“The timing [of this book] could not be better. As our modern world experiences a loss of heart and humanity, and climactic changes and disasters occur, we need the compassionate, wise, and potent energy of Gesar more than ever.”—from the foreword by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
The Epic of Gesar of Ling: Gesar's Magical Birth, Early Years, and Coronation as Kingby Robin Kornman
The first and only English translation of the centuries-old Tibetan spiritual allegory of King Gesar, a tale on a par with The Arabian Nights or the King Arthur stories.
For hundreds of years, versions of the Gesar of Ling epic have been sung by bards in Tibet, China, Central Asia, and across the eastern Silk Route. King Gesar, renowned throughout/b>/i>… See more details below
The first and only English translation of the centuries-old Tibetan spiritual allegory of King Gesar, a tale on a par with The Arabian Nights or the King Arthur stories.
For hundreds of years, versions of the Gesar of Ling epic have been sung by bards in Tibet, China, Central Asia, and across the eastern Silk Route. King Gesar, renowned throughout these areas, represents the ideal warrior. As a leader with his people's loyalty and trust, he conquers all their enemies and protects the peace.
The example of King Gesar is also understood as a spiritual teaching. The "enemies" in the stories represent the emotional and psychological challenges that turn people toward greed, aggression, and envy and away from the true teachings of Buddhism.
The epic of Gesar is the longest single piece of literature in the world canon, encompassing some 120 volumes; here the first three volumes are translated, telling of Gesar's birth, his mischievous childhood and his youth spent in exile, and his rivalry for the throne with his treacherous uncle.
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Read an Excerpt
In this time of the five degeneracies of the dark age,9 it is difficult to liberate savage sentient beings from evil karma through the sūtrayāna, the causal vehicle of characteristics, alone. It is even difficult to ripen them through tantra, the fruition vehicle of the secret mantra.10
For their minds are dry as a piece of rock; If you do not carve its hard surface with a chisel, Even if you soak it in a stream, it will not give way. Even if you work it with butter and oil, it will not become flexible. They are too stiff to be bent by the teachings on this life and the next. They will not submit to the restraint of the monastic law.
† One of the epithets of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava.
‡ The five buddha families.
§ One of the epithets of Gesar.
Formerly, during the lives of the three ancestral dharma kings, when the land of Tibet passed from Bön to Buddhism, in order to naturally pacify11 the envy of the vicious gods and demons of Tibet, Padma Tötreng [Lotus Skull Garland] the Mantra Holder bound them by oath. If he had managed to make them swear their oaths of fealty to the buddhadharma three times, then the dharma kings would have been long-lived and their subjects would have enjoyed bliss and happiness. However, powerful demon ministers took control over the subjects and, faced with this opposition, Padma was able to tame and bind the spirits of Tibet only twice, not thrice. This caused war in the four directions and the auspicious coincidence of the glorious gateway, the perfect astrological conjunction,12 was missed. The foreign borderland demons wandered into central Tibet and the dharma kings fell down to the level of commoners.
The whole world in general and in particular the land of Tibet, indeed all lands, changed and became oppressed by suffering. The compassionate mind of the Noble Excellent Great Compassionate One could not bear this, and so he supplicated Amitābha, Lord of Sukhāvatī.13
[Avalokiteśvara supplicates Amitābha to intercede in Tibet.]14
OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ ḤRĪḤ I bow to the refuge, chief of the vast pure realm, Amitābha,15 Lord of Sukhāvatī, in the west. Although compassion is truly unbiased, Look down on this impure place of saṃsāra.
In the ocean of saṃsāra’s suffering, You know how to kill the sea monster of sin. How terrifying are the waves of the five poisons! Minds blinded by obscurations Circle endlessly in saṃsāra, how pitiful! Please compassionately reveal supreme skillful means.16
With these words he reverently supplicated. The blessed one Amitābha answered with these words:
Good, good, O son of noble family; For sentient beings confused by ignorance, If they are not fortunate disciples, it is difficult to guide them.
Thus, if beings in the age of the five degeneracies Have no iron ring of faith,17 Even the teacher who guides beings out of the three worlds Has no way of catching them with the iron hook of compassion.
But in the divine buddha field of the thirty-three18 The father, the great god, Ödden Kar [White Luminosity] And the supreme mother Mandā Lhadzei [Celestial Flower
Divine Beauty] Have a son, Demchog Karpo Ngangyag [White Supreme
Bliss Good Nature]. He and Gyuma Lhadzei [Illusory Divine Beauty] Will unite as E and vam19 and give miraculous birth Through their light rays of unfabricated compassion20 To the child Döndrub [Accomplisher of Benefit], an emanation of their blessings.21 He is Joyful to Hear and delightful to see. If he were to transfer into a human body in Jambudvīpa, That heroic bodhisattva would tame untamable disciples. Sentient beings in the land of Tibet would experience bliss and happiness. There is no doubt they would be liberated from birth in the lower realms. Therefore, you must go to the continent of Cāmara. Supplicate and repeat these words to Padma Tötreng. Strive for the benefit of beings, supreme warrior of the mind. Remember this, E ma ho! *
He graced and honored Avalokiteśvara with these words of prophecy and confirmation.
[Avalokiteśvara visits Padmasambhava to request that he cause the emanation of Gesar.]
* E ma ho! is a Tibetan exclamation of wonder and jubilation.
