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The Tibet Journal

Vol. 21 No.1 Spring 1996

Review Article
The Byang-gter and other Phur-pa traditions:
Reflections on Martin J Boord's
The Cult of the Deity Vajrakfla,

According to the Northern Treasures Tradition

of Tibet (Byang-gter phur-ba)
Cathy Cantwell


Book Reviews
The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception
Deshung Rinpoche
Trans: Jared Rhoton
Gareth Sparham


Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism

John Powers
Gareth Sparham


Enlightened Beings. Life Stories from

the Ganden Oral Tradition
Janice D. Willis
Gareth Sparham




Review Article
The Byang-gter and ot:her Phur-pa traditions:
Reflections on Martin] Boord's
The Cult of the Deity Vajrakila,
According to the Northern Treasures Tradition
of Tibet (Byang-gter phur-ba),
Institute of Buddhist Studies, Tring,



Reviewer: Cathy Cantwell

Martin Boord's The Cult of the Deity Vajraklla is a detailed study of the
textual materials and practice s of the Byang-gter tradition of rDo-rje Phur
pa (Vajrakllaya). It has a long section on the kIla and the Indian back
ground to the rites; it presents and assesses the traditional histories of the
Byang-gter and specifically the Byang-gter phur-pa, and it indudes much
on the ritual practices themselves, discussing the two Byang-gter Phur-pa
tantras at length. Martin Boord's life's work has been on the Byang-gter,
and his contribution in making this material publicly available is to be
welcomed. The book raise s issues of appropriate Western academic ap
proaches to the study of such Tibetan ritual texts, which I intend to
explore in focusing on certain a spects of the book 1
In parts, some of the language used is reminiscent of a previous
generation of Western scholars, whose heritage persists in contemporary
popular literature but is not usually now found in serious academic
analysis. Occasionally, we find morally judgemental and simplistic cha
racterisations of rites: "nefarious pursuits of the .. Kriyii period" (p.58),

"the darkest images of witchcraft" (p.I7), (the Phur-pa cult's) "somewhat

bizarre approach to the ... quest for enlightenment" (p.18), the "cryptic
gloom" (of the ritual texts) (p 1 3) are examples. Such wording suggests a

lack of reflexivity on the author's part, but most of all, it fits uneasily with
his involvement in and admiration for the Phur-pa teachings. In the
context of the entire book, misleading statements are offset by the
presentation of traditional commentary. For example, in Chapter 3, a
contrast is made between the s1nJ:id-las rites which Boord describes as,
"akin to witchcraft or black magic" (p.74) and the stad-las rites relating to
Enlightenment. He' fails to me ntion how the smad-las rituals can also be
used on the Enlightenment p ath, and in fact complement the stad-las, by
destroying the obstacles and hostile forces which obstruct the V ajrayana

practitioner from his/her goal of realisation. Later, however, and indeed,
in the final sentence of the Conclusion (p.225), Boord summarises the
traditional exegesis of the "violent" rites. The forcefulness of the ritual
symbolism is certainly to be found in its implications of literally taking
life, and the tension between this destructive activity and the most funda
mental Buddhist precept Unlike some modem authors, Boord at least,
makes no attempt to gloss over the literal level of interpretation: it is only
a pity that this is portrayed in an uncritical way in various passages and
not clearly related to the "inner" levels.
Many of the slightly misleading comments do not seem to be due to an
inadequacy in Boord's understanding of the material so much as un
fortunate choices of words which carry rather inaccurate implications. The
union between the deity and consort is described (p.SS) as "an image of
desire fulfilled". Had "transcended" been substituted for "fulfilled", the
entire passage would have been rendered as a more accurate account. In
this respect, a final round of careful editing could have much enhanced
the presentation of the book: it is to be hoped that this will be considered
for any future editions.
The chapters on India are rather weaker than the rest of the book and
might have the unfortunate effect of detracting specialists in this area
from the very valuable later chapters on the Byang-gter Phur-pa. The dis
cussion on the origins of the kila and its Buddhist assimilation, which is
largely a resume of many of the available secondary sources, is interesting
and useful, but marred by some slight misrepresentations of these sources.
On page 6, we learn that a Buddhist form of Mahakala with kila legs was
worshipped in Khotan: a point Boord uses to demonstrate the antiquity
of an association between Mahakala and the klla. However, Nebesky
Wojkowitz (1975), who is given as Boord's source, actually merely says
According to... one of my informants, this form of mgon-po is supposed
to have been worshipped especially among the Buddhists of Khotan (Li
: in other words, we are dealing with an anecdotal account of a con
temporary Tibetan tradition about this deity, which may or may not have
a firm historical foundation.
Boord discusses M.A. Stein's Dun-huang discoveries of "kilas" which
probably date back to the first century Be, and on the basis of this, he
makes the definite statement (p.3) that in this case,
the form of the kfla unambiguously reflects its identification with a
wrathful divinity.


