‘THE BLACK TREASURY’ (DZO NAG)” 3RD KARMAPA’S EXTENSIVE COMPENDIUM OF MILAREPA’S LIFE AND SONGS. Origin, editions and contents.

“These sayings of great Jetsun Zhepa Dorje [Milarepa]
As many as could be found, which I’ve collected here;
May whoever practices, reads, writes, or rejoices in them,
Abide on the vajra holder’s ground!
By the roots of virtue from erecting this sacred Dharma,
May sentient beings of the six migrations, headed by mother and father,
When appearances of this life begin to fade,
In the Elated pure realm to the east,
On meeting the great Jetsun Zhepa Dorje,
Swiftly attain Buddhahood!”

རྗེ་བཙུན་ཆེན་པོ་བཞད་པ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཡི༎
གསུང་སྒྲོས་ཆི་སྙེད་དག་གིས་བསགས་པ་འདིས༎
ཉམས་ལེན་བྲིས་ཀླག་ཡི་རང་གང་བྱས་རྣམས༎
རྡོ་རྗེ་འཛིན་པའི་ས་ལ་གནས་པར་ཤོག༎
དམ་ཆོས་འདི་བཞེངས་དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་འདིས༎
ཕ་མ་ཐོགས་དྲངས་འགྲོ་དྲུག་སེམས་ཅན་མམས༎
ཚེ་འདིའི་སྣང་བ་ནུབ་པར་གྱུར་ཙལ་ན༎
ཤར་ཕྱོགས་མངོན་པར་དགའ་བའི་ཞིང་ཁམས་སུ༎
རྗེ་བཙུན་ཆེན་པོ་བཞད་པའི་རྡོ་རྗེ་དང་༎
མཇལ་ནས་མྱུར་དུ་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐོབ་པར་ཤོག༎

—final colophon from The Black Treasury 

During the 17th Karmapa’s current online teachings, he mentioned some stories about the famous yogi, Milarepa contained in ‘The Black Treasury’ (mdzod nag) compiled by 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339). – more on what he taught in another post! ‘The Black Treasury’ is an extensive compilation of Jetsun Milarepa’s Life and Songs which came before the more well-known 16th Century version by Tsangnyon Heruka. The BDRC archive also recently uploaded one of the rare editions of ‘The Black Treasury’ (see images here).
 
Despite its historical and philosophical importance, not much has been said, or written about ‘The Black Treasury’ in the English language, most of the focus being on Tsangnyon Heruka’s compilation. The only detailed English language research I have seen to date on The Black Treasury is by Andrew Quintman in ‘The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa’ (Columbia University Press, 2013).There is very little mention of it in the recent biography of 3rd Karmapa by Ruth Gamble (Shambhala, 2020).
 
In addition, there is not much available information on the place called Tse Lhakang, Kongpo, Tibet where The Black Treasury is said to have been stored, and got it’s name. In a recent teaching by the 17th Karmapa (2021) he mentions the three main seats of the Karmapas, but this place is not considered.  For more on those places, see here. 
 
Here, I offer an overview of the origin, editions, contents and research on ‘The Black Treasury’, together with some images of the rare manuscripts. May it bring about more research and translation on this valuable historical and philosophical compendium and its origins!

Music? Milarepa’s song ‘Beyond Comparison’ chanted by 17th Karmapa, Black Celebration by Depeche Mode or Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair by Nina Simone. ‘I love the ground on where he goes, and still I hope that the time will come, when he and I will be as one.’

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 12th April 2022

THE TWELVE GREAT DISCIPLES – the earliest compiled works on Milarepa’s Liberation Stories and Songs
Je Milarepa with disciples

“Without conduct in accord with Dharma
What use is it to perform rituals?
Without sacred outlook rising in your mind,
What use is it to construct stupas?
Without offering prayers from your heart,
What use is it to offer memorials?
Without taking heed of my instructions,
What use is it to make offerings to my corpse?
Without having faith while I’m alive,
What use is it to view my corpse?”     
–Instructions from Milarepa to his disciples on what to do when he passes (from The Twelve Disciples Tr. Quintman, 2013: 101)

The 3rd Karmapa is said to have compiled The Black Treasury using as a source, the earliest biographical work of Milarepa called the Twelve Great Disciples (Bu chen bcu gnyis), written by Ngen Dzong Tonpa (Ngan rdzong ston pa Byang chub rgyal po (b. late 11th century) and other disciples of Milarepa.[1] For a recent discovery and translation of a Milarepa life-story by Ngen Dzong Tongpa, see Kristin Blancke (2020).  So first I will give a little background on the Twelve Great Disciples text.

