Fujisan's Kyareng

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Buddha's Teachings

 The Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma


(Tib: Chos 'khor rim pa gsum)

Below is an extract from the teaching Geshe Dorji Damdul gave on Mulamadyamikakarika Class-1 in August 2014 at Tibet House. The extract relates to the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. It has been updated with the Geshe la's online teaching on June 4, 2022 at Nalanda Certificate Course-1.  

In the first turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath, Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. He said everything exist objectively. The target audiences were the followers of the Vaibhashika and Sautrantika schools.

In the second turning of the wheel of Dharma at Rajgirh, Buddha taught Emptiness. Here he said there is no objective existence, everything exist subjectively. The target audiences here were the followers of the Madhyamika school.

In the third turning of the wheel of Dharma at Vaishali, Buddha taught the mind only school, where the contradiction in the first and the second turning of the wheel of Dharma was dispelled. The target audiences here were the follower of the Chittamatra school.

When Buddha was asked about the contradiction, he said that all phenomena existence or non-existence that comes to our mind can be categorized into three natures:

  1. Imputed Nature
  2. Other powered Nature
  3. Thoroughly Established Nature

All existence phenomena can be of 1) Permanent and 2) Impermanent nature. Permanent phenomena can be divided into: 1) Emptiness and, 2) Permanent Phenomena other than emptiness.

Impermanent phenomena are synonymous with Other Powered Nature; and Emptiness is synonymous with Thoroughly Established Nature. The objective existence of all phenomena that Buddha taught is about the Impermanent [Other powered Nature] and Emptiness [Thoroughly Established Nature], because Impermanence and Emptiness are objectively true.

Non-existence Phenomena and Phenomena Other than Emptiness are all of Imputed Nature and they exist subjectively. This was how Buddha taught the existence and non-existence of phenomena subjectively and objectively.

Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering; the cause of suffering; the cessation of suffering; and the path leading to the enlightenment. In the second turning of the wheel, Buddha taught to explain in detail about the Third Noble Truth, i.e. the Cessation of Suffering.

In the third turning of the wheel of Dharma, Buddha taught to explain the Fourth Noble Truth, i.e. the Path leading to the cessation of suffering. That path is the mind, the subtle clear light mind to achieve enlightenment. 

Note/Disclaimer: It is a student's note only. There may be error or misinterpretation. A serious student should reach Geshe la's teachings at the Tibet House. རང་གི་ཡིད་ལ་སྒོམ་ཕྱིར་ངས་འདི་བྲིས། I write this just for my memory and learning.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Ancient Tibetan Civilization

The Ancient Tibetan Civilization: Studies in myth, religion, and history of Tibet by Dr. Tsewang Gyalpo Arya

Published by Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamsala, India

ISBN: 978-93-90752-72-0


The book is based on the author's research in some grey areas in Tibetan study where more research needs to be encouraged to bring out the full extent of study in Tibetan myth, religion, and history. Tibet is an ancient nation with rich indigenous myths, religion, and history dating back to more than 1000 BC[1]. Scientists have said that human civilization existed in Tibet as far as 12,000[2] years back, and primitive tools and implements found in the regions date back to some 8000 years[3]. But in most of the Tibetan work and literature, it had shown as if the Tibetan civilization started from the 7th century only. Not much is discussed about pre-7th century Tibet. What little discussion found on the subject, too, is not aligned with the time and facts. The question here in the book is - does Tibet have any indigenous myth, religion, and history before the 7th century CE? 

Buddhism from India brought enormous change in Tibet and greatly enriched the Tibetan religious and cultural history. But much before the advent of Buddhism in the 7th century, there existed an indigenous religion in Tibet, which sustained the Tibetan culture and greatly influenced the neighboring regions too. As Buddhism gained a strong foothold and support in the land, indigenous religion and values suffered discrimination. Ancient myths and values were cast into oblivion. New myths of Indic affiliation ascribed significant aspects of Tibetan civilization, the origin of the Tibetan race, the first King of Tibet, Tibetan language, etc., to India.

