Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Kam System (skam lugs kyi skabs)’ 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 12 (Peace-Making Lineages).

Chapter 4 - The Kam System (skam lugs kyi skabs)

[Chandra 795; Chengdu 1047;Roerich 896.]

The School of skam: skam was a disciple of the kalyāṇa-mitra gra pa. He was a monk learned in the Prajñāparamitā doctrine, and associated with one named khams sgom tshul khrims rgyan, a disciple of gra pa. He acted as attendant of the kalyāṇa-mitra gra pa to klags pa lam. There gra pa bestowed the initiation of phyag na rdo rje bha ba ma on an alms-giver, who was afflicted by leprosy (sa gdon). After finishing the initiation rite the two disciples offered a hundred homa offerings, but the demon became angry. Skam sgom became afflicted by a tumour in the abdomen (skran), and khams sgom became afflicted by dropsy, and later was carried away by leprosy.

About that time dam pa was attending for a considerable time on the monastic congregation of rgyal (‘phan yul). There he made a stove which is even nowadays known for its remarkable way of kindling without blowing. Once when he was carrying a large load of straw, he placed it on the threshold of a door, and nobody was able to move it from there. Dam pa shouted: "The door of Faith, which leads towards religion, is blocked for my monks of rgyal!" and saying so, he left for China.

Thus when dam pa made a lengthy stay at rgyal, one day he went for a walk along the edge of the marsh of rgyal. Skam sgom was also there, suffering from pain (but did not show it). Dam pa asked him: "O Venerable ascetic! Are you not ill? "I am not ill! Are you, yourself, not ill" replied khams sgom. Next day the two met again, and dam pa asked khams sgom the same question.

Khams sgom replied: "yes, I am ill! Do you have a way to cure me?"

Dam pa replied:

"You are a man who prides himself with (his) perfection, but haven't you the means to cure your disease?"

Faith was born in khams sgom, who said:

"At any rate, bestow some hidden precepts on me!"

Then dam pa[1] bestowed on him the precepts of the Prajñāparamitā, and all of a sudden khams sgom’s ailment was cured, and he was filled with amazement.

He sent a message to his brother, the bla ma skam, saying:

"Here there is an Indian teacher, an extraordinary siddha. He cured my illness. You should invite him."

Skam sent his elder brother, and invited dam pa. Dam pa was performing a consecration rite of the Śatasāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitā for the alms-giver rtsi rdor bstan, and did not accept (the invitation).

Again the brother pleaded, and dam pa inquired: "What is his name?"

The brother replied: "His name is skam ye shes rgyal mtshan."

Dam pa then said:

"Well then, I can benefit him! I shall be coming in the morning of the day after tomorrow."

Then the brother returned to the house of skam, and told him:

"This Teacher is indeed a wonderful man! He is coming the day after tomorrow: We should prepare for it!"

On that day there was a snowfall.

Next morning, at daybreak, an a tsa ra (ācārya) entered the house. "Are you the Teacher?"

They inquired, and dam pa replied: "yes I am!"

They said: "We thought you were coming tomorrow."

Dam pa answered:

"I was afraid an accident might happen (to you) and therefore came this morning".

They asked: "Were you handicapped by snow?"

Dam pa replied: "My feet did not touch snow."

They said: "We did not open the door (how did you enter?")

Dam pa said: "The walls are no obstacles for me," and saying so, he sat down.

Then the relatives saluted and honoured him. Dam pa preached to them the symbolical introduction, and skam grasped its meaning, and thought to himself: "Alas! (He said too much) in the midst of a crowd". Dam pa said: "Symbols can be seen by those who have eyes, but not by those who have no eyes", and skam discovered that the others had not understood it. Dam pa spent 14 days there and for five days they carried out discussions.

During nine days he set aside special hours for preaching, and preached the Doctrine. On the first occasion he introduced him to his own Mind with the help of two methods: by introducing him to the nature of the ailment, and to the nature of meditation. On the second occasion he preached the Four Noble Truths, the Refuge, and various other teachings.

After 14 days, he said to him: "I am going!"

They begged him to stay on, but he did not grant (their request).

They then begged to be allowed to meet him again, and dam pa replied

"I shall stay with a jñāna-ḍākinī on the Wu-t’ai-shan of China (ri bo rtse lnga).[2] You should address your prayers over there".

Then skam asked him

"Whom should I ask, when feeling uncertain, after you had gone?"

