Guhyagarbha Tantra

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Peaceful deities from the mandala of hundred peaceful and wrathful deities

Guhyagarbha Tantra (Skt.; Tib. རྒྱུད་གསང་བ་སྙིང་པོ་, Gyü Sangwé Nyingpo, Wyl. rgyud gsang ba'i snying po), The Essence of Secrets Tantra is the main tantra of the Mahayoga. It contains twenty-two chapters.[1]

Khenpo Namdrol writes: "Among the distinctions within Mahayoga, namely the great accomplishment pratices of the eight herukas and the eighteen classes of the great tantras, this Secret Essence Tantra extracts the essence of them all, as well as being the general tantra of enlightened mind. The twenty-two chapters of this tantra afford an explanation of the three tantras of the ground, path and result and, within the context of the tantra of the path, the ten topics of tantra."[2]


Its fuller title is the Glorious Web of Magical Illusion, The Secret Essence Definitive Nature Just As It Is (Tib. Pal Gyutrül Drawa Sangwé Nyingpo De Kona Nyid Ngé Pa, Wyl. dpal sgyu 'phrul drva ba gsang ba'i snying po de kho na nyid nges pa), which can itself be condensed to the alternative title of Tantra of the Web of Magical Illusion (Tib. Gyutrül Drawa Gyü, Wyl. sgyu 'phrul drva ba rgyud).

Commentarial Tradition

For centuries, detailed study of its root verses and many celebrated commentaries, including Longchenpa's Trilogy of Dispelling Darkness, Dodrupchen Jikmé Tenpé Nyima's Key to the Precious Treasury and Mipham Rinpoche's Essence of Clear Light, has been the key to understanding the Vajrayana’s most prominent themes and practices, such as empowerment, samaya, mantra recitation and the use of mandalas.

In Tibet, two major commentarial traditions of this tantra have developed:

Alternative Translations

  • Secret Essence Tantra
  • Tantra of the Secret Nucleus (Dorje & Kapstein)
  • Tantra of the Secret Essence

Tibetan Texts

The Guhyagarbha Tantra was translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan on four occasions, but principally by Nyak Jñanakumara and Ma Rinchen Chok, following the instruction of Vimalamitra.[4]



  • King Dza
    • Array of the Path of the Magical Net (སྒྱུ་འཕྲུལ་ལམ་རྣམ་བཀོད་, Wyl. sgyu 'phrul lam rnam bkod) (P.4737, NK Vol. 81)
    • Instruction on the Two Stages of the Guhyagarbha (Skt. śrīguhyagarbhakramadvayoddeśa) (P. 4771, NK Vol. 81)
  • Vilasavajra, Guhyagarbhamahātantrarājatīkā (Skt.)
དཔལ་གསང་བ་སྙིང་པོའི་འགྲེལ་པ་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་སྤར་ཁབ་, dpal gsang ba snying po'i 'grel pa rin po che'i spar khab