As native values were castigated, Bon scholars too began to assert the origin of Bon religion to some Tagzig [Tib:sTag-gzig], a distant land supposed to be Persia of the time. In this way, Bon and Buddhist scholars, the two foremost authorities in Tibet, competed in ascribing the native wisdom and culture to Tagzig and India. Therefore, despite being an ancient civilization with rich history and culture, we find some serious contradictions in Tibetan myth, religion, and history, which do not corroborate the history and ancient nature of the Tibetan civilization. 

Contrary to popular belief, the research hypothesis established here is that Tibet's myth, religion, and history dates back to 1000 BCE. The first king, Nyatri Tsanpo, appeared much before 127 BCE and was of Tibetan origin. An ancient Zhangzhung civilization greatly influenced Tibet and the neighboring countries along the Himalayan ranges. The 33rd King Srongtsan Gampo lived for 82 years, and there existed some form of writing system in Tibet before the 7th century CE.  

Bon, the indigenous religion of Tibet, has greatly influenced Tibetan civilization and culture. But unfortunately, it is not openly embraced because of the persecution it suffered in the early period of Buddhist supremacy. Therefore, understanding the Bon religion and Zhangzhung civilization is imperative to get a broader picture of Tibetan history and culture.

The popular Tibetan origin myth based on the Buddhist theory, Boddhisattva monkey and rock ogress, of Tibet and Tibetans coming after the enlightenment of Buddha, has failed to stand the test of the time. Jampal Tsagyu, the text on which the statement is based, does not touch anything about Tibet and Tibetans. The origin of the first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsanpo as an Indian Shakya king or the descendants of Pandava or Kauravas of Mahabharata too has been found invalid[4]. The traditional native theory of origin myth of cosmic egg and the first king as the descendant of god has been found more mythically rationale.

Chronology of the Tibetan kings with Nyatri Tsanpo at 127 BCE, 28th King Lha Thothori at 173 CE, and the 33rd King Srongtsan Gampo at 617 CE does not flow well to explain the existence of 43 Kings of the Yarlung dynasty[5]. The study has found it more reasonable and scientific to put Nyatri Tsanpo beyond 127 BCE, Srongtsan Gampo's birth at 569 CE.

The book dwells on the importance of the Zhangzhung kingdom and the indigenous Bon religion to prove the existence of advanced civilization in Tibet since early times. The origin of the Tibetan script and writing system has been discussed from a new angle to encourage a fresh perspective to look at the subject.

In a nutshell, the book presents some strong working hypotheses for young scholars to work on. If the book could offer a glimpse of what is obscured and unexplored but vast area of study in the field of myth, religion, and history of Tibet, the author's purpose would be more than fulfilled.

Link to buy paperback from Amazon.in:

Link to buy eBook from Google PlayBook Store: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=SNhaEAAAQBAJ


[1] 1) Tenzin Namdak, sNga rabs bod kyi byung ba bjod pa [An early history of Tibet], p-168, 2) Jonh V. Bellezza, gShen rab myi bo - His life and times according to Tibet's earliest literary sources

[2] Tibetan Lived in Himalayas Year Round Up to 12,000 Years Ago by Laura Geggel, Senior Writer / Jan 5, 2017. Live Science. [http://www.livescience.com/57403-humans-inhabited-tibet-mountains-earlier-than-thought.html]

[3] Bod kyi lo rgyus bgro glen, LTWA, p-1ix [Ancient artifacts found in Chamdo was said to be four thousand years old, and at one another place artifacts dating some eight thousand years have been found - Dalai Lama]

 [4] Three popular theories based on ancient texts have been discussed. Indian Mahabharata and Tibetan versions were compared and studied. According to Dr. P.V. Vartak, the Scientific Dating of the Mahabharata War happened around 5000 - 3000 BCE

[5] With Nyatri at 127 BC, the 28th King Lhathothori birth at 173 CE, and the 33rd King Srongtsan at 617 CE, the chronology doesn't flow well.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Kanon Temples in Japan

A short guide to those who want to visit Kanon sama, Avaloketishvara, temples in Japan.

