Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swat’s Good Feng-shui

Practically everyone in Tibetan Studies has long been convinced that the Swat Valley, in northern Pakistan, is the same as Orgyan, the birthplace of the Tibetan cultural hero Guru Rinpoché — Pemajungné, Padmasambhava, also known as Orgyan Guru.

Guru Rinpoché came to Tibet in the later decades of the 8th century, during the reign of Emperor Trisongdetsen. Although he wasn't by any means the first Indian Buddhist to make an impression on Tibet, he is still regarded as founder of Tibetan Buddhism. It is because of him that Samyé Monastery could be built and consecrated. Still, just because agreement may be boring or misplaced, it’s interesting to note that some Indian scholars and Indologists have written that his birthplace, Uddiyana,* was not in Swat, but somewhere else... in north or south India.

(*Indic equivalent of Tibetan Orgyan. Take the correct version of the name with the diacritics, Uḍḍiyāna (sometimes also Oḍiyāna). Realize that those ‘d’s with dots beneath them are retroflexes. That means you have to turn the tip of your tongue back toward your soft palate. Try pronouncing it that way and you’ll start to understand how the sound shift to ‘Orgyan’ or ‘Urgyan’ —you have both spellings in Tibetan — could have taken place.)

The reason Tibetanists believe Swat Valley is none other than Orgyan is because of the account of the Drugpa Kagyüpa teacher Orgyanpa Rinchen Pal, who went there in the 13th century. Giuseppe Tucci half a century ago published a long article tracing Orgyanpa’s itinerary. It’s very clear that some of the places mentioned by Orgyanpa in the 13th century are close matches to place names still in use in Swat. 
Of course, those prone to taking more skeptical positions could say, ‘So what? That just means that 13th-century Tibetan convinced himself he had reached the right place.’

However that may be, Ron Davidson recently — in his article listed below, basing himself on epigraphic findings by Kuwayama Shoshin — said that there is now no doubt that Swat Valley is Oddiyana, contrary to all other claims that have been made. I think he’s very likely right.

Yet I feel the need to look into it, like so many other things, more — more than I can afford to do at the moment.

A new resource with Tibetan biographies has gone up on the internet recently. You can find the biography of Orgyanpa there, with a brief account of his travels. Look here.*

(*I put a link to this new website, “The Treasury of Lives: Biographies of Himalayan Buddhist Masters,” too, up at the top of Tibeto-logic’s sidebar. It’s beta, which means ‘in process,’ but shows a great deal of promise for future perfection in my opinion.)
Another short biography of Orgyanpa, with a remarkable wall-painted icon, may be found here.

Not many other Tibetan speakers actually reached Orgyan and returned to tell the tale. The only ones I know of with certainty are Tagtsangrepa and Khyungtrul.

The first one, Tagtsangrepa Ngawang Gyatso — that's him you see here in a Hemis wallpainting — is best remembered as the founder of Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. Well, I’m not entirely certain he was the founder, but the monastery was founded somewhere close to his time, and his reincarnations have been regarded as the chief Lamas of Hemis since then.

Our second Orgyan visiter who came there from Tibetan-speaking regions, Khyungtrul, a Bönpo, went there somewhere toward the mid-20th century. He tells the story in chapter eleven of his autobiography. By some weird coincidence — or is it? — this same Khyungtrul was perhaps Tucci’s best friend among the western Tibetans. They bumped into each other not only near Kailash, but also in lushly green Kinnaur.

The original Sanskrit name of Swat — both the river and its valley — is Suvastu, and Swat is just a ‘chipped-down’ version of that. Su means ‘good’ but vastu is a little harder to put a finger on. It means a kind of essence that is more real than the thing of which it’s the essence. It might mean property or wealth or commodities... among still other meanings.

Wait... If vastu comes from a different vas root it could mean ‘dawn.’ But then again, I’m thinking it might need the length-mark on the first vowel, and vāstu means a dwelling or habitation, or a foundation for the same, and it can also mean the ‘siting’ of a dwelling within a landscape. Nowadays it’s very popular in India (simply Schmoogling will reveal that dozens of books with “vastu” in their titles have come out in recent years) to reclaim as Indian cultural property the teachings of Feng-shui. Hmm...
Does that mean Swat had good Feng-shui?


Thanks to Tenpa of Digital Altar fame who touched off this brief fit of blogging with his comments to the blog that came before.

I may have to enter into a work mode soon that won’t leave much time or energy for this financially non-rewarding, and therefore fun, activity. We’ll see how that will work out. I enjoy this so much I'd just hate to give it up.


Things to read or scan, as you please, in the forms of articles, books & internet links:

Lokesh Chandra, Oḍḍiyāna: A New Interpretation, contained in: Michael Aris & Aung San Suu Kyi, eds., Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson, Vikas Publishing (New Delhi 1980), pp. 73-78. Orgyan is located in South India, in Kañci, according to this author, who is not just an Indologist, but also has a high profile in the realm of Tibetan Studies. Other Indian scholars have located Oḍḍiyāna in Assam, in Andhra, near Delhi, etc. etc.

Ronald M. Davidson, Hidden Realms and Pure Abodes: Central Asian Buddhism as Frontier Religion in the Literature of India, Nepal and Tibet, Pacific World, 3rd series, no. 4 [Fall 2002] 154-181, at p. 160 you find the comment on Orgyan. I think you can locate the download link here.

Per Kvaerne, Khyung-sprul ’Jigs-med nam-mkha’i rdo-rje (1897-1955): An Early Twentieth-Century Pilgrim in India, contained in: Alex McKay, ed., Pilgrimage in Tibet, Curzon (Richmond 1998), pp. 71-84.

Stag-tshang-ras-pa Ngag-dbang-rgya-mtsho (1574 1651), O-rgyan mkha’-’gro’i gling-gi lam-yig thar lam bgrod-pa’i them-skas (Chemre 1968). The title can be translated “Staircase for Traveling the Path to Liberation: Itinerary to the Isle of Dakinis, Orgyan.”

Giuseppe Tucci, Travels of Tibetan Pilgrims in the Swat Valley, Greater India Society (Calcutta 1940). But the original publication is quite rare, so you are more likely to find it as reprinted here: Giuseppe Tucci, Opera Minora, Giovanni Bardi (Rome 1971), vol. 2, pp. 369-418.

This photo was evidently taken by Tucci or a member of his expedition near Mt. Kailash. If you would like to compare Li Gotami’s photograph of Khyungtrul Rinpoche, see this.

For a much more ambitious and well-written essay on Orgyan, with a lot more details than you will find here, see this anonymous work at H.H. The Karmapa’s website.
Still, if I may say so, any suggestion that there is a connection between the word (and consequently placename) udyāna (‘garden’) and Uḍḍiyāna would demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the ways Sanskrit works. I think it most likely that Uḍḍiyāna is derived from the root ḍī, which means ‘fly, soar.’ The initial two letters are a prefix (ut-), meaning ‘upward.’ It means ‘soaring upward.’ Lokesh Chandra finds that in Tamil and other South Indian languages oiyāa (with many alternative ways of spelling the word) is a kind of belt with metallic decorations worn by women. One explanation or the other might help explain why all the women there seem to be sky-traveling Ḍākinīs.

Enrica Garzilli’s brief blog on Tucci and the Swat Valley is here.

On the destruction done in 2007 to a rock-carved Buddha image believed to date to the time of Guru Rinpoché, look here.

This other picture shows you what it looked like in 2004, but also an impression of just how large it is.

This iconoclastic act of destruction was noticed at Digital Altar earlier this year. The world is poorer.

These are the same people who kill dancers for dancing and destroy 200 schools in the Swat Valley, most of them girls' schools.

Pakistan Paedia” has a nice page promoting tourism in the Swat Valley. At the moment, given present conditions, I would highly dis-recommend it... It’s beautiful, OK, clearly, but don’t go there now. Hear me?

There are plenty of news stories about the activities of Taliban forces in Swat Valley in recent times. You can find them with incredible swiftness and ease with a ‘news search.’

Just last month it was announced that the Swat Museum will reopen, which could be a sign of peace in Guru Rinpoché’s valley’s future, we can hope, although I have no way of being sure if there are reasons for it (hope) or not. Here is an interesting blog about the museum, with a photo, from early this year.


My heart has become
receptive of every form.
It is a meadow for gazelles,
a monastery for monks,
an abode for idols,
the Ka`ba of the pilgrim,
the tables of the Torah,
the Qur'an.
My religion is love —
wherever its camels turn,
Love is my belief, my faith.

Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi (1165-1240 CE)



  1. what a place ! and of course, a Śaiva sacred site as well (or perhaps first and foremost?), see Sanderson, "The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir", p. 266ff.

  2. I don't see how anyone can be 100% certain about the birthplace of someone for whom we have exactly zero reliable historical information. We're all guessing - but that's a fun game I suppose.

    Stephen Hodge has another opinion in the introduction to his translation of the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Tantra.

    Vastu: there are three roots vas: to shine, to clothe and to dwell. They are 6th, 2nd and 1st class verbs respectively giving 3rd person singulars: uchati, vaste/vasate, and vasati. I think it's pretty clear that suvasti would refer to 'dwell'. But Swat is a good place to live I think - a very fertile valley and popular since before history. However cf svasti - su-asti (literally 'be good')- 'luck, good fortune'.

    Best Wishes

  3. Some people will tell you that the kingdom no longer exists because all the inhabitants attained the rainbow body.

    The sub-text to "where is Uddiyana," is "where is Lake Dhanakosha, immensely deep and full of the waters of eight qualities," and of course, the answer to that is very simple.

    It is in the space before your own ordinary body.

    This is the greatest investigation I could think of.

  4. Dear J,

    Thanks for your comment. I don't think it's exactly right to say we have "zero reliable" historical information on Guru Rinpoche. It would be hard to find such for anyone at that point in the past anywhere if what you are demanding is contemporary documentation that is dryly factual, reported by a neutral, disinterested observer without any motives that might lead them to fiddle with the truth.

    After all, we do have a few narratives about him in the Dunhuang documents, which is about as old as we get as far as Tibetan texts are concerned (although, in truth, they are not equally old, some apparently dating as late as the beginning of the 11th century... forgetting for the moment the odd scrap of Russian paper that slipped in there somehow somewhere along the way... and of course there are the anyway somewhat laconic stone pillar inscriptions with their more secure dates...)

    There's that old translation published here: F.A. Bischoff and C. Hartman, Padmasambhava's Invention of the Phur-bu: Ms. Pelliot Tibétain 44, contained in: A. Macdonald (ed.) Études tibétaines dédiées à
    la mémoire de Marcelle Lalou. Adrien Maisonneuve (Paris 1971), pp. 11-27. Then there's M. Kapstein's new translation in his bookThe Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism, pp. 158-9.

    More recently you have J. Dalton, The Early Development of the Padmasambhava Legend in Tibet: A Study of IOL Tib J 644 and Pelliot Tibétain 307, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 124, no. 4 (2004), pp. 759-72.

    And you have a few very recent articles by Rob Mayer, some available on the internet, that I could and would recommend.

    I just wanted to make the point that "zero reliable" is an overstatement. If these O.T. docs weren't 'reliable' or at least useful to us moderns in some sense or degree or another we may as well ignore them and toss them in the bin.

    On the other point, I don't think 'dwelling' and 'siting of a dwelling' are very far apart in meaning. It's no big stretch. Certainly the 2nd meaning is related, or develops upon, the 1st. Definitely earlier peoples of our planet didn't take the idea of setting up dwellings on the soil lightly. They had many criteria, and worries, about the right way to do it.

    Thanks also to P. & T. for their comments. I apologize for seemingly slighting the Shaivites, something I'm told should not be done. But I didn't want to go into the Shakta Pithas in comparison with the 24 places of the Vajra Body & so forth. For that you have D.C. Sircar's old book, and now the detailed article by Mark Dyczkowski in the 2001 issue of the Journal of the Nepal Research Center, if anyone's interested.

    There were other significant Buddhist figures connected with Orgyan, including Indrabhuti and Lawapa (Kambalapada). Sorry I didn't go into this further. Perhaps another time.

    By the way, Dinesh Chandra Sircar, who was I think the most impressive historical geographer among the Indologists, is rather exceptional, as an Indian scholar, in agreeing that Oddiyana is Swat Valley, and rejecting all those other ideas about it being Orissa, etc. (see p. 12 and footnote 3 of his book, the 1973 revised edition).

    So, anyway, I haven't exactly finished letting those different ideas, like the ones about the etymology of Swat, thrash about in my mind... as they have been for some time now.


  5. P.S. Dhanakosha, the place in Orgyan where the Atiyoga Dzogchen teachings descended, has a very clear Sanskrit meaning. It means a 'treasury' (kosha) of 'wealth' (dhana). I'm not at all bothered by the economics of it, after all lots of Buddhist wealth symbolism is really really (and consciously) used to mean the most valued things in other realms besides the obvious one.

    But this might make us tend toward one of the other possible etymologies of Suvastu. (Sorry, sheer laziness leads me to leave off those Skt. diacritics.)

  6. Well perhaps not zero, certainly not no source full stop, but nothing that is not legend or stereotypic hagiography - nothing from which we can extract reliable historical information. It's all legend from which we try to divine history - which is why we can't agree even on where Uḍḍiyāna is.

    Compare the situation with contemporary figures who went to China - Amoghavajra and Śubhakasiṃha about whom we know a lot more. Or Xuanzang going in the other direction. Or another contemporary from Japan: Kūkai.

    But I don't think it matters much. It's not whether the legend is true or not, it is not whether we can locate Uḍḍiyāna on a map that that is important. Only that the stories inspire us to practice. Sometimes I see the attempts to reify these stories as historical truths as getting in the way of a good legend.

    I don't think you need to worry about dissing Śaivas - it has been the Buddhist practice to denigrate it's opponents and Śaivas in particular since forever and it's another important legend! In the Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha Sūtra Vajrapāṇi kills a recalcitrant Śiva, and then reanimates him forcing his conversion to Buddhism In Tantric iconography Vajrapāṇi is often depicted as trampling on Śiva and Parvati, or their child Ganesh. It's a time honoured tradition. They do the same to us, and we compete for followers and resources like politicians. What a spectacle history is!

  7. To J's suggestion that Swat might be Sanskrit svasti, 'good fortune, luck.'

    I doubt this, and here's why. D.C. Sircar, in his book Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, published by Motilal Banarsidass in 1971 (2nd ed.),p 182, spells the name Suvāstu.

    In the Chinese traveler Hsuan-tsang (Xuanzang)'s travels we find that the river going through Wu-chang-na (Oddiyana) is called Su-p'o-fa-su-tu. That river name sure looks more like Suvastu than it does Svasti.

    Here Sircar discussed reasons for historical confusions between Oddiyana and Odivisha (Orissa), when really, only the first two letters would seem to connect them...

    Even more interesting, he gives reference for a Mathura inscription dated to 77 in the Kanishka era "which probably corresponds to 155 A.D.," that mentions a Buddhist monk of Uddiyana.

    I'd welcome clarifications from every quarter, from the ten directions of space, as they say.

    Can you give the page no. in Hodge's introduction? I have the book open on my lap as I type, and haven't yet seen anything about Oddiyana, although there is a long discussion, on p. 19, of the geographical terms for Orissa. This is a book without any index!

    Sorry, spoke too soon. Now I found his discussion at footnote 10 on pp. 539-40. He nicely summarizes Lokesh Chandra's argument and suggests it needs to be seriously considered. As far as I can see he suggests possible conclusions, but doesn't identify one as being the correct one in his view... Although he does promise a paper that would deal with these problems in detail, so perhaps we will have to look forward to that...

    Meanwhile, I do think the Udyana, 'garden,' might be a 'ghost' name produced by one of the translators of Xuanzang, in an attempt to re-Sanskritize. I could be wrong. Cunningham does use the "Udyâna" spelling in his bit on Swat (The Ancient Geography of India Pt. 1: The Buddhist Period, reprint of the 1871 edition, pp. 68-70), but that might just be made to serve as part of a proof that mistaken reconstructions can take on lives of their own. I'm not sure of it. More interesting is his idea that the Chinese form "Su-po-fa-su-tu" suggests the Sanskrit form Subhavastu, which anyway would have exactly the same meaning as Suvastu. He points to a form by Arrian: Suastus. This seems to lend still more support, quite deep in history, to that final 'u' of Suvastu.

    Superficialities matter! Well, just a little bit.

    (Sorry, our comments seem to be leapfrogging. This is supposed to be an answer to the earlier comment by J. & not the latest one.)

    Yours, D.

  8. Dan-lags,

    This won’t add very much to what you said (or left unsaid) already. A slightly other perspective, perhaps.

    When I was somewhat younger my Indian yoga-teacher taught me something he called 'Uddiayanbandha'. His explanation of the name was as follows: The Sanskrit word ’uddiyana’ refers to ’flying’; here more precisely to the flying of prana into the sushumna-nadi. (Not showing diacritics here.)

    This came to my mind when, many years later, I found this definition in the ”Big” Tibetan(-Tibetan) dictionary:

    %u rgyan %oo ti ya na ste 'phur 'gro zhes pa zur chag pa dang sngar rgya gar nub phyogs kyi rgyal po %indra bhu ti byon pa'i yul,...

    Of course, I cannot say how ancient (or recent) this flight-flyer -explanation is.