Quintman explains how influential this earliest compilation was in Tibetan Buddhist histories and texts, such as those of the 8th Karmapa:

“The Tibetan historian Pema Karpo later made reference to The Twelve Great Disciples; the Eighth Karmapa excerpted sections from the text’s early life in his Ocean of Kagyu Songs; and Tenzin Chokyi Lodro (1868-1906), the thirty-fourth Drigung Kagyu hierarch, quotes from The Black Treasury. But the compendia also gained cachet across the wider Tibetan Buddhist world, capturing the attention of exegetes and historians from diverse religious affiliations long after Tsangnyon Heruka’s standard version began to dominate the Tibetan literary landscape.” (2013: 83).

It seems that Milarepa himself collaborated with the senior pupils in the writing of his biography. According to Quintman (2013: 105):

A brief unsigned history found in several Black Treasury colophons records the work’s genesis and its gradual transmission. It is therefore worth citing here at length:

“In the female water-oxyear (1133) when the Jetsiin was eighty-two—after the repa disciples led by Ngamdzong Repa and Repa Zhiwa O had repeatedly asked to assemble his biography and collected songs—the Jetsiin said, “I will consider its propitiousness.” He covered his head with his robe and sat still for a moment. Then he promised to do as they had requested, saying, “You should go to the places where I previously meditated. I have written bits and pieces on tree bark and leaves. Tseringma knows much of it, and much is already clear to Ngamdzong Repa and the rest of you.”

The repas then gathered stories from all directions. Before offering a ritual feast, they asked Tashi Tseringma. The Jetsiin himself then supplemented [the details] that the senior repa disciples had heard and added those that were missing. After the biography was arranged, the Jetsiin gave its oral transmission and said, “Hold on to this dearly. In a year or two, when I die, everyone will have an auspicious connection of faith and devotion in my teachings.” Then he offered prayers of aspiration and good fortune.”

This compilation itself was not discovered by non-Tibetan researchers until the 21st Century after being introduced to it by Dezhung Rinpoche:

“During a visit in 1948 to Milarepa’s famed retreat known as Whiterock Horse-tooth (Brag dkar rta so) near the Nepalese border, Dezhung Rinpoche—recognized as one of his generation’s preeminent scholars— saw a xylograph edition of a text he called The Twelve Great Disciples (Bu chen box gnyis), which he referred to as

“the earliest version of the biography and collected songs of Milarepa, and repeatedly mentioned . . . as the necessary source for definitive research on Milarepa’s life.”

Dezhung Rinpoche then introduced this work, said to have been compiled by an inner circle of Milarepa’s closest disciples, to Western researchers over the next few decades.  Gene Smith briefly referred to the text in his introduction to the Life of Tsangnyon Heruka, asserting its role as an early source for Milarepa’s standard biography. In the introduction to his English translation of The Life of Milarepa, Lobsang Lhalungpa likewise mentions “a notable version [of the Life] compiled by the twelve Great Disciples,” citing Smith’s work.

More recently, in the early 1990s Cyrus Steams played the role of modern treasure revealer, “recovering” an edition of a text he identified as The Twelve Great Disciples and briefly introduced it in an unpublished survey for the Newark Museum; Francis Tiso made note of it several years later, and Peter Roberts used it as a source to study the narrative traditions of Milarepa’s disciple Rechungpa. Several pages of the manuscript have previously appeared in print.” (2103: 86-87).

Pema Karpo’s contemporary Mikyo Dorje, the Eighth Karmapa, preserved extensive passages from this version of the Life in his Ocean of Kagyu Songs, a collection traditionally recited each year by hundreds, if not thousands of monks. As we shall see, at least one block-print edition of the compendium was produced before the end of the sixteenth century, facilitating its wider dissemination, while manuscripts of the text were being copied at least as late as the seventeenth century in eastern Tibet. If it was a rarity, the biographical work known as The Twelve Great Disciples had also been absorbed deeply into Milarepa’s biographical tradition.[2]

“This earliest compendium of Milarepa’s Life and Songs thus likely emerged within a century of the yogin’s death, between the mid-twelfth and mid-thirteenth centuries, offering a new, if parallel model for life writing contemporary with the proto-works.”