However, the pages of Stein's work to which he refers us would not
appear to justify such certainty. Stein (In1, Vol.lI: 649) talks not of "kilas"
but of "wooden pegs of a curious type", which had tops roughly carved
and painted to resemble the human head and which had evidently been
driven in the ground but lacked the strength of tent pegs. Stein is careful
not to draw premature conclusions and simply notes that their "purpose
has not yet been determined".

Passages in Lessing and Wayman (1968) which Boord refers to do n o t

seem to exactly correspond to his summary o f them. Noting Lessing and

Wayman p.272, Boord (p.52) asserts that the Vajrahrdayalaftkiira-tantra says
that an acarya must be skilled in, "the rite of accomplishing the fierce act

of tying down the gods with the magic kila," and concludes from this that
basic knowledge of kfla rites... appears to have been widely regarded
as essential to the tantric adept of India.
Although this conclusion may not be incorrect, Lessing and Wayman
(p.272, nbA), are in fact quoting Tsong kha-pa's slob rna'i re ba kun slang,
which gives a list of categories in the Vajrahrdayili ankiira-tantra, together

with commentary. Number 8 is, "the rite of accomplishing the fierce act".

Lessing and Wayman add in square brackets, presumably indicating Tsong

kha-pa's commentary: "[ie. tying down the gods...]". We thus have n o
evidence from this source that the tantra itself equates the "fierce act"

with a kila ritual - only that a later commentarial tradition interprets it in

this way. Perhaps less seriously (and possibly as the result of a typing
error), p.283 of Lessing and Wayman does not appear to bear any relation
to the subject matter which Boord (p.6S) attributes to it.
In the Western academic tradition, knowledge is cumulative: one
attempts to build On previous work, putting one's own work in the
context of other studies. A problem is that if one researcher makes an
error, or s/he is misquoted by another, then future writers may copy and
compound the error, so that highly misleading characterisations of the
subject matter can persist for long periods of time. Perhaps no scholar is
free of distortion of others' material, but it is important to attempt to be
extremely careful in the ways in which one refers to one's sources.
Once dealing with his own Byang-gter sources, Boord gives the im
pression of being on firmer ground. He presents a detailed accQunt of the
traditional history of the rDo-rje Phur-pa practice, basing much of it on
the work of the eighteenth century Byang-gter scholar 'Phrin-Ias bdud
'joms. Even on Tibetan history, there are occasional misleading statements,
perhaps rather exaggerating the Byang-gter's significance vis-a-vis other


