Saturday, January 18, 2020

Great Balls of Iron

It’s one of those oddly interdependent co-incidents that now and then show up to remind you the Enlightened Ones got it right. In the last couple of days a whole lot of clues about this subject have been falling at my feet from out of the blue and from different directions in space. This augury leaves me with little choice but to blog about it. Who am I to question when the world conspires against me? Wait, that was a question, wasn’t it. Well, it was, wasn't it...

It may have started last night when to pass the time on the train home from the airport I was reading Charles Ramble's article about a 20th-century novel, Vicissitudes of a Ordinary/Commoner Family.

That novel brings back old and odd memories of my first time in Lhasa. I was in a bookstore and had spent half the afternoon making a pile of Tibetan books, mostly about Buddhism, to mail home to myself when our minder (if you have been there in those days you probably know what I mean), a quite young Tibetan speaker, pretending to interest himself in books for himself as well as the books I was choosing, finally turned to me and told me that there is only one book worth reading, that same Vicissitudes book just mentioned. Of course I put it on top of my pile, mainly out of curiosity why he thought I should forget all those Buddhist books. I never understood where exactly he was coming from, perhaps in some part because I shelved the book and hardly looked at it again.

The famous professor’s book review started me thinking when I reached the part where he tells how Tibetan commoners couldn’t possibly share drinks or dine with metal smiths.* What I was thinking, first of all, was just how different that makes Tibetans from their northern neighbors, the Mongols and Turks. Why are Tibetans so hard on people who smelt?
(*Commoners and smiths do not share a ‘mouth’ [kha] connection.)
It’s well known that the Mongols as they extended their empire in the Middle East & Eastern Europe — even in cities that had resisted the siege and were for this reason subjected to their over-depopulation policy — spared the lives of artisans, especially the smiths, and above all the goldsmiths... 

Do you remember the story from an earlier blog of that French goldsmith taken captive in Hungary, the one who ended up making a giant wine & kummis dispenser for the Khan in Karakoram, its ruins visitable in today’s Mongolia?* Smiths were so greatly valued by the Mongols they went out of their way to procure them so they could put them to work doing what they do best. See the blog with the verses “In Praise of Beer,” written by Pagpa. But do come back, since I haven’t said anything yet.
(*The ruins of the city. Of the wine dispenser there is not the least remaining trace, although one small tourist hotel had put up a weak facsimile of it, and that was fun to see.)

For months now I’ve been watching a 300-plus-episode epic on the rise of the Ottoman Dynasty, and particularly the father of its founder, a contemporary of Pagpa by the name of Ertugrul. The latest episode I’ve seen shows the Seljuk princess Halime making a perilous journey together with an unrelated old blacksmith they called Wild Demir.* Quite a contrast with the blacksmith Lhakpa in Vicissitudes.

(*See Diriliş: Ertuğrul, Series 2, episode 41, or episode 117 overall. That demir is just the Turkish word for ‘iron’. He belonged to the Tayi tribe, that may have been the tribe of origin of the Ottoman rulers. Things are never all that simple, but even if it were, some say that the Tayi tribe was of Mongolic not Turkic origins. Perhaps they gained Turk/Turkoman identity when they converted to Islam? I’m not nearly half way through the episodes of the Ertugrul TV serial, but already I know a lot more Turkish than I ever did before, and yes, a lot more about the history of the Ottoman Empire. Watching the largely fictional show has made me search out more reliable sources of knowledge.)

Oh, and another thing, yesterday morning I was looking through the recently published collection of essays by one of the most interesting of early 21st century Tibetan authors, a scholar of the ’Bri-gung school by the name of Rasé Konchok Gyatso. Among those essays I found one about Tibetan society’s negative attitudes toward blacksmiths, not just them but also butchers and women. He gets discussion started with a quote from the French author Ru’u-su’u (རུའུ་སུའུ་) about human equality, making use of a modern Tibetan term dra-mnyam (འདྲ་མཉམ་for equality. 

And to think that the Mgar Ministers of the Old Tibetan era, who were practically running the Empire for a very long time, were smiths in their family origins if their name is any guide. Tibetans picked out for special contempt artisans of all types. Of course farmers and nomads were the most normal things you could possibly be in those days all over Eurasia, not just Tibet, but the Tibetan commoners’ tendency to hold prejudices against suppliers of objects they need to do their work requires explanation.

