Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

by George N. Roerich | 1949 | 382,646 words | ISBN-10: 8120804716 | ISBN-13: 9788120804715

This page relates ‘chapter on the Master (Atisha)’ of the Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)—An important historical book from the 15th century dealing with Tibetan Buddhism and details the spiritual doctrine and lineages of religious teachers in Tibet. This chapter belongs to Book 5 (The Sovereign Lord (Atisha)).

Chapter 1 - The chapter on the Master (Atīśa)

[Full title: The chapter on the Master, 'brom ston and the monastery of rwa sgreng (jo bo dang 'brom ston dang rwa sgreng gi skabs. Chandra 216; Chengdu 297; Roerich 241)]

Atīśa (982-), His birth and studies

Birth: He was the second son of King dge ba'i dpal in India in the Water Male Horse year (chu pho rta–982 A.D.).

Early age: Under the influence of his tutelalry deity, Ārya Tārā in his childhood, he met Rāhulaguhyavajra (sgra gcan gsang ba'i rdo rje), a yogin of the "Black Mountains"[1] and received the initiation of the cycle of Hevajra, and listend to the exposition of the Tantra and precepts. After establishing in the degree of utpannakrama and sampannakrama, he[2] proceeded to foreign countries.

From twenty to thirty three, Atīśa had learnt Tantra, Bodhisattva precepts and studied various doctrinal systems from various teacher: Avadhūtipa, Śīlarakṣita Jñānaśrīmati, the younger ku sa li,[3] Jetāri (dze ta ri), Kṛṣṇapāda (nag po zhabs chen po), also known as Balyācārya (ba la), the younger Avadhūtipa, Ḍombhi pa, Vidyākokila (rig pa'i khu yug), Matijñānabodhi, Nāro (nA ro pa), Paṇḍita Mahājana (mi chen po), Bhūtakoṭi pa, the great scholar Dānaśrī (dA chen po), Prajñābhadra (shes rab bzang po), and Bodhibhadra (byang chub bzang po). Ratnākaraśānti, gser gling pa (Dharmakīrti, chos kyi grags pa).

After that, he spent most of his time as Elder (gnas brtan chen po)[4] of the monastic college of Vikramaśīla, and his great fame encompassed all quarters (of the World).

On numerous occasions lha btsun pa byang chub 'od sent him invitations (to visit Tibet), accompanied by large presents of gold.

The situation of mnga’ ris, Tibet and inviting Atīśa

lha bla ma ye shes 'od of mnga' ris; the retired king and the commander of the kingdom of mnga’ ris became a captive in the battle with the gar log. The gar log demanded the same amound of gold with ye shes 'od. However, ye shes 'od asked byang chub 'od to use the gold to invite Buddhist scholars from India. Nag tsho tshul khrims rgyal ba (1011 -) went to in the presence of Atīśa and requested his journey into Tibet. In 1040 A.D., Atīś a departed toward Tibet for the benefit of the Doctrine in spite of being shorten his life, and nag tsho promised to send Atīśa back three years after.

They spent a year in Nepāl and built a temple of Sthaṃ vihāra, and deposited there provisions (in support) of a numerous clergy. Many were ordained. (1041 A.D.)

In the year Water Male Horse (chu pho rta–1042 A.D.) the Master proceeded to mnga’ ris. When Atīśa arrived at mnga’ ris, lha bla ma prepared to welcome Atīśa. (However, lha bla ma was supposed to be in a jail of the gar log.) He learnt and received Tantric precepts from Atisha. Moreover, he requested Atisha to compose a treatise, the Bodhipatha-pradīpa, for solving disagreements among scholars. Atīśa was called paṇḍita las 'bras pa because of his holding in high esteem the fruits of deeds.

Rin chen bzang po (958 A.D.–1054 A.D.)

