Blue Annals Chapter 8

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (Blue Annals) > Chapter By Chapter Summary - The Blue Annals > Chapter 8

Summary of The Blue Annals Chapter 8: The Dakpo Kagyüpa Traditions Descending from Marpa

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Part 1

by jpg3b

This section describes the major lineages in Tibet stemming from mar pa lho brag pa. Due to ‘gos lo tsa ba’s sectarian affiliations, this section receives the most thorough attention of any sectarian group in the Blue Annals. Investigation of these lineages in detail may be particularly helpful as we consider the ways in which isolated streams of yogic practice, initially developed in siddha communities in India, were synthesized, systematized, and brought into the institutional fold in Tibet during the time period covered by the Blue Annals.

Of particular importance is the convergence of two yogic Mahāmudrā traditions of the liminal siddha figures Saraha (through Naropa directly and in visions) and Maitripa (directly) in the charismatic figure of mar pa lho brag pa. He also recieved traning from the great translator ‘brog mi lo tsa ba. It is said that his "practice lineage" was transmitted only to mid la ras pa, while his "teaching lineage" (i.e. the exposition of texts) was transmitted to the other "Three Pillars," rngog chos rdor, ‘tshur dbang ne, and mes tshon po. While it is somewhat unclear exactly what was transmitted by Maitripa, it is clear that he was a central figure in bringing Mahāmudrā traditions to Tibet, as well as a commentarial tradition for the ratnagotravibhaga. rngog wrote the first commentary on this text in Tibet (It is particularly important for Kagyupas).

Some of the main practice systems and textual cycles transmitted by mar pa include:
Guhyasamāja tantra: primarily through ‘tshur.
Hevajra tantra: primarily through rngog, eventually a distinct system was propogated by his disciple ram.
Cakrasaṃvara tantra: primarily through mid la ras pa and ras chung pa.
Ratnagotravibhaga: through not mentioned in the Blue Annals, it is important to note that a transmission of this text on Buddha-nature was transmitted from Maitripa to mar pa. Formal commentary was written by rngog, while it could be argued that mid la ras pa also continued a form of this tradition as songs of realization reminiscent of Dohā literature in a Tibetan vernacular context. This lineage was articulated in formal commentary on the RGV later by the third karamapa rang byung rdo rje, the Jonangpa Dolpopa, and others.

It seems as though the famous "Six Yogas of nA ro pa" were transmitted to all of mar pa’s major disciples. As we saw earlier in Davidson’s discussion of lam ‘bras, could this also be a case of a "free-floating" set of yogic practices that was only later formally grounded in a particular Buddist mandala?

Of course it is important to keep in mind that none of the lineages just sketched out were completely isolated. On the contrary, there was much overlap and exchange - these are only the lines in which particular transmissions were most emphasized.

sgam po pa was also a key figure in the consolidation of yogic Mahāmudrā traditions into a scholastic monastic context. He was particularly suitable for this role because of his early training in the bka’ dams pa tradition. Only later in his life did he receive transmissions directly from mid la ras pa. He is particularly famous (or infamous?) for his synthesis of these two approaches. Davidson focused on the fact that much controversy arose because of his mixing of the descriptive language of the sutras and the tantras, which was considered by many to be completely unacceptable. Davidson rightly pointed out that his relative lack of formal training (he spent only 13 months with mid la!) and emphasis on personal meditation experience may have led to this type of writing. (Using sutra to describe/legitimate tantra had always been okay, but using tantric vocabulary to describe sutra was considered anathema.) Another important factor contributing to his synthetic teaching and writing style may simply be the fact that his early training was with bka’ dams pa teachers, thus he knew well and taught that tradition as the early stages of the path. He received his transmission from mid la ras pa relatively late, when he was already an advanced meditator, and thus may have been better able to teach more advanced tantric practices. He may have received Mahāmudrā transmissions, however, from both sources (Atīśa also held a Mahāmudrā lineage, as well as a RGV transmission). Thus it could be seen as suitable for those in engaged in sutric lam rim studies or those with tantric empowerments. There is much to be explored here in terms of his understanding of the place of Mahāmudrā on the path, gradual and sudden enlightenment, and his understanding of tathagatagarbha (shentong/rangtong). ‘gos lo tsa ba does not address many of these issues directly.

In addition, the early formation of the politically powerful kar ma bka’ rgyud tradition is interesting as it may be the first incidence of an important reincarnate lineage in Tibet. Centered at ‘tshur phu monastery not far from Lhasa, several of the early Karmapa had important connections to Mongol and Chinese emperors. Also of note is the overlap with certain nyingma lineages especially in the third kar ma pa rang byung rdo rje. He was also a student of Longchenpa’s root teacher, Kumārāja.

8.1 Ngok lineage (rngog pa’i brgyud pa’i skabs. Chandra 352; Chengdu 483; Roerich 399).

This section begins with an account of mar pa’s life focused on his studies through important teachers, transmissions received, and main disciples taught.

8.1.1 mar pa lho brag pa

h5i. Childhood and translation with ‘grog mi

{R399} As a naughty and brilliant child, mar pa was sent away to study Sanskrit and translation skills with ‘grog mi lo tsA ba.

ii. First meeting with nA ro pa at Puṣpahari

{R400} Then went to Nepal, stayed for three years, then went on to India, where he met nA ro pa at Puṣpahari (a.k.a. Pullahari, near Nālandā, though thought by some later Tibetans to be in Kashmir), and he was initiated into the Hevajra Cycle (among others).

iii. Return to Tibet for sponsorship

{R401} He returned to Tibet, made money through performing protective rituals for wealthy men, then returned to India again.

iv. Back to India, encounters with siddhas in the East

He searched for nA ro pa and came across many siddha figures in Eastern and Southern India (including Kasori pa). Eventually he ran across nA ro pa in a forest, and after a brief meeting fulfilling former prophecies by tilli pa, mar pa returned again to Tibet.

v. Back to Tibet and consorts

{R402} At age 42 he returned to Tibet singing songs of praise for nA ro pa, took bdag med ma as his wife along with eight other consorts (nine total, symbolizing the nine goddesses of the Hevajra mandala).

vi. Meeting with mai tri pa

mar pa went back to India in search of mai tri pa, met him in Eastern India, and received the precepts of Mahāmudrā.

vii. More travels, a vision of Saraha, and the beginning of teaching

mar pa returns to Tibet, then makes two more trips to Nepal. On the last return journey he had a key vision of Saraha who blessed him and bestowed precepts. After this pure realization was born and he began teaching in Tibet.

8.1.2 mar pa’s disciples and lineage formation

i. Disciples and the birth of a lineage

{R403} mar pa first taught the Hevajra-tantra to mes tshon po, then in gro bo klungs taught widely to many disciples including the "four spiritual sons" (thugs sras bzhi), the "ten large heads" (dbu che ba bcu), and the famous "four great pillars (ka chen bzhi). These four are considered his greatest disciples: rngog chos rdor, ‘tshur dbang ne, mes tshon po, and mid la ras pa.

ii. rngog chos kyi rdo rje

Born in 1036, rngog met mar pa at lho brag and received (at a high price) numerous initiations. He received the complete treatises and precepts of both nA ro pa and mai tri pa. Thus followers of rngog explain received texts such as the Dākiṇīvajrapañjara according to both lineages. He died at age 67 in 1102.

iii. Master mar pa divine

{R404} mar pa was born in 1012 and died at age 86 in 1097. He was a manifestation of Dombhi-Heruka. In the eyes of ordinary people only he quarrels, farmed, raised a family and so forth.

iv. temporal connections

{R405} This section lists other Indian and Tibetan masters who were alive at the time of mar pa and shows their chronological relations, even if they do not appear to have actually met or interacted in any way.

v. teaching and practice lineages

Of the "four pillars," it is said that mes, rngog, and ‘tshur continue mar pa’s teaching lineage, while mid la transmitted his practice lineage.

vi. rngog mdo sde (rngog’s son)

{R406} Born in 1090, he taught extensively until his death at age 77. He had numerous visions of goddesses. He obtained all of marpa’s relics and enshrined them in the gdung khang chen mo, after mar pa’s son lost them in a gambling debacle.

vii. Two systems of exposition of the Hevajra-tantra

{R407} ram and rngog established separate traditions of exegesis of the Hevajra-tantra. chos sku’ od zer wrote a treatise attempting to connect the two methods.

viii. rngog mdo sde’s disciples, consort, and hereditary lineage

{R408}This section lists some of his numerous disciples. Also mentioned is his engagement with a consort, and prophecies by the female siddha jo mo sgre mo about the birth of his child, gtsan tsha jo tshul, beginning a detailed list of the hereditary lineages stemming from him.

8.2 Guhyasamāja Marpa system (‘dus pa mar lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 364; Chengdu 500; Roerich 414).

i. ‘tshur dbang nge meets mar pa

{R414} He sought out mar pa in order to obtain precepts for the Guhyasamāja-tantra. mar pa had him display his magical powers by killing an enemy first, them bestowed the precepts. Although able to teach several different commentaries on the Guhyasamaja, mar pa preffered to teach the tantra alone without commentary as taught by nA ro pa.

ii. ‘tshur’s disciples

{416} This section descibes some of his main disciples. Apparently ‘tshur taught the tantra in combination with various commentaries. At some points, members of this "teaching lineage" (such as gser sdings pa gzhon nu 'od) are also taught the "Six Doctrines" of nA ro pa and Mahāmudrā from disciples of sgam po pa.

iii. bu rin po che

{R423} bu ston and the author ‘gos lo tsa ba are also in this lineage of Guhyasamaja exgesis. There is an interesting passage here concerning bu rin po che’s resistence to writing down a manual of practice for the system {see esp the footnote on R 424}. In spite of vows against writing down the precepts and worries about people seeing them who do not practice, they were eventually written down because of the repeated requests of disciples.

The discussion is still focused on the Guhysasamaja, but his mastery of numerous other systems (esp Yoga-tantra) and his composition of texts is also mentioned. It is noted that tsong kha pa expressed some doubt about the hidden precepts of the Pañcakrama composed by bu ston and the work of gser ldings pa upon which it was based.

8.3 Saṃvara oral lineage and Rechung oral lineage (bde mchog snyan brgyud dang ras chung snyan brgyud kyi skabs. Chandra 373; Chengdu 511; Roerich 427).

i. rnal ‘byor gyi dbang phyug mid la ras pa

{R427} This section begins with an abridged account of mid la ras pa’s life. Special emphasis is placed upon his unvirtuous actions as a misguided youth, seeking the dharma, his purificatory ordeals and devotion to his lama mar pa, intensive retreat practice, and his resulting profound realization. Aside from minor details, I did not notice any significant divergence from the slightly later version written by Durto Rolpai Naljorpa in 1484 (translated by Lhalungpa), or from the short account given in Patrul Rinpoche’s kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung (19th century). I would have to consult these other versions again in detail, however, to be sure. It would also be interesting to compare to an account written closer to the time of mid la’s life.

In terms of sectarian polemics is the account of mid la’s study of rdzogs pa chen po with ‘bre ston lha dga’ is notable. What does it imply if this method was useless for who was to become one of Tibet’s greatest saints?

Particularly interesting is the fact that due to the help/deception of mar pa’s wife, it was rngog who first bestowed tantric precepts on mid la. (Roerich notes that this passage was not present in mid la’s rnam thar.) Only then did mar pa begin teaching him in earnest.

It is also notable that the first appearance of any verse is in this section, highlighting mid la ras pa’s impact in that regard, as a pioneer in connecting tantric philosophical reflection and doha-style songs of realization to vernacular speech and folk musical song/ poetic forms (cf Davidson).

ii. mid la’s disciples

{R435} This section lists numerous disciples, the chief are known as the "eight brothers clad in woolen cloth." There seems to be some disagreement about who exactly the eight were. Several women are mentioned. The most important were the ras chung pa and sgam po pa.

It is also mentioned that mid la was a incarnation of the master ‘jam dpal bshes gnyen (Mañjuśrīmitra).

iii. ras chung pa

{R436} He met mid la at the young age of 11, and soon realization was induced in him. He then traveled to India and Nepal to receive teachings. Once he returned to mid la, he was sent by mid la to get the full "nine classes of doctrines of formless ḍākiṇīs." Apparently mar pa only gave mid la five of the nine. ras chung pa obtained the rest in India from ti pu ba, a direct disciple of nA ro pa and mai tri pa. Thus the lineage which was considered incomplete reconnected to its yogic roots in India. These nine classes of doctrines, once a guidebook was composed on them by mid la’s disciple ngam rdzong ston pa, became known as the bdem chog snyan brgyud. ("the lineage of oral instructions of Saṃvara")

In general he maintained a peripatetic existence. A consort was also mentioned.

ras chung pa’s numerous disciples, including his "thirteen spiritual sons" are listed.

iv. ras chung pa’s disciples

{R441} accounts are given of the lives of some of his important disciples and their studies:
khyung tshang pa, ma gcig ong jo, dge sdings pa, zhang lo tsa ba, and so forth.

v. zhang lo tsa ba

{R445} In particular zhang lo tsa ba’s studies in Tibet, Nepal, and India are listed in detail. He studies diverse topics such as Nyāya logic, and cycles related to Saṃvara, Tāra, and Avalokiteśvara, gcod, blo sbyong, rdzogs chen sems sde, lam ‘bras, and Māhāmudrā, among others. He seems to be a holder of all lineages, and composed numerous treatises.

vi. more lineage

{R449} ngam rdzong ston pa Bodhirājā, gnyal pa gsung bcad pa, and so forth.

8.4 Gampopa together with his monastery (sgam po ba gdan sa dang bcas pa’i skabs. Chandra 393; Chengdu 538; Roerich 451).

i. Praise and identification as a bodhisattva

{R451} Here sgam po pa is identified as the Bodhisattva Candraprabhakumāra who, in a former life requested the Buddha to recite the Samādhirāja-sūtra on Vulture Peak in Rajagṛha. In a different lifetime, he is also said to be the Bodhisattva Supuṣpacandra. Both connect him to classic tales recounted in the sūtras.

Although this sort of identification/deification has been mentioned for other masters, perhaps the overemphasis here is due to sgam po pa’s relative lack of training. For ‘gos lo tsa ba, these previous lives explain the importance of the Samādhirāja-sūtra for sgam po pa and his followers.

ii. sgam po pa’s life

{R453} Following that superhuman intro, a more ordinary account of his (spectacular life is recounted.

At first he was a married scholar of medical science, and took both notice and final ordination vows after his wife died in his twenties.

He first heard some initiations related to the Saṃvara cycle near his home in lower dags po. Then he went towards northern dbu ru and studies bka’ gdams pa doctrine and meditation from bya yul pa, snyug rum pa and lcags ri gong kha pa. Upon hearing about mid la, he decided to seek him out (in tsang?). The bka’ gdams pa lamas grudgingly gave him permission. Auspicious and miraculous signs preceded his meeting mid la.

Once they finally met, mid la almost immediately made sgam po pa (a monk) drink wine from a skull cup. mid la, although he recognized sgam po pa’s previous studies, established his own system as superior and had sgam po pa follow that. He was trained in the teacher’s presence for only 13 months before going back to dbus!

There he practised for 3 years in a bka’ gdams pa monastery before heading out to solitary places.

mid la ras pa died.

iii. sgam po pa’s teaching

{R459} Although mid la did not teach the upāya-mārga (thabs lam) and Mahāmudrā separately, sgam po pa taught the thabs lam to those who were fit for tantric teachings. Mahāmudrā was taught to those who were fit for the pāramitās.
This is a key distinction that stirred much controversy and debate over how Mahāmudrā should be classified and taught (as sūtra or tantra).

He composed treatises on bka’ gdams pa doctrine and secret precepts.

Though mthan nyid pa criticized him, he was confident in his method.

His disciples such as grol sgom and dpal chen rgwa lo exhibited many miracles.

sam po pa passed into nirvana in 1153 at the age of 75.

iv. sgam po pa’s disciples

{R462} Many disciples are listed, and the lives of few are described, such as tshul khrims dpal (a.k.a. tshul khrims snying po). He was sgam po pa’s main disciple who founded the monastery of 'tshur lha lung and repaired the jo khang.

v. lineage of the chair of ‘tshur lha lung

{R466} After tshul khrims snying po’s death the chair passed to the ācārya sgom, dags po ‘dul ‘dzin, and so forth.

8.5 Direct students of Gampopa (sgam po ba’i dngos slob kyi skabs. Chandra 408; Chengdu 557; Roerich 468).

{R468} This section relates numerous stories about sgam po pa’s direct disciples such as rnal 'byor chos g.yung, grol sgom chos gyung, lho la yag pa byang chub dngos grub. Their miraculous work is also described, including the foundation of monasteries such as ‘bab rom.

8.6 The first incarnation series [Karmapa] (sprul pa’i sku’i rim pa dang po’i skabs. Chandra 412; Chengdu 563; Roerich 473).

i. dus gsum mkhyen pa (kar ma pa)

{R473} He was considered to be sgam po pa’s greatest disciple, a bodhisattva. Numerous past-life connections are drawn to important Buddhist figures, as he was a disciple of Nagarjuna, Saroruha, and Padmasambhava in various rebirths.

Then some events of his ordinary (extraordinary) life are recounted.

He studied rites related to the Saṃvara cycle according to the method of Atīśa, the 6 treatises of Maitreya, etc. sgam po pa also taught him the lam rim of the bka’ gdams pas. He also studies haṭha yoga (btsan thabs), later received all the precepts of nA ro and mai tri, and many others.

After sgam po pa’s death he returned to khams, then to dbus where he asked lama zhang to stop causing trouble. Apparently he listened (after grasping his finger and dancing around).

He founded the monastery of ‘tshur phu.

ii. sangs rgyas ras chen

{R480} He studied with numerous disciples of both mid la and mar pa, and later met and studied intensively with dus gsum mkhyen pa.

iii. spom brag pa

{R483} In a former incarnation is considered to have been the Bodhisattva Jñānamati (ye shes blo gros). Reborn in Tibet as ras chen’s disciple.

iv. chos ‘dzin (kar ma pa II)

{R485} dus gsum mkhyen pa was reborn as a disciple of spom brag pa ten years after his prior death. Roerich notes that this may be the first reincarnate lama in Tibet to be installed after the death of his predecessor. He was named chos kyi bla ma at ordination.

He became famous and was invited to the court of the Mongol emperor. He bestowed on the Emperor and his retinue the cittopāda rite. He became politically important and showed this through visits to China and Mongolia, and the construction of monuments. He was treated improperly at some point by the emperor, but managed to save face/ maintain political relevance.

Also called Karma Pakshi? (but not in the Blue Annals)

v. u rgyan pa

{R487} The Mahasiddha u rgyan pa was a disciple of chos ‘dzin, and eventually served as the guide for the third kar ma pa rang byung rdo rje. (u rgyan pa is described later in the ‘brug pa subsection)

vi. rang byung rdo rje (kar ma pa III)

{R488} Among numerous other teachings, it is notable that rang byung rdo rje received the rdzogs chen snying thig doctrine from the rig ‘dzin Kumārāja. Both of these masters studied under u rgyan pa, then later rang byung rdo rje received rdzogs chen teachings from Kumārāja. From there he developed the kar ma snying thig system. He also wrote the famous zab mo nang don and its self-commentary. In addition to g.yung ston rdo rje dpal (also a disciple of bu ston), Dolpopa, Khedrup Drakpa Senge, and Yakde Panchen were also disciples (though not mentioned in the blue annals).

Late in his life he visited the Imperial courts of China and Mongolia, established monasteries in China and Tibet, and died in China.

u rgyan pa l rang byung ba (kar ma pa III rang byung rdo rje) l g.yung ston rdo rje dpal l rol pa’i rdo rje (kar ma pa IV)

vii. rol pa’i rdo rje (kar ma pa IV)

{R493} He was the incarnation of kar ma pa III rang byung rdo rje. Many miracles and memories of past lives and a visit to Tuṣita are recounted, corresponding to various prophecies. There continue to be connections to snying thig doctrines.

He was invited to the court of the (Mongol) Emperor tho gan the mur, and left ‘tshur pu to visit the Emperor. He then returned to kar ma. He taught to large audiences composed of Mongol, Uighur, mi nyag (Central Asian/Tangut?), Korean, and Chinese peoples.

He went to Tai-tu and granted initiations to the Emperor and his retinue there.

One notable passage here relates peace in the kingdom to the legitimacy granted to the king by the kar ma pa {R 503}. Also the kar ma pa is credited with the end of epidemics and a positive economy.

He passed away at the age of 44 in 1381.

viii. de bzhin gshegs pa (kar ma pa V)

{R506} Born in 1384. From early in his life he had close connections with the Emperor. (The Emperor named him Tathāgatā.) Numerous teachers and disciples are listed.

de bzhin gshegs pa was said to have been the only one who had a siddha disciple, rma se rtogs ldan, born in a mi nyag family.

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Part 2

by David DiValerio

My section of the Blue Annals (511-620) is primarily about the abbots of great Kagyu monasteries and the lives and disciples of their founders. In general, the former lives of the founder of the monastery are given, then the life in which he founds the monastery, then his disciples (and sometimes their disciples), then the lineage of abbots of the monastery (and sometimes their disciples). Some of these figures (either because they are of greater historical importance, or at times it seems simply because more is known about them) have a long section of text dedicated to them, while others are given only a few lines. I have decided to break the text into sections in keeping with this manner of organization that is already written into the text. Thus almost every abbot or disciple is given his own separate section, regardless of how much or little is written about him. I will give summaries for the more important figures about whom more is written and skip over lesser ones who, although they are given their own section, do not have much written about them. I will give dates for birth, death, and when they served as abbot as well as I can. I have also tried, for the sake of clarification, to gather all the names by which individuals were known.

Most of these biographies follow a relatively standard format. There is a challenge in making summaries of them: do I focus on what is unique about each one (an thereby lose grasp of the facts about the person, which are more formulaic and less interesting) or do I simply repeat the formula over and over again (and in the process lose what’s unique about each figure and end up with a very boring summary)?

These biographies are mostly drudgery with an occasional event that is more out-of-the-ordinary and interesting. In “summarizing” the text I will try to give both the drudgery and the interesting, in keeping with the actual content of the text—all in a condensed form. If I were to give only the interesting things, it would give an incorrect characterization of the text, which, in reality, is primarily concerned with details of a purely factual nature. So I will try to give both. And if it starts to seem tedious, that is because the section of the text that this is a summary is itself tedious. You will probably want to skip most of the factual stuff, so I will mark the interesting bits and anecdotes that are worth reading—which are probably more telling than the facts—and my commentaries—which probably aren’t worth reading—in different colors from the rest of the text, organized by the type of issue they relate to. Issues of doctrine will be in blue, like a cloudless sky. Issues of sect identity will be in orange. Issues concerning politics will be in pink. Interesting and revealing anecdotes that don’t fall into any of these categories will be in this lovely shade of green. And my reflections will be in red, the color of passion. (I am fully aware that in doing this I have gone from Germano-esque to Germano-transcendent, but this is a tricky section to organize because of its structure, and I need a strategy in order to make it readable.)

These biographies of important Kagyu figures follow a pretty standard form, which we see everywhere in the biography genre: miraculous birth, gifted youth, study with great teachers, years of meditation, taking on disciples, founding monasteries, miraculous death. We also see, from time to time, some sort of political involvement, either with the Chinese or the Mongols, or even just mediation in minor local disputes. In general they travel around a great deal as well, which makes connecting them to specific geographical locations difficult.

Within this standard form there is a slightly different emphasis in the characterization of some of these figures. Some are seen as scholars, some more as meditators, some as important founders of lineages and monasteries. With those about whom only a few sentences are written, clearly, it is difficult to understand their significance or say anything about them. With those about whom much is written it seems that they undertook all the different types of activities and therefore sound very similar to everyone else. With those about whom a medium amount is written, however, there is some hope of getting a characterization in which you can truly divine what is unique and important about the person.

Because of the structure of this section as being made up of a long list of short biographies, there are few good places within the text to add my own commentary or reflections on the material en masse. So I will do so here, and extrapolate what I can from these biographies to make a more general statement about this area (in time and space) of Kagyu history:

The primary themes in this section are the foundation of monasteries, the passing down of lineages of teachings, lineages of incarnations, and miracles of various sorts. The overriding story seems to me to be the need to establish legitimacy for a still-congealing sect that is in the process of becoming institutionalized, while the institutionalization itself is an anomaly, out of keeping with the history of the lesser lineages of teachers and students that actually make up the sect. The founders of these centrally important monasteries are traced back through previous incarnations to India to lineages of siddhas. The monastery is legitimized by the history of this individual, who, in previous incarnations, had nothing institutional about him. This creates a tension. The lineage is becoming tamed in order for it to become institutionalized, and yet the institution must recognize the un-tamed nature of its lineages in order to legitimate itself.

There are certain practices that are mentioned again and again (like the “Six Doctrines” of nA ro and the Mahāmudrā) which start to seem distinctly Kagyu, but at the same time these figures study widely with lamas of all sects with what seems to be little discrimination. There are a few occasions in which sect-identity seems important: like when some Kadampas joke with stag lung thang pa to change his hat {R 614}, the instance where the sa skya pas attack ‘bri khung in 1290 {R 583}, and the few occasions on which someone is referred to as “head of the kagyupas” or something along those lines. These do not seem to be matters of much gravity and on the whole sect identification vis a vis other sects is not an important issue.

Lay politics are mentioned from time to time, but they are not a major issue either. There are occasional emissaries to and from China and Mongolia, meetings between eminent Kagyupas and Mongol generals (which either result in the general beating a retreat or being converted). There are times in which a monastery experiences a tension with its surrounding lay community, but at times of good abbots the people have great faith and love for the monasteries. From time to time abbots get involved in local disputes as a mediator, and seem in most cases to be successful.

In terms of doctrine, as said before, there are some things that seem distinctly Kagyu, but much more that is shared with and taken from other sects. There are a few occasions on which a particular scholar is credited with his own interpretation of doctrinal matter (like ‘bri khung pa {R 598}), but again, they are few and far between.

The inherent tension between asceticism and monasticism seems to have been overcome by the tendency of scholars and abbots to spend different periods of their lives studying and teaching in an institutional setting and periods in secluded meditation, either at a monastery or in a cave hermitage. Some individuals are noted to have focused on one more than the other, but in general there is an easy flow between the two.

So? All of these are minor themes. They come up in the text from time to time but are not major points of concern. This section of the Blue Annals resists any kind of overarching interpretation regarding any of these lesser issues and must be looked at with a wide view of the process of institutionalization that this section of text is explicitly about. In truth this section seems nominally concerned with politics, nominally concerned with its identity as its own sect, nominally concerned with doctrine, decidedly UNconcerned with women, nominally concerned with wealth and power. What it is concerned with is individuals. Not that each in itself is taken to be greatly important, nor that one is to be able to see a great continuity across the aggregation of them. ‘gos lo tsA ba is concerned with setting out the facts of the lives of these people.

So what are the elements that are emphasized?

Miracles, which in most cases attest to the greatness of the individual. Most of these men are noted to have started speaking and studying at a remarkably young age. They communicate with deities while they are alive. There are miraculous signs at their deaths. All of these things prove the greatness of the person in question.

Who one’s mother and father were, which sometimes posits the individual as the son of realized practitioners or into a certain clan.

Dates, which are integral to any history book. Dates are given for births, deaths, ordinations and the foundations of monasteries, primarily.

Who learned what from whom, which is always important in Buddhist literature because of the importance Buddhism places on the direct, unbroken transmissions of teachings. This is also very important in the formative period of a sect.

Rough approximations of the time spent in meditation, which I believe to reflect a particularly Kagyu emphasis on meditation. Direct comparisons should be made with biographies of people of other sects in the Blue Annals.

Places are always listed in these biographies, but I would argue that geography is not a very important factor. The places a person studied or meditated are usually given in a sort of laundry list, and at no point do I get a strong sense of place, even for the major monasteries around which these histories are centered. My supposition is that because ‘gos lo tsA ba probably did not intend or think his text would be read by people outside of Tibet (or even outside of central Tibet), readers would already be familiar with the geography and thus there would be little need to talk about it. On a side note, lha sa is mentioned only a few times in this section, indicating that either it was not a developed center at the time, or it just wasn’t important to Kagyupas.

nam mkha' rgyal mtshan (mkha' spyod pa)

Two of the stories about nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan stand out: once “he shot an arrow at a stag which was standing on the other side of a mountain, having rested his knee on a boulder and the stag was killed. It was said that imprints appeared on the boulder” {R 512}. Then, after his body was left in a meditation posture after his death, it is said that some monks peeked through a crack in the door and saw that his body had disappeared, leaving behind nothing but his robes. He is identified as an ascetic and seems to have been a figure of great miraculous powers resulting from his meditation.

mthong ba don ldan (the Sixth kar ma hierarch) (1416-1453)

The section about mthong ba don ldan is mostly concerned with miraculous occurrences, which of are three types:

  1. those that legitimate or prove that he is a reincarnation of the Fifth Karmapa (de bzhin gshegs pa). As a child he makes the declaration: “I am unborn, free from all names, I am placeless, I became the glory of all living beings to lead defenceless living beings of this World towards the goal of salvation” {R 512-13}; upon seeing an image of a previous Karmapa he claims, “This was I!”; taking up a black hat and claiming that it is his, after which flowers fall from the sky for three days; etc.
  2. those in which he foretells the future. He proclaims that he will see his mother again in Tuṣita; certain things about his own death; etc.
  3. and those that involve him having a vision of a deity, which may not fall into either of these first two categories. Most of his visions of deities seem to involve Avalokiteśvara and Mahākāla.

He first speaks when he is one month old. He is also able to make rain fall on two occasions: once by playing with water, and once by invoking a local deity.

These miracles are the primary focus in this section about mthong ba don ldan. Not much information is given about his teachers, what he studied, or his disciples, nor any important activities like founding monasteries. This section focuses more heavily on the subject’s youth and the miracles that occurred than is the norm in these biographies.

Near the time of this death he makes the declaration, "I also belong to the Lineage of the bka' brgyud pas" {R 516} which can be interpreted as him strengthening the formation of the sect through his own personal greatness, or identifying himself with the pre-existing, defined sect.

rang byung kun mkhyen chos kyi rgyal po (b. 1454)

rang byung kun mkhyen chos kyi rgyal po is the Karmapa living at the time of the composition of the Blue Annals. Very little is said about him except that, “He laboured extensively for the emancipation of numberless living beings at various localities” {R 517}. It is difficult to imagine a more generic statement about the life of an important figure in the history of a sect, but in fact many of these biographies are composed of characterizations just like this.

Important disciples from dpal dus gsum mkhyen pa onwards

The disciples of kar ma pa shi

It is said that when the Mongolian Emperor “accused” kar ma pa shi and ordered him and his retinue to be punished, ye shes dbang phyug and rin chen dpal were burned. Six of kar ma pa shi’s disciples were given names of different types of hat or head (zhwa and mgo respectively): “Yellow hat”, “Red hat”, “Piebald hat”, “Tiger Head”, “Leopard Head”, and “Bear Head” {R 517}.

The disciples of the Dharmasvāmin rang byung rdo rje

The disciples of the Dharmasvāmin rol pa'i rdo rje

The Dharmasvāmin gangs pa (rin chen ‘od zer ) (1175-1249)

A disciple of dus gsum mkhyen pa. He served as attendant to a few of the important figures (like 'bri khung chos rje and stag lung thang pa) whom we will see later. His father was a follower of the “Old” Tantras; he himself “obtained a yogic insight into the Mahāmudrā Cycle” {R 518}.

bsam gling rin po che (1189-1260)

A disciple of gangs pa. Founder of the monastery of bsam gling in Lower myang. He studied with many teachers, but again the Mahāmudrā and “yogic insight” (rtogs pa) {R 519} are stressed.

Little information is given about these individuals in these sections, and they are often just names. The primary concern seems to be laying out who are the disciples of certain teachers.

