Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Pandita Vanaratna’ 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 10 (The Kalacakra).

Chapter 28 - Paṇḍita Vanaratna

This Precious Great paṇḍita was born[1] as the son of a king in the town of dam pa (Sadnagara) in Eastern India.[2] At the age of 8, he received the noviciate from one named Buddhaghoṣa (sangs rgyas dbyangs), who led many hundreds of thousands of monks, was learned in all sciences and endowed with a great faculty of prescience, and who acted as upādhyāya, and one named Sujataratna, who led many tens of thousands of monks, and who acted as ācārya, at the vihāra called Mahācaitya.

He studied many sciences under these upādhyāya and ācārya, as well as with other scholars. The upādhyāya produced in him a Mental Creative Effort towards Enlightenment. He listened to the exposition of numerous profound initiations and hidden precepts. At the age of 20, he received the final monastic ordination from his former upādhyāya and ācārya. Then having become an ascetic, he journeyed to seng ga'i gling.[3] He spent six years there. He visited many sacred places and miraculous images, many wonderful miracles taking place. From the ācārya Dharmakīrti he obtained the Vinaya-āgama, the 'od ldan,[4] and other texts. He practised chiefly the mind concentration.

Then when he was about to return to Jambudvīpa, he had a vision of sangs rgyas gangs chen mtsho.[5] Unharmed by Heretics, he journeyd to the kingdom of Kaliṅga, in Southern India.

There a great paṇḍita named mi’i nyi ma,[6] famed as a scholar in Jambudvīpa, praised him in the following verse.

Great sthavira Vanaratna,
Who has realized the freedom from Worldly attachment (Virāga)
Having cleansed the turbid defilement produced in the World,
O beings! Follow on him with devotion, in order to pacify the Saṃsāra.

He worshipped him for a considerable time. Again he proceeded towards the Śrī Dhānya-kaṭaka mahā-caitya, and stayed for some time in the hermitage of Nāgabodhi (klu'i byang chub). At first he met sha ba ri dbang phyug. Then while en route to Magadha, he studied with the heretical paṇḍita Harihara the book Kalāpa,[7] a version which was seven times larger than the one known in Tibet.

Most of his time he spent in meditation practising the Sadaṅga-yoga. He especially practised meditation (according to Sadaṅga-yoga), observing periods of three years, three half-months and three days[8] in a forest situated beyond the river called ka na kra sho tam. He attained an excellent mind concentration and met Virūpakṣa, the Lord of Yoga, in a vihāra called Uruvāsa, and his disciple the siddha Pāghala.

(In this vihāra) a miraculous stone image of Ārya Avalokiteśvara spoke to him: Go to Tibet! After attending on a king, you will be of benefit to many! In accordance with this prophecy, he first proceeded to Nepāl, and there obtained from the great paṇḍita Śīlasāgara the Bodhicittotpāda according to the method of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra. He reached Tibet in the year Fire-Male-Horse (me pho rta 1426 A.D.).[9] On his arrival at lha sa and yar klungs a few people only came to ask him about religion. He therefore returned again to Nepāl.

While he was residing at the vihāra of Śāntapurī of 'phags pa shing kun,[10] there came first the bla ma sangs rgyas dbyangs,[11] and after that, Śrī sha ba ri dbang phyug. They drew the maṇḍala-cakra, and bestowed on him the initiation into the Cycle of Saṃvara, and in particular the uttara-abhiṣeka (of Kālacakra), following which he experienced an immutable Bliss.

Again, si tu rab bstan pa having despatched (21b) as messenger one named bod rgyal ba, invited him, and he journeyed to rgyal rtse (gyang tse). About that time he met smra ba'i khyu mchog chen po rang ston, the All-Knowing. He bestowed several precepts on him and other kalyāṇa-mitras. Later he proceeded to lha sa. There, while residing on the srin po ri (%) with the "Great Lion of Speech" (smra ba'i seng ge, rong ston), he received an invitation from the Dharmasvāmin grags pa 'byung gnas pa. He spent some time at the great monastic college of rtses thang, where the Dharmarāja grags pa 'byung gnas and his chief minister obtained from him several initiation rites of the Saṃvara Cycle, according to the method of Lū i-pa. After that, the Teacher and his supporter (grags pa 'byung gnas) proceeded together towards gong dkar.