    In any case, The University of Madras Tamil Lexicon seems to say something interesting as well. (I'm using capital letters here to represent the dotted ones of the original.)


    n. < uDDīyāna. [T. oDDāNamu, K. oDDyāNa, Tu. oDyāNa.] 1. Girdle worn by yōgis while in a sitting posture, so as to bind the waist and the doubled-up legs together;…


  9. as the man said: Superficialities matter! I don't think we should readily accept the `zur chag pa' theory since the most common form (at least in my experience) is `oḍiyāna', and the only (?) local inscription (at Gardez of the Śāhi Khiṅgala ruler) attesting this name has `oḍyāna'. so maybe it is the other way around: uḍḍiyāna is an artificial skt. form for any of the above? well, perhaps we'll never know

  10. Dear PSz,

    Thanks for that! Sometimes we do tend to forget that Sanskrit is "always" artificial. Actually I wasn't until now aware of any inscriptional evidence for the name, except for Kuwayama's indirectly via Davidson's article. (Kuwayama's 1991 article may be available on the internet by now... I'll have a look.) Are you referring to the same inscription[s?] as Kuwayama?

    I always want to believe things written in stone. But anyway, Hevajra T. spells it Oḍḍiyāna. At least in the Snellgrove edition.

    My next question is if Oḍyāna is a good spelling or if it's intelligible somehow. Might it not be a 'scribal reduction' or a 'broken corner version' (zur-chag-pa) of Oḍḍiyāna? That dot beneath the 'd' tells me there's not a chance in naraka of it meaning 'park, garden,' since nobody in India would ever confuse the letters 'd' and 'ḍ' (or do you think I'm wrong about that?). What would it mean, then?

    I would have answered your first comment — please excuse me — but I don't have that essay of Prof. Sanderson at hand, and he doesn't post it as PDF at his website (as linked in the sidebar to the right of you).

    I'd just comment that it's one thing to say that Oddiyana/Orgyan was a holy place for Shaivas, which nobody with a mind would deny, and quite another to say that it was normally inhabited by Shaivas in the way it very certainly was by Buddhists. (Given the findings of the Italian archaeologists...)

    I mean, can you answer Ron Davidson's statement in his book Indian Esoteric Buddhism, p. 209, where he says, "Among the four great pithas often found in this list, Odiyana is now verified as the Swat valley by the inscriptions published by Kuwayama, and it was clearly a Buddhist site, with little in the way of Saiva representations and none whatsoever of Kapalika that we can determine." (Diacritics omitted.)

    Matter for another blog that seems to be cooking up in my head as we speak, I don't believe that Padampa would have appreciated any of that Shaiva-Bauddha (or Buddhist vs. Tirthika) polemic brought up by J. Although I can see I could get into a little trouble for this from some quarters, I think it makes sense to think of Padampa and his practices within a Nath Yogi context. I think these were the people he used to 'hang' with during his hikes around the subcontinent of India, which anyway was originally a continent! And there is even a slim chance that Padampa could have once been included among the ranks of the Mahasiddhas...

    More to think about. Thanks for writing. As always, I'm


  11. Tan-Tan,

    Hi, nice hearing from an old friend. Hope all is well where you are.

    What do you think about the Oddiyana = Kañci idea of Lokesh Chandra? Does it clinch the location of the place?

    Let me translate that definition of Urgyan from the "Big" Tibetan-Tibetan dictionary, since there are some other people reading this who might not so quickly make sense of it:

    'Urgyan is Otiyana, which means Going [by] Flying, of which it is a "broken-corner" version. This is the country of western India where in the past the King Indrabhuti appeared.'

    I should add that 'going by flying' can also be a kavya-poetic epithet of [1] birds or [2] arrows.

    Write again sooner next time.


  12. Dear Dan,

    I was quoting one of Sanderson's footnotes in the Shaiva Exegesis where he deals with Oḍiyāna (and variants). I think we are talking about the same thing, the fountainhead is Kuwayama. It's on a pedestal of a Vināyaka statue.

    Snellgrove often standardizes, and sometimes misreads his mss. I did a grep search among the texts I have transcribed from palm-leaf mss., and there it is usually (but not overwhelmingly!) Oḍiyāna.

    The answer to your next question is I don't know. Complicating matters even further I noticed while browsing through Tsukamoto's Keisho-Indo-bukkyo-himei no Kenkyu (Study of Buddhist Inscriptions to you and me) and behold vol. 1. p. 1002 has the oldest name for the place. Two very early Swat inscriptions have `Oḍi':

    Swat 2 Kharoṣṭhī Inscr. of Senavarma (~1st c. CE), oḍi-raya (the king of Oḍi)
    Swat 3 ditto of Ajitasena, father of the above, oḍi-rajasa (ditto in Genitive)

    Which sort of means that we are dealing with a compound here: -yana or whatever must have been glued to this Oḍi later on. What does this mean? I don't know.

    I can't refute Davidson on this point, since I haven't read through the archaeological reports. Is there anything _Tantric_ Buddhist there? With the same reasoning we might say that Kashmir was totally devoid of yoginī-worship since we don't find any yoginī-temples. Which is of course not true. But let's leave this debate for another time. Going through his book down to the last detail might require writing another book, twice the size of IEB and how could an ignorant youngster like me do such a thing?

    Funny you should say that about Padampa. James Mallinson will show in a forthcoming article that there is no trace of Nath yogis until very much later, certainly nothing in the 12-13th century (e.g. the piece de resistance of pro-Naths, namely that Gorakṣa is mentioned in an early inscription on the Kath Mandap is false; it's a simple misreading quoted and recycled endlessly). It's another question what Naths later on want us to see as Nath texts and practices.

    I do agree that for the occasional onlooker one cremation ground weirdo was not really different from the other cremation ground weirdo. The texts however frequently show great animosity between the two religions (and I know of only one text that tried to show that all such teachings were in the end the same).

    Glad to be here. And don't worry too much about scanners. I've already closed one blog because of them, but then I simply learned to ignore.



  13. Dear PSz,

    I would have replied sooner, but I've achieved a new plateau of confusion and don't know where to turn next! I wish someone else would sort this all out for me.