Then, in a single instant, Avalokiteśvara, the greatly compassionate Lord of Skillful Means, went to Padma Ödkyi Zhalyei Dechen Lhundrub kyi Potrang [Celestial Palace of Lotus Light—Spontaneously Present Exaltation] on the subcontinent of Cāmara. There he found a magnificently terrifying city of rākṣasas, a place so terrifying that it frightens even the death gods and makes the Lord of Life himself, Brahmā, withdraw. A land so terrifying that even the vināyakas shun it, not to mention ordinary men, who cannot even bear the sight of it.
In this place, in order to effect measureless benefit for beings, Avalokiteśvara manifested as a demon cub, wearing a crown made from mother of pearl, enveloped in a halo of glimmering white light. Arriving at the eastern gate of Jampei Künkyab Lingchen [Great Garden of All-Pervading Mercy],22 there a demon minister rākṣasa with seven heads saw the child and said:
What a wonder! What a sight I am seeing this morning!
I would say you are a god, but you look like a demon rākṣasa cub.
I would say you are a demon, but for your aura of light.
Within the walls of Padma Barwei Rawa [Garden of
We sentient beings, confused by ignorance,
Have never seen and would be lucky even to hear of
The coming of such an unfamiliar child.
What is the great aim, the great matter that caused you to journey here alone like this?
Then he sang this song of interrogation:
Lu Ala,23 the song begins. Thala is the melody of the song. These are the demon lands of Cāmara, The country of the impure rākṣasas and demons And the pure land of the vidyādharas and ḍākinīs.
This morning, young child, you suddenly arrived here. Where do you come from, what kind of place? What aim could you have that is of such great import?
If you do not have in mind great matters, Then there is no great reason [don] for coming so far.
If you haven’t been possessed by an evil spirit [gdon], Why would you drown yourself in a river? Only a very serious court case Could put a wealthy man in jail.24
In Cāmara’s Blood Lake of Sin25 The bite of the jaws of the cannibal demons is hotter than fire. The reach of the arms of the cannibal demonesses is longer than a river. The tramens on the hunt race around faster than the wind.
What’s your reason for coming here? Who are your father and mother, their race and religion? Don’t you keep any secrets, tell me straight out.
Honest speech brings success to the monastery. Straight arrows strike the target yonder. If your path is straight, the road between central Tibet and China is
not long.26 One sign is enough for a superior man to understand. If not, it is like whipping an old ox.
If that’s what you need, then look to your precious life. If you understand, I have explained my words. If not, I’m not going to sing them again.
Thus he sang and the boy cub answered, “Oh yes, sir, I understand.27
If the secret pith of the proverb does not emerge, Even though the meaning is profound the secret words will be mute. If you can’t have the results in your hands, All those words are just bubbles of spit. If earth and water do not burgeon in early spring Then the southern turquoise dragon is just a silent venomous snake.28 In the sky Mount Meru is circled by the sun and the moon. If they do not benefit the plains of the four continents Then Meru is neither of benefit nor harm. The sun and the moon would just spin like the heads of brainless dupes
And the people of the four continents would have no appreciation for the virtues of the sun and the moon.29
My cause, on the other hand, is great.30
The continents of black earth come to an edge31 But no one can find the measure of the white clouds above. If my cause is great, I’ll go to China and back in one day32 And I’ll repeat my words again and again.
Of course, I have many stories I could tell, but only to the leader, majestic Padma Tötreng. Take me up the staircase to the imperial assembly hall of the Great Minister. There is no reason to casually explain this great cause to a public gathering. Just as the proverb says:
If you throw the six grains in a meadow, there will be no sprouts. If you plant seeds in a plowed field, then you get results.
So the tale I must tell is like this,” and he sang this song:
OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ HRĪḤ
I supplicate the transcendent dharma.33 May I hold to the natural state of ultimate emptiness.
In case you do not recognize the likes of me, I am the beloved child Künphen Nyinje [All-Benefiting Compassion]. My father is Jangsem Künkyab Gön [Compassionate
Sovereign Lord]. My mother is Tongnyid Chödrön [Emptiness Dharma Torch]. This morning I came from the Plain of Great Bliss. The goal I seek is the benefit of self and other;34 My destination is the isle of Cāmara; My request is to master Skull Garland. Thus, as the ancient proverb says:
Though merchandise from China is essential to central Tibet, It is not that the farmers of central Tibet are lacking in wealth,
It is that this sustains the mental link between China and Tibet. Though empowerments and teachings are essential between master
and disciple, Passing them down does not mean the teachings are not precious, It is that this sustains the samaya link between aspiration and path. Though the great minister is essential to the district and its chief, It is not that without the minister the system is unable to function, It is that this is the way the status of both the government and
monasteries is displayed.
The real meaning of my words I offer to you. Please intercede on behalf of my humble self. When you make your request to the leader, bare your heart. The extent of his compassion will depend on karma.
My import is not small; it is of great importance. Of great import is the general welfare of beings. If it were unimportant, why would I have come?
Futile wandering in borderlands, Buying famine itself, Those who suffer not, yet throw themselves into deep gorges, Have let their life force be carried away by demons. The wealthy who carry their goods on their heads35 Are just asking for their wealth to be squandered. The mighty who oppress the many Will cast themselves down in self-humiliation. The humble who presume to utter proud words Will just close themselves off from receiving any benefit.36
Things such as these are indeed pointless.
But into the hall of Lord Rākṣa Skull Garland I had no choice but to enter. May you deeply consider and seize me with your compassion. I offer this narrative story; Please let my words enter your mind and heart.
Thus he requested and the demon minister replied, “Hey, you!37 Since ancient times our demon king Rākṣa Skull Garland’s royal lineage has had terribly strict rulers. Their law strikes hot as lightning bolts. Their sovereignty covers the country, vaster than the blue sky. Their clout is mightier than Rāhu.38 What can a little gypsy kid the likes of you hope for? Even when we who are the interior ministers stand before such kings, we are just waiting to be punished even if we have done nothing wrong. They are ready to jump on us for no reason or arrest us for no real cause. They are ready to gobble up the flesh of a living man and gulp down the blood of a live horse. In this lineage there have been such men. This king’s guts seem to have broadened and his mind, which is empty in nature yet full of mercy, unites all three temperaments: peaceful, wrathful, and relaxed.39In recent generations they have all been the same that way:
Like sleeves cut from the same pattern or beads chosen from the same
In the strictness of our monastic law and the law of the land
‘Roots and sticks are not to be mixed!’ 40
I am ready to ask whether you will be well received. Otherwise we both will be like an old ox leaping into the river when it is thirsty, or an old cow heading for grass, or an old donkey driven by rain. No one has ever dared to informally barge in on him.
Generally when you visit a temple, you offer the guru there a white scarf. If you are able to greet him, what do you have as a presentation offering?”
Avalokiteśvara answered: “I have the thirty varieties of formal presentation offerings. If you want to count them, they are: as dharma the six-syllable maṇi mantra, as path the six perfections along with the six objects of outer appearance, the six consciousnesses of inner knowing, and the six gates of the sense faculties that lie in between. Are these suitable presentation offerings?”41
When he had said this, the minister answered, “I can’t really say if that will be acceptable.
The more the poor man values food,
The more the rich man tightens his stomach for him.
The more the rich man values a horse,
The more stubborn-headed the merchant is on his selling price.
The way it is, the dzomo of a poor person is like a horse,
But for a great band of robbers it is nothing but a quick snack on the
The jackal that usually eats horses
Sometimes wonders ’perhaps this sheep would do?’
Who knows what will be satisfactory as a presentation offering? At the same time I cannot say that these presentation offerings would not do.
The sacred symbol, the souvenir of a pilgrimage to Tsari Mountain,
Is really nothing but a nine-node bamboo stick.43
To import chao hsi tea,* you must transport across hill and dale,
But anybody with money can have a pinch of it if they want.
Indeed the worth could then exceed a nugget of silver the size of a
Are these things you bring of great value or tiny and insignificant?” The boy responded, “Indeed, they are not great, for this is just the precious jewel of being free and well-favored,44 the two spans and four cubits of the human body. On the other hand, they are not meager, because if you possess the power of analysis, you can see that they are the inexhaustible provisions for this life and the next, the karmic wealth that fulfills all wishes in saṃsāra, the wish-fulfilling gem, so difficult to acquire.”
[The demon minister continues] “But if you do not possess an analytical mind,45 then these things are the anchor of the three poisons in the ocean of saṃsāra, the stick that drives us with happiness and sadness,46 a sack full of filth. Well now, whoever you are, I will request that you be received into his presence. Wait here for a moment,” he said, and he entered the palace.
[Padmasambhava and Avalokiteśvara finally meet, but in a mystical way.]
There on top of a wrathful seat of corpses,47 on a dazzlingly beautiful throne of gold, sat Lotus Rākṣa Skull Garland [Padmasambhava] himself, his mind resting in meditation on the great nature of phenomena. Even though he already understood that Avalokiteśvara was waiting outside, Padmasambhava feigned ignorance and said to the great rākṣa minister with seven heads:
“Hey, you! This morning, who was that singing pointless songs, chanting
* Jasmine tea.
unceasing melodies, and repeating imbecilic words? What great purpose does he aim to attain? Who does he trust? To whom does he bow down?” The minister thought to himself, “Even though he’s sitting on his lordly throne, his bright eyes see the bridge outside.”
It seems that the sun is traversing the sky, But its light pervades Jambudvīpa. It seems that the southern clouds 48 are piled in the sky, But they rain across the dense earth.
He thought that Padmasambhava in his chamber had probably seen everything that had just happened outside and said to him, “Oh Precious Crest Jewel, in the varicolored hundred thousand demon villages of great bliss, at the eastern gate of the iron wall49 named Jampei Künkyab Lingchen, a little boy who is not a human and not a demon, who is not a god, but has an aura of white light, has dropped in. He says that he has a matter of pith and importance to impart. Listen carefully and focus the silk scarf of your hearing. Please, Lord, direct your mind.” With these words he prostrated three times and then sang this informative song:
Lu Ala, sing the song this way. Above in the Ruby Palace, Amitābha of Uḍḍiyāṇa, know me!* May I and all sentient beings filling space Attain the state of a deathless awareness holder.
Seated on top of a jeweled throne with a peaceful and wrathful corpse50 On a blazing lotus, Leader in this life, dear lord and chief, listen. Guide in the next life, O guru, listen, Buddha who benefits us in both this and future lives. This morning when the golden rays of the royal parasol51 Struck the peak of [Zangdog] Pelri [Glorious Copper-
* “Know me!” (Tib. mkhyen) is a salutation used when a disciple is invoking a deity, asking for its attention and blessing.
At the eastern gate of Jampei Künkyab Lingchen,
In the middle of the Plain of Great Bliss,
Appeared a beautiful little boy radiating light,
Embellished with garlands of light rays and rainbows.
He said his name is Künphen Nyinje.
He said his great purpose is the limitless benefit of beings
And that he must be presented directly to you, the leader of
He said there is no time to spare.
