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The Development of the Biographical Tradition Concerning Atisa (Dipamkarasrijnana) Eimer, Helmut 1982

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Helmut Eimer
Within this year the first millennium since the birth of Atisa1 will come to
an end. This may be the opportunity to consider the biographical tradition
about Dipamkarasrijnana. In India proper no literary sources relating to
the life of this learned monk from Bengal have survived; we have only
Tibetan source material on which to depend. There are few Tibetan
historiographical works not containing at least a short note on Atisa's life.2
We may mention here the comprehensive histories of the growth of
Buddhism in Tibet with their passages on Dipamkarasrijnana, e.g. the Sba
bzed3, Bu ston Rin po che's Bde bar gsegs pa'i bstan pa'i gsal byed chos kyi
'byuh gnas gsuh rab rin po che'i mdzod", the Rgyal rabs gsal ba'i me Ion5,
the Deb thershon po6 and the Phags yul rgya nag chen po bod dan sog yul
du dam pa'i chos 'byuh dpag bsam Ijon bzah7 (hereafter Dpag bsam Ijon
bzah) by Sum pa mkhan po Ye ses dpal 'byor. It is obvious that the older of
the commonly known chos 'byuh or rgyal rabs give only the main facts of
the biography8; from the end of the 15th century onward there appear in
general historical works more detailed descriptions of Atisa's life'. The two
extensive biographies of Dipamkarasrijnana are not dated, namely the Jo
bo rje dpal Idan mar me mdzad ye ses kyi mam thar rgyas pa10 (hereafter
Rnam thar rgyas pa) and the Jo bo rin po che rje dpal ldan a ti sa'i mam
thar rgyas pa yohs grags11 (hereafter Rnam thar yohs grags).
It may be asked if there was an autobiography of Dipamkarasrijnana or
a biography written by one of his direct disciples. From the Rnam thar
rgyas pa we learn that Atisa did not like to be praised by 'Brom ston Rgyal
ba'i 'byuft gnas in a hymn of praise'2. Another episode in the same
biographical work tells us that some of Atisa's pupils asked the master to
write about his former and later existences and about his way to
salvation—this would have become an autobiography—but on this
occasion too Dipamkarasrijnana refused to do so13. In the biographical
tradition dealing with Atisa there is a book that claims in its title to have
been composed by 'Brom ston Rgyal ba'i 'byuft gnas (1005-1064 A.D.),
namely the Jo bo rje'i rnam thar lam yig chos kyi 'byuh gnas zes bya ba
'Brom ston pa Rgyal ba'i 'byuh gnas kyis mdzad pa14 (hereafter Rnam thar
lam yig). In the colophon to this work15 the name of the author is given as
'Brum ston Rgyal ba'i 'byuft gnas and in the body of the book we read that
the upasaka—i.e. one of the often used names for 'Brom ston pa16—bears
the name 'Brum and not 'Brom17. We cannot solve here the problems
arising from these different names, but we find proof that the book was not
written by the mentioned disciple of Atisa in another passage of the Rnam
thar lam yig referring to the conquest of Eastern India by Muslim
armies"—an event which happened about 1200 A.D., i.e. about 140 years
after the death of 'Brom ston Rgyal ba'i 'byuft gnas.
Since there exists neither an autobiography nor a biography written by a
direct disciple of Atisa we may pose the question: what are the sources for
the biography of Dipamkarasrijnana? An answer could be deduced from a
detailed episode which appears in the Deb ther shon po19, the Bka' gdams
rin po che'i chos 'byuh rnam thar hin more byed pa'i 'od ston20 (hereafter
Bka' gdams chos 'byuh rnam thar), the Bka' gdams kyi rnam par thar pa
bka' gdams chos 'byuh gsal ba'i sgron me21 (hereafter Bka' gdams chos
'byuh sgron me), the Rnam thar rgyas pa22 and the Rnam thar yohs grags23.
