Emptiness Yoga

Emptiness Yoga

by Jeffrey Hopkins, Joe B. Wilson Jr.

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Emptiness Yoga

The Middle Way Consequence School
By Jeffrey Hopkins

Snow Lion Publications

Copyright © 1987 Jeffrey Hopkins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 093793836X

Chapter One

Jang-gya's Biography

We shall be considering a text on schools of tenets written in Tibetan by the great Mongolian scholar and adept Jang-gya Rol-bay-dor-jay, also known as Ye-shay-den-bay-dron-may, 1717-1786. Jang-gya was born on the tenth day of the first month of the Fire Female Bird year in the north-easternmost region of Tibet -- in the western Lotus district of the four districts of Lang-dru in the Am-do? province north of Dzong-ka. His father, Gu-ru-den-dzin, was of nomadic Mongolian stock; he was a village priest and a subject of Chi-gya-bon-bo and thus was known as Chi-gya-tsang-ba, the priest of Chi-gya. His mother was called Bu-gyi. Around the time of his birth, his parents had unusual dreams such as the mother's dreaming that her body had become golden, and many unusual signs occurred.

Since the officials of the Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling Monastery and the Jang-gya estate were uncertain as to where the former Jang-gya, Jang-gya-nga-wang-lo-sang-cho-den, had taken rebirth, they asked for assistance from the aged scholar and adept Jam-yang-shay-ba, who had been tutored by Jang-gya-nga-wang-lo-sang-cho-den. Jam-yang-shay-ba indicated that Jang-gya had taken rebirth near an area that was high in the north, the entrance to which was from the north through a ravine, and other means of divination were in agreement. Jam-yang-shay-ba further told them to take articles belonging to the former Jang-gya, along with others similar to them, to test the candidates and then to advise him on what happened.

When the son of Chi-gya-tsang-ba and Bu-gyi was asked to identify the articles, the boy took the right ones, saying, "This is mine." Jam-yang-shay-ba was informed of what occurred, and after many qualms were pursued in detail and despite the son of a wealthy Mongol prince being put forward as a candidate, in the end the boy, whose name at that time was Drak-ba-so-nam, was recognized as the reincarnation of Jang-gya-nga-wang-lo-sang-cho-den. The biographer, Tu-gen-lo-sang-ch-gyi-nyi-ma, criticizes the politicking and corruption that frequently accompany the identification of reincarnations -- the import being that this reincarnation, in his opinion, was chosen properly.

At age three, on the first day of the fifth month of the Iron Mouse year (1720), the new Jang-gya began the trip to his monastery, Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling, and on the tenth day of the sixth month arrived to be welcomed, by more than three thousand monks, in the midst of offerings, incense, flowers, the sounds of conch, and music. He was adorned with the saffron robes of one who has left the householder life and conducted to the rooms of his previous incarnation. Receiving the vows of a novice monk from Chu-sang Rin-bo-chay, he was given the name Nga-wang-cho-gyi-drak-ba-den-bay-gyel-tsen. Conducted to his residential compound within the monastery complex, the boy assumed the cross-legged posture on the fearless lion-throne.

At age six, Jang-gya received the vows of a full-fledged novice monk from Chu-sang Rin-bo-chay. In the same year, 1723, a prince of Kokonor, Den-dzin-ching-wang revolted against China, whereupon a punitive expedition was sent to Am-do province. A number of monasteries in the area were put to the torch, and the monks of those monasteries were slaughtered, presumably because of their aid to the rebels. Then, in 1724, a Chinese unit approached Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling; a group of panicking monks attempted resistance but were defeated; the monastery was ordered burnt to the ground. As Gene Smith's condensation of the biography says:

The guardians of the young Jang-gya managed to flee with their charge into the wilderness. The Emperor, in the meantime, had ordered that the young incarnation should not be harmed but should be conducted to China via Zi-ling as a "guest". The Chinese coerced the Jang-gya refugees into surrender through threats against the populace of the area. The seven year old Jang-gya was taken to the tent of Yo'u Cang-jun, the joint commander of the expedition, who accused him immediately of treason. The plucky lad stood up with wit against the great commander to the amusement of the assembled officers.

