Rongton’s Praise to Dolpopa

Over the summer, I was browsing through a Tibetan book shop and I happened upon the recently reproduced collected works of Rongton Shakya Gyaltsen (1367-1449). As I opened the first volume to look at the table of contents, my eyes were drawn to the title, A Praise to the Great Omniscient Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen.[1]

Rongton was a fascinating figure whose writings have not received much attention by western scholars to date. He was the founder of Nalendra Monastery located north of Lhasa, the seat of the Nalendrapa sub-order of the Sakya tradition. Among his numerous teachers were Sonam Zangpo (1341-1433), a disciple of three of Dolpopa’s main student's, Chogle Namgyal (1306-1386), Nyawon Kunga Pal (1285-1379), and Sazang Mati Panchen (1294-1376). Rongton was also a main teacher of Shakya Chokden (1428-1507), one of the most prominent zhentong exponents of the Sakya tradition. He was a teacher of Zhonu Pal (1392-1481), the author of the Blue Annals, and a teacher of the 7th Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso (1454-1506).[2]

Since this praise is short and sweet, since it’s somewhat unusual to come across, and because its composition arguably situates the author (if not the subject) in a unique place in Tibetan intellectual history, I thought to translate it and post it here:

Rongton’s praise to Dolpopa:

A Precious Garland of Profound Meaning

To the masters and exalted deities, I prostrate.

Imbued with intelligence from sequential waves of profound realization,
And thought from your stable body of immovable meditative concentration,
Your profoundly eloquent explanations fully illuminate us.

Having fathomed the expanse with realization that dispels the darkness of unknowing,
You assimilated the quick path of accomplishment into experience.

By condensing the essence of all the discourses [of the Buddha],
You deliberately brought about alternative explications, debates, and compositions.

With enlightened activity, accept me through your kindness!


By being heard, may this praise be carried throughout the three realms — May it please the sublime spiritual masters! This was composed by the great Rongton at Śrī Nalendra Monastery.

It’s perhaps interesting to note that Rongton also wrote similar praises to both the great Zhalu scholar Buton Rinchen Drup (1290-1364) and the Sakya master Sherab Zangpo (13th cent.), one of Dolpopa's main teachers. These two praises are approximately the same length as his praise to Dolpopa, showing that he admired the works and views of these three authors comparatively.




Endnotes:

1. In Tibetan, Kun mkhyen chen po dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan la bstod pa. Rong ston gsung 'bum, 221. So khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2008.

2. Another interesting connection, though one that I'll leave it to explore further in future posts, is that of the ties between Nalendra Monastery of the Sakya tradition and Jonangpas. Besides these figures mentioned above in relation to Rongton, the master Urgyen Dzongpa Chokyong Gyaltsen (c.1455−c.1520) taught at Nalendra for a good part of his career. Urgyen Dzong was a holder of the seat at Jonang for several years, and was one of the major disciples of the great 15th century Jonang Kalachakra master Ratnabhadra.


Buton

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Comments

I liked the praise! I think that it is written from the heart!