Blue Annals Chapter 6

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (Blue Annals) > Chapter By Chapter Summary - The Blue Annals > Chapter 6

Summary of The Blue Annals Chapter 6: The Translator Ngok Loden Sherap and the Philosophical Traditions Descending from Him

by Matthew Spitzer

This book appears to be a collection of information that shares only in the fact that it did not fit in elsewhere. I am little dubious of the assertion that this book concerns ‘exoteric scholasticism’, if only because the information presented here is largely incomplete and sporadic. While the last few pages detail some information regarding three specific textual bodies, the majority of the book focuses on information regarding dpal gsang phu monastery.

Of note is the lack of dates in this entire book. Out of 13 dates total, the majority come in the first two pages, leaving much of the information temporally unspecified.

6.1 Translator Ngok together with his lineage (rngog lo brgyud pa dang bcas pa’i skabs. Chandra 292; Chengdu 399; Roerich 328).

This chapter’s stated concern is the abbots of dpal gsang phu monastery. The very interesting first line [da ni lo tsa ba’i dngos kyi slob ma rnams kyi yang slob mar gyur pa . . . sde snod ‘dzin pa chen po gzhung chen po’i bshad pa mdzad pa rnams bka’ gdams kyi lugs skyong ba’I nges pa ni med mod] seems to admit that while some of the disciples of rngog lo tsa ba’s disciples may not have been kadampas, they labored grealy to preserve the various teaching lineages, some of which he discusses. This preface would appear to point out that in the following lineage details, the emphasis is not focused on a select few individuals. Instead, the first section of the book 6.1 is a free-form flow of information from individual to individual, irrespective of affiliation, which sometimes returns to individuals as the sequence leads ‘gos lo tsa ba back to them. phyA pa is a good example of this recurrence.

While this chapter supposedly details endeavors by the abbots of dpal gsnag phu – this connection is not readily apparent in the particulars provided for many of the individuals mentioned. [26 sections, total of 28 sub-sections]

6.1.1 rngog lo tsA ba lbo ldan shes rab [R 328]

rngog was born in 1059 A.D., 49 years after nag tsho was born, who was in turn born 54 years after the Great Translator rin chen bzang po. At the age of 18, rngog attended a religious council held by king rtse lde. It seems that immediately following this council, he left for Kasmir, staying there for the next 17 years. No information regarding his teachers or the texts he studied is given. He died at the age of 51 in 1109 A.D. Abbatial lineage of dpal gsang phu part I [R328-9]

Following rngog, the lineage starts with zhang tshes spong ba chos kyi bla ma. He provides durations for each, ranging from 35 years to 6 months in length. Abbatial lineage of dpal gsang phu interjection [R 329]

Here ‘go los tsa ba interjects concerning the number of years that elapsed in total. He says, any discrepancy results from concurrent occupation of the abbot’s chair. I could not get the numbers to work out to anything near what he claims to have occurred. Abbatial lineage of dpal gsang phu part II [R 329-30]

The lineage list continues up to the current abbot during ‘go lo tsA ba’s time: rin chen byang chub.

6.1.3 Duration of the abbatial lineage [R 330]

From the birth of rngog lo tsA ba to the writing of the Blue Annals 418 years had past.

6.1.4 shes rab ‘bar of ‘bre [R 330]

He is called the ‘best of rngog’s disciples’, and when he taught, “the gods used to come down to hear his exposition.” He is said to have been influential for his interpretation of the Prajnāpāramitā.

6.1.5 gzhon nu tshul khrims [R 330-1]

He studies under ar, a contemporary of ‘bre and composed numerous commentaries. He also served as abbot of snye thang monastery.

6.1.6 dbang phyug rgyal po [R 331]

He maintained a congregation at grib kyi phu and composed an extensive commentary to the Prajnāpāramitā.

6.1.7 Lineage extending from dbang phyug rgyal po [R 331]

This is a short succession of seven names ending with spo bo yon tan seng ge, from who ‘gos lo tsA ba’s teacher directly heard the Sphuṭartha.

