution scans prepared by Marcus Perman from the printed copies. The biography of Chim Namkha Drak in prose by Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim and the biography of Kyotön himself by Nyima Gyeltsen, however, are not from the Collected Works of Kadam series. They are reproduced from the manuscript of the Golden Rosary of Narthang available at the Buddhist Digital Resource Center. The biographies were written in clear Uchen script and can be found on pages A279–B384 in that version of the Golden Rosary of Narthang. Although the scans of the original texts of these two biographies are clear and easy to read, they have been reproduced here to make this book comprehensive in presenting the life and works of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim.
Our main objective for reproducing the books in Uchen (dbu can, ད ་ཅན་) typeset is to make the writings easily accessible to readers, including international researchers and Himalayan readers who do not have knowledge of Ume script. Having a computerized type set also helps us have searchable texts for various purposes. In the process of the input and compilation of this volume, we have also been able to ascertain the true works of Kyotön from those mistakenly attributed to him by the editors of the Collected Works of Kadam series and before them by the curators of the archives at Nechu Lhakhang in Drepung. Close reading of the texts helped us verify most of the cases, but a few still remain to be confirmed. Although included in volume 50 containing works attributed to Kyotön, the biographies of Paldenpa (alias Drotön Dutsi Drak), Chumikpa, Sangay Gompa, and Zhang Chökyi Lama are excluded from this book. The versions of these biographies in Ume script in volume 50 do not have colophons, but the near identical versions in the Golden Rosary of Narthang have colophons showing Chim Namkha Drak as their author, and the titles are also listed among the writings of Chim Namkha Drak by Kyotön. However, the hagiography of Chim Namkha Drak in verse found in volume 50, like the long prose biography of Chim Namkha Drak in the Golden Rosary of Narthang, is undoubtedly a composition of Kyotön. In volume 61, the short longevity ritual text entitled The Heart of All Buddhas (Bde gshegs kun gyi snying po, བ་གགས་ན་ི་ང་་) included among Kyotön’s writings has a colophon showing Padmasambhava as the author, and the two sādhana practice manuals of Parṇaśavarī are clearly works of Chomden Rikpai Raldri, while one text entitled A Hundred Verses on the Noble Qualities of the Followers of Kadam Scriptural Tradition (Bka’ gdams gzhung pa’i rnam thar tshigs su bcad pa brgya pa, བཀའ་གདམས་གང་པ་མ་ཐར་ གས་་བཅད་པ་བ་པ་) appears to be a work of someone after Kyotön. Thus, these three texts are not included in this book, although they are classified as writings of Kyotön in the Collected Works of Kadam series.
Many other writings attributed to Kyotön may also be only recensions of texts composed by authors before Kyotön, but we cannot conclusively ascertain this without further evidence. For example, the colophon of the Instructions on Perfection (Phar phyin gyi man ngag, ཕར་ན་ི་མན་ངག་) states that Kyotön, “the great master, the eighth abbot of Narthang wrote this from/based on the text of Nyen and the monk Chökyi Gyeltsen transcribed and edited it (གཉན་ི་ ད་ལ་བ་དན་ན་་ར་ཐང་པ་བད་པར་ན་པས་ས། ་ལ་བན་པ་ས་་ལ་ མཚན་ིས་ས་ང་ས་་དག་པར་ས་པ།།). It is very likely that this text was composed by one Nyen and Kyotön merely transcribed it, but it is also possible that he used the text by Nyen as a basis to write this text. We also find many other titles such as the Instruction on the Ultimate Continuum of Mahāyāna (Theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i gdams pa, ག་པ་ན་་ད་་མ་གདམས་པ་), the Repository of Pristine Wisdom (Ye shes kyi bzhag sa, ་ས་་བཞག་ས་), Instructions on Reality (Chos nyid kyi khrid, ས་ད་་ད་) and Instructions for Dying (’Chi kha’i man ngag, འ་ཁ་མན་ངག་) attributed Kyotön, as explained below in the introduction, although these titles appear in the list of teachings he received from his teachers and among the writings of earlier masters. Thus, it is difficult to ascertain if the texts bearing these titles among Kyotön’s writings are original compositions of Kyotön with similar titles or merely earlier texts transcribed or redacted by him. However, the fact that they appear in different lists suggests their importance and use by the scholars of the time, and their authorship can be confirmed only when further evidence comes to light.
