Saturday, May 14, 2022

One Secret of the Seals

A scene from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

As so often here in the land of blogs, it may seem like it’s  about who receives the proper credit for getting something started. So before I start to give my answers on the origin and meaning of the word kha-tham that you see just below, I’d like to say something about how I got up to this point. What makes me do it?

A detail (complete page illustrated below)

Based on my past experience, whenever you have a two-syllable word (excluding endings) in Tibetan in which the two syllables don’t successfully (or very successfully) suggest a Tibetan-language etymology, you can feel justified and often vindicated in supposing it to be a foreign borrowing.* But I should add that these borrowings are liable to be subjected to what I call a ‘Tibetanizing’ way of spelling that makes them look more as if they were native Tibetan terms. In some cases you can see this disguising process at work, observing different spellings at different times in the history of the language. I don’t want to go too much into this right now, just to say past experience explains why seeing a word like kha-tham immediately sets my mind to wondering if it isn’t ultimately foreign. If you want more justification for such hunches, have a look at one example in the earlier blog about a Central Asian Turkish word that ended up in Tibetan in quite early times: thu-lum (ཐུ་ལུམ་).

(*I realize I’m neglecting, and unjustifiably overlooking, calques and direct borrowings from Sanskrit, which at times may undergo their own Tibetanizing spelling transformations, whether at the moment of borrowing or further on down the road. If you need a quick example, think of bskal-pa for Sanskrit kalpa, meaning ‘eon.’)

But before giving my positive answer about where kha-tham comes from, I’d like to give the internally Tibetan derivation a good old college try, if nothing else to demonstrate that it doesn’t work out so well. If it doesn’t interest you, you can skip over the blue. 

I mean, the kha could mean mouth or surface or face, or the mouth-like opening of a vessel, the edge of a lake, a shore (and several quite obscure and rare but possible meanings). Kha tends to be used in Tibetan scriptures when translating the Sanskrit word mukha with its similar but not identical range of meanings.

Now the syllable tham[s] causes us more difficulties. The only usage as a one-syllable term I know of is archaic and quite obscure, with a meaning to be agreed upon. Equally old and obscure is the bisyllabic tham[s]-lag, that is glossed by man-ngag, or secret instructions, in Sanskrit upadeśa

Finally, putting the two syllables kha and tham together doesn't easily lead anywhere that makes sense. This kind of failure is my usual trigger for searching abroad, but which abroad? How far abroad do we need to go?

Particularly in Buddhist contexts India is place of first resort when you feel the need to think about borrowings. In our case we at least need to consider this possibility since we cannot go forward in our argument without getting it out of the way. First of all I may have to say that Indian languages don’t confuse consonants with their aspirates. The letter ‘k’ is not ‘kh’, and ‘t’ is not ‘th’, and this sharp distinction holds whether it’s an Indian language that we are talking about, or Tibetan itself. Foreigners might confuse them or regard them as the same, but that’s entirely their problem. That’s why the Sanskrit word katha, meaning ‘story,’ cannot even be brought into the picture. Even if it were worth considering, we would have to reject it because the meaning ‘story’ bears no sense in the context (more on this context in a moment). The hypothetical *khatha doesn't seem to exist at all as a Sanskritic form.

Zhijé Collection, vol. 1, p. 158 (click to enlarge)

This very same passage was discussed over a decade ago in a comment to Sam van Schaik's blog Early Tibet. You may want to look back at that, but I should say, at the time I was more concerned about the Seven Seals, and had no idea to offer about the kha-tham let alone its weird ending “ṃḥ” that makes it look so much like a mantra.* But that’s a technical point that would require bringing in some arcane Sanskrit grammar as well as little-known mantric science, so we won’t go down that curious track right now. 

(*... an anusvāra followed by a visargaas if that were something that could happen. Well, it does happen in the Kālacakra system, look here.)

By the way, just like you or so I suspect, I’m still fascinated by the whole idea of the Seven Seals. It brings to mind not only one of Ingmar Bergman’s most famous movies — remember that scene of playing chess with death? Of course you do — but the Book of Revelation that came two millennia before the film. Buddhologists will think of the Seven Seals in a story told in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras that could be about the same age as Revelations or a couple of centuries earlier, Who knows? I hope to blog on that particular topic soon. Today I’ll just point to the complete set of them named in that page from the Zhijé Collection (its actual scribing dated ca. 1245), followed by the text-ending expression “That's all,” before you get the word kha-tham. There is no observable difference in penmanship, so arguments  dismissing it as idle scribbling by a later hand hold no water.*

(*And besides, if you are conversant with written Tibetan, you can do an experiment and put it in the search-box at TBRC/BDRC/BUDA. In case you don’t know how to do that, I'll do it for you, just click here. There is a lot to contemplate, but you can see that the kha-tham is very often used in conjunction with sealing terms, particularly in Nyingma texts found by tertöns.)

Ready to hear my solution? 

The word means ‘seal,’ but in what language? Not Tibetan, not Indic, but Semitic. That’s right, it’s a word that three Middle Eastern languages share: Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic. It’s the Hebrew I’m most familiar with, where the infinitive lakhtom has the dictionary ‘root’ form (=3rd person singular past) khatam, and it’s similar with Arabic and Aramaic. It’s the very word used in the well-known expression ‘seal of the prophets,’ applied to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him: khātam an-nabīyīn. Of course the Semitic word was borrowed into Persian, which might seem a more likely transit station, especially if it arrived in Tibet via India. However that may be, it has even more ancient roots in old Egypt, where it was being used far before the time of Solomon three thousand years ago, in fact over four thousand years BP.*

(*See Schultz listed below. Oddly, although Mesopotamia is justly famed for cylinder seals, my etymological dictionaries tell me nothing about corresponding cognates being used in either Sumerian or Akkadian.)

Tibetan doesn’t possess an uvular consonant such as you find in the Semitic terms (well, perhaps some northeastern dialects do), but Tibetan language’s best way of representing it would have been the aspirated ‘kh.’

I recognize that there is bound to be a certain amount of resistance from people who haven’t sufficiently realized what can happen, who might overestimate Tibet’s historical isolation. I know it might seem like the philological counterpart to archaeology's misplaced artifact. What is that doing here?  My point exactly. What is that doing here? In any case, it’s there.

I think this foreign word for ‘seal’ is acting as a sealing expression, every bit as much as the seven sealing expressions that came before it. It is saying, ‘This seals it.’ It is also saying, ‘If you aren’t the intended recipient of this communication, you had better not read it.’ 

