A CHARIOT FOR KNOWLEDGE-HOLDERS

In TANTRIC POETRY by Erik Pema Kunsang11 Comments

“Hello in there? You may need this. I have no use for it. Take it!”
Translucent streamers connect the monsoon sky with the earth while one handful of grain after the other bounce off the mandala plate in my hand, on their way to be universes of wealth for everyone. The voice belongs to a yogi. He has for some reason felt compelled to give me a small stack of pecha, single sheets of script in Tibetan writing or print. He disappears right away into the mist.

I sit in a little cave above the Lotus Lake in Himachal Pradesh and happily open up the cloth-wrapped stack of pages. One of the texts is the Lotus Essence Tantra. It’s short and amazingly deep. Another is Vajrasattva’s Liberation Through Hearing and it is equally profound. They are teachings and at the same time meant to be sung so that our mind is freed during the chanting. They are messages from Padmasambhava to people in our time, sent as terma, hidden treasure teachings, from one thousand years before. And they are printed with carved wood-blocks on a strange type of parchment, so strong you almost can’t rip it apart.

Many years later I discover which Buddhist master has printed them. His name is Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and he tells me why he chose to publish these sacred scriptures while building his monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal. His own teacher had regarded them as the very essence of Vajrayana. The strong parchment came from Korean cement bags made of multi-layered brown paper. A third text is a list of all the most important terma-treasures revealed in the Himalayas over the span of a thousand years. I am deeply moved while spelling my way through the teachings with wonderful names. A few months later I received meditation instructions from Tulku Urgyen for the first time.

At the bottom of the stack, there is an extra little text, also from Tulku Urgyen’s hand, a single sheet of poetry in five verses, but it catches my attention. It is beautiful, deep and poetic. It is a chant, a decision, a prayer and an earnest wish—a way to direct one’s mind and will, for now and all future. Unifying the reality of what we are with enlightenment, but directed towards following the path of a knowledge-holder, a practitioner of Vajrayana. The chant is a way of acknowledging the deepest and most pure nature of our being, personified by Padmasambhava, the lotus-born master from the fabulous country of Uddiyana, and connecting with the awakened state realized by all buddhas. It is also a way to ensure a peaceful passing at the end of this life. It is written by a master who is said to have had the highest realization in the Tibetan lands. His name is King of the Gentle Melodiousness of Wisdom and Kindness, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

The first verse is about Padmasambhava’s realm, a field of pure experience known as Lotus Light, the display of space and wakefulness. The second lists the four visions, levels of realization in Dzogchen practice, combined with the sceneries of this pure realm. The third describes the three aspects of enlightenment, the three kayas, here personified as Buddha Amitabha who is the infinite light of our basic nature, the compassionate Avalokite who is spontaneous love beyond boundaries, and Padmasambhava with his eight main forms with whom we can easily identify with. The fourth is about the magical net of the knowledge-holders and the wish to connect with this perfect display of awakening at the moment of death, rather than taking another rebirth as a confused ordinary person. The last verse is the wish, the vow, the aspiration, to reach true and complete awakening through the path of the inner tantras, especially that of Mahayoga, so that we can genuinely help ourselves and all other sentient beings by realizing and manifesting an infinite ocean of the four kayas and five wisdoms. Here is a translation of it:


om ah hung vajra guru padma siddhi hung

Vast and indestructible sphere of wakefulness
Joined with basic knowing’s open space,
Vivid to the eyes, as splendid rainbows, it appears,
Realm of natural magic, Lotus Light.

Rainbow rays in vast expanse, the nature manifest,
In boundless mansions, visions on increase,
Dakas and dakinis, the perfected knowing’s state,
Dance, sing vajra songs, transcending thoughts.

In the center, buddha Boundless Light, primordial,
Treasure of compassion, Lotus-Holder,
And immortal Tötreng Tsal, three kayas within one,
With sublime eight forms to tame all needs.

In this meeting ground, a network vast and magical,
Play of forms and aspects beyond count,
May I and every being, infinite, pervading space,
Take rebirth as soon this life is gone.