In this way, Jang-gya came at age seven to begin his monastic studies in Beijing. There he was tutored by renowned Tibetan scholars including the second Tu-gen, Nga-wang-cho-gyi-gya-tso (whose reincarnation was to become Jang-gya's biographer) who, by 1729, obtained permission to rebuild the Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling Monastery, the attack on which had impelled Jang-gya's escape and eventual arrival in Beijing.

Though the Emperor Yung-cheng (reigning 1722-1735) was slightly interested in Buddhism, he favored indigenous Chinese Buddhism over the Tibetan variety, and even though the seventeenth son of Emperor K'ang-hsi (the second Manchu Emperor who died in 1722), Keng-ze Chin-wang, also known as Yun-li Prince Kuo (1697-1738), was a great patron of Tibetan Buddhism and a scholar of some ability, he favored the older sects and was openly hostile to Jang-gya's Ge-luk-ba sect. Jang-gya understood that for the Ge-luk-ba sect to thrive in China, the teachings of the founder, Dzong-ka-ba, would have to be translated into Manchu, Chinese, and Mongolian; hence, he began studying these languages. One of his fellow students was the fourth son of the Yung-cheng Emperor, who became a close friend and later became the Emperor Ch'ien-lung. This friendship became the key to Jang-gya's tremendous influence in China, Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet.

Jang-gya studied Chinese Buddhism, coming to the conclusion that the system expounded in Tibet by the Chinese abbot Hwa-shang Mahayana in the famous debate at Sam-yay around 775 no longer existed in China. He found the most widespread view of Chinese Buddhism to be like that of the Mind Only School and to have great similarities with the Tibetan Shi-jay-ba School. Jang-gya identified Pa-dam-ba-sang-gyay, the Indian founder of Shi-jay-ba, as Bodhidharma.

Jang-gya's teachers wanted a Ge-luk-ba appointed as his tutor, but Prince Keng-ze Chin-wang, the seventeenth son of the previous Emperor, wanted a Nying-ma-ba. Eventually, the Ge-luk-ba teachers were able to frustrate the prince's plans, and Lo-sang-den-bay-nyi-ma, Throne-Holder of Gan-den, which is the highest position within the Ge-luk-ba order, was invited to Beijing. The twelfth son (probably of Emperor K'ang-hsi) became a faithful patron of the Ge-luk-ba sect, and relations with Keng-ze Chin-wang deteriorated rapidly. During this period Jang-gya was invested with the same imperial privileges and titles that his previous incarnation had held -- Teacher of the Empire. Thus, by age seventeen he had assumed a considerable role.

In 1734 (or 1735), the Emperor ordered Prince Keng-ze Chin-wang and Jang-gya to accompany the Seventh Dalai Lama, Gel-sang-gya-tso, who had been in exile for seven years at Gar-tar (which is not far from Li-tang in Kam Province) back to Hla-sa. The previous Emperor, K'ang-hsi, had acted as the protector of the Seventh Dalai Lama who was installed in 1720 after a series of events including:

1 the murder of the Regent, with the moral support of the Emperor, in 1706 by Hla-sang Khan -- the Mongol so-called "King of Tibet" -- and a small army

2 recognition of Hla-sang as Governor by the Emperor

3 the capture of the wayward Sixth Dalai Lama and his death (murder?) on the way to China, with the Emperor ordering his body to be dishonored

4 Hla-sang's attempt to install one of his own proteges as the Dalai Lama

5 the murder of Hla-sang by the Mongol Dzungars who had supported the former Regent and wanted to install, as the Seventh Dalai Lama, a child discovered in Li-tang and now living at Gum-bum Monastery in far eastern Tibet under Manchu protection due to the political foresight of the Emperor

6 a failed Chinese attempt with 7,000 soldiers to oust the Dzungars

7 the retreat of the Dzungars due to repeated attacks by a loyalist of Hla-sang, Po-hla-so-nam-dop-gyay, with Tibetan supporters

8 the arrival of a new Chinese army which was welcomed as friend and deliverer from the hated Dzungars who had plundered widely, the Chinese being seen as restoring the proper Dalai Lama who was brought from his supervised stay in Gum-bum Monastery.

