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bCobrgyadkhrichen: bCobrgyadkhrichen Thubbstanlegsbshadrgyamtsho.
Tsongkhapa: Tsongkhapa Blobzanggragspa.
BGB: Nyangral Nyima ’odzer.
SBLP: ’Brigungrig ’dzinChoskyigragpa.
Thams cad bdud rtsi lnga’i rang bzhin dngos grub chen po nye ba’i snying po’i mchog bdud rtsi mchog gi lung bam po brgyad pa’i mchog
1982 In rNying ma'i rgyud 'bum (mTshams brag edition) (Thimphu, National library, Royal Government of Bhutan), vol. 34 (ngi), pp. 2-98.
Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo
1993 (Beijing, Mi rigs dpe skrun khang), 3293 p.
IOL Tib J 447
Untitled commentary to the Āryatattvasaṃgraha-sādhanopāyika, a sadhana for the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha, the main Yoga tantra.
Karma chags med (abb. SCMB)
1976 Sa chog mdor bsdus bya tshul gsal ba bzhugs so, in Rin-chen gter mdzod chen mo, edited by ’Jam mgon kong sprul Blo gros mtha’ yas (Paro, Ngodrup and Sherab Drimay), vol. 66 (te), pp. 89-95.
Klong chen pa
1999 Dpal gsang ba’i snying po de kho na nyid nges pa’i rgyud kyi ’grel pa phyogs bcu’i mun pa thams cad rnam par sel ba, in rNying ma bka’ ma shin to rgyas pa, edited by Ka..h thog mkhan po ’Jam dbyangs (Chengdu, Kaḥ thog mkhan po ’Jam dbyangs), vol. 68, pp. 5-683.
Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer (abb. BGB)
1976 Bkra shis gter gyi bum pa bzang po’i rten ’brel gyi man ngag bzhugs so, in Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo, edited by ’Jam mgon kong sprul Blo gros mtha’ yas (Paro, Ngodrup and Sherab Drimay), vol. 76 (nu), pp. 37-40.
bCo brgyad khri chen Thub bstan legs bshad rgya mtsho (abb. bCo brgyad khri chen)
1979 Dgon gnas ’debs yul sa dpyad dang sa brtag bzung gtsug lag khang rgyag stang, translated by David Paul Jackson (Gateway to the Temple: Manual of Tibetan Monastic Customs, Art, Building and Celebration) (Kathmandu, Ratna Pustak Bhandar), pp. 29-33.
’Jam mgon kong sprul yon tan rgya mtsho.
1997 Kong sprul yon tan rgya mtsho’i rnam thar (Chengdu, Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang).
’Bri gung rig ’dzin Chos kyi grags pa (abb. SBLP)
1970 Sa bdag lto ’phye chen po brtags pa’i rab tu ’byed pa nyes pa kun sel, in The Design and Creation of Buddhist Icons (Paintings, Statues, Stupas and Mandalas), edited by Khams sprul Don brgyud nyi ma (Tashijong, India, The Sungrab Nyamso Gyunpel Parkang Tibetan Craft Community), pp. 128-136 [abb. SBLP1].
1976 Sa bdag lto ’phye chen po brtags pa’i rab tu ’byed pa nyes pa kun sel, in Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo, edited by ’Jam mgon kong sprul Blo gros mtha’ yas (Paro, Ngodrup and Sherab Drimay), vol. 65 (te), pp. 97-107 [abb. SBLP2].
1999 Sa bdag lto ’phye chen po brtags pa’i rab tu ’byed pa nyes pa kun sel, in The Collected Works (gsuṅ ’bum) of Kun-mkhyen Rig-pa ’dzin-pa Chen-po Chos kyi grags pa (Deradun, Drikung Kagyu Institute) [abb. SBLP3].
Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa
1995 rGyal ba khyab bdag rdo rje ’chang chen po’i lam gyi rim pa gsang ba kun gyi gnad rnam par phye ba (Xining, mTsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang).
Sangs rgyas rgya tsho (abb. VDP)
1972 Vaiḍūrya dkar po: Reproduced from a print from the Lhasa Blocks from the Collection of Burmiok Athing (New Delhi, T. Tsepal Taikhang), 2 vol.
1935 Le mariage chinois du roi tibétain Sroṅ bcan sgam po (extrait du Mani bka’ ’bum), in Mélanges chinois et bouddhiques (Bruxelles/Louvain, Imprimerie Orientaliste Marcel Istas), III, pp. 1-60.
Boord, Martin J.
1993 The Cult of the Deity Vajrakīla according to the texts of the northern treasures tradition of Tibet (Byang-gter phur-ba) (Tring, U.K., Institute of Buddhist Studies).
1994 The Halase-Maratika Caves (eastern Nepal). A sacred place claimed by both Hindus and Buddhists (Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry) [Pondy Papers in Social Sciences, 16].
1997 The Great Pilgrimage of A myes rma chen. Written tradition, living realities, in A. MacDonald (éd.), Maṇḍala and Landscape (New Delhi, D.K. Printworld), pp. 75-132.
1998 Reflections on pilgrimages to sacred mountains, lakes and caves, in A. McKay (éd.), Pilgrimage in Tibet (Richmond, Surrey, Curzon), pp. 18-34.
1999 The Blue Lake of A-mdo and its island: Legends and pilgrimage guide, in T. Huber (éd.), Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Cultures (Dharamsala, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives), pp. 105-124.
Cantwell, Catherine Mary
1989 An ethnographic account of the religious practice in a Tibetan Buddhist refugee monastery in Northern India. Ph.D. Dissertation (University of Kent).
1998 Nāga, Yakṣinī, Buddha. Local deities and local Buddhism at Ajanta, History of Religions, XXXVII, 4, pp. 360-400.
Daniel, E. Valentine
1984 Fluid Signs. Being a person the Tamil way (Berkeley, University of California Press).
1991 Reflections on the Mahesvara subjugation myth. Indic materials, Sa-skya apologetics, and the birth of Heruka, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, XIV, 2, pp. 197-233.
Dudjom rinpoche Jikdrel yeshe dorje
1991 The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Its Fundamentals and History, translated by Gyurme Dorje and M. Kapstein (Boston, Wisdom Publications), I.