About that time grags pa 'byung gnas received on the srin po ri (%) the initiation of Acala according to the Anuttara (Tantra). He and three days; during these periods the physical organism is believed to undergo a complete change.

(Vanaratna) had a vision of the Saṃvara image (found at that place) to be alive.[12] Then the great paṇḍita and his disciples proceeded to spa gro,[13] and spent some time there. There he met Padmasambhava.

After that in the year Fire-Male-Dragon (me pho 'brug 1436 A.D.) he proceeded to sne gdong. Shortly afterwards he took up residence at rtses thang. He bestowed the complete precepts of the Sadaṅga-yoga according to the system of the great ācārya Anupamarakṣita on us, the 32 Piṭakadharas, headed by the mahā-upādhyāya of snar thang bsod nams mchog grub pa, the great grags bzang pa, the Great blo gros rgyal mtshan pa, the mahā-upādhyāya of thel pa kun rgyal ba,(%) and chos kyi grags pa, the Lord of Speech.

In the past bu (ston) rin po che had studied the hidden precepts according to the method of Anupamarakṣita (dpe med 'tsho) with the thar pa lo tsā ba, however, with the exception of the pratyāhāra and the dhyāna-aṅga, the prāṇāyāma (srog rtsol) and the other three aṅgas (of these precepts) belonged to the systems of other paṇḍitas (and not to that of Anupamarakṣita). But here (in these precepts) all the six branches (aṅga) belonged to the system of Anupamarakṣita. Therefore his grace was very great.

The Spiritual Lineage (22a) of the above precepts: Avalokiteśvara, the ācārya Anupamarakṣita, dpal 'dzin dga' ba,[14] 'od byed lha,[15] 'grub thob nyi ma dpal ye shes,[16] chos 'byung zhi ba,[17] Ratnarakṣita, mi dbang blo,[18] phyog grol,[19] Śākyarakṣita, rje legs skyes,[20] and sans rgyas dbyangs.1382 The latter bestowed (them) on the Dharmasvāmin the Precious Great Paṇḍita (Vanaratna).

At [21] rtses thang after completing the exposition of the Guide to the Sadaṅgayoga, he (Vanaratna) bestowed (on us) the initiation of Acala of the Anuttara-Tantra, and the blessing of (Vajra)vārahī, according to the six texts of the Vārahī Cycle.[22] Next year he (Vanaratna) bestowed on the Dharmarāja grags pa 'byung gnas the complete initiation of the Vajramāla according to the system of the ācārya Abhaya, having divided it into forty-five maṇḍalas.

Its Spiritual Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajra-yoginī (Vajravārahī),, Abhayākara Nāyakapāda ('dren pa'i zhabs), stobs bcu dpal,[23] Vikhyātadeva, Śrībhadra, Lalitavajra, Dharmagupta, Ratnakara, Padmavajra, Ratnākirti, Buddhaghoṣa, the Dharmasvāmin the Precious Mahā-paṇḍita.[24] After having attended the initiation rite performed by the Dharmarāja, numerous great Piṭakadharas, who had mastered the sacred scriptures, received the full initiation into the same maṇḍala.[25]

The Spiritual Lineage of the Great Commentary Śrīsaṃpūtatantrarājaṭīkāmnāyamañjarī-nāma[26] which was bestowed (by Vanaratna) on the Dharmarāja grags pa 'byung gnas pa and five other Piṭakadharas: Abhaya, Nāyaka, Ratnabuddhi, Dharmagupta (chos sbas), Sahajakīrti (lhan skyes grags), Dharmaśrī, Śākyadhvaja (Śākya rgyal mtshan), Vāgīśvarakīrti (ngag dbang grags), Ratnakīrti (rin chen grags), and the Precious Mahā-paṇḍita (Vanaratna).

Again he (Vanaratna) proceeded to Nepāl via skyi rong escorted by a retinue sent by the king, and decided to go to Vajrāsana in order to erect a large image of the mahā-guru Buddhaghoṣa. Robbers having heard that he had become the spiritual teacher of the Tibetan king, waited for him on the road, and because of this he had to postpone his journey (22b) there. He sent a man with offerings to Vajrāsana. In Nepāl proper, he erected a beautiful golden image of Vajradhara which he considered to represent Buddhaghoṣa, and in the meantime laboured for the welfare of others by preaching various doctrines, etc. He spent his entire time in work which was without equal, and concentrated mainly on meditative practice.