Not that this quite seals my argument, since if you still remember I promised that there would be a connection between two words. That means maṇḍala al-mandal moving from east to west, and now khatam → kha-tham moving from west to east. Al-mandal in the Arabic magical text from Yemen (and Ethiopia) mentioned in the last blog is done in wax. I’m no expert in the field, but in the course of the magical operation a golden seal might be impressed onto the center of the design, and may also be used to mark the wax candles. So there is something connecting the two word borrowings, as both seem to have a lot to do with the history of Solomonic magical lore, where the Seven Seals have a well established home as well. But we’ll save that seven-fold set for another day, especially since I can’t even imagine how to sort out all the problems associated with showing where they had their start, how they wandered, got reinterpreted, and became so widespread, leaving their stamp all over the place. No need to overstretch ahead of time, is there? I think we have enough to think about for now.

So rest up and save some energy for our next blog. It will be about the very same page of the Zhijé Collection, if all goes according to plan, about those Seven Seals that appear just above the kha-tham.

§   §   §

Relevant references

Regine Schulz, “Seals and Scarabs,” contained in: Ian Shaw and Elizabeth Bloxam, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Egyptology, Oxford University Press (Oxford 2020), pp. 367-408, at p. 368: 

“The ancient Egyptian language has several function-oriented, partly interchangeable terms for seal: ḫtm, which derives from the verb ḫtm ‘to lock, close, seal’, names the ‘sealdevice,’ the ‘impression,’ and also the ‘sealed item.’ In the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2125 BCE), the term described cylinder seals, but was later used for all seal types, including signet rings.”

The hieroglyph looks like this: 

It’s supposed to depict a cylinder seal
attached to a necklace so it doesn’t get lost or ‘borrowed.’

The following little essay also points out the Egyptian origins of the word:  Zsofia Buda, “Speaking to Angels: Charaktêres in Jewish Magical Manuscripts – Part I,” posted at Rylands Blog, on January 25, 2022.

This blog by Jonas Sibony has a handy list of the word forms that appear in Semitic tongues, supplying them in their original scripts, which is useful and delightful.

Quite a few instances of the Tibetan form of the word may be found by simply doing a TBRC search for "kha taM" without the quote-marks, or a general internet search with them.

I highly recommend consulting the lengthy entry “K̲h̲ātam, K̲h̲ātim” in the 2nd ed. of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, although I have to say, even if this encyclopedia is rightly regarded as reliable most of the time, it is technically off the mark in finding Aramaic origins for the word, as we know Egyptian usage is attested from a time before Aramaic was known to exist:

K̲h̲ātam, K̲h̲ātim  (a.) (P. muhr), seal, signet, signet-ring, the impression (also k̲h̲atm) as well as the actual seal-matrix; it is applied not only to seals proper... indeed anything with an inscription stamped upon it may be called k̲h̲ātam. The word k̲h̲ātam is said by Nöldeke, Mandäische Grammatik, 112 to be of Aramaic origin, and in this he is followed by Fraenkel...”

The dozen-year-old page in Sam’s blog is here:  I haven't yet seen his recent book Buddhist Magic: Divination, Healing, and Enchantment through the Ages, but hope to read it before long. It’s possible to view an hour-long lecture he gave on his book, and the 950-ish CE book behind his book, h...e...r...e. Toward the end of it, in the Q&A section, you can hear him saying how magical technologies such as mandalas, mantras and mudras were appropriated to Buddhist soteriological purposes, clearly placing the magic prior to the Buddhist usages of them. In terms of explaining Vajrayāna origins, we could call it the magical primacist position.

I looked into Berthold Laufer’s “Loanwords,” and didn’t locate anything relevant, so that’s time that could have been better spent.

I noticed that Gwendolyn Hyslop’s (et al.) new and actually not yet published dictionary of Kurtöp-Dzongkha-English has this entry on p. 5:

“katham n. བཀའི་ཐིའུ་; kai thiu; royal seal.”

I think this Kurtöp word "katham" may be most simply accounted for as a loan from chancellery Persian as used in India in more recent centuries, particularly under the Mughals. I wouldn’t lend it much more significance than that. Still, I suppose if we are weighing possibilities about routes of transmission from Egypt to Tibet, Indian employment of Persian could be one piece of the puzzle. If you are listening to me, it was more likely transmitted in a magical context than one of bureaucratic officialdom.

Here are the details on the ca. 1245 CE manuscript as it has been put into print (the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project made a microfilm directly from the original that is far better to work with):

Zhijé Collection  —   Kun-dga’ et al., The Tradition of Pha Dampa Sangyas:  A Treasured Collection of His Teachings Transmitted by T[h]ug[s]-sras Kun-dga', Kunsang Tobgey (Thimphu, Bhutan), in 5 volumes, with English preface by Barbara N. Aziz.

· · ·

I might have to apologize to some of you for not remaining silent, but I simply must mention an amazing crystal seal associated with Mar Mani (216-276 CE), apparently one made to be used by Mani himself, that you can see and learn a little about by tapping here

The concept of Manichaean primacy is briefly mentioned in an article that is mostly about the interesting developments and variations in ideas about what the seal of the prophets means in Islamic traditions’ ways of thinking: 

Simeon Evstatiev, “On the Perception of the Khātam al-Nabiyyīn Doctrine in Arabic Historical Thought: Confirmation or Finality,” contained in S. Leder, et al., eds., Studies in Arabic and Islam, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta no. 108, Peeters (Leuven 2002), pp. 455-467. 

However, it isn’t so simple that we can just say Manichaeism set a precedent for Islam in this regard and leave it at that. Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa has written this fascinating paper: 

“Seal of the Prophets: The Nature of a Manichaean Metaphor,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol. 7 (1986), pp. 61-74. 

According to him, Manichaeans had an idea of “three seals,” those of mouth [diet, abstaining from evil words], hand [abstaining from killing anything at all] and purity [chastity].* They also had “four light seals”: love, faith, fear and wisdom (with wisdom herself very significantly called the “seal of the burxan [prophets]”). 

The Manichaean phrase in question means ‘seal of [Mani's] apostles,’ likely referring to those who would follow him in the future (not necessarily to his predecessors, nota bene). An apostle, for him, was ranked higher than a prophet or a [mere] teacher. Mani never really called himself “seal of the prophets,” but what he did say was that wisdom was the seal of the burxan...**

(*This probably ought to be mouth, hand and body, in other words and in a different order, body, speech and mind, a very important triad in Buddhist thinking, particularly in relation to ethics as we have it here. Manichaeans drew a lot of inspiration from Buddhist ideas, or at least found ways to work with them. **If you need to know what burxan means, see this brief article by Berthold Laufer.)

