Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Guhyasamaja-tantra system of Noble Nagarjuna’ 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 7 (The preaching of the Tantras).

Chapter 2 - Guhyasamāja-tantra system of Noble Nāgārjuna

[Full title: Guhyasamāja-tantra] system of Noble Nāgārjuna (‘dus pa ‘phags lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 315; Chengdu 429; Roerich 356).]

Now the origin of the exposition of the Śrī-Guhyasamājatantra which belongs to the "Inner" Class of the Yoga Tantra[1] . The meaning of the Guhyasamājatantra is twofold: the Tantra of Meaning which is to be explained, and the Tantra of Words which explain it.

According to the first interpretation, the term Guhyasamāja means three aspects of the Body, Speech and Mind which are called guhya or "hidden", and their group is called samāja or "assembly." This (group) symbolizes all the Buddhas. For this reason the transcendental Body, Speech and Mind of the Buddhas are called guhya or "hidden", because they were hidden from the Srāvakas and PratyekaBuddhas, and even from those of the followers of the Mahāyāna who were deprived of extreme felicity. The Body which manifests itself as a pair[2] represents by its nature an assembly of all the Buddhas. This was called the "Great Vajradhara" or "All-Buddha". Here the word "Buddha" does not mean the Buddhas who dwell in a particular sphere and preach individually to a group of disciples.[3] Since this represents a final stage, the Tantra of Words which helps to elucidate (its meaning) should also be regarded as the chief among Tantras.

Now the meaning of this (term) Vajradhara: according to the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā[4] it is "the essence (ātman) of all the families (kula)[5] , without beginning and end, the Ādi-Buddha, the great Consciousness manifested in a living form, the Body or Wisdom (Jñāna-kāya), by nature endowed with a luminous character, by nature possessed of the three Worlds, by nature possessed of the Three Bodies (Trikāya), by nature possessed of the three Vehicles, by nature possessed of the Three Times, by nature possessed of the Three Vajras[494], by nature possessed of the Two Truths[495]." Therefore, some of the followers of the Samāja who were inquiring about the colour and symbols of Vajradhara, and who used to say that he had a white body, was one-faced and two-armed, seem not to have understood the meaning of the above quoted passage of the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā. But those inquiring about the colour and symbols (of

Vajradhara), should refer to the colour and symbols, etc. Of Vajrasattva (rdo rje sems pa), classified as the sixth Dhyāni-Buddha, as was done by them in the case of the passage "Rūpa-Vairocana...[6] [7] [8]

The ācārya Nāgārjuna and his disciples maintained that the (Guhya)samāja represented the essence of all the 84,000 doctrines (of the Buddha). In our time sonme admit that the (Guhya)samāja should be regarded as an independent work without any connection with any other Tantra. But (this last opinion) shows a tendency to accept the standpoint of the Hīnayāna. Thus, as it was said also in the Vimala-prabha514: "In this manner the interrogator (about the Kālacakra), as related in the Śrī Samāja (dpal 'dus pa): Then Vajrapāṇi having been blessed by the Blessed Vajradhara, said: "May the Blessed One explain the meaning of all the Buddhas, the Guhyasamāja of all the (mahBuddhasā-Tantra, the highest of all the Tantr-rāja), etc."%515 Such was the request of as, the great king of Tantras Vajrapāṇi.

Because it had been said so, (the author of the Vimalaprabhā, i.e. Pauṇḍārika, pad ma dkar po) maintained also that the Kālacakra (Tantra) and its commentary could serve as an exposition of the Guhyasamāja.

In the Hevajra (Tantra) it is also said that "the Mind has the form of an aggregate"[9] . If so, the Hevajra-tantra must have been expounded as an introduction to the (Guhya)samāja. The ācārya Kṛṣṇa (nag po) has also composed a basic treatise called Guhyatattva-prakāśa-nāma[10] , and maintained that the essence of the Guhyasamāja could be explained with the help of the bde mchog 'khor lo[11] .

The (Guhyasamāja) has been translated during the Period of Early Propagation of the Doctrine by the translator (lo tsa ba) lce bkra shis. The teachers belonging to the rnying ma pa school declared the (Guhya)samāja to be the most important text among the eighteen classes of their Tantras. There exist also several commentaries on the Guhyasamāja written by ancient Tibetan teachers. In later times the Great Translator rin chen bzang po translated the Tantra, its commentary the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā [12] , as well as other commentaries (on this Tantra), and many lesser texts on the utpattikrama and sampannakrama degrees, which appear also to have been expounded by him. Numerous later translators have gone to Āryavarta, and have studied there the (Guhya)samāja, and later have preached it in Tibet.

Among them, the Venerable 'gos (lhas btsas) and his followers became the holders (of the doctrine) of the (Guhya)samāja. The adepts of the (Guhya)samāja agree that the Guhyasamājatantra had been preached by the Munīndra himself, following a request of Indrabhūti, the great king of Oḍḍīyāna, at the time when the Buddha had manifested himself in Oḍḍīyāna and initiated (the king). Thereupon the king and his retinue practised the Tantra by means of the prapanca͂ -caryā (spros spyod) and became initiates[13] , and the country of Oḍḍīyāna became deserted. After that a yoginī, who had descended from the realm of the Nāgas, heard it (i.e. The Tantra) from (king) Indrabhūti and taught it to king Viśukalpa of the Southern country.

The mahā-brāhmaṇa Saraha heard it from him and taught it to ācārya Nāgārjuna. The latter had many disciples, but the chief ones were the four: Śākyamitra (Śākya bses gnyen), Āryadeva, Nāgabodhi (klu'i byang chub) and Candrakīrti. Candrakīrti taught it to Śiṣyavajra (slob pa'i rdo rje). The latter to Kṛṣṇācārya (nag po ba). The latter to Gomiśra (sa 'dres pa) and the latter to Abhijña (mngon shes can). 'gos studied it under him and other teachers.

Now 'gos (lhas btsas): He was born at a place called khug pa of Upper rta nag from a mother said to have been a manifestation of Tārā. His name was lhas btsas, that is "Protected by gods."His family name was 'gos. Since both his father and mother belonged to the 'gos family, he was named 'gos khug pa [14] . Since he was born inside a cattle-enclosure, he was called ''born in a cattle-enclosure," but this is only foolish talk. At first he went to study at the residence of zur pa. He was given only manual work to do and was not given instruction in the Doctrine. He went to see bla chen 'brog mi who gave him a short exposition of the Doctrine, but said: "If you desire to listen to instructions in the Tantras, then fetch gold!" and saying so he did not give him instruction in the Tantras. Then pride rose in him and he thought: "I must go myself to India and become one like him!" He proceeded to India.

While he was studying the Doctrine at the feet of panditas, he said to himself: "If I do not work diligently, I shall feel ashamed before that beggar 'brog mi!" Great diligence was then born in him and he continued his studies with great assiduity. He is known to have had in all seventy paṇḍita-teachers, as far as Nepāl, and two teachers among ḍākiṇīs, in all seventy-two (teachers). Among these, the chief masters, from whom he heard the exposition of the Samāja were: Abhijña (mngon shes can) of Bhaṅgala, the scholar btsun mo can (Yoṣa) of za hor, the prince of kong ka na sprin gyi shugs can[15] , Kṛṣṇasamayavajra (nag po dam tshig rdo rje) of Vajrāsana, the Venerable Master (Atīśa), Candrarāhula, a scholar of Kāśmīra[16] , Śāntibhadra (zhi ba bzang po) of Rājagṛha, the great upāsaka of ye rang, or the Nepālese Mahākaruna (thugs rje chen po), na ba ku ṭi pa of bal po rdzong and the Kashmirian Jñānākara, a disciple of Na ro pa.

According to ngor rje kun dga' 'od, Nāgabodhi (klu'i byang chub) taught (the Samāja) to Tillipa; the latter to na ro pa; the latter to ku sha li, the Elder;the latter to ku sha li, the Junior; the latter to gser gling pa; the latter is said to have expounded it to Piṇḍo pa bsod snyoms pa, Abhijña (mngon shes can), Yoṣa (btsun mo can) and Jñānākara.

Some (give the lineage as follows): Vajradhara; he to Vajradharma (rdo rje thos); the latter to Indrabhūti; the latter to one called the "ḍākiṇī born of the Nāgas" (klu las gyur ba'i mkhas 'gro ma) and others.

The statement that Vajradharma (rdo rje chos) taught it to king Indrabhūti agrees with a prophecy mentioned in the de kho na nyid kyi sgron ma'i rgyud[17] , where it is said: "And the Devī asked: 'Who will understand and explain this great hidden Tantra?' The Blessed One replied: 'In the northern quarter, in Śrī-Vajrasthāna Oḍḍīyāna, a king named Indrabhūti will understand it, will teach it and will expound it to living beings.' And again the Devi asked: '0 Blessed One! What stage of the path has king Indrabhūti reached? Pray state it!' And the Blessed One said: 'The Vajrapāṇi king mentioned by me in the Śrī-Jñānatilakayoginītantrarāja [508] is this Indrabhūti, an incarnation and master of the tenth stage (on the Path of the Bodhisattva), a jñāna-kāya, the master of the 14th stage (bhumi)'"[18] . Thus the Blessed One had prophesied that king Indrabhūti would appear in the future (and would be instructed by His disciple Vajradharma and not by Himself).

Further, according to the Sahajasiddhi[19] : Śrīmatī Līlādevī (dpal ldan rol pa lha mo che), Vajraśrī (de bzhin dpa' bo rdo rje dpal), Śrī Samayavajra (dam tshig rdo rje dpal), also Śrī Padmavajra (pad ma rdo rje dpal), Śrīmatī Sahajavajrā, Vajravatī brāhmaṇī (rdo rje dang ldan bram ze mo), likewise Śrī Siddhivajra (grub pa'i rdo rje dpal).

Those to whom the Venerable Yamāntaka-rāja expounded the Śrī Cakra[20] have been: the teacher "Sleeping Bhikṣu"[21] , as well as other gods. In its commentary[22] it is said: "In the country of Śrī Oḍḍīyāna, in a remote jungle called Ratna-alaṃkāra (rin po ches brgyan pa) the ṛṣi Jagadāśvāsa ('gro ba dbugs 'byin pa), a manifestation of Guhyapati (gsang ba'i bdag po) intended to expound the Sahajaratnopadeśatantra (lhan cig skyes pa'i rin po che'i man ngag gi rgyud) to some fortunate ones". The ṛṣi Jagadāśvasa ('gro ba dbugs 'byin pa) taught it to the Princess Mahālīlādevi (lha mozol pa chen mo) who taught it to the great king Vairavajra (dpa' bo rdo rje). The latter (taught) it to the farmer Padmavajra (pad ma'i rdo rje). The latter to the wine-merchant Sahajavajra (lhan cig skyes pa'i rdo rje). The latter to the weaver Nandavajra (dga' ba'i rdo rje). The latter to the brāhmanī Vajrā who taught it to the barber Siddhivajra (grub pa'i rdo rje). The latter (taught it) to Śrī-Sarvajagannātha (dpal ldan kun 'gro'i mgon po). The latter to Cittavajra (thugs kyi rdo rje). The latter to (his) sister Lakśmiṅkarā who taught it to king Indrabhūti or to la ba pa[23] . This is the explanation of the above quoted prophecy.

I am of the opinion that, if one were to compare the story about the introduction of the Tantras in Āryavarta by la ba pa from Oḍḍīyāna, with the above quoted passage, one would find that the account about the Lineage of the teachers of the (Guhya)samāja was authentic. This also seems to agree with a prophecy about la ba pa quoted by Āryadeva in his Caryāmelayanapradīpa[24] who also gives an explanation of the prophecy.

