“It is said that each word in the text is guarded by the dharma protective deities, Ekajati, Rahul and Damchen Dorji Legpa, and through the protection of their thousand eyes.”
–brochure of Bhutanese Longchenpa’s Collected Works project
“The art of perfect calligraphy is the emanation of the Buddhas,
There is no higher art than calligraphy to arouse the devotion to Buddha’s teachings.”
Even though you are equal in mastery of compassion and realisations,
to the world-beautifying six ornaments and two supreme ones,
By performing the hidden ‘unconventional conduct’ in sacred forests,
You perfected saṃsāra and nirvāṇa in the state of dharmakāya; Longchenpa,
Dri-me Ozer—Stainless Light, at whose feet I supplicate:
Grant your blessings to realize the abiding nature of mind-itself!
—Supplication by Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche to Longchenpa (tr. Tomlin, 2022)
For this new moon solar eclipse day, it is with great delight to offer this next short essay on another of the key highlights of the Bhutan 2022 conference, a Bhutanese project to transcribe, manuscript and publish a complete, 30 volume edition of the 14th Century Tibetan Buddhist master, Longchenpa’s Collected Works in Bhutan. As can be read in the short bio below, Longchenpa had a very strong connection to Bhutan. From his 40s he lived there and created eight auspicious Dharma centres (Lings), including Tharpa-ling.
The presentation on this project was given by Bhutanese scholar and translator, and a member of the Collected Works team, Khenpo Phuntshog Gyaltsen, who currently teaches at the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies (CBS). At the conference, Khenpo Gyaltsen not only presented on this project but also expertly orally translated simultaneously for several other non-English speakers. Not an easy task and always one I admire as a translator myself. A video of his speech at the conference on the project can be watched here.
My connection with Longchenpa’s works goes back to 2020, when I received the transmission of the Longchen Nyingtig during the Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Collected Works transmission in Siliguri, India in 2020 from HE Schechen Rabjam Rinpoche. I wrote several articles about that transmission, for example here. The amazing life, realisations and accomplishments of Longchenpa, (also known as Drime Ozer (stainless light)) cannot be summed up easily, in fact, they are indescribable. He was also called the ‘One from Samye with Many Transmissions’ (Samye Manglungpa) a Tibetan child genius and prodigious author of 30 volumes of Collected Works, who committed the entire Kanjur and Tenjur to his memory.
In any case, I was so impressed and ‘smitten’ with this Bhutanese project of Buddha Dharma publication and preservation, that I offered to freely create a website for the project as my own way of showing appreciation and support, which Khenpo Gyaltsen happily accepted. This article not only launches that new website (https://longchenpacollectedworks.com/) but also offers an overview and explanation of:
- Life and accomplishments of Longchenpa
- The Contents of the Collected Works of Longchenpa
- Other Editions of the Collected Works
- The Collected Works Project in Bhutan – motivation, aims and benefits
- New Findings from the Project
Readers can (and should) visit the new website for more details, which is a work in progress and will have updates and translations posted in the future.
Khenpo Gyaltsen told me that it is widely-known that Longchenpa used to be assisted by his dharma guardians and hence he would complete writing many books in a very short space of time. In that spirit of swiftness and divine ‘magic’, I offer this essay and new website. May it bring us all the blessings of Longchenpa, the dakinis and Dharma Protectors, who ardently protected his works and bring a wave of new interest and activity in Longchenpa’s amazing legacy and abilities!
Music? Song of Devotion for Kunkhyen Longchenpa, for the speed and prodigious child genius, Bach’s Toccata on One Guitar by Marcin, Time Waits For No One by the Rolling Stones, and for the visions of Jigme Lingpa, Visions by Stevie Wonder…’Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste, time waits for no-one and it won’t wait for me’.
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 25th October 2022.
Longchenpa’s Life and Accomplishments
As can be read about on the new website section on Longchenpa here,
“The great master Gyalwa Longchen Rabjampa (ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ་དྲི་མེད་འོད་ཟེར།, 1308-1363) was one of the foremost saints of Tibet who also set his gracious feet in Bhutan and left an awe-inspiring legacy for Bhutan and its future. Born as a child prodigy of Tibet, he committed the entire Kanjur and Tenjur to his memory. The Buddha of his time, Rigdzin Kumaradza trained him until he became enlightened. He spent most of his time at Gangri Thodkar peak, Southern Lhasa, and produced magnum opuses of over thirty volumes. For a detailed English-language biography of his life, see here.
All his compositions feature amazing qualities and uniqueness of a visionary and a fully enlightened being. While he dictated, the Dharma protector Rahula scripted his teachings, Ekajati procured papers, and Damchen Dorje Legpa supplied ink. They also vowed to guard every word and line of his literary works, facilitate practitioners and students of his teachings until becoming completely awakened.
