“Out of great compassion, the authentic, perfect Buddha taught three levels of the Dharma wheels depending on the thinking and capacities of those to be tamed. First, he taught in Varanasi where he turned the Dharma wheel of the four noble truths. Second, was at Vulture’s Peak, the Dharma wheel without characteristics. Third, in various places he turned the definitive meaning (ngedon) wheel. Within these wheels the Buddha taught the three scripture collections of the Sutras, Vinaya and Abhidharma. For those of the degenerate age, with strong afflictions, the Buddha taught the secret mantra in Oddiyana (Ogyen) or Akanishta (Ogmin).”
“The Great Vehicle of Secret Mantra became the fourth category of the scriptural collections. Practicing the three precious vehicles became the cause for the Great Vehicle of Secret Mantra. With the secret mantra Vajrayana one can attain the result of full, perfect awakening in one lifetime. Thus, it is the resultant vehicle.”
–Je Phagmo in Thigle Drop that Illuminates the Chakrasamvara Tantra
For the special commemoration of the Buddha’s turning the wheel of Dharma (Chokhor Duchen) today the first day of the sixth lunar month, am happy to announce the first published English translation of a commentary on the ‘Equal to Space’ Chakrasamvara Tantra (bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi thig le : śrīśaṃvarakhasamatantrarājanāma)  by Kagyu founding master and student of Je Gampopa, Phagmo Drupa (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110 – 1170) called the Thigle Drop that Illuminates the ‘Equal to Space’ Chakrasamvara Tantra. I received the oral transmission and explanation on this commentary from Drigung Kagyu teacher, Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche in June 2022, during a Chakrasmavara Drubchen hosted by the Garchen Buddhist Institute. The English oral translation was by Ina Bieler.
The teaching on the text was mainly an oral transmission with very brief explanation of the meaning (this may have been due to time constraints though). Thus, I have mainly translated the root text and added in some footnotes, when and where Drupon added some extra explanation that was not in the text itself. He did not explain the origin of the text and the colophon does not contain any information about when and why it was composed either. It simply states that it is based on the oral instructions of Phagmo Drupa’s root guru, which one can assume means Je Gampopa.
Below is an introduction to the text, the author, what Tantra it is a commentary on and editions etc., and a full Outline of the Contents.
The commentary begins with an explanation of secret mantra Vajrayana and how it arose as the ‘fourth’ scriptural collection and explains how Chakrasamvara is a mother tantra and that the Equal to Space Tantra is an explanatory tantra. This is followed by a stunning (and I found moving) explanation of Buddha revealing the ‘biggest secret of all the secrets’ in Secret Mantrayana after being asked what that is. This includes an explanation of mantra and syllables and their profundity in terms of the ultimate nature of one’s body, speech and mind. Then, there is a description of the symbolism of the generation stage, Father Heruka and Mother Vajrayogini and the meaning of their inseparable union of great bliss.
The second chapter is on the completion stage and the nature of mind, but also methods for sustaining the nature of mind in meditation. Then sections on teaching the actual mantra and the benefits of reciting mantra. An explanation was not given of the final sections of the texts, which explain how mantra can be used to accomplish the four activities of: magnetising, increasing, pacifying and wrathful destroying. So I have not translated these sections.
May the turning of the wheel of Dharma flourish and continue and may we all attain the non-dual great bliss Dharmakaya state of Chakrasamvara!
Music? Shine on You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd and Illuminated by Hurts. “Suddenly my eyes are open. Everything comes into focus, oh. We are all illuminated. Lights are shining on our faces, blinding. We are, we are blinding.”
Written, translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. 1st August 2022.
Equal to Space Glorious Chakrasamvara Tantra – a Question and Answer Session between Buddha and Vajragarbha
The text is a commentary on the Glorious Chakrasamvara Equal to Space King Tantra (shrI sa~M ba ra kha sa ma tan+t+ra rA dza nA ma; dPal bde mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud kyi rgyal po). There are twelve editions of the tantra text in various Kangyur editions (Pedurma, Dege, Lithang and more). It is listed on the 84 000 website (Toh 415), but has not yet been translated into English.
The tantra text is very short (4 pecha pages) and consists of questions and answers between the Bhagavan Buddha and Vajragarbha (Dorje Nyingpo). Vajragharba was one of the main interlocutors of the Buddha’s entourage throughout many of the Yoginītantras, such as the Hevajra Tantra. The questions involve Vajragarbha asking for clarifications on the Chakrasamvara Tantra, symbolism and meaning of Heruka and Vajrayogini within Chakrasamvara practice and the ultimate nature of mind so on.
