This book contains translations of three Tantras on the Great Perfection (rDzogs chen). A Tantra is a sacred, and often esoteric, work of literature. The Great Perfection is held by its followers to be the highest pathway in the Buddhist tradition. The teachings these Tantras contain are considered so rare and precious that the first two, The Secret Wisdom of the Great Perfection and Clarity Equal to the Limit, clearly declare themselves to be secret. The third Tantra, on the other hand, Vajrasattva of the Great Sky, insists that it must be taught to anyone who wishes to study it. The Secret Wisdom of the Great Perfection in particular sets very definite limits on just who should be allowed to read it, and insists its distribution is to be limited, while The Great Sky of Vajrasattva demands that it be taught without limitation. All of these works are considered Old Translations, and may date as far back as the 8th century of our era. They are retained in a compendium of manuscripts kws as The Hundred Thousand Tantras of the Old Ones, or rNying ma rgyud 'bum. The importance of this literature for historians, linguists, those who focus on the History of Ideas, scholars and practitioners of Buddhism, specialists in classical literature, and those who focus on esoteric tradations cant be overestimated. The works contained herein also give us a window into the condition of Indian, Chinese, and Silk Route concerns of the period in which the Tang Dynasty was at its height and during which the Tibetan Empire was still strong.
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 for five years in refugee resettlement in Seattle, Washington, 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 famous 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, College de France, and taught at the University of Calgary as an Adjunct Professor for five years. He is currently completing his doctoral dissertation, a study of the Yoginitantra first translated into Tibetan during the Eighth century of our era, at the University of Leiden's Institute for Area Studies.