We quote here, translated from the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me, the
two main parts24 of the episode relating the beginning of the biographical
After he (namely Ron pa Lag sor pa26) had asked seven direct pupils of
the master, [namely] Dge bses Ston pa27, Rnal 'byor pa chen po28,
Dgon pa ba2', the former Mkha' ru ba, Zah btsun Yer pa [ba], Sgom
pa dad pa from Yer pa rtsibs sgah [and] Jo bo legs, and two indirect
pupils, [namely] the later Mkha' ru ba and Yuh ba pa, about the
precepts for meditation and about the reports30 about the master, the
direct pupils agreed in their words. Since the words of the two indirect
pupils disagreed, [Lag sor pa) thought, "Since the Dge bses Lo tstsha
ba31, who was a direct follower of the master for 19 years, is now
living at Khab Gun than32, it is necessary to meet him personally."
[Thinking this] he went to Man [yul]. He met him (i.e. the Dge bses Lo
tstsha ba) residing in the temple of Yah thog32. He asked first for
extensive [instruction on] the precepts of the mantras and stayed for
three years. In the last year33 he requested to be told the stages of the
way of the paramitas, the [special] virtues of the greatness of the
physical [existence] of this great master and the report of how [the
master] had been invited to Tibet. To this the Dge bses Lo tstsha ba
answered, "I followed the master for 19 years; since I invited him to
Tibet too, I know the report on the master very [well). Except for you,
nobody has come to pose these questions." After saying this he (i.e.
the Dge bses Lo tstsha ba) gave this extensive report. . .
At this [time] four religious [adepts] from the retinue of Rma tsho"
went over to him (i.e. Ron pa Lag sor pa) and became known as the
four [spiritual] sons of Ron pa [later on]. These were the four: Bya
'Dul ba 'dzin pa35, Rog Mchih phu ba, Gnam par ba36 [and] Dge bses
Zu len pa. Since Rgya ra Ston brjid was an upasaka, he was not
counted as [one of the spiritual] sons. Gnam par ba founded Gnam
par and Ram pa lha sdihs. He acted as an abbot of Gsah phu for eight
years too. Regarding the notes the four [spiritual] sons made of the
words of Lag sor pa—it is said—Bya 'Dul ba 'dzin pa condensed the
precepts and the report, Rog condensed the report but gave a great
deal of the precepts, Gnam par ba, in not writing the report, wrote
down the precepts only, Dge bses Zu len pa [made] extensive [notes
 H. EIMER 43
of] both the precepts and the report, but he especially made the report
accurate. Rgya ra Ston brjid had [notes on] the precepts for the
mantras, but apparently no [notes] at all on the precepts for the
paramitas. After all these written notes had come into the hands of
Zul phu ba Bya-'Dul chen po—since he himself put this extensive
report on the master into letters, it filled all quarters.
This episode could be considered a later invention, since it is given in
books composed at the end of the 15th century or later—if we disregard the
two undated mam thar37. But the Hu Ian deb ther, composed by 'Tshal pa
Kun dga' rdo rje in 1346 A.D., already gives the frame of the above quoted
report in a very short form38. By this it is proved that the report of the
beginning of the biographical tradition concerning Atisa existed already in
the first half of the 14th century3'.
There are four main points in the quoted report of special interest for our
considerations: 1. Up to the time he came to Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal
ba40 the student Roft pa Lag sor pa looked in vain for a biography of Atisa.
This shows that a biographical work on Dipamkarasrijnana did not exist at
that time41. 2. The teachings of Atisa, his special virtues and the report of
his life were taught to Roft pa Lag sor pa by Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal
ba. 3. The oral tradition on Dipamkarasrijnana extends from Nag tsho
Tshul khrims rgyal ba to Dge bses Zul phu ba Bya 'Dul chen po, and the
latter prepared the first written biography. 4. The old reports on Atisa are
referred to under the title of lo rgyus, i.e. "report."