    With reflection, I must confess to comparing apples with oranges. I'll try to be more careful in my use of class logic. When it comes to visualizing Venn diagrams, I tend to focus more on the overlapping bits, and on the areas completely outside the chart. That's a fault of mine. Trying to fix it only makes it worse. I can see now that putting that "logic" word in the blog name was a mistake. Anyway, at the time I was thinking of it as an encouragement.

    Meanwhile, by some strange karmic fortune that owes nothing to Google, I stumbled across a ref to an article by Anna Filigenzi in this book


    which would seem to answer one question, the one about specifically Vajrayanic themes being found in Swat, although I don't guarantee it, especially without having first read what is said there.

    As for the 'Nath Yogis' existing as such, or not existing as such, in Padampa's time, as far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter.

    If he was hanging out with proto-Naths, or only ex-post-facto Naths, or self-reflectively Nath Naths, doesn't bother me.

    Most if not all historical 'foundings' of sects & their original acts of naming are myths that coalesced late in the game of differentiation. Witness the Gelugpas, the Zhijépas, & the Kagyüpas in Tibet. None of them had the idea that they belonged to something with a name when they got started, & definitely not the name we know them by now...

    Je Tsongkhapa never knew he was a Gelugpa. Well, I guess he does now. Let's see, was Jesus a Catholic or a Baptist? A Unitarian?

    So you think Odi was the original and only later on, say in Guru Rinpoché's time - ?, it got the -iana ending, like Margiana, Sogdiana and Indiana? Isn't that some kind of Greek ending in its origins? (I know it might make some kind of sense if it were Sanskritic...)

    I'm good at asking questions, I guess. Low on answers today.


  14. I didn't want to put up the 13th comment on All Souls Day, but looks like I did. Putting up a 14th comment ought to break the spell, you think?

  15. Dan-lags,

    This is the fifteenth. Maybe.

    Thank you. All is fine here in the Uttarakuru where I am. A bright day of blue, cloudless sky. A perfect day for sightseeings. And then the autumnal Feast-gathering day of the ancients as well.

    But as to the idea of Oddiyana being Kañci - what could I say? Unfortunately I don’t have Lokesh Chandra’s article at hand. But in that case what would be the explanation of each being counted as one of the 24 ?

    Your understanding of the Sanskrit name sounds sound enough to me.

    However, the Dravidian connection may not be meaningless or out of place. If not for any other reason than the very presence of the (one or more) retroflex phonemes in the name! And Suvastu seems to me a very interesting place of confluence in history indeed.

    A pity I can’t find the book / reference you mention (Anna Filigenzi).

    Yours humbly,

  16. Dear T-tan,

    Totally rainy under my corner of sky today. But before going out in it I wanted to respond to your comment, at least part of it.

    Yes, that's an excellent or at least very reasonable point. I mean, as far as the Bde-mchog list of 24 places is concerned, both Odra (Orissa) and Kañci are there right along with Oddiyana. Together they account for 3 of the 24. So how could Odra and Oddiyana, or Kañci and Oddiyana, be identical as some have argued?

    Of Dyczkowski's many sets of not-Buddhist lists, only one includes Kañci. So anyway, there is a lot of variation to consider... And lists, like the charts that often include lists, are never quite so cut and dried as they seem. All kinds of things that shouldn't happen to them do happen. For awhile I was thinking of going into list studies (Listology? - actually there is such a term), but I hope I've gotten past that phase by now.


  17. Dear J, PSz, T-tan & Co,

    Actually, we ought to be looking at that old article by Richard Salomon in Indo-Iranian Journal, 29.4 (1986) 261-293: Inscription of Senavarma, King of Odi.

    Bailey & Fussman also wrote older articles on this very same subject. More recently, von Hinüber wrote a whole book about it.

    As far as my notes (in more recent versions of Tibskrit) go, it would seem that in around 1st century CE this King Senavarma restored a stupa after it was struck by lightning, and recorded this meritorious act in a Kharosthi inscription that is today in somebody's private possession and cannot be seen by just anybody.


  18. P.S. What was I thinking? Jesus must have been a Baptist. After all, he was a follower of John the Baptist, who first initiated him. Sorry Catholics. Sorry Unitarians.

  19. Interesting!

    I had already been listening for a connection between Urgyan and Udegram! (Od.igrâm?).

    There is an article ‘Passage to India’ by Jason Neelis in the book ‘On the Cusp of an Era: Art in the Pre-Kus.ân.a world’ edited by Doris Srinivasan. On page 83 one can find references to some articles (including Richard Salomon’s) on the theme.

    In different maps available through internet we can find both Udegram / Udegrâm and Odigram / Odigrâm with slightly different coordinates. D-s undotted.

    However. Od.iyân.a - like kalyân.a ?

    Monier-Williams’ has UDDiyāNa m. N. of a place.


  20. Dear Tan,

    Yes, I imagine by now that Udegram must 'preserve' the very old name of the area. The "gram" would be Indic grama, 'town.'

    There are a few nice photos of Udegram here, although the google ads are irritating.


  21. Is saying a mantra like sending a Udegram?

    Sorry... but I had to let that liberate itself as it might.

  22. Great article, thanks for blogging. I have been recently fascinated by the period of history when Buddhism had spread to modern day Pakistan all the way to Alexandria where there are reported have been Buddhist monasteries. Some Greek leaders and provinces were becoming Buddhist, replacing Paganism. There were peaceful religions that studied the nature of consciousness all the way to Britain and the Druids, the Gnostics, and mystery schools all around the Mediterranean. That is until the Holy Roman Empire began to repress it and the Muslim Jihads eradicated it.

    What a different world we would have if Modern day Swat Valley and beyond were Buddhist thinkers. (Edmund Marriage has some excellent archeological evidence on this. For more info you can see my Boodabill YouTube account.)

  23. Dear Bill,

    An interesting co-incidence that I received your email immediately after returning from a visit to the monastery of St. Gerasimos near Jericho. Why, you might ask? Gerasimos was the one the story about the lion and the thorn belonged to before it was shifted to Jerome, because of his similar name (the Latin name Jerome was Geronimos or Ieronimos / Ἱερώνυμος in Greek).