May we through the knowledge-holders’ fourfold secret path
Quickly reach the Lotus Guru’s level,
Ocean of the kayas and the wisdoms, without bound,
Where others’ and my aims are self-fulfilled.

This was proclaimed by the vidyadhara monk, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Siddhi Rastu.
Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang to be sung in English, using the meter 13-9-13-9.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik’s website & retreats.

Photo of Padmasambhava’s palace of Lotus Light on the Copper-colored Realm of Splendor, courtesy of Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche in Bir, Himachal Pradesh.
Recommended reading: Zangdok Palri: The Lotus Light Palace of Guru Rinpoche.

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  1. Dear Erik La,

    Thank you for this wonderful and heartfelt poem of Lotus Lights palace.
    I couldn’t stop myself from translating it into my native language Marathi.
    So whatever I wrote I am sharing it here, which is simply word to word translation.

    om ah hung vajra guru padma siddhi hung
    ओम आ: हूँ वज्र गुरु पद्म सिद्धि हूँ ।

    Vast and indestructible sphere of wakefulness
    Joined with basic knowing’s open space,
    Vivid to the eyes, as splendid rainbows, it appears,
    Realm of natural magic, Lotus Light.

    असीम आणि अभेद्द जागृती ची भूमी
    मुक्त आकाशा प्रमाणे मूल ज्ञानाने परिपूर्ण
    तेज:पुंज, नेत्रांना इंद्रधनुवत भासणारी
    स्वभावत:च माया रुपी भूमी,
    पद्म प्रभा .

    Rainbow rays in vast expanse, the nature manifest,
    In boundless mansions, visions on increase,
    Dakas and dakinis, the perfected knowing’s state,
    Dance, sing vajra songs, transcending thoughts.

    विस्तीर्ण पसरलेली इंद्रधनुची किरणे
    विशुद्ध स्वभावाचे प्राकट्यच जणू,
    दृष्टी हि अपुरी पडावी अशा असीम प्रासादांमध्ये
    नृत्य आणि वज्र गीते गाणारे परिपूर्ण विद्याधर डाक आणि डाकिनी,
    कल्पनेच्याही पलीकडे.

    In the center, buddha Boundless Light, primordial,
    Treasure of compassion, Lotus-Holder,
    And immortal Tötreng Tsal, three kayas within one,
    With sublime eight forms to tame all needs.

    मध्ये बुद्ध अमिताभ, आदी सृजन,
    पद्मपाणी करुणानिधान
    आणि अमर्त्य कपालमालाधर त्रिकाय स्वरूप
    तसेच सर्व प्रयोजनांचे दमन करणारी
    अष्ट रूपे.

    In this meeting ground, a network vast and magical,
    Play of forms and aspects beyond count,
    May I and every being, infinite, pervading space,
    Take rebirth as soon this life is gone.

    असंख्य रूपे आणि दर्शनांचे अथांग मायाजाल
    असे हे समागम स्थळ,
    अनंत , अवकाश व्यापणारे मी आणि सर्व सत्व
    या जन्म पूर्ती नंतर त्वरित येथे जन्म प्राप्त करो.

    May we through the knowledge-holders’ fourfold secret path
    Quickly reach the Lotus Guru’s level,
    Ocean of the kayas and the wisdoms, without bound,
    Where others’ and my aims are self-fulfilled.

    विद्याधरांच्या चर्तुविध गुह्य मार्गाने आम्ही
    त्वरित गुरु पद्मांचे पद प्राप्त करावे
    काया आणि प्रज्ञेचा अथांग समुद्र
    जेथे माझे आणि इतरांचे लक्ष्य स्व-सिद्ध होतात.

    This was proclaimed by the Vidyadhara monk, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
    Siddhi Rastu.

    Translated from Tibetan to English by Erik Pema Kunsang, on http://levekunst.com/a-chariot-for-knowledge-holders/.

  2. Such a beautiful story, Erik; thank you for sharing it —

  3. Sonja

    Pure consciousness has manifested again most beautifully in this poem….thank you!

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