Now I see Wikipedia has an entry for “Sealstone of Mani.” Have a look there, too. I haven’t yet been able to read the full article about it by Zsuzsanna Gulácsi. It seems she has the latest word on the subject, and her work on Manichaean art history is outstanding.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Maṇḍalas of Medieval Jewish Magic


Book of Secrets manuscript, New York
Public Library no. 190, page 167

This blog ought to add some persuasive force to the preceding one on Maṇḍalas of Medieval Arabic (and Latin) Magic. After posting it, I wrote to a professor at Tel Aviv University, Gideon Bohak, author of an impressive book with the title Ancient Jewish Magic. His quick answer took my breath away. He not only knew of a Jewish example of a maṇḍala in a magic book, he sent the manuscript page with a sketch for one, labelled with the word mandal in larger Hebrew letters in the upper right corner. I feel humbled but then again slightly intelligent just because I knew enough to write the right person with my question. He not only knew of this manuscript — as he informed me it is available online — he studied it and published an edition of it.

The manuscript you see here is not in Hebrew, no matter how much it may appear to be. It’s in what is sometimes known as Judaeo-Arabic. That means it was written by an Arabic speaker more comfortable writing their Arabic in Hebrew letters. It has the title Book of Secrets. The language is Arabic, although Hebrew terms might appear here and there, and even, as we see here, at least one Sanskrit word. Oh, and some Greek terms, too. It appears it is little more than a lengthy book of magical prescriptions.

The title makes us think of a different magic book: Noah received the transmission of a Book of Secrets from an angel prior to the Great Flood and inscribed it on a sapphire slate. This he placed in a gold box he took aboard the ark, and after the flood was over passed it on to his descendants until it finally reached the hands of King Solomon, who evidently was the most remarkable in ability to make use of its magic. It dates from the Second Temple, at least in its essentials, preserving elements from that period, but possibly dating as late as the 7th century, according to G.B. 

But no, that older Book of Secrets is a different one from this one with the mandal. I say that because it is likely to confuse other people as it also confused me until G.B. set me straight. The two books of secrets share the same title. They have nothing especially in common besides the title and of course the general subject matter.

Title page of the Book of Secrets in
the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s Book of Secrets is a collection of recipes put together by the 15th-century scribe. Its significance right now is this: It supplies us with yet another example of the medieval Indian Buddhist maṇḍala moving far to the west, not just as a word, but as a corresponding object, a device used in ritual contexts. That is enough of a point to make for now.

§  §  §

On the frontispiece: The Digital Collection of the New York Public Library is the source of the page from the manuscript that you see at the top of this blog. You should go have a look at the link to find out more, but just let me say that the scribing was done in the year 1468 CE by one Mosheh ben Yaʻaḳov ben Mordekhai or משה בן יעקב בן מרדכי בן יעקב בן משה.  I assume this scribe must have been equally responsible for the sketch illustrated above, even if he likely copied from an earlier book.

A side note:  The title Sefer ha-Razim (ספר הרזים), or Book of Secrets, makes use of a Hebrew word borrowed from Persian raz, ‘secret.’ It occurs to me that one of many words in Sanskrit that mean ‘secret’ is rahasya, although I don’t propose to prove any linguistic connection, just to suggest the possibility. And now that I check into it, I’m hardly the first, since a lexicon by Georg Rosen entitled Elementa Persica beat me to it by one hundred and eighty years.

More to read

Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic: A History, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge 2008). The brief part about the earlier Book of Secrets on pp. 170-177 is most recommended, and is the main source of my knowledge about it.

Gideon Bohak, A Fifteenth-Century Manuscript of Jewish Magic: MS New York Public Library, Heb. 190 (Formerly Sassoon 56) - Introduction, Annotated Edition and Facsimile [in Hebrew], Sources and Studies in the Literature of Jewish Mysticism no. 44], Cherub Press (Los Angeles 2014), in 2 volumes.

Michael A. Morgan, Sepher Ha-Razim: The Book of the Mysteries, Society of Biblical Literature, Scholars Press (Chico CA 1983). An inexpensive English translation of the more ancient and well known Book of Secrets.

• Prof. Bohak told me about some more relevant publications I had neglected to mention, with yet another article suggested by Gal Sofer, a doctoral candidate at Ben Gurion University. There are still more to be found, I know there are, but here are the ones I think to be most relevant in case you want to look into the matter of westward moving magical maṇḍalas some more:

Vajra Regan, “The De  consecratione lapidum: A Previously Unknown Thirteenth-Century Version of the Liber Almandal Salomonis, Newly Introduced with a Critical Edition and Translation,” The Journal of Medieval Latin, vol. 28 (2018), pp. 277-333. I haven’t yet seen this apart from an abstract on the internet. Notice the author’s first name Vajra, of Sanskrit origins.

Anne Regourd, “Al-Mandal as-Sulaymānī appliqué: Une section interpolée dans le Ms. Sanna 2774?”  The Arabist: Budapest Studies in Arabic, vol. 37 [Studies in Memory of Alexander Fodor] (2016), pp. 135-152.

Anne Regourd, “Images de djinns et exorcisme dans le Mandal al-Sulaymānī” [with text edition, and translation], contained in: Jean-Patrice Boudet, Anna Caiozzo and Nicolas Weill-Parot, eds., Images et magie: Picatrix entre Orient et Occident, Honoré Champion (Paris 2011), pp. 253-294.

Julien Véronèse, L’Almandal et l’Almandel latins au Moyen Âge: Introduction et éditions critiques, Micrologus’ Library no. 46, Salomon Latinus no. 2, SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo (Florence 2012).

Note: On May 8, 2022, I received some corrections from Gideon Bohak that lead me to remove and rewrite this blog before reposting it.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Maṇḍalas of Medieval Arabic (and Latin) Magic

Tibetan studies hardly ever get old or boring. They can lead in unexpected directions, at times drawing you far outside the boundaries defined by and for that semi-(?)academic discipline(/s?). And I have to say, sometimes magic happens. 

I was flipping through some of the impressive and often, for myself, impenetrable products of David Pingree’s sheer genius the other night. I’ve been familiar with his work for decades, even once had the chance to meet and chat awhile with him while he was still living. I remember he was very courteous without being formal. And when I told him some crazy ideas I had about what the various colors of eclipses might have to do with the black magic of Milarepa’s youth, he at least avoided dismissing those ideas out of hand.(1) 

Never one to get overly excited about crossing borders the way most people do, Pingree had an admirable knowledge of early languages ranging from Europe and the Middle East through to India. A historian of science, he didn’t care much for the divide between sciences and the so-called ‘pseudosciences’ as they are bound to be called by the modernist supremacists of our day. Hardly anyone can hope to be his match, not me, and, I’m guessing here, probably not you either.

So just imagine my unjustifiable surprise to find a bit in one of his writings yesterday about the Arabic borrowing al-mandal — used in a context that, leaving Jungianism aside, does some justice to the original Indian Buddhist referents of maṇḍala — in an 11th-century Arabic text from Sana’a, the ancient city in Yemen.* Not content to stay there, it was known to a very few savants like Albertus Magnus in 13th-century Europe but then went on to become a best seller among European conjurers of the 15th, when it transformed into Almadel and such & sundry spellings as it entered the vernaculars. I dare say (because I’m feeling daring) that the Solomonic magic it forms a part of is still today one of the main inspirations for occultists in Europe and the Americas.

*Sana’a appears to be in a contest with Jericho that will decide which of them is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. I cast my vote for Jericho if only for that 7,000-year-old tower.

I won’t belabor the point, but will supply the quote from David Pingree down below, and send you on a quest for the words “al-mandal” and “Almadel” on the internet. What you are likely to notice is a remarkable confusion. In some European minds Almadel was the name of an Arab magician, and/or author of a text known as the Six Firm Sciences on six types of divination. And those sciences might be anything from scrying (gazing into crystal balls and the like), to angelic or jinn invocation, to geomantic practices (randomly pick a square from a grid-work and get your answer). I won’t even try to sort all this out right now. In any case it is al- mandal as an object that interests us here, and it is this that is featured in that quite distinct Arabic text from 11th-century Yemen.

If you were to make me confess, my real motive for going into it is this: I have been drafting an upcoming blog on what I believe is a loanword — most likely from Arabic directly or indirectly via Persian, although with very deep roots in the ancient Middle East — found in the 1245 manuscript of the works of Padampa and his followers. My reasoning is, If I can persuade you that a Buddhist Sanskrit term was being adopted in an 11th-century Arabic manuscript, you might find it easier to see another word borrowing going in the opposite direction. And when and if we do go a little further into it, that instance of a word borrowed from east to west does have some strong and meaningful connections to the word borrowed from west to east. All in good time, all in good time.


A note:

(1) I just checked, and found that the source of my chromatic speculations was an article by another historian of science, Winfried Petri (his article listed below). But anyway, a world-class expert on celestial lore, Pingree was the perfect person to ask a question like this. And he did in fact write something on that subject of eclipse colors in India, in his article “The Indian and Pseudo-Indian Passages in Greek and Latin Astronomical and Astrological Texts,” Viator, vol. 7 (1976), pp. 141-95, at p. 166, even if I didn’t know this at the time. I might add that al-mandal, or “the mandal” in the Arabic texts should not be connected with the offering maṇḍal (མཎྜལ་of Tibetan Buddhist preliminary practices, but rather with the maṇḍala (དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་) of divine invocation and initiation. The distinction between these two different objects has eluded or confounded many great minds. And it is true that even with several clear points of similarity, the usage of al-mandal in its magical context is different from the maṇḍala (དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་) used in Tibetan empowerment rituals. The motives and rationales are different, even if both might entail evocations of lofty transcendent entities. If you look into some of the readings that follow this should become clear enough. Some may want to object that the use of al-mandal is magical, while the maṇḍala is religious. I shouldn’t have to say that the placement of a dividing line between religion and magic has often caused troubled thinking, but that’s understandable if you see how that boundary has often shifted back and forth as part of historical efforts at self-definition. Examples: exorcism is magic, but when recognized religious authorities within your own religion do it, it isn’t. Impressive prodigies are magic, but if done by saints they’re miracles (and yes, if scientists do them it’s science). Prayers for success and wealth are magic, but when done as a part of religious practice (as in ‘petitionary prayers’), they aren’t. Hell, even casting curse spells, the one thing we most often associate with magic, can be religious when taking the form of anathemas or condemnations. Nobody condemns more people to hell than the holy. If hearing me say these things upsets you, at least ask yourself why before you snap back at me for saying them. But wait, how did I get off on this train of thinking anyway, here in what was meant to be an innocent bibliographical footnote?


Reading suggestions

I leave it up to you, depending on how comfortable you may or may not be, if you want to delve into such matters as divination and occultism. But if you do count yourself among the brave or foolhardy ones, I recommend above all else a look at this particular webpage. It appears to be an authorized digital version of a book by Joseph H. Peterson on the very texts of interest here, and the illustrations are particularly necessary to see.

Mark R. Cohen, “Goitein, Magic, and the Geniza,” Jewish Studies Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4 (2006), pp. 294-304. Goitein's works are significant here for showing the general context of the word borrowing. That means the extensive sea trade between India and Egypt during the 10th to 13th centuries. And this article has good references in case you would like to explore this further.

A.W. Greenup, “The Almadel of Solomon, according to the Text of the Sloan MS. 2731,” The Occult Review, vol. 22, no. 2 (August 1915), pp. 96-102. I despaired of ever seeing this until I discovered there is a complete archive of the contents of this periodical online. 

Genese Grill, “Almandal Grimoire: The Book as Magical Object,” The Georgia Review, vol. 69, no. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 514-541. Despite the title, this is more about what happens when, with no more spines or bindings to hold onto, and no more paper pages to flip over, books are dematerialized into digital streams on a screen. Very worth reading and reflecting about even, if you really must, on a screen. I went ahead and read it on screen myself, something I find I do more and more, even feel myself coerced into it against my will by the rocketing prices of postage and print cartridges.

Csaba Kiss, “On Yantras in Early Śaiva Tantras,” Cracow Indological Studies, vol. 16 (2014), pp. 203-233. Try this. 

Roger A. Pack, “Almadel Auctor Pseudonymus: De Firmitate Sex Scientiarum,” Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age, vol. 42 (1975), pp. 147-181. At p. 153:

“What we find here is al-mandal, the ‘mandala’ or mystic symbol, either round or square or a combination of both, which the writings of C.G. Jung and his disciples have made familiar to us...”

Winfried Petri, “Colours of Lunar Eclipses According to Indian Tradition,” Indian Journal of the History of Sciencevol. 3 (1968), pp. 91-98.

