Blue Annals Chapter 12

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (Blue Annals) > Chapter By Chapter Summary - The Blue Annals > Chapter 12

Summary of The Blue Annals Chapter 12: The Peace-Making Lineages

by James Graves

The Blue Annals (deb ther sngon po): Outline of Contents

12.1 The first lineage (brgyud pa dang po’i skabs. Chandra 770; Chengdu 1015; Roerich 867).

This section begins with a brief description of the Holy Doctrine at the heart of the "peace-making" lineages: "sdug bsngal zhi byed" ("Alleviator of Sufferings"). The Doctrine apparently was put to diverse uses. According to Gö Zhönnupel, it "helped to protect disciples from sinful actions and purified the defilements of their Minds. This Doctrine brings a speedy alleviation of the sufferings of those who, by the influence of their former lives, are afflicted in body, tormented by diseases, poverty stricken, tormented by devils, and enables them to practise Yoga" (R 867). Besides encouraging ethical behavior, purification of the mind, and yoga practice, there seems a marked affinity between zhi byed and healing, in a broad sense which includes somatic diseases, demonic afflictions, poverty, and other broadly construed worldly ailments.

Gö also reports that the zhi byed ("Peace-Making") tradition "was also so named after the "Mantra which alleviates all sufferings" uttered by the Buddha (sdug bsngal thams cad rab tu zhi bar byed pa'i sngags). " (R 867). This is, of course, the Heart Sutra, reputed to be the quintessence of the vast Prajñāpāramitā literature.

Next we hear of the master of this doctrine: dam pa sangs rgyas. He was born in "the province of Carasiṃha in the country of Be-ba-la in southern India. He was born with all his teeth out" (R 868). A prophet foretells that he will either be a great paṇḍita or yogin.

In his childhood, dam pa ordains and becomes expert in the Vinaya as well as sūtras and grammar. His main guru is one called gser gling pa (Dharmakīrti). His stint as an exoteric monastic lasts about ONE line only in the Blue Annals. We immediately hear that he is then initiated by various teachers into several tantric maṇḍalas, that he possessed the perfect vows and precepts of a Vidyādhara, and that he obtained the profound precepts from 54 siddhas, males and females. (R 868).

Next we hear of his teachers in various subject areas: Sūtras and Grammar, Tantras belonging to the "Father" class, Tantras belonging to the "Mother" class, and Mahāmudrā; lastly we hear of the teachers who introduced him to his own Mind.

Next we hear that dam pa spent years and years meditating in various locales of South Asia: southern India, the jungles of East India, Svayambhū-caitya in Nepal, Vajrāsana, cemetaries, and so forth. There is a litany of the tantric deities of whom he has many visions. He obtains ordinary siddhis including:
eye medicine (añjana, mig sman), applying which one could see treasures underground, the medicine which enabled one to cover the distance of 100 yojanas daily (rkang mgyogs), magic pills (ril bu, gulikā), the faculty of passing through earth (sa 'og), the power of employing a yakṣī as one's servant (gnod ‘byin mo), a tongue of a vetāla (ro langs) transformed into a dagger (ral gri) which enables one to fly through space, moving through sky (mkha’ spyod, Khecara).

Here it’s noteworthy that such powers are often construed as deriving from specific "medicines." The powers seem to center on supranormal sight, facility of movement, and power over other beings.

Finally, dam pa attains the "Path of Illumination (mthong lam) and the knowledge of the Mahāmudrā (Mahāmudrā-jñana)" (R 871).

Next is a summary of dam pa’s five visits to Tibet:

  1. to Tsari and all around Khams; Yet there is no fit vessel for his teaching.
  2. from Kashmir to mnga’ ris where he bestows several precepts on zhang zhung gling kha pa and on the bon po khra tshar 'brug bla.
  3. from Nepal to Central Tibet, where in Tsang he bestows gcod (cutting) precepts.
  4. he stayed at gnyal. He purified the moral defilements of his mother. Later having gone to dbus, he laboured for the benefit of rma, so and others.
  5. he returned after spending 12 years in China to Tingri, where he settled until his death. (~20 years?)

The following quote from the end of the introductory portion of the zhi byed section tells much about the tradition overall: Once kun dga asked him about the number of disciples initiated by dam pa in Tibet and who had scattered throughout the country, saying: "How many disciples have you had in Tibet to whom you have given precepts?" dam pa replied: "Are you able to count the stars in Heaven above the plain of ding ri?" (He said so,) because the sky over ding ri is wide and it is difficult to count the stars on it. These disciples had scattered, and therefore were unable to continue the Lineage. It is difficult for people to know about them. Thus, because he possessed innumerable disciples, he must have had also numerous hidden precepts. (His) famous Lineages are the "Early", the "Intermediate" and the "Later" (R 871).

In terms of legacy, rather than having solid institutions (perhaps buildings housing people, books, and so forth) to point to, dam pa gestures more poetically, but vaguely to the stars in the sky, which are numerous, but distant and scattered and therefore unable to continue the lineage. Also interesting here is the stark equation of numerous disciples entailing numerous hidden precepts.

The Blue Annals surveys the zhi byed tradition according to dam pa’s "Early", "Intermediate" and "Later" lineages.

The Early Lineage

The Blue Annals offers only one paragraph about this lineage. dam pa taught the doctrines that comprise it, (represented by the sādhana of Yamāntaka and the three Cycles of zhi byed sgrol ma) to the Kashmirian Jñanaguhya. Gö gives a few lineage names which culminate with rog shes rab 'od.

