In an earlier post, I mentioned that a text commonly attributed to Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (mDo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje, 1800–1866) is actually the work of Dola Jigme Kalzang (rdo bla ‘jigs med skal bzang, b. 1789). The purpose of that post was to discuss the nature of authorship more generally, so I did not go into detail as to why the text might have been misattributed. Now that my biography of Dola Jigme Kalzang is online at Treasury of Lives, it might be a good time to return to this question and address it in more depth.
As I mentioned previously, the colophon to bsKyed rdzogs kyi zin bris blun gtam de nyid gsal ba (Foolish Babble Clarifying Reality: Notes on the Generation and Perfection Stages, or Foolish Babble for short) gives the author as Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje (gzhon nu ye shes rdo rje). This is one of the many names of Dola Jigme Kalzang, but is not attested elsewhere as a name of Do Khyentse — not to my knowledge, at least. Do Khyentse is called Yeshe Dorje, or even Kyebu Yeshe Dorje (skyes bu ye shes rdo rje), but not Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje.
Dola Jigme Kalzang had a bewildering variety of names, even for a Tibetan lama. As the Treasury of Lives biography makes clear, besides Dola Jigme Kalzang and Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje, he was also known as Khungta Jigme Kalzang, Derge Jigme Kalzang, Chökyi Lodrö (chos kyi blo gros) and Kyeme Dorje (skye med rdo rje). That is not all, however. Two of the texts in the 2010 compilation of his writings are signed “the crazy Chöd practitioner, Yeshe Dorje Wangchen Zhepa Tsal” (gcod smyon ye shes rdo rje dbang chen bzhad pa rtsal). And other texts are credited to Zhönnu Jigme Lodrö (gzhon nu ‘jigs med blo gros), Dopa Lama Jigme Yeshe Dorje (rdo pa bla ma ‘jigs med ye shes rdo rje), and Jigme Yeshe Rolwe Dorje (‘jigs med ye shes rol ba’i rdo rje).
The name Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje appears in the colophons of several texts in the collection besides Foolish Babble: two lineage prayers, notes on the Longchen Nyingtik preliminaries offered to the king of Derge, a clarification of the noble eightfold path written for two nuns, and a brief rite for averting obstacles through Takhyung Barwa. One text on how to practice the Longchen Nyingtik preliminaries is, like Foolish Babble, credited not just to Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje but to “the Dzogchen lama, Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje” (rdzogs chen bla ma gzhon nu ye shes rdo rje). Anyone claiming that Foolish Babble is the work of Do Khyentse must surely believe that these other works are Do Khyentse’s too.
Foolish Babble concludes by stating that the Dzogchen lama Zhönnu Yeshe Dorje “wrote down whatever arose [in his mind]” (shar mar spel ba). This is not an uncommon expression, but it is sufficiently rare to make it noteworthy when precisely the same construction appears in several other texts attributed to Dola Jigme Kalzang and included within the same collection (e.g, pp. 78, 139 & 158) — not to mention the very similar shar mar bris (p. 71).
Moreover, it seems almost certain that the Notes on [Jigme Lingpa’s] Ladder to Akaniṣṭha (pp. 44–49) is the work of the same author as Foolish Babble. This is not simply because it covers a similar topic, i.e., the generation stage (bskyed rim), but because both texts begin with a four-line homage to the First Dodrupchen that concludes with the expression: “may you always care [for me]!” (rtag tu skyong). Notes on Ladder to Akanistha is signed Jigme Yeshe Rolwe Dorje. It is a more prosaic text than Foolish Babble, but does include hints of the latter work’s creativity and scholasticism; for example, in how the first syllables of each of the opening three lines of the homage refer to the three natures (mtshan nyid gsum), i.e., kun btags, gzhan dbang and yongs grub.
Some might still might believe Foolish Babble to be the work of Do Khyentse, or consider the matter unresolved. They could point to the fact that the text appears within the commentarial section on the Dzinpa Rangdrol (‘dzin pa rang grol) cycle in the 2009 edition of Do Khyentse’s Collected Treasures (gter chos), for example. Indeed, it is true that the arguments presented above are not entirely conclusive.
When I asked Alak Zenkar Rinpoche (who is not only a holder of Do Khyentse’s lineage but is also regarded as his reincarnation) about this point again recently, he said that Foolish Babble is “certainly” by Dola Jigme Kalzang, not Do Khyentse. In a more academic context, however, this might need to be amended to something along the lines of: “It is highly likely that…etc.”
mDo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje. “Bskyed rdzogs kyi zin bris blun gtam de nyid gsal ba” in Volume 8 (Nya) of mDo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje’i gter chos. Chengdu: rDzogs chen dpon slob rin po che, 2009: 524–556. W1PD89990.
Ringu Tulku. Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Buddhism. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2005.
sDe dge ‘jigs med skal bzang sku phreng snga phyi’i gsung rtsom phyogs bsgrigs. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2010. TBRC W1KG6249.