By: Matthew Akester

The Newar Buddhist tradition of the Kathmandu valley has always been an important source of influence informing the development of Buddhism in Tibet, but attempts to establish the historical foundations necessary for a satisfactory understanding of this relationship are too often confounded by the dizzying absence of documentary sources from the Newar side, complemented effectively by the annihilation of traditional learning (and particularly local histories) in occupied Tibet. The attempt to historically elucidate or characterise the ‘Crystal Cave’ (Shel dkar sgrub phug),[1] a unique Newari pilgrimage destination in the Lhasa (lHa sa) valley up until the 1950s, is additionally frustrated by the laconic treatment of this site in Tibetan Buddhist literature. Available literary sources do not corroborate the association of this mountain cave with the famous Vajracarya and folk-hero Suratbajra, which is based solely on the Newari oral tradition concerning his exploits in Tibet, but they do at least show that this tradition is one of several intriguing narratives asserting the sanctity of a controversial and contested location.


The mountain known as ‘Shun-ki Drak’(Shun gyi brag), the ‘Rock of Shun’[2], is a distinctive cluster of limestone pinnacles towering over the east bank of the confluence of the Lhasa and Tölung (sTod lung) valleys, roughly ten kilometres west of the city. ‘Shun’ was the name of a pasture to the west of Drépung monastery (‘Bras spungs), below the old Dongkar fort (Shun gDong dkar rdzong) and village. High up on the mountain’s south face at the base of a mighty spire of rock is the entrance to an underground cave, traditionally said to have pillars and beams of crystal.

  Shun-ki Drak itself is an inescapeable feature, whose peculiar silhouette dominates Lhasa’s western horizon, yet it is strikingly absent from conventional characterisations of the Lhasa Mandala. None of my local informants has been able even to put a name to the mountain. Some know and revere the name of the ‘Shékar Dru-puk’ cave, associating it with Guru Padmasambhava in the generic manner typically applied to sites whose specific legend has been forgotten. Others invoke a primordial legend that a giant Garuda (Khyung) once nested in the upper peaks and terrorised the surrounding countryside, or have at least heard of a second meditation cave in one of these peaks, known as 'Khyung-tsang Drak' (Khyung tshang brag), ‘Garuda’s nest rock’.

  According to Newar visitors who last saw the cave in the 1950s,[3] two of the crystal pillars remained inside and were marked with a spiral design. There was also a spring (sGrub chu) of very pure water. It was said that even though the pilgrim became rather dirty in the course of climbing up to the cave and crawling inside, he would re-emerge clean.

  These days, the area between Drépung and Shun-ki Drak has largely been occupied by the Lhasa cement factory, it’s adjacent limestone quarries, and a petroleum storage installation. Tibet’s principal northern and western highways have their junction at the mountain’s southern foot, and there are more fuel dumps, military bases and another cement factory on it’s west side, in the lower Tölung valley. The traditional spelling “Shun” is no longer in use, and locals refer to the modern village (and destroyed Dzong) as “Shing Dongkar”.


  Several factors can be adduced in support of the notion that the Crystal Cave was a Bön-po holy place in antiquity. Not least among them is the ‘re-claiming’ of the site by Bön-po monks and meditators, mostly from eastern Tibet, over the last decade. These latest occupants have ‘re-built’ a cluster of makeshift retreat huts a short way below the entrance, although by all accounts there were no residents (and certainly no Bön-po-s) at the cave earlier this century. Moreover, the contemporary claim that this was a meditation place of the legendary master Li-shu Tak-ring (gNyan chen Li shu stag ring) is not well-attested in Bön-po literature[4] and, like the Newar legend, belongs more to the realm of folklore.