The dates of the lives of the persons who participated in the oral
tradition on Dipamkarasrijnana are only partially known; Nag tsho Tshul
khrims rgyal ba was born 1011 A.D.42, but the year of his death is not
given. We may deduce that Roft pa Lag sor pa, who had been a disciple of
'Brom ston Rgyal ba'i 'byuft gnas, was born not much later than 1044
A.D.43; he had not seen Atisa personally, i.e. he was presumably not an
adult at the time of the master's death in 1054 A.D. For Bya 'Dul ba 'dzin pa
chen po, alias Zul phu ba, we have different dates, according to the Bka'
gdams chos 'byuh sgron me 1100-1174 A.D.44 and according to the Deb
ther shon po 1091-1166 A.D.45 His fellow student Gnam par ba was abbot
of Gsaft phu in the years 1143-1151 A.D. It seems possible that after the
death of Rog Mchift phu ba, Gnam par ba and Dge bses Zu len pa, their
notes were given to Zul phu ba; in this case the first written biography was
composed after 1150 A.D. We may exclude the possibility that this form of
the biography originated much earlier than 1120 A.D., at the time when
Zul phu ba reached the age of 20 years or, according to the Deb ther shon
po, 29 years.
Before we can try to establish a connection between the facts in the
passage quoted above and the extant biographical tradition we have to
investigate the available texts concerning the life of Atisa. The analytical
considerations46 begin with the two extensive biographies, the Rnam thar
rgyas pa and the Rnam thar yohs grags, because it can be assumed that the
greatest amount of material for comparison can be found there. We may
mention the fact that the Rnam thar yohs grags is contained in the official
collection of the Bka' gdams pa School, the Bka' gdams glegs bam";
therefore it can be concluded that the Tibetans regarded this form of the
biography as being authoritative. A comparison of the two extensive biographies shows that they are closely related. This relationship can be seen
not only in the agreement of the contents, but also in extensive identical
passages.48 In view of this great similarity it is especially conspicuous that
these two biographies differ in structure and in the arrangement of single
episodes. This can serve as an argument for the determination of the
relationship between the two works. The clear structure of the extensive
Atisa-biography in the Bka' gdams glegs bam shows this presentation to be
the more modern. A further argument for this is the well-standardized form
of the language in this biography, while in the Rnam thar rgyas pa we find
remnants of colloquial or dialect forms4'. However, the Rnam thar yohs
grags is not derived from the Rnam thar rgyas pa; both works are
descended from a common ancestor.
When comparison of the other available sources for the life of Atisa is
brought into consideration, we find a great deal of agreement between the
reports. These points of agreement—depending upon the completeness of
the sources in question—are of different kinds. Works with a very detailed
presentation show passages with identical formulations, while the shorter
biographical sketches on Atisa have descriptions of the main facts which
are identical in contents only. It is certain that there is an established
tradition about Atisa's life50. This tradition can be seen as an example of a
biographical tradition in Tibet, and we could use it to investigate how the
transmitted material has changed in the course of time. In Sum pa mkhan
po's Dpag bsam Ijon bzah" we read e.g. that Atisa in taking refuge left five
wives and nine sons. The older tradition reports that Atisa's elder brother,
being the heir of his father's realm, had five wives and nine sons. Sum pa
mkhan po combines the portraits of the two persons, thereby enlarging the
scale of renunciation: Atisa, like Sakyamuni, left both wife and child in
order to become a monk. This changing of the materials handed down
classifies the Dpag bsam Ijon bzah: it is a source of secondary rank, in spite
of its remarks regarding the reliability of some older sources52. An example
of literary transformation is to be found in the Ozos 'byuh bstan pa'i
padma rgyas pa'i hin byed" (hereafter Padma rgyas pa'i hin byed) by
Padma dkar po: the author, in depicting the imprisonment and the death of
the monk Ye ses 'od54, the former king of Western Tibet, uses passages
from four different books, namely the Deb ther shon po, the Rnam thar
yohs grags, the Rnam thar lam yig and the Rgyal rabs gsal ba'i me loh5S.
Padma dkar po joins fragments which have the same function in their own
context from the four texts and thereby achieves an integrated treatment
with a correspondingly dramatic result56. This shows that the Padma rgyas
pa'i hin byed also cannot be regarded as a primary source for the life of
Atisa. We have to take into account that during the course of time the
 H. EIMER 45
tradition about DlpamkarasrTjnana's life may have changed and that the
most recent biographies do not preserve all the facts of the original version
Therefore we go back again to the Rnam thar rgyas pa as the more
archaic of the two extensive biographies; but since the Rnam thar rgyas pa
does not contain some passages given in the Rnam thar yohs grags57, we
may conclude that it does not comprise all the biographical material given
by its sources. This is clearly shown by an example: the Rnam thar rgyas pa
announces, but does not contain, a passage on the guru-paramparas of the
teachings of the Kriyayoga and on Yamari58; the missing passages,
however, do appear in the corresponding context of the Rnam thar yohs
grags59. The extant version of the Rnam thar rgyas pa is to be regarded as
defective; it should be used together with the Rnam thar yohs grags in
order to have at hand the full amount of biographical material contained in
the common ancestor of these two texts. But we have to include the
chapters on the life of Atisa as given in the Deb ther shon po, the Bka'
gdams chos 'byuh rnam thar and the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me as
well; these pictures of Dlpamkarasrijnana's life stand next in tradition to
the extensive biographies60. This is already indicated by the fact that these
three books also contain the report of the beginning of the tradition about
Atisa's life.
The remnants of the spoken language as contained in the Rnam thar
rgyas pa" can be regarded as a first link connecting the report of the
beginning of the biographical tradition concerning Atisa's life and the
extant biographies. We see the second one in the fact that in the Rnam thar
rgyas pa there appears, in at least five places,62 the word lo rgyus to denote
a passage or a chapter, as we have found it in the Tibetan text of the
episode quoted above in translation. Since the colloquial forms of language
and the word lo rgyus in its special meaning are only met with in
exceptionally few cases in the Rnam thar yohs grags", the Bka' gdams chos
'byuh sgron me and the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh rnam thar, these texts rank
in the tradition about Atisa below the Rnam thar rgyas pa, but far above
all the other works composed in more recent times. In view of these old
biographical pictures of Dlpamkarasrijnana's life belonging to an
established tradition, one could try to reconstruct the original version; this
could be done with the aim of recovering the text written by Zul phu ba.
But this experiment would not be successful, because we do not know to
what extent the original text used the colloquial forms of language. The
second reason lies in the arrangement of the material handed down;
especially the description of Atisa's special virtues, which could have had
fully another structure than that in the versions now at hand64. The goal to
be reached with the available old forms of the biography is to discern the
picture of DTpamkarasrljnana as it was seen in an early time; some aspects
could be those of Zul phu ba as well. The basis for such investigations
would be given by a synoptic edition of the archaic texts of this established
Besides the tradition as given in the biographies and the common
histories there are a few hymns of praise to Atisa containing some facts
about his life. In the Rnam thar rgyas pa, the Rnam thar yohs grags, the
Bka' gdams chos 'byuh rnam thar and especially in the Bka' gdams chos
'byuh sgron me there are verses quoted from two such hymns, namely the
Bstod pa brgyad cu pa by Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba and the bstod pa
written by Pandit Sa'i snift po66. The full edition of the Bstod pa brgyad cu
pa as given in the Legs par bsad pa bka' gdams rin po che'i gsuh gi gees pas
nor bu'i bah mdzod" is based upon a version which had been made after
1496, since the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me is quoted in a gloss there.