6.1.8 blo gros ‘byung gnas of gro lung [R 331-2]

He is another chief disciple of rngog who composed commentaries, a lam rim, and a bstan rim. He accumulated great wealth that allowed him construct brin las monastery.

6.1.9 rgya dmar pa byang chub grags of stod lungs [R 332]

He is said to have been both “fully learned, but also possessed numerous Tantric precepts.”

6.1.10 phyA pa [R 332-3]

He served as Abbot of ne’u thog of gsang phu, composed numerous commentaries and abridgements on most of the primary textual sources of the day. He also composed a text in verse, the tshad ma’I bsdus pa yid kyi mun sel and its auto-commentary.

6.1.11 phyA pa’s disciple gtsang nag pa [R 333-4]

He primarily worshiped Manjuśrī and composed text-books on the Mādhyamaka, Nyāya and other subjects. One of his texts supposedly reports that one with his ability to ascertain Candrakīrti will not appear again.

6.1.12 rma bya byang chib brston ‘grus [R 334]

Very learned in the Āgamas and the Nyāya, he composed many commentaries, but is supposed to have preferred the school of Jayānanda over that of phyA pa. He also composed refutations of phyA pa’s theory on the endlessness of Time and the infinity of atoms. ‘gos lo tsA ba reports re was not impressed with these refutations and that his only response was “’O’!”

6.1.13 bar phu ba [R 334-5]

He composed a commentary on the Mādhyamakamūla, but later became and ascetic follower of the Mahāmudrā.

6.1.14 gnyal zhig [R 335]

He meditated for nine years at u shang rdo, and had many disciples.

6.1.15 phu thang dar dkon and others [R 335]

[In the next few sections things are less clear, so I am combining what would be several sections together for the sake of clarity and succinctness - mes]

phu thang dar dkon taught and had many disciples. Stang pa gru gu established the Doctrine at zha lu. At zha lu, bus ton arrived and in order to “conform with them” he obtained the lung for the gnyal ṭīkā and taught it to himself.

u yug pa studies with sa skya pang chen at sa skya and produced many disciples. ‘gos lo tsA ba comments that during his lifetime gsang phu moastery switched from emphasis on the Pramāṇaviniścaya to the Pramāṇavārtika.

6.1.16 kun mkhyen chos kyu ‘od zer [R335-6]

He founded a philosophic school (bshad sgra) and a meditative school (sgom sgrwa), after which he went to wu t’ai shan. He is reported to have spoken on the reasons for contradictions in his own previous and later interpretations of the Doctrine. He said it was due to differing approaches to establishing equanimity in meditation. Later he studied the Kālacakra.

6.1.17 ‘chims chen mo [R 336]

Here we are given a story concerning the trouble that ‘chims’ student skyel nag has in setting up a monastic college at snar thang because of bka’ gdams pa objections to it. What those are we are not told. How he overcomes the objections through a tea ceremony and debate, but how this exactly works is not clear.

6.1.18 bcom ldan rigs pa’I zal gri [R 336-7]

He was a monk at bsam yas and supposedly considered the Kālacakra to be a non-Buddhist system. He developed signs of leprosy and was told to propitiate Vajrapāṇi for eleven years without seeing the sun. It is unclear if this is what he did. We are told however, at the moment his foot touched the threshold of snar thang, the sun shone on him and a conch shell resounded. He was then told to avoid anxiety and recite the Pramāṇaviniścaya in a ravine. He is said to have recited the mantra of Acala 13 billion times. (There is mention of a ‘four-headed religious protector, but who is this?) He had many disciples, but being cured of leprosy is never mentioned.

6.1.19 ‘jam dbyangs [R 337-8]

Here an amusing story is related about when he disguised himself with a mask and scared his teacher in the dark. The teacher, rig ral, chased him around the monastery and refused to allow him in his presence. He then relocated to sa skya. Once there, he was invited by the Mongols and became court chaplain of buyantu qan from 1311-1320 A.D. He wrote commentaries, and sent presents to bcom ldan pa, but it was Chinese ink that most impressed his teacher.