Rasé explains that Buddhism itself (along with parts of Indian culture that came with it that may have roots outside of Buddhism) is to blame. How so? Buddhism has strong ethical arguments against taking life, any life. Butchers are directly involved in the business of killing, but smiths produce the instruments butchers need for their work, along with tools of warfare that entail killing done from other motives. Rasé at one point adds in the categories of hunters (among them, the pika eaters) and potters, although he doesn't discuss prejudicial attitudes against them any further.  I’m not familiar with the term ya-bo that he uses here, although it occurs in a legal code he later quotes from, and he glosses it as anyone who makes a living from the hunting of animals. The legal code makes a triad of ya-bo with smiths and butchers.  If I could be allowed to attempt a translation of this passage, from the Legal Code of the Roaring Turquoise Dragon (གཡུ་འབྲྲུག་སྒྲོག་པའི་ཞལ་ལྕྕེ་):
“When the A-tse King of Upper Tibet was slain by the Mongols (Hor), for the indemnity they weighed an equal measure of gold. In case of ya-bo, smiths and butchers, when they are killed the indemnity is one jute rope.”  

སྟོད་ཨ་ཙེ་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཧོར་གྱིས་བསད་། སྟོང་ལ་གསེར་དང་མཉམ་འདེགས་བྱས། ཡ་བོ་མགར་བ་བཤན་པ་གསུམ། བསད་ཀྱང་སྟོང་ལ་དྲེས་ཐག་གཅིག

(My note: I suppose by A-tse King is meant the Ya-tse King in the area of Gugé; to locate it just go to the extreme northwestern corner of modern Nepal and you will be in the right neighborhood. I suppose what is meant here is that they measured out an amount of gold equal to the weight of the king's body. Hor originally named the Uighur Turks, but was applied to the Mongols after their emergence in the early 13th century.)

Reflecting on a reading of Rasé's essay, which deserves more attention than I’m giving it, I have to say I do agree with much of his critical argument. He says to think of metal smiths as “dirty” and polluting is “brainless ignorant superstition” (ཀླད་མེད་གཏི་མུག་རྨོངས་དད་པ་). And now that I’m a vegetarian again, I do think, as Rasé says in his own way, there is a contradiction in condemning or looking down on butchers when the ones doing this condemning are enjoying eating the meat they provide. They supply a demand, and the ones doing the demanding despise them for supplying it? What could make that right?

And finally, just a few mornings ago I opened an email from my long-time friend R.M. that linked me to an article more or less directly about thu-lum — a word you may remember from an earlier blog here at Tibeto-logic.  If you don’t remember it, and who could blame you since it was half a decade ago, you might like to have a look here, then scroll down toward the bottom of the page.  The article by Joseph Marino, details below, is all about descriptions of Buddhist hells, and one of them in particular where its denizens are made to swallow flaming hot balls or ingots of iron. I won’t go further into this hell right now, just to say that the blazing ingots, whatever their origins, were represented in Tibetan translations with a word borrowed from the Turkish tongues (perhaps via Mongolian?).* This word thu-lum has quite an old history in Tibetan, as far as I can tell first appearing in a translation of a portion of the story of Rāma of Indian epic fame (ITJ 0737-1). That means likely 10th century or earlier, making a Turkish borrowing the more likely.**
(*A global search of the Derge canon yields nearly 60 instances of usage for the word thu-lum, and by far most of these contexts have to do with iron ones that are or would be hot and painful when swallowed. Some day when the Buddhist scriptures among the Tibetan Dunhuang documents will be digitized, and there is some movement right now to do this, we may be able to say more about the earlier history of the Tibeto-Turkish-Mongol word.  **If you are interested to know more about the fates of Rāma  stories in Tibet, I recommend the essay by Roesler listed below.)

In earlier centuries in Tibet, the first person brought to mind when you hear the word ‘iron’ is Tangtong Gyalpo, the well-known builder of chain suspension bridges on the Plateau. So there can be no doubt that, at least when done with altruistic or at least public-minded purposes, metal working could, even if only in this one rare case, be regarded as good and noble. An exception can prove a rule.  And rules can be improved upon, especially when they involve socially engrained injustices that so many centuries of Buddhism failed to find ways to overcome. Living traditions always have changed, and we may hope they can find and compassionately promote the right methods to change for the better without trying to fix whatever it is that was already right.

