Blue Annals Chapter 11

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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.

  • Disciple of Karopa, who tells him to go to Tibet where he will be of benefit to living beings.
  • Goes to Tibet by way of the rdo chu (stone river, which turns living beings to stone when they touch it) where a group of dakinis inhabiting an island bless him and tell him to go to Nepal to encounter a young Tibetan monk with auspicious markings who is endowed with wisdom. They tell him to perform a consciousness-transference rite.
  • Heads to Nepal, where he performs the rite and takes on the body of skor chun ba (the young monk). He goes to Lhasa.
  • Here he encounters Karopa and Karopa’s wife. They are in Lhasa because they hear that an accident is due to happen to Nirupa. He circumambulates and the accident does not take place.
  • From here, he puts on the dress of a pandita of zans glin and proceeds on his journey. He is known as the ‘Indian of zans glin”. For the next 21 years he preaches the doctrine to disciples, performs initiations, and translates Tantric texts. Also preaches texts of the tantric class.
  • His disciple lineage: chan ra ses rab sen ge > ye ses sen ge > glan ston of khams > bla ma brag pa chen po > bla ma myan chen po > sans rgyas jo sras > acarya sak se > bhiksu ratnesvara

Vajrapani (phyag na)

  • While in Nepal begging, he wondered whether he would be able to spread the doctrine there. He thought that he would be able to. Later, at the age of 50, he came to ye ran and settled.
  • He met Tibetan scholars who asked him to preach the doctrine to them. He bestowed the following doctrines: The basic text of grub snin (Cycle of Doha) with an addenda, the nine ‘bits’ of precepts which followed the ‘Father’ class tantra, the nine ‘bits’ which followed the ‘Mother’ class tantra. In all 27. He bound them with four mudras (karma mudra, dharmamudra, mahamudra, and the samaya mudra). He also preached the six ‘links,’ the meditation accompanied by experience, practice suitable for the present time, results producing benefits to others, the Path accompanied by precepts.
  • After, brog jo sras (among the scholars) preached the mahamudra extensively. While Vajrapani was living in chu sgo of gtsan, brog jo sras invited him and promised him 80 golden srans. During his father’s funeral rite, he presented Vajrapani with 50 golden srans packaged as 80. Vajrapani’s attendants weighed the package and discovered the discrepancy.
  • Vajrapani was displeased with the discrepancy, but took it as reflected poorly on himself (as brog jo sras’ teacher). So he suddenly slashed his belly with a razor. His attendants were worried, but he said “If you don’t like it, nothing will happen.” He passed his hand over the wound and healed it, leaving no scar.
  • He then went to India and Nepal where the eight signs of his miraculous power appeared. (8 anecdotes…they’ll be in the final outline).

A su

  • His grandfather was an Indian pandita and was the house-priest of the bha ros in Nepal. His son was uneducated. A su was the son of the latter. From his childhood, he was very smart.
  • A su used to carry goods to the frontier of India and gave them to bha ro (his master) who offered to give him a house. A su said that he would prefer religion to a house. Bha ro permitted to enter religion.
  • He obtained many initiation rites, tantric commentaries, and hidden precepts from a Nepalese pandita. After that, he obtained the secret precepts from Vajrapani, then he realized the truth, and became a saint.
  • While he was preaching to a great number of disciples, he married the lady of brom, had a son named grags pa sen ge. When he saw his son, he decided not to go to China.
  • Dharmasvamin ras chun pa came to him and asked to be instructed in the doctrine. A su told him that he had to support his family and to bring him grain.
  • His sons: grags pa sen ge, chos kyi grags pa, indu, and dban ne. His daughters: lha mo, dre mo, and mi mo.

Grags pa sen ge

  • mastered the theories of his father and an understanding of the mahamudra was born in him.
  • His sons: mgon po, sans rgyas sgom pa, sen ge grags, acarya bal po jig rten.

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

  • Became a great scholar of the mahamudra. Employed loka dakinis. The dharmapala natha and the 8 classes of gods and demons offered him their life mantra.
  • He became a yogin possessed of two kinds of siddhis (mchog gi dnos grub and thun mons dnos grub)
  • Obtained the doctrine from acarya rlun ston.

Sangs rgyas sgom pa

  • Cut off his attachment to forefathers. Also denied attachment to food and drink, practiced austerities subsisting on water only. The understanding of the mahamudra was produced in him.
  • “He was a man whose individual practice did not contradict his religious beliefs.” [R 861]
  • Obtained the doctrine from acarya rlun ston.

Acarya Bal po

  • Because of good karma, he was born the son of a nephew of benevolent forefathers. Preached the mahamudra, removing the darkness of living beings.
  • He had visions of tutelary deities, and employed dakinis. He held discussions and gave orders to dharmapala lcam dral and dam can pho mo.

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

  • Was ordained in his youth. Studied extensively. Preached extensively (on about 14 occasions) the Vinayamulasutra.
  • He heard that Vajrapani had a miraculous hidden precept from dbu bcad ma, asked for the sublime realization of this precept.
  • Vajrapani decided to impart on him ‘The Cycle of Phyag rgya chen po rde’u’. In this precept, the method and the wisdom are combined and the number of stages between samsara and Sahaja jnana was counted using 175 pebbles. The precepts were said to never have been polluted by persons who had broken their vows, nor had it been intermixed with other methods.
  • Found bal po (whom he assumed had the mahamudra doctrine that did not require meditation). Found that he was teaching the texts and the theory without the method. Bal po said that Tibetans preferred this, but after finding out that mna ris pa had the ‘Cycle of the Pebbles,’ said he would teach him the method. He discovered that it was no different from the precepts imparted by Vajrapani.
  • For eight years, he was the household priest of bal po (jig rten).
  • His disciple was gru sul ba.

Gru sul ba

  • When mna ris pa was at his house, he saw a painting of the mahamudra lineage. Gru sul ba did not have the precepts, so mna ris pa imparted them in 18 days. Gru sul ba tried to give him five ‘zo’, but mna ris pa instead asked him to come to chu bo ri on a certain date, and then departed.
  • Gru sul ba went to chu bo ri and spent one month practicing secret observances. No one knew when he left or where he died. He tought the mahamudra of the Cycle of the Doha to par pu ba.

Par pu ba

  • He composed eight text books. They spread throughout Tibet. His disciples were: sgyer sgom chen po, sans rgyas dbon po, bla ma brag ‘bur ba, sug gseb ri pa, the Dharmasvamin bla ma dam pa, mi nag ses rab bzan po, and the Dharmasvamin “Who did not descend from the mountain.” The latter bestowed the precepts on the author.

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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