Fujisan's Kyareng

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

བོད་དང་ཉི་འོང་དབར་སྔ་མོའི་འབྲེལ་བ།


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)

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Pain of an unrequited love!

 སྙིང་གཏམ་ངོས་ལེན། 

Confession of love 

 愛の告白

Chupa na bhi nahin ata, jata bhi nahin ata  

Don't know how to hide my love, nor do I know how to disclose it

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

ལག་ཐིལ་སྒང་ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་མཚན།  བྲིས་བསུབ་མང་པོ་བྱེད་མྱོང་ཡོད།

ཁྱེད་གཅིག་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ཁྱེད་གཅིག་ལས་གསང་དགོས་དོན་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

ཁྱེད་གཅིག་ལས་གསང་དགོས་དོན་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

ཁ་ཐོག་ལ་སྙིང་གཏམ་དེ་ཡོད་ཀྱང་།  ཇི་ལྟར་ཞུ་དགོས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ཁྱེད་ལ་ལབ་སྟངས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ་་་་་

དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་སྟངས་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ཀྱིས།  བུ་ང་ལ་ལམ་སྟོན་གནང་རོགས་ཞུ།

གྲོགས་གཅིག་གི་བརྩེ་བའི་རེ་བའི་ནང་།  ཚེ་གཅིག་འདི་རྫོགས་འགྲོ་རྒྱུའི་ཉེན་ཁ་ཆེ།

ཁྱེད་དང་ཐུག་རྒྱུའི་ཐབས་ཤིག་ཀྱང་།  བཟོ་ཡང་མི་ཐུབ་དེ་འདྲའི་ང་།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

ཐག་རིང་ཟུར་ནས་ཡིབ་བཞིན་དུ།  ཁྱེད་རང་སྲུང་ནས་བསྡད་མྱོང་ཡོད།

འདི་འདྲའི་ང་ཡི་སྙིང་གཏམ་དེ།  ཁྱེད་རང་ལ་ཞུ་རྒྱུར་བཞེད་དགོས་དོན་ཅི།

ཁྱེད་རང་ལ་ཞུ་རྒྱུར་བཞེད་དགོས་དོན་ཅི།

ང་ཡི་སེམས་ཀྱི་སྨྱོ་ཚུལ་ལ་བལྟོས།  གསལ་བཤད་ཞུ་སྟངས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་འདོད་ཆེ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ནུས།

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ་་་་་

Video link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beyJY99Rusk

Full audio link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9MB_25XncQ

Note: This is one of the popular Indian movie, Bazigar, love songs wherein the boy sings in the unrequitted love and the girl discarding the real love goes for a sham love. As requested by some friends, here is the Tibetan translation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra

ཤེས་རབ་སྙིང་པོའི་མདོ།


The Heart Sutra, also known as the Heart of Wisdom, is one of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and a very important Buddhist text explaining the essence of emptiness. Buddhists recite the sutra often as a way of practice and devotion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that it is good to recite the sutra as it helps one keep one's faith and reminds oneself of the practice. However, he emphasized the need to understand the meaning of the Heart sutra and practice meditation on emptiness. This will help us realize the meaning of emptiness and grasp the reality of all existences and the ultimate nature of our minds.

Generally, we get a gross idea of impermanence and dependent origination of all phenomena through this teaching of the Heart sutra. Impermanence and dependent origination are important aspects of Buddhist teachings. Some of us might have conceptual idea of what emptiness means; the subjective and objective existence of all phenomena; and the two truths, conventional and ultimate truths.

Impermanence means all composite things are subject to change and dissolution. This helps us in understanding the futility of our grasping to self and others as if everything exists permanently. This misunderstanding is ignorance which fuels afflictions such as attachment, aversion, hatred, etc., in us. 

Dependent origination means everything that we relate to exists dependently; nothing exists independently. We are all part of this universe; we do not exist independently. Our happiness is dependent on others. With this understanding, we look at all sentient beings compassionately as any mother would do to her child. The teachings say that we need to look at all the sentient beings as one's mother in one of the many samsaric journeys of ours. 

Proper understanding of the emptiness gives us more clarity about impermanence and dependent origination.  

In Heart Sutra, the meaning of emptiness is explained according to the two truths, conventional and ultimate truths. Emptiness does not mean that nothing exists; it says things exist subjectively but not objectively. Later, it explains the shunyata, the nature of emptiness, the ultimate reality. Finally, it introduces a mantra that explains the paths a practitioner needs to follow to reach enlightenment through the realization of emptiness, the ultimate nature of self or mind.

