About the PoemsThis selection of poetry is from His Holiness the First Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chukyi Gyaltsen. The poems are meant to convey the First Panchen Lama’s own inner progress in developing the steps of the path, and also to illustrate for us how he conducted his life and practice in the external world, as a real example for us to follow. In each case, these selections are chosen to relate in some way to a particular lam-rim, or step of the path, that we ourselves are working on.
All of the poems that follow are selected from A Brief Biography of His Holiness the First Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen, found at pp 488-560 in the classic work on the lives of the masters of the lam-rim lineage: Biographies of the Lamas of the Teachings on the Steps of the Path to Enlightenment, (Byang-chub lam gyi rim-pa’i bla-ma brgyud-pa’i rnam-thar, ACIP digital text S5985) written by Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen, Tsechok Ling (1713-1793), Tutor to His Holiness the Eighth Dalai Lama.
Almost all the poems are translated here for the first time, and were found by Master Tsechok Ling among ancient papers of the First Panchen Lama at the Trashi Hlunpo Tantric College, which His Holiness himself founded. Master Tsechok Ling notes that much of the poetry found in the biography was never included into the First Panchen Lamas traditional collected works, but has rather been taken from a secret tradition of chanting his poems at the tantric college, where the poems were preserved separately as Recitations for the Tantric College.
In his brief biography, Master Tsechok Ling states that all of the different compositions included there were penned himself by Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen. The works have survived down to the present day—and the fact that they were composed by Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen can be understood from the colophons attached at the end of each.
This book is in two sections. The first part contains selected poetry, without any commentary, so that the reader may experience the verses in the beauty of their uninterrupted flow. The second section contains excerpts from the Brief Biography describing the personal, political, or historical circumstances surrounding each composition; by reviewing the circumstances of His Holiness’ life when he composed each poem, one may more fully understand the verses.
May you enjoy the instructive, mystical, holy verses collected and presented here as a source of inspiration to reach your ultimate goal—quickly, in this very life.
As The Prayer of Samantabhadra states:
Suppose you took all the precious jewels
From every single planet, in every corner
Of the universe, and presented them
To all the victorious Buddhas.
Suppose you took all the highest happiness
Of both gods and men, and offered these
As well, for eons that were equal in number
To the atoms that composed these planets.
Still, any person who heard these lines
Of the Emperor of Dedication
And because of them felt some hope
To gain their highest enlightenment—
Anyone who only felt this faith
But a single time, no more—
Would collect thus infinitely greater
Merit of the highest kind.
About His Holiness The First Panchen Lama
Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen, the First Panchen Lama, was an incredible being. From an early age he studied and practiced diligently, and readily succeeded in meeting holy beings face to face, as described in the first poem in our selection The Lady Who Came to Me, composed at the tender age of 14 years old.
He lived in a time of war and strife when people generally only lived to 50 years, yet he himself lived to be almost a hundred years old. Geshe Potowa’s biography describes him with the lines: “In Tibet there is a certain monk whose life story is enough to express the life stories of thousands of normal monks.” And “The fame [drak] of this holy being extends even to India.”
And as Master Tsechok Ling states in the Brief Biography: “this one monk, in a certain number of years, would surpass thousands upon thousands of other monks—he would set his single-pointed attention fiercely upon attaining the state of omniscience, and in this extraordinary aspiration his single life would embody the efforts of thousands of other people’s lives.
“He went forth and made extraordinary efforts first in a major period of his life devoted to studying and teaching the sacred books—to the skills of learning and thinking about them carefully. The number of people at his monastery of Wengun swelled, with a great gathering of monks and an influx of the faithful from the whole surrounding area. He taught them books on the steps of the path (lam-rim); and works on how to develop the good heart (lojong); the Great Book of the Kadampas; The Mountain of Jewels, a Book of Metaphors; the various instructions on vowed morality; and “dissection instructions” on the stages of creation and completion in the secret teachings of the Frightener, Highest Bliss, and others as well.”
“In addition he gave teachings devoted to gaining a correct view of emptiness; and then initiations into the combined practice of the Secret Collection, Highest Bliss, and the Frightener; as well as empowerments for the White Parasol and other secret paths. He granted the rite of permission to practice the Compendium of Nartang, as well as that for a great many Dharma protectors. He taught then extensively on how to actually put all these instructions into deep personal practice.”
