At the height of the Mongol Empire, a ten year old Tibetan child, Phagpa (1235-1280), was taken to the court of the Khans. He was educated there by his uncle, Sakya Pandita, and grew up speaking both Mongolian and Tibetan. While in his twenties, he created the first written alphabet for the Mongolian language. He became a religious advisor to Kublai Khan, and officiated at his installation as Emperor. As Kublai Khan had granted him regencies over the thirteen myriarchies of Tibet, he was titled Chogyal, or "Dharma King." His full name was Phagpa Lodro Gyaltsan Pal Zangpo. He was on familiar enough terms with the leaders of the Mongol empire, including Kublai Khan, that he wrote letters to them. In his capacity as a religious teacher he also gave them teachings about Buddhism. It is not unusual to have teachings about Buddhism that are written by Tibetan Lamas. What is unusual about Chogyal Phagpa's teachings is that he delivered them primarily to audiences that were neither Tibetan nor necessarily sympathetic to Buddhism. The ancestral traditions of the Mongols met with many, if not all, of the great religions of the world under the Mongol empire. Phagpa advised Kublai Khan and his court on religious concerns in general, while he also taught them his own religion, the Dharma of the Buddha. Buddhism is largely a peace loving tradition, while Chogyal Phagpa lived his life in a war torn world. He spoke out without reservation on many topics of government, while holding strong to the basic tenants of Buddhism. Those who study human rights and their protection will find Phagpa's arguments noteworthy. His sense of diplomacy is everywhere evident throughout his writings, while his sense of humanity is never lost. Phagpa's writings carry a sense of wonder, while his style of writing is extremely exacting. In a world where only a small minority spoke Tibetan, and writings might be interpreted or misunderstood in many ways, Phagpa wrote with great care for grammar and meaningful use of the language. His conscious efforts at literary excellence make his work a joy and a pleasure to read. I hope that some portion of this literary excellence is carried over in my humble translation. The texts translated in this volume are an anthology of his writings, as are the previous two volumes in this series: Chogyal Phagpa: The Emperor's Guru and Advice to Kublai Khan: Letters by the Tibetan Monk Chogyal Phagpa to Kublai Khan and his Court. In this volume you will find Chogyal Phagpa's writings on morality, ranging from the vows of refuge to the vows for the Vajrayana, the samaya. You will also find many of his poems and letters, and there is a biography of a Mahasiddha that he wrote. In the Tibetan, Chogyal Phagpa's collected works fill three large volumes of about a thousand pages each. There remain a very large number of works to be translated. I hope that these works translated here will serve to give you a sampling of his many remarkable writings and inspire you toward further reading.
At the Court of Kublai Khan: Writings of the Tibetan Monk Chogyal Phagpa, Christopher Wilkinson (Translator), Paperback, 173 Pages, 2017, $19.99
Christopher Wilkinson began his career in Buddhist literature at the age of fifteen, taking refuge vows from his guru Dezhung Rinpoche. In that same year he began formal study of Tibetan language at the University of Washington under Geshe Ngawang Nornang and Turrell Wylie. He became a Buddhist monk, for three years, at the age of eighteen, living in the home of Dezhung Rinpoche while he continued his studies at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1980 with a B.A. degree in Asian Languages and Literature and another B.A. degree in Comparative Religion (College Honors, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). After a two year tour of Buddhist pilgrimage sites throughout Asia he worked in refugee resettlement programs for five years in Seattle, Washington. He then proceeded to the University of Calgary for an M.A. in Buddhist Studies where he wrote a groundbreaking thesis on the Yangti transmission of the Great Perfection tradition titled “Clear Meaning: Studies on a Thirteenth Century rDzog chen Tantra.” He proceeded to work on a critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the 20,000 line Perfection of Wisdom in Berkeley, California, followed by an intensive study of Burmese language in Hawaii. In 1990 he began three years’ service as a visiting professor in English Literature in Sulawesi, Indonesia, exploring the remnants of the ancient Sri Vijaya Empire there. He worked as a research fellow for the Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation for several years, playing a part in the early development of the Rubin Museum of Art. In the years that followed he became a Research Fellow at the Centre de Recherches sur les Civilisations de l'Asie Orientale, Collège de France, and taught at the University of Calgary as an Adjunct Professor for five years. He has currently published twenty volumes of translations of Tibetan literature, and is currently engaged in further translations of these great classics.