Traksad Mahākāla: gnyos lugs ma

The empowerment and transmission of Traksad gnyos lugs ma, which started from the great Nyö Lotsawa Yonten Dragpa(973-1113) is very alive in Jonang today. The unbroken transmission of it is lived through Nyö Gyalwa Lhanangpa and Jetsen Taranatha in Jonang until today. Thanks to a Chinese friend who offered the lead to the living line of Traksad Mahākāla of gnyos tradition and a picture of it.

The tradition of gnyos teachings began from 10th century with the four main cycles of teachings transmitted by Nyö Lotsawa Yonten Dragpa. Yonten Dragpa is grandfather to Nyö Gyalwa Lhanangpa, who started Lhapa Kagyue in Bhutan. Nyö Dragpa Pel is Lhanangpa’s father.

The tradition of Nyö teachings are mainly the four tantras of Yonten Dragpa called gnyos kyi rgyud bzhi. The four traditions are the Guhyasamāja tantra according to the system of Jañāpāda, the Krsna Yamāri cycle commonly known as gnyos lugs lha dgu ma,  the cycle of the Protector Traksad Mahākāla known as the Traksad gnyos lugs and Samvara tantra based upon the system of Lūyipā known as gnyos lugs Lūyipa.

These four cycles known as gnyos kyi rgyud bzhi were popular in Tibet at one point of time. The empowerments and transmission of  these cycles of teachings were not only passed down from fathers to sons of gnyos lineage holders, but it was also offered to rgya ston Arya de ba and his son rdor je bla ma of rgya clan by Yonten Dragpa. It is mentioned in some sources that as a gratitude for receiving the teachings and empowerment, the rgya father and son were said to have offered Mon kha bzhi, present day Paro in Bhutan, part of ’gos yul stod gsum of Tibet then to yontan grags pa’gos yul stod gsum at that point of time was owned by Gos and rgya clan. Gos were the secular leaders and rgya were the spiritual leaders of that region. Hypothetically, that might be another reason why lhanang pa, grandson of Yonten Dragpa came to gchal kha in Paro, Bhutan. Gyelwa Lhanangpa was the first religious figure who established the first monastic school in Bhutan at gchal kha in Paro.  The religious school at gchal kha was known as lha pa bka’ brgyud, which disappeared slowly after ’brug pa’s arrival in Bhutan.

While today, most of these transmissions seem to have lost, it is amazing to discover from some literature and informal conversations with acquaintances that remnants of these teachings and transmissions are still intact and so alive in Jonang tradition. It was learned that Jonang Kunga Drolchog was identified as the incarnation of lhanang  pa and has received transmission of some of the gnyos tradition teachings. Therefore, the transmissions of part of the gnyos teachings are still within Jonang tradition. lhanang  pa, hence, is also considered one of the important figures in Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Traksad Mahākāla is the main protector deity of Nyö Lhanangpa. It is also one of the important practice in Jonang school even today. The sources of Traksad Mahākāla of gNyos tradition can be found in Kongtrul’s rin chen gter mdzod and Taranatha’s ‘byung brgya rtsa.

Contributed by Sonam Nyenda. Sonam is a former lecturer at CLCS, Taktse. He is currently pursuing PhD in religious study at the university of Virginia, US. He is also the core founding member of the Nyo Foundation of Bhutan.