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The science of sensual pleasure according to a Buddhist monk: Ju Mipam's contribution to kāmaśāstra literature in Tibet

  • Sarah H. Jacoby (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Of all the myriad aspects of Indian learning to be incorporated into Tibetan Buddhist scholarship, one of the least likely would seem to be the Indian science of sensual pleasure, kāmaśāstra. Even so, we do find traces of Sanskrit kāmaśāstra transposed into Tibetan Buddhist idiom. The most innovative example is the Treatise on Passion (’Dod pa'i bstan bcos) written by Ju Mipam Jamyang Namgyel Gyatso (1846–1912). This article investigates the reasons why the polymath monastic scholar Ju Mipam included kāmaśāstra in his expansive literary output, as well as his sources and influences for doing so. It argues that Mipam's work builds on an intertextuality already apparent in late medieval Sanskrit tantric and kāmaśāstric works, but one that took on new importance in the context of the non-biased outlook (Tib. ris med) that characterized Ju Mipam's nineteenth-century eastern Tibetan milieu.

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1 I wish to thank Wendy Doniger for her encouragement and useful feedback about this article from its early stages. The article benefitted from inclusion in a papers session on “Buddhism and sexuality” at the 2014 American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego co-sponsored by the Buddhism Section and the Religion and Sexuality Group. In addition, input from Matthew Kapstein, Vesna Wallace, Jeffrey Hopkins, Douglas Duckworth, Donald Lopez, Theresia Hofer, and Barbara Gerke made this a better work. Last but not least, I am grateful to the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (formerly Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, TBRC), without which accessing the Tibetan texts cited here would have been exponentially more difficult.

2 Ali Daud, “Rethinking the history of the kāma world in early India”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 39, 2011, 2 .

3 Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, Gsung ’bum, vol. 4 (nga) (New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Gurudeva, 1973, TBRC W23430), 40–1. Another translation of this passage can be found in Tsong-ka-pa H.H. the Dalai Lama, and Hopkins Jeffrey, Tantra in Tibet (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1977), 201 .

4 “No indigenous [Tibetan] account of the topic [eroticism] seems to exist” according to Vogel Claus, “Surūpa's Kāmaśāstra, an erotic treatise in the Tibetan Tanjur”, Studia Orientalia XXX, 1966, 3 .

5 For the Tibetan work, see Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum, vol. 13 (nga), (Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1984–93, TBRC W23468), 525–90; and Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos (Delhi: T.G. Dhongthog, 1969, TBRC W1KG5251).

6 Lopez Donald S., The Madman's Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

7 Hopkins Jeffrey, Tibetan Arts of Love (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1992). Currently there is another translation of Chöpel's Treatise on Passion in press: Chopel Gendun, The Passion Book: A Tibetan Guide to Love and Sex, trans. Lopez Donald S. and Jinpa Thupten (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

8 Lopez, The Madman's Middle Way, 34. Except when otherwise noted, such as in this case, all Tibetan–English translations are my own.

9 Jeffrey Hopkins, Tibetan Arts of Love, 41–2.

10 Smith E. Gene, Among Tibetan Texts (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001), 327 n. 782. Here Smith also adds that “it should be noted that Mi pham's ‘Dod pa'i bstan bcos (Chandra [1963], v. 1 no. 3382) is not one of his sparkling works”.

11 There is no evidence that Mipam ever had a consort, though according to Khenpo Tsültrim Lodrö of Larung Gar in Serta, Kandzé Tibetan Autonomous Province (TAP), PRC, he is said to have taught in traditional Tibetan non-monastic dress and not monk's robes. See Duckworth Douglas, Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Teachings (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2011), 211 n. 4.

12 Hopkins, Tibetan Arts of Love, 19–21; 39.

13 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 136.

14 Phuntsho Karma, “Ju Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho: his position in the Tibetan religious hierarchy and a synoptic survey of his contributions”, in Prats Ramon N. (ed.), The Pandita and the Siddha: Tibetan Studies in Honor of E. Gene Smith (Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Institute, 2007), 191 .

15 For more on Mipam's biography, see Pettit John W., Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999); Duckworth, Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Teachings; Goodman Steven D., “Mi-Pham rgya-mtsho: an account of his life, the printing of his works, and the structure of his treatise entitled mKhas-pa'i tshul la ’jug-pa'i sgo”, in Davidson Ronald M., (ed.), Wind Horse: Proceedings of the North American Tibetological Society (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1981), 5878 ; Douglas Duckworth, “Mipam Gyatso”, The Treasury of Lives, http://www.treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Mipam-Gyatso/4228.

16 Phuntsho, “Ju Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho”, 191. Phuntsho mentions just one person who wrote more, Bodong Paṇchen Choklé Namgyel (Bo dong paṇ chen phyogs las rnam rgyal).