12.2 The Ma System (rma lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 774; Chengdu 1020; Roerich 872).

The "Intermediate" Lineage

This lineage is broken down into the chief precepts of rma, so and skam, as well as "lesser" precepts.


  • born 1055 at skyer sna of yar stod.
  • rma was ordained in his youth. In terms of teachings/empowerments before meeting dam pa sangs rgyas, he obtained from his father the Pad-ma dbang chen (a rnying ma pa form of Hayagrīva). Then he studied the "Domain of Practice" (spyod phyogs), the Mādhyamaka system, the Dohā according to the "Upper" school, and the grub snying (the Cycle of Dohā).
  • Meeting dampa: rma was sick. A black a tsa ra (<ācārya) carrying a single garment (dam pa) approaches and the guard dogs miraculously wag their tails and greet him happily rather than bark. rma asks for dam pa’s blessing and is instantly healed.
  • rma tells dam pa that he knows "the Tantras of the 'Father' class (pha rgyud) and the Mahāmudrā" to which dam pa replies: "Yours is the Mahāmudrā of Words, but now I shall expound (to you) the Mahāmudrā of Meaning". He teaches this doctrine "basing himself on such words as ‘the stage in which the eyes remain open and the mental (flow) ceases, in which breath is stopped’" (R 873).
  • Next, dam pa leaves though beseeched to stay by rma. This is a recurring theme of dam pa and his disciples: he shows up and disappears abruptly. Disciples follow rumors as to his whereabouts in hopes of interstecting with the itinerant master.
  • Then, rma spends nine years at mtsho rdzong of kong po brag gsum where a local feud breaks out. He feels moved to intervene, but lacks confidence. Then he receives a pledge of help in the matter from a local deity and he successfully intervenes by placing his robes down between the warring factions and threatening both parties that they will befall "the nine kinds of misfortunes" if they break the enforced truce. He then walks off followed by a black whirlwind, and excitedly says to himself: "Now I shall be able to help living beings!"
  • He attracts many disciples, and the Blue Annals mentions his "five great spiritual sons" in particular, and relates each of their stories. Some miscellaneous points of general interest from these sections:
  • one is renowned as an expert in "both medicine and religion". (zhi byed lineage members seem to be especially renowned as healers).
  • rma offers one of his disciples the following anti-scholastic cautionary advice: "Having met a siddha from India, I was benefitted by it, otherwise 'on the bed of a great scholar, the corpse of an ordinary human being will be found"' (R 875). (surely American academics are exempted from this?!)
  • In this lineage of rma we find smyon pa don ldan, the naked, dancing "crazy" highlighted by Davidson in Tibetan Renaissance (448). The Blue Annals offer none of the colorful anecdotes the Davidson cites which vouch for the "smyon pa" (craziness) of this character.
  • Gö’s litany of lineage names here also culminates in rog shes rab 'od.
  • The Blue Annals speak of two Lineages in the school of rma: that of the Word, and that of the Meaning. The exposition of the Meaning (don khrid) included 16 lag khrid or practical guides. The Lineage of the Word contained the cittotpāda, a summary (stong thun), a miscellany (kha 'thor), that "which hits the mouth and the nose" (khar phog snar phog), meaning criticism of the point of view of others, and the "extensive" (exposition, mthar rgyas).

12.3 The So System (so lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 778; Chengdu 1025; Roerich 876).

This lineage is named for so chung ba, the elder and shorter of two brothers "so". so chung pa (b. 1062) was invited to be a disciple of rma, and ordained at the age of 11. Accompanying rma, he meets dam pa for the first time. dam pa spots him from afar and rushes toward so chung pa, excitedly proclaiming that he has been dam pa’s disciple during three rebirths, and must come follow him again. Both rma and so chung pa stay with dam pa for a time. But then, when rma leaves, so chung pa defies his order to come along, and instead stays with dam pa. He receives from dam pa the complete precepts of the Lineage of Meaning (don brgyud) including hidden precepts of the 54 male and female siddhas. He receives permission from dam pa to commit these precepts to writing, and jots them in the margins of a 100,000 verse Prajñāparamitā. Then, abruptly dam pa leaves for China (for 12 years), tersely instructing so that he cannot follow and must go home. Once again, the master hits the road abruptly without any sense of effort toward cultivating a lasting group or institution of any kind.

Healing by subduing demons: "so chung ba obtained a clear vision of the demons and various ailments which were afflicting sick men, and performed many rites of subduing demons ('dre 'dul). He collected large fees (for these rites) and thus acquired much property with which he bought some landed property at yar mda' (Lower yar klungs), and settled his parents and brother on it" (R878). Here we see that subduing demons is clearly a significant form of healing, and a lucrative one at that.

so entrusts the written precepts of dam pa (mentioned just above) to his mother, who damages them, whereupon the precepts are lost.

so chung pa catches up with dam pa again at ding ri (when the latter returns from China), jumps in his lap and plucks out one of his hairs, nearly inciting a riot. The master assures the crowd that this crazy hair-plucker is his disciple and he bestows more precepts upon so.

Next are stories of so chung pa and his disciple sha mi (smon lam 'bar):

so chung pa as master puts sha mi through various trials like those of Milarepa under Marpa: carrying heavy weight for no reason, wasting entire days on aimless errands, etc. Finally, after being falsely accused of thievery, the student attempts to attack the teacher, who replies from behind a locked door:

"O smon lam 'bar! Your Mind is now filled with anger. Look at it!" smon lam 'bar had a look at his own Mind, and a pure understanding of the unveiled nature of the Mind was produced in him. Great was his joy, and grasping with both hands the flaps of his coat, he began to dance and sing" (R 881).