Later he again came to Tibet in the year Water-Female-Hen (chu mo bya 1453 A.D.). On his way, he bestowed on byang pa, father, and son, and their numerous retinue the initiation into the Saṃvara Cycle, etc., as well as preached during the journey many other doctrines.

Having reached yar klungs, he bestowed on the Great Lord kun dga' legs pa and his retinue, as well as on smra ba'i dbang phyug ('"The Lord of Speech") bsod nams rnam par rgyal ba and on many other great

Piṭakadharas, the complete initiation into the Sadaṅga-yoga. On some he bestowed the exposition of the sampannakrama degree of the Vajravārahī Cycle. Further, he preached to the monastic congregations at rtses thang, gsang phu, gung thang (lha sa), and other monasteries. By establishing a multitude of people in various localities in the mental Creative Effort towards Enlightenment, etc., he brought to an end their Phenomenal Existences.[27]

He was invited to gdan sa thel (%) and other places. He laboured extensively for the welfare of others, as well as for his own, and observed wonderful signs of mental concentration. He seems to have been the most popular among the paṇḍitas who visited Tibet in later times. Especially in the exposition of the sublime meaning (nīt-artha) of the Vajrayāna, his grace was like the restoration of the life-string (srog 'thud pa). At our first meeting, he bestowed on me several initiations, such as the initiation into the maṇḍala of Mañjuvajra, the complete initiation into the Kālacakra according to rites described in the Commentary on the Tantra (Vimalaprabhā), which was accompanied by certain other rites (not mentioned in the Vimalaprabhā and belonging especially to the Kālacakra).

Its Lineage: Ādi Buddha, from Sucandra to Kulika Vijaya (rigs ldan rnam rgyal), Kālacakrapāda, the Senior, Kālacakrapāda, the Junior, Śāyasiṃhadhvaja (Śākya seng ge rgyal mtshan), Gautamśrī, Madhaṅgarasvāmin, Ratnamaṅgala, Jinālaṃkāra Swāmin Matimant, Śākyarakṣita, Sujata, Buddhaghoṣa, the Dharmasvāmin the Precious Mahā-paṇḍita (Vanaratna). In the above manner, this Precious Great paṇḍita, though he had no opportunity to expound the Great Commentary on the Tantra (Vimalaprabhā), restored the precepts of both the utpannakrama and sampannakrama degrees of the Kālacakra, and his grace was great.

Later the lo tsā ba and scholar bsod nams rgya mtsho having come to Nepāl, obtained numerous precepts from the Precious Great Paṇḍita and their practical application (lag tu blang ba), and the accounts of the mystic experiences of the mahā-paṇḍita, etc. The detailed account can be had from him. Further, he (bsod nams rgya mtsho) completed the translation of the commentary Vasanta-tilaka-nāma,[28] composed by the ācārya Kṛṣna (nag po pa), which was left untranslated, with the exception of the commentary on the ten Detailed Expositions,[29] and bestowed its "permission".[30]

During his second (visit to Tibet) the paṇḍita on being requested by the Precious Dharmasvāmin spyan snga ngag gi dbang phyug, composed a guide on the Śrī-Cakra-Saṃvarapañcakramavṛtti[31] as well as expounded the text. The practice based on the Pañcakrama, which existed formerly in Tibet, belonged to the 'sanimitta' class (mtshan ma dang bcas pa), but the one he bestowed belonged to the sampannakrama degree of the "animitta" class (mtshan ma med pa).

Its Spiritual Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajra-yoginī (Vajravārahī), Vajraghaṇṭa (rdo rje dril bu ba), Kūrmapāda (rus sbal zhabs), Jālandharapāda, Kṛṣṇa (nag po pa), Bhadrapāda (bzang po zhabs), Vinayapāda (rnam rgyal zhabs), Tillipa, Nā-ro-pa, Yogendratilaka (rnal 'byor dbang po'i thig le), pad ma dkar po, ye shes 'dzin,[32] dge ba'i blo,[33] Buddhajñana (sangs rgyas ye shes), the Great Lord Sujata (rje chen po legs skyes), phyog grol,[34] Dharmakīrti (chos kyi grags pa), Ratnakīrti (rin chen grags pa), the Precious Dharmasvāmin Mahā-paṇḍita (Vanaratna).