Kanonsama picture in Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo

The lord Avaloketishvara, the Boddhisattava of compassion, is considered patron deity of Tibet. Tibetan Buddhist myth has it that the Tibetans are descendant of Boddhisattva monkey, an emanation of Avaloketishvara, and Goddess Tara. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is considered manifestation of Avaloketishvara, the Boddhisattva of compassion.

 Avaloketishvara is widely venerated by those practicing Mahayana form of Buddhism. It is known by Kanon sama or Kanon Bosatsu in Japanese. However, Kanon sama, the Lord Avaloketishvara, in Japan is depicted in female form, whereas Chenrezig, the Lord in Tibet, is revered in male form.

100 Kanonsama Temples in Japan

There are many Temples of Kanon sama in Japan, but 100 are designated for devotees' pilgrimage. 67 of them are in Kanto areas and 33 are in Kansai area. In Kanto area 34 of them are in Chichibu area of Saitama prefecture.

 Pilgrimage or hiking through these regions to visit the Temples will reveal how Buddhism was once popular and wide spread in these regions. Kubo Daishi, the founder of Japanese Shingon Buddhism, and the Lord Fudomyo, the patron deity of Tantraism, could also be found in these temples. 

Cairns, Tholo in Tibetan

Each Temple has different manifestation of the Lord Avaloketishvara and some peculiar characteristic. For example, Kanon-In, the 31st Temple, in Chichibu region has 296 steep steps to climb uphill to reach the Temple.  The 296 steps are said to represent the 276 words in Hangyashigyo, the Heart Sutra text, and 20 words of prayers following it. If you climb the steps reciting the Heart sutra, at the end of the recitation and the end prayer you reach before the Temple. The rocks beside the Temple have images of religious status said to be curved with Kubodaishi's nails.

 The 34th Temple, Suesenji

Tibetan Heart Sutra text is said to have one bampo. A bampo has three hundred sholokas. A sholoka has four tshig-rkang, lines of verses. Therefore, it should have 1200 lines. The one in the Sherig Parkhang's prayer book (nyer mkho'i zhal 'don kun phan nyi 'od ces bya ba bzhugs so, 2018 edition, p-214) has 100 lines ending with a strok, shed.

 Nagatoro Iwadatemi and the river, Chichibu in Saitama Ken

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Early Japanese visitors in Tibet

Some early Japanese visitors to Tibet


On the 121st anniversary of Rev Kawaguchi Ekai's reaching Tibet (the actual date: 4/07/1900), I reproduce below the notes I shared with the visiting Japanese university students in Dharamsala in 2004 at Tibet Museum. 

My respect and appreciation is with the Japanese who visited Tibet in those difficult times, lived with the Tibetans and later told our true story. If possible, I would like to pay respect to the families of these devoted, adventurous, and brave souls. 

The talk note is here below:  

Like many foreigners, Japanese also took interest in Tibet, and they ventured into the land in the late 19th and early 20th century. Tibet remained in self isolation with a view to preserve its own religious faith, culture, and language. Tibet remained oblivious to the world wars and the impending danger from the aggressive neighbor in the east, China.

 It is recorded that some ten Japanese visited Tibet with different objects and motives at same and different times when Tibet was an independent nation. Some have seen the last days of Tibetan independence. Their writings and memoirs have become proof of Tibetan independence. They are known as Nyuzosha, one who had entered Tibet, in Japanese. Here is the brief notes on those determined Japanese and the purpose of their visit, and what they did in Tibet.

 1900: Kawaguchi Ekai (1866-1945), a student of Sarat Chandra Das, visited Tibet disguised as a Chinese monk. He reached Lhasa in March 1901. He was inspired to study original translation of Buddha`s teaching. He studied in Sera monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Tibet. As he helped the local with his medical knowledge, he was also known as Sera Amchi. He is said to have informed Sarat Chandra Das about the Russian influence in Tibet that triggered Young Husband expedition of 1904. He returned in 1903. His book, "Three Years in Tibet", Chibeto Ryokoki, became very popular.

