Mtho Lding

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (blue Annals) > Reference Resources - The Blue Annals > Place Names Cited in Blue Annals > Place Names ta-tha-da-na > mtho lding

Toding (མཐོ་ལྡིང་)

by Christopher Bell

General information

NameToding (མཐོ་ལྡིང་); Toling (ཐོ་ལིང་)
Period10th century
Transliteration formmtho lding; tho ling
PronunciationToding; Toling
Etymologyhigh, superior-to float; high-mark, land
Sectarian affiliationGelukpa
Source of informationDung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang.
Roerich, George. 1949 1996. The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
Shakabpa, Tsepon. 1967. Tibet: A Political History. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center #G2194
external link:
ProvinceTibet Autonomous Region
Cultural locationWest Tibet
Location's languageWest Tibetan Dialect (mnga' ris skag[?])
Location description"In the village administrative unit of Toling, in the district of Tsahreng, within the county of Tsadadzong, in the region of Ngari."
Date founded996
FounderRinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po); by the patronage of the king of Guge in Ngari, Lhalama Yeshé Ö (lha bla ma ye shes 'od)
Blue Annals References(pp. 84, 86, 87, 247, 249). The discussion of Toding monastery in the Blue Annals centers mainly around its founding by Lhalama Yeshé Ö (84) and the time spent there by Atīśa (247) and Rinchen Zangpo (249), the details of which are discussed in the historical summary below. One other significant detail is Toding being a center for translation: "Having brought from Nepāla, the Sanskrit text of the Śrāmaṇeravarṣāgrapṛcchā (dGe-tshul-gyi dang-po'i lo-dri-ba), when [Gyelwa Sherap] come to Tho-ling, he consulted the Sanskrit text (of the book) which belonged to Dharmapāla. Then having corrected it in the presence of the upādhyāya Narayadeva of Kāśmīra, he translated it, as well as taught it" (86). "The Śrāmaṇeraśikṣāpadasūtra (dGe-tshul bslab-pa'i gzhi-mdo) was translated and taught by the learned translator (sgra-skad byang-pa'i lo-tsā-ba) the monk gZhon-nu mchog at Tho-ling, assisted by the learned paṇḍita Parahita of Kāśmīra, and the scholar Mahājana, who belonged to a numerous Lineage" (87).

Historical Summary

Toding (or Toling) was one of the first major monastic academies to be founded after the period of Tibetan fragmentation (bsil bu'i dus) through the patronage of the remnants of the old Tibetan royal dynasty, who established new, less powerful hegemonies in west Tibet (mnga' ris). The monastery flourished during the early decades of the Tibetan renaissance as a center for textual translation and composition primarily through the efforts of its founder and the most famous translator in Tibetan history, Rinchen Zangpo. Toding also happens to be the site where Rinchen Zangpo and the renown Indian reformer of Buddhism, Atīśa, met for the first time. This famous event eclipses any other in Toding's history, as indicated by the extracts below. With this meeting, the great translator Rinchen Zangpo goes under the tutelage of Atīśa, having been convinced of the latter's spiritual and scholastic prowess. The two become an incredible scholar-translator team, translating tantric materials, disseminating new teachings, and responding to the strong desire at that time for doxographical organization in order to make sense of the disjointed practices of old textual traditions and the chaotic swell of new ones. That Lhalama Yeshé Ö, the king of Guge, invited Atīśa and other Indian scholars to reinvigorate Buddhism in Tibet is emblematic of this need. After their time at Toding, Atīśa and Rinchen Zangpo go on to greatly inspire and contribute to the growing desire for new Buddhist teachings in central Tibet and in later centuries.

