Yang dgon pa's Mountain Dharma, the Source of All Qualities: A study of Yang dgon pa Rgyal mtshan dpal's Ri chos yon tan kun 'byung


David Teasdale

  • Betreuung: Klaus-Dieter Mathes

This thesis will describe and explain the contents of Yang dgon pa Rgyal mtshan dpal's (1213–1258) Mountain Dharma, the Source of All Qualities (Ri chos yon tan kun ‘byung). It is the first significant example of ri chos, texts carried amongst the sparse possessions of hermits that contain every instruction necessary to sustain them in retreat. Yang dgon pa was an outstanding yogin in the 'Brug pa bka’ brgyud during its formative period, although he had an eclectic set of teachers, from hermits to scholars, from different traditions. He is renowned for his Three Cycles of Mountain Dharma (Ri chos skor gsum), of which Mountain Dharma, the Source of All Qualities is the central text of the first cycle. The principal topics of ri chos include: the characteristics required of the place and of the practitioner; and explanations of the necessary preparations prior to retreat, how to perform the main practice while there, and, afterwards, having left the retreat, how to conduct oneself. Their essential feature, however, is that they are sufficient in themselves, providing all the guidance and instruction necessary to sustain the hermit in isolation. In ri chos, we encounter mahāmudrā not only in its doctrinal, idealized form, but also in its practical form. Ri chos as a literary genre, and Yang dgon pa's ri chos as a pre-eminent, early example, exerted a strong influence on later Tibetan Buddhist tradition; yet he, his ri chos, and the ri chos genre have been neglected in modern scholarship. This thesis will, first, describe and explain the contents of Yang dgon pa's Source of All Qualities, setting out how a complete, early mahāmudrā practice was performed in retreat by one of Tibet's most renowned practitioners. Second, it will: identify the source of its contents, both within the traditions he inherited and among the polemical debates of the time; trace their use and development into later, prominent retreat manuals; and draw conclusions about the evolution of the ri chos literary genre.