Some who had expressed the view that king Indrabhūti and la ba pa had been different personalities would be unable to explain the passage in the Commentary on the Sahajasiddhi.[25] This treatise on the Sahajasiddhi (skyes grub) is also based on the (Guhya)samājatantra, for in its commentary it is said: “In the Sahajasiddhi it is stated - 'From the vast Mahāyāna...’” the term 'Mahāyāna' here means the "Mahā-Yoga-tantra (i.e. The Guhyasamājatantra), which expounds the hidden (nature) of the Body, Speech and Mind of all the Buddhas." The Jñānasiddhi[26] composed by king Indrabhūti, is also clearly based on the (Guhya)samāja. The treatise known as Guhyasiddhi[27] is also based on the (Guhya)samāja which is clear from the basic text itself. Ācārya Āryadeva quoted extensively from it in his Caryāmelayanapradīpa. Padmavajra (pad ma rdo rje), the author of the Guhyasiddhi, seems to have been the farmer Padmavajra.

Thus the (Guhya)samāja must have originated in several Lineages. The Venerable 'gos revised on two occasions the translations of the (Guhya)samājatantra, which had become the chief among Tantras, and its commentary the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā. Great was the benefit.

Further, he translated the following Tantras and their Commentaries: the Ārya-ḍakiṇīvajrapañjara-mahātantrarāja-kalpa-nāma [28] , the Hevajratantrarāja-nāma[29] , the Sampuṭa-nāma-mahātantra[30] , the Ratnamāla, a Commentary on the Hevajratantra[31] , together with the [32] Śrī-Vajraḍāka-nāma-mahātantrarāja 540, the Śrī Catuḥpīṭhamahāyoginītantrarāja[33] , together with its exposition, the Mahāmāyātantrarāja[34] and others. He also taught them. He also revised the translations of the branches of the (Guhya)samāja.

The chief disciples of this great scholar were: mang ra seng ge rgyal mtshan, rngog dbus pa ge ser, ngab mi byang chub rgyal mtshan, lho pa rdo rje snying po, gnyal pa 'gar chos kyi rdo rje and dbus pa rgwa sum, known as the "Six." From these six rong pa rgyal le and so ston rdo rje rgyal mtshan received (instruction in the Guhyasamāja). Tre po mgon po studied it under rgya nam mkha', a disciple of ngab mi, and zhang rgyal ma spang sgang pa, a disciple of rong pa rgyal le. He preached extensively and had a great many disciples, as well as composed many books on the (Guhya)samāja. His disciples, including the ascetic chos la dga' ba and others, also expounded extensively the (Guhya)samāja. This tre po having greatly benefìtted the preaching of the (Guhya)samāja, I have heard that there have been about 500 copies of the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā (sgron ma' gsal ba) in his hermitage.

Further, 'tshur ston dbang nge[35] studied the method of 'gos under mang ra seng ge rgyal mtshan, 'gar chos kyi shes rab, rngog ge ser and dbus pa rgwa sum, disciples of 'gos. 'khon gad pa Kīrti heard the method of 'gos from him. The kalyāṇa-mitra 'gar received it from him after offering him an Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā (brgyad stong pa) written in gold and ten srangs as material presents (nor). Gnyan ston ri rtse ba heard the (Guhya)samāja from him.

Further, the Venerable Master (Atīśa) taught it to nag tsho according to the system of Nāgārjuna ('phags lugs). Nag tsho taught it to rong pa phyag sor pa. The latter to zhus lan pa. The latter bestowed it on lha rje ri ston. From the latter it was obtained by ngor rje kun dga' 'od. This ngor rje has composed also many expositions of the (Guhya)samājatantra together with its branches. His followers spread extensively in gnyal and dags po.

