gSung 'bum collection
Center of Oriental Manusripts and Xylographs
О ПРОЕКТЕ / About the project Портал

gSung 'bum collection: analysis and database

gSung 'bums (literally 'a thousand of words'), or collected works, represent, in combination with canonical, tutorial and 'thor bu' (separate editions) literature, a considerable part in the general collection of the Center of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs (COMX) of the Institute of Mongolian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. Despite this division is based on formal typology, each of these parts of the collection has functional specifics. Thus, unlike the canon or 'thor bu', which in reality have been primarily utilized in liturgy and qualified as indisputable authority, tutorial literature and collected works have purely intellectual character and are, to a certain degree, a permanently developing part of the Buddhist culture. At the same time, if tutorial literature, as well as canonical writings, was liable to strict codification and censorship, gsung 'bums had become a concentration of living discourse in its genesis with all contradictions. In this sense, gsung 'bums can be considered a good material to study the religious-philosophical discourse of Inner Asian Buddhism within the frames of the orthodox dGe lugs, a dominating Buddhist school in Tibet and Mongolia.

Center of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs owns one of the largest collections of Tibetan books (circa 60 thousands as a whole). However, unlike many other libraries of this kind, which had been acquiring the books for many years through systematic expeditions, the Tibetan collections of COMX appeared as a result of crush of the Buddhist monastic system on the territory of Buryat-Mongolian Republic during the period of 1920-1933. The Communist vandalism towards the monasteries irreversibly terminated the most of the Buddhist book heritage, of which only a part was preserved by Buryat scholars and survived until nowadays. Thus, the core of COMX Tibetan collection is the former property of monastic libraries and contains the traditional book assortment of dGe lugs monasteries, which dominated in the region.

gSung 'bum gathering constitutes a considerable part of the Tibetan collection of COMX, since within the system of Buddhist monastic education the personal writings and comments by Tibetan savants were of no less important than those of their Indian predecessors. In fact the monastic education was based upon the recognition of the unquestioned authority of Dharma transmission lines with the masters whose works were and are considered orthodox in corresponding traditions. Total domination of dGe lugs tradition in Transbaikalia had determined domination of works written by its patriarchs and outstanding followers. At the same time, the pre-dGe lugs part of COMX collections is, as well, determined by the preferences historically ripen inside Yellow Hat community. Sa skya bka' 'bum, or the collection of works written by the patriarchs of Sa skya tradition, religious songs by rJe btsun Mi la ras pa, one of the founders of bKa' rgyud, collected works of Bu ston Rin chen grub and Ta ra na tha Kun dga' snying po are this non-dGe lugs heritage that managed to come out of the rigid censorship of orthodox Yellow Hats. The works of these outstanding authors not only predated chronologically dGe lugs but also by various degrees affected the doctrinal corpus of Tsong kha pa's tradition. Thus, Sa skya school was considered by Yellow Hats as the closest both by principles of organization and a whole range of philosophical propositions and approaches to dGe lugs. rJe Tsong kha pa himself, as is known, initially was the Sa skya follower, albeit he had later consequently deviated from this line and opposed to some of its principles.

The Sa skya bKa' 'bum compendium stored in COMX consists of 45 units among which there are the works written by four patriarchs of this school: Sa chen Kun dga' snying po (1092-1158), bSod nams rtse mo (1142-1182), Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1147-1216), Sa pan Kun dga' rgyal mtsan (1182-1251). As is seen, this collection lacks the works by bLo gros rgyal mtshan (1235-1280) better known as 'Phags pa bla ma. The reasons of this absence are unclear. Probably, his works has been lost. As for the place of printing, it was published in sDe dge monastery.

The high authority of the 12th century Tibetan yogi and poet Mi la ras pa (1052-1135) to whom the multiple sub-schools of bKa' rgyud tradition draw back their origin is indisputable for all other Buddhist schools of Tibet. Non-philosophical, mystical character of his religious lyrics provided popularity of his mGur 'bum, or collection of songs and hymns within the dGe lugs community. In the colophon of the mGur 'bum the monastery of bsTan rgyas gling is given as the place of publication. Most probably, Yellow Hat monastery of bsTan rgyas gling that was located in the Lha sa outskirt is meant.

