Blue Annals Chapter 11

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (Blue Annals) > Chapter By Chapter Summary - The Blue Annals > Chapter 11

Summary of The Blue Annals Chapter 11: The Great Seal (Skt. Mahāmudrā) Traditions

Part 1

by Kevin Bache


The section is fairly straight forward in structure.

  1. Explaination of various wrong views
  2. Philosophical explaination of "Theory of Relativity" as antidote to wrong views
  3. History of Mahāmudrā
    a. Lineal History of Mahāmudrā
    b. The Life Story of Vairocanarakṣita
    c. The Life Story of ka ro pa
    d. The Life Story of dam pa skor chung ba
    e. The Story of ni rū pa's consciousness transference into dam pa skor chung ba's body

The first half of the chapter ends near the beginning of part 3.5.


Wrong Views

heretical nihilists (rgyang pan pa) who do not strive for emancipation.

Digambaras (gcher bu pa) thought penance alone could purify negative karma.

āṃsakas (spyod pa pa, dpyod-pa-pa) didn't think realization was possible.

Sāmkhyas (grangs chan pa) and the Vaiśeṣikas (bye brag pa) couldn't abandon self.

The Śrāvakas and Pratyeka-Buddhas strove only for individual liberation

Theory of Relativity

The theory of relativity deconstructs ones constructed ideas and can itself be deconstructed by the knowledge of Mahāmudrā

History of Mahāmudrā

Lineal History

The lineal history of Mahāmudrā as offered in the Blue Annals is exceedingly convoluted. 'gos approaches the problem from an array of perspectives instead of picking one and flushing out all the known details of the lineage through it. It seems the central figure of the lineage is Maitriī-pa. As best as I can reconstruct it, the lineage in this section is as follows:

Maitrī-pa is the central figure here, and there is additional mention of other disciples of his. These include:

The Four Great Ones: 
na te ka ra also called Sahajavajrano other mention in my section
Devākaracandra also called Śūnyatāsamādhino other mention
Rāmapāla also called dga' ba skyong bano other mention
Vajrapāṇi also called phyag nafair amount of treatment in first half

The Four Spiritual Sons: 
ka ro palong biography in this section
phyag na also called Vajrapāṇifair amount of treatment in this section
mar pacursory treatment in this section
Śīlabharono other mention in this section

Atīśa is also mentioned as an important student of Maitrī-pa's.

Furthermore, we're told that according to the "Upper" school of Mahāmudrā, the school perpetuated by Vajrapāṇi and others to major teachers, the history of its dissemination is divided into three epochs. Early, intermediate, and late. The middle is further divided into the "Upper" school and the "Lower" school. The early period is said to have been started by ni rū pa, the middle, perpetuated by Vajrapāṇi, and the late started by nag po sher dad.

The dates are a little shady. For example, ni rū pa, who is meant to have initiated the early period, learns from a contemporary of Vajrapāṇi, the person who seems to have carried the middle period. This isn't impossible, but worth questioning. It's probably explained by ni rū pa's taking over of dam pa skor's body which ostensibly allows him to live longer.

The Life Story of Vairocanarakṣita

Son of a king in southern India. He traveled east through India and eventually met Surapāla who initiated him into the Mahāmudrā. He obtained man other initiations and texts from many other masters.

Of his journeys to Tibet, we’re told very little. Of the six visits, we know nothing of the final 5. On the first he was appointed chaplain to the king and for this reason couldn’t visit ri bo rtse lnga (wu t’ai shan) when he wanted to. Also, mu thang by “harbored ill-feeling towards him” and so he performed many secret miracles (R 846).

The Life Story of ka ro pa

ka ro pa was a disciple of Maitrī-pa. Interesting is the fact that his religious training isn’t mentioned until he’s 34. Until then, we’re merely told of his Sanskrit grammar and science studies, despite the fact that at seven years old a dakini is said to have prophesied about him.

He studied Vinaya, the “Father” and “Mother” classes of tantras, Mahā-yoga, Prajñāpāramitā, Abhidharma. Even at 77 years old, he still looked 16.

At Vajrisāna, he was told that Maitrī-pa possessed the precepts of Mahāmudrā which transcended meditation. He practiced Mahāmudrā for seven years.

The circumstances of his death aren’t recounted in the Blue Annals.

The Life Story of dam pa skor chung ba

dam pa skor chung ba was a disciple of ka ro pa. Born in 1062 as the fifth son of a Tibetan family he was sent away with a monk as five was considered an unlucky number at this time and place. He was ordained at lha sa before reaching the age of 10 and upon falling ill, got better after touching some of Vairocana’s hair. Vairocana bestowed sems ‘dzin, a “profound meditation,” on him (R 849).

At 11 he returned home to find his father dead. He performed the funeral rite for him 100 times and stole a turquoise that his sister had hidden. At 12 “he mastered the exposition of the Vinaya” (R 850) and sold his turquoise.

At 13 he met a yogin in Nepāl named rwa ru chang who claimed to be the richest man in Nepāl took him back to his hut. There dam pa met a yogini who had turned rwa ru chang to the dharma. It seems that rwa ru chang became dam pa’s primary teacher. rwa ru chang then told dam pa that none of the Nepālese paṇḍitas, Vajrapāṇi included could help him and he sent dam pa to study with a yogin which he did for a time.

He attended on Kumudarā and “The flame of Prajñā (wisdom) was lit in him and he obtained the understanding of all the doctrines” (R 851).

Later his teacher and his teacher’s wife bestowed on him the four degrees of initiation of the yuganaddha (zung ‘jug).

The episode of his death is left out of this section of the Blue Annals.

The Story of ni rū pa's Consciousness Transference into dam pa skor chung ba's Dead Body

The only bit of this section that falls in the first half of the Mahāmudrā chapter is one that tells that ka ro pa sent his disciple, a 74 year old ni rū pa who had attained siddhi to Tibet.

Part 2

by K. Thornton


gos lo tsa ba says that, though he was a great siddha and spent a considerable amount of time (20 years) in Tibet, “present day kalyana-mitras do not attach great importance to him.” It is for this reason that his biography is outlined so extensively in the Blue Annals.

Vajrapani (phyag na)

A su

Grags pa sen ge

Chos kyi grags pa

In general, he was learned in the characteristics of all thing. In particular, he was efficient in the practice of mahamudra. (Indu and dban ne did not carry on their father’s spiritual lineage).

Mgon po

Sangs rgyas sgom pa

Acarya Bal po

Those who were the spiritual disciples of blam skye med: the ‘Four Pillars of Meditation,” the “Six Beans,” the “Three Sons of gyor po ba,” dmag pa sgan, and others.

Bla ma Mnga' ris pa

Gru sul ba

Par pu ba

The Lineage of Authorization

Sa ba ra, maitri pa, rgya gar phyag na (vajrapani), bran ti, gtsan yan dog ‘bar, phyag zuns skyabs, rtstans byun se, lce ston mdo sen, the bla ma ston sak, lce blo ldan sen ge, kun mkyhen phags ‘od, bu ston rin po che, the lo tsa ba rin chen rnam rgyal, and the Venerable grags pa rgyal mstshan. From the latter, the author obtained the “Seven Sections of grub pa”.

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