traditions. For example, in the Introduction (p.9), Boord quotes Dargyay

(1979: p.173) to argue that the Fifth Dalai Lama thought the Byang-gter to
be the most reliable of the rNying-ma-pa traditions. Dargyay's translation
of bDud-'joms Rin-po-che's history of the rNying-ma-pa, however, can be
checked against Dorje and Kapstein's, which was also available to Boord.
There it is clear that the reference was to an individual master, Cangpa
Trashi Topgyel (Byang-pa bkra-shis stobs-rgyal), whose tradition the Dalai
Lama, "cherished above all" (Dudjom 1991: 824). Eulogies of one lama do
not imply that the Fifth Dalai Lama had any reservations about other
rNying-ma-pa teachings, especially given his widely known association
with other rNying-ma-pa masters, such as gTer-bdag gling-pa (see also
Dudjom 1991: 830). Similarly, the claim (p.33) that the Byang-gter mona
stery dCa'-gdong-dgon's oracle of Shing-bya-can was the second most
important oracle in Tibet, may be correct, but the references given Nebesky-Wojkowitz 1975: 5, 109-15 etc. - only mention Shing-bya-can or
the oracle without giving him any exalted status. Thus, it is worth treating
Boord's enthusiastic presentation of the Byang-gter with a degree of
caution. Having said that, the book certainly contains a wealth of material
on the traditional history of the Byang-gter and specifically of its Phur-pa
The heart of the study, and Boord's main contribution, is found in the
second half of the book: Part 3, The Northern Treasures Kila. Here, he
examines the two root tantras of the Byang-gter Phur-pa system: the rDo
rje phur-pa thugs gsang ba sku'i rgyud (throughout referred to by the presumably reconstructed - Sanskrit title Vajrakflacittaguhyakiiyatantra) and
the rDo-rje phur-pa spu gri nag po rab tu gsang ba'i rgyud (which he refers
to by the shortened English title, the Black Razor Tantra), summarising and
assessing their contents. Other textual sources for Phur-pa ritual practices
- a sadhana for the special Byang-gter black Phur-pa form, texts on em
powerment, on thecrdzogs-rim section of practice, on rites for the pro
tectors and for performing the fierce activities, as well as a longevity
ritual, are described and commented upon.
Both the above mentioned root tantras are from the gter-mas of Rig-'dzin
rgod-Idem: Boord pOints out that the rDo-rje phur-pa thugs gsang ba sku'i
rgyud contains more ancient material and much which has little direct
relevance to contemporary practitioners. It presumably originally derives
from a very early period before the Phur-pa teachings were systematized,2
in contrast to the Black Razor Tantra, the contents of which suggest a later
composition. Boord's summaries of these tantras are extremely useful, and
it is particularly valuable to have an edition of the short Black Razor Tantra
included in an Appendix.


Although Boord demonstrates familiarity with this genre of Tibetan
ritual literature, there are a few problems with his translation. Through
out, he uses reconstructions of presumed Sanskrit originals for names and
terms. Many common Buddhist terms are better known in the West b y
their Sanskrit equivalents and a non-specialist audience may find Sanskrit
more accessible than Tibetan. Furthermore, the use of Sanskri t has the
advantage - as he argues (p.13) - of facilitating comparison with non
Tibetan sources. However, it is not always possible to equate language
from Tibetan gter-ma texts with Sanskrit, and the senses in which it is
used may, in some cases, be different enough to mean that the apparent
equivalents are more misleading than helpful. Therefore, to resort to
Sanskrit for virtually all terms, names of deities, (Tibetan) texts etc. would
seem rather excessive.
Moreover, there are instances in which Boord uses Sanskrit recon
structions which are not established and are questionable. The very name
of the deity - rDo-rje Phur-pa - is usually given in Tibetan sources as
"VajrakIlaya". Boord follows certain other Western scholars in correcting
this to "Vajraklla", but it may well be that the Tibetan scholars who
preserved the name as Vajrakllaya (including the Sa-skya Pa:r:tdita, who
edited the canonical Phur pa rlsa ba'i durn bu) were not as "unfamiliar with
the technicalities of Sanskrit" as Boord (p.5) supposes. Again, the deity's
consort - 'Khor-lo rgyas-'debs-rna - is usually given in Tibetan sources as
Dlptacakra, but Boord uses Tr:ptacakra, which
elsewhere, without any comment.

