Sunday, August 20, 2017

To Bind a Book is to Protect it from the Elements

Taking up where this one left off, we continue looking at the contents of the consecration volume of the Bon Canon. Following is a translation of an interesting passage from its third title, followed by a brief comparison of early Tibetan texts that talk about the binding elements that go into the making of a scriptural volume. This leads to further intriguing questions, as for instance the meaning of “The Seven Seals” that we will go into in some future blog or essay.

The binding elements are intended to provide protection from the natural elements that might damage them. The Bon text has a remarkably pragmatic approach to this. Now, for comparison, a passage on the binding elements from the consecration work by the 12th-century Sakya master Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan, first in Tibetan letters, and then in English translation:

Now we can add in information on the binding elements from the Atiśa text based on a draft translation done back in about 1988, albeit with more recent revisions. Here is how the three 11th-12th century works compare. The items in red are unique ones that ought to receive special attention.

A bookboard displayed in the Crow Collection exhibit last year (for more look here).

Thanks are due to Dagkar Geshé Namgyal Nyima, since I could not have translated the Bon consecration passage without his help. The translations you see here, which still require thinking and rethinking, will eventually be published as part of an article, so any suggestions for improvement will be appreciated, and acknowledged if they prove useful or interesting.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hooking and Keeping Yang

An Old Norwegian Postcard

So many years have gone by I shouldn’t be sheepish to admit that I once worked on cataloging the Tibetan manuscripts and woodblock prints belonging to the Berthold Laufer collection of the Chicago Field Museum. This was back in the early 80’s, when I was young and full of false pride. Only this summer I could rescue from storage one colophon to a Field Museum text that had often come to my mind when it was out of reach. Why? Well, because it’s one of those interesting places where a Gelugpa author shows an awareness that he is involving himself in something Bon (perhaps meaning by that indigenous?), and hesitates, but then goes ahead anyway. 

In truth anything having to do with the yang (g.yang) principle in Tibetan culture is very likely indigenous Tibetan. And when I say indigenous, I don’t claim that there is nothing in neighboring cultures that corresponds with it in some way, not at all. I’m not saying it’s autochthonous (sprung full-grown from local soil), another matter altogether. Instead it has long been my opinion that the yang as something that can be increased through ritual methods is also known in Southeast Asia, and that the connections may well lie in that direction, in the mythical land of Zomia.

Let me awkwardly paraphrase the colophon for you (if you are a Tibetan reader, go directly to the text typed in down below):

Agi, a bande of the U-cu-mu-chin (Üjümücin), who was born into the lineage of Chinggis the King of the Heavens (or appointed by Heaven), said that there was need of a Yang Calling rite that follows the tradition of the Golden Light Yang Protection. His behest was accompanied by offerings of horses and icon ornaments. Still the author hesitated, thinking it was very well known in those parts as being a Bon religious teaching (Bon-chos), and that there aren’t many clear sources for it in the New Schools (Gsar-ma).  
"Thinking it a little like taking a shot in the dark, still, because the behest was repeated again and again, we also thought that it could turn out to be of benefit anyway in this or future lives, after the pattern of the ringsel that because of faith occurred on a stone, I Blo-bzang-bstan-pa’i-nyi-ma composed it, the scribe being Gsol-dpon Dge-tshul Blo-bzang-stobs-ldan."

My cursory research reveals that agi is not only a word for wormwood in Mongolian, but also serves as a personal name Agi. I’ve been unable to identify who the sponsor (or behester) was. The identity of the author might seem easy, and in the end there can be no doubt that it’s the La-mo or Shri-thu Blo-bzang-bstan-pa’i-nyi-ma (1689-1772 CE). Regarded as the immediate reincarnation of the 45th Ganden Tripa (1635-1688), he is often known as Khri-chen Sprul-sku, or as Dga'-ldan Shi-re-thu. (I think Mongolian Shiretu is just a translation of Tibetan Khri-chen, or “Great Chair.”) He was known for his translations from Tibetan into Mongolian, including the biography of Milarepa, if I’m not mistaken. Our title is listed among titles of two whole volumes of his works in a catalog of Gelugpa Collected Works (pp. 323-325), along with a very brief biographical sketch: 

A native of Mongolia, he spent some years in a Lhasa monastery. Then he accepted the invitation of the Emperor Yu’u-dzi* and came to Peking to receive the title of Hu'i U-chan Dga’-ldan Shri-thu Hu-thog-thu. He spent most of his days in the chapel of the Sandalwood Buddha where he composed many of his works. His last days were once again spent in Mongolia at the Seven Lakes Monastery (Mtsho-bdun Dgon).