Among those works which can be clearly attributed to Kyotön, Instructions on the Middle Way appears twice as Instructions on the Middle Way of Mahāyāna (Theg chen dbu ma’i man ngag, ག་ན་ ད་མ་མན་ངག་) and Instructions on the Middle Way of the Dīpaṃkara (Mar me mdzad kyi dbu m’i man ngag, མར་་མཛད་་ད་མ་མན་ངག་), these being just two different versions of the same work. Similarly, Procedures for Daily Practice (Nyin zhag re’i bsag sbyang gi rim pa, ན་ཞག་་བསག་ང་་མ་པ།) also recurs as the final part of Quintessence of Scriptures and Pith Instructions (Sde snod kun gyi bcud bsdus man ngag rnams kyi snying po, ་ད་ན་ི་བད་བས་ མན་ངག་མས་་ང་།). The final text in this book, Dispelling Darkness in Ten Directions (Phyogs bcu mun sel, གས་བ་ན་ལ་), is not an original writing but Kyotön’s shortened recension of the Daśadigandhakāravidhvansanasūtra. As is the wont of Tibetan Buddhist masters in the past to prioritize passing down intact the transmission or teachings they have received rather than introduce new ideas or write original works, Kyotön’s writings may also be largely reproductions of earlier works, albeit with some modification for expedience.
The first item in this book is the biography of Kyotön written by his student and successor, Nyima Gyeltsen, the ninth abbot of Narthang. This is followed by the list of teachings Kyotön received from his teachers, which was either extracted from his biography or written separately and then incorporated into the biography. Following these two works on Kyotön’s life and education, we included the two biographies of his master, Chim Namkha Drak, both written by him. These are then followed by his commentarial works, philosophical writings, and instructions for practice. While some works are synoptic outlines, annotations, and scholastic commentaries, most of his philosophical writings are pithy meditations on Buddhist topics such as luminosity, emptiness, ultimate truth, dependent-arising, etc. In this book, we arranged the titles in order of traditional sense of depth and sanctity by going from exoteric life writing, to scholastic works on Buddhist texts and themes, to deep meditations on profound topics, to esoteric practices, and finally to the abridged version of the Daśadigandhakāravidhvansan asūtra as an auspicious conclusion.
The typescript is prepared using Jomolhari font, and original interlinear annotations within the texts are given in smaller font. Tibetan folio numbers of the original texts are included in parentheses, with ན་ indicating recto and བ་ indicating verso. We have not recorded the page numbers in Roman inserted by publishers of the Collected Works of Kadam series, but the range of such page numbers for each title is provided on the first page of the text after the title. We have included the actual titles found in the main texts rather than the titles found on the cover page, as many of the titles on the cover page were not accurate. The writings contain a wide range of archaic Tibetan words and phrases (e.g., མར་ི་ཤགས། ད་། ་བག བག་པ་ཅན། དག་པ་ག ་་་ནག་ ་ཏས་་ བབ་བམ་་བབ་ས་པས་ ་བབ་གངས།) which, interestingly, are in current use in Bhutanese vernaculars. Like in the case of modern Dzongkha, the connective particular ི་ is frequently used after a word without a suffix. We have rendered these in the grammatically correct form. The original texts are often very difficult to read or totally unintelligible. Where the texts could not be deciphered or a word or phrase is missing, ellipses are marked by tsheg (་་་) dots. Ellipses are also used to indicate the words or phrases which are deliberately left out by the author, particularly in citations, as they are not relevant, although we know what they are. When we provide a better alternative reading or orthography which may affect the meaning or literary and orthographic choice of the scribe, the original is preserved in the footnote. However, some original orthography is preserved to show the semantic and orthographic choice of the author or practice of the time. For example, in the commentary on Ornament of Clear Realization, or Abhisamayālaṃkāra, Kyotön or the scribe consistently uses ང་ བ་ མས་པ་, which more accurately renders the term “bodhisattva,” instead of the common ང་ བ་ མས་དཔའ་, which is used in the annotations, which were clearly added later, in this text. This book is being brought out as a supplement to the rich web resource