I have never encountered


There is one point where Boord's reconstruction of Sanskrit in his

translation constitutes a questionable procedure. Chapter 10 of the Black

Razor Tanlra includes commentary on the name "Phur-pa", clearly with

the intention of demonstrating how the name itself embraces the totality
of the path of Enlightenment. Thus:

phur ni tharns cad byang chub semsl pa ni lharns cad kun la khyab/ phur ni
Iharns cad gtso bo rnchag/ pa ni tharns cad 'khar gyis tshull phur ni thams cad
skl)e ba rned/ pa ni ral pa 'gags pa rned/ phur ni byang chub sems su gcigl pa
ni thams cad de ru 'grub/ (Boord: 250).
Boord (p.141) describes this as, "a religious etymology of the word 'kIla'"
and translates,

'Kj' means that all and everything is the mind of enlightenment.

'La' means that the enlightened mind pervades all things.
Even if "kHa" rather than "kllaya" were the established equivalent for
"phur-pa", it would be inappropriate to translate "phur-pa" into its


Sanskrit in this kind of context. A commentary on the syllables of "byang

chub" could become incoherent if the syllables of its accepted Sanskrit
equivalent, "bodhi" were substituted! Many Tibetan works include
commentaries on Sanskrit words, but in such cases, the Sanskrit is
preserved in Tibetan transliteration. Examples include Kong-sprul's glosses
on the name Vajrakllaya (65-66), his discussion of the Vajrakilaya mantra
(99-100), and Kanna gling-pa's gter-ma, the badzra gu ru'i phan yon (umg 'bru
'grel. This is a commentary on the Sanskrit syllables of the Vajra Guru
mantra, not so much explaining their literal meanings in isolation, but
illustrating analogical relationships between them. For instance, where om
a/J /Jam represent (Buddha) body, speech and mind, vajra is the vajra
family, guru the ratna family, padma the padrna family, siddhi the karma
family and ham the buddha family. Where om iili ham are the life heart of
the three tantras, vajra is the life heart of the vinaya and satras, guru of the
abhidharma and kriya (tantra), padma of upa and yoga, siddhi of maha and anu
and ham of ati.
Kong-sprul deals with the Phur-pa mantra in a similar way, with a list
of various possible interpretations of the syllables or words, some of
which bear little apparent relationship to the literal meanings of the
individual components. In some verses, the literal meanings do, however,
partly inform the imagery being developed. Thus the verse attributed to
the Nepalese Guru Slla(maiiju) reads (99, line 3-4):
Om is the five primordial awarenesses; vajra kfli is the phur-bu; kflaya

is (the phur-bu) striking; sarva (means) all. Vighniin is to suppress with

the phur-bu's mount meru; bam is to bring under control. With hum,
the (deity's) form is generated; pha! means (that it) emanates forth 6
Kong-sprul's passage On the name Vajrakllaya consists firstly of a
discussion of the lexical implications of the name - ego Vajra (p.65) is said
to imply the indestructibility of the unChanging (nature). This is followed
by a commentary, in which the components "Vajra" and "Kflaya" are
respectively equated with the non-dual dhatu (dharmakaya) and the
display of primordial awareness (rupakaya). Thus, such elaborations of
names, terms or mantras can involve literal meanings, freer interpretations
or both. The Black Razor Tantra's passage on phur-pa is similar to Karma
gling-pa's inspirational text, except that it relates to the Tibetan syllables
constituting the name "Phur-pa". The commentary is referring to the
relationships between the two syllables rather than their literal meanings:
they encompass the apparent dualities of the Lord (central deity) and the
retinue, of birthlessness and unending manifestation etc. Thus, virtually
any two specific syllables could have been substituted without losing the


sense of the passage, so that Boord's introduction of the syllables "Kl"
and "la" is less likely to be noticed than in the case of a commentary
giving literal meanings. It is nonetheless an unscholarly method, liable to

give the mistaken impreSSion that it is the Black Razor Tantra itself which

discusses "KY' and "la" rath er than "Phur-pa". Moreover, the suggestion

that this poetic exegesis is an "etymology" is surely misleading.

