Translation with introduction to two Tibetan texts on concise meditation instructions, “Traversing the Path of Meditation” by the Jonangpa scholar Bamda Thupten Gelek Gyatso’s (1844-1904). Published in the book collection, A Gathering of Brilliant Moons: Practice Advice from the Rimé Masters of Tibet. Wisdom Publications, 2017.
On Bamda Lama: Bamda Thupten Gelek Gyatso (1844-1904) was born in the hamlet of Bamda in Amdo, a short horse ride through the barley fields to the monastic complex at Dzamthang, headquarters of the Jonang tradition. At an early age he was recognized as a re-embodiment of the famed Jonangpa scholar Tāranātha (1575-1634) and was raised in the formal monastic curriculum at Dzamthang Tsangwa Monastery. When he was nineteen, Bamda Gelek traveled to live in Degé district where he became integrally involved in the Kham intellectual scene throughout his twenties, studying closely with many of the Rimè luminaries of that period. In particular, Bamda Gelek studied with Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1890), Dza Patrul (1808-1887), the Fourth Jamyang Zhepa Kelzang Tubtan Wangchuk (1856-1916), and the eighth throne-holder of Dzogchen Monastery, Pema Badzra (1867-1934). With such diverse influences, trained within the Jonang, Shangpa, Dzokchen and Geluk traditions, Bamda Gelek’s twenty-two volumes of collected writings span a wide range of subjects. Among his extensive treatises are preserved two short sweet texts that record instructions spoken by Bamda Gelek: these two texts are introduced and translated here, “Extracting the Essence of Freedoms and Fortunes: Advice on the Precious Mind, Vajrayāna, and Dzokchen,” and his “Concise Personal Advice: Listening, Reflecting, and Meditating on the Path.” Taught aloud in real-time to spur his disciples along their path of spiritual transformation, these texts assume a heightened degree of receptivity from the audience due to their personal nature while stylistically each reflect the intimacy, directness, and idiosyncrasy that is so often attributed to this Tibetan genre of personal advice (zhal gdams).