I’m really not sure but I suppose Yu’u-dzi could be the Manchu Emperor Yongzheng, who ruled from 1678 to 1735. Mtsho-bdun means Seven Lakes, as does Mongolian Dolon Nor in present-day Inner Mongolia, said to be the site of Khublai Khan’s summer capital Shang-tu, inspiration for Coleridge’s Xanadu. You know, where Alph the sacred river ran...

“Taking a shot in the dark,” I had earlier, before the discussion in the comments section, translated as ‘bumping into each other in the dark.’ This is a Tibetan expression or proverb, listed as such as no. 7510 in C. Cüppers & P.K. Sørensen's A Collection of Tibetan Proverbs and Sayings (Stuttgart 1998), its literal meaning something like ‘measuring armspans in the dark.’ Our English idiomatic translation might seem somehow anachronistic (not really, firearms were already well known in Central Asia), but if you like you can think about arrows rather than bullets. 

I’m not familiar with the expression translated “the ringsel that because of faith occurred on a stone,” but I think the meaning is clear.  Ringsel are crystalline beads that emerge miraculously from the remains of saints or from holy objects like images or chortens. They do not normally emerge out of stones, but if a stone is sufficiently venerated they still might, against all odds, appear there too.

Defining yang can be as simple or complex, as practical or mystical, as you have the time for it. If you are part of a tour group rushing through on a tight schedule, it’s just ‘good luck,’ like everything else these simple people do. Or, if you can slow down for a minute, it’s all about being blessed with trouble-free ever-increasing livestock and the prosperity this is bound to bring along with it. It needs to be preserved, enclosed in something, a box or a bag or the like, so it doesn't have a chance to fly off.* This is yang as closely as I can imagine defining it for the present, although I’ll be the first to admit that I still find it sophisticatedly mystical. But more important than understanding it is to be sure the yang remains with you.

(*That’s why the Yang Hooking rite can be included in the wedding ritual, since the bride leaving her family to join her husband’s is one of those dangerous junctures when it might try to make its escape.)

---  ---  ---

Field Museum: 303.09.
(I underline proper names and book titles)

TITLE; phyogs bcu'i g.yang 'gug gter gyi bum bzang zhes bya ba bzhugs s.ho //  

COLOPHON: (14) ces pa 'di ni ching ges gnam gyi rgyal po'i rgyud las 'khrungs pa'i u cu mu chin bande a gis gser 'od g.yang skyob ltar gyi g.yang 'bod cig dgos zhes  rta dang lha rdzas bcas bskul na'ang phyogs 'di bon chos su grags che ba las gsar ma'i khungs gsal bo ma mthong gshis / mun nag 'dom 'jal lta bu 'dug na'ang  yang yang bskul tshe dad pa byas na rdo la ring bsrel gyi dpe ltar 'di phyir phan par 'gyur ram snyam / blo bzang bstan pa'i nyi mas sbyar ba'i yi ge pa ni gsol dpon dge tshul blo bzang stobs ldan no // mangga lam //

Title: ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་གཡང་འགུག་གཏེར་གྱི་བུམ་བཟང་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་བཞུགས་སྷོ།། 

Colophon: [༡༤]ཅེས་པ་འདི་ནི་ཆིང་གེས་གནམ་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོའི་རྒྱུད་ལས་འཁྲུངས་པའི་ཨུ་ཅུ་མུ་ཆིན་བནྡེ་ཨ་གིས་གསེར་འོད་གཡང་སྐྱོབ་ལྟར་གྱི་གཡང་འབོད་ཅིག་དགོས་ཞེས་རྟ་དང་ལྷ་རྫས་བཅས་བསྐུལ་ནའང་ཕྱོགས་འདི་བོན་ཆོས་སུ་གྲགས་ཆེ་བ་ལས་གསར་མའི་ཁུངས་གསལ་བོ་མ་མཐོང་གཤིས། མུན་ནག་འདོན་འཇལ་ལྟ་བུ་འདུག་ནའང་ཡང་ཡང་བསྐུལ་ཚེ་དད་པ་བྱས་ན་རྡོ་ལ་རིང་བསྲེལ་གྱི་དཔེ་ལྟར་འདི་ཕྱིར་ཕན་པར་འགྱུར་རམ་སྙམ། བློ་བཟང་བསྟན་པའི་ཉི་མས་སྦྱར་བའི་ཡི་གེ་པ་ནི་གསོལ་དཔོན་དགེ་ཚུལ་བློ་བཟང་སྟོབས་ལྡན་ནོ།།  མངྒལཾ།།

