O, He who does not construct thoughts[1]
But performs his emanations according to the needs of his disciples.
O, he who grants success according to its benefits.
He is our patriarch, Dampa Sangye,
Who taught Tibetans the Essence of the Path of Prajnaparamita
And the Genuine Instruction of Father and Mother Tantra

Among the Indian siddha who made their way across the Himalayas into Tibet almost a millennium ago is the dark one called Pha Dampa Sangye (Pha gcig dampa sans rgyas). Most of what we know about this popular India saint who lost his beautiful body en route form India took place after he reached Tibet. There, settled in the Blue Dharma Valley of Dingri, he taught the essence of the path of Prajnaparamita and is now credited with having introduced to the theory and practice of the Void, systems which were taken up by all Tibetan Buddhist schools.

Since his work was concentrated in Dingri, we find Pha Dampa’s biography closely interwoven with this valley’s history and culture. Thus far little has been written about him, but the Legend of Langkor reproduced below derives for Dingri and is the second document form this area[2] which suggests that the region may be a new rich source for our understanding of the Venerable Pha Dampa’s life and teachings.

In the course of my research into modern Dingri history, working with migrants for that area[3], I began to uncover details of the life of this ancient and multifarious who had, over the centuries become their revered folk hero. The special tie between these people and the Indian is embodied in Pha Dampa’s “One Hundred Sayings of Advice to the People of Dingri”.[4] Virtually everyone in the valley has visited the sacred places where he stayed, and when they die, Dingri inhabitants prefer their final rites be held at the venerated spot where Pha Dampa was miraculously consumed. The annual commemorative service Pha Dampa’s du-chen[5], is celebrated exclusively in Dingri, a practice, which like the others is an expression of these people’s role as chief custodians of Pha Dampa’s religious traditions, traditions which are widespread in the Himalayas. So venerated and popular is Pha Dampa that Dingri enjoys a certain celebrity throughout Tibet and many visitors are drawn to this region through the Legend of our saint.

The legend says that Pha Dampa was directed to Dingri by a Buddha’s decree. It is possible that the valley was recognized as another source of the Ganges since Dingri lies at the uppermost reaches of the Arun River. Possibly Pha Dampa favoured it because of its many cemeteries allowing him to practice the cho (gcod) technique he is famous for, a meditative art designed to bring about spontaneous detachment from ego[6]. The cemetery serves two purposes; it is a place without egos and therefore an ideal environment for the adept who strives for egolessness; and it is a dwelling place for the most fearsome demons and hungry ghosts whom the liberated and fearless adept may feed with the sacrificial feast of his or her own body. There are three famous dur-to in Dingri, two at the holy mountain of Tsibri[7] and one at Langkor.

The sacred hill of Langkor (glan-skor) is the site specifically associated with Pha Dampa. He resided on this mountain and made it a centre for his mission. It is here that Ma-cig (ma-gcig-lab-kyi-sgron-ma) and other famous disciples visited the Indian and studied his doctrine[8]. It was near here they Pha Dampa and Milarepa had their historic magical exchange[9]. And it was at Langkor that Pha Dampa’s relics were enshrined. These relics, know collectively as Langkor Nangten (glan-skor nan-rten) have been visited by a boundless stream of pilgrims over the centuries. They and this accompanying story are the primary vehicles by which Pha Dampa’s popularity spread, and they are without doubt partly responsible for sustaining his tradition through to modern times.

The Langkor Relics, well known among Tibetans, have until this time received no mention in our literature. It is a surprise that they are overlooked in the Blue Annals, a text which deals with Pha Dampa at some length. But I have recently learned that over five hundred years ago, the relics were singled out by an eminent pilgrim to Dingri, Gedun Dupa (dge-‘dun-grub-pa, the First Dalai Lama) According to his biography[10], the great lama was much impressed by the relics on his visit to Langkor. Later, we find them alluded to in an unlikely source—the diary of a 19th century Muslim pilgrim who passed through Dingri on his journey from Kathmandu to Lhasa[11]. There must be other references in the uncovered writings of many more travelers through here. Meanwhile, still today, one may hear personal testimonies from Tibetans who visited the Langkor Nangten in the course of their pilgrimages around the country before 1960.

Pilgrims to Langkor travel to the top of the hill where a custodian enumerates the story of each relic and recalls Pha Dampa’s achievements and powers. In this manner a great many pilgrims must have learned about the saint. Some, we know stayed at Langkor to make it a permanent centre for Pha Dampa’s teachings. The majority of visitors traveled on to other shrines and markets, carrying with them vivid stories of the remarkable things they had heard and witnessed.
Both methods of transmission, one through practice, the other through reputation, survived into the 20th century. Today, throughout the Buddhist Himalayas, from Ladakh through Dolpo, Kathmandu and Solu-Khumbu in Nepal, and on to Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan, one can find many adepts of Pha Dampa’s tradition. Cho texts are in common use and ritual tang-ka paintings depicting the saint and his disciples hang in shrines throughput those regions.

