Namthar recommendations

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asdfjkl1979
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Namthar recommendations

Post by asdfjkl1979 »

Hello Everyone

I'm doing an MA in Buddhist Studies and for my dissertation I'm looking at the topic of Life-writing as a form of practical instruction. To this end I'd be keen to hear any recommendations of clear, good quality biographical or autobiographical writing that are available in English translation.

Much appreciated!
Danny
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Danny »

Life of Shabkar , milarepa, variocana etc. there’s an embarrassment of riches.
asdfjkl1979
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by asdfjkl1979 »

Danny wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:13 pm Life of Shabkar , milarepa, variocana etc. there’s an embarrassment of riches.
Thanks, Danny!

I'd be really interested to know what your favourites are, or which you think are particularly good examples. As a slight aside, I'm also interested in reading the life-stories of less famous practitioners (although I realise they are less likely to have their life recorded or, indeed, available in translation!)

Cheers
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javier.espinoza.t
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by javier.espinoza.t »

"The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chokyi Wangchug" by ChNN.

i'm not trying to make propaganda, is just that this namthar is really like a scholar thing, the most detailed i have seein. it aint easy to follow the story without looking the references, etc.

imo, in general it explains the situation, difficulties mostly, that Khyentse Chokyi Wangchunk had to face being a tulku in the middle of a decaying system. maybe good material for your MS.
asdfjkl1979
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by asdfjkl1979 »

javier.espinoza.t wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:35 pm "The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chokyi Wangchug" by ChNN.

i'm not trying to make propaganda, is just that this namthar is really like a scholar thing, the most detailed i have seein. it aint easy to follow the story without looking the references, etc.

imo, in general it explains the situation, difficulties mostly, that Khyentse Chokyi Wangchunk had to face being a tulku in the middle of a decaying system. maybe good material for your MS.
It's also one of my favourites and is most definitely on the list to revist :twothumbsup:
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PeterC
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by PeterC »

javier.espinoza.t wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:35 pm "The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chokyi Wangchug" by ChNN.

i'm not trying to make propaganda, is just that this namthar is really like a scholar thing, the most detailed i have seein. it aint easy to follow the story without looking the references, etc.

imo, in general it explains the situation, difficulties mostly, that Khyentse Chokyi Wangchunk had to face being a tulku in the middle of a decaying system. maybe good material for your MS.
I believe ChNNr strongly suggested that all his students read this at one point. I did, I learned a lot of things that weren't particularly pleasant but were definitely worth knowing.
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javier.espinoza.t
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by javier.espinoza.t »

PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 2:16 pm
javier.espinoza.t wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:35 pm "The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chokyi Wangchug" by ChNN.

i'm not trying to make propaganda, is just that this namthar is really like a scholar thing, the most detailed i have seein. it aint easy to follow the story without looking the references, etc.

imo, in general it explains the situation, difficulties mostly, that Khyentse Chokyi Wangchunk had to face being a tulku in the middle of a decaying system. maybe good material for your MS.
I believe ChNNr strongly suggested that all his students read this at one point. I did, I learned a lot of things that weren't particularly pleasant but were definitely worth knowing.
yes, he was displeased because there was so few of his students that readed it, so he said it in an open webcast.

i too learned, well, about how students can cause so much trouble for their teachers, how plots and political things can mess up the buddha activity, etc. also that reaponsabilities like management of office affairs shouldn't be given to people that are prone to make factions.

it's tedious (lol), but it's a worth as you say.
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PeterC
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by PeterC »

javier.espinoza.t wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:01 pm yes, he was displeased because there was so few of his students that readed it, so he said it in an open webcast.

i too learned, well, about how students can cause so much trouble for their teachers, how plots and political things can mess up the buddha activity, etc. also that reaponsabilities like management of office affairs shouldn't be given to people that are prone to make factions.

it's tedious (lol), but it's a worth as you say.
It's a necessary read for anyone who romanticizes the tulku system, or the monastic system in tibet, or tibetan aristocracy generally

Since OP was asking for namthar recommendations: can't go wrong with Milarepa, Marpa, Padampa Sangye (translation by David Molk), Padmasambhava (translation by Erik Pema Kunsang)
Danny
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Danny »

asdfjkl1979 wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:19 pm
Danny wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:13 pm Life of Shabkar , milarepa, variocana etc. there’s an embarrassment of riches.
Thanks, Danny!