8.7 Abbatial lineage of Tsurphu [Monastery].

‘gos lo tsA ba writes that the Tsurphu (‘tshur phu) was founded by dus gsum mkhyen pa, but no date is given. The lineage of abbots from dus gsum mkhyen pa to the time the Blue Annals were written is:
dus gsum mkhyen pa (founder)
lho la yag pa (2 or 3 years)
rang 'byung sangs rgyas
gya pa gangs pa
rgya mtsho bla ma (2 or 3 years)
rin chen grags
kar ma pa shi
dbon rin po che
bla ma gnas nang pa
a dbang ye shes dbang phyug
bla ma bkra shis 'bum pa
bla ma dbang rin
tshad ma paṇḍita (6 months)
bla ma dbang rin (several years)
bla ma rin chen dpal (bla ma nag po)
bla ma chos byang
bla ma chos rgyal (“a long time”)
chos blo (chos kyi blo gros)
rin po che kun dga' blo gros pa (15 years)
chos kyi ‘od zer (24 years)
'jam dbyangs don grub ‘od zer
de bzhin gshegs pa (43 years)
gu shrI ba

Little information is given about these abbots. Most held the chair for only a few years. It is interesting to note that the first few abbots were direct disciples of the founder. After kar ma pa shi, two of his nephews held the position. It seems that there was a shift in the leadership of the monastery from the line of dus gsum mkhyen pa to a line more closely affiliated with the Karmapas. In many cases it seems to have been passed on to a nephew, and sometimes a brother or a cousin. It seems that the abbotship was kept in the family, but is not here recorded as ever being passed to the former abbot’s son.

Little information is given on how long each abbot served, but it seems that the earlier ones held the post for shorter periods, while the last few mentioned served for a substantially long time.

8.8 The second incarnation series [Shamarpa].

khol po dga' / Sarvavid (kun rig) / gzhon nu gsang chol / tshul khrims dpal (1098-1132) / nam mkha' ‘od (1133-1199) / bkra shis grags pa (1200-1282)

These six are sequential incarnations of the being that will later found the monastery at gnas nang. khol po dga' was a disciple of Tillipa; Sarvavid, of Nāropa. gzhon nu gsang chol, living in Nepāl, receives a prophecy from a young maiden that he should go to Tibet—which had been a prophecy given by the Buddha earlier—and that there he would meet an incarnation of the Buddha {R 521}. After traveling to Tibet he meets Milarepa who later tells him in a prophecy that he will be reborn in Tibet again and again. tshul khrims dpal, born in Tibet, is ordained by sgam po pa, and studies with many teachers, including ras chung pa, dus gsum mkhyen pa and some bka’ gdams pas. He considers sgam po pa (and his nephew) as his primary teachers. nam mkha’ ‘od studied mainly with dus gsum mkhyen pa and bde gshegs stag lung thang pa, and he was centered in dbus. bkra shis grags pa receives a prophecy from the Karmapa, who identifies him as having been a disciple of dus gsum mkhyen pa in a former life, and that he will be the Karmapa’s own disciple in his next life {R 523}.

In the stories of these six the concern with establishing a lineage is transparent, and, in standard Kagyu fashion, Tillipa and Nāropa are posited as its source. There are repeated references to the importance of relying whole-heartedly on one’s teacher. Bringing the lineage to Tibet is a prophesized and blessed event. However, it is not said that teachings are being brought to Tibet, just the lineage of personalities itself.

In general one gets the sense that this is the story of the domestication of a lineage. As the story of these reincarnations is told there are certain landmark points of reference, such as gzhon nu gsang chol’s meeting with Milarepa and later contacts with the Karmapa. It is as if this lineage of reincarnations is being associated with the sect of the Kagyupas, then through increasing points of contact, taken into its fold.

grags pa seng ge (dbang gu ras pa ) (1283-1349)

The next incarnation of this series, grags pa seng ge is a gifted student and practitioner and has many prophetic visions as a youth (and will continue to do so throughout his life; with ber nag can and Tārā reappearing most often). Late in his teenage years, at the suggestion of ber nag can (who appears to him in a vision) he proceeds to dbus. He does so against his father’s permission, fleeing at night on horseback. Staying in kong po and other places he studies many tantras and philosophical texts. He believes he should go to Oḍḍīyāna, but drops the idea after Tārā tells him not to go. He meets Milarepa in a dream and Milarepa sings to him.

While studying under byang sems rgyal yes he says that he had been practicing snying thig, and the teacher tells him that he belongs to the “cig char bas“, which, according to Roerich, means a person of spontaneous spiritual development {R 527}.

Eventually he takes on disciples and starts giving initiations. Following his feelings that it was an auspicious place, and some visions, he builds a monastery at gnas nang in 1333 {R 530}. He prophesizes that after three generations the monks of the monastery will become degenerate and take up lay activities.

He communicates with the Precious Dharmasvāmin from the Imperial Palace (Peking) (although I’m not sure to whom this refers). His death at the age of 67 is surrounded by visions and miracles, most notably a shower of flowers that falls at stag lung.

The text now turns to the four main disciples of grags pa seng ge who are known as the “Great Sons” {R 532}.

g.yag sde paN chen (1299-1378)

Beginning at the age of five g.yag sde paN chen studies with an inordinate number of teachers – 108 in all. This section on him is mostly a list of his teachers and what texts and practices he heard from them. It is difficult to characterize what sort of practices he studied because there are so many of them that they run the entire gamut of the Tibetan canon and thus resist characterization. He studies the some very Kagyu texts, like the “Six Doctrines” of Nāropa, but also lam ‘bras, Kālacakra-Tantra, Guhyasamāja-Tantra, and some Nyingma texts as well. He founds the monastery of E-vaṃ (<evaṃ) {R 535}. ‘gos lo tsA ba says, after g.yag sde paN chen‘s death, “Since then his preaching was continued without interruption at the monastery of E-vaṃ to the present day” {R 536}.

mkhas grub dar rgyal ba (d. 1385)

Second of the four “Great Sons” of grags pa seng ge, mkhas grub dar rgyal ba’s importance seems to lie in his being a great practitioner, and not so much in being a institutional figurehead. His birth is preceeded by a number of miraculous events, including his mother having a vision of an Indian yogin carrying a skull cup and surrounded by an entourage of 500 women (yoginis?).

As a child he proved to be a gifted student, but this characterization emphasizes his great morality and compassion for others. One day while playing with some other children he falls down and the pain he felt “caused him to believe that the Buddha was the only protector, and he accordingly took refuge in the Buddha. Remembering his former lives, he felt sad and composed songs about them, which caused amazement among some people. Others thought that he was inspired by some devils” {R 537}.

He then goes into his mature spiritual life, studying sutras, tantras and treatises with many different teachers and siddhas. He was primarily drawn towards meditation, and “especially held in high esteem the hidden precepts” {R 537}. He practiced austerities, and though the power of his meditation overcomes some physical ailments.

It is said that, “A perfect trance and a yogic insight were born in him. He was able to conjure demons by representing himself as Acala, Yamāntaka and Vajravidāraṇa (rnam 'joms). Mahākāla used to kneel before him and promised to assist him in his labours” {R 538}. He had many powers, including the ability to read the states of mind of different people and having visions of Oḍḍīyāna.

Among grags seng pa’s disciples, he is the holder of the Spiritual Lineage and of the hidden precepts. In his role as a teacher and initiator his compassion is emphasized.

After his death it was believed that he had been a reincarnation of an Indian yogin, a disciple of Kambala.

mkha' spyod dbang po (karma zhwa dmar pa) (ye shes dpal) (mi pham dpal Idan) (1350-1405)

His childhood is filled with miracles and prophecies and he gives a lung at age 3. He himself tells of his previous incarnation as grags pa seng ge. During his early education is it said that, “He specially followed most of the profound and vast precepts of the bka' brgyud pa sect” {R 541}. This is similar to how mthong ba don ldan is identified {R 516}. It is worthy to note that both of these took place relatively late in the time period covered in this chapter, reflecting a time when the sect was more formed and thus identification with it was more plausible.

It is said that later, “He stayed in seclusion and meditated. He was able to perceive the activity of all the ascetics of gnas nang. He censured some of them, to some he gave instructions, and all were filled with amazement” {R 541}. And, “After the passing of the Master (svāmin) ri khrod pa, he grew disheartened with the wicked monks, entrusted the abbotship to the bla ma bsod names 'bum, and himself settled in a hermitage situated on the mountain back of gnas nan” {R 542}. What precisely ‘gos lo tsA ba means by these statements is difficult to penetrate. It seems to give some indication of the relationships between teachers, monastics, and ascetics, although precisely what is being said is unclear.

He continues to study various esoteric practices and texts, and throughout his life spends a lot of time traveling, studying and meditating in kong po. He gathers many disciples (300 monks) {R 543}. He founds the monastery at stag rtse rnam rgyal in 1378, then the monastery of dga’ ma mo in 1386. He takes de bzhin gshegs pa as a disciple. He preaches the “Six Doctrines” of Nāropa and bestows initiations to some Mongol officials. His death is, in typical fashion, marked by miraculous signs, including the obligatory shower of flowers.

Disciples of mkha' spyod pa (in no particular order, it seems):
rdza dgon kun spangs pa
'ger nag rtogs Idan
sri dkar sang shi
bka' bzhi pa rin chen dpal
lha gzigs pa (b 1372)
shAkya grags pa (d 1454)
'khrul zhig bsod nams 'bum
chos bzang pa
rin bzangs dkar po
ri mi 'babs pa (1362 - 1453)

The same characterization follows for these men. Only a few lines are given about each, and what is given is where he is from, who his teachers were, how many disciples he had, whether or not he founded any monasteries, etc. In most cases only two or three of these facts are touched upon.

chos dpal ye shes (1406-1452)

chos dpal ye shes was an incarnation of mhha’ spyod pa, which had been prophesized by mkha’ spyod pa himself: “Later (I) shall wander about as a Tantric yogin” {R 547}. As a child he bore physical signs of his being an important reincarnation, including the letter “rgyal” on the sole of his foot.

He had many special powers, like the ability to pass through walls. He discovered the “Last Will” of mkha’ spyod pa, which is the only mention I have seen in this section on the Kagyupas about terma {R 547}. He studied all different kinds of tantras; studies and is ordained under de bzhin gshegs pa around the age of 8.

He visits many places, including ‘tshur phu, lha sa, kong po, stag rtse. His supernatural powers aide him in building a temple (at dga’ ma mo; although he is not identified as its founder) and to settle disputes between locals {R 550}. Again, his death is marked by miraculous signs, including a white rainbow.

chos dpal ye shes is another figure who is important, surely, but his importance is rendered unremarkable in the formulaic manner in which his life is narrated. For this reason each of these figures seems to take on the limited significance of merely being further links in the chain of history.

zhwa dmar cod pan 'dzin pa (chos grags ye shes) (b 1453)

He was an incarnation of chos dpal ye shes, who was an incarnation of mhha’ spyod pa. He is alive at the time of the composition of the Blue Annals. ‘gos lo tsA ba shows how he traveled to both Ch'ing hai Province and Mongolia, where he taught and was highly effective. As ‘gos lo tsA ba says, “The people of Mongolia became his disciples, and he cut the stream of sinful deeds of the a ram (name of a Mongol tribe). He established all men in devotion to the monastic congregation and preached the Holy Doctrine” {R 551}. After this he returned to khams and dbus and continued his works.

8.9 Phagmodrupa together with his students.

phag mo gru pa – introduction

In this short section that serves as an introduction to the long section on phag mo gru pa that follows, ‘gos lo tsA ba relates how phag mo gru pa was assigned to be the head of the monastic community and thus “appointed indirectly as the Master of the bka' brgyud pas” by dags po {R 552}. Further, phag mo gru pa was known to be a Buddha by “those possessed of excellent understanding, a siddhi-puruṣa to those possessed of medium understanding, and a fortunate human being (pṛthag-jana), who through gradual spiritual practice had reached the stage of a Great Being (Mahāsattva), established on the path of Bodhisattvas, to those possessed of inferior understanding” {R 552}.

phag mo gru pa’s prior incarnations

phag mo gru pa is identified as a reincarnation of Cittavajra, who is involved in the story of Lakṣmīṅkarā and Indrabhūti, who converts ḍākinīs by tricking them into eating a blanket which then allows him to wield control over them. Cittavajra is connected to an earlier lineage of siddhas traced back to their origin in Oḍḍīyāna.

phag mo gru pa (rpo rje rgyal po) (‘gro mgon ) (chos tsha ba) (mtha' rtsa ba) (1110-1170)

Before his birth his mother has a vision: “His mother saw in a dream that a golden vajra with nine points was born to her. She placed it on the lap of her coat, and it emitted light which shone towards the ten quarters and illuminated all directions” {R 553}. While still a toddler he developed a powerful state of trance which allowed him to remember his former lives, but due to his parents behaving in impure ways, he lost the ability.

His parents died while he was still a child and was ordained at the age of 9. After studying with 16 teachers in khams and showing great abilities (like knowing writing before having being taught it), he went to dbus at the age of 19, where he continued his studies. He studied philosophy but still maintained his practice of yoga. Because of his learning he became known as chos tsha ba ("Burning religion").

He then went to tsang, where he continued to study and meditate. He studied the Guhyasamāja, the Abhidharma, some of the rdzogs chen system, and more. In sa skya he obtained hidden precepts of the “Path and Fruit” (lam ‘bras) from sa skya pa, who recognized his intelligence. He is told by byang sems zla ba rgyal mtshan that he “should remain in seclusion during the period of a waning moon, and should preach the Doctrine, when the moon is on the increase, and bestow initiations and blessings, thus there will be great benefit to others”, which is an injunction he is noted to have followed (at least at certain times in his later life) {R 557}. At stod lungs he studied with sangs rgyas gnyal chung ba who, seeing that he was followed by four ḍākinīs, taught him secret precepts. Concerning his education, it is said that, “In general, there were no famous scholars in precepts, whom he did not meet” {R 557}.

phag mo gru pa and sgam po pa

He travels with zhang to sgam po to see sgam po pa, whom they hope will help zhang out of what seems to be some political trouble, having been “wrongly accused by some persons” {R 558}.

sgam po pa takes phag mo gru pa aside and inquires about his previous study and meditation. sgam po pa says that it had all been worthless and sends phag mo gru pa to take a walk in the mountains and, “After a while, all the doctrines which he had heard previously appeared to him to be similar to an outer coating or chaff, and he gained a deep insight, similar to a clear sky” {R 559}. sgam po pa then teaches him the lhan cig skyes sbyor. Shortly thereafter sgam po pa dies and phag mo gru pa helps with the funeral rites.

This time with sgam po pa seems to have had a major influence on phag mo gru pa. It seems to be a moment of transformation in his life, and, as we will see, phag mo gru pa models the doctrine he teaches on that of sgam po pa’s.

phag mo gru pa’s congregation

phag mo gru pa returns to sa skya, thinking that the great sa skya pa will be interested in the new wisdom he has obtained, but sa skya pa does not talk to him and seems displeased. (Is it that this new teaching he has received from sgam po pa goes too far, is too extreme, and this is why the conservative sa skya pa no longer approves of him?)

phag mo gru pa returns “home” and settles himself at mtshal sgang. He attracts disciples and teaches for five years with success: the monks followed the rules of the Vinaya and the meditators attained their goals.

phag mo gru pa’s teachings are characterized by ‘gos lo tsA ba: “This Master sgam po pa has been a follower of the bka' gdams pas and of the Venerable mid la, and his own system was known as the ‘confluence of those two streams, that of the bka' gdams pas and that of the Mahāmudrā’” {R 560}.

Thinking it would be better to be farther away from the village, phag mo gru pa leaves headed for ‘bri khung. His monks follow him, and although he does not make it to ‘bri khung, he settles at bde gshegs (?).

An ascetic offers phag mo gru pa his hut, and phag mo gru pa accepts it (in 1158). This hut becomes the center of phag mo gru pa’s congregation. Many monks come and phag mo gru pa provides for them. He stays there for 13 years. There were, reportedly, 800 monks at the “monastery.”

phag mo gru pa’s works towards helping others were great. It is said that he used to “manifest his body in twelve different forms simultaneously in different places” {R 563}, allowing him to teach and carry out virtuous works at the same time.

His death was accompanied by many wonderful signs, including an earthquake when his body was placed on the teacher’s seat, showers of flowers, and monks who had visions of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and ḍākinīs. Many relics were recovered from his ashes, which were preserved.

some bka' brgyud history

Here begins a short section on the history of the institutions of the bka' brgyud sect that does not quite fit into the more strictly defined sections following the lineages of abbots. ‘gos lo tsA ba gives a quotation from ‘bri khung {70b} sgom pa shAk rin: "This monastery (gdan sa mthil) of shrI phag gru is like the head of a hundred springs" {R 564}. Monasteries and hermitages that originated from these foundational bka' brgyud monasteries (like gdan sa mthil), and certain bka' brgyud pas (like ‘bri khung pa, gling ras pa, dpal stag lung thang pa, dmar pa) are said to be numerous, becoming established far and wide across Tibet. Next there is a long list of important figures. They are noted primarily for having founded monasteries. Many are listed as disciples of phag mo gru pa. In most cases only a sentence or two is devoted to each.

