No, that’s not the name of my new band’s first album. It’s a title I’m delighted to be able to use, because often Tibetan Buddhist histories, I’m told by somewhat disgruntled locals, ignore or underplay the roles of Mongolians, even when they’ve distinguished themselves in Tibet as exalted scholars or meditators, or even as the abbots of major monasteries.
The newly-translated biography of Terton Migyur Dorje (UK/Europe, US) reverses this trend somewhat and provides some clues to something for which I’ve been searching high and low these past four years – links between his revelations and the evolution of Mongolian Buddhism. The only whiff I’d had so far was a short practice text from Migyur Dorje’s Nam Chö cycle in the preserved collection of scriptures that had belonged to our hero, Danzan Ravjaa.
The following passage describes Mongols as active disciples and patrons of Migyur Dorje, and reveals more of a commingling in the Tibetan region of Kham than I realized. It’s especially surprising since most orthodox histories portray the Mongols as going whole hog for the Gelugpa system, hardly mentioning the Nyingmapa except for some disparaging asides. But this was a volatile time, as the Manchus had just consolidated the Qing dynasty, declaring it open for business in 1644, just one year before Migyur Dorje’s birth. Their imperial patronage of the Gelugpa and subsequent influence following their conquering of Mongolia were still a few years off.
This also gives a taste of the incredible mystical world Migyur Dorje inhabited, as part of a long chapter describing the ways in which he pinpointed sacred locations specially blessed for dharma practice and revealed them for the beneficial use of others. At age sixteen. Think back to what you were doing at sixteen. I was working at Burger King:
“Reaching the age of sixteen, [Terton Migyur Dorje] spent a day at Chamgyi Shor and that night dreamed of a woman with a shining black braid who told him: ‘You should be my lord. I have a good place I must hand over to you. Since it belongs to you, won’t you come and see it?’ The night Migyur Dorje approached the western land of Kumbum, the same woman appeared in his dream and said:
Tomorrow when you go to my place, carry weapons
Since unruly gods and demons will attack you on the way.
You will also meet someone with a mustache wearing a seal as a locket;
As an auspicious sign, for three days eat nothing from his hand.
I come from the region of Chijam.
“In his dream the terton asked: ‘Do you usually stay at that place?’ and the woman replied, ‘No, I do not, but when we heard you were coming many of us gathered and are about to make a tsok offering to you.’ The next morning, a few people came and offered the terton butter, but as advised in the dream he did not eat it for three days. As an auspicious sign, he did visualization practice and saw in his meditative experience that he overcame conflicts created by the gods and demons. He next approached a place called Kyodrag Kyokho where he had a vision of innumerable dakinis dancing, filling the entire area. Gradually he revealed the sacred places and their self-arisen sacred objects, having many miraculous visions of deities, including the Great Orgyen (Padmasambhava).
“Entering the cave of Senge Namchöng, he spent a day and slept there, seeing Orgyen Rinpoche in person, his right hand brandishing in the sky a vajra tipped with the syllable AH. The same night, he dreamed of a beautiful lady ornamented with precious jewels who gave him a skull cup filled with nectar. Making a sang and tsog offering, the terton created an auspicious circumstance. At the hill called Garze Changjang to the right of Datoed Chijam near the white rock of Senge Namchöng, he showed extremely wonderful images – the six syllables (Om Mani Padme Hung), footprints [in the solid rock] and other things – that were previously unknown. He went to Nyima Cave, a place of accomplishment of the Great Orgyen, saw Guru Rinpoche in person and showed his companions several spectacular self-arisen objects.
“The terton pointed his finger toward places he could not himself go and, giving detailed descriptions, commanded: ‘Go there! You will find self-manifested images of deities, letters, footprints and other wonders.’ Following his words, the Tibetans and Mongolians accompanying him went where he indicated; finding everything as he had foretold, they were overjoyed. Among them was a leader of many Mongolian regions who was supporting him in establishing a translation school [man, I’d like to know more about this! – ed.]. The leader told the terton that many masters had visited the place without showing any self-manifested objects, and he wondered why they had not spoken about them. ‘Did they purposefully refuse to speak out of ill will, or were they simply ignorant?’ he asked. [The terton replied,] ‘If they knew nothing, how were they any different from me?’ He developed great devotion and respect for the terton.”
Tomorrow: Part II!