Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po)

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

This page relates ‘Gandenpa Tradition’ 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 15 (Monastic Systems).

Chapter 2 - The Gandenpa Tradition

[Full title: The Gandenpa [Tradition] (dge ldan pa’i skabs. Chandra 953; Chengdu 1249; Roerich 1073).]

More than seven hundred and twenty years after the birth of the religious king srong btsan sgam po, the All-knowing blo bzang grags pa'i dpal appeared in this World, having been born in the year Fire Female Hen (me mo bya 1357 A.D.), in the region of tsong kha[1].

In his youth he was introduced into the gates of the Pratimokśa and Tantra by the great kalyāṇa-mitra don grub rin chen[2], who said:[3]

"In the provinces of dbus and gtsang study this and that" (%) (the Biography/rnam thar/, fol. 9a, of rje tsong kha pa contains the following passage:

"His Teacher wrote down his instructions in slokas, but when tson kha pa reached Tibet, he lost the piece of paper /on which the verses were written/ and though he searched for it, he did not find it again. Later he forgot most of  the verses, but those which lie remembered, were as follows:

"O youthful blo bzang grags pa! You are under the influence of your virtuous works performed in your former lives.

Verily you were endowed with the. Faculty of imbibing the nectar of the Good Law in your former lives!...

You will first study earnestly the Abhisamayālaṃkāra which is the ornament of three "Mothers" (the Large, the Middle and the Abridged versions of the Prajñāpāramitā).

If you become learned in it, you will be able to master all the Scriptures.

Keep this advice in a corner of your mind!

Then, as a branch subject, you should study the Mahāyāna Sūtralaṃkāra which expounds the Path and Practice of the Bodhisattvas, the Śāstra Dharmadharmatāvibhaṅga [4] which describes the Saṃsāra as the foundation of Nirvāṇa, and the treatise entitled Madhyāntavibhaṅga[5] which preaches the Middle Path, which is without beginning or end, and the Mahayāna Uttara-Tantra[6] which expounds the existence of the Pure Nature of the Mind present in all living beings, and describes it as the Tathāgata-garbha.

You must use these Five Treatises of Maitreya as your "Armour of Knowledge". After that you should study:

The Three body-like Śāstras (lus dang 'dra ba'i b'stan bcos gsum): the large Śāstra Pramāṇavārtika, the Pramāṇaviniścaya, the middle-sized, the Nyāyabindu, the Abridged. And the (four) so-called "Lamp-like" treatise ('phros pa yan lag lta bu) comprising the Hetubindu[7] , the Saṃbandhaparīkṣaprakaraṇa[8], the Santānantarasiddhi-nāma-prakaraṇa[9], and the Vādanyāya-nāma-prakaraṇa[10].

These "Seven Treatises on Logic", composed by Dharmakirti are the Light of the Buddha’s Doctrine in Jambudvīpa, and are famed as Sun and Moon".

Several verses were forgotten by tsong kha pa. Further he remembered the following:

"You wise one; should feel devotion towards. The theory of the absence of Extremes.

You should study the Six Treatises of the Mādhyamaka composed by Ārya Nāgārjuna and the Treatises based on them."

At first tsong kha pa attended on many kalyāṇa-mītras at skyi 'sod. Later he attended on the Venerable gzhon nu blo gros. He studied most of the Piṭakas. He was of the opinion that except for the practice of wisdom (prajṅā), there was no other path of emancipation. Since this doctrine was based on the sastras of the Mādhyamaka school, he studied it diligently.

In the field of Tantras, he found the Śrī-Guhyasamāja-Tantra to be the chief of all the Tantras. He searched for its Essence. In his opinion the All-knowing bu ston was the Master of a great number of Tantras (Yoga-Tantra). He studied this class of Tantras with gon gsum bde then pa chos kyi dpal pa and khyung pa lhas pa. He held the opinion that the Vinaya of the Holy Doctrine was the basis of the entire Doctrine of Buddha, and studied earnestly the system of the Vinaya under the mahā-upādhyāya skyor lung pa.

While he was staying among fellow-students of philosophy, though endowed with perfect understanding of the Scriptures (Āgamas) and Sciences (Logic), he avoided such practices, as abusing others, shouting, running, jumping and dancing, and felt very sad and downcast. So I have been told by my Teachers.[11]

After that he chiefly benefitted others by expounding to them the Doctrine. Once, when many wise men had gathered, similar to geese on a lotus pond, among them there was a teacher named dbu ma pa[12] , who in his childhood had a fleeting vision of the Venerable Mañjuśrī. Later, while engaged in meditation, he obtained a clear vision of the Bodhisattva, and used to inquire about his daily work from the Bodhisattva. Tsong kha pa obtained from him the initiation of the Venerable One (Mañjuśrī) and recited mantras.

Within a short time he obtained a clear vision of the Bodhisattva, and was able to put questions to the Bodhisattva, in the manner of a disciple to his teacher, and obtained answers. Most of the time he beheld the Bodhisattva, and obtained his instructions. The Venerable One foretold him that should he lead the life of an ascetic he would be able to benefit the Doctrine greatly, more so than in the present state. He did accordingly, and in the company of several companions he proceeded towards 'ol kha. There he practised meditation in hermitages, as far as bum thang in mon[13] .

About that time he studied with the mahā-upādhyāya chos skyabs bzang po, whose mind had reached the lofty stage by the practice of the bka' gdams pa precepts, and the mahā-upādhyāya las kyi rdo rje[14] , who never abandoned the practice of Bodhisattvas, assisted by the manifestation of the Body, Speech and Mind of Guhyapati, the lam rim[15] composed by Śrī Dīpaṅkarajñāna, and practised it. He spent one day at the foot of the mo la pass of gnal.

There he received a prophecy, which said:

"You will become a Buddha in this World. Know it!"

His Tutelary deity also prophesied to him that he could benefit others by following the vows of the Vinaya:

Following these indications, the Teacher and his disciples wore religious garments which were cut according to the Vinaya rules, as well as the patra and the mat[16] , and other articles (prescribed by the Vinaya). When others saw them, they felt that this was the very manner of ordained priests.

Later he introduced to the Vinaya the disciples who wanted to hear from him the Doctrine during a year or a month. And not only that, for (it was said) that the mere hearing of his name from a distance, caused the hair of the body to stand erect. His fame enveloped all quarters and he became a matchless one. Not being satisfied with the mere vows of the Pratimokṣa, he developed in his disciples a mental yearning towards Enlightenment which consisted of a solemn wish and practice (of Bodhisattvas)[17] :

He also composed a Śāstra expounding the observance of the vows of the above.[18] In his opinion one could practise the vows of Bodhisattvas for tens of millions of Kalpas[19] but, if one did not possess the wisdom intuiting the Absolute, one would not be able to cross over the Ocean of Phenomenal Existence.[20] Therefore he composed a treatise expounding the precepts of the degrees of the Path of the three kinds of individuals, which expounded clearly the above system.[21] In his opinion the degrees of the Path of Enlightenment were almost complete in the above system (expounded in the lam rim), but that it was necessary to be initiated into the system of Tantras which enabled one to obtain Buddhahood in this very life. Thus he wrote many Śāstras describing the degrees of the Path (of Tantra).[22] Especially, he composed precepts and commentaries on the Śrī-Guhyasamāja-Tantra basing himself on the texts by the ācārya Nāgārjuna and the latter’s disciples.[23]

At first he laboured, for the welfare of others and visited many different, countries. In the beginning of the year Earth Female Ox (sa mo glang 1409 A.D.) he held the Great Prayer Assembly (smon lam chen mo), and brought down the light of the Doctrine on those who had gathered. In the same year he founded the monastery of dge ldan rnam par rgyal ba'i gling. Then in the year Wood Female Sheep (shing mo lug 1415 A.D.) he proceeded towards bkra shis do kha of 'on, and revolved the Wheel of the Doctrines of the Tantras and Sutras. He gathered a few Tripiṭakadharas and classified the difficult points of the Doctrine. He spent over two months there.

After that having come to dge ldan, he built the outer chapel (phyi'i mchod khang), and inside it erected a Tantric mandala made of precious stones.[24] In the year Earth Female Hog (sa mo phag 1419 A.D.) he went to the hot springs of stod luns.[25] When he was preaching the Śrī-Guhyasamāja-Tantra to numerous kalyāNa-mitras, who had gathered in the vihāra of dpal 'bras spungs, he placed his preacher’s chair facing dge ldan.

After completing the exposition of the ninth chapter (of the Guhyasamāja-Tantra), he proceeded to dge Idan. On his way there he performed the consecration rite at gsang sngags mkhar. He received an invitation from lha spur gru bzhi pa. While he was residing there, a loud sound of a divine bell[26] resounded from the Sky, and following it he proceeded to the mansion (gzims khan) of dge ldan. On arrival there, he presented to the Dharmasvāmin rgyal tshab rin po che a hat and a mantle which symbolized his appointment to the abbot’s chair. When he sat meditating, his face shone like that of a sixteen-year old boy, and this was seen by his disciples. Immediately after it, he passed into the Immaculate Sphere (dag pa’i dbyings).

The above is a brief story of the deeds of the Venerable All-knowing. By the grace of this Venerable One, even those of the monks who had not seen his face, and were residing at distant plates, wore the religious robe (cīvara, chos gos) and kept with themselves the (meditative) mat, the alms-bowl (pātra) and the other articles (prescribed by the Vinaya). They discarded the wearing of the hood (sdud ma) as a cloak, and instead wore the mantle (zla gam), and changed the colour of their hats to that of gold.

The above is an account of his greatness as seen by ordinary human beings. Now his intrinsic greatness:

In the story about the instructions given by the guhyapati Vajrapāṇi to the mahā-upādhyāya las kyi rdo rje (Karmāvajra), it is said:

"Even I, Vajrapāni, was unable to grasp the measure of the merit of Sumatikikirtiśrī.”[27]

In the above reliable text (it is stated):

"After that lie will become the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrīgarbha (‘jam dpal snying po) in the Heaven of Tuṣita[28] . In future he will become the Tathāgata Siṃhāsvara (seng ge'i nga ro)."