17 For Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) holdings of works Mipam authored, see http://tbrc.org/#!rid=P252. Editions of Mipam's collected works include Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum (see n. 5); Mi pham rgya mtsho, Mi pham gsung ’bum las gzhung ’grel skor, 33 vols (Khreng tu'u: ’Jam dpal d+hI yig ser po'i dpe skrun tshogs pa, 2008, TBRC W1PD76231); Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum, 32 vols (Khreng tu'u: Gangs can rig gzhung dpe rnying myur skyobs lhan tshogs, 2007, TBRC W2DB16631); Mi pham rgya mtsho. Gsung ’bum, 42 vols (Gser rta rdzong: Gser rta bla rung sgar, 2014, TBRC W3JT13533).

18 Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, 231.

19 In the bibliography of scholarship on Mipam published in 2011 in Duckworth, Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Teachings, 229–32, 17 of the 21 references pertain directly to Mipam's philosophical treatises.

20 Duckworth, Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Teachings, 11.

21 Cuevas Bryan J., “The ‘calf's nipple’ (be'u bum) of Ju Mipam ('Ju Mi pham)”, in Cabezón José Ignacio (ed.), Tibetan Ritual (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 167 .

22 For a history of these ten Buddhist “arts and sciences”, see Schaeffer Kurtis R., “New scholarship in Tibet, 1650–1700”, in Pollock Sheldon (ed.), Forms of Knowledge in Early Modern South Asia: Explorations in the Intellectual History of India and Tibet, 1500–1800 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011).

23 Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, 231; Phuntsho, “Ju Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho”, 195; Cuppers Christoph, “On the manufacture of ink”, Ancient Nepal: Journal of the Department of Archeology, no. 113, 1989 . For Mipam's compendium on practical arts, see Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum (Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1984–93, TBRC W23468), vol. 10 (ka), 71138 .

24 For Mipam's Sanskrit–Tibetan dictionary, see Mi pham ’jam dbyangs rnam rgyal rgya mtsho, Skad gnyid shan sbyar rab gsal nor bu'i me long (KaHthog: ’Jam dbyangs dge legs chos ’phel, n.d., TBRC W1KG15077). For his Kāvyādarśa commentary, see ’Jam mgon mi pham rgya mtsho, Snyan ngag me long gi ’grel pa dbyangs can rol mtsho (New Delhi: Getse tulku kundgalodoy, 1969, TBRC W30290).

25 For more on these verse forms and other Tibetan meters, see Sujata Victoria, Tibetan Songs of Realization (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 123–5; 35–6.

26 Monier-Williams defines citriṇī as a woman endowed with various talents” in Sir Monier-Williams Monier, A Sanskrit–English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1899), 397 . The Tibetan translation ri mo can can mean “painter”, “artist”, or can refer to something possessing a design.

27 Ali Daud, “Padmaśrī’s Nāgarasarvasva and the world of medieval Kāmaśāstra”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 39, 2011, 45 .

28 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 105.

29 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, 107.

30 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, 107.

31 For an analysis of the cultural influences on funerary practices in Tibet, in particular the possible Zoroastrian or Persian origins of sky burial, see Stoddard Heather, “Eat it up or throw it to the dogs? Dge ’dun chos ’phel (1903–1951), Ma cig lab sgron (1055–1153) and Pha Dam pa sangs rgyas (d. 1117): a ramble through the burial grounds of ordinary and ‘holy’ beings in Tibet”, in Jacoby Sarah and Terrone Antonio (eds), Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and Their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas (Leiden: Brill, 2009).

32 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 109.

33 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 109–10. This is reminiscent of a statement in Vātsyāyana's Kāmasūtra: “Because a man and a woman depend upon one another in sex, it requires a method, and this method is learned from the Kamasutra. The mating of animals, by contrast, is not based upon any method …”. See Vatsyayana, Kamasutra, trans. Doniger Wendy and Kakar Sudhir (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), v. 1.2.17–20, p. 9.

34 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 110.

35 Mipam's omission of oral sex from his list of eight may be significant, for in the Kāmasūtra (v. 2.9.6–24) this is where homosexual acts appear in the form of oral sex between a man and someone of the “third nature”, who can be a man imitating a woman. In Mipam's Treatise on Passion, there is no mention of people of a third nature or of homosexual acts. Thanks to Wendy Doniger for calling my attention to the potential significance of this omission. It remains to be clarified whether this omission was Mipam's or one of his Tibetan predecessor's, though in either case it accords with the heteronormativity pervasive in Buddhist scriptures.

36 Hopkins, Tibetan Arts of Love, 41.

37 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 111.

38 Dge 'dun chos 'phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, 'Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 111–2.

39 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 113.