After receiving complete precepts, sha mi retires to a pastoralist lifestyle:

He then built himself a hut at bzang grong tshugs kha, and made his bed on the roof (of the hut). Inside the hut he placed goats. He spent his time merely gathering cowdung and playing with children throwing stones, but because of his great inner perfection, his fame became great.

In general, the zhi byed tradition appears to be predominantly a lay-based phenomenon, though many of its lineage members (including dam pa sangs rgyas himself) originally were ordained monks. sha mi appears to be a married layman too; yet he has a monk-disciple who accompanies him to a patron’s house where the monk-disciple defeats a rival ācārya in philosophical debate on the "Six Treatises of the Mādhyamaka system", whereupon the master (sha mi) dances, sings, and insults the defeated rival, and rewards his monastic disciple with a complete set of secret precepts in return for so deftly wielding his philosophical knowledge. This seems an interesting intersection of lay and monastic figures, where a monastic is seeking precepts from a layman, and the esoteric adept-layman derives high value from the scholastic knowledge of his disciple.

In general, this section continues with brief description of lineage members’ lives and teachings and precepts bestowed to them.

Anecdote: mal ka ba can pa (b. 1126 A.D.). "(In his childhood) he was very naughty and mischievous. He married a very wealthy widow, who (once) said to him: "If you were to enter religion, I would give you provision! If you do not, we had (better) separate." So he entered the gates of religion" (R 889).

Anecdote: mal is hoping to meet the master dam pa smon lam. "At the head of the row sat a yogin wearing an eye shade made of bear skin" who offers him tea and flour, the master himself. This bear-skin-clad yogin seems not-so-scholastic or monastic, yet we find him often preaching to monks - sometimes, for example, on the border of agricultural fields.

In general there are many anecdotes related surrounding lineage members, including how one finds the teacher, strange teaching methods, miracles, the types of doctrines and precepts being exchanged or obtained, lots of breakthrough experiences where one suddenly receives a vision of one’s own mind, and so forth.

In general, this seems to be a lay-dominated movement. Most of the masters appear to be itinerant yogins of the non-celibate sort, or married householders whose wives seem to play a role in either helping or hindering young aspiring disciples to have access to the master. In general, there seems to be a fair amount of these lay siddha-type figures teaching monastics, or monastics seeking out the lay siddhas and taking up that lifestyle in place of monastic life.

The story of the ācārya kun bzangs:

He belonged to the khan gsar pa family, and was a descendant of the royal family of khra 'khrug pa. He was the eldest of the two brothers, the youngest being the military commander chos rdor, He ordains as a monk, works his way to studying the "Six Doctrines" (of nA ro pa). "Having returned to his native place to fetch provisions, he found his father carried away by enemies, and he was forced to fight" (R891). This fighting monk then sleeps outside the master’s (mal’s) house for days, but the master hates monks and won’t teach him....until the monk is seen drinking tea from a dog’s bowl w/o cleaning it; and the master is won-over instantly (R892).

sangs rgyas dbon, initiated by dgyer. His father was the military commander chos rdor. sangs rgyas dbon took up residence at a monastery.

The story of his disciple brag 'bur ba (rin chen 'bum):

The second of the five sons of the military commander chos rdor; a wonderful understanding and experience of bliss, and of the "Inner Heat" (bde drod) was produced in him. He became abbot of shug gseb.

His (chief) disciple was shug gseb ri pa

He belonged to the clan of klubs. At shug gseb monastery, on ordination, he received the name of gzhon nu rin chen. He took up the final monastic ordination before the upādhyāya zul phu ba, the karma-ācārya dbus khang pa, and the Secret Preceptor ka ba phu. He practised meditation at various hermitages, such as tsa ri, glang ma of ding ri and others. Later he became abbot of shug gseb. He obtained the Cycle of zhi byed, such as the "Lineage of Meaning" (don brgyud) of smra ba'i seng ge and the four zab don ("Four Profound Meanings"), the Cycle of rten 'brel, such as the rten 'brel yid bzhing nor bu (a text on magic rites), and other texts, the Oral Tradition (snyan brgyud) of Saṃvara, the three Cycles of the Dohā, according to the par system (of par phu ba) together with their respective commentaries, the bla ma 'brel ‘jug (name of a book), and the ye shes 'khor lo.

"…at the head of the row of all (the monks present), …(ri pa) bestowed on him the complete precepts of shug gseb pa, such as the "Lineage of Meaning" (don brgyud) of the zhi byed, the three Cycles of the Dohā, the rten 'brel, and others" (R896). Here we find a famed zhi byed precept holder as abbot of a monastery, whose zhi byed precepts have some renown. I wonder if "shug gseb pa" precepts refer directly to precepts of the monastery, or of the one of that monastery (probably this); but either way, zhi byed here appears appreciably institutional.

Here is a run-down of the various teachings in this lineage. The basic distinction, repeated from dam pa himself, is that between lineage of word and meaning:

The number of teachings that belong to the system of so (chung ba) is as follows: two Lineages, that of the Word, and that of the Meaning; in the "Lineage of the Word" there were two Lineages: the "Senior"' Lineage (brgyud pa chen po) and the "Junior" Lineage (brgyud phran).

The "Senior Lineage" included a number of sections which were named after 54 great holy men (dam pa skyes mchog che ba); 32 intermediate sections named after 32 holy men ('bring so gnyis); 17 short sections named after 17 holy men (dam pa skyes mchog). Each (section) contained the life-story of one siddha (after whom the section had been named), his main precept, and method of guiding disciples, in all, 54 Lineages. Otherwise, it can be divided into 103 Lineages, and for this reason it was called the "Senior" Lineage (brgyud pa chen mo).

The "Junior" Lineage (rgyud phran) included: the don skor lnga ma (the five sections of don skor/Cycle of Meaning/), the rim pa bzhima (Four Stages /of meditation/, bsam gtan gyi thun che chung, (meditation requiring long hours and short hours), the grags pa brgyad (name of a book), the yab sras gsum ma (Teacher and disciples, the three), the skyon can (name of a book) and the skyon med (name of a book), and others, in all 32 sections of the Doctrine.

In the "Lineage of the Meaning" (don rgyud): there were two phyogs su lhung ba (partial) and ma lhung ba (impartial) branches. The first (consisted) of 54 "Lineages of the Meaning" of the 54 male and female yogins, the 32 "Lineages of the Meaning" of the 32 teachers, the 17 "Lineages of the Meaning" of the 17 holy men.

Now, in the "Impartial" branch (phyogs su ma lhung ba) there were {R 887} two sections, that of mig 'byed skor (Opening the Eyes) and that of mkha’ 'gro ma (mkha’ 'gro ma'i skor).

In the first branch (mig 'byed) there were four "sons" and one "mother", in all five. These were known as gzhung sbas pa mig 'byed' , its branches dus dangs dus phran la gdams pa, 116 ngo sprod, the ma 'gags rnam dag (Eternal purity), and the rdo rje sems dpa'i gsang lam (the "Secret path of Vajrasattva." These are the four "bu" or sons).

In the group of the ḍākinīs (mkha’ 'gro ma) were included the four great skor mgo (sections) of so (chung ba), the mchog sgrub pa la brda' skor (the series of Symbols revealing the Sublime), the Formula of the Four Letters expressing the method of securing ordinary realization (thun mong sgrub pa la yi ge bzhi pa'i skor), the Cycle of dza’ ga ta (rite of blessing wine), and the thun Cycle (thun skor) which served to obtain both the realizations.

The Cycle of Symbols (brda’ skor) contained: The series of Symbols of Heruka (He ru ka'i brda' skor), the series of Symbols of the Sugata (bde bar gshegs pa'i brda' skor), the series of Symbols of Vajraghaṇṭa, and the miscellaneous symbols of dam pa.

The ordinary realization (thun mongs grub pa) included: the dmar mo gsung gi sgrub pa (Propitiation of Speech of the Red Vārahī), and the sādhana of nag mo (the Propitiation of the Mind of the Black Vārahī). The last named included: Vārahī-dharma-kāya-sādhana, the (Vārahī) saṃbhoga-kāya-sādhana, and the (Vārahī) nirmāṇa-kāya-sādhana.

The Cycle of dza’ ga ta included the gtum mo 'khor lo gcig pa (Eka-caṇḍalīcakra). The Cycle of thun consisted of a sort of karma yoga (spyod lam gyi nyams skyong). The root of the above (system was) the Lineage of Meaning of smra ba'i seng ge (dam pa rgya gar) which contained terms agreeing with those of the Tantras, and the Lineage of the Meaning, known as the Fourth Lineage, in which (the {R 888} philosophic) terms did not correspond to Tantric terms, and which were not generally known. Then the ma tshan mdor bsdus (Summary of the Essence of the Missing Chapters), and the rig pa srangs ‘jug (The Weighing of one's own Mind) of so. These were the four Oral Traditions (snyan brgyud).

This gives a good sense of the "flavor" of the intermediate lineage teachings anyway. The last section seems to imply TWO roots to the system above: that "Lineage of Meaning" from dam pa which uses terms that agree with tantras, AND another "Lineage of the Meaning" which uses non-tantric terms which are not widely known. (I wonder if this latter is also attributed to dam pa, but in a different mode of expression; or if it represents other Tibetans’ innovations on dam pa’s teachings).

12.4 The Kam System (skam lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 795; Chengdu 1047; Roerich 896).

skam was a monk learned in the Prajñāparamitā doctrine. While performing a healing ceremony, a mishap occurs of some sort, and the demon in question afflicts skam with a malady. dam pa arrives and already knows that skam is afflicted. skam requests a hidden precept, and so "dam pa bestowed on him the precepts of the Prajñāparamitā, and all of a sudden khams sgom's ailment was cured, and he was filled with amazement" (R896). Prajñāparamitā here may refer to gcod (cutting) rites and zhi byed system (as Roerich notes), but the Prajñāparamitā had already at this point a long history of ritual use for healing. It seems possible to me that before dam pa’s disparate teachings congealed under the wide "umbrella" of "zhi byed," the teachings (or at least portions of them) may have been simply known as dam pa’s particular precepts of the Prajñāparamitā.

This section tells of various miracles done by dam pa, as well as his reputation spreading, in such lines as: "Here there is an Indian teacher, an extraordinary siddha. He cured my illness. You should invite him" (R 897).

dam pa teaching skam: "On the first occasion he introduced him to his own Mind with the help of two methods: by introducing him to the nature of the ailment, and to the nature of meditation. On the second occasion he preached the Four Noble Truths, the Refuge, and various other teachings." (underlines mine). Here the introduction to one’s own mind occurs with a medical "flavor" to it. Also, such introduction occurs in juxtaposition with basic exoteric teachings, but PRECEDES them. Step one is introduction to the mind. Then, again, dam pa leaves abruptly:

"After 14 days, he said to him: "I am going!" They begged him to stay on, but he did not grant (their request). They then begged to be allowed to meet him again, and dam pa replied "I shall stay with a jñāna-ḍākinī on the Wu-t’ai-shan of China (ri bo rtse lnga). You should address your prayers over there".

Then skam asked him "Whom should I ask, when feeling uncertain, after you had gone?" dam pa replied: "The best kalyāṇa-mitra is your own Mind! A Teacher, able to remove doubts, will emerge from within your own Mind. The second kalyāṇa-mitra is an Ārya (the scriptures of the Buddha), therefore you would read the {R 899} Prajñāparamitā (rdo rgyes 'bring bsdus). Verily the lowest kind of kalyāṇa-mitras is the individual. But you will not meet me again. You can discuss with the brothers who had experienced meditation. Meditate for eight years! Then you will obtain the faculty of prescience. After that you can begin preaching the Prajñāparamitās." skam replied: "I had no opportunity to practise meditation. Inside my body there were nine tumours in the abdomen, and gra pa had prophesied that I was to die in three months". dam pa replied: "Those who practise meditation on the Prajñāparamitā will not suffer even from headache". Saying so, dam pa departed (R 898).

Again, the teacher departs without leaving any substantial blueprint, guidance, encouragement towards cultivating an institution surrounding these teachings. skam here pleads for some interpersonal network he might join in dam pa’s absence; but all dam pa advocates is one’s own mind, meditation, and the Prajñāparamitās.

Though both intermediate lineages, this system of skam appears to be heavier on the Prajñāparamitā than that of so chung pa. The remainder of the section details lineage holders of skam’s system, as well as more stories of skam and dam pa, wherein dam pa heals him by the power of the Prajñāparamitā, or dam pa’ orders that the Prajñāparamitā be copied, and so forth.

12.5 Minor lineages (brgyud phran gyi skabs. Chandra 804; Chengdu 1057; Roerich 905).

The schools of gra pa, lce and ljang were branches of the "'Intermediate Lineage" (bar du byin ba'i rgyud). The hidden precepts of the nine "Zhi byed sgron ma" were bestowed (by dam pa) on the kalyāṇa-mitra gra pa: the man ngag sku'i sgron ma, the theg pa gsung gi sgron ma, the gsang ba thugs kyi sgron ma, the yang dag {R 906} lta ba'i sgron ma, the rin po che sgom pa'i sgron ma, the byang chub spyod pa'i sgron ma, the mnyam nyid gzhi'i' sgron ma, the rnal 'byor lam gyi sgron ma, and the dngos grub 'bras bu'i sgron ma (R907).

These "Nine Cycles of sgron ma," or "Nine Lamps" precepts are among the few teachings of dam pa that are preserved today. According to Dan Martin, these precepts (found in the Tangyur) and a 5 volume collection of teachings from the "Later" lineage (below) comprise the bulk of the original zhi byed teachings extant today.

This section highlights much of the same material as above, but here concerning gra pa, lce and ljang. Again, there are stories of how each came to meet dam pa, what dam pa said about their ability and knowledge, what teachings dam pa gave them when, and so forth.

For example, he teaches lce the precepts of the ordinary path (lam thun mong pa'i gdams ngag) of the Prajñāpāramitā. Then he taught him the precepts of the extraordinary Prajñāpāramitā (phar phyin thun mong ma yin pa'i gdams ngag). After that he taught him the common precepts of the Tantra, and the extraordinary precepts of the Tantra (R908). Here we see both clear distinctions between ordinary and extraordinary Prajñāpāramitā, but also a clear distinction maintained between Prajñāpāramitā and Tantra. Others of dam pa’s "extraordinary precepts of the Mantrayāna" include "the sku gsung thugs, the sems nyid gcig pu, the phyag rgya gcig and the phyag rgya bzhi, the rim Ina, the sems la gros 'debs," and so forth. Yet lce also studies the precepts of the bka’ gdams pas and the "Domain of the Practice" (spyod phyogs); numerous texts of the Abhidharma and the Mādhyamaka; and many "Old" and "New" Tantras.

Thus, zhi byed lineage holders are not at all necessarily anti-scholastic; and again, they seem to draw their overall religious knowledge from disparate sources. It is difficult to tell which of their disparate teachings may be called "zhi byed" (which is itself, as Davidson emphasizes, a label for astonishingly diverse types of teachings), and which are "outside of the zhi byed tradition" teachings which these individuals have also obtained. It seems clear that there is a very blurry line between the two.

Blurring the line between Prajñāparamitā and tantra: lce’s doctrine is known as:

"The Precepts of the combined Sūtras and Tantras," because these precepts were identical in meaning with the verses of the Sañcaya and the Nāmasaṅgīti, thus they contained precepts which belonged to the Prajñāparamitā, and the Tantric precepts of the 58 male and female siddhas.

The ljang system: (dam pa) bestowed the precepts of the "unwritten" Prajñāparamitā (sher phyin yi ge med pa) on ljang bka’ gdams pa of 'chims yul.

Here is another esoteric-sounding version of Prajñāparamitā teaching, taught by dam pa to a bka’ gdams pa who comes to be counted among the zhi byed lineage. There seems to be much cross-fertilization between zhi byed and other traditions (or proto-traditions). The "Separate" Lineage (brgyud pa thor bu ba):

Here is a diverse assortment of teachings and precepts bestowed by dam pa: everything from sexual practices, to textual exegesis, to the mystic experiences of siddhas.

(dam pa) imparted on ‘bro sgom the mtshan brjod gser gyi thur ma (seems to be an explanation of the Nāmasaṅgīti); to ‘gu sgom he imparted the las rgya'i gdams pa (precepts on Tantric sexual practices); to chu sgom the precepts of snying gtam Ihug pa ("Frank instructions"); to sgom pa dmar sgom the precepts of chig chod gsum; to gnyags lo tsA ba the precepts of the Ekavīra Saṃvara; to lce mo dpal sgom the sixteen sections of the mystic experiences of siddhas; to ngor rje sgom pa of Upper gnyal the lhan cig skyes sbyor; to gnas brtan ‘byung grags of chu bar the precepts of shes rab snying po; to snyags bshad shes rab rgyal mtshan the precepts of the Kālacakra; to sangs pa dbu sdebs the precepts of yi ge bzhi pa (the formula "evaṃ mayā"); to rgya ston skye rtsegs of snye mo the precepts of Hevajra; to zhang sog chung ba the guhyasādhana (gsang sgrub) of (Vajra) vārahī; to the bla ma dgon dkar ba the precepts of Vajrapāṇi; to ‘ban gung rgyal of skyi shod (lha sa) the Oral Tradition of Saṃvara; to ma gcig labs sgron the precepts of gcod; the above (mentioned precepts) belong to the "Intermediate" Lineage (brgyud pa bar ma) (R 911).

Note the diversity!! various tantras, frank instructions, heart sutra precepts, etc. Note here the mention of ma gcig labs sgron and the precepts of gcod. These are considered within the Intermediate Lineage, and are deemed by Gö to have originated with dam pa sangs rgyas. (there is some controversy among scholars as to whether dam pa or ma gcig herself is the prime author of the gcod tradition.) Also in this section is a story of dam pa meeting a sage on the road to China, who tells him about a special dhāraṇī that exists at Vajrāsana, whereby all epidemics in the immediate area would be cured. dam pa begins walking toward India, and immediately stumbles upon a portal which magically transports him there. He obtains the dhāraṇī and returns. Thus, not only is dam pa a specially endowed healer, he has a close connection with the holiest places (and forces) of classical Buddhism in India, and he can access such right from Tibet.

As for dam pa’s time in China, there is no account given, other than to say that his meditative lineage is apparently still alive there today (late 15th century). When he arrives back from China intending to settle in Dingri, the elders forbid him. However, dam pa shows them that "he was there first" by relating features of the place gleaned from past life memories.

His teachings stemming from his time in the Dingri area comprise the "Later" lineage of zhi byed. He has four main disciples here, which are termed the "four guardians of the gate." He gives different precepts to each, according to his disposition. Of these four, kun dga’ is his main disciple. Of all his disciples of the Early, Intermediate, and Later lineages, kun dga’ is traditionally considered to be his main disciple, endowed with the greatest collection of dam pa’s teachings.

Of the disparate teachings given to the four:

the Prajñāparamitā, which could be meditated upon, and that which could not be meditated upon; the precepts which did not differentiate between Tantra and Prajñāparamitā; "Purification of the Mind" (blo sbyong); the single initiation (dbang gcig mo) of the Mahāmudrā; the immaculate Path (dri med srangs); "The identification of the Mind" (rig pa ngos 'dzin); the precepts of the Path of the Four Initiations, explained by symbols, the Path of the Four Initiations (serv[ing] as antidote); the "snying po’i don" ("The Meaning of Essence") and the mngon rtogs; Dohā, and so forth.

Repeatedly in this section it speaks of dam pa possessing teachings and precepts for gradual (spiritual) development, as well as spontaneous (spiritual) development.

dam pa spent 21 years at ding ri, from the year {R 915} Fire-Female-Ox (me mo glang 1097 A. D.) till the Fire-Female-Hen (me mo bya 1117 A.D.) year. Having benefitted many belonging to different races, he passed away.

12.6 Accounts of the twenty-for nuns (ma jo nyi shu rtsa bzhi’i lo rgyus kyi skabs. Chandra 809; Chengdu 1063; Roerich 911).

The accounts of these "nuns" usually relate where they are from, their background, a few details about the precepts they receive from dam pa (or kun dga’), any special abilities they had, and miraculous signs, relics, and so forth surrounding their deaths. They seem to come from diverse backgrounds: traders’ daughters, divorcees, and wealthy and poor alike. Though called "nuns" (ma jo), these figures appear to be more of the yogini type: the siddhis they attain are praised throughout (urine turning to honey, for example), as is their yogic insight; they all seem to turn into rainbows and light upon death; some are outright called "siddhas;" Several are married, some to kun dga’ himself. (one such "nun" who seems to be kun dga’s main wife becomes irked that her husband is spending too much time with dam pa and so physically drags him away by his hair). Most of these nuns are from the ding ri area and southern Tibet generally. Many reside at glang 'khor, which is called a monastery (even by dam pa), though given all accounts of the individuals living there, I don’t suspect it to be a great bastion of strict interpretation of the Vinaya. In terms of social realities of the time, the account of the 24 nuns gives a glimpse of a newly established, loose institution of some kind in the ding ri area, focused on the charismatic figure of dam pa and his disciples. Sometimes groups of curious women come to see him together; others seem to be outright refugees with broken lives (i think of Davidson’s comment about psychiatric outpatient services on a hillside). There isn’t any mention in this section of controversy over these women choosing to follow dam pa; it seems acceptable.

12.7 The three types of teachers in the hidden single lineage (chig brgyud sbas pa’i bla ma rnam gsum gyi skabs. Chandra 817; Chengdu 1073; Roerich 920).

The Bodhisattva kun dga’:

Throughout five former existences he had been adopted by dam pa. In this life, he was born in the year 1062 A.D. as son of father stod pa khri bzangs and mother jo mo dar ma (the lady dar ma) at tsha gung, east of ding ri.

kun dga’ marries and has a son, but after lying to his wife and going to visit dam pa, he abandons all worldly duties and concerns, leaving his wife and son to have to beg for food. (Yet at least two of the 24 nuns were deemed to be kun dga’s wives; i wonder if either one is this initial wife [who took up practice], or if the initial wife remained cut off from him and these later wives are all entirely new).

In general in this section, dam pa is seen to immediately recognize kun dga’ as his main successor. He eagerly gives advice to kun dga’ about how to meditate, how to do austerities, and so forth. The two speak in a quasi-coded symbolic language, which dam pa seems thrilled to have kun dga’ understand.

(dam pa) entrusted to him the "Lineage of the Meaning" of the Prajñāparamitā, having divided it into five kinds of Paths and three kinds of penance. He also bestowed on him the book of the "Four teachings" (bka’ bzhi) and the "Stream of Initiation" (dbang gi chu bo), together with the "Oral Tradition" (snyan brgyud). (dam pa) said: "kun dga’ is the only man equal to me! A river is the only thing constantly flowing down and the Sun and the Moon are the only things which rise (constantly) in the sky" (R 922).

Later, dam pa will say (about his own death) that the sun will set but the moon is rising (in kun dga’). Though dam pa gave such a wide array of teachings to such a disparate group of disciples, he does seem interested in having a successor in whom all of his teachings will be carried on. (…as opposed to what we read of ‘brog mi in Davidson, seeking to keep his teachings strategically divided among disciples so that no ONE individual had all).

Next: kun dga’s disciple pa tshab.

He was a scholar from central Tibet (having studied the lam rim of the bka’ gdams-pas, Mādhyamaka, Pramāṇa (Logic), Sphuṭārtha ('grel chung), and so forth. He decides he’s studied enough, and needs to meditate, and therefore sells his father’s land (!!) and comes to receive teachings from dam pa, but only just in time to see his cremaion pyre. But he finds kun dga’ and becomes his disciple. He receives many precepts, travels far and wide, and eventually dies on the China-Tibet border. The Blue Annals takes special note of his study and promulgation of instructions of the "Black Guide" (nag khrid). He revised them and wrote them down in the form of questions and answers, naming them "'phra tig" ("Conclusion"). Thanks to him the Cycle of nag khrid zhus len spread over the entire Northern region (R 928).

The next famous disciple in this lineage is named te ne (1127-1217)

From a very early age he is prophesied by all (including sgam po pa) to be a great siddha. The latter bestows on te ne the Mahāmudrā. He receives a prophecy from a mad woman at the base of a mountain, and makes preparations to seek out the teacher she has prescribed. Then his life takes a few interesting turns:

He (ten ne) having returned to his native place, made preparations to proceed to dbu ru, but his father did not allow him. This caused displeasure in his mind, and he sang a song, and then became a singer in the company of the minstrel gal te dgos.

…He then took the upāsaka vows in the presence of ‘brin cha ru ba (a famous Teacher) and obtained the bstan rim according to the method of the ācārya gra thang pa, and the bden gnyis (name of a book), according to the method of dam pa chos sgro ba. He then fled secretly from his father, having taken with him a kom thil (a leather sole), some dar sham silk, and a skull-cup (thod phor). He spent the night at gra thang, and felt great mental satisfaction.

This offers insight into the various meanders life could take in this period: getting sidetracked into a temporary career as a minstrel on the way to look into one’s prophesied religious destiny. In general, parental relationships seem important: whether getting precepts and teachings from one’s father, or evading parental control, or providing/not providing for parents (or spouse and children), etc. He eventually finds ma gcig (zha ma?? i don’t think "lab sgron") and "trades" with her: in return for teaching her a sanskrit śloka, she introduces him to her uncle who possesses the teaching of zhi byed according to kun dga’. The eve before meeting the bla ma, "he saw in his dream that a ball of light of the size of a bean had appeared on his tongue. He tasted it, and the taste was excellent. He then swallowed it, and his entire body turned into light, and emitted rays which spread over the ten quarters" (R 932). (Body-centered gnostic experience in the mode of light emanation from within to without).

He studies extensively for years, having visions, gaining powers, compiling previously oral instructions into a written form. Later we learn:

He (ten ne) acquired (the power) of the transference of the vital principle (grong ’jug), and made an exhibition of the transference of the vital principle at the religious college (chos ra) of rnyog jo sras. Then in order to practise certain Tantric rites, he became a minstrel, and for six years (went about) singing songs. Then on the advice of jo bo lha chen po of bya sa, lha btsun sngon mo and jo bo bye'u chung pa, he again put on the monastic robes, and was nominated ācārya of the monastic college. Most of his time was spent in seclusion, during which he composed numerous commentaries (bshad 'bum) on the sayings of dam pa (sangs rgyas) (R 936 underlining mine).

One wonders precisely how being a minstrel allows one to practise certain Tantric rites; then, again, he makes the switch from itinerant singing tantrika back to monastic robe-clad acarya, remaining in seclusion writing commentaries. Interesting turns of lifestyle and activity.

Eventually, he passes on his teachings to rog shes rab 'od and to zhig po nyi ma seng ge (and his brother). Then, te ne changes yet again, and takes to itinerant book-hiding:

He thought that the abbotship at the monastic college at yar klungs was a source of hindrance to him, and he gave it up. After that he dressed as he pleased. Having gone to yar stod, he hid some books on the mountain of bos mo. He received an invitation from one named the kalyāṇa-mitra of gnas chung, and took up residence at gnas chung and gser lha. There he also hid books on the rocks of shan thog. He also hid several books (dpe gter) in the mountains of gong bo and sham bu. zhig po while wandering about the country, heard that ten ne was residing at gser lha, and went there to pay homage to him.

This passage conveys a sense of roving masters and chance meetings: two wanderers that happen to be in the same general area. One has heard about the other (master) and seeks him out. (Word of mouth, reputation; circumstances of travelling wanderers). When this enigmatic te ne dies (1217), his disciple zhig po offers the following eulogy which doesn’t paint the most flattering picture of te ne’s conventional demeanor:

Outwardly, as if consumed by strong desires,
Inwardly, a Teacher who had exterminated desires.
Outwardly, as if a very stupid man,
Inwardly, a Teacher of great resignation.
Outwardly, difficult of approach, He was a Teacher longed for by others, when separated from him.
Outwardly, a man of ordinary body and speech,
Inwardly, a Teacher of steadfast virtue.
Outwardly, reclining without meditating, {R939}
Inwardly, a Teacher opening the numberless gates of meditation. Though in general, he did not study much,
Inwardly, (he was) a Teacher aflame with the wisdom born of meditation.
Outwardly, a miser in religion,
Inwardly, a Teacher spreading widely the Meditative Lineage. I pray to this Lord King of the Hidden (sbabs pa'i rgyal po) in human form! (R 939).

12.8 Later Pacification Lineages (zhi byed brgyud pa phyi ma’i skabs. Chandra 833; Chengdu 1092; Roerich 939).

Besides zhig po, the other main person to whom te ne bestowed teachings was rog shes rab 'od. rog shes rab 'od was an incarnation of the East Indian mahā-paṇḍita, named shes rab grub (Prajñasiddha). rog was born in the year 1166 A.D.

He is able to recite the Prajñāparamitā in 25,000 ślokas (nyi khri, Pañcviṃśatisāhasrikā) from memory at age 7. His father then decides he should learn magic, and so keeps him in seclusion from the age of 10 to 13, propitiating Vajrakīla. (normal childhood??) He obtains initiations and empowerments surrounding numerous tantric systems, but most heavily in Nyingma material. He is also unrivalled in philosophical debate, and becomes a widely renowned religious scholar. Over time, he obtains precepts of virtually all the zhi byed lineages, including the "Early" and "Intermediate" mentioned above.

The Dharmasvāmin zhig po:

He learns and preaches the Prajñāparamitā. He also comes to obtain many diverse precepts and teachings w/Nyingma material appearing most abundant. He too becomes abbot of a monastery, and composes treatises such as the Great and Short lam rim, the bshad 'bum and other texts.

The next several pages describe more lineage holders of this later lineage, detailing the various precepts they received from various teachers. Probably beginning with rog shes rab 'od this lineage is deemed to house the precepts of all three ("Early", "Intermediate" and "Later" lineages) of zhi byed. Again, the teachings and precepts possessed by these figures are quite diverse. However, they seem to show marked influence by the Prajñāparamitā, by Nyingma (and specifically rdzogs chen) teachings, as well as Mahāmudrā.

In fact, in summing up the Later lineage, Gö states:

The Doctrines which belonged to the "Later" Lineage (of the zhi byed) were called "phyag rgya chen po dri med thigs pa phyag bzhes kyi skor", or "The Cycle of Methods of Drops of the Immaculate Mahāmudrā". (Here the term) Mahāmudrā denotes the Mahāmudrā doctrine of Maitrī-pa, because dam pa sangs rgyas had been a personal disciple of Maitrī-pa.

Continuing, Gö addresses the issue of whether such teachings be construed as tantric or not:

These precepts by their nature belong to the Prajñāparamitā, but follow the Tantric system. In the Commentary on the de kho na nyid bcu pa by Maitrī-pa the system is explained as though it was a Prajñāparamitā doctrine, but had much in common with the Tantras in its practice, as mentioned in the Hevajra-Tantra. He (Maitrī-pa) said: "These precepts are not based on the meditation on deities, and do not follow the system of the four mudrās". For this reason it is not classified in the Tantra. This agrees with the above statement by Maitrī-pa. This definition includes only the precepts known to the general public. Otherwise it is said that dam pa bestowed the initiation into the Kālacakra system on phyar chen and ‘ban gun rgyal, and that he had also bestowed on many/others/the precepts of the karma-mudrā (i.e. he preached all the four mudrās). Therefore it is wrong to say that the Doctrine of sdug bsngal zhi byed of dam pa (sangs rgyas) does not contain Tantric precepts.

Finally, Gö summarizes the layers of written zhi byed teachings as they are preserved at his time, which are collections of the work of kun dga’, pa tshab, te ne, zhig po, and others.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library