The Works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

The literary legacy of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is encapsulated in two distinct collections: the Kabum (Collected Works) and the Kabab Dun (Seven Transmissions). These two collections provide a comprehensive view of Khyentse Wangpo’s life and literary contributions, which were prolific and diverse. His writings span the full scope of Tibetan Buddhist lineage traditions, reflecting the nineteenth-century nonsectarian Rimé spirit that he embodied.

Khyentse Wangpo composed texts on a wide range of topics, showcasing his deep knowledge and erudition. Some of his writings delve into the intricacies of Buddhist philosophy, while others focus on practical aspects of religious practice, rituals, and meditation instructions. Khyentse Wangpo is perhaps most well known for his extensive treasure revelations (terma), which were collected and preserved within his Kabab Dun. His works also encompass histories of Buddhist traditions, prayers, notes, and much more.

Khyentse Wangpo’s Collected Works: The Kabum

Khyentse Wangpo’s Kabum is an extensive compilation of his literary oeuvre. It encompasses a wide array of subjects and literary genres, and serves as the primary repository of his writings spanning over five decades—from his mid-teens until shortly before his passing in his early seventies in 1892. Covering various philosophical traditions and practice lineages from all major Tibetan Buddhist schools, this collection illustrates his impartiality toward these traditions and his deep appreciation for their unique characteristics. The Kabum includes writings on Buddhist practices, rituals, liturgy, spiritual instructions, histories, biographies, pilgrimage guides, and diverse fields of knowledge, such as grammar, medicine, arts and crafts, and more. Additionally, it contains personal writings like letters and guidance to students, providing glimpses into Khyentse Wangpo’s inner life and spiritual accomplishments.

The first complete version of the Kabum, compiled in thirteen volumes in 1919 at Dzongsar Monastery in Tibet under the guidance of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959), was based on the first collection of Khyentse Wangpo’s works in two volumes by his disciple Ngari Chöje Kunga Jamyang (d. 1876). There was an unfortunate setback when the original woodblocks were lost during the tumultuous late 1950s; only an incomplete xylographic copy remained. This was the basis for a subsequent edition in twenty-four volumes published in Gangtok, Sikkim, in the late 1970s by Gönpo Tseten. A computer-input edition was created at Dzongsar Monastery in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Lodrö Puntsok.

The recent 2014 edition contains twenty-five volumes with about 14,000 Tibetan pages. It is noteworthy that there is a considerable overlap between the Kabum and other collections compiled under the auspices of Khyentse Wangpo, such as the Compendium of Sādhanas (Drubtab Kuntu), the Treasury of Revelations (Rinchen Terdzö), the Treasury of Instructions (Damngak Dzö), and the Compendium of Tantras (Gyude Kuntu).

The Kabum is divided into eleven sections, each with a specific thematic focus, spread across the volumes—which are further grouped into smaller subsections. The eleven major sections are as follows:

1. Praises and Supplications Supplemented by Prayers for Longevity and Swift Rebirth
2. Discourses
3. The Essence of the Intent of Sūtra and Mantra, the Inner Science

Part 1: Notes and Excerpts from Scriptures of Vinaya, Sūtra, Abhidharma, and Tantra of the Sarma and Nyingma Traditions

Part 2: Notes on the Sarma Later Translation Tradition and Miscellaneous Excerpts from Sūtras and Tantras

4. Teachings That Illuminate the Meaning of Sūtra and Mantra
5. Sādhana Rituals on Meditational Deities

Part 1: The Sarma Traditions

Part 2: Various Sādhanas, Activity Rites, and Pith Instructions of the Three Roots from the Nyingma Early Translation Tradition

6. Clarifications on the Major and Minor Fields of Knowledge
7. Historical Writings Based on the Origins of the Dharma, Various Biographies of Many Learned and Accomplished Masters, Monastic Chronicles, and Letters
8. Miscellaneous Essentials
9. Guru Yoga Practices and Profound Vajra Songs
10. Personal Advice and Instructions
11. Lists of Sacred Sites and Objects along with Dedication and Aspiration Prayers and Invocations of Auspiciousness

