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Metaphors for



David JACKSON (Vienna)

Is the "Buddhahood" achieved by the follower of the "simultaneous" (cig car ba) methods in fact the same complete, perfect Buddhahood that is taught in the standard Mahayana Buddhist scriptures? How and when do the qualities of "all-at-once" realization manifest themselves to an adept? These were questions which the teachers of the simultaneous or all-at-once contemplative methods in Tibet could not easily avoid addressing. One of the strategies adopted by some teachers to get across their answers and explanations on these points was to resort to unusual similes or examples from the animal world, especially the examples of the lion cub and of two special mythical birds which were thought to be born already possessing extraordinary qualities. Paradoxically, these similes were used not only to convey the idea of the instantaneous actualization of remarkable potentialities but also to illustrate the delayed manifestation of enlightened qualities. The first notion had become the subject of doctrinal controversy already in the late 8th century in Tibet at the celebrated bSam-yas debate, and the second notion was critically discussed by at least the 13th century. The purpose of the present paper is to trace some of the early appearances of these animal images in Indian, Chinese and early Tibetan traditions, and to outline some of the main stages of the later discussions in Tibet.

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs: the Potentialities and Limitations Enlightenment* Metaphors for of




of Such

Similes by the




In the history of Central Asian Ch'an, a noteworthy instance of the use of two such images was that by the master Mo-ho-yen (fl. late-8th c.), a Chinese monk from Tun Huang who visited Tibet and played an influential role as the main doctrinal opponent of the Indian paQ.Qita KamalaSila at the bSam-yas debate in ca. 790. Indeed, in one the fragments of his writings recovered from Tun Huang (Stein 709, second fragment, f. 9a), Mo-ho-yen uses precisely the similes of a lion cub and a special bird as two of the very few comparisons that are suitable for his method of simultaneous and immediate realization (another acceptable simile being that of a self-sufficient simple panacea). L. Gomez ( 1983), p. 1 16, has translated the relevant passage as follows:

This [method] may be compared to the lion cub that even before it has opened its eyes brings terror to the other animals, or to the young of the kalavinka bird who upon leaving their eggs are able to fly like their mother. The qualities of this contemplation cannot be easily compared with other things in this world.

*1 would like to mention here my indebtedness to the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, which supponed the research in Hamburg in 1989 that resulted in this paper. 1 am also very grateful to Mr. Jonathan Silk, Dr. Paul Harrison, Dr. Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Ms. Wendy Adamek and Mr. Andreas Kretschmar for supplying valuable references.



The imagery used in these two comparisons differs in an important way. In the first place the

96 David JACKSON The imagery used in these two comparisons differs in an important way. In

lion cub image seems to convey the idea that the terrifying quality of the lion (his scent or "lion-ness," apparently) is already present and noticeable to the other animals immediately upon his birth, even though as a closed-eyed baby cub he lacks the capability really to do any harm. In the case of the mythical kalavinka bird, however, the bird i� said to manifest itself fully developed at birth, immediately able actually to fly just like an adult. Thus in the first case, some of the potentialities of the animal remain still latent at birth (the t �b's eyes are still closed), while in the second case, the full potentials of mature adulthood have b ecome actually manifest immediately upon birth. Thus these similes indicate different conceptions �f the all-at-once awakening: ( 1 ) that it manifests immediately as the potentiality of definite later enlightenment (the qualities of which remain still merely latent), or ( 2 ) that this awakening indeed is the sudden manifestation of the actual qualities of perfect, complete Buddhahood. Unfortunately it is not clear just how Mo-ho-yen intended these images to be understood. Another confusing point about this imagery is that the kalavinka bird here is not mentioned on account of its fabled quality of being able to sing in the egg (or on account of its supernaturally beautiful voice). l ) Instead, it is singled out because its wings are said to be fully developed and capable of flight immediately after birth. In the later Tibetan tradition, this particular quality was typically attributed not to the kalavinka, but to the khyung, a great mythical predatory bird sometimes assimilated to the Indian garu4a. The theory of the rDzogs-chen for instance was traditionally likened to the "Khyung bird with [already] perfectly developed wings" (khyung gshog rdzogs). But in later Tibetan accounts of the bSam-yas debate (found for instance in one version of the sBa bzhed and in the Thub pa'i dgongs gsal of Sa-skya PaQ.c;lita), Mo-ho-yen is said to have used the khyung or eagle image to illustrate another quality related to the ability to fly - i.e., t li �ability to swoop down suddenly from above - in order to stress that by this method one can reach the spiritual fruit in a single go, without having to struggle up laboriously and step-by-step (rom below. 2) I leave it to specialists in Ch'an and Chinese Buddhism to try to determine the immediate sources and possible Chinese antecedents for Mo-ho-yen's use of the images of the infant lion and mythical kalavinka bird. In any case, for the moment one may suppose that the teachings of Mo-ho-yen or of similar Chinese or Tibetan Ch'an masters may well have been one vehicle by which these images and ideas entered early Tibetan Buddhist traditions of all-at-once enlightenment.


A. The Kasyapaparivarta




Though I have not yet been able to trace the image of the immediately endowed newborn chicks such as of the eagle or garu4a (Tib. khyung) in Indian sources, at least the image of the kalavinka bird was employed in a somewhat similar way within an Indian Buddhist Mahayana Sutra. This was namely in the "Kasyapaparivarta" (Tib. 'Od srungs le'u), a Mahayana Sutra of the Ratnakuta class (see the edition of A. von Stael-Holstein, 1926 , p. 123f) . There, in section 84, a passage occurs in which the Buddha makes to Kasyapa a comparison of the new Bodhisattva with the kalavinka bird.

1) In the Tibetan-English dictionary of S. C. Das, one finds quoted from the mNgon brjod mkhas pa'i sna rgyan of Rin-spungs-pa the following Tibetan synonym for ka La bing ka: sgo nga'i dus nas shad smra'i dbang "lord of speakers from the time it is in the egg." The bird is also used to describe the sweetness of the Buddha's voice as one of his bodily marks. For instance in the RalnagotTavibhiiga, III 22, it is the twenty-second mark. 2) The controversies connected with these accounts were the point of departure for several recent articles. See Roger Jackson (1982), L. van der Kuijp (1986), and M. Broido (1987). In D. Jackson (1990) I have reexamined some of the conclusions they reached.

96 David JACKSON The imagery used in these two comparisons differs in an important way. In

Birds in the Egg and Newburn Lion Cubs


The chick of the kalavinka bird dwelling within the egg, for example, though its eyes are unopened, is able to overwhelm the whole assembly of birds with its deep, sweet-sounding voice. Just so the Bodhisattva who has produced the first Thought of Awakening (bodhicitta), who is still inside the egg of ignorance, his eyes covered by the film of darkness and dimness of karma and the emotional defilements, nevertheless is able to overwhelm all Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas by the sound of his applying prayers which dedicate roots of merit.

Birds in the Egg and Newburn Lion Cubs 97 The chick of the kalavinka bird dwelling

This section of the sutra is missing from the three earlier Chinese translations, and unlike most sections, it lacks a versified summary or restatement in the Sanskrit and Tibetan. The Tibetan in fact is also missing a brief additional section which is however found in the available Sanskrit text. Section 84 would thus seem to be a later additon. In a nearby section - no. 81 - there is found the related example of the royal son given birth to by a lowly slave woman, again as a point of comparison with the Bo d hisattva who has produced the first Thought of Awakening. Such a son of the king will be universally recognized as a prince, and just so the new Bodhisattva, though he circles in Sarpsara and lacks the full powers to train the sentient beings around him, will be called a "Son of the Tathagatha."

B. The AjataSatrukaukrtyavinoda Sutra

As for the image of the lion cub, it too can be traced to an Indian Buddhist source, though again the stress is laid on the importance of Bodhicitta, and on the precocious and remarkable (though not completely mature) qualities that accompany its production. The image is found in the AjdtaSatrukaukrtyavinoda SutTa. I was shown this passage by Dr. Paul Harrison, who in a personal letter described the source as follows:

[The Discourse on the Dispelling of Ajatasatru's Remorse is] a relatively early Mahayana text first translated into Chinese by Loka�ema, active c. 170-190. Loka�ema's translation is Taisho 626;

there are two other complete Chinese translations, by Dharmara�a (late 3rd century) and by Fatian (late 10th century).The lion cub passage occurs in Bam po 4 of theTibetan version, the 'Phags pa ma skyes dgra'i 'gyod pa bsal ba zhes bya ba tkeg pa chen po'i mdo, revised by Maiijusrigarbha and Ratnarak�ita, listed in the IDan dkar ma catalogue, therefore in existence by the beginning of the 9th


(see e.g. Derge Kanjur, mDo Tsha 211b2-268b7, Tohoku no.

