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The Mahakalatantra

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In midst a black dust whirl-wind sphere, a turbulent maelstrom human blood ocean, in the centre collected of molten metal a magnet fort, high and very wide unbearable to look at, with door-pedestals pillar-beams roof-laths, of wrong view killed bodies with flesh and blood as floors, strongly shining out clear rainbow-light, draped human hide canopies skulls,

hanging raw entrails hearts as garlands half garlands chains, raised he-goat and human hide flags victory banners, fresh heart corpse and separated bowels, hair fat brain marrow spread out movably, a throne set up of piled up skeletons in rows, on the palace surrounded by a black wall,

a cloud of poison spreading over the whole sky, shouting wrathful roar of warm and cold wind-turmoil,

a great-fear meteorite iron great hail falling, like arriving newly in the city of the lord dead ones, this covered with very frightening cemetery-ornaments, I offer to the king of law-guardians with their entourage,

an excerpt that shows the highly expressive lryics of the Mahakalatantra or the main guardian of the Karma Kagyu tradition

A text about the Mahakala tantra and its variations in general and especially about "the mother and guardian kissing countenances" or in other words "the glorious brothers-sisters-guardian of primordial knowledge with black cloak" (in the west often known as: Mahakala Dorje Bercan yab yum)

A text for the connoisseur, the interested in Dharma and its development in the west, the insider or scientist, but it may also give an impression to the not so learned ones, not easy to grasp though as the whole tantra!

The research comprising now more than 55 texts of the Kagyu and Nyingma schools, mainly Tibetan and some English secondary literature, a huge mass of texts from the bstan 'gyur thus probably of Indian origin this including two Sanskrit texts, one with 11 manuscript versions in Newari script and one smaller similar one.

More than 250 Photographs have been collected but the iconography is still incomplete.

The texts are arranged for different levels of difficulty and length. From this body of texts the most significant are to be chosen and translated with the background of the study of the historical texts and the secondary literature.

This is my modern account of the complexity and size of the tantra. Here the huge mass of work that has to be done and the impossibility of the written translation without financial sponsoring becomes obvious! see also the aims, problems and further plans of the edition: the samadhiairlines edition

Translating tantra in the modern world

Below in order to introduce into the tantra now a translation-sketch of original descriptions of the history of the tantra. This makes the translators problems even more clear:


some historical persons and additional facts:

- Dombhi Heruka the great Indian Mahasiddha the visionary composer of the father-mother tantra (about 750A.D.).

- Padmasambhava a great force of spread of the Buddhist tantric tradition in the first period of translation during the first millennium. The great Saint of Tibet with his huge collection of during political problems hidden treasure, the rin chen gter mdzod, nowadays he is considered as the founder of the rnying ma (he is said to have entered Tibet in 747 A.D.).

- the translator Marpa who has influenced different orders (1012-1097 A.D).

- The lineage of the historical Karmapas (starting 1110 A.D.) especially ka r+ma pak+Si the second Karmapa (1204-1283 A.D.) who is renown as the magician Marco Polo saw at the court of the Chinese emperor (probably Kublai at this time) and the lineage of the historical Situ (starting 1377 A.D.) and Shamar Rinpoches (starting 1283): These comprising mainly the representatives of the present day Karma Kagyu order that has further extensions as the smaller Kagyu orders.

- the bstan 'gyur, the huge collection of Indian commentaries that had been translated from Sanskrit to Tibetan.

- the mandala of the tantra may be seen on the website choose item no. 215

- As a scholar and historian my deceased friend pad ma rgyal mtshan working at the Central Institute of higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath assisted me for the specific context.

From ka rma pak+Si's commentary to the ritual:

The listening-tradition-instruction without letters of the great accomplished ka r+ma pa k+Si having notes of the instruction and an oral guide of the mother-and- guardian-kissing-countenances / here generation-stage, different actions, the completion stage, the accomplishment of the ritual are completely present. grub chen ka rma pakSi'i man ngag yi ge med pa'i snyan brgyud ma mgon zhal sbyor sgrub pa'i man ngag zin bris ngag khrid yod]] / 'di la bsked rim las tshogs rdzogs rim chog sgrub cha tshang lags so /

na mo gu ru maha+'a ka+'a la+'a ya also from the tantra big black circle of life nag po chen po srog gi 'khor lo'i rgyud: the glorious black guardian and / the black goddess not as two" and from the tantra superior jewel shoulder ornament 'phags pa rin chen dpung rgyan gyi rgyud :