This great utterance of the field of generosity, If not a skillful way of offering, Is a sign that the guru is a learned master. That purification of the cause of a succession of crimes, If not extortion exacted by a minister, Is the yoke oppressing the mighty chieftain. The heat-covering storm clouds in the sky, If not the devouring mouths of the eight classes, Are the timely rain that helps to ripen the six grains. The prayers of a humble beggar, If not hunger’s call for help, Are the white silk scarf of the humble beggar’s pure intentions.
Although I could not grasp his thought, I am still obliged to speak on his behalf.
This long presentation scarf of his formal request52
Is difficult for this minister to pass on to you.
The essential point in his request seems to be
That he would like permission to come before your golden throne.
Forgive this fool for filling the golden palace of your ears with this news,
However, if the affair is important, I have served your honor.
If you hear and understand my offering song,
Then please give your reply to what he has requested.53
Thus he requested and the magnificent Skull Garland Lotus answered: “Oh, Excellent! According to the examples in the proverbs:
To the guru who is a guide and a teacher,
Better abandonment of evil deeds than a hundred offerings.
To the chief whose sovereignty is vast,
Better the straight truth than a hundred presentation offerings.
When you begin to accumulate merit,
Better an auspicious connection54 than a hundred material
Today, in the Fire Monkey year, the eighth day of the first moon, on the day of the glorious gate of auspicious coincidence, whichever he is of the eight classes of beings, whether lha, nyen, lu, or human,* now quickly allow him to enter and stand before me.”
Then the minister went out to the gate but the little boy had disappeared without a trace. There should have been some sign of him, but instead it was like the proverb:
No tracks of the bird in the sky; No path of wind for the bird; No prints of the mouse on the ground No hiding hole for the mouse.
But straight ahead there was a golden lotus with eight petals; upon its stamen stood a white HRĪḤ. On the petals, the syllables OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ HRĪḤ ĀḤ55 were repeating their own sounds. He thought, “How strange. What shall I declare to the chief? How will I explain this to the ministers? What will I say to the servants? What will I proclaim to the people?”His mind flipped back and forth twelve times; he came up with at least twenty-five stratagems.56 Finally he thought,
“Since the empty mind is inexhaustible, There is no exhausting the intelligence of a great man.57 If you do not clamp down on your little tongue, There is no end to the speech of learned ones.
* “Whether lha, nyen, lu, or human” (Tib. lha, gnyan, klu, mi)—that is, gods, nyen (mountaindwelling spirits), nāgas (gods, mountain spirits, serpents, water-dwelling spirits), and humans—a traditional division of beings into four orders.
If you do not measure the step of your little feet,
There is no end to the length of a dirt path.
If it does not reach the blue water,
There is no end to the blazing red fire.
This time it is like:
A support without blessings,
Like the relics of a pig;58
A mumble without clarity,
Like a mute explaining the taste of brown sugar.59
Although it may be pointless to try to describe this with words, maybe I can carry it in my hands. I guess that person I saw this morning must have been some kind of magical emanation. So it seems that this flower here might be his magic. If that’s so, then why not carry the flower in and place it before the king? Just this morning the king said a person with merit needs an auspicious connection.60 And after all, the king gave me orders, saying, ‘Whether it is a god or a demon, bring it in’. Since this thing is an intangible rainbow-like form, perhaps this is a magician’s trick or a magician’s basis for transformation.61 Whether good or bad, I know that it is something miraculous!
Even though there is no one here to give his message to, I’ll just have to take this thing that has appeared here inside and offer it.”
This is a matter of pleasing the white snow mind and
Of what seems lovely to these colorful eyes.62
He thought it must be some kind of auspicious sign, so he picked up the flower and carried it to the door of Padmasambhava’s [Skull Garland’s] private chambers, called Self-Appearing Lotus. The flower in his hand turned into a white light the size of the moon and dissolved into the heart center of the demon king Rākṣa Skull Garland.
[Avalokiteśvara calls upon Padmasambhava to create the incarnation of
Gesar from primordial ultimate mind.]63
Then through the self-clarity of his wisdom intent, the Great Compassionate Avalokiteśvara sang this song, easily comprehended, which invokes the mind stream.64
OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ HRĪḤ
From the pure land of the Blazing Lotus Blessed One Amitābha, know me. You who are supreme in the lotus family, Treasure of
Omniscience, Miraculous king, please heed me!
It is difficult to tame the wilderness land of Tibet. In the kingdom of the land of snow, Nine oath-breaking demon65 kings and ministers uttered perverted aspiration prayers. When they transferred from that life They were reborn as:
The eastern demon [māra of the east], Southern Throne
Tiger Eye, The southern demon, Poison Tree of Sadam, The western demon, Lutsen [Nāga Might] of the Mu clan, The northern demon, Gurkar, White Tent The’u Rang Cub,66 Turquoise Peak67 Luminous Child, Earth Lord King Nyenrawa, The Lion Demon Asê Khyilpa, The barbarian Demon King Shingtri, And the general demons of the world such as Black Bear, and so on.68 Each one of them is surrounded by an innumerable retinue, The visible enemies and the invisible demonic forces Who are to be the culprit leaders inflicting misery on the land of Tibet. They will treat the teachings of cause and effect and the Rare and Precious Three Jewels with contempt. They will lead all sentient beings down the path to the lower realms. They will sow the seeds of the lowest possible realms. Oh pity the ignorant beings in saṃsāra! The great powerful one who tames the difficult to tame, Great being, divine child, Joyful to Hear, The primordially pure is self-liberated.69
May the five families of the victorious ones grant him empowerment. May the protectors of the three families bless him. As the nirmāṇakāya who tames the vicious, It falls upon you to invoke your samaya.70 Therefore, protector of beings, don’t be idle.
Thus he supplicated. And then Nangsid Zilnön [Lotus Skull Garland] smiled, his heart glad, and replied, “Good,” and sang these words in a sweet melody:
Kye Ho! O supreme bodhisattva, very good! Your striving for the benefit of beings is excellent. In the limitless sky of your enlightened mind of bodhicitta The white luminous moon of your compassion shines upon others. The innumerable constellations are your aspiration prayers. Your kindness eliminates the darkness of ignorance.71
Like the moon in the midst of the lunar mansions, You are the child who binds the phenomenal world in servitude. Great bodhisattva, hearing you brings rejoicing and liberation. You are the lord who embodies the activity of all the buddhas.
All the victors are one in the space of wisdom. The buddha nature of the sugatas pervades all sentient beings. Accordingly, in order to liberate all unrealized saṃsāric beings, The sugatas cannot help but fulfill their vows to benefit beings. Protector, whatever you intend for others’ benefit Will come true for sentient beings. May your practice of the perfection of aspiration be complete.72
In this way he prayed and confirmed the invocation of the sacred vow of all the sugatas of the ten directions. Even the demon minister of this sambhogakāya field of disciples was established in bliss through liberation upon the sight of that which is astonishing. Then the Great Compassionate One departed for Potala Mountain.
[Padma causes the birth of the future Gesar as the godling Thöpa Gawa,
Joyful to Hear.]73
Later, on the holy day when the ḍākas and the ḍākinīs gather, the tenth day of the lunar month, deathless Lotus Skull Garland himself was surrounded by a vast assembly performing a tantric feast.* While he was dwelling in the samādhi of the all-pervading dharmadhātu, from the top of his head he emitted a green ray of light, which invoked the mind stream of the dharmadhātu Samantabhadra [Always Excellent]. Then, from the heart center of the dharmadhātu Samantabhadra, there emanated a five-pointed blue vajra marked in the center with the syllable hūṂ.† It radiated out and went tothe garden Tsasum Gawa [ Joyful Three Roots] and entered the top of the head of the godling Demchog Karpo Ngangyag. He experienced inexpressible bliss and had a vision in which he became the wrathful deity Heruka Hayagrīva, the Neighing Horse.74
From the heart center of Dhātviśvarī‡ Mother of Basic of Space emanated a red lotus with sixteen petals, the anthers marked with the syllable ĀḤ.§ It radiated light, which entered into the top of the head of Gyuma Lhadzei. An inexpressible meditation experience blazed within her, and she had a vision that she transformed into the Vajra Sow Vajravārāhī. Then Hayagrīva and Vajravārāhī joined in passionless union.75
The sound of their union of bliss and emptiness invoked the mindstreams of the sugatas of the ten directions. From the heart centers of the blessed ones, the victorious ones of the five families, various colored lights emanated in the ten directions, cleansing the obscurations of the five poisons of all sentient beings. The lights gathered back here and transformed into a crossed double vajra, the essence of the activity of all the tathāgatas of the ten directions.
That vajra entered into the crown of the head of Demchog Karpo, where it was melted by the fire of exaltation. Then that became the energy of wisdom wind
* Sanskrit, gaṇacakra.
† HŪṂ: the seed syllable of enlightened mind.
‡ Tib. dbyings phyug ma; Yingchugma.
§ ĀḤ: the seed syllable of enlightened speech.
(prajñā), which entered into the space76 of Gyuma Lhadzei and was blessed as the nirmāṇakāya.77 A moment later, the god child miraculously appeared in her lap, blazing with magnificent dignity and splendor. To see him brought liberation. To hear him brought joy. As soon as he was born he began to recite the sound of the hundred-syllable mantra.78
Upon an eight-petaled golden lotus he floated in the air in vajra posture the height of an arrow length. He raised up this song, which teaches the meaning of cause and fruition.79
OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ HRĪḤ
From the pure land Akaniṣṭha, Bhagavat of the five families of the victorious ones, know me. For I and all sentient beings equal to space Please naturally pacify discursive thoughts of the five poisons. May we meet the wisdoms of the five kāyas.80
If you see the sole essence of the dharmakāya, Buddhahood is delivered in the palm of your hand. Nevertheless, for ignorant sentient beings, Even if you explain it, it is difficult to understand.
According to the interpretable meaning, if gods and humans wish to be Protected from the fear of saṃsāra, They must seek refuge in the Three Rare and Supreme Ones
[Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha]. If they wish to pacify suffering naturally in its own place Then they must generate bodhicitta, which holds others dearer than self. Beings of the three lower realms, barbarians, and erring gods, Those of perverted views, inhabitants of lands without dharma, and the mute: When you are free from the faults of these negative eight states of being81 And when you are born in the central land, with faculties whole, with faith, Without reversed karma, inclined to virtue,82 Then, if you do not practice the holy dharma,
What will happen when the one known as Yama comes? Lord of Death, the sharp and swift, He comes whether good or bad, to friend and foe alike.
The high ones famed as the sun and the moon
May seem to pervade the four continents with their rays,
Yet it is unheard of that they would eclipse planet Rāhu with their light.
Likewise the high kings should think on this.
The red rock cliffs are high and mighty.
Only the vulture can make its way to them.
Yet it is unheard of that they would beat their rival, the lightning meteoric iron.