David Pingree, “Learned Magic in the Time of Frederick II,” contained in: Isabelle Pingree and John M. Steele, eds., Pathways into the Study of Ancient SciencesSelected Essays by David Pingree, American Philosophical Society Press (Philadelphia 2013), a special issue of Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s. vol. 104 (2014), pp. 477-484, at p. 486:

“[These Florence manuscript treatises] are all representative of Salomonic magic. The first two concern almandal of Salomon. This mandal is in shape and inscriptions completely conformable to an Indian mandala; it is remarkable to see the Sanskrit word transmitted so purely through Arabic, in which it is still used to refer to a magical object, to Latin. The figure is a square ‘wall’ with a circle in the center and spokes pointing to the four cardinal directions (indicated by ‘gates’) and to the four intermediate directions. On each of the four side walls are inscribed the names of angels...”

Anne Regourd, “Le Kitāb al-Mandal al-Sulaymānī, un ouvrage d'exorcisme yéménite postérieur au Ve/XIe S.?” Res Orientales, vol. 13 (2001), pp. 123-138. The first footnote has a long and valuable discussion about the meanings of al-mandal, without neglecting its Indic and Buddhist sourcing, but the rest is mainly about the dating of the manuscripts, the Solomonic lore of the lost and recovered magic seal (a seal of dominion over human, animal and spirit realms), and the question of how much local Yemeni herbal knowledge is represented in the text. I see it mentions misk, but this is not surprising since musk was Tibet’s primary claim to fame in the Middle East back in those centuries. And Yemen was a trading powerhouse for east-west commerce starting from Roman Empire days, just read into the five-volume set by S.D. Goitein on the Genizah documents from Cairo. Goitein wanted to find ‘rationally profit-motivated’ traders and so took minimal notice of the magic evident in those documents (see the Cohen essay, listed above). 

Anne Regourd, “A Twentieth-Century Manuscript of the Kitāb al-Mandal al-Sulaymānī (Ar IEW 286, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia): Texts on Practices & Texts in Practices,” contained in: Marcela A. Garcia Probert and Petra M. Sijpesteijn, eds., Amulets and Talismans of the Middle East and North Africa in Context: Transmission, Efficacy and Collections, Brill (Leiden 2022), pp. 47-77. I’ve just learned this article is open access (that means anybody) at the Brill site.

Lynn Thorndike, “Alfodhol and Almadel: Hitherto Unnoted Mediaeval Books of Magic in Florentine Manuscripts,” Speculum, vol. 2, no. 3 (July 1927), pp. 326-331.

——, “Alfodhol and Almadel Once More,” Speculum, vol. 20, no. 1 (January 1945), pp. 88-91. 

——, ”Solomon and the Ars Notoria,” a chapter in: Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science during the First Thirteen Centuries of Our Era, Columbia University Press (New York 1923), vol. 2, pp. 279-289. Truly fascinating are the defensive justifications given by Honorius, “Master of Thebes,” for the Christian employment of magical arts that can make them indeed sacred arts. Notice, too, at p. 288: 

“Very elaborate directions are given for the composition of the seal of the living God. Circles are drawn of certain proportions emblematic of divine mysteries, a cross is made within, numerous letters are written down equidistant from one another. A pentagon and two hexagons have to be placed just so in relation to one another ; characters are inscribed in their angles ; and various sacred names of God, Raphael, Michael, and other angels are written along their sides. Different parts must be executed in different colors...” 

Jan R. Veenstra, “The Holy Almandal: Angels and the Intellectual Aims of Magic,” contained in: Jan N. Bremmer and Jan R. Veenstra, eds., The Metamorphosis of Magic from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period, Peeters (Leuven 2002), pp. 189-229. This ends with some remarkable drawings of the mandal altar setup based on early manuscripts, so have a look at this if you can.



What is your reaction to all this? Do leave a comment. 



PS (April 17, 2022):

I heard a qualm questioning how I could feel so certain that the Yemen magic text got its word al-mandal from Indian Buddhists. Why not from non-Buddhists, from Hindus? To the best of my knowledge, and the late famous Hindu tantric studies expert André Padoux once assured me (in Cambridge MA in 1993 or 1994) it is true, Hindus of various lines of tradition never made use of a ritual device they called maṇḍala before the 20th century. Some people in the art business made up the idea that “Hindu mandalas” did exist because the word ‘mandala’ was much better known to the international art public, because the word had purchase and they could fly with it.* Yes, various types of Hindu tantra did make use of objects like maṇḍalas, sometimes very like maṇḍalas, but they were called yantras. If the Yemeni contacts were non-Buddhists they would have borrowed the word yantra instead. Don’t get me wrong here, I actually think that the term yantra is the broader term. It has a lot of interesting usages that I’ve gone into in an earlier blog, Do Dampa’s Droids Dare Dream of Desire? It means a ‘device’ of any kind and for a variety of sublime and mundane purposes. Hindu tantra does use yantras for divine invocation and visualization practices, in general much like Buddhist Vajrayānists make use of their maṇḍalas.

(*But this understanding based on my memory more or less directly contradicts his position in a published work, an article on the use of maṇḍala in an 11th-century Kashmiri tantric work — André Padoux, “Maṇḍalas in Abhinavagupta's Tantrāloka,” contained in: Gudrun Bühnemann, ed., Maṇḍalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions, Brill (Leiden 2003),  pp. 225-235. When he lectured me 30 years ago he may have had in mind maṇḍalas of divine forms [the most typical but hardly the only kind of Tibetan དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་ / maṇḍala], since full depictions of the deities along with their retinues do not seem to appear in early Hindu artistic versions. In any case, Hindu tantric sources are more likely to use the terms yantra and even cakra or ‘wheel’ for their invocation devices, and these tend to be largely geometrical.)

Some of these examples of Hindu yantras do resemble Buddhist maṇḍalas.
and at the same time resemble al-mandal, at least in their form.

One more thing

Were Buddhists in those times sailing to Yemen? I can’t say for sure, but believe they very surely could have been. Socotra Island, off the coast of Yemen and today a part of Yemen, has some inscriptions in its coastal caves made by Indian sailors. Although they belong to a much earlier period than the Yemen magic text, some (not all) of their names indicate they were Buddhists. For clear evidence, look here:

Ingo Strauch and Michael D. Bukharin, “Indian Inscriptions from the Cave Ḥoq on Suquṭrā (Yemen),” Annali [Naples], vol. 64 (2004), pp. 121-138.