The next subdivision is the works assigned to bKa' gdams tradition. As in the last example, we see the late compendium consisting of hagiographies and selected works of the patriarchs of the tradition - Ati?a Dipamkara ?rijnana (972/982-?) and 'Brom ston rGyal ba'i 'byung gnas (1004/1005-1064). Five of the seven works are printed in Dga' ldan phun tshogs gling monastery. The remaining two were, probably, printed in bLa brang bKra shis 'khyil, Amdo. Indirectly, this is confirmed by the text of the colophon, in which it is said that the edition was undertaken within the frames of 'Jam dbyangs bzhad pa spiritual line. dGe lugs pa often positioned itself as the New bKa' gdams, and Ati?a and 'Brom ston's authority was very high among Yellow Hat monks.

Of the equal height is the prestige of 15th century Tibetan encyclopaedist Bu ston Rin chen grub due to his enormous efforts in codification of Buddhist canonical writings. His gsung 'bum consists of 66 units. According to the bibliographical list (dkar chag) of this collection, the most of the books had been printed in sKyid grong bKra shis bSam gtan gling, which is in Southern Tibet, Tsa ri district of Lho kha region. In addition to this edition, we have Bu ston's selected collection of Kalacakra texts. This collection is of special interest since the edition was undertaken in Urga and is a rare example of thematic selection of the works of this author.

The works of another great savant Taranatha (1575-1634) has the same status as a piece of the general Tibetan heritage. In many spheres of the Buddhist knowledge of Inner Asia he is considered as a master for all Tibetan and Mongolian traditions and lines. His collected works within the COMX book gathering numbers 681 units. In the colophons of some of his works the Royal Palace of bSam grub rtse, located in the Southern Tibet, is given as a place of publication.

Naturally enough that absolutely dominant within the COMX gsung 'bum collection is the works by dGe lugs learned lamas, especially those by the Yellow Hat patriarchs - rJe Tsong kha pa (1357-1419) and his spiritual sons and successors mKhas grub dPal bzang po and rGyal tshab Dar ma rin chen. These three outstanding Tibetan figures determined the vector of development of dGe lugs philosophical thought, canonized the scholastic standard of the text corpus of Indian and early Tibetan philosophic literature and established the circle of subjects and problems of the intellectual discourse for a few centuries ahead. The works of these personalities are included in all the curricula of large and small Yellow Hats' monastic educational centers of Tibet, Mongolia and Buddhist Circumbaikalia, and thus the collections of their works are not only most voluminous but also outnumber by copies all the other gsung 'bums.

The internal contents of the works composed by rJe Tsong kha pa can be conventionally categorized by the following subjects: Vinaya, Tantra and rituals, eulogies and hymns, as well as the compositions on the practice of the Path and philosophical treatises.

Tantric works, that take two thirds of all Tsong kha pa's gsung 'bum, are primarily devoted to the practical aspects of three basic Tantra systems of dGe lugs traditions: Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava, Cakrasamvara, as well as Kalacakra.

The main treatises of the philosophical part of his works are separate philosophical compositions, commentaries and treatises on the practical aspects of the Buddhist Enlightenment Path. The mentioned independent treatises are the earliest of his most important works 'Golden rosary of Subhasita' (Legs bshad gser 'phreng) and another no less important - 'The Essence of Subhasita' (Legs bshad snying po). The treatises on the theory of the Path are 'Great Lam rim' (Lam rim chen mo) and 'Great sNgags rim' (sNgags rim chen mo). The first one is the full description of each stage of the Buddhist practice, the last one is addressed to Tantra adepts. rJe Tsong kha pa's basic commentaries include 'Ocean of logics' (Rigs pa'i rgya mtsho) to Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna and 'Clear thought of the middle view' (dBu ma dgongs pa rab gsal) - an extended commentary to Madhyamakavatara by Candrakirti.

