Remembering the Lotus-Born: Padmasambhava in the History of Tibet's Golden Age

Remembering the Lotus-Born: Padmasambhava in the History of Tibet's Golden Age

by Daniel Hirshberg


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Remembering the Lotus-Born sheds light on the work of Nyangrel Nyima Öser (1124–92), one of the most influential yet least known figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. His pivotal work, the Copper Island, is the story of how the Indian tantric master Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to the region. This work elevated Padmasambhava to central importance in Tibetan history, and made treasure revelation and recognized reincarnations among the institutions that still define Tibetan culture.

Tibetan and Western scholars alike have long assumed that the Copper Island Biography of Padmasambhava was originally presented as a treasure text (terma). However, investigating the sources of this narrative shows that rather than wholesale invention or simple revelation, the Copper Island was a product of the Tibetan assimilation and innovation of core Indian Buddhist literary traditions. These traditions were well known to Nyangrel, who is renowned as the first of the great Buddhist treasure revealers. Remembering the Lotus-Born takes an unprecedented look at Nyangrel’s work in the Copper Island, including his contributions to hagiography, reincarnation theory, treasure recovery, historiography.

Drawing all these threads together, it concludes by comparing all the available versions of Nyangrel’s Padmasambhava narrative to challenge long-held assumptions and clarify its origin and transmission.

It received an Honorable Mention from the E. Gene Smith Book Prize Competition in 2018 by the Association for Asian Studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781614292319
Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Series: Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism Series , #19
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Daniel Hirshberg earned a PhD from Harvard University in 2012 and is an assistant professor in the Department of Classics, Philosophy, & Religion at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

Padmasambhava in Early Sources 6

Lives and Times of the Dreadlocked Sovereign 19

Tradition, Text, Traditional Texts, and Textual Traditions 28

1 Karmic Foreshadowing on the Path of Fruition 33

Oneiric Conception 36

The Arrival of the Nirmanakaya 43

Empowerment and Experience 46

Claiming His Karmic Inheritance 53

2 Reincarnation and the Return of the Sovereign 55

Foundations of Catenate Reincarnation 58

Early Catenation of Preincarnations 60

One Primary Preincarnation 64

Nyangrel (and Others) on the Possibility of His Return 70

The Final Emanation 82

3 Treasure Before Tradition 85

Originating the Treasures 89

Nyangrel and the Early Treasures 96

Mentors 97

Yogin Envisioned as Instigator 105

Treasure Certificates 110

Treasure Recovery Narratives in the Stainless Proclamations 111

Treasure Recovery Narratives in the Clear Mirror 126

Collection and Compilation, Augmentation and Fabrication 130

4 Drawing Honey From Historiography 141

Three Volumes, One Recension 144

One Volume, Three Manuscripts 147

Nectars and Flowers, Excerpts and Sources 148

Coda to an Earlier Essence of Flowers 154

A Copyist's Colophon 156

The Chronicle of the Later Dissemination of the Teachings 160

Four Subsequent Codas and Colophons 162

Revisiting the Origins of the History of Buddhism 173

5 Delivering the Lotus-Born 177

First Hypothesis: Source 178

Second Hypothesis: Content 188

Third Hypothesis: Transmission 198

Conclusion: Myth, Culture, and Continuity 199

Appendix: Dating the Birth, Life, and Death of Nyangrel 203

List of Tibetan Title Abbreviations 209

Bibliography 213

Index 229

About the Author 239

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