Bits of bibliography

Peter H. Hansen, “Why Is There No Subaltern Studies for Tibet?” Tibet Journal, vol. 28, no. 4 (Winter 2003), pp. 7-22. As if in answer to the question after a decade-long wait, see the book edited by C. Ramble et al., below.

Joseph Marino, “From the Blacksmith’s Forge to the Fires of Hell: Eating the Red-Hot Iron Ball in Early Buddhist Literature,” Buddhist Studies Review, vol. 36, no. 1 (2019), pp. 31-51. 

Leonard Olschki, Guillaume Boucher, a French Artist at the Court of the Khans, John Hopkins Press (Baltimore 1946). A number of articles on the Karakorum fountain have appeared of late on the internet, particularly well written is this one by Devon Field

Fernanda Pirie, “The Turquoise Dragon: Symbol of Political Status?”  See this page at

Charles Ramble, “The Tibetan Novel as Social History: Reflections on Trashi Palden's Phal pa'i khyim tshang gi skyid sdug,” Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, no. 49 (May 2019), pp. 149-191.

Charles Ramble, Peter Schwieger, Alice Travers, ed., Tibetans Who Escaped the Historian’s Net: Studies in the Social History of Tibetan Societies, Vajra Books (Kathmandu 2013).

Rasé Konchok Gyatso (Ra-se Dkon-mchog-rgya-mtsho), “Bod-kyi Sems-khams-kyi Snang-tshul-las Mgar Bshan Bud-med-la Mthong-chung Byed-pa'i Lam-srol-gyi 'Byung-khungs Bshad-pa,” contained in the same author's Bod Rig-pa'i Dpyad-rtsom Brgya dang Brgyad-cu-ma, Bod Rang-skyong Ljongs Dpe-skrun Do-dam Khru'u (Lhasa 2016), at pp. 1160-1167.  The two types of discrimination against smiths that he mentions are described in the phrases kha-phor mi bsre-ba, and gnyen-sgrig mi chog-pa, that I take to mean not putting together the [personal] bowl [for both food and drink], and not allowing marriage. The non-commensal and unmarriagable do fit together, in the sense that married people have to also be fed by their in-laws. Most marriage rites include somewhere within them the act of eating together.

Hugh Richardson, “Further Fragments from Tun-huang,” contained in: High Peaks, Pure Earth, Serindia (London 1998), pp. 28-36.  On p. 35 you can see a number of comments about how, at least in post-imperial times, Tibetans despised smiths, even while other Central Asian peoples held them in very high esteem.

Ulrike Roesler, “The Adventures of Rāma, Sītā and Rāvaṇa in Tibet,” contained in:  John Brockington, et al., eds., The Other Rāmāyaṇa Women: Regional Rejection and Response, Routledge (London 2016), pp. 44-70.

Cyrus Stearns, tr. King of the Empty Plain: The Tibetan Iron Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo, Snow Lion (Ithaca 2007).  This is a complete translation of the life of Thang-stong Rgyal-po Brtson-’grus-bzang-po (1361?‑1485), often known as Lcags-zam-pa, which is to say, the Iron Bridge [Builder]. As a translation, it is an outstanding accomplishment deserving of praise.

§   §   §

Looking for something to read in English on Tibetan smithing?  There is an essay on ironworking by John Clarke contained in Donald J. LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas, Metropolitan Museum of Art & Yale University Press (New York & New Haven 2006), pp. 20-33.

Or would you prefer something in German about Tibetan metalworking?  Try Hanna Rauber-Schweizer, Der Schmied und sein Handwerk im traditionellen Tibet, Tibet-Institut (Rikon 1976).

If you are looking for something in classical Tibetan language, matters are more complicated, although I have noticed a short treatise about metalworking for image making in The Collected Writings (Gsung-'bum) of 'Bri-gung Chos-rje 'Jig-rten-mgon-po Rin-chen-dpal (New Delhi 1971), vol. 2 (Kha), pp. 10.5-14.6. It has its difficulties for even more seasoned Tibeto-logicians, but part of its attraction is precisely because this 12th-century work has interesting words for files, awls and engraving tools, but more to the point a few things to say about choosing good quality metal and the smelting of it.

