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Dudjom Rinpoche's Vajrakīlaya Works

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It is often assumed that a revelation must be new and innovative, and indeed, that the point of a new sacred text must be to revitalize the heritage. Yet in the Tibetan Nyingma Treasure Revelatory tradition, the ongoing vitality of textual production often has more to do with the fresh blessings, rather than altogether novel content. This book for the first time analyses precise continuities and changes in comparing the new and the old, considering examples of the creation and development of tantric revelations, including further re-workings in subsequent generations. In doing so, the focus enlarges to encompass materials from the broader religious heritage, as well as from specific lineages of related visionary lamas. By identifying such exact linkages and departures, it is possible to answer questions both of how and why developments may occur, not limiting the purview merely to the individual stories of the virtuoso lamas producing the books, but looking also to the tantric communities they are part of.

The case studies in the book stem from the prolific writings of the famous 20th century scholar-lama, Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, who contributed to numerous revelatory traditions of the past, as well as producing his own revelations. They concern a single tantric deity, Vajrakīlaya, the most popular Nyingma deity, whose tantras and ritual practices stem from the earliest formulations of Tibetan tantric Buddhism, and who is closely connected with the culture heros and founding fathers of the Nyingmapa. This particular focus gives us the opportunity to discover patterns in the creation of new tantric texts which have significance beyond the specific examples.

Published: Feb 1, 2020


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 1
gTer ston and Tradent: Innovation and Conservation in Tibetan Treasure Literature Robert Mayer
Chapter 2
Reincarnation and Personal Identity in the Lives of Tibetan Masters: Linking the Revelation Cycles of Three Lamas of the Dudjom Tradition Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 3
Dudjom Rinpoche's Work on the Vajrakīlaya who Overwhelms Māra's Troops with his Splendour (phur bu bdud dpung zil gnon) Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 4
Dudjom Rinpoche's Work on the Ultra Secret Razor (yang gsang spu gri) Vajrakīlaya Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 5
The Dudjom Vajrakīlaya Heritage: Dudul Dorje's Vajrakīlaya Revelation Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 6
The Dudjom Vajrakīlaya Heritage: Dudjom Lingpa's Vajrakīlaya Cycles Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 7
Introducing Dudjom Rinpoche's Meteoric Iron Razor Vajrakīlaya (phur bu gnam lcags spu gri), and its Ritual Manual Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 8
Dudjom Rinpoche's Compilation of the Medicinal Accomplishment Text for the Meteoric Iron Razor Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 9
Further Texts of the Meteoric Iron Razor Vajrakīlaya Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 10
Dudjom Rinpoche's Revelation of the Razor Disintegration-on-Touch Vajrakīlaya (spu gri reg phung) Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 11
Dudjom Rinpoche's Re-presentation of Pema Lingpa's Ultra Secret Razor Lifeforce Vajrakīlaya (yang gsang srog gi spu gri) Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 12
The Vajrakīlaya Sections of the New Edited Collection of Pema Lingpa's Collected Works Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 13
Dudjom Rinpoche's Work on Zilnon Namkhai Dorje's (zil gnon nam mkha'i rdo rje) Ultra Secret Quintessence Action (yang gsang phrin las bcud dril) Vajrakīlaya Cathy Cantwell
Chapter 14
Concluding Reflections Cathy Cantwell


This is an extremely valuable and well-researched contribution to Tibetan studies. While the work is primarily aimed at readers engaged in Tibetan studies, it should be of interest to Tibetan traditional scholars and monastics of the young generation, as well as Western Buddhists who are not necessarily scholars, but are prepared to make an effort to learn from a work of scholarship.
Professor Per Kværne, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo