Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö and an Enigmatic Text of Prophecy
Several times in recent years, I have received queries about a text attributed to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959) that has circulated in various forms (and forums) online. The text in question, Ma ‘ongs lung bstan gsal byed sgron me, was translated into English by the late Stephen Aldridge (Ka-rma gSung-rab rgya-mtsho) under the title The Light That Makes Things Clear: A Prophecy of Things to Come. It has garnered considerable attention, not least because the translator ascribes the foretold events to the not-too-distant future, specifically the period from 2026 to 2032. In recent weeks, a connection has also been made between this text and coronavirus, as if the current pandemic might presage the more severe misfortune that is to come.
Now, partly in response to a request and partly to satisfy my own curiosity, I have produced a translation of the text as part of the ongoing Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö sungbum translation project. It might therefore be appropriate to say a few things—well, five to be precise—about the text. Of course, all this is provisional. As more editions emerge they may help to resolve some of the issues raised below.
For English-reading fans of Dza Patrul Rinpoche (rdza dpal sprul rin po che, 1808–1887) these are bountiful times. July saw the publication of Matthieu Ricard’s collection of stories and texts, Enlightened Vagabond, after some three or four decades of research and preparation. This month’s A Gathering of Brilliant Moons includes translations of no less than four texts from the master (by Holly Gayley, Joshua Schapiro and Sarah Harding), and The Essential Jewel of Holy Practice will be released shortly, too.
Patrul Rinpoche, like most Tibetan masters, has several names. He is often called Dza Patrul (Rinpoche) in reference to his native Dzachukha, and more formally he is Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo (o rgyan ‘jigs med chos kyi dbang po). Another term which occurs in almost every book that features Patrul—and which almost always occasions a footnote—is Abu. This is both how he often refers to himself, as part of expressions such as Abu Hralpo (a bu hral po), Abu Lhöpo (a bu lhod po) and “old dog Abu” (khyi rgan a bu), and how his students often refer to him: as Abu Rinpoche or simply Abu.
But what does Abu mean? What, in other words, do all those footnotes have to say?
A Note on the Translation of the First of Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses
The Eight Verses of Training the Mind (blo sbyong tshigs rkang brgyad ma) by Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054-1123) is a seminal work of Tibetan literature, and surely deserves to be ranked among the world’s spiritual classics. There have been many translations, especially in recent years, largely on account of its popularity with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has taught it on numerous occasions all over the world. Historically however, it appears to have received less scholarly attention and inspired fewer commentaries than related works such as the Seven Points of Mind Training (blo sbyong don bdun ma) attributed to Geshe Chekawa (1101-75)—who, incidentally, also composed a commentary on the Eight Verses. Perhaps this shortage of commentarial literature explains the apparent difficulty of interpreting the very first of Langri Tangpa’s eight verses.
I have recently been reading the new translation of Mipham Rinpoche’s byang chub sems dpa’ chen po nye ba’i sras brgyad kyi rtogs brjod nor bu’i phreng ba by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso (A Garland of Jewels, Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2008). As the (Tibetan) name suggests, the text offers accounts of the lives and careers of the eight great bodhisattvas, also known as the ‘eight close sons’, compiled from canonical sources, mainly the sūtras. Not surprisingly perhaps, Mipham devotes considerably more space to Mañjuśrī than he does to the other bodhisattvas.
In this season of lotsawa conferences, there is a lot of reflection and discussion about how lotsawas do their thing, all of it tying in quite neatly with the purpose of this site. In the spirit of this atmosphere of introspection, here is a set of guidelines laid out by the excellent Padmakara Translation Group on their burgeoning new site:
Start by receiving transmission and explanation of the text from a qualified teacher
Careful, painstaking translation of the meaning, with extensive research and study where necessary
Submission of difficult points and doubts to competent teachers with a good knowledge of the text
Double-checking of the draft translation by at least one other translator
Careful editing and rewriting to produce a clear, readable style
Final text proof-read and approved by a person who knows the subject and has a good command of the final language