Notice the iron chain links in his hand,
a wall painting photographed in Bhutan

PS (February 5, 2020):

I noticed on p. 203 of an essay by Peter Jackson (I'll give you its reference in a minute) the story of how Hülegü extracted a promise to spare the lives of the inhabitants of Harim if they would yield to his army.  They hesitated and asked for assurances from the Muslim ruler of Aleppo. But these supposed assurances were only meant to lure them out of the city to their slaughter.  Only a blacksmith, an Armenian, was spared.  The Syriac historian and Jacobite Christian Bar Hebraeus tells this story that you can find here, also.  So this one further example is offered just to show it wasn't only in Budapest that the lives of smiths were spared.*
(*The moral to the story from the Mongol invader viewpoint is just this: Those who fail to submit to us immediately are already sentencing themselves to die by our hands. If the Harimites didn't quite understand this, seeing what happened to them might be effective in preventing such misunderstandings in the future.)

Peter Jackson, “Hülegü Khan and the Christians: The Making of a Myth,” contained in: P. Edbury & J. Phillips, eds., The Experience of Crusading 2. Defining the Crusader Kingdom, Cambridge University Press (2003), pp. 196-213.

PSS (July 16, 2020): 

It just occurred to me that I had forgotten about the fact that one of the most illustrious treasure revealers, one named Pema Lingpa, was famous for his skill in metalworking. He should at least be mentioned as a person so well respected in other areas that his dabbling in smithing did nothing to lower him in the eyes of the Buddhist community. In fact, metal objects made by his hand are regarded as relics in Bhutan today. I remember a photo of a coat of mail he is said to have made in one of those Bhutan photo books, Maybe the Olschak book.  Let's see, here it is, plate no. 55 in Blanche C. Olschak, Bhutan: Land of Hidden Treasurers, Geo. Allen & Unwin Ltd. (London 1971). Once I had a dream of flying over Thimphu in a glass airplane, so the very next morning I went out and bought this book. It was not until over 40 years later that my dream to see Thimphu was finally fulfilled, but you know some things are worth the wait.  I count myself fortunate that in recent decades I was able to visit some of the most fantastically interesting parts of Eurasia, all the more so now that we’re all locked in.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Guhyasamāja History by Pagpa

The Biography of Jñānapāda and His Guhyasamāja Lineage

n times long gone by, in the southern part of India, was a king of Orissa by the name of Visukalpa. He had faith in the Buddha, so he learned many teachings of both the Hearers and the Great Vehicle. Still, he was thinking there ought to be some other teaching yet more profound than they are when he settled in for the night. He had a dream that a woman approached him and said, “You must leave this place and go to a land called Oiyan in the north-western borders and you shall become a Vajraholder in this very life.” So saying, she vanished.

No sooner had he awakened than he set off for the region of Oiyan. When he arrived there he met a woman resembling the one he had seen in his dream. Thinking he was seeing an emanation, he prostrated at her feet, paid his respects and made a prayer requesting that she take him under her guidance. She initiated him into the great maṇḍala and granted him the complete Guhyasamāja Tantra together with the explanatory tantras. The king did indeed apply himself to the practices and thereby achieved the siddhis. He advanced the teachings in the world among such as Saraha, and then to the Saint Teacher Nāgārjuna and others that followed him. This much is known.

Moving on to later times, the Teacher Buddhajñānapāda is the name of a child born to the King Gha-pa-ru-pra-bha-wa in the region of southeast India known as Sindhura. From childhood his bodily form, his insight and behavior were impeccable, and he studied and learned to an advanced level such arts and sciences as grammar, prosody and statecraft. He matured to adulthood and left behind his royal prerogatives as if they were a pool of spittle on the ground.

In one of the regions of Nalendra was a place known as Taxila (Takaśīla). In that city, in a vihāra called Trikadhru built by King Śrī Dharmapāla, was a community of the Mahāsammata monastic order. Among the monks was one in particular who was graced by moral discipline and learnedness, the best of all the students of their abbot Vairocanabhadra. He had already attuned himself to compassion and bodhicitta, fully embodying the life of the Bodhisattva. He had mastered a number of the textual-explanatory traditions, holding the treasuries of a number of the scriptures of the Sugatas, but in particular he was able to fully illuminate the meaning of the Perfection of Insight Sūtras. [468] The person of whom we speak is the teacher and great personage Haribhadra. Pleasing Haribhadra with his attendance, Buddhajñānapāda studied and mastered a number of textual-explanatory traditions pertaining to the Perfection of Insight. Eventually he composed a commentary on the Sañcaya for the sake of a fully ordained nun of brahmin caste by the name of Guamitra, this being only one example of his many deeds of composition and instruction.

