For the last eight years, His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang has carried out extensive research on the Tibetan manuscripts discovered in Dunhuang at the turn of the last century. His Holiness's research interests are centered on early Tibetan history and the Zen teachings in Tibetan. This summer, two books will be published as the fruition of these efforts.
The first work is entitled “A History of the Tibetan Empire” (bod btsan po'i rgyal rabs) and discusses the Tibetan Empire of Pugyal, which began its expansion across the Tibetan plateau at the beginning of the 7th century. Within one hundred years it had become a power to be reckoned with in the heart of Asia, challenging the great Tang dynasty of China, and the Arab Caliphate of Baghdad. Thus in a short period of time, the mounted armies of Great Tibet came face to face with the full array of surrounding peoples and civilizations. This too was the most glorious period of expansion of Mahayana Buddhism. The warring Tibetan nation was deeply impressed by the foreign religion, and by the diversity of the human condition, by different ethnic groups, languages, and writing systems, art and architecture, medicine, political systems and ways of life, clothing, food, drink and habitat. A cosmopolitan ethos was born, impregnating the elite of the empire, laying the foundations for an abiding multicultural consciousness that would arise and disappear, only to arise again when conditions were favorable, over the next millennium.
Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche has produced a detailed overview of the Pugyal Empire of Great Tibet, using Tibetan and Chinese sources, but based essentially upon the Dunhuang manuscripts, contemporary with the empire, as well as other key historical texts from the early years of the Second Diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet. His thorough analytical method is matched by an enquiring, original approach to the rich materials he provides, creating an important arena for discussion and debate on this relatively new research field. His well-illustrated book in Tibetan will be an essential reference for new research on the early history of the Land of Snows, for many years to come.
Heather Stoddard, professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris, France
The second book by Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang is a work on Zen that was begun during the 8th century, “The Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lanka (School)”. The Dunhuang corpus contains an incomplete translation into Tibetan of this Chinese Zen text. Using versions of the text found in the Chinese Tripitaka, His Holiness has completed the translation and incorporated it into a complete book in bilingual edition, with Tibetan and Chinese side-by-side. It is being published in Taiwan and will be released this month as a joint collaboration between Songtsen Library and the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at the British Library.
In his preface, Sam van Schaik of the International Dunhuang Project writes:
“The Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lanka (School)” is one of the most important sources for understanding the Tibetan Zen. The Tibetan translation of the Record, which was originally written in Chinese in the early eighth century, is found in a unique manuscript from the library cave in Dunhuang (IOL Tib J 710), now held in the British Library.
His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Rinpoche has created a bilingual edition of this crucial work which places the Tibetan text beside an edition of the original Chinese version. As the Tibetan manuscript does not contain the complete text, His Holiness has added the final section from the Chinese Dunhuang manuscripts and the Taisho Tripitka, which he has translated into Tibetan. In this way he has provided the first complete Tibetan translation of the Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lanka Tradition.
This book is both a scholarly edition and a continuation of the work of the early Tibetan practitioners of Zen, which began in the eighth century during the reign of the emperor Tri Song Detsen. I am very pleased that the International Dunhuang Project has been able to assist in this worthwhile project by providing the images of the manuscript of IOL Tib J 710.
Sam van Schaik
Research Project Manager, International Dunhuang Project, The British Library