Roots

The root of improvement is criticism.
The root of wellness is health.
The root of trust is honest truthfulness.
The root of unity is equality.
The root of happiness is sympathy.
The root of good qualities is helping others.
The root of talent is persistence.
The root of nationality is language.
The root of Saṃsāra is self-grasping.
The root of the Transcendent Dharma is the realization of selflessness.

 

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, May 18th 2017, in Rakkar, Himachal Pradesh, India. 

Tibetan text is from a photo being spread among Tibetans online, posted above; author unlisted.)

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Letter Sent to Lama Lhumgompa, by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey

Letter Sent to Lama Lhumgompa
(bla ma lhum sgom pa la bskur ba’i ‘phrin)
by Ch’öjé Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa shes-rab ye-shes, 1135–1203)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, 2016

OṂ SVĀSTI.
[“May all be auspicious.”]

I bow at the feet of the Precious One.
On the marvelous lotus in the sky,
There are thirty-seven pollen beds.
On each and every one of those pollen beds,

Are inconceivably many millions of light-beams.
That is the natural condition of Nirvāṇa.
As for the sole rabbit’s horn supreme,
It beautifies well the twelve wrinkles;

Whomever it strikes is stirred with pain.
The Teachers, essential identity of the Buddhas throughout the three times,
Who are endowed with kindness,
In the fathomless mansion of original deep wisdom,

Reveal the nature of mind in the aspect of Deities of the Absolute Body (dharmakāya).
O Vajra Brother of indestructible realization,
Although the lands we live in have become different,
We meet ultimately, beyond convening or parting.

The one innermost intent to the meaning of the natural condition,
And the three of View, Meditation and Conduct,
Are not encompassed by expression with words:
In actuality, they go beyond intellect and are undefinable.

The innermost intent of the Buddhas throughout the three times,
The spoken dialogues of the Oral Transmissions [Kagyü] of yore,
And the experience of the Yogi, these three,
Can bring matters to resolution, right within one’s mind.

And so it was that the vagabond Buddhist monk, Sheyrab Yéshey, sent this to Lama Lhumgompa.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.

Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey, chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, pages 150-151)

Song of Symbolic Dharmas Necessary for Meditation, by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey

Song of Symbolic Dharmas Necessary for Meditation
(sgom dgos pa’i brda chos kyi mgur)
by Ch’öjé Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa shes-rab ye-shes, 1135–1203)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, 2016

That which is like a brilliantly glowing rainbow,
In the limitless, totally pure sky:
If emptiness and the mode of emptiness are not understood,
Then emptiness will be bound by emptiness.

The wheel of the experience of emptiness
Turns in unbroken continuity;
While the flower that grows in the sky
Seems to have been eaten by the child of a sterile woman.

And so it is that, because the letters of a few pages of final addendum for this song have long since faded [completely or mostly, yal zin], it is bereft of any means of supplementation. Thus an addendum, as found in the other original manuscripts, must be affixed here. This note was written by the Karmapa of the Snowy Mountains (gangs-ri karma-pa, Gangri Karma Rinpoche).

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.

Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey, chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, pages 150-151)

Notes:

  • “The wheel of the experience of emptiness” (stong pa’i nyams myong ’khor lo de): Could also be read as “the wheel of empty experience”, but this seems much less likely to be the (primary) intended meaning, partly because stong pa (technically ‘empty’) was also used in the previous stanza for ‘emptiness’ (where ’emptiness’ is clearly the meaning), rather than the more formal stong pa nyid (‘emptiness’ proper).
  • “While the flower that grows in the sky/ Seems to have been eaten by the child of a sterile woman” (mkha’ la skyes pa’i me tog de/ mo gsham bu yis zos pa ‘dra): It is noteworthy that variations on these images are also used extensively in the Chan/Zen tradition. Their origin is primarily found in the Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras. For a classic Japanese Zen take on the first part, see ‘Flowers in the Sky’ (Kuge) by Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253).
  • “sterile woman” (mo gsham): Also ‘barren woman’, that is, a woman who is unable to conceive a child.
  • “few pages of final addendum” (‘mjug ‘phro shog bu ‘ga’ zhig): Usually this would just entail a brief colophon about the circumstances and author of the composition, but the ‘few pages’ (shog bu ‘ga zhig) raises the question of whether this final addendum was originally more extensive information such as commentary on the two stanzas of this song. This question may well be unanswerable, given the mostly faded status of the letters; although one wonders whether reconstruction might be possible with modern technology.

