Tradition of the Perfect Eon

The "now" is important for any tradition. For it is in the process of bringing the past into the present wherein a tradition is brought to life. However, the past, and in particular the excavation of knowledge from the past, is arguably just as important for the life of a tradition.

As we discussed in the "Wheel of Time" series, this excavation process is a true concern for Dolpopa and later Jonangpa thinkers.[1] For them, this is the hermeneutical act of retrieving the pure teaching from the pure time: the dharma of the Kṛtayuga or Perfect Eon.

However, there is more to this. There is then the act of transferring meaning ― lived meaning ― into the present. This is a careful process. A surgical deliberation that involves the transference of language, culture, and history ― or what I like to call, "ancestry."

Within the Jonangpa, we have two slightly variant lineages of ancestry that have merged through the multi-generational transmission: (a) zhentong lineage masters and (b) Kālachakra lineage masters. Then, as with all five of the major Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Jonangpa have integrated numerous lines of esoteric transmission for various tantric cycles into their tradition as a whole.

Nonetheless, there are certain tantras that Dolpopa deemed especially important and as part of the tradition of the Perfect Eon. This is clearly elaborated in his short prayer of the tradition where he writes with a lamenting voice, making a plea for future generations to take notice of direction they are headed in, and giving us a very succinct record of what he considered to be the core teachings of the Perfect Eon. From the Supplication of the Kṛtayuga Tradition it reads,[2]

Om. May it be accomplished!

Due to the manifold decline of view, the teachings have degenerated.

This is unbearable for the ordinary mind.

Since it’s so unbearable that many of our kind mother and father sentient beings have gone astray down a perverted path, I urge you to cry out with sorrow to all the victors and their heirs in the ten directions ― so that we may be seized with compassion!

You, endowed with marvelous and space-encompassing omniscience,
Power and strength, enlightened qualities and activities,
Bestow your blessings!

Off in the opposite direction of the profound prajñāpāramitā,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this profound prajñāpāramitā,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of the Great Madhyamaka,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Great Madhyamaka,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of magnificent nirvāṇa,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this magnificent nirvāṇa,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of mahāmudrā,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this mahāmudrā,
Seize us with compassion!

[ ... ]

Off in the opposite direction of Vajrasattva,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Vajrasattva,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of the genuine nature,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this genuine nature,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of Ati yoga,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Ati yoga,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of Samantabhadra,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Samantabhadra,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of Chakrasaṃvara and Hevajra yoga,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for these Chakrasaṃvara and Hevajra yoga,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of Guhyasamāja,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Guhyasamāja,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of Kālachakra,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Kālachakra,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of the vajra-expanse,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this vajra-expanse,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of the Vajra Pinnacle Tantra,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Vajra Pinnacle Tantra,
Seize us with compassion!

Off in the opposite direction of the Glorious Prime Supreme Tantra,,
Oh, how sad it is to yearn for this Glorious Prime Supreme Tantra,
Seize us with compassion!

[ ... ]

Though this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive record of the teachings associated with the Perfect Eon, what Dolpopa decided to include here does give us an impression of what he considered to be the most essential to this tradition. Again, recall that these teachings of the Kṛtayuga [Perfect Eon] tradition are presented in contrast to those of the Tretayuga [Third Eon] tradition.

There are the usual suspects of the prajñāpāramitā, the Great Madhyamaka system of zhentong, and the Kālachakra but then there are perhaps some less obvious or at least less stressed sets of teachings including: Ati yoga or Dzogchen, Chakrasaṃvara and Hevajra yoga, and Guhyasamāja.




Endnotes:

1. See the earlier posts, "Wheel of Time" I, "Wheel of Time" II and "Wheel of Time" III.

2. Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Supplication of the Kṛtayuga Tradition. Translated by Michael R. Sheehy. Rdzogs ldan gyi gsol ‘debs,, vol. 8 (taṃ), 367-370. In Kun mkhyen Dol po pa’i Gsung ‘bum, ‘Dzam thang.

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Comments

I see in your first three paragraphs the movements of excavating the past and transferring meaning into the present, which you used in the first part of your talk at the Rubin Museum of Art last night, albeit with different words. I shall read the previous "Wheel of Time" posts in order to understand more.

Dolpopa's poem of the Perfect Eon tradition is most beautiful. His expression of yearning for dharma reminds me of "The Wildwood Delights" by Longchenpa. Thanks for your translation.

Nikki

Nikki:

Thank you for the comment & for participating in the blog.

Yes, the motion of transference is something that is on my mind & has been for awhile. Living with the Jonangpa for the past few years, I have felt a strong sense of ancestry & tradition among them. I have only begun to discover the significance of this. Hopefully, this is something that we can explore further through future posts.

All the best,

M.s.