Likewise the mighty unrivaled aristocracy should think on this.
In the third month of summer, tiny creatures cover the ground.
At harvest time one covering of frost destroys their precious lives.
Likewise the lowly and humble should think on this.
Generally, at first you are born in your dear mother’s lap.
You are fed with soft food, the delicious three sweets.
You are dressed in soft clothes and silk brocade.
In the middle time, you are distracted by saṃsāric activities;
You turn the wheel of passion and aggression with friends and enemies.
If you are high up, that’s not enough, for you fear that you may plunge;
If low, you will suffer from taxes, war, and forced labor.
Neither the strong nor the weak have protection from their inevitable end.
You suffer from fear of others’ contempt.
If you are rich, you suffer because you can’t sustain your livelihood.
If poor, you suffer by not being able to feed your face or clothe your back.
The suffering of human life is endless, and inexhaustible, Tossed about on the wind of four hundred illnesses; There are many ways to die from the onset of sudden obstacles. When you are old, you can’t bear up against sickness, Your old body is like a dead tree on a river bank; It is rare for someone to listen to the words of the aged. The old mind gathers all the suffering of the world, When finally you are struck by a long fatal illness83 All sweet and delicious flavors nauseate you, Your soft warm bed becomes harder than stone, You become fed up with taking beneficial medicines, The sleep guardian84 gets you angry, Your grunts and groans are inexhaustible, A day and a night take forever to pass, Your spells and divinations reverse auspicious coincidence.85 Your life, so preciously guarded and pent within, Even though you have pure dharmas; now it is too late to plant virtuous roots.86 For the stingy who held back generosity, It is really too late to hope for help in the forty-nine days.87 On the day when death has finally come, Taking medicine is like trying to drive a stake* into a stone; On the day when you are facing Yama, Lord of Death, Averting ceremonies are like using a torch made of water.
When the glorious gate of merit turns upside down,88 No matter how hard you work, all you get are blisters.
When vitality and windhorse are upside down,89 All worldly skills are like bubbles in water. The castle of the dralas is turned away90 And this enemy fortress will take away one’s life. The mighty warrior whose heart was once brave At the moment of death is a lump piled with earth.
* Phurba, an ancient dagger.
A rich man’s avaricious inner stores91
Amount to a wooden stake of attachment driven into the ground.92
His whole life spent pursuing illusory food and clothes,
At the hour of his death, he is naked with empty hands.
Even the high king on his golden throne
Must pillow his head that day on cold earth,
And the queen with silken robes on her back
Burns in an oven, clothed in red flames.
Even the youthful tigers in their prime, with their six attributes of a warrior,
Are dragged on the ground by the king of birds,*
And the wise mothers and aunts
Are bound head to foot by the black rope.
In the Frightening Red Charnel Ground,
On the day when the pale corpse is hacked to pieces by the knife and the ax,
Alas! It is too late for regret.
The hot and cold of hell is unbearable.
The hungry ghosts are starving and parched.
The animals, mute and stupid, lose their freedom.
The warring jealous gods struggle and die by the knife.
And we gods of the higher realms,
Though spared illness and aging, are carried away by distractions.
Seven days before death the portents of the god’s death arise;
The brightness of his lovely palaces fades,
His dear wife withdraws far away,
His garlands of sweet smelling flowers wither,
His body starts to stink and its light dims.
The negative experience of cause and effect blazes up in terrible suffering;
* The vulture.
Now even regret is merely cause for more suffering.93
All you heedless and crazy beings of the six realms
Do not wander; turn your awareness inward.
Lord gurus, determine to resolve the nature of mind.94
Imperial rulers, do not mistreat the law of cause and effect.
Mighty warriors, do not disturb the policy of the king.
Rich men, offer up and give down most generously.
Common people, do prostrations, circumambulations, and recite the MAṆI mantra.
Through a precious human life there is no virtue that cannot be accomplished.
Exert yourself with as much vigilance as possible.
I am Vajrasattva himself,
The primordially pure dharmadhātu Samantabhadra.
O beings pervaded by impure illusions,
Listen to this song’s words and think through their actual meaning.95
Hold this jewel close.
If you do not understand, there is no way to explain it.96
Thus he proclaimed the great sound of dharma according to the minds and dialects of all animate and inanimate beings.
[Thöpa Gawa is empowered with the five Buddha families.]97
At that time, on Zangdog Pelri in Cāmara, the Master, Lotus Skull Garland, knew that the time had come to confer empowerment on Thöpa Gawa. From his forehead, white rays of light invoked the mind stream of the Buddha Vairocana in Akaniṣṭha. From Padma’s heart center, blue rays of light invoked the mind of Akṣobhya in Abhirati. From his navel, yellow rays of light evoked the mind stream of Ratnasambhava in the buddha field Pelden Palden [Endowed with Glory]. From his throat center, red rays of light invoked the mind stream of Amitābha in Sukhāvatī. From his secret center, green rays of light invoked Amoghasiddhi in the buddha field of Lerab Dzog [All-Accomplishing Activity]. Then Padmasambhava raised this song in order to supplicate for the fruition of the truth.
[Padma invokes the five Buddhas in order to empower Thöpa Gawa.]
The perfectly pure five poisons are the five wisdoms. I invoke the sacred oath [samaya] from unborn space. The perfectly pure five elements are the five goddesses Arising for the benefit of beings from unceasing space. From the supreme method of the empty nature of phenomena. Prajñā shines as the embodiment of compassion. To this nirmāṇakāya who will guide beings, Grant empowerment so that he may conquer the hordes of māras. This is the ultimate song of self-luminosity.
According to common worldly proverbs:
It is a sorry guru who has neither empowerment nor textual
transmission. It is a sorry student who lacks the sacred vows of samaya. It is a sorry ruler who has no supporters to honor and magnify him, And sorry subjects who lack good manners. Weapons which are neither sharp nor tempered, Even if they have both handle and sheath, cannot handle the enemy. If you have the main six herbal ingredients, but not the additives,98 Even if the medicine is pleasing and fragrant it will not heal. A field which has not been worked Will not bear fruit even if the six grains are sown.
So therefore let us enthrone, praise, and honor him. Sever the life force of the enemy with the weapon of compassion,99 Heal the six realms with the medicine of blessings, Spread enlightened activity through the field of disciples, And pray that all sentient beings be liberated. May there be the auspiciousness of the complete accomplishment of all wishes.
With these words he invoked the samaya vow of the compassionate minds [of the five Buddhas and their consorts].
[Buddha Vairocana gives the empowerment of body and names the divine child.]
Then in Akaniṣṭha, from Vairocana’s forehead, light rays streamed out in the ten directions. They purified the obscurations of ignorance of all sentient beings and gathered back here in the form of the syllable oṂ representing the enlightened body blessings of the sugatas of the ten directions. This became a white wheel with eight spokes. The wheel traveled in the realm of the mid-heavens to rest directly in front of the divine child. From it came the self-proclaiming sound resounding with these words:100
From the self-appearing wisdom of dharmadhātu, At the moment of your birth, you are the lord of beings. You are the king who possesses various magical emanations. You dispel delusions from the deluded minds Of all confused sentient beings Who are pitifully unclear, befuddled by the eight confusions.* Through laziness, doubt, and delusion, And ignorance due to conceptual obscurations, Though free, they are still distracted by saṃsāric activities; Though well-favored, they are too lazy for dharma. When the time of death finally arrives:
Though the guru lacking dharma wears a golden hat, Shining to show his lofty rank, He will have trouble finding the path to the next life. The leader who lacks a gentle mind, Whose tyranny shows he is strong in the law, Will be punished by karma as he punishes others Like a man struck by a stone he throws in the air.101 The disciple with no samaya, Whose open mind shows him to be learned,102 Has empty talk which is nothing but a mist of spit.
* This probably refers to the eight worldly dharmas, which are: praise and criticism, pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, gain and loss.
The rich man with no generosity, Though he has collected wealth through avarice, At the time of death will be naked and empty-handed. These are the characteristics of saṃsāra.
On this noble being is bestowed The name Thöpa Gawa. When the name of this Buddha, endowed with blessings, Is heard it brings joy and exhausts negativity. If this leader with vast sovereignty remains, He will bring happiness to the kingdoms of the world. May his presence defeat the enemies of the four directions. May everyone who meets him be free from rebirth in the lower realms. May everyone who sees him enter into the pure lands. Buddha Abhiśinytsa OṂ*
After the wheel had uttered these words, it dissolved into the child’s forehead. From this day on he was known as Thöpa Gawa [ Joyful to Hear].
[Buddha Akṣobhya gives the empowerment of the enlightened mind of the Vajra Buddha family.]
Then, in the eastern pure land of Abhirati, from the heart center of Akṣobhya, light rays streamed forth. They purified the obscurations of aggression of all sentient beings and gathered back in the form of a blue five-pointed vajra, the embodiment of the mind blessings of the victorious ones, and then dissolved into the heart center of the divine child. As a result he mastered the treasury of samādhi. Then the entire assembly of the five buddha families holding jeweled vases filled with amṛta offered to bathe him, saying:
From the great vajra space of emptiness Flows the nectar of mirror-like wisdom.
* This is the mantra that confers empowerment. It ends with om, the seed syllable of enlightened body.
May the weapons of vajra aggression Conquer the hosts of enemies, The poisons of the ignorant angry sentient beings of saṃsāra.
The guru who has no compassion,
Even though he exerts himself in mantra recitation,
Will still not become a buddha.
The ruler who has no loving kindness
May enforce the law, but will lose his districts.
The warrior who has no restraint,
Though hearty and brave, will die by the sword.
Therefore, in the savage minds of all sentient beings
May no sinister thoughts arise.
Supreme being, divine child, Thöpa Gawa,
Even though you are not obscured by the three poisons,
Still I will grant you the empowerment of the three kāyas.
May you spontaneously perform the buddha activity of pacifying.
Vajra Abhiśinytsa HŪṂ
Thus they bathed him with amṛta.
[Ratnasambhava confers the enlightened qualities empowerment of the
Ratna Buddha family, dresses him as a king, and enthrones him.]
Again, in Pelden Palden, from the navel of Ratnasambhava, light rays streamed forth, purifying the obscurations of pride of all sentient beings. They gathered back as all the qualities and merit of the victorious ones in the form of a blazing jewel and dissolved into the navel of the divine child. He was then adorned by the bodhisattvas of the ten bhumis with priceless precious ornaments: jeweled crest ornaments; throat, shoulder, hand, leg, and ear ornaments; rings; long and short necklaces of crystal; divine clothes of panyacalika silk, and so forth, ornaments worthy of a great being. With all of these he was clothed and enthroned, as they raised this auspicious song:
The precious wisdom of equanimity, Perfectly purified pride is the wealth of the ārya.