The survival of this tradition may nowadays depend more on these practices than on broadcast through Dingri folklore. Yet, although these devotees can no longer visit Langkor, and people familiar with the legend are fewer, this story is still popular. I noted repeated references to Langkor and this Legend. I was never able to uncover the text but eventually Iocated the oral sources considered by everyone to be as authentic and authoritative as any writing. This (source) is the woman Ani Ngawang, erstwhile custodian of the relics of Langkor.

I found Ani Ngawang in her modest sanctuary in Nepal where she lives with other ascetics since their forces exodus from Tibet some years ago. Nearly sixty years of age now, the bright proud woman, still tall and erect, enthusiastically recalled for me the many incidents attesting the power of the relics. She had spent most of her life at Langkor reciting the Legend for a constant stream of pilgrims arriving there. Even today she occasionally chants the story and she was happy to repeat it for me in the same way she had done for two generations of Langkor pilgrims.

From her glowing response to my inquires and from her concern for precision, it became apparent to me that Ani Ngawang saw here an extraordinary opportunity to convey the story to a much wider audience and through my work, to fulfill her role in perpetuating the teachings of Pha Dampa. As an anthropologist I was equally eager to discharge this responsibility. So we prudently tape-recorded the traditional exposition. After, in order that I might make detailed notes, Ani Ngawang slowly repeated the Legend, explaining particulars. It was also necessary that we work together with the photograph since the ten relics are clearly distinguished there. The individual relics, seen in the photograph below, are as follows:

  1. Pha Dampa;s footprint
  2. Dingdo Mugpo stone
  3. Nordo Mugpo Stone
  4. Pabo Norbu Stone
  5. Ox tooth
  6. 6. Pha Dampa’s heart
  7. Bone fragment for Sakyamuni’s skull
  8. Bone fragment from Darma-do’s jaw
  9. Chhoje Lama’s bowl
  10. Pha Dampa’s staff

The combined accounts of each relic together constitute the Legend which is translated here. I had firs to transcribe it, which I did with the help of my longtime colleague Karma Tinley Lama. This transcription is largely a verbatim record of the formal recitation by Ani Ngawang and it contains, as the reader will see, her invocation and epilogue. In this way the recitation retains the character of its presentation as an offering.

The production of this text has an interesting development which is worth recording here, it began when I sent the Tibetan transcript to the nun who with the help of her Lama[12] corrected a few minor points and then sanctioned this transcript as the authentic version. So delighted were they to see the Legend in print again that they used this copy to write a similar text of the story which they are now carving into woodblocks from which they intend to produce copies for general distribution among Tibetans and other devotees. As it is a short work, it should soon be available in Nepal.

A final note concerning the historical context of the Legend. In the early 12th century when ha Dampa passed into Nirvana, a few of his relics were collected at Langkor. Others were added later and as time passed, the increased interest of visitors and practitioners made the site a popular place of pilgrimage. The Legend evolved as a guide to the relics, and when this happened, it was natural that their custodians, the ascetic women at Langkor, formally take up this role. Thus we find that Ani Ngawang is one of a succession of Langkor nuns traditionally assigned to guard the relics and recount the Legend.
According to the Blue Annals, many nuns came to Langkor in the 12th century and their modest sanctuary which still stands may date back to that time. It was attached to the residence of Zurkhang Lama who is a patrilineal descendant of Zurkhang, original disciple of Pha Dampa and trustee of the Relics who is mentioned in the text below. Although this lineage continues into the present, in recent times, the nuns came under the tutelage of a more powerful religious personality, Dzarong Lama[13]. He became chief patriarch in Dingri and was empowered to foster and transmit the teachings of Pha Dampa including responsibility for the Langkor Nangten. Thus the sanctuary of custodians also came under his jurisdiction.

In these details the Legend offers much for scholars of culture and history. Furthermore, there are a number of historical items in this text which, while they do not solves questions about Pha Dampa’s birth and travels, are consistent with what we know from other sources[14]. As for its form, both the story’s narrative features and the colloquial style can be compared to other oral histories. Moreover, it functions as a mode of transmission, a means of popularizing the life and teachings of this saint.

Of special importance is the content of the Legend which bears on our insights into the two religious traditions that stem from Pha Dampa, taught by him during his stay in Dingri.

One of the main thrusts of Pha Dampa’s instructions was ‘practice’, and he urged his followers to exchange their scholarly searches and writings for a meditative experience—what is commonly referred to as ‘immediate awareness’. This approach is noted in the first encounter with his most famous disciple, Ma-cig, who had up to the time of their meeting been studying in a monastery. “Go to the cemeteries and mountains”, he urged her. “Put aside these (academic) practices and become a yogini, moving from place to place”. [15]We find no such explicit instructions in the Legend of Langkor, but here Pha Dampa repeatedly rewards the advent of spontaneous knowledge. We first encounter it in the praise for this mother at the moment of his birth:

“Wisdom surpasses all words, thoughts and meditations;
The nature of Void has neither growth nor respite.
Every kind of knowledge has its own wisdom,
So I bow to my enlightened Mother of all times.”

