Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘btsan System of Maitreya’s Doctrines’ 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 6 (The Origin of the Madhyamika (middle way)).

Chapter 5 - The btsan System of Maitreya’s Doctrines

[Full title: The btsan System of Maitreya’s Doctrines (byams chos btsan lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 308; Chengdu 422; Roerich 347)].

The “Five Treatises of the Blessed Maitreya”:

Though the great lo tsa ba blo ldan shes rab and btsan kha bo che have heard (their exposition) from the Sañjana[1] , their methods of exposition of the basic texts show certain differences.

Namely: According to the History of the school of btsan (btsan lugs), the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra [2] and the Dharmadharmatāvibhaṅgakārikā[3] remained unknown to scholars.

The discovery of the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra

The Venerable Maitrī pa saw once a shining light coming out from a crack in a stūpa, and having investigated it, discovered the two books (from inside the stūpa). He then offered prayers to the Venerable Ajita (ma pham, i.e. Maitreya) who appeared before him surrounded by clouds, and expounded the books to him. Maitrī pa then preached the two books to Ānandakīrti. Disguised as a beggar this latter journeyed to Kāśmīra. Sañjana discovered that Ānandakīrti was a remarkable man, paid him homage and obtained from him the two books. He then prepared several copies of the books and offered them to the paṇḍita nJ͂ ānaśrī and others. Btsan kha bo che has been a disciple of grwa pa mngon shes[4] . Before going to Kāśmīra, he requested his upādhyāya (grwa pa mngon shes) to perform an offering ceremony. The upādhyāya said to him: “Till your return from Kāśmīra, I shall be responsible for your safety, and you will never get even a toothache!"

Btsan kha bo che

Btsan kha bo che was born in the Iron Female Hen year (lcags mo bya 1021 A.D.). At the age of 56 he proceeded to Kāśmīra, and said to Sañjana: "Now I have grown old! I cannot master many books. I wish to make the Doctrine of the Blessed Maitreya my death prayer[5] . Pray instruct me in it!”

Sañjana entrusted him to the lo tsa ba gzu dga' ba'i rdo rje who is said to have instructed (gdams pa) btsan kha bo che. In those days there existed a text-book on the Uttaratantra commented upon by gzu. A translator named pad ma seng ge explained it in conformity with the Commentary by btsan. There appears also to have existed an extensive commentary on the Sūtrālaṃkāra[6] which was written down by pad ma setng ge at the tine of his meeting with Sañjana.

Btsan returned to Tibet before rngog lo tsa ba. At various places he preached the Doctrine of Maitreya to kalyāṇa-mitras, who were in search of it, and great benefit arose. Btsan took up residence at brag rgya of yar stod, and taught the Doctrine (of Maitreya) to a kalyāṇa-mitra known by the name of lcang ra ba. This latter preached the Doctrine to dar ma brtson 'gnus of mdo sde sbug of phyogs who composed an extensive commentary on the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra (mdo sde rgyan). Copies of this book are found frequently.

Comments on the Uttaratantra of the school of Btsan

There exists also a commentary on the Uttaratantra, in which the name of the author is not mentioned, but which was (commonly) regarded to be a commentary belonging to the school of btsan (kha bo che), and in which precepts on practice (man ngag nyams len) are added to the text of the exposition[7] . There also exist several short treatises, such as the ye shes kyi bzhag sa ("Repository of Wisdom") and others containing precepts of the school of btsan.

Comments on the teachings of the Tathāgatagarbha

I have not heard (people) saying that "this method was preserved by this kalyāṇa-mitra". Many learned men who had belonged to the spiritual lineage of rngog lo tsa ba, had also composed commentaries on (the Uttaratantra). Now, though the great lo tsa ba and the teacher gtsang nag pa have maintained that the so called Tathāgatagarbha or the Essence of Buddhahood represented the Paramārtha-satya (Transcendental Truth), they asserted that the Paramārtha-satya could not be the object of even an approximate judgment (ken pa[8] ), to say nothing of it being a direct object of perception[9] .

On the other hand the ācārya phya pa asserted that the absolute negation (med par dgag pa) of the reality of external objects represented the paramārtha-satya which, according to him, was the object of an approximate judgment determined by words and thought constructions.

According to the followers of the school of btsan: the pure nature of the Mind was the Essence of the Sugata, and therefore it was stated to be the fertile seed of Buddhahood. The Venerable red mda' pa believed at first the Uttaratantra to be a Vijñānamātra work, and even composed a commentary from the standpoint of the followers of the Vijñānamātra school. Later, when he became a hermit, he used to sing: “It is impossible to differentiate between the presence and absence of this our Mind. The Buddha having perceived that it penetrated all living beings, as in the example of a subterranean treasure, or the womb of a pregnant woman, had proclaimed all living beings to be posshessed of the Essence of the Sugata."

Final comments on the texts of the Maitreya Doctrine

In general, it seems to be true that the Venerable Maitrī pa had rediscovered these two basic texts of the Maitreya Doctrine, for the Abhisamayālaṃkāra-āloka and other works contain numerous quotations from the Mādhyāntavibhaṅga and the Sūtrālaṃkāra, but do not contain any quotations from these two later śāstras. The kha che pang chen was also said to have imparted precepts of the "Five Treatises of Maitreya" on the srin po ri. Now-a-days they are not extant. Though many had reproached the All-knowing jo mo nang pa for having erroneously admitted the Tathāgatagarbha to represent a material truth, numerous persons in dbus and gtsang who had studied assiduously the Uttaratantra, appear to have been instructed by him.

The Uttaratantra and its commentary were first translated by the Master (Atīśa) and nag tsho. Then by rngog, spa tshab lo tsa ba and the yar klungs lo tsa ba. Jo nang lo tsa ba made a translation of the basic text only, It is also stated that mar pa do pa had translated all the "Five Treatises" of Maitreya (mar pa do pa chos kyi dbang phyug of ya 'brog).

The Chapter on the btsan school of the Doctrine of Maitreya.

Footnotes and references:


The text has Sajja na / Ch. VI. fol. 9b (R).


theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos, Tg. sems tsam, No. 4024 (R).


chos dang chos nyid rnam par 'byed pa'i tshig le'ur byas pa, Tg. sems tsam, No. 4023 (R).


here mkhan bu means a disciple ordained by grwa pa mngon shes (R).


'chi chos byed pa, to recite a religious text at death time (R).


Mahāyānasūtra-alaṃkārakārikā, theg pa chen po mdo sde'i rgyan zhes bya ba'i tshig le'ur byas pa, Tg. sems tsam, No. 4020 (R).


i.e. the exposition of the text is made from the standpoint of meditative practice (R).


adhyavasāya (R).


determined by words and thought construction, vikalpa In Tibetan philosophic literature, apart of Logic, zhen pa means approximation, approximative judgment (R).

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: