The other part of the Csoma Collection includes the books, wood-block prints and manuscripts that Csoma purchased or had copied. These are some of the best-known and most important works of Buddhist literature, especially that composed by the Lamas, and just like the ‘Alexander Books’, they also cover several fields of Tibetan literature. As the cataloguer of the collection, József Terjék, has pointed out, Csoma in several cases purchased or had copied precisely those works referred to in the colophons of the ‘Alexander Books’. 1
The grammatical section includes the most important works of this kind, the Sum cu pa and Rtags kyi ’jug pa, traditionally dated to the 7th century (No. 33) as well as their commentary (No. 36); 2 furthermore, it features two books on morphology, the “Jewel basket” (No. 34) 3 and the “Lamp of wise words” (No. 35). 4 This section also includes the “Clove tent”, a glossary of ancient and obscure words (No. 9), 5 and manuscript No. 13 6 covering Buddhist terminology.
As shown by the case of ‘Alexander Book’ No. 8, grammar was closely connected with another large field of secular sciences, the science of literature, including poetry, metrics, theory of metaphors and drama. This topic is represented by two volumes, the first being an exhaustive commentary of the Kāvyādarśa, a famous treatise on poetry by the 7th-century writer Dandin (No. 37), 7 while the other is a dictionary of metaphors known as the “Pearl String” (No. 10). 8
Five chronological or astronomical works are featured prominently in ‘Alexander Book’ No. 6b. Four of them (Nos. 7, 29-32), 9 written by the 16th-century author Lha-ldan Blo-gros Bzang-po, offer an overview of Tibetan chronology on the basis of the Kālacakratantra, while the fifth one (No. 32) 10 is a short general introduction to the calculation of months and days. Although the name of the author of this volume does not figure in the colophon, nevertheless József Terjék assumed on the basis of its general characteristics, that it might have been compiled for Csoma by his teacher Sangs-rgyas Phun-tsogs.
The collection also includes some historical works, like “The Sun Opening the Lotus of the Teaching” by the 16th-century author Padma Dkarpo, member of the ’Brug-pa (“Dragon”) subsect of the Bka’ brgyud pa order (No. 20), 11 and “The Sun of the Faith Shining to a Hundred Directions” by Tāranātha (1575-1634), a concise summary of the life of the historical Buddha (No. 5). 12 Among the historical works we can also mention the “White Lotus String” by the 2nd Panchen Lama, Blo-bzang Ye-shes (1663-1737), summarizing the lives of the teachers of the “gradual way”, the Buddhist philosophical school dominant in Tibet (No. 17), 13 as well as the “Source of Ten Million Wonders”, a description of the mythical country of Shambhala and of India, written by the 3rd Panchen Lama (1737-1780).
The rest of the collection covers Buddhist philosophy and includes descriptions of ritual exercises. Among the philosophical works we find the “Lamp of the Way of Illumination”, the famous work of the renowned figure of early Buddhism Atīśa (982-1054) (No. 18). 14 An adherent of the philosophy espoused in this book, Tshong-kha-pa (1357-1419), founder of the order of the Dalai Lamas called “of the principle of virtue” (dge lugs pa) is also represented in the collection with two important works, the “Great Gradual Way” (No. 14) 15 and the “Small Gradual Way” (No. 15). 16
A basic principle of Buddhism is that things come to existence and exist in causal interdependence with each other. This notion is developed in manuscript No. 1 of the collection, written by Nāgārjuna, a leading figure of the Mahāyāna (“Great Vehicle”) school, the most widespread branch of Buddhism, and translated into Tibetan in the 8th century.
Rituals belong to the practical part of Buddhism. They contribute to the spiritual development both of the monks living in the monasteries and of the yogis retired to the solitude of the mountains, and are indispensable as a tool to attain their main goal, illumination. The texts of this nature in the collection firmly establish that all the Buddhist schools established in Tibet belonged to the branch of the “Diamond Vehicle” (Vajrayāna). The main characteristic of this version of the “Great Vehicle” is that in it the basically atheistic Buddhism absorbs a number of – m–stly Hindu – gods in its pantheon, which was until then only reserved for its own saints, the bodhisattvas. This branch also attaches a decisive importance to magic ceremonies and the incantations recited as part of or independently from them both for spiritual and secular purposes. These ceremonies include the so-called sādhanas, in which the practitioner invokes or calls into existence the gods or groups of gods via visualization and mystical-magical syllables. Two texts of this kind are contained in the collection. The first (No. 21) 17 serves for the invocation of a destroying goddess, Battle-Sickle Queen (Dmag zor rgyal mo), while the other is devoted to Avalokiteśvara, bodhisattva of the mercifulness (No. 22). 18
The popular text titled “Litany of the Names of Bodhisattva Mańjuśrī”, No. 11) 19 in our collection, belongs to the same branch of “Diamond Vehicle” or tantric Buddhism.
Readers interested in Tibetan culture are surely familiar with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, describing the situation following death and leading to an ensuing rebirth. Manuscript No. 2), 20 a summary guide to our wanderings in our post-mortal intermediary existence, is related to this book.