  But those considerations do not in themselves render the idea untenable. Arguably, the general notion that the Crystal Cave was a pre-Buddhist site can be read into the standard Buddhist description of the Lhasa Mandala given in the ‘Mani Kahbum’. The famous divination conventionally attributed to the Chinese Buddhist princess Wen-ch’eng includes four inauspicious configurations (Sa dgra) in the cardinal directions around Lhasa which require physical ‘suppression’ by Buddhist symbols. To the west was ‘a black demon peering (towards Lhasa)’ which Lhasa folk even now identify with Shun-ki Drak.[5]  The idea that this jagged rock was a ‘threat’ to the introduction of Buddhism which needed to be ‘tamed’ is echoed in a story that a Buddha statue on it’s summit was desecrated during the ninth century persecution of Buddhism. This story is just local hearsay, but it certainly bears comparison, for example, with a passage from Nyang Nyima Özer’s History of Buddhism,[6] which purports to quote king Langdarma (‘U dum btsan po) addressing his ministers on the harm caused by various Buddhist devices of geomantic suppression. The king contends, for instance, that if the Yarlung Dharmaraja-s and their foreign queens had not built Buddhist Stupa-s on Chakpo-ri (lCags po ri) or driven a Kila stake into Marpo-ri (dMar po ri) in Lhasa, the Tibetan empire would soon have included India and China (respectively).

  It seems possible that the construction and maintenance of Buddhist images on this rocky peak, as a conscious inheritance of the Yarlung era, was a practice supported by later Buddhist rulers of the Kyi-chu valley, at least the pro-Géluk-pa (dGe lugs pa) governors of Taktsé (Bye ri stag rtse rdzong) and nearby Néyu Dzong (sNe’u rdzong). It’s observance by the newly established national government (dGa’ ldan pho brang) is documented in the fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography: a passage concerning the renewal of holy images on strategic points in the landscape in order to allay the threat of conflict and invasion states that a new image - presumably a rock carving - of Sakyamuni subduing the Mara-s (Thub dbang bdud ‘dul) was established ‘on the peak of Shun-ki Drak’ (Shun gyi brag rtse) in the year 1677.[7]

  The discourse of geomantic subjugation in such hagiographical and retrospective works as ‘Mani Kahbum’ certainly cannot be taken as referring, even in a veiled or implicit manner, to the Buddhist conversion (or disparagement) of indigenous holy places. At best it can yield clues which, in the case of the Crystal Cave, are amplified by circumstantial evidence. The lower Tölung valley (sTod lung mda’) is widely indicated as a site of religious monuments and a centre for the propagation of religious teachings in both Bön-po and Buddhist sources, and to some extent in the Tunhuang documents. The hermitage on the site of the later Gahdong (sGa gdong / dGa’ gdong) monastery had been founded by Gya Dul-dzin  (rGya ‘dul ‘dzin dBang phyug brtson ‘grus) (c.1120) in the very shadow of Shun-ki Drak, on it’s northern side, not long before the ‘discovery’ of the ‘Mani Kahbum’, and the expatriate Newar Mahamudra master A-su (Bal po A su sKye med bde chen) had chosen a hilltop on the western spur of the mountain for his hermitage several decades earlier.[8] If this were simply an insignificant or undesirable location, why would more than one notable Buddhist teacher have favoured it as a site for religious practice?


  About an hour’s walk north of Shun-ki Drak, on the mountainside above the modern village of Sangmo (bZang mo), is another totally dark limestone meditation cave, of similar dimensions to the Crystal Cave, known as ‘Néchen Dru-puk’ (gNas chen sgrub phug). Also like the Crystal Cave, it is popularly regarded as a meditation place of ‘Guru Rinpoché’. The delicate matter of locating Guru Padmasambhava’s inconceivable activities in Tibet is a subject well beyond the scope of this discussion, but for present purposes, I propose a broad distinction between the ten or so cave sites associated with this master on the basis of coherent biographical references in Nyingma-pa (rNying ma pa) literature, and the great majority of sites for which this label is a more or less un-substantiated generic, perhaps displacing the specific history or legend (whether Buddhist or otherwise) of an ancient place of spiritual accomplishment. Both the ‘Néchen’ and ‘Shékar Dru-puk’-s in lower Tölung clearly fall into the latter category. The fact that this area is vaguely but persistently indicated in the sources[9] as a locus of the Guru’s demon-subduing activities after his arrival in Tibet  could thus be taken as further confirmation that it was a religious centre of some importance in eighth century Tibet.

