Garwang Dorje

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Garwang Dorje b.1640 - d.1685

Name Variants: Garwang Dawa Gyeltsen; Ngari Terton Garwang Dorje; Ngari Terton Rigdzin Garwang Dawa Gyeltsen; Ngari Terton Rigdzin Garwang Dorje; Pema Garwang Tsel

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Garwang Dawa Gyeltsen (gar dbang zla ba rgyal mtshan) was born in Nubri Yam (nub ri g.yam) or Gungtang (gung thang), Ngari (mnga' ris).

He was considered to be an emanation of three of Padmasambhava’s disciples: Namkhai Nyingpo (nam mkha'i snying po, d.u.), Nyak Jñānakumara (gnyags dznya na ku ma ra, d.u.) and Nanam Dorje Dudjom (sna nam rdo rje bdud 'joms, d.u.). Some also consider him a further incarnation of the First Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Rigdzin Godemchen Ngodrub Gyeltsen (rdo rje brag rig 'dzin 01 rig 'dzin rgod ldem chen dngos grub rgyal mtshan, 1337-1409), the founder of the Jangter (byang gter), or Northern Treasures.

In his youth he went into retreat in Kyimolung (skyid mo lung) to accomplish a form of Avalokiteśvara from Dudul Dorje’s (bdud 'dul rdo rje, 1615-1672) Mahākāruṇika treasure cycle. He sat below a boulder in the shape of a tortoise, where he is said to have had a vision of three naked women who sang and danced for him, eliciting such exhilaration that he flew to a rock shaped like a coiled black snake. The three women are said to have been the guardians to treasure he was destined to reveal, and to have accompanied him on his subsequent treasure revelations.

His first revelation, which was said originally to have been discovered and re-concealed by Rigdzin Godemchen, was The Mirror of the Enlightened Mind of Vajrasattva (rdo sems thugs kyi me long), a teaching on the six yogas using the language of Dzogchen. His other treasures include: The Great Compassionate One, the Heart Essence of the Three Roots (thugs rje chen po rtsa gsum snying thig) which is presented as a special practice given by Padmasambhava at the request of his close female disciples especially for females. Dawa Gyeltsen extracted this text from the statue Jowo Pakpawati (jo bo 'phags pa wa ti), a famous seventh-century sandalwood image of the Buddha in Kyirong (skyid rong).

As is common for Tibetan treasure revealers, as he became known for his revelations Dawa Gyeltsen took a treasure name, Garwang Dorje Tsal, the name by which he is generally known today.

Other treasures are: The Unsurpassed Innermost Oral Lineage of Padmasambhava (padma'i snyan brgyud yang sang bla med), a Dzogchen teaching titled The Self-Illuminating Dharmadhatu: the Profound Essence (zab tig chos dbyings rang gsal), a long life practice titled The Vajra Knot (rdo rje rgya mdud), a volume on Vajrakīlaya, and a volume on the practice of Chod.

As Brian Cuevas describes, Dawa Gyeltsen met the treasure revealer Nyima Drakpa (nyi ma grags pa, 1647-1710) some time in 1675. Nyima Drakpa was then on pilgrimage in Ngari with his guru, the First Dzogchen Drubwang, Pema Rigdzin (rdzogs chen grub dbang 01 pad+ma rig 'dzin, 1625-1697). Dawa Gyeltsen gave Nyima Drakpa his treasures, but requested that the latter wait one year before opening them.

The following year Nyima Drakpa and Dawa Gyeltsen exchanged further teachings, and Dawa Gyeltsen recounted a dream by which he affirmed Nyima Drakpa's status as an authority on the Self-Liberated Wisdom of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol), a treasure tradition initiated by fourteenth-century revealer Karma Lingpa (karma gling pa, d.u.) that includes the Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo (bar do thos grol), the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. Dawa Gyeltsen also performed an enthronement ceremony, naming Nyima Drakpa a "vajra king" (rdo rje rgyal po). Garwang Dorje later wrote a commentary on one of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities treasures discovered by Nyima Drakpa, with the title Great Protection from Fear: An Explanation on Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo (bar do thos pa rang grol gyi khrid yig 'jigs skyob chen mo).

The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 05 ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1618-1682), is said to have evaluated Garwang Dorje's treasures in consultation with the Nyingma hierarch Terdak Lingpa (gter bdag gling pa, 1646-1714) of Mindroling Monastery (smin grol gling dgon), after which he issued a declaration declaring Garwang Dorje to be an authentic revealer of treasures and permitting him to work and travel freely.

Garwang Dorje passed away in 1685. His reincarnation was identified in the person of Chowang Dorje Dzinpa (chos dbang rdo rje 'dzin pa, d.u.), the son of a yogi named Nyida Longsel (nyi zla klong gsal, d.u.), a close disciple of Garwang Dorje. The young boy was educated at Mindroling under Terdak Lingpa and later based at a monastery established by his father.




Bradburn, Leslie, ed. 1995. Masters of the Nyingma Lineage. Cazadero: Dharma Publications, 1995, pp. 265-266.

Cuevas, Bryan. 2003. The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 189-190.

Gu ru bkra shis. 1990. Gu bkra’i chos 'byung. Beijing: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, pp. 580-581. TBRC W20916.

'Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas. 2007. Mnga' ris gter ston gar dbang zla ba rgyal mtshan (pad+ma gar dbang rtsal). In Gter ston brgya rtsa'i rnam thar, pp. 178-179. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1PD83972.

Ngag dbang bstan 'dzin nor bu. 1972. Gcod yul nyon mongs zhi byed kyi bka' gter bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar byin rlabs gter mtsho. Gangtok: Sonam Topgay Kazi, p. 53. TBRC W19811.

Thub bstan rgyal mtshan. 1992. Po ta lar bzhugs pa'i rnying ma'i gsung 'bum dkar chag. Lhasa, pp. 69-71. TBRC W19822.


Michael Burroughs
October 2013