    And Jerome (d. 420 CE), not Gerasimos (d. 475), was one of the first writers in the western part of Eurasia to demonstrate to us that he knew something specific about the life of the Buddha.

    Jerome had heard about how Siddhartha was born from his mother's side, and considered this miraculous birth could somehow help him to make the miraculous conception of Jesus seem less entirely unlikely.

    Many historians have considered the possibility that the rise of monasticism in the Middle East was inspired by the Buddhist monks that got started several centuries earlier. I wonder what the truth behind this might be.

    Thanks for your comment.


  24. I just noticed a whole journal issue is devoted to Swat Valley and its cultural history:

    Journal of Asian Civilizations - Volume 34 - Number 1 - 2011.

    I'm afraid this journal is published in Pakistan and isn't widely available. I know I can't seem to locate it in a nearby library. And it doesn't seem to exist online.

    This article looks exceptionally interesting:

    Post-Gandharan Swat. Late Buddhist rock sculptures and Turki Sahis' religious centres / Anna Filigenzi

    1. Dear Dan,

      You wrote baout Taktsang Repa "I’m not entirely certain he was the founder [of Hemis], but the monastery was founded somewhere close to his time, and his reincarnations have been regarded as the chief Lamas of Hemis since then." There is a biography by him (and a lam yig to Oddiyana), and there is absolultely no doubt that he founded Hemis --if anything was founded when he lived. One may argue that there was a much older hermitage in the area, from the 13th century probably, dating from when Orgyenpa came to Ladakh (the local tradition rather puts emphasis on the latter's guru, Gostangpa). By the way, Tanktsang Repa is considereed the recincarnation of Orgyenpa, and he used the dilapidated remnants o the Orgyenpa's lam yig when he travelled to Oddiyana.

      This is a very late comment but let's say we are celbrted the big Hemis Tsechu these days on this Monkey Year, and of course it's mostly dedicated to Orgyen Rinpoche (khyen!).
      With gratitude and endless admiration.

    2. Dear Dan,

      You wrote about Taktsang Repa "I’m not entirely certain he was the founder [of Hemis], but the monastery was founded somewhere close to his time, and his reincarnations have been regarded as the chief Lamas of Hemis since then."

      There is a biography by him (and a lam yig to Oddiyana by him), and therefore is absolultely no reason to doubt that he founded Hemis --if anything was founded there when he lived.

      One may argue that there was a much older hermitage in the area, from the 13th century probably, somehow related to the days when Orgyenpa came to Ladakh (the local tradition rather puts emphasis on the latter's guru, Gyalwa Gostangpa). But as far as the 17th century is concerned, it's Taktsang Repa, also known as Shamonath, because befriending Nath yogis and becoming one of them was the only way he found to reach Oddiyana.

      By the way, Taktsang Repa is considereed the recincarnation of Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal, and he used the dilapidated remnants of Orgyenpa's lam yig when he travelled to Oddiyana.

      This is a very late comment but let's say we are celabrating the big Hemis Tsechu these days on this Monkey Year, and of course it's mostly dedicated to Orgyen Rinpoche (khyen!), so I thought I might be forgiven!

      With gratitude and endless admiration.

      (no way to edit all the typo so I am republishing the comment, you can erase the former attempt)

    3. Julai Nawang! Did Stag-tshang Ras-pa found Hemis, or was it built for him? It might seem like a minor point, but 'founding' is an odd concept that needs fleshing out whenever you find it (speaking as a historian). This one's for you. Yours, D.

      Source: Inschrift aus dem Kloster Hémis, in Ladakh. Sitzungsbericht der Königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 2 (1864) 305-318. The Seng ge rnam rgyal named in this inscription ruled Ladakh until 1642. He was a patron of Stag tshang ras pa (1574 1651) who is also mentioned. The date of consecration given here is a Water Horse (it isn't sure if the inscription is for any particular temple that formed a part of Hemis or what. Note the mention of Mi pham 'jam dpal mthu stobs rdo rje, an incarnation of Stag tshang ras pa alive in 1753.

      om svasti /
      na mo gu ru bhya /
      mtshan dpes gsal rdzogs yang dag rdzogs sangs rgyas //
      bden pa ma lus ston la dam pa'i chos //
      grol ba don gnyer 'phags tshogs 'dus pa'i sde //
      mchog gsum bla ma'i zhabs la gus pas 'dud //

      [to be continued]

    4. [continued]

      de yang // gsang gsum rgyal ba kun gyis 'byung ba'i gnas // rgyal ba thams cad kyi mngon par dbang bskur zhing // srid bzhi kun gyis mchod cing mngon par mchod 'os chen po'i bdag nyid dpal mnyam med 'brug pa zhes yongs su grags pa sangs rgyas kyi bstan pa'i snying po yang dag pas nam mkha'i gos can yangs por khyab cing lhag par 'dzam bu gling gis gnas dang gnas khyad par yongs la dar zhing rgyas la / de snyid kyi gdul bya rnams kyang smin smin cing grol ba'i / lam la bkod pa'i mdzad pa'i 'phrin las bsam / gyi mi khyab pa'i sa gsum du bstan pa 'dzin pa kkun las lhag par bka' drin che bar // skye chen dam pa rnams kyang ched du bsngags brjod bla na med par mdzad // zhing 'dir yang brje 'gro ba'i mgon po'i thugs sras rdo rje 'chang rgyal ba rgod tshang pa yab sras kyis byin gyis rlabs shing bsgrub pa'i ting nge 'dzin la bzhugs dus ma dang mkha' 'gro sprin tshogs ltar 'du zhing mchod cing bstod pa na dpal tswa ri tra ye shes kyi 'khor lo sogs gnas nyer bzhi dang mtshungs // rim pa'i mtshan ldan gyi bla ma skyes che 'ga' yang byon // khyad par mchog gis bsnyes pa'i grub dbang stag tshang ras pa chen po'i zhabs la // chos kyi rgyal po seng ge rnam par rgyal ba [~seng ge rnam rgyal] yab sras rje blon 'bangs dang bcas pas mi phyed pa'i dad pas spyi bos mchod cing bstan pa'i lugs gnyis kyi dpal 'byor phun sum tshogs par bsten // gdan sa chen po ma bu rnams dang // rgyal po'i pho brang rnams su yang sangs rgyas kyi sku gsung thugs kyi rten gsum rin po che gtsug lag khang sogs phyi nang du rgya cher krun pas bstan pa'i nyi ma shar ba ltar byung // skyabs rje yab rin po che mi pham 'jam dpal mthu stobs rdo rje'i sku ring la / rigs kyi bdag po dpal mnyam med rje 'brug pa thams cad mkhyen pa chen po rang phebs nas smin grol dam pa'i chos kyi rjes su gzung zhing byin gyis rlabs // rje mnyam med bstan 'gro'i mgon po skyabs kun dus zhal dpal rig pa 'dzin dbang chen pos ris su ma chad pa'i bstan 'gro spyi dang bye brag ljongs 'dir sangs rgyas kyi bstan pa dang 'gro ba'i bde skyid la dgongs pa'i bka' dang thugs rjes kho bo la'ang skal ldan gyi skyes bur rjes su bzungs nas mtshan mi pham tshe dbang 'phrin las bstan 'dzin mi gyur rdo rje zhes dbang bskur gangs bas byin gyis rlabs nas sangs rgyas kyi bstan pa dge 'dun la rag las pa'i 'bags // //

    5. [continued[

      dgon phan tshun 'dus sde rnams la slabs gsum gyi sdom khrims la gnas nas dge ba bcu'i spang blar 'dzol med du spyod rgyu'i phyag rgya dang bcas bka' drin du rtsal zhing / der bsten rang ngos nas kyang rje btsun dpal ldan rtsa ba'i bla ma yab sras kyi bka' drin yid la bcangs nas dgongs pa rdzogs phyir sngar lo chu pho stag gi dbo zla nas 'gu tshugs chu pho rta'i lor gtsug lag khang legs par grub rab gnas bkra shis mnga' gsol dga' ston rgya che ba grub pa'i thog // lcags pho khyi'i lor seng ge sgo mo'i phyir rims pa'i man thad so so'i ngos su ma ni 'bum gsum yod pa spen pad dang bcas pa phyi nang kun tu bkod pa po phyag mdzod bkra shis kyis bla ma mchog gsum la gus shing lhag pa'i bsam sbyor zla ba ltar dkar bas zhabs rtog phul du byung ba zhus shing / las su sbrel po lta bur shes rab tshe dbang sogs dang / las mi shing mkhan rtsig bzo ba rnams dang / mtha' na 'u lag gi las mi thams cad kyi kyang dad pa dad pa chen po'i bsam sbyor rnam dag gi ngang nas bsgrubs pa yin pas /

      di ge ba [~'di dge ba] rgya chen zag med nus pa'i mthus //
      skyabs kun 'dus pa'i bla ma'i zhabs brtan cing //
      smin grol chos char 'dzam gling khyab pa dang //
      bstan pa'i sbyin bdag chos rgyal rje 'bangs bcas //
      bde skyid yar ngo'i dpal la spyod pa dang //
      dbus mtha'i dmag dpung bsam sbyor ngan pa'i tshogs //
      ma lus kun zhi phan tshun dga' bde dang //
      thugs mthun chos bzhin bsgrub la brtson gyur nas //
      rgyu sbyor yon gyi 'brel thogs thams cad kyang //
      rnam kun chos spyod bcu la 'bad pa'i mthus //
      phyogs bcur bkra shis char chu dus su 'bab //
      lo phyugs rtag legs rdzogs ldan bzhin spyod nas //
      sangs rgyas go 'phang myur thob rgyur gyur cig // // sarba mangga lam // dza ya dza ya su dza ya // //

  25. oh Dan oh Dan,
    I am endlessly impressed.

    I guess the publication you quote is from Schlagintweit, this naughty collector of 'antiques' (of was it his brother?) who boast of his success in Hemis. Well Luciano Petech (the Kingdom of Ladakh, 1977) has already said Schlagintweit misundertood this inscipition as applying to the foundation of Hemis, when it does dot.

    This inscpription is by Gyalse Rinpoche Mipham Tsewang (d. 1808) who enlarged Hemis, and the consecration is about the new temple he founded, today called the Large Temple which was specially dedicated to the big Hemis Fetsival that Hemis is celebrating right now. That was indeed in the end of the 18th century, and indeed was not just one temple, but a cham-ra (ground for sacred dances) and Lamas residence, and massive Mani walls, etc. You may call it a new Hemis.

    Taktsang Repas consacreted a much smaller thing,and the temple he consacrated (in 1630 from his biography) is called today the Old Temple. There are 9 temples in Hemis.

    I doubt Taktsang Repa built the temple himself, as he was rather the Cave lover type of Repa, than a monument builder. Everyone agrees with his biography that Hemis in his days was more a yogic training centre than a monastery. I don't remember the numbers but a significant part if not the majority of those who trained in Hemis in his days were not ordained monks but are called neljorpa (one can be both, but his biography is specific).

    So you may say King Senge Namgyal built Hemis for Taktsang Rep, and the Repa consacreted the temple and trained those interested there. Senge Namgyal asked him to found many other monasteries in Ladakh (which in this days was huge, it was Ngari Korsum, including Guge and Puhrang, i.e. the Mount Kailash area, and at some point Mustang etc.). Taktsang Repa was trying to avoid that and ended arguing with the royal family. My bet is that Greater Ladakh wanted to have as much yogis as possible to provide blessings in constrast with what was happening to Tibet, with a politisation and militarisation of Religion, which peacked with Gushri Khan killing the King of Beri in Kham and the Tsang Desi, and establishing the Gelugpa 'theocracy'. Senge Namgyal believed in the good old wys of hsi ancestors, the Dharma Kings of Yarlung.