The text is said to have been translated from Sanksrit into Tibetan by Jñānavajra. There are multiple authors associated with this name, that were active in the 12th century who transmitted Tantric lineages that spread to Tibet. These include one from Kashmir (BDRC: P7148) and one from Nepal (BDRC: P4CZ15139). For more information on his background, see here.
The Thigle Drop that Illuminates – Phagmo Drupa’s Commentary on the Chakrasamvara Tantra Equal to Space
Phagmo Drupa’s Commentary on this root text, The Thigle Drop that Illuminates cites these questions and answers of the tantra and intersperses them with his own brief commentary on their meaning. He also includes quotes from other Tantras, such as Hevajra, the Chakrasamvara root tantra, The Vajra Songs of the Dakinis Tantra and more.
There are five editions of his commentary text available online:
- Collected Works of Phagmo Drupa (Dege Publishing House, 2010). Pecha edition, U-Chen Script.
- Collected Works of Phagmo Drupa (Drepung edition). Handwritten U-med script edition.
- Collected Works of Phagmo Drupa brtson ‘grus seng+ge shAs+trI 2007 edition, Delhi)
- Collected Works of Phagmo Drupa (1998 edition).
- Collected Works of Phagmo Drupa (2003 edition, Nepal).
There is also an edition with a slightly different title in the Drikung Kagyu Great Treasure of Dharma (published by Drigung Thil Monastery in 2004).
In terms of the outline/contents:
TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION.. 4
Equal to Space Glorious Chakrasamvara Tantra. 5
Thigle Drop that Illuminates – Phagmo Drupa’s Commentary on the Chakrasamvara Tantra Equal to Space. 5
Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170) 6
TRANSLATION: The Thigle Drop that Illuminates the Meaning of the Chakrasamvara ‘Equal to Space’ Tantra. 9
Offering and Homage. 10
Commitment to complete the text 10
Turning of the Dharma Wheels. 11
The fourth, resultant vehicle: secret mantra. 12
1) The four classes of secret mantra Vajrayana and the four types of desirous afflictions. 13
2) Chakrasamvara as highest yoga tantra and mother tantra. 15
3) Three Sections of the Tantra. 15
CHAPTER ONE: THE MAIN EXPLANATION OF THE TANTRA. 18
1.1 The subject matter. 19
1.2 The verbal sound and the greatest secrets of all the secrets. 22
1.3 Path Continuum. 27
1.4 Method and wisdom – the path of great bliss. 31
1.5 Characteristics of Father Heruka. 35
1.6 Characteristics of Mother Vajrayogini 40
1.7 The lotus seat 42
1.8 The Elements and the Dakinis. 42
CHAPTER TWO: COMPLETION STAGE. 45
- The Essence of Clear Luminosity. 45
- Two Pith Instructions on sustaining the nature of mind. 47
- The Union of Non-Dual Bliss. 53
- Meaning of non-dual, supreme union. 58
The Resultant Path. 59
- Teaching the actual mantra. 59
- The benefits of reciting mantra. 60
- The power of mantra and using them for destructive activities. 61
Phagmo Drupa – Kagyu forefather of several Kagyu lineages
Phagmo Drupa (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110 – 1170) was one of the main students of Je Gampopa, and the teacher of several students who went on to found major and minor Kagyu linages, such as Drigung, Drugpa and others:
“The lineage of Pakmodrupa is commonly called the Pakdru Kagyu (phag gru bka’ brgyud), or this term is used as a way of including all the lineages that descended from his disciples. The most important and the best known of these lineages or schools were the Drukpa Kagyu, which came from his disciple Lingrepa Pema Dorje (gling ras pa pad+ma rdo rje, 1128-1188); the Drigung Kagyu, which came from Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel (‘jig rten mgon po rin chen dpal, 1143-1217); and the Taklung Kagyu from Taklungtangpa Tashi Pel (stag lung thang pa bkra shis dpal, 1142-1209/1210). The other five disciples who are credited with establishing separate traditions of Kagyu traditions (or for being the teachers to the founders) are: Marpa Sherab Yeshe (smar pa shes rab ye shes, 1135-1203), founder of the Martsang Kagyu; Gyergom Tsultrim Sengge (gyer sgom tshul khrims seng+ge, 1144-1204), founder of the Shukseb Kagyu; Gyeltsa Rinchen Gon (rgyal tsha rin chen mgon, 1118-1195), founder of Tropu Monastery, the seat of the Tropu Kagyu initiated by his disciple, Tropu Lotsāwa Jampa Pel (khro phu lo tsA ba byams pa dpal, c.1172-1225/1236); Yabzang Choje Chokyi Monlam (g.ya’ bzang chos rje chos kyi smon lam, 1169-1223), founder of the Yabzang Kagyu; and Yelpa Yeshe Tsek (yel pa ye shes brtsegs, 1134-1194), founder of the Yelpa Kagyu.”
