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Solmsdorf, Nikolai (2014): Treasure-Traditions of Western Tibet: Rig-’dzin Gar-dbang rdo-rje snying-po (1640–1685) and His Activities in Mang-yul Gung-thang. Collectanea Himalayica, Vol. 4. München: Indus Verlag. [PDF, 1MB]

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From the fourteenth century onwards the treasure-tradition of Tibetan Buddhism (gter ma) played a significant role in the small south-western Tibetan kingdom of Mang-yul Gung-thang. The treasure-discoverer (gter ston) Rig-’dzin rGod-ldem-can (1337–1408) defined both the religious and political environment with his activities, e.g. through disclosing treasure-texts in the dominion and transmitting them directly to it’s rulers, and, more particularly, through designating the region as one of the famed hidden valleys (sbas yul), i.e. sKyid-mo-lung. The treasure-discoverers who were to come after him, i.e. most prominently Rig-’dzin mChog-ldan mgon-po (1497–1531) and Rig-’dzin bsTan-gnyis gling-pa (1480–1536), carried on rGod-ldem-can’s activities. It becomes clear that all of them effectively transcended the mere religious sphere and directly affected the political landscape through processes of legitimation and a calculated construction of prestige for themselves and the rulers of the kingdom. After the fall of the kingdom through the installment of the central Tibetan government led by the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngag-dbang Blo-bzang rgya-mtsho (1617–1682), it was the treasure-discoverer Rig-’dzin Gar-dbang rdo-rje (1640–1685) who perpetuated these dynamics that had been established by his predecessors. The book focusses on Gar-dbang rdo-rje’s “outer biography” (phyi’i rnam thar). It opens up with a general introduction to the gTer-ma tradition and it’s role in Mang-yul Gung-thang, delineated by an overview of the lives of the afore-mentioned treasure-discoverers. The main part is made up of a full and annotated translation of Gar-dbang rdo-rje’s biography, which is followed by a critical edition of the Tibetan text. A catalog of all extant works of Gar-dbang rdo-rje rounds off the main part. The book concludes with an appendix presenting the life of ’Chi-med ’od-zer (1574–1661), a proponent of the mDo-chen bka’-brgyud-pa tradition, through a summary and a diplomatic text edition of his to date unpublished biography. Through this study not only the life and works of one hitherto relatively unknown treasure-discoverer, i.e. Rig-’dzin Gar-dbang rdo-rje, are presented. Furthermore, we gain insight into the otherwise poorly documented historical milieu he was living in, i.e. Mang-yul Gung-thang in the second half of the seventeenth century, and it’s defining religious tradition, i.e. a fusion of bKa’-brgyud and rNying-ma teachings (bka’ rnying).

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