The Bstod pa brgyad cu pa in its available version contains in its beginning
25 lines which the Rnam thar rgyas pa, the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh rnam
thar and the Bka gdams chos 'byuh sgron me attribute to Pandit Sa'i snift
po. Tsoft kha pa Bio bzaft grags pa, in quoting verses from the two hymns
of praise68, does not distinguish between Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba
and Sa'i snift po; he refers to the lo tstsha ba only. This could be regarded
as a hint that the 25 lines became an integral part of the Bstod pa brgyad cu
pa very early6'. The Bka' gdams chos 'byuh rnam thar and the Bka' gdams
chos 'byuh sgron me contain just a few lines from a stotra composed by Rin
chen bzaft po, but these verses do not give historical data at all70. In the
Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me there appear the earliest known
quotations from the Bstod pa sum cu pa attributed to 'Brom ston Rgyal ba'i
'byuft gnas; but since it mentions Po to ba (1031-1105 A.D.), Spyan sfta ba
(1038-1103 A.D.) and Phu chuft ba (1031-1106 A.D.), the extant version
cannot have been composed before the end of the 11th century—i.e. after
the death of 'Brom ston pa—and we suppose that it is far more recent.
The Rnam thar rgyas pa and to some extent the Rnam thar yohs grags as
well, present, together with the quotations from the Bstod pa brgyad cu pa
and from Sa'i snift po's bstod pa, a prose version of the verses quoted using
the same expressions and formulations. The prose text is somewhat longer
and contains more information than the verses71. This fact shows us the
close relation between the tradition in verse and that in prose; both
traditions come to us through Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba, who used
the formulations of the verses in teaching the master's biography to Roft pa
Lag sor pa. The Bstod pa brgyad cu pa—according to the tradition as
preserved in the two extensive biographies72—was composed by Nag tsho
Tshul khrims rgyal ba after Atisa's death—i.e. in 1054 A.D. or in the
following year—in preparing a picture of the master and of the main events
of his life; the eighty verses of praise were written on the back of the
The tradition concerning the biography of Atisa originates from Nag
tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba and—to a lesser extent73—from Pandit Sa'i snift
po. The extant verses of the two hymns of praise are the oldest testimony
for DlpamkarasrTjnana's life. The extensive tradition would have come to
an end if Ron pa Lag sor pa had not searched for the biography of the
 H. EIMER 47
master and had not obtained it by asking Nag tsho Lo tstsha ba. About a
century after Atisa's death the oral reports were gathered by Zul phu ba
and put into the first written version. This literary biography was to
become the main source for all the following descriptions of
Dlpamkarasrijnana's life. There are a few events from the master's life
handed down outside this tradition; we can mention here one attested case:
in the description of Atisa's studies with Avadhutipa the Rnam thar rgyas
pa and the Rnam thar yohs grags7i distinguish between the information as
given by Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba and two other sources75.
Probably some material handed down by other traditions was included in
the literary biographies in an early stage as well. The sketch of the life of
Atisa as presented by Tsoft kha pa Bio bzaft grags pa contains a more
archaic structure in the arrangement of some points, but it does not
mention Sa'i snift po as the author of some of the verses quoted; the former
fact being a hint that very old sources were used, the latter point indicating
a great distance from the original tradition. The most archaic of the
extensive biographies at hand, the Rnam thar rgyas pa, together with its
modern version, the Rnam thar yohs grags, seems to comprise almost all
the material about Dipamkarasrijnana handed down in the first centuries
after the death of the master, including some facts not reported by Nag tsho
Tshul khrims rgyal ba but gathered from other sources. All the portraits of
Atisa as drawn by later authors— i.e. after 1500 A.D.—are based on the
same tradition, although perhaps somewhat changed or combined with
reports not known to the old biographies.
