treasury of precious instructions

The Books of the Treasury of Precious Instructions

An overview of the existing and forthcoming books of the Treasury of Precious Instructions.  These brief descriptions are adapted from the Catalog where you will find more detail on each volume and the Treasury as a whole.

Nyingma, Volumes I & II

Thus the first two volumes of the Treasury of Precious Instructions concern the teachings of the Nyingma school, established in the eighth century with the arrival in Tibet of masters such as Padmākara and Vimalamitra. Kongtrul classifies the texts included in these volumes according to the Nyingma model of the three yogas (mahāyoga, anuyoga, and atiyoga) and the three categories within atiyoga: the Category of Mind (sems sde), the Category of Expanse (klong sde), and the Category of Direct Transmission (man ngag sde).

Volume II will be released first, in 2022 or 2023.

Kadam, Volumes III & IV

The third and fourth volumes contain texts from the Kadampa tradition that sprang from the teachings of the great Indian master Atīśa (980–1054) and structured itself on what the late E. Gene Smith called “the fundamental contribution of Atīśa—the Graduated Path (Lam rim), with its emphasis on the exoteric as an indispensable foundation for the esoteric.” These texts are categorized under three headings: the source texts (gzhung), which in this case are short works by Atīśa; the spiritual instructions (gdams ngag), which here focus on the system known as “mental training” (blo sbyong); and the pith instructions (man ngag), which include Vajrayāna teachings and practices.

Sakya Lamdre, Volumes V & VI

Volumes 5 and 6 contain teachings transmitted in the lineage of the Sakya school, founded by Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158). The Sakya school is noted in particular for the system known as Lamdre
(the Path with the Result), which focuses on the Hevajra cycle and incorporates teachings on the three levels of Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna.
As Kongtrul describes the contents of these two volumes:

In the section dealing with the third system, that of the spiritual advice concerning Lamdré (“The Path and Its Fruition”), are found the primary source—The Vajra Verses—and its commentaries, as well as the source text on The Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana, with the instruction manuals and explanatory essays concerning this text. The section also includes the empowerment for the “pith instruction” tradition of Hevajra; texts from the extensive, more direct, and extremely direct lineages of the Lamdré teachings; the instructions on threefold purity according to the tantra The Vajra Pavilion; the “eight later cycles concerning the spiritual path”; and the “spiritual connections of the six avenues.” The auxiliary instructions include those concerned with Parting from the Four Kinds of Attachment; a ritual to honor the gurus of the Lamdré.

Marpa Kagyu, Volumes VII, VIII, IX, X

The next four volumes of The Treasury of Precious Instructions (volumes 7 to 10) focus on teachings from the Kagyu tradition of Marpa the Translator (1012–1097)—Kongtrul’s primary affiliation, at least at that stage of his life—with its numerous schools and subschools. In the Vajrayāna context, the Kagyu teachings have a dual emphasis on the path of skillful method (Tib. thabs lam), epitomized by the Six Dharmas of Nāropa, and the path of freedom (Tib. grol lam), that is, the teachings on Mahāmudrā.

Shangpa Kagyu, Volumes XI & XII

Volumes 11 and 12 contain the teachings of the Shangpa Kagyu school founded by the remarkable Tibetan master Khyungpo Naljor (990–1139), who is reputed to have lived to the age of 150, visited India seven times, and studied with more than 150 masters, including the two dakinis Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. Kongtrul had a special affinity with this tradition, which he felt was in danger of losing its identity as a distinct tradition, owing both to the vicissitudes of the Tibetan religio-political scene and to the fact that many of its teachings had been absorbed into other schools. Kongtrul was very concerned that the Shangpa Kagyu not just survive but thrive as a viable school of spiritual thought and practice, and to this end he made it a major focus in his program for the three-year, three-month retreat center he established at his hermitage of Kunzang Dechen Ösel Ling, near Palpung Monastery, the seat of the Tai Situpas in eastern Tibet. Kongtrul’s dedication to preserving and revivifying the Shangpa Kagyu tradition was carried on by one of his incarnations, Kalu Rinpoche Karma Rangjung Kunkyap Trinle Pal Zangpo (1908–1989), so that the school is currently undergoing something of a renaissance and has gained the support of such eminent figures as the current Tai Situ Rinpoche, Pema Dönyö Nyingje.


Zhije, Volume XIII

The Zhije tradition, which takes its name (Pacification of Suffering) from a line in the Heart Sutra that describes the mantra of Prajñāpāramitā as “the mantra that brings about the pacification of suffering,” is based on teachings brought to Tibet by Dampa Sangye (d. 1117) during some five visits to Tibet, organized into three main lineages with numerous branch lineages. With an enormous number of teachings that were brought from Buddhist India to Tibet over several centuries, the Severance tradition is renowned as the single example of a school of Buddhist thought and practice developed in Tibet that was accepted as authentic by Indian students and taken back to their home country to be promulgated there

It includes source scriptures by Dampa Sangye, empowerments by Lochen Dharmashrī (of Mindroling), and guidance by Dampa Sangye, Lochen Dharmashrī, and Sönam Pal. Also included are lineage charts related to the transmission of Zhije teachings as well as detailed notes and an orientation to the texts by translator Sarah Harding.

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Chöd, Volume XIV

In this, the fourteenth volume, Kongtrul compiles the teachings on Severance, or Chöd. It includes some of the tradition’s earliest source scriptures, such as the “grand poem” of Āryadeva, and numerous texts by the tradition’s renowned founder, Machik Lapdrön. Kongtrul also brings together the most significant texts on the rites of initiation, empowerments for practice, and wide-ranging instructions and guides for the support of practitioners. Altogether, this quintessential guide to Severance offers vast resources for scholars and practitioners alike to better understand this unique and remarkable tradition—the way of severing the ego through the profound realization of emptiness and compassion.

Kalachakra and Orgyen Nyendrup, Volume XV

Volume 15 includes teachings from the last two of the eight lineages of accomplishment: that of Vajra Yoga (also known as the Six Branches of Union, or Jordruk) and Dorje Sumgyi Nyendrup (Stages of Approach and Accomplishment of the Three Vajras). The former is a system of advanced tantric practices based on the teachings of the Kālacakra tantra, particularly as transmitted through the Jonang tradition of Tibet. Though ostensibly a tantra of the Sarma tradition, the Kālacakra was also highly esteemed in the Nyingma school. The great Nyingma master Jamgön Ju Mipam Gyatso (1846–1912) wrote a two-volume commentary on the Kālacakra cycle and considered the teachings of this tradition to reflect those found in the Dzogchen approach of the Nyingma. The final lineage is the least known among the eight, one transmitted by the master Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal (1230–1309), who was also a student of the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204–1283), and a teacher of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339). Orgyenpa received this lineage, which incorporates practices also found in the Vajra Yoga approach, in a visionary transmission from Vajravārāhī and other ḍākinīs. Although the lineage continued unbroken until Kongtrul’s time, it was another tradition that he considered “exceedingly rare and in danger of dying out.”

Mahasiddha Practice: From Mitrayogin and Other Masters, Volumes XVI and XVII

In a traditional manner to ensure an auspicious conclusion to the collection, volume 16 and 17 contains transmissions focusing on the deities of longevity: the white Tārā, Amitāyus, and Uṣṇīṣavijayā.
As Kongtrul writes:

The ninth section of this collection contains a number of unrelated teachings—spiritual advice that derives from various traditions. These include the blessing ritual and instructions concerning the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas; the individual empowerments and instructions for The Six Instructions of Maitripa; the cycles of Mahakarunika Chittavishramana and The Threefold Quintessential Meaning as  transmitted in the Zhalu tradition; the five definitive instructions on Avalokiteshvara; Thangtong Gyalpo’s practice associated with the six-syllable mantra; the Mahamudra instructions and The Sutra Ritual of the Sage from the Bodong tradition; the instruction on chandali and the transference of consciousness transmitted by Rechen Paljor Zangpo; the “mother transference” of Rongtön; the instructions on the “seven lines of specific transmission” according to the new translations of the Jonang tradition; and various kinds of alchemical procedures.

The collection concludes in a positive manner with the authorizations for the three deities of longevity, the intimate oral lineage of the seven-day longevity sadhana, the instructions for the longevity practice of White Tara according to the tradition of Bari Lotsawa, and a ritual to honor the three deities of longevity.

Volume 16 entitled, "Mahasiddha Practice," is available now and Volume 17, the continuation of Kongtrul's compilation of miscellaneous instructions will be released soon.

This volume, which is not about the Jonang tradition (!), is actually the most essential volume of the entire Treasury.    Kongtrul included it but its author is the 16th century adept Jetsun Kunga Drolchok.  Kongtrul  describes the teachings and transmissions in this volume as “supports for all the foregoing teachings”.  In other words this is the wellspring of the content in the previous volumes.  It was the inspiration for Jamgön Kongtrül and the essential basis for all the other teachings.

The manuals are in fact mostly Kagyu, Sakya, and Kadam, with a few from the Nyingma tradition as well.  It ranges from foundational Buddhist teachings (e.g. Parting from the Four Attachments, lojong, etc.) to the tantric practices from across all the eight “chariots” or traditions that came from India.

So why is the title of this volume called Jonang?  Because that’s where Kunga Drolchok wrote them.  While he held the monastic seat of Jonang monastery, as these guidebooks make obvious, he was a true Rime figure, studying and deeply practicing the most profound dharma without being hung up on identifying himself as a holder of a particular school.

This was the penultimate translation of one Gyurme Dorje, one of the greatest translators of Tibetan into English.  Read more about Gyurme here.  

Jonang, Volume XVIII

Available Books from the Treasury of Precious Instructions