དཀོན་མཆོག་འགྲེལ་, dkon mchog 'grel
དཔལ་གསང་བ་སྙིང་པོ་དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད་ངེས་པའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་པ་ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་མུན་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་རྣམ་པར་སེལ་བ་, dpal gsang ba snying po de kho na nyid nges pa'i rgyud kyi 'grel pa phyogs bcu'i mun pa thams cad rnam par sel ba
  • Dispelling Darkness of the Mind (Tib. གསང་སྙིང་སྤྱི་དོན་ཡིད་ཀྱི་མུན་སེལ་, gsang snying spyi don yid kyi mun sel)
དཔལ་གསང་བ་སྙིང་པོའི་སྤྱི་དོན་ལེགས་པ་བཤད་པའི་སྣང་བས་ཡིད་ཀྱི་མུན་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་སེལ་བ་, dpal gsang ba snying po'i spyi don legs pa bshad pa'i snang bas yid kyi mun pa thams cad sel ba
  • Dispelling Darkness of Ignorance (Tib. གསང་སྙིང་བསྡུས་དོན་མ་རིག་མུན་སེལ་, gsang snying bsdus don ma rig mun sel)
དཔལ་གསང་བ་སྙིང་པོའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་བསྡུས་དོན་མ་རིག་པ་མུན་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་སེལ་བ་, dpal gsang ba snying po'i rgyud kyi bsdus don ma rig pa mun pa thams cad sel ba
  • Oral Instructions of the Lord of Secrets
དཔལ་གསང་བའི་སྙིང་པོ་དེ་ཁོ་ཉིད་ངེས་པའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ་སྒྱུ་འཕྲུལ་དྲྭ་བ་སྤྱི་དོན་གྱི་སྒོ་ནས་གཏན་ལ་འབེབས་པར་བྱེད་པའི་ལེགས་བཤད་གསང་བདག་ཞལ་ལུང་, dpal gsang ba'i snying po de kho nyid nges pa'i rgyud kyi rgyal po sgyu 'phrul drwa ba spyi don gyi sgo nas gtan la 'bebs par byed pa'i legs bshad gsang bdag zhal lung ff.
  • Ornament of the Wisdom Mind of the Lord of Secrets
དཔལ་གསང་བའི་སྙིང་པོ་དེ་ཁོ་ཉིད་ངེས་པའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་པ་གསང་བདག་དགོངས་རྒྱན་, dpal gsang ba'i snying po de kho nyid nges pa'i rgyud kyi 'grel pa gsang bdag dgongs rgyan
  • Mipham Rinpoche, Essence of Clear Light (Tib. འོད་གསལ་སྙིང་པོ་, Wyl. 'od gsal snying po), a commentary on Longchen Rabjam's commentary Dispelling Darkness in the Ten Directions.
གསང་འགྲེལ་ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་མུན་སེལ་གྱི་སྤྱི་དོན་འོད་གསལ་སྙིང་པོ་, gsang 'grel phyogs bcu'i mun sel gyi spyi don 'od gsal snying po
དཔལ་གསང་བའི་སྙིང་པོའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་སྤྱི་དོན་ཉུང་ངུའི་ངག་གིས་རྣམ་པར་འབྱེད་པ་རིན་ཆེན་མཛོད་ཀྱི་ལྡེ་མིག་, dpal gsang ba'i snying po'i rgyud kyi spyi don nyung ngu'i ngag gis rnam par 'byed pa rin chen mdzod kyi lde mig
  • Gyalsé Shenpen Thayé, The Heart Essence of Samantabhadra (Tib. ཀུན་བཟང་ཐུགས་ཀྱི་ཏི་ཀ་, kun bzang thugs kyi ti ka).

English Translations

Recordings of Khenpo Namdrol's teaching on Longchenpa's Dispelling Darkness in the Ten Directions, Dodrupchen's Key to the Precious Treasury, and Mipham Rinpoche's Essence of Clear Light are also available with English translation by Sangye Khandro from Light of Berotsana and the Zam Store

Teachings on the Guhyagarbha Tantra Given to the Rigpa Sangha

These teachings have been given several times to the Rigpa sangha, including:

Alternative Translations

  • Tantra of the Secret Nucleus Which is Definitive with Respect to the Real (Gyurme Dorje)


  1. There are actually three distinct versions of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, respectively in twenty-two, forty-six and eighty-two chapters. The concise version in twenty-two chapters is the one which is most widely studied within the Nyingma tradition (Source: Gyurme Dorje, Guhyagarbha Tantra: Introduction, PhD.).
  2. Introduction to Ju Mipham Jampal Gyepa'i Dorje, (2010), p. 1.
  3. Source: Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, The Treasury of Knowledge, Systems of Buddhist Tantra (2005), p. 352, and Ju Mipham Jampal Gyepa'i Dorje (2010), p. 21-23.
  4. Source: Gyurme Dorje, Guhyagarbha Tantra: Introduction, PhD.
  5. By chronological order.

Further Reading

  • Herbert V. Guenther, Matrix of Mystery: Scientific and Humanistic Aspects of RDzogs-Chen Thought, (Shambhala, 1984).
  • Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche & Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, Splendid Presence of the Great Guhyagarbha: Opening the Wisdom Door of the King of All Tantras, Dharma Samudra, 2011
  • Nathaniel DeWitt Garson, Penetrating the Secret Essence Tantra: Context and Philosophy in the Mahāyoga System of rNying-ma Tantra, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Virginia, 2004
  • Ringu Tulku, The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great, Shambhala Publications, 2006, pp. 75-79
  • Sam van Schaik, In search of the Guhyagarbha tantra

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