Further, sho ston rdo rje rgyal mtshan and rong pa rgyal le taught it to shung ke lo tsa ba dar ma rdo rje. Shung ke also obtained the initiation (into the Samāja) from ngab mi. It is said that spa tshab lo tsa ba had studied under this shung ke the method of 'gos. Dol pa 'gar ston dbang phyug grub also studied under shung ke. He taught it to jo bde, son of the teacher gze ba. The latter taught it to jo bo 'tshar pa snu pa. The latter to lhab mi. Further, mang ra seng ge rgyal mtshan taught it to rngog ye shes. The latter to rngog nyi ma seng ge. This nyi ma seng ge was very famous as a scholar. He gathered (round himself) a great many kalyāṇa-mitras and composed many treatises, including a commentary on the Mūla-Tantra (Guhyasamāja). Thus the Doctrine of the Samāja spread.

He taught it to glan rtsan tsha nyi ma lcam. Nyi ma lcam appears to have also composed an extensive commentary on the Tantra. Nyi ma lcam taught it to rngog Āryadeva. This latter also attended on the Venerable grags pa rgyal mtshan. Āryadeva taught it to rtagpa rin chen grags. The All-Knowing chos sku 'od zer studied under him. He (chos sku 'od zer) was known as an incarnation of the kha che paṇ chen (śākyaśrībhadra). By the mere glancing through the sastras, he was able to penetrate their meaning and therefore became known as the "All-Knowing." He preached, during a long time the Samāja and had numerous disciples. His disciple the bla ma 'phags 'od who was learned in the Guhyasamājatantra according to the Nāgārjuna method (gsang 'dus 'phags lugs), the Yoga-Tantra (yo ga'i rgyud) and the Kālacakra (dus 'khor. 'phags yog dus gsum), and, who had become a Treasure-house of precepts, studied under him. 'phags 'od proceeded to zha lu into the presence of the All-Knowing bu Rin po che (bu ston). He taught a great deal the system of the Guhyasamāja and the Yoga (Tantra).

Bu rin po che also became very learned in the Samāja. At the request of 'phags pa, he composed an extensive commentary on the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-Ttīkā[36] . Further, he composed many treatises on the Samāja. Bu ston became known as the greatest scholar among the disciples who belonged to the Lineage of 'gos (lhas btsas). He taught the cycle of Samāja to khyung po lhas pa gzhon nu bsod nams. The Venerable tsong kha pa heard it from the latter. The Venerable tsong kha pa, the Great, in general, greatly benefitted the Doctrine, and, in particular, he was the man who encompassed the surface of the Earth with (the teaching) of the Samāja.

The above is but a brief account of the Spiritual Lineage of 'gos, for I was unable to give a detailed account.

When lha btsun sngon mo of bsam yas was holding a religious assembly, there came the scholar shung ke dar ma rdo rje, learned in the Guhyasamājatantra according to the method of Nāgārjuna (gsang 'dus 'phags skor), and spa tshab lo tsa ba, learned in the dbu ma 'phags skor[37] . Spa tshab felt attracted towards the Guhyasamāja and heard its exposition from shung ke, but did not like it in translation. He therefore made a translation of it and its branches with the assistance of Tilakalaśa who acted as paṇḍita, and later taught it as well.

I did not find this Lineage to exist in the present time. Chag chos rje dpal also taught the Guhyasamāja according to the method of 'gos, first to jo btsun rtag pa, a disciple of rngog mun ne, and to his disciple jo bo lha mgon po dpal of gung thang. After that he studied extensively under the Nepālese paṇḍita nyi ma'i dbang po'i 'od zer[38] and also revised the translations of the commentaries on the (Guhyasamāja) Tantra, the Piṇḍīkṛtasādhana[39] and the Pañcakrama[40] , as well as others. He also, composed an abridgement and a commentary on the sgron gsal[41] and thus benefitted numerous persons. It is said that the Kashmirian Somanātha (zla ba mgon po) had bestowed the secret exposition of the Pradīpodyotana-nāma-ṭīkā on sgom pa dkon mchog bsrungs. Now-a-days these books are not extant.

The chapter on the Guhyasamājatantra according to the method of Nāgārjuna.