Dezhung Rinpoche, (sde gzhung rin po che kun dga’ bstan pa’i nyi ma), (1906–1987) credited as introducing a non-Tibetan audience to The Black Treasury

For an analysis and overview of the contents of this first compilation, see Quintman (2013: 97-104).

EDITION OF ‘THE TWELVE GREAT DISCIPLES’ AT THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY, OXFORD, UK

After publishing this article, Charles Manson of the Bodleian Library, Oxford very kindly informed me that an edition of this compiled works is preserved at the Library and sent me photos of it. He said:

“The shelfmark is MS.Tibet.a.11 (R). There is no title on the first side of the first folio – the photos shows the colophon, in which you can see where the title is taken from. The manuscript was ‘a gift of the Govt. of India’ in 1905 – ie it was part of the collection Waddell brought back.”

 

FROM RECHUNGPA TO FIRST KARMAPA ONWARDS – TEXTUAL LINEAGE OF ‘THE TWELVE GREAT DISICPLES’
Rechungpa, a diseicple of Milarepa, painting on a mural from Sekhar Tower, built by Milarepa at Marpa’s request.

The lineage of this first compilation of Milarepa’s life and works travelled directly from Milarepa’s student Rechungpa to the first Karmapa who brought it to Tsurphu monastery, which was then passed to the 3rd Karmapa from Ogyenpa Rinchen Pel:

“The completed work was first entrusted to Rechungpa and then copied by the First Karmapa, who brought it to the Karma Kagyu tradition’s primary seat at Tsurpu monastery. The colophon next describes the line through which the text was disseminated, as a so-called chikgyu (gcig brgyud) or “individual-transmission mandate” passed to a single Karma Kagyu lineage holder each generation, in the manner of a secret Dharma instruction. Transmission holders included many of the early Karmapas themselves, as the line passed from the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, to Sangye Rechen Paldrak (1148-1218); Pomdrakpa Sonam Dorje (1170-1249); the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-83); Orgyanpa Rinchen Pal (1229/30-1309); the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, Yungtonpa Dorje Pal (b. 1284-1365); the Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje (1340-83); the Second Zhamar, Kacho Wangpo (1350-1402); Kazhi Rigpe Raltri67 (d.u.); the Sixth Karmapa, Tongwa Donden (1416-53); Drung Rinchen Dorje (d.u.); and finally Rasmri Bhadra (d.u.).” (2013: 

THE BLACK TREASURY OR ‘TREASURY OF THE BLACK’?
The Karmapa’s black dakini-hair hat

In terms of the name and origin of The Black Treasury, Quintman says:

“As a general title, The Black Treasury does not indicate a single text or even multiple editions of a single text. Rather, the name refers to a broad collection of biographical compendia sharing common (if not always identical) sources, structures, and content. In this sense The Black Treasury seems to have been understood as a container into which all known material about Milarepa’s life and career might be locked away. But the tradition of The Black Treasury is also closely associated with the line of Karmapas, Kagyu hierarchs famous for their iconic black crowns, for which reason the name might equally be rendered “the treasury of the black.” It is now clear that the name refers to a specific chapel—or perhaps a single room in a chapel—in southern Tibet associated with the Karmapas wherein an early version of The Black Treasury was preserved. (2013: 105)”

For more on the origin, praises and types of the Karmapa’s Black Hats, see here. The historical accounts conclude with a description that succinctly explains the title Black Treasury:

“Rangjung Dorje took this text and deposited it in the Black Treasury of Tse Lhagang in Kongpo. Later when the Dharma Lord Tongwa Donden [6th Karmapa] was invited by Nangso Kunga Gyaltsen, he withdrew this version of the collected songs from the Black Treasury…. Then, using it as a model, the faithful made many copies and the text spread far and wide.” (Quintman, 2013: 106)

3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje
THE BLACK TREASURY AT TSE LHAGANG, KONGPO, TIBET
Basum Tso, lake in Kongpo, Tibet

As for the origin of the name and place of The Black Treasury, it is from the Tse Lhagang, Kongpo, Tibet (Rtse lha sgang):

“The name Tse Lhagang refers to the contemporary administrative center Menling Dzong in the southern Tibetan region of Kongpo, as well as its neighboring mountain. The locale once housed a renowned library, established by the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, and promoted by subsequent Karmapa hierarchs up to the tenth. It is said to have housed a collection rivaling that of the Karmapa’s seat at Tsurphu, although it was destroyed in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. At present, there are scant historical data about this location.” (Quintman, 2013).

