It is often assumed that a revelation must be new and innovative, and that the point of a new sacred text must be to revitalize the heritage. Yet, in the Tibetan Nyingma Treasure Revelatory tradition, the ongoing vitality of textual production often has more to do with the fresh blessings rather than altogether novel content. This book is the first to analyse precise continuities and changes in comparing the new and the old, considering examples of the creation and development of tantric revelations, including further reworkings in subsequent generations. In doing so, the focus enlarges to encompass materials from the broader religious heritage, as well as from specific lineages of related visionary lamas. By identifying such exact linkages and departures, it is possible to answer questions both of how and why developments may occur, not limiting the purview merely to the individual stories of the virtuoso lamas producing the books, but looking also to the tantric communities of which they are a part.
The case studies in the book stem from the prolific writings of the famous twentieth-century scholar-lama Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, who contributed to numerous revelatory traditions of the past, as well as producing his own revelations. They concern a single tantric deity, Vajrakīlaya, the most popular Nyingma deity, whose tantras and ritual practices stem from the earliest formulations of Tibetan tantric Buddhism, and who is closely connected with the culture heros and founding fathers of the Nyingmapa. This particular focus gives us the opportunity to discover patterns in the creation of new tantric texts which have significance beyond the specific examples.
This is an extremely valuable and well-researched contribution to Tibetan studies. While the work is primarily aimed at readers engaged in Tibetan studies, it should be of interest to Tibetan traditional scholars and monastics of the young generation, as well as Western Buddhists who are not necessarily scholars, but are prepared to make an effort to learn from a work of scholarship.
Professor Per Kværne, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo
A model of thoroughness and of clarity of presentation. For although this is a very erudite book, the logical organization of the material and the use of phonetic renderings of Tibetan names, along with the English translations of the titles of the Tibetan works being discussed, makes this invaluable study accessible to a non-specialist readership as well. Furthermore, the author has taken pains to give the Tibetan passages under discussion in Tibetan script (rather than transliteration) in the footnotes, which means that the younger generation of English-speaking Tibetans may also benefit from this work of modern Tibetology. What is more, the author’s extensive familiarity with the different genres of Tibetan tantric ritual, both in their textual and performative dimensions, has enabled her to render the technical ritual terms with great precision, a precision that will assist future scholars and translators dealing with this highly specialized type of literature. In sum, the detailed case studies presented in this book provide a wealth of material for a more nuanced understanding of the processes of authorship and revelation within the Tibetan tantric tradition. There is much to be learnt from and to ponder in this book, both for academic scholars of Buddhism, of Tibetology and of Religious Studies, and for those with a more general interest in Buddhism and Tibet.
Revue d'Etudes Tibetaines