216). The precise reference

(for this passage in the Derge Kanjur) is pp. 245a7-246a7. (By the way, the Chinese text ofT. 626 is not significantly different.)

In this passage the Bodhisattva Maiijusri attempts to yield precedence to the venerable elder Mahakasyapa on the basis of the latter's seniority. But the latter refuses to accept, saying that in the Vinaya, precedence is not established by age or seniority, but rather by superiority in discriminative understanding, learning, and other attainments. Since Maiijusri is superior in such things, Mahakasyapa insists that he should go first. The venerable elder then employs the following simile: Soon after a lion cub is born - even though its powers are not complete - wherever its scent is carried by the wind, the animals (even a mature elephant of sixty years) will not be able to bear that smell and will flee. Just so with the new Bodhisattva: even though upon his first production of the Thought of Awakening he does not yet possess the full powers of discriminative understanding and Gnosis, he nevertheless outshines or overawes the Sravakas and Pratyekas. Mahakasyapa relates another example of the cub's fearlessness upon hearing the roars of other grown lions, and how it bravely resolves to roar soon itself. Then Mahakasyapa stresses the key importance of the Thought of Awakening, and says that the principle of precedence is derived from it. Finally the passage ends with Maiijusri's going first, and the others (including Mahakasyapa) following behind, at the venerable elder's insistence.


David JACKSON III. Early Tibetan Sources A. The bSam gtan mig sgron of gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes The






A. The bSam gtan mig sgron of gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes

The images of the remarkable birth of the lion cub and kalavinka or khyung bird and the related doctrinal notions entered Tibetan Buddhism at an early stage, and as recorded by gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes (lOth-lIth c.?), they were accepted and used by the Tibetan Tantric tradition of the Mahayoga (as distinct from the rDzogs-chen 'Atiyoga').3) In the chapter devoted to that tradition in his bSam gean mig sgron, Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes discusses the two ways of attaining Nirval),a: without leaving the body and after leaving it. After mentioning a number of early Tibetan masters who attained enlightenment without leaving their body, he mentions the possibility of its attainment immediately after death (p. 278= 1 7gb):

Even if the body possibly is discarded [through death], one should not consider that as distant [?]. The [teaching of] the two ways of passing into Extinguishment (niTVa�) exist in the Buddha's very Word, and therefore even if one passes into Extinguishment which has no remainder of the psycho-physical groups, the meditator should have no doubt that he [will attain that NirvaQ-a] immediately after his parting from the net (dra ha) or knotted-trap (rgya mdud: a snare?) of the body, as in the example of the khyung and the lion.4)

The simile of the khyung and lion is said in a (later?) explanatory note to be "stated in numerous

scriptures (bka': Buddhavacana) of the Mantra[yana]" (gsang sngags kyi bka' du ma las 'byung). The

simile of the lion-cub alone is furthermore mentioned two folios later (p. 281 = 14 1a) in two quotations, in connection with the special points of superiority of the Mantra over the (Siitra-based) Madhyamaka. The works quoted are the [Dris lan] LNga bcu pa and the [Las kyi] Me long, which I have not been able to identify or trace otherwise. A fundamental scriptural source in which these similes are employed is also quoted by Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes in the second main section or chapter of his work (sKyon yon bstan pa'i le'u) where he expounds the great qualities or virtues of cultivating the profound teachings (p. 40=20b.6). Here not only the khyung chick and lion cub are mentioned, but also the metaphors of the unborn future king, and also that of the kalavinka bird which can sing while still in its egg. In a (later?) explanatory annotation, this quotation is erroneously said to be from the KiiSyapaparivarta (,Od srungs le'u), no doubt referring to the above-mentioned sections (8 1 and 84) of that Mahayana Siitra where the kalavinka bird example is indeed employed, as is the example of the royal son conceived of a lowly mother, though in both cases to compare with a Bodhisattva who has newly produced the Thought of Awakening (bodhicitta). Here the emphasis is quite different: The images are all those of delayed manifestation, and they are used to characterize the meditator who meditatively cultivates (and realizes insight into reality in) the Mahayana. The passage quoted by gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes is long, but I will translate and quote the first ten verses from it here because it seems to be the most extensive source for these notions found in early Tibetan Buddhist writings. It would be good one day to identify its ultimate origin.




is said in scripture [mchan: the Kasyapaparivarta]:

David JACKSON III. Early Tibetan Sources A. The bSam gtan mig sgron of gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes The

(1) The person who meditatively cultivates the sense of the Mahayana, even though at present the

3) Among the pre-Buddhist traditions of Tibet, the khyung bird was an i m portant divine animal in some theogonies. One of the great nomadic clans, the Khyung po, derived its name from it and also traced its ultimate ancestry back to a great mythicallrhyung bird whose contact with the ground miraculously gave rise to four eggs. Here however it was human (or semi-divine) boys who miraculously appeared out of the khyung-eggs to found the four main branches of the clan. For a synopsis of several such myths, see D. Jackson (1984), pp. 111£ and 137, n. 11.


The Tibetan text: gal Ie phung po bor srid na'ang rk La thag ring baTma /Ja mig 1 mya ngan las 'das pa'i tshul gnyis ni bka' nyid

las bzhugs pas I phung po lhagma med pa my a ngan las 'das na'ang 1 khyung dang seng ge dpe /Jar ius kyi dTa ba'am rr;ya mdud bral


thag La mal

'",or pas gdon mi w ' o


Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs


Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs fruit is not directly seen, will by stages

fruit is not directly seen, will by stages attain the fruit of liberation immediately upon his severance from the net of suffering of the base body. (2) For example, the babies of the khyung and the lion, even though they at present lack visible form -.which is seen, will be manifestly seen as khyung bird and lion immediately upon their severance from the inside of the womb and egg. (3) When a royal consort or slave-girl conceives with the seed of the king and is swollen with pregnancy, even though [the royal child] is not visible during the time he is obscured by the womb, when parted from the womb, he will be seen as a king. (4) Likewise the person who meditatively cultivates the Mahayana too, though because of the obscuration by the net of the base body which is the result of past karma the signs and marks [of enlightenment] are not now manifestly visible, nevertheless he will attain by stages the fruit after he has been parted from the base body. (5) Even if the king sleeps with a lowly slave girl, [when] there occurs [a pregnancy] in the [girl's] womb - the establishment [there] of the early embryo - there arises the force of hoping for that [future birth by] the gods, and when freed from the womb there is seen the body of a king. And (6) after his birth, [the king] has the capacity to be the back [-support] and army [or read: '�udging wimess" dpang instead of dpung?] of all. Just so the person cultivating the Mahayana. Though he now lacks the marks and signs, as soon as he is parted from the base body one will see the fruit, and he will become lord and refuge of all.

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs fruit is not directly seen, will by stages

(7) The chick of the kalavinka too, though it is not manifestly seen because of its being obscured by [the covering of] the egg, sounds forth fr m within the egg a profound sound, and when parted from the egg shell, it becomes directly visible. (8) Just so the person meditatively cultivating the Mahayana too, although in this life the signs and marks are not manifestly visible [on him], by his reciting the words of the Mahayana and his one-pointed meditative cultivation [of it], will achieve the fruit after parting from the base body. (9) Though until [the shell] is broken one will not see the differences [among] eggs that outwardly are similar in appearance, even if a non-incubated [or unfertilized?] egg breaks there is no chick, [while] if it is broken after incubation [or fertilization?], the chick will be seen. (10) Just so, even though there may be no differences among human bodies until death, for those who have not meditatively cultivated, there is no Awakening after death. If one dies after meditative ,.cultivation, Awakening will be achieved by stages. Therefore one should consider and exert oneself in meditative cultivation.5)

5) The Tibetan text:

yang lung dag (od .srungs gi le'uJ las gsungs pa



chen don



pa'j gang




rgyal po

bran mo ngan dang nyal

na yang /I




'bras bu mngon du

mi mang





byung ba nur nur



La /I


Ius ngan sdug bsngaL drwa [21aJ ba



tlw.g /I

lha rnams dt



ba 'j mthu skye

zhing /I


thar pa'j 'bras bu


gyis /hob


'gyv.r /I


mngal dang bral nas Tgyal

po'i Ius mthong






dp" na Irhyung dang smg gt'j phTUg gu yang /I



kun gyi


dang dpung nus Uar /I


da Uar mthong ba snang ba'j gzugs mtd kyang /I

theg chen bsgoms po'i gang zag da




mngal dang sgo nga'i sbubs dang bral rna tlw.g /I

TtlJgs mtshan mtd kyang

Ius ngan bral

rna tlw.g


khyung dang smg gt mngon par mang bar 'gyv.r /I (2)

'bras bu [21bJ mang

zhing kun gyi mgon skyabs 'gyv.r



rgyal po'i btsun ma'am bran rna'ang TUng /I


/ca La ping /ca'j phTU gu yang /I ?H versification???