In 1721, Emperor K'ang Hsi decreed the status of Tibet as a tributary vassal, but Tibetans have persisted in characterizing the relationship in terms of "patron and priest". In any case, this was a period of the establishment of Chinese influence in Tibet even though, through skillful government, direct Chinese interference was kept to a minimum.

When K'ang Hsi died in 1722, his son and new Emperor, Yung-cheng, withdrew the powerful Chinese presence from Hla-sa, after which internal troubles gradually erupted in civil war but were eventually settled before the Chinese army arrived. In 1728, imperial representatives called "ambans" with a strong presence of Chinese troops were established in Hla-sa (this practice continuing until 1911), and Po-hla-so-nam-dop-gyay organized a government that ruled for twenty years. About Po-hla-so-nam-dop-gyay, Snellgrove and Richardson report in their Cultural History of Tibet:

In his relations with China he shrewdly saw that as long as Tibetan policy did not endanger the wider interests of China in Central Asia, Chinese over-lordship in Tibet could be reduced to a mere formality so far as internal affairs and even Tibetan relations with her Himalayan neighbours were concerned. Thus the substance of Tibetan independence was preserved thanks to Chinese protection but without fear of Chinese interference. His success was complete; he won the full confidence of the Emperor by his competence and reliability, and in Lhasa his dealings with the Ambans, as the Chinese representatives were called, were firm but friendly, so that they remained little more than observers and diplomatic agents of their Emperor.

Po-hla appears to have done with the Chinese what the Fifth Dalai Lama did with the Mongols -- used their power but controlled their influence.

During the civil war of 1727-1728, the Seventh Dalai Lama and his family were suspected of troublemaking by backing the losing side. Thus, the Dalai Lama was banished to Gar-tar in eastern Tibet despite his original Chinese backing, and the Emperor, before Po-hla was in control of the situation, made the Pan-chen Lama sovereign of his region to counterbalance the power of the Dalai Lamas, who, as Snellgrove and Richardson say, "never regarded it as conveying anything more than the subordinate position similar to that of a local hereditary ruler." By 1734, however, with Po-hla in firm control, the Dalai Lama could be brought back to Hla-sa with the Emperor's escort which included Jang-gya. He met the Dalai Lama at Gar-tar on the twenty-third day of the eleventh month, 1734.

During more than a year (which is called "three years" in Tibetan reckoning because it took place during the years of 1734, 1735, and 1736) in Central Tibet, Jang-gya heard many teachings from the Dalai Lama on the stages of the path, tantric systems, and so forth. Though his previous incarnation had entered the Go-mang College of Dre-bung Monastic University, he did not enter into a particular monastic college; instead, he visited several of the monastic colleges in the Hla-sa area, making vast offerings and hearing teachings from many lamas. At the end of 1735, he took full ordination at Dra-shi-hlun-bo from the aged Pan-chen Lama Lo-sang-ye-shay, at which time he received the name Ye-shay-den-bay-dron-may. However, with the news of the sudden death of the Yung-cheng Emperor on October 8, 1735, Jang-gya returned to Hla-sa and then to Beijing in 1736.

In Beijing, his friend, the fourth son of the late Emperor, now reigned as Emperor Ch'ien-lung, the reign lasting from 1735-1796. The Emperor appointed him the lama of the seal. This highest of positions for a Tibetan lama in the Chinese court had been held by Tu-gen, who by now had passed away, and although the rank had passed to Tri-chen Lo-sang-den-bay-nyi-ma, the latter surrendered it to Jang-gya at the Emperor's request.

The Emperor asked that Jang-gya undertake the project of translating the canon of Indian commentaries from Tibetan into Mongolian. The word of the Buddha had already been translated into Mongolian, but the canonical commentaries had not; in preparation for the project, Jang-gya compiled an extensive bilingual glossary for the sake of introducing consistency in translation equivalents, given the wide variations in Mongolian dialects. With imperial patronage, the dictionary project was undertaken by what must have been a great number of scholars since they completed this monumental task in one year beginning at the end of 1741. The task of translating the canonical commentaries was completed in the first month of summer in 1749, having taken roughly seven years.

