lamas-and-emperors



Dam pa Kun dga’ grags (胆巴国师, 1230-1303.)

Other than his teacher, Pakspa, Dampa is the most influential Tibetan lama to the Yuan Dynasty. Dampa means “subtle and mysterious.” According to “Yuanshi (元史, The History of Yuan Dynasty.)”, his date of birth is not certain: he lived in the same time period with Pakspa. However, according to “Danbabei (胆巴碑, The Memorial of Dampa.)”, he was born in 1230, studied Buddhist scriptures from when he was young, and had a deep relationship with Sakyapa learning. When he became 24 in 1253, he went to Western India to study Buddhism. According to “Lidaifozutongzai (历代佛祖通载)”he was born in mdo-kham region (突甘斯旦麻), now is part of Tibetan autonomous regions of Sichuan province and Qinghai province.

When Dampa went to China, he was ordered to reside in the Shouning Temple on the Wutaishan. In 1272, he went to the capital (Yanjing) and gave esoteric initiations to princes and lords. In 1282, he asked the Emperor earnestly to be allowed return to the West because he could not get along with the Chancellor at the time, Hsiang-ko (Sangge). Then he was recalled and banished to Chaozhou. When he was in Chaozhou, the wife of the Deputy Commissioner of the Military Council got a strange illness, and Dampa cured Chengzong of sickness by praying for him. During the Yuanchen period (1295-1296), Qaidu violated the borders of Tibet. Chengzong asked Dampa to pray to Mahākāla, after which a letter reporting victory indeed arrived. He also prayed for an end to Chengzong’s illness which was cured instantly.

Dampa is reputed to have been a ‘swift runner’ (rkang-mgyogs) in the special tantric sense. He wrote nothing but bestowed tantric initiations upon suitable disciples, producing spontaneous enlightenment in some of them. Dampa was a person who influenced the cultural, political, and religious aspects of the relationship between the Yuan Dynasty and Tibet.

Sources:
  • 周生文, 阵庆英, "大元蒂师八思巴在玉树的活动,西藏研究 No. 34. (1990)
  • 周生文, 阵庆英, “元代藏族名僧胆巴国师考,” 中国藏学 No. 9. (1990)