Letter Poem Sent to the Mahāsiddha T’angtong Gyëlpo Along with the Support of a Fifty Coral Rosary, by Shākya Ch’okden

Featured image above: The Golden Mahāpaṇḍita, Shākya Ch’okden (gser-mdog pan-chen shaa+kya mchog-ldan)

Image below: The Mahāsiddha T’angtong Gyëlpo (grub-chen thang-stong rgyal-po, 1385-1509)

thangthong-gyalpo-sm

Sent to the Mahāsiddha T’angtong Gyëlpo Along with the Support of a Fifty Coral Rosary
(grub chen thang stong rgyal po la byu ru lnga bcu ‘phreng gi rten dang bcas gnang ba)

by the Golden Mahāpaṇḍita, Shākya Ch’okden (gser-mdog pan-chen shaa+kya mchog-ldan, 1428-1507)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

By the manifest display of the Seal which sees whatever appears to be the manifest display of mind,
Yet which does not grasp at mind,
May the feet of the Supreme Siddha who brings appearance and existence under his power,
T’angtong Gyëlpo, long remain firm.

An expression of auspicious interdependent connection,
So that Thou might be sustained for fifty [more] years, this rosary,
In particular is offered with utterly pure faith,
By a monk who upholds the scriptural canon.

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.
Found in the complete works of Shākya Ch’okden, ‘dzam gling sangs rgyas bstan pa’i rgyan mchog yongs rdzogs gnas lngar mkhyen pa’i pandi+ta chen po gser mdog pan chen shaa+kya mchog ldan gyi gsung ‘bum legs bshad gser gyi bdud rtsi bzhugs so, Volume Tsa, page 104

Notes:

  • “By the manifest display of the Seal which sees whatever appears to be the manifold display of mind” (cir snang sems kyi rnam rol tu gzigs nas/ sems kyang ‘dzin med phyag rgya rnam rol gyis): Here rnam rol (manifold/manifest/miraculous display/manifestation) is used twice; arguably the meaning is somewhat different and could be translated differently for each instance.
  • “Seal” (phyag rgya): mudrā, as in mahāmudrā (Tib. phyag rgya chen po)
  • “scriptural canon” (sde snod): Generally, the three ‘baskets’ (Skt. piṭaka) of the canonical Buddhist teachings, that is, the Sūtra Piṭaka, Vinaya Piṭaka and Abhidharma Piṭaka. 
  • “fifty years” (lnga bcu’i lor): On the same subject, the dates of T’angtong Gyëlpo’s life and death appear to be highly disputed. His birth date is listed variously as 1361 or 1385, and his death date as 1464, 1485 and 1509. Assuming they are all equally valid, that means that he could have lived to be anywhere between 79 and 147 years old! Since his contemporary Shākya Ch’okden’s own lifespan from 1428-1507 is a far more settled issue, 1385-1509, or perhaps 1385-1485, seems the most probable for the dates of T’angtong Gyëlpo’s lifespan. RigpaWiki’s entry on T’angtong Gyëlpo, probably a more reliable resource than Wikipedia’s entry, lists it as 1385-1509. It thus appears likely that T’angtong Gyëlpo did outlive Shākya Ch’okden by about two years, which is remarkable given that the former was the latter’s elder by at least 43 years.