“More especially, he repeatedly granted the empowerment and instructions on the levels of both creation and completion within the secret teachings of the traditional three—the Secret Collection, Highest Bliss, and the Frightener—to the communities of monks at the Great Three monasteries of Sera, Drepung, and Ganden; as well as to those of Trashi Hlunpo, Gyutu Tantric College, and Gyume Tantric College.”
“He gave in addition meticulous explanations of the work on the steps of the path by the great Holder of the Diamond; along with similar explanations of the four combined commentaries [to the Secret Collection], and A Lamp for the Five Steps. He granted as well, over and over again, meticulous explanations upon The Revelation of Every Secret, a commentary upon the secret teachings of Highest Bliss. So too did he grant, time and again, teachings upon the steps of the path, and upon the stages of creation and completion, to a great many people who had made their spiritual practice the entire core of their life—all meant as instructions to be committed to memory.”
“Most especially, he granted—again as instruction to be memorized—teachings upon the steps of the path (all the way up to the inseparable pair) from the oral lineage of the Precious Lord, Tsongkapa. These he gave to many great adepts of Trashi Hlunpo—to his leading spiritual sons; as well as to the assembled monks.”
“He also compiled texts for the oral recitation of rituals in the same three secret practices: rituals for becoming the Angel; for bringing the Angel before us; for creating the sacred vase; and for granting the empowerment—all in keeping with the sacred tradition of the Lord, the omniscient Je Tsongkapa. These works are used among all those who uphold the tradition of this precious Lord.”
“Looking at all this we can say that this Lord, this Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen, both upheld and furthered the excellent tradition of the precious Lord Tsongkapa in the fields of both the open and the secret teachings—without ever mixing them up with other teachings, without ever adulterating them in any way.”
“One of the most amazing deeds that our Lord ever accomplished was to institute the observation of the Prayer Festival on the Holiday of Miracles—echoing thus one of the greatest deeds of Je Tsongkapa himself. Concerning the festival, the Lord himself expressed the thought that this was one of the most excellent accomplishments of his current life. We gathered an infinite amount of merit into our own and others’ mindstreams by observing this festival.”
“News came then that the Omniscient One, the Victorious Buddha, His Holiness the Dalai Lama Yunten Gyatso, would be undertaking a tour of their region of Tsang. And so he issued an order that the Dalai Lama be formally invited there to Trashi Hlunpo.”
“In what the history books then call the Days of the Monkey—which is to say, in the fire sheep year, during the waxing of the moon in the sixth month—a great assembly came forth from the walls of the monastery, headed by the various masters and their disciples: over a hundred of them on horseback outfitted in regal finery, galloping out to welcome the Dalai Lama.”
“The Father and his spiritual Son came then first face-to-face on the soil of Chushar. A great clamor burst forth from the sky, as if the gods were striking their mighty drums; and from the heavens as well, the divine beings let loose a gentle shower of fragrant flower petals. Everyone there saw these things with their own eyes.”
“He began a second major period devoted to his own meditation practice. To this he dedicated the seasons of autumn and winter, going into isolation and avoiding any kind of business. During these times he shut himself up in retreat, throwing himself into isolation and working to reach a great many different Angels.”
“Thirdly then came a major period of public work. Here he devoted the spring and later months of summer to touring the areas of Nyangu, Shap, Shang, Tun, and other such places. He accepted there requests to teach or advise, and did so in ways that were always based on the Dharma—working for example to fulfill the needs of a great number of local officials, as well as crowds of both monks and laypeople.”
“In the late autumn (of 1622), a large military force of Mongolians suddenly arrived at Janggyab. At the order of the Regent, and various generals and ministers, the Lord had to go out to try to make a treaty with them. But even though he traveled as far into enemy territory as Rongpo Dam, he failed to accomplish his mission in the way he had hoped to.”
“He stayed at Drepung Monastery then for some time, trying to accumulate the karma for protecting life by helping both Sera and Drepung monasteries, through the gifts of both the Dharma and material support. One thing especially he under took. There was a silver-plated tomb in which the remains of the Omniscient One, Sunam Gyatso, were interred. (This was His Holiness the 3rd Dalai Lama, 1543-1588.)”
“The ornamentation around the entrance to the tomb had all broken apart, and everything was in a state of disrepair. Thinking that it would set in motion auspicious forces, and also help keep the teachings healthy in the world, the Lord set about having the entire tomb renovated, using great quantities of precious material like gold and turquoise. He also ordered the preparation of exquisite, personal ritual instruments of the same material as the entrance way, for use by the Omniscient One when he had grown again to maturity.”