In a footnote, Quintman (2013: 253: n. 71) describes the historical importance of the place and region to the Karmapas:

@According to the Blue Annals, the Fifth Karmapa, De bzhin shegs pa (1384-1415), who was born in the Kong po region, received both his novice and full ordination vows at Tse Lhagang, and later received teachings there from the Second Zhamar (Zhwa dmar), Khacho Wangpo (M kha’ spyod dbang po (1350-1405).

It also records a visit by the Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Donden (Mthong ba don ldan (1416-53), in 1452. According to Situ Panchen, Tulku Karma Chokyong (sprul sku Karma Chos skyong (seventeenth century), a disciple of the Tenth Karmapa, Choying Dorje (Chos dbying rdo rje (1604- 74), was appointed to oversee the establishment, whose name is recorded as Rtse lha sgar.[3]

The Tse Lhagang was recorded as being intact still in the early 20th Century by Katok Situ Chokyi Gyatso (1880-1925) who is said to have recorded the following note in his diaries regarding his visit to Kongpo in 1920:

“I traveled down [from Gyamda in Kongpo], and at the confluence of the Nyang and Lang rivers—the Nyang River coming from Nyangpo, the Lang River from Langpo, in the directions of the Bhutan pass (’Brag la) and Draksum [Lake]—is found the Karmapa’s black treasury atop the Namse monastery on a small hill.”  

Chokyi Gyatso’s entry attests that the Black Treasury at Tse Lhagang was intact at least into the early twentieth century. Other objects in Tibet from this repository, including statues and coins, continue to be known as dzodnagma (mdzod nag ma), “[from] the black treasury.” (2013: 107)

However, I was unable to find any images or descriptions of this place online. Please let me know if you have any.

FINAL COLOPHON OF THE BLACK TREASURY
Final colophon folio from rare edition of ‘The Black Treasury’

The final colophon in two editions (Indian and Smith’s) of The Black Treasury (see below), says:

“This compilation of the great Jetsun Milarepa’s biography, vajra songs, and spiritual songs [has three sources]: l) the Dharma Lord Karmapa said:

“Most of [the songs] are present within the some one hundred compilations of the great Jetsun’s collected songs I have seen. Then, the Dharma Lord Rangjung Dorje wrote the most excellent Black Treasury, personally researched and based upon authoritative sources; 2) [a text] said to be a compilation of seventeen different collected songs excellently completed in the Gungtang Pelgyi Tsuklakhang; 3) [a text] said to be a compilation [made] having seen one hundred and twenty-seven different biographies of the Jetsun. These [versions] have been compiled and supplemented with as many of the Jetsun’s song collections as could be found. Through the merit of completing this well, may the precious teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish and expand in every direction and during all periods, and may it endure for a long time.

This is followed by the dedication listed at the beginning of this post: “These sayings of great Jetsun Zhepa Dorje [Milarepa] As many as could be found, which I’ve collected here;…”

Tibetan script:

རྡོ་རྗེ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་ཕྱག་བྲིས་མཛད་པ་ཁུང་བཙུན་ཞིང་ཐུགས་རྩིས་ཤིན་དུ་ཆེ་བའི་མཛོད་ནག་མ་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་དང་། འགུར་འབུམ་རིགས་མི་ཅིག་པ་བཅུ་བདུན་བསགས་ནས་གུང་ཐང་དཔལ་གྱི་གཙུག་ལགས་ཁང་ཆེན་པོར་ལེགས་པར་བསྒྲུབ་ཟེར་བ་དང་།
རྗེ་བཙུན་གྱི་རྣམ་ཐར་རིག་མི་ཅིག་པ་བརྒྱ་དང་བཉིས་ཤུ་ཚ་བདུན་གཟིགས་ཏེ་ཕྱོགས་གཅིག་དུ་སྒྲིགས་པ་ཡིན་ཟེར་བ་དང་། དེ་རྣམས་ཕྱོགས་ཅིག་དུ་བསྡུས་པ་ལ།་གཞན་ཡང་རྗེ་བཙུན་གྱི་འགུར་མའི་ཚོགས་བརྙེད་ཚད་ཀྱིས་ཁ་བསྐང་ཏེ་ལེགས་པར་བསྒྲབ་སྤ་འདིའི་བསོད་ནམས་ཀྱིས། སྒྲུབ་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་བསྟན་པ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཕྱོགས་དུས་གནས་སྐབས་ཐམས་ཅད་དུ་དར་ཞིང་རྒྱས་ལ་ཡུན་རིང་དུ་གནས་པར་གྱུར་ཅིག༎

