WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO: Tengyur is the second Himalayan Buddhist canonical corpus, alongside the Kagyur. Literally, the translation of treatises, it is made up of numerous literature composed mostly by Indian masters as exegeses and commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings.

Tengyur has some 225 volumes of over 4,000 texts and 150,000 pages on subjects ranging from philosophy, psychology, art of mind training, rituals, phenomenology, epistemology, logic, astrology, politics, arts and crafts, poetry, synonymy to language and grammar. It contains the classics of the Indian Buddhist tradition written by authors such as the great masters of Nalanda University. The books were translated into Classical Tibetan since the eighth century and most of the translation was finished by the 14th century. Tibetan scholars such as Buton Rinchendrub are credited with the compilation of Tengyur into a canonical corpus in the 14th century.

Today, there are five major versions of Tengyur produced from xylographic prints. In addition, there are also manuscript Tengyurs such as the golden Tengyur in Tashichodzong produced during the reign of the 3rd Druk Gyalpo. The Tengyur collection is classified into eulogies, tantras, Perfection of Wisdom commentaries, writings on the Middle Way, Sūtra commentaries, writings on Mind Only, Abhidharma commentaries, monastic discipline, Jataka, epistles, logic and epistemology, linguistics, medicine, arts and crafts, politics and miscellaneous writings. The different versions vary in size and number of texts as new translations are sometimes added to the collection. Today, there are also new modern typeset versions and efforts are also being made to translate the texts from the Tengyur corpus.

Just like the Kagyur, Tengyur is much cherished property and produced through much care using the best substances. It is treasured in a temple shrine room and venerated by the devotees. People bow before it and receive blessings from it. Tengyur is also read to help people overcome illness and misfortunes and paraded across the valley to bless the land. Many texts from the Tengyur canon also form the textbooks and references for monastic education. It is considered highly meritorious to create, commission the creation, buy, own, carry, host, read and worship the Tengyur canon as it represents the path to enlightenment and treasury of knowledge.

Dr Karma Phuntsho, is the founding director of Loden Foundation and author of The History of Bhutan


Skip to toolbar