  If Guru Pema had a genuine historical or legendary connection with the Crystal Cave or Shun-ki Drak, one would expect to hear about it in a relevant episode from the life of the ‘Treasure-discoverer of (Tölung) Nangtsé’ (sNang rtse gTer ston) Shikpo Ling-pa (Zhig po gling pa Nam mkha’ tshe dbang rgyal po), one of the Guru’s prophesied emanations according to the revealed ‘Kahtang’(bKa’ thang) literature.[10] He is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Tér-tön of Khyung-tsang Drak’ after having discovered his first and most significant ‘Térma’ on the peak of Shun-ki Drak in the early summer of 1544.

  According to the biography by his disciple Sokdok-pa Lo-dro Gyeltsen (Sog zlog pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan), a dwarf in a red robe appeared to the twenty one year-old Shikpo Ling-pa in a dream, showing him a book with a sewn binding and a lining of yellow cloth, and saying that this was a list of the riches awaiting him at Khyung-tsang Drak.[11] The master instantly recognised the text as instructions for the recovery of concealed treasure (Kha byang) and memorised it effortlessly, whereupon he awoke and at once set off for the mountain. When they arrived, it seemed impossible to climb up to the place of concealment (gTer gnas), described as the 'Upper secret cave' (gSang phug gong ma), because the rope-ladder had broken, but to the amazement of his companions, the young Tér-tön managed to shuffle up the sheer rock wall and enter the cave.

  Inside, the exact hiding place was marked with a rectangular stone bearing a glittering design in medicinal crystal (Cong zhi), beneath which, in a charcoal-filled crevice, he discovered a blackened eight-sided casket (gTer sgrom) of baked earth decorated with turquoise glaze. Among it’s contents were the encrypted scrolls for the ‘Longevity Sadhana-s of the assembled Jina-s’ (Tshe sgrub rgyal ba ‘dus pa’i chos skor), water of longevity (Tshe chu) and numerous other sacred substances (Dam rdzas), a likeness figure of Guru Pema self-formed in sand from the heavenly Anavatapta lake (ie; Manasarovar), and more written instructions concerning the recognition of ultimate reality at the time of death and ritual methods for repelling military invasion.

  Seen in context, the story is not particularly unusual, and the underlying premise that these treasures had been concealed there (and their re-discovery predicted) by Guru Pema is so fundamental and obvious to all concerned that no reiteration is necessarily called for. Taken in isolation, however, the lack of reference to legends or prophecies concerning the Guru is striking: indeed, apart from the identification of a naieve clay figure as a ‘likeness of the Lotus Guru’ (“Padma Gu ru’i ‘dra sku”), there is no indication beyond the general context that this is even a Buddhist Térma. What the passage does tell us, if only by inference, is that Khyung-tsang Drak had in the past been a centre of spiritual attainment, or at least a holy place of some kind. The broken rope-ladder is a sign that it’s meditation caves had long been vacant. One should bear in mind here that Shikpo Ling-pa was born in Tölung, into the most powerful noble family in the area (sNang rtse sde pa), and became one of the greatest Nyingma-pa masters of his day. Moreover, the Khyung-tsang Drak Térma is presented in Nyingma-pa literature as his principal discovery. If there had been a Buddhist legend or history associated with the place, he would surely have had something to say about it. Possible lost works of Shikpo Ling-pa and so on notwithstanding, this curious silence could just be a sign that the legend or cult of this mountain was pre- (or in any case non-) Buddhist.