Khyentse Wangpo’s Seven Transmissions: The Kabab Dun

The Kabab Dun collection represents Khyentse Wangpo’s role as a treasure revealer who received seven types of teaching transmissions. These transmissions are briefly introduced in Khyentse Wangpo’s short autobiography and further elucidated in his extensive biography penned by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye (1813–1899). The collection comprises twenty-two volumes with a total of about 15,400 pages and is structured around the seven transmissions, which are as follows:

1. Oral Transmissions
2. Earth Treasures
3. Rediscovered Treasures
4. Mind Treasures
5. Recollections
6. Pure Visions
7. Aural Lineages

The Kabab Dun primarily includes writings linked to Khyentse Wangpo’s visionary experiences as the treasure revealer Pema Ösal Do Ngak Lingpa. In contrast to the Kabum, which almost exclusively contains material authored by Khyentse Wangpo himself, the Kabab Dun contains works by other authors, including contemporary masters, to supplement Khyentse Wangpo’s treasure cycles. The collection features writings by Khyentse Wangpo’s direct disciples, such as Jamgön Kongtrul, Chokgyur Lingpa (1829–1870), Adzom Drugpa (1842–1924), and others. There are also works by subsequent generations of masters and scholars who upheld Khyentse Wangpo’s tradition, most notably Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Paljor (1910–1991), and Khenpo Puntsok Namgyal (b. 1965), with the latter having been chosen by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche to be the custodian of the Kabab Dun collection. The Kabab Dun further includes copious works from the Treasury of Revelations.

Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö initially planned to create the collection, and he identified texts within the Treasury of Revelations to be included in it. Dilgo Khyentse wrote the first catalog upon the request of Dr. Lodrö Puntsok. The main objective of its compilers was to continue the dissemination of the transmissions and practices associated with Khyentse Wangpo’s role as a treasure revealer. The edition that Khyentse Vision Project is using as its primary reference, which was assembled at Dzongsar Monastery in 2013, benefited greatly from the contributions and guidance of the eminent scholars Khenpo Puntsok Namgyal and Dr. Lodrö Puntsok.

The Khyentse Vision Project Catalog

Over the last several years, Khyentse Vision Project has produced a detailed catalog of these two collections based on the Kabum 2014 and the Kabab Dun 2013 editions. This catalog is the backbone of our reading room of translations and is openly accessible on our website. It contains an exhaustive list of all works within the Khyentse Kabum and Kabab Dun collections, offering a complete English translation of all 2,335 titles. Additional data is included for each text, such as the locations of the texts in the three major editions, their authors, genre attributions, terma cycles, and the authors of source texts in the case of commentarial material. We also identified texts overlapping with the previously mentioned collections associated with Khyentse Wangpo and duplicate texts within the Kabum and Kabab Dun. Furthermore, as we continue to publish new translations, we are collecting data about when and where Khyentse Wangpo composed his works, the names he used to sign them, and people associated with the texts, such as individuals who requested their composition or were their intended addressees, in order to create a digital map and trace Khyentse Wangpo’s activities as an author, treasure revealer, and traveler across Tibet.

The catalog is designed to help readers navigate the collections of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s literary works, which offer invaluable insights into his life, teachings, and contributions to Tibetan Buddhism. They exemplify his nonsectarian approach, expansive knowledge, and dedication to preserving and disseminating the rich traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. These collections are significant contributions to the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism and stand as a testament to Khyentse Wangpo’s enduring legacy. Khyentse Wangpo’s contributions, from his extensive writings to his role as a treasure revealer, continue to shape the tradition’s landscape. As we delve into his legacy, we find a timeless message of harmony and shared wisdom—a legacy that continues to illuminate the path of Tibetan Buddhism today.