In 1744, the Emperor and Jang-gya established a teaching monastery in Beijing. The first of its kind in the imperial capital, the monastery had four teaching colleges for philosophy, tantra, medicine, and other studies. The monastery had five hundred monks and was called Gan-den-jin-chak-ling. (Eventually it came to be called the "Lama Temple" in accordance with the Chinese policy to brand Tibetan Buddhism "Lamaism" as if it were not Buddhism.) Jang-gya requested the Seventh Dalai Lama to appoint a high and learned incarnation as abbot of Gan-den-jin-chak-ling; Da-tsak-jay-drung Lo-sang-bel-den was appointed, and Jang-gya continued his studies with him.

During this period, Jang-gya taught the Emperor frequently. In 1745 (or 1746), Jang-gya bestowed the Highest Yoga Tantra initiation of Chakrasamvara on the Emperor, who, at that point, had been learning Tibetan for several years. During the initiation, the Emperor observed the convention of taking a seat lower than the guru, prostrating, kneeling, and so forth at the appropriate times. The biographer, Tu-gen-lo-sang-cho-gyi-nyi-ma, recalls the Sa-gya master Pak-ba's initiation of Kublai Khan into the Hevajra Tantra and speculates that both Kublai Khan and the Ch'ien-lung Emperor were incarnations of Manjushri. Jang-gya's linguistic abilities had advanced to the point where he was able to preach in Chinese, Manchu, and Mongolian; these skills were undoubtedly keys to his influence and effectiveness.

In 1748, the eleven year old reincarnation of the second Tu-gen, Tu-gen-lo-sang-cho-gyi-nyi-ma (who was to become Jang-gya's biographer), invited Jang-gya to visit their monastery, Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling, the burning of which had impelled the subsequent events of his life -- his escape, being brought to China, becoming a friend of the Emperor to be, etc. Asking the Emperor for leave, Jang-gya was told to wait until the next year when he would be authorized by imperial decree to arrange for additional restoration and repairs not only at Gon-lung-jam-ba-ling Monastery but also at Gum-bum and Dzen-bo-gon. This was authorized as promised, and during the visit in 1749, Jang-gya conducted the ceremony of full ordination for the reincarnation of Jam-yang-shay-ba; the latter, it will be remembered, had helped in identifying him as the reincarnation of the previous Jang-gya, Jang-gya named him Gon-chok-jik-may-wang-bo; he also taught him a version of the stages of the path to enlightenment and conferred tantric permissions for meditative cultivation of certain deities. Gon-chok-jik-may-wang-bo was to become Jang-gya's main student.

After only two months at his own monastery, Jang-gya returned to China. The period from 1749-1757 saw a monastery for Manchu monks founded west of the imperial palace, the translation of the liturgy into Manchu, and a school of Tibetan studies established within the beaurocracy. The Emperor wanted to introduce the Highest Yoga Tantra practice of Kalachakra into China and asked Jang-gya to arrange it. Jang-gya requested an expert in the Kalachakra Tantra from the Seventh Dalai Lama. He sent Gel-sang-tsay-wang, who had escaped the beatings of his teacher, Rin-chen-hlun-drup, and gone to Hla-sa where he met and impressed the Dalai Lama with his learning in the Kalachakra system, no doubt owed to his teacher. During this period, Jang-gya also figured in political events, pleading with the Emperor to lighten the punishment of the murderers of the ambans (the Emperor's ambassadors), pacifying a rebellion in Khalkha through lama-to-lama influence, and sending a mission to Tibet.