  Some further light is shed on the mystery in an interesting passage from the fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography. During the summer of 1656, Tibet’s supreme pontiff records, one Mohamed Shafi, an envoy of the Mughal ruler of Bengal Shah Suja, arrived at court in Lhasa bearing gifts, and a request: “There is a deserted cave at the back of the Shun (area) called the ‘Crystal cavern’ (Shel dkar brag khung) which many people visit on the strength of an old wives’ tale (“Ri bong cal ‘drogs”, literally ‘rabbit’s mutterings’) that it is a meditation cave of Urgyen Rinpoché (Padmasambhava) with crystal pillars and beams. Just like the proverb of the mouse-hole and the far horizon (?), this nonsense has spread as far as India, and since a great deal of crystal was required to ornament the (Bengali) king’s throne, (the envoy) asked if he might take some. This kind of situation arises simply through the tendency of living beings to grasp illusory appearances as real, which is the root cause of their wanderings in Samsara.”[12]   

  First of all, this passage confirms in some important respects the view we have formed so far of the site, as a holy mountain whose cave-hermitages were long abandoned, and whose claims to sanctity lay in the distant past and had no basis in orthodox Buddhist sources. It tells us in addition that ‘many’ pilgrims were visiting the Crystal Cave in the mid-seventeenth century. But the emphatic and dismissive tone of the piece could in itself tell us something more: the popular view of the Crystal Cave as sacred was no ordinary Samsaric mirage, it was a serious matter, as it seems that for the Great Fifth, as for the princess Wen-ch’eng of the ‘Mani Kahbum’, the place was not insignificant so much as malign, representing a threat whose suppression and exclusion was desirable.

  Even as he wrote the passage, the learned author would have been aware of Shikpo Ling-pa’s activities at Khyung-tsang Drak a century earlier, and his disapproval of them is perhaps implicit in his curt dismissal of the Crystal Cave. According to the biographical sources, the Great Fifth’s antipathy to the so-called ‘Nang-Sok-Gong Sum’ trio of Nyingma-pa masters (sNang Sog Gong gsum ie; sNang rtse gter ston Zhig po gling pa, Sog zlog pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan, Gong ra lo chen gZhan phan rdo rje) related much more to political allegiances than explicit doctrinal differences or polemics,[13] and one could also seek to understand the conflicting representations of Shun-ki Drak and the Crystal Cave in the context of the geo-political rivalries and schisms of the period.

  The Nangtsé Dé-pa-s of Tölung held sway in the Lhasa valley in alliance with the lords of Rinpung, who dominated central Tibet at the expense of the mainly pro-Géluk-pa (dGe lugs pa) nobles and Lama-s of Ü (dBus) district. They were patrons of the Sha-mar Karma-pa-s (Zhva dmar pa) of Yangpa-chen (Yangs pa can) and had cordial relations with the emergent ‘Southern Druk-pa’ school (lHo ‘brug) of Bhutan. In other words, Shikpo Ling-pa was a senior religious figure-head representing the powerful coalition of interests opposed to the political aspirations of the Lhasa aristocracy and the Géluk-pa school. In addition, the ‘Nang-Sok-Gong Sum’ were well known for performing Nyingma-pa rituals of national defence, particularly aimed at ‘turning back the Mongols’, the allies of the Dalai Lama-s who eventually did invade Tibet and crush the enemies of the Géluk-pa school.

  We can be fairly sure that the Great Fifth would have taken a dim view of Shikpo Ling-pa’s claim to have discovered such rituals in a cache buried by Guru Pema on Shun-ki Drak, although his attitude to the master was fraught with ambiguity. In the words of a later Nyingma -pa commentator:  “The ‘Nang-Sok-Gong Sum’ used a prophecy revealed by Shikpo Ling-pa to say various (unpleasant) things about the Géluk-pa-s and (the Nyingma-pa-s of) Dorjé Drak (rDo rje brag), and since Shikpo Ling-pa himself had important relations with the Southern Druk-pa he was obliged to advocate their position, for which he is criticised severely in the works of the Great Fifth, but the minds of great and noble saints are hard to fathom....for it is certain that he (the Dalai Lama) kept holy symbols blessed by the ‘Nang-Sok-Gong Sum’ as objects of his own personal devotion.”[14]

  Here and in a number of similar references, we are told that the Great Fifth quietly accepted their integrity as distinguished Nyingma-pa Lama-s, while vigorously opposing their worldly (or political) ambitions. It would not be implausible to see this troubled and contradictory relationship reflected in his eagerness to repudiate the Crystal Cave, and one could interpret the passage as an implicit indication that Shun-ki Drak had been mobilised to some degree as a contested symbol in this feud, and that it’s re-suppression had been ensured by the Mongol - Géluk-pa conquest of central Tibet and establishment of a new capital at Lhasa. In this regard, there may be some significance in a local story (apparently unrelated to the Bengal Raja) that two of the cave’s alleged four crystal pillars were removed in this period to be incorporated in the new Potala palace. 


