Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ten Things Most Dear

Ten Things Most Dear: An Advisory Song

If there were no such lamas and instructors,
attended upon for the longterm yet this time around
acting under the influence of hate and lust, it would be enough for us.
To attend on a virtuous friend with all the right qualifications is most dear.

However great the efforts we put into learning, if there were no such studies
of dry technical terms that keep the attainment of full knowledge at a distance
it would be enough for us.  Learning and reflecting on the profound precepts
that express the quintessence of the tantra texts are most dear.

However much the meditating, if there were no pushing and striving
for the kind with turnoffs and diversions, poor in experiences and realization,
it would be enough for us.  Practical engagement without letting go to waste
the precepts passed down within a lineage is most dear.

Even if it happens in groups of two or three, if there were no exchange
of idle chatter when people gather in their homes imitating one another
it would be enough for us.  Staying on in a secure place
with a few Dharma-minded companions is most dear.

When they have a couple of marks and signs of no account, if they were not
making a big deal of them as if they were seeing dharmas as they truly are
it would be enough for us.  As with the louse and the finger,
confidence and cheerfulness at the moment of death is most dear.

If there were none who were the best of Buddhists in happy times
but turn ordinary as soon as misfortunes come to them
it would be enough for us.  The equanimity that bears all things,
both good and bad, is most dear.

If there were no followers of the kind who in the thick of the battle
are running for Dharma, but helpless and without a clue
when it comes to following it, it would be enough for us.
A supporter doing as instructed out of faith is most dear.

If there were no people with certain religious qualities who
out of their fear of death, strive for liberation for themselves alone
it would be enough for us.  Leading a life of love for each and every
animate being as if for an only child is most dear.

If there were no people laying out plans in hopes of permanence
at the same time claiming to believe in impermanence
it would be enough for us.  A reversal of attachments that sees
the true nature of things as compounded is most dear.

If there were no people with "good interests in mind"
who beguile the minds of others with their wealth and devious posturings
it would be enough for us.  Benefitting others by first taming
one's own mind and then employing the Four Gatherings is most dear.

— These words of advice were for the monk and meditator Sherab Pelden.

Translator's notes:  I choose the translation "most dear" for gces-pa because it helps to carry the meanings of rarity, exceptionality and endearment or even cuteness.  Each of the ten verses shares the same parallel structure and rhythm, although in the interest of easy intelligibility I decided not to preserve this fully in the English. In the final verse, the Four Gatherings (four ways of gathering disciples) means [1] giving them what is needed, [2] speaking to them kindly, [3] not opposing their worldly aims, [4] acting for the benefit of the aspirant.  I admit that the louse metaphor doesn't make much sense to me, but I imagine that the louse is most lively just on the point when it is going to be picked out and crushed. A thirty-year-old translation emerged from my recovered archive and seeing it had many mistakes I did my best to improve it, thinking it is applicable to things that are happening these days in our world. The Tibetan text, too, has been emended to make it better, putting in a few missing vowel signs, correcting confusions between nga (ང་) and da (ད་), reading yong-gtam (ཡོང་གཏམ་) as long-gtam (ལོང་གཏམ་)  and the like.་As of yet I have been unable to find out more about Sherab Pelden, the person to whom these verses were directed. You can find an entry on the author here at Wikipedia.

Source:  'Brug-chen IV Padma-dkar-po, Gsung-'bum, vol. 20, pp. 367-368.  TBRC work RID code no. W10736.












ཞེས་པ་འདི་དགེ་སློང་བསམ་གཏན་པ་ཤེས་རབ་དཔལ་ལྡན་ལ་གདམས་པའོ།། །།


  1. Hi Dan,

    Nice song and a fluent translation!

    I was wondering about the ris gcod pa'i qualifying the available lamas. Do you think it could be translated with sectarian?


  2. Dear J, Nice hearing from you. My mistake. Somehow a syllable got dropped at the beginning of the 2nd line. It ought to read ད་རིས་གཅོད་པའི་... The ད་རིས་ is what I translated "this time around." I went in and fixed it already. Meanwhile I compared my text with the original again and didn't find any more unintended changes, so I think the Tibetan, at least, is good now. Thanks for pointing out the mistake, and take care. Yours, D.


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