Notable is the story of yel pa ye shes brtsegs and his teacher spar phu ba who go to phag mo gru pa for teachings. The teachings have no effect on spar phu ba, however, because of his excessive pride. phag mo gru pa then makes an imprint of a lotus flower on a piece of brown sugar and gives it to spar phu ba. He admires it but does not eat it. But then yel pa breaks the sugar and tells yel pa to eat it. The imprint of the leaf represents spar phu ba’s former studies; the taste of the brown sugar represents phag mo gru pa’s teachings. spar phu ba still does not come under the sway of phag mo gru pa and instead founds his own monastery and develops his own theory, which is that understanding can not be improved upon and that the four stages of Yoga are distinguished by their different meditations only, and not by different levels of understanding {R 568}.

8.10 Abbatial lineage of Phagmodru [Monastery].

After phag mo gru pa’s death the “precious image” (his body?) was erected by his disciples. It spoke on several occasions and was believed to be greatly blessed.

The abbots of phag mo gru (gdan sa mthil) by the dates of their ascendancies

(no dates given): zhang, “but he merely recited blessings” {R 569}
1170-1176: there is no abbot
1177-1179: Dharmasvāmin of 'bri khung, “but because of his extreme penury, the monks, including the upādhyāya and others, had little trust in him and showed great greed” {R 570}
1179-1207: there is no abbot. This is a time of turmoil. The monastery experiences tension with local people, as well as the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung monastery, who takes gdan sa mthil’s books to his own monastery.
1198: the great vihāra at gdan sa thel is built over the image and grass hut of phag mo gru pa.
1208: spyan snga (rje thams cad mkhyen pa) (1175-1255).
1235: rgyal ba rin po che (thog rdugs pa) (1203-1267)
1267: bcu gnyis pa (rin chen rdo rje) (1218-1280)
1281: rin po che grags ye (1240-1288)
1289: rin po che gnyis mchod pa (grags pa rin chen) (1250-1310)
1290: sa skya pas attack ‘bri khung
1310: tshes bzhi rnying ma ba (grags pa rgyal mtshan) (1293-1360)
1360: bcu gnyis gsar ma ba (grags se ba) (grags pa shes rab) (1310-1370)
1372(appx): tshe bzhi gsar ma ba (grags pa byang chub) (1356-1386)
1386: bsod grags pa (1359-1408)
1405(appx): spyan snga dpal Idan bzang po ba (grags pa blo gros) (1383-1407)
1403: spyan snga bsod nams bzang po ba (1380-1416)
1417(appx): bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po (1386-1434)
1434-1453 (or 1458): there is no abbot
1453 (or 1458): dpal ngag gi dbang po

spyan snga (rje thams cad mkhyen pa) (1175-1255)

Born six years after the death of phag mo gru pa into a family of district chiefs and siddhas, spyan snga was ordained at 13. Upon arrival at ‘bri khung he is recognized by the Dharmasvāmin as having accumulated great merit and that one day he would be an ascetic. He served as attendant to the Dharmasvāmin for 16 years, and it seems that the Dharmasvāmin gave him special treatment. They had a very close relationship (so close that the very name “spyan snga ba” means “Attendant” {R 573}). When he was ill the Dharmasvāmin said, “Among the children of Tibet, he (is) dear. If he does not die now, he will later become the sanctuary (rten sa) of the dags po bka' brgyud sect!” {R 573}. The Dharmasvāmin then performs a ceremony to ensure the youth’s health. He took final ordination at 18. While serving as attendant at ‘bri khung he used to work during the day, in the evening repeat all that he had heard taught that day, then meditate at night. While living in the monastery he followed the Vinaya and spent most of his time in seclusion, except when teaching. His greatness was recognized by locals, who were thankful for the way he improved the monastery.

One time the son of a “priest of royal descent (lha btsun) of bsam yas” fell ill, and the astrologer summoned said the only way to save the boy was to have the mother sent as a substitute {R 575}. She was sent and died. Then at the age of six the boy falls ill again and the astrologer says the only way to escape the illness is to send the greatest kalyāṇa-mitra in the valley as a substitute. Knowing that spyan snga is the best, they send for him. The astrologer (named bru sha) prepares for spyan snga’s arrival by placing the stomach of a sheep and the effigy of a wolf at the entrance to the bridge, effigies on the roof of the house, carcasses of dogs under the seat on which spyan snga is to sit. When spyan snga arrives he does everything to thwart the astrologer’s magic: he has a trumpet blown, crosses the river by a ford instead of using the bridge, sits facing the wrong direction on his seat. The astrologer and king both die shortly thereafter, while spyan snga and his retinue go unharmed.

When Mongol troops came to their area and everyone else was frightened, he remained unperturbed and confronted them. Upon seeing spyan snga’s face the Mongol commander was filled with faith and the Mongols left without doing any harm. When the Mongols returned again 28 days later he again stopped the Mongols though a magical display of rocks falling from the sky, and the Mongols stopped their attacks on men and temples (“except for minor offences”, of course {R 578}).

spyan snga is known mostly for reviving the monastery by leading the monastic congregation back into observance of the precepts and the practice of meditation. By the power of his compassionate concentrated trance he brought peace to those in the region and eliminated hunger. It is said that during his time ‘bri khung became a monastery of 180,000 residents.

It seems that some time later in spyan snga’s life there was some kind of divide within the monastery, and some people sided with gcung rin po che, in opposition to spyan snga. So he left the monastery and went to live in a tent, but gcung begged spyan snga to return to the monastery, vowing not to take the abbots chair himself while spyan snga is alive. spyan snga returned to the monastery and vowed himself never to leave.

rgyal ba rin po che (grags pa brtson 'grus) (thog rdugs pa) (1203-1267, abbot in 1235)

Notable among spyan snga’s disciples is rgyal ba rin po che, who became abbot in 1235. It is said that once he was struck by lightening and “he wrapped it into his religious mantle” and he was unharmed. Because of this he became known as thog rdugs pa (“Lightning proof"). The fame of his accomplishments spread widely and he received offerings from the kings of stod (West Tibet), Siṅgha-gliṅ (Ceylon), ti ra hu ti (Tirhut) and ya tshe (West Tibet, Ladak). It was said by some that among the miracles that occurred after his death, three suns were seen shining {R 580}.

bcu gnyis pa (rin chen rdo rje) (1218-1280, abbot in 1267)

bcu gnyis pa was the son of rgyal ba rin po che (the first case in this section of an eminent father with an eminent son) and a reincarnation of phag mo gru pa. During his education, “he heard the complete doctrine of the bka' brgyud pa sect from the Lord (spyans snga)” {R 581} and received spyan snga’s blessing at the time of spyan snga’s death. He becomes abbot at the age of 50 and serves for 14 years. “He was an expert in consecration and auspicious rites, and possessed an unimpeded prescience” {R 581}.

rin po che grags ye (1240-1288, abbot in 1281)

Serves as abbot for 8 years.

It is said that in 1281 the Mongols invaded Tibet and “attacked bya rog rdzon. The dpon chen kun dga' bzang po was killed by the Mongols” {R 582}. This is a seemingly important historical event that ‘gos lo tsA ba hardly mentions. There are a number of instances in this section in which some Mongol troops appear in Tibet, but this particular incursion seems to have been a bigger event.

rin po che gnyis mchod pa (grags pa rin chen) (1250-1310, abbot in 1289)

Abbot at the age of 40 and serves for 22 years. “ti shrI (Ti-shih) grags 'od and rgyal bu offered him the official hat known as the "Tiger head" (stag mgo gnang ba). Thus he became both Teacher and official.” {R 583}

In 1290 the sa skya pas attack ‘bri khung {R 583}. This is literally all that is said about the event. Why would such a seemingly important event be described so laconically? This is the only indication in my section of any inter-sect strife. There is no mention of what provoked it or what resulted from it. Perhaps the history of this struggle was such common knowledge at the time of ‘gos lo tsA ba that he felt no need to write about it further.

tshes bzhi rnying ma ba (grags pa rgyal mtshan) (1293-1360, abbot in 1310)

Studied under gnyis mchod pa. Became abbot at age 18 and served until the age of 51.

bcu gnyis gsar ma ba (grags se ba) (grags pa shes rab) (1310-1370, abbot in 1360)

Brother of ta’i si tu. Came to gdan sa thel at the age of 8. Studied under tshes bzhi pa. Becomes abbot at age of 52 and serves for 11 years.

tshe bzhi gsar ma ba (grags pa byang chub) (1356-1386, abbot around 1372)

Becomes abbot at the age of 16. tsong kha pa was one of his disciples, and he bestowed on tsong kha pa “many secret doctrines,” like the Six Doctrines of Nāropa. tsong kha pa composed his life story, called "rtogs brjod lhun po" (“The Mountain of Stories") {R 586}.

bsod grags pa (1359-1408, abbot in 1386)

Becomes abbot of rtses thang at the age of ten and holds the position for five years. Becomes abbot of gdan sa thel at the age of 28 and occupies it for 20 years. (This is the only instance—besides ‘bri khung pa—or someone serving as abbot at two different monasteries.)

Once the men of the khyung po clan robbed his messenger. Through magic he made snow fall and the countryside was ruined, and he thus defeated his enemies.

spyan snga dpal Idan bzang po ba (grags pa blo gros) (1383-1407, abbot in 1405???)

At the age of 23 he is given the title spyan snga (in 1405) {R 588}. Does this mean he became the abbot??? “For two years he maintained an assembly (of priests)” {R 588}.

spyan snga bsod nams bzang po ba (1380-1416, abbot in 1403)

Studies under and receives final monastic ordination from tsong kha pa, paṇḍita kun dga' rgyal mtshan and others. Becomes abbot at the age of 29 and holds it for 9 years.

bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po (1386-1434, abbot in 1417???)

Younger brother of spyan snga dpal Idan bzang po ba (grags pa blo gros), bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po seemed a particularly gifted child, marked with both intelligence (beginning his studies in earnest at age 6) and great compassion for the suffering of others. He studies widely and preaches the Hevajra-Tantra at age 11. He used to invite scholars and “conducted with them philosophical disputations” and was recognized for his knowledge {R 590}.

At one point, “due to some slander” his ācārya had to leave. He struck back at the slanderer with a magic weapon {R 591}. He is known to have “practised meditation without loosening his belt, and having tied his hair with a string to a beam (on the ceiling) in order to keep his body erect” {R 591}.

He was “censured” by gong ma chen po (‘gos lo tsA ba does not say why) and remains in gong ma chen po’s ill-favor for three years {R 591}.

It is said that, “One day an understanding of the Mahāmudrā system similar to heaven, was produced in him, and he grasped at a glance the meaning of all the doctrines which he did not study previously” {R 592}.

The monastery of snar thang and its subsidiaries are “presented” to him (although I am not sure what this means) {R 592}. After the death of the 28th spyan snga (it seems that spyan snga has become a title for abbot), the Dharmasvāmin of stag lung says to him, “Now there remains no one worthy, but yourself to become the head of the whole bka' brgyud pa sect, and die master of this monastery" {R 593}. From 1417 to 1434 he resided and taught at gdan sa thel and rtses thang (and presumably served as abbot). It is said that, “At both these places he gave an exposition of the Mahāmudrā to all those who desired to ask for it, without differentiating between worthy and unworthy ones, great or small” {R 593}.

It was recognized by everyone around that, while he was there, there was a Buddha living at the monastery, and all followed his orders. He was especially respected by “those who spent their time in meditations in mountain gorges,” and “Wicked people felt him to be heavier than a golden yoke on their necks.” {R 593} He used magic to “inflict death and disease” on those who harmed his congregation or disobeyed his commands.

dpal ngag gi dbang po (abbot in 1454???)

From his death 1434 to 1453 (about 20 years) there is no abbot. Then a council is held and dpal ngag gi dbang po, aged 16, is invited to become abbot. It seems, however, that “due to a War between South and North” he was not able to come until 1458 {R 595}. What exactly is going on in this short section on the years directly leading up to the composition of the Blue Annals is extremely unclear.

8.11 Drigung Chojay together with his direct students.

lho rin po che grags pa yon tan (b 1347)

shar rin po che (1354 -1427)

‘bri khung pa (1143-1217)

His father had among his ancestors an unbroken lineage of rnying ma pa siddhas and his mother was a secret yoginī. While young he went to learn from phag mo gru pa and, “After listening to numerous precepts, a great wisdom realizing the essence of all the Elements of Phenomenal Existence was born in him” {R 597}. Before phag mo gru pa dies less than three years after ‘bri khung pa came to be with him, phag mo gru pa prophesizes that he would become a great ascetic later in his life. At one time he fell seriously ill with leprosy and thought he was surely going to die. But after recollecting the suffering of other beings compassion was generated in him and he spent a whole night crying. Through this his karma was purified and the sickness left him.

His fame spread widely. He took up final monastic vows at the age of 35.

For about three years he succeeded his Teacher as abbot of gdan sa mthil, then, at the age of 37, in the year1179 “he went to ‘bri khung. In the same year, he gathered about one hundred new monks” {R 597}. He taught and continued to build his congregation. It is said that at one point his disciples numbered 55,525.

‘bri khung pa held the view that all the teachings of the Buddha—and all Buddhas—were to be taken literally and that the teachings were not to be divided into those that are to be interpreted and those that are to be taken literally. According to Roerich, “this theory is known as ‘bri khung dgongs gcig, ‘One thought theory of ‘bri khung’” {R 598}. ‘bri khung pa “used to preach all the texts belonging to the Tantra and Prajñāpāramitā classes, and thus his preaching was characterized by an absence of partiality. His mind did not move away even for a single moment from the combined state of the two forms of Enlightenment.” ‘bri khung pa recognized that a virtuous monastic congregation was the root of the doctrine and therefore emphasized the rules of the Vinaya, which he abided strictly by himself.

‘bri khung pa was recognized as an incarnation of Nāgārjuna, by dus gsum mkhyen pa and by a famous arhat in Ceylon. On one occasion a khams pa monk from ‘bri khung got into an altercation with the kha che paN chen over a religious robe. The khams pa tried to take the very robe the paN chen was wearing and the paN chen’s attendant pushed the khams pa to the ground. After this the paN chen’s relationship with Tārā was not right and she would not show herself to him in his meditation. When she acknowledged him again she told him that he committed the sin of transgressing against a disciple of Nāgārjuna himself. When the paN chen came to dbus he paid respect to ‘bri khung and his sin was purified.

Before his death in 1217 ‘bri khung pa said he would stay in the minds of his disciples.

‘bri khung pa’s disciples

He had lots of disciple—a few dozen of them are given in a list here.

gnyos rgyal ba lha nang pa (rgyal ba lha nang pa) (1164-1224)

As a youth gnyos rgyal ba lha nang pa makes plans to go to India to learn to be a translator. Before going he visits ‘bri khung pa who instead instructs him to take monastic ordination. (It is not clear whether he ended up going to India or not. This is the only occurance in this section of the Blue Annals in which someone even talks about doing so, let along actually do it.) Later he founds the monastery of lha thel rin chen –gling.

‘gar dam pa chos sdings pa (b 1180)

He comes to ‘bri khung and works as a sweeper, then a servant in the mansion. While residing in a cave at dags po he is attacked by “all the gods and demons of Tibet.” He is injured by the weapons they throw at him, but “at day break, they grew tired, and took refuge in him, offering him the mantras of their lives” {R 603}. Later he founded the monastery of rlung shod dar chos sdings at ‘bri khung. But the congregation grew too large and he gave it up in fear that it would come to rival ‘bri khung. Then in spo bo he lays the foundation of phur dgon rin chen gling. Although he died shortly thereafter his teachings was carried on through his nephew, u rgyan pa. He was recognized to have been an incarnation of Āryadeva.

dpal chen chos yes (nag tshang pa)

At the suggestion of the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung (although I’m not sure exactly which one—is it ‘bri khung pa?) he practiced the Mantrayāna (which he had not practiced previously) and had great results. He composed several śāstras.

bal bu gong pa (ngor rje ras pa)

He went to the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung with the intention of testing him, but on seeing his face, he was filled with faith and became his student. He composed a śāstra called "The Heart of the Doctrine" (bstan pa'i snying po).

dbon sher 'byung (1187-1241)

His father was an incarnation of mar pa; he was an older brother of spyan snga sgam po pa. He was a gifted youth and aspired to be a yogin, but because of his faith in dpal ngang phu ba he took up ordination. ngang phu ba recognized that he would become “a great leader of beings” {R 604}.