Atīśa met the lo tsA ba rin chen bzang po who had self-pride about his knowledge on Buddhist doctrine and correct his thought. Although Atīśa asked the lo tsA ba travel together, because of his old age, he refused it. The Master asked the lo tsA ba "O great lo tsA ba! when an individual is to practise all the teachings of Tantras sitting on a single mat, how is he to act?" The lo tsA ba replied: "Indeed, one should practise according to each (Tantra) separately."The Master exclaimed: "Rotten is the lo tsA ba! Indeed there was need of my coming to Tibet! All these Tantras should be practised together". The Master gave him various teachings. After Atīśa left toward dbus, he had meditated for ten years and had a vision of the maṇḍala of Śri Saṃvara (1052 A.D.). He passed away at the age of 97 (1054 A.D.) Atīśa was the only one master among sixty teachers of him who made him meditate.

Composing the Abhisamaya (mngon par rtogs pa) of the Guhyasamāja

lha btsun pa said to the Master: "Among the Tantras I revere the Guhyasamāja and among the gods I revere Avalokiteśvara." The Master composed the Abhisamaya (mngon par rtogs pa) of the Guhyasamāja[5] in which 'jig rten dbang phyug[6] was the chief deity of the maṇḍala of Guhyasamāja according to the system of Jñānapāda (ye sges zabs) and in which one had to recite the ma Ni padme with the addition of three letters representing the mantra of the above, and a Hymn to this maṇḍala.[7] This work agrees with the 'dus pa'i dbang bskur bzhi brgya lnga bcu pa.[8] This method became famous among scholars. In this manner he established on the path of virtue the kalyāṇa mitras of mnga’ ris, as well as lesser living beings. The Master spent three years (in mnga’ ris), and the religious practice based on the method of the Master received wide acceptance.

Encounter with 'brom ston pa in 1044

When he was preparing to return to India, he was met by 'brom, while residing at a place called rgyal zhing of pu hrangs.

This 'brom: (his) family was bzher. His father (was named) rta gsum shu bzher, his mother (was called) khu lto gza' lan cig ma. He was born in the year Wood Female Serpent (sing mo sbrul–1005 A.D.), at upper stod lungs. He learnt reading and writing in gzhu. While living there, before 1044, jo bo se bstun met 'brom and travel to Nepāl. In Nepāl, he defeated a heretical acarya. After his coming back to Tibet, 'brom requested his teaching, and 'brom learnt from him while working and guarding his teacher. When 'brom asked let him go to meet under Atīśa, he gave him a donkey with a load, and books. He got a promise of building the monastery of rwa sgreng from 'phran kha ber chung.

'Bom then proceeded to 'phan yul. He went to pay his respects to zhang chen po of rgyal, who had imparted the upāsaka precepts to him. There he met also ka ba shAkya dbang phyug and told him that he would send a letter to him if the situation of inviting Atīśa is available, and that ka ba should prepare to welcome Atīśa by letting ones who held power in dbus. They encounted with each other on the street, and 'brom followed Atīśa as if he knew from before in 1044 A.D. Atīśa bestowed on him an initiation, and thus spending the night as Teacher and disciple, 'brom was able to discuss (with the Master).

Travel to lha sa

After spending a year (1045 A.D.) in skyi rong, they attempted to proceed toward bal po rdzong. However, because of internal feuds, they were unable to proceed there. 'brom suggested Atīśa to go to the Central Tibet and sent a message through dbang phyug mgon of zhang. 'brom’s letter was transmitted to ka ba by zhang dbang phyug mgon, His name was dropped off from the welcoming letter for Atīśa. This made him hurry to meet Atīśa. Other teachers were stimulated by him and hurried to welcome Atīśa. They met Atīśa in Upper dpal thang.

They were welcomed in rgyang, tsha sna, nyan tsho. At tsha sna, Atīśa showed miraculous power of the Master a spring appeared. But, he was not welcomed on the road to gtsang and rong. On the way to rong, they suffered from short of foods.

Having reached the ferry of spel dmar, they proceeded towards chos 'khor bsam yas. Lha btsun bodhirAja[9] arranged a good reception for them, and numerous Tibetan teachers and notables assembled. Khu ston praised his country to the Master and the Master promised to visit it, and journeyed to thang po che.

There the Master resided for one month at rags rtsigs khang pa. There 'brom also joined him. Since khu did not arrange a proper reception, the Master and his retinue fled from the place, and entered the ferryboat of myang po.