„embracing on the left the mother's way / one's pure mind the deity's body / really having meditated this accomplished" and from the great secret-forceful-deity tantra drag po'i lha rgyud gsang ba chen po : „the three mantras of the kissing countenances of body speech and mind / the long mantra of the kissing countenance and the black print refers to a printed text - the extensively taught tantra-meaning and /

after having been prophesised to Do m+bi he ru ka by both mother and guardian by subsuming the intent of the eighteen tantras the thus arranged Indian scripture of the kissing countenances accomplishing method and the oral-instruction-wind-guide snyan brgyud rlung khrid , the instruction of lord mar pa, the topic of the lho brag a part of mar pa's name which consists of the respective place-name{/footnote}guardian," all these, have been gathered into one and this according to the vision of the great accomplished pa kSi himself composed scripture, this is the root.

Regarding this, after having added the main bare father guardian of the ras chen 'gro dgon ras chen, 1088-1158 A.D., is considered to be the first of the 3 reincarnations previous to the first Si tu pa. He was a teacher of the first ka r+ma pa tradition to the main bare mother deities of the dus mkhyen the first ka rma pa, 1110-1093 A.D. tradition into one ritual the meditation as four staggered wheels alludes to the arrangement of the mandala, before there was a smaller arrangement{/footnote}was composed by lord sky-conduct rje mkha' spyod pa, the 2.shwa dmar pa, 1350-1405 A.D.{/footnote}.

Although mtshur phu's { }the name of the main monastery of the kagyu tradition{/footnote}'jam dbyangs pa a bla ma of the place{/footnote}prohibited it the secret biography of lord sky-conduct says:

It was taught that the great accomplished ones of India and Tibet, the empowerments' and winds'{ }oral reading transmission {/footnote}instructions of sutras' and tantras' instructions and all personal deities were requested during real experience dream{ } dngos nyams rmi lam; a vision that is a dream really perceiving seeing and hearing{/footnote}and as it is unsure if he has produced it himself lord mthong ba don ldan{ }the 6. ka r+ma pa, 1416-1453 A.D.{/footnote}being a follower of sky-conduct has composed a sleepy guardian ritual.

Regarding this mi bskyod zhabs{ }the 8. ka rma pa mi bskyod rdo rje,1507-1554 A.D.{/footnote}ordered: "as there are some of my adherents that regarding the food wanted can't cope with studying write this one ritual guide condensing the guardian to a smaller form" and based on the order lord dkon mchog 'bangs{ }prob.

The 5. shwa dmar pa, 1525-15-83 A.D. had this book made in order to increase wealth etc. by the method easily{/footnote}after having composed this present printed edition of three classes pad ma rgyal mtshan says: three types of printed books{/footnote}he recorded it as a print.

Regarding this one ritual to be recited: like the ras chen tradtion, the bare father accomplishing tradition, like the tradition of dus mkhyen, the bare mother accomplishing tradition, like the father-law of ka rma pa k+Si, the black-print accomplishing method,

like mar pa's tradition, the limitless different channel-wind-practice means of applying{ }rtsa rlung nyams len and so forth, thus the volume concerning lord dbang phyug rdo rjes's the 9. ka r+ma pa, 1556-1603 A.D. small block print and so forth, the volume that has all these arranged by dkon mchog 'bangs into one direction, some former old scriptures of numerous different classes i have seen and si tu chos kyi rgyal mtshan pa the 5. si tu pa, 1586-1657 A.D.

and dpal khang lo tsa' ba's origin-law{ }pad ma rgyal mtshan said that this is a text relating the mystical history of the deities and the tantra then if well examining the two quite big volumes of the mother and guardian tantra all seems to be entirely complete in this present printed edition, thus in this regard uncommon to others the instruction that the great accomplished pa k+Si declared, this being quite profound and in the scripture not a mere root-word scattered, therefore as the master's guide only is important, like this.

A further similar description:

This is the black-mantra{ }name of the author being practitioner of mantra{/footnote}-text elucidating gaps, missing or unclear parts for the clearly arranged visualisation steps of the fulfilling and restoring ritual of the glorious brothers-sisters-guardian of primordial knowledge with a black cloak{ }/ dpal ye shes kyi mgon po ber nag can lcam dral gyi bskang gso'i cho ga'i dmigs rim gsal bar bkod pa sngags nag kha yi hong gtam zhes bya ba bzhug so //

[[na mo ma ha+'a sa r+va j+ny+'a da r+kSa dha r+ma+'a ka ra ya]] { }the name refers according to pad ma rgyal mtshan to a disciple of the 8. si tu pa, chos kyi 'byung gnas, 1700-1754 A.D.{/footnote}/

Here the visualisation steps of the fulfilling and restoring ritual of „the glorious big black guardian of primordial knowledge with the black cloak" and the meaning of the words{ }of the ritual text for reciting etc.{/footnote}will be explained a bit.

Generally it has been taught that this guardian comes from „the naked one with the copper knife" of „the thunderbolt tent tantra"{ }rdo rje gur gyi rgyud, rdo rje gur: Skrt: AryaDAkinIvajrapanJjaramahAtantrarAjakalpa; pad ma rgyal mtshan says that rdo rje gur is the name of one particular commentary of hevajra{/footnote}and from the accomplishing methods of the guardians starting from the two armed up to the sixteen armed of the before arisen guardian tantra{ }this seems to refer to the texts of the bstan 'gyur which have been partly described and researched regarding mainly the remaining Sanskrit originals by William George Stablein .

Nowadays in his lordship's hands{ }prob. The si tu pa above{/footnote}in an early not translated tantra of the guardian in the Indian text there are even many of such accomplishing methods{ }thus probably texts from the collection of the present Sanskrit originals and after having been entrusted to the great master of the glorious heruka the deity: chems chogs he ru ka the padma-arisen{ }padmasambhava;

pa d+ma 'byung gnas{/footnote}the tantra arisal of accomplishment dngos grub 'byung rgyud; for: dngos grub 'byung ba'i gter, Skrt: siddhisaMbhavanidhi.

pad ma rgyal mtshan says it's from the collection: rnying ma rgyud 'bum{/footnote}and the small twenty one tantras rgyud chung nyer gcig etc. were transmitted by treasure gter ma{/footnote}or instruction{ }bka' ma{/footnote}whichever fitting.

From a powerful lineage being endowed with a fruition not deluded about the two types of accomplishment revealed from the expanse of visions of some naturally realised heroes and yoginis having held the ways of mantra here in Tibet, also the text and instruction of the three actions of recitation accomplishment{ }bsnyen bsgrub las gsum of this guardian appear to be taught whichever fitting.

The single father guardian from the entourage of „mixing wind"{ }rlung bsre by lho brag mar pa lo tsa' ba mar pa, the translator{/footnote}is asserted to be based on „the Dakini thunderbolt"{ }mkha' 'gro rdo rje gur gyi rgyud; Skrt.:DakinIvajrapanJara tantra. This and what is called the single guardian of ;;g+ha ya d+ha ra seems to be an identical form{ }this paragraph seems to refer to a special tradition of gtum mo from the commentary of karma pak+Si and a text in ka r+ma pa mkha' khyab rdo rje's collection on the mentioned tradition which still uses the naked deity close to the one from bstan 'gyur in the visualisation{/footnote}.

The present Sakya tradition tent guardian gur dgon; Skrt: panYjaranAth with the sa ga position{ }standing, with both feet spread a bit{/footnote}, this, and what is known as the eight [[deities] lha brgyad; Skrt: aSTadeva panYjaranAth ,this also, has been hidden as a treasure by master pad ma for the sake of the sa s+kya pa teaching and then been taken out by the earth treasure teacher pa dma dbang phyug]] in gangs 'khar hole and then passed to the great lord rgya gar ba bdag chen rgya gar ba ; a sa s+kya bla ma and regarding the ]]pu Ta s pad ma rgyal mtshan]] says it is probably Skrt: putra, - son, here a spiritual son this one was invited by lha btsun byang chub 'od from bsam yas, then entrusted to rje bla ma dam pa pad ma rgyal mtshan: an eleventh century bla ma and is right this strong and powerful blessing comprising treasure{ }gter ma and oral transmission{ }bka' ma .

Accomplishment methods like these, because being the tantras present here in Tibet and because being the ones which were not taught anywhere in the Indian texts, for these exactly "treasures" is very much correct and so forth as bzlog blo gros rgyal mthsan has also explained like that well. I have seen some being later renown as learned explaining this wrongly.