rgyal po'i sa bon chags nas gzugs

'dod [sicJ pa


sgo [ngJas bsgribs pas mngon par mi snang yang II

mngal gyis bsgribs pa'i mod La mi mang yang /I



nang nas zab ma'j sgra

sgrogs shing /I


mngal dang bral nas rgyal POT mang bar 'gyv.r /I (3)


shun bral

nas mngon du mang

bar 'gyv.r



dt bzhin theg chen bsgoms pa'i gang zag kyang /I


dt bzhin

theg chen bsgoms pa'j gang

ZAg kyang /I

rnam smin Ius ngan drwa

bas bsgribs pa



/she 'dir TtlJgs mtshan mngon du mi mang yang /I


Uar TtlJgs mtshan gsaL bar mi mang yang II


theg chen tshig smra bsgom pa


rise gcig pas /I


Ius ngan

bral nas


bu rim par




Ius ngag {=ngan1J bral nas


/hob por 'gyu.r




1 00


B. Two rDzogs-chen Tantras The exam pie of the perfectly developed ganu:f,a or eagle (khyung chen) chick within the egg is also found in a rDzogs-chen Tantra lTa ba ye shes gting rdzogs kyi rgyud (p. 52), here likewise explaining how Buddhahood is present in a fully potential fonn but kept from manifesting by the present body: -

With regard to time: the arising of this [enlightenment] in the present is obscured by the body. For example, even though the great khyung bird's wings are fully developed within the egg, as long as the egg is not broken, it cannot fly ....6)

I have no idea how old this rDzogs-chen tantra is, but at present I cannot exclude the possibility





than the source quoted in the

bSam gtan

mig sgron.

Another rNying-ma Tantra, the Seng ge rtsal rdzogs chen po'i rgyud (rNying ma'i rgyud bcu bdun, vol.

2, pp. 270. 2ff et passim) - which is likewise undated - contains a long explanation of the lion symbolism, and in fact it takes the lion as its central motif, as indicated by its title. The same tantra

is quoted in Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa's Chos dbyings Tin po che'i mdzod kyi 'grel pa lung gi gter mdzod

(Derge ed., p. 63a) as containing the example of the entrapment (of a cub or khyung chick) within a

womb or eggsheiI (dper na mngal dang sgo nga'i rgya).

The khyung and lion are themselves commonly used within the rDzogs-chen and related early Tibetan traditions as metaphors for the fearless approach of their yogis, as for instance by gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes. The 8th-century Tibetan Ch'an master sBa Shang-shing is also said in the rNying-ma gter-ma the Blon po bka' thang (in the bKa' thang sde lnga) to have similarly used a lion simile (23a):7 )

Ch'an master San-sin said: "The all-at-once knowledge without discrimination is like the haughty lion, the king of the animals, who roars [and] conducts himself unafraid in the four behaviors [sitting, lying, standing and waiking]."S)

And later in

the same work (22b, Tucci 72):

1 00 David JACKSON B. Two rDzogs-chen Tantras The exam pie of the perfectly developed ganu:f,a

Having decided that non-duality is the same as the ultimate [truth], the all-at-once practicer is like one who has entered the path of the lion: for him there is no cliff, no abyss, and he is completely without hindrance. The gradual practicer is like someone who has entered the path of the fox:

unable to get beyond cliff or abyss, he circles back around.9)

Thus not only is the simultaneous-method practicer like the fearless lion, but the practicer of the gradual path is likened to a cautious, fearful fox.

sgo nga phyi rol gzugs


'dra ba




lus rna

shi bar

du khyad

med kyang /I


sgom pa


shi nas byang

chub med


bsgoms nas shi na byang

chub rim par

'grub II

de phyir bsam

zhing bsgoms la

'bad par bya


'phur mi

nus pa

bzhin /).

rna chag bar du khyad par mi snang yang


rna gnongs pa la chags kyang bye phrug

med II

gnongs nas chag nas bye


snang ba

Uar II


II (10)

6) This was cited and quoted by S. Karmay (1988), p. 185, n. 58: dus ni da lta byung ba lus kyi{s] sgribs I dper na khyung chen

sgong nga'j nang

na gshog rgyas kyang I

sgo nga rna chag (par?]

7) G. Tucci (1958), pp. 70, 72, 73, 1. 16-19 (Minor Buddhist Texts II). This passage was cited also by J. Broughton







and by


A. Stein (1987), pp. 44f.



Tibetan text: bsam gtan mkhan po sbah shang shin bshad pa I rnam par mi rtog cig car rig pa ni I gcan gzan rgyal po seng ge 'gying





drag [=sgrags?] sfryod pa rnam bzhi bag mi tsha I.


9) The Tibetan

text: gnyis med don

dam gcig par thag bead de




car pa


seng ge lam zhugs



gad med

g.yang med kun la thogs med



rim gyis pa



mo lam

zhugs 'dra


gad g.yang mi

thar ba


log skor byed



1 00 David JACKSON B. Two rDzogs-chen Tantras The exam pie of the perfectly developed ganu:f,a

BiTds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs


BiTds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 101 c. The Image in the Early Dwags-po

c. The Image in the Early Dwags-po bKa'-brgyud-pa 1. sGam-po-pa These same images of lion and khyung were utilized also in the Tibetan Mahamudrci system of sGam-po-pa bSod-naID:s-rin-chen (1079-1 153), the founder of the Dwags-po bKa'-brgyud-pa, for the purpose of explaining very similar doctrines. The topic of the nature of the instantaneous or all-at-once realization was addressed by sGam-po-pa for instance in a brief work of his entitled "Brief Stages-of-the-Path" (Lam rim mdor bsdus). There he taught that such a realization was not yet actual Buddhahood but that the latter was present as a full potentiality which, for the moment, is prevented from appearing by the presence of the physical body' which is the fruit of previous karma. Nevertheless, full Buddhahood will actualize in the intermediate stage (bar do) immediately after death. As he said there (Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 240.3):

[Question]: Is that realization true Buddhahood? [Answer]: It is still not the true one


.... though the ultimate nature of mind exists as Buddhahood after the meditator has achieved realization, as long as this [body], a heap of karmic fruition, has not been cast aside, one will not be able fully to display the qualities of a Buddha. [They are] entrapped within the body of karmic fruition. [Question]: When will Buddhahood itself arise? [Answer]: It will come in the intermediate

state (bar do ). 10)

(This "graduated" treatise of sGam-po-pa also includes a mention of the "four yogas" or mal 'byor


sGam-po-pa explains the above idea by making use of the metaphors of the lion cub or the eagle or garu4a chick (khyung phrug) which spring forth fully developed at birth, but which until their birth are kept sealed up or trapped by the womb or egg (p. 240.4):

As long as one possesses this body of karmic fruition, one has pleasant and painful sensations. For example, the cub of the lion, even though his powers are complete within the mother's womb, is unable to display his abilities until ejected from the womb, for he is entrapped within the womb. The khyung chick too, although its wings are fully developed within the egg, cannot fly until the egg is broken, for he is entrapped within the egg. 11)

The same points are discussed by sGam-po-pa in his answers to the Karma-pa Dus-gsum­ mkhyen-pa (Dus gsum, Works, vol. 1, p. 407.3) where the question is raised: "When will all the qualities be made manifest? [Answer]: At the time in which one is parted from the 'trap' of the

body" (yon tan thams cad nam mngon du byed ce na I lus rgya dang bral ba'i dus su'o 1/). Later he qualifies

and explains (p. 407.7): "Even though one is similar to a Buddha because of having realized

ultimate reality, one's qualities are not equal [to those of

sangs rgyas yin par

'dra yang yon tan mi mnyam




Buddhahood). . .

" (chos nyid rtogs pa'i phyir

sGam-po-pa on occasion did portray the rDzogs':chen as occupying a parallel doctrinal position to the Mahamudra as a practical instruction (man ngag) of the Mantrayana "perfection stage" (rdzogs rim), and on occasion even seems almost to identify the two, e.g. in his Tshogs bshad legs mdzes ma, p. 220.2 and his Tshogs chos yon tan phun tshogs, p. 269. 1. In the first source, p. 220.7, he characterized the Mahamudra as phyag chen dri med zang thal, thus using terminology apparently borrowed from the rDzogs-chen. On the other hand, sGam-po-pa in the above-mentioned reply to Dus-gsum-mkhyen-pa (Dus gsum mkhyen pa'i zhus Lan), p. 438-39, distanced himself from what he

BiTds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 101 c. The Image in the Early Dwags-po

10) The Tibetan text: ·0 na nogs pa de sangs Tgyas mtshan nyid pa ilyas pas 1 mtshan nyid pa da rung rna yin

I. ...

mal 'ilyOT pa rtogs pa


byung nas sems nyid rdzogs pa'i sangs rgyas su 'dug !!yang 1 mam smin gyis phung po 'di rna dor bar du sangs rgyas kyi yon tan rd1.Ogs paT stan mi nus 1 mam smin gyi lus rgyas beings pa'o /I '0 na sangs rgyas nyid nam 'byung na bar dOT 'ong ba'o /I. The Tibetan text: rnam smin gyi lus 'di yod rig La 1 tshor ba btU sdug yod 1 dper na seng ge'i phru gu rna'i mnal du stobs Td1.Ogs !!yang 1 mngal rna phyung bar du mal 'byin par mi nus Ie 1 mngal Tgyas beings 1 khyung phrug kyang 1 sgo nga'i nang du gshog sgro Tgyas kyang 1 sgo nga rna chag baT du 'pur �_ shes Ie 1 sgong Tgyas beings pa'o I.