Footnotes and references:


rnal 'byor nang gi rgyud i.e. the Anuttarayoga-Tantra (R).


sku thugs -Body and Mind (R).


like the 'Sthaviravāda and the Mahāyāna teachers, here a Universal Buddha is meant (R).


sgron ma gsal ba, Tg. No. 1785 (R).


of Buddhas, i.e. the five families or kula of Buddhas: Padma-kula, Vajra-kula, Ratna-kula, Karma-kula and Vairocana-kula or Buddha-kula (R).


gzugs rnam pa snang mdzad... (formerly there were five Dhyani-Buddhas) (R).


Tg. rgyud, No. 1,347; bu ston sung 'bum, vol.I/ ka/, fol. 35 b (R).


This seems to be speech-prose within a quote, and it is not clear whether this is where the larger ‘outer’ quote ends. The later citation from the Hevajra Tantra may also fall into the larger quote, but the number of quotation marks is not even–I am unsure exactly how to mark this–mes.


Kg. rgyud, Vol. Ka/I/, /Narthang edition/: de ni sngags bzlas de dka' thub dang de sbyin sreg// de ni dkyil 'khor can de ni dkyil 'khor nyid//mdor bsdus nas ni 'dus pa'i gzugs can no//: "The Mind is the recitation of Mantras; it is penance; it is homa; it is the Master of the Maṇḍala; it is the Maṇḍala itself. In short, the Mind has the form of an aggregate" (R).


gsang ba'i de kho na nyid gsal ba, Tg. rgyud, No. 1450 (R).


Kg. rgyud 'bum, Nos. 368-370 (R).


sgron ma gsal ba, Tg. rgyud, No. 1785 (R).


Vidyādhara -one who has attained spiritual realization or siddhi, grub pa (R).


intermarried 'gos (R).


Meghavegin (R).


grib stan, Śrīnagar (R).


Śrī-Tattvapradīpa-nāma-mahāyoginītantrarāja, Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 423; snar thang bka' 'gyur, rgyud, vol. I /Ka/, fol. 536b (R).


in Tantric Buddhism there are four stages, besides the usual ten (R).


lhan cig skyes grub, Tg. rgyud, No. 2260 (R).


dpal ldan 'khor lo, i.e. the Guhyasamāja (R).


i.e. la ba pa, who is said to have slept for three years at the gate of king Indrabhūti’s Palace (R).


i.e. the Sahajasiddhipaddhati-nāma, Tg. rgyud, No. 2261 (R).


Kambalapāda, bla ma dge slong (R).


spyod pa bsduspa'i sgron ma, Tg. rgyud, No. 1803 (R).


lhan gcig skyes grub, Tg, rgyud, No. 2223; the Commentary is the Sahajasiddhipaddhati-nāma,. Tg. rgyud, No. 2261; this passage read "she taught it to king Indrabhūti or la ba pa") (R).


ye shes grub pa, Gaekwad’s Oriental Series, vol. No. XLIV, ch.XV, contains several quotations from the Guhyasamājatantra (R).


gsang ba grub pa, Tg. rgyud, No. 2217; bu ston gsung 'bum, vol. XXVI /La/, bstan 'gyur dkar shag, fol. 46b: don dam pa'i yi ge gsum dah ldan pa'i rgyud kyi don nges par bsdus pa dpal gsang ba grub pa zhes bya ba grub thob chen po pad ma vadzras mdzad pa (R).


gur, Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 419 (R).


brtag, Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 417 (R).


sam, Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 381 (R).


Tg. rgyud, No. 1183; bu ston gsung 'bum, vol. XXVI/La/, fol. 19b (R).


bde mchog bshad rgyud, Kg. rgyud, No. 370 (R).


rdo rje gdan bzhi, Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 428 (R).


Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 425 (R).


one of the four disciples of mar pa (R).


sgron ma gsal ba'i ti ka chen mo, bu ston gsung 'bum, vol. IX/Ta/ (R).


the Mādhyamaka system according to the method of Nāgārjuna (R).


Ravīndraruci (R).


mdor byas, Tg. rgyud, No. 1796 (R).


rim lnga, Tg. rgyud, No. 1802 (R).


Pradīpodyotana-nāma-Ttīkā (R).

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