Garab Dorje

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Garab Dorje (Fl. 55 CE) (Tibetan: དགའ་རབ་རྡོ་རྗེ་Wylie: dga’ rab rdo rje)[1] was the semi-historical first human teacher of the Ati Yoga (Tib. Dzogchen) or Great Perfection teachings according to Tibetan Buddhist tradition. (The Bon faith explains the origin of Dzogchen differently.)

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Garab Dorje or Garap Dorje is the only attested name. The Sanskrit offerings are reconstructions. No Sanskrit name has been found in a colophon to attest to historicity. That said, Germano (1992: p.4) cited "Vajraprahe" in the "Direct Consequence of Sound Tantra" within the Nyingma Gyubum (NGB1 24,1) and goes on to state in the same work that Reynolds (1989, 2000 revised)[2] reverses the two words in the contraction in his translation and analysis of a section of the Bardo Thodol from Tibetan into English, specifically the rig pa ngo sprod gcer mthong rang grol (Wylie) where he employs "Prahevajra". Germano (1992: p.4) holds that Reynolds lexical choice of "Prahevajra" was influenced by a mantra of a short Guru Yoga text by Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (c.1893-1959).[3]

Prahevajra or Pramodavajra [4] (Tibetan: Garab Dorje, Tibetan: དགའ་རབ་རྡོ་རྗེ་Wylie: dga’ rab rdo rje; Sanskrit: Prahevajra or Pramodavajra[1])


According to Tibetan Buddhism, Prahevajra transmitted the teachings to Manjushrimitra, who was regarded as his chief disciple. Padmasambhava is also known to have received the transmission of the Dzogchen tantras directly from Garab Dorje.[citation needed]

Prahevajra received the empowerment and transmission of the Mahayoga teachings of the Secret Matrix Tradition (Guhyagarbha tantra) from Mahasiddha Kukuraja.[1]


Born (as son of Su-dharmā, island-dwelling daughter of king Upa-rāja of Dhana-koṣa[5]) in the land of Uddiyana, also the birthplace of Padmasambhava, Prahevajra is said to have received all the Tantras, scriptures and oral instructions of Dzogchen directly from Vajrasattva and Vajrapani. Alternatively, his mother is named as Pāraņī, and located on the banks of lake Kutra.[6]

Dargyay, et al. (1977, 1998: p. 19) conveys the hagiographic nativity of Garab Dorje as well as briefly contextualizes his mother (a bhikṣuṇī whose sadhana was Yoga tantra) and her parents; the dream holds the vase of the Astamangala, the 'threefold world', 'oṃ  ā  hūṃ' and svāhā:

The Lord of Secrets (gSang-ba'i-bdag-po) instructed the Holders of Wisdom (Rig-'dsin) in Dhanakośa in Uḍḍiyāna the contemporary Swat valley. There was a large temple, called bDe-byed-brtsegs-pa; it was surrounded by 1608[7] smaller chapels. King Uparāja, and Queen sNang-ba-gsal-ba'i-od-ldan-ma resided there. They had a daughter called Sudharmā; she took the novice vows, and soon afterwards the full monastic vows. Sudharmā, together with her maidens, stayed on an island and meditated about the Yoga Tantra (rnal-'byor-gyi rgyud). One night the Bhikṣuṇī Sudharmā dreamed that a white man had come, who was utterly pure and beautiful. He held a crystal vessel in his hand which had the letters oṃ  ā  hūṃ  svāhā engraved upon it. Three times he set the vessel upon the crown of her head, and light then shone from it. While this happened, she beheld the threefold world perfectly and clearly. Not long after this dream the Bhikṣuṇī gave birth to a true son of the gods.[8]

Testament of Prahevajra

Upon his death, Prahevajra imparted his last testament to Manjushrimitra. These three precepts, known as the "Three Words that Strike to the Heart of the Essential Point" or Tsig Sum Nèdek (Wylie: tshig gSum gNad brDeg)[4] summarize the whole of the Dzogchen teachings:

  • One is introduced directly to one's true nature or "Direct introduction." (Wylie: ngo rang thog tu sPrad)[4]
  • One attains certainty about this natural state or "Remaining without doubt." (Wylie: thag gCig thog dug Cad)[4]
  • One continues with confidence in liberation or "Continuing in the non-dual state." (Wylie: gDengs grol thog du ’cha’)[4]


Though not his writings the tradition holds that the Seventeen Tantras were directly revealed to Garab Dorje. The following texts are attributed to Garab Dorje:

  • "Cutting Through the Three Times" (Tibetan: དུས་གསུམ་ཆིག་ཆོདWylie: dus gsum chig chod)
  • "Overwhelming the Six Modes of Consciousness with Splendour" (Tibetan: ཚོགས་དྲུག་ཟིལ་གནོནWylie: tshogs drug zil gnon)
  • "Natural Freedom That Underlies Characteristics" (Tibetan: མཚན་མ་རང་གྲོལWylie: mtshan ma rang grol)
  • "Direct Encounter with the Three Kayas" (Tibetan: སྐུ་གསུམ་ཐུག་ཕྲདWylie: sku gsum thug phrad)
  • "Vajra Fortress" (Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་མཁར་རྫོངWylie: rdo rje mkhar rdzong)
  • "Deep Immersion in Awareness" (Tibetan: རིག་པ་སྤྱི་བླུགསWylie: rig pa spyi blugs)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dharma Fellowship (2005). Biographies: Pramodavajra, Regent of the Divine. Source: [1] (accessed: November 15, 2007)
  2. Reynolds, John Myrdhin (translator, 1989, 2000 revised). Self-Liberation Through Seeing with Naked Awareness. [rig pa ngo sprod gcer mthong rang grol] Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion.
  3. Germano, David Francis (1992). "Poetic thought, the intelligent Universe, and the mystery of self: The Tantric synthesis of rDzogs Chen in fourteenth century Tibet." The University of Wisconsin, Madison. Doctoral thesis. Source: [2] (accessed: Friday December 18, 2009)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Déchen, Khandro & Ngak’chang Rinpoche (undated). "Dzogchen transmission of the non-dual state." Aro Encyclopædia. Source: [3] (accessed: February 1, 2008)
  5. Erik Pema Kunsang (translator) : Wellsprings of the Great Perfection. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong Kong, 2006. p. 125
  6. Erik Pema Kunsang (translator) : Wellsprings of the Great Perfection. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong Kong, 2006. p. 199
  7. 1608 may or may not be a typographical error. Usually, such numbers are multiples of 9 such as 108.
  8. Dargyay, Eva M. (author) & Wayman, Alex (editor)(1977, 1998). The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet. Second revised edition, reprint.Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd. Buddhist Tradition Series Vol.32. ISBN 81-208-1579-3 (paper), p.19


  • Reynolds, John Myrdhin; Ithaca NY 1996; Snow Lion; 'The Golden Letters' ISBN 978-1-55939-050-7
  • Dharma Fellowship (2005). Biographies: Pramodavajra, Regent of the Divine. Source: [4] (accessed: November 15, 2007)

External links

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