1. This name is not to be understood as being composed of ati and zsa; this
is shown by Varttika to II.2.18, see Srfsa Chandra Vasu, The AshtjB.dhya.yi
of Panini. Edited and translated.. .(Reprint) Delhi, Varanasi, Patna 1962,
I, 264: "The word ati etc. when the thing denoted has the sense of 'gone
beyond' or the like, combine with what ends with the second case affix..."
Therefore we have to etymologize the name Atisa with atisaya "eminent,
superior" (the Tibetan equivalent to this is phul (du) byuh (ba)!) taking into
account that the change from -aya to -a is not easily explained, see H.
Eimer, Berichte iiber das Leben des Atisa (Dipamkarasrijnana). Eine
Untersuchung der Quellen [Reports on the Life of Atisa
(Dipamkarasrijnana). An investigation of the Sources.]. Wiesbaden 1977.
(Asiatische Forschungen. 51.), 21-22.
2. At present we know of more than 40 books with remarks on Atisa's
life, see Eimer, Berichte, 41-154.
3. See R. A. Stein, Une chronique ancienne de bSam-yas: sBa-bzed. [An
ancient chronicle of bSam-yas: sBa-bzed.]. Paris 1961. (Publications de
l'lnstitut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises. Textes et Documents. I.),
4. Composed 1322 A.D.; blockprint of the gsuh 'bum from Zol (near
Lhasa), volume ya (24), fol. 137a6-b4.
5. See B. I. Kuznetsov, Rgyal rabs gsal ba'i me long (The Clear Mirror of
Royal Genealogies). Tibetan Text in Transliteration, with an introduction
in English. Leiden 1966. (Scripta Tibetana. I.), 198,9-199,8.
6. Composed 1476-1478 A.D.; blockprint prepared in Kun bde glift at
Lhasa, fascicle ca (5), fol. Ibl-10a3.
7. See Sarat Chandra Das, Pag Sam Jon Zang. Part I: History of the Rise,
Progress and Downfall of Buddhism in India. Part II: History of Tibet from
Early Times to 1746 A.D., by Sumpa Khan-po Yece Pal Jor. Calcutta 1908,
118,22-120,22 and 183,13-186,31.
8. See Hu Ian deb ther by 'Tshal pa Kun dga' rdo rje (Deb ther dmar po.
The Red Annals. Part One (Tibetan Text). Gangtok, Sikkim 1961), fol.
20a2-3 (page 39) and fol. 25b7-8 (page 50).
9. E.g. the Deb ther shon po.
10. Blockprint (108 fol.), prepared in Dga' ldan phun tshogs glift, not
dated, probably beginning of the 18th century.
11. Contained in the Pha chos, the first part of the Bka' gdams glegs bam
(blockprint from the new Zol printing house, after 1940 A.D.), fascicle kha
(2), fol. Ibl-95a5. In the colophon Mchims Thams cad mkhyen pa is
mentioned as author; if we follow this information the book could be dated
circa 1250-1280 A.D. or 1340-1375 A.D. This seems improbable since the
table of contents of the Mchims chen mo—the Atisa-biography written by
the great abbot Mchims—as given in the Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me
(fol. 27b5-6) does not correspond to the Rnam thar yohs grags.
12. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 84b5-85a3.
13. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 21a5-b3.
14. The second part of the fascicle kha (fol. 95a5-125a4) in the Pha chos,
the first part of the Bka' gdams glegs bam, see note 11 above.
15. Rnam thar lam yig fol. 125a3-4.
16. See e.g. Eimer, Berichte, 4-5 note 17.
17. Rnam thar lam yig fol. 104a6-bl: 'brom min 'brum yin u pa si ka de
18. Rnam thar lam yig fol. 106b6-107al.
19. Deb ther shon po, ca, fol. 35b7-36a7.
20. Composed 1484 by Bsod nams lha'i dbaft po; from a microfilm copy
(manuscript in the library of Mr. T.D. Densapa)—the episode is found on
fol. 81b6-83a7.
21. Composed 1494-1496 by Las chen Kun dga' rgyal mtshan; blockprint
(419 fol.) prepared at 'Bras spufts.
22. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 106b4-108a4.
23. Rnam thar yohs grags fol. 94a2-95al.
24. Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me fol. 336a6-337al and 337bl-5 (the
gloss fol. 336b2-5 is not given here).
25. A comparative text of the different versions of this episode is given by
Eimer, Berichte, 280-290.
 H. EIMER 49
26. Alias Lag sor pa or Roft pa Phyag sor pa; the dates for his life are not
27. Often-used name for 'Brom ston Rgyal ba'i 'byuft gnas.
28. 1015-1078 A.D., see G. N. Roerich, The Blue Annals. Part 1.2.
Calcutta 1949-1953. (Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. Monograph Series.
VII.), I, 265.
29. 1016-1082 A.D., see Roerich, Blue Annals, I, 266.
30. Lo rgyus.
31. Often-used title for Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba, one of the principal lo tstsha bas working together with Atisa.
32. Place in Maft yul.
33. The translation here follows the text of the Deb ther shon po.
34. Rma tsho Byaft chub rdo rje is mentioned by Roerich, Blue Annals, I,
35. Also known as Zul phu ba Bya 'Dul ba 'dzin pa chen po; for the dates
of his life see below.
36. Abbot of Gsaft phu 1143-1151 A.D.; see Roerich, Blue Annals, I,
37. Namely the Rnam thar rgyas pa and the Rnam thar yohs grags.
38. See The Red Annals, Gangtok 1961, fol. 27b5-7 (page 54), and Eimer,
Berichte, 280 note 1 and 286-287.
39. That this report is far older is shown by some facts given below in this
40. The date of this meeting is not given. Presumably it took place in the
last decade of the 11th century.
41. There could have been other reports on Atisa hidden in non-biographical traditions.
42. See Roerich, Blue Annals, I, 247.
43. 'Brom ston pa died 1064 A.D.
44. Bka' gdams chos 'byuh sgron me fol. 337b5 and 338a5.
45. See Roerich, Blue Annals, I, 80.
46. For the methodical basis of these considerations see E. Bernheim,
Lehrbuch der Historischen Methode und der Geschichtsphilosophie.
[Manual of Historical Methods and of the Philosophy of History.]. 6th
edition 1914, Reprint New York (1970), and Kr. Erslev, Historische
Technik. [Technique of Historical (investigations).]. Miinchen and Berlin
47. See above note 11.
48. See Bernheim, Lehrbuch, 415.
49. Cf. Bernheim, Lehrbuch, 424.
50. This central tradition is studied in detail by Eimer, Berichte, 256-272.
51. Sarat Chandra Das, Pag Sam Jon Zang, 183,19-21.
52. Sarat Chandra Das, Pag Sam Jon Zang, 186,28-31.
53. Composed 1575-1580, blockprint of the gsuh 'bum (prepared in Se ba
Byaft chub glift between 1920 and 1928), volume ka (1), part cha (6), the life
of Atisa is given fol. 140bl-142a3 and 177b2-187b2.
54. Padma rgyas pa'i hin byed fol. 178b2-181a5.
55. The passages used from these sources can be seen in H. Eimer, "Die Gar
log-Episode bei Padma dkar po und ihre Quellen". [The Gar log Episode (as
depicted) by Padma dkar po and its sources.]. Orientalia Suecana, XXIII-
XXIV (1974-1975), Uppsala 1976, 190-199.
56. See Eimer, "Gar log-Episode", 182-189.
57. See Eimer, Berichte, 210-211.
58. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 4a2-4.
59. Rnam thar yohs grags fol. 15b4-5.
60. There is some younger material contained in these works as well, see
e.g. Bka gdams chos 'byuh sgron me fol. 53a4: Atisa travelling in Gtsaft
made the prophecy that at Sa skya there would appear seven incarnations
of Manjughosa. Since the last of these incarnations was 'Gro mgon 'Phags
pa (1235-1280 A.D.), this passage cannot have existed before the end of the
13th century.