Passage from The Blue Annals — Atīśa and Rinchen Zangpo meet at Toding

Because of his holding in high esteem the fruits of deeds, the Master was known as paṇḍita las 'bras pa – "Paṇḍita of Karma and its effects". When he heard that he was known so, he said: "This mere name was of benefit," and was pleased. At that time the lo tsā ba rin chen bzang po thought: "His knowledge as a scholar is hardly greater than mine, but since he has been invited by lha bla ma, it will be necessary (for me) to attend on him." He accordingly invited him to his own residence at the vihāra of mtho lding. (In the vihāra) the deities of the higher and lower Tantras were represented according to their respective degrees and for each of them the Master composed a laudatory verse. When the Master sat down on the mat, the lo tsā ba (rin chen bzang po) inquired from him: "Who composed these verses?" – "These verses were composed by myself this very instant" replied the Master, and the lo tsā ba was filled with awe and amazement. The Master then said to the lo tsā ba: "What sort of doctrine do you know?" The lo tsā ba told him in brief about his knowledge and the Master said: "If there are men such as you in Tibet, then there was no need of my coming to Tibet!" Saying so, he joined the palms of his hands in front of his chest in devotion. Again the Master asked the lo tsā ba "O great lo tsā ba! When an individual is to practise all the teachings of Tantras sitting on a single mat, how is he to act?" The lo tsā ba replied: "Indeed, one should practise according to each (Tantra) separately." The Master exclaimed: "Rotten is the lo tsā ba! Indeed there was need of my coming to Tibet! All these Tantras should be practised together". The Master taught him the "Magic Mirror of the Vajrayana" (gsang sngags 'phrul gyi me long), and a great faith was born in the lo tsā ba, and he thought: "This Master is the greatest among the great scholars!" He requested the Master to correct (his) previous translations of the Aṣṭasāhaśrīka, the Viṃśati-āloka, and the Great Commentary on the Aṣṭasāhaśrīka-Prajñāpāramitā. The Master said: "I am going to Central Tibet (dbus), you should accompany me as interpreter". (Roerich 1996, pp. 248-250)

Translation from the Dung gar tshig mdzod chen mo

This is the so-called Golden Temple of Toding of Gugé in Ngari, which is famous in Tibetan history. This was the monastery that was established by the king of Guge in Ngari, Lhalama Yeshé Ö, in the Fire Monkey year (996), the second year in the reign of the emperor of the Song Dynasty, Song Taizong Zhao Guangyi Zhidao [Ch. 宋太宗趙光義至道; 939-997; ruled 976-997]. He desired to build the monastic complex on the place where a discarded hat fell from the sky, and so he built the monastic complex at that place where the discarded hat floated above a superior hat and descended there. This is the glorious monastic complex of red Toding, unparalleled and spontaneously present, so it is said. The king of Ngari offered to it many religious endowment and farmlands. Lord Atīśa [982-1054] also went to that monastery, and the Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo [rin chen bzang po; 958-1055] went there at the age of 85; these two met each other there and they greatly discussed the teachings of the sūtras and mantras. [Atīśa said to Rinchen Zangpo,] “While great scholars like you live in Tibet, I do not need to go to Tibet,” and [Rinchen Zangpo] became very pleased. There where very many holy objects of Buddhism at that monastery, which the kings of Guge in Ngari had gradually erected. A great many years later, scholars of great fame protected [the monastery] in succession. At the time of the Ladakhi king, Sengge Namgyel [seng ge rnam rgyal; 17th century], he led his armies against the Gelukpa monasteries of the Ngari region and converted as well as damaged them. Internal strife rose among the relatives of the Ladakhi king; in accordance with this, the Fifth Dalai Lama sent King Genden Tsewang, along with military forces, to Ngari and they conquered the three regions of Ngari [For more information on this military dispute, see Shakabpa 1967, pp.122-123]. Since the Fire Rabbit year (1687) of the twelfth Tibetan 60-year-cycle, the tradition has been established of assigning the abbotship alternating between the Dharma lord of Genden monastery in the east and the Dharma lord of the [Toling] monastic college. These days, [this monastery] is a holy place in the village administrative unit of Toling, in the district of Tsahreng, within the county of Tsadadzong, in the region of Ngari. (Dung dkar 2002, p.1067)