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The Tantra A Vessel of Bdud Rtsi, A Bon Text Walter, Michael L. 1986

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Michael  Walter
Creation myths and myths of divine origins are an important
feature in the oldest layer of Tibetan religion known to us.1 That
they are equally important in Bon material2 should be taken into
account in speculations on the origin and development of that
The following text shows, among other things, that divine
origins for sacramental and medicinal materials have been fully
integrated into Bon sddhana. Whether these myths are of Bon,
Chos, older Tibetan, or a general Indo-Tibetan origin is
sometimes very difficult to determine. Studies of such myths
and cosmologies may, however, contribute to our understanding
of relations between Bon and Chos at an early period in their
development as traditions in Tibet.3 The similar Indian
penchant for supplying divine origins, seen in individual cases
of influence or borrowing in Tibetan materials, can only have
complemented the wealth of native Tibetan examples.
The remarkable organization of the text at hand, the Bdud rtsi
bum pa 7 rgyud, renders unnecessary a good deal of introductory
interpretation. Only a few words need be said about its
provenance, orientation and format.
The Bdud rtsi bum pa 7 rgyud is the last of three texts in a row
dealing with g"yu "bran bdud rtsi4 found in volume three of Bka'
'gyur rgyud sde'i skor. Collected tantras of Bon, published at
Dolanji in 1972. It is divided into twelve sections, and from,
among other things, the opening and closing, it is clear that it is
a "Mother Tantra".5
Because of its format, this handwritten text cannot be legibly
reproduced in this journal; it has been romanized here in its
entirety, with most bsdus yig dissolved. Exceptional bsdus yig
and improved readings are supplied in brackets in the Tibetan
The so-called "Tantra of the Bdud rtsi Vessel"
[Note in the text the equivalence of bdud rtsi with ra sa ya na.
This occurs sometimes in Bon and Chos ritual texts, especially
those dealing with ritual substances and medicines (sman sgrub
and Vajramrta literature). This links the sacramental use of
medicinal substances to their practical application; their divine
origins increase their value in both contexts. Rasdyana in the
Indo-Tibetan tantric context bestows siddhis such as long life,
just as in Ayurveda it is a restorative; the difference only is in
the manner of its creation.6
Ma ha be  as a presumed equivalent of bum pa eludes me; da
do ci is the Zari-Zuri equivalent of tes bya ba. ]
Homage to the teacher Gsen-god White-light, the divine
power of the basic tutelary deity!8
These words were heard by me at one time:
In the expansive space of the Mother,9 a palace perfectly
pure, eternal and of great joy [i.ev 'Og-min] are these
goddesses, surrounded by other goddesses;10 they all reside
there together, enjoying the attainment (don) of whatever
they wish for
The Great Mother Thugs-rje Byams-ma;11
She-who-holds-the-basis-of-all-existence, Originator (ma)-
phenomena, Kun-tu-bzan-mo;12
She-who-possesses-a-complexion-making-bright;13 the Great
Mother Goddess of Earth; the Goddess of Wind; the Goddess
of Fire; the Goddess of Water;14
Further, the Goddess of Knowledge; the Goddess of Sound;
The Goddess of Aroma; the Goddess of Taste; the Goddess of
Touch15 and,
Flower-one; Dance-knowing-one; Precious-thing-one; Iron-
hook-one; Noose-one; Little-bell-one; Iron-chain-one;16
Further, the Goddess of Medicine Possessing-aroma-one; the
gathering of Aroma-producing ones; the gathering of Shower-
et cetera.17
At that time, Very Bright, Goddess of Knowledge and most
excellent of the retinue, to insure that the continuing
gathering of merit
(rgyu tshogs)18 would be made perfect
for future sentients, knealt with clasped hands before the
Mother. The strength of her blessing19 was that future
sentients would be accomplished in the means (thabs)
to do that.
[This Tantra belongs to the Rdzogs-chen tradition, stressing
that light is the nature of Buddha-mind, and thus of all mind in
its natural state, and that all phenomena are productions of that;
thus, Gsen-god White-light is pure Bon-ness, the universal
thought of all enlightenment.20 Byams-ma is the ground of
enlightened being; Kun-tu-bzari-mo represents the universal
mind, bringing everything in the six realms of being into
existence (srid pa). The elements themselves, yogically conceived
here as goddesses in their mandalas, proceed directly from Gsen-
god's spiritual heart (thugs). See the notes indicated for brief
discussions of the other groups of goddesses. The sorts of life-
and health-giving rituals which this tantra and other Bon and
Chos texts support are widespread and have several times been
[Then Byams-ma sang this song:]
When the g"yu "bran bdud rtsi medicine is finished,
each root has eight shoots (yan lag);
each shoot has a thousand virtuous powers;
each virtuous power has ten thousand
virtuous results:22
the four Maras, Klesa and the others,23 are removed
right down to their very roots,
and, possessing the five great eternal wisdoms,24
the highest spiritual results are attained.
Because of this, one who knows how (sgrub pa po)
[to create this medicine],
accompanied by a virgin boy and girl,25
will, at a moist part of the summer26
when flowers and fruit are mature,
collect medicinal substances (sman), saps (bcud),
leaves,27 flowers, shoots together with their roots,
rinds and barks (sun pags), stalks,
various aromatics and delicious (mriar) things,
and various juices and liquids.
Nothing collected should have a moldy or spoiled
To turn sentients away from vain speculation (rtog pa)
the sacred substance which will free from rgyu and
the sacred substance of the holy lama,
the sacred substance of the two, Mother & Father,
the five sacred substances and the eight roots,
the thousand branches, etc., should be gathered.28
Here's the story teaching the proof (of the divine origin)
of the bdud rtsi A ru ra:
Long ago, the great tree Cu-dar was born,
spreading forth from the ocean of existence.
That tree possesses one hundred virtuous powers.
When Brgya-byin-bu29 drank the sap,
which is a bdud rtsi in the top of the tree,
seven drops fell to earth.
Spreading throughout the atmosphere (bar snan),
they were scattered by the wind
and grew all over the earth.
Its name is A ru ra,
and it occurs in seven varieties:
Rnam-par-rgyal, 'Phel-byed,
Bswo-byed, Nag-po, "Bigs-byed,
Bdud-rtsi and Skyes-bu.30
Rnam-rgyal is the color of precious gold.
When tossed into the water, it goes right to the
It is the king of A ru ras,
a perfectly auspicious substance.
It is supremely useful against all illness
and (for controlling) wind, bile and phlegm
It is a substance which will cause self-originated
eternal wisdom
to be perfected.31
'Phel-byed is very pale,32 yellow and angular (zur).
It improves the efficiency of other materials
Bso-byed is gold in color, compact and hard;
it clears up diseases of the wind and draws out
the color of other medicines.
Nag-po has a color like raw sugar (bu ram);
it is good in honey33 and causes the
'dre of drunkenness to leave.34
'Jigs-med is very pale red and remains round.
It can even dry up gdon.35
It causes thirst, has little flesh on it, and is
the color of bone.
It kindles the heat in bdud rtsi36
and is good for diarrhea (bsal).
These seven are materials (rdzas) which will
perfect bdud rtsi.
Let them be gathered by a virgin boy and girl,
then dried on a fragrant bed, such as willow
Having been blessed by a Thabs-mkhas-rgyal-po,37
they fulfill the vows of the Sugatas of the
past, present and future.
The highest spiritual results Cbras bu) are
thus achieved;
likewise, ordinary powers as well as those beyond
speaking or thinking about are realized.
Long ago, in the first kalpa,39
a fire crystal (me sel) and a water crystal
(chu sel) came forth from the bcud
which had been churned into the
great ocean of existence.
Thus are the light and dark of day and night
and (their) heat and cold distributed evenly.
These two turned into the sun and the moon.
The sun's daughter, Ma-yan-tse,
and the moon's daughter, A-yan-tse,
were released into the intermediate-space sky
(bar snari mkha 9;
the liquid which flowed from (the sun and moon)
dripped to the earth.40
Not remaining in poor (nan) or polluted
that medicine born from the sun's fluid
is ripening into skyu ru ra,
especially in pure earth, on mountain peaks,
glacial caves, slate peaks,
and the pure earth of forests and river valleys.
The medicines which were born from the moon's
are star bu and grapes.
These are material which will perfect
g*yu 7>rari bdud rtsi.
They have the right flavor, aroma and fruit
to conquer wind, bile and phlegm all together,
as well as fever, glo gcoti and phlegm.41
Indeed, one's voice comes to be like the god
possessing a pleasant and melodious speech.
Likewise, having fulfilled (the vows of) the
Padma family,
one has powerful disciminative wisdom.42
One comes to possess power and splendor.
Likewise, in addition to ordinary powers,
by having innumerable other sorts of powers
one can get anything one wishes for.
Now there should be explained the proof in the
story of ne iiri pa and ra mite bafi3
Long ago, in a good bskal pa,
when the juice of the excellent food bdud rtsi
had overflowed the great ocean of existence,
the gods and asuras fought for that bcud.
The gods being victorious, bdud rtsi was
Khyab-'jug-chen-po Sgra-gcan-'dzin (i.e., Rahula)44
drank that bdud rtsi'i bcud of the gods
and then fled to the sky around Mount Meru.
Five-headed Brahma became angry about this
and flung a discus of flaming, meteoric iron
at Rahu's neck.
Two drops of his blood fell towards earth
and were spread by the wind-element throughout the atmosphere (bar snari).
Everywhere on earth where it reaches maturity
it becomes two things good for sentients.
Ne Sin pa and ra mne ba
grow into many branches and roots
in areas where river sand is found.
Because they possess potent color, aroma,
and flavor
they are protected by a goddess of medicine
A realized one who knows the method,
with a virgin boy and girl
from among the most pleasing of them,
will arrange these ingredients on a table
covered with silk or cotton.
While still fresh (?ser phut), shining and
they should be dried so there is no rot or
mold on them.
Then, throw away the skin and powder the rest.
This is a material which will perfect bdud
It is perfect for long life and good health.
The liquid from the pulverized material
(btags 4in bduris pa)
should be mixed with either sugar, butter,
or scalded (skol) milk.
One drink45 each during the day, at night, and
in the middle of each of these:
one should divide the day regularly (thun
du bead) and administer it then.
There will be unlimited spiritual benefits
through the stream of the three times (past,
present, and future)
for each portion made and consumed.
Blessed with long life and free of illness,
your happiness will be forever perfect.
Even the gods and apsaras **
will delight in your fair complexion.
The story of the four Kha-'bar:47
In the past, during the first kalpa,
Gsart-ba-'dus-pa48 was practicing sevasadhana
in the Bon tradition
in the cave G'yu-lun-sel.49
At that time, he cast a spell which caused
the attempted hindrance of his meditation by
the four Rag-sa Kha-'bar to return to them;
their four tongues were cut off and fell to earth.
Khyab-'jug scattered them as far as he could,
using the wind.
Those which grew widespread upon the earth
became four fair young virgins (na churi
bkrag ldan).
When the tongue was cut from Lha-mo Kha-'bar
it became the flower of the udumbara.50
When the tongue was cut from Srin-mo Kha-'bar
it became the flower gser gyi mdun £u can.51
When the tongue was cut from Gnod-sbyin Kha-'bar
it became the flower rma lo khril khril.52
When the tongue was cut from Yi-dwags Kha-'bar
it became the flower of bse ba smugpo.53
These four fair flowers which grow
on mountain heights, in pure soil, and in forests,
are blessed by the Goddess of Flowers
(to be) a material which will perfect bdud rtsi.
As treasures which yield the blessings of
they (also) possess inconceivable ordinary
spiritual powers.
Likewise, bdud rtsi lug mig pa 55 [has the
following story]:
When the gods and asuras were fighting
over (the bdud rtsi which came from)
the ocean of bdud rtsi bcud,
Brahma's eye-ball fell out5S
Visnu scattered it in the sky with the wind,
and when unhappiness and illness were rife
in the lands of gods and men,
Gto-rgyal Ye-mkhyen [direct predecessor of Gsen-rab]
saw this
and transformed lug mig into bdud rtsi
by his blessing.
It clears up fevers completely,
and is a material which will perfect g*yu
"bran bdud rtsi.
(Through it) one achieves siddhis for
ordinary powers, the conquest of desire, and
(even) the highest spiritual powers.
Now the story of pitch and alabaster should
be taught as proof [of their divine origin]:
Long ago, at the very beginning of existence,
the menses of five goddesses flowed (zags).
Through the compassionate blessing (thugs rje'i
byinrlabs) of Gsen-rab,
five precious thing came from that flow:
They dripped to become mercury and the white
of crystal del brag);
they streamed out as gya' chab 57 and the
blue of turquoise;
they were born as pitch and the red of bse
they sprang forth as gser chu 59 and the
yellow of gold ore;
they appeared as khro chu 60 and the black
or iron ore.
These are materials which will perfect g~yu
"bran bdud rtsi.61
It is a treasure from which anything one might
wish for comes;
in this liquid which transforms the five
poisons into the five wisdoms 62
is the basis (rgyu) from which come siddhis
and blessings.
It has the ordinary virtuous power of freeing
one from poverty;
its highest power is the attainment of anything
one wishes for.
Similar is the story of alabaster:63
Long ago, in the first kalpa,
when the Lha'i-bu64 had drunk from the ocean
of bdud rtsi bcud,
their bodies were filled with the bliss of
The result ('bras bu) of that experience was
that their seed fell (sa bon lug).
It was scattered through the sky by the all-
pervading wind;
it now covers rock ledges the world over.
From copulation, a Lha'i-bu came forth;
this is the pure white coti ze.
It is found on rocks, and on the overhangs of
white rock, like icicles.
Potent in its good color and shape,
the enjoyment (loris spyod) of
sexual pleasure (chags sems bde ba) is increased.
Thus, when a wise person has extracted its
essence (bcud),65
he will achieve (the position of) One-who-holds-
power-over-life. 66
His hair is totally protected from wrinkles
(gner ma),
and he will be as beautiful as a Lha'i-bu,
the body appearing youthful (gion dar la bab pa)
and attractive (yid du 'on) to all.
The (immediate) enjoyment of his spiritual merit
(bsod nams) will be increased.
Alabaster is a material which will perfect g"yu
"bran bdud rtsi.
As a source of innumerable spiritual powers
there will appear various benefits Cbras bu)
in its use.
What are called da ri ram 67
are the bones of Gsan-ba-nan-rins68
who passed into nirvana
after having renounced all hope
in this world forever.
These bones of his fell to earth,
were widely scattered by the wind-element,
and grew up on the earth-element on its
A child of beautiful light appeared from
it is the fruit of rgya bres dkar po 69
and is called thai ka rdo rje.70
It clears up illnesses of the bone
and suppresses sexual desire (chags pa).
Just as it is, it possesses a hundred powers.
Likewise are the stories of
rak ta mu la and ram bu 71:
Long ago, the Goddess of Medicine,
the Goddess of Juice (rtsi), the Goddess of
the Tree,
the Goddess of the Forest and the Goddess of
and above all Rma-lun Than-bzan 72
had their menses during the full moon.
What fell to earth and grew extensively there
became rak ta mu la and ram bu.
Their immeasurable virtues clear up diseases
of the blood.
Their auspiciousness shows itself ('char)
to be perfect:
their color, aroma and taste are perfect
They subdue illnesses which cause suffering
through thirst and hunger.
One's happiness will be complete.
These are materials which will perfect g"yu
'bran bdud rtsi.
Their juice brings out luster, brightness, and
The Mothers have spoken of (brgyas) the
enjoyment of their virtues.
The skillful one who possesses the non-dual
will pick them from places with pure soil,
gather the pickings together
and dry them so they are without mold or rot.
They will have the luster, aroma and flavor of
bdud rtsi.
Here's the story of the offering of
bdud rtsi:
Long ago, at the time when Gsan-ba-
was perfecting gyu bran bdud rtsi
from Bar-snan G'yun -druri-'od-mkhar,
The Goddess of the Trees, 'Od-'chan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of all trees (to him).
The Goddess of the Forest, Tsan-dan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of all forests.
Thin-lun Lha-mo 'Od-'bar-ma74
offered the bdud rtsi of all water.
The Goddess of the Vessel, Bcud-ldan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of all bcud.
The Goddess of Medicine, Dri-ldan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of universal
effectiveness (spyi mthun las).
The Goddess of Juice (rtsi), 'Od-Tjar-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi made with the
three kinds of camphor.75
The Great GSen Tshans-pa Gtsug-phud
offered the bdud rtsi of nagakesara.76
He-le Khyab-pa-phya also
offered the bdud rtsi of red mulberry.77
The Goddess Nor-gyi-rgyun-ma
offered the bdud rtsi of the five-fold
precious ones.78
offered the bdud rtsi of the fruit of trees
(sin thog) and honey.
The Goddess of Earth, Brtan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of beer made with the
juice (bcud) of pressed sesame seed.
Rgyal-bu Dges-la-dad-mchog
offered the bdud rtsi of various sorts of
juices (bcud) of pressed seed.
The Goddess of Juice (rtsi), Bcud-ldan-ma,
offered the bdud rtsi of the liquid from
rtsi mchog mar.79
Dran-sron Gzon-nu-bzan-po
offered the bdud rtsi of the eight roots.80
Tshans-pa Lha'i-bu also
offered the bdud rtsi of the three sorts of
zo da.81
The King of Nagas, Ananta (Mtha'-yas),
offered the bdud rtsi of all sorts of Naga
Gzon-nu Dban-po-thobs also
offered the bdud rtsi of all juices (rtsi).
Tshans-pa'i-bu-mo Stobs-ldan-ma
offered the bdud rtsi of medicines from
rock, etc.
By the blessings of offerings such as these
all the outer, inner and secret materials (rdzas)
are perfected asg^yu-Taraii bdud rtsi
emanating rays of light of the five wisdoms
possessing the five wished-for benefits.82
Immortal, thoroughly pure,
having achieved the highest as well as ordinary
a great rain of siddhis and blessings will fall
[from one with these medicines].
The giver ('bul bdag) (of these medicines),
enlightened to an inconceivable degree,
will be an inexhaustible source for
going to all sentients with his power of
compassion (thugs rje).83
These are the further materials which will perfect
bdud rtsi:
The King and Minister of Medicines;
The King and Minister of Aromas;
The King and Minister of Incense;
All material (rdzas) such as these should
be collected.84
Bird's perch and lion's throne,
Hasadeva and a-ru-ra,31
Making five with *krtakarnika;85
cardamom, 4u dag,
white aconite, li ga dur,
and pomegrante: these five;86
jatiphala, camphor,
gypsum, sandal, and cloves: these five;87
cinnamon, cardamom, ga bra,
H ga dur 90 and ge sar; these five;88
musk, sandal, turuska,
Indian and Tibetan incense: these five;89
Rock, marsh and cuckoo incense.
Rhododendron leaf, and
jujube leaf:90 these five
should all be collected, leaving out none.
Rasayana, the foremost medicine,
crystal, mother of pearl, and black salt
all should be mixed with the eight roots.91
A 'bras, grapes and bread-fruit (panasa),
dge rgyas and aloe:
these also should be mixed with the eight roots.92
Tree fruit (4in thog), grapes, cardamom,
dan da, and aloe: these five 93
also should be mixed with the eight roots.
Nagakesara, 78 cinnamon,
a 'bras, grapes and ru rta: these five 94
as well should be mixed with the eight roots.
The five peppers, five seeds, five precious
the five butters, five waters, five gums (than
the five senses and the five inner "playfulnesses"
these also should be mixed with the five sacred
substances (dam rdzas).29
Material (rdzas) of the
not-be-done-without thirteen
and the twenty-five raktas
should also be mixed with the five sacred substances.96
One who pursues his vows with diligence and
possesses the outer and inner sacred substances
and the eight roots with their shoots
(yan lag) 97
will collect all these materials (rdzas) together in their entirety.
[Using the] sky-method,98 with its countless
spiritual powers,
waves of an ocean of inexhaustible blessing
[sweep over one].
One will be possessed of the most excellent of
[wishing-] jewels
and will achieve whatever he wants.
The five-fold bdud rtsi of sacred materials
(dam rdzas)
are the seeds (btjas ) for the five families
of Sugatas.
In order to turn sentients from vain speculation (rtog pa)
about inner cause and effect, which is eternally
through the agency of the pure five great external
(these dam rdzas) are explained to be
bases for the perfection of bdud rtsi. 10°
The sacred materials of the middle are the
rin chen:
Gold-colored, precious dri chen;
The dri chen of the holy lama;
The dri chen which frees from cause and effect;
The dri chen of the pig, which conquers
vain speculation;
The dri chen of the pigeon-
Aloe and turuska;93
Nutmeg, du dag 90 and sandalwood incense;
A ru ra,31 honey;
Gold and gser chu rgya 'phabs;61
Various sorts of flesh from wild animals:
Collect these medicines which preserve
dri chen.
The sacred materials in the east are the by an
chub sems:
The by an sems of the holy lama;
The byah sems of a first-time youth;101
The by an sems which frees from cause and
Thai ka rdo rje, Cannabis sativa;
Shell, bone and black salt;
Crystal, pearl and alabaster;
Camphor, gypsum and relics of bone (sa ri
ram); 69
Ru rta,98 du dag 90 and skyu ru ra; 39
Rdo rgyus, 'dam bu root;102
White sandalwood and sugar;
Saltpeter, skyu ru ra;
Medicine from rock (rdo sman), milk, etc.:
Collect these medicines which preserve byari
The sacred materials in the north are the dri
The dri chu which comes from the Mother;
The dri chu which frees from cause and effect;
White alabaster, water from pitch (brag zun chu);
Rusty water, glacier water and well water;
Ocean foam; chu srin Ider;103
Mercury; lesser cardamom; cardamom;
Ba ru ra, don kha,
Pha du ra and din thogpa;104
White Ice 'bigs, dug mo nuns;105
Ra mite ba and He diti pa; w
Nagakesara78 and grapes;
Tig ta, g"yu lo, ziri bu, etc.:106
Collect these medicines which preserve dri chu.
[The sacred substances] pertaining to the
padmarakta family in the west:
The rakta which comes from the Mother;
The rakta which frees from [cause and] effect;
Star bu39 and grapes;
Jatiphala 91 and saffron;
Rakta and mala;107
Red mulberry;TO
Purple sandalwood and cloves;
Vermillion, pomegranate and saffron;
The filament oigsergyi me tog;108
Various sorts of blood, rtsos khrag and
Bird's perch and lion's throne,89 etc.
Collect these medicines which preserve rakta.
The most important of the mam sa sacred substances of the south:
The da chen which frees from [cause and]
The flesh of (creatures that) fly, swim,
and crawl on the earth;
[The flesh of] the duck and the cat;
Tsi tra ka1W and cardamom;
Saffron, vermilion (?li tri)
and tsi tra;ni
Rock salt, dried ginger and 'jam 'bras;112
Na le dam, black pepper;113
SUM io da, sugar;114
Na le dam and lotus tip (padma rtse).
Collect these medicines which preserve main sa.
As to the medicine which is composed of the root,
the eight branches and the thousand powers
through the virtuous power of these five sacred
(With) a single drop (of g"yu 'bran bdud rtsi)
which has concentrated in it all the essences
(bcud) of the vast hundred-thousand roots
one is pure and immortal,
possessed of the five eternal wisdoms of the five
released to be a king of teachings (luri) about
and achieves as a result of this the highest
At this the retinue also, filled with merriment,
was joyful.116 Praising the Great Mother
in their worship of her, they were settled
in their respective states (gnas).
Then that Great Mother also came to dissolve into
the sphere of the unimaginable vastness of her
1. Per Kvaerne, "Tibet. La mythologie," in Dictionnaire des
mythologies, Paris, Flammarion, 1981; Ariane Macdonald, "La
naissance du monde au Tibet," passim, in Sources orientales I,
Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1959; STEIN/RECIT, passim.
2. KARMAY/GENERAL, p. 191-96, 204-207. See also material
in Joseph F. Rock, The Na-khi Naga cult and related ceremonies,
Rome, 1952.
3. The Bdud rtsi bum pa 7 rgyud, the Bdud rtsi bam po brgyad
pa (a Chos Bka'-'gyur text), and some sman sgrub texts in the
Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo share concepts, sacred materials,
and divine powers. Their relationship is being studied by me
and will be reported on separately, so here very few references to
Chos ritual or belief will be made. Those familiar with sman
sgrub and tshe sgrub practices will see several obvious parallels
in this text.
4. Etymologically, g*yu 'bran bdud rtsi is obscure. Assuming it
to be an adjectival compound, let us begin with bdud rtsi. In
KARMAY/GENERAL, p. 206, the author states that, "bdud rtsi
etymologically seems to be derived from the notion of the
poison which grew in the land of the demons. As an antidote to
this, the goddess produced medicinal substances, thus the
demon's crop." Internalized to a tantric system and used within
it, this view is supported several times in our materials; GSER
LO: 394.4 speaks of phyi 7 dgra bgegs nati gi bdud mams, and
GSER LO describes how these demons evolve in the same
manner as the elements and their goddesses (who manifest
naturally and are not to be avoided; they are for one's benefit).
These inner bdud include the eight tshogs, which are, according
to SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 306, the 'eight perceptive groups': the
eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, 'defected [sic] mind' and
'universal consciousness' (kun gzi). Then, to make sadhana
possible, Thah-ma Me-sgron, etc., are the Eight Great Gsen
powers, and realized as the eight sensory spheres as another set
of goddesses (GSER LO 400.8-401: nam mkha' chu dari rluri dag
dari / me dari sa ste Tryuri Iria yari / ma sparis Ihun grub rari don
du / Gsal-byed-ma dari Rlan-byed-ma / Drod-'bebs-ma dari
Mdaris-ldan-ma / Sa'i-lha-mo Iria ru grub / de btin rnam des
tshogs brgyad dari / Ichrul pa la swogs rari gi bdud / tshogs
brgyad bdud brgyad rari don du / Thari-ma Me-sgron la swogs te
/ Ye-gden-chen-po brgyad du grub / de bzin mam des yul brgyad
grub / ma sparis Ihun grub rari don du / Rig-pa 'i-lha-mo la
swogs te / Ye-saris Lha-mo brgyad du grub . . .)