Or better yet, find the book:

Ingo Strauch, ed., Foreign Sailors on Socotra: The Inscriptions and Drawings from the Cave Hoq, Vergleichende Studien zu Antike und Orient no. 3, Hempen Verlag (Bremen 2012).

• There are a lot of reasons to care for and even love Socotra. One of them is the fact that it has been a preserve of numerous unusual and unique plant species. I say “has been” because it is reportedly under threat because of new-found wealth, leading to increasing goat ownership, and the resultant plant consumption by those goats that spells death for the Dragon Blood trees. Have a look at Hugh Bigger's essay about it here.

Of course, Yemenis themselves, not to mention Egyptians, were very much involved in the early trading networks, and we ought to be thinking about that as well.

Yes, there are inscriptions of Indian traders in Egypt, too. About them see this:

Richard Salomon, “Epigraphic Remains of Indian Traders in Egypt,”  Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 111, no. 4 (1991), pp.  731-736.  Added note in vol. 113, no. 4 (1993), p. 593.


Add on (May 18, 2022):

I located this curiously multiple (person, book, object) definition of Almadel in the “Biographical Dictionary” appended to the following — 

Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, tr. by James Freake, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul 1995), at p. 788:

“ALMADEL: The name of a medieval magician mentioned by the Abbot Johann Trithemius in his Antipalus maleficiorum (c. 1500) as the author of an edition of the Key of Solomon. Also the name of the fourth book of the manuscript collection that goes under the collective name Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton; it is specifically applied to the wax table described therein.”

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Consecration Rite of the Great Translator

‘ Supreme of All the Translators of the New
Translations Rinchen Zang
 ’ His iconography
shows him as both a monk and a meditator,
and oddly, without a single book.

Here you will find a brief note about another extreme rarity that has popped up without much warning. These things happen. For those secular thinkers who disdain or dismiss the very ideas of the sacred and the holy, it may seem fruitless. But for the rest of us, and still today that means most of us, it ought to be an inspiration. Isn’t it the case that most holy places, objects and persons in the world are made so by us in one way or another? This being so, why wouldn’t we look into the ways sanctification has been understood and effected in the past? And for Tibetan Buddhists at least, wouldn’t it be good to be able to read the first composition on that subject ever written by a Tibetan? 

I might have just used the words "without much warning,” but in fact there were warnings for those few who were looking out for them. Just have a look at Yael Bentor’s 1996 book on consecration, p. 61:

“The first consecration work said to have been composed by a Tibetan was that of Lo-chen Rin-chen-bzang-po (958-1055). This work, cited by Sa-skya Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan and later consecration authors under the title Sdom-tshig or ‘Outline,’ is no longer extant...”

And by the way, the text we bring to your attention is one of a very few texts known to be compositions of the Great Translator Rinchen Zangpo. Although this has been done before (see below), I will try to put together a dossier containing what little is known about his small body of compositions at the end of this blog. About his life itself, so much has been written that today I refuse to be distracted.* 

(*If you feel inclined, go read the fine sketch of his life by Alexander Gardner.)

Here you can see the title page that just appeared at TBRC. I wish I could tell you more about the manuscript’s provenance. It looks quite old as you can see. And it has none of the library markings you would expect to see if it had come from the Drepung Monastery libraries:

It seems to read “Rab gsan kyi dbu’i phyogs lags swo,” but we can list it as simply Rab-gnas, or ‘Consecration,’ leaving all other complications aside. It has eight folios altogether, but is still on the longish side due to the contracted cursive and the relatively long folios. I thought I should type some of it out for you, knowing that some fine Tibetanists are not experienced in cursive manuscripts, but my arthritis immediately disagreed with me.*

(*To see the entire text, go here. Then download volume 8, and scroll down until you find it. Observe that the final colophon belongs to a very brief text that begins at folio 7 verso line 2, making it about a single folio side in length. [Preceding it is yet another consecration text by A-ba-dhË-ti-pa’i Btsun-pa Bsod-nams.] It appears that the brief text is indeed the Outline by Rinchen Zangpo even if it doesn’t exactly say so.)

I wanted to sort out the confusion and supply a single straightforward listing of Rinchen Zangpo’s consecration works as part of a larger but still small listing of his compositions as known to us so far. But no, today I make no promises. I’ll just point out that now not just one but a couple of consecration texts by Rinchen Zangpo have shown up. Even figuring out which if any of them is the oft-quoted Outline (Sdom-tshig) is a problem (surely A5 ought to be the one, just that we don’t actually have it), let alone why we now find that there seem to be longer ones than we ever expected to find. So I suggest you go to [1] the texts in the Kadampa collection, [2] the manuscript that just came to light in a collection of scans from TBRC, and [3] the listings of consecration titles in the available reference works. After studying and comparing them come to your own conclusions. Oh, and while you are at it, compare the many citations of the Outline in consecration ritual texts composed by Tibetan authors of the past until today.

Lists of Works of the Great Translator

You might think it would make sense to locate Lo-chen Rin-chen-bzang-po’s Person ID page in TBRC (by going here: and then tap on the tab called ‘Associated Works.’ Go ahead and see what happens if you want. But this unleashes a tsunami of titles, most of them works he worked on as a translator, not an author/compositor. Leonard van der Kuijp has made provisional lists of his works more than once. I’ll just give you the references so you can check them yourself.

A. List of works of the Great Translator adopted from Tibskrit

1. Bcom-ldan-’das Dpal Phyag-na-rdo-rje-la Bstod-pa Phyag-’tshal Lo Bcu pa. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1222. Prostrations and Praise to the Blessed One Glorious Vajrapāṇi. From the title it is possible this was composed when he was ten years old. At least that’s how I read it at the moment.

2. Bde-ba-can-gyi Smon-lam. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1648.

3. Dam-tshig Mdor-bsdus Bstan-pa. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1243.

4. Dpal ’Khor-lo-bde-mchog Lu-yi-pa'i Bstod-pa Yid-bzhin-nor-bu. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 682. 

5. Rab-gnas-kyi Sdom. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1106: Rab-gnas Cho-ga’i Gzhung Sdom-tshig-tu Bsdus-pa. This ought to be the oft cited Sdom-tshig.

6. Rab-tu Gnas-pa'i Zin-bris Legs-bshad Kun-'dus. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1225. Given its different title, it isn't sure if this is the same as the Sdom-tshig (no. 5) or not, and anyway neither one of them is available for inspection.

