This post is to announce and introduce the first publication and printing of the English-language translation of an important Jonang and Kālacakra instruction text on the Kālacakra Common Preliminaries section of , The Chariot that Transports to the Four Kāyas, (longer title Stages of Meditation that Accomplish the Excellent Path of the Six-Branch Yogas of the Completion Stage of Glorious Kalacakra) by Tibetan Buddhist master, Thubten Bamda Gelek Gyatso.
Translation and Publication
The translation of this text was commenced in March 2017, at the request of Chokyi Nangwa Rinpoche, a Jonang lama in exile. During that time, I spent several months with Rinpoche alone going over the meaning of this text, as well as the other major Kālacakra text, One Hundred Blazing Lights, by Jetsun Tāranātha (which will be published soon). This new book, published this month by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, is translated and edited by myself and the print is sponsored by the Jonang Lama Yonten Gyaltso and Russian followers.
The only unpublished, translation I have seen on the Kālacakra Common Preliminaries was the short, root text by Jetsun Tāranātha called Seeing the Meaningful (mthong ba don ldan), translated by the late Edward Henning. Before Henning passed away he sent me his translation of that text and told me that the other two main texts on the Kālacakra practises, this one by Bamda Gelek Gyatso, and the heftier and more detailed commentary on ‘Seeing the Meaningful‘ by Tāranātha called One Hundred Blazing Lights, had yet to be translated.
The foreword for this new book was provided by Dr. Cyrus Stearns, an eminent Tibetan Buddhist scholar and translator, and expert on the life, philosophy and history of Jonang masters, particularly that of Kunkhyen Dolpopa, one of the main founders and lineage holders of Jonang. Stearns explained to me that he had previously done a draft translation of the Seeing the Meaningful, from teachings he had received on the Kālacakra Preliminaries and Six Yogas in the late 1980s. He stated that was was able to study that text in Nepal with his teacher, Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, and translated it orally three times when he taught the entire work in Nepal, Borneo, and the U.S. He explained that text, and the One Hundred Blazing Lights supplementary commentary, ‘are two of the most amazing works I’ve ever studied’. Stearns says of this new publication that:
…students who wish to practice these profound instructions finally have a reliable source in English. Felipe Zabala’s graphic illustrations of the Kalacakra worldy cosmos are also a beautiful addition to the work. Adele Tomlin’s fine translation of Bamda Gelek’s work will be of great benefit to anyone who studies and practises these teachings.
Bamda Gelek Gyatso
The book, The Chariot that Transports to the Kingdom of the Four Kayas, contains a short biography of Bamda Gelek Gyatso, pulled together from primary and secondary sources, including the excellent paper, A Late Proponent of the Jo nang gZhan stong Doctrine: Ngag dbang tshogs gnyis rgya mtsho (1880–1940) by Dr. Fillipo Brambilla (University of Vienna) and the Treasury of Lives biography on Bamda Gelek, including some sections I translated from the Tibetan sources. What is clear from these sources is that Bamda Gelek Gyatso was most certainly a ‘Rime’ (non-sectarian) master. He was not only an expert scholar learned in all the main Tibetan Buddhist traditions, of Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug (as well as Jonang) but he was a master-practitioner of Naropa’s Six Yogas, Dzogchen and Kalacakra. He was considered to be a major tulku within the Gelugpa lineage too. As is detailed in the introduction to the book, Bamda Gelek, wrote it towards the end of his life. He refers to Tāranātha’s texts in it as well.
Bamda Gelek’s text itself is an accessible, instruction manual (‘khrid yig) on the seven preliminary practises (five common and two uncommon) that lead up to the six Vajra-Yogas (completion stage). The five common preliminaries being Refuge, Bodhicitta, One-Hundred Syllable mantra, Mandala Offering, Guru Yoga. They are similar to the preliminaries in other lineages and traditions but also differ in the visualisations and other aspects.
The history, origin and philosophy of the six Vajra-Yogas of Kālacakra and the Preliminaries is explained more in Tāranātha’s One Hundred Blazing Lights. Tāranātha explains there are seventeen lineages that came from India to Tibet, an excerpt from that text on those seventeen lineages has been already given on this website here.
The translation of the text itself, is not based on a critical edition and has not been treated in a scholarly way, albeit there are footnotes and annotations where necessary.
I also commissioned some new graphic designs from Felipe Zabala (who very kindly provided his service for free) using line drawings I produced of the descriptions of the Kālacakra Cosmos in the Mandala Offering practise. I hope these will be of benefit in visually making sense of the detailed descriptions of the Cosmos given by Bamda Gelek Gyatso and Tāranātha , and thus make it easier for practitioners to meditate on.
I apologise for any errors in the book that are mine and hope that this publication will be the start of more publications and translations on Kālacakra and that the teachings and practise of Kālacakra will flourish and survive.
Copies of the book are available for purchase (all profit/money goes directly to the LTWA, I receive no royalties or profit from the publication or sales), on the condition that one has received a Kalacakra empowerment, and should be read with the guidance of a qualified lama or teacher. They can be purchased from the LTWA, Dharamsala or from myself, please contact here if you need copies.
Copyright laws apply and any public use, reproduction or translations of the book/translation must have the specific permission of the translator/copyright holder.
May it be of benefit!