 ‘BLACK TREASURY’ EDITIONS – PAST AND PRESENT

There are several manuscripts of The Black Treasury, which I list below. In terms of their contents and form, Qunitman writes that: 

“Their earliest and common source may be understood as some form of The Twelve Great Disciples; all extant Black Treasury texts follow the basic structure of that early work, and several copy its colophon verbatim. Authors and editors of later versions of The Black Treasury also drew upon a wide range of other materials, incorporating narrative elements and songs from new sources that significantly expanded the text. The result is a body of literature that became increasingly complex over time. A complete historical evaluation of the various Black Treasury texts, including a formal stemmatic analysis, will require further examination of the materials, but it is possible to draw some general conclusions about their sources and their possible relationships.” (2013: 107)

Quintman says the known versions of The Black Treasury, can be broadly categorized into earlier and later strata according to their structure and sources. I have listed them here without such division though.

 

  • JETSUN MILA DORJE GYELTSAN’S LIBERATION-STORIES – DREPUNG ARCHIVES, LHASA: a manuscript housed in the Drepung Archives in Lhasa. U-Med (dbu med) manuscript[4].

 “This text, perhaps the earliest known version of The Black Treasury, lacks a cover title page, although the final scribal dedication refers to the text as “the Life of Jetsun Zhepa Dorje” (rje btsun bzhad pa rdo rje’i mam par thar pa).  The narrative concludes with a statement that it was recorded by Milarepa’s twelve senior disciples led by Ngendzong Repa, a sentence copied directly from The Twelve Great Disciples.  The final colophon then accounts for its additional material in a brief and somewhat ambiguous statement: The Dharma Lord Mipham Gonpo has said,

“The great Jetsun Mila’s collected songs seem to be limitless in number, but most fall within the some one hundred compilations I have seen. Since it was written by Lord Rangjung Dorje himself, he taught it as a valid source, and then this volume came to be universally known as a finely executed compilation of his personal research.”

 These few sentences were subsequently copied into the larger colophon of later editions. Their phrasing and honorific language suggest that the text was not written by the Karmapa himself, but rather by a scribe in the Karmapa’s lineage, perhaps under the hierarch’s personal direction.” (Quintman, 2013)

This edition is said to include an alternative account of Milarepa’s meeting with the Khyira hunter and  also adds a central plot point to the death scene, describing Rechhungpa’s vision of Milarepa’s passing, that was absorbed into later versions.’ [5]

 

  • MILA ZHEPA DORJE’S COLLECTED SONGS – WRITTEN DOWN BY 4TH ZHAMAR IN MODERN EDITION OF 3rd KARMAPA’S COLLECTED WORKS (2006) [6]
Chodag Yeshe Palzang, the 4th Shamar Rinpoche, 16th-century painting from the Rubin Museum of Art

This edition was published in 2006 in Tibet and is a computer input text. based on a 15/16th Century edition, written down by 4th Zhamarpa:

“According to its scribal colophon, the manuscript was produced by the scribe of the Fourth Zhamar, Chodrak Yeshe (1453-1524). Thus the text may be an example of a Black Treasury version produced shortly after the individual-transmission mandate was lifted, and perhaps within decades of Tsangnyon Heruka’s own work on the standard edition.” (Quintman 2013: 10)

 

  • MILA ZHEPA DORJE’S COLLECTED SONGS – RARE MANUSCRIPT USED IN INDIAN EDITION (1977).

This is a  two-volume edition published in India in 1977, Dalhousie: Damchoe Sangpo[7]. It is  uploaded online and states that it was reproduced from a rare manuscript from the library of Bontrul Rinpoche (dbon-sproul rin-po-che).

