Sgrub Thabs

Tibetan Dictionaries > Blue Annals Terminology > Terms ka-kha-ga-nga > sgrub thabs

druptap (sgrub thabs) སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་

by Christopher Bell


  • Skt. sādhana
  • tantric liturgy
  • propitiatory rite
  • ritual manual


  • sgrub - to accomplish, achieve, practice
  • thabs - means, method
  • "Means of Achievement"

Druptap (Skt. sādhana), "means of achievement," refers to a specific series of ritual steps to be followed in order to succeed in a ritual performance. The word also refers to liturgical manuals. These manuals are prolific in Tibetan ritual practice because they explicitly provide the instructions for attaining the goal of a ritual exercise. For Bentor (1996), the druptap represents the means by which the tantric practitioner—through the use of visualizations, mudras, and mantras—dissolves the constructed, relative reality during a ritual program and arrives at an exalted state of reality full of the visual wonders detailed in the texts. It is in this exalted state that ultimate reality manifests out of emptiness to be approached by the practitioner. Thus, the druptap is the means by which this middle ground of the exalted realm is created between the constructed world and ultimate truth in order for the practitioner to commune with that truth in an embodied form for the purpose of ritual endeavor. The Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo defines it broadly as "a means to perform an undertaking," and more specifically as "a ritual for achieving the divine" (ལས་དོན་བྱེད་ཚུལ། ལྷ་སྒྲུབ་པའི་ཆོ་ག Dbyi sun 1998, p.616).

Analysis of Pattern of Usage in The Blue Annals

This term's pattern of usage is simply suggested by its definition, referring to ritual manuals like Nairātmāsādhana (bdag med ma'i sgrub thabs) and Samantabhadranāmasādhana (bskyed pa'i rim pa'i sgrub thabs kun tu bzang po). There are numerous instances in The Blue Annals when such texts of ritual practice are either enacted or, more importantly, obtained by religious practitioners from various masters. The word appears several times in The Blue Annals, with the below sampling being indicative of its most common usages.

Citations in The Blue Annals

Roerich 1996, pp.143, 228, 323, 370, 377, 385, 527, 764, 845, 940, 1035, 1036, 1039, 1048, 1054.

  • "the sādhana of mtsho skyes rdo rje (Śrīhevajrasādhana, Tg, rgyud, No. 1218; also known as the sgrub thabs mtsho skyes)." (R: 143)
  • "the lu nag dril gsum (lui pa, nag po pa, rdo rje dril bu pa, cf. bu ston gsung 'bum, vol. XXVI/La/, fol. 14a, fol. 11a: dril bu skor gsum, nag po pa, bskyed rim skor gsum, rdzogs rim skor gsum and the bde mchog sgrub thabs)." (R: 228)
  • "You have abandoned your meditation on the secret precepts of the Master and have studied the bdag med ma'i sgrub thabs of dbus chung ston pa." (R: 323)
  • "You have abandoned your meditation on the secret precepts of the Master and have studied the bdag med ma'i sgrub thabs (Samantabhadra-nāma-sādhana, Tg. rgyud, No. 1855) of dbus chung ston pa." (R: 370)
  • "The three chu dbang gi sgrub thabs should also be regarded as one (treatise)." (R: 370)
  • "the gdong drug gi rgyud (gshin rje gshed nag po gdong drug pa'i 'khor lo'i sgrub thabs zhes bya ba, Kṛṣṇayamārimukhasatcakrasādhana-nāma, Tg. rgyud, No. 2015)." (R: 377)
  • "bu ston rin po che (bu ston) composed an exposition of the system of lu yi pa (dpal 'khor lo sdom pa'i sgrub thabs rnal 'byor bzhi ldan, bu ston gsung 'bum, vol. VII /ja/)." (R: 385)
  • "He also composed a commentary called 'khrul spong (dpal 'khor lo sdom pa'i sgrub thabs 'grel pa 'khrul pa spong bar byed pa or nag po pa'i sgrub 'grel. bu ston gsung 'bum, vol, VII /ja/)." (R: 385)
  • "he met the lo tsA ba blo gros brtan pa, and spent several days with him, and obtained from him the permission (lung) to read the Śrī Paramārthaseva and the sgrub thabs rgya mtsho." (R: 527)
  • "On the other hand it can be said about the Kālacakra-sādhanagarbhālaṃkara (dus kyi 'khor lo'i sgrub thabs snying po rgyan, Tg. rgyud, No. 1365),…" (R: 764)
  • "Then from Dhanarakṣita he obtained (many) doctrines, such as the "Domain of Practice" (spyod phyogs), the sgrub thabs bsdus pa (Sādhanasamuccaya, Tg. rgyud, No. 3400 Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 437), sādhana of Siṃhanāda (Lokeśvara) together with its rites (kalpa, rtog pa), the ārya-Tarakurukulle-kalpa (Kg. rgyud 'bum, No. 437), the sādhana of seng ldeng nags sgrol (Khadiravaṇītārā-sādhana, Tg. rgyud, No. 3338), the gtum po'i sgrub thabs (the sādhana of Vajrapāṇi, Śrī-Vajracaṇḍacittaguhya-tantra, Kg. rgyud, No. 458)." (R: 845)
  • "according to the method of so, the sgrub thabs rnam gsum,…" (R: 940)
  • "the lus kyi 'khor lo 'bar ba'i sgrub thabs lha bcu gcig ma (the Eleven Gods of the sādhana of Lus kyi 'khor lo 'bar ba)." (R: 1035)
  • "the rigs nga'i sgrub thabs (the Sādhana of the Dhyani Buddhas)." (R: 1035)
  • "bskal bzang gi sgrub thabs phyag stong pa (the Bhadra kalpa sādhana of the Thousand Armed One)." (R: 1035)
  • "The second (dngos grub sgrub pa'i sgrub thabs)." (R: 1036)
  • "the Balavajra sādhana (stobs kyi rdo rje'i sgrub thabs)." (R: 1036)
  • "Thus 20 mūlasādhanas (rtsa ba'i sgrub thabs), and 20 sādhanas for the attainment of siddhis, in all 40." (R: 1039)
  • "Similarly also one should not speak slightingly of those who bestowed initiations according to the Ocean of Sadhānas (sgrub thabs rgya mtsho),…" (R: 1048)
  • "One should class similarly the sgrub thabs brgya rtsa (Hundred Sādhanas) and other texts transmitted by rdo rje gdan pa to ba ri lo tsa ba." (R: 1048)
  • "the sgrub thabs bsdus pa chen po,…" (R: 1054)


Bentor, Yael. 1996. Consecration of Images and Stūpas in Indo-Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Leiden: E. J. Brill
Dbyi sun. [1993] 1998. Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang.
Roerich, George N., trans. [1949] 1996. The Blue Annals. Parts I and II. Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.