Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Staglungpa (xi): bkra shis dpal brtsegs’ 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 8 (The famous Dakpo Kagyü (traditions)).

Chapter 13 - Staglungpa (xi): bkra shis dpal brtsegs

Birth and Childhood

The Dharmasvāmin bkra shis dpal brtsegs was born in the year Earth Female Hog (sa mo phag, 1359 A.D.) as son of father kun dga' bshes gnyen and mother 'jam dpal skyid. He met the Dharmasvāmin Ratnakara coming from the North. The latter caressed him with his hand and blessed him. He prophesied that he would become the object of worship of numberless living beings. At the age of 6, he was taught reading and writing by the ācārya sgom pa rin gzhon. When he was eleven, he was entrusted to the ācārya rin chen dpal ba who was the master of the Doctrine of the bka' brgyud pas, and was endowed with knowledge of the Sūtras and Tantras.

Early Education

He practised great abstinence and possessed a very great prescience. From the ācārya he heard the Three Tantras (Saṃvara, Kālacakra and Hevajra) and their precepts. In particular, he became an expert in the Hevajra Tantra (brtag gnyis). He heard the exposition of many texts, such as the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra and the Prajñāśataka[1] . At the age of 17, he took up ordination, in the presence of the rin po che nam mkha' dpal bzang po acting as upādhyāya, and the ācārya gnas brtan rin chen 'od. He received the name of bkra shis dpal brtsegs nyi ma'i dbang po bsrung ba'i go cha. This name appeared in a dream seen by rin po che nam mkha' dpal bzang po, and therefore was given to him. He heard a complete exposition of the initiation rite of Śrī Kālacakra from chos dbang, the 'Second'.

After that, he heard the exposition of the "Six Doctrines" of Nāro, the Mahāmudrā and others. An unconceivable sign of the degree of the Path[2] was born in him. He heard the complete set of doctrines of the bka' brgyud pas possessed by rin po che ba (the Precious One). Having obtained an exposition of the Sadaṅga, the many gates of meditation were opened before him. Further, he heard the Sadaṅga of sha ba ri[3] , the Sadaṅga of the Dharmasvāmin bsod nams rgyal mtshan, the Pañcakrama of the Guhyasamāja, the nag khrid skor, the dmar khrid (of Guhyasamāja), the dbu sems kyi sems bskyed[4] , the blo sbyong don bdun ma (of glang ru thang pa), the gshed dmar shin tu spros med (an initiation rite of the Red Yamāntaka), the "Path and Fruit" doctrine (lam 'bras), the gcod, etc.

At the age of 18, in the year Fire Female Dragon (me pho 'brug 1376 A.D.), he came to the abbot’s chair, and revolved the Wheel of the Law. At the age of 20, in the year Earth Male Horse (sa pho rta 1378 A.D.), in the month of Kārttika, he proceeded to Lhasa. The si tu dge slong ba of mtshal pa and the official grags pa of snel pa arranged a great reception for him. He met the lo chen byang rtse, who had come to dbus, at ra ka brag. He received the final monastic ordination in the presence of the lo chen byang rtse who acted as upādhyāya, the lo tsa ba grags pa rgyal mtshan who acted as ācārya, and the lo tsa ba nam mkha' bzang po, who acted as Secret Preceptor. From the lo chen (byang rtse) he heard the complete initiation rite of the Kālacakra, the Saṃvara Cycle according to Kṛṣṇācārya (Nag po pa), the initiation of Amitābha and other texts. From lo grags pa he obtained the exposition based on the practice of the Guhyasamāja (gsang 'dus dmar khrid), and many initiations including that of Hevajra, the Saṃvara and others, the Kālacakra Tantraṭīkā (dus 'khor rgyud 'grel, i.e. The Vimalaprabhā), the basic text and the commentary on the Sekoddeśa[5] , the don dam hsnyen pa[6] , branches of the Vimalaprabhā (Sems 'grel), the dus zhabs snyan brgyud, the four gsal sgron of Yumo, the Śri Kālacakrapodeśasūryacandrasādhana [7] , the Ye shes spyan sgrub[8] , the dpe med 'tsho'i sbyor drug[9] , the Sadaṅga composed by Man lungs pa[10] , the Sadaṅga of the Guhyasamāja[11] , the Kālacakrottaratantra[12] , the mdor bsdus dang po'i 'grel pa mi gyo snang ba[13] , the Sadaṅga of Bu ston[14] , the gdan bzhi’i 'grel pa[15] , the lam rim of the bka' gdams pas, and other texts. He made large offerings, such as the gilding of the robe of the Lord (Jo bo) in Lhasa and the presentation of votive lamps (dkar me).