There are a number of instances where Boord's translations are unusual

or surprising, but they ar e presented with little or no comment or

discussion. Thus, it is not clear how far his translations reflect his own

idiosyncracies, and how far they stem from Byang-gter commentarial

sources or the oral explanations of Byang-gter lamas. Given Boord's long

immersion in the Byang-gter tradition, the latter is more likely, but the

work's value would be greatly increased if we could be supplied with

references to or acknowledgement of those SOurces. Scholarly rigour is

hard to maintain in working with a subject matter which deals with

human understandings as much as "objective facts" in the outer world.

Modern translations of Tibetan meditative texts inevitably reflect some

thing of the assumptions of the translator, and include interpretations

which help to make the material accessible to Western audiences. It is

often difficult for the translator to recognise how far their own biases

have informed their translations? However, it is important for us to

attempt. in published work, t o make clear the extent of our dependence
on our Tibetan mentors, as fully as possible. In this case, if Boord were to

do so, it would then be feasible t o more effectively relate the Byang-gter

Phur-pa literature and its oral interpretations to the wider Phur-pa com
mentarial traditions - a task f rom which Boord, after all, with his ex

tremely wide reading and knowledge of the specifics of the Byang-gter,

can be excused.

To give some striking examples of instances where Boord's work could

be relevant to the Phur-pa traditions as a whole, the Black RazQr Tanlra, as

most other Phur-pa texts of any length, contains selections from the

canonical Plwr-pa rtsa-ba'i dum-bu. Elsewhere, there are various explana

tions and elaborations of its key verses. Boord's rendition reads more as

an interpretation than a translation, but clear references are not made to

the sources which informed his interpretation, which differs significantly

from other Phur-pa traditions with which I am familiar. The first verse

hUm/ rdo rje khros pas zhe sdang gcod/ mlshon chen sngon po 'bar ba yis/ nam
mkha'i dkyil nas thigs pa shari srog gi sgo ru shar ba dang/ snying gi dkyil
du bsgom par bya/
Boord (p.137) translates from mtshan chen: "Within a blue blazing circle of


sharp weapons, the essential point arises from the centre of the sky".
Other traditions explain the "Great blue weapon" (mtshon chen) - or
"symbol" in some commentaries - to be the syllable hum, which arises as
a creative seed (since it gives rise to the mandala), in the centre of the
sky. There is nothing in the Tibetan of the verse to indicate the words,
"Within a ... circle of', nor to justify Boord's elaboration of the verse in
note 508. There he compares the Hindu teachings on the "purua" with
the "mahabindu" here, and refers to the Brahmasamhita V.3, in which a
vajraklla9 upon a lotus in the heart is surrounded by a protective circle of
ten spikes. He adds that this is the intended meaning here, stating that
this is made explicit in the abhiseka text he discusses in the following
chapter. However, I can find no commentary in the next chapter to sup
port this unusual reading. Indeed, in two places, he refers rather to a
single weapon: "ferocious samadhi of the blazing great blue weapon in
his heart" (p.146); "By means of the blazing great blue weapon, great
wisdom... arises" (p.155).
The next line of the verse is translated by Boord: "It enters the door of
the life force...". There are two variants - "sgo" (door) and "go" (place)}
which appear in Phur-pa texts, one of which presumably originally arose
as a result of a scribal error}1 but now, both have long established
commentarial traditions. Although there may be some inconsistency even
within specific textual cycles,1 2 in general "sgo" seems to be mqre usual
in the Sa-skya-pa Phur-pa texts, while "go" appears to occur more often
in rNying-ma-pa texts. The Phur-pa rtsa-ba'i dum-bu edited by the Sa-skya
Pandita has ."sgo", and is accordingly commented upon in Kong-sprul
(p.85, line 6 - 88, line 5), while the Phur-pa bcu-gnyis (various editions, Ch.7
- see Mayer, 1996) has "go".13 It would be interesting if the rNying-ma-pa
Byang-gter tradition consistently agrees with the reading which is more
usual in the Sa-skya-pa tradition. This is certainly implied by Boord's
edition of the Black Razor Tantra and from the translation here (which is
also repeated in the future chapters relating to other texts which include
the verse). However, some uncertainty remains since Boord makes rIO
comment on the alternative reading - perhaps it is unattested in the
In Kong-sprul's commentary, "sgo ru shar" is interpreted as "arising as
the door...", implying that the causal seed-syllable (hum) is the door
through which the deity and the mandala arises. While Boord's "enters
the door" is a perfectly acceptable translation, it is unclear whe
' ther this
is the most usual Byang-gter interpretation. It would seem (p.146) that the
rdo rje phur pa thugs gsang ba sku'i rgyud explains the line as relating to the
meditation on Hayagnva's seecj-syllable which protects the "door of life"
in the heart, but the reference is not entirely explicit.


