November 02, 2015


It is quite a while since Samten Karmay briefly discussed what is known as rDzogs-chen-rde’u-ma (Karmay 1987 (revised 2007): 206) by referring to Sog-zlog-pa’s hagiography of Padmasambhava called the Yid kyi mun sel. My own reference is the Yid kyi mun sel (Lhasa: Bod-ljongs-mi-dmangs-dpe-skrun-khang, 2010, pp. 86–87). The point for departure of Sog-zlog-pa’s discussion has been a prophesy found (in O-rgyal-gling-pa’s bKa’ thang sde lnga?): de nyid mi gnas mnya ngan ’das ’og to || sangs rgyas bka’ la reg gcod ’dra min byed || rdzogs chen ldhe’u zhes bya ba’i chos log byung ||. Note the discrepancy in the orthography. See also the Gur bkra chos ’byung (p. 397). But the prophesies (in general) seem to function as a kind of contemporary reports or historical reports. mKhan-po Ngag-dbang-chos-grags’s ’Bel gtam (Beijing: Krung-go’i-bod-rig-pa-dpe-skrun-khang, p. 2009, p. 557) describes the doctrine of rDzogs-chen-rde’u-ma as the de facto follow-up (don gyi rjes ’brang) of the teachings of the Chinese Hwa-shang Mahāyāna. The gTer-ma prophecy clearly characterizes it as a “false doctrine” (chos log). The falsity of the Chinese Hwa-shang Mahāyāna doctrine would be, however, contested by some scholars (e.g. Klong-chen-pa). According to Sog-zlog-pa, the doctrine of rDzogs-chen-rde’u-ma was proposed by one Bla-ma Sro-pa. His identity is obscure. The seven-proposition doctrine is said to be called the “seven-point rDe’u” (rDe’u-skor-bdun-pa). I do not want to list all seven propositions but some of them would, of course, sound like “negative-intellectualistic” interpretation of the Madhyamaka or Prajñāpāramitā doctrine. But the prepositions sound naively nihilistic and annihilationistic. Sog-zlog-pa goes on to report that this doctrine was also proposed by Shangs-pa lCe-ston, who is said to be a student of Rong-zom-pa. We (or at least I) have no knowledge of the person, his background, works, and ideas. I do not know if he was indeed Rong-zom-pa’s student. But if he had indeed been Rong-zom-pa’s disciple, he must have been extremely shallow and witless. We have access to Rong-zom-pa’s major works and his thoughts are admittedly complex and the risks for misunderstanding and misinterpretations do lurk but all in all his ideas are far from nihilistic. His position on the indivisibility of the two modes of truth or reality and his insistence on its compatibility with the doctrine of dependent arising seem solid and clear. Kong-sprul, too, in his Baiḍūrya’i phreng ba (Lhasa: Bod-ljongs-mi-dmangs-dpe-skrun-khang, 2007, pp. 79.18–80.12) refers to the prophecy but obviously he was not interested in the rDzogs-chen-rde’u-ma but only in the gter ston who is said to appear during that time. At any rate, more careful study needs to be done on the rDzogs-chen-rde’u-ma. In the mean time, see also Martin 1996: 188–189 (i.e. Dan Martin, “The Star King and the Four Children of Pehar — Popular Religious Movements of Eleventh- to Twelfth-century Tibet.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 49 (1/2), 1996, pp. 171–195).


  1. I do wonder what the pebbles would have to do with it. In case of pebble divination, you often find rdel and still other spellings in place of rde'u. Check out Roerichs' Blue Annals, p. 863, where there is a Mahâmudra pebble cycle, with the stages between Sangsara & Sahajajñâna from counted out with the help of 175 pebbles. On the seven pebble cycle, if you don't mind, I'll quote from the "Star King" article:

    "Bso Kha-'tham, could be identical to the Bla-ma Sro-ba who taught something called the Great Perfection Seven Pebble Cycle (Rdzogs-chen Rde'u Skor Bdun). Bu-ston's polemic attributes this cycle to him, although under variant form of his name Srog-khang Thabs-shes. According to a late testimony, the seven pebbles are summarized [by Sog-bzlog-pa, of course] as follows: 1) There are no past or future lives. 2) There is no cause, no result. 3) There is no virtue, no sin. 4) At the time of death one becomes a Buddha. The skull discarded, it will be enough. 5) Whether you stick your arm inside a black yak-hair bag or stick it in a black goat-skin bellow makes no difference. 6) Whether you visualize Great Compassion or visualize a white snow mountain makes no difference. 7) Counting Mani prayers or imitating donkey braying makes no difference."

    Pretty radical, huh! I don't think "negative intellect" quite captures the breathtaking nihilism. I think many adherents of non-Buddhist traditions would agree with 1, and 5-7.

  2. Actually, if they were 'little arrows' (mde'u), it would make better sense than the pebble thing. Still, I wouldn't rule out 'riddles' (lde'u).

  3. Dear Dan,

    Thank you, as always, and it is very beneficial. I should have known that you already wrote something about it. I studied it only today. BTW, how’s everything?