Death of rin po chen nam mkha' dpal bzang po

It is stated that the rin po chen nam mkha' dpal bzang po passed away in the year Earth Female Sheep (sa mo lug, 1379 A.D.). But in the "Life" of the Precious One it is stated that he had become an ascetic at the age of 43 in the year of the Horse (rta lo,1378 A.D.), that he had passed away at the age of 47, and that he had occupied the abbot’s chair for 15 years. Again in the "Life" of bkra shis dpal brtsegs pa it is said that he was nominated to the chair in the Serpent year (sbrul lo, 1377 A.D.), and that in the following Sheep year (lug lo, 1379 A.D.), the Dharmasvāmin nam mkha' dpal bzang po passed away. There is thus

a difference in the dates given in the above two passages. During the cremation of the remains of the Precious One, a flower shower fell and numerous images and relics were recovered (from the ashes). A pompous funeral rite was held. They also erected a silver relic-holder, one cubit (khru) in height, a large image and copied numerous religious books.

Teaching Career, Activity and Travels

After this, he acted as mediator when jong ji led an army against mkhar rtse ba. After that, he proceeded to stag lung, constantly preached there, and revolved the Wheel of the Law. In his actions he followed the example of his previous teachers. His fame spread throughout all quarters. This Precious One introduced the rule prohibiting the bringing of meat within the precincts of the monastery. On one occasion he sent presents to the successor of rje btsun spyi lhas pa, who was known to be an incarnation of Ārya (Nāgārjuna). He offered tea to the inmates of the monastery. He saw in a dream himself wearing a jewel crown adorned with the images of the five Dhyāni Buddhas. On several occasions he had dreams that he had been nominated master (bdag po) of the Doctrine.

Following (these dreams), and, in general, in order to spread the Doctrine, and, in particular, in order to fulfill the wish of the ascetic nam mkha' dpal bzang po, he made extensive offerings of tea to all the monastic establishments in dbus and gtsang. Later, he spent four years in strict seclusion. While he was meditating, a great temptation arose in him. He met the Dharmasvāmin kun dga' bkra shis who had come to rwa sgreng, and heard from him the initiation rite of the 15 goddesses of Nairātmā (bdag med lha mo bco lnga) the “Path and Fruit” Doctrine (lam 'bras), the system of Nigu (the sister of Nāropa), and many other texts. After that, the revolt of the phag mo gru pas (nang zings, revolt) took place. In the meanwhile he made extensive offerings and admonitions.

After that, he proceeded to Lhasa to meet the dbang (wang) grags pa rgyal mtshan who had come to Lhasa. He made large offerings, such as the offerings of 300 loads of butter for the votive lamps of the Lord (jo bo) in Lhasa, the gilding of the Lord’s face with gold to the value of four srangs, the offering of garments (to the Lord), a canopy (bla ri) and maṇḍalas. On that occasion he visited yer pa, 'tshal and other localities. He also erected an image of stag lung thang pa and conveyed it to sgam po. To an image of dags po he offered garments and golden votive lamps. He also gave a sum of money towards the expense of maintaining the lamps. At zangs lung he offered lamps and garments. He also offered nine kinds of objects, such as a mantle to spyan snga chos kyi seng ge. He also offered tea and made presents.

On two occasions he visited Upper Khams and the Northern regions (byang ris). He also acted as mediator, accepted offerings and preached extensively the Doctrine. When invited by 'jam dpon seng ge of sog pa, he visited skong and acted as upādhyāya at the ordination of spyan snga nam mkha' dpal brtsegs rgyal po. During that time jong ji bsod nams rin chen of 'bri khung waged war in rong po. He attempted to mediate in the case of the reimbursement of the exhorbitant fine (which had been imposed), but jong ji did not listen (to him).

When he came to bsam yas on his way to phag mo gru, he received the invitation to partake of tea from sne gdong. He visited all the sacred objects (in this monastery), and, in particular, having pressed to his heart the skull cup of the upādhyāya Ś́āntarakṣita), he remained so for a considerable time. On one occasion, having gone to mchims phu, his retinue experienced difficulties in climbing a steep slope. (At the same time) many saw the Precious One himself walking without touching (the ground) with his feet. When he came to sne gdong, dbang grags pa rgyal mtshan came out to receive him at lcang gling gru bzhi. (The Precious One) remained (there) for four days. He received offerings of several measures of silver, golden cups and garments. He also visited khra 'brug and rtses thang.