In terms of his relationship with Gampopa, his biography says:
“He next spent two years with Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (sgam po pa bsod nam rin chen, 1070-1153), a close disciple of Milarepa. At first, when he went to Gampopa’s seat, Daklha Gampo (dwags lha sgam po) together with Zhang Yudrakpa Tsondru Drakpa (zhang g.yu brag pa brtson ‘grus grags pa, 1123-1193) Gampopa was indisposed and not receiving visitors, so he spent four days carrying earth and stone for building a chorten. As a result, he was able to receive teachings and, under Gampopa he is said to have attained full realization of Mahāmudrā. His years of restlessly seeking spiritual guidance came to a decisive conclusion. Some of Pakmodrupa’s dialogs with Gampopa about meditation may still be read today.”
Unlike many contemporary teachers today, Pagmodrupa was renowned as a very humble and simple teacher:
“Pakmodrupa viewed himself as a servant of all sentient beings, and whatever donations he received went to the welfare of the entire monastic community. He ate the same food as the others. He was very strict about his personal observance of the vinaya rules and expected the same from his community. He did not consider any task too lowly, and was known to carry water and gather ashes. He went on begging rounds with the other monks, a practice well known in Theravada Buddhist countries, but exceptional in Tibet. He was in the habit of keeping in seclusion during the waning phase of the moon, but during the waxing phase he would give teachings every afternoon. Many of these teaching sessions called tsogcho (tshogs chos) were recorded in writing, and they make for fascinating reading.”
The translated commentary text is freely available as a pdf on request here for those who have the Chakrasmavara empowerment within a relevant Kagyu tradition.
Written, translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. 1st August 2022. Published on Chokhor Duchen.
 Phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po. “bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi thig le.” gSung ʼbum rdo rje rgyal po (sde dge par ma), vol. 4, Sde Dge Par Khang /, 2010, pp. 683–723. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW1KG10493_1B3C1D. [BDRC bdr:MW1KG10493_1B3C1D]
 bKaʼ ʼgyur (dpe bsdur ma), Par gzhi dang po par thengs dang po, vol. 79, Krung goʼi bod rig paʼi dpe skrun khang, 2006–2009, pp. 825–30. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW1PD96682_0438.
Si tu chos kyi ʼbyung gnas, editor. “dPal bde mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud kyi rgyal po zhes bya ba.” bKaʼ ʼgyur (sde dgeʼi mtshal par spus legs), vol. 79, sDe dge par khang chen mo, 1985, pp. 524–27. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW3CN20612_0415.
 Vajragarbha (वज्रगर्भ) (“matrix of thunderbolt”) is the name of a Bodhisattva commonly depicted in Buddhist Iconography, and mentioned in the 11th-century Niṣpannayogāvalī of Mahāpaṇḍita Abhayākara.—his color is blue or bluish white ; his symbol is the Daśabhūmika scripture.—
Vajragarbha is described in the Niṣpannayogāvalī as follows:—
(1: Dharmadhatūvāgīśvara-maṇḍala):—“Vajragarbha is of the colour of the petal of a blue lotus and holds in the right hand the Vajra and in the left the book called the Daśabhūmika”. (2: Durgatipariśodhana-maṇḍala):—“Vajragarbha is of bluish white colour and holds the blue lotus in the right hand while the clenched left rests on the hip”.
 “bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi thig le.” gSung ʼbum rdo rje rgyal po (sde dge par ma), vol. 4, Sde Dge Par Khang /, 2010, pp. 683–723. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW1KG10493_1B3C1D.
 “bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi bdud rtsiʼi thig le(phyi ma 780).” gSung ʼbum phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po (ʼbras spungs phyi ma 780 bris ma), pp. 711–48. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW1KG15059_AB3CA4.
 “bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi thig le.” gSung ʼbum rdo rje rgyal po, vol. 4, 1998, pp. 683–723. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW23860_D1FCC1.
 “bDe mchog nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam paʼi rgyud don gsal bar byed paʼi thig le.” gSung ʼbum rdo rje rgyal po, vol. 7, Khenpo Shedrub Tenzin And Lama Thinley Namgyal, 2003, pp. 221–76. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW23891_BF0FB0.
 “Byin rlabs kyi brgyud pa dpal nam mkhaʼ dang mnyam pa zhes bya baʼi man ngag gi ʼgrel pa bdud rtsiʼi thig le.” 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. 18, [ʼBri gung mthil dgon], 2004, pp. 468–98. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW00JW501203_B50E25.