on buddha-nature (buddhanature.tsadra.org) which was built to spread the message of wisdom and compassion as the true nature of all beings. A project of Tsadra Foundation, the website holds a very diverse collection of literature including sūtras, tantras, and other writings on the theme of buddha-nature, audio-visual recordings such as teachings, interviews and conversations, and many educational tools such as bibliography, glossary, timeline, and events. The website introduces the beginner to the topic of buddha-nature, prepares the intermediate student to go deeper into the historical development, doctrinal exegesis and practical application of buddha-nature, and offers an unprecedented body of resources for advanced learners to delve into this profound topic in Mahāyāna Buddhism using the Ultimate Continuum of Mahāyāna or Mahāyānottaratantra, (Theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma, ག་པ་ ་ ན་ ་ ད་་ མ་) as the core text. As a number of Kyotön’s writings directly discuss buddha-nature and most of other writings are relevant to the study and practice of buddha-nature, this book will help enrich this web resource and our knowledge of buddha-nature.
Moreover, by making the writings of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim easily accessible, we hope to shed more light on the philosophical understanding and meditation practices associated with the Kadam masters who followed the meditative tradition of the works of Maitreya. While the works of scholars such as Ngok Lotsāwa Loden Sherab, Chapa Chökyi Senge, and their followers who took up the exegetical tradition of Maitreya’s works, mainly at the scholastic center of Sangphu, were quite well known and have been studied by both traditional Tibetan scholars and Western academics, information on the meditative tradition still remains scanty and understudied. This collection of the writings of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim, we hope, will help narrow this gap and also broaden our limited knowledge of this line of rich spiritual tradition. This publication would not have been possible without the support of Eric Colombel and the Tsadra Foundation, with their noble and prodigious vision and programs for disseminating the vast and profound wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism across the world. Marcus Perman, the Executive Director of Tsadra, has been the direct channel of this support and instrumental throughout the process of this publication. Similarly, Alex Catanese has been very generous with his time and efforts to improve the English text in this book. My gratitude also goes to my colleagues Gregory Forgues and Gwen Witt-Dörring for their help and to Khenpo Tshewang, Alak Zengkar Rinpoche, Karma Delek, and Lama Dawa for responding to my queries. It was my Bhutanese colleagues Tendel Zangpo and Dorji Gyaltshen who spent weeks plowing through the Tibetan texts and helped me decipher some of the near unintelligible Ume annotations. With his skills in textual input, typeset, and layout, Tendel Zangpo has undertaken the major bulk of the work in preparing this book, while Dorji Gyaltshen, with his acumen for textual editing, provided much needed assistance in proofreading and copyediting.
At the height of the digital revolution, when even in remote corners of the Himalayan world people are enamored by developments such as ChatGPT and engrossed in digital platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok, which continue to fuel people’s sense of vanity and self-aggrandizement, the ideals and principles of the Kadam masters today seem like an otherworldly impossible endeavor. Yet, faced with enormous challenges of deep-seated egocentricity, rampant parochialism, widespread negativity, and so forth, humanity at this point needs more than ever before the values of humility, selflessness, simplicity, compassion, positivity, and openness, which Kadam masters like Kyotön so remarkably epitomized. It is with the deepest hope and prayers to promote and disseminate such values and cultivate such ethos that we bring out this book on the life and works of Kyotön Monlam Tsultrim.
Karma PhuntshoBodhitse, Thimphu
"Emptiness" is not in the list (Yogācāra, Madhyamaka) of allowed values for the "PosYogaMadhya" property.
These are the root verses of the Uttaratantra attributed to Maitreya by the Tibetan tradition.