'Bran is of ancient usage and means, inter alia, "to produce, give
birth to" (STEIN/RECIT, p. 542). G 'yu is said to be equivalent to
Zari-zuri ti(ri), "water; heaven; silver; blue; wife" (Siegbert
Hummel, "Materialen zu einem Worterbuch der Zari-2uri-
Sprache I", Monumenta Serica XXXI/1974-75, p. 498 & 501). Thus,
one could think of this phrase connoting "a bdud rtsi producing
water" or "a bdud rtsi produced in (the sky or) heaven". One
accords with the popular motif of goddesses raining down
medicinal substances (KARMAY/GENERAL, p. 205; also the
stories here; see also GSER LO: 396.8-397.2: ye nas ma skyes Bon
gyi dbyiris / bla med 'bras bu saris rgyas swa [i.e. so] / de bzin phyi
nari snod bcud kun / bdud rtsi'i rgyu ru ma gyur med / mkha' la
phyo dari sa la gnas / 'og na rgyu tin gnas pa kun / g'yu bran
bdud rtsi'i rari bzin yin); the other helps explain why this
sadhana system is called nam mkha'i tshul; cf. fn. 98. (This
interpretation ignores the fact that g'yu 'brari appears to be a
Tibetan term, not Zari-zuri; it is, however, found in both the
opening Zari-zuri and Tibetan titles of some texts, which is
unusual.) Functionally, g'yu 'bran bdud rtsi is "concentrated
(i.e., consecrated) chang" (SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 309). It is also
called bru bcud g'yu 'bran yu ti'i chart ('CHI MED: 427.2), and is
the liquid medium into which the other sacred ingredients are
added (the total sometimes called g'yu 'brari sman, as 'CHI MED:
5. The only study of Bon Mother Tantra is Dan Martin's
Human Body Good Thought (Mi lus bsam legs) and the
revelation of the secret Bonpo Mother Tantras, an (as yet)
unpublished M.A. thesis, Indiana University, 1986. As noted
there (p. 138), Thugs-rje Byams-ma is the 'Great Mother' because
she is the origin of all enlightened beings, roughly equivalent to
the Chos deity Prajnaparamita (who also occasionally carries the
epithet Yum-chen-mo); see also fn. 11 below on her forms. Of
course, our text is a Mother Tantra because she reveals its
contents, and this to an audience of goddesses. However, as
different interpretations within the Chos community have
shown (cf. the synopsis by Mkhas-grub Rje in his Introduction to
Buddhist Tantric systems, Delhi, 1978, p. 252 ff), the division
'Mother' and 'Father' Tantra pays attention also to meditative
forms, stages of sadhana, etc. The Bon division I follow here is
based on the A khrid thun mtshams bco Iria dari cha lag bcas as
studied by Per Kvaerne ("Bonpo studies: The A khrid system of
meditation, II", Kailash I /1973, p. 287), wherein 'Mother Tantra'
would focus on the phenomenal aspects of meditation, and
'Father' on ritual actions (mdzad spyod). No doubt, criteria for
other divisions will appear.
6. See, e.g., YESHIDONDEN/HEALTH, pp. 211-218.
7. Five criteria define a Tantric revelation, which (especially
in Rdzogs chen) is really the primordially pure and enlightened
mind (here, G£en-god White-light) revealing itself for the
benefit of the unenlightened: The place of revelation COg-min);
the revealer (Thugs-rje Byams-ma); the one revealed to (the
Goddess of Knowledge, Very Bright); the subject matter (nature
and composition of g'yu 'brari bdud rtsi); the occasion (the
eternal present of the state of the enlightened mind (dus gcig na).
(On this tableau see the excellent discusion by Herbert Guenther,
"Tantra and revelation", in Tibetan Buddhism in Western
perspective, Emeryville, California, 1977, p. 206f in particular.)
8. Yi dam rtsa ba'i lha: G£en-god White-light is the
enlightening force in Bon and thus the only "teacher". Since all
yi dam emanate from him, rtsa ba here may mean basic or
central in all three persons: 'my/your/his or her deity central to
9. Yum gyi mkha' dbyiris is the totality of Bon realms, bon
sku (what I call here 'Bon presence'), what is chos sku in Chos
(Guenther, op cit., p. 221; q.v. here also for Akanistha ('Og-min)
as the "place" of dharmakdya in Rdzogs-chen). On the physical
ritual level, Yum gyi mkha' dbyiris is the name of the vessel in
which ril bu (medicinal pills) are mixed (William Stablein, "A
medical-cultural   system   among   the   Tibetan   and   Newar
Buddhists," Kailash 1/1973, p. 199). Likewise, the pho brari
(palace) represents the totality of offerings to the goddesses ('CHI
MED: 424.6-5.1) as their places of residence. 'Og-min gi gnas is
added as a superscript note to Yum-gyi-mkha'-dbyiris.
10. Many of these goddesses are enumerated in GSER LO, 'CHI
11. Literature on Byams-ma is extensive; volume three of Bka'
'gyur rgyud sde'i skor. Collected Tantras of Bon (Dolanji, 1972),
for example, is dedicated to sadhana materials on her. We read
there (p. 474) about her basic mandala: in the center is (Ses-rab)
Kun-gsal Byams-ma-chen-mo, "the Mother who creates
enlightened ones of the three times and who is from the vortex
(dkyil Ichor) of the highest rgyal ba," i.e., Gsen-rab. In the east,
from Mrion-rtogs-ziri, is Yum-chen Thabs-chen Bder-sgrol-ma;
in the north, from Rnam-dag-ziri-khams, is Yum-chen Nam-
mkha'i-mdzod-'dzin-ma; in the west, from Bkod-pa'i-ziri-
khams, is Yum-chen Thugs-rje Byams-ma; in the south, from
Dge-rgyas-ziri-khams, is Yum-chen Sna-tshogs-kun-grags-ma.
There are also Byams-mas at the intermediate directions. They
are known collectively as the "The Eight Great Enlightened-ones
Producers" (Saris-rgyas bskyed byed Byams-ma-chen-mo brgyad)
of the secret level of the mandala. Thugs-rje's color is red, which
is significant in view of the importance of menstrual, etc. blood
in the myths here and in the materials for g'yu 'brari dedicated
to the western direction (see Ch. 11 below).
12. She seems for all practical purposes equivalent to Kun-tu-
bzari-mo in the Chos Rdzogs-chen tradition, the "mother" (ma
here, not yum ) of all phenomenal existence. There being no
true 'external' or 'internal', she is the reality of Void behind all
phenomena. From her arises also the Bon Kun-tu-bzari-po, from
whom emanates the five tathagatas.
13. Also known as Gsal-byed or Mdaris-ldan-ma, the goddess of
the element space (nam mkha'), on which see the next note.
14. According to the Zi rgyud, five rays proceed from the spirit
(thugs) of Gsen-god White-light; the uncreated basis of the five
elements is from these Cod las 'byuri Iria'i gii ma chags). In his
commentary, Tshul-khrims-rgyal-mtshan explains that, when
the vortices (dkyil Ichor) of these elements developed, a god and
a goddess evolved from each. They are, in order of their coming
into being:
Kun-snari-khyab-pa and Nam-mkha 'i-lha-mo Gsal-
byed Gdos-bral; Dge-lha Gar-phyug and Rluri-gi-lha-
mo Kun-skyori-sgrol-ma; Bye-brag-drios-med and
Me'i-lha-mo Kun-smin-gsal-ma; Dga'-ba-don-grub
and Chu'i-lha-mo Kun-gso-sdud-ma; Gsal-ba-rari-
'byuri and Sa-yi-lha-mo Kun-bskyed-brtan-ma.
The five male deities are the lords of the five families whose
materials are itemized in Ch. 11, below, and who are briefly
schematized in fn. 24. The union of each of these is the constant
and eternal emanation and reabsorption ('phro 'du) of spatial
expansiveness (dbyiris) and eternal wisdom (ye ses). Unobstructed spiritual powers (yon tan) relating to body, speech and mind
result from this:
Nam-mkha'i-lha-mo has power over light (and
bringing concepts to consciousness [gsal ba] and
creating spatial separateness (go "byed);
Rluri-gi-lha-mo over raising up and mobility ('degs
and g'yo ba ) (g'yo ba as movement is a rupture of the
stasis of the primordial mind, causing mental activity
[see translation in fn. 28] to arise);
Me'i-lha-mo over brightness, warming and
maturation (gsal ba, drod ~bebs, smin pa);
Chu'i-lha-mo over healing all things, making moist,
and washing and cleansing (kun gso, rlan bskyed,
"khru sbyari);
Sa'i-lha-mo over supporting, creating and nourishing
everywhere (kun rten, kun bskyed, kun 'tsho).
How these values for each deity function in tshe sgrub rituals
and Bon cosmology in general is worth a separate study; I am
here presenting some raw data for consideration.
The quote from the Zi rgyud and Tshul-khrim's commentary
are found on p. 258-9 of GNyuri-druri-bstan-'dzin, Rgya rigs Gnam
Bon Rji'u-gar gyi gduri rabs (Dolanji, Tshultrim Tashi, 1985).
15. Mandalas exist on the "outer", "inner", and "secret" levels.
The first is the physical mandala; the "inner" the transformation
of the body into a Buddha-field by viewing the body as the
universe; the "secret" mandala centers on the development of
the enlightenment (bodhi) mind. As mandalas are constructed
for the purpose of accumulating merit, and one does this by
offering, it follows that the outer mandala requires outer
(external) offerings, the inner the offering of the macrocosmic
body, and the secret the offering of the mind. The goddesses of
Mind, etc., here thus stand for both our own senses and those of
the other participants. So, the smells, tastes, etc. of the offerings
must please us, the lama, and the invited goddesses. The actual
transubstantiation of the offerings into bdud rtsi sman ra sa ya
na, with the accompanying presence of the goddesses of the
offerings, takes place at that time ('CHI MED: 458-460).
As the name of the Goddess of the Mind, Rab-tu-gsal-ba (Very
Bright), indicates, her mind is spiritually purified enough to
receive and understand Thugs-rje Byams-ma's revelation,
although, ultimately, we must realize that her mind is only a
vehicle for Yum-chen-mo's revelation.
16. These goddesses are divinations of the materials and
implements used in the ritual. For directions on their use, see
GSAN SNAGS: 61ff. Most are pictured in SNELLGROVE/NINE,
pp. 277-82.
17. Dri-ldan-ma appears on the level of the five secret sacred
substances (gsari ba'i dam rdzas lria)(GSER LO: 387).
The Dri-'bebs-ma and Char-'bebs-ma groups perhaps represent
dakiriis who carry the moisture and aroma of the offerings from
the goddesses in their spheres (dbyiris; cf. GSER LO: 438-39) to the
sadhaka. Bdud-rtsi-skyori-ma is as yet an unknown figure to me.
18. Nearly all terms in Tantra are polyvalent; these are
especially so. Tshogs here may refer to the collectivity of the
offerings, the deities, the human participants, or all together. It
probably also includes the tshogs brgyad (cf. fn. 4). Rgyu is
similarly manifold: A sort of underlying universal basis or cause
(again, cf. fn. 4), an individualized physical state (as in rgyu bzi
phuri po, a Bon term for bodily qualities; cf. SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 294), and a group of material things (e.g.
offerings). For example: din tu rio mtshar sman gyi rgyu / tsan
dari spos dari dri iim diri / me tog lo ma "bras bu dari . . . (rgyu as
material ingredient: GSER LO: 386.5); ye des Iria rdzogs grub pa 7
rdzas / rgyu Iria sem [i.e. sems can] kun sgrol phyir / dug na sel
ba'i bdud rtsi te / (rgyu as five phuri po; cf. GSER LO: 391.3).
19. nus mthu byin rlabs: a blessing (byin rlabs) which transmits
knowledge directly into the mind of the receiver (cf. fn. 15). I
assume this is analgous to the Rniri-ma-pa view of dgoris rgyud
wherein disciples who are not identical with the Teacher (Yum-
chen-mo) become "inseparable in mind". On this, see Tulku
Thondup, The Tantric tradition of the Nyingmapa (Marion, MA,
Buddhayana, 1984), p. 5.
20. However, in the 'Mother Tantra' view, it is only through
Byams-ma's position as manifestor that the purification of a
sentienf s psycho-physical constituents is possible:
Dbyiris-kyi-yum-chen Ses-rab Byams-ma'i thugs kha na / ye des
bdud rtsi'i chu bo dkar la dwaris pa rgyun chad med par babs pas
I phud ial rgya mtsho dari mriam pa dkar Item gyis kheris par
bsam la / Bswo otri ba ba de na ra sa ya na g'yu 'brari bdud rtsi
Om hiim bswo tha (p. 355 of the Byams-ma sriags lugs la ne bar
mkho ba'i dog churi, a text in vol. 1 of the Kun-gsal Byams-ma-
chen-mo sgrub thabs compiled by Ni-ma-bstan-'dzin-dbari-rgyal
(Delhi, s.n., 1966): "Because a fluid (dwaris/rasa) has been
unendingly descending in a white river of the bdud rtsi of
eternal wisdom from the spiritual heart of Ses-rab Byams-ma,
the Great Mother of the Realms [in which the Sugatas reside],
you should consider it to have filled to overflowing the offering
cups [in the mandala; phud ial - zal bu. After the materials have
been blessed by the descent of the goddesses, they are poured into
zal bu as offerings to the guru, etc.] equal in volume to an ocean
[while reciting the mantra].
21. E.g., in L. Austine Waddell, Tibetan Buddhism (New York,
Dover, 1972), pp. 444-48; Stablein (cf. fn. 10); and, closest to the
present ritual complex, a brief schema in Rene de Nebesky-
Wojkowitz, Oracles and demons of Tibet (Graz, Akademische
Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 1975), pp. 425-27.
22. The "medicine tree" motif is incredibly widespread, utilized
in Tantric and non-Tantric, medicinal and normative Buddhist
literatures. We will no doubt find it just as widespread in Bon
literatures and lore. Bon and Chos consider their teachings
antidotes to "poisons" (past deeds, ignorance, etc.). This
"medicine tree" is also used for plotting medicines, doctors,
etiologies, etc. A few examples: YESHI DONDEN/ HEALTH,
"trees of medicine" in index; Stablein, op cit. in fn. 9, pp. 194 and
198; Tulku Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet (London,
Wisdom Publications, 1986), p. 18: "Vajrayana followers are like
those who, instead of wasting their energy and potential
avoiding or destroying the poisonous tree [of emotional
defilements—mlw], skillfully transform it into a medicine tree
and then use it."
23. On these see Alex Wayman, "Studies in Yama and Mara",
Indo-Iranian Journal III/1959, pp. 44-73 and pp. 112-31. These
Maras must be defeated to achieve power over life.
24. These are: Stori riid, me lori, mriam nid, sor rtogs and bya
grub ye des.
Each fits one of the following families whose lords are
mentioned in fn. 14 in a scheme like this:
element   direction    lord (dbu)
1. space E     Kun-snari-khyab-pa
2. earth S      Gsal-ba-ran-'byuri
3. air      C     Dge-lha Gar-phyug
4. fire     W    Bye-brag-dnos-med
5. water N     Dga'-ba-don-grub
Gsal-byed Gdos-bral
dam rdzas
1. bodhicitta
2. flesh, mam sa
3. ordure, dri chen
4. pad ma rak ta
5. urine, dri chu
What needs to be done
25. This reading is based on infra, 442.5.
26. sos ka ser ka; the translation here assumes that ser ka has
something to do with being moist.
27. The term here, lo 'dab, refers specifically to leaves which
fall seasonally from trees, shrubs, etc.
28. On the various categories of dam rdzas:
1) The rgyu "bras bsgral ba'i dam rdzas is the ultimate. It is the
five eternal wisdoms mixed in the 'single drop' (thig le gcig)
praised at the end of Chapter 11. This drop represents the
genuine, balanced state of Bon presence (Bon sku): rari byuri Bon
sku bde chen 'di / ma bcos byed pa med pa'i phyir / no bo gian
du phyin rgyu med / rgyu dari "bras bu cir snari ba / ma bkag Bon
riid rgyan du dar / rari byuri rari dar Bon riid don / ma nor ma
bcos pa / Bon sku griis med rtog las 'das / mi g'yo bde chen Ihun
la rdzogs / din tu mi rig rtiri mi phori / bdud rtsi de riid thig le'i
mchog (GSER LO: 370.3-371.1), 'This great joy, the self-originated
Bon presence, has no basis (rgyu) for its essential nature (no bo)
to pass to another (state), since, being natural (ma bcos), it is not
creating. Cause and effect (rgyu "bras), however they appear, arise
only as ornaments on flowing Bon-ness. The significance of this
self-originated and self-appearing Bon-ness is that it is genuine
and natural. Bon presence, not a duality, surpasses vain
speculation and its great joy, unmoving, is perfect as is. It is far
beyond understanding, and its depth (read gtiri) is not to be
targeted (by the mind). That bdud rtsi is the highest drop (i.e.,
So, once the impulses which obscure our mind come to rest, it
will attain a state of natural quietude (mi g'yo ba). This allows
the defilements which it has accumulated to be cleared away;
rituals such as bdud rtsi sman are an aid to that. Intellectual
discursiveness, which I call here "vain speculation", is to be
avoided because it is due to the subliminal influences (bag chags)
embedded in consciousness which is proceeding through
samsara (GSER LO: 400.5). The excellent, enlightening drop (thig
le) of the teachings represents the totality of Bon presence (Bon
sku) (SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 228f.) which will cleanse all this.
2) The bla ma dam pa'i dam rdzas are described in Chapter 11,
below. Since one's lama is identical in function to GSen-god
White-light, the transmission of the eternal bodhicitta proceeds
through him. Each of his dam rdzas corresponds to a family of
3) The Yah yum griis kyi dam rdzas probably refers specifically to
the secret-level dam rdzas in guruyoga rituals such as outlined
in LDE-MIG and described at length in GSER LO.
4) The dam rdzas Iria are the seeds of the five families of Sugatas:
dam rdzas mam pa Iria / bder gdegs dbu Iria 7 sa bon de / thams
cad Ihun grub rigs Iria dam tshigs Iria'i drios (GSER LO: 391.3).
These are both the offerings and accompanying bljas.
29. Brgya-byin-bu is Skt. Indraputra. Although many names in
these stories are Indian, they are usually left in Tibetan. This
story is the first of several using a cliche of Indian mythology:
The rapacious behavior of a god, etc., is responsible for the loss
or spilling of amrta, the elixir of immortality, originally the
property of the gods. This motif is widespread in Hindu and
Buddhist materials. Cf. G^YU-THOG, p. 965 and 'JAM-DPAL, p.
82, for similar stories of their scattering.
30. The number of a ru ras varies, and in this story so do their
names. GvYU-THOG, p. 694f, lists five, seven or eight varieties.
Read skem po for skyes bu and gso/'tsho byed iorbso byed and
we are left only with nag po. 'JAM-DPAL, p. 83, notes a sort
called a ru nag churi, also called "bigs byed or kun dga'; its fruit is
illustrated there; this is probably nag po. According to Dr. Pema
Dorje (TIBETAN MEDICINE 11/1981, p. 20f.), all eight are
varieties of Terminalia Chebulla Retz. N.B. I do not consider this
an article on Indo-Tibetan material medica. I will give the
vernacular name only when certain of the equivalence.
Likewise, for the most part I will not give several alternative
identifications unless it seems relevant. Identification of most
Tibetan materia medica is problematic.
31. I.e., will cause rari byuri ye ses to shine, through its own
purity, in the mind; cf. Per Kvaerne's "The Great Perfection' in
the Tradition of the Bonpos," in Early Ch'an in China and Tibet
(Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1983), p. 376.
32. Yid and yid tsam occur in the text for yud and yud (tsam),
which as an adverb means "briefly; for an instant"; as an
adjective, it should mean "to a small extent; barely; slightly".
33. sbrari rtsir bzari-
34. 'Dre are a sort of evil spirit. GNYU-THOG, p. 695, notes that
'jigs med  is commended for its ability to control the smyo 'dre.
35. Gdon are another set of malicious spirits. In both GNYU-
THOG and 'JAM-DPAL 'jigs med is praised for its power over
gdon; why it is able to "dry them up" is not yet known to me.
36.1 assume this is the bdud rtsi which is one form of a ru ra.
37. Thabs-mkhas-rgyal-po is most probably meant as an epithet,
rather than the name of the individual; the blessing Yum-chen-
mo gave Yid-kyi-lha-mo was that there would be those who
know how (thabs mkhas) to create these medicines.
38. Skyu-ru-ra is identified by Dr. Yeshi Donden (TIBETAN
MEDICINE 1/1980, p. 50) with amla, Emblica officinalis.
Star bu is usually equated with amlavetasa, Hippophae
rhemnoides or buckthorn, a shrub growing especially in
southwestern Tibet.
39. To fit the meter, one dari po should be deleted from the
40. zags pa'i khu ba sa la thigs. Zags is the perfect of 'dzag, to
drip, leak out; in almost all contexts here it refers to menstrual
flow (cf. khrag 'dzag pa in the dictionaries). Dan Martin, in his
thesis (op. cit. fn. 5), p. 132, notes the explicit reproductive
symbolism in Yum-chen-mo materials. The dominance of the
color red here, menses, and blood in general accord not only
with Thugs-rje Byams-ma's color in the west (cf. fn. 11 and 24)
but also with Tantric and Tibetan medical theory. Note that the
male deities mentioned (e.g., Lha'i-bu in Chapter 7) are
ejaculating their sa bon, sperm, part of the white bodhicitta; cf.
GNYU-THOG, p. 374.
41. Glo gcori are lung diseases in general (GvYU-THOG, p. 95).
The terms "wind", "bile" and "phlegm" are used for groups of
constituents in the body, necessary to life yet easily upset (which
results in illness). Since they come with us into this life powered
by desire, hatred and obscuration, they are prone to give us
trouble and thus are called ries pa or 'faults'. Since their roots lie
in ignorance stemming from embroilment in samsara, the
eternal wisdom (ye ses) bestowed through these rituals will
serve to sever these roots; cf. YESHI DONDEN /HEALTH, Ch. 4
42. 'Discriminating wisdom' belongs to the Padmarakta family;
cf. fn. 25 and SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 179.
43. Ne din pa, Skt. upavrksa, has not been consistently
identified. Ra mrie is Polygonatum cirrhifolium (YESHI
44. *Mahavisnu Rahula (Khyab-'jug-chen-po Sgra-gcan-'dzin)
is from ancient times connected with the creation of medicines
connected with his decapitation; see, e.g., the creation of garlic in
note 6, p. 11 and the text there in A.F.R. Hoernle's edition of the
Bower Manuscript (Calcutta, Superintendent of Govt. Printing,
1893), and a story by Nagarjuna on the creation of a ru ra in the
same manner in 'JAM-DPAL, p. 82.
For Khyab-'jug-chen-po Rahula as a servant of Sman-bla, see
Nebesky-Wojkowitz (op. cit.; see fn. 21), p. 79.
45. The use of zal skyems, the honorific, emphasizes the ritual
use. A thun is a dose; thun du bead would be measuring or
apportioning the dose.
46. Lha dari lha'i bu mo; the latter could also render
devakanya, particularly fetching supernatural beings. These and
the Lha'i-bu below are metaphors for the transformation of
physical (sexual) craving into spiritually beneficial power; cf. fn.
47. Kha-'bar (-ma) is Skt. Jvalamukhi, goddess of cholera,
among other things. A group of four is unknown to me,
although the different titles suggest they are four manifestations
of the same being (adapted to tantric mandala?). On Raksasi
(Srin-mo) Kha-la-me-'bar, see Nebesky-Wojkowitz (op. cit.; see
fn. 21), pp. 287 and 469.
48. A famous Bon sage. For a few details of his life, see Samten
Karmay's translation of Bkra-sis-rgyal-mtshan's Legs bsad mdzod
(A treasury of good sayings, London, Oxford U. Press, 1972),
49.An ancient meditation cave, mentioned in the Gzi-brjid
50. Udumbara  is the Ficus glomearata.
51. I could find no information about this plant.
52. No information was available on this plant, either. As with
me tog gser gyi mdun iu can, 'the flower with a melted face of
gold', rma lo khril khril is probably an epithet ('the creeper with
leaves good for wounds').
53. Bse ba smug po is probably a deep, purple-red wild rose, if
we read se ba. See the illustration on P. 107 of JAM-DPAL.
54. drios grub. Several siddhis have to do with lengthening life
and the ability to transmute base matter into gold. Both ideas are
conveyed by the names for this, (rasa) rasdyanasiddhi, showing
their interelationship.
55. Lug mig is well-known in Tibetan medicine but is not yet
identified. It is described as an "alpine flower"; there is also lug
mig nag po, which may be the flower meant here, identified as
Aster alpinus, Alpine aster (TIBETAN MEDICINE IV/1981, p.
64). Described in G~YU-THOG (p. 424) and 'JAM-DPAL 9p. 174), it
is clear that one name for it, rgyal ba 7 spyan (can), reflects an
appearance which would give rise to such stories. Several are
recounted in these sources, but Tsharis-pa/Brahma is not
56. There is a pun here on lug, sheep, and lug, to fall down. No
doubt the name originally described the plant as like a sheep's
eye (mig).
57. This is honorific for g'ya' chu, water flowing from a
mountain with rust deposits (RGYA BOD TSHIG MDZOD
CHEN MO, p. 2616).
58. Bse brag is as yet unidentified; probably it is a sort of brag
59. Gser chu is water with gold flakes suspended in it, or water
from a river with gold deposits. Gser chu rgya 'phabs (read phibs)
is molten gold used in gilding.
60. Khro chu is either liquid bronze or iron; here it is obviously
iron. This does not usually designate a naturally-occuring
61. Brag iun and cori ze have more metaphysical significance
than most natural materials in the Tibetan world. The former is
called "red bodhicitta ", for example, and the latter "white
bodhicitta . Myths about them in 'JAM-DPAL, pp. 46 and 74,
relate them to material here: Alabaster is the condensed essence
of existence, the light of darkness(i) (mtshan mo'i 'od / srid bcud
bsdus pa / byari sems dkar po), while pitch is the placental blood
of the goddess U-ma (byari sems dmar po / U-ma'i mrial khrag).
See also fn. 64 here. In Tibetan medicine, there are five varieties
of each: Alabasters are divided by familial terms (pho, etc.),
pitches by metals (gold, silver, copper, iron, lead—not the
scheme here, which uses colors of the families of Bon Sugatas).