Epstein, Lawrence and Wenbin Peng
1994 Ganja and Murdo. The social construction of space at two pilgrimage sites in eastern Tibet, Tibet Journal, XIV, 3, pp. 21-45.
1987 Down with the Demoness. Reflections on a feminine ground in Tibet, Tibet Journal, XII, 4, pp. 38-53.
1987 The Guhyagarbhatantra and its 14th century Tibetan commentary Phyogs bcu mun sel. Ph.D. Dissertation (SOAS, University of London).
2001 Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings: Illuminated Manuscripts from the White Beryl of Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho with the Moonbeams Treatise of Lo-chen Dharma Srī, in association with Sam Fogg (London, John Eskenazi).
Gyurme Dorje, and Matthew Kapstein
1991 The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Its Fundamentals and History (Boston, Wisdom Publications), II.
1990 Where exactly are Cāritra, Devikoṭa and Himavat? A sacred geography controversy and the development of Tantric Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Tibet, Kailash, XVI, 3-4, pp. 121-164.
1994a When what you see is not what you get. Remarks on the traditional Tibetan presentation of sacred geography, in G. Samuel, H. Gregor and E. Stutchbury (éd.), Tantra and Popular Religion in Tibet (New Delhi, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan), pp. 39-53.
1994b Putting the Gnas back into Gnas-Skor. Rethinking Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage practice, Tibet Journal, XIV, 2, pp. 23-60.
1994c Why can’t women climb Pure Crystal Mountain? Remarks on gender, ritual and space in Tibet, in Tibetan Studies. Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes, 1992 (Oslo, Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture), I, pp. 350-372.
1997a Ritual and politics in the eastern Himalaya. The staging of processions at Tsari, in S. G. Karmay and P. Sagant (éd.), Les Habitants du Toit du Monde (Nanterre, Société d’ethnologie), pp. 221-260.
1997b A guide to the La-Phyi Maṇḍala. History, landscape and ritual in south-western Tibet, in A. MacDonald (éd.), Maṇḍala and Landscape (New Delhi, D.K. Printworld), pp. 233-286.
1999 The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain. Popular pilgrimage and visionary landscape in southeast Tibet (New York, Oxford University Press).
Hubert, Henri and Marcel Mauss
1964 Sacrifice. Its nature and functions, translated by W. D. Halls (Chicago, University of Chicago Press)].
1992 Samantabhadra and Rudra. Innate enlightenment and radical evil in Tibetan Rnying-ma-pa Buddhism, in F. Reynolds and D. Tracy (éd.), Discourse and Practice (Albany, State University of New York Press), pp. 51-82.
1998 A pilgrimage of rebirth reborn, in M. Goldstein and M. Kapstein (éd.), Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet. Religious revival and cultural identity (Berkeley, University of California Press), pp. 95-119.
Kohn, Richard J.
1997 A prayer to the God of the Plain, in D. S. Lopez Jr. (éd.), Religions of Tibet in Practice (Princeton, Princeton University Press), pp. 387-394.
1946 The Hindu Temple (Calcutta, The University of Calcutta).
1971 Das Klösterliche Tibet-Institute in Rikon/Zürich, Asiatische Studien, 25, pp. 377-88.
1997 Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil (Oxford, Oneworld).
1990 Hindu-isation, Buddha-isation, then Lama-isation or: what happened at La-phyi?, in T. Skorupski (éd.), Indo-Tibetan Studies. Papers in Honour and Appreciation of Professor David L. Snellgrove’s Contribution to Indo-Tibetan Studies (Tring, U.K., Institute of Buddhist Studies), pp. 199-208.
1991 Observations on the Tibetan Phur-pa and the Indian Kīla, in T. Skorupski (éd.), The Buddhist Forum (London, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), II, pp. 163-192.
1996 A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection. The Phur-pa bcu-gnyis (Oxford, Kiscadale Publications).
1998 The figure of Mahesvara/Rudra in the rNying-ma-pa Tantric tradition, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, XXI, 2, pp. 271-310.
Meyer, Fernand et Corneille Jest
1987 Milieux, matériaux et techniques, in G. Béguin and P. Mortari Vergara (éd.), Demeures des Hommes, Sanctuaires des Dieux (Rome, Université de Rome), pp. 146-167.
Miller, Robert James
1998 The Supine Demoness (Srin mo) and the consolidation of Empire, Tibet Journal, XXIII, 3, pp. 3-22.
mKhas grub rje dGe legs dpal bzang po
1968 Mkhas grub rje’s Fundamentals of the Buddhist Tantras. Rgyud sde sphyi’i rnam par gzhag pa rgyas par brjod, translated by Ferdinand Lessing and Alex Wayman (The Hague, Mouton).
Nebesky-Wojkowitz, René de
 1993 Oracles and Demons. The cult and iconography of the Tibetan protective deities (Kathmandu, Book Faith India).
Parfionovich, Yuri, Fernand Meyer and Gyurme Dorje (éd.)
1992 Tibetan Medical Paintings; Illustrations to the Blue Beryl Treatise of Sangye Gyamtso (1653-1705) (New York, Harry Adams).
1996 Patterns of Places, in A.-M. Blondeau and E. Steinkellner (éd.), Reflections of the Mountain: Essays on the History and Social Meaning of the Mountain Cult in Tibet and the Himalaya (Vienna, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften), pp. 141-153.
1999 Taming the earth, controlling the cosmos. Transformation of space in Tibetan Buddhist and Bon-po ritual dance, in T. Huber (éd.), Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture (Dharamsala, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives), pp. 198-224.
van Spengen, Wim
1998 On the geographical and material contextuality of Tibetan pilgrimage, in A. McKay (éd.), Pilgrimage in Tibet (Richmond, Surrey, Curzon), pp. 35-51.
1976 Some observations on the marriage of the Tibetan king Srong-btsan sgam-po to the Chinese princess Wen Cheng, The Tibet Society Bulletin, 10, pp. 29-47.
Stein, Rolf A.