Then he left Magadha and traveled 300 yojanas to the northwest, finally arriving at Oiyan, a place blessed by assemblies of skygoers. There was a teacher who was native to Nor-bu-gling, one accomplished in Mahāmudrā known as Śrī Viśvarūpin, or to give his secret initiatory name, Vilāsavajra. Staying near him, he received initiations into a number of maṇḍalas of the secret mantra, as well as learning many tantra texts.

Later on, in a part of that same place, he received from a teacher with an inconceivable number of secret precepts, a yogi by the name of Guru, many Highest Yoga Tantra initiations as well as tantra teachings and precepts, which he mastered.

Then one evening he had another dream. In his dream a prophetic voice spoke to him, “There is living in the northern parts of Oiyan a young woman of low caste, a yoginī born into the caste known as Jātijava (Dzā-ti-dza-ba), who is called Lakmisena. Go to be with her. Your aims will be fulfilled.”

When he awoke he went to her and pleased her with his attendance. He heard much esoteric advice and teaching. Then he went to the region of Jalandhara in western India and the city of Ratnadhāra where he met a teacher who had performed the Jambhala practices and attained the flowing stream-like samādhi. This teacher’s name was Bālipāda (Byis-pa’i Zhabs). He studied with him a number of texts and the main tantras of the Prajñā class. He mastered these subjects and was persistent in their practices.

He also went to the south Indian region of Kokana,* the residence of a great teacher named Bālipāda who had the supreme samādhi and was especially learned in the tantras. There were a number of others who stayed there in his miraculous company including his disciple of the brahmin caste Saraha and one of the vaiya class named Mañjuśrī. Their living necessities were provided by Vasudhārā, Goddess of Wealth (Nor-rgyun-ma) — ten man-cha** of gold and a heap of pearls for each one of them as well as 300 cowries (kārṣāpaṇi). When he came into the presence of this teacher he received initiation into the 32-deity Guhyasamāja and learned the root tantra eighteen times. He also learned the explanatory tantras, the sādhanas and the secret precepts. In the mean time it emerged that there were 18 especially difficult points in the root tantra of the Guhyasamāja, and even though he asked his teacher about them he still had doubts. So he went to Śrī Vajrāsana and said his prayers at the Mahābodhi shrine. As he did so a voice cried out from the sky, “Thou son of the family! Seek out Mañjuvajra and receive his blessing, then all your doubts will depart.”
(*The Konkan coastal area of present-day Maharashtra, nowadays we are not likely to consider it as part of south India per se. **Interesting to see this gold and silver weight called manca or mancu here. I could be wrong, but this could be an Old English term, so this ought to be investigated further. Some readers of this translation may not be aware that cowries could be used as a medium of exchange, or that coins could be called cowries.)

Since Mañjuvajra was staying at Wu-tai Shan in China, he went to his teacher Bālipāda and asked if he could go there. Permission was granted, so he set out on the road from Vajrāsana traveling to the north. [470]

He happened to spy a garden of squash plants. Near to it was a house, and there beside the house he saw a woman and a bitch. Not far from them was a monk, his robe wrapped up around his head like a turban, plowing a field. ‘Oh my,’ he thought, ‘if it is even possible there could be a renunciate living with a woman and plowing a field like this then the teachings have truly fallen to ruin,’ and the thought saddened him. Meanwhile it was the noon time, so he thought he would beg alms. The monk said, “Teacher, come over and enjoy a Dharma feast.” The Teacher was given a seat and the monk ordered the woman, “Bring this renunciate a hot meal.” She took out a fish trap, caught a fish from a creek and cooked it. Then she placed a tree leaf in front of the bitch and ordered it, “Bring the Dharma feast.” When the bitch vomited, this together with the fish the woman served to him.

The Teacher thought the flesh had been specifically prepared for him, and that it was impure, so he abstained.

According to another account the woman had killed many small birds and cooked their flesh, but when she served it he abstained. The woman then snapped her fingers and the birds flew out of the curry and disappeared. So goes that other version of the story.

Then the monk said, “Goodness, since he is a worldling give him ordinary food.” So he was served a cooked rice dish with yoghurt. The Teacher finished eating and thought he would be on his way, but the monk said, “If you depart at this time of day you will not reach a place to stay in the evening. So leave tomorrow.” So he spent the night while the monk went to stay elsewhere. [471] The Teacher was there doing his Guhyasamāja recitations and arrived at a place he did not recognize. The look on the woman’s face told him that she was displeased, so he was convinced that she had the extraordinary ability to read minds.