BiTds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 101 c. The Image in the Early Dwags-po



portrays as the more extreme cig-car-ba doctrines of the rDzogs-pa chen-po. According to a

102 David JACKSON portrays as the more extreme cig-car-ba doctrines of the rDzogs-pa chen-po. According to

characterization of the rDzogs-chen attributed to the dge-bshes brGya-yon-bdag appearing just before in the same work (p. 438.1), the rDzogs-chen-pa typically maintained: "If you attain realization in the morning, you awaken to Buddhahood in the morning; if you attain realization in the evening, you awaken to Buddhahood in the evening" (nang rtogs na nang sangs rgya / nub rtogs na nub sangs rgya). sGam�po-pa maintains that there are three paths (Paramitayana, Mantra and Mahiimudra), and also two types of individual, i.e. rim-gyis-pa and cig-car-ba, but says that the latter approach is extremely difficult and that he considers himself a "gradualist" (rim-gyis-pa). He goes on to relate that once when Mi-Ia ras-pa was in the company of many people, sGam-po-pa asked him what rDzogs-chen was like, to which Mi-Ia replied that his teacher Mar-pa had said: "Though some people say it is not the Dharma (chos men pa), 12) that is not [so], but it is a dharma belonging to the sixth or seventh bhilmi and above." Then [Mi-Ia] pointed to a little boy of about five years of age and said, "The followers of the rDzogs-chen are like him. It is like this child saying that he has the powers of a twenty-five-year-old. The followers of the rDzogs-chen too speak of 'Buddhahood now,' but it is not really meaningful." Thus there does seem to be a rDzogs-chen influence in some of sGam-po-pa's writings on certain doctrinal points, which is reflected by his use of the animal images. But he by no means adopted the earlier system wholesale or accepted it in the most radical forms known to him.

2. Zhang Tshal-pa Zhang Tshal-pa g.Yu-brag-pa (1123-1193), a colorful disciple in the Mahamudra tradition of sGam-po-pa's nephew sGom-pa Tshul-khrims-snying-po, was one of the most famous and radical exponents of a "simultaneous" and "instantaneous" method of Mahamudra realization among the

early Dwags-po bKa'-brgyud-pas. In his treatise The Ultimate Profound Path of the Mahiimudrd (Phyag

chen lam zab mthar thug) (p. 91=22a), he used the image of the khyung in connection with the attainment of "no-cultivation" (sgom med) in the fourfold system of the Four Yogas (mal 'byor bzhi). There he taught:

The abilities of the khyung bird are [already] complete within the egg. When it is rid of its egg-shell, it soars in the sky. The qualities of the three Bodies (kaya) are complete within the mind. After the "trap" of the body is destroyed, the [accomplishing of] the benefitting of others will arise. IS)

Zhang stresses the instantaneous nature of this attainment with the term chig chod, using the simile of a lamp in darkness (whose light instantly fills the darkness). He also uses the simile of the early morning sun (103.5=28a), saying:

102 David JACKSON portrays as the more extreme cig-car-ba doctrines of the rDzogs-pa chen-po. According to

Even though immediately upon the attainment of the realization of non-duality sufferings are not removed and the enlightened qualities and abilities do not arise, who would disparage it as not being the Path of Seeing? . Even though immediately after sunrise in the morning the sun does not have the power to melt ice and the earth and stones do not become [immediately] warmed, who would deprecate it as not being the sun?14)

12) Chos men is apparently a misspelling for eMS min and presumably not a corruption based on ston min, which was the traditional Tibetan rendering of the Chinese equivalent for "cig-car," i.e. tun men. See also Padma-dkar-po, Chos 'byung bstan pa'i nyin byed, p. 391 (lea cha 196a.5), where men occurs instead of min in a related context: de La Tgya men bod men zer

slcyon gtong te I.

13) The Tibetan:

khyung rlsal sgong shun nang nas Td1.ogs /I

sgong shun dang bral nam 'phangs gcod /I

sleu gsum yon tan

sems La

rdl.Ogs /I


rgya zhig nas gzhan don

'char /I

14) The Tibetan:

102 David JACKSON portrays as the more extreme cig-car-ba doctrines of the rDzogs-pa chen-po. According to


Birds in the Egg

and Newburn Litm Cubs


" mentioned by P ._
mentioned by P ._

Here it is interesting to compare the use of the example of the sun's sudden appearance in the

morning but its gradual melting of the frost as the second example for sudden enlightenment

followed by gradual cultivation used by the Ch'an master Kuei-feng Tsung-mi (780-841), as

(1987), p. 286.


Bla-ma Zhang goes on to state that the Buddha taught with provisional meaning and with a

hidden intent all the stages of the levels and paths, as well as the individual signs of immanent

attainment (drod nags), for the sake of those disciples who enter into the doctrine gradually. With

regard to that, ignorant persons cling to that [merely] approximative [i.e. provisional, relative]

portion. But the respective higher and lower capacities of disciples are inconceivable, as are the

teachings of the Buddha. Therefore [people of lower capacities] should not dispraise and reject

them, even though these doctrines do not accord with the basic texts they uphold. Rather, Zhang

recommends that they should resolve to be able to understand them sometime in the future.

To stress that the Mahamudra realization entails a radically altered view of causation and

conceptually conceived reality, he further compares the instantaneously effective Mahamudra to

the fruit of the breadfruit tree (which arises simultaneously with the growth of the parent tree,

and for which the standard categories of cause and effect thus do not apply), stating:

The instantaneously effective Mahamudra, like the fruit of the breadfruit [tree], is simultaneously cause and effect, and [in it], phenomenal marks dissolve of themselves. 15)

He goes on (p. 104=28b.4) to use the metaphor of the sudden descent of the hawks (khra, not the

khyung here) from above - which is like the cig-car individual's seeing of the Dharmakaya - in

contrast with the gradual limb-by-limb ascent of the monkeys l6 ) from below:

Monkeys climb from below and take the fruit. Hawks ooly take it by dropping from above. The hawks do not see the branches, though needless to say they take the fruit. Just so what is the need of mentioning the seeing of the Dharma-Body by the all-at-once individual, even though he does not see the signs of immanent attainment of the Stages and Paths? [The different classes of individuals] are distinct with respect to their [previous] training and abilities.17)

As mentioned above, the similes of the khyung eagle and the monkey are attributed to

Mo-ho-yen in one version of the history of the bSam-yas debate found in one of the sBa bzhed

histories, 18) and this account was repeated almost verbatim by Sa-skya Pat:lr;iita in his Thub pa'i

dgongs gsal (p. 24.4.4=tha 48b). The accompanying criticism of this simile attributed to Kamalasila

(and by implication the whole account) was, however, rejected as a later fabrication by the

16th-century bKa'-brgyu d -pa scholar dPa'-bo gTsug-lag-phreng-ba (I 397=ja 122a), who took it

gnyis TMd nogs rna

thag nyid du


nang par nyi


shar rna

thag 1/

sdug bsngal sangs par rna gyttr cing /I

chab rom


bar rna

nus shing /I

yon tan nus pa rna skyes kyang /I


rdo dros par

rna gyur kyang 1/

mthong lam min mes su

zhig smod /I

nyi rna

min mes

su [28b]

zhig smod 1/

15) The Tibetan:


phyag rgya chen po

chig chod rna


pa na

st yi

'bras bu bzhin


rgyu dang


bu dus

mtshungs shing 1/


mtshan rna rang

sar grol ba yin 1/


16) Elsewhere (ibid., p. 83.4) Zhang uses the image of the monkey running up and down a tree as a symbol for mental

activities against the background " of the unchanging mind.

17) The Tibetan:

sprt'U rooms mas 'dugs shing tlwg len 1/

Birds in the Egg and Newburn Litm Cubs " mentioned by P ._ Here it is

IIhra rooms tlwg babs IIho nas len 1/

Irh[r]a rooms yal ga rna

mtlwng ste 1/

shing tlwg len

la smrar ci yod 1/

18) See sBa gSal-snang, sBa bzhtd (Beijing:

de bzhin gcig char gang zo.g gis 1/

sa lam drod rt4gs rna mthong yang 1/

chas sleu (m]tIumg ba

smrar ci

dgos 1/

sbyangs dang nus pas so

so yin


1980). pp. 72-75.

