Blue Annals Chapter 13

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (Blue Annals) > Chapter By Chapter Summary - The Blue Annals > Chapter 13

Summary of The Blue Annals Chapter 13: The Cutting (gcod) Traditions and the Tradition of Kharakpa

by K. Thornton

This section (save the introduction) is largely character based. So I approached it from that tack, extracting the key aspects from the story of each key character.

  • The gcod lineage comes from the adepts who also adhered to the Prajnaparamita and therefore it is called the Lineage of the gcod yul of the Demons of the Prajnaparamita. Lord Maitripada said that even in the Prajnaparamita, mention is made of the practices which imitated the Tantras.
  • gos lo tsa ba begs the rhetorical question, “How can it (i.e. gcod) be similar to the Tantra?” And answers by citing several lines from the Havajra-Tantra.
  • Furthermore, it is said in the Prajnaparamitasancayagatha: “A Bodhisattva endowed with the power of learning cannot be shaken by the four demons, because of four reasons: because he abides in the Void, because he has not abandoned living beings, because he acts according to his word, and because he is endowd with the blessing of the Sugata.” The followers of the gcod system observe those four religious injunctions.
  • To prove how the observance of those injunctions makes a practice called gcod, gos lo tsa ba cites a line from the Abhidharmakosa: “Defilement originates from attachments, the presence of external objects, and a wrong conception of them.” That which is to be cut asunder, is defilement.
  • The secret precepts of the gcod system were handed down by dam pa. Those handed down through skyo bsod names bla ma and ram par ser po of yar kluns were called pho gcod, or ‘Male gcod’. Those handed down by ma gcig (labs sgron ma) were called mo gcod, or ‘Female gcod’.
  • Dam pa sans rgyas liked to say that he had given three words of friendly advice to ma jo mchod gnas ma at the house of rog pa of yar kluns. They both said that it was through those words that she had attained emancipation. She preached many precepts on her own.
  • The introductory text then goes on to discuss why one thing was called two different things (spyod, or ‘practice,’ and gcod, or ‘cutting asunder’). He uses several other examples that the only differentiation is linguistic and that they are inherently the same thing. It’s clear that gos lo tsa ba wants to dispel all confusion that might detract from the lineage, and is seeking to establish that cutting is the practice, and the practice is one of cutting. After this, he really focuses on the stories of individuals as they relate.
  • The action of the rite is elaborated told on R 993:

Formerly he used to fall ill, whenever he felt cold, or hot. There he pressed his stomach against a cold stone, drank ice-cold water, and slept naked. He gave up himself saying: “Illness (is) joy. Death (is) pleasure”. He practiced (the precepts of gcod) “and on the eleventh day a foul odor came out of his mouth. On the twelfth day, about midnight, he vomited out all his ailments. About midday he was completely cured. Within half a month he succeeded in completing the study.

13.1 Female Cutting (mo gcod kyi skabs. Chandra 870; Chengdu 1139; Roerich 980).

Labs sgron

  • She was an expert reader. For a while she was the reader of the Prajnaparmita for gra pa. While reading the prajnaparmita, a clear vision of the Void was produced in her. After this, she met dam pa.
  • She met him because she had gone once to ‘dam bu to read. While she was there, she met a native of gcer gron named thod pa ‘ba’ re. She sleeps with him and then marries him, but because this means that she has renounced her vows she is subjected to extremely harsh criticism. The women of the region call her jo mo bka’ log ma (a ‘nun who had violated her vows’). It seems to matter more that she is no longer acting as a nun than that she is still an expert reader and is married to another religious person. Pressure and expectations from others – mostly what seems to be jealous judgment – is a dominant factor in the life of labs sgron.
  • The couple is unable to take the harassment, so they leave and go to kon po. They have one daughter there, one on the way to la bar, and three sons once they have reached la bar. However, it is not long before labs sgron feels compelled to return to her life as a nun.
  • During the initiation of the cycle of maya from skyo bsod names bla ma, a yogic insight is produced in her. She leaves the ceremony to go outside, and is once again subjected to harassment from her peers. However, in this instance the Teacher silences them, saying “She went away have received the initiation of the meaning, but you have obtained the initiation of the word only.”
  • After this, she journeys throughout Tibet, preaching the precepts until she dies at the age of 95.

