Oddiyana

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Oddiyana (Skt. Oḍḍiyāna; Tib. ཨུ་རྒྱན་, Orgyen; Wyl. u rgyan) — one of the twenty-four sacred places, Oddiyana played an important role in the history of Buddhism, especially from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism. It is believed to be the homeland of both the Vajrayana and Dzogchen teachings, and is said to be the land where Garab Dorje, Vairotsana, Padmasambhava and Tilopa, amongst others, received the transmissions of Dzogchen. Buddhist texts speak of Oddiyana as a beautifully green and fertile kingdom, inhabited by gentle people often clothed in white, who had great respect for wisdom and learning. It was surrounded by high, rugged mountains, and in the broad valleys were towering white stupas and golden temple roofs. It seemed a paradise on earth and so was called “the royal garden” from the Sanskrit udyana. Oddiyana was also known as “the paradise of the dakinis”, as it was reputed for its unique sisterhood of priestesses—ladies dedicated to wisdom and spiritual development. These priestesses were not nuns, and lived in sanctuaries or forest chapels.

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History

With regard to the origins of the Vajrayana teachings, the tantric scriptures recount that it was King Dza of the kingdom of Zahor who first received the tantras, which landed miraculously on his palace roof. It is believed that Dza is another name for King Indrabodhi of Oddiyana. If this is the case, then the tantras began to be disseminated in Oddiyana.

The first human Dzogchen master, Garab Dorje, was born near Lake Kutra in Oddiyana. His disciple, Manjushrimitra, was Indian and received the teachings in Bodh Gaya, and the next lineage holder, Shri Singha, came from the Central Asian kingdom of Khotan, but it was in Oddiyana near Lake Dhanakosha that he passed the lineage to Vairotsana.

Padmasambhava, who was to introduce Vajrayana and Dzogchen to Tibet was miraculously born on Lake Dhanakosha and raised by the king of Oddiyana.

Many of the Dzogchen texts that were translated into Tibetan during the early period of transmission were translated from the language of Oddiyana.

Location

Most Tibetan texts simply explain that Oddiyana was a kingdom that lay to the west or northwest of India, and many Western scholars have identified it with the valley of Swat, in present-day northwestern Kashmir, in Pakistan.

However, Patrul Rinpoche gives a more precise indication of where Oddiyana was in The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Tib. Kunzang Lamé Shyalung)[1] when he describes the birthplace of Garab Dorje as being close to Lake Kutra in the region of Dhanakosha. Dhanakosha means ‘treasury of wealth’. This corresponds to a region between Chitral, Gilgit and Swat. John Reynolds suggests that “perhaps Uddiyana is actually a name of a much wider geographical area than the Swat Valley alone, one embracing parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even Western Tibet (Zhang Zhung)."[2]

Professor Lokesh Chandra has also argued that Oddiyana was located in South India.[3]

Notes

  1. Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher, Shambhala, Boston, 1998, p.339.
  2. Reynolds, John M., The Golden Letters, Snow Lion, Ithaca, New York, 1996, pp.211-212. www.keithdowman.net
  3. 'Oḍḍiyāna: A New Interpretation' in M. Aris & Aung San Suu Kyi, Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson, Warminster, 1980, pp. 73-78

Further Reading

  • Jamgön Mipham, White Lotus, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group (Boston and London: Shambhala, 2007)—five levels of meaning of 'Orgyen'.

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