104 David JACKSON to be an obvious attempt to discredit the Mahamudra by a more recent



to be an obvious attempt to discredit the Mahamudra by a more recent Tibetan dialectician

104 David JACKSON to be an obvious attempt to discredit the Mahamudra by a more recent

inimical to that tradition.19) dPa'-bo says that KamalaSila could not have used the reasoning

104 David JACKSON to be an obvious attempt to discredit the Mahamudra by a more recent

attributed to him (namely that the ability to swoop from above must have presupposed an earlier

gradual development), since the scriptures state that the khyung (here, the garzu!,a) is not born from

an-egg, -·but rather has an instantaneous magical birth (rdzus te skyes pa). But dPa'-bo's

argumentation overlooks two points: in the first place, the bird under discussion does not always

seem to have been understood as identical with the garo4a of Indian mythology, and secondly, the

traditional usages of the khyung image - both rDzogs-chen and Phyag-chen - often revolve around

the bird's possession of extraordinary mature qualities while still in the egg.


Later Tibetan



Usa g es

A. The Criticisms by Sa-skya PaJ;1Qita

Thus, the image of an instantly endowed and suddenly swooping bird as a simile for all-at-once

awakening was said by a fairly old Tibetan historical tradition (12th-century or earlier) to have

been rejected as unsatisfactory by Mo-ho-yen's Indian opponent Kamalasila. 2 0) This criticism,

moreover, was something that later dialectically-oriented Tibetan scholars too might be suspected

of having perpetrated, according to dPa'-bo gTsug-lag-phreng-ba. It will come as no surprise then

that the other doctrinal application of the animal examples - namely for the delayed manifesta­

tion of the signs of Sainthood or Buddhahood - was also not universally accepted among later

Tibetan Buddhist scholars. One of the first to reject them explicity was apparently the critical

scholar Sa-skya PaQQita (1 1 82-125 1), who discussed this in his work of doctrinal criticism the

Discrimination of the Three Vows (sDom gsum rab dbye), p. 309.4.6 (na 26b), in connection with a

criticism of those who would identify minor meditative attainments or realizations as the Arya's

"Path of Seeing" (mthong lam).

Sa-paQ denied that the explanation of delayed awakening in terms of the khyung's egg is found

in any [authentic] Sutra or Tantra of the Mahayana, and he found the whole notion strange - as

peculiar as someone saying that the rays of the sun which rises today will not actually come into

being and be felt until tomorrow morning:

Some identify a little meditative tranquility and a slight realization of [the integration of] appearance and emptiness as the Path of Seeing. They say that because they are restrained by the "trap" of the body, like the egg of the khyung bird [entraps the khyung chick], the present [enlightened qualities of the Path of Seeing] do not come forth. This sort of religious tradition is not taught in any Siitra or Tantra of the Mahayana. It is strange [to imagine] the [delayed] appearance of sunbeams tomorrow morning from the sun which has risen today! 2 1)

Evidently Sa-paQ sought to oppose here a son of spiritual "inflation" in which the attainments of

the first Bodhisattva bhilmi and of the Path of Seeing were being devalued. Some Tibetan

meditators were claiming to have reached these stages, but they had no corresponding valuable

demonstrable qualities to show for it. But how was one to reconcile the precise and well-known

technical descriptions of the remarkable qualities gained through these very high attainments with

the fact that these adepts lacked such special qualities? Evidently some tried to explain and justify

19) See also S. Kannay (1988),


200, n.


20) This is found in one version of the sBa bzhed, and also in the Chos 'Uyung of Nyang-ral Nyi-ma'i-'od-zer (late 12th c.), as


mentioned by L.

van der Kujip (1986). See also D. Jackson ( 1987), p. 403,

note 104.

The Tibetan text omitted for lack of space. On the twelve-hundred qualities which are realized upon the attainment of

the Path of Seeing, see the Mahayanasillriilaf!llu'lra [X 4] and also D. Jackson (1987), p. 353. See also Rong-ston's

sub-commentary on the Abhisamayalaf!llu'lra (Biblia Tibetica. II, Kyoto), f. 62a.

Birds in the Egg tmd Newborn Lion Cubs


this doctrinally by drawing a distinction between the attainments reached through general

Mahayana practice and those reached through Mantrayana practice. As the next verses in the

sDom gsum rab dbye state:

Some say that the Paths of Seeing of the Perfections and Mantra [Vehicles] are [respectively] "adorned" [with qualities] and "unadorned". If that were the case, then Buddhahood too would be [both] "adorned" and "unadorned." "Adorned" and "unadorned" are acceptable for the Arhat of the Snivakas, but for the Saint of the Mahayana, "adorned" and "unadorned" are impossible. Through the example of the iron votive image (tsha-tsha), it is taught that the Snivaka, if he does not attain Nirva�a in the present life, may attain extinction (Nirva�a) in the intermediate existence after death. Accordingly, from the meditative cultivation of the Mantra [path], if one does not attain the Path of Seeing in this life, one may indeed attain the Path of Seeing in the intermediate existence. But it is the falsehood of the ignorant to say that when the Path of Seeing has been produced in this life, the qualities will arise after death. Since this does not accord with all the Siitras and Tantras, the learned have discarded such a religious tradition.22)

Then he refers to the basis for possible misunderstandings on this point, namely certain

statements by Naropa and by the tantric Aryadeva in his Caryamelopakapradipa. Sa-pal). explains

these statements as referring to the "symbolic Gnosis" (dpe yi ye shes):

It is said that N aropa taught: "The Path of Seeing arises at the time of consecration. It ceases at that moment. The Path of Seeing which follows the Highest-of-Dharmas level does not cease." This is merely designating the "Example Gnosis" as the Path of Seeing. The statement of Aryadeva in his Caryamelopako. [pradipaJ that one may become attached to activities even having seen the Truth also had in mind the example-Gnosis, the realization of the self-arisen gnosis of the stage of completion. That is in confonnity with the intention of the realized adepts of the Lam 'bras, etc. Therefore it is not possible for our Path of Seeing to arise for anyone who is not a Saint.2S)

Birds in the Egg tmd Newborn Lion Cubs 105 this doctrinally by drawing a distinction between

Go-rams-pa's Commentary

The commentator Go-rams-pa bSod-nams-seng-ge (1429-1489), in his sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu

dbye ba'i roam bshad rgyal ba'i gsung Tab kyi dgongs pa gsal ba (175. 1.2=ta 1 13a), explained the above

in a predominantly Tantric context, identifying the object of criticism as certain rNgog gZhung-pa

scholars (dge-bshes) (i.e. masters from a branch of bKa'-brgyud-pa tantric tradition outside the

Dwags-po bKa'-brgyud-pa) who misinterpreted certain transient experiences of tantric practice as

such high attainments. 2 4 ) Go-rams-pa (differing from certain earlier sDom gsum rab dbye '

commentators) denied that Sa-pal). aimed at criticizing here the doctrine of certain Mahamudra

practitioners . Here Go-rams-pa mainly follows the interpretations of Sa-pal).'s uncle rje-btsun

Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan as found in the latter's Hevajra commentatorial treatise the mNgon rtogs ljon

shing, and he seems unaware of the occurrence of these matters in the rDzogs-chen or Phyag-chen

literature. 2 5 )

22) The Tibetan text omitted.

23) The Tibetan text omitted.

24) The text of Go-rams-pa's commentary omitted for lack of space.


Go-rams-pa refers in particular to Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan's rejection of the misconception of those who would confuse

the exemplifying Gnosis (dpe yi ye shes) of the third consecration with the actual Gnosis (don g;yi ye shes).

bKra-shis-rnam-rgyai (f. 97b-98a, Lhalungpa transl. pp. 108i) in his criticism of Sa-skya Pa'.l9ita attributes a similar

misconception to Sa-pal,l.

