Tsangnyön Heruka

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Tsangnyön Heruka (Tibetan: གཙང་སྨྱོན་ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་Wylie: gtsang smyon He ru ka 1452-1507), was a Tibetan master of the Kagyu school and writer. Born in Tsang, he is best known as a biographer and compiler of the Life of Milarepa and The Collections of Songs of Milarepa, both classics of Tibetan literature.

Tsangnyön Heruka was one of several Tibetan "religious madmen" (nyönpa, Wylie: smyon pa). At the time it was believed that their eccentric way of life was a sign of spiritual realization. He was ordained as a young monk but at the age of twenty one renounced his vows and trained under various tantric yogis from different schools.[1] His first teacher was Shara Rabjampa Sanggye Sengge (1427–1470) who conveyed to him the 'Aural Transmissions' (snyan brgyud) of the Kagyu tradition.[2] Tsangnyön spent years in solitary retreat on the southern Tibetan Tsari mountain, which is the major sacred mountain retreat for the Kagyu school. He also studied the tantras in Pelkhor Chode Monastery in Gyantse for three years. After he left the monastery, he became a wandering yogi for the rest of his life, never staying in one place permanently. He was known to keep his hair long, carry a tantric staff (Khaṭvāńga) and drink from a kapala (skull cup). When local villagers saw his body covered in human ashes and blood with his hair adorned by human fingers and toes, they gave him the name 'Nyönpa' (madman). He was also later called 'Traktung Gyalpo' (King blood drinker).[3] These eccentric ways were influenced by an Indian sect of yogis called Kapalikas or 'skull-bearers'. These ascetics were known to dress in loin cloths and practice austerities, as well as carry symbols of the dakinis such as bone ornaments, skulls and human ash.[4]

Many monks questioned his behavior and way of dress but Tsangnyön was known to strongly defend his unconventional practice through rigorious arguments and accurate quotations from tantric scriptures. He became a famous teacher and gathered numerous followers, he was also a composer of religious songs. Tsangnyön was very influential with various Tibetan political leaders and he used his influence to mediate between warring factions. In 1488 while staying in Lapchi, Tsangnyön completed the Life of Milarepa, a biography of the Tibetan poet. It was one of the first texts that was produced through woodblock printing in Tibet and it quickly became a widely circulated text.[5] Tsangnyön's main goal seems to have been the promotion of the teachings of the early Kagyu masters.

In 1504, Ratnamalla, the king of Kathmandu, invited Tsangnyön to Nepal to restore the famous Svayambhū Stūpa. Tsangnyön traveled to Nepal and completed the renovation within three months. In 1505, he compiled a biography and a song collection of Marpa Lotsawa.[6] He also completed his major life work which was the collection of the aural transmissions of the Kagyu tradition. In 1507 at Rechung-Puk (north of the Yarlung Valley), he died at the age of fifty five.[7]

After his death three of his disciples wrote biographies of his life (Gotsangrepa, Lhatsun Rinchen Namgyel and Ngodrub Pembar). Kuntu Zangmo, Tsangnyön’s female companion, oversaw the printing of his songs, writings and a biography of his life.[8]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Life of Milarepa, Gtsan-Smyon He-Ru-Ka, Tsangnyon Heruka, Andrew Quintman, Donald S. Lopez, Jr. src - Introduction.
  2. ^ Biography of Tsangnyön Heruka
  3. ^ The Life of Milarepa, Gtsan-Smyon He-Ru-Ka, Tsangnyon Heruka, Andrew Quintman, Donald S. Lopez, Jr. src - Introduction.
  4. ^ Beer, Robert (2003). The handbook of Tibetan Buddhist symbols. Serindia Publications. ISBN 1-932476-03-2, ISBN 978-1-932476-03-3 Source: [1]
  5. ^ The Life of Milarepa, Gtsan-Smyon He-Ru-Ka, Tsangnyon Heruka, Andrew Quintman, Donald S. Lopez, Jr. src - Introduction.
  6. ^ Biography of Tsangnyön Heruka
  7. ^ The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations. Bryan J. Cuevas, Jacqueline Ilyse Stone. Pg. 219.
  8. ^ The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations. Bryan J. Cuevas, Jacqueline Ilyse Stone. Pg. 221.

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