Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich

Hevajra and Lam’bras Literature of India and Tibet as Seen Through the Eyes of A-mes-zhabs

17.0 x 24.0 cm, 264 p., 12 illustrations b/w, cloth
68,00 €

ISBN: 9783895006524
Table of Contents

Short Description

The Hevajra Tantras and teachings of the 'Path with Its Fruit' (lam ‘bras) that originated in India have been central practices of Tibetan tantric Buddhism for a millenium. The Tibetans translated eight Hevajra transmissions with their tantras, commentaries, rituals, and instructions and authored countless scriptures in the context of the tantra and the 'Path with Its Fruit' that originated with the Indian Mahasiddha Virupa. Drawing on title lists (dkar chag), colophones, and commentaries authored between the 11th and 17th centuries, the author attempts a reconstruction of the Indian and Tibetan corpora of these transmissions, its literary history and relations to one another.


The Sa-skya-pa master A-mes-zhabs (1597 to 1659) is among the most important historians of his lineage and he transmitted biographical and other historical information and the enormous body of mantra teachings owned by his lineage in hundreds of texts, most prominently in his genealogies, histories of tantric cycles, biographies, records of teachings of his teachers, and commentaries of varous formats on tantric cycles and their practices. Making use of this rich material, the author maps out both the Hevajra and Path with Its Fruit (lam ‘bras) transmissions and literature, which the Tibetans inherited from their Indian Buddhist predecessors. The first part of the book focuses on the “six great chariot systems” and the two systems of pith instructions of Hevajra originating from Dombiheruka, Saroruhavajra, Krsna Samayavajra, Ratnakarasanti, Yasobhadra(?), Advayavajra (= Maitripa, = Avadhutipa), Naropa, and Virupa. The vast Indian and early Tibetan literature of these cycles and instructions is documented in reliance on several works by A-mes-zhabs and Ngor-chen Kun-dga’-bzang-po (1382 to 1456). Based on the records of teachings and other sources, more than sixty authors and their works of the period between the 12th and 17th centuries are mentiond, shedding much light on the rather intricate relationships these works have with one another.
The second part of the book maps out the Sa-skya-pas’ Path with Its Fruit literature, which is a complex cycle of tantric teachings and practices that centers on Hevajra as its principle deity and goes back to oral teachings of the Indian siddha Virupa. The documentation is based on the title lists (dkar chag) of the central volumes of this cycle of teachings, and on the writings and records of teachings of A-mes Zhabs. The works contained in the three central volumes of this Path, i.e. the YELLOW, RED and BLACK BOOK, are briefly characterized and classified. These are the works of Sa-chen Kun-dga’-snying-po (1092 to 1158), Phag-mo-gru-pa (1110 to 1170), bSod-nams-rtse-mo (1142 to 1182), Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan (1147 to 1216), Ngor-chen, Bla-ma Dam-pa bSod-nams-rgyal-mtshan (1312 to 1375), and of the “profound explication for disciples” tradition (lam ‘bras slob bshad), also called “practice of Kha’u-brag-rdzong” and “tradition of Tshar” (after Tshar-chen Blo-gros-rgya-mtsho, 1502 to 1566/67).
Outside of these collections and following these chief traditions, numerous other works appeared, whose authors were such eminent figures as Mus-chen dKon-mchog rGyal-mtshan (1388 to 1469), Go-rams-pa bSod-nams Seng-ge (1429 to 1489), Mus-chen Sangs-rgyas-rin-chen (1450 to 1524), dKon-mchog-lhun-grub (1497 to 1557), bDag-chen Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan (1444 to 1495), ‘Jam-dbyangs mKhyen-rtse dBang-chug (1524 to 1568), Ngag-dbang Chos-kyi-grags-pa (1572 to 1641), and bSod-nams-dbang-po (1559 to 1621). In this way, the book classifies 700 works, places them within their specific transmission of the Hevajra and the Path with Its Fruit teachings, and describes their relations to one another.
In its appendices, the volume contains ten rare title lists of former Sa-skya-pa masters found in the records of teachings compiled by A-mes-zhabs, the text and translation of a teaching of Ngor-chen on the Hevajra transmission and its literature, and a detailed index of names. Being both a detailed bibliography and a brief literary history, the book is conceived as a contribution to the history of the Sa-skya-pa lineage and its tantric teachings, with a special focus on Hevajra and Lam ‘bras.

Biographical Note

Jan-Ulrich Sobisch studied Tibetology (with the secondary subjects Indology and Philosophy) at Hamburg University, where he received a Dr. phil. with a study of the three vow systems of Tibetan Buddhism (sdom pa gsum). He taught since 1996 in Hamburg and worked with several research grants at the universities of Hamburg and Munich. Since 2003 he works at Copenhagen University, where he is currently employed as associate professor for Tibetan Studies. His chief research interest focuses on the reception of tantric Buddhism in Tibet between the 11th and 15th centuries. He also works with Tibetan manuscripts and maintains a close relationship with contemporary Tibetan Buddhist scholars and yogis.


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