Upon the arrival in Beijing in 1757 of the news of the Seventh Dalai Lama's death, the Emperor sent Jang-gya to Hla-sa to help in searching for and correctly identifying his reincarnation. The Emperor indicated that it was hard for him to let Jang-gya Hu-tok-tu (a title for high Mongolian lamas) go so far away but he was allowing it since it was for a very important purpose of the Tibetan teaching; however, after completing his task, Jang-gya must return immediately. Among those who joined the party travelling to Hla-sa at the May-dro-ru-tok hot springs were Gon-chok-jik-may-wang-bo (the reincarnation of Jam-yang-shay-ba) and Tu-gen-lo-sang-cho-gyi-nyi-ma (Jang-gya's biographer to be); the company made the trip most pleasant with stimulating conversation.

They arrived in Hla-sa, during the twelfth Tibetan month, which would be January of 1758, where they were received by the regent and welcomed by a huge assembly of high and low lamas, etc., with all the typical Tibetan formalities, Jang-gya was first taken to the Hla-sa Cathedral where he paid homage to the central image, Jo-wo Rin-bo-chay, and then was installed in a government residence, newly prepared for his visit, near the Cathedral. During this period, Jang-gya and Tu-gen visited all the great monasteries around Hla-sa, making offerings and so forth. At the request of the Tantric College of Lower Hla-sa, Jang-gya conferred the Guhyasamaja initiation upon six thousand monks and also was invited to give teachings at the various monastic colleges.

While visiting Pur-bu-jok Jam-ba Rin-bo-chay (whom he had avoided during his earlier visit to Hla-sa due to that lama's having supported a rival to the Seventh Dalai Lama) for a day, Jang-gya, despite his failing sight, noticed an image of Padmasambhava in the lama's chapel that the lama himself had not noticed before, and thus the lama was amazed at his visitor's vision, Jang-gya's biographer Tu-gen-lo-sang-cho-gyi-nyi-ma also describes a period when he was receiving teaching from Jang-gya along with Gon-chok-jik-may-wang-bo and another reincarnation; Jang-gya's sight was so poor that he had someone else read his works aloud, but nonetheless Jang-gya demonstrated an amazing ability to, without error, keep up with and even keep ahead of the reader. Jang-gya also amazed them by being able to identify the quality and origin of statues as well as the type of metal from which they were made merely by passing his hand over them. He was also able to identify the artistic quality of scroll paintings merely by waving his hand in front of them. Awe-struck, one philosopher made the joke that according to his textbook it was contradictory for a Buddha to be able to realize all things with his body consciousness and yet, in fact, not be able to see with his eyes.

In the fourth month of 1758, Jang-gya travelled to Dra-shi-hlun-bo to meet the young Third Pan-chen Lama, Bel-den-ye-shay and ask him for help in identifying the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. After Jang-gya's return to Hla-sa, the Pan-chen Lama also was invited there in connection with identifying the new Dalai Lama. Upon Jang-gya's request, the Pan-chen Lama performed the entire Kalachakra initiation with all the phases of preparation including construction of a mandala of colored sands, the seven initiations in the pattern of childhood, the four high initiations, the four greatly high initiations, and the initiation of a vajra-master great lord.

At that time, there were three strong candidates for recognition as the Dalai Lama, and since the five great oracles could not agree, Jang-gya recommended that the Pan-chen Lama make the recognition. Jang-gya's recommendation was adopted, and the Pan-chen Lama chose the candidate from his own Dzang Province. Jang-gya performed the consecration of the reliquary of the late Dalai Lama and wrote the official biography at the unanimous request of the regent and a great number of officials.

With the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama decided, Jang-gya returned to Beijing in 1760, where he chose a replacement for the abbot of the Beijing monastery who had died in his absence (the replacement also died soon thereafter). During this period, the Emperor called Tu-gen-lo-sang-cho-gyi-nyi-ma to Beijing where teacher and student (Jang-gya and Tu-gen) met again. Also, in accordance with the Emperor's order, Jang-gya ordained the third Jay-dzun-dam-ba of Kalkha, naming him Ye-shay-den-bay-nyi-ma. During this period, he also composed a biography of the Throne-Holder of Gan-den, Tri-chen Nga-wang-chok-den, a tutor of the Seventh Dalai Lama.


Excerpted from Emptiness Yoga by Jeffrey Hopkins Copyright © 1987 by Jeffrey Hopkins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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