 1901: Narita Yasutera (1864-1915), a Buddhist priest and student of Nanjo Bunyo reached Lhasa in Dec 1901. He was earlier with Imperial army, later sent to the USA on a mission, then to Taiwan. It was not clearly known why he was sent to Tibet. His dairy "Shin-Zo Nishi" records his travel in Tibet. Black Dragon Society (Kokukyokai) also has his record in "Senkoku Shinshi Kiden".

Around that time a priest by the name of Nomi Kan (1868-?), also a student of Nanjo Bunyo, tried entering Tibet. He reached upto Bathang and it is not clearly known of his fate thereafter. 

1905: Teramoto Enga (1872-1940), a Buddhist priest, stayed briefly in Tibet and later continued to Peking. But his influence over Japanese – Tibetan relationship was considered substantial. He sent information to the Japanese government, Nishi Honganji Temple. In 1903, Count Otani Kozui was the head of the Hongjanji Temple. He had his brother Sonya Otani meet the 13th Dalai Lama at Wataishen and planned student exchange and the visit of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama to Japan.

1910: Yajima Yasujiro (1882-1963), a Russo-Japan war (1904-05) veteran. British took him for a spy. He stayed in Tibet briefly then left. He visited again in 1912 disguised as a coolie and stayed in Tibet till 1918. He drew a map and was later given charge of one section of the Tibetan army, which he trained in Japanese method of warfare. His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama was said to have been fond of him. He married with a Tibetan woman, bore a child Ishishin. The boy later died in a war with China.

1912: Aoki Bunkyo (1886-1956), representative of Count Otani of Nishi Hoganji, stayed in Tibet till 1916. Although a priest, his activities were mostly secular. It is said the idea of pan-Buddhism, pan-Asianism, and a Buddhist renaissance was dear to the nationalist Japanese. Count Otani was in favor of this idea. Aoki translated Japanese infantry manual into Tibetan, unfortunately, a copy could not be found. He is said to be in a committee who designed Tibetan flag. He was sent to buy arms (guns) for Tibetan government.

1913: Tada Tokan (1890-1967), also a representative of Count Otani, but he confined himself to the study of Buddhism and was very critical of Aoki Bukyo's activities. He stayed in Tibet for ten to eleven years. Both Aoki and Tada were said to have been invited by the Dalai Lama as result of the Dalai Lama`s meeting with Count Otani at Peking in 1908. Count Otani was said to have fallen from power in 1914. Tada wrote "Dalai Lama Jusanse" and "Chibtto Taizaiki". H.H. the 13th Dalai Lama continued correspondence with him with a hope that the Japanese government would help Tibet in checking Chinese aggressions.

1939: Kimura Hisao (Dawa Sangpo) (1922-1989), a spy disguised as Mongolian stayed in Tibet for more than a year. Around that time another spy, Nishikawa Kazumi (1918-2008) also visited Tibet. But it is said that they were so lost in the way that they reached Tibet only after the war. Kimura's story is in "Japanese Agent in Tibet" and Nishikawa's story is in "The Rising Sun in the land of Snow", both by Scott Berry.

1939: Nomoto Jinzo (1917-2014), a Japanese spy, now 86 years old wrote "Chibetto Senko". He was in Tibet on information gathering mission. He entered Tibet in 1939.

Above information was compiled for a talk given to a visiting Japanese University Students at the request of the Department of Information (DIIR), May 2004 / updated 17/02/2022 


Related books and important years:

Three years in Tibet by Kawaguchi Ekai

Japanese agent in Tibet by Kimura Hisao and Scott Berry

Monks, Spies and a Soldier of Fortune: the Japanese in Tibet by Scott Berry

A stranger in Tibet: A Japanese zen monk by Scott Berry

Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso (1876-1933) by Tada Tokan

Young Husband expedition to Tibet 1904

World War I (1914 - 1918) World War II (1939-1945)