Later in the narrative, Pha Dampa meets the Porong Prince. After this scion’s long search for a pure white ox, he gives up and returns to the gate; only then does the Prince spontaneously discover the animal he had been searching for, the implication being that he overlooked it in his step-by-step search. These and other examples of immediate awareness are found throughout the text.

The second basic maxim promoted in the teachings of Pha Dampa is the Prajnaparamita-derived philosophy that everything issues out of our own consciousness, even visions of our protective deities. Through meditative accomplishments of zi-j’e (zi-byed) and cho[16], Pha Dampa taught , one realizes these visions are mere creations of our unconquered thought. They can be dissipated as well as formulated according to his example. Thus we note recurring instances of mental absorption—destruction of illusory visions—throughout the story. For example after Pha Dampa find the sacred stone at Langkor promontory, he visualizes each deer dissolving into one another until finally they merge with the stone. This is Pha Dampa’s mental control—what he refers to elsewhere as ‘the practice of non-practice’. This accomplishment is displayed by Zurkhang Lama when he prepares his offerings for Pha Dampa and 108 Acarya and finds each Acarya merging into one another until only one, Pha Dampa, remains. (A note of humour is added with Pha Dampa’s teasing remark about the 108 surplus offerings resulting from this meditative success!)

The principle of interdependent origination is summarized in the epilogue of the Legend where we are asked to consider the sameness of Bodhgaya and Langkor. Between the burning ghat of the Indian monument and the cemetery at Langkor, we are told, there is no difference; and the waters of the Langkor, we hear, are the same as those of the Ganges. This oneness begins to overcome the devotee, bowed and silent as Ani Ngawang’s determined chant starts. First we hear her offering of the universal mandala that introduces the story.

“I offer my prayer at the feet of my Lama,
Beloved root of virtue;
He who from the palatial Dharma realm
Reveals his own body.
I offer the mandala, this earth
Scattered with flowers and with scented waters,
Adorned by the four continents, the sun and the moon,
And crowned by Mount Sumeru.
I offer my prayer at the feet of my Lama,
Beloved root of virtue,
So that all sentient beings
May dwell in the Buddha realm of purity.”

Recitation of the Langkor Nangten[17]

In the past, in that holiest of countries India, an event took place in the family of a well known Brahmin called Sarahati whose wife was Samatira[18]. While the couple was young and in their prime neither son nor daughter was born to them. And they grew old.

When the woman had reached age of 88, in accordance with a prophesy, she conceived Pha Dampa Sangye. It is said a Buddha had instructed the couple to make three holy offerings: the first to the supreme triple gem; the second to the lowly poor; the family to the service of the saintly monks between. Thereby, they were told, an exceptional son of holy, pure mind would be born. In accordance with those instructions the offerings were made: first to the supreme holy gem; then to the lowly sentient beings of our world, gifts were made; and they ordered a ceremony for their offering by the monks.

Time passed. The man Sarahati spent three years away form home travelling and trading. Meanwhile his wife aged further. But before her husband returned, a strange and wonderful thing happened. It began while she was travelling in the mountains. Feeling weary she stopped to rest at the place known as Mount Grdhrakuta[19], At the foot of that hill she picked up a stick of Arura; she wrapped this auspicious with a piece of absolutely pure, white cloth and took it along with her[20]. Arriving partway up the hill the woman again stopped to rest, and having a somewhat unsettled mind, she fell asleep. It was during that sleep that she experienced the miraculous dream, the dream in which the white vulture merged with her[21]. That was the instant of Pha Dampa’s conception within her womb. Following the auspicious event the unsuspecting woman continued home, and two more months passed. Then at the beginning of the third month, she was heard to utter these words: “I shall shortly give birth to a son who will be a child without comparison!”.

All nine months of her pregnancy passed safely. Toward the end of the tenth month, from within Samatira’s belly, her son called to her saying, “Mother when the time for my birth arrives, you should not feel any worry.” He continued, “I want to honour you with the greatest and most supreme blessing, something that is unique, that will be a everlasting gift. Therefore bring me a lump of earth or a stone.” Responding to his command, the woman, calm and full of faith, fetched a piece of marble. Setting this close to her own body when she was about to deliver, it served as a step for her son’s arrival… and Pha Dampa placed his tiny foot on the marble as he was born into this world. Doing so he uttered these words:

“Wisdom surpasses all words, thoughts and meditations;
The nature of Void has neither growth nor respite.
Every kind of knowledge has its own wisdom,
So I bow to my enlightened Mother of all times.”

