February 11, 2020

འགྲེས་རྩ། འགྲེས་རིང་། འགྲེས་ཐུང་། འགྲེས་རྐང་།

In the Tibetan accounts of the Śatasāhasrikā, we find terms such as ’gres rtsa’gres ring, and ’gres thung. One can notice from the context that ’gres is certainly used as a technical term: “basic ’gres, longer ’gres, and shorter ’gres.” But what exactly is ’gres in our context? The closest plausible word seems to be ’gres rkang. See the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. ’gres rkang): tshigs bcad dum bu re’i mtshams su gzud rgyu’i rigs ’gres gtong rung ba’i tshig rkang. According to this, a ’gres rkang is a pāda or a line which occurs repeatedly and hence can be inserted in between blocks of verses or passages. But this does not seem to be only meaning. Some sources (see TBRC or BDRC) simply seem to use ’gres rkang in the sense of “items” of phenomena (i.e. “subject of the property of emptiness” (stong gzhi chos can) usually divided to those that belong to saṃkleśa (e.g. 5 skandhas) and those that belong to vyavadāna (e.g. 6 pāramitās). Even in this sense, what would exactly be ’gres rtsa’gres ring, and ’gres thung? This needs further investigation. The following expressions seem to shed some light the use of the word ’gres rkang: ’gres rkang gi mtshams la ’jug par bya; gzhan rnams ’gres rkang du bzhag ’dug pa; ’gres rkang phyes ma phyes kyi khyad par tsam; ’gres rkang ded par bya; ’gres rkang sbyor ba; de bzhin du ’gres rkang ded pas legs po ’ong mchis so ||.


  1. Oh my, Dorji, This takes quite a lot of thought, I think, and the solution is difficult to feel too sure about.

    TibVocab* has this:

    •'GRE BA OT = g.yo ba. Skt. kambi. Blaṅ 293.2. Btsan-lha. to roll (on the ground). NNV. = g.yo ba. Lcang-skya.


    I like the 'rolling' meaning. I think it doesn't necessarily mean rolling completely around over and over again. My understanding is that cows do this verbal action when they roll their backs from side to side in the dust (I imagine they do this to relieve itchy skin).

    Whatever the connection with what cows do, there are texts of both Bon and Chos that explain how to add in sets of Nirvanic and Sangsaric dharmas into repeated passages. The Prajnaparamita was originally an oral production of the Dharma Bhanakas, and this is one of their techniques to be able to recite huge passages of scripture from memory. But we should probably keep this a secret. There are texts devoted to 'gres-rkang, as can be known by searching TBRC. Yours, D.

  2. Dear Dan, many thanks. I think the Tshig mdzod chen mo, too, provides all three meanings, namely, the ditto application, rolling, and moving. Yes, I also took a cursory look at those texts in the TBRC. The expression ’gres rkang ded pa would mean something like “to follow the ditto item” or “apply ditto.” Suppose a Prajñāpāramitā scripture states: gzugs stong pa’o || stong pa nyid gzugs so || gzugs las stong pa nyid gzhan ma yin || stong pa nyid las kyang gzugs gzhan ma yin no || de bzhin du tshor ba dang and so on. Now a Prajñāpāramitā teacher might tell his student: ’gres rkang sbyor ba bya; ’gres rkang ded par bya. What should the student do? In this case, the student should formulate similar statements by replacing gzugs with tshor ba and culminating with rnam pa thams cad mkhyen pa. Thus my tentative understanding is that ’gres rkang are items (e.g. within the range of rūpā and sarvajña). The expression gzhan rnams ’gres rkang du bzhag ’dug pa would then mean that rūpa has already be used to form those statements but vedanā and the rest have been left to be applied ditto. And suppose if one protests: It is true that rūpa is empty of itself. But it is not true that the Buddha’s omniscience is empty of itself. Then the answer would be that the difference between rūpa and sarvjña is merely wether the two items have been expanded ditto (’gres rkang phyes ma phyes kyi khyad par tsam). But the question is what are longer items, shorter items, and basic items. Maybe longer items would be something 16 kinds of emptiness and shorter items like 5 skandhas? And maybe basic item would be something like pratītyasamutpāda (without going into the details of the 12 limbs)? I still need some more time and effort to have a clearer and better picture of these terms. Anyway, thanks again. Warmly, D.

  3. Dear D, I wish I could supply exact references, not just now, but I did read in one or another of those texts directions about particular cases where particular repeated items in the list are not to be inserted. And instructions to apply only the nirvanic dharmas in one case, or only sangsaric dharmas in another. That means the entire list of dharmas is not employed in every instance. Be well and dustfree. D