Friday, February 14, 2020

Stone Meditation Seat in Amdo

Our thanks to Katia Buffetrille, who sent us this remarkable sign of Padampa’s presence way up in Amdo to the south of the Blue Lake known under various names, among them Kokonoor.

The full stone inscription, written in widely separated syllables around two sides of the squarish boulder may be roughly phoneticized, Romanized and translated as:

“Gyagar Padampai Gom Tri”

rgya gar pha dam pa'i sgom khri/

[This is a] Meditation Throne of India Padampa.

According to Katia, if I understood her directions correctly, it was in 2011 as they were walking around Nyenpo Yutsé (Gnyan-po G.yu-rtse), near Mâra Lake (Bdud-mtsho, or Sdug-mtsho) in the region now called South of the Lake (Mtsho Lho), meaning below the Blue Lake (Mtsho Sngon), that they encountered this remarkable stone.

Eventually I’d like to put together an inclusive account of Padampa-related sites. Knowing about this seating place in Amdo helps us by adding to what we have already learned about his visits to such places as Yunnan, Wu-tai Shan and the vicinity of Lhasa (Garu Convent).*
(*José Cabezón & Penpa Dorjee, in their brand new book, Sera Monastery, Wisdom (Somerville 2019), do mention, on p. 331, “Garu (Ga-ru), a nunnery, is said to have been founded by Padampa Sangyé in the eleventh century, Panglung (Spang lung) by one of Padampa‘s students in the eleventh century...”  Although such brevity in an otherwise elaborately detailed book might seem excessive, it is more than compensated by the more generous treatment by J.C. in “The Hermitages of Sera” at the THDL website. Go ahead and visit it by tapping here. The historical section that follows this one has the Padampa connections. What is most interesting for today's blog is just that there was once in Garu Convent a square stone throne Padampa sat upon as he was deciding where to site the building, a stone apparently no longer there. It also had letters inscribed on it.)

For fun, double click on Katia's photos to see what sentient beings you can identify.

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Postscript 1 (March 13, 2020):

I’ve been told I may not have gotten the geography quite right, making it sound as if it’s close to the Blue Lake when it’s actually quite far. I’ll look into that some more. And I’m also told that there is more on Padampa associated places in Lhasa and Phanyul areas in a recent publication by Serindia that I do not have at hand at this moment.  I’ll look into that, too, and get back with you. The book I speak of is this one: Matthew Akester, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s Guide to Central Tibet.

Postscript 2 (March 13, 2020):

I sometimes wondered why I even had a copy of  J.F. Rock’s very heavy 1956 book The Amnye Ma-chhen Range and Adjacent Regions, a Monographic Study, published in Rome by the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. It could well be nominated for the most unreadable book in the history of Tibetology. I mean overall, since it does have some fascinating paragraphs buried in all the geographical minutiae. And the black-and-white photographs that take up most of the thick volume are really interesting, the pictures of people even more than the landscapes and buildings. My reason for mentioning is that it has a map, sheet 5 of the 5 folded maps inserted in a pocket in the back of the book, of the area “Nyen-po-yur-tse Dza-ra” (གཉན་པོ་གཡུ་རྩེ་རྫ་ར་).  Actually, the brief section of prose about this same area is at this very moment of much interest (pp. 129-31). I think Rock didn't go there personally, but relied on information from a non-denominational Christian missionary by the name of William E[kvall] Simpson (1901-1932). Rock even credits him with the discovery of the place, whatever that means (and I guess what Rock does mean is that up until then, the mountain had not been included in any known map). This missionary named Simpson is subject of a 1932 book (or booklet?) given the title A Martyred Missionary, for reasons you may easily discern. I’ve never seen it. Few have.

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