So then he thought, ‘She may be the one to dispel my doubts.’ He prostrated to her and made his requests, but she replied, “I do not know the answers, but the monk who was just here is quite an expert, so you ought to ask him.”

He asked her where he had gone, and she told him, “He went to buy beer.”

“When will he return?”

“In the morning.”

So he waited until morning when he saw someone arrive who seemed to be drunk from beer. He didn’t really believe in him, but he anyway swallowed his pride and prostrated before him, “I solemnly request you to grant me your explanations of the Guhyasamāja.”

“You must take initiation!”

“I have received the initiations.”

“You need my personal initiation.”

So the Teacher went to find the items needed for the ritual and brought them when he requested the initiation.

In another account it tells how he had a cowrie and gave it to the woman. She then transformed her appearance to create the needed items.

It was on the night of the 8th day of the first lunar month of autumn when the grass hut was transformed into a divine palace, and within it clearly visible was a maṇḍala of the 19-deity Mañjuvajra. The monk was sitting there beside the maṇḍala in the same aspect displayed earlier. [472] He asked the Teacher, “Will you take the initiation from me or from the maṇḍala?’

The Teacher, even while thinking that the maṇḍala was an emanation of none other than the monk, had faith in the divine aspects, so he made his request to take initiation from the maṇḍala.

“Well then, so receive it!’ said the monk. Then he received the complete set of initiations from the maṇḍala.

Another account tells us that when he requested to take initiation from the maṇḍala, the maṇḍala vanished, and only then he knew that the maṇḍala was a manifestation by the monk and prostrated to him. Saying words of praise including the words, “You are the father of all sentient beings, their mother, too,’ he begged his indulgence and made requests. Then at the break of dawn he projected the maṇḍala out of his heart area. Then he smiled and, saying “Good!’ commenced the initiation. So says the other account.

Then began a summarization of the meanings of the Guhyasamāja with oral authorization and so on, and all the difficult points in the tantra he was at least made to understand. Then the Teacher, pleased and satisfied, thought, ‘I will offer a gift.’ So he asked the monk, “What is your wish?’

“I wish for nothing at all,’ the monk replied.

But the Teacher insisted that he must by all means accept something. Responded the monk, “Well then, make me the gift of prostrating whenever you see me.” The Teacher agreed to this and made his offering in this way.

Then the monk said,

“You had some small misconceptions
about eating behavior and about me.
So you will not become accomplished in
the present life through your bodily aggregate.
When your mind has turned into Vajrabody
you will be liberated only in the intermediate state.”

Then he added,

“Now you will perform the practices
but will not become Buddha in the present life.
You must spend your life teaching for the benefit of others,
and only then be liberated in the intermediate state.”

and with these words he disappeared.

Then the Teacher proceeded to the northeast of Vajrāsana to a place known as Ri-bo’i Phung where he lived in a [monastery] called Dharmāṅkura (Chos-kyi Myu-gu).* There Buddhajñānapāda received initiations directly from Mañjughoa and heard from him all the teachings. News of this spread throughout the world such that kings, panditas, teachers and others gathered around him.
(*See Tāranātha’s history where a place by this name is associated with Asaga.)
The fortunate among them received initiations as well as teachings of Mañjughoa suitable to their minds with the oral transmissions and so on. He went to still other places to teach.

Then even his previous teacher Bālipāta arrived there hoping to request teachings, but the Teacher said to him, “You are my teacher! There is no way I could teach you.” But then through an eloquent discourse he made his doubts dissolve, and for this purpose composed his work, Samantabhadra Sādhana. In general he composed 14 books that belong to this tradition. They are:

  1. Kun-tu bzang-po’i sgrub-thabs.
  2. Kun-tu bzang-mo’i sgrub-thabs.
  3. Sbyin-sreg-gi cho-ga.
  4. Gtor-ma.
  5. Tshogs-’khor.
  6. Dkyil-’khor-gyi cho-ga.
  7. Nyis-brgya-lnga-bcu-pa.
  8. Ye-shes chen-po.
  9. Tshigs-su bcad-pa’i mdzod.
  10. Grol-ba’i thig-le.
  11. Bdag bsgrub-pa.
  12. Byang-chub-kyi sems-kyi thig-le.
  13. Dpal-bshes-kyi rnam-bshad bzhi-pa-la ’jug-pa.
  14. Chu-sbyin-gyi sgrub-thabs.