Longchenpa is the direct incarnation of Lhacham Pemasel, the daughter of King Trisong Deutsen and Queen Droza Jangchub and direct student of Guru Rinpoche. She died at the age of eight, but Guru Rinpoche drew a red Nri letter on her heart, summoned her consciousness, and restored her to life. There and then, Guru Rinpoche gave her complete transmission of the Nyingtik teachings. She passed away soon.
Centuries later, Princess Pema Sal’s incarnation, the omniscient Longchen Rabjampa was born to the master Tensung, an adept at both philosophy and the practice of mantra. It is said that at the age five Longchenpa could read and write without much effort, and by age seven his father began instructing him in Nyingma mantras. Later, he developed a very special feeling and connection for Bhutan. Of the eight “Lings,” when he was particularly residing at Tharpaling, he expressed time and again his love and care for Bhutan and aspirations to guide the nation until the end of time through his reincarnations.
Studies in Tibet with great masters
Travel and stay in Bhutan and his founding of the eight ‘Ling’ there
Re-incarnation as Pema Lingpa
Soon after he passed away in Tibet, he came back to Bhutan in the form of the Great Terton Pema Lingpa (see biography here). And it is Pema Lingpa’s subsequent reincarnations and their blessings that Bhutan has been able to navigate through the rough waters of time peacefully and happily. The Wangchuck dynasty of Bhutan is closely connected to Pema Lingpa and his predecessor Longchen Rabjam. The Bhutanese King and Queen also hail from the Pema Lingpa roots.
A non-sectarian (Ri-mey) master and practitioner
The Treasury of Lives biography of Longchenpa concludes that:
“Outside of Longchenpa’s efforts to establish eight religious centers in Bhutan, he appears to have had no intention of codifying that which became known as “the Nyingma tradition,” and he is described by contemporary Tibetan historians as having resisted bureaucratic organization. He was quintessentially ecumenical in his approach to educating himself. His title Samye Lungmangpa (bsam yas lung mang pa), which translates as “the One from Samye Who Has Received Many Scriptures,” was given to him because he was known to make academic tours of different learning institutions, and he received teachings from both the old and new tantric lineages. Nevertheless, in his writings he was primarily concerned with Dzogchen and the literature which has remained central to the Nyingma tradition.”
For more on Longchenpa’s students and visions of Longchenpa to Jigme Lingpa, see the website section on Longchenpa.
Here is an image of Samye Chimpu, Tibet, where Longchenpa spent a long time and where there is his reliquary stupa:
Chimpu is a hermitage cave complex above Samye Monastery that has been particularly favored by Nyingma practitioners, as it has strong association with both Padmsasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyel. There is a reliquary stūpa to Longchenpa (Longchen Dungbum) near an area where the Third Karmapa spent six months in retreat. Jigme Lingpa experienced visions of Longchenpa at a cave named Sawa Metok. Religious practice at the site is said to predate Buddhism. Among the many caves at Chimphu is Drakmar Keutsang, which is noted as Padmasambhava’s primary Samye residence.
Contents of Longchenpa’s Collected Works
The new website section on the contents of the Collected Works is here.
“The collected works of Longchenpa cover and explain all nine vehicles of the Buddha. In particular, his writing is so exceptional and perfect in its ability to convey the profound pith instructions of Dzogchen and transmit the power of these instructions. He is not only a champion or accomplished master on the esoteric and exoteric teachings of the Buddha, but he is also an outstanding scholar and enlightened master. His works were – and still are – the shining jewels of the Himalayan world and remain greatly appreciated and praised by scholars and siddhas alike.
The precise use of language and his consistent accuracy in explanations continue to inspire students, practitioners and scholars to this date. The moment one begins reading his works, one feels closer to enlightenment and awakened; some have commented that they even feel as if their body is flying across open space or floating upon a great ocean. It is possible to begin memorizing the verses contained in his work due to his notations being perfectly written in a poetic form.”
In his presentation, Khenpo Gyaltsen gave a brief description of the contents using the following slide:
- The Three Cycles of Resting the Mind (Ngelso Kor Sum ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ།)
- The Three Cycles of Self Liberation (Rangdrol Kor Sum རང་གྲོལ་སྐོར་གསུམ།)
- The Three Cycles of Dispelling the Darkness (Munsel Kor Sum མུན་སེལ་སྐོར་གསུམ།)
- The Seven Treasuries (Dzo Dun མཛོད་བདུན)
- Miscellaneous Teachings
- The Four Nyingthig Teachings ( Nyingthig Zhi སྙིང་ཐིག་ཡ་བཞི་)
- Seventeen Tantras of Dzogchen ( Mengag-de Gyu Chudun མན་ངག་སྡེའི་རྒྱུད་བཅུ་བདུན)
For more extensive detail of the Collected Works, see here, however the project plans to translate the full contents into English in the future. For example, the Nyingtik Yabzhi literally means the ‘Four Parts of the Nyingtik’.
