November 08, 2014


What is lo dri ba? I know that it is a Vinayic term but what does it really mean? Is it “enquiry after (or question about) the age” (of a bhikṣu or śrāmaṇera candidate)? The expression dge slong/slong gi lo dri ba seems to suggest this. The instrumental gis or gnyis seems to be a misinterpretation. The Sanskrit is often given as varṣapṛcchā. We also come across dge slong/tshul gi dang po’i lo dri ba and the Sanskrit as varṣāgrapṛcchā. But is the Sanskrit correct? If it is correct, how are we supposed to understand it? It is of course clear that “age” (varṣa: lo) is important in the Vinaya. One cannot ordain someone as a bhikṣu if the candidate is not at least twenty years of age. So determining the age of the candidate prior to the ordination is important. What about the permitted age to be a śrāmaṇera? The śrāmaṇera candidate must be “one who is able to drive away a crow” (bya rog skrod nus pa), that is, usually seven years of age. So there are some Vinaya treatises bearing lo dri ba in their titles. But I would suppose that such treatises deal more than just questions about the ages of the candidates. But why are such works called lo dri ba? I have no idea.

Now there is a Vinayic treatise called the Śrāmaṇeravarṣāgrapṛcchā (dGe tshul gyi dang po’i lo dri ba). I think one such work is attributed to Padmasambhava. And that is why he is called “Lo-dri-mkhan-po,” which is to be understood in the sense of the “author of the Lo dri.” But obviously Jean Naudou (Naudou 1980 [= English translation of Naudou 1968]: 110–111) had no idea what “Lo-dri-mkhan-po” meant and suggested that “Lo-dri” could have been an error for “O-dri” (i.e. for Oḍḍiyāna) and thus suggested to understand “Lo-dri-mkhan-po” in the sense of “Upādhyāya from Oḍḍiyāna.”


  1. I once translated this as "Questions of First Year Novices." Was this wrong? I wrote this footnote to it:

    "The Sanskrit title ought to be Śrāmaṇeravarṣāgrapṛcchā. Dergé Tanjur catalogue: “Dge-tshul-gyi Dang-po’i Lo Dri-ba / Kha-che’i Mkhan-po Na-ra-sa-de-wa dang / Lo-tsā-ba Dge-slong Rgyal-ba’i-shes-rab-kyi ’gyur.” Tōh. no. 4132 supplies the name Narasadeva, while Ngor-pa, Chos-’byung, p. 264, reads Na-ra-ma-de-wa. As part of a very useful listing of Tibetan vinaya treatises, Banerjee, Sarvāstivāda, p. 47, says: “The translators into Tibetan are Naradeva and Jayaprajña—the name of the author is not known.” By Jayaprajña he of course means Rgyal-ba’i-shes-rab (he simply made a back-translation of the Tibetan name into Sanskrit). Like myself, he seems not to have known what to do with the name Narasadeva/ Naramadeva/ Narayadeva, and so opted for the simpler name N[ā]radeva."

    Now I'm thinking Banerjee might have read the Tibetan colophon's name as Nârasya Deva, as if they had dropped a subscript 'y'.

    Usually the Vinaya text is anonymous, but some give the author's name as Padmākaraghoṣa.

    The Lama Chimpa translation of Târanâtha, p. 278, has Varṣapṛcchā (Lo dri) as a person's name & says it is a way of referring to Padmākaraghoṣa (Padma-'byung-gnas-dbyangs).

    Would he be the same as Guru Rinpoche or different? I may have more questions for you.

    1. Actually I really do not precisely understand what lo dri actually means. The Rab tu ’byung ba’i gzhi of the Vinaya scriptures may provide a clear answer. I have simply assumed that lo dri concerns enquiring after the age of a dge slong or dge tshul candidate. But your understanding of it as “questions of first near novices” suggests that it concerns questions that the first-year dge slong or dge tshul have or pose to the seniors in the Saṃgha. Perhaps it makes better sense than my own (speculative) interpretation. This sounds all the more plausible because freshmen in the Saṃgha are likely to have all kinds of question regarding the dgag pa’i bslab bya and sgrub pa’i bslab bya, do‘s and don’ts, of the Vinayic code of conduct. But a corroboration of your understanding would be of great help.

    2. of question = of questions

  2. PS: I was also just thinking that when Vinaya writers mention "The author of the Lo Dri [text/s]" they use this moniker because they truly don't know who he is apart from being the person who wrote the book[s], not that they are identifying him with Guru Rinpoche. Where the Padmākaraghoṣa comes from is a good question I can't answer right now. Did some translations have his name as author in the colophon??

    Wait, Now I see what's happening here (I think!). We have two paired texts, and somewhere both of them get the same authorship attribution. Here's what I wrote in the next footnote:

    "In Sanskrit: Bhikṣuvarṣāgrapṛcchā (Tōh. no. 4133). Dergé Tanjur catalogue: “Dge-slong-gi Dang-po’i Lo Dri-ba Dpal Ra-sa’i Gtsug-lag-khang-gi ’Od-mchog Dngos-grub-kyi Gtsug-lag-khang-du Rgya-gar-gyi Mkhan-po Dī-paṃ-ka-ra-shrī-dznyā-na dang Lo-tsā-ba Dge-slong Tshul-khrims-rgyal-ba’i ’gyur.” According to this, Atiśa’s disciple Tshul-khrims-rgyal-ba translated it together with Atiśa at the temple of Lha-sa (Ra-sa), the temple best known to the world as the Jokang. At least two sources (Malalasekera, Encyclopaedia, vol. 3, p. 52; and compare Banerjee, Sarvāstivāda, p. 50) says that, even though no author is supplied, this particular work has been attributed to one Mkhan-po Padma-’byung-gnas-dbyangs (*Padmākaraghoṣa). See Ruegg, ‘Review,’ p. 656, for what is to my knowledge the only extended discussion of this authorship problem. To this discussion could well be added the evidence of the Mkhas-pa Lde’u history (p. 173), where it is quite interestingly attributed to the authorship of Saṅghabhadra (Dge-’dun-bzang-po). To quote the passage precisely, “kha che dge ’dun bzang pos ka ri ka dang / dge slong dang dge ’dun gyi lo tri ba yang mdzad do.” In fact, according to this Saṅghabhadra composed both of the (in their Dergé versions) ‘anonymous’ works listed as Tōh. nos. 4132 and 4133."

    Here is the reference to the Ruegg review. I'd have to bike off to the library to tell you what it says:

    D. Seyfort Ruegg, Review of Heinz Bechert, ed., Die Sprache der ältesten buddhistischen Überlieferung (Göttingen 1980), contained in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 103, no. 3 (July 1983), pp. 652-657.

  3. Dear D, thank you for your efforts. But I now see that you also have an expression dge ’dun gyi lo dri ba. This would undermine my speculation and perhaps also your understanding? Was it not Chandra Das who understood lo dri ba as “chronology”? Should one consider it? More confusion seems to reign. D.