Boord's translation of the Black Razor Tanlra's version of the second verse
of the Phllr-pa rlsa-ba'; dllm-bu is perhaps even more surprising. The verse

hUm/ snying rjes bsgral ba'i dam Ishig nil bsad cing mnan pa ma yin tel
phung po rdo rjer gtam byas nasi mam par shes pa rdo rjer bsgom
It is worth noting that in the case of this verse, the Black Razor Tanlra is
in line with other rNying-ma-pa sources rather than the Sa-skya-pa ver
Boord's translation (p. 138) reads:

sion of the verse

Hum. The sacred oaths of killing by compassion and never to harm or

oppress are gathered together in the form of a vajra and one should
meditate upon it as the vajra of the mind.
It is difficult to see how "phung po rdo rjer gtam byas nas", which is
usually explained as "the ska ndhas/aggregates (phung-po) having been

pervaded with the vajra (state)"} could have become, "gathered together

in the form of a vajra", unless Boord is drawing on a Byang-gter

commentarial source, which is not given. Similarly, "meditate upon it as
the vajra of the mind" is a surprising interpretation of the more usual,
"meditate upon consciousness as the vajra (nature)".
It is unfortunate that the absence of commentary on these translations
also makes one uncertain of the basis for the translations of materials for
which the Tibetan is not supplied, even though they are probably largely
sound. It is to be hoped that future editions of the book will include
much more to explicitly relate the translations to the Byang-gter inter

A further general point which similarly concerns the relationship

between Boord's translations or summaries and the tradition itself, is that

most of the ritual manuals are discussed with little or no reference to their
actual performance. Thus, Rig-'dzin rGod-ldem's work on an empower
ment rite (spu gri nag po'i bdang chog) is discussed purely in abstract terms

(p.158-162). It is probable that Boord may himself have witnessed con

temporary performances of some of these rituals, but he presents the
textual materials without discussion of the context in which the rites may
take place or the ways in which the manuals are interpreted in practice.
This limits a book which could have been an extremely important
contribution to the understanding of the practice of Byang-gter rites, to
a more limited study of a number of texts, their significance for the
Byang-gter tradition's practice not always being entirely clear. Yet, per
haps it is unfair to suggest that the book fails to deal with an aspect
which the author never intended to cover! The main point is that ritual
texts cannot be divorced from the social context in which they are used



and while it is of benefit to have more translations made available, it is a

pity if a translator with such extensive knowledge of the context should
not include some consideration of it.
Overall. the mass of useful material which is included means that The
Cult of the Deity Vajrakfla constitutes a valuable addition to the collections
of scholars working on Tibetan Vajrayana rituals.
Finally, there are a few printing errors for which the author cannot be
held responsible. For example, "phur-pa" is given as "phur-ba" (p.239)
and "bcom" is given as "bchom" (p.249) in the edition of the Black Razor
Tantra (in contrast to the correct forms in the author's thesis). The form
"phur-ba" is also given in the book's subtitle and in one of the entries in
the index, although it is clear from the list of texts in Appendix 1 that
"phur-pa" is the form consistently used in Byang-gter sources (as else


Thanks are due to Martin Boord whose work has stimulated this article.