The bare father surrounded by the guardians of the ten directions{ }these are the deities of the second wheel here{/footnote}, this, is known as the tradition of 'gro dgon ras chen.

This appears to be given from master Do m+bi pa slob dpon Do m+bi pa to mal lo blo gros grags pa{ }a translator or "lo tswa ba"mand then it seems to be transmitted up to 'gro dgon ras chen.

It is asserted that this [[mal jo lo 'tsa'] is identical with zangs dkar lo tsa', and also my reverend{ }bla ma{/footnote}asserts him to be mal glo gros grags.

Thus the story that this origin is slob dpon pa dma Do m+bi he ru ka is there in the plain-letter{ }thang yig; referring to a text in the pa d+ma bka' thang by padmasambhava and, being interlinked thus, it is only certain that master pa dma Do m+bi he ru ka; slob dpon pa dma has handed it to mal lo.

So it is explained that based on the ten directions' guardians ging kara tantra phyogs bcu'i dgon po ging ka ra'i rgyud, pad ma rgal mtshan in ;Tib: king ka ra; Skrt: kiMkara - doing what? master pa d+ma has done it.

What is reknown as „kissing countenances" (the deity in union with the consort), this, ka rma pa k+Si's father-law yab chos - a practice transmitted "from father to sons" in the own order master pa d+ma here: padmasambhava Tib. slob dpon pa dma has hidden it in a treasure for god's son mu khri lha sras mu khri, the son of king khri srong de'u btsan one of the kings of the early spread of dharma in Tibet and then when not yet having conquered the four borders up to all borders{ of Tibet pad ma rgyal mtshan says: he afterwards conquered all Tibet god's son took out this profound natural law from the treasure.

From stag nam mka'i lha bzung up to ka r+ma pak+Si it became a successive lineage among the heads of monastic supervisors. This, the guardian to be meditated as oneself, is the tradition that is to be accomplished like the primordial knowledge.

This self arisen godess lha mo rang byung ma, Skrt: svayambhu devi is here in Tibet concerning rdo rje phur pa from the oral tradition{ }Tib. phur pa bka' ma, rdo rje phur pa of the bka' ma tradition; Skrt: vajrakilaya and gzhin rje dmar nag pad ma rgyal mtshan says this could be similar to the Skrt: kRSNayamaritantram and regarding phur srung re ma Ti same as below:

ma bshin phur gsum from this it is the part ma mo tantra scipture ocean{ }ma mo rgyud gzhung rgya mtsho; ma mo meaning: grandmother, mother and godess of what is reknown as the the ma bshin phur gsum an abbreviation of ma mo, gshin rje and rdo rje phur pa and Master padma{ }padmasambhava , having a bit a connection to it, has handed it to pu rang's a placename zhang btsun dar+ma rin chen.

Many the like transmitted oral traditions{ }could also be written texts{/footnote}of the goddess re ma Ti lha mo re ma Ti have been gathered at dus gsum khyen pa the first ka rma pa and thus regarding the guardian the three main ones have been made kissing countenances, and by this, this ritual joined into one was made by lord mighty-sky-conduct rje mka' spyod dbang po; 2. shwa dmar pa, 1350-1405 A.D. after he the guardian himself gave him the order and in addition to that ka r+ma pa mthong ba don ldan has elucidated and extended it.

In this way after just mentioning names the scripture has to be entered{ }refering the to the lineage prayer of the ritual{/footnote}. Furthermore in case the self generation is done by dgyes rdor }Skrt: hevajra phag mo }Skrt: vajravarahi, rgyal ba rgya mtsho{ }Skrt: avalokiteshvara jinasAgara the tantra guardian with the copper knife{ rgyud mgon gcer bu zangs gri can; or:

mgon po bcer bu bzang gri can; Skrt: tamrasvad, gagna mahakala the entourage of the guardian is to be aroused in front: it is accomplished like the guardians of law chos skyong that means it is accomplished as the worldly guardian' jig rten gyi mgon po and if after one has meditated the self generation as legs ldan }Skrt:bhagavanmahakala together with the protecting circle one has to visualise in front the supreme son the black one with a cloak.

This has then been accomplished as the action guardian]]) las kyi mgon po and if oneself and in front both have to be accomplished as father-mother kissing countenances then this has been accomplished as primordial knowledge guardian ye shes kyi mgon po . From these the fastest blessing, strength and great power is right the last tradition.