Dam pa visits Tibet and four black birds flew around him. They transformed themselves into four dakinis: labs sgron of gye, ma jo byan chub of upper gnal, zan mo rgyal mthin of gtsan, and smyon ma (the ‘Mad One’) of lha sa. Gos lo tsa ba goes on to talk about each individual and does so with more sensitivity than any other treatments. Maternal and other traditionally feminine qualities are played up.

Jo mo byan chub of upper gnal

  • Possessed a clear understanding of the state of nature. Benevolent. Helped spread the doctrine.

Zan mo rgyal mthin

  • Afflicted by grief after her husband’s death. Dam pa imparted the precepts that expose the absence of a link between the mind and the body. Realizing this, she obtained emancipation.

Lha sa’i smyon ma (the ‘Mad One of Lhasa’)

  • Often settled disputes between followers of the doctrine, a sort of peacekeeper. It is also said that she showed the King’s Will to Atisa.

Next are the great ‘Sons’ who received the precepts from labs sgron. They include the following. From upper yar: snags pa rgyal mstshan. From lower yar: an ston rin chen bar. From middle yar: dre na jo sras and sud bu lo tsa ba. And many others (several more are listed in the text).

Labs sgron’s son, grub che

  • He was initially very mischievous and made enemies in the community because he stole the goats of the villagers. One time, he stole the goat of a magician and subsequently heard that the magician had performed a magic rite against him. However valid this story is, it is the cause for grub che’s interest in the precepts held by his mother, because he immediately goes to her for help.
  • She says to him, ‘You should be dead’ and leaves. She then circumambulates Mount tsha tha and then told him what to do to avoid being killed. He did so, it worked, and he entered the Gate of the Doctrine at age 42. He practiced and penetrated the meaning of Ultimate Essence.
  • He later stayed at the monastery of gye chun glan lun and became a mad ascetic. He was able to subdue demons by his blessing and to produce wisdom in all his disciples.
  • He had three sons by his first wife: tshe dban, khu byug, and rnal byor grags. Kham bu yal le was born of another wife.

Tshe dban had three sons: rgyal ba ston gzuns lived in ri mo mdo, thod smyon bsam grub lived in sam po gans, and skye med ‘od gsal lived at a ‘o mdo in upper gnal.

Thod smyon bsam grub

  • He was called the ‘Snowman residing in sam po gans.’ He fought in his youth and was undefeated. He fell ill with leprosy and practiced meditation in the snow in ba yul and was cured. During this time, he slept naked in the snow and people threw yak tails at him. He wore them, made a mat of them, and wore one as a hat (hence the black hat of gans pas).
  • The self-deprivation worked to purify him, and he (like others in the lineage) challenged himself. At dran pa, he sucked the scars on the nose of a leper and his fortunes increased.
  • Later, he prohibited the killing of wild animals and fishing in the hills. He provided food and shelter, protected the doctrine, and ‘gos lo tsa ba calls him a ‘matchless saint.’ He does seem to have upheld all the aspects of this tradition, based primarily on self-deprivation.
  • He had 21 disciples (m. and f.) and among them were 18 daughter siddhas.

Gans pa dmu yan

  • Among the 18 daughter-siddhas, he was unmatched. At the age of 14 he became violently ill with a stomach-ache. He lay down, pressing his stomach against a cold rock and fell asleep. This cured him since he gave in to the pain.
  • He was a mediator between Tibet and gser gyu. He had a thousand shepherds and was rich. He also introduced the practice of continuously reciting the bka gyur. His son was sans rgyas bson bsruns.

Sangs rgyas bson bsruns

  • He protected the doctrine, but also showed himself to be highly capable at a very young age. He developed prescience at 3, mastered meditation at 5, performed a funeral rite at 15, and took over the chair of his forefathers.
  • His son was gans khrod ras pa.

gans khrod ras pa

  • Was equally adept. Was nominated to the abbot’s chair at age 13. Very benevolent and mastered a great deal of teachings and secret precepts.

There are several members of the lineage mentioned briefly here before dwelling on ma gcig’s disciple khu sgom chos sen.

khu sgom chos sen

  • Listened to the exposition of the ‘Great Acheivemnet’ and practiced solely meditation. He obtained from ma gcig the Cycle of Meitation of the Dakinis.
  • When she grew old, he massaged her feet and asked her to impart on him the complete gcod doctrine. She gave him the Meaning of the Lineage of the Teaching. She foretold that he would benefit others and told him that he should also give the teaching to don grub (the son of ma gcig). However, don grub did not wish to hear them.
  • Here it is unclear whether ‘gos is talking about don grub or khu sgom chos sen, but he says that ‘he’ fell ill with leprosy and performed the gcod rite to cure himself. It worked. His disciple was dol pa zan thal.

dol pa zan thal

  • He was said to have a penetrating mind and became known as the Penetrating One. Practiced in a cave, but visited places with infected people and his yogic insight was improved by this.

From here, there are several more members of the lineage, but they largely focus on the same things. From here, practitioners become more confident and several purposely contract illnesses in order to practice the gcod rite. They help others, but mostly live as hermits when they are not touring localities that are infested with illnesses.

13.2 Male cutting (pho gcod kyi skabs. Chandra 883; Chengdu 1158; Roerich 996).

He had visited India and not discovered the doctrine he was looking for. He then encountered an a tsa ra. The Indian ascetic broke the staff of his companion (a kalyana mitra named dnos grub), saying that – while he knew how to use it – it was useless. Sma ra ser po was intrigued and asked the ascetic’s companion who he was. The companion told him that it was dam pa and he proceeded to ask for instruction in the doctrine. Dam pa imparted the precepts on dnos grub, who was convinced and accepted dam pa as his guru. Dam pa said to sma ra ser po “a doctrine desired by you, is coming to you in the future.’

Dam pa took up residence in a hospice. While there, a man named skyo skya ye ses came to ask dam pa to heal his two sons whose brothers had been destroyed by demons. Dam pa imparted the gcod precepts on skyo, his disciples and sma ra ser po. The boys practiced the precepts, skyo practiced them only on himself, and sma ra ser po wrote them down, put didn’t preach them to others until his old age. Then he bestowed them on his attendant smyon pa be re. When he taught them, he told them not to bestow them on any others.

Clearly there is a very secretive aspect to the phod gcod. The nest transmission takes place when lce ston fell ill and he sought the gcod doctrine. He and phug ston sought them out. While they got three sections, the teacher did not give them all.

When rog ses rab ‘od asked for all the precepts, he initially declined, saying, “I didn’t disclose more than three to sa ston rdoy ‘dzin at phu than. If I were to preach to you the complete precepts, he might become displease.” He explains by saying that imparting the doctrine to monastics leaves them open to being copied by other men they live with. However he was convinced and imparted the entirety of the doctrine saying he did so because he would be of benefit to living beings. However, he demanded that he not write down the oral precepts.

These precepts were then handed down to a line of sons, daughters, and disciples. Throughout, there was a premium on keeping a secretive nature and not passing all of the precepts until the possessor was in old age or there was a dire need for the rite.

13.3 Kharakpa (kha rag pa’i skabs. Chandra 886; Chengdu 1162; Roerich 999).

Opens by saying that Tibetans possess a crown ornament and two ear ornaments: the crown ornament being padmasambhava, the first ear ornament is kha ra sgom chun, and the second ear ornament is the venerable mid la.

A ro ye ses ‘byun gnas had been seen by a royal nun who took him in as a child. He later walked into a room where monks were praying and recited prayers and doctrines, but also told the monks that he knew many doctrines they didn’t know. The monks deemed him the origin of knowledge and listened as he imparted wisdom and doctrine.

He had a long disciple lineage that believed in the potency of the rite (one said, “If I were to preach the doctrine into the ear of a corpse, the corpse would move.”) Gru gu klog ‘byon taught the doctrine to rba sgom bsod names rgyal mtshan. When the latter met atisa, he offered him his understanding of the doctrine.

Atisa suggested the practice should be tempered by love and mercy. He was disappointedwhen he read several Tibetan writings, but then he read the Mahayana-yoga of a ro and was pleased. This lineage is much higher profile with the invocation of much more high profile names (atisa also cites the aid of maitreya and avalokitesvara).

There was a particular affinity for hermits in this tradition, but a clear feeling that the teachers and disciples were more venerable than the hermits. However, some of this pomp took its toll on the lineage. Many realized this and saw the potential of some un-ordained practitioners. The lineage was spread widely by people in positions of power and fame enough to move the rite fast and far.

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