  • 1 06

1 06 David JACKSON Go-rams-pa outlined his interpretation of this passage in the sDom gsum rab


Go-rams-pa outlined his interpretation of this passage in the sDom gsum rab dbye as follows:

II. Refutation of errors regarding the actual Mahamudra

  • A. Refutation of a Path of Seeing which lacks special qualities

    • 1. Statement of the criticised opinion (=the first two verses)

·2.· Refutation of that (=the next one verse)

  • 3. Refuting a reply which seeks to remove the criticised fault

  • B. The rejection of contradictions with scripture regarding it

  • C. Its establishment therefore as the wisdom of the Saint

B. The Question and Explanations of Shakya-mchog-ldan

One of the later scholars to raise these issues again outside of the sDom gsum rab dbye

commentatorial writings proper was the 15th-century savant gSer-mdog paQ-chen Shakya-mchog­

ldan (1428-1 507), who posed more than one hundred critical questions or doubts about the sDom

gsum rab dbye to his contemporary Sa-skya-pa scholars, and is said specifically to have requested

answers from the great Byams-chen rab-'byams-pa Sangs-rgyas-'phel (1412-1485), the senior

teacher of a whole school of rival Sa-skya-pa scholars. This collection of questions constitutes a

work entitled "Excellent Questions on the Discrimination of the Three Vows," (sDom gsum rab dbye La dri

ba legs pa, vol. 1 7, pp. 448-462). Here the relevant doubt of Shakya-mchog-Idan was formulated as

the following question:

If [Sa-paQ] refutes the appearance of qualities immediately after death through which the 'trap' of the body is destroyed, what is the arising in the intermediate existence (bar do) of the Enjoyment Body out of the Dharma-Body [which is realized] in the Clear Light at death?26)

1 06 David JACKSON Go-rams-pa outlined his interpretation of this passage in the sDom gsum rab

1. Go-rams-pa's Answer

These questions by Shakya-mchog-Idan provoked considerable controversy among Sa-skya-pa

scholars, and quite a few savants attempted to answer the points he raised, including his chief

rival, Go-rams-pa bSod-nams-seng-ge, who was the greatest disciple of Byams-chen rab-'byams­

pa. 2 7) Go-rams-pa's answers to all of these questions constituted a sizable work in his collected

oeuvre entitled sDom pa gsum gyi bstan beos La dris shing rtsod pa'i Lan sdom gsum 'khrul spong.

This particular query was question number 77 according to Go-rams-pa's numbering, and

Go-rams-pa answered as follows (vol.

14, p. 263.2.3.):

To answer the question:

If [Sa-paQ] refutes the appearance of qualities immediately after death - through which the "trap" of the body is destroyed - what is the arising in the intermediate existence (bar do) of the Enjoyment Body out of the Dharma-Body [which is realized] in the Clear Light at death? Have you (1) posed this question taking as the position you criticise [in Sa-paQ] that after someone attains the Path of Seeing in this life, it is impossible for qualities to arise in a subsequent life? Or are you saying by your question that (2) a similar force of proof obtains in both statements: (a) "Even though the Path of Seeing has been attained in the present life, qualities will not arise [immediately], but the qualities will arise following death"; and (b) "having actualized the Dharma-Body in the time of the Clear Light at death, in the intermediate existence there arises the Enjoyment Body"? Which of these two alternatives, (1) or (2), are you saying?

26) The Tibetan:


rgya gshig pa'j


rna thag 1/

yon tan 'byung ba

'gog mdZJJd na 1/

'chi ba

'od gsal chos




bar do

longs sku

'byung de




See D. Jackson (1983), pp. 17f.

1 06 David JACKSON Go-rams-pa outlined his interpretation of this passage in the sDom gsum rab

Birds in the Egg and Nnubom Lion Cubs


1f"You are saying (1),

please do not erroneously impute such a thing to Sa-skya Pa.Q.Qita, since he

future lives or the

lack of a causal connection

Birds in the Egg and Nnubom Lion Cubs 107 1f"You are saying (1), please do not

does not maintain the non-existence of former and

and effect!

between moral deed

If you are saying (2), [then (b) amounts to the idea] that at the time of the Clear Light at death, after attaining the Dharma Body, one assumes even afterwards an intermediate existence, and that as its existential basis (Tten), one [still later] attains the Enjoyment Body. Such a case would of course be the same in its thrust as the former position (a). But this is impossible, for if one must afterwards take up an intermediate existence after attaining the Dharma Body in the time of the Clear Light of death, one cannot aven the logical entailment of needing afterwards to take up a binh in existence after attaining the Enjoyment Body in the intermediate existence. Therefore, because the fact of this matter [b] is that if one attains the Dharma Body in the time of Clear Light at death one immediately attains the Enjoyment Body without the arising of an intermediate existence, that becomes a proof of Uust] what the great master [Sa-paQ] intended [and not a proof of (a)]. For if one attains the Mahayana Path of Seeing in this lifetime, there will be effortlessly realized the twelve-hundred qualities, immediately and without the occurence of


Thus as in his commentary, here too Go-rams-pa does not directly enter into a discussion of the

image of the khyung chick in the egg shell. Rather here he briefly analyses the doctrines and

reasoning he sees implied in Shakya-mchog-ldan's objection. To begin with, he attempts to clarify

just what Shakya-mchog-ldan was questioning or criticizing in Sa-pal)., enumerating the only two

possibilities of interpreting the question that occured to him, namely that it implied either (1) that

Sa-pal). was refuting any later arising of qualities, or (2) that the assertion (b) "The arising of the

Enjoyment Body in the intermediate existence from the Dharma Body of the Clear Light at

death" supported by similarity of reasoning the assertion (a) that after the non-arisal of qualities

immediately after the attainment of the Path of Seeing, such qualities will arise after death. But he

analysed (b) and found it to be doctrinally unfounded. Instead he concluded that, as properly

understood, the arising of the bodies of Buddhahood at death alluded to in (b) in reality occur

simultaneously, and that this fact supports the reverse of (a). Thus in the end, Go-rams-pa did not

recognise here in this question any substantial objection to what he took Sa-p�n's position in the

sDom gsum rab dbye to be: that the many qualities are automatically and instantly manifested with

the attainment of the Mahayana Path of Seeing.

2. Shikya-mchog-ldan's Answer

Shakya-mchog-ldan's own answer, which he gave in his celebrated Legs bshad gser gyi thur ma, is a

long and complicated discussion. In it, he sets forth in detail his motive for asking such a question,

the drawbacks of not questioning and clarifying this point, and finally a long answer proper in

which he sets forth what he takes Sa-pal).'s real intention to have been. He does not actually take up

the matter of the origin or suitability of the image of the khyung chick. Like Go-rams-pa, he mainly

aims at getting at the key doctrines involved (especially the theories of Buddhahood and the

mechanics of rebirth), and at clarifying the seeming contradictions of Sa-pal).'s words with

accepted systems of gsar-ma-pa tantric practice and theory such as the Guhyasamaja Pancakrama.

He refers (p. 92.1) to the opinions of certain previous practicers of instructions (sngon gyi man ngag

pa=rNying-ma-pas?) who are said to have used the terminology "The Clear Light, the meeting of

mother and son" ('od



bu 'phrod pa).

In the end, Shakya-mchog-ldan's own answer was not that far from Go-rams-pa's. He taught

that the qualities of realization are manifested in the same lifetime, and (p. 92.7) that however

much the "clear-light mind" is entrapped by the body, it has the ability to display all the qualities

such as emanating one hundred bodies. (He goes on to discuss in the answer to his next question

28) The Tibetan text omitted for lack of space.



also whether Buddhas can be both "ornamented" [i.e. possessing the qualities] and "un­

108 David JACKSON also whether Buddhas can be both "ornamented" [i.e. possessing the qualities] and "un­

ornamented.") But to follow all of these discussions in detail would take us too far afield. 2�

C. The Reply of bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal to Sa-paJ;l's Criticisms

Many of the criticisms found in Sa-pal)'s sDom gsum rab dlrye were replied to eventually by

108 David JACKSON also whether Buddhas can be both "ornamented" [i.e. possessing the qualities] and "un­

scholars of the Dwags-po bKa'-brgyud-pa order, especially in the 16th century, when that

tradition had gained scholastic sophistication and sought to exert wider doctrinal influence (in

keeping with its then considerable political influence). Among some of these scholars it became a

habit to think that any and all comments of Sa-pal) which seemed to bear on the Mahamudra

tradition were in principle erroneous, and that his remarks were probably motivated merely by

jealousy or simply by the wish to propound his own unfounded opinions. Nevertheless, the same

scholars often tried their best formally to demonstrate (using argumentation which was

scholastically acceptable to a wider audience) that the main points of Sa-pal) were doctrinally


The 16th-century master bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal, for instance, in his extensive manual of

Mahamudra practice and theory, the Phyag chen zla ba'i 'od zer, defends as a self-evident and

tradition-hallowed truth that the appearance of enlightened qualities can be delayed for a realized

yogi who reaches the Path of Seeing. In particular. he is reacting to the somewhat inflammatory

statement by Sa-pal) in the sDom gsum rab dlrye:

It is a falsehood of the ignorant [to say] that for someone who in this life has attained the Path of Seeing, the qualities [of Awakening] will arise after death.30)

Here, in bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal's opinion, Sa-pal)'s remarks can be seen to reflect merely the desire

to propound disputatiously without having ascertained the true facts of the matter. bKra-shis­

rnam-rgyal's basic line of reply is that no Sutra specifies that the 1 ,200 qualities must necessarily

arise immediately upon the attainment of the Path of Seeing without an intervening death, wh.ile

there are scriptural passages that mention realizations being delayed until the next life. He

questions whether all the great masters of India and Tibet (whom he assumes to have attained the

Path of Seeing) in fact immediately manifested these attainments, or indeed whether even those

Bodhisattvas who were the Buddha's immediate disciples did so. He also quotes a passage from

the Daiabhilmika Siltra which mentions that it is likely that someone who has attained the first stage

will be reborn as a universal emperor (without stating it as an unequivocal certainty). Thus he tries

to show that Sa-pal) was wrong on the level of the Sutra or general Mahayana teachings.