From the above quotations one understands that He has been a being with a straight forward Mind, dwelling on a lofty stage (of spiritual evolution), who had cone here for the welfare of living beings. His Regent (rgyal tshab) was one filled with aversion towards the entire World, endowed with an enlightened Mind, unhindered (in the unterstanding) of all the systems (expounded) in the basic texts of the Tantras and Sūtras. He possessed a personality bound by pure undefiled morality, even in case of the smallest transgressions. He showed perseverance in meritorious deeds without abandoning them even for a single moment. He acted as abbot for 13 years till the year Iron Female Hog (lcags mo phag 1431 A.D.). In this year he handed, over the abbotship to mkhas grub dge legs dpal, and himself embraced a solitary life, and departed to Potala (i.e. Died) in the year Water Male Mouse (chu pho byi ba 1432 A.D.) at the age of 69.

Mkhas grub dge legs dpal occupied the abbot’s chair for eight years till the year Earth Male Horse (sa pho rta 1438 A.D.), and then passed away. The Dharmasvāmin legs pa rgyal mtshan[29] was born in the year Wood Hare (shing yos 1375 A.D.), and became abbot (of dge ldan) in the year Earth Female Sheep (sa mo lug 1439 A.D.), at the age of 65. He died at the age of 76 in the year Iron Male Horse (lcags pho rta 1450 A.D.). Drung blo gros pa was born in the year Earth Female Serpent, (sa mo sbrul 1389 A.D.), and became abbot in the year Iron Male Horse (lags pho rta 1950 A.D.), at the age of 62. He remained abbot till the year Water Female Sleep (chu mo lug 1463 A.D.), during which he appointed to the chair ba so ba, aged 62, and himself became an ascetic. After that they asked the Dharmasvāmin blo gros brtan pa to occupy the chair.

He is still alive performing meritorious deeds.

The Chapter on dge ldan.[30]

Footnotes and references:


nowadays the district is called tson thar. A famous mountain near sku 'bum is still called tsong kha'i skyes ri (R).


he was a native of Amdo and studied in Central Tibet. He founded the famous monastery of bya khyung dgon pa in Amdo /near pa yen/, which is considered to have been the first of all the dge lugs pa monasteries (R).


{It seems that the following page may be all Roerich’s addition and should be a footnote as it is entirely within the parentheses that start here–MES}


Tg. sem stsam, No. 4023.


Tg. sems tsam, No. 4521.


Tg. sems tsam, No. 4024.


Tg. tshad ma, No. 4213.


Tg. tshad ma, No. 4214.


Tg. tshad ma, No.4219.


Tg. tshad ma, No. 4218.


Some of the ancient Teacher disapproved of the postures and exclamations accompanying debates (R).


a native of Amdo (R).


Bhutan (R).


Karmavajra (R).


Degrees of the Path (R).


nisadana (R).


'jug pa, prayoga (R).


the mdo rtsa'i zin bris rie rin po che'i bka' 'bum, vol. II. /kha/, fol. 98a (R).


Cosmic Period (R).


Samsara (R).


the lam rim chen mo, bka' 'bum, vol. XIII (pa), fol. 48ra. lam rim chung ba, bka 'bum, vol. XIV(pha) (R).


the sngags rim chen mo, vol. III /Ga/, fol.44xa: How to, first attend on a /Tantric/ Teacher, then how to practise Tantric vows and precepts bestowed by the Teacher, and how to practise having obtained initiation of the two degrees of meditation of the utpannakrama and sampannakrama degrees (R).


the sgron gsal rgya cher brad pa, bka 'bum, vol.V /ca/, fol.138a; the sgron gsal mchan gyi yang 'grel, bka' 'bum, vol,IV /na/, fol. 476a; the rim lnga. gsal sgron, bka' 'bum, vol.VII /Ja/, fol.312a (R).


the mandala can be still seen at dge ldan. One of the images of the mandala became famous as the "rainbow" image, Khaṅḍa pa ja tshon ma (R).


a well-known resort in Tibet (R).


gaṅḍi, a piece of wood used to gather inmates of a monastery, according to the Vinaya of the Sarvāstivādins. The gaṅḍi and the khakkhara or staff are peculiar to the Sarvāstivādins (R).


(blo bzang grags pa dpal) rje rin po che'i bka' 'bum, vol. 1(ka), zhu lan sman mchog bdud rtsi'i 'phren ba, fol 10b: kho bo phyag na rdo rjes kyang 'di'i yon tan dpag par mi nus shing (R).


See zhu lan, fol. 12b: dga' ldan du byams pa'i drung du byang chub sems dpa' 'jam dpal snying po zhes bya bar skye (R).


an incarnation of this abbot exists in Amdo, and is known by the name of Zwa lu pa (R).


The above are the first six abbots of the 'jam dbyangs gtsang pa bdun brgyud (R).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: