Buddhism: Details about 'Tibetan Buddhist Canon'
The Tibetan Buddhist canon is a loosely defined list of sacred texts recognized by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Tibetan Canon underwent a final compilation in 14th Century by Bu-ston (1290-1364). The Tibetans did not have a formally arranged Mahayana canon and so devised their own scheme which divided texts into two broad categories:
The Bka' 'gyur is divided into sections on Vinaya, Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, other sutras (75% Mahayana, 25% Early Wisdom Schools aka Hinayana), and tantras. When exactly the term Bka' 'gyur was first used is not known. Collections of canonical Buddhist texts existed already in the time of Khri srong ide rtsan, the sixth king of Tubo.
The exact number of texts in the Bka' 'gyur is not fixed, each editor takes responsibility for removing texts he considers spurious, and adding new translations. Currently there are about 12 available Bka' 'gyur. These include the Derge, Lhasa, Narthang, Cone, Peking, Ugra, Phudrak, and Stog Palace versions, each named after the physical location
of its printing. In addition some canonical texts have been found in Tabo and Dunhuang which provide earlier exemplars to texts found in the Bka' 'gyur. All extant Bka' 'gyurs appear to stem from the Old Narthang Bka' 'gyur. The stemma of the Bka' 'gyur have been well researched in particular by Helmut Eimer.
In the Tibetan tradition, some collections of teachings and practices are held in greater secrecy than others. The sutra tradition is comprised of works said to be derived from the public teachings of the Buddha, and is taught widely and publicly. The esoteric tradition of tantra (below) is generally only shared in more intimate settings with those students who the teacher feels have the capacity to utilize it well.
Important Indian scholars
Two Indian Buddhist scholars are widely considered to be of paramount importance by Tibetan Buddhists. As such, they are referred to as the Two Supremes.
Six Scholarly Ornaments
These scholars's works are of secondary importance to the Tibetan Buddhist canon. As the ranking of their importance is not as universally recognized, there are occasionally substitutions made in this list.
Seventeen Great Panditas
sometimes made to the Seventeen Great Panditas. This formulation groups the eight listed above with the following nine scholars.
Five traditional topics of study
All four schools of Tibetan Buddhism generally follow a similar curriculum, using the same Indian root texts and commentaries. The further Tibetan commentaries they use differ by school, although since the 19th century appearance of the widely renowned scholars Jamgon Kongtrul and Ju Mipham, Kagyupas and Nyingmapas use many of the same Tibetan commentaries as well. Different schools, however, place emphasis and concentrate attention on different areas.
The exoteric study of Buddhism is generally organized into "Five Topics," listed as follows with the primary Indian source texts for each:
Five treatises of Maitreya
Also of great importance are the "Five Treatises of Maitreya." These texts are said to have been related to Asanga by the Buddha Maitreya, and comprise the heart of the Yogachara (or Cittamatra, Mind-Only) school of philosophy in which all Tibetan Buddhists are well-versed. They are as follows:
A commentary on the Ornament for Clear Realization called Clarifying the Meaning by the Indian scholar Haribhadra is often used, as is one by Vimuktisena.
Organisation of Tantric texts
Tibetan Buddhism typically divides the Tantras into four hierarchical categories, namely,
An alternate division is used by the Nyingma school: