Though the oral precepts of the Nyingma were introduced from the time of the imperial period, it was not until Minling Terchen Rigzin Gyurme Dorje (1646-1714) and his younger brother Minling Lochen Dharmashri (1654-1718) wrote a series of commentaries on these teachings that the kama (bka’ ma) or collection of oral transmissions were created. This indicated a separate category of Nyingma canonical literature in contrast to the terma (gter ma) revelatory treasures.
In the 19th century, during the years 1840-1845, the scholar Gyalse Zhenpen Thaye (1800-1855) composed a set of ritual texts in association with the kama. Including the table of contents, this set totaled 9 volumes (ka->ta) and 83 individual texts (sometimes delineated as 88 Works), and printing blocks were carved at Dzogchen Monastery in Kham. This was the first compilation of the Nyingma Kama Collections.
A few decades later at Peyul Monastery in 1875, Ggyaltrul Pema Dongak Tenzin (1830-1892) added an additional 16 volumes, making the total of the kama 25 volumes (ka->ra) including 266 individual texts. The blocks for these were originally carved at Peyul Monastery and were later practiced and developed as part of the curricula at all of the major Nyingma monasteries in Kham, including Dzogchen, Katok, and Sechen. This became known as the “phyogs bsgrigs thengs gnyis pa” or the second compilation of kama.
Dudjom Rinpoche Jikdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-1988) later edited the existing kama collection and added another 33 volumes (ka->si), totaling 58 volumes or 567 individual texts. These were all handwritten manuscripts that were printed in India and titled the Bka’ ma rgyas pa (W19229). Zenkar Rinpoche was then instrumental in publishing a set of 100 volumes that were distributed to monasteries and libraries. This expanded edition was the 3rd compilation of the kama.
In 1992, while Karma Delek was at Katok Monastery receiving the kama transmissions, he noticed that they had additional kama works that were not included in the Dudjom Rinpoche collection. A year later, he visited Khenpo Munsel in Golok and discussed with him the additional works that he had discovered at Katok. Khenpo Munsel suggested that the kama undergo a recompilation, and though he did not have much money at the time, he gave 1,000 yuan to Karma Delek to initiate the project. He asked his students Katok Khenpo Jamyang and Nyarong Tsering Gyatso to help. Under the auspices of this project, to actualize Khenpo Munsel’s request, Katok Khenpo Jamyang and Nyarong Tsering Gyatso traveled to the various Nyingma monasteries throughout Kham, while Karma Delek travelled through U-Tsang, Nepal, and India. Zenkar Rinpoche helped in Europe and the United States, collecting rare kama manuscripts. All of the editions of the kama that now exist were spurred by the initial inspiration of Khenpo Munsel’s advisement about the need to recompile this important collection of Nyingma oral teachings.
In 1999, largely prepared by Katok Khenpo Jamyang, 100 copies of 120 volumes of kama texts were printed for the festive occasion of the Tenth Day Ceremony (tshe’i bcu’i dus ston) at the reopening of Katok Monastery. This collection is known as the Bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa— the extremely extensive edition of the kama. See this edition, Bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa (kaH thog) (W25983).
In addition to this one time limited edition printing of the 120 volumes, there were printings of an additional 55 volumes that were distributed to monasteries and added to the existing 58 volumes of the Dudjom Rinpoche edition.
In 2000, based on the Katok edition of the Bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa that was printed a year earlier, Karma Delek advised a project to remove what were determined to be non-kama texts from the 120 volume edition, creating a new edition in 110 volumes. See this edition, Bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa (W 21508).
Under advisement of Zenkar Rinpoche, Tsering Gyatso organized the computer input of the entire kama. This was officially initiated as a government project under the direction of the Sichuan Department of Minorities (Si khron mi rigs don gcod khang) at the National Minority Rare Text Collection and Restoration office (Dpe rnying dpe dkon ‘tshol sdud khang). This department spent 1 million and 3 hundred thousand yuan to re-compile, edit, and publish the kama text collection in a total of 133 volumes (ka->po) or 1,110 individual texts. A few additional texts were found and added to this most recent collection. Though this is often referred to as the second edition of the third compilation, it is in fact a fourth compilation of the Nyingma Kama Collection. This project came to fruition in 2009, and we have recently published a full outline on TBRC. See this edition, Snga ‘gyur bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa (W1PD100944).
The TBRC Library features outlines for these editions,