“He moreover went to the places at both Sera and Drepung where there were statues of our Teacher, Lord Buddha, and presented each of them with necklaces of jewels and silken scarves. So too at each of the Great Three monasteries he repeatedly sponsored religious ceremonies attended by all the monks, making the traditional offerings of a meal and gift of money to each person. This karma completed, he went into a strict personal retreat at Drepung.”
“The entire Tibetan army had been brought together at Kyangtang Gang. After eleven days of heated negotiations, the Mongolian cavalry suddenly made a lightening attack on the Tibetans. Reports that hundreds of people had died reached his ears. And so the Lord, with utter disregard for his own life and personal safety, broke his retreat immediately, making his way with haste as far as Denbak, in the company of several close attendants.”
“The Tibetan forces were surrounded at Chakpori Hill, and the Mongol cavalry was about to make a second charge to finish them off. Gunfire and arrows were already flying like a shower of rain, and he simply stepped right into the middle of it.”
“This divine Lord then approached the Mongol leaders himself and begged them to stop, telling them that he personally possessed a sizable amount of wealth and expensive objects that he would offer them if they desisted. The leaders agreed to follow the divine Lord’s wishes, and the attack was called off right in the middle. The lives of nearly a hundred thousand soldiers were saved in this one heroic act.”
“On this occasion, leaders from both the Tibetan and the Mongols came forth and made offerings to the Lord, to be presented in a religious celebration at Lhasa. They all agreed to put down in writing a list of their agreements; and then standing in the light radiating from the gilded roof of the Temple of Lord Atisha they took solemn oaths to stop their fighting, and observe a lasting peace.”
“By bringing about this peace, a peace that was won by refusing to give the least thought even to his own life and safety, the Lord was able to prevent the destruction of both Sera and Drepung; in effect, he had saved the life of the very teachings of the Victor, Je Tsongkapa.”
“Looking back on it in this light, generations of impartial sages for many years after the high and holy Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen—people who have themselves undertaken to continue this tradition of preserving the teachings of our gentle Protector, Lama Tsongkapa—have all declared in a single voice that the Lord was no less than the gentle Protector in the unequaled kindness he paid us, succeeding as he did in keeping the teachings of Je Tsongkapa alive here in our world.”
“At that point though there did occur an extremely serious obstacle both to the teachings of the Victorious Buddhas in general and to the spread, more particularly, of the teachings of our gentle Protector, Je Tsongkapa. It happened due to the shared karma of the people, and because of the influence of a number of powerful and evil demons. The Omniscient One, His Holiness Yunten Gyatso (the Fourth Dalai Lama), suddenly passed on to his paradise.”
“There were great difficulties then in the ensuing task of recognizing the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. Again, the revered one, Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen, gave his own personal material resources without the least hesitation. He took all the crude people here in our Land of Snows and bought their cooperation with gifts of money and things.”
“He showed perfect impartiality to one and to all. Whenever it looked like some disturbance or military action might break out, he went to work using his compelling powers of love and compassion. He brought people to make their peace, free of any hostility for each other, and saved the lives of a great many evil people.”
“He made special efforts to take the most violent people aside and give them a careful explanation of the laws of karma and its consequences, putting them thus into a peace-loving state of mind. Without any thought at all for his own needs, he brought a state of peace and tranquility to the entire populace of Tibet.”
“He promoted a sense of spiritual cooperation among all the different groups of monks, preventing any outbreaks of discord. Most importantly, he found skillful ways to accomplish the unmistaken recognition of the supreme reincarnation of the Omniscient One, Yunten Gyatso. And again he put every effort possible into these labors, with complete disregard for his personal safety and even his life.”
“In the end then, his efforts to conclude the process of the recognition were successful. In the Year of the Great Drum—which is to say, in the male water dog year (1622)—the supreme reincarnation of the Omniscient One was conducted from Chonggye to Drepung Monastery. There the Lord performed the traditional ceremony of cutting the lock of hair, signifying that the boy had left the home life to enter the order. He then bestowed upon him the ordination name of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, (who was to become the ‘Great Fifth’ Dalai Lama, eminent scholar and statesman).”