For descriptions of them, cf. Yeshi Donden's translation of the
Bdud rtsi sriiri po yan lag brgyad pa (TIBETAN MEDICINE
VI/1983, p. 7).
62. See the schema in fn. 24.
63. Spelled cori ze or cori ii; its white color accords with the
male emission from which it came.
64. Skt. Devaputra, but closer to home is Lha'i-bu'i-bdud
(Nebesky-Wojkowitz, op. cit. in fn. 21, p. 523), Devaputramara of
the set of four Maras (op. cit.; see fn. 23). In a related story, Lha'i-
bu Yid-bzin-nor-bu made love to U-ma; some of their combined
red and white bodhicitta fell onto a neuter rock, and became
both alabaster and pitch ('JAM-DPAL, p. 46). For another set of
stories, see under Lha'i-bu khams in GvYU-THOG; this is
another name for cori ze. Das also, under byari sems dkar, has
cori ze as a young devaputra possessing bodhicitta (byari sems
ldan pa'i lha bu gzon  nu), which he takes to be soapstone.
(Whatever the case, it is clear that we are dealing with ten
different minerals here, not varieties of two.)
65. G'YU-THOG, p. 144, mentions that the male cori ze, called
dkar po garis thigs, is good to use for bcud len preparations.
66. In addition to denoting a level of accomplishment in the
Rnin-ma tradition (Tshe-dbari Rig-'dzin being the third) (BOD
RGYA TSHIG MDZOD CHEN MO, p. 2685), it has long been
applied to the highest level of achievement in siddhi, as in the
case of the immediate disciples of Padmasambhava.
67. Sa ri ram, Skt dariram, refers usually to the bones, etc., of
deceased holy ones; it is also a secret name (gab miri) for yuris
dkar (white mustard) and thai ka rdo rje (cf. Chapter 8) (GNYU-
THOG, p. 613).
68. He is one of the eight supernatural Zu Gsen, according to
Samten Karmay in Per Kvaerne's 'The canon of the Tibetan
Bonpos", Indo-Iranian Journal XVI/1974, p. 54. The others are
Yid-kyi-khye'u-churi, Gto-bo 'Bum-saris, Gsal-ba-'od-ldan, Med-
khams Stori-pa-rje, Tsharis-pa Gtsug-phud, Gtsug Gsen Rgyal-ba
and Klu-mo Ma-ma-te.
69. According to 'JAM-DPAL, p. 145, rgya gres is the male form
of gres ma, also known as dres ma, a flowering grass. Although a
white variety is not mentioned, this identification is likely.
70. Spelled either tha skor rdo rje or thai ka rdo rje. Identified
(TIBETAN MEDICINE VII/1984, p. 24) as Cassia lora Linn,
"foetid cassia".
71. I have no information on rag ta or rak ta mu la; Skt.
*raktamula. Ram bu is another name for na ram ('JAM-DPAL,
p. 196). According to GNYU-THOG, p. 216, it's another name for
tha ram or tha rgod,   Plantago maior or Plantain.
72. Rma-luri Thari-bzari is not found in the sources consulted.
73. Gnis med thabs is the power of one who has united his own
presence (sku) with the eternal wisdoms, and thus has achieved
release and can bring others to the end of suffering: sku dari ye
ses griis med Bon gyi sku j . . . non rmoris Ichor ba'i bciris pa'i
nad / griis med bdud rtsi sman gyis saris (GSER LO: 374.6-7). Cf.
fn. 22, Tulku Thondups' quote, and fn. 28.
74. She, like Dri-ldan-ma, functions on the level of the secret
sacred substances (cf. fn. 17).
75. "Three sorts of camphor" is another collective term for
different aromatics (G^YU-THOG, p. 72f).
76. Tsharis-pa Gtsug-phud is another of the eight Zu Gsen (cf.
fn. 68). Ndgakesara is probably Mesua ferrea Linn., a tree with
white blossoms that grows in the eastern Himalaya
(Pharmacographia indica, by William Dymock; London, Kegan
Paul, 1890, v. 1, p. 170(f).
77. I have found no data on He-le Khyab-pa-phya, or on these
others who also offer bdud rtsi: Sre'u-yi-po-ha-la, Rgyal-bu Dges-
la-dad-mchog, Drari-srori Gzon-nu-bzari-po, and Gzon-nu Dbari-
po-stobs. One may read srin sin sna dmar or sn' u sin sna dmar.
Both sn' 'u nag and srin nag are mulberry; literally, "mulberry,
red sort".
78. Nor-gyi-rgyun-ma/Vasundhara is a dispenser of wealth.
The rin chen Iria  are discussed in GvYU-THOG, p. 572f.
79. Rtsi mchog mar may be rtsi bcud sman mar in GvYU-THOG,
p. 478; it is a compound of four roots with five bcud.
80. Rtsa ba brgyad are the same as, or analgous to, the eight
basic substances listed by Stablein (op. cit.; see fn. 9), p. 198n.
81. This is a well-known triumvirate (GYU-THOG, p. 522f).
82. 'Dod pa 7 yon tan Iria are perhaps the states accompanying
the five eternal wisdoms: great loving kindness, great eternal
wisdom, great peace, great giving and great expansiveness (cf.
83. The spirit of compassion (thugs rje) which moved Gsen-god
White-light to begin and sustain existence becomes a mode of
being for the siddha as well, as it was also to his lama, who
passed it to him.
84. Assigning gender (pho, mo, ma riiri), relation (bu, bu mo)
and rank (rgyal po, btsun mo, blon po, dmaris, etc.) to simples
and compounds is common in Tibetan medicinal and Tantric
nomenclature. Assignment of rank may refer to a medicine
being best, second, etc. at curing one or more illnesses. It may
indicate the first, second, third, etc. most preferable (available)
ingredient. Sometimes rank depends on quantitative dominance
in a compound. Judging by materials in the Rin chen gter mdzod
chen mo, these groups may also be specifically defined for certain
ritual cycles. In view of these points, it seems best to gather more
data from Bon sources before attempting to identify these
materials. Standard Tibetan medical works, however, do describe
several materials in terms used in this passage.
85. Bya khri is probably the bya kri in GvYU-THOG, p. 369 and
72, a corruption of Skt. vyaghri. According to 'JAM-DPAL, p. 116,
it is the same as kanda ka ri. I have no information on seri khri
(Skt. *siriihdsana ), hasadeva or kri ta kar ni ka.
86. Su dag is identified as Acorus calamus, sweet flag
(TIBETAN MEDICINE VII/1984, p. 22). Li ga dur is "the ga dur
from Li"(GvYU-THOG, p. 597). Read se 'bru for bse Tjru.
87. Jdtiphala should be nutmeg, Tibetan skye ldan, the latter a
term little, if ever, used. The usual term is simply dza ti (GVYU-
THOG, p. 509). Cu gari, here gypsum, may also be bamboo manna
from the female plant. Occasionally it is also considered to be
88. Sug smel, Skt. suksmaila, Elettaria cardamomum, is now
rendered "lesser cardamom" (MATERIA MEDICA 1/1980, p. 50).
Kakkola is the larger-leafed cardamom. Ge sar is either (1) the
anthers of flowers in general, or (2) one of the "ge sar
three"(G'YU-THOG, p. 79f).
89. Turuska is either an incense from India, of indeterminate
composition, or a substance also known as spos dkar ('JAM-
DPAL, p. 126). Rgya spos is either of two plants described in
'JAM-DPAL, p. 166 and 192; Das's identification "a Chinese
incense stick" is most likely not applicable here. Bod spos might
mean anything here, and Bod may have been a mistaken writing
for the homophone spos  anyway.
90. Brag spos, spari spos and khu byug spos: the first is also
known as Hon po re ral, ra sa ya na and gzag mjug ('JAM-DPAL,
p. 142); the second is described in 'JAM-DPAL, p. 166; the third
may be incense made of khu byug grass ('JAM-DPAL, p. 197 and
G'YU-THOG, p. 482). These three, along with rgya spos and gro
spos, make up the "five incenses" called for in Byams-ma rituals
(p. 8 of Kun-gsal Byams-ma-chen-mo sgrub thabs, op. cit. ; fn. 20).
91. Not suprisingly, several substances carry this alternative
name; see, e.g., G'YU-THOG, p. 558 and the fn. above.
92. A 'bras is both a tree and its fruit (G'YU-THOG, p. 690), said
to be amraphalam, the tamarind tree. Dge rgyas is probably to be
corrected to dge 'dun skyes, another name for ri so ('JAM-DPAL,
p. 150). On the eight roots, cf. fn. 80.
93. Dan da or dan da rog po, a tree and its fruit (G'YU-THOG,
94. Ru rta is Saussurea Lappa (TIBETAN MEDICINE VII/1984,
p. 22).
95. The tsha ba Iria, five peppers, are enumerated in G'YU-
THOG, p. 485. The 'bru Iria, five seeds, are nas, "bras, gro, so ba,
and smon sran (p. 8 of Kun-gsal Byams-ma-chen-mo sgrub thabs,
op. cit. fn. 21). On the rin chen Iria, five precious things, cf. fn. 78.