The text says:

Form is empty;

Emptiness is form;

Emptiness is not other than form;

Form is also not other than emptiness.

The form is empty means that although we see a form, it is devoid of independent existence. It is a combination of many factors, a label that we have for a particular form. Say a flower; it does not exist independent of its attributes. Let us meditate on a flower; the flower is not independent; its existence depends upon many other factors and attributes. It has no inherent independent existence on its own. So, the form is empty of objective and independent existence. It exists subjectively; form is conventional truth.

Emptiness is form: Due to the absence of independent existence a subjectively existence form is possible. This is what is referred to as the emptiness is form. What we are seeing is what we have labeled as a form; it does not exist independently. There is no objective existence of the form. Therefore, what we see as forms is emptiness seen in forms only. We say it is a flower, but the flower is empty of independent existence. What we see as flower, therefore, is a mere appearance to the subjective mind. What is empty of objective flower allows the subjective flower to exist. Therefore, emptiness is the ultimate nature of form.

The Buddhist concept of emptiness is not about the non-existence of any phenomena; it says things exist subjectively, not objectively. This denial of the objective existence of phenomena is emptiness.  

The text ends with a mantra. It indicates that this is a great and excellent mantra which could overcome the sufferings of Samsara.

Tayatha, ga-te, ga-te, para ga-te, para sam ga-te, Boddhi-svaha

It is roughly translated as: Go, go, go beyond, go further beyond, and establish Buddhahood!

This mantra encapsulates the five paths that a practitioner takes to achieve Buddhahood. The five paths are 1) the path of accumulation, 2) the path of joining (preparation), 3) the path of seeing, 4) the path of practice (meditation), and 5) the path of fulfillment (no more learning), Buddhahood. [ཚོགས་ལམ། སྦྱོར་ལམ། མཐོང་ལམ། སྒོམ་ལམ། མི་སློབ་ལམ།]

The first stage, the path of accumulation, is when one has realized the altruistic mind of Bodhicitta – the courageous mind wishing to become Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The second state, the path of joining or preparation, is when a practitioner has acquired high skill in the meditational technique of Vipassana and Samadhi. The practitioner has a high conceptual understanding of emptiness but has not perceived emptiness directly. 

The practitioner enters the third stage when he or she has directly perceived emptiness, therefore, the path of seeing. Those who have reached this state are honored as Arya beings[1]. The path of seeing has sixteen moments or stages, the last one being the 16th which is referred to as subsequent knowledge of the path.

The fourth stage, the path of meditation, is where the practitioner dwells deep in the direct realization of emptiness frequently tempered by the mind of Bodhicitta. Meditation and familiarity with the non-conceptual wisdom of emptiness complimented by the noble eightfold path is practiced at this stage. 

 The last stage, the path of no more learning, is when the practitioner has fully realized the emptiness for the ultimate deliverance from all obscurations. Arhat or dgra bcom pa is at the stage of "no more learning" in the case of Sravakas, Personal liberation seeker, paths and Nirvana is achieved[2].

 For a Mahayana practitioner at this Mahayanist stage of "no more learning", the ultimate nature of mind, the pure, clear light of Dharmadhatu in its consummated form is manifested and Buddhahood is achieved.

 Note: རང་གི་ཡིད་ལ་ངེས་ཕྱིར་ངས་འདི་བརྩམས།  འདི་འབྲེལ་ཁུངས་དག་ཏུ་ཤེས་འདོད་ན་གཤམ་འཁོད་དཔེ་དང་གསུང་ཆོས་ལ་གཟིགས་རོགས་ཞུ། I write this to familiarize myself with what I have learned. A serious student should refer to the link below for more information.

 Reference:

-    H.H. the Dalai Lama, Introduction to Buddhism & Tantric Meditation, Paljor Pubications, New Delhi

-    H.H. the Dalai Lama, Essence of Heart Sutra, Wisdom Publications, USA

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Quintessence of Heart Sutra, Tibet House Delhi Teaching, 27/09/2020

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Heart Sutra (3-day intensive course) April 2013, Tibet House Delhi

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Tenet System, 09/10/2017, Tibet House New Delhi

-    Ani Thupten Chodron, Commentry on the Heart Sutra, Sravasti Abbey, USA

-    ダライ・ラマが語る般若心経、Kozo Otani and Kazuo Kikuchi 2006角川学芸出版

 



[1] They are actually the Sangha that is referred in Buddhist refuge, i.e. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

[2] But for those on Mahayana path, this is the 8th Bhumi of the Mahayana path of meditation.