Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Sonam Gyatso (iii): Ordination and early education’ 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 29 - Sonam Gyatso (iii): Ordination and early education

The third (chapter): The manner of his ordination and of his continuous search for knowledge. When he had reached the age of seven, rong ston pa smra ba'i seng ge accompanied by his disciples came to bsam yas and revolved the Wheel of the Doctrine. The (child) attended the religious class and showed great devotion (towards rong ston pa). He felt sad pondering over the sufferings of the Phenomenal Existence which was similar to a fiery pit. He thought that he should take up ordination into the Doctrine. He was ordained by the Dharmasvāmin rang ston who acted as upādhyāya, dwags po bkra shis rnam par rgyal ba acting as ācārya, and the bka’ bzhi pa shes rab dpal ldan as "Time recorder" (dus bsgo ba). At the time (of the ordination) the upādhyāya said: He will become a holy man, the owner of boundless doctrines, and encouraged him with these words. He was given the name of Śākya rin chen.

While he was engaged in the study of the Pramāṇavārtika and the Prajñāpāramitā under his uncle the ācārya ngag dbang ba, he used to learn by heart every day three pages of the Pramāṇavārtika. He became an expert in the recitation of sacred texts, and was able to practise the recitation of each sentence backwards. At the age of 13, he preached for the first time the Prajñāpāramitā and the Pramāṇavārtika, at the religious school of rtses thang, and filled all present with amazement. Through this the religious king grags pa 'byung gnas felt attracted towards him and said: I shall adopt this novice as my son! He paid for his studies and entrusted him to the great dpal 'byor rgya mtsho ba. He studied diligently the three great texts of the "Ten Books" during many days and nights. He used to spend his time in work and never slept. His Teacher used to preach daily seven diffetent kinds of texts, and (the boy) used to repeat the (26a) text aloud (skyar chos pa). To repeat thus about twenty pages of the "arrow size"[1] was not difficult for him. During a journey, he committed to memory the text of the bshes sprin[2] while riding horseback, and completed it during a stage. Such were his wonderful deeds of excellent wisdom which he had acquired by birth, by practice, and by diligence.

At the age of 21, he chose the following texts and preached them for many months at the religious assemblies of dpal rtses thang:

The Five Treatises of Maitreya (byams chos sde lnga),
the dbu ma rigs tshogs, [3] the Ratnamālā, [4]
the Suhṛllekha, [5]
the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra,
the Mūlamādhyamakakārikā,[6]
the Mādlyamakāvatāra [Mādhyamakāvatāra?], [7]
the Catuḥśataka, [8]
the Abhidharmasamuccaya,
the Abhidharmakośa,
the Pañcaskandlhaprakaraṇa [Pañcaskandhaprakaraṇa?],[9]
the Vinaya-sūtra (mdo rtsa),[10]
the me tog phren rgyud, [11]
the Triśatikā (sum brgya pa),[12]
the Prātimokṣa-sūtra,[13]
the Seven Texts on Logic (tshad ma sde bdun)[14] and
the rig gter.[15]

All scholars became filled with admiration towards him. And especially so the Dharmarāja grags pa 'byung gnas pa who became more than satisfied, and said: He is the only man who has done more than I had hoped for, among all those whom I had assisted. Now he will be able to become my preacher! He was very pleased. The first initiation obtained by him in this present life, was the initiation into the maṇḍala of 'khor lo chen po[16] bestowed on him by his father, a great vidyādhara, in his childhood. He was then given the secret name of Akṣobhyavajra (mi bskyod rdo rje). Further, he obtained many "permissions" (rtes gnang, to read the texts belonging to the Cycles) of gur (mgon po gur)[17] and zhal (mgon po zhal bzhi),[18] and the Kālacakra. He thought after that that he should satisfy his wisdom by searching for the boundless Doctrine, giving up all partiality towards theories, monasteries, etc. (26b)

He proceeded to na len dra[19] and listened to many instructions by rong ston smra ba'i seng ge, such as (the exposition) of the Five Treatises of Maitreya (byams chos lnga), the Mūlamādhyamakakārikā, the Mādhyamakāvatāra, the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra (spyod 'jug), the dul ba me tog phren rgyud,[20] the three Bhāvanākramas (sgom rim),[21] as well as numerous short expositions of the Prajñāpāramitā and the theories of the Mādhyamaka.

From the Lord bkra shis rnam rgyal he heard the Prajñāpāramitā, Logic, texts belonging to the Mādhyamaka system,[22] the initiation of Hevajra and Nairātma (kye rdor yab yum).

From rngog byang chub dpal, the last of the seven descendants of rngog (%), (he heard) the initiation into the seven maṇḍalas of rngog, and obtained many permissions (lung).

From dmar ston rgyal mtshan 'od zer (he obtained) many initiations of the Mantrayāna.

From the snar thang upādhyāya bsod nams mchog grub pa (he received) the permission (lung) of the Pañcabhūmi of Asaṅga (sa sde),[23] From the mahā-upādhyāya kun rgyal ba he obtained many initiations, such as the Vajramālā (rdo rje phreng ba) and the Vajracaryākṛyasamuccaya,[24] the doctrine of the Path and Fruit (lam 'bras), the u rgyan bsnyen grub,[25] the "Six Doctrines" (of Nā-ro-pa), the Mahāmudrā, and many others. He also attended numerous recitals of the Tantric section of the bka’ 'gyur (rgyud 'bum), and many expositions, such as the sgron gsal,[26] and other texts.

