Re: Stanzas of Dyzan: Of a Dzog chen Origin?
Oct 27, 1999 01:41 PM
I finally dug up my notes. There is a group of Dzog chen texts that
are used by Central Asian tribes, Bon, and Nyingmapa traditions.
According to Central Asian Buddhists (substantiated by David
Snellgrove as being highly likely), Bon and Nyingmapa traditions
were originally one Tibetan "Old" group from an earlier infusion
of Tantric Buddhism into Tibet from Central Asia. The split, both
my Central Asian sources told me (again, Snellgrove agrees),
between the two was a gradual process stemming from the fact
that those whom later would be called "Nyingmapas" would make
extensive use of the "new translations" whereas those who would
become Bon did not. The differentiation of the two was never
formalized and so we find Kongtrul having both Bon relatives who
were his first teachers, Bon friends who were also Nyingmapas,
as well as Kongtrul having both lineages.
Now, this history had its impact upon the structure of the Buddhist
canon. This canon is Kanjur and Tanjur. Roughly, Kanjur is scripture
and Tanjur is commentary. Both Nyingmapas and Bon share with
the Gelukpas, Kagyupas, Sakyapas, and so on (the newer groups)
the Kanjur except it is larger than what the newer groups have.
So, it is said by the Tibetans there is the common Kanjur that
everyone knows and then there is the uncommon Kanjur only a
few know. According to Geshe Sopa and a Professor Thomas
Mether, this distinction, which originally pointed out that the
Kanjur of the older groups (Bon and Nyingmapas) was larger,
eventually evolved into the idea originally sold by the Nyingmapas
that there were secret and better or more esoteric books
containing teachings that were unknown to others who
had only the common or exoteric Kanjur. All the texts of
this secret or uncommon portion of the Kanjur are Dzog chen
texts. It is selections from these books that Central Asian
Buddhists recite and which according to the two
authorities just mentioned is where the sources for
Blavatsky's Stanzas of Dyzan are located. When hearing
these root texts recited, they sound like a paraphrase of the
Stanzas except it is the other way around. There are some
strange features to the Stanzas that also strongly point to
their origin being this uncommon or secret portion of the
Kanjur. First, strangely, while the most plausible location
for the Stanzas would be this hidden Dzog chen portion
of the Kanjur, they read like Sutras and not Tantras.
But these uncommon Kanjur Dzog chen texts, even
though they are root Tantras, look like Sutra texts.
The Nyingmapas even debated whether the should
be classed as sutra or tantra, according to the two
authorities mentioned above. Second, I had Central
Asian Buddhists tell me that they first recited these
sutra-tantras to HPB and that this was where she got
the Stanzas. But it was the Bon and Nyingmapas
that could identify where these texts recited by the
Central Asian Buddhists were located, namely,
in that part of the Kanjur only Central Asian, Bon,
and Nyingmapas possess. Third, the Stanzas begin
in a most unusual way with a most unusual motif
that definitely seems non-Buddhist (so apparently
being counter-evidence to the hypothesis that the
Stanzas are Dzog chen), namely, the phrase -
1. The Eternal Parent...in HER....
Two observations. Buddhism typically addresses
the cure but not the cause of samsara. It tends to
not be interested in a "creation myth of origins" or
it posits that the universe has always existed.
The Stanzas of HPB begin with a "creation myth."
Second, the reference to the "eternal parent" and
the fact that the "parent" is a "her" (a mother!) is
apparently very un-Buddhist-like since (1) the
idea of a cosmic parent is apparently not a
Buddhist motif and (2) Buddhism is rather
paternalistic (there is the famous story about
the woman who said she would become a
Bodhisattva which her contemporaries, Buddhist
monks, said was impossible - that she had to merit
a male body in a future life). But here, a female
parent, a mother, is at the origin. Now all this
put me off the scent a while despite what the
Kalmucks told me about their relation to HPB.
But then I learned that this uncommon portion
of the Kanjur, that not everybody has, has (1)
texts that look like sutras even though they are
tantras, (2) texts that present a "creation myth,"
and (3) have the cosmic origin of it all, a universal
mind, depicted as a female parent or mother. So,
the Stanzas are not that anomalous after all on the
view they are Dzog chen texts.
So, what is this uncommon portion or secret portion,
unknown to others, of the Kanjur? The Bon and
Nyingmapas call it the "old tantras." One of the
core root tantras, that has a number of associated
texts, is also one recited by Kalmucks and Mongols.
It is the Kun byed rgyal po'i mdo. I don't think it is,
itself, the Stanzas' original but I was told their origin
is part of its group of texts. And guess what, it starts
off about the sovereign mind of the eternal motherly
Buddha. And the Bon version looks like it was
influenced by Vedanta because it has positive
and substantial conceptions of self (not anatman)
which Geshe Sopa speculated once might have
been the legacy of the Vatsiputriyas which were
widespread in Central Asia from second century
to the seventh. Or, as the Kalmucks claimed,
this whole collection of motherly Buddha Dzog
chen Old Tantras, that they have synoptically
as their root text, may be the collective source
from which both they and HPB "culled" from.
This stuff was buried from the 1970s. Sorry
it took a while.
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