Further, he bestowed on dpal bsod nams rnam par rgyal ba and others the rdzogs rim sangs rgyas ‘char pa by Lū i-pa, the kye'i rdo rje'i rdzogs rim snying po brgya pa composed by Āryadeva,[35] and the commentary on it composed by Herukadeva.[36]

Vanaratna performed extensive religious works in Tibet, such as translations of each of the above mentioned texts, etc. He again returned to Nepāl, as prophesied by his Teacher and his tutelary deity. He devoted himself exclusively to meditation at the hermitage of Govicandra (%), met the mahāsiddha Lū i-pa and others, and was pleased. He constantly supported the beggars of Nepāl by giving them food and material gifts, as well as satiated the fortunate ones with different kinds of doctrines.

At the age of 85, in the eighth month of the year Earth-Male-Mouse (sa pho byi ba 1468 A.D.) he said: I shall now hold the feast of going to the Tuṣita Heaven, and offered a great feast to all the 'ju 'ju (%) of Nepāl, and to a crowd of beggars. After that, till the eleventh month, various supernatural phenomena, such as flower showers, earth tremours, rainbows inside his house, etc. Were observed. Especially on the 18th day of the 11th month, (it was observed) that while the paṇḍita was preaching the Doctrine, streams of white water similar to milk filled the air round his body. Till midnight of the 22nd day he held a Tantric feast with his disciples, holders of (Tantric) vows, and gave out detailed prophecies about profound doctrines and future events. Then having retired to his cell, he sat in the "diamond" (vajra) posture on his meditative mat, holding his body erect, and manifested the state of going to Heaven.

In the evening of the 23rd, when people were conveying (lit. Inviting) his remains for cremation at the Ramdo-Ii burial ground,[37] the whole of the country of Nepāl was enveloped by a great light, the points of the flames of the funeral pyre became entwined with rainbows and rose towards the limitless sky, and numberless great miracles were observed. Even the dull Nepālese were filled with an undifferentiated faith and seemed to share in the highest form of emancipation. This Great Soul, free from any kind of defiling defects, conformed to the ideal of an ācārya as described in the Precious Tantra class. He also was endowed with all the virtuous qualities. (listed in the Tantras) without exception, and especially was believed to possess all the marks of a Holy Teacher as described in the Kālacakra-Tantra, and those of a bestower of spiritual realization. Therefore he became our highest and only refuge.

Footnotes and references:


In 1384 A.D. (shing byi lo, Wood-Mouse year).


Chittagong District, E. Bengal.




Tg. 'dul ba, No. 4125






Kalāpasūtra, Tg. sgra, No. 4282


According to the Yoga method advocated in the Kālacakra, a yogin should observe the following periods in meditation: three years, three half-months


Vanaratna is often called "Paṇḍita mtha' ma" or "The Last Paṇḍita"


Svayambhū-caitya in Nepāl.




This image had been erected by Vibhūticandra on advice from Śākyaśrībhadra.








the siddha Sūryaśrījñāna












phag mo gzhung drug: Tg. rgyud, Nos. 155', 1552, 1553, 1554, 1555, 1556




Vanaratna. dge bshes dge 'dun chos 'phel tells me that a detailed biography of Vanaratna exists in manuscript form in Tibet. The rnam thar contains valuable information on Ceylon.


i.e. the maṇḍala into which was initiated grags pa 'byung gnas


man ngag snye ma, Tg. rgyud, No. 1198


saṃsāra, i.e. they obtained emancipation


dpyid kyi thig le le zhes bya ba, Tg. rgyud, No. 1448


rgyas bstan, name of the first chapters of the Vasantatilaka.


lung, permissson to read the text.


drïl bu rim lnga, Tg. rgyud, No. 1435








Pratipattisāraśataka, Tg. rgyud,, No. 2334


Tg. rgyud, No, 2335


Situated near the hill of the Svayambhūcaitya

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