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The Scions of Dudjom Lingpa

Published by hollygayley on 21 Jan 2010 The scions of the 19th century terton or treasure revealer (gter ston) Bdud joms gling pa (1835-1904) had a significant impact on the religious history of Mgo log and environs. The eldest, Jigs med bstan pai nyi ma (1865-1926), became a scholar of great acclaim and served as the third in a line of Rdo grub chen incarnations. Another son, Dri med od zer (1881-1924), became a leading terton of his generation, considered an emanation of the 14th century Rnying ma master Klong chen rab byams. As a family treasure lineage par excellence, each generation in the Bdud joms line has produced prominent tertons: among his sons, Dri med od zer, Nam mkha jigs med, and Rdo rje dgra dul; among his grandsons, Kun bzang nyi ma, Bsod nams ldeu btsan, and Bstan dzin nyi ma, and among his great-grandsons, Mdo li nyi ma. The Bdud joms line has synthesized distinct processes for the transmission of esoteric Rnying ma teachings and ritual cycles, including family succession, reincarnation schemas, and the revelation of treasures (gter ma). One can see this synthesis through three variants of reincarnation found in his family line. First and foremost, Jigs med bstan pai nyi ma, as the 3rd Rdo grub chen, exemplifies the normative schema for reincarnate lamas in Tibet, consisting of a line of successive tulkus (sprul sku) associated with a monastic seat, each recognized and enthroned after the death of the previous one. In his seminal article on the topic, Turrell Wylie (1976) dates this Tibetan innovation in reincarnation to the 14th century during the career of the Bka brgyud hierarch Rang byung rdo rje and suggests its importance as a mechanism to transform the personal charisma of a lama into the charisma of office, thereby providing administrative continuity for monastic succession and later facilitating the hierochratic form of government under the Dalai Lamas in central Tibet. Early on, the Rnying ma also appropriated reincarnation into the emergent treasure tradition. The autobiography of the 12th century terton Nyang ral nyi ma od zer, while the date of its composition remains uncertain, claims him to be the rebirth of Khri srong ldeu btsan (Phillips 2004). This is an alternate form of reincarnation, particular to the treasure tradition, which traces the past lives of a terton to the 8th century in order to legitimate his or her revelations as the teachings of Padmasambhava or comparable master. As an example of this second variant, the terton Dri med od zer traced his past lives through Klong chen rab byams to the 8th century princess Padma gsal who, according to treasure lore, was temporarily revived by Padmasambhava after dying at the age of eight in order to pass on esoteric knowledge, later buried as treasures. The treasure traditions version of reincarnation does not demand a linear succession of incarnations, and the past life genealogy of Bdud joms gling pa himself illustrates this point well. After a timeless reference to his identity as the emanation of Vajradhara in the form of the yogin Nus ldan rdo rje, the first on the list of Bdud joms gling pas past lives is riputra, linking him to the historical Buddha as a prominent disciple, and next is the Indian siddha

H(chen)kara, locating him in the tantric milieu of medieval India. Never mind the gap of more than a millennium. His past life in Tibet during the 8th century, crucial to his capacity to reveal treasures, is reckoned as the translator, Khyeu chung of the Brog clan, situating him as a direct disciple of Padmasambhava. Rather than emphasizing linear succession, a tertons past lives routinely skip across the centuries with a focus on linking him or her to seminal times and places in the history of Buddhism and its transmission to Tibet. In addition, tertons often count previous tertons among their past lives. In this vein, Bdud joms gling pa is referred to as the 3rd Bdud dul, an emanation of the 17th century terton Bdud dul rdo rje and a lesser-known figure Bdud dul rol ba rtsal. Third and perhaps most interestingly, in the Bdud joms line, one finds reincarnation schemas articulated within the family. Bdud joms gling pa spawned a line of three emanations, the most famous of which was Bdud joms rin po che Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje (1904-1988), who left Tibet in the 1950s and became the head of the Rnying ma lineage in exile. Notably, Bdud joms gling pas other two emanations were his own grandsons, Rdzong gter Kun bzang nyi ma (19041958) and Bsod nams ldeu btsan (1910-1958), both who remained in Mgo log and became tertons in their own right. The latter also served as the steward of Bdud joms gling pas monastic seat, Brda tshang bskal bzang dgon. In Kun bzang nyi ma and Bsod nams ldeu btsan, one sees all three processes of transmission at work: family succession, reincarnation schemas, and the revelation of treasures. Alongside the tertons in the family, all of the scions of Bdud joms gling pa were recognized as reincarnate lamas. It is not uncommon for the children of a Rnying ma master to be identified as emanations of prominent religious figures from the previous generation. Bdud joms gling pas sons were recognized as the reincarnations of no less figures than Mdo mkhyen brtse Ye shes rdo rje and Dpal sprul rin po che O rgyan jigs med chos kyi dbang po. While the male heirs of Rnying ma masters might become high-ranking lamas at area monasteries, the female heirs were sometimes identified as emanations of Ye shes mtsho rgyal with no associated monastic seat. More unusually, in Mgo log and environs, the female terton Mkha gro Bde bai rdo rje provided a proximate antecedent for at least one of Bdud joms gling pas great-granddaughters, Lha lcam Chos kyi sgrol ma, as well as for the female terton Mkha gro T re lha mo (19382002), herself the daughter of a terton in the region. *** Padma od gsal mtha yas. Skyabs rje mchog sprul rin po che padma theg mchog bstan pai rgyal mtshan gyi yab mes rig dzin brgyud pai byung ba mdor bsdus tsam brjod pa ngo mtshar gser gyi snye ma. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003. Turrell Wylie. Reincarnation: A Political Innovation in Tibetan Buddhism.