Lobsang Tamdin (1867-1937)

Lobsang Tamdin was also known as Lobsang Tayang, which is an allusion to his vast learning, similar to that the Indian pandit Ashvagosha. He was born in 1867 in a locality in the Gobi desert. His classical Buddhist education started at age 4 when he learned the alphabet and translation. He then went to Ulan Bator at age 17 and entered Kunga Choling monastery. Relying on Acharya Sangye and Khewan Jigje, he became learned in Sutra and Tantra. He received full ordination from the abbot of Ulan Bator Palden Chophel. When he was 40, he received the bka' bcu degree. He went to Wutai Shan, a pilgrimage place of Manjushri in Northern China, and revealed two miraculous stupas inscribed with magical letters. He established a Tantric college in 1922 and a college based on the curriculum of Drepung Gomang in 1926. Historical works occupy a very prominent place in his writings.1

Jules Levinson wrote: “Blo bzang rta dbyangs was a Mongolian scholar who wrote prolifically both on Sutra and on Tantra.”2 His collected works were first cataloged in Dr. Lokesh Chandra’s Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature (New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture 1963). His complete works were published as The Collected Works (gsung 'bum) of Rje-btsun Blo-bzang rta-mgrin in 1975-1976 (New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Gurudeva).3 His works have been referenced by Tibetan and Western Tibetan scholars alike for various studies.

A small sampling of his writings in Volume 1 of his collected works includes annotated commentaries to Exalted Praise [to Buddha Shakyamuni] (khyad par 'phags bstod) written by the Indian master Udbhata Siddhasvamin, Praise Exceeding that of the Gods (lha las phul du byung bar bstod pa) by Shamkarapati, and Acharya Mati Chitra’s Kaliyugaparikatha (rtsod pa'i dus kyi gtam). Also included is a composition of his entitled 108 Verses in Praise of Great Compassion (snying rje chen po la bstod pa'i tshigs bcad brgya rtsa brgyad pa),4 annotations to Dharmarakshita’s Wheel of Sharp Weapons and The Poison Destroying Peacock’s Mind Training and praises to various bodhisattvas, such as Always Crying (rtag tu ngu) based on their liberation stories (rnam mthar). The rest of Volume I is comprised of accounts of origins of various monasteries in Khalkha Mongolia.

Volume 2 consists of a history of Buddhism in India, Tibet and Mongolia, while Volume 3 contains various writings on the Vinaya including an annotated commentary to Je Tsongkhapa’s The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean ('dul ba rgya mtsho'i snying po).

A Brief Expression of the Presentation of the Grounds and Paths of the Three Vehicles According to the System of the Perfection Vehicle, Essence of the Ocean of Profound Meaning (phar phyin theg pa'i lugs kyi theg pa gsum gyi sa dang lam gyi rnam bzhag pa mdo tsam du brjod pa zab don rgya mtsho'i snying po) can be found in Volume 4, which is also covered in Jules Levinson’s Ph.D. dissertation Metaphors of Liberation: A Study of Grounds and Paths According to The Middle Way Schools.5 A brief summary of this work is stated:6

Blo bzang rta dbyangs's text is divided into two major sections that are approximately equal in length. The first section explains the grounds and paths of the Hinayana and Mahayana. The second section analyzes controversial points on which various scholars and schools disagree. In that latter section, Blo bzang rta dbyangs is particularly interested in distinguishing the Prasangika Madhyamaka school's position from that of the Yogacara- Svatantrika Madhyamaka.

Volume 5 contains, among other texts, a commentary to Maitreya’s Distinguishing Dharmas and Dharmata (Skt. Dharmadharmatavibhanga), according to the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa based on Rongtongpa’s commentary. This particular commentary is translated in Raymond E. Robertson’s A Study of the Dharmadharmatavibhanga.7

Volume 6 is comprised of various Guru yoga texts such as various Guru yoga practices associated with the Hundreds of Deities of the Land of Joy (dga' ldan lha brgya ma). Volume 7 includes various puja texts such as those related to Medicine Buddha and Maitreya, Volume 8 contains texts related to Vajrayana deities such as Guyhasamaja and Heruka, while Volumes 9, 10 and part of 11 focus on works related Kalachakra.

Volume 11 also contains several works related to Dorje Shugden. First is a propitiation to Dorje Shugden called rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi bskang 'phrin mdor bsdus don chen myur 'grub, which according to the author was based on a propitiation written by Kirti Rinpoche. Next is a praise to Four Face Mahakala written by the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, which was changed to be for Dorje Shugden (rgyal ba dge 'dun rgya mtsho'i gsung la zhal bsgyur gyi bstod pa), as stated by the author that Dorje Shugden became known as an expression of Four Face Mahakala and is the uncommon protector of the profound view and related secret tantra of Jamgon Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition.

Finally of great importance in Volume 11 is the catalog and introduction to the Dorje Shugden be bum, The Meteoric Wheel Enclosure Blazing Activity (rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi be bum gyi dkar chag gnam lcags 'khor lo'i mu khyud 'phrin las 'od 'bar). Volume 14 contains various protector rituals including a history of various protectors' activities in bla ma lha srung gi gsang ba'i mdzad 'phrin 'ga' zhig gi lo rgyus nor bu rin po che'i gab tse.

One crucial aspect of any text in Tibetan Buddhism is its unbroken transmission lineage passed from master to disciple each generation. Since rituals originate with one master and potentially branch out to multiple disciples over generations, a particular transmission lineage is one unidirectional path in a tree-like structure. Volume 16 of Lobsang Tamdin’s collected works primarily documents all of the transmissions he received from various masters; additionally, he enumerates the actual lineages. Lobsang Tamdin’s documentation of transmission lineages that he received provides a fascinating, albeit incomplete glimpse of masters who held various transmissions. In the case of Dorje Shugden, it is also remarkable Lobsang Tamdin was able to secure the transmission for nearly all of the texts collected for the Dorje Shugden be bum.

Some of the rituals were actually originated by Mongolian masters. In particular, the transmission of the ritual written by the Fourth Jetsun Dampa, referred to as “the torma offering to the uncommon protector that starts with Om Palden Shambhala,” is grouped with a Palden Lhamo torma offering ritual. The lineage for this transmission is:8

  1. The Fourth Kyabgon, Jetsun Dampa
  2. mTshan zhabs bka' bcu pa bsod nams
  3. mTshan zhabs bka' bzhi dar rgyas
  4. bKa' rgyur pa bstan 'dzin dar rgyas
  5. Drin can mang thos rje mi 'gyur rdo rje
  6. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

Among Lobsang Tamdin’s historical writings is an account of the origins of the Western College of the Great Khure Monastery, which was founded by the Fourth Jetsun Dampa. Among the inventory of sacred objects of this college were three representations of Dorje Shugden which came from Loseling College, Gyalse Ladrang and Dorje Shugden btsan khang (most likely Trode Khangsar).9 Moreover, the account states that earlier when the Fourth Jetsun Dampa and Gyalse Dorje Chang were together in Lhasa, Dorje Shugden was invoked through an oracle at which time he stated that he would take responsibility to protect the monastery when it was founded.10 This confirms it was most likely the Fourth Jetsun Dampa who initially brought Dorje Shugden practice from Tibet to Mongolia.

Later, in the 19th century, Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten wrote a set of rituals incorporating the Fifth 'On Gyalse’s torma offering, gser skyems and thanksgiving. The lineage for this transmission is:11

  1. Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten (rab 'byams smra ba ngag dbang thub bstan)
  2. Khyab bdag bu ddha
  3. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

However, one of the earlier Gelug rituals was written by the Fourth 'On Gyalse Rinpoche. Since one of his earlier incarnations had founded dGon lung monastery in Amdo and since later incarnations were considered the chief lamas of this monastery, he inevitably had great spiritual influence in the sphere of Mongolia. As such, the transmission of a bsang ritual and a torma offering ritual to Shugden (bsang mchod 'dod dgur 'khyil ba'i dga' ston dang rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gsol mchod) is fairly detailed, traversing important incarnations such as the Hogthogthu Demo Rinpoche and later entering Mongolia via Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten. The lineage for this transmission is:12

  1. rGyal sras rdo rje 'chang skal bzang thub bstan 'jigs med bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan
  2. dGe bshes khyab bdag bde ba'i rdo rje
  3. De mo no mon han thub bstan 'jigs med rgya mtsho
  4. sGo mang sprul sku rab brtan rgya mtsho
  5. Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten (rab 'byams smra ba ngag dbang thub bstan)
  6. Nom chi bla ma blo bzang dpal ldan
  7. E rte ni sprul sku ngag dbang don grub
  8. Chos rje blo bzang 'jigs med
  9. Khyab bdag bu ddha
  10. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