2. A note on this (p.l36, note 504) is, however, a little misleading.


contrasts the tantra's account of the taming of Rudra by Vajrapar:ti, which

agrees with the Yogatantra Sarvatatluigatatattvasamgraha, with later Mahayoga
accounts in which Rudra is tarned by Hayagrtva. In fact, there are numerous
variants in the Mahayoga literature; Hayagnva is not always held responsible.

Robert Mayer, 1996 (Chapter One), has shown it to be quite possible that the
original name in Indic sources could have been VajrakIlaya (a causative
imperative verb form)} and that there is therefore as yet inadequate data to
justify so radically emending the traditional Tibetan transliteration.


Tibetan sources do not evidence ignorance of the implications of the Sanskrit

name: for instance, rather than glossing the name as meaning UVajra spike"
or "nail" (as VajrakUa would be), Kong-sprul (1.65, line 3) says that kllaya
means the action of causing to strike.

I have drawn these examples from a translation which I made with the help
of the late B1a-ma Blo-gros of Rewalsar. An unattributed translation of thjs
text js publicly available in Crystal Mirror Volu1]1e II, <972, Tibetan Nyingrna
Meditation Center (Berkeley, California: Dharma Publishing): 17-38.


sham nus-Idan rdo-rje's Bod kyi ja rna ye shes rntsho rgyal gyi mdzad tshulrnam
par thar pa gab pa mngon byung rgyud mangs dri za'i glu 'phreng also contains
short comments on the syllables of the Vajra Guru mantra (K. Dowman 1984:



"Om ye shes Inga! badzra klli phur bu/ klli ya 'debs pal sarba thams cadi

have amended this from kiliya - see the Tibetan in next note.

bighnan phur bu'i ri rab kyis mnan pal bam dbang du sdud pal hum gis sku
bskyed pal phat spro ba'i don du 'chad do/".

My work is certainly not exempt from such problems.

Returning to notes






and translations I made of ritual practice manuals while conducting fieldwork

at the Rewalsar Tibetan monastery, I find difficulty in clearly distinguishinJ>
between interpretations which were informed by the monks' suggestions
(and specific perspectives which were perhaps unique to my main mentor,
Bla-ma BIo-gros) and my own assumptions, stemming from my own Buddhist
studies conducted in the U.K.
For simplicity, I only quote Boord's Black Razor Tanlra edition, without its
variant readings, whieh can be found on p.241-2.
The word "vajrakHa" can have various connotations in different Indian
contexts and Boord fails to make clear what exactly it means in this specific
Hindu text and whether - as the reference might imply but does not make
explicit - we can safely equate the tenn here with its Tibetan Buddhist
There is also an alternative interpretation of "ga" as "go-cha" (armour).
An alternative possibility is that one variant arose as an innovation brought
about by the meditative insights of a Tibetan master of the Phur-pa practice.
Thus, my edition of the bDud-Joms phur-pa bsnyen-yig (p.90, line 4) has "sgo",
while the bDud-Joms phur-pa las-byang (p.90, line 4) has "go". I am hoping to
locate an older edition, to see whether one variant has arisen as the result of
a scribal error in the modem version. In the collection of Sa-skya-pa phur-pa
texts in the sGrub-lhabs kun-blus (Vol.PA), there is an instance of "go" (p.147,
line 2) in the dpal rdo rje phur pa'i bsnyen sgrub gsal byed bdud rlsi'i 'ad can.
This case is almost certainly a misprint, since it does not agree with the
shorter Or longer versions of the sadhana, nor with the version of the phur-pn
rtsa-ba'i dum-bu which is given a few pages beforehand (p.127, line 2), nor
with a brief commentary also included (p.133, line 2), nor with oral
explanations given by contemporary Sa-skya-pa masLers.
This issue of the sgo versus go readings is discussed at some length in Mayer,
1996 (Editorial Policy).
Here, I again only quote Boord's Black Razor Tantra edition (p.242) without
its variant readings.
See Cantwell 1995.
One C<ln compare the Saskya-pa version, referring to "the essential vajra
nature (of) the skandhas" ("phung po rdo-rje'i bdag nyid de"). Kong-sprul (p.98,
line 1-2) explains the two variants as different translations with the same
There are a few tantalising references to actual ritual practice, hidden away
in notes (eg. nole 740, p.207), but virtually no information given on the
context for the perfonnances.