Dam pa replied:

"The best kalyāṇa-mitra is your own Mind! A Teacher, able to remove doubts, will emerge from within your own Mind. The second kalyāṇa-mitra is an Ārya (the scriptures of the Buddha), therefore you would read the Prajñāparamitā (rdo rgyes 'bring bsdus).[3] [4] Verily the lowest kind of kalyāṇa-mitras is the individual. But you will not meet me again. You can discuss with the brothers who had experienced meditation. Meditate for eight years! Then you will obtain the faculty of prescience. After that you can begin preaching the Prajñāparamitās."

Skam replied:

"I had no opportunity to practise meditation. Inside my body there were nine tumours in the abdomen, and gra pa had prophesied that I was to die in three months".

Dam pa replied:

"Those who practise meditation on the 1652 Prajñāparamitā will not suffer even from headache".

Saying so, dam pa departed.

Then skam practised meditation and the tumours (ìn his abdomen) became cured. In eight years the faculty of prescience was produced in him. He preached the mngon rtogs brgyad ka.[5] Besides the Sañcaya[6] he used to preach quoting from the Śatasāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitā and the Pañcviṃśatisāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitā. His disciples, who followed these teachings, became known as the "Upper Lineage" and the "Lower Lineage".

The "Upper Lineage" :

The "Upper Lineage" was transmitted through 'khun 'dzi yang dben pa dbang phyug rdo rje and rgyams shes rab bla ma. These two were invalids, and introduced themselves to their own Minds by way of illness. They preached as the basic text the skabs dang po,[7] as precepts the Four (Noble) Truths, and various methods (lag len thor bu ba). Both 'khun and rgyams preached it to dbon po, jo dkon. The latter to ‘gos. The latter to (his) son ‘gos dar ma. The latter to rog ston btsan po. The latter to rog shes rab 'od.

Again lha rje sprad (obtained) it from skam. The latter taught it to ‘gos dar ma. From him gtsang pa rngog obtained it. The latter taught it to rgyal ba dkon skyabs. The latter taught it to rog. Again skam taught it to the bla ma chag brag dmar ba;The latter to the bla ma gnyos. The latter to the bla ma sgog Iung pa. The latter taught it to the bla ma zhang ston shes rab. The latter taught it to the bla ma gshen. The latter to skye med zhang. Skye med zhang composed a text book (yig cha) on the "Oral Precepts", known as the "Nine Groups of Four" (bzhi tsho dgu).

Again skam taught it to the kalyāṇa-mitra ‘khun. The latter to chug brag dmar ba. The latter to thang chung pa, the incarnation of la stod gtsang so. The latter to rgya ston gzhon nu seng ge. The latter to sag ston. Again skam taught it to rgyams. The latter to ke ke hor grags. The latter to the bla ma gnyos. The latter bestowed it on rgya ston gzhon nu seng ge. The latter having read the lden bzhi of Ācārya Deva, (Āryadeva), had faith born in him. He attended on three teachers, but did not feel satisfied and proceeded to la stod gtsang so.

He met the nirmāṇa-kāya thang chung pa and obtained precepts from him. An understanding removing doubts was produced in him. Since there did not exist a text-book (on the doctrine) till the time of thang chung pa and gnyos, rgya ston gzhon nu seng ge wrote a large text book on the precepts of the skam school, Its title was "sher phyin thugs rgyud lag len snyan rgyud rin chen phreng ba rigs pa'i gtan tshigs 'phrul gyi lde mig" ("The Miraculous Key of Logic; the Garland of Precious Stones of Oral Tradition; The Practice of the Mental Lineage of the Prajñāparamitā"). Again skam taught it to rgya gar jo sras. The latter to ras pa lha ri pa. The latter to the two brothers sum and sgom. Again shangs pa ke ke hor grags followed on skam for nine years and obtained from him hidden precepts. Later, he attended for three months on 'khun yang dben pa. Ke ke taught it to the rin po che rgyal tsha.

The "Lower Lineage":

Its (teachings) was handed down by sgro. Not being an invalid[8], he used to expound the essential meaning and the Abhisamaya (mngon par rtogs pa), differentiating between disciples who were characterized by a gradual development, and a spontaneous development (cig char). He commented on Sūtras with the help of four different explanations of the principle of Relativity. The "Lower Lineage" was a line which handed down precepts through meditation.

This sgro was a native of Upper ‘phan yul. He was the elder brother of the three brothers and sisters born to father sgro ston 'phan rgyal and mother rje mo bkra shis, and received the name of sgro chos brtson. He was ordained in his youth. While he was studying the Prajñāparamitā with the kalyāṇa-mitra rje rgan 'bum pa, the latter fell ill, and nothing could help him.

His retinue said: "one should invite skam."

Rje rgan said:

"Both of us are learned in the Prajñāparamitā, it would affect my fortune, if I were to show him respect."

