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THE GOLDEN LETTERS
THE GOLDEN LETTERS
The Three Statements of Garab Dorje,
the first teacher of Dzogchen,
together with a commentary by
Dza Patrul Rinpoche
entitled "The Special Teaching of the
Wise and Glorious King"
Foreword by
NAMKHAI NORBU RINPOCHE
Translation, Introduction and Commentaries by
JOHN MYRDHIN REYNOLDS
Contents
Preface 7
Foreword by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche 11
Introduction
The Primordial Origin of Dzogchen 21
The Place of Dzogchen in Buddhist Teaching 24
The Three Series of Dzogchen Teachings 31
PART ONE: The Three Statements That Strike the Essential Points
The Three Statements That Strike the Essential Points, by Garab Dorje 39
A Short Commentary on the Three Statements of Garab Dorje, by H. H.
Dudjom Rinpoche 41
The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King, The Root Text and AutoCommentary, by Patrul Rinpoche 43
Commentary on "The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King," by the
Translator 65
The Last Testament of Garab Dorje 129
Interlinear Commentary to "The Last Testament of Garab Dorje," by the
Translator 139
PART TWO: The Life of Garab Dorje and Guru Sadhana
Translator's Introduction 177
The Life of Garab Dorje 179
Guru Sadhana for Garab Dorje, by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche 191
PART THREE: Historical Origins of Dzogchen
The Problems of Historiography 199
The Historical Existence of Garab Dorje 205
Possible Historical Sources of Dzogchen 215
Indian Buddhism
Ch'an Buddhism
Bon
Four Early Texts Relating to Dzogchen 229
Rig-pa'i khu-byug: The Earliest Dzogchen Text 230
Kun-byed rgyal-po: The Principal Dzogchen Tantra 236
bSam-gtan mig sgron: A Philosophical Exposition of Dzogchen 248
'Dra bag chen-mo: The Biography of Vairochana 253
Is Dzogchen an Authentic Buddhist Teaching? 263
The Primordial State of the Great Perfection 277
Note on the Translation of Dzogchen Technical Terms 287
Appendix: Brief Biography of Patrul Rinpoche 297
Glossary of Dzogchen Terms 307
Notes 337
Selected Bibliography 371
General Index 375
Index of Tibetan Texts and Terms 385
Preface
First of all, I wish to thank Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, who first made clear to
me the crucial importance of these three statements of Garab Dorje for the
understanding of Dzogchen as a whole (Potter Valley, California, 1980); and for
his invaluable help in translating the present texts, especially the 'Das-rjes. I also
extend my thanks to Rinpoche for writing a foreword to this book. Moreover, I
am grateful for the transmissions I have received on the Patrul Rinpoche text, the
translation of which is also found in this book, from several masters of the
Nyingmapa tradition, notably H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche, Lama Gonpo Tsedan
Rinpoche, and Lama Tharchin Rinpoche.
I translated this Patrul Rinpoche text, known as the mKhas-pa sri rgyal-po'i
khyad-chos, "The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King," which is
among the best-known commentaries in Tibetan on these three statements, while
I was living at Baudha in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal (Spring 1978). My
thanks go to Ani Lodro Palmo for having kindly provided me with a copy of this
text, bringing it with her from Tashi Jong in Himachal Pradesh. Over many cups
of tea in the early morning hours at the Bir Hotel, during the course of several
days, I completed the translation. But then I set it aside for several years. In the
meantime I came to read several other translations of the same text by Sogyal
Rinpoche, by Tulku Thondup, and by Keith Dowman. A few years ago, I took
out my translation once again and revised it somewhat, bringing it into line with
my revised translations of Tibetan Buddhist technical terms. When I considered
the translation for publication, it was suggested that I include with it a translation
of the 'Das-rjes, which is said to represent the actual text of Garab Dorje's last
testament. This effort was inspired by my program of going back to the original
texts of the Dzogchen tradition, and not just relying on the expositions, excellent
as they may be, of more recent masters of that tradition, which is generally the
case among the Tibetans themselves.
This latter text, unlike the work of Patrul Rinpoche, turned out to be written in
a difficult Tibetan language, being exceedingly terse and elliptical, rather like
college lecture notes. Moreover, the presentation of Thekchod (khregs-chod)
and Thodgal (thod-rgal) were mixed up together in the text, instead of being
rigidly separated, as is the case with the later Terma tradition. During the course
of three afternoons at a retreat in Jamestown, Colorado (July 1987), Namkhai
Norbu Rinpoche generously provided several hours during which we went over
the translation of this text. The results of this will also be seen in the interlinear
commentary and notes which follow the translation. Because of the linguistic
difficulties of the text and the necessity of interspersing the translation of the root
text with the notes (mchan) found in the Tibetan, as well as with some additional
phrases in parentheses supplied by the translator in order to facilitate the reading
and understanding of the text, I decided that the best method would be to
provide a running and rather free translation uninterrupted by the notes, and to
follow this with a strictly literal translation along with an interlinear commentary
where necessary.
For a justification of my method of translation, first developed in a seminar on
the translation of Buddhist technical terms with Professor Edward Conze in