Moreover, the criticisms of the khyung-chick image by Sa-pal). are said to be unacceptable also

from a Mantrayana point of view. bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal mentions the examples of the

already-perfectly capable khyung chick as originating from accepted written sources (he perhaps

had in mind the writings of bla-ma Zhang, such as one of the passages quoted above, but he

mentions no source by title). He quotes from the Caturdeviparipcchd of the Guhyasamaja cycle, as

well as from the Samputa of the Hevajra cycle to show instances in which a realization of special

qualities after the destruction of the present karmic body through death is mentioned in

authoritative scripture. (This line of reply was not original with bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal; it was the

prima facie point of Shakya-mchog-ldan's question too, namely that the Mantrayana yogin's

attainment of the dharmakiiya at death and of the sambhogakiiya in the bar-do would seem to establish

the existence of delayed realization.)

29) The Tibetan text of Shiikya-mchog-Idan's discussion (Works, vol. 7, p. 86=ja 43b) [part III, quest. no. 21], is omitted

here for lack of space.

30) The Tibetan:

tshe 'dir mthung lam skyes pa




tan shi


'byung ba

ni II

blun po roams


rdzun rib yin


Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs


To back up his position within his own school, bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal also quotes the pertinent

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 109 To back up his position within his

lines from Zhang Tshal-pa. He then summarizes his understanding of the latter. Judging from his

use of examples, bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal seems to imply that the attainment of the Path of Seeing is

a transformation in the meditator's nature which accordingly makes the future qualities of that

attainment an automatic, though delayed, later outgrowth of that nature. Gradual later

manifestations of qualities are a realistic expectation, he seems to tell us - like Zhang's example of

the weak early light of the morning sun and its gradual gaining of thawing heat later in the day,

such a process is akin to other gradual developments in nature, in which one and the same thing

goes through a step-by-step growth and yet remains itself. The first sliver of the new moon is not

yet the full moon, but it is still the moon. A lion's cub may not yet have developed the full powers

of a mature lion, and an infant human might not have developed the powers of an adult, but they

are, after all, still a lion or human, respectively.

It is of interest that bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal uses the example of the human child here, for it was

precisely this example which sGam-po-pa had used to show the absurdity of the excessive claims of

certain rDzogs-chen followers who maintained that their (sudden) spiritual attainments were full

enlightenment. Moreover, here the example of the sudden manifestation of remarkable qualities

by the khyung chick at birth has been avoided by bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal, and even the lion cub is not

said to be anything extraordinary at birth, except in his future potential. So here the radically

innatist concept of "[already] complete powers" (rtsal rdzogs) which manifest suddenly at the

moment of spiritual birth has been avoided. These powers are delayed acquisitions which may

manifest themselves gradually.

However, it will be remembered that for the khyung, there is a sudden manifestations of his full

potential at birth. Conversely, the full potential of the meditator, according to Zhang, manifests

not at the birth of the insight but rather at physical death, with the breaking of the "egg-shell" of

this mortal physical existence:

The abilities of the khyung bird are [already] complete within the egg. When it is rid of its egg-shell, it o soars in the sky. The qualities of the three Bodies (kaya) are complete within the mi nd. After the

"trap" of the body is destroyed, the [accomplishing of] the benefitting of others will arise. 3 I)

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 109 To back up his position within his

(These lines are not quoted by bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal here.)

In the next passage bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal quotes eight lines from the writings of rJe gTsang-pa

rGya-ras Ye-shes-rdo-rje (1 161-121 1), and follows with his own final summary. Here, based on

gTsang-pa rGya-ras and ultimately on bla-ma Zhang, he draws a theoretical distinction for

explaining the differences between someone like Sa-paQ and the Phyag-chen tradition, and thus

implicitly also offers a possible approach toward resolving the apparent contradictions through

interpretation. According to bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal (and both rGya-ras and Zhang), the qualities of

the stages and path which are taught in the "Sign-Vehicle" (mtshan nyid tkeg pa, i.e. in the general,

non-tantric Mahayana) were taught with a special intention (dgongs pa can) and are thus not to be

literally accepted by the follower of the Mantrayana (or of the Mahamudra system in particular?).

The latter is a separate path with its own signs of attainment. Based on the lesser or greater power

of their previous training (in past lives, for example), great meditative adepts (sgom chen) variously

may or may not manifest the possession of magical powers, he says. In order to achieve the

qualities such as magical powers, it is necessary to apply oneself specifically to practices of the

worldly and Mantrayana paths. They do not always appear of their own.

Here bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal has thus shifted his line of attack, since before this he had tried to

answer Sa-paQ's objections within the scheme of the ordinary Sutra and Mantra systems. Now he

seems to admit that such automatic attainments are taught within the Mahayana scriptures, but

31) See Zhang g.Yu-brag-pa, Phyag chen lam z.ab mtitar thug. p. 91 (=22a), as quoted above.




that these doctrines are not binding on and are not to be taken literally by someone practicing a

higher, extraordinary path such as the Mahamudra.32)

1 10 David JACKSON that these doctrines are not binding on and are not to be

L. Lhalungpa (1986), pp. 406f, has translated the relevant passage from bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal

(=Tib., pp. 375b-376a), though like bKra-shis-rnam-rgyal, he did not explicitly identify the

proponent here- as being bla-ma Zhang or the opponent as being Sa-pa


It would be useful to

locate other defenses of this and the related notions by other influential 16th-century

bKa'-brgyud-pa savants such as 'Brug-chen Padma-dkar-po.

D. Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa and the rDzogs chen snying thig

Meanwhile the rNying-ma-pas had continued to employ the examples of the khyung chick and

the lion's cub. The great 14th-century rDzogs-chen systematizer Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa

Dri-med-'od-zer (1308-1363/4), for instance, used the image of the great khyung bird and its

emergence fully developed from the eggshell in his "Seven Treasuries" (mDzod bdun). One such

occurrence is in the work Chos dbyings rin po che'i mdzod (Derge ed., p. 9b), which is further

explained in the autocommentary Chos dbyings rin po che'i mdzod kyi 'grel pa lung gi gter mdzod (Derge

ed., 62b-63a).33) Here the author uses the image to illustrate a later instantaneous emergence of

already complete abilities. His comment has two sections, which are backed up by quotes from the

Kun byed rgyal po and Seng ge rtsal rdzogs Tantras, respectively. His account is pure commentatorial

exposition; there is no acknowledgment or indication that any controversy surrounds these


In the first passage in the autocommentary, Klong-chen-pa seems to stress the instantaneous

nature of the rDzogs-chen yogi's attainment, and this seems also true of the basic text (milla), in

which the realized yogi's overwhelming of the followers of lesser Buddhist vehicles and his being

able to get across the precipice of Sarpsara is likened to the (khyung) bird which, once it is free of its

egg, soars (immediately) in the sky by virtue of its already perfectly developed wings.

Simultaneously it overwhelms the Nagas, and automatically, as it were, it is able to pass over and

beyond the precipice. (This overwhelming of followers of lower vehicles is of course reminiscent

of one Indian Mahayana Sutra's use of the lion cub image.)

The second commentatorial passage (p. 62b.6) is an alternative or supplementary explanation

which brings out the sense of delayed realization more dearly. It specifies that the awareness (rig

pa) realized as the Dharmakiiya (through its having been directly introduced by the teacher) is the

sky, while the Nirmii:TJ-akiiya that is manifested (upon the destruction of the body at death) is the

soaring khyung bird itself. The potential for this is now present in a realized yogi, but it will not

become actually manifest until later, when this restricting delusive body is gotten rid of.

E. Tshogs-drug-rang-grol of the Recent rDzogs-chen

Regarding the still later rDzogs-chen tradition, I have yet to find any discussion touching on the

criticisms of Sa-pal). and the points he raised. The images of the khyung, the lions cub, etc.,

remained for the 19th-century A-mdo-ba master Zhabs-dkar Tshogs-drug-rang-grol and others

like him an unquestioned and valid part of his traditon. But in the following song of that master at

least, the lion and khyung have become less radically complete at the time of birth, and their later

development is considerably more gradual:

Homage to the Guru!

My name is

"Son of the White Lion."

At first



fostered by the milk of a lioness.

In the middle,

I was raised on various foods.

Now my three abilities are developed and perfect.

32) The Tibetan text omitted. 33) I am indebted to Mr. Andreas Kretsehmar for this reference.