Trichen Tenpa Rabgye, the second Reting Rinpoche, requested Dragri Gyatso Thaye to write a long kangso for Dorje Shugden. This was transmitted from Dragri Gyatso Thaye to Reting Rinpoche, who in turn imparted it to the reincarnation of Dragri Gyatso Thaye. This was passed from him to Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten, which is how the transmission entered Mongolia. The lineage for this transmission is:13

  1. Dragri Pabongkha Gyatso Thaye
  2. Reting Trichen Tenpa Rabgye (blo bzang ye shes bstan pa rab rgyas)
  3. Dragri Lobsang Chojor (brag ri tulku blo bzang chos 'byor rgya mtsho)
  4. Rabjampa Ngawang Thubten (rab 'byams pa ngag dbang thub bstan)
  5. Chos rje ye shes gtugs dkar
  6. Drin can dka' bcu dpal ldan rdo rje
  7. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

One of the most interesting and revealing transmission lineages is that of the ritual pertaining to the rta nag can or black horse aspect of Dorje Shugden. Although Lobsang Tamdin states that it was written by Kunga Lodro, Kunga Lodro’s autobiography states that it was written by his father Sonam Rinchen. Although it originates in the 'Khon family, this particular transmission entered the Sakya monastery of Nalendra. Apparently, the earlier lineage transmission is detailed in the gsan yig of Nalendra Kyabgon Khyenrab Tenpa'i Wangchug Gyurme. This transmission entered the Gelug through Lhatsun Rinpoche who received it from bco brgyad khri chen byams pa rin chen mkhyen brtse'i dbang po of the Sakya monastery Nalendra. The lineage for this transmission is:14

  1. Sakya Throne Holder Kun dga' blo gros
  2. Fourteenth Nalendra Kyabgon (na le ndra pa skyabs mgon mkhyen rab bstan pa'i dbang phyug 'gyur med mchog grub)
  3. gZims 'og sprul sku byams pa ngag dbang bstan 'dzin 'phrin las15
  4. rDo rje 'chang byams pa ngag dbang chos 'phel
  5. bCo brgyad khri chen byams pa rin chen mkhyen brtse'i dbang po
  6. Lhatsun Chogtrul Rinpoche (lha btsun mchog sprul rin po che)
  7. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

The abbot of Sera Tantric College, Namkha Tenkyong, authored a short kangso that was passed down through several successive abbots of Sera Tantric College before reaching Lobsang Tamdin. The lineage for this transmission is:16

  1. Ser sngags mkhan chen nam mkha' bstan skyong
  2. Ser sngags mkhan po tshul khrims dar rgyas17
  3. Ser sngags mkhan zur bstan 'dzin brtson 'grus
  4. 'Bras sngags chos mdzad
  5. Lobsang Tamdin (blo bzang rta mgrin)

Also included are many other transmissions such as the complete written works of Trehor Khangsar Rinpoche,18 and the transmission of the ritual written by Zhide Nyungne Lama Yeshe Zangpo.19

1 Chandra, Lokesh (1963). Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature. International Academy of Indian Culture: New Delhi. pp. 30-32.

2 Levison, Jules B. Metaphors of Liberation: Tibetan Treatises on Grounds and Paths, Section 4 of 7, pp. 263-266.

3 TBRC Work RID: W13536.

4 Translated by José Ignacio Cabezón, published by Mysore Printing and Publishing (1984).

5 Napper, Elizabeth. (2003). Dependent-Arising and Emptiness. Wisdom Publications, p. 722.

6 Levison, Jules B. Metaphors of Liberation: Tibetan Treatises on Grounds and Paths, Section 4 of 7, pp. 263-266.

7 Preface p. x, A Study of the Dharmadharmatavibhanga, Volume 1, retrieved 2009-07-04.

8 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 202. (Please Note: According to TBRC, this is numerically volume 17, but the original title is labeled volume XVI.)

9 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume I, p. 509.

10 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume I, p. 510.

11 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 197.

12 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, pp. 197-198.

13 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 199.

14 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 226.

15 TBRC Person RID: P7031 states that he was a student Kunga Lodro and that he was an “important teacher in the transmission of the 'od zer dri med lha drug, 4th mandala of the rgyud sde kun btus; he received the teachings and transmitted them through the zhwa lu tradition.”

16 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 221.

17 TBRC Person RID: P6091.

18 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, pp. 91-93.

19 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), Volume XVI, p. 220.