61. See Eimer, Berichte, 196-201.
62. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 28b2, 38b2, 43b3, 43b5. 57bl.
63. Rnam thar yohs grags fol. 47b5 e.g. corresponds to Rnam thar rgyas pa
fol. 57bl.
64. From the biographical sketch presented by Tsoft kha pa Bio bzaft grags
pa in his Rim pa thams cad tshah bar ston pa'i byah chub lam gyi rim pa we
see that at about 1400 A.D. there existed a classification of the different
guru-paramparas which is not as elaborate as that in the Rnam thar rgyas
pa—the same applies to the arrangement of the subjects studied by Atisa.
Tsoft kha pa had access to a form of tradition which seems to stand nearer
to the first written biography. But since the biographical sketch by Bio
bzaft grags pa contains only a few details, it is not of much help in
discerning the original source.
65. Such a synoptic edition of the texts concerned is under preparation.
66. An Indian pandit in the retinue of Atisa.
67. Microfilm copy taken from the blockprint in the possession of H.H.
Yongdzin Trijang Rinpocche.
68. In the sketch of Atisa's life as given in the Rim pa thams cad tshah bar
ston pa'i byah chub lam gyi rim pa.
69. Probably Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba incorporated these lines into
his bstod pa.
70. There are preserved fragments from other old bstod pas, namely of
those composed by Gro luft pa Bio gros 'byuft gnas, Phag mo gfu pa Rdo
rje rgyal po (1110-1170) and Khro phu Lo ts5 ba Byams pa'i dpal
(1173-1225); see Eimer, Berichte, 146-150.
71. Line 282 of the Bstod pa brgyad cu pa runs:
rab byuft dge bsnen lfta yaft bsad
"Even of the monks [and] the upasakas [he] killed five."
The corresponding sentence in the Rnam thar yohs grags (fol. 32bl) gives a
further detail: four monks and one upasaka were killed—altogether five
 H. EIMER 51
72. See Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 103a4-6 and Rnam thar yohs grags fol.
91a2-6; this is given as well in Bka gdams chos 'byuh sgron me fol.
73. Limited to the report on the family and the home of Atisa.
74. Rnam thar rgyas pa fol. 24b3-4 and Rnam thar yohs grags fol. 4b5.
75. One of them is the Be'u bum shon po; see Eimer, Berichte, 269-270.
The present paper was prepared in 1977 within the research programme of
the Sonderforschungsbereich 12 "Zentralasien" at the University, Bonn; it
was given out for publication in an Atisha Commemoration Volume
planned by the Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok. Since
1977 two books concerning Atisa's works and biography have come out:
H. Eimer, Bodhipathapradipa. Ein Lehrgedicht des Atisa
(Dipamkarasrijnana) in der tibetischen Uberlieferung. Wiesbaden 1978.
(Asiatische Forschungen. 59.), and H. Eimer, Rnam thar rgyas pa. Mate-
rialien zu einer Biographie des Atisa (Dipamkarasrijnana). 1. Teil: Einfiih-
rung, Inhaltsubersicht, Namensglossar. 2. Teil: Textmaterialien. Wiesbaden 1979. (Asiatische Forschungen. 67.).
The second of these two books gives a synoptic edition of the biographical
texts as announced above in note 65.
After the paper given above was handed over to the printers, a short article
dealing with the Bstod pa brgyad cu pa was published under the title:
Helmut Eimer, "The Hymn of Praise in Eighty Verses. The Earliest Literary
Source for the Life of Atisa". Atish Dipankar Millennium Birth Commemoration Volume. (Jagajjyoti: Sept. 1982 to Jan. 83, Combined Number and
Special Number on Atish Dipankar Srijnan). Calcutta 1983, 1-8.


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