7. Rgyud-sde Spyi'i Rnam-par Bzhag-pa. ——— I once found it difficult to believe that this general treatment on the tantra classes could possibly exist. The just-given title, in 78 folios, was found listed in Ska-ba Shes-rab-bzang-po, editor-in-chief, Bod-khul-gyi Chos-sde Grags-can Khag-gi Dpe-rnying Dkar-chag, Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Beijing 2010), p. 196, and it is supposed to exist at Phan-po Na-lendra Monastery. It was apparently first published here: Lo-tsā-ba Rin-chen-bzang-spo, Rgyud sde spyi'i rnam par bzhag pa 'thad ldan lung gi rgyan gyis spras pa, contained in: Sngon byon sa skya pa'i mkhas pa rnams kyi rgyud 'grel skor, Sa skya rgyal yongs gsung rab slob gnyer khang (Kathmandu 2007), vol. 1, p. 1-78.  It was published again, in Kadam Sungbum (Bka'-gdams Gsung-'bum), series no. 4, vol. 1, pp. 215-291. This is subject of Kuijp, “Bird-faced Monk Part 1,” especially pp. 416 and 418 ff. where he says if genuine this would be the very first work of its kind.

8. Sdom-pa dang Dam-tshig Mdor-bsdus. ——— Text in Kadam Sungbum, series 4, vol. 1, pp. 293-306. An extraordinarily interesting text on vows and commitments, the colophon says that it was “spoken” by Rinchen Zangpo, and this means someone else transcribed it. Then it says that someone named Rngos (with unclear inserted letters that look like Mar-ston) made persistent requests to Lba-ston (~Wa-ston?) Jo-dga’ to learn about it. There was a Jo-dga’ in the western Tibetan royal lineage whose lifespan could have coincided with Rinchen Zangpo’s (Roerich’s Blue Annals, p. 38).

9. Sngags-log Sun-'byin-pa Rgyas-pa. ——— Leonard van der Kuijp, “*Nāgabodhi” (published in 2007) discussed this then-unavailable work, noting some citations in other works.  In late 2018, as an addendum to his paper “The Bird-faced Monk, Part 1” (at p. 450) he announced that he had procured this rare work.  In the same author’s, “Bird-faced Monk, Part 2,” p. 90, he says that Sha-bo Mkha’-byams had “a few months ago” made the work available to him in the form of a 52-folio manuscript. It has now been republished (not as a facsimile, but as a computer-composited text) somewhere in a 50-volume serial called Brtse-chen ’Od-snang (in the first issue bearing the date 2012) brought out by Sakya College, Dehra Dun (you can’t actually see it here; I must thank P.D. for sending me a scan). Here it bears the title Sngags-log Sun-'byin Lo-chen Rin-bzang-gis mdzad-pa. This work on mistaken ideas about tantra is a kind of polemic that may have had a significant impact on sectarian developments. And as a polemic, it is entirely possible it was written by some later figure who preferred to attach to it the name of the Great Translator rather than his own. This can only become clear, or not, after a very close study of its content in relation to everything else we can know about Tibetan religious history.

10. Yo-ga'i Rab-gnas. ——— Drepung Catalog, p. 1217.  A 16-folio manuscript on consecration ritual according to Yoga Tantras.

B. List of the Works of the Great Translator contained in the first volume of the collection entitled Kadam Sungbum

These works are in the form of both cursive and non-cursive manuscripts. The titles I give are based on the title-page titles of these manuscripts, and not on the table-of-contents.

1. Dpal 'Khor-lo-bde-mchog Lū-yi-pa'i Bstod-pa Yid-bzhin-nor-bu. Pages 33-35.  Verses of praise connected with the Cakrasamvara Sādhana according to Lūīpā.

2. Rab-tu Gnas-par Byed-pa Don-gsal.  Pages 37-40.  Clarifying the Significance of the Deeds of Consecration. Colophon (40.3): rab tu gnas pa'i rgyud dang slob dpon kun dga' snying po la swogs pas mdzad pa'i bstan bcos rnams cig na'ang rdzogs shing bzhud mar du mthor ba'i phyir / de dag cig tu lag tu blangs ma 'ongs pa'i skye bo blo chung pa rnams la phan pa'i phyir / shag kya'i dge bslong rin chen bzang pos nye bar sbyar ba'o...*

(*I’m thinking this is yet another version of the Outline, just that it also contains many brief mchan-style footnotes that may explain the word Don-gsal, or ‘Clarification[s]’ in its title. Now I see that, except for incidental spelling differences, this colophon is identical to the one at the end of the text illustrated above, so we really seem to be getting somewhere toward identifying both texts with the Outline by Rinchen Zangpo we’ve been looking for.)

3. Dpal Mngon-par Rtogs-pa'i Dka'-ba'i Gnad Bshad-pa Lo-tsā-ba Rin-chen-bzang-pos mdzad-pa. Catalog of Difficult Points in the Clear Visualization [of Heruka]. There is an added table of contents at pp. 41-43, with the actual manuscript reproduction on pp. 45-70. Colophon (70.2): bdag ni blo dman brjed par 'gyur ba yi // dogs pa'i 'jigs pas bla ma'i gdams ngag bris // 'on kyang bris pa'i bsod nams 'ga' yod na // 'gro ba yang dag lam la gnas par shog // dpal mngon par rtogs pa'i bshad pa bla ma dpal mar me mdzad ye shes kyi zhal mnga' nas gsungs pa / lo tsā ba chen po dge slong rin chen bzang pos ma bsnan ma chad par bris pa rdzogs s.ho. This indicates that these explanations of difficult points in the Heruka Sādhana were taken down verbatim from the words of Atiśa, which would make it a work of Atiśa, not Rinchen Zangpo.

4. “Cho-ga Bya-tshul.” Ritual Method (the text itself has no front title).  Pages 71-72. The colophon is a little difficult to read, and it oddly repeats the colophon to the consecration text (B2), but in any case here it is (72.4): rab tu gnas pa'i rgyud dang slob dpon kun dga' snying po la rtsogs pas mdzad pa'i bstan bcos rnams gcig na'ang ma rdzogs shing gzhung mang du 'thor ba'i phyir / de dag cig (?) tu lag tu blang pa ma 'ongs skye bo rnams la phan par bya ba'i phyir / gtso'i (?) dge slong  [lo tsā ba] rin chen bzang pos nye bar sbyar ba...