6.1.20 On the bka’ gyur and bstan ‘gyur at snar thang [R 338-9]

‘jam dbyangs later made the request for a complete copy of the bka’ ‘gyur and bstan ‘gyur be kept at snar thang. Many others worked to find original copies and properly copy them. From this many copies were made for other monasteries. bu ston then edited this copy of the bstan ‘gyur, excluding all duplicate texts and classifying all texts that had not been classified previously. This new version was deposited at zha lu and many copies were then made from it. khams pas also used this one to produce their own copies. ‘gos lo tsA ba then attributes all this great work back to ‘jam dbyangs, and retraces his influence to the “Kasmirian paṇḍitas and ultimately to the grace of the Buddhas.”

6.1.21 Builders of bkra shis lhun po [R 339]

‘gos lo tsA ba states that shes rab seng ge and his disciple who built bkras shis lhun po had actually been scholars of snar thang.

6.1.22 Son of byang chub rin chen of rtses thang [R 339-40]

He was a famous scholar of sa skya in charge of sa skya dga’ ldan, but had originally studied at gsang phu.

6.1.23 rong ston smra ba’i seng ge chen mo [R 340]

He became a kalyāṇa-mitra at the age of 20, composed many commentaries, and attracted many disciples.

6.1.24 rgyal ba mchog [R 340]

He taught at byams chen and his reincarnation (who is unnamed) filled his position and erected a statue of Maitreya.

6.1.25 red mda’ pa [R340-1]

He studied the Prajnāpāramitā, and wrote a ṭīkā on the Sphuṭartha. tsong kha pa heard it from him directly. Later he became an itinerant monk.

6.1.26 Final section – other disciples, etc [R 341]

This final section contains additional material that it seems did not naturally flow from previous details. This includes other lineages of the smaller monastic establishments – bde ba can, ‘tshal gung thang, chos ‘khor gling. ‘gos lo tsA ba closes saying, “the custom of preaching texts in small monasteries and other monastic schools originated with rngog lo tsA ba.”

6.2 Patsab together with his lineage (pa tshab brgyud pa dang bcas pa’i skabs. Chandra 304; Chengdu 415; Roerich 341).

This chapter details the “origin of the exposition of the basic texts by the ācārya Candrakīrti according to spa tshab lo tsA ba nyi ma grags. [2 sections, 5 total sub-sections] spa tshab nyi ma grags [R 341-2]

He traveled to Kasmir as a youth and studies with the sons of Sanjana. After 23 years there, he returned to Tibet and was given the ‘phag sgur’ – a large turquoise stone. He produced many translations and commentaries. spa tshab nyi ma grags on the Guhyasamāja [R 342-3]

He called the commentary on the Guhyasamāja by rin chen bzang po ‘not properly done’, so he retranslated it. spa tshab nyi ma grags’ disciples [R 343]

6.2 This is a list of his main disciples. He is also said to have propagated the Mādhyamika widely. zhang thang sag pa [R 343-4]

He was the founder of thang sag and composed numerous commentaries. Lineage of thang sag monastery [R344]

This is a list of names (no dates) for the successors of zhang, as well as their lineage in India.

6.3 Abhidharma lineages (mngon pa’i brgyud pa’i skabs. Chandra 306; Chengdu 419; Roerich 344).

This chapter’s stated topic, the lineage of the Abhidharma, seems to cover two texts. The mngon pa kun btus by Asaṅga of which information has been found, and the Abhidharmakośa, of which no information is found. Much of the information here is again, less than specific. [2 sections, total of 4 sub-sections] The lineage of the mngon pa kun btus (Abhidharmasamuccaya) Part I [R 344-5]

The lineage starts with the Buddha, Maitreya and Asaṅga. When the lineage was represented by dbas, a revolt (no info?) caused him to depart for khams. He in turn had many disciples. Lineage interjection about brang ti [R 345]

He is supposed to have honored rngog’s retinue of 300 monks with a 13:1 ratio of his own monks when the latter was visiting ‘brum phrag gsum pa. The lineage of the mngon pa kun btus (Abhidharmasamuccaya) Part II [R 345-6]

The lineage list continues here, apparently concluding with bu ston. ‘gos lo tsA ba also puts much importance on bo dong (‘bum phrag gsum pa’s monastery) as key in its transmission.