1 10 David JACKSON that these doctrines are not binding on and are not to be

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs


It is my parents' grace that my torquoise mane has grown full.

Now I

won't stay - I

will go wander high in the glaciers.

That is



for a white

glacier lion to


My name is "Son of the Eagle (khyung), King of Birds."




was fostered by the warmth of a she-bird.

In the middle,

I was raised on various foods.


Now my wings and abilities are all complete.




parents' grace that I soar in


sky as

an eagle.

Now I won't stay - I will go wander the blue heavens.

That is the place where the sky

is vast and




my wings

full of breeze.

My name is "Son of the King of Dharma."

At first he favored me and gave me instruction.

In the middle, he made me meditate in the mountains.

Now meditative experiences, realizations and qualities have arisen.

Birds in the Egg and Newborn Lion Cubs 111 It is my parents' grace that my

It is my master's grace that· I can withstand poverty and wilderness.

Now I won't stay - I will go wander in the wilderness.

That is a secluded spot, the place where I can live as a renunciant.34)



These animal images and the doctrinal issues they were used to express thus remained in

continuous use throughout most of the history of Buddhism in Tibet. And they remain very much

alive for the Tibetan traditions teaching all-at-once awakening such as the rDzogs-chen and the

Mahamudra of the Dwags-po bKa' -brgyud-pa. It is curious that none of the traditional authorities

seem to have noticed the early origins and lengthy development of these images and doctrines. A

better knowledge of the. full historical background might have clarified some of the issues for the

traditional scholars, too. I wonder, for instance, whether Go-rams-pa's comments on the sDom

gsum Tab dbye would have been so sharply focused on what he took to be a particular

misinterpretation of tantric practice by the rN gog gZhung-pa masters, had he known more of the

background and further ramifications of this controversy. It also occurs to me that Dwags-po

bKa'-brgyud-pa scholars such as sCam-po bKra-shis-mam-rgyal might have been surprised to see

these images - which they quite freely accepted and defended - traced back to the early

rDzogs-chen and (in part at least) to the teachings of Mo-ho-yen himself. It will be interesting to

see what the more historically minded members of the modem traditions will have to add on these

subjects as the historical background becomes clearer through further investigations into early

Tibetan Buddhism.

34) The Tibetan text is found in Bya btang tslwgs drug Tang grol gyis rang dang sluJl ldan gdul bya La mgrin pa gdams pa'i bang

mdwd 1IIJS gill. dbyangs dga' stan 'gyed maIllS (DaIjeeling: Lama Dawa and Chopal Lama, 1984), pp. 48f (25b-25a). 1 am

grateful to Dr. Franz-Karl Ehrhard for pointing out this passage.




1 12 David JACKSON Postscript Since submitting this article one year ago, three additional sources from


Since submitting this article one year ago, three additional sources from the Indian and Ch'an

traditions have come to my notice in which these animal images are employed.

(1) There exists a Ch'an poem by the Tang-dynasty master Hsiian-chuen (japanese: Genkaku)

reproduced in Yanagida Seizan, Zen no Goroku 16, Shokoda [?] (Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 1974),

p. 80. The poem mentions a lion that roars a great roar even at the age of three. I am

1 12 David JACKSON Postscript Since submitting this article one year ago, three additional sources from

indebted to Ms. Wendy Adamek for this reference.

(2) In the Siltrasamuccaya, (Bhikkhu Pasadika ed.), p. 21, the above mentioned passage from the

AjataSatrukaukrtJavinodana Siltra also occurs, with some variations, as was pointed out to me by

Mr. Jonathan Silk. See Bhikkhu Pasadika ed., Nagarjuna's Siltrasamuccaya: A critical Edition of

the mDo kun las btus pa, Copenhagen, Akademisk Forlag i Kommission, 1989.

(3) An even more important discovery was the passage in the "Maitreya" chapter of the

GaTJ4atryilha Siltra which probably served as one of the basic sources for these animal images in

the Mahayana. The GaTJ4atryilha (Tib. sDong pos bkod pa) is the forty-fifth and last section"of the

huge Buddhiivata'f!lSaka nama mahavaipulya Siltra (Tib. Sangs rgyas phal po che zhes bya ba shin tu

rgyas pa chen po'i mdo). This too was located by Mr. Jonathan Silk, who informed me:

Here [in the Ga1Jf/,atryuha Siltra] all three metaphors are found grouped closely together, the

second and third occurring in fact next to each other. The passages are located as follows (Sanskrit

text = ed. D. T. Suzuki and H. Idzumi, Kyoto, 1949):

  • (A) Skt. 503.7-1 l =Tib. (Peking no. 76 1) Phal chen, hi, 2 1 lb. 5-7=Chinese T. 278 (ix) 778c. 4-7=T. 279 (x) 432c. 1 5-18=T. 293 (x) 828c.2-3.

  • (B) Skt. 503. 1 9-23=Tib. 2 12a.4-5=Chin. T. 278 (ix) 778c. I4-17=T. 279 (x) 432c.27-433a.2=T.

  • 293 (x) 828c.


  • (C) Skt. 503.23-504.2=Tib. 2 12a.6-b. l =Chin. T. 278 (ix) 778c. 1 7-21=T. 279 (x) 433a. 2-7=T.

  • 293 828c.



The Tibetan translation and the Chinese translation T. 278, despite the odd syntax, agree very

closely with the Sanskrit. There are serious textual problems in the Sanskrit of (A), which I have

understood with the aid of the Tibetan and Chinese. I emend the Skt. text slightly accordingly:

(A) tadyathii kulaputra si1!Zhasya mYJarajasya niidendcirajatalJ. si1!ZhapotalJ. si1!ZhapotalJ. p�anti

sarvamYJQS ca vilayam gacchanti / evam eva



sarvajiiatanii.dena {prayuktalJ.?J sarvadikarmikabodhisattvasi1!ZhapotalJ. �yantibuddhadharmailJ. sarvo­

palambhasa1!ZniSritaS ca sattva vilaya1!Z gacchanti.

  • (A) "Son of a good family! As newly born lion cubs are nurtured by the roar of the lion,

the king of beasts, but all [other] beasts flee [at its sound], just so all beginning Bodhisattvas,

[comparable to] lion cubs, instigated by the roar of omniscience praising the Aspiration to

Awakening [roared by] the Tathagata, the man-lion, are nurtured by the Buddha-qualities

[Tib.: "by the Buddha"; Chin.: "nurture the Dharma-body"], but all [other] beings dependent

on wrong mental acquisition flee [at its sound]."

The two other passages are quite readable as given by Suzuki and Idzumi, so to give just an

English translation:

  • (B) "Son of a good family! . As that excellent power of the cry of the kalavinka chick not

[yet] emerged from the shell of the egg is not possessed by all the flocks of birds inhabiting the

1 12 David JACKSON Postscript Since submitting this article one year ago, three additional sources from

BiTds in the Egg and Nnobom Lion Cubs

1 13

BiTds in the Egg and Nnobom Lion Cubs 1 13 kinds of [other] powers and strengths,

Himalayas, [even though] they possess all kinds of [other] powers and strengths, just so the

BiTds in the Egg and Nnobom Lion Cubs 1 13 kinds of [other] powers and strengths,

excellent power of the cry of great compassion and the Aspiration to Awakening of the

beginning Bodhisattva, [comparable to] the kalavinka chick, [still] inside the egg of Sarp.sara, is

not possessed by all Sravakas or Pratyekabuddhas."

(C) "Son of a good family! As the strength and energy of the wind [blown] by the wings,

and the quality of purity of the eyes of [even] the newborn chick of the Great Lord of GaruQas .

is not possessed by all other birds [even] when their bodied are fully developed, just so the

strength and energy of [Tib. : the wind of] the Aspiration to Omniscience and the quality of

purity of Great Compassion and earnest intention of the Bodhisattva who has just made the

first Aspiration [for Awakening], [comparable to] the chick of the Great Lord of GaruQas,

produced from the family and lineage of the Tathagata, [himself comparable to] the Great

Lord GaruQa, is not possessed by all the Sravakas or Pratyekabuddhas [even though] they

have gone forth for a hundred thousand aeons."

As Mr. Silk also pointed out, secondary studies referring to these sources include E. Lamotte

(1949-80), Le Traite de La Grande Vertu de Sagesse de Niigiirjuna (MahaprajiuiparamitiiSiistra), Louvain,

p. 1848, and j.W. de Jong (1977), "Sanskrit Fragments of the Kasyapaparivarta," Beitriige zur

Indien Forschung (Ernst Waldschmidt zum 80. Geburtstag gewidmet), Berlin, p. 255, n. 1 7. The

latter refers to the RatnakaraI,lQa (vyuha?) Sutra, and the quote in the Sik�asamuccaya, (Bendall's

ed.), p. 6.



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