The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead

By Bryan J. Cuevas | Go to book overview

12
Conclusion: Manuscripts
and Printed Texts

In the late eighteenth century, Nyima Drakpa's arrangement of the Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Bardo was preserved, perhaps for the very first time, in a blockprint edition prepared at Dzokchen monastery by the third Dzokchenpa Ngedön Tenzin Zangpo. 1 It was this edition that provided the basis in Bhutan for the Bumthang redaction (B2) published in 1952 in memory of the second king of Bhutan, Jikme Wangchuk (1926–1952). 2 Presumably, the Dzokchen blockprint also formed the basis of an earlier Bhutanese edition prepared in Paro in 1943 through the efforts of one Norbu Zangpo, then the Bhutanese Lochak (lo-phyag) to the Lhasa government. 3 This Paro redaction, reprinted in various forms (B1, B1a, B4, DH), has since become the most widely available edition of the Liberation upon Hearing outside Tibet.

At present the history of the Karling tradition in Bhutan remains obscure, and we do not yet know the specific circumstances involved in the introduction of the Dzokchen blockprint to the printing houses in Bumthang and Paro. The traditions of Dzokchen monastery never seem to have been established in any particular institution in Bhutan. 4 We must assume, then, that the favorable contacts in the previous century between Nyima Drakpa and some of Bhutan's political leaders, such as the ambassador Se'ula Jamgön Ngawang Gyeltsen, must have been at least part of the reason Nyima Drakpa's Liberation upon Hearing was accepted in that country. But can we extend this reasoning to explain how Nyima Drakpa's redaction came to be the most commonly represented edition of the Liberation upon Hearing in other parts of the Himalayan region, including northern India, Nepal, and Sikkim, and is now preserved also in the west in libraries in London, Berlin, and the United States? We cannot be sure. Perhaps it was simply Nyima Drakpa's power and influence in Tibet that helped to popularize his textual traditions throughout

-205-

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The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • A Note on Tibetan Words xi
  • 1 - Introduction: the Saga of the Tibetan Book of the Dead 3
  • I - Death and the Dead 25
  • 2 - Beginnings: Funeral Ritual in Ancient Tibet 27
  • 3 - Transitions: the Buddhist Intermediate State 39
  • 4 - From Death to Disposal 69
  • II - Prophecy, Concealment, Revelation 79
  • 5 - Prophecies of the Lotus Guru 81
  • 6 - A Tale of Fathers and Sons 91
  • 7 - The Gampodar Treasures 101
  • 8 - The Third Generation 120
  • III - Traditions in Transformation 135
  • 9 - Traditions in Eastern Tibet 137
  • 10 - Traditions in Central and Southern Tibet 158
  • IV - Text and Consolidation 177
  • 11 - Rikzin Nyima Drakpa, Sorcerer from Kham 179
  • 12 - Conclusion: Manuscripts and Printed Texts 205
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 271
  • List of Tibetan Spellings 303
  • Index 312
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