March 22, 2013


Many years ago, I was under “the” Bodhi tree with thousand of monks reciting the bZang spyod smon lam. During one of the breaks, the late mKhan-po dBang-phyug-bsod-nams—one of my teachers and friends, a very good rNying-ma mkhan po, who started his career by rearing cows for the Sixteenth Karma-pa and eventually became his ritual master (dbu mdzad) but left for Mysore with a Sa-skya mkhan po who was invited to teach in the rNying-ma bshad grwa there—called me up to him and held a poster depicting full of red-hat masters under my nose. Pointing out to a yellow-hat bla ma amidst many red-hat bla mas, he asked me: “Do you know who this is?” Feeling a bit sheepish, I replied, “No, but what is he doing there?” Just as the gong rang for resuming the smon lam session, he added, “This is the Great Fifth.” As I was turning away to take my seat, I added “Of course, who else! The rNying-ma bla ma with a yellow-hat!” But there was no love lost between him and the rNying-ma triad called the “sNang-sog-gong-gsum.” sDe-srid Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho in his g.Ya’ sel, while talking about the Great Fifth, often mentions “except for the so-called sNang-sog-gong-gsum” (snang sog gong gsum zhes pa ma gtogs or snang sog gong gsum tsam ma gtogs). See, for example, the g.Ya’ sel (pp. 1055 (twice), 1058). The “sNang-sog-gong-gsum” has been already identified by Matthew Akester as: sNang-rtse-gter-ston Zhig-po-gling-pa, Sog-zlog-pa Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan, and Gong-ra-lo-chen gZhan-phan-rdo-rje. See Matthew Akester, “A Black Demon Peering from the West: The Crystal Cave of Suratabajra in Tibetan Perspective.” Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods 10 (1 & 2), 1999–2000. These are also identified in the Gur bkra’i chos ’byung (pp. 447–448).

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