He spent one day at tshong 'dus, and then proceeded to thel. The officials of thel arranged a great reception for him. Having worshipped the precious image inside the grags-hut ('jag spyil), he expressed many solemn wishes (the grass hut of phag mo gru pa at gdan sa thel). His retinue became possessed of a god, and many of them became crazy. He made large offerings to spyan snga bsod nams grags pa and offered tea (to the congregation). Thel pa (the official of the place) also rendered numerous services to him and made large offerings. He visited sTag lung brag mgo. Then on his return journey, he visited Lhasa, glang thang, and other places. In particular, after having gone to rgya brag, he preached the Doctrine, during which a shower of flowers, fell, beating down dust.

About that time, the Dharmasvāmin bde bzhin gshegs pa received the visit of an official (ta zhing<chin. Ta jen) who came to invite him to China (rgya). Perceiving that rtogs Idan so nag rgya bo was desiring tea, and sgo mo rin po che bzang dpal ba cow butter, he gave them some. When they were engaged in the erection of a large image, he said: "Dig here!"

They dug, and found a boulder. He also saw the handle of a blue pot which was about to break. Numberless were his words and actions guided by his prescience. On one occasion when he felt ill, he ordered the recitation of scriptures after dusting the volumes. It took three years for 250 monks to dust the volumes.

About that time the offerings of mna’ ris pa reached him.

Intervention in men zhang

Formerly, in the country of men zhang there was a custom of cremating six or seven men alive, whenever a man died. Gcung bya bral pa, having manifested his supernatural powers, stopped this practice. They abstained from it for thirty years. About that time the former rin po che sent a hillman as his representative there and they made the vow (of abstaining) from killing the victims for twelve years. After that he was requested to send another man, and he despatched the bla ma 'jam dpal seng ge, who preached the Doctrine to the king tha gur (ṭhakur<Sanskrit ṭhakkura) of men zhang[16] . He sent many presents to this king, such as an image his own hat, etc. He also sent presents to the ministers vimala and thir ma le (Tīrumala), as well as his message.

The king said:

"On the whole, the stag lung pas had become the protectors of men zhang, since the time of mar gul guru."

He offered him the custom of the so called fire wheel[17] . He also presented much gold to a man called sman lung pa, to make him abstain from the "fire wheel"custom.

A king of nyung ti (Kulu) named Ratna also offered him this custom (i.e. Promised to abstain from this custom). On one occasion he said: "Danger will come to the kingdom!" He ordered everyone to perform rites, and requested the dbang grags pa rgyal mtshan to perform a great ceremony. He also performed many rites in his palace (bla bran). But inspire of all this, a great earthquake took place, and the eastern gate of the vihara crumbled down, as well as many cells of the monastery. He had to stay for one and half month in a tent at sku 'bum Itag. During the absence of his attendant a herd of mountain sheep (rna ba) came down towards him. Most of the animals went away, but some stayed and licked his garments with their tongues.

The passing of spyan snga rin po che

He was endowed with an excellent perfume of morality and even articles which he kept near himself, emitted that perfume. When he used to light a lamp at night, his shadow was barely seen. He was able to walk through a closed door from inside to outside, and from outside to inside. High officials and Chinese officials (ta jên) were unable to stand his lustre, and all were rendered humble.

He proceeded towards phag mo gru and presided over the congregation during the funeral rites for the deceased spyan snga rin po che bsod nams bzang pa. Gong ma (the Superior) grags pa rgyal mtshan received him at rdo mda'. On the day of his reaching thel, there appeared three rainbows in the shape of a gate and railing (torana, rta babs) in the sky, as well as four or five rainbows having the shape of door frames' halves.

At that time, he spent four days there. After he had spent two days, about noon, when he was about to go to yang dgon Nang so, he said: "All the days are auspicious! All the stars are auspicious! (this is a quotation from a sutra). To day I shall be very busy!" and saying so, he went.

After finishing the mid day’s food, he sat for a short while in meditation, and after that said:

"Prepare some tea in a lonely house, and invite there the upādhyāya and the ācāryas of thel, as well as the inmates of both the old and new monasteries! I shall offer you some tea (ja 'dren mtshon cig). Also prepare a high seat for the Dharmasvāmin bsod nams rgyal mtshan, and place over it my red carpet, My servants should escort him here, and place him on the seat."

When the Dharmasvāmin sat on the seat, he offered him large presents and said to him:

"Lord phag mo gru pa, the incarnation of Buddha Krakucchanda ('khor ba jig), performed great works for the welfare of numberless living beings in this place. After him, the monastery was looked after by kyu ra rin po che. After that, since the coming to the abbot’s chair of spyan snga rin po che till the present time, the monastery has been looked after by his undefiled descendants. Now you should become the head and leader of numerous disciples. You will be not inferior to your predecessors in mercy and labours!"

Spyan snga rin po che replied:

"I shall act according to your command!"

Signs of Accomplishment

When he reached sne gdong, there were about two fathoms ('dom) (of water) to cross between the ferry at nyang po and the river bank. Some saw him crossing the river on a horse. Las chen rin rgyal ba saw him dismounting from his horse and walking without touching the surface of the water with his feet. There were many similar visions. Dbang grags pa rgyal mtshan received him at the landing place (shan kha), offered him food (zhabs tog) and presents, and then escorted him as far as bya sa.

He was requested to come again, but replied: "Now I shall not come."

He returned (to stag lung). From the Emperor ye dbang (Yung lo, 1403-1424) he received the title of Gu shri (Kuo shih), the silver seal, the kao min (kao ming, letter patent) and many presents. After that he suddenly fell seriously ill caused by some defiling influences [18] , and performed an elaborate rite. He appointed the Dharmasvamln byang chub rgya mtso ba to the abbot’s chair. After a short while his health improved, and he was asked about the cause of this improvement.

He said:

"Following a violent attack of sadness (niḥsaraṇa nges 'byung), the vital breath (prāṇa, rlung sems) collected within the heart, and penetrated into the carotid vein (avadhūtī). Because of this, I saw in front of me in the sky all the teachers of the Lineage, from Vajradhara to my personal teacher[19] , below them stood numerous tutelary deities, and besides them Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, monks and Pratyeka buddhas. Below them there stood vīras[20] , and ḍākinīs, together with the Religious Protectors (Dharmapalas). After that I abided in the essence of the 'Great Seal' (Mahāmudrā).”

On numerous occasions he admitted that in himself sTag lung thang pa, the Great, had appeared again.


Then, following an attack of cold, he passed away at the age of 66 in the year Wood Male Dragon (shing pho 'brug 1424 A.D.).

At the time of his death, he was asked: "Where to should we address our prayers?" and he replied:

"On the last day of the funeral rite, I shall appear in the sky above the grass hut ('jag spyil, of phag mo gru pa) and receive your prayers. Similar to the previous teachers, who had passed away, I shall receive your prayers in Tusita."

Then heavenly music of different kinds resounded and all saw above the palace a shining white pillar standing erect. After the cremation of his remains, four conches twisted to the right and numerous relics were recovered (from the ashes). At the time of the cremation, a shower of flowers, each of which had four petals and a relic as its anthers (zhe ‘bum), fell within the area covered by the smoke (from the pyre), and some of these flowers even fell into the tea cups of the monks who were present.

Footnotes and references:


Prajñāśataka nāma prakaraṇa by Nāgārjuna, Tg. No. 4328, also 4501 (R).


Drod rtags, drod or tshad, sign, token, degree (R).


Yogaṣadaṅga, by sha ba ri dbang phyug, Tg. r Gyud, No. 1375 (R).


The cittotpāda according to the Mādhyamaka and Vijñānavāda; nag (ngag?) khrid is an explanation with the help of texts, dmar khrid is an explanation with the help of practice (R).


d Bang mdor bstan rtsa 'grel; Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 361; Tg. rgyud, Nos. 1351, 1352, 1353, 1354 (R).


Śrī Paramārthaseva, Tg. rgyud, No. 1348 (R).


Tg. r Gyud, No. 1369 (R).


Jñānacakṣusādhana, Tg. rgyud, No. 1370 (R).


Sadaṅgayoga nāma, Tg. rgyud, No. 1367 (R).


A famous Tibetan pilgrim from gtsang,author of a detailed description of India existing in manuscript form only; lived in the beginning of the XIII century (R).


g Sang 'dus sbyor drug, Sadaṅgayoga nāma ṭīkā, Tg. rgyud, No. 1786 (R).


Dus 'khor rgyud phyi ma, Sri Kālacakratantrottara tantrahṛdaya nāma, Kg. No. 363 rgyud 'bum (R).


Śrīmanvimalaprabhātantrāvatāranīvādācalahṛdayāloka, Tg. rgyud, No. 1349 (R).


Vol. III /Ga/ of the gsung ‘bum (R).


Ārya Catuḥpīṭhaṭīkā, Tg. rgyud, No. 1608 (R).


men zhang: Mes zhan in glo bo, east of Guge in Western Tibet. See A. H. Francke: Antiquities of Indian Tibet, II /Calcutta 1926/, p,243 (R).


me 'khor, the cremation of a human victim alive (R).


sku grib is often used in the sense of paralysis (R).


Who had initiated me, rtsa ba'i bla ma means the teacher who had bestowed initiation.


dpa' bo, a male deity counterpart of a dakini.

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