After that the Master proceeded to bsam yas and took up residence at dpe dkar gling. (Residing) there he prepared with the assistance of the lo tsA ba (nag tsho) many translations. However, because the Lady 'chims mo (jo mo 'chims mo) was hostile to Atīśa. Then, 'brom arranged Atīśa go to bsam yas.

Atīśa gave an extensive exposition which was written down by phya dar ston pa and became known as the "Prajñā pāramitā according to the method of khams" (phar phyin khams lugs ma). He bestowed on 'brom at snye thang precepts on the instructions to the three classes of living beings.

After that the Master was invited by rngog legs pa'i shes rab to lha sa. Rngog request Atīśa and nag tsho translated the Mādhyamakahṛdayavṛttitarkajvālā. [10] In order to explain the text, the Master composed the large and short dbu ma'i man ngag.[11] After that he spent (some time) at snye thang.

The wealth of Atīśa had amassed while preaching to others, was despatched on three occasions through chag khri mchog and other disciples to India for offering to the Teacher and the monastic community (of Vikramaśīla).

One day the Master fell from the preacher’s chair, he performed the sādhāna of Hayagrīva accompanied by four ḍākiṇīs so that subdued (the demon). Thus snye thang, lha sa, yer pa and lan pa, are the places where the Master preached extensively the Doctrine.

Atīśa passed away

Again, he went to snye thang but because of his illness, he went to 'chims phu for six months. Then again he returned to snye thang. Formerly, when the Master was residing at khab gung thang, he sent nag tsho to Nepāl for learning the guhya samāja according to the system of Nāgārjuna from a disciple of nA ro pa. Because Atīśa passed away, while nag tsho learnt from him, later bka' dam pa criticized him. But, shar ba pa defended nag tsho as innocent about that guilty.

According to BA, 'brom ston was the only one whom Atīśa opened his mind. While staying at bsam yas, the Master bestowed on 'brom at 'chims phu numerous methods (thabs) concerning Tantric ceremonies, the Dohā (Saraha’s) and many other hidden precepts. However, because 'brom’s chief purpose was to keep immoral persons who practicing Tantric system, he pretended not to have studied secret texts. After entrusting 'brom his successor, Atīśa passed away on the 20th day of the middle autumn month of the year Wood Male Horse (sing pho rta 1054 A.D.).

Atīśa’s disciples

The five special disciples of the Master were: the mahāpaṇḍita pi to pa, Dharmākaramati, the Lion of the Mādhyamika, Mitraguhya (bshes gnyen gsang ba), Jñānamati and the paṇḍita Kṣitigarbha and so forth.

Atīśa’s relics

After the cremation, ka ba shAkya dbang phyug arrived there, and divided the ashes of the Master equally between khu, (%) rngog and others. Images and objects of meditation (thugs dam lha) he gave to 'brom, khu, rngog and 'gar dga' ba erected silver shrines to preserve the relics given to them. Then having gathered the offerings, presented by ka ba and others, they held a great memorial ceremony in the Sheep year (1055 A.D.).

'Brom ston pa

'brom built a vīhara at snye thang. 'brom took into his service all those "sa dra of the Master" whom the Master used to support, and proceeded to stod lungs. He spent some time in the sandy valley of gnam. About that time the chiefs of 'dam held a council and resolved to invite 'brom to rwa sgreng. He also received an invitation from 'phang kha ber chung.

In the New Year of the Fire Male Ape year (me pho spre'u1056 A.D.) he proceeded to rwa sgreg, and he built the monastery of rwa sgreng. 'brom lived for nine years more at rwa sgreng. 'brom passed away at the age of sixty, in the year Wood Male

Dragon (sing pho 'brug 1064 A.D.).

'Brom ston pa’s disciples

(a) Three Brothers (sku mched rnam gsum)

Phu chug ba, a disciple of the Master, attended on 'brom. Spyan snga (1038 A.D.(sa pho stag)–?). To phu chung ba, 'brom taught the Doctrine with reference to the Four Noble Truths.

Spyan snga: From childhood he took up ordination in the presence of mal shes rab sems dpa' at stod lungs, and proceed to 'brom at rwa sgreng in 1057 A.D. (me mo bya). 'brom taught the meditation on emptiness and gave Tantric precepts of Atīśa.