As for the gsung 'bums of mKhas grub (1385-1438) and rGyal tshab (1364-1432), their works are not just devoted to the subjects upon which their great predecessor concentrated his thought, but are no less important stage in the progress of dGe lugs orthodoxy, both in theory and in practice of the Path.

Early dGe lugs collections of COMX are in the following editions of four major monastic printing houses, whose production was especially demanded in Transbaikalia: those of bLa brang bKra shis 'khyil, sKu 'bum Byams pa gling, bKra shis Lhun grub gling and Lha sa Zhol. Important fact is that the copies of dGe lugs patriarchs printed by bLa rang bKra shis 'khyil are absolutely dominant in the COMX collection, which cannot but reflect the general situation with Buddhism in Transbaikalia. bLa brang edition of rJe Tsong kha pa and his disciples' gsung 'bums represent a bit more than a half of the whole volume of the copies of the collection of their works. Such a great dependence of Buryat monasteries upon the bLa brang printing yards can be explained not only by the relative geographical proximity of Amdo to South-East Siberia in comparison to distant monasteries of dBus and gTsang areas of Central Tibet. Amdo sKu 'bum's editions share only one fifth of the copies, and they excel, nevertheless, Central Tibetan editions by number of copies. Researchers should take into account other factors that explain this Amdo dominance, among which are high printing quality, high rate of book productivity of Amdo monasteries, considerably advanced paper quality compared to the poorly made paper of Central and South Tibet. However, a decisive factor is, probably, a general dominance of bLa brang's educational and intellectual standard in Transbaikalia which had inevitably led to greater integration of Buryat Buddhist monasteries in the cross-cultural relationships with bLa brang and, to much lesser extent, sKu 'bum. However, it is no less symptomatic that the editions of Lha sa and bKra shis lhun po, two chief Buddhist religious centers of Inner Asia, share considerable place in the COMX collections. In general, Central Tibetan editions of early dGe lug pa gsung 'bums cover more than a quarter of the whole collection, and this allows us to say about traditional dependence of some Buddhist monasteries of Transbaikalia to the monasteries of dBus and gTsang and incomplete predominance of Amdo monastic establishments in the northern Mongolian world.

Curiously enough is more than a modest representation of Urga editions in the collection of rJe Tsong kha pa, mKhas grub and rGyal tshab's gsung 'bums in COMX. In general, there are only twelve copies of Urga books by Tsong kha pa, whereas no Urga editions of mKhas grub rje and rGyal tshab's works are detected in COMX.

Studying gsung 'bums it is important to investigate the problems of dating of various editions, difference in the internal structure, availability and absence of some of the works and almost total unavailability of local Buryat editions of Tibetan gsung 'bums. Unfortunately, these questions are in the focus of researchers only when canonical editions are concerned whereas no such questions are well studies when concerned gsung 'bum editions. The catalogue of COMX collection which contains descriptions of various editions can serve as a source for the studies of this kind. Research of COMX collections, which were compiled not through preferences of European scholars, especially when the works written by paradigmatic Buddhist authors are concerned, can provide Tibetan, Mongolian and Buddhist studies with fresh and true data on the intellectual climate of Buddhist Transbaikalia and Inner Asia in general.

Order this book

Andrey Bazarov and Nikolay Tsyrempilov
Catalogue of Tibetan gSung 'bum Collection of Centre of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs of the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan studies of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences. Volume I. Non-dGe lugs and Early dGe lugs sections
О ПРОЕКТЕ / About the project Портал
Copyright © 2009 Олег Ринчинов

© Все права сохранены. Страницы этого веб-сайта могут быть свободно связаны с другими веб-страницами. Содержание не подлежит повторному изданию, изменению без особого разрешения. Сайт находится в стадии разработки, поэтому любая информация может быть неполна или неточна. Мы приглашаем Вас присоединиться к выполнению нашего проекта.

Rambler's Top100