The edition is in handwritten U-Mey script and contains stunning illustrations of Buddhist masters, prior to and after Milarepa. They are not mentioned or included in Quintman’s book, so I have re-produced the first few illustrated folios here in full.

  • MILA ZHEPA DORJE’S COLLECTED SONGS – RARE MANUSCRIPT IN E. GENE SMITH COLLECTION.

This is a rare manuscript in the collection of E. Gene Smith, fundamentally identical to the Indian edition [8]  This manuscript, now uploaded online here, seems to be the original edition. Black and red ink, with stunning illustrations; I have re-produced some here:

 

Quintman remarks that (2013:108) the original textual source of these two above editions seem to be between the 14th to 15th Century:

“These two manuscripts, nearly identical apart from brief introductory and scribal materials, are independent copies of the same version. They are also far more extensive than the preceding works, demonstrating a later period of development that took place once The Black Treasury began to circulate…..it is possible to propose a tentative dating for this version of the Life and Songs. Its time of origin is marked by Zhije Repa’s work, completed in 1373. The compendium shows no evidence of being influenced by Tsangnyon Heruka’s standard version, completed in 1488, and so likely predates it. Moreover, its song cycle on the Nepalese hunter Khyira Gonpo Dorje seems to have served as the source for the abbreviated account recorded in the Religious History of Lho Rong, written between 1446 and 1451. This suggests a date of composition between the last quarter of the fourteenth and the mid-fifteenth century.”

 

  • DRIKUNG KAGYU CHENMO EDITION (2004) recently published as part of an extensive collection of Drigung Kagyu works[9].  

 

  • ‘COLLECTED SONGS OF MILA ZHEPA DORJE – TIBETAN SITRON MIRIG PUBLICATION (2008) [10].
‘Collected Songs of the Powerful Yogi, Mila Zhepa Dorje’. 2008 Publication of The Black Treasury
  • LHASA EDITION (2013). There is also a more recent edition of The Black Treasury, not mentioned in Quintman, which is part of a Collection of the Garland of Incarnations of Karmapa’s Works [11].

 

FURTHER READING/SOURCES

Blancke, K. (2020). Ngendzong Tonpa: The complete liberation of Mila-Vajra-Victory Banner.

Gamble, R (2020). Third Karmapa: Master of Mahamudra by Ruth Gamble (Shambala Publications).

Quintman, A (2013). The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press).

Tomlin, A (2021):

Hermit-Yogi Caves and Fortresses (Part I): Jetsun Milarepa’s Twenty-Eight Sacred Places

SACRED GEOGRAPHY OF KARMA KAGYU: THREE MAIN SEATS, ‘OUTER’ AND ‘INNER’ SITES OF CHAKRASAMVARA AND BIRTH PLACES AND DATES OF THE EIGHT KARMAPAS. teaching by 17th Karmapa (2021)

NEW PUBLICATION: Milarepa’s Songs to the Hunter and Animals; and the Hunter (Khyira) Kagyu lineage

A Girl’s Lament: Songs of Saley O to Milarepa


ENDNOTES

[1] Quntman observes that: “This version of the Life and Songs was never formally titled The Twelve Great Disciples; that name derives instead from the work’s attribution to Milarepa’s inner circle of students. The colophon begins by stating, “For the benefit of fortunate meditators, this Life has been set down in words by the twelve great cotton-clad disciples, such as Ngendzong Tonpa Bodhiraja.”28 Chapter 1 described the role Ngendzong Repa played in codifying the aural transmissions and recording the life of his guru through four signed biographical episodes. Here, Ngendzong is identified as leading in the compilation and production of the yogin’s first extensive biographical treatment. It is unclear to what degree Ngendzong and his colleagues actually recorded this tradition on paper, although that is obviously the meaning this line intends to convey.” (2013: 90).

[2] “The Twelve Great Disciples exists in several known editions, only three of which are currently accessible for study: the Stockholm edition, a xylograph held in the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, Sweden; the Oxford edition, a manuscript held in the collection of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library; and the Newark edition, an illuminated manuscript held in the archives of the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ. At least four other editions of this text are known.