The monks said: "We shall invite him privately", and rje rgan replied: "Do it!"

They accordingly invited skam to a house which stood apart, and asked him for hidden precepts.

Skam said:

"You didn't invite me to your house, but brought me here. How is that?"

Rje rgan replied:

"I was afraid it would affect my fortune, and so invited you privately."

Skam was very displeased, and (his precepts) did not bear any fruit. He proceeded to the mansion of rje rgan. Inside it he saw images, some more beautiful than the others, some better than the others, in front of which stood offerings. Skam threw dust at the painted images and threw the offerings down. Later when rje rgan came in, he inquired: "Who did it?" and felt angry.

Skam said

"You had shown partiality towards the Buddhas, and therefore have fallen ill!"

After that rje rgan was more careful, and the precepts bore fruit. His illness was cured, and faith was born in him. Sgro quietly listened to the precepts preached by skam, and wondered. Later he asked rje rgan to visit the residence of ska.

Rje rgan said:

"It is to be done! He is a wonderful Teacher. Go there!"

So sgro went to (visit) skam. Skam introduced him to the "Essential Meaning'' (snying po’i don) and the Abhisamaya. He also introduced him to the Śatasāhasrikā, the Pañcviṃśatisāhasrikā and the Aṣṭasāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitās, which he used as precepts. Sgro was filled with wonder.

About that time dam pa (sangs rgyas) was said to be residing at ding ri. Sgro said to skam: "Shall I go and meet him?""Well, go!" said skam, "but my Teacher has hands and feet bigger than those of others" (by this he meant dam pa, but did not know whether that Teacher was dam pa). He practised meditation on the Prajñāparamitā and the ūṣmagata-jñāna (drod kyi ye shes)[9] was produced in him. Dam pa extricated insects from his body.[10] Because of this he had many moles (sme ba) on the upper part of his body, and one mole on his left foot. On the crown of his head there was a hole inside which the big finger could be introduced. Bla ma sgro then arranged for provisions, and journeyed towards glang 'khor.

About midday of the day on which he was supposed to arrive (do nub sleb pa'i nyin phyed tsa na), he heard the voice of dam pa. In the evening he went to see dam pa whom he found in the midst of a crowd. He saluted him and offered him a present, but dam pa refused to accept it. Bla ma sgro had a piece of pink coloured silk. He cut a piece, and tied it to the hair of dam pa, who became pleased. Then sgro cut the silk into pieces, and tied them all over the blanket worn by dam pa, and his hair. This pleased dam pa. Then dam pa gave him a packet containing some medicinal mixture, as an auspicious token, as well as a shin bone tied with tendons. Then he gave, him a pair of scales (bre srang) which he placed on a brass plate.

Sgro did not understand the symbolical meaning of these presents.

He asked kun dga' (dam pa’s chief disciple), who said to him:

"The first indicates (that you will obtain), the understanding of the oneness of Flavour[11] of all the Elements of Existence. The second (indicates) chat you will hold the foot of the Lineage. The third (indicates) that you will be able to measure all the doctrines."

When sgro was about to divide the medicine, dam pa said: "This belongs to yourself!", and handed it over to him. Then he (dam pa) ordered five monks to escort him as far as phung mkhar. The four companions said to him, "We are unable to obtain precepts", and went to trade to snye nam.

(Dam pa) said to sgro: "Come!"and he followed on him. Dam pa inquired: "What request have you?" and sgro asked dam pa about many theories of scholars which he had studied formerly.

Dam pa said:

"You should take these questions before their respective Masters".

Kun dga’ told sgro:

"You should put questions about the precepts of the Teacher and about your own experience".

So sgro put questions on the Prajñāpāramitā doctrine, saying:

"skam ye shes rgyal mtshan pa had told me this and that".

(Dam pa) was pleased, and inquired:

"Are you a disciple of skam? Is skam ye shes rgyal mtshan well?"

Then sgro understood that he (dam pa) was the Teacher (mentioned previously by skam). Sgro then asked dam pa for hidden precepts and for his permission to remain there.

Dam pa said in the assembly:

"I require a copy of the Ārya-Aṣṭasāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitā. Who has one?"

The chaplain (mchod gnas pa) so hor 'bar and his brother replied:

"We shall copy it, and present it to you".

Dam pa said:

"Let the copy be (written) in printed characters, or in the cursive script. Let it be completed within one month, and bring it here!" (After one month)

Dam pa said: "Now, where is the Aṣṭasāhasrikā?" They replied: "It isn't yet finished!" and dam pa became highly displeased, and said. "You have defeated the a tsa ra without showing him consideration. Now I must change my residence!" and saying so, he retired to his ascetic cell (dka' thub khang pa). "What will you do with the Aṣṭasāhasrikā?"