  It should now be apparent at least that the history of the Crystal Cave has long been buried in obscurity, and that there are no firm grounds permitting an assessment of Suratbajra’s activities there. If a theme has emerged from this obscurity, however, it is one of a popular and ancient pilgrimage cult to which orthodox Buddhist authority is either ambivalent or hostile. The recurrent theme in the tales of Suratbajra meanwhile, including the story that he engaged and defeated the Lama-s (‘the Dalai Lama’ in some versions) in a contest of spiritual powers at Lhasa, is an un-orthodox and iconoclastic opposition to organised religion reminiscent of the Indian ‘Maha-siddha’ genre and the 'Mad saints' (sMyon pa) of Tibetan folklore. Could it be that Suratbajra chose the Crystal Cave, precisely because of it’s significance to followers of popular as opposed to organised religion, as a kind of ‘weak link’ in the Lama-s’ Mandala, and a suitable locus for challenging their authority?


  The legend of the cave (or what remains of it) says that Suratbajra meditated in the dark sanctuary on his tutelary Devi, the Nairatma (lHa mo bdag med ma) of Guhyeswari, until her image appeared naturally in the rock. In the oral tradition surrounding this master, several often humorous or satirical episodes relate how Suratbajra always got the better of Lhasa’s Grand Lama, in reliance on magical powers conferred by a clairvoyant relationship with his Devi. But their final show-down took place at the Crystal Cave: in the course of a contest of powers which had begun in good sport, Suratbajra in the form of a dove realises that his opponent, who has assumed the form of an eagle, is trying to kill him, and flies into the cave for refuge. The ‘eagle’ then assumed demonic form and blocked the mouth of the cave with a huge boulder. Suratbajra effortlessly pushed this aside, whereupon the Lama turned into a fearsome serpent. Suratbajra struck the creature with a magic sword produced at the critical moment by his Devi, or somehow turned it to stone, in which form it has remained there ever since. He was then obliged to flee Tibet. It is said that as he reached the banks of the Tsang-po (gTsang po) or Brahmaputra river, since there was no boatman to carry him over, he laid out his scarf on the waters and floated serenely to the south shore, while spontaneously composing and singing his ‘Jayavanchali’ Carya-git in praise of the Devi. As soon as he had crossed, the river whipped up into a storm, drowning boat-loads of his pursuers. He returned to Nepal to find the ceremonies for his presumed death in progress, and since no-one really seemed to realise who he was, he went into seclusion at the Takse Bahal (in present-day Ason, in Kathmandu) and never re-emerged. Some say he is still in there.[15]


  As far as I know, only one historical document probably relating to Suratbajra has so far come to light. This was a liturgical text (Pancaraksa) kept at the the Chaturbrahma Maha-vihar in Tadhichen Bahal at the eastern end of the Bhaktapur Darbar square, whose colophon stated that the community was founded by Suratbajra’s son Jiva-chandra, who had moved there from Takse Bahal in Nepal Sambat 611 (1490).[16] This would make Suratbajra a contemporary of  king Yaksa Malla and tentatively place his journey to Tibet in the third quarter of the fifteenth century. Although there was no ‘Dalai Lama’ as such at that time, Suratbajra would have encountered Géluk-pa Lhasa in it’s confident youth. The ecclesiastical and political centre of the city in those days was the grand and populous Drépung monastery, which had been established half a century earlier, about seven kilometres to the west of old Lhasa, not far from the Crystal Cave....

  Without further evidence, the questions raised by Suratbajra's activities in Tibet cannot be satisfactorily addressed, and I would therefore like to conclude these observations with an appeal to readers more knowledgeable than myself in the Newar Buddhist tradition and the history of Nepal - Tibet relations for any contributions toward that end.