He served under 'jig rten mgon po, the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung, as domestic attendant and memorized all that he heard. 'jig rten mgon po wanted him to become abbot, but he declined in order to concentrate on meditation instead. After 'jig rten mgon po’s death he took special care to build his caitya and enshrine his relics.

He taught and bestowed initiations on a few kings. He met many paṇḍitas from India. During a time when he was surrounded by hindrances like sickness and feuds he realized Dependent Origination and recognized himself as a Bodhisattva of the Tenth State. Once he was received respectfully by sa skya paN chen kun dga' rgyal mtshan.

He worked with the doctrine of dgongs gcig, but also wrote different texts “for individuals of different grades” {R 606}. He was taught the Doctrine of the Precious Lineage along with its special interpretation by spyan snga. sgom pa wanted to make him abbot, but he declined. It is said that, “Most of the disciples of the second half of his life, originated from dags” {R 607}. Before dying he vowed that in the future his body, speech and mind would be united with those of 'jig rten mgon po.

disciples and disciples of disciples

Here are listed a few lesser disciples of 'jig rten mgon po although this is not entirely clear with all of them. Notable is a siddha named gtsang zhig who, because of his addiction to wine, a wine offering ceremony is performed every year at his death. za ra ba was an incarnation of gtsang zhig, and it was said that when the annual wine offering was made, za ra would become intoxicated.

8.12 Abbatial lineage of Drigung.

abbots of ‘bri khung by the date of their ascendancy
1218: rdo rje tshul khrims (1154-1221, becomes abbot around 1218)
1222-1234: dbon rin po che (b 1187; abbot from 1222-1234)
1234: spyan snga (1175-1225; abbot in 1234)
1255: gcung rin po che rdo rje grags pa (1211-1279, abbot in 1255)
1279-1286: thog kha pa rin chen seng ge (b 1227, abbot from 1279-1286)
1286?: mtshams bcad pa grags pa bsod names (1240-1288; becomes abbot in 1286???)
1288?: chos sgo ba rdo rje ye shes (1223-1293; becomes abbot in 1288???)
1293: rdor rin pa (1278-1315; becomes abbot in 1293)
1315?: rdo rje rgyal po (1284-1391; becomes abbot in 1315 ?)
chos kyi rgyal po (1335 , becomes abbot in 1352 ?)
drung bshes gnyen pa, dbang ba and chos rje drung chen

With some of these abbots it is impossible to be certain when they took the position. In some cases only the date of the death of the former abbot is given. In some cases it says he “came to the monastery” but does not state explicitly that he became abbot at that time.

rdo rje tshul khrims (1154-1221, becomes abbot around 1218)

Became abbot at the age of 64 at the time of the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung’s death.

dbon rin po che (b 1187; abbot from 1222-1234)

Nephew of the Dharmasvāmin of ‘bri khung and took precepts from him.

spyan snga (1175-1225; abbot in 1234)

Becomes abbot at the age of 60 and serves for 22 years.

gcung rin po che rdo rje grags pa (1211-1279, abbot in 1255)

Considered a manifestation of Tillipa. He becomes abbot at the age of 45.

thog kha pa rin chen seng ge (b 1227, abbot from 1279-1286)

Becomes abbot at the age of 53.

mtshams bcad pa grags pa bsod names (1240-1288; becomes abbot in 1285???)

It does not say whether or not he actually served as abbot or when. It says he was 46 when thog kha pa died. It is probable that he became abbot at this time, although it is not stated explicitly.

chos sgo ba rdo rje ye shes (1223-1293; becomes abbot in 1288???)

Same uncertainty with the last regarding when he became abbot.

rdor rin pa (1278-1315; becomes abbot in 1293)

Same uncertainty.

rdo rje rgyal po (1284-1391; becomes abbot in 1315 ?)

chos kyi rgyal po (1335 , becomes abbot in 1352 ?)

Had tsong kha pa as a disciple.

The text is ambiguous here. Are we to take it that drung bshes gnyen pa, dbang ba and chos rje drung chen were the next three abbots after chos kyi rgyal po, or his disciples? My guess is that the former is the correct interpretation.

8.13 Staglungpa together with his disciples.

stag lung thang pa bkra shis dpal (b 1142)

After trying to “enter religion” a few times but being stopped by his father, stag lung thang pa ran away and was ordained at the age of 18 {R 612}. His father is said to have been outraged by the fact that his son was ranked the lowest (because he was the most recent ordinee) so the upādhyāya moved the boy to the head of the first row, the position of highest respect. He made several attempts to go to travel to India with different people, but in each case he fails to meet up with the person. He was also followed by pursuers (sent by whom, we do not know) who again and again bring him back.

One night in a dream he was embraced by a tall black woman who, after he subdued her, prophesized that he was “blessed by thirteen gods” {R 612}. A few more miracles and prophecies agree with this sentiment that he will be a great man. Later he has a dream that he is climbing a ladder and as he is about to reach the top a big white man takes his hand and says, “Unless I pull you, you can’t reach!” Later, phag mo gru pa said that he was the white man in stag lung pa’s dream {R 612}. On another occasion he is almost carried away by the current as he is crossing a river on a horse, but the horse is able to get a foot on dry ground and bring them out.

stag lung pa at phag mo gru

Upon stag lung pa’s arrival at phag mo gru, phag mo gru pa declares that he had been stag lung thang pa’s teacher in previous rebirths. On one occasion phag mo gru pa tells him, "Precepts mean the worship of one's Teacher. Hidden precepts mean one's individual experience" {R 613}. phag mo gru pa also stresses to stag lung pa that he will need the doctrines he teaches and phag mo gru pa takes to writing down all of what stag lung thang pa says.

There are a lot of intimate exchanges between the two, and phag mo gru pa repeatedly stresses stag lung thang pa’s importance as his successor.

stays at other monasteries

stag lung thang pa visits a number of other monasteries, including klungs shod, where he befriends some bka’ gdams pas who tell him to change his hat, but he responds that he will use his hat as protection from robbers {R 614}. Afte visiting a number of different places he goes to stag lung and founds a hermitage and takes up residence, with his disciples numbering 18.

phag mo gru pa makes the prophecy that stag lung thang pa should go to the North, perhaps khams, to a place to which he has a prior connection which is filled with demons, and take control of the land. Some years later some khampas come to invite him to khams. He begins in that direction but it is unclear if he makes it that far or if how long he stays before returning.

the manner of his daily life

His daily life is described as very disciplined and austere. He ate little, and was silent most of the time except when teaching. He was strict in following the rules of the Vinaya and lived by an excellent example for others.

He is seen by the monks around him in a number of different visions. He is seen as Avalokiteśvara, as Vajravārahī, as phag mo gru pa, etc.

‘gos lo tsA ba himself gives the best summary of stag lung thang pa’s life: “He was born in the year Water Male Dog (chu pho khyi 1142 A.D.). At the age of 18, he received ordination. At the age of 24, he proceeded to dbus and attended for six years on ‘gro mgon (phag mo gru pa). At the age of 29, he came to phong mdo and spent seven years at phong mdo, sa gle and thang mgo. Then three years at se ba lung. Having come to stag lung in the year Iron Mouse (Icags byi 1180 A.D.), he spent thirty years there, and gathered there numerous monks. At the time of his death, there were more than 3,000 monks. He received numerous offerings of books, gold and silver” {R 620}.

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Part 3 (R:621-725)

by Willa Baker revised by Christopher Bell (03-18-2007)

The detailed descriptions of the ‘brug lineages indicate a familiarity that was not merely the result of textual research on the part of Gö Lotsāwa. As indicated by the lineal details included here, Gö Lotsāwa had personal exposure to contemporary patriarchs of the the Druk ('brug) and Yamzang (yam zang) lineages. He includes contemporary details for both. This chapter includes only a few sections of analysis on Gö Lotsāwa's part. The bulk of his writing is concerned with tracing lineages and providing a skeleton of a hagiography for each lineage patriarch. In the case of the patriarchs in the last third of the chapter, he provides anecdotes from the more lively hagiographies. Women in this section are mentioned mostly in connection with these patriarchs as mothers or consorts.

8.13 Taklungpa together with his disciples (Continued)

This section takes up in the middle of Chapter 13 (R:621), with the very end of Taklung Tangpa’s life. Taklungpa, founder of the Taklung Monastery, is viewed retroactively by Gö Lotsāwa as the founder of the Taklung sect.

It is notable that, as with a number of other saints mentioned in the Blue Annals, the heart, tongue, and eyes of Taklungpa are recovered from his cremation ashes unburnt. There are also relics in the ashes. Gö Lotsāwa is careful to include these sorts of authenticating details for most major figures that he describes in his history. Some specific types of authenticating details include (1) premonitions by saints/lamas of a coming saint, (2) pregnancy and birth signs, (3) performance of miracles, (4) indications of prescience and (5) death signs.

8.13.4 Rinchengön [rin chen mgon;1191-1236], disciple of Taklungpa: An ecclesiastical founder

{621} Rinchengön was important because he succeeded Taklungpa as abbot of Taklung Monastery and moved or expanded it into a larger institution. It explains in this section that Rinchengön (also known as Kuyelwa [sku yal ba]) was a nephew of Taklung Tangpa and belonged to the same clan. The pattern of nephews taking up ordination, becoming disciples, or inheriting abbotships is common in this chapter of the Blue Annals.

The tension between the monastery and the lay community gets played out in the description of Rinchengön's early life. Gö Lotsāwa includes an account here of Taklungpa actually asking for his nephew to be handed over to him before the child's birth. If this account is true, it reveals that patriarchs may have been hand-picking their nephews as successors. We even see him coercing his parents to have the child ordained, against the mother’s wishes. The child is eventually appropriated as Taklungpa’s attendent for eight years. Once Rinchengön is ordained as a novice, it appears he is a little wild. One day when he gallops his horse, the father begs Taklungpa to control the boy. These details, while sparse, are telling of the sorts of pressures bearing on the lay community to yield to ecclesiastical demands, and also of the pressures bearing on individual young monks during the course of their education to serve the monastery and behave in accord with its expectations.

It is mentioned that Rinchengön is an emanation of Taklungpa’s teacher Pakmo Drupa. This mention of emanations is unusual for this chapter, as it does not appear that the institution of reincarnating lamas was a characteristic of the lesser Kagyü lineages at this time in history. Whether he was viewed as an emanation retroactively, or whether this idea was alive in the popular consciousness of the time would have to be investigated by looking at primary sources. One question begs for investigation: when did the concept of Tibetan individuals appearing as emanations of previous Tibetan teachers really begin?

The section on Rinchengön's adult life reveals a patriarch preoccupied with the expansion of monasticism and of the material wealth of his monastery. In addition to constucting several stūpas, he built a large monastery that eventually housed 5000 monks. The wealth of this monastary is eloquently described by Gö Lotsāwa. This kind of expansion and focus on consolidation of wealth and lay patrons seems to be characteristic of this time. But there is also a brief period where many of Rinchengön's disciples leave him and the great monstery falls into ruin. Once these great establishments were built, a complex system of exchange, supply, and patronage had to be created and constantly maintained for them to stay in business. Again, we see the potential here for tensions between the lay community and the monastery, between patrons and patriarchs, between clans and ecclesiastical elites.

Something that is not initially noticeable in the first portion of this chapter is the confusion or association of important figures with their spiritual teachers. This seems to happen most noticeably in this chapter on Taklungpa’s lineage. When Gompa [sgom pa] comes to visit Taklungpa in Selé [se gle], he hears distinctly the voice of Pakmo Drupa [phag mo gru pa] coming from within the house. Upon entering, he discovers that it’s Taklungpa (R:615). Likewise, while Taklungpa is sitting on his seat, his disciple Gomsam [sgom bsam] sees him and also confuses him for Pakmo Drupa (R:619). The explanation for this is that the two are one in the same (R:619-620). This becomes almost a common occurrence under this lineage as Kuyel Rinchengön [sku yal rin chen mgon], the second abbot of Taklung monastery, was likewise seen by many to be Taklungpa (R:624). This unique confusion of the disciple for the teacher is symbolically rich, denoting both the illusion of the individual in higher Buddhist scholasticism and yet also alluding to the degree of spiritual attainment achieved by lineage holders. Those who can be confused for their past superiors must be accomplished masters indeed! Further along these lines are how such masters not only become confused for their masters but for central Buddhist figures and deities as well. Rinchengön was said to have multiple manifestations, and many saw him as Śākyamuni, Saṃvara, and other divine beings. Returning to his close ties with his uncle and master Taklungpa, he was once excavating a mountain in order to erect a chapel when his foot began to hurt. Upon asking the locals the significance of this omen, they informed him that this mountain was the "life" mountain [bla ri] of his teacher, and by harming it he was causing harm to himself. This not only illustrates yet another instance where master and disciple are closely linked, but it also references the indigenous belief that an individual's "souls" [bla], especially that of an important individual, can become magically and symbolically linked to geographic sites, making them sacred arenas for spiritual activity.

8.13.5 Sanggyé Yarjön [sangs rgyas yar byon;1203-1272], disciple of Rinchengön

Sanggyé Yarjön, the disciple of Rinchengön, (R:627) was not a nephew but is depicted as being drawn to religion because of his disposition. Nevertheless, as with many lamas throughout this section, we see him manifest a strong interest in succession. When his teacher Rinchengön passes away, he makes a stūpa for his remains (we see this also with the previous patriarch). The practice of enshrining remains is in itself seems very significant for several reasons: (1) it reinforces the cult of the body that was moving to the fore in the rennaissance time period, (2) it fortified the cult of charismatic lineage holders―literally mummifying the lineage for posterity, (3) it automatically creates a pilgrimage site, and (4) it provided yet another image that needed daily (or at least frequent) upkeep, necessitating attention to the lineage institution on a regular basis.

As monasteries became more rich and powerful in the 13th century, maintaining harmonious ties to political leaders must have been a virtual necessity. There is a remarkable account in this section of Sanggyé Yarjön meeting with the king of his region (exactly who this royalty is would require further investigation). There seems to be some kind of bitterness between the two that is healed in this section. Sanggyé Yarjön then requests the king to protect his monastery. Thus, royal and political patronage is an important factor in the continued flourishing of monastic institutions and its related traditions and lineages.

8.13.6 Maṅgala Guru [1231-1297], disciple of Sanggyé Yarjön

Maṅgala Guru (R:629) is depicted here as the first of Taklungpa's disciples to fully focus on integrating scholarship and meditation. Perhaps a general pattern can be gleaned from this. The fist two generations seemed concerned with building monasteries, expanding material wealth, and strengthening political contacts. Now, in first half of the 13th century, this lineage had the time and resources to focus on education.

Maṅgala Guru was a nephew of Sanggyé Yarjön, and was clearly well-educated from a young age. We begin to see in Maṅgala Guru's section the expression of tension between meditation and scholarship that characterizes much of Kagyü literary and practical expression. Sanggyé Yarjön instructs Maṅgala Guru to stop studying and take up meditation in solitary retreat, which he does for 16 years. Maṅgala Guru voices a typical Kagyü lineage sentiment (that is nevertheless in constant conflict with the realities of consolidation), "This Spiritual Lineage of ours is the Lineage of Meditative Practice, therefore meditation (for us) is more important, (than study). Hold meditation in high esteem and show diligence!" (R:630) In this remark, we see the emergence of what is to become both the Kagyü ideal and its main cornerstone of self-critique.

Also notable are the types of transmissions that Maṅgala Guru is receiving. A typical Kagyü pattern of instruction and practice is emerging: empowerment, reading transmission, and instruction (especially in the Yogini Tantras, the Six Yogas of Naropa and Mahāmudrā), followed by extensitive solitary retreat. This template is repeated over and over throughout this section. These transmissions are characteristic of what is defining lineage transmissions all over Tibet at this time: (1) Yogini tantras, (2) suble body yogas, (3) mind-instruction, and (4) specific precepts from lineage lamas. These four literary-practice rubrics became the standard for any competitive sect.