5. Bde-ba-can-gyi Smon-lam. Wishing Prayer for the Buddhafield of Sukhāvati. The cursive script is done with a rather fast handwriting. Pages 73-77. Colophon (76): ces lo tstsha ba rin chen bzang pos thon mthing gi gtsug lag khang du sbyar ba dge'o...  I suggest that Thon-mthing is an odd way to spell Mtho-lding, which means Tholing, a place where Rinchen Zangpo spent a great deal of time in the last half of his life.

C. Miscellaneous

I’ve noticed a title attributed to the Great Translator with the title Gdon-chen Bcwo-lnga'i Lto-bcos, a ritual text for dealing with the 15 Great Dön demons that trouble children in particular. Nowadays we would inevitably understand them to be childhood psychiatric disorders, while rejecting any spiritological understanding even though 21st century moderns may be not much closer, or even no closer, to understanding why some of them occur, or why they occur with one child instead of another.* 

(*For a study of a different type of ritual text for dealing with the same category of spirits, see Lin Shen-Yu, “The Fifteen Great Demons of Children,” Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, vol. 26 [April 2013], pp. 5-33, available online. For a valuable general introduction to the Great Dön and other demons, see Terry Clifford, Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry: The Diamond Healing, Samuel Weiser [York Beach 1984], Chapter 9: “Demons in Medical Psychiatry.” Look here to see this“What Causes Mental Disorders in Children? The exact cause of most mental disorders is not known, but research suggests that a combination of factors, including heredity, biology, psychological trauma, and environmental stress, might be involved.”)

The title in the colophon of this text reads like this (following the catalog listing):  Stong Chen-mo Rab-tu 'Joms-pa'i Mdo-las* bshad-pa'i Sri-ru (?) Gso-thabs / [G]don-chen bco-lnga'i bcos 'di ni / Lo-tstsha-ba Rin-chen-bzang-pos mdzad-pa. It’s my present understanding that this kind of gto-bcos (=lto-bcos) ritual is supposed to avert troubles that are coming directly at you by setting up substitute targets or blocking devices.

(*Mahāsahasrapramardana Sūtra [Stong Chen-mo Rab-tu ’Joms-pa zhes bya-ba’i Mdo].  Tôh. no. 558 [also, compare no. 1059].  Dergé Kanjur, vol. PHA, folios 63v.1-87v.1.  Translated by Śīlendrabodhi, Jñānasiddhi, Śākyaprabha and Ye-shes-sde.  Revised by Gzhon-nu-dpal.)

Another thing that has been said to be true, as unbelievable as it may seem, is that a previously unheard-of biography of Atiśa by Rinchen Zangpo has been preserved in the Tibet Library in Lhasa. This information is from Sun Lin, “Textual,” p. 181.  This is of extraordinary interest and deserves a followup investigation, assuming it hasn’t received one by now.


Yael Bentor, Consecration of Images and Stūpas in Indo-Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, E.J. Brill (Leiden 1996).

Alexander Gardner, “Rinchen Zangpo.”  Posted at Treasury of Lives website.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, “The Bird-Faced Monk and the Beginnings of the New Tantric Tradition, Part One,” contained in: G. Hazod & W. Shen, eds., Tibetan Genealogies: Studies in Memoriam of Guge Tsering Gyalpo (1961-2015), China Tibetology Publishing (Beijing 2018), pp. 403-450.  

On p. 416-7: 
“In stark contrast to his fame as a Sanskrit scholar and translator, Rin chen bzang po had been up to the present almost unknown as an author in his own right. Indeed, it was only quite recently that manuscripts of several short studies on tantric subjects that are attributed to him were discovered in one of ’Bras spungs monastery’s libraries; these included the following:

1. Dpal mngon par rtogs pa’i dka’ ba’i gnas bshad pa with glosses (mchan bu) that may have been written by him; fols. 13.

2. [B]sgrub pa’i thabs mdor byas pa with glosses; the editors queried: “Were the glosses written by Lo chen Rin chen bzang po?”; fols. 8.

3. Yo ga’i rab gnas; fols. 16.

4. Dam tshig mdor bsdus bstan pa; fols. 8.

5. Dpal ’khor lo bde mchog lū yi pa’i bstod pa yid bzhin nor bu; fols. 2.

“Several of these plus two others that are not listed here have now been published in black-and-white facsimile reproductions; these are the following according to their title pages, opening statements, or colophons:

1. Dpal ’khor lo bde mchog lū yi pa’i bstod pa yid bzhin nor bu; fols. 2.

2. Rab tu gnas par byed pa don gsal; fols. 2. 37

3. Dpal mngon par rtogs pa’i dka’ ba’i gnas bshad pa lo tsā ba rin chen bzang pos mdzad pa; fols. 13.

4. Cho ga bya tshul; fol. 1.

5. Bde ba can gyi smon lam; fols. 3.”

———, “The Bird-Faced Monk and the Beginnings of the New Tantric Tradition, Part Two,” Journal of Tibetology, vol. 19 (December 2018), pp. 86-127.

———, “*Nāgabodhi / Nāgabuddhi: Notes on the Guhyasamāja Literature,” contained in: H. Krasser, et al., eds., Pramāṇakīrti: Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner, Arbeitskreis fūr Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität (Vienna 2007), pp. 1002-1022, especially p. 1011.

Sun Lin, “Textual Discourses and Behavior Criterion: The Historiographic Significance of Tibetan Biographies of the Religious Figures,” Frontiers of History in China, vol. 3, no. 2 (2008), pp. 173-194.

Dan Martin, “Atiśa’s Ritual Methods for Making Buddhist Art Holy,” contained in: Shashibala, ed., Atiśa Śrī Dīpaṅkara-jñāna and Cultural Renaissance: Proceedings of the International Conference, 16th-23rd January 2013, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (New Delhi 2018), pp. 123-138. The pre-published version is the preferable one, and it can be seen here.

One of the doodles on the final folio
of the manuscript of the Great
Translator’s consecration

Need help locating volumes of the Kadam Sungbum (བཀའ་གདམས་གསུང་འབུམ་) in TBRC?  Just feed these alpha-numeric codes into the search box.

Series One — vols. 1-30:  W1PD89051

Series Two — vols. 31-60: W1PD89084

Series Three — vols. 61-90: W1PD153536

Series Four — vols. 91-120: W4PD3076

A very relevant and informative blog that was once posted at TBRC can no longer be found there. Still, a Google search turned up a surviving version of it on the Douban webserver. It’s a blog by Kano Kazuo, entitled “Rare Tibetan Texts 03: Collected Works of the Kadam Masters,” originally posted on April 24, 2013.

Follow me on