So in sum this teacher did many teachings and composed many treatises until an immeasurable number of students came to him. Yet among them there were 18 who were outstanding, four who reached nirvāṇa by virtue of direct seeing.* The latter were Dīpakarabhadra, Praśāntamitra, Rāhulabhadra and Mahāsukhavajra.
(*?? dṛṣṭadharma nirvāṇa, = Pāli ditthadhamma nibbana.)

Thus he illumined the minds of myriad beings. Once he was leading a teaching session for a great multitude when he saw coming into his presence a man who walked as if drunk with beer. He thought, ‘If I were to salute him the others might lose faith in me.’ So he did not salute him and he disappeared in the audience. But later on he followed him and caught sight of the guru sitting with his legs stretched out in the shade of a stūpa. Then he prostrated at his feet and the guru said to him, “You made a promise as an initiation gift to me that you would prostrate to me whenever you would see me, so how is it that today you did not salute me?”

The Teacher without thinking about it blurted out, “I did not see you.”

The guru said, “Essence of the earth, go out!” (sa’i snying-po gatstsha), and the Teacher’s eyes fell on the ground. He prayed to the guru requesting his indulgence, so he was granted eyes that could see regardless of obstructions for a distance of a full yojana. From then on he was called Jñānalocana, which is to say Full Knowledge Eye. [475]

There is another account telling us that it was to one of Teacher’s disciples, a brahmin named Jñānapāda, that he appeared in the manner just described, and not to Teacher himself.

Once Teacher was staying in a hut not far from Vajrāsana performing his practices when everyone else was observing a holy day at Vajrāsana by doing prostrations and making offerings. Everybody was criticizing Teacher for not attending, and their words reached the ears of the king Dharmapāla. The king couldn’t believe that Teacher had neglected the holy day, so he decided to look into the matter. The king entered the hut and had a look, but all he saw was an image of Mañjuśrī. So he went back outside and asked a disciple who assured him that he was indeed inside. So once again he went in and had a look. He saw Teacher sitting there and asked him, “Why did you not go to Vajrāsana to perform prostrations?”

“I did so from this very spot where we stand.”

“How did you do that?”

Śākyamuni was clearly seated in the space in front of Vajrāsana, and to him I prostrated.”

The king was impressed. Begging the Teacher’s indulgence, he requested him to serve as his court priest, but the Teacher did not accept the offer and went elsewhere.

On the very spot where the teacher’s hut had stood he erected a temple with a divine array just like the one he had previously seen.

Thus with the body of his present life he performed incalculable benefits for others before his death. In the intermediate state he attained the supreme siddhi.

He had a disciple named Dīpakarabhadra whose lineage came down through first Śrīsena, then Vimalagupta, Ratnavajra, Ratnakīrti, Pandapa, Gnyan Lo-tsā-ba, Gnang-kha’u-pa brothers,* the guru and Dharma master Sa-skya-pa both father and sons.
(*The usual form of the name is Gnam-kha’u-pa.)

“This ’Phags-pa wrote based on all he had seen and heard
about the succession of gurus that transmitted the teachings
and the biography of Jñānapāda
who was tended by none other than Mañjughoa.”

Composed in the palace of Prince Qubilai in the final month of autumn in the year of the Earth Male Horse (1258 CE).

The source of this translation is this:  ’Phags-pa (= Chos-rgyal ’Phags-pa Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan, 1235-1280), Gsang-’dus Ye-shes-zhabs-kyi Rnam-thar dang Brgyud-pa’i Rim-pa, contained in:  Chos-rgyal ’Phags-pa’i Bka’-’bum, vol. 2, as contained in:  Sa-skya-pa’i Bka’-’bum, Toyo Bunko (Tokyo 1968), vol. 7, pp. 1 (column 1, line 1) through 3 (column 3, line 3).  This historical work has been awarded an update entry in the Tibetan Histories listing as no. 51.02. You can try locating it here, but you won't find it. Still, if you go here you just might.
§   §   §
Postscript (June 8, 2020):  Y.B. apprised me of the existence of a major study of the life of Jñānapāda by Catherine Dalton in her 2019 doctoral dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley with the title Enacting Perfection: Buddhajñānapāda's Vision of a Tantric Buddhist World. She also coauthored with Peter Szantos an entry for Jñānapāda in Brill's Encyclopedia of Buddhism.  I'll have to go study these things before I can say more.

Follow me on