6.3.2 Findings on the lineages [R 346]

‘gos lo tsA ba gives some details regarding his findings of further information. He could no find the abbatial lineage for bo dong, but says it was, “a remarkable place”. As for the lineage of the Abhidharmakośa, it “has not been preserved.”

6.4 Pramāṇavārttika lineages (tshad ma rnam ‘grel gyi brgyud pa’i skabs. Chandra 307; Chengdu 421; Roerich 346).

[one section]

6.4.1 The lineage of the Pramāṇavārtika [R 346-7]

This is simply a list of names for this lineage, starting with the historical Buddha and ending with bsam grub bzang po ba. There are no dates provided. ‘gos lo tsA ba does state that some could not find these names earlier, but these had been provided by mkhan chen rin po che rgyal mtshan bzang po.

6.5 The Tsen System of Maitreya’s Doctrines (byams chos btsan lugs kyi skabs. Chandra 308; Chengdu 422; Roerich 347).

An account of the specific body of works called the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra, composed of two separate texts. Again, only one date is provided. [Five sections]

6.5.1 The discovery of the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra [R 347]

The text had been unknown to scholars previously. Then Maitrī pa (10th c. [TBRC]) saw light emanating light from a crack in a stupa. Inside the crack he discovered these two texts. Here we have a description of a terma discovery that goes uncommented on by ‘gos lo tsA ba. After he has the books, Maitreya appears and expounds the books to him. Maitrī pa then taught the material to Aanandakīrti. He travels to Kasmir disguised as a beggar. There, Sanjana learns from him the two books. [Is this a case of a Kasmiri learning from a Tibetan, or is Anandakīrti Indian, I’m not sure.] Sanjana made several copies of the books and taught it to many students.

6.5.2 btsan kha bo che [R 347-8]

Born in 1021 A.D., he was a disciple of grwa pa mngon shes. The latter offered him spiritual protection on his trip to Kasmir, which he would have needed traveling at the advanced age of 56. He asked San͂͂jana for the Doctrine of Maitreya to use as a death prayer. Sanjana seems to have not instructed him, but one named gzu dga’ ba’I rdo rje did. There is an interjection concerning commentaries on the Uttaratantra and the Sūtrālaṃkāra. The former conformed to the teaching of btsan, the latter with Sanjana, but no details are given regarding this split.

btsan returns to Tibet, “before rngog” (who returned in 1092, see R 328) – meaning that he was in Kasmir from 1077 up to possibly 1092, but probably earlier. btsan resided at btag rgya and taught many disciples. ‘gos lo tsA ba comments that these texts are still readily available.

6.5.3 Comments on the Uttaratantra of the school of btsan [R 348]

This text supposedly contains ‘precepts on practice’ mixed with the ‘text of exposition’. ‘gos lo tsA ba reports that no one questions the specific preservation of this method.

6.5.4 Comments on the teachings of the Tathāgatagarbha [R 348-9]

Here ‘gos lo tsA ba seems to take exception to some of the teachings preserved by btsan and the ‘great lo tsA ba, presumably rin chen bzang bo. He comments that they maintained the connection between the Tathāgatagarbha and the Paramārtha-satya (Transcendental Truth). What he disagrees with is their position that the latter could not be the object of an approximate judgement, and more so, even a direct object of perception. ‘gos lo tsA ba mentions an opposing view held by phyA pa, namely that it instead called for the absolute negation of the reality of external objects.

Next, a position of the btsan school is given – “the pure nature of Mind was the Essence of the Sugata, and therefore it was stated to be the fertile seed of Buddhahood.”

red mda’ pa considered the Uttaratantra to be the work of Vijnānamātra, and composed a commentary based on that view. A song of red mda’ pa is quoted to support this argument.

6.5.5 Final comments on the texts of the Maitreya Doctrine [R 349-50]

‘gos lo tsA ba confirms the likely truth of the texts’ discovery, and cites that kha che pang chen imparted the precepts of the teachings on at least one occasion. The Uttaratantra’s translation lineage is given as starting with Atīśa.

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