The documentation of harmonious contact between the heirarchs of the minor Kagyü lineages as they branch out seems to become important in these biographical accounts. For example, Maṅgala Guru is seen here offering a katak to Ling Repa [ling ras pa], who returns the offer with food supplies. There seems to be signs of cordiality between the Druk and Taklung branches, while there is apparent tension between the Taklung and Drikhung branches (at least one mention of disharmony in these sections).

The abbot's chair of Taklung passes from Maṅgala Guru to Pel Zangpo [dpal bzang po]. This brings up a very important point. Gö Lotsāwa is virtually completely focused on who holds the chair. It is the throne-holder of the monastery who defines the lineage transmission for the Taklung tradition. This is less apparent in the beginning of the Drukpa section. The centralization of place—the association of lineages with fixed locations—seems absolutely key to the consolidation of power and wealth occuring in these monasteries in the thirteenth century. Furthermore, the concept of throne-holder usurps the concept of the charismatic translator or siddha. We see the beginnings of charismatic institutions.

There is also mention of the Emperor of China sending Maṅgala Guru gold. The theme of contact with Chinese and Mongol Emperors continues throughout this section intermittantly. Contact with China (and other distant countries) could hypothetically be seen as an important form of religious cache for this time period, and especially it seems for the Kagyü lineage, which had a stronghold in Eastern Tibet.

8.13.7 Ratna Guru [1288-1339], disciple of Sanggyé Pelzang [sangs rgyas dpal bzang]

The first thing to notice about Ratna Guru is his name (R:633). Like Maṅgala Guru, he takes on this Sanskrit name. And also like Maṅgala Guru, he never went to India. As institutions and lineages become increasingly defined and consolidated in the thirteenth century, the names of individuals take on increasing significance. In some cases, the name itself acts as a form of validation or authentication, even if that form is somewhat questionable. The fact is that Ratna Guru sounds Indian, and that alone may have contributed to the prestige of this lineage holder. Furthermore, we have successions of names such as "Dorje" for the Karmapas and also for the Drukpa lineage.

Gö Lotsāwa provides just a bare outline of Ratna Guru's life. Why he sketches some lineage holders and does portraits of others would be an interesting topic for investigation. He mentions that Ratna Guru receives instruction from two main teachers: Sanggyé Pelzang and Kunpangpa [kun spangs pa]. As in other sections, there seems to be specialists in the Kagyü lineage in three general areas: the area of mother tantras such as Cakrasamvara, specialists in the Kālacakra, and specialists in the Six Yogas of Naropa (and Mahāmudrā). Ratna Guru, like others of his time, received these various transmissions from different specialists. This kind of specialization would have (as it still does) necessitated cross-fertilization between institutions, thereby strengthening economic and scholastic ties.

8.13.8 Ratnākara [1300-1361], disciple of Ratna Guru

Ratnākara (again a pseudo-Indian name) was very well-travelled (R:634). In his early life, he receives transmissions at Sakya and Jomonang before traveling to Taklung. The legacy of scholasticism has begun, along with an emergence of intersectarian contact. The consolidation seems to have been happening everywhere within this span of a hundred years, and students such as Ratnākara were the beneficiaries of these burgeoning institutions of higher learning. This is evident from the fact that Ratnākara, unlike his predecessors, taught more than the lineage precepts: he taught the Tantra and Sūtra Pitakas more generally. This kind of wide knowledge may have been expected of abbots of these new monasteries early on, and eventually was probably transferred to Khenpos acting as scholastic specialists (perhaps as tulku lineages were gradually instated to fill the abbatial offices). It mentions here that Ratnākara was the first abbot from Central Tibet; all the previous abbots of Taklung were from Kham.

8.13.9 Namkha Pelzangpo [nam mkha' dpal bzang po; 1333-1379], disciple of Ratnākara

It is at this point that the uncle-nephew pattern is concluded (R:635). There is more fluidity in the later stages of the succession of Taklung abbots. Namkha Pelzangpo is depicted as feeling naturally drawn to the Dharma at a young age. He acquires a number of monikers during his life: "He was also called Yönten Gyamtso [yon tan rgya mtsho], Küngawo [kun dga' bo], and Namkha Rinchen [nam mkha' rin chen]. 'By the influence of my former deeds, (my) names are numerous,' said he" (635). This multiplicity of names is also notable; in general, it seems that during this time period the more famous the individual, the more epithets he or she is likely to have (from seeing patterns in the Blue Annals and on TBRC).

He is depicted as being extremely precocious and intelligent. He admitted that he was an incarnation of the son of Yumo (founder of the Jonang sect). Beginning with Namkha Pelzangpo's predecessor and continuing with him, the lineage teachings begin branching out to include teachings from other sects. The Kālacakra lineage continues to be strong here, and the Path and Fruit [lam 'bras] system appears. We also see mention for the first time of passing on Mahāyāna classics such as the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.

Namkha Pelzangpo is an example, perhaps, of the type of refined scholastic lineage-holder emerging during the early fourteenth century. This type of individual, a product of a vigorous scholastic environment, came from humble roots and rose to power based on his own efforts and intelligence. The system apparently yielded strong intellectual contenders for abbatial chairs in the fourteenth century. But in the Kagyu lineage, this was not enough to make a person a contender: one also must meditate in solitude extensively (as Pelzangpo did) and have visions (also mentioned here).

Gö Lotsāwa states that he finds an inconsistency of dates for the death of Pelzanpo. One unnamed source gives the date of his passing as 1379. Pelzangpo's hagiography [rnam thar], however, gives the date of his passing as 1382. Gö Lotsāwa is unable to resolve the discrepency, but his inclusion of these references shows the reader that he is troubled by it. Throughout, Gö Lotsāwa shows the concern of an investigative historian with accuracy of dates, times, and places. If his history is representative of his time, the fifteenth century may have seen a general emergence of historical self-consciousness. With institutions came libraries and scribes. As more was recorded, there seems to have been a tightening of literary style—a style that included details such as place names, dates, parents names, and so forth. It is interesting, though, that Pelzangpo died very close to Gö Lotsāwa's birth; they were only one generation apart. This suggests that even in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, authors continued to make up dates when they were unsure.

8.13.10 Trashi Peltsek [bkra shis dpal brtsegs; 1359-1424], disciple of Namkha Pelzangpo

Trashi Peltsek's (R:638) education is representative of a trend in the education for heirarchs starting around the fourteenth century and continuing until the present: he starts his education very young and takes novice vows early. By the time he is eighteen, he is installed as abbot of Taklung. The advantages of starting education young for the heads of institutions almost needs no mention; the more years in office, the greater the stability of the institution, its lineages, and practices.

As the lineage is passed on, it gathers literary steam so to speak. The principal tantra transmissions continue to be Hevajra, Cakrasamvara and Kālacakra. But Trashi Peltsek apparently had an interest in Guhyasamāja, as we see this transmission appearing in his generation. Trashi Peltsek also receives teaching on the Path and Fruit and the system of Niguma. It appears that the fourteenth century was a time of intersectarian sharing of tantric transmissions. For their lineages to compete with contemporary neighbors, heirarchs such as Trashi Peltsek may have intentionally absorbed the doctrines and tantras practiced by neighboring monasteries. The exchange of empowerments and transmissions that such absorption would necessitate would have strengthened diplomatic ties with other monasteries and lineages.

The late fourteenth century must have been a time of political unrest as well. This section mentions that sometime around 1380, "the revolt of the Pakmo Drupas took place" (R:641). During this time (apparently due to the revolt), Trashi Peltsek made offerings and admonitions, and acted as a mediator. This revolt occured somewhere in Central Tibet: "during that time Jongji Sönam Rinchen [jong ji bsod nams rin chen] of Drikhung ['bri khung] waged war in Rongpo [rong po]. He [Trashi Peltsek] attempted to mediate in the case of the reimbursement of the exhorbitant fine (which had been imposed), but Jongji did not listen (to him)" (R:642).

As a mediator Trashi Peltsek met with dubious success. Was Jongji associated with the monastery of Drikhung, or was he a clan leader? In any case, elite religious figures of the fourteenth century were called on to mediate actively in political disputes.

Trashi Peltsek travelled around a lot: he travels around Central Tibet, Tsang, Lhasa, Gampo, Zang Lung, Upper Kham, the Northern Regions, and Chimphu, to name only a few places mentioned. These travels seem to hold the functions of pilgrimage (he is described as making offerings to the Jowo and other holy objects), missionary work ("to spread the doctrine" (R:641). He also performs miracles in some of these locations, consecrating them and attracting followers), education (he receives specific transmissions from specialists), and general networking (he mediates disputes and makes friends who he invites home—he is also invited by them to various locales). With the advent of established institutions, it can be imagined that the fourteenth century was a time of leisure for abbots. They had the time to go out on missions to attract followers and promote their lineage.

There is an interesting passage telling of how Trashi Peltsek talked the natives of Menzang out of cremating people alive. Because the story is so close to Gö Lotsāwa's lifetime, and because it is so gruesome, I find it plausible that this really may have gone on in far Eastern Tibet. The more remote Tibetan areas such as Menzang may indeed still have been untouched by some of the normative Buddhist decrees as late as the fourteenth century.

Trashi Peltsek himself installs the successor to Chenga Rinpoche [spyan snga rin po che], the abbot of Pakmodru Monastery. It is not clear where in the succession Chenga Rinpoche comes. This must have been an important event, however, because Gö Lotsāwa spends a page on it. In fact, Gö Lotsāwa includes remarkable detail on Trashi Peltsek's life, and his section is one of the longest in this chapter.

8.13.11-14 Jangchup Gyamtsho [byang chub rgya mtsho; 1403-1448] and the Remaining Taklung Patriarchs

During the time of the remaining successors, Jangchup Gyamtso (8.13.11), Trashi Pelöpa [bkra shis dpal 'od pa; 1408-1460] (8.13.12), Ngakwang Drakpa [nag dbang grags pa dpal bzang po; b. 1418] (8.13.13), and Trashi Pelwa [bkra shis dpal ba; b. 1461] (8.13.14), the material wealth of Taklung increased (R:647). Gö Lotsāwa only provides a bare outline of the lives of these remaining patriarchs. Unlike most of the previous patriarchs, Ngakwang Drakpa abdicated in order to enter retreat. Gö Lotsāwa says he is still living at the time of writing the Blue Annals.

8.13.15 General Remarks on Monastic History

This section is a compelling but extremely general overview of the monastic climate in Tibet in the years preceeding the Renaissance period (R:648). Gö Lotsāwa paints a picture of chaos reigning in Central Tibet after Lang Darma’s rule, followed by a period of revival: "for more than seventy years, the natives of Ü [dbus] and Tsang [gtsang] fought one another, and monastic communities were not to be found anywhere. Then by the grace of Lachenpo [bla chen po] and the 'Six or Ten Men of Ü and Tsang,' the number of monastic communities greatly increased" (R:649).

But things were by no means harmonious, even after the budding revival: "But during the period of civil wars between the various monasteries, and in later times when the Mongol troops reached Ratreng [rwa sgreng], about 500 monks were killed. At Gyel [gyal] about a hundred men and horses were killed. Many similar upheavals took place. Later, by the grace of the Teacher Pakpa ['phags pa], the Sakyapas acted as overlords of Ü, Tsang, and Kham. But later, because of internal feuds among their descendants, their Doctrine did not last for more than seventy-five years. Then again the disciples of the Master Dakpo [dags po] and their disciples have each of them founded great monasteries. At Densatel [gdan sa thel] after the death of Drowé Gönpo ['gro ba'i mgon po] (phag mo gru pa) for a long time there was no abbot, and disorganization set in. In this country of Tibet, Drikhung Tel ['bri khung thel] is the greatest of the monastic congregations founded in one place. Later, the Sakyapas burnt down the monastery. The vihāra itself and all the holy objects perished in the fire, and there was much hardship." (649).

The most frustrating aspect of this description is Gö Lotsāwa's lack of specificity—what are the dates? The chaos at Pakmodru Monastery must have been in the late twelfth to early thirteenth century. He mentions the burning of Drikhung. What were the events surrounding that? It is also interesting that Gö Lotsāwa valorizes Drikhung as the greatest monastic institution in Tibet. Yet he does the same with Taklung Monastery in the following section.

8.13.16 Taklung [stag lung] Monastery

According to Gö Lotsāwa, Taklung Monastary escaped the looting of Mongol troops, and in this section he declares the monastery unsurpassed by others because "the strict rule that women should not dare to look in the direction of the monastery, and the continuance of the practice of religion have not deteriorated…One should know that this is due to the blessing of siddhas, who had appeared among its teachers. I believe these teachers were experts in the performance of auspicious ceremonies, and therefore the monastery enjoyed a long existence" (R:650).

The tendency to represent women as threatening to the flourishing of monasticism is a theme that reoccurs later in this chapter. It is also interesting that Gö Lotsāwa links the longevity of the monastery to the ritual skill of the Taklung patriarchs. In fact, his point is convincing. Tantric ritual, with its highly performative mood, must have been a primary factor in gathering patrons and in linking the community to the monastery.

It appears that the Taklungpas and the Drikhungpas may actually have met on the battlefield, for reasons left unclear: "Later, when the Drikhungpas mustered a host composed of the subjects of both the king and the monastery, and filled with it the great plain of Tsetang [rtses thang], they were utterly routed by a hundred Taklungpas" (R:650). Was this a territorial battle? This explains some of the references to tension between these sects mentioned earlier in the chapter.

8.13.17 Sanggyéwön [sangs rgyas dbon;1251-1296], disciple of Sanggyé Yarjön

Sanggyéwön (R:650) is important because he founded Riwoche [ri bo che] Monastery in Kham, which until 1959 was a major center of Kagyü activity. This appears to be the reason that Gö Lotsāwa includes his section independently. He was considered to be an emanation of Gampopa.

From an early age, he displayed miracles. The inclusion in hagiographies of specific miracles performed in childhood and adulthood seems to have become, by Gö Lotsāwa's time, absolutely essential as an authenticating rubric for lineage masters. Sanggyéwön acted as abbot of Taklung for only one year. There seems to have been some controversy over the abbotship, but the details are obscure. As in other places, Gö Lotsāwa seems to gloss over disagreements and disharmonies in these monastic communities. In any case, Sanggyéwön was disgruntled enough to pack up the dried feces of Taklungpa to take with him, as well as Milarepa's staff and ladle, and other holy objects. He took these to Kham, where he founded Riwoche. Gö Lotsāwa calls it "the greatest monastery in Kham" (R:652).

8.13.18 Dopa Darma Sherap [do pa dar ma shes rab; 1228-1311], disciple of Sanggyé Yarjön

This is a short section (R:652). The most significant details are as follows: Dopa Darma Sherap founded Kong Monastery (skong dgon). He had little faith in Maṅgala Guru, the abbot of Taklung Monastery. Instead, he placed his faith in Sanggyéwön, abbot of Riwoche. Hence, there seems to have been a schism betwen these two patriarchs—Maṅgala Guru and Sanggyéwön. It is added that, "Later he used to say that Maṅgala guru was also a siddha, and made extensive offerings to him" (R:652). One has to wonder if details such as this were added in retrospect to patch up a history of animosity between the Kagyü lineages.

8.13.19 The remaining abbots of Taklung

This section ends with a brief mention of the remaining abbots of Taklung, up to the time of Gö Lotsāwa. They are Dopa Darma Sherap's nephew Maṅgala Ratna, then Nyammé Drakpa Gyelpo [mnyam med grags pa rgyal po], Kyechok Namkha Nyingpo [skyes mchog nam mkha' snying po], Namkha Peltsek Gyelpo [nam mkha' dpal brtsegs rgyal po], Peltsek Gyamtso [dpal brtsegs rgya mtsho], and Peltsek Zangpo [dpal brtsegs bzang po].