Meritorious one, accumulator of all merit, Great source of jewel wisdom, Ratnasambhava,103 As you are empowered in order to tame the difficult to tame, Through your compassion please work for the welfare of beings. Your compassion is like the sky, May the auspiciousness of equanimity be present. For disciples who are like the constellations, May the auspiciousness of your boundless buddha activity be present. For your life span like a vajra, May the auspiciousness of indestructible deathlessness be present. For the symbol of the stability of your vows to benefit beings, May the auspiciousness of unchanging spontaneity be present. By these beautiful ornaments, the precious jewel crown, May the auspiciousness of exalted majesty be present. By these earrings and rich golden necklaces, May the auspiciousness of your sky-pervading fame be present. By these fine, soft, and light vestments, May the auspiciousness of conquering the hosts of māras be present.
Great being, precious Thöpa Gawa, Although you are not attached to ordinary ornaments, I empower you with the five precious noble qualities.* May your buddha activity of enriching be spontaneously accomplished. Ratna Abhiśinytsa TRAṂ
Thus he was enthroned with auspiciousness.
[Amitābha confers the enlightened speech empowerment of the Lotus Buddha family.]104
* Contentment, joy, forgiveness, compassion, mindfulness.
Again, in the Sukhāvatī pure land, from the throat center of Amitābha, light rays streamed forth, purifying the obscurations of desire of all sentient beings. They gathered back here as the blessings of the speech of all the sugatas in the form of a red lotus and dissolved into the throat center of the divine child. He was then empowered with the sixty branches of melodious speech. Furthermore, the support of the samaya of all tathāgatas,105 a golden five-pointed vajra, descended from the sky into his hand:
Perfectly purified desire is the space of discerning wisdom. Great desire is exaltation free from attachment, Lord of Lotus
Speech, You are the supreme skillful means of connate wisdom. This vajra is the support for your sacred vows, your samaya. Until the ocean of saṃsāra is empty, You will liberate the ocean of sentient beings. Having realized the ocean of wisdom, May you perfect the ocean of aspiration.
You empowered the imperial lha above, And will proclaim commands upon the middle nyen And open the treasury of the nāgas below106 In the Wishing Land of Ling,* look after the benefit of beings, The Black Düd and the Yellow Hor,107 Those with form and those without, bind them all by oath.
Although the bodhisattva who looks after the benefit of beings Needs no encouragement to keep this samaya, Just as you promised to lead beings from saṃsāra, May you spontaneously accomplish the activity of magnetizing. Padma Abhiśinytsa HRĪḤ
* (Tib. gling mthong smon). Literally, “seeing Wishing Ling,” meaning Ling as “the land that, if you see it, you wish to be there.” An epic epithet.
This song was pronounced throughout the mid-heavens.
[Amoghasiddhi empowers him with the enlightened activity of the Karma Buddha family.]
Again, in the All-Accomplishing Activity pure land, from the secret center of the Blessed One Amoghasiddhi, light rays streamed forth, purifying the obscurations of jealousy of all sentient beings. They dissolved into the secret center in the form of a green double vajra, the essence of the activity of all the sugatas. He accomplished mastery over all vast buddha activities. Furthermore, a silver bell descended into his left hand, representing the spontaneous accomplishment of all four buddha activities of the sugatas.
Perfectly purified jealousy is Amoghasiddhi, The completely pure wisdom of all-accomplishing action. Great wrath is the great sound That quells the self-occurring sound of the five poisons And skillfully tames the disciples of the five corruptions. Powerful hero Who conquers the great mountain of conditioned existence, You who have perfected all buddha activity, From the great billowing clouds of your peaceful compassion The terrible lightning strikes flash And conquer the crags of the great sinners’ pride.
The guru addicted to wealth, If he is not conquered by the logic of the learned,108 Then his guts will be filled with empty quotes. The ruler who is full of pride, If karma does not fall right on him, It will ripen as agony for the people and the land.109 The prideful youth, tiger in his prime, full of himself, Unless a real warrior knocks him out, Then his hollow bragging will roar like a thousand dragons. The self-absorbed young woman, If famine does not strike her down, Then her self-centeredness will reach beyond the sky.
Therefore, in this time of the dark age,
The vindictive sentient beings Be little cause and effect, and pile up perverted aspirations. Let not your compassion abandon them but liberate them into the purelands. Let a downpour of vajra weapons descend upon the
Seal their consciousnesses with this vajra of the dharma realm. You, bodhisattva, are the embodiment of compassion. Although your buddha activity is unfaltering, May your wrathful buddha activity be spontaneously accomplished. Karma Abhiśinytsa ĀḤ
Thus the abhiṣeka was conferred.
All the assemblies of great supreme wrathful deities enthroned him with the four empowerments.111 Then the divine child Thöpa Gawa became full of learning, good qualities, splendor, and dignity unrivaled in the world.
This was the chapter on the birth by magical transformation and the conferral of empowerment. Composed in colloquial terms that are easy to understand, this is known as A Continuously Flowing Stream of Blessing.
Meet the Author
ROBIN KORNMAN (1947-2007) is best known for his work as a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, as well as for being a founding member of the Nalanda Translation Committee. Up until his death, he spent many years working on this translation of the epic of Gesar. A longtime student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, he earned his PhD from Princeton University and was a professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. SANGYE KHANDRO has translated many important Tibetan Buddhist texts. She is a cofounder of Light of Berotsana, a nonprofit organization for translators of Tibetan texts. LAMA CHÖNAM is a Tibetan teacher who received twenty years of traditional training as a monk in Tibet. He is a translator and adviser to the Nalanda Translation Committee and a cofounder of Light of Berotsana.
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