These are but a few examples of the greatness of The First Panchen Lama, his realizations, and mastery of the path. In general, His Holiness followed an annual rhythm of deep personal retreat; periods of personal study and teaching to his core group of disciples at Trashi Hlunpo Monastery; and then extensive lectures and tours among the general population as well as government and business leaders, to help bring the Dharma into every aspect of the daily lives of both the ordained and people with a normal family and career.
These aspects of His Holiness’ spiritual life—the division of his time, taking personal responsibility, and his insistence that Dharma was meant to be part of the “real world” as well—are extremely important as a model for our own practice and work in the modern world. These are meant to inspire us in our own attempt to make the steps part of our own mind, by reading about the inner struggles and outer, worldly challenges which His Holiness himself faced in the same task.
Below you’ll find audio of a selection of these amazing poems being read aloud – a wonderful companion to the book. For each poem being read aloud below we’ve also included brief excerpts describing the personal, political, or historical circumstances surrounding His Holiness as he composed each of these beautiful, heartfelt verses. By referencing these comments alongside their associated poem, one may fully understand each verse. Comments by the translators are in italic, and Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen’s explanatory text from the Brief Biography is presented in regular type.
A Song of Sadness at the State of My Mind (p.36)
His Holiness the First Panchen Lama detects his own lower motivation even for good deeds, such as teaching others the Dharma, in this reflection upon karma and it’s consequences. The title and the song speak for themselves in this excerpt from Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen’s Brief Biography, at pp. 513-514.
Because these incidents were unlimited in number, I shall not write here any description of how—over the course of his life—he received various offerings from the many people who had faith in him, and how he utilized this offerings to help construct temples, or to support and honor the spiritual community.
At the insistent request of the masters of Trashi Hlunpo, he granted the entire initiation into the four empowerments of the glorious secret teaching of the Diamond Frightener— Vajra Bhairava—within the secret world of colored sand.
As soon as the summer monks’ retreat let out, he went into isolation for three weeks, concentrating on gaining actual experiential realizations of the various stages of the path. During this time, the following thoughts were passing through his divine mind:
“Up to now people have been calling me a lama—but the whole time I’ve been helpless, controlled by other thoughts, everything mixed up with the eight worldly attitudes. I have accepted money and things from the faithful—from hands with fingernails both white and red— and from the belongings of the deceased as well. And sometimes I wonder if I haven’t just wasted them all.”
“I have helped build temples and shrines and the like, to the absolute limits of my capacity; and I’ve taught the Dharma too, giving initiations and oral transmissions and explanations and all the rest, supposedly for the sake of the teachings, and other people. But I can hardly claim that I did so filled with any thoughts of renunciation, or correct worldview.”
“And the fact is that I may engage in a great many acts of impure virtue this way—good karma that is not imbued with renunciation and worldview—but all these actions will do then is to keep me circling around in the cycle of pain.”
“I may perhaps be able to get some nice things in this life, but still it’s unbearable to remain here even for a moment, smothered in the flame of all this pain and worry— taking birth, getting old, dying again.”
“For me to say that this pain is unbearable, and then to sit here, making no great effort to escape from these five great terrors, is sad, sad…ah, it must be that my heart is made of stone—or perhaps I really am insane.”
He saw with his own holy eyes then how each and every good thing that we can ever get here in the cycle of pain is, in its essence, simply pain. And so then he composed the Song of the Aryas.
Begging the Buddha for Shelter (p.33)
His Holiness the First Panchen Lama is already over 65 years old by the time this piece is written. There has been major bloodshed in the country for some years, and more is on its way—this time with monks involved in the fighting. Late in His life and surrounded by bloodshed, His Holiness the First Panchen Lama cries out to the Buddha to help us. He cries for shelter in this selection from Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen’s Brief Biography, at pp. 552-553.
There were at that time in particular a great many figures who had delusions of grandeur, seeking power—they caused disturbances in the land, and the people were pushed down into misery. He saw that he had no direct means to help these deluded ones, and that brought him great sadness. Out of pain and com- passion then he wrote these words of supplication to the Jewels.
Father and Son (p.67)
It was the Indian master Lord Atisha (982-1054 AD) who risked his life on a long and dangerous sea voyage to Indonesia, in order to bring back the missing instructions on developing the Wish for enlightenment. He then successfully translated to Tibet the combined lineages for both the Wish and the worldview of emptiness, with the help of his devoted Tibetan heart-disciple Dromtun Je Gyalway Jungne (1005- 1064). The two teamed up to bring some of the first teachings on the Wish for enlightenment to Tibet.