I'd be really interested to know what your favourites are, or which you think are particularly good examples. As a slight aside, I'm also interested in reading the life-stories of less famous practitioners (although I realise they are less likely to have their life recorded or, indeed, available in translation!)

Cheers
I don’t read Religious biographies, they just don’t hold any interest for me personally. They’re pretty formulaic in structure with faith and devotion as foundational bedrock they build the narrative around.
Shabkars is interesting because it has that in spades, but there are also amazing instructions scattered within, but you need the x ray eyes to see those, and really speaks to his realization and is also a matter of fact depiction of his life.

So that holds my attention for awhile.
Lesser known stories would include Ayu Khandro,
Namkhai Nyingpo, Tokden Shakya Shri etc
What I mean is there are real hidden gems, but as for academic purposes, your going to have to dig.
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cyril
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by cyril »

Chagdud Tulku's "Lord of the Dance" is a good read imo. A very candid and engaging narrative, nothing like the dry traditional namthars. Not sure how useful for an academic dissertation though.
"You have to make the good out of the bad because that is all you have got to make it out of."
- Robert Penn Warren -
Charlie123
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Charlie123 »

Blazing Splendour by Tulku Urgyen is really wonderful.
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heart
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by heart »

mandog wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:43 pm Blazing Splendour by Tulku Urgyen is really wonderful.
:good: Also https://www.shambhala.com/wondrous-danc ... usion.html

It is pretty fantastic, but you need at least permission to read it.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
Charlie123
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Charlie123 »

One of the most unique namthars I have read is Dungse Thinley Norbu's 'A Brief Fantasy History of a Himalayan'. It is completely unlike any other book in the genre. I really like it.
Terma
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Terma »

"Precious Essence" is the inner autobiography of the treasure revealer Terchen Barway Dorje. An excerpt from the introduction says-

"The editor of this autobiography was Kagyu Tashi of Kyodrak Monastery. He was a renowned teacher, scholar, and Siddha in his own right, although he adopts a veil of modesty here in his role as a devoted disciple requesting his master to tell of his life and deeds. He became one of the principal holders of the Barom Kagyu teachings of Barway Dorje and of his teachings in general."

Wonderful first hand accounts of his time spent with his guru Chokgyur Lingpa, of revealing treasures, as well as several "songs of realization" at the request of his disciples.

"The Light of Dawn" is a biography of the 2nd Barway Dorje and in some ways I like it better. It is a rather recent account of life of some great master's in Kham during the early to mid parts of the last century from stories regarding prediction letters surrounding Barway Dorje's rebirth, his training in the Karma Kagyu tradition as well as that of his own treasure tradition, and many other great accounts that really put you in a specific time and place.

Also, I put in my vote for "Blazing Splendor" as well. Wonderful.
yagmort
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by yagmort »

i would exclude Milarepa namthar by Tsang Nyon Heruka as it is mostly a fiction
Fortyeightvows
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Fortyeightvows »

asdfjkl1979 wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 12:43 pmI'm looking at the topic of Life-writing as a form of practical instruction.
form of practical instruction so alot of people have given recommendations for different material, but this is an important part of the question I think.
Does anyone have any input on that part ?

Aside from a vague "inspiration", had anyone ever read one of those books and be moved to action?
Read one of those books and then taken on a practice they hadn't done before?