1972 Tibetan Civilization, translated by J. E. Stapleton Driver (Stanford, Stanford University Press).
1995 La soumission de Rudra et autres contes tantriques, Journal Asiatique, CCLXXXIII, 1, pp. 121-160.
1998 The opening of the sBas Yul ‘Bras mo’i gshongs according to the Chronicals of the Rulers of Sikkim. Pilgrimage as a metaphorical model of the submission of foreign populations, in A. McKay (éd.), Pilgrimage in Tibet (Richmond, Surrey, Curzon), pp. 117-142.
1994 The Buddhist Monastic Code, Volume One. The Patimokkha training rules translated and explained (Valley Center, CA, Metta Forest Monastery).
Van Dyke, Mary
1997 Grids and Serpents. A Tibetan foundation ritual in Switzerland, in F. J. Korom (éd.), Constructing Tibetan Culture. Contemporary Perspectives (Quebec, World Heritage Press), pp. 178-227.
2002 King Srong btsan sgam po according to the Dba’ bzhed. Remarks on the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet and on the greatest of the Tibetan royal ancestors, in K. Buffetrille and H. Diemberger (éd.), Territory and Identity in Tibet and the Himalayas (Leiden, Brill), pp. 17-33.
1985 Rituals of Bhutanese house construction, in B. Nimri Aziz and M. Kapstein (éd.), Soundings in Tibetan Civilization (New Delhi, Manohar), pp. 107-114.
Sa chog mdor bsdus bya tshul gsal ba (“An elucidation of the means for practicing an abridged sa chog,” henceforth SCMB), in volume 65 (te) of lDil mgo mkhyen brtse’s edition of the Rin chen gter mdzod, p. 90). Another author lists places that do not require a sa chog: “The places that do not need a sa chog [include] a sage’s abode, a cattle pen, a cave, the peak of a mountain, wherever the ground is solid, an empty house, a stone slab, beside a stūpa, an island in a waterfall, and the ground at the shores of lakes. One need not exert oneself in purifying and analyzing the place—high or low and so forth, there are few concerns” (VDP, p. 394.4-5).
lTo ’phye, or “serpent” (literally “breast-goer”) is the general term used in the sa chog manuals consulted for this paper.The texts occasionally use the term klu, an indigenous Tibetan term used to translated the Sanskrit nāga (often rendered as “dragon”), but not in reference to the serpent deity that is the focus of the ritual. That there is a conflationin the texts of the two terms, lto ’phye and klu, is made evident by the location of the eight nāgarāja of Indian mythology at specific places onto the serpent’s body, and the further identification of the serpent with Ananta, one of the nāgarāja (see below). For an informative discussion of its worship in an Indian context, see Cohen (1998).
Van Dyke’s description is of a sa chog performance that took place on July 28th, 1967, the 22nd day of 6th lunar month, in Rikon, Switzerland. Her narrative is based on two films made by a crew from Göttingen, Germany, the commentary to those films, and published accounts by and personal communications with one of the sponsors of the Tibetan community there. In addition she relied on scholarship on the sa chog and relating topics, including Meyer and Jest, Lindegger, bCo brgyad khri chen in translation, and Wangmo. She also references Ph.D. dissertations by Cantwell and Boord (which has since been published as Boord 1993). I did not consult the films nor their commentary.
Van Dyke explains that the films were made at the Tibetans’ behest, and that the ritual was somewhat organized around the filming. Originally the Tibetans intended to perform a rehearsal the 28th, and the real ritual was to take place on the 29th. Instead they decided to perform the sa chog on the 28th, and film the actual ritual. Van Dyke was given no explanation for the change, and remarks that the 29th was “presumably chosen for astrological auspiciousness.” In addition to the exigencies of the film, certain elements of the ritual were altered in order to honor local dignitaries invited to the site.
Sa chog mdor bsdus bya tshul gsal ba (“An elucidation of the means for practicing an abridged sa chog,” henceforth SCMB). Karma chags med, who was also a master in the rNying ma lineage, is said to have been the reincarnation of both Padmasambhava’s disciple Cog ro Klu’i rgyal mtshan, one of Padmasambhava’s twenty-five disciples and an important early translator, as well as a reincarnation of the Eighth Karmapa, Mi bskyod rdo. The Rin chen gter mdzod (“Precious Treasury of Revealed Teachings”) is a collection of revealed teachings (gter ma) compiled by the the bKa’ brgyud lama ’Jam mgon kong sprul Yon tan rgya mtsho (1813-1899).
Sa bdag lto ’phye chen po brtags pa’i rab tu ’byed pa nyes pa kun sel (“A full investigation into the great serpent earth lord [or]A complete clarification of error,” henceforth SBLP).I was able to locate three editions of this text. The first is found in The Design and Creation of Buddhist Icons (Paintings, Statues, Stupas and Mandalas), compiled in 1970 by the members of the Sungrab Nyamso Gyunpel Parkang Tibetan Craft Community in Tashijong, India. The second is in volume 65 (te) of lDil mgo mKhyen brtse’s edition of the Rin chen gter mdzod. The third is found in the 1999 edition of Chos kyi grags pa’s collected works. This third edition is the clearest by far, though here as well there are what appear to be scribal errors. The three will be referenced in that order as SBLP1, SBLP2 and SBLP3, with the page numbers from the differing editions separated with semicolons. Chos kyi grags pa, the twenty first throne holder (gdan rabs) of ’Bri gung, was a disciple of the great treasure revealer Rig ’dzin ’Ja’ tshon snying po and was renowned in his day for his exposition of the ’Bri gung bka’ brgyud doctrine (Dudjom… 1991, p. 812; Dorje and Kapstein 1991, p. 402).
Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho composed three works on astrology and divination: the Vaiḍūryadkar po (“The white beryl”) in which the sa chog ritual is found, the Vaiḍūryag.ya’ sel (“The rust-removing beryl”) and the Snyan sgron nyi brgya brgyad (“The two hundred and eight lamps of praise”). The Vaiḍūryadkar po (henceforth VDP) consists of thirty-five chapters in two volumes. The instructions for the sa chog appear in chapter 32, which is titled by the editor “Astrology applied to the selection of building sites and construction.” The editor has further broken the chapter into twenty-nine subjects, divisions which are not indicated in the text itself. This chapter is unfortunately not illustrated in the eighteenth-century manuscript published in Gyurme Dorje (2001).