Song of the Seven Essentials, by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey

Song of the Seven Essentials (gces pa bdun gyi mgur)
by Ch’öjé Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa shes-rab ye-shes, 1135–1203)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

 
OṂ SWĀSTI.

When the precious human life is attained,
Practicing the precious Transcendent Dharma is essential.
When the precious instructions are obtained,
Staying in hermitage at isolated places is essential.

For persons with few antidotes,
The instruction on mindfulness of ripened effects is essential.
If the mind is not humbled even after getting old,
The instruction on counting numbers of years is essential.

For great fixation on Saṃsāra,
The instruction on cutting off the dynamic energy of Saṃsāra is essential.
For the arising of anger in the mind-stream,
The instruction on mindfulness of generating Awakened Mind (bodhicitta) is essential.

For attachment to wealth and companions,
The instruction on the powerlessness of friends is essential.
The vagabond priest, Sheyrab Yéshey,
Took up these seven essentials in melody.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.

Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey, chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, pages 150-151)

Notes:

“persons with few antidotes” (gnyen po chung ba): someone who does not employ countermeasures and remedies to their delusions and negative actions

“ripened effects” (rnam min): the ripened results of karma

“counting numbers of years” (lo grangs brtsis pa): could refer to counting the number of years of one’s age or counting the number of years one has left to live, or possibly both.

“cutting off the dynamic energy of Saṃsāra” (‘khor ba rtsal gcod): must mean ‘khor ba’i rtsal gcod (pa). The word for ‘dynamic energy’, rtsal, can also mean, depending on the context, expressive power, creative power, resourcefulness, display, creativity, agility, manifestation, strength, acrobatics, artistry, craft, external energy, skill, function, existential dynamics, potency, external projection, reflection, dexterity, prowess, adroitness, manifestative power, stunt, exterior manifestation of energy, reflective capacity, objectifying energy of potentiality of manifestation, the capacity of energy to project itself externally (just as a crystal illuminated by a ray of light has the capacity to project infinite rainbow colored rays around itself), etc.

“the powerlessness of friends” (grogs dbang med pa): the inability of friends to help one at the time of death

 

 

Personal Experiential Feelings of the Yogi, by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey

Personal Experiential Feelings of the Yogi (rnal ‘byor rang gi nyams tshor)
by Ch’öjé Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa shes-rab ye-shes, 1135–1203)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, 2016
The intrinsically liberated original nature of mind:
Don’t let it be constrained by the knot of conceptual activity.
With body and all resources,
Day and night make offerings to the Precious Treasure of the Teacher.

All day and all night, practice the Transcendent Dharma:
When seeing that this has true essence,
If meditation is cultivated upon fathoming its great significance,
Visions of experience will come to dawn.

And so it is that, since no colophon is written here, one should be written, as found in the other texts. This note was written by the Karmapa of the Snowy Mountains (gangs-ri karma-pa, Gangri Karma Rinpoche).

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.

Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey, chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, pages 150-151)

Letter Poem to Jangch’ub Kyab, by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey

Missive to Master Jangch’ub Kyab (dpon byang-chub skyabs la sbkur-ba)
by Ch’öjé Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa shes-rab ye-shes, 1135–1203)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

 

If original mind, the Absolute Body (dharmakāya), is not realized,

Then even staying in forest retreats is just paying rent.

If, in the realization of the mind of indivisible emptiness and compassion,

Which has neither center nor edge,

 

Mindfulness is without distraction,

Then even staying on the homestead is the hermitage supreme.

And so it is that I beseech thee not to let thy mind be depressed about the maintenance of households and monasteries; for if embraced with the excellent aspiration of Awakened Mind (bodhicitta), it becomes the Dharma.

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.

Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Sheyrab Yéshey, chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, pages 150-151.

 

Notes:

“just paying rent” (khral ‘jal): khral literally means ‘tax’ (and is still the common Tibetan term for taxation), but in older usage can also mean ‘rent’, as it probably does here.