A Preliminary Survey of bKa’ thang Literature
The genre (one can indeed call so) of bka’i thang yig or simply bka’ thang may be deprecated by some but its untold value cannot be denied, particularly insofar it discloses various facets of Tibetan civilization through the ages. For personal curiosity, I wish to gain an overview of Tibetan literature that is referred to as bka’ thang. The survey of each bka’ thang should try to address these seven points: (a) theme, (b) size (i.e. number of chapters), (c) discoverer, (d) place of discovery, (e) time (i.e. year) of discovery, and (f) available edition, (g) and some relevant sources of information.
1. The Padma dka’ thang
The Padma bka’i thang thang yig or Padma dka’ thang (a) is supposed to be the Jātaka (sKyes rabs) and hagiography (rnam thar) of Padmasambhava. (b) It has 108 chapters. (c) It was discovered by U-rgyan-gling-pa (b. 1323) and his Treasure Assistant (gTer-g.yog) Hor-bsgom Shākya-bzang-po. U-rgyan-gling-pa is the counted as one of the Nine Gling-pas (gling pa dgu) among the treasure revealers (gte ston). (d) It is said to be discovered from the heart of the statue of Viṣṇu (Khyab-’jug), the door-keeping protector (sgo srungs) of Padma-shel-phug, at Yar-klung Shel-gyi-brag-rdzong. (e) The year of discovery is to be traced (if possible). (f) The modern edition (i.e. Padma bka’ thang. Chengdu: Si-khron-mi-rigs-dpe-skrun-khang, 1996) in Chengdu is based on the sDe-dge xylographic edition. The Great Fifth, in his gSan yig (SB, vol. 4, pp. 351–352), lists the two alternative transmission lineages of the Padma bka’ thang.
2. bKa’ thang sde lnga
3. lHa ’dre dka’ thang
4. rGyal po dka’ thang
5. bTsun mo dka’ thang
6. Lo paṇ dka’ thang
7. bka’ thang bka’ ma (i.e. composed) (Blo-gros-rgya-mtsho, bKa' thang mtshams sbyor, p. 8).
8. bka’ thang gter ma (i.e. revealed) (Blo-gros-rgya-mtsho, bKa’ thang mtshams sbyor, p. 9).
There are said to be thousands of bka’ thang; some large, some small; some in verse, some in prose. Here are a few popular ones:
(1) bKa’ thang shel brag ma
(2) bKa’ thang bsdus pa
(3) bKa’ thang sde lnga
(4) bKa’ thangs zangs gling ma
(5) bKa’ thang ga’u ma
(6) bKa’ thang gser phreng
(7) bKa’ thang mun sel sgron me
(8) bKa’ thang yid kyi mun sel
(9) bKa’ thang dri ma med pa’i rgyan