Then Pha Dampa thanked his mother saying: “Women like you are a lodge for travelers, a son such as myself; and I am grateful for having been able to rest in your womb. I want you to keep this, the image of my foot imprinted on the marble rock as a reminder of prevailing truths”, he said as he offered the stone to his aged Mother.

We find this footprint in Tibet today, a testimony of the arrival of our lord, Venerable Pha Dampa Sangye whose protector, Dakini, is incarnated in the white female vulture[22]. This relic is preserved with the others among the Langkor Nangten[23].

Now in India, as you know, people maintain that a fatherless son is an incarnation of evil, and they demand that in such cases the mother and child be taken from the village ad abandoned among the rocky cliffs so that no harm befalls the villagers themselves. Of this Buddha and his mother however, it is reported tat when their bodies were thrown into the river Ganges, no harm came to either the baby or the woman. Furthermore, at the spot where they both landed, the waters divided, one part flowing forward and the other back.

It is also reported of Pha Dampa that when he drank the poisonous red pigment of wild berries only his body turned dark; otherwise he was unaffected.

Another example of his power was sown when, after Dampa imbibed the juice of the second poisonous plant, again nothing happened to his body or breath; only the hair on his head became blue.
Many such menacing occasions cropped up, but without exception, each in turn was repulsed by Pha Dampa’s victorious powers.
In India, Pha Dampa is recognized as Kamalasila, the great Indian scholar and saint[24]. He is also the same person as Narendranatha. It is only in Tibet that he became known as Pha Cig Dampa Sangye, the name given him by the Buddha who predicted his mission there. All three men are the same.

Before Pha Dampa was three years old many auguries were made about him, chief among them that although his birthplace was India, he would go to Tibet and there become a great teacher. It was foretold of our venerable protector Pha Dampa that he would acquire a great reputation for his contributions to all sentient beings; through him the Dharma would take hold in Tibet.

Regarding Pha Dampa’s mission to Tibet, when the time came, the Buddha Sakyamuni[25] declared: “I shall throw this stone and in whichever valley it lands, that shall be designated as the place of your mission.” That is what Blessed Sakyamuni said, picking up the round hard stone known as Dingdo Mugpo[26]. Balancing the sphere on the ends of three fingers of his hand, the great Buddha, standing on the peak of the Indian mountain, Grdhrakuta, hurled it to the north. When it landed a glorious sound, Ding, resounded through the region. Turning to his disciple, Sakyamuni instructed Pha Dampa thus: “Your mission is to be in that place, the name of whose valley shall henceforth be known as Ding Ri.”
This is the account of the founding of Dingri and the story of how the name was given.

The Dingdo Mugpo stone held special significance in Pha Dampa’s heart, for it was through it that his female protector, Dakini, bestowed oceans of blessings on him. At the time that Pha Dampa was searching the region of the north for that stone, he eventually made his way to the Tsibri mountain[27]. With three peaks. On his seventh circumambulation of the holy mountain, something happened. He received a vision from the Dakini.

In their meeting, Pha Dampa was thus advised: “Oh son, that stone by which your Lama, beloved root of virtue, has blessed you, that stone you will find on a mountain where a white scarf of snow stretches across the right side, while on the left is a band of rock.” She continued: “Planted in state above the mountain s a huge lion; in front is the offering of the mandala; and below like a silver votive bowl runs a shining blue river. On that mountain, designated with these auspicious signs, is your stone, replete with its blessings.”

That very same day, envisioning this holy mountain, Pha Dampa went straightaway to the area in Dingri known as Langkor. “Oh nah! That stone filled with the great blessings on my Lama must be here in this vicinity.” And so Pha Dampa remained there.

Then, in that place, what looked like a heavy snow began to fall giving the land the appearance of a vessel brimming with white milk. The following morning Pha Dampa climbed to the crest of the hill to perform his morning rite. At a point east of the place known as Zin Dorjithog[28], he found a clearing, a spot where, as it happened, no snow lay. This was his destination. Upon his arrival he noticed some animals gathered; they sat encircling around dark object! Instantly Pha Dampa reflected and surmised: “The gift of my beloved Lama, the holy stone may be there,” and, moving forward, he ventured closer. Of the animals surrounding the stone, Pha Dampa noticed there were seven hoven muskdeer, both does and their calves, appearing to prostrate themselves before the object in the centre. Then, one by one the seven deer merged together; the first merged into the second; the second into the third and so on until the last one remaining, the seventh, merged itself into the stone.

Pha Dampa decided to make his hermitage there, right at that wondrous spot. And he called the place Langkor fro the glang, meaning muskdeer, and from skor, meaning around. He preserved that stone, making a relic of it since it was by this auspicious rock, hurled from India that his mission to Tibet was inspired.

We find this stone today among the Langkor Nangten. It is called the incomparable Dingdo Mugpo. Because of that original prediction it is still valued as the source of strength that drew Pha Dampa to Dingri and remains auspicious. The stone still possesses benedictory power.

The precise spot where the stone landed is called the Blue Dharma Valley of Dingri Gangma, Dingri’s protective deity.[29] The abundant growth and prosperity which took place in Dingri is due to the blessing of this stone. Following its discovery Dingri became a point of pilgrimage for steadfast believers fro all over Tibet. They came for several regions of U and Tsang.
Initially the band we now find girdling the stone was not there, but a brief story accounts for its appearance. We are told that a Tibetan king in the course of his pilgrimage through the land arrived at Dingri Langkor to visit the relics enshrined here. Pickup up that relic Dingdo Mugpo, he declared, “I must test whether the stone offered by my beloved Lama, Ph Dampa, really affords such blessings as are reputed.” If the stone is truly sacred, when I drop it on the ground, it should split in halves as if cut by a sharp knife passing through a block of butter. However, should its power be false, it will crumble into shards as flintstone does when struck.” Having announced this the king dropped the sacred object, whereupon cleanly as a block of butter sliced by a knife, it separated into two equal halves.[30]

The king thereupon retrieved the broken relic, halved by his invocation. He had intended to leave one half at the monastery shrine and to retain the other for himself as a testimony of his faith. However when the custodian of the Langkor shrine, a man called Jigme Lodo[31], learned of what happened, he cried out, “Oh, King, your Excellency. You should never do such a thing. You have destroyed the sacred stone which our Lama, root of virtue, bestowed upon us.” In distress and confusion the honourable keeper grabbed the two pieces and clutching them, rejoined the halves as they had been. Where the pieces fused there now remains a mark. And that is how you will notice the stone even today.

Later in Pha Dampa’s life another stone associated with Langkor, Nordo Mugpo, came among the relics.[32] It too possesses miraculous powers for those of faith.

The elements of this stone are dark in colour. However, individual people perceive the stone in different ways. It is said for example, there are those persons who envisage the stone as white and clear; they are the people who will experience fewer hindrances and barriers in their next life. For them the stone reveals an available path to enlightenment. Other people are able to see only the blackness of the stone; that is a sign to them that their next life will be in a hell-world since they are destined to continue the ten deeds that increase suffering. For those people who perceive the stone in its natural murky hue, it is an indication they are fortunate persons and they will continue accumulating wealth during this lifetime. This Nordo Mugpo then is a truth which reveals karmic fortune.

Each person must lift the stone and touch it to his head and he offers his prayer. When those exceptional pilgrims who may possess fortune and merit from a previous life touch the relic, it emits a fluid—the nectar of long life. Such nectar is extremely precious and carries exceptional power.

Langkor means ‘deer circle’, or ‘ox circle’. We have already heard the tale of the muskdeer.

This is the story explaining the name ‘ox-circle’. It comes form an account about the Porong Prince[33], a devotee of Pha Dampa Sangye who offered a profusion of gold and silver to his Lama. But Pha Dampa refused to accept it, saying, “Gold is bit a yellow stone; they are the same thing.” And when the Prince made his gift of silver, the yogi’s response was similarly, “To me there is no difference between silver and sand.” And again he rejected the royal gifts.

Seeing this Lama turn away his offerings, the Prince became upset and withheld his faith, saying: “I have expressed my devotion and belief in Pha Dampa Sangye in this manner, sincerely offering him my gifts.” When Pha Dampa noticed this it touched his heart and he responded, “Oh Prince, please don’t lose faith, and don’t be dispirited. If you are absolutely determined to show your faith with the gesture of a gift then do as I say. If it happens that among all your cattle there is one animal without a singe black hair, but is absolutely pure white, then I command you to offer that beast to me.” That was the Lama’s request. Accordingly the Prince set about his lands searching through all his stock; among horses, sheep, and other animals as well. But he was unable to find any without at least one or two black hairs although there were some which were almost entirely white. Returning to his house the Prince saw that at the gate there stood an animal that was completely white. It was an ox. And he thought it must be the one. “Yes this is the one,” Pha Dampa confirmed, accepting the white ox. And he kept it withhi thereafter at Langkor.

That ox lived at Langkor where, on the sacred hill, at that time, there also 108 devoted disciples meditating. During the summers, this ox served those ascetics by carrying water form the valley river far below, up to the entrance of each individual’s hermitage. And in the winter the same animal delivered chunks of ice from that same river the the door of each recluse’s hut. In this way the ox stayed on Langkor hill, moving thus in the service of its people. And it may be that it was this circling of the hill by the ox was how the name ‘Langkor’ was given to the holy mountain.

Eventually the ox died, nut a tooth, enshrined among the Langkor Nangten is his—a reminder of its good deeds.[34]
On that hill grow several noteworthy herbs: one is call aba dorji; another is thonba donden; a third, ja-o ngalden. In addition is the herb du-sum sangye. These are some of the grasses the ox ate.[35]

The next story concerns the history of the Dingri relic, the Heroic Jewel Pabo Norbu[36] that we find among the Langkor Nangten.

At the time Pha Dampa Sangye was alive there were two temples, one of which had a shrine at its top. It was in this temple that, through Pha Dampa Sangye, 108 manifestations of Acarya were created. And out of those 108 emanations the very temple itself was constructed. It was at this time that one of Pha Dampa’s devotees, Palkyi Wangpo[37] was designated the Zurkhang Lama’s line. For his initiation Palkyi Wangpo prepared 108 food offerings, inviting Pha Dampa and his 108 companions, the emanations of Acarya to partake of them. Bat at that moment each of the 108 Arcarya dissolved into one another, one into the next, one by one, until finally the single one remaining merged into Pha Dampa. So Pha Dampa was the only one left. But the Lama of Zurkhang, having prepared the offerings for the entire assembly was not confounded. He proffered them all to Pha Dampa. And the yogi accepted saying: “Oh son, if your offering to 108 has all been given to me, then you have true faith. You have seen the thirteen mandalas. Many sentient beings will benefit from your purity. Henceforth, in the monastery known as Ge’dun, the number 108 will be auspicious. As for the minor miscalculation, it too will be auspicious!

Pha Dampa continued praising the lama: “Oh son,” he said. “Since your lineage is as long as a water course, you who are now a custodian of the teaching, I honour with a gift, a sacred reminder. Bring me some earth or pebbles.” Some gravel was gathered and offered, and Pha Dampa, pressing it together between his fingers as if it were gruel, made an odd shape. And he presented this to the Zurkhang Lama to nurture that devotee’s continuing faith. The name of that stone moulded by Pha Dampa is Do Pabo Norbu.

In all, Pha Dampa travelled to Tibet five times in the course of more than five hundred years I this world. It was during his last journey to Dingri that Pha Dampa died.[38] So his body was burned here according to custom. From that cremation however, no ashes remained. But the heart, miraculously, remained untouched by the flames. And we have kept this along with other precious relics at Langkor.[39]

Three versions of what took place at the time of the consummation are reported: one is by the seven maidens who, witnessing the white goddess Tara, themselves became Buddhas. When the same wonderful event was seen by the butcher man, the fellow was thereby able to escape the hell world for which he had up to then been destined. It was witnessed also by the merchant Norbu Zangpo[40] who consequently experienced great wealth in this lifetime.

With Pha Dampa’s final departure from the world in the manner of his tantric accomplishments, the gods and goddesses were involved to partake of all the vestiges of his body—themselves relics. But his devotees begged him to leave something for them. As they made this request the atmosphere was engulfed in colourful light and tiny flowers showered from the sky like a glowing misty rain. Music was heard everywhere. Then there emerged a gleaming monument, an object only the size of a hen’s egg. This was a precious gift for those steadfast believers. This precious object was later removed for safekeeping among the golden reliquaries of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. And in its place another relic was donated. This was a portion of the Buddha Sakyamuni’s skull, the skull fro which our goddess White Tara, had emerged.[41]

Another bone enshrined with the Langkor Nangten is a piece of jaw. This is from the body of Dharma Do, Lho-dag Marpa’s own son. From its sides emerged two sacred syllables. From the right of this piece of bone we find the letter (AHH), and from the left we have (OHM). Both these precious pieces of bone are enshrined in a golden reliquary.[42] Each holds the power of magnificent blessings.

Ninth among the Langkor Nangten is the glass cup of the Choje Lama, reminding us of his wondrous deeds.[43] It was in a cave in the middle of Dingri Valley, the cave called Kodag that the great sage, Choje Lama, meditated for three years and three months.[44] After that the Lama achieved the power to heal and he was thereby able to absorb the leprosy which had afflicted all those people who had helped in the building of the temple of 108 Emanations. In that Kodag cave, to this day, you may find the Lama’s ku-dum. As the place where the Lama’s own beads became imbued with great blessings, the cave itself is sacred. That power as created in the beads when the Dakini, Pha Dampa’s protector, dissolved into them to become indistinguishable from the glass pebbles.[45] Like those beads, this glass drinking cup had belonged to the unforgettable Lama. This vessel, called Dakini’s bowl, is included here but it is damaged, having been cracked in a later battle in Dingri.[46]

The final item among the memorabilia of Pha Dampa is a black rod, now only about fifteen inches in length. This is said to have been his staff, worn down over the many miles our venerable Lama traveled about Dingri.[47] There is no particular event or story told in connection with it.