Dgon gnas ’debs yul sa dpyad dang sa brtag bzung gtsug lag khang rgyag stang (“Geomancy and soil investigation for determining and taking possession of the site of a monastery; the procedure for constructing a temple.” Henceforth bCobrgyadkhrichen 1979). This is a chapter in his Bstan pa’i rtsa ba chos sgor zhugs stang dang bstan pa’i bsti gnas gtsug lag khang bzhengs thabs bstan pa’i bya ba las kyi ’khor lo bcas bstan pa ’dzin dang dad la mkho ba’i deb, translated by David Paul Jackson as Gateway to the Temple: Manual of Tibetan Monastic Customs, Art, Building and Celebration. bCo brgyad khri chen’s Tibetan text runs alongside Jackson’s translation. Translations given here are my own. According to the publishing information, the text was first published without translation in 1971. However, the author states he began his project in 1962. It is therefore possible that the lamas at Rikon had access to it. bCo brgyad khri chen is the Eighteenth bCo brgyad khri chen of dPal Na len dra monastery in ’Phen-po, Tibet, the founder of the bKra shis rab brtan gling monastery in Lumbini, Nepal, and is the head of the Tshar pa Sa skya pa order. The title bCo brgyad appears to have derived from a bequest of eighteen gifts bestowed upon a Sa skya hierarch, mKhyen rab chos rje, the eighth abbot of dPal Na len dra by an emperor of China.
Dunhuang text IOL Tib J 447. This is a tenth-century commentary on a sādhana to the main tantra Yoga class, the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha. The passage approximates the sixth step of the sa chog as I envision it below, the point in which the soil is tested for drainage and other signs of auspiciousness. I am grateful to Jacob Dalton for this reference.
Bkra shis gter gyi bum pa bzang po’i rten ’brel gyi man ngag (“Pith instructions for the ceremony of the good auspicious treasure vase”), in volume 76 (nu) of lDil mgo mKhyen brtse’s edition of the Rin chen gter mdzod. According to the colophon that falls half way through the text, the work is found in the author’s rediscovered treasure called rTa mgrin gnyen po lha gsum gyi man ngag las tshogs. This is perhaps the rTa mgrin chig dril gter gzhung, which can be found in volume 40 (gu) of the Rin chen gter mdzod. The text is a brief affair of only four folio sides, including the title page. Nyang ral's own gter ma is only a page and a half; the remainder of the text is comprised by further instructions given by an unnamed editor.
The gSang ba’i snying po’i ’grel pa phyogs bcu mun sel, as translated and annotated in Gyurme Dorje (1987).
Tsongkhapa (1995) quotes extensively from Vibhūti’s dKyil chog, which Lessing and Wayman (see mKhas grubrje… 1968, p. 280 note 14) tentatively identify as Vibhūticandra’s Piṇḍīkṛtasādhanapañjikā, text 1832 in the Tohoku catalogue of the Tibetan canon (henceforth Toh). A twelfth-century Vibhūticandra is credited with composing several commentaries on the Kālacakra tantra.
rGyud sde spyi’i rnam par bzhag pa rgyas par brjod, Toh 5489. Tibetan text and translation are in mKhasgrubrje… (1968).
In the Peking edition of the Tibetan bKa’ ’gyur it is text number431; in the sDe dge edition it is number 807; in the Chinese Buddhist canon (the Taishō) it is number 893.
Possibly the dKyil ’khor thams cad kyi spyi’i cho ga gsang ba’i rgyud (Skt: Sarvamaṇḍala sāmānyavidhīnām), Peking 429, sDe dge 806, Taishō 897.
rDo rje las rim, ascribed to Buddhaguhya, Peking 4720 and 4761.
Gyurme Dorje did not locate this title. It is possible that this is the Thams cad bdud rtsi lnga’i rang bzhin/ dngos grub chen po nye ba’i snying po’i mchog/ bdud rtsi mchog gi lung/ bam po brgyad pa’i mchog, pp. 2-98 in volume 34 (ngi), the ’Tshams brag edition of the Rnying ma’i rgyud ’bum.. I am grateful to Stéphane Arguillère for this reference.
This is one of the four root tantras of the Mahāyoga class of tantra. In the Kaneko catalogue of the rNying ma’i rgyud ’bum it is text number 163; 190 in the gTing skyes, and 369 in the mTshams brag editions. In the bsTan ’gyur: Peking 453; sDe dge 830.
The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center on-line catalogue (tbrc.org) lists three possibilities for this tantra, all belonging to the Yogatantra class: The Kye’i rdo rje mkha’ ’gro ma dra ba’i sdom pa’i rgyud kyi rgyal po (Skt: Hevajra-tantrarāja-nāma), Toh 417-18, translated by ’Brog mi lo tsa ba Sākya Ye shes (992/993-1043/1072), the founder of the Sa skya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and his teacher Gayādhara; the rDo rje mkha’ ’gro gsang ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po (Skt: Vajraḍākaguhya-tantrarāja), Toh 389, also translated by ’Brog mi lo tsa ba and Gayādhara; and the rDo rje mkha’ ’gro’i rgyud phyi ma (Skt: Vajraḍāka-nama-uttaratantra), Toh 371, translated by Sākya brtson ’grus and mChog gi dbang phyug (both 11th century).
Tsongkhapa (1995, p. 181) also states that “the maṇḍala rites [Skt: maṇḍalopāyikā] of Abhya, Prajñārakṣita, Ratnarakṣita, Nyin mo gnas ’byung, De bzhin gshegs pa’i rdo rje and so forth teach the need for investigating the serpent.”
Evidence that the Cakrasa ṃvara and Kālacakra tantras provided the basis for two separate but complimentary traditions of sa chog manuals can be found in ’Jam mgon kong sprul Yon tan rgya mtsho’s autobiography. In relating the events around the consecration of the site for Tsā ’dra rin chen brag, his retreat hermitage above dPal spung monastery in sDe dge, Kong sprul writes: “The vajra master Nges don did a sa chog according to Cakrasa ṃvara and I did a sa chog according to the Kālacakra” (’Jam mgon kong sprul Yon tan rgya mtsho 1997, p. 205).