Po to ba was born in 1031 A.D. (lcags mo lug), and took up ordination in the presence of glang tshul byang of rgyal lha khang ('phan yul). For one year, he acted as the steward (gnyer ba) of the monastic community of brags rgyab ('phan yul). In 1058 A.D. (sa pho khyi), he proceeded to 'brom at rwa sgreng. As soon as 'brom taught the Doctrine, po to ba achieved understanding. These three became known as the "Three Brothers".

(b) The chief disciples

The chief disciples of the kalyāna mitra ('brom) ston pa: were kyu ra gzhon nu 'od zer, lhab mi shes rab gyung drung, ka ba rgya gar, rug pa'i zhang chen po, bran ka jo btsun, kam yung pa, yung pa ka skyog po, yol rdzong rnal 'byor pa, ston pa yon tan 'bar, sgom pa rin chen bla ma, a mes sman rgan, sga sgom ag tshoms, ston pa dbang phyug 'bar, pha rgan Idong ston, jo bo legs, kham pa lung pa chen po, the "Three Brothers" and others.

Teachings of 'brom ston pa’s disciples

[rnal 'byor pa chen po and the lineage of the abbot of rwa sgreng]

After 'brom’s death, rnal 'byor pa chen po (rnal 'byor a mes, 1015 A.D.–1078 A.D.) acted as Abbot of rwa sgreng from 1065 A.D. to 1078 A.D. He first met the Master at and had thoroughly studied the Doctrine under him. It is said that his understanding on two truths was better than 'brom ston pa. He tried to finish what 'brom ston could not complete. His chief disciples were rin chen sning po of stod lungs (near lha sa), lhab mi chen po, the kalyāna mitra mang ra and others.

'dzen dbang phyug rgyal mtshan (dgon pa pa: 1016-1082) became Abbot of the monastery (rwa sgreng) after rnal 'byor pa. He acted as Abbot from 1078 to 1082 for five years. This dgon pa pa’s family name was 'dzen, and his name was dbang phyug rgyal mtshan. He met Atīśa at nyan tsho like rnal ‘byor pa did. He had a special ability to stop breathing for three days. He also had numerous disciples, such as sne’u zur pa, zhang ka ma pa, gnyan sna me ba and 'bre ko de lung pa, these four being known as the "Four sons of dgon'' (dgon gyi bu bzhi).

History of Abbots of rwa sgreng

• 1056-1064: 'brom established the monastery of rwa sgreng. {R262- 263}

• 1065 - 1078: rnal 'byor pa chen po

• 1078 - 1082: dgon pa pa

• 1083 -?: No abbots (religious hunger of rwa sgreng)

• Fro 3 years, po to ba was abbot, but having heard kha rag sgom chung’s speaking evil of him, he went toward the ruined temple of rug pa to see the 'son of li mo' (sha ra ba).

• several nominal abbots

'od 'jo

gur ston

• Invited abbot: The elder of rwa sgreng invited rma ston but rma ston trefused to be Abbot of rwa sgreng. The elder sent present, and rma ston became Abbot for many years.

• Invited abbot: the upādhyāya shes skor ba

• Elected abbot: 'dul ba 'dzin pa

jam dbyangs pa acted as abbot for many years till 1477 A.D.[12]

The chapter on the Master, 'brom ston and the monastery of rwa sgreng.

Footnotes and references:


ri nag po, Kālāśilā /near Rajgarha/ one of the famous seven hills near Rājagṛha. See Bimala Churn Law; "India as described in Early Texts of Buddhism and Jainism", London, 1941. pp. 39, 237.


JY: Dīpaṅkarajñāna, it may be a typo of Dīpaṅkaraś rījñāna.


Guhyasamāja abhisamaya, Tg. rgyud, No.1892.


dkyil 'khor gyi bstod pa, Śrīguhyasamājastotra, Tg. rgyud, No. 1894.


This text is not found in the bstang 'gyur, Included in the collection is a commentary on the above text. Tg. rgyud, No. 1871.


A descendant of the royal line of srong btsan.


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3856.


the Mādhyamaka upadeśa, and the Ratnakaraṇḍodghāṭa nāma Mādhyamakopadeśa, Tg. dbu ma, Nos. 3229, 3930.


1476- 435=1041 A.D.

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