March 15, 2014


The meaning of the expression byung tshor gyi rtog pa is unclear to me, that is, despite the fact that it has been hitherto understood something like “conceptual construction, whose occurrence/arising one feels/senses or is aware of.” Apologies, I do not like any other translation suggested thus far, for example, in: The question remains whether this kind of understanding is mere speculative or whether it is actually substantiated. Could it be that it means something like “conceptual constructions consisting in feelings/sensations [given rise to] by elements”? That is, byung is an orthographic imprecision (though not completely a mistake) for ’byung (for ’byung ba) and hence “elements”? Quite unlikely? At any rate, it is a wild speculation and I do not commit myself to it.

sNa-tshogs-rang-grol (via TBRC-search): yid byung tshor gyi rtog pa chos nyid rtsal ||. This does not tell us much.

Klong-chen-pa (via TBRC-search): phaṭ ces yengs la (sic) ’bor ba’i rkyen gyis sngar mi rtog pa’i dwangs de zhig kyang byung tshor gyi rtog pa dang der ’dzin gyi gnyen po med pa’i shes pa rangs gsal rgya yan gzhi chal ba cig ’char te. This context might help us a bit more.


  1. Dear D, Have often been perplexed by this term. Here is the present shape of my vocabulary entry for it. I suppose something in it might help one way or the other. The watchman-thief analogy is intriguing. Yours, D

    •BYUNG TSHOR A term used in Bon Abhidharma, for which I haven't been able to find a good explanation. It doesn't seem to be included in the Mvy. Sgam-po-pa also uses it (Kragh's thesis, note 151), and it appears in works by Ma-cig Lab-sgron. byung tshor rang dangs su ma shes na / rtog pa'i rlangs skyibs kyang. Zhi-byed Coll. II 466.6. myi gzhi' phung po la byung tshor gnas / des dbang po dang rnam shes 'brel / der bzung yul dang / 'dzin pa'i shes pa gnyis dbang po dang gsum tshogs nas... Zhi-byed Coll. IV 8.3. Carmen Meinart has studied an interesting passage that is found in P.t. 699, in which it is interpreted as 'being aware of arisings,' with the tshor compared to the watchman, and the byung to a thief. See her article in TS9 II, pointed out to me by Thierry Lamouroux. Sgra-'grel commentary on the Mdzod-phug has this interesting line: mi nyag gis gsungs pa / sems byung sems su ro gcig na / byung tshor bya ba ga la yod ces gsungs so.

  2. smad yul ma3/16/14, 2:29 PM

    It is a rather amazing coincidence that I heard this very phrase for the first time today. Interpreting for a bKa' rgyud bla ma, it came up in response to my attempt to translate (i.e. explain) the word 'the subconscious' to him, as a student had asked him a question about it. The bla ma mentioned that perhaps the closest thing to it would be byung tshor rtog pa (no ''brel sgra here), which he then explained as thoughts that appear randomly during meditation that seem to come from nowhere (so perhaps one can explain the phrase as conceptions that first arise (byung) and are then experienced (tshor)?). In any case, this appears to be restricted to meditation alone. Alas, a suitable translation for 'the subconscious' still awaits! While I have nothing to add on the textual front, at least we now know (or maybe you did already) that the term is still used today (literally!). least by a sGam po pa reading Bhutanese bKa' rgyud pa bla ma from Bhutan..

  3. If memory serves, there was a discussion on byung-tshor on Lotsawa List or some such a few years back. I don't remember if there was any good outcome. I'd suggest for unconscious mind Tibetan bag-nyal, which I would literally take to say 'sleeping [in] hiding.' It's certainly some kind of latent psychic content with the potential to erupt, but whether Freud or Jung would recognize in it their darling ideas, who knows?

  4. I think it means a thought that occurs when you sense the arising of a mental event.
    (Understanding byung as a short way of saying sems byung.)