Dromtun Je is famous as an example of someone who never himself became a monk, but who rather as a layman succeeded in the highest practices. Without Dromtun Je’s extraordinary devotion and special skills in arranging every kind of logistical support—from horses to yak butter to bricks—then his Teacher’s mission in Tibet, and particularly the founding of the great Radreng Monastery, never would have happened. Dromtum Je’s way of always showing up in the right place at the right time with whatever Lord Atisha needed for his work at the moment brought later generations of Tibetans to recognize that he was, in fact, a tantric deity in disguise.
And so they have set an example for us to follow: masters of The Wish—a teacher and disciple so close and with such love that they are often simply called “The Father and Son.”
In this pair of “love poems” to Lord Atisha and Dromtun Je, we get a clear sense of the vision that His Holiness the First Panchen Lama had that Buddhism could and should be practiced actively and successfully not just by monks and nuns, but by laypeople like Dromtun Je: by intelligent people with a normal career and family life.
His Holiness The first Panchen Lama celebrates their life with these poems, written in his 48th year and excerpted again from Master Tsechok Ling’s Brief Biography, at pp. 528-530.
As soon as the Munlam festival ended, he made his way to Radreng Monastery. He went into a strict per- sonal retreat for a month in the hills above the monastery.
He had arranged for the precious statue of Lord Atisha known as “A Tilt of the Head” to be brought to him there. He made single pointed supplications to this image, and received extraordinary signs that he had won its blessings. As a result, he set down in writing certain verses of supplication to both the Lord— The Father—and his spiritual Son.
Get Yourself to Some Wild Desert Place (p.97)
His Holiness the First Panchen Lama is not much more than 50 years old when he writes this song to the joys of meditation, dreaming of a place that sounds a lot like Diamond Mountain. Still from the Brief Biography of Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen.
He composed this song as a heart-prayer that he would be able to take himself to some isolated place, and devote his entire attention to his practice.
Laughing in the Dark, a Song of Sadness (p.30)
His Holiness the First Panchen Lama is about 40 years old in this excerpt from Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen’s Brief Biography, at pp. 511-512. Here he laments the circumstances of life, pain, and the lower realms.
In the second month of that autumn then he traveled to Chenlung. He was able to induce many hundreds of people to commit themselves to taking one-day vows; and undertaking spiritual fasts; giving up the act of killing; and reciting mantras or the like. More particularly, he went to Kachu in Chenlung and granted the entire four empowerments of the divine being Unmoving, in the teachings of the Secret Collection—as well as many other Dharma teachings that people desired.
And so he traveled from Nyangtu down south, through Tsakok, and all the way to Chenlung. Wherever he went, a crowd would suddenly spring up, as if market day had come—and then before long it was always time to leave them again. He saw people at each place, a lot of people, who had been torn by death from beloved family or friends; they came with tears in their eyes, asking him to say prayers for the dead.
“Look at them,” he said, crying in pity. “Look—here are some in the prime of youth, well-built, flirting with one another. And here are others in their middle age; and others who are old, on the verge of death.” Many were living without a care in the world; laughing, thinking of nothing. The great majority of them were making offerings to the Lord himself, giving things that they had accumulated out of their unwillingness to share with others, hoping they would get something out of it.
He looked at how they were, and said,
Forget about the cycle of pain; forget about what’s been happening for time with no beginning. Just look at them here and now, in this one short life. The situation with family and friends goes up, and then down. These great crowds of people who come to see me, these people in the prime of their youth, it’s all as brief as a rainbow in the sky.
And these things they bring to offer me—all these things they’ve accumulated by refusing to share with others—they’re all just a trap, like sticky honey inside a bee hive. Oh everything around me is my Teacher, showing me very clearly, right to my face, how life really is.
And so out of sadness in his holy heart, he wrote this song of his own experience.
One Day, in a Moment of Clarity (p.58)
These are perhaps some of the most incredible and extraordinary verses that His Holiness the First Panchen Lama ever wrote. The Song of the Diamond, an almost bashful admission of high tantric realizations he had one day, which he shares “only to let others know it works,” and to repay all the kindness. His Holiness is in his mid-forties in this excerpt, which is taken from Master Tsechok Ling’s Brief Biography, at pp. 525-527.