    Well in short, Taktsang Repa went to Oddiyana and was requested by the royal dynasty of Ngari Korsum to found Hemis (in 1630) and other Drukpa shrines, and he ended up doing it.

    Gyalse Thutob Dorje is no reincarnation of Taksang repa. His son, Gyalse Mipham, however was regarded at some point as Takstang repa's mind emanation. Later people got confused and said he was the 3rd Taktsang. He was not... He was a heir (rgyal sras) of this prestigious royal dynasty of Dharma Kings, and this dysnasty still had to manage its neighbour, Tibet, when Tibet had tried to invade and take control of ( Ngari oh well, mnga' ris skor gsum). Tibet even managed, with the help of Mongol armies, to snatch what we call today 'West Tibet'. So blurring things was maybe part of the game.

    Long life Ladakh!

  26. The inscription you so kindly provide (which is by Gyalse Mipham Tsewang, and the texy states he got that name from the "Great Rigzin", who is kathok Rigzin Tseang Norbu) has many dates:

    ....sngar lo chu pho stag gi dbo zla nas 'gu tshugs chu pho rta'i lor gtsug lag khang legs par grub rab gnas bkra shis mnga' gsol dga' ston rgya che ba grub pa'i thog // lcags pho khyi'i lor seng ge sgo mo.....

    Temple(s) building starts on Water Tiger (1782?), and is completed on Water Horse (?? my bet is that this means Fire Horse, 1786), and the finishing touch with the colossal mani walls and the lion's gate is given as Metal Dog, i.e 1790. Well if ever these dates are somewhat correct. Gyalse Rinpoche was a small child when Kathok Rigzin came to Ladakh (in 1752-1753) and he died in 1808, so the dates might be okay. These stones inscriptions are sometimes tricky. They are 5 of them around Hemis, and it seems the guys entrusted with the task of carving them were not alsways the brightest and fussiest scholars...

    Thank you for offering the space to share about Hemis. Tomorrow 14th July 2016 at dawn a huge thangka of Padmasambhava, created by Gyalse Mipham in those same years, will be unfolded and as soon as the sun rises it will be hidden again for another 12 years. There is a long story about it, but nothing much related to Oddiyana I am afraid. I am sure Hemis has excellent Feng Shui though!

  27. Since the topic of the Nath came up and since you have put a nice picture of Taktsang Repa Shamonath, alias Oddiyanapa ;-) (yep some Ladakhi text call him that way) my last word would be to point at his hat.

    Have you ever seen such a hat on any Tibetan master? (ha i can also ask questions... although they are far more basic than yours). The only sensible explanation I have heard (from the uncle of the present Queen Mother of Ladakh) is that this is a Nath turban.
    This informant was willing to take me to some places of Kangra where Nath yogis still live to show me similar turbans. In Tibetan and Ladakhi iconography the hat of Taktsang Repa is typical and specific to him and him only. I think its nice to know it is a Nath attribute. I am confident you appreciate.

    I think Ngari Korsum was a wonderfull space of transition between Oddiyana (and Kashmir) and Tibet. There was a special openness in the way Buddhism was practised at least from the 13th century onward. Before that, when King Lha Lama Yeshe Od invited Atisha to teach while forbidding him to mention tantra... thats another story. But Ngari Korsum (and Ladakh) had many places associated with Guru Padmasambhava. Thangton Gyalpo restored some of them (from his biography). One of those, in Lower Ladakh is called Orgyen Dzong and also celebrate its big Tsechu tomorrow!

  28. I am from Swat valley in Pakistan. There is a waterfall in Swat closer to the junction of Dir and Chitral valleys known as Jarrogo Char (Jarrogo waterfall). When I went there it was located amid thick forest and huge posture above it. I happened an old man of the area probably a shepherd and asked him why people call it Jarrogo which means in Pashto langauge a broom. However, the old man answered that he had heard from his forefathers that once there was Jogai (female yogi) used to be in the same place for long time. If I am not wrong does it not refer to daikinis? Fazal

  29. Oh my, yes, this is interesting. It reminds me of a short piece by Tucci that was published somewhere (I can't remember at the moment, so maybe someone can help me out here) about a folktale collected in Swat that connected to the dakinis. If it comes to me I'll let you know. Thanks for writing. Yours, D.

  30. This would probably be a very late comment, but since I found your article, I can't resist to raise some doubts about Oḍḍiyāna being identified with Swat, going through recent research publications available on Oḍḍiyāna. Although Filigenzi, Anna in her article tried to establish a 'concealed presence' and 'manifested Vajrayanic theme' from the sculptures found in Swat, no compelling evidence from the extensive documentation of those sculptures in her more recent publication can prove those images are but other than pure Mahayana themes, no Bodhisattva sculpture whatsoever bear any slightest resemblance to Vajrayana iconography. It is also well evident that Vajrayana was propounded when Buddhism at Swat was in clear decline, all sculptures in that valley are older than 9th century. Also, Zahor, the birthplace of Atisa has been identified in the vajrayogini village of present day Bangladesh, which is also documented to be in the north-east of oddiyana. It is highly probable that Oddiyana might have existed somewhere in eastern India, given that the region's tantric influence and evidences of Vajrayana icon.

  31. Dear C,

    Thank you for your interesting comment. I hope you can excuse me, but instead of trying to answer it, I'd ask you to do a little homework if you don't mind my sending you to look at what Oxford professor Alexis Sanderson's says on page 265 of the following essay. Rather than discussing details with me, I think it would make a lot more sense if you would respond to what he says and explain to him why you believe Oḍḍiyāna was in Bengal.

    “The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir.” In: Mélanges tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner / Tantric Studies in Memory of Hélène Brunner, edited by D. Goodall and A. Padoux, Institut français d'Indologie / École française d’Extrême-Orient. Collection Indologie 106 (Pondicherrry 2007), pp. 231–442 with bibliography on pp. 551–582. It is entirely possible to find this with an internet search and download it for free.

    I believe there is a lot of geographical confusion not only today but in the past as well, and that makes the job of the historical geographer challenging.



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