November 05, 2012


In Tibetan sources, the earliest (Buddhist) treatise (śāstra: bstan bcos) is said to be the Bye brag tu bshad pa, i.e. the (Mahā)vibhāṣa, believed to be composed by five-hundred Arhats in Asura cave, as a commentary on the Buddha’s teachings belonging to what is known as the First Wheel of Promulgation (bka’ ’khor lo dang po), and said to make up three-hundred bam pos. See the Ka khol ma (pp. 32–33) and Nyang ral chos ’byung (p. 86).


  1. Dear D,

    It's maybe worth adding that until very recently this work only existed in a complete state in Chinese. There were two early Tibetan attempts to translate it. Both of these were incomplete and since then lost.

    Here's what the Deyu history says (at p. 97): "After the Buddha's entrance into Parinirvāṇa, in the summer rains of the following year, the five hundred Arhats met in the Secret Rock Cave. There, it is said, they composed a Treasury of Explanations (Bshad pa'i mdzod) in one hundred thousand verses."

    The exciting news is that the complete Tibetan translation has now been published in 9 full volumes! Apparently it's the author's original autograph, so no typesetting is involved, so I wonder how legible it would be, hard telling. I haven't actually seen it, and base what follows on book catalogs only:

    Chos mngon pa’i bstan bcos ye shes la ’jug pa [vol. 1] and Chos mngon pa bye brag tu bshad pa chen po [vols. 2-10], Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (Beijing 2012), in 11 vols. altogether. These two previously untranslated works were translated from Chinese into Tibetan by Blo bzang chos ’phyogs (?) in the years 1945-1949. This is a reproduction of the author's original autograph.

    Well, if news like that doesn't totally make your day, I don't know what could. Perhaps the rediscovery of the biggest book in the world in a temple in Thimphu?

    It would appear that the first treatise is also the biggest treatise. Whatever religion besides Buddhism could possibly claim that?


  2. Dear Dan,

    Thanks for the good news. I am looking forward to reading it. I am writing this after a long day and so apologies for the lack of euphoria.