8.14 Yamzangpa Kagyü

The section on the Yamzang Kagyü (R:652) focuses on Zarawa [zwa ra ba; d. 1207] and his student Yamzangpa [g.yam bzang chos rje; 1169-1233]. The former is the founder of Zara [zwa ra] Monastery, and the latter of Yamzang [g.yam bzangs] Monastery. One notable detail is that Yamzangpa is considered an emanation of Songtsen Gampo. The hearkening back to the age of the royal Yarlung dynasty for validation is interesting, considering it is fairly rare in this climate of the "modern" lineages. Gö Lotsāwa also includes a fairly skeletal but very complete (in terms of names and dates) account of their successors.

8.15 The Dharma Lord Tsangpa [Gyeré] together with his great sons and abbatial lineage

8.15.1 Lingrepa [gling ras pa; 1128-11880, disciple of Pakmo Drupa

Lingrepa is an important figure because of (1) the position he occupies in the lineage as the teacher of Tsangpa Gyeré [gtsang pa rgyas ras], (2) because of his rank as a disciple of Pakmo Drupa, and (3) because his biography has given him somewhat of a legendary status (R:659).

Lingrepa holds the dubiously privileged position of being one of the very few lineage holders in the generations after Pakmo Drupa, of course known for his insistence on monastic discipline for serious disciples, who was a quasi-monk. Because of this lay-noteriety, he remains one of the more interesting figures in the Druk lineage, and ironically one of the most beloved. Along with figures such as Milarepa and Padmasambhava, he bridged a gap in the religious community's imagination between the rigid order of monastic life and the human urges of Tibetan monks and laypeople alike.

He also lent to the Druk lineage something of a siddha-aura. Lingrepa, like the siddhas of old, had consorts, sang songs [mgur] and balanced his meditation with worldly matters. It is perhaps partly because of this siddha-persona that he became so revered by the lineage. His life acted as an inspiration for those teachers of the Druk lineage (and there were a number) who would choose not to keep a vow of celibacy.

Lingrepa, born Pema Dorje [pad ma rdo rje], was the son of a Tantrika doctor and astrologer. He studied medicine as a child, and at the age of seventeen he took novice vows. (It would be interesting to investigate the number of major religious figures in a given lineage that started out as doctors, or for that matter to investigate the tradition of lay doctors and religious practice in Tibetan communities.) He later took up final ordination and studied the Kālacakra, Yamāntaka, Saṃvara and Vajravarahi cycles under Ra Lotsāwa [rwa lo tsa ba; 1016-1198]. Ra Lotsāwa, according to TBRC, was the translator of a number of important Yamāntaka texts. He studied under Dīpaṃkara in India, and later became known for propagating the "Ra transmission." He did not compose any texts of his own.

One day, while on a begging round, Lingrepa met a woman named Menmo [sman mo]. As Gö Lotsāwa puts it Menmo "seduced" him, and Lingrepa—due to a karmic debt—was powerless to resist. The couple soon married and sought out the precepts of Rechungpa [ras chung pa]. After receiving these precepts, they dawned cotton robes.

The couple then travel to Loro [lo ro], where they meet Sumpa Repa [sum pa ras pa], Rechungpa's disciple, who gives them precepts. He stays with Sumpa for about two years. During this time, he has a dream-premonition promising success in practice. Dream-premonitions preceding enlightenment/accomplishment/realization are a very common theme in Kagyü biographies.

In 1165, Lingrepa travels to Pakmodru Monastery and meets Pakmo Drupa. He has immediate faith in his teacher. Another common theme in Kagyü biography is that the moment of the first meeting of disciple and teacher is often described in experiential terms. The motif reflects the self-expressed definition of the Kagyü as a "lineage of devotion," in which the key relationship is that between teacher and disciple. In Kagyü sources, this relationship takes on such an exhalted status that maintaining pure view [dag snang] towards the lama becomes the principle path to enlightenment. The moment of the first meeting of student and teacher is therefore often highlighted in biographical sources.

Despite Pakmo Drupa's general dislike of married yogins, he takes a liking to Lingrepa and teaches him. Eventually, he advises him to send Menmo away, which he does. But he soon is involved with another consort, a woman from Zangri [zangs ri]. He eventually tries to leave her behind as well, but she tries to follow him and dies on the way. She then becomes a spirit of a forest.

The depiction of Lingrepa's relationship with women is more revealing about the lineage stance on the female gender than it is of Lingrepa's personal struggles. Lingrepa seems to be pulled against his will into his relationship with Menmo originally—it is just an unfortunate karmic turn of events. Then once he is in a relationship, the consorts either cling to him or follow him (as much as he tries to shake them). This presentation is, of course, rather suspect. The message conveyed to the monastic reader is that women are trouble, and ending up with one can only be a sign of one's previous karmic sins. They are temptresses who later become burdens to the yogi. The transformation of the woman from Zangri into a forest spirit is also interesting. Women are often, in many cultures, associated with nature, with procreation, and with the wilderness. In Tibetan culture, this female archtype is embodied by the popular diety Green Tara [sgrol ljang], who is surrounded by flowers and trees in most depictions. A symbolic reading might see Zangri as representing wildness—in both its literal and dispositional sense. Taking this reading further, we might see the women in Lingrepa's life as representative of the wild side of his own nature, the side that the institution tries but does not totally succeed in taming.

After Pakmo Drupa's death, Lingrepa travels extensively in Central Tibet. He mediates in a dispute at the request of Lama Zhang, stopping the advance of troops.

Inspired by the vision of a blue woman, Lingrepa composes some expostions of Tantra. Gö Lotsāwa mentions that Lingrepa is accused of making these up himself (without divine inspiration). Vision-inspired texts seem to be common in Kagyü lineages (as opposed to the terma-style discoveries of Nyingma lineages), and the proof of authenticity therefore rested solely with belief in the report of the visionary.

Lingrepa composed about ten texts, including a number of songs that later would become very well-known among all Kagyü lineages. Lingrepa actually studied Doha under Parpuwa [spar phu ba], and wrote a commentary on Doha.

Gö Lotsāwa mentions that Lingrepa "took over the monastery of Napurgön [sna phur dgon]" (R:664), however TBRC says that Lingrepa actually founded Napu Monastery. It seems most likely that Napu was a retreat place of some sort, and that Lingrepa made it into a religious community.

Lingrepa's death is catalyzed by meeting two men with broken tantric vows. This encounter causes his teeth to contract, and he dies. The drawing of connections between karmic deeds and severe illness and death is another motif seen throughout the Blue Annals; it is a motif that continues in popular culture in Tibet to this day.

8.15.2 Tsangpa Yeshe Dorjé [gtsang pa ye shes rdo rje; 1161-1211], a disciple of Lingrepa

Tsangpa Gyeré accomplished quite a remarkable amount of work in his fifty-one years of life (R:664). By Gö Lotsāwa's and present accounts, he is considered the founder of the Drukpa Kagyü sect. He had many disciples, including Götsangpa [rgod tshang pa; 1189-1258] and Lorepa [lo ras pa; 1187-1250], who were seen retrospectively as founders of the Upper and Lower Druk lineages. He was a prolific composer as well, composing twenty-three books at least.

Tsangpa Gyeré was handed over at a young age to a Bönpo who raised him. He began scholastic training at the age of twelve. By the time he was twenty-two, he had been installed as the resident scholar at a local monastery. Soon after that, he met Lingrepa when the latter was residing at Ralung. His faith awakened, the young Tsangpa followed Lingrepa to his monastery Napu to receive precepts. He quickly developed the ability, through yogic inner heat [gtum mo], to wear only a cotton garment. He fell ill for a long time with small pox, and recovered. An incident is related where Tsangpa tries to get out of construction work, but is eventually compelled to help with the building of a temple commissioned by Lingrepa. This account is reminiscent of Milarepa's biography.

An incident is related of Tsangpa's defeating one of his teachers in debate. As a major figure in the Drukpa tradition, it is understandable how his biography could be constructed to contain certain elements that would be valued in a Kagyü context: he pleases the lama through his physical labor and his scholarship; he is victorious in debate; then he goes off to meditate. After achieving signs of success, his teacher says to him "The Venerable Milé [mid la] had also experienced it! It is very wonderful!" (R:666). As a lineage founder, Tsangpa's life is constructed to embody the meditation of Milarepa, and the scholarly accuity of Naropa (of whom he was considered an emanation).

Lingrepa instructs Tsangpa to take over his monastery of Napu, and also gives him permission to engage in the practice of skillful means. He sends Tsangpa to a woman for this practice, who advises him to become a monk. This passage is cryptic; however, a constructivist's reading of the passage might yield an interpretation that the woman is acting as the Drukpa lineage's conscience. She suggests implicitly to Tsangpa that monasticism is more important than practice with a consort: celibacy is more noble than the path of skillful means. She is the harbinger of the ecclesiastical message. Her positive role in this biography mirrors the blue woman's muse-like role in Lingrepa's biography. In general, there is ambivalence towards women expressed in the genre of Tibetan biography; on the one hand the female gender is a threat to monasticism, on the other the female gender is painted as a source of literary inspiration and sometimes as a catalyst for renunciation as we see in the case of Tsangpa's encounter with his potential consort.

Tsangpa then enters a period of retreat. He encounters many obstacles while in retreat but eventually overcomes them. He then discovers terma there left by Rechungpa. This discovery of terma must have tremendously increased his prestige, especially considering that terma discovery in this lineage is rare.

At the age of thirty-three, he finally takes monastic ordination after a long period of equivocation. His teacher, after all, was not a monk. It is Lama Zhang that finally talks him into it. He also mentions having trouble developing compassion, and searches for the right instruction. The impression is that Tsangpa was searching for the most appropriate way to transmit his teacher's legacy.

He finally establishes the monastery of Druk―which eventually becomes a main monastic center for the Drukpa Kagyü lineage―but disperses his followers. According to Gö Lotsāwa, his disciples and their followers spread quickly throughout Tibet. Was this because Tsangpa emphasized the peripatetic life, because he encouraged his students to become missionaries, or were there irreconcilable disputes among his students? This question requires investigation.

It is also mentioned by Gö Lotsāwa that followers of the Drukpa lineage were encouraged to be hermits, not to participate in debates, and not to discuss the tenets of various sects. In other words, the Drukpa is a lineage claiming to value meditative experience over sholarship. The constant tension between the ideals of scholarship and meditation, however, is a theme in these biographies from the beginning.

Again, as in so many other instances in the Blue Annals, we see disciples catagorized by numbers. Tsangpa's chief disciples are the "first two great ones," Pa [spa] and Kyang [rkyang], the "middle two great ones," Gya [rgya] and Dré ['bras], and the "last two great ones," Lo [lo] and Gö [rgod (tshang pa)]. The systematizing of disciples by number is a powerful mnemonic rubric that also gives an aura of destiny to the early founders of Tsangpa's branch lineages.

8.15.3-4 Pariwa [spa ri ba] and Kyangmo Khapa [rkyang mo kha pa], the "first two great ones"

Gö Lotsāwa admits having little material to draw from with respect the Tsangpa's first four disciples (R:670). Pariwa founded the monastery of Upper Pari Janchupling [spa ri byang chub gling]. Kyangmo Khapa founded a monstery called Kyangmokha [rkyang mo kha] at Bur [bur].

8.15.5-6 Gyayakpa [rgya yags pa] and Dremopa ['bras mo pa], the "middle two great ones"

Gyayakpa founded the monastery of Gyayak [rgya yags] at Zarpo [zar po] of Dra [gra], and labored for the welfare of others. His school was called Gyayak Kagyü [rgya yags bka' brgyud]. Gö Lotsāwa can provide no details of Dremopa, except that he was named after a monstery in Upper Nyang [myang].

8.15.7 Other disciples of Tsangpa Gyeré

In this section (R:671), Gö Lotsāwa describes a lineage of nephews beginning with Tsangpa's nephew Wönré Darma Senggé [dbon ras dar ma seng ge]. It is significant to note that nephews throughout chapter eight are rarely the most interesting and charismatic figures of lineages. It is usually independent disciples coming from obscure backgrounds that become major personalities, whose biographies become the classics of the lineage. The reason for this is easy to discern: nephews inherited their position by virtue of relationship, whereas independent disciples earned their position through accuity, natural charisma, determination, and/or intelligence.

It appears that the nephew pattern continues for three generation. The later successors are not mentioned as being nephews, so perhaps this pattern does not continue for longer than the first few generations after Tsangpa Gyeré.

There seems to be a close relationship between the monasteries of Druk and Gampo (Gampopa's seat). It is mentioned that Tsangpa Gyeré resided at Gampo. Some of the later abbots of Druk also acted as abbots of Gampo.

8.16 Lower Drukpa Kagyü

8.16.1 Lorepa [lo ras pa; 1187-1250], a disciple of Tsangpa Gyeré

Lorepa was considered retrospectively to be the founder of the Lower Druk lineage (R:672). Perhaps even more significant, he was the first individual from the Druk lineage to travel to Bhutan and teach there.

Lorepa spent the early part of his life near and around Druk monastery. He had a strong penchant for the practice of yogic inner heat and austerities in general. He was known for wearing only a single cotton robe. He took monastic ordination as a young adult, and spent a good part of his adult life wandering from cave to cave meditating in the spirit of Milarepa. He also founded a number of small hermitages, and the monastery of Karpo Chölung [dkar po chos lung]. In Bhutan, he founded the monastery of Tarpaling [thar pa gling]. He died in Lhodrak [lho brag] at the age of sixty-four.

Gö Lotsāwa clearly admires Lorepa, saying of him: "Thus, this holy personage had no one to match him in the distribution of alms, in detachment from worldly matters, in diligence, in meditation, in scholarly knowledge, and in his labours full of compassion for the benefit of others" (R:676) He seems to a have been a person dedicated to supporting religious practitioners largely outside monastic centers. Yet he also founded two monasteries. It would be interesting to investigate further the discrepency between his commitment to seclusion (and supporting hermits) and his commitment to creating religious communities.

He passes the responsibility of caring for his monastery Karpo Chölung to his nephew Tsariwa [tsa ri ba].

8.16.2 Jamyang Gönpo ['jam dbyangs mgon po; b. 1208]

Jamyang Gönpo is the only disciple of Lorepa that Gö Lotsāwa profiles (R:677). He seems to be important because he was a prolific composer and introduced a number of transmissions into the Lower Druk, such as the oral tradition of Rechungpa. He also founded the monastery of Kuru Lung.

Gö Lotsāwa mentions at the end of this section that Lorepa's lineage was known as the Lower Druk and Götsangpa's lineage was known as the Upper DruK. He continues, "all the other branches of the Drukpa ['brug pa] sect seem to have merged in these two" (R:677-678). A question to investigate is whether Lorepa's legacy flourished mostly in Bhutan, whereas Götsangpa's lineage became associated with Tibet—or whether these lineages became equally active in both countries.

8.17 Götsangpa together with his great sons

8.17.1 Götsangpa [rgod tshang pa]

Gö Lotsāwa spends a lot of time on Götsangpa (R:680). This may well be because Götsangpa and his disciples were preoccupied with identity construction and preservation through biography and autobiogrpahy. Götsangpa himself wrote two autobiographies and his disciple Rinchenpel [rin chen dpal] wrote a biography of Götsangpa. In addition, Götsangpa was incredibly prolific—in fact, he composed more texts than any DruKpa lineage holder covered so far in the Blue Annals. A collection of five large volumes holds his compositions. These compositions reveal an individual who was preoccupied with creating a corpus of literature and commentaries directly related to lineage teachings, in particular the teachings on Mahāmudrā. His writings reveal a concern for preservation of detail, right down to the details of his own personal meditative experiences and historical details about his predecessors. Götsangpa is the first Drukpa patriarch who seems to have considered himself just that.

The reason for his legendary status is partially revealed in some of the details present in the Blue Annals. Götsangpa was a poet musician at heart. Early in his life, he had a pleasant singing voice and became renowned for his performances. He also composed songs [mgur] that are responsible for much of his popular appeal even today. His autobiographies are told in a lively voice with eloquence that is vivid, but not polished. Indeed, when Götsangpa first hears the name of his teacher, it is through a song sung by travelling bards. In true Kagyü fashion, he develops faith through the mere mention of the name and he goes to Ralung to meet Tsangpa Gyeré and receive ordination. He is given the name Gönpo Dorjé [mgon po rdo rje]. It is noteworthy that very many of the lineage masters of the "minor" Kagyü lineages have two names, at least. One is the ordination name (such as Gönpo Dorjé) and the other is a nickname related to place (such as Götsangpa). Götsangpa travels widely, mostly to meditate (or so Gö Lotsāwa tells us). He goes to Kashmir, Kailash, and the Lower Kangra valley. It is briefly mentioned in this section that Götsangpa had a consort.