The newly published catalogue of the Drepung monastery archives lists a printed (dbu can) manuscript titled Life of the Glorious Zhepe Dorji (Dpal hzhad pa!i rdo tje’i mam thar)f arranged by the twelve cotton-clad disciples (ras pa bu chen bcu gnyis kyis bkod pa) in 210 folios.14 Zhepe Dorje is the secret initiation name given to Milarepa by his guru, Marpa, and this title and attribution agree with the colophons of the Oxford and Newark editions. Other editions said to exist include block prints from Gonkar Chode and the Tse Podrang, as well as a manuscript from Drungto monastery in Nyarong, Kham. “(2013: 87-88).

[3] Quintman continues: “According to Smith, the name Rtse lha sgar also appears in a verse biography of the Tenth Karmapa attributed to the Seventh Zhamar, Ye shes snying po (1631-94), noting that the Karma pa visited the location on his way from Dag Lha Gampo (Dwags lha sgam po) (personal communication, March 9,2006). An anonymous history o(sprul sku lines compiled between 1814 and 1820 records the following lineage of Rtse la’i sprul sku of Rtse la sgang together with their ages at death: (l) Bstan ’dzin rdo rje, 73; (2) Rgod tshang sna tshogs rang grol, 74; (3) Kun bzang legs grub, 39; (4) Kun bzang m thu stobs dbang po, 47; (5) Kun bzang bde chen rgya mtsho, 48; (6) Kun bzang bde chen. It notes that the sixth incarnation, Kun bzang bde chen, was seven years old at the time of writing. The first incarnation, Bstan ’dzin rdo rje (1534-1608?) is considered the incarnation of Vairocana (TBRC database P4688). The second incarnation is Rtse le Sna tshogs rang grol (b. 1608), the famed disciple of the Tenth Karmapa (TBRC database P1687). See Anon, KDZ, 333-34. There appear to have been several institutions located in the vicinity of Tse la Gang (Rtse la sgang), and further research is needed to sort out their history.”

[4] Tibetan title is Rje btsun mi la rdo rje rgyal mtshan gyi mam par Char pa’i dbu phyogs lags.

[5] Quintman (2013: 254: n 78): ‘appends at least three new song cycles and reconfigures several others. For instance, the section recording Mi la ras pa’s meeting with the hunter Khyira Gonpo Dorje (Khyi ra Mgon po rdo rje) incorporates an alternative account (145a) that would be expanded in later versions of The Black Treasury. It also adds a central plot point to the death scene, describing Rechungpa’s vision of his master’s passing (297a), that was absorbed into later versions.’

[6] “Mi la bzhad pa rdo rjeʼi gsung mgur mdzod nag ma zhes pa karma pa rang byung rdo rjes phyogs gcig tu bkod pa.” in Collected Works of Rangjung Dorje (gSung ʼbum rang byung rdo rje) vol. 3, Tsurphu Khenpo Loyag Tashi [mTshur phu mkhan po lo yag bkra shis], 2006, pp. 5–778. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW30541_1CF8FC.  

[7] Rnal ’ byor gyi dbang phyug mi la bzhad pa rdo rje ‘i gsung mgur ma mdzod nag ma zhes pa ka rma pa rang byung rdo rjes phyog gcig tu bkos pa. Damchoe Sangpo, 1978. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW23432.

[8] Quintman writes in 2013 that this was unpublished, but it is now uploaded here: rJe btsun mi la ras paʼi gsung mgur mdzod nag maBuddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW4CZ45235.

[9] “Mi la ras paʼi rnam thar mdzod nag ma (stod cha).” ʼBri gung bkaʼ brgyud chos mdzod chen mo, edited by Ra se dkon mchog rgya mtsho and ʼBri gung a mgon rin po che, vol. 7, [ʼBri gung mthil dgon], 2004, pp. 3–548. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW00JW501203_F3F7AB.

[10] rJe btsun mi la ras paʼi gsung mgur mdzod nag ma. Par gzhi dang po, Si khron dpe skrun tshogs pa si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2008. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW1PD83964.

[11] “Mi la ras paʼi gsung mgur mdzod nag ma.” Karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ʼbum phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 23, dPal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ʼjug khang, 2013, pp. 8–870. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW3PD1288.

3 thoughts on “‘THE BLACK TREASURY’ (DZO NAG)” 3RD KARMAPA’S EXTENSIVE COMPENDIUM OF MILAREPA’S LIFE AND SONGS. Origin, editions and contents.

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