Indian origins for the sa chog extend well beyond Buddhist tantric literature. Ling (1997, p. 19) gives examples from the Pāli canon in which similar rites for pacifying earth spirits prior to construction are condemned as low arts. As far as non-Buddhist sourcesare concerned, the field is vast. Indra subdued a cosmic serpent, Vṛta, to create the universe (Boord 1993, p. 39). A closer relative might be the Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala, a rite performed before the construction of Indian religious buildings. Here the figure mapped onto the ground is Puruṣa, the “cosmic man”. See Kramrisch (1946) and Daniel (1984) for a discussion of the rite. The full history of the relationship between Indian and Tibetan mythology in regards to such figures as the nāga and the Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala is still poorly understood.. Tibetan geomancy has roots in China as well, a fact acknowledged by Karma Chags med (SCMB, p. 95.1). Legend speaks of the Tang Princess Wencheng performing geomantic rites to enable the construction of the Lhasa Jo khang, an event discussed by Bacot in his 1935 “Le mariage chinois du roi tibétain Sroṅ bcan sgam po”. On Wencheng Gongzhu’s geomancy see also Gyatso (1987), Sperling (1976), Miller (1998) and Wangdu (2002). Chinese astrology is one of the two main branches of the Tibetan tradition (the other being Indian, and the two being known as “black” and “white”, respectively).
Van Dyke (1997, p. 185) tells us that the abbot ofRikon, Geshe Urgyen Tsheten, consulted with specialists in Dharamsala and had brought with him “photocopies of prayers and commentaries of the necessary foundation rituals to Switzerland.” Not being present at the ritual she did not see what these “prayers and commentaries” were, and her sources do not tell. She does mention (p. 191) that the image of the serpent drawn at Rikon derived from the image in the Vaiḍūryadkar po “which the abbot had described to a Tibetan painter in India. The painter interpreted the description” and his drawing became the pattern for the figure at Rikon.
Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho himself likely drew from Tsong kha pa’s text, as there are numerous similarities between his instructions and those of Tsong kha pa and Vibhūti, notably in the warnings, where the wording of the consequences for digging in the wrong places is nearly identical.
At Rikon this step was performed a year in advance: the late junior tutor to the Dalai Lama, Yongs ’dzin Khri byang rin po che (1901-1981), traveled to Rikon in 1966 to supplicate the earth goddess with prayers and offerings and dispel negative forces from the site, though Van Dyke does not speculate on what form those prayers took (Van Dyke 1997, p. 185).
Padmasambhava’s incarnation during the third lunar month.
Unclear: phyag g.yas sa la brdab pa yis/ sa gas rnam pa drug tu g.yos.Unclear: phyag g.yas sa la brdab pa yis/ sa gas rnam pa drug tu g.yos.
Klong chen pa and mKhas grub rje both include this step in the preliminaries to laying a maṇḍala. According to Klong chen pa, after concealing treasure and consecrating the ground: “The ritual of the goddess of the earth should be performed: the yogin must indeed conquer negativity in the manner of the Buddha who previously requested the site at Vajrāsana and conquered Māra at the time of attaining buddhahood. The golden goddess (of the earth) is visually created, holding a vase and riding on a pig. Once she has been invited, offerings and eulogies are made to her, along with the words: ‘Permit me, such and such a person of indestructible reality, to build a maṇḍala in the vicinity of this site!’ ”(Gyurme Dorje 1987, p. 757).
mKhas grub rje writes: “Without exception, it is mandatory in the ritual of all maṇḍala to have conviction that permission has been granted. Moreover, in the Saṃvara, Kālacakra, etc., one asks the Earth Goddess for permission. In particular, in the Saṃvara one says, ‘O Sugata, [I] beg the site’, which amounts to asking permission of a supra-mundane being; and in the Kālacakra there is something consistent with that.” (mKhasgrubrje… 1968, p. 279).
This is likely a reference to the tortoise divination, one of the earliest and most common forms of divination practiced in Tibet. See Gyurme Dorje (2001, chapter 2), and also Parfionovitchetal. (1992) for its medical applications.
The text lists, among others, gu gul which Parfionovitchetal. (1992, pp. 332, 334) say is Frankincense (Balsamodendron mukul) and ri sho, which they say is mountain sorrel (Ligularia laesicotal).
Van Dyke tells us that at Rikon the site for the grid was prepared in a manner inconsistent with the “canonical texts.” First, the grid, “according to previous traditional theory, if not practice”, should have been laid out where the main shrine would later stand. Rather than orienting the sides of the grid, and the plan of the temple, with the cardinal directions, they were suited to the lay of the land, which at Rikon was a southward sloping hill. The site of the grid was dug out, leveled, and a layer of plaster dust was applied. The lines of the grid were then laid out with string dipped in colored powder, beginning on the eastern side. Each edge was divided into ten hand-lengths, and each of those further into nine thumb-widths, creating a grid with a total of 360 small squares around the perimeter (Van Dyke 1997, pp. 188-191). She considers the significance of the number of squares of the grid and the differences between grids laid for houses, temples, maṇḍalas and so forth. For the most part these variations appear to have arisen through error on the part of monks, not from divergent tradition; the four manuals are clear on the number of squares.
Kramrisch (1946, pp. 89-92) offers numerous names of deities in the corners of the Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala grid, none of which precisely matches these four terms. Agni, the Vedic fire god, is prominent in several of them.
Mtho and cha chen appear to be synonyms; the VDP uses cha chen and mtho interchangeably, and Van Dyke’s sources affirm this. However Chos kyi grags pa has doubts as to whether the “mtho” used in his scriptural sources for the measurement of the serpent’s body is the same thing as a cha chen: gzhung du klu yi rgyal mo yi/ lus tshad mtho bcu gsungs pa’i don/ cha chen grangs yin mtho dngos min (SBLP1, p. 129; SBLP2, p. 99.1-2; SBLP3, p. 476.2).