He traveled on then to Trashi Hlunpo, where the rabjampas or master scholars of the monastery’s tantric college were devoting themselves to teaching and learning the high practices of the Secret Collection. At this point, he also introduced into the curriculum the teaching and study of both the root tantras and commentaries upon the glorious Kalachakra, or Wheel of Time.
Following this he went into a personal retreat for some time, devoting himself single-mindedly to the practice of the Five Stages, a profound path within the teachings of the glorious Secret Collection. As a result, he gained high realizations into these stages. He then burst forth with the following Song of the Diamond. It is meant to declare the fact that there really does exist, here in the teachings of Lord Tsongkapa, a shortcut for achieving the Combination of the Two–tantric Buddhahood–in but this one brief life.
The song tells the story of how he himself succeeded in actually using this shortcut; and he writes it specifically for future generations of disciples who hope to practice in the footsteps of our Lama, the Gentle Protector, Je Tsongkapa.
Parting Words on the Steps (p.80)
This short piece summarizes some important steps of the path. It was composed around the Panchen Rinpoche’s sixtieth year, and is from pp. 546-547 of Master Tsechok Ling’s Brief Biography.
In those days he wrote many songs of his spiritual life, including this one.
The Union of the Two (p.111)
His Holiness is again still in his thirties when he pens another poem to emptiness.
The Peacemaker (p.77)
Throughout the history of Buddhism there has been a tendency towards the image of a hermit in a cave who attains happiness by refusing to engage in the world at all. But the ideal of the bodhisattva, of the Mahayana or Greater Way, allows quite well for a hermit who enjoys deep retreat and then again emerges into society, ready and strengthened by their inner practice to help in the external affairs of the world.
In this sense, His Holiness the First Panchen Lama provides an exquisite role model that has rarely been equaled in the history of Tibet—only by such figures as Je Tsongkapa him- self and, of course, by the greatest Dalai Lama of them all: our own, The Fourteenth. The Panchen Rinpoche stepped up and took personal responsibility, even in “big” situations which most of us would claim are beyond our ability to affect personally. The Panchen Lama is about 42 years old now.
This poem and historical sketch demonstrate the First Panchen Rinpoche’s extraordinary sense of personal responsibility in both the spiritual life and the outside world. An eloquent and real example for all of us to follow in our own times. Excerpted from Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen’s Brief Biography at pp. 524-525 and pp. 535-536.
Gradually then he reached all the way to the Bhutanese areas of Padro, Timbu, and Darkar. The southerners who lived here—the people called the Mun—had an even greater tendency than other people to stick with their own local religious beliefs and Lamas. Our Lord though had spent his whole life without any feelings of religious prejudice: he had always tried to see the divine in the beliefs of all peoples. And because of this karma, all those that he visited paid homage to him: the respect and support he received were immeasurable.
The Lord on his part too took great pains to present all the groups of monks there with material support, and personal offerings of money to each one. With gifts of the Dharma too he showered them, bestowing upon everyone whatever teaching they happened to want—a whole range of different subjects such as the empowerments and accompanying instructions for the glorious Secret Collection, the Frightener, and other tantric deities; as well as the rites of permission for a great number of close Angels and Dharma protectors.
Townspeople too would assemble by the thousands to hear him teach. In some cases he granted them the empowerments of long life, although mainly he used this as an opportunity to teach people about the principles of karma and its consequences. He would grant the transmission of the six-syllable mantra and then urge his listeners to make some kind of pledge to follow an ethical life. Hundreds of people came forth to commit themselves to undertake spiritual fasts.
Others made commitments to recite, on a daily basis, some special prayers or the like—be it just once or 21 times, or whatever. These would include prayers like Excellent Deeds; or The Prayer of Loving One; or The Confession of Transgressions; Verses in Praise of Tara; The Heart Sutra; The Verse for Taking Refuge; the lines of supplication for whichever Lama they happened to follow; or even just the mani mantra. Others promised to give up taking any kind of life, or else to perform a certain number of prostrations—either the regular kind, or the type where you go all the way on the ground and stretch out your entire body.
As for the duration of these commitments, he induced the most serious people to promise to continue this daily practice for the rest of their lives; whereas those who were least serious he would have commit themselves for a year. You can hardly imagine then the numbers of people who swore some kind of oath like this; and so wherever the Lord set his feet, there sprang up a whole tradition of observing moral commitments. Thus did he reveal to the common man how to lead a good life.