The mar Iria, five butters have not yet been located by me. The
chu Iria are the five waters; GSER LO: 387 lists various bdud rtsi
chu, "whose virtues are beyond words". Perhaps they are the
first five of these. The thari chu Iria, five gums have not yet been
located by me. The nari rol Ina, five inner playfulnesses, may
refer to such processes by which "the five eternal wisdoms"
playfully combine with the Bon presence through mudrds,
resulting in the five poisons "playfully exchanging with the five
eternal wisdoms, etc." (GSER LO: 395). These groups represent
offerings of dam  rdzas made on the inner, outer and secret
96. The thirteen-not-to-be-done-without and the twenty-five
raktas are not identified.
97. On the eight roots, cf. fn. 80; the "inner" and "outer" dam
rdzas are the actual (physical) offerings and the offerings of the
sense, etc. respectively.
98. Nam mkha'i tshul refers to the element from which the
families of the Sugatas, etc. are manifested. It also plays on the
identity of the ba ga'i klori (cf. fn. 117) with Voidness as the
origin of all manifestation. The hollow of the ba ga thus equals
nam mkha' as a point of origin. See fn. 4 for how this might
relate to g'yu Trrari.
99. The five great ones of the outer world (phyi rol) are the
realms of the senses; on the internal cause and effect, which is
eternally pure, see fn. 28; also see fn. 28 for rtog pa.
100. See fn. 24 for orientations to color, etc. in this chapter; see
fn. 28 for the sorts of dam rdzas.
101. Gion nu dari po:  the first ejaculation of a young boy?
102. Rdo rgyus is described in 'JAM-DPAL, p. 51 and G'YU-
THOG, p. 271 f. Dam bu is probably abbreviated here for dam bu
ka ra, sugar cane.
103. "Ocean foam" (rgya mtsho'i Ibu ba) are really water-
rounded rocks ('JAM-DPAL, p. 61). Chu srin sder is described in
Das as "a medicinal herb useful for leprosy" (G'YU-THOG, p. 109
and 'JAM-DPAL, p. 172).
104. Ba ru ra seems to lack a firm identity, despite its
importance in Tibetan medicine; cf. TIBETAN MEDICINE
1/1980, p. 50. Dori kha (read dori gra) would be red ginger (G'YU-
THOG, p. 239). Pha du ra is also spelled pa du ra (GSER LO: 396.4)
and pa to la (G'YU-THOG, p. 310 and 'JAM-DPAL, p. 208). Does
din thog pa refer to a particular fruit?
105. Lee dpog dkar po, if read Ice 'bigs dkar po (cf. Das), would
be a particularly white sal ammoniac. Dug mo riuris is
Pycnostelma lateriforum (TIBETAN MEDICINE 1/1980, p. 51) or
Hollarrhena anti-dysenterica W. (ibid., p. 23).
106. Tig ta is a name for several trees and plants; cf. Das. G'yu lo
is particularly sacred to the Bon-po, but is revered by all Tibetans
as juniper (KARMAY/GENERAL, p. 206). I have no data on ziri
107. Rakta and mula could both mean any sort of blood or root,
or they may be abbreviations.
108. Gser gyi me tog is Hemerocallis minor (TIBETAN
MEDICINE VI/1983, glossary) or Magnolia champaka (Das).
109. GSER LO: 396 reads brtsos khrag khris pa mtshal bzaris;
reading btsos and mkhris pa we get "died blood; bile; good
quality cinnabar". With these emendations, our text reads:
"Various sorts of blood; died blood; good cinnabar".
110. Citraka is Plumbago zeylanica, Ceylonese leadwort
(TIBETAN MEDICINE 1/1980, p. 50).
111. Perhaps read li di, cloves, for li khri, as per GSER LO: 396.4.
Is fsi tra an accidental repetition of tsi tra ka?
112. 'Jam 'bras is Skt. kararija, Pongamia innata Merr. (Das).
113. Na le dam is Mesua roxburghii, or Piper nigrum Linn., just
as is pho ba ris; in some lists they are considered synonyms, as in
'JAM-DPAL, p. 88.
114. Sniri zo sa is one of the three io da; cf. fn. 81.
115. The teaching of non-avoidance (ma spari) of participation
in the ritual at all levels, and of not avoiding passions so as to
allow their transformations into wisdoms, is emphasized in the
Gzi brjid (SNELLGROVE/NINE, p. 172ff) and GSER LO (cf. fn. 4,
116. The sexual connotation of dga' dgu here signifies that,
being "informed" of the significance of the events, the audience
(on all levels) will now realize this teaching in union with their
respective consorts. Thus will the elements of existence and the
ritual and the inner experiences of the participants be complete.
117. Ba ga'i klori as the medium of this teaching continues and
concludes the unity of the red and white bodhicittas, which on
the personal level of sentients is as responsible for conception as
it is on the universal.
Bod  Rgya  tshig  mdzod  chen  mo,
Peking, Mi-rigs-dpe-skrun-khari,
'Chi med bdud rtsi sman gyi sgrub
thabs, in Rgyal kun spyi gzugs Bla-
chen Dran-pa gsari ba'i sgrub pa'i
khrid giuri, New Delhi, 1973, pp.
Gsari sriags Ma rgyud kun gyi lag
len bde bar ston pa Bio dman rial
'tsho'i snari byed, Delhi, s.n., 1966.
Gser lo Ijon diri gi rgyud tu G 'yu
'bran phyug mo'i rgyud, in Bka'
'gyur Rgyud sde'i skor. Collected
Tantras of Bon, Dolanji, Tibetan
Bonpo Monastic Center, 1972, v. 3,
pp. 363-438.
Bod Garis-can-pa'i dpal ldan
Rgyud-bzi sogs kyi brda dari dka'
gnad ... G'yu-thog dgoris rgyan,
compiled by Dbari-'dus, Ch'eng-tu,
Mi-rigs-dpe-skrun-khan, 1982.
Gso byed bdud rtsi'i 'khrul med
rios 'dzin . . . mdzes mtshar mig
rgyan, by 'Jam-dpal-rdo-rje.
Published as An illustrated Tibeto-
Mongolian materia medica of
Ayurveda, New Delhi,
International Academy of Indian
Culture, 1971.
Samten Karmay, "A general
introduction to the history and
doctrines of Bon," Memoirs of the
Research Department of the Toyo
Bunko XXXII-XXXIII, 1974-75, pp.
G'yu 'brari bdud rtsi sman gyi Ide
mig, same volume as 'CHI MED,
above pp. 455-70.
David Snellgrove, The Nine Ways
of Bon, Boulder, Prajna Press,
Rolf Stein, "Du recit au rituel dans
les manuscrits tibetains de Touen-
houang," Etudes tibetaines dediees
a la memoire de Marcelle Lalou,
Paris, 1971, Libraire de l'Amerique
et d'Orient, pp. 479-547.
a journal published from 1980 on
in Dharamsala by the Library of
Tibetan Works and Archives.
Yeshi Donden, Health and
Balance: an Introduction to
Tibetan Medicine, Ithaca, NY,
Snow Lion, 1986.
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^•ty^a^ava^-$*q l^'^'^'a^'a^-^^
1 ^^S'^'^-^S'a^'^-aii^'i q^yH^'^-'yv'gaa^-
qa^"| ^3*S'8,3^'^,a«S'^^ ^«TIWYM^$'V1^'
450.7-452.5   ^ar^-^'yg'^ar'rsq «^V
^^'^^I'SJ'^'^a^aq ^•^•^■*fjgrsy«\,*«q a^'§\'|j/
T  rTi S^^'^'l *& iS'i ^tT^'*' r*Yi 'YY
^^'^'^ai'^^'^R'aj^'^ai^'i jg-arsapA-
VVf^'P'^aS'} V^'3'?^'*^' ik'i «yv; <Y35'§'
^•v^Vv^aq ^'^w3*3^ ^wq^avgivg-^^yq
^«q a;a<y  r^'^-j ^ryv^S^q a^-^a^^'q^ar
qa'^3^8^'] q\^'§!/av^V*\'^3;''yv| g^'^w [i^'i
^T^8^**'8*' t*i ^'^ t^'A ^a^'
3'5P' t^f^'] ^'^as^^'i ^ar^^yv^' r*j*r
^•Jaq ^^/^^•z^^^-^sq ^N'cyvav^or^ ?§/
^•^^•^•of^-SX^ |^'<s[;«vjT3;-iyv| ^r^apyv^'I'i
a\-  ,aVs  ^•Js'^B^aws^q
Sar^'^q-«r*^a,'^'   i|,^'i| S'a^y
^\'\ ^.'^'^^'^'^""STl ave^'g^'a^-^'^f'sq
g-a^'^Jisv^'qa^'S'^q ^^"i'3^'sq-s^-^^'| §j<y
452.6  V^'W'^W^'^'V'V^  [^-]^-


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