At no point in either Van Dyke’s narrative nor our manuals is the southeast corner clearly identified as the corner of “fire.” However bCo brgyad khri chen instructs: “In the last winter month, the [zodiac] house of Virgo, begin with “fire,” circle to the right and mark one cha chung for each zodiac day.” Jackson interjects that “fire” is the southeast corner. This is not in bCo brgyad khri chen’s Tibetan, but because the translator tells us he worked closely with the author, the insertion probably represents oral instructions (bCobrgyadkhrichen 1979, p. 32). Tsongkhapa (1995, p. 183) supports this as well: “Lay the squares for the three months in sequence, starting in the southeast…”
Chos kyi grags pa explains the variations as being due to the fact that geomancy came to Tibet from numerous sources such as the Indian Kālacakra system and the “old and new Chinese” systems, and further due to the differences in the old and new translations of the secret mantra.
Klong chen pa’s orientation agrees with that of Chos kyi grags pa and Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (Gyurme Dorje 1987, p. 759), as does Tsongkhapa (1995, p. 184), and mKhasgrubrje… (1968, pp. 280-281).
Van Dyke hypothesizes that this apparent laxity of the Rikon lamas may have been because of the nature of the building, citing Kramrisch’s claim that the Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala does not rotate with the seasons if the building is a temple (Van Dyke 1997, p. 194). The ritual manuals, however, make no such exception, and must be favored over Indian comparatives. Either the lamas were poorly informed, or the dangers spelled out in the texts are not taken so literally, and the lamas felt it safe to cut corners, so to speak.
Wangmo (1985, pp. 109-110) writes that in the construction of Bhutanese houses the figure is not actually drawn; instead the astrologer need only count the squares of the grid to calculate where the first digging is done.
According to Nebesky-Wojkowitzthese deities are associated with the eight great cemeteries of Indian cosmology and are found in the retinue of Mahākāla. These same eight deities, which he also calls “companions of Varuṇa”, are also common participants in rain making rituals, during which they receive offerings (Nebesky-Wojkowitz  1993 pp. 265, 477-478).
As is Tsong kha pa’s description (mKhasgrubrje… 1968, p 281; Tsongkhapa 1995, p. 183).As is Tsong kha pa’s description (mKhasgrubrje… 1968, p 281; Tsongkhapa 1995, p. 183).
According to the Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo (1993, p. 467) this is a wrathful deity.
The artist helps us here by drawing a dashed line running from the serpent’s eyes to the spot.
This is a difficult term to translate. The Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo (1993, p. 2903) definition suggests it is a vital spot identified by a geomancer, a geomantically desired spot.
bCobrgyadkhrichen (1979, p. 32). The illustration in his manual (fig. 1) confirms this: while the figure is drawn in reverse (the right hand is to his ear, the left is at his waist holding the jewel, and facing to the right) the vital spot is marked in the correct location under the left armpit.
The illustration (fig. 3) in Meyer and Jest (1987, p. 138) is similar to that in bCo brgyad khri chen: it is the serpent’s right hand that is raised, though not to his ear, and the vital place is marked under that arm.
The measurements at Rikon seem to have followed Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (fig. 2) and bCo brgyad khri chen (Van Dyke 1997, p. 195). Tsong kha pa, quoting Vibhūti, gives slightly different measurements (Tsongkhapa 1995 p. 184; mKhasgrubrje… 1968 p. 280-81).
Tsongkhapa (1995, p. 184) likewise simply says to offer milk and so forth.
Chos kyi grags pa’s SBLP, however, contains a somewhat different approach. Rather than inviting the buddhas and bodhisattvas to the site as was done at Rikon, the ritualist is instructed to invoke the serpent deities themselves, in a move that seems to relate more to Karma chags med’s invocation to the earth goddess in Step one. Following an invocation to the serpent and the Eight Great Nāgarāja (see above) in which they are described in detail, the text reads:
By means of a light from a seed center in one’s own heart, the great serpent together with the eight nāga appear in a state of contemplation. Invite [them] at once, [reciting]: dza hūṃ baṃ ho and relax into non-duality. With hands together, express the mudrā of the five pointed vajra and recite three times: bhūmipati nāgarāja saparivārasamaya rakṣaṇtu hūṃ ho hūṃ [thereby] bind-ing them under oath. [Recite also:] oṃ mahābhūmipati nāgarāja saparivāra arghaṃ pratīccha svāhā and so forth, venerating up through to the word śabda. Having made the blessing of sprinkling the milk onto the gtor ma and the six syllable mantra and six mudrā, make the mudrā of the open-palmed vajra and recite twenty one times: oṃbhūmipati nāgarāja saparivāra īmaṃ baliṃ ghṛihaṇa khakha khāhikhāhibhujatha pibatha viśvasugāmaguṇa pūja pratīccha svāhā.Holding gtor ma in offering, recite from the Yid la ’dod pa kun ’grub mdzod [Treasury of all accomplished desires, text unidentified] holding a vajra and bell: “Emaho! Jewelled lord who wears an ocean robe, earth lord who protects all as he likes, with a gait of a serpent, holder of many variegated precious ornaments, supporting with your body the Eight Great Nāgarāja, your torso [is that of] the earth rāhu, with the powerful divine poison, a quivering cloud-like hood; your lower body with the powerful attribute of bum na can [?] I pay homage to you. Because the foundation of all the riches of sentient beings depend on you, I, the master offer this earth-accomplishment celebration in order to benefit beings.” Praying like this, think that the king of the earth lords grants his permission [saying]: “May you, vidyādhara, make use of this place of attainment in whichever way you like” (SBLP1, pp. 133-134; SBLP2, pp. 103.4-105.1; SBLP3, pp. 481.5-483.1).
Regarding the bum na can, in Klongchen pa’s description of the earth goddess she carries a vase and rides a pig (Gyurme Dorje 1987, p. 758). Could there have been a confusion in the textual transmission, such that Choskyi grags pa could confuse the serpent with the earth goddess and describe the serpent as having the attributes of a vase (bum) and the lower body of a pig (sna can)?