C. Cantwell 1995 "To meditate upon consciousness as Vajra: ritual 'killing and li
beration' in the rNying-ma-pa tradition," paper delivered to the 7th Seminar
of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Austria, June 1995.
Crystal Mirror Volume H, 1972, Tibetan Nyingma meditation center (Berkeley, CaliEnglish



fomia: Dhanna Publishing).

E. Dargyay 1979 The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass).
K. Dowman 1984 Sky Dancer: the secret life and songs of the lady Yeshe Tsogyel
(London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).
Dudjom Rinpoche 1991 The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: its jundilmentals and

history. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje with the collaboration of Mat
thew Kapstein (Boston Ma: Wisdom Publications).
F.D. Lessing and A. Wayman 1968 Introduction to the Buddhist Tantrie Systems (Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass).
RD.S. Mayer 1996 The Phur-pa beu-guyis. A scripture from the rNying-ma'i


Ph.D thesis, University of Leiden.

R. de Nebesky-Wojkowitz 1975 Oracles and Demons of Tibet (Graz: Akademische

Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt).
M.A. Stein 1921 Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost

China (Oxford).
Tibetan sources

Karma gling-pa

badzra gu ru'i plum yon dang 'bTU 'grel, manuscript, n.d., n.p.

Kong-sprul commentary on the Phur-pa rtsa-ba'i dum-bu: 'Jam-mgon Kong-sprul,

dpal rdo rie phur pa Ttsa ba'i rgyud kyi dum bu'i 'grel pa snying po bsdus pa dpal chen
dgyes pa'; zhol lung, n.d., n.p.
bDud-joms phur-pa bsnyen-y;g: bDud-'joms 'jigs-bral ye-shes rdo-rje, dpal rdo rje phur
bu bdud Joms gnam leags spu gr;'i stod las byang chub sgrub pa'; man ngag gsal bar
byas pa dngas grub rgya mtsho'; dga' stan.

From the Collected Works of


bDud-'joms Rin-po-che, Vol.11.

bDud-'jams phur-pa las-byang: bDud-'joms 'jigs-bral ye-shes rdo-rje, dpal rdo rje phur
bu thugs gyi sgrub pa gsang ba'; rgya can bdud Jams guam lcags spu gri'i las byang
khrag 'thung mngon par rol pa'; dga' stOll.

From the Collected Works of


bDud-"joms Rin-po-che, VoI.10.

dpal rdo rie phur pa'i bsnyen sgrub gsal byed bdud rtsti 'ad can: 'Jam-pa'i dbyangs kun
dga' bsod-nams grags-pa rgyal-mtshan dpal-bzang-po, with notes added by
later masters.

In the sGrub-thobs kun-btus, VoI.PA, p.140-165.

Phur-jJa rtsa-ba'i dum-bu: rdo rie phur pa rtsa ba'i rgyud kyi dum bu. Three editions:
one from the Peking bka'-'gyur, Voi.3, no.78; one from the Kong-sprul
commentary (see above): 17-25; one from the sGrub-thabs kun-btus, VoI.PA,