There were in particular people going around killing hundreds and even thousands of persons in the strife between the Gung and the Wang. Major acts of vengeance then were being planned as well, and none of these people’s Lamas were doing anything to try to restrain them. And so he went himself to many of those who were intent on reprisals. He would start off by making substantial presents of money or whatever to them, and by the end he would be holding his sacred rosary to the tops of their heads, as they swore an oath that they would abandon their plans of retaliation. In this way he was able to stop the cycle of bad karma at its root, and bring a gentle atmosphere of peace to this entire southern region, the home of the Mun.
These then are typical of the ways in which he undertook great deeds of benefit both to the teachings and to real people.
After that he made his way back to Tibet, where he discovered that there were major civil disturbances occurring in the regions of both Uw and Tsang. Some of the people were actually undergoing serious suffering, while others were reveling in the act of creating future suffering for themselves. When he looked upon all these things he was overcome by a deep sadness, and composed the following Song of a Breaking Heart.
The Killer Child (p.47)
His Holiness the First Panchen Lama is in his thirties when he writes this denunciation of his own negative emotions and the role they play in the chain of suffering. He pretends to have a sudden realization that it is the negative emotions within his own heart which are the great enemy of an entire lifetime, and more, and composes this spiritual song about per sonal practice descr ibing how to get out of suffer ing. The selection is once again taken from Master Tsechok Ling’s Brief Biography, at pp. 514-515.
In those days too he gave a lot of thought to this short human life—fleeting as a winter’s day—reflecting that, even if we feel happy for a while, it never actually satisfies us; whereas, even if we feel sad for a while, it’s never really the end of things.
And he was thinking about what it is to have an enemy: I mean, a really serious enemy would be someone who appeared in the midst of this brief life and somehow threatened your body, your life itself, your various possessions.
But then, he was thinking to himself, there is another kind of enemy—the kind who takes up a battlesword of red-hot steel, and chops away at you with it, inflicting this constant stream of misery; being forced to take birth, and then get old, and sick and in the end simply to die—over and over again, in a never-ending flow within the cycle of pain, a cycle with no beginning, an uninterrupted circle of flame on a pitch-black night, when you take a torch and spin it round quickly in the dark.
And he realized then suddenly that this second enemy—the one holding the sword—was none other than the three poisons: the negative emotions within his very heart. It occurred to him that no other enemy—no one in this present life, nor anyone that ever came later—could ever compare in the slightest that way to that inner enemy.
Here was fear, here was terror. Here was the very source of all the pain that exists: a murderer in your own home, posing as one of your own children. But now he had exposed the killer; now he knew who was really in charge of ruining his life.
And so he set about the task of leveling these emotions—of cutting them down, one by one. In this spirit as well he wrote this song of a realized being.
Song of the Realized Being (p.88)
More rare poetry from His Holiness the First Panchen Lama, again from the Brief Biography of Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen. His Holiness is about fifty when he has this sudden insight into the pain of his life, something that relates to every step of the path.
He received then an invitation to Drepung, and he went. There he imparted the entire empowerment of the String of Diamonds, sitting within a huge globe of light like the sun itself, surrounded by high beings such as His Holiness Yunten Gyatso [the Fourth Dalai Lama], Simkang Gong Trulku, and other incarnate Lamas of both Sera and Drepung.
During these days he was touring a great deal, far and wide, providing a fertile garden in which disciples of faith could plant the seeds of their good karma. He saw with his own holy eyes how things were in a state of constant flux: how none of the places, or the events, or the people, or anything at all could stay without changing for even a moment.
This triggered in him an understanding, something that came upon him without the slightest conscious effort. He saw how every single supposed good thing in the cycle of pain was actually like a dinner party in a dream, or the play of some illusion. He saw how the very way of all things that come into being is like a dance of lightning, or the random gathering and dissolution of clouds in the sky. He saw how the life of beings here in the age of degeneration was brief as a bubble, or morning dew on the tip of a blade of grass.
Above all, he saw that—from the moment he had entered the womb—his life had lain in the jaws of the Lord of Death. He saw that—since there were so many things around him all the time that could kill him—then there was absolutely no guarantee that he would survive any particular day. In fact, it became a source of wonder to him that death hadn’t struck him down already.
And so it occurred to him that right now, in just this instant, he could be close to taking the final journey. Fierce thoughts of renunciation sprang up in his heart, and he penned the following Song of the Realized Being to express how he felt.