Van Dyke writes that because the monks wished to preserve the image of the serpent for dignitaries who would visit the next day, the monks who performed this step only superficially disturbed the figure, only taking a few handfuls of soil. One monk grasped the plaster dust from the vital place and another “scattered the gathered earth, circumambulating around the square platform and the whole boundary of the future building, thereby defining the extent of the realm that the sa bdag was asked to relinquish. Both monks visualized themselves as generous and gentle deities while they entreated the sa bdag to leave.” They repeated this four times, scattering the earth in the six directions. Perhaps it was due to the demands placed upon them by the desire to preserve the figure that the monks at Rikon behaved so peacefully. Van Dyke’s informants themselves indicate an alternate reading of the event, telling her that “the earth can be ‘stabbed’ or grasped three or four times” (Van Dyke 1997, pp. 99-100).
Karma chags med follows this with “the method for purifying the soil”. The purification involves visualizing the five buddhas on their thrones and flanked by bodhisattvas of the ghaṇṭa family (SCMB, p. 92.3-6). They emit light rays that purify the site, and homage is sung to them and all buddhas of the ten directions, etc. (ibid., p. 90.4-5). The deities then dissolve into the ritualist, and thus “in that way the ground has been consecrated” (ibid., pp. 92.2-94.1).
Tsong kha pa and Vibhūti both instruct the one who digs to visualize the Destroyer of Obstructers, though like Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho neither is explicit as to whether the digger is to visualize himself as this deity (Tsongkhapa 1995 pp. 184-185). A noteworthy difference between Tsong kha pa and Vibhūti’s presentationsof the sa chog is that much of it is mentally created. Tsong kha pa here instructs: “Imagining (bsams) the serpent as [previously described], make offerings of milk and so forth. The one who digs should generate [a vision of] the Destroyer of Obstructers. Imagining a pickax marked with vajra, one’s right hand above, left below, strike. One should face northeast. Having taken the soil of the fourth strike (brgyab), with a peaceful mind fill a gtor ma with it or throw it beyond the squares of fire etc. With the soil of the fifth strike, after scattering it in the center all the workers are permitted to dig in all cardinal and intermediate directions.” Vibhūti, however, only instructs that the soil should be “mentally scattered”: “The person [digging] should cultivate [a visualization of] the Destroyer of Obstructers; the hero takes a pickax with the mark of a vajra in hand, his left hand below. With that the host of demons are fearful and are driven back. Facing northeast, the soil taken by the fourth strike should be placed inside a gtor ma with a peaceful mind or cast beyond the edges of fire and so forth. The hero skillfully mentally scatters the soil of the fifth strike into the center of the foundation. At the fifth strike, the many workers should dig the cardinal and the intermediate directions and so forth.”
mKhas grub rje gives instructions for digging: In order to “line” the “armpit” (kakṣa) of the “breast goer” (uraga) at the place where one commences to dig, one strikes a line (*sūtra-nyāsa) to determine the breast goer. When one has lined its armpit, he thereupon digs out first two or three shovelfuls, after which he may proceed with digging wherever he wishes without risking offence to the field protector (mKhasgrubrje… 1968, pp. 279-281).
This step apparently was not included in the film of the Rikon sa chog performance. Van Dyke (1997, pp. 199-200) bases her description of the soil testing on the translation of bCobrgyadkhrichen (1979) and Meyer and Jest (1987).
Chos kyi grags pa does not mention this aspect of the soil test. Instead he proceeds to the warnings regarding digging in the wrong place (to be discussed below). Karma chagsmed mentions a hole, but its origin is left unexplained (SCMB, pp. 94.1-95.1).
Khung bur myur du slar blug pas/ sa de lhag par gyur na bzang/ ma khengs gyur na dman pa’o (VDP, p. 394.2). The Dunhuang manuscript IOL Tib J 447 contains a passage very similar to the above, at a point in which the text explains how to locate a suitable place to practice the sādhana for the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha: “As for finding places that are indicated in the Kriyā scriptures, wherever one digs a hole in the ground, having refilled it with earth, if it is full or there is extra, then it is an indicated site. If it is not full, it is not indicated. If jewels, flowers, or chunks of flesh [?] come out of the earth, it is the indicated site. If charcoal or bones appear, it is not indicated.” Kri ya’i gzhung gi brtags pa’i gnas btsal ba ni sa gru gang brkos na/ sa phyir gang nas/ gang ’am lhag na/ sa brtags pa yin/ ma gang ma brtags/ sa’i nang nas rin po che dum bu dang me tog dang sha dum byung na brtags/ sol ba dang rus pa byung na ma brtags (p. 7.8-10).
The refilling the hole with soil as well as testing the soil’s water-bearing capacity by pouring water into the hole is also found in the Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala rite. In the Vāstupuruṣa pūjā as described by Daniel the replacement of the soil and the pouring in of water are combined. Here the soil is put back so as to form a mound in the center, and water is poured in such a way to create a clockwise current around it. This island represents the Vāstupuruṣa. A flower is then dropped in by the ācāri, and must circumambulate the island three times. Based on the site where it lands forecasts are made regarding the potential for benefit or harm (Daniel 1984, p. 118).
Vibhūti, as quoted in Tsongkhapa (1995, p. 185), includes a reference to the serpent’s fear at the very point when the first digging is done: the master, by having visualized [himself as] the Destroyer of Obstructers, and holding the pickax as described elsewhere, inspires fear in the “demon”, who is then driven back (mi ni bgegs mthar byed kyi rnam par bsgom/ dpa’ bo’i lag pa tog tse rdo rjes mtshan/ lag pa g.yon pa ’og tu byas nas gzung/ de yis bdud kyi tshogs ni skrag cing zlog). However, Tsongkhapa, in his own words (1995, p. 184), does not mention the serpent being afraid. Meyer and Jest (1987, p. 154) write that if the water drains quickly it is a sign that the serpent is starving.
gNas der bgegs bsal srung ’khor sgom/ bkod bas sa bzung phur gdab sogs (bCo brgyadkhrichen 1979, p. 33).