It consists of the
The Vima Nyingtik and Khandro Nyingtik are known as the ‘mother’ Nyingtik texts and the Lama Yangtik and Khandro Yangtik are known as ‘child’ texts, hence another common name for the collection which is the Four Mother and Child Sections of Nyingtik (སྙིང་ཐིག་མ་བུ་བཞི་, nyingtik ma bu shyi). For more on Penor Rinpoche’s lineage of Nyingtig Yabzhi, see here.
Handwritten Outline of Contents (Karchag)
The handwritten edition of the Contents of the Works (Karchag) is downloadable as a pdf on the website, here are a few images of it.
The project team are currently working on an English translation of the Contents section.
Longchenpa has appeared to Tibetan masters in visions and so is occasionally considered to have been a teacher to people who lived well after he passed away. Perhaps most famously these included Jigme Lingpa (‘jigs med gling pa, 1730-1798), whose visions of Longchenpa inspired him to later reveal one of the most widely-known of the later Nyingtik treasure cycles, the Heart Essence of the Great Expanse, or Longchen Nyingtik (klong chen snying thig) (note that the “longchen” in the title is not a reference to Longchenpa, as is often believed).For a translation project on the Longchen Nyingthig, see here.
Currently Available Editions of the Collected Works
In terms of the editions of the Collected Works currently available (in the Tibetan script). Information about the editions was not mentioned by Khenpo Gyaltsen in his talk, so I I have done some quick research on it. There are five listed editions on the BDRC website, some of which are based on the Tibetan Dege blocks carved during the mid 19th century at the order of the 5th Dzogchen Rigdzin Chenmo (rdzogs chen rig ‘dzin chen mo):
· Dege Publications edition, Tibet 5 volumes.
· Namkhai Norbu edition (2000) based on the 19th Century Tibetan Dege blocks, 5 volumes.
· Beijing Chinese edition (2000) 26 volumes
· Manuscript edition, 6 volumes.
· Woodblock edition, mixed version of Dege block with some other versions including one volume of manuscript, 10 volumes.
The edition of the works missing on BDRC (or it is not clearly listed) is what is called the Adzom print. When I asked Khenpo Tashi about these editions and the Bhutanese edition he explained:
“We have relied heavily on BDRC’s digitized data of Longchenpa’s collected works. The most complete set of Longchenpa’s works were printed by: Dege, Lhasa, Darthang (computer print), mes po’i shul bzhag (chinese-taiwan computer print), Adzom print (original wooden block, which is also there in BDRC).
The Adzom block print reprinted by Deorali Chorten Gonpa (Sikkim) in Varanasi but with some revision, and this print was reproduced in Taiwan but also with some further editions. The Varanasi edition was done on the metal plates after the image was captured, and the Taiwan edition was done in photoshop after scanning the Varanasi print. Hence, Adzom Parma (print) has three versions: Adzom Parma (original wood block), Varanasi print, and Taiwan print. Sikkim is reproducing Longchen Works through computer, but it is based upon the orginal Adzom Parma. It may take some time to produce. They have just completed the Seven Treasuries (mdzod bdun) only. Other print versions, are mostly scattered. In that sense, they did not print the Longchenpa’s works completely. They printed just the volumes needed for empowerments and studies at Shedra.
There is also another print version from New Delhi based on the Adzom block. It was printed by Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche. The numbers of volumes may differ based on how many Longchenpa’s books were printed.
For the handwritten Bhutanese version, there are 30 volumes. But 3 of them are not Longchenpa’s works, they are the 17 Dzogchen Tantras, consisted in 3 volumes. They were included in the Bhutanese version, as per the late Dodrubchen’s advice, since these were the texts that Longchenpa has mostly drawn upon and commented in his writings.”
A Sikkimese scholar I met at the Bhutan 2022 conference told me that there was a Sikkimese Longchenpa Collected Works project underway, but I have yet to receive any information about it. I will update this article when I do.
The Bhutanese Longchenpa Collected Works Project
Information about the project itself, is on the website here. Inspiration first came in 2019, during the transmission of Longchenpa’s Seven Treasuries by HE Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche’s enthusiastic support for the idea and be the patron of the project:
“In September 2019, at Tharpaling, Bumthang – the place of liberation – His Eminence Lama Namkhai Nyingpo bestowed blessings of the Reading Transmission to the public through the transmission of the Seven Treasuries of the Great Longchenpa.
While receiving this very special reading transmission, many students wondered why Rinpoche had a variety of different sized traditional books which contained the volumes of this treasure text. While making time to look at them, it was found that different editions were included and some errors and incorrect spellings of the actual text.
At the same time, the thought rose within devotees that someone should take effort to initiate a re-transcription of this complete works so that the use and application of the Seven Treasuries could continue and be used in most exact and accurate form. And by doing so, the benefit of this improved resource could be shared for wider use by enlightened scholars and other practitioners of learning centres and meditation centres around the world. This idea was also especially important as none of the previous texts had been produced in a complete manner and not set out through the art of Bhutanese calligraphy.
This is how the positive idea and intention of completing a full re-creation of the text by use of traditional calligraphy form arose at the sacred place of Longhenpa, Tharpaling, Bumthang. This also seemed very auspicious because at the same time, three sacred features also came together with this idea or inspiration: the idea arising at a sacred place, Tharpaling, the idea flourishing due to sacred teachings of the Seven Treasuries being given and the intention coming into clear focus through the teachings being given by the sacred lama, HE Namkhai Nyingpo.
Based on these conditions and motivations, the 9thTharpaling Lama Khenchen Tshewang and I went to see HE Namkhai Nyingpo. We shared our ideas and sacred wish with Rinpoche. The moment we mentioned the project idea to Rinpoche, his face immediately lit up and was glowing as if it was the rising sun appearing in the early morning from the east. Rinpoche expressed his approval and support by raising his thumbs up in supportive gesture and proclaiming “Good News”.
We then requested HE to be the patron of the calligraphy project and bestow guidance on the process of completing it and he most happily consented to our request.”
This sacred project has also been blessed and endorsed by many other masters including HH the Je Khenpo, HH Dodrubchen, and HE Kathok Situ Rinpoche.
It was further sanctified as we managed to procure a bone relic of Longchenpa himself and had it dissolved into the ink used for the writing. Henceforth, every bit of letter in the text would represent the holy body, speech, and mind of Longchenpa.
For more on the project team see here. For cultural, economic and spiritual benefits of the project, see here.
Who are the professional calligraphers?
According to the project brochure:
“The major professional calligraphers are from Trashigang, Bartsham, because they have been trained in the art of calligraphy from a very early age. All have been instructed in the art of skilled calligraphy from the accomplished master, the late Lama Kunzang Wangdi (or alias, Lama Nyingkula).
There are a few calligraphers from other Dzongkhags as well. About forty calligraphers have gathered in Thimphu to transcribe the one hundred sacred volumes of Buddha’s canon. They are considered the best and most exceptional calligraphers at this time in the country because the Royal Secretariat has summoned them in Thimphu to execute a sacred project of calligraphy using only gold script.
All of them possess the six qualities of the art of calligraphy such as perfect proportion, ability to write quick, ability to write in the correct manner, uniformity of the script, clarity in letter and all done in perfect alignment.”
Patron and members of Sacred Project
His Eminence Lama Namkhai Nyingpo – Supreme Patro
Kenchen Tshewang – Chief Advisor & 9th Throne holder of Tharpaling
Kenchen Tandin Sithup – editor Chief Abbot of Autsho Shedra
Khenpo Phuntsho Gyaltshen – Chief Editor Director of Mahapanya Vidayalai, Thailand
Dasho Pasang Dorji – Former National Speaker – General Treasurer
Kunzang Tobgay – Chief Supervisor of the Calligraphers, Supervisor of Kanjur Project
Lopen Nado – Assistant Advisor, Manager of Incense Factory
Khenpo Chonyi Rangdrol – editor Lecturer of Mahapanya Vidayalai, Thailand
Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi – Project Director, Former Director of NMB, Paro
New findings from the project
Some new findings from the project on Longchenpa’s works were discovered by the Bhutanese team too:
“For example, Mipham Rinpoche is the only scholar who edited Longchen Rabjam’s works and even made some additional insertions in texts, such as the seven treasuries. Wherever he made the inserts he used the swastika, just like we use square brackets  to indicate his additions.
A commentary text on Uttaratantra claimed as Longchenpa’s writings and included within his collected works turned out to be false. Hence, it was taken out in their edition. A text on smoke offering (bsur) which was composed by Longchenpa was discovered and hence, included within the miscellaneous teachings.”
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 25th October 2022. Copyright.
Video of the talk given by Khenpo Phuntsho Gyeltsen can be viewed here:
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