Of the burning ghat of Sitavana[48] and Langkor dur-to,[49]
There is no difference.
Neither is there a distinction between
Waters of the Ganges and spring of Langkor.
Of Vajrasana[50] and Langkor itself,
They are the same.
These are identical holy places, it is said.
And thus, the history of Dingri Langkor is complete.

  • This project was brought to completion with the help of many persons. I initiated it with the co-operation and blessing of Trul-zig Lama (‘Krul-zig za-sprul) of Thupten Choeling Monastery, Nepal, and worked with Ani Ngawang (a-ni nag-dban) on obtaining the detailed oral account. Both the Lama and the nun oversaw this work with attention and personal interest. The transcription was undertaken by Karma Tinley Lama (Karma ‘Phrin-las). He assisted me with the translation and he also made the exquisite line drawing of Pha Dampa which we accompanies this text. I want to thank professor Helmut Hoffmann, Geshe Jamspal, and Nima Ozer; all offered valuable advice. Funding for this project came from the University of Edinburgh Moray Fund and from the National Geographic Research Committee.
  • Tibetan words in the text are rendered into a simplified phonetic form, with transliterations supplied in parenthesis in the footnotes.

[1] From the history of zi-byed by the 18th century Tibetan historian Thu’ubkwan Blo-bzan-chos-skyi-ni-ma. Cf., P 193in the chapter entitled Zi-byed-pha’i-grub-mtha’-byun-tshul in Grub-mtha’-thams-cad-kyi-khuns-dan-dod—tshul-ston-pa-legs-bsad-sel-gyi-me-lon.
[2] The first is Zal-gdas-din-ri-brgya-rtsa-ma, the One Hundred Instructions of the People of Dingri; cf fn.4, below.
[3] My study of modern Dingri History is elaborated in the monograph Tibetan Frontier Families: Reflections of Three Generations from Dingri, 1978 Vikas Publishing House, India; reprinted with a new introduction in 2011 by Vajra Books, Kathmandu.
[4] A translation of the entire passage, completed by my colleague, June Campbell, was published in Kailash, Journal of Himalayan Studies (1974-, 2-3). Reader may compare this with Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup’s translation of the first part of this text in Book III of Evans-Wentz’ Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954).
[5] Text: dus-chen; traditionally this celebration takes place in Dingri Langkor on the 25th day of the 6th Tibetan month.
[6] Although frequent note is made of gcod (cho) in general reviews of Tibetan religion, this subject has not (at this time) been detailed and is not well understood. Tucci’s review of several facets of gcod method, although brief, is a valuable beginning, and in some particulars Tucci’s notes relate directly to points in the Langkor Legend. Cf. pp 106-112. Die Religionen Tibets und der Mongolei (1970).
[7] Text: dur-khhrod, the Tibetan funerary ground. Tsibri (rtsib-ri) usually appears in the Sanskrit form sri-ri; it is a low range of mountains on the northeastern perimeter of Dingri plain. Spotted with shrines and retreats, it enjoys almost as much renown as Langkor due to other Tibetan masters who stayed there. Yan-dgon-pa and his teacher Rgod-tshan-pa spent some years there in the 19th C. and more recently it became the centre of the famous Khrid-dpon pad-ma-chos-rgyal, who was widely known as Rtsibri Khrid-dpon. (for further details cf. Aziz, 1978, Chapter 10 and 11.)
[8] Cf. The Blue Annals, especially sections of Part II.
[9] This isn instructive and entertaining passage which should be read with Pha Dampa’s teachings in mind. It was translated long ago and appears under the chapter The Meeting with Dhampa Sangje (pp. 606-614) in One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, by G.C. Chang.
[10] Rgyal-ba-dge-‘dun-grub-kyi-rnam-thar-nor-bu’i-phren-ba, by Ye-ses-rtse-mo (15th Century).
[11] Cf. Recit d’un voyageur musulman au Tibet, 1882-83, translated by M. Gaborieau, 1973, Librairie C. Klincksieck.
[12] This is the Lama ‘Khrul-zig za-sprul, successor to the Dzarong Lama, and thereby a notable and rightful custodian of the teachings of Pha Dampa
[13] Rdza-rong-phug dgon-pa’-i blama Nag-dban-bstan-dzin-nor-bu (1867-1940) who wrote at least two important texts on zi-byed and gcod: Gcod-yul-non-nons-zi-byed-kyi-bka’-gter-bla-ma-rgyud-pa’i-rnam-thar-byin-rlabs-gter-mtsho, a history of zi-byed lineages; and Spyod-yul-non-mons-zi-byed-log-‘dren-zil-gnon-ltas-nan-gyan-‘guggi-khrid-gzun-ma-rig-mun-sel-zes-bya-wa, an introduction to the practice of gcod.
[14] I am thinking here particularly of The Blue Annals and Thu’u-bkwan’s history of zi-byed (ibid).
[15] Cf. the biography of Yogini Ma-cig, Phun-po-gzan-skyur-gyi-rnam-bsad-gcod-kyi-don-gsal-byed, p.36.
[16] Although both these traditions are well known, they have, to large degree, lost their distinction as schools due to their assimilation into wider Tibetan religious traditions, each of which has variously interpreted them. The gcod seems to be the stronger tradition today, most vigorously propounded by adepts of the Ka-gyu School (bka’-brgyud-pa).
[17] THIS English translation: I have rendered this passage with a few editorial changes in order that the story retains the poetic quality of its oral presentation. Nevertheless the colloquial style you will see is its own. Throughout this interpretation, my personal observations of the recitation and my close contact with the custodians has enabled me to elicit the solemn yet intimate character of the Legend.
[18] Text: mother’s name, Bram-ze-ma-su-ri; father’s name is given as Tshon-dpon-nor-bu and Ded-dpon-bzan-po.
[19] Text: Bya-rgod-phun-po, Mt. Grdhrakuta, three hours by train from Bodhgaya in Bihar, where, according to the Sutras, Buddha delivered many speeches on Prajnaparamita.
[20] Arura is a medicinal wood from the India Myrobalan tree. The Kasika cloth identified in the text is a silk from Benares used by Tibetans to wrap precious religious objects.
[21] Grudha: the vulture, here identified as male, signifies the consciousness of Pha Dampa.
[22] Pha Dampa’s dakini (mkha’-‘gro) us Ni-zla-thod-‘phren, or Suryacand’s Kapalamala.
[23] See photograph, item #1.
[24] This association with Kamalsila is, as far as I am aware, only asserted by the Dingri people; there is no such reference in the Blue Annals to in Thu’u-bkwan’s history.However, even though it may be a metaphorical expression, it deserves attention since the Pandit Kamalasila first introduced Prajaparamita teachings into Tibet in 750 AD.
[25] Buddha Sakyamuni dwells eternally at Mt. Grdhraduta.
[26] Text: Ding-rdo-rmug-po. See Photograph item #2.
[27] Text: Rtsib-ri-mtho-ba-rnam-gsum. Cf.fn. 7.
[28] Text: Sin-rdo-rje-thog. Location unidentified.
[29] Text: Gan-ma; this deity may be perceived as owner of the stone.
[30] Text: star-ga, a walnut common in Tibet, probably chosen as an appropriate metaphor for its symmetry.
[31] Text: ‘Chi-med-blo-gros. We cannot identify either the custodian Jigme Lodo or the king (Mi-dban).
[32] Text: Nor-rdo-rmug-po. See photograph item #3.
[33] Text: Spo-ron; this prince may be the same character encountered by Milarepa in the encounter at Silver Springs, in the One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa.
[34] See photograph, item # 5 and 5a.
[35] Text: a-ba-rdo-rje; mthon-ba-don-ldan; ja’-‘od-lna-ldan; dud-gsum-sans-pha-lam; and a-ba-ru-ba are mentioned.
[36] Text: Dpa’-bo’-I nor-bu. See photograph, item #4.
[37] Text: Dpal-rgyas-dban-bo. Another name given for Zurkhang Lama
[38] Text: zi-bar-gsegs-nas, lit. death through enlightenment
[39] See photograph, item #6q
[40] Nor-bu-bzan-po may refer to the well known chief from Khams reputed to have performed many miracles throughout Tibet, testimonies of which remain up to today. It is also said that this man also wrote a number of geographical accounts of Tibet.
[41] See photograph, item #7. This choten (mchod-rten) housing the bone, is of typical Tibetan design.
[42] See photograph, item #8.Like relic #7, this is housed in a choten Text. Lho-brag-dar-ma-mdo-sde, the son of Marpa.
[43] Text: Chos-rje-rgyal-ba-ko-brag.
[44] This cave, Ko-brag-phug, is located near the centre of the Dingri plain. An ancient site, as of 1960, it reportedly houses a an active community of ritual specialists – a ser-skhyim-dgon-pa called Dgon-da’-phug. Cf Aziz Tibetan Frontier Families (20__ edition, Vajra Books, Nepal), especially chapters 4 and 10; also refer to map 7 there. According to the text, this lama meditated on Drag-po-sum-sgril, which involves a composite of the three yidam: Garuda, Vajrapani and Hayagriva.
[45] Skum-bhrum cannot be identified. The word bzugs-sgam may refer to the lama’s meditation mat. Glass beads, sbyan-khrus, or jewelry, may be perceived as a necklace of the goddess,
[46] See photograph, item #9. The bowl contains grain and coins.
[47] See photograph, item # 10.
[48] Text: Bsil-ba-tshal, the funerary site at Bodhgaya in Bihar.
[49] Text: dur-khrd, a platform at Langkor hill, where the bodies of Dingri people are carried for final rites and dispersal to vultures who gather there (also called sky-burial site).
[50] Text: Rdo-rje-gdan, Bodhgaya.