40Nir kha ta” is the Sanskrit word nirghāta (blast of wind) transcribed in Tibetan, with a note appended in Tibetan describing its meaning as “rab bsnun”, or “intense thrust”.

41 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 113–4.

42 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 114–5.

43 The explanation for “pressing” is very similar to part four of the fifth erotic art “sexual positions” in Mipam's list, also called “pressing”, (’tshir ldan), although the roles are reversed – above it is the man doing the pressing and here it is the woman on top pressing down.

44 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 115–6. “Doing it the village way” is a tentative translation of grong gi bya ba.

45 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 116.

46 Ali, “Padmaśrī's Nāgarasarvasva and the world of medieval Kāmaśāstra”, 47.

47 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 118–9.

48 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 118. The medicinal herb translations in this verse are drawn from Dr Drungtso Tsering Thakchoe and Mrs Drungtso Tsering Dolma, Bod lugs sman rtsis kyi tshig mdzod bod dbyin shan sbyar, Tibetan–English Dictionary of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology (Archana: Drungtso Publications, 2005).

49 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 120.

50 Salamander, crab and sparrow flesh (da byid sdig srin mchil pa'i sha) are described in the Bod rgya tshig mdzod as “types of medicines made from animals” (srog chags sman gyi rigs). See sun Krang dbyi (ed.), Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo, vol. 1 (Beijing: The Nationalities Publishing House, 1993), 848; 1235; 463. According to Dr Arya Pasang Yonten, Dictionary of Tibetan Materia Medica (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1998), 95 , “salamander,” or da byid (Latin Batrachuporus pinchonii) is the most powerful aphrodisiac. “Crab” (sdig srin) appears in two varieties: a “white” (dkar po) variety (Lat. Potamon yunnanense, freshwater crab) and a black (nag po) variety (Lat. Butnus martensi, scorpion) according to Dga' ba'i rdo rje, 'Khrungs dpe dri med shel gyi me long (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang), 377.

51 “Crazy honey” (sbrang smyon) is poisonous honey accumulated by a poisonous honeybee according to 'dul Dgra, las Byams pa 'phrin, gro Lho brag tshe ring bag, grub Bsod nams don, et al. , Bod lugs gso rig tshig mdzod chen mo (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2006), 607 .

52 Mandragora caulescens (Tib. kha shog pa), synonym Mandragora chinghaiensis, is sometimes called the Himalayan mandrake. See Arya, Dictionary of Tibetan Materia Medica, 18.

53 Tib. thang phrom, appearing in a white variety (thang phrom dkar po) known in Latin as Przewalskia tangutica Maxim and a black variety (thang phrom nag po) known in Latin as Scopolia stramonifolia. These are part of the family of flowering plants called Solanaceae, Eng. nightshade. See Dr Tsering Thakchoe Drungtso and Mrs Tsering Dolma Drungtso, Tibetan–English Dictionary of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology, 183. For more about types of thang phrom, see also Arya, Dictionary of Tibetan Materia Medica, 89–90.

54 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 120. For reference to Mipam's expertise in processing mercury, called “tamed” mercury (dngul chu dul ma), see Czaja Olaf, “On the history of refining mercury in Tibetan medicine”, Asian Medicine 8/1, 2013, 91–3. On mercury processing in Tibetan medicine, see also Gerke Barbara, “The social life of Tsotel”, Asian Medicine 8/1, 2013 and Simioli Carmen, “The ‘Brilliant moon Theriac' (Zla zil dar ya kan)”, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines 37, 2016 .

55 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 125–8.

56 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 132.

57 More Tibetan antecedents for Mipam's Treatise on Passion may yet come to light, but the other work currently listed in TBRC as part of the kāmaśāstra (’dod pa’i bstan bcos) genre (Sle lung bzhad pa’i rdo rje, 1697–1740, “Rgyo ’dod skyes bu’i gdung sel”, TBRC W8LS19933) is a tantric text about bringing sexual desire onto the path ('dod chags lam du khyer), not an antecedent to Mipam and later Gendün Chöpel’s projects to write Tibetan works based on the Sanskrit genre of kāmaśāstra.

58 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 135.

59 Gzugs bzang, “’Dod pa'i bstan bcos”, in Bstan ’gyur dpe bsdur ma (Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa'i dpe skrun khang, 1994–2008, TBRC W1PD95844), vol. 27, 1033–40.

60 Rang byung rdo rje. “Bstan bcos ’gyur ro ’tshal gyi dkar chag”, in Gsung ’bum (Xining: Mtshur phu mkhan po lo yag bkra shis, 2006, TBRC W30541), vol. nga, 595–718.

