A Brief Summary For the Curious reader
The Nekhor team requested direction from Kyapjé Domang Yangthang Rinpoché (1930–2016) on how to navigate the many biographies of the Mahaguru. He kindly offered this advice: “Primarily follow the Pema Kathang, the Chronicles of Padma, and use it as your guiding reference.” And we have done our best to fulfill this advice, while supplementing that foundational narrative with other, equally authoritative accounts.
The Pema Kathang was discovered in the fourteenth century by the great treasure revealer Orgyen Lingpa (b. 1323), and it represents the very speech of the Guru Padmasambhava, as flawlessly remembered and set to paper by his chief consort and devoted disciple Khandro Yeshé Tsogyal. In the wake of its discovery, the Pema Kathang quickly rose to become one of the most celebrated biographies of the Mahaguru. Its language is highly poetic, set in verse, and divided into 108 chapters reaching approximately 500 pages in length. Orgyen Lingpa revealed a companion treasure volume, the Kathang Dé Nga, the Five Part Chronicle, which elaborates on various episodes and key figures in Guru Padmasambhava’s life.
Soon after the Pema Kathang was revealed, Sangyé Lingpa (1340– 1396), a contemporary of Orgyen Lingpa, discovered the Sertrengwa, the Golden Garland Chronicles. Closely following the Pema Kathang, written in prose, divided into 117 chapters, and somewhat longer than the Pema Kathang, this is considered by many as a kind of autocommentary on the Pema Kathang. We found that these two works are integral supports for each other, forming a master narrative of the Mahaguru’s life.
Of these three major biographies, the Pema Kathang was translated into French as Le Dict de Padma by Gustave-Charles Toussaint in 1912. In 1978, it was translated from French into English by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays. It is our heartfelt aspiration in the coming years to bring out a modern translation of the Pema Kathang, along with the Kathang Dé Nga and the Sertrengwa, neither of which are available in the English language.
While the Pema Kathang plays a central role in revealing the life of the Mahaguru, it does not always provide a detailed account of each and every sacred site. Nor do all the sites found within it have a clear place in the modern landscape. Furthermore, we found that other authoritative sources do, at times, provide more information or even tell different tales of certain places. Thus, we have carefully selected some of the most trusted compositions, prayers, and stories from great masters past and present that provide insight into these sacred sites.
These other sources include Zanglingma, The Copper Palace, revealed by Nyang-ral Nyima Özer (1124–1192); Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo’s (1820–1892) summary prayer, A Beautiful and Wondrous Udumbara Garland; Le’u Dünma, The Prayer in Seven Chapters, revealed by Tulku Zangpo Drakpa (fourteenth century); Nakchang Shakya Zangpos’ (fifteenth century) treasure-history of the Boudha Stupa; The Wish-Fulfilling Tree and the Barché Lamsel, both revealed by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829–1870); and two versified biographies entitled The Tenth Day Prayer, one by Jamgön Kongtrul (1813–1899) and the other by Kyapjé Dudjom Rinpoché (1904–1987). Furthermore, we rely upon the pilgrimage accounts of the great masters of our present day and age who have personally visited these blessed sites, such as Kyapjé Jamyang Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö, Kyapjé Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoché, Kyapjé Dudjom Rinpoché, Kyapé Jikmé Phuntsok Rinpoché, Kyapjé Chatral Rinpoché, and many more.
As for the sacred sites that are in close proximity to the Guru Rinpoché’s we have primarily relied primarily on the famous pilgrimage guide by the 4th Khamtrul Rinpoché Tenzin Chökyi Nyima (1730–1780) entitled Gangchen Nawé Düdtsi, “Nectar for Snow-Crusted Ears.” It is our aspiration to bring out a modern translation of this guide soon.