Tag Archives: Nyang ral

Original Sins and the Mythical Origins of a Confessional Practice

Introduction

Vajrasattva

Vajrasattva

The “sins” of the title are not necessarily my own, although the origin of this post does perhaps lie in some mistakes I made in the (not too distant) past. In 2001, when Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche taught on the practice of confession known as Narak Kong Shak in Lerab Ling I served as his translator—a truly nerve-racking experience, as others can testify. I found the task particularly difficult when Rinpoche recounted the story translated below. Faced with a barrage of unfamiliar names and terminology, I could offer no more than a hopelessly garbled summary. What follows is therefore a long-delayed attempt to make amends for that initial mistranslation, and, hopefully, to provide an introduction to a significant but previously unexamined (in English, at least) myth.

The story of the brahmin Conch-Garlanded (Dung gi phreng ba can) and his betrayal at the hands of his own student, a prince—named Virtue-Beholder (dGe mthong) in some later versions—is referred to extensively in Nyingma literature, both in early terma revelations and in later kama (bka’ ma) compilations. It provides the origin for the confessional practice known as the ‘sovereign of remorseful purifications’ (’gyod tshangs rgyal po) and even the entire category of practices that appear under the rubric of “Dredging the Depths of Hell” (Na rak dong sprugs).

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