Inquired they, and dam pa replied:

"I shall introduce it inside a brass trumpet, and shall blow the trumpet towards the East".

fter that dam pa practised penance for seven days, and then passed away.

They (the inmates) gave sgro provisions to last 27 days during which to perform penance. Having cremated dam pa’s body and collected the relics, sgro proceeded towards his native place, and met skam.

Skam asked him. "Is he my Teacher, or not?"

Sgro replied: "He is!"

Skam then exclaimed "Alas! (e su) I should have gone with you on a horse!"

He (sgro) spent two years with skam, who then passed away. After that sgro practised meditation for 29 years amidst the rose-bushes of lan pa ('phan yul). He had a vision of Avalokiteśvara, and his understanding reached perfection.

Since the age of 72, he preached the Doctrine, and died at the age of 75. He was visited by ‘chus pa dar brtson. The latter’s father was ‘chus pa gang po. His mother khu mo sgron ne lcam. They had three children. After ordination, the boy studied numerous basic texts (gzhung) and hidden precepts. He especially became known as a scholar who conducted detailed investigations in the zhi byed method. After completing the precepts of rma and so (chung ba), he came to sgro, and heard the precepts of the Prajñāparamitā.

Sgro said to him:

"You should perform penance for 12 years, and then continue the Lineage".

‘Chus pa then returned to his native place, and engaged in penance for seven years. A ḍākinī prophesied to him about the spyi de dgon pa. During the laying of the foundation, a quarrel arose, and he had to break his penance. But he succeeded in completing his intention, and had a vision of the Tārā, and her retinue. Dam pa appeared (to him) five times in a dream, and the ḍākinīs hoisted 13 parasols (over him). He laid the foundation of the Doctrine in the four districts (ru) of dbus and gtsang.

At the age of 79, he said one day at harvest time:

"Now I shall be going home!"and went back.

After that, his wife went home to fetch provisions for the harvesters, and ‘chus pa said to her. "I shall die now!"

The wife replied.

"This cannot be true! Should you however die, what is to be done with your remains?"

‘Chus pa replied

"You should place them in the corner of this house, and cover them with stones".

The wife replied.

"If we do like this, worms may eat them."

‘Chus pa replied. "Worms aren't fortunate enough to eat my body! Never mind! My dead body will once sit erect. There will be trouble at that time", saying so, he passed away. After the lapse of many years,' his dead body sat erect (in the corner). When soldiers of dpon chen rgyal bzang came to yar klungs, they opened the grave and carried away whatever parts of the body they found. His son was ‘chus pa brtson 'grus seng ge rog shes rab 'od obtained the system of skam from him at ching khyim.

At the time of dam pa’s death, sgro was 40. He was 42 when skam died. He was 71 when he finished his meditation. Then for four years he preached. He was born in the year Earth-Male-Horse (sa pho rta 1078 A.D.). He was the senior of sgam po ba by one year. 'chus pa dar brtson was born in the year Fire-Female-Hen (me mo bya 1117 A.D.),[12] during which dam pa passed away. ‘chus pa died at the age of 76 in the year Water-Male-Mouse (chu pho byi ba 1192 A. D.). This ‘chus pa was 7 years younger thang dpal phag mo gru pa. From the birth of 'chus pa to the present Fire-Male-Ape year (me pho spre'u 1476 A.D.) 360 years have passed.

The Chapter on the school of skam.

Footnotes and references:


this term was frequently used to indicate the gcod rites and the zhi byed system.


in Shan-hsi Province of China (R).


Skt. the Śatasāhasrikā, the Pañcviṃśatisāhasrikā, and the Aṣṭasāhasrikā-Prajñāparamitā


In a passage of the Prajñāparamitā it is said that those, who recite its text will suffer much from headaches, etc., and by this the karmic influences will be removed, but in the present passage dam pa said the opposite.


Skt. aṣṭau-padārthāḥ, or dngos po brgyad, the eight principal subjects of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, (R).


Skt. Ārya-Prajñāparamitā-sañcayagāthā, Kg. sher phyin, No. 13, (R).


the first chapter of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, (R).


This means that he was not introduced to his own Mind by using his illness as a means of spiritual advancement.


the first stage of the four stages of prayoga-mārga, (R).


Skt. Abhisamayālaṃkāra, IV, 42, (R).


Skt. ekarasa, (R).


according to the re'u mig of sum pa mkhan po /JASB. 1889, p. 14/in 1118 A.D.

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