The details of Götsangpa's biography included by Gö Lotsāwa are mostly anecdotes of his travels and frequent retreats. Like many biographical anecdotes in the lives of saints, these details demonstrate the increasing mental concentration and powers of the protagonist that are catalyzed by events, culminating in a final noetic realization. At one point, he encounters a woman who tells him that staying in seclusion is more profitable than working in the world to benefit others (here the woman is taking the ḍākinī role it seems). He follows her advice and meditates at Götsang [rgod tshang], the place that gave him his nickname. He only spent seven years at Götsang—why was this place importantant enough in his life to give him that name?

Götsangpa was famous for waking every morning and saying, "It was good that I did not die yesterday. Today l shall attain spiritual realization!" (R:685). Another ḍākinī figure appears: "He used to relate that, while he was residing at Śrī ri (near Shelkar [shel dkar] in Tsang [gtsang]), he saw a red woman placing a book into his mouth, and that after that there did not exist a single doctrine translated into Tibetan, which he did not understand" {R 686}. This story is virtually identical to Lingrepa's account of meeting the blue woman. The importance of the appearance of these muse-like females in biographical accounts should not be underestimated. It is evidence of the continued association of wisdom with the female gender (prajñāpāramitā) morphing into unique Tibetan interpretations.

In his later life, Götsangpa founded numerous monasteries, such as Tengdro [steng gro], Pungdra [spung dra], Jangling [byang gling], Dechenteng [bde chen steng], Bardrok Dorjeling [bar 'brog rdo rje gling], and others. These "monasteries" where perhaps nothing more than hermitages, since no evidence for their continued existence can be found; this discrepency needs to be examined further.

Overall, Götsangpa was an example of a scholar-recluse, who also managed to gather numerous disciples and write a lot of books. He admonished his followers to spend their lives as hermits, and recommended that they each spend at least one year meditating in solitude. He also specified that no images of him should be erected after his death (an admonishment ignored by Urgyenpa [ u rgyan pa], who declared that he was absent when the statement was made by the lama so it did not apply to him). For a founder then, like Lorepa, he seems to have felt ambivalent about institutions. He founded commutities, but was peripatetic himself. He left a literary and institutional legacy, but encouraged his students to withdraw from scholarship and communal life.

8.17.2 Götsangpa's Disciples

Götsangpa had many students (R:686), including " Yangönpa [g.yang dgon pa], the Mahāsiddha Urgyenpa [u rgyan pa], Janglingpa [byang gling pa], the Dharmasvāmin Neringpa [ne rings pa], Puriwa [phu ri ba], the incomparable Bari Chilkarwa [ba ri spyil dkar ba], the Lord Madünpa [ma bdun pa], Zhijé Gönpo [zhi byed mgon po], Sanggyé Tromré [sangs rgyas khrom ras], Pelkyer Shingrepa [dpal skyer shing ras pa], Śākya Repa [Śākya ras pa], Darré ['dar ras], and others" (R:686-687). The most important were Yangönpa and Urgyenpa.

8.18 Upper Drukpa Kagyü

8.18.1 Gyelwa Yangönpa [rgyal ba yang dgon pa; 1213-1258]

Yangönpa is the first of the Druk patriarchs to come out the womb talking (R:689), and he generally displayed the improbable behavior of an incarnation from the start. Perhaps this is an indication that by the thirteenth century, lineage construction was tending towards the institution of the tulku [sprul sku]. The reason may be connected to the lack of recorded material avaliable for this individual, hence his life may have seemed a clean slate for elaboration by later biographers. Also, the fact that he was something of a child prodigy may have inspired eleboration. The reasons some biographical accounts wax far into the territory of hagiography and others do not would be a fascinating topic of study.

In any case, Yangönpa was recognized early on as special by several prominent lamas and was installed as abbot of Lhagön [lha dgon] at the age of nine, and was given teachings from that age. He took monastic ordination at the age of twenty-two. From this point on in the Druk lineage, the principal heirarchs are mostly monastic and the mention of consorts seems to disapear from the literature; although in reality, it must be questioned how much that practice ever really disappeared. In many monasteries today, the ostensibly celibate heads of monasteries continue to have secret consorts in Kagyü lineages.

8.18.2 Chenga Rinchenden [spyan snga rin chen ldan; b. 1202] a disciple of Gyelwa Yangönpa

Chenga Rinchenden was the first disciple in this lineage to be older than his teacher (R:691). He was Yangönpa's attendent for thirty-five years. The theme of attendent-disciples is very prevalent throughout this chapter. This sort of pattern must have become normative as lineages consolidated into institutions and as abbatial offices became the standard. Every abbot needs an attendent, and every monastery needs a cook. Hence, it is not surprising to see these servants becoming the inheretors of lineage precepts. There is also the value in Kagyü lineage sources of "close" devotion to a teacher—serving their worldly needs in exchange for teachings, as Milarepa served Marpa.

The rest of this section on the Upper DruK is devoted to accounts of the lives of several generations of heirarchs. The most notable themes are continued emphasis in this lineage on (1) composition, (2) solitary retreat, (3) acquisition of texts from an increasingly wide literary circle (including some Nyingma doctrines, for instance) and (4) monasticism. However, there is little emphasis in this lineage on abbatial successions or the maintenence of big monasteries. The upper Druk lineage until the fourteenth century survived in small monastic hermitages and communities. Many of its heirarchs were peripatetic, and lived in a number of Kagyü centers.

8.19 The great siddha Urgyenpa Rinchenpel [u rgyan pa rin chen dpal] together with his students.

Urgyenpa's fame seems to derive from a number of factors (R:696): (1) his composition and propogation of the Urgyen Nyendrup [u rgyan bsnyen sgrub], (2) his synthesis of the Karma Kagyü and Drukpa lineages (his main teachers were Karma Pakshi and Götsangpa), and (3) the biographical account of his life, which is full of colorful tales of travel and miracles. He was an ecumenical scholar who propogated the teachings of Kālachakra, the Druk cycle, Mahāmudrā lineages, and the Karma Kagyü cycle. He also travelled to Kashmir, Afganistan, India, China, and Mongolia.

This brings up the point of the tremendous esteem that travel lent to lineage holders. Every country they travelled lent an aura of cultural cache to a lineage holder, a kind of exotica-factor that seems to have stuck to that persona over generations. After a generation, Pakchok Sönampel ['phags mchog bsod nams dpal] founded a center for Urgyenpa's disciples called the hemitage of Chöding [chos sdings]. There is a short abbatial lineage associated with this seat mentioned by Gö Lotsāwa here.

It is notable that Gö Lotsāwa does not classify Urgyenpa's lineage under "Upper Druk" even though Urgyenpa is one of Götsangpa's students. Instead, he classifies it as "Druk," and mentions that Urgyenpa brought together "the two branches of the principle precepts of the Druk cycle" (R:702). This statement is compelling, although it remains unclear to me what is meant by it in context.

8.20 Tropupa [khro phu pa] Kagyü

8.20.1-3 Gyeltsa [rgyal tsha; 1118-1195], a disciple of Pakmo Drupa, Lünden [lun ldan], and Tropu Lotsāwa [khro phu lo tsa ba; 1173-1225]

The Tropupa line comes through Gyeltsa, a chief disciple of Pakmo Drupa (R:705). Gyeltsa, like so many others in this lineage, is pressured by his father to take a bride but shows a preference for monastic life. This reoccuring motif is so common that it is tempting to read it as a template formula. Tibetan biography is one of the few literary genres with the status of "recreational reading." Biographies were probably among the first materials read by young children and teenagers when they first learned to read. These books would certainly have found their way into many lay homes. Thus, the anecdotes presented in these books may have acted as inspiration for some young people. The message is 'look—you should resist marriage just like Gyeltsa did.'

Lünden was Gyeltsa's younger brother and was known for his miracle work. As alluded to here, family continues to be an important connection in monastic life. There are a number of instances in Tibetan history were brothers take up ordination together despite the common practice of one brother sustaining the family lineage and one sustaining a spiritual lineage, the latter usually so that the family maintains close ties with the monastic community. In Tibet, there are numerous examples were family and monastic life intersect in complex ways.

Tropu Lotsāwa is one generation removed from Gyeltsa. He is important as one of the only translators in this lineage of his generation, and because he invited three foreign teachers to Tibet from India: Mitra, Buddhaśrī and Śākyaśrī. He is also known for his travels to Kashmir, Nepal, and India, and for building several large monasteries and statues. It is mentioned that he had a female disciple named Machik Rema [ma gcig re ma], who attained enlightenment under his tutelage. His disciples' names are briefly mentioned at the end of this section with no details.

8.21 Zhang Rinpoche [zhang rin po che; 1123-1193] together with his students.

Zhang Rinpoche was an interesting and controversial figure (R:711). He was a scholar, warrior, and politician. He was known to dispatch troops against those who did not agree with him. Gö Lotsāwa includes an interesting confessional at the end of this section where Zhang Rinpoche defends his worldly involvements and declares them the result of solely religious motivations. He embodies the mood of the budding Kagyü lineages. As they attracted followers, by the twelfth century they found themselves caught up in political mechanations. Lama Zhang is like the self-conscious voice of the lineage, defending itself against orthodox critics.

Zhang Rinpoche was a student of Gampopa. In young adulthood, Zhang spent years in solitary retreat. It appears that after that, he was a military-religious expansionist. He was determined to aquire land and build monasteries, and used force at times to secure resources. Gö Lotsāwa places Zhang among the "Three Jewels of Tibet": Tsongkhapa, Zhang Rinpoche and Pakmo Drupa.

8.22 Abbatial lineage of Tsel Gungtang [mtshal gung thang].

This section merely presents a long list of names and dates of the abbatial successors to Lama Zhang at the monastic seat of Tsel Gungtang (R:716). It seems clear that Zhang's main legacy was this strong monastic insitution.

8.23 Mind Instruction lineage

8.23.1 Dungtso Repa [dung tsho ras pa], a disciple of Gampopa

Dungtso Repa seems to have been the only one of Gampopa's disciple to discover terma [gter ma] (R:717). Gö Lotsāwa's detailed mention of the discovery of the few Kagyü termas and his ommission of most Nyingma termas indicates where his biases lie. The description of the discovery of treasure itself is interesting. The treasure is originally said to have been hidden by Gampopa. When Dungtso discovers the terma in 1316, Gampopa would still have been living. Dungtso finds a prophesy predicting that he will find the terma in a lake. He goes there and finds the treasure in the form of a text written on scrolls under the ice, in a box shaped like a mongoose or a mongoose-statue.

When a disciple finally asks him for the hidden doctrine, he bestows it to him. It is described as "the doctrine of one taste." This sounds like a text of precepts on the practice of mahāmudrā, since the yoga of one taste is traditionally one of the four mahāmudrā yogas. The treasure, which is later called by Gö Lotsāwa "the hidden doctrine of Mind Instruction [sems khrid]" (R:724) seems to form the very basis of this lineage.

The remaining successors of this lineage are described only briefly, and the birth-death dates are not provided in several cases. There is an obvious emphasis in this lineage, from reading these brief biographical accounts, on mahāmudra meditation, monasticism, solitary retreat, and the aquisition of Mind Instruction transmissions (even from other lineages). Chöyingpa [chos dbyings pa; b. 1324], for example, received the transmission of the Mahāmudrā Gauma [phyag rgya chen po ga’u ma], a Shangpa mahāmudrā text.

There are a couple of vignettes in this section worth discussing. Rinchen Zhonnu [rin chen gzhon nu; b. 1333], a generation down from Dungtso Repa, was known as a recluse and ascetic. When he once encountered the Karmapa Könzhön [kar ma pa dkon gzhon], a famous scholar-disciple of the Fouth Karmapa Rolpé Dorjé, he is said to have defeated him in debate: "He placed on the latter's head his flat lama hat [thang zhu] and said, 'You are not a scholar. I am the scholar!' He was not afraid to meet scholars whom he happened to come across" (R:721). We see ample evidence of the contention between scholars and meditators throughout the Kagyü chapter. In the described encounters between scholars and meditators in this lineage, the meditator always emerges victorious. He is the symbol of the triumph of realization derived from meditative experience over book-learning and logic. He is also a symbol of the coup de grace of wildness over the institutional order of monastic life.

But the fact that the meditator always wins in these encounters, speaks to the anxiety that the Kagyü lineages must have felt during the renaissance period. Here was a lineage claiming to give precedence to the hermetic, perapatetic, ascetic lifestyle. Yet all around, huge institutions were forming and attracting large numbers of followers, not to mention ample resources. The institutions were organized, they were effective, and they were powerful. How could bands of wandering yogins compete with that? Of course the Kagyü lineages also were settling into institutions, but their conscience about the issue never died. Their insecurities are expressed in the paradigmatic stories of the yogi encountering the scholar.

This brings us to another vignette in this section that speaks to the relationship of the Mind Instruction lineage to scholarship and practice. Chöyingpa, who attended on six disciples of Dungtso Repa, has a prophetic dream: "One night in his dream he saw five very beautiful women who told him to come along, and led him towards a large vihāra. On opening the gate, he found inside a large room containing numerous piles of books. There were also several other new doors without paint. On opening them one by one, he saw rooms filled with books. They (the women) then handed him a big bundle of keys, and said, 'Take charge of these! It will be of great service to the Doctrine'" (R:723).

Based on this dream, Chöyingpa meets a lama who bestows on him the Mind Instruction lineage. This dream nicely illustrates how the Mind Instruction lineage may have revered books as the conveyers of meditation instruction, even while they were suspicious of book-learning. It is the muse-ḍākinī who must act as the purveyor of permission to take the library keys. Book-learning is not engaged in for its own sake, but rather must be justified by visionary inspiration. The lineage recognized that "to be of great service to the Doctrine," the command of books was necessary.

8.23.2 Untitled note on the Great Seal teachings of the Dakpo Kagyü

In this final section of chapter eight (R:724), Gö Lotsāwa makes some general remarks on the Kagyü lineage. He begins by asserting that the Dakpo Kagyü is not a "lineage of word" but a "lineage of meaning." The "lineage of meaning," he goes on to explain, means the "lineage of understanding of the immaculate 'Great Seal' (Mahāmudra)" (R:724). Understanding mahāmudrā corresponds to the completion stage [rdzogs rim]. Gö Lotsāwa clarifies that in this lineage yogic inner heat (representing one of the six yogas) is produced before the realization of mahāmudrā, and therefore the latter is the true completion phase practice for this lineage. This explanation is very similar to the one that is given orally in this lineage today. However, the six yogas are sometimes loosely referred to as completion phase practices, when placed in the context of the whole path (compared to deity yoga, which is relegated to generation stage [skyed rim]). In other words, in the Kagyü lineage, the terms "generation stage" and "completion phase" are mobile rubrics used in different ways in different contexts.

Gö Lotsāwa declares that Gampopa had the ability to produce an understanding of mahāmudrā in beginners who had not even obtained initiation, and that this approach was concordant with the tradition of Prajñāpāramitā. To take this idea further, Gampopa took the radical stance that the intention of the sūtras was not different from that of the tantric yogins—the words were different, but the ultimate meditation referred to was the same. Gampopa therefore freely threw around and mixed up the sūtra, tantra, and Mind Instruction terminology in his great Stages of the Path [lam rim] treatise The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, causing a great furor among his contemporaries. If that was not enough, he told his disciple Pakmo Drupa that the main text for mahāmudrā was the Mahāyana Anuttara Tantra composed by Maitreya.

Pakmo Drupa therefore bequeathed this text to his disciples, ensuring that the distinctions between the Mahāyāna sūtras and the yogic Mind Instructions were forever blurred in the eyes of its lineage holders (a myopia that infuriated its critics and delighted its followers). One of its critics was Sakya Paṇḍita, whose criticisms Gö Lotsāwa mentions specifically. According to Sakya Paṇḍita, mahāmudrā can only be produced through tantric initiation. Gö Lotsāwa then blithely defends the Kagyüs, pointing out that the term "mahāmudrā" is mentioned by Sahajavajra in the commentary on the Tenth Tathatā. Gö Lotsāwa then affirms that in the Kagyü lineage, there continues a tradition of both sūtra-mahāmudrā and tantra-mahāmudrā, and both are legitimate.

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