  Finally, I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to Min Bahadur Shakya for his kind assistance and encouragement, and to thank Khenpo Tsultrim Gyeltsen, Tsi-pa Kun-gah Rikdzin and Roberto Vitali for their various comments and suggestions.

[1]  The Newari name for the cave is ‘Sika Paku’, ‘Sika’ being a Newari pronunciation of the Tibetan “Shel dkar” (‘crystal’), and 'Paku’ meaning ‘cave'.


[2]  This name occurs in the “Ma ni bka’ ‘bum” (Shes rig par khang 1988 Vol.1 p.454), and is echoed in later sources, such as the famous historical poem "rGyal rabs gsal ba'i me long" (Mi rigs dpe skrun khang 1981 p.132) and the fifth Dalai Lama’s chronicle “Deb ther rdzogs ldan gzhon nu’i dga’ ston dpyid kyi rgyal mo’i glu dbyangs” (Mi rigs dpe skrun khang 1988 p.39).


[3]  I wish to thank Harsamuni Shakya in particular for his recollections of the pilgrimage.


[4]  This may be of course partly because there is no extensive version of this master’s fabulous biography available: according to the relatively informative “g.Yung drung Bon gyi bstan ‘byung phyogs bsdus” by dPal ldan tshul khrims (Mi dmangs dpe skrun khang 1988 p.403), Li-shu Tak-ring stayed at the “Shel gyi brag dkar rtse rdzong” (whose location is not specified at all) when he was two thousand three hundred years old. Clearly, the Crystal cave at Shun-ki Drak has not been occupied by Bön practitioners at least for many centuries, and current claims about it’s ancient history should be seen in the context of a politicised and largely symbolic resurgence of Bön-po institutions in eastern Tibet in recent years, and the quasi-evangelical ‘return’ of alumni to their pre-Buddhist ‘roots’ in the west of the country.   


[5]  “Nub tu..bdud nag po bya ra byed pa ‘dra ba’i sa dgra yod” (Ma ni bka’ ‘bum vol.1 p.454). This identification is made explicit in Gyalrab Salwé Melong (loc.cit), although not in Mani Kahbum itself, which mentions Shun-ki Drak by name earlier on in the cited passage, likening it to a seal (?) ("Te’u tse"). (“Sa dgra” is a complex term which defies reductive translation, but is to be understood here in the sense of ‘ill omens’ in the landscape).


[6]  “Chos ‘byung me tog snying po sbrang rtsi’i bcud” by Nyang ral Nyi ma ‘od zer (1124-92) (Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang 1988 p.431) 


[7]  “Za hor gyi ban de Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho’i ‘di snang ‘khrul pa’i rol rtsed rtogs brjod kyi tshul du bkod pa Du ku la’i gos bzang”, by Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho (Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang 1989 vol.3 p.69).


[8]  eg; “rJe btsun Ras chung pa’i rnam thar rNam mkhyen thar lam gsal bar ston pa’i me long ye shes kyi snang ba” by rGod tshang ras pa (mTsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang 1992 p.228). The ‘Ngo-drup Tsé’ (dNgos grub rtse) hermitage was maintained by a distinguished lineage of Mantrin-astrologers (sNgags pa), who claimed descent from “Bal po A su”, up to the time of it’s desecration in 1959. It is tempting to assume that Suratbajra was attracted to the area by the historic residence of a Newar Buddhist master, however, according to the available biographies of A-su (eg; ‘The Blue Annals’, George Roerich and Gendun Chöpel (trans.) Motilal Banarsidass 1976 p.860) he was of Indian origin, born into the service of a ‘Bharo’ household in the Kathmandu valley and released in his youth to pursue religious studies which soon led him to Tibet, and thus would not have been well known in Nepal. On Gya Dul-dzin, see Blue Annals p.78-9.