— — —

Imagine my surprise and chagrin, when a search of TBRC revealed that the very same title can be found in the works of Lcang-lung Paṇḍita 
(1770‑1846 CE). Since I don’t have access to the Field Museum text, apart from the title and colophon I transcribed years ago, I’m unable to compare the contents of the two. However, looking at the TBRC colophon, it says the colophon to the text it copied was unclear (mdzad-byang mi-gsal-zhing), that the recitation parts were expanded for this edition, to make it more useful for people unable to consult their original texts (or for those who have not yet memorized them, I think he means). Then the author’s name is given as Ngag-dbang-chos-ldan. There is more than one person by this name from that time period, but I believe since the colophon explicitly says he was a tutor, and had the title of “[Master of] Ten Difficult [Subjects],” an old-time way of saying he was a qualified Geshé, I believe this means the First Lcang-skya incarnate Ngag-dbang-blo-bzang-chos-ldan (1642-1714). At the very end a lineage for the reading permission, the lung of the text, is supplied starting with [1] the just-mentioned teacher, then [2] the Third Lcang-skya incarnate Rol-pa'i-rdo-rje, then [3] his student and attendant Dge-legs-nam-mkha' (known to me as author of a guidebook to Wutai Shan), and finally [4] Lcang-lung Paṇḍi-ta.

Well, based on our Field Museum text, we know the author was very surely Shri-thu Blo-bzang-bstan-pa'i-nyi-ma (1689-1772 CE), so this leads us to wonder, Whatever would be the sense of making a reading permission lineage for it descending from someone else? Unable to look into the question further, I will just leave you with the puzzle to work out to your own satisfaction. 

Here I will type in for you the title and colophon of the text as attributed to the First Lcang-skya:

Source:  The Collected Works of Lca-lu Paṇḍi-ta ag-dba-blo-bza-bstan-pa'i-rgyal-mtshan, Mongolian Lama Gurudeva (New Delhi 1975+), vol. 6, pp. 459-482.

Title: phyogs bcu'i g.yang 'gug 'dod dgu'i char 'bebs zhes bya ba bzhugs so //

Colophon:  zhes phyogs bcu'i g.yang 'gug 'dod dgu'i char 'bebs zhes bya ba 'di ni / gser 'od g.yang skyabs kyi g.yang 'gug gi lhan thabs mdzad byang mi gsal zhing / 'dod cha rnams thog mtha'i tshig gis bsdus pa'i lag tu blang bde zhing kha gsal ba zhig mthong ba la gzhi byas / de la gzhung gi 'don cha rnams rgyas par bkod de / lhan thabs dang g.yang skyabs kyi dpe ma 'dzom pa dang bsdebs mi shes pa rnams kyis 'don bde bar bsams nas dka' bcu'i ming can ngag dbang chos ldan gyis bsgrigs pa'i yi ge pa ni dpyod ldan bsod nams phun tshogs so // 'dis kyang 'gro ba rnams dbul phongs kyi sdug bsngal las grol bar gyur cig /

'di'i lung brgyud ni mdzad pa po yongs 'dzin dka' chen ngag dbang chos ldan / khyab bdag 'khor lo'i mgon po lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje / ong nyod ja sag bla ma grub pa'i dbang phyug dge legs nam mkha' / des lcang lung paṇḍi ta dgyes bzhin du gnang ba'o //  //

Title: ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་གཡང་འགུག་འདོད་དགུའི་ཆར་འབེབས་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་བཞུགས་སོ།།

Colophon: ཞེས་ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་གཡང་འགུག་འདོད་དགུའི་ཆར་འབེབས་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་འདི་ནི། གསེར་འོད་གཡང་སྐྱབས་ཀྱི་གཡང་འགུག་གི་ལྷན་ཐབས་མཛད་བྱང་མི་གསལ་ཞིང་། འདོད་ཆ་རྣམས་ཐོག་མཐའི་ཚིག་གིས་བསྡུས་པའི་ལག་ཏུ་བླང་བདེ་ཞིང་ཁ་གསལ་བ་ཞིག་མཐོང་བ་ལ་གཞི་བྱས། དེ་ལ་གཞུང་གི་འདོན་ཆ་རྣམས་རྒྱས་པར་བཀོད་དེ། ལྷན་ཐབས་དང་གཡང་སྐྱབས་ཀྱི་དཔེ་མ་འཛོམ་པ་དང་བསྡེབས་མི་ཤེས་པ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་འདོན་བདེ་བར་བསམས་ནས་དཀའ་བཅུའི་མིང་ཅན་ངག་དབང་ཆོས་ལྡན་གྱིས་བསྒྲིགས་པའི་ཡི་གེ་པ་ནི་དཔྱོད་ལྡན་བསོད་ནམས་ཕུན་ཚོགས་སོ༎ འདིས་ཀྱང་འགྲོ་བ་རྣམས་དབུལ་ཕོངས་ཀྱི་སྡུག་བསྔལ་ལས་གྲོལ་བར་གྱུར་ཅིག།

འདིའི་ལུང་བརྒྱུད་ནི་མཛད་པ་པོ་ཡོངས་འཛིན་དཀའ་ཆེན་ངག་དབང་ཆོས་ལྡན། ཁྱབ་བདག་འཁོར་ལོའི་མགོན་པོ་ལྕང་སྐྱ་རོལ་པའི་རྡོ་རྗེ།

