“The Case of the Missing Shangpas in Tibet.” In Reasons and Lives in Buddhist Traditions: Studies in Honor of Matthew Kapstein, 113-128. Edited by Daniel Arnold, Cecile Ducher, and Pierre-Julien Harter. Boston: Wisdom Publications: Boston.
Abstract: The Shangpa (shangs pa) Kagyu lineage, as Matthew Kapstein has described, is like “some vine that adorns a whole forest without being able to stand by itself,” so much so that it “may strike one who follows its twists and turns as being virtually an omnipresent element in Tibetan Buddhism.” Continuing with this analogy, this paper begins to trace the twists and turns of the Shangpa’s entangled history from its reception in India and formidable institutional origins at the time of its founder, Kyungpo Naljor (1050-1127), to its later assimilation into mainstream Buddhist traditions with virtually no institutionalized presence of its own in Tibet. In so doing, we look at the networks and strategies that the Shangpas employed to transfer their lineage of philosophical knowledge through the generations and across the Tibetan plateau. This paper seeks to address critical questions such as, “Why did the institutional presence of the Shangpas wane?” and “What forces both contributed to this waning, as well as to the continuity of the Shangpas lineage transmissions?” In particular, we highlight the lineage networks recorded by Kunga Drolchok (1507-1565) in his work on the transmissions that he received (gsan yig) titled, A Bounty of Teachings (Bstan pa’i nor bdzas). This chapter gives attention to the recompilation of Tibetan knowledge about the early Shangpa lineages in order to begin the processes of untangling select knots that have come to inhibit a better historical vision of the reception of this Buddhist tradition’s philosophical import from India, and its continuation in Tibet.