[9]  Nyingma-pa works mostly restrict themselves to two points: the well-known story of the Guru’s reception by the king’s cavalry at Trangbu Tsél (Brang bu tshal) in lower Tölung, where he produced the miraculous ‘Shongba Lha-chu’ (gZhong ba lha chu) spring, and the statement that he went on to confront local demons at “Kha la brag ri(ngs)”, “g.Ya’ ri gong” and “Zam phug” (none of which are identifiable or necessarily located in Tölung, according to the context eg; Nyang Nyima Özer’s History p.282-3), before meeting the king at Samyé (bSam yas). However, in one of the many extended biographies of Guru Pema (“Ngo mtshar phun gsum tshogs pa’i rgya mtsho” by Byang bdag bKra shis stobs rgyal, Gangtok 1976 p.344), these events are somewhat clarified: the narrative in this work generally follows the ‘Pema Kahtang’ (“Padma bka’ thang”), but evidently breaks with it at this point, suggesting the interpolation of an older, more detailed source. Here we are told that since the king had seen it as beneath his dignity to come personally to Trangbu Tsél, the Guru was a little put out, and retreated to “Kha la brag ri” (possibly identifiable as a site in upper Tölung). Then he is said to have visited three places before returning to the waiting ministers at Trangbu: “rGyang bu tshal” (in the Médro (Mal gro) valley east of Lhasa), Lhasa itself, and “g.Ya’ ri gong” (which means something like ‘Heap-shaped gravel mountain’) where he bound the ‘fanged’ demon or spirit “Bya ra rgyal po” to oath (“De nas g.Ya’ ri gong du byon nas Bya ra rgyal po so sha btul shing dam la btags so”). This has the air of a more coherent narrative which has been garbled in later borrowings, and the ‘fangs’ (as in spires of rock), the heaped shape and the “Bya ra” demon (cf. Mani Kahbum) are too reminiscent of Shun-ki Drak to be ignored.


[10]  eg; U rgyan gling pa’s “Padma bka’ thang” (Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang 1988 p.573).


[11]  There are of course numerous “Khyung tshang brag”-s in Tibet, but the identification is corroborated by Shikpo Ling- pa’s biography, which states that the master departed his residence at Nangtsé (sTod lung sNang rtse) in the dead of night, on horseback and with six companions, and arrived on the peak of the mountain (a distance of about fifteen kilometres, plus a steep climb) just as the sun rose. (“rDzogs chen pa sprul sku Zhig po gling pa gar gyi dbang phyug rtsal gyi skyes rabs rags bsdus dang rnam thar” by Sog zlog pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan (Sangs rgyas rdo rje, New Delhi 1975 p.49-50). It is further corroborated, for instance, in Ka thog Si tu Chos kyi rgya mtsho’s “Gangs ljongs dbus gtsang gnas bskor lam yig Nor bu zla shel gyi se mo do” (Sungrab Nyamso Gyunphel Parkhang, Palampur 1972).


12  “Du ku la’i gos bzang” vol.1 p.495-6. The interest taken by Bengali Muslims in Tibetan crystal was presumably of purely secular dimensions, but this passage nonetheless raises the intriguing question of the Crystal Cave's sanctity for non-Tibetans. At the least, one could surmise that Newars and other cis-Himalayan peoples accounted for some of the 'many' visitors mentioned here.


13  Although the Lhasa government did subsequently prohibit both the publication of their works and the continuation of their lineages, for good measure….


14  “Bod du ‘byung ba’i gsang sngags snga ‘gyur gyi bstan ‘dzin skyes mchog rim byon gyi rnam thar Nor bu’i do

shal” by Kun bzang nges don klong yangs (f.153b-154a). I wish to thank E. Gene Smith for pointing out this

reference. See also Gu ru bKra shis chos ‘byung (Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang 1990 p.448).                                    


[15]  I am most grateful to M.B.Shakya for his translation of the available Suratbajra stories.


[16]  ‘Buddhist monasteries of Nepal’, by John.K.Locke (Kathmandu 1985 p.298 and p.449). As the author points out, there are doubts as to whether Jiva-chandra’s father was the famous Suratbajra, although it seems clear enough that the latter belonged to, and had perhaps founded Takse Bahal.



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