ཨོང་ཉོད་ཇ་སག་བླ་མ་གྲུབ་པའི་དབང་ཕྱུག་དགེ་ལེགས་ནམ་མཁའ། དེས་ལྕང་ལུང་པཎྜི་ཏ་དགྱེས་བཞིན་དུ་གནང་བའོ།། །།

§  §  §

Directions of further research to confuse matters even more than is absolutely necessary:

Our author can be located in TBRC, although it may not be all that easy given that there are supposed to be about 150 persons with the name Blo-bzang-bstan-pa'i-nyi-ma. His correct identification number is P348. You ought to thank me for saving you the trouble of searching through the long list. There are a couple of works listed in TBRC that are connected to him as subject or author, but TBRC has not listed the contents of his collected works that ought to fill four volumes. I wonder why the Chicago Field Museum doesn't invite TBRC to come and scan their Berthold Laufer Tibetan collection to make it available to the world?

The one place I know of that lists titles of our author’s works only supplies titles for two volumes, vols. 3-4 (GA and NGA): Gsung 'bum dkar chag (=Zhwa ser bstan pa'i sgron me rje tsong kha pa chen pos gtsos skyes chen dam pa rim byung gi gsung 'bum dkar chag phyogs gcig tu bsgrigs pa'i dri med zla shel gtsang ma'i me long), Lhag-pa-tshe-ring et al.eds., Bod ljongs mi rigs dpe skrun khang (Lhasa 1990), pp. 323-325.

If the subject of ringsel interests you, as I think it should, have a look at D. Martin’s “Pearls from Bones: Relics, Chortens, Tertons and the Signs of Saintly Death in Tibet,” Numen, vol. 41 (1994), pp. 273-324.

Dieter Schuh long ago studied, as part of a study of Eastern Tibetan wedding rituals, a Yang Hooking rite. See “Die Darlegungen des tibetischen Enzyklopädisten Ko-sprul Blo-gros-mtha'-yas über Osttibetische Hochzeitsgebraüche,” contained in: Serta Tibeto-Mongolica [Heissig Festschrift], Harrassowitz (Wiesbaden 1973), pp. 295-350.

Curiously enough, Bon and Chos each has its own G.yang-skyob ritual associated with a particular sûtra, in both cases called by a similar title including the words Golden Light. The two texts are hardly the same in their content — see Michael Walter, “Prolegomenon to a Study of the Gser 'od nor bu 'od 'bar gyi mdo,” contained in: Per Kvaerne, ed., Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies Fagernes 1992, The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture (Oslo 1994), vol. 2, pp. 930-938 — but they are similar in having Yang Hooking rites as ancillary texts.

Daniel Berounsky, “Tibetan Myths on ‘Good Fortune’ (phya) and 'Well-Being' (g.yang),” contained in: Mongolo-Tibetica Pragensia '14, vol. 7, no. 2 (2014), pp. 55-77 (this whole volume of MTP is devoted to “Indigenous Elements in Tibetan Religions”).  Idem., Prosperity in a Whirlpool of Symbolic Contexts: Some Notes on Tibetan G.yang 'gugs and Buryat Dalga Rituals, contained in: Jaroslav Vacek & Alena Oberfalzerova, eds., Mongolica Pragensia '06, Triton (Prague 2006).  G.yang-'gug.

Rolf A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization, p. 199: 
“Take for example the ceremony of calling for good fortune (g.yang-'gug), for which a beribboned arrow, a mirror and a ‘good-fortune bag’ (g.yang-khug) are used: ‘The material of the good-fortune bag is wool. The father was the sky sheep Reddish-white, the mother the earth sheep Reddish. These two united and had sons. Of five kinds were the lambs.’ ”

Jacques Dournes, “Yang: The Sacred Connection, Sacrifice, and the Ritual of Counting among the Austroasiatic and Austronesian Ethnic Groups,” contained in: Yves Bonnefoy, ed., Asian Mythologies, University of Chicago Press (Chicago 1993), pp. 218-221.  I’m not going to claim that this yang in southernmost Viet Nam and the Tibetan yang are identical concepts, but both do have a lot to do with prosperity, and both can be influenced through ritual methods.

Geoffrey Samuel, Zomia: New Constructions of the Southeast Asian Highlands and Their Tibetan Implications, contained in: Gerald Roche, et al., eds., Centering the Local [Asian Highland Perspectives no. 37], pp. 221-249.

§     §     §

“Entschuldige nichts, verwische nichts, 

seih und sag, wie es wirklich ist — 

aber du mußt das sehen, 

was ein neues Licht auf die Tatsachen wirft.”  

— Ludwig Wittgenstein, ca. 1941.

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