March 14, 2013


An important personality in Tibet (be it a ruler, saint, or scholar) is often said to be an emanation of a certain bodhisattva or even a buddha. How do we explain it? Here is an attempt. Tibetan Buddhist mentality or attitude seems to presuppose that the teachings of the Buddha are or should be the causes and conditions for the wellbeing of sentient beings. The teachings of the Buddha can be said to living and effective, if and only if, they manifest in the form of what are known as the activities of the mkhas pa’i tshul dgu (e.g. education, contemplation, and mediation). Otherwise the teachings of the Buddha are either dead or are mere shadows. Existence of structures such as statues, books of scriptures—called the three receptacles (rten gsum)—are believed to be the physical representations of the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind. Temples and monasteries, complexes such as bshad grwa and sgrub grwa, are considered to be (infrastructural) “supports” (rten) and people engaged in the activities of the mkhas pa’i tshul dgu are usually considered “the supported” (brten pa). The assumption is also that benevolent rulers of a country would ensure that the infrastructures of the wellbeing of citizens are in place.  Those rulers that support and promote the teachings of the Buddha are regarded as supporting and promoting the wellbeing of people in the country and hence considered emanations of certain bodhisattvas or even buddhas. Such rulers are often called “righteous kings” (chos rgyal). Likewise a ruler who causes the destruction of Buddhism would be seen as undermining the wellbeing of sentient beings and hence as an emanation of the Evil (bdud kyi sprul pa). If Chinese rulers in the past have been revered by Tibetans as ’Jam-dbyangs-gong-ma, it is because they believed that they practised and promoted Buddha’s teachings. If an emperor is considered an emanation of Avalokiteśvara or Mañjuśrī, the country under the rule of that emperor would inevitably be regarded as the abode (or field) of Avalokiteśvara or Mañjuśrī. Indeed Tibet has often been considered an abode (or field) of Avalokiteśvara. Important personalities of the past in Tibet who directly or indirectly contributed in promoting the wellbeing of sentient beings have thus also been considered emanations of certain bodhisattvas or even buddhas. This tradition or tendency can be perhaps seen as an unofficial way of recognising the contributions and achievements of a person.

§1. To begin with, Tibetan kings included in the group of chos rgyal mos dbon rnam gsum/bzhi have been considered emanations of bodhisattvas (or buddhas). lHa Tho-tho-ri-gnyan-btsan is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra or Buddha Kāśyapa. Srong-btsan-sgam-po is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Khri-srong-lde-btsan is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī.  Khri-ral-pa-can is said to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi. (Add sources!)

§2. Thon-mi Saṃbhoṭa is said to be a speech-emanation (gsung gi sprul pa) of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. See the Ka khol ma (p. 107).

§3. Mar-pa (emanation of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra)? Check!

§4. Rwa-lo (emanation of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī).

§5. Sa-paṇ, Klong-chen-pa, and Tsong-kha-pa = emanations of Mañjuśrī (rGya bod, s.v. bod kyi ’jam dbyangs rnams gsum).

1 comment:

  1. Mkhas-pa Lde'u history (1987), p. 183:

    "Emanated kings," it says. The divine Tho-tho-ri-gnyan-btsan was an emanation of the Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha. Srong-btsan-sgam-po was an emanation of Mahākaruṇika, Great Compassion. Khri-srong-lde-btsan was an emanation of Mañjuśrī. The monarch Ral-pa-can was an emanation of Vajrapāṇi."