Having come to 'tshur phu (%) he obtained from ‘jam dbyangs don grub 'od zer whatever initiations, precepts and expositions of texts were found in the Ocean of the dpal kar ma pa doctrine.

From the ācārya ye shes rgya mtsho ba and, after going to brag nag (%), from the Lord rin chen rgyal mtshan, he obtained the initiation rites of many maṇḍalas of the "Outer" and "Inner"Tantras,[27] such as the Kālacakra and others.

From 'gos lo tsā ba gzhon nu dpal[28] he obtained the Prajñāpāramitā and the Six Basic Texts of the bka’ gdams pas (bka’ gdams gzhung drug),[29] and numerous initiations and 'permissions' (rjes gnang) of the "Old" Tantras (snga 'gyur). In particular, the lo tsa'i skad dod (a Dictionary for the use) of translators, the sgra'i sa ris,[30] the Śrī Kālacakra, the sgron gsal,[31] the Hevajra, etc, as well as the expositions of other Tantras. (27a) He used to familiarize himself with the subjects preached by the Teacher all day long, and in this manner he became a great scholar in numerous Sūtras and Tantras. Further, he mastered the various sciences, such as prosody, medicine and the arts, befitting a scholar. He became without effort the greatest scholar on the field of rites and Tantric methods, such as ritual dancing, songs, and the drawing and outlining of maṇḍalas.

In particular, he attended on Vanaratna, the great paṇḍita of Sadnagara (grong khyer dam pa) in Eastern India, who had come to Tibet, and obtained from him instruction, such as the Sadaṅga-yoga, the highest of all the Paths of Vajrayāna, and the initiation of the Thirteen Deities of the Saṃvara Cycle according to the system of Ghaṇṭapāda (dril bu pa), with the help of which the great paṇḍita himself had obtained the realization, and the initiation and authorization of the Kālacakra, etc. He saw the mahā-paṇḍita off to Nepāl as far as 'dol kha, and obtained from him some extensive expositions of texts, such as the Pratipattisāraśataka by Āryadeva (sning po brgya pa).[32]

Though the paṇḍita (Vanaratna) could not give him the complete exposition of the Commentary on the Kālacakra-Tantra (Vimalaprabhā), he gave him a detailed explanation of the difficult points (of the system) in the form of replies to his questions. He understood all the conclusions, and thus his grace in the Kālacakra became great in this region.

Later rje thams cad mkhyen pa (the Lord All-knowing) byam pa gling pa, the Great, and dpal kar ma pa, (the fourth) holder of the Red Crown (zhwa dmar cod pan 'dzin pa), bestowed on him numerous initiations, expositions, recitals of sacred texts, etc. He attended on nearly thirty teachers who were learned and possessed siddhis, and thus crossed the Ocean of learning, (27b) his scholarly fame encompassing the entire Earth.

Footnotes and references:


mda' tshad, the usual length of a Tibetan block print page.


Tg. sprin yig, No. 4182


It is not clear why 'gos lo tsa ba listed the Ratnamālā and the Mādhyamakakārikā separately from the dbu ma rigs tshogs, the treatises by Nāgārjuna.


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3901


Tg. chos 'byung, No. 4496


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3824


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3861


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3846


Tg. dbu ma, No. 3866


Tg. 'dul ba, No. 4117


Tg. 'dul ba, No. 4123


Tg. No. 4124


Kg. 'dul ba, No. 2


With the Pramāṇasamuccaya /Tg. tshad ma, No. 4203/; the mdo of the text stands for tshad ma'i mdo, i. e. the tshad ma kun btus of Diṅnāga.


a treatise on Logic composed by (R 809) the sa skya paṇḍita kun dga' rgyal mtshan. The book contains his exposition of Logic (Mūla), and an auto-conmmentary, strongly criticized by the late Logicians of the Yellow school.


A form of Vajrapani


A form of Mahākala


A form of Mahākala with four heads.


A monastery in 'phan yul


Tg. rgyud, No. 4123


Tg. dbu ma, Nos. 3915-3617 (%)


du ma skor, the Mādhyamaka Cycle


Tg. sems tsam, Nos. 4035-37, 4038, 4039, 4040, 4041-2


Tg. rgyud, No. 3305


Sevasādhana by u rgyan pa


Pradipodyotananāma-ṭīkā, Tg. rgyud, No. 1785


"Inner" stands for Anuttara-yoga; "Outer” or phyi stands for the three other Tantra classes.


The author of the deb ther sngon po


klong rdol bla ma'i gsung 'bum, Book XXV (Ra), fol. 2a:, Śikśāisamuccaya, Bodhisattvacaryātāra, sa'i dngos gzhi, Sūtralaṃkāra. (sa rgyan gnyis), Jātakamālā and Udānavarga.


Diagrams /Sa ris drawing of figures and letters on a wooden beard strewn with ashes


Tg. rgyud, No. 1785


Tg. rgyud, No.2334

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