Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo

ISSN 2332-077X

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Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo mid 8th cent.

Name Variants: Nyang Tingngedzin Zangpo; Nyangben Ting-nge-dzin Zangpo

Nyangben Tingdzin Zangpo (myang ban ting 'dzin bzang po) was a member of the illustrious Nyang  clan. He was a monk, hence his title Nyangben (myang ban), or “monk of the Nyang clan. His grandfather was Nangzang Dukong (snang bzang 'dus kong), held the official post of drungpa (brung pa) in 745 but fell from power and was executed. Tingdzin Zangpo made up for this by helping to ensure the succession of King Tri Songdetsen's (khri srong lde'u btsan), son, Senalek Jinyon (sad na legs mjing yon), also known as Mutik Tsenpo (mu tig btsan po), in 798, and he served as tutor to prince Tride Songtsan (khri lde srong btsan).

Nyang is credited in some sources with advising King Tri Songdetsen to invite Vimalamitra to Tibet from India. Nyang became one of Vimalamitra's closest disciples, receiving from him the Nyingtik teachings. Despite Tingdzin's affiliation with the Indian teacher, the Nyang family was on the losing side during the so-called Samye Debate, siding with the Chinese religionists, where their more powerful rival, the Ba (sba / 'ba' / dba) family, supported the Indian Buddhists. Nevertheless, Nyang Tingngedzin seems to have suffered no ill effects of the apparent defeat.

When Tride Songtsan ascended the throne in c.800 Nyang Tingdzin became court minister. The new king gave his tutor land in Uru (dbu ru) where he constructed the Zha temple (zhwa lha khang) during the reign of Relpachen (ral pa chen). The king praised Nyang Tingdzin in an inscription he had carved on two stone pillars (800-815 CE) that can be still seen today. The pillars describe the monk as a humble and faithful servant who attempted to decline the gift of the land out of modesty.

The name of the temple relates to the deity Nyang Tingdzin assigned as its guardian. Nyang subjugated the deity Dorje Legpa (rdo rje legs pa), who offered grain to Nyang Tingdzin to pay for the construction, pouring a continuous stream of hail-turned-barley into Nyang's hat.

Following Vimalamitra's exile to China and his long absence from Tibet, Nyang is said to have practiced the Nyingtik for fifty years, mastering it, and transmitting it to Drom Rinchen Bar ('brom rin chen 'bar). He also transmitted the teachings to Ku Changchub O (khu byang chub 'od), who taught them to Kyungpo Yik O (khyung po dbyig 'od), who transmitted them to Rongzom (rong zom). More famously, however, Nyang Tingngedzin concealed the Nyingtik texts in his Zha Temple, placing some in a clay pot above the gatehouse lintel, and others in the three-tiered capital of the central pillar. There they were discovered there by Dangma Lungyel (dang ma lhun rgyal) in the eleventh century.

In the year 814 Nyang also participated in the Mah?vyutpatti, the great Imperial translation dictionary.

Some sources record that Tingngedzin was executed during the reign of Langdarma, but most agree that he died in his fifty-fifth year, his body dissolving into rainbow light in the Drak Lhalu (brag lha klu) cave on Chakpori Hill, just across from the Potala. He was the first Tibetan recorded as displaying this level of attainment.




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Jakob Leschly
August 2007