61 grub Rin chen, “Bstan ’gyur gyi dkar chag yid bzhin nor bu dbang gi rgyal po'i phreng ba”, in Gsung ’bum (Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2008, TBRC W1PD45496), vol. 26, 575902 .

62 Ibid., 976. Interestingly, Ali finds this symmetrical scheme of four types of females and four types of corresponding males in the fifteenth-century Pañcasāyaka, and later Sanskrit kāmaśāstra works, but the existence of this 8-fold typology in the Tengyur's Treatise on Passion suggests it originated earlier. See Ali, “Padmaśrī's Nāgarasarvasva and the world of medieval Kāmaśāstra”, 45, n. 19.

63 Gzugs bzang, “’Dod pa'i bstan bcos”, 976.

64 In his study and translation of the Tengyur Treatise on Passion, Claus Vogel translates these Tibetan constellations including: 1) smin drug; 2) smal po mgo; 3) khra (wa in Mipam's work); 4) rta chung; 5) bre; and 6) phul dag, as corresponding to the months of Kārttika (16 Oct.–15 Nov.), Mārgaśīrṣa (16 Nov.–15 Dec.) and Phālguna (16 Feb.–15 March). See Vogel, “Surūpa's Kāmaśāstra”, 24, n. 4.

65 On the increasing importance of procreation in later Indic kāmaśāstra works, see Ali, “Padmaśrī's Nāgarasarvasva and the world of medieval Kāmaśāstra”, 50–51; Zysk Kenneth G., Conjugal Love in India: Ratiśāstra and Ratiramaṇa: Text, Translation, and Notes (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 11 .

66 “Khro bo rgyud kyi rgyal po dpa’ bo gcig pa”, in Bka’ ’gyur dpe bsdur ma (Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa'i dpe skrun khang, 2006–09, TBRC W1PD96682), vol. 80, 9191039 .

67 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 125, and George Christopher S., The Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇa Tantra, Chapters I–VIII (American Oriental Series Vol. 56. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1974), 117, lines 43–5; 18 lines 1–25.

68 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 125–6; George, The Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇa Tantra, Chapters I–VIII, 71; 114.

69 Ali, “Rethinking the history of the Kāma world in early India”, 1–2.

70 Doniger and Kakar point out the “short shrift” Vātsyāyana gives to mokṣa; see Vatsyayana, Kamasutra, xiii–xiv.

71 Ali, “Padmaśrī's Nāgarasarvasva and the world of medieval Kāmaśāstra”, 49; 54.

72 George, The Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇa Tantra, Chapters I–VIII, 71 n. 65.

73 Vimalaprabhāṭīkā of Kalkin Śrīpuṇḍarīka on Śrīlaghukālacakra tantrarāja by Śrīmañjuśrīyaśas, vol. 2 (Rare Buddhist Text Series, vol. 12), ed. V. Dwivedi and S.S. Bahulkar (Sarnath, Varanasi: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 1994), 118. Thanks to Vesna Wallace for calling my attention to this reference.

74 For Mipam's two-volume Kālacakra commentary and his related liturgical writings, see Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum, vol. 17 (e), 18 (waṃ), and 25 (Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1984–93, TBRC W23468), 525–90.

75 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 134.

76 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 135.

77 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 137.

78 For a nuanced analysis of this, see Hopkins Jeffrey, Mi-pam-gya-tsho's Primordial Enlightenment: The Nying-ma View of Luminosity and Emptiness, Analysis of Fundamental Mind, with Oral Commentary by Khetsun Sangpo (Dyke: UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies, uma-tibet.org, 2015).

79 Alexander Gardner, “The twenty-five great sites of Khams: religious geography, revelation and nonsectarianism in nineteenth century eastern Tibet” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2006); Holmes-Tagchungdarpa Amy, The Social Life of Tibetan Biography: Textuality, Community, and Authority in the Lineage of Tokden Shakya Shri (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014), 4750 .

80 Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, 245–6.

81 Kun bzang chos brag, “Gang ri'i khrod kyi smra ba'i seng ge gcig pu ’jam dgon mi pham rgya mtsho'i rnam thar snying po bsdus pa dang gsung rab kyi dkar chag snga ’gyur bstan pa'i mdzes rgyan”, in Mi pham rgya mtsho, Gsung ’bum, vol. 8 (hung) (Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1984–93, TBRC W23468), 678–9.

82 Vatsyayana, Kamasutra, xiv. Doniger and Kakar draw this insight from the ways in which the Kāmasūtra argues for both the cultivation of passion and its control. After all, according to Vātsyāyana, he composed the Kāmasūtra “in chastity and in the highest meditation” (v. 7.2.57).

83 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 136.

84 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 136.

85 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 136.

86 Dge ’dun chos ’phel and Mi pham rgya mtsho, ’Dod pa'i bstan bcos, 136.

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