(SBLP1, p. 134; SBLP2, p. 105.4-5; SBLP3, p. 483.5-6). The inclusion of the colors here is only slightly clarified by Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho, who writes: “To a small amount of the soil which was dug one should take hold of the good elements of dark oil and the five precious colors: white [for] kṣatriya, yellow vaiśya, red śudra, blue brahmin and black outcaste, each glossy and attractive, as attainment attributes (de yang khru gang tsam brkos la/ snum nag rin chen kha dog lnga/ byung bzang dkar po rgyal rigs dang/ rje rigs ser po dmangs dmar po bram ze sngon po gdol pa nag snum dang yid ’ong so so yi/ dngos grub mtshan mar bzung bar bya) (VDP, p. 394.1-2).
Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho does give instructions for a treasure-vase offering immediately preceding the sa chog instructions: “Moreover, for the system of taking land, [use] for a small ransom a small sanctified vase. Draw an eight-spoked wheel, and eight-petaled lotus, and a sun and moon on paper. Fill the inside of an egg with varieties of medicine and grains and the five varieties of jewels. On the outside draw the figure of a bird. Cover it with a white cloth and in the center consecrate it with treasure. Bury this in the four directions, and outside of that [images of] the twelve earth lords, all the same color. At that time, in that area, bury one with a tip, and recite the following evil promise, drinking poison with one’s lips: ‘Ho! By placing this precious small ransom into the earth, earth lord, may you be a benefactor possessed of treasure for this precious soil. If all die, you too shall die. If [all] are destroyed, you too shall be destroyed’” (VDP, p. 390.4-6).
Such a vase rite can be found in volume 76 of the Rin chen gter mdzod in a section on pacification rites that might be used in concert with, or in place of, a sa chog. For example, the text Kong sprul placed before Nyang ral’s, a text titled Zhi ba zin by Yongs grub rdo rje, is a standard feast offering for a peaceful deity to be performed when constructing a house, taking a wife and the like. It promises that for this pacification ritual no sa chog nor earth-requesting (sa slong) rite need be performed.
A summary of Nyang ral’s text is as follows: first the vase is prepared, decorated with the eight auspicious symbols, an eight-spoked wheel on the cover, with the mantra ōṃ surya candra ye swahi written in the center, with other mantra around its edges. Around the edges, in Sanskrit letters, are written: “Gods and demons of the realm in the southern continent, Jambudvīpa and the eight classes of gods and rakṣaof the realm in the kingdom of mNga’ ris and Tibet in general, and the gods and demons of the realm in this valley in particular, and [those] of whatever place, but especially the gods and demons of the realm in this estate, to you [I] offer this precious treasure. May you bring about the property of both the people and their wealth. Pacify illness and harm. Make the life force flourish, well-being and happiness remain for a long time. Accomplish all wishes like precious jewels.” The vase is then filled with “whatever beings offer,” but should include “grain taken from a house of abundant human wealth,” as well as “gold, silver, copper, conch, crystal, lapis lazuli, iron, and so forth.” Five vases in total are prepared, one to be buried in the center of the site, and one in each of the four cardinal directions. The vases of the five different locations have specific instructions: “Paint a burning jewel directly on the central vase. Paint the four protector gods in the four directions. Then on the eastern [vase] draw a grey tiger with white wash. On the southern draw a dragon with indigo. On the western draw birds with red ochre. On the northern draw a turtle with black ink.” The treasure section of the text then concludes with the promises that “by burying them in this manner, wealth, pleasures and the collection of the three excellences will arise” (BGB, pp. 38.1-39.5).
I do not understand clearly why the ritualist is here instructed to “feign” offering the vase, but it compares well to the performance at Rikon, where the vases were literally only symbolically offered the first day, and actually buried later.
De nes kham lnga’i shul de ru/ bum gter lag len ltar bcos pa/ legs par bcug pa sa yis dgab (SBLP1, p. 135; SBLP2, p. 106.1; SBLP3, p. 484.2).
Shul der zug rngu dbyung ba’i ched/ bum gter sba zhing gtor ma dbul (VDP, p. 394.3).
Because Swiss engineers and construction crews began work at the site a week prior to the sa chog, the vase ceremony, the compensation for the seizure of the land, was done separately, on June 30th. A lotus was drawn on the base of the pit and flowers were strewn in. The vases had been prepared a week earlier with substances brought from India, and included the five kinds of metals, five grains, cloths, medicinal herbs, soil from holy sites, the three whites and the three sweets (a common tantric offering), and medicines prepared especially for the serpent. They were then wrapped in ribbons and a single shovel of earth was thrown on top, as the actual insertion would take place two days later for the benefit of the visitors (Van Dyke 1997, pp. 202-203).
In place of mi mngon bya the first two editions read mi mngon dbyings (“empty space”).
This line is different in each edition. The SBLP1 reads gang byung ’ol tshod bgyis pa na; the SBLP2 reads gang byung tshe ’ol bgyis pa ni; and the SBLP3 reads gang byung cho rol bgyis pa na. I have tried to render it in what makes the best sense in the context.
Tsong kha pa (1995 p.185), quoting again from Vibhūti, also warns agains digging in the nine places, but is no clearer : gal te lto ’phye’i rgyal po gnas pa yi/ cha dgu’i sa yi cha la brkos na ni…
There are prohibitions against digging in the Pāli Patimokkha, for example, where it is classified as a pacittaya offense, one which must be confessed. This, however, appears to have been because at the time the text was redacted the soil itself was thought to be alive. See Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1994). I am grateful to Patrick Pranke for this reference.
This is the story of the clash between good and evil some time after the beginning of the current world system. After a lengthy reign of terror in which the malignant deities Siva (Bhairava/Rudra) dominated this southern continent of Jambudvīpa, the Buddha takes the form of Heruka ( Cakrasa ṃvara/Vajradhara) to defeat him. The enemy together with his retinue are killed and then resuscitated and bound by oath to the Buddhist community. On this myth see especially Kapstein (1992), Stein (1995), Mayer (1998). On the importance of the myth in Tibetan sacred geography, see MacDonald (1990), Huber (1990 and 1994a), and Buffetrille (1994).
See especially Buffetrille (1997, 1998 and 1999); Epstein and Peng (1994); Huber (1994b, 1994c, 1997a, 1997b and 1999); Kapstein (1998); van Spengen (1998); Steinman (1998).Haut de page