I'll say that teachers will often use the stories from the past masters to teach lessons, and I think that a few of trungpa's books, like the life of Naropa and the mishap lineage have teachings of how the biography contain instructions for practice.
Fortyeightvows
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Fortyeightvows »

yagmort wrote: Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:58 am i would exclude Milarepa namthar by Tsang Nyon Heruka as it is mostly a fiction
I feel like we could probably say that about alot of the Milarepa stories, but what part of it do you say is fiction
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Lingpupa
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by Lingpupa »

asdfjkl1979 wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 12:43 pm Hello Everyone

I'm doing an MA in Buddhist Studies and for my dissertation I'm looking at the topic of Life-writing as a form of practical instruction. To this end I'd be keen to hear any recommendations of clear, good quality biographical or autobiographical writing that are available in English translation.

Much appreciated!
Could you perhaps clarify whether you are interested in the literary genre or in the actual lives of these people? I guess it's the first, so Miarepa's life would be excellent - it's influential and more entertaining than some of the miracle-upon-wonder-upon-marvel works. If you are looking for much insight into actual lives, the pickings would be much thinner. In that case, I'd suggest Sarah Jacobi's (sp.?) work on Sera Khandro.
All the best
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yagmort
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by yagmort »

Fortyeightvows wrote: Sat Jul 11, 2020 6:17 am
yagmort wrote: Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:58 am i would exclude Milarepa namthar by Tsang Nyon Heruka as it is mostly a fiction
I feel like we could probably say that about alot of the Milarepa stories, but what part of it do you say is fiction
it's not me who says that.

for example, this is a quote from the earliest biography of Milarepa by Gampopa as described by Roberts at pp 64-65 of "biographies of Rechungpa".
...In this earliest biography of Milarepa, key narrative details differ considerably from later versions such as Tsangnyön’s, where more dramatic alternatives have replaced these comparatively mundane events.

Milarepa’s father does not die while he is young, and his mother is never mentioned. It is said that there is only the father and son, so she appears to have died while he was a child. When Milarepa returns home, it is therefore to see his father, and he discovers that he has died in the meantime. The word for sister and female cousin is identical in Tibetan, and there is a point in the narrative when a paternal aunt and a female cousin visit him. The latter is presumably the seed for the later narrative of the sister. There is no mention of enmity between Milarepa and his aunt. On the contrary, she solely concerned for his welfare.

Though he becomes a sorcerer, there is no mention of any use he made of this in his early years, and at no point is it inferred that his training was a bad thing. Marpa does not refuse to give Milarepa teachings, but as Milarepa has no money to pay for them he does household tasks, such as carrying water in exchange for the instruction. He is not said to erect or demolish buildings.

When Marpa has finished teaching Milarepa he sends him to Ngoktön for more detailed teaching. Milarepa therefore does not escape with Damema’s aid so as to secretly study under Ngoktön.

When Milarepa is snowed in on Lachi (La-phyi) Mountain, Milarepa mistakes the calls of the search party for the cries of animals. He eventually makes a smoke signal to attract their attention. He does not, as in Tsangnyön, transform into a snow leopard that leads the search party to his cave...
you can find this earliest biography translated in full in "The Yogin and The Madman" by Andrew Quintman, (Appendix I), which itself is also an interesting read.
asdfjkl1979
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Re: Namthar recommendations

Post by asdfjkl1979 »

Thanks for all the suggestions so far guys!


Could you perhaps clarify whether you are interested in the literary genre or in the actual lives of these people? I guess it's the first, so Miarepa's life would be excellent - it's influential and more entertaining than some of the miracle-upon-wonder-upon-marvel works. If you are looking for much insight into actual lives, the pickings would be much thinner. In that case, I'd suggest Sarah Jacobi's (sp.?) work on Sera Khandro.

Lingpupa - its an interesting question. I think both although it would be fascinating to find stuff that talked about individuals' lives as practitioners - e.g. they practiced this, then this, then this etc. I completely understand the reasons that these things are less likely to appear in a published work although there are some examples (e.g. Jamgon Kongtrul's autobiography). At the moment though, this is early stages, so I'm keen to be guided by the content of the biogra[hies themselves - I don't have a particularly strong hypothesis beyond understanding their content and/or use as 'practical instruction'.
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