CALLING THE GURU FROM AFAR

In TANTRIC POETRY by Erik Pema Kunsang10 Comments

There is one meditation song in particular that opens up your mind. Practitioners sing it to call upon inspiration in times of need, to understand the hindrances for love and kindness, which are selfishness and basic unknowing, and to see the difference between being open or distracted during meditation. Its name is Calling the Guru from Afar, and it was written by Jamgon Kongtrul, one of the greatest masters of recent times. His name was also Boundless Wisdom, Lodro Thaye, and that is the name by which he was foretold by the Buddha: “An incarnation of the great bodhisattva Vajrapani will be born in the land to the north of the snowy ranges, the Himalayas, and he will compile and share Five Treasuries.” That was the prediction by Buddha Shakyamuni.

Jamgon Kongtrul was an incredible master. My teacher, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, loved him dearly, even though they never met, but Tulku Urgyen’s grandmother met him, and she told many stories about what he looked like, how he spoke. She could even imitate him. When Tulku Urgyen told stories, he could also remember the tone of voice of Patrul Rinpoche, Jamyang Khyentse, Chokgyur Lingpa, and many, many others, different voices, and would imitate them as well. I loved to listen to his stories and many of them are in his biography, Blazing Splendor.

Tulku Urgyen used to sing Calling the Guru with his father and mother at retreat centres when he was a young child. So he knew the tune from Jamgon Kongtrul. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche also used to sing it with his father and mother. So this chant is something very intimate. 

Tulku Urgyen did retreat in a cave near Ipoh in the northern part of Malaysia. Ipoh has many caves, and in one of the larger ones which can easily hold 100 people, he stayed many, many times. He lived in the cave with its snakes and scorpions. People came daily to receive guidance, blessings and also to be healed by him. I was fortunate to spend several months with him there. One of these mornings during breakfast, his oldest son, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, said, “my father and I would like you to translate one text. It’s very dear to us.” Then he handed me an old woodblock print in Tibetan. Is was Calling the Guru from Afar.

Jamgon Kongtrul, also known as Lodro Thaye, Boundless Wisdom.

Twenty years later Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche said, “make sure it can be sung with a tune.” Whoops! It’s more simple to make a so-so translation and get some meaning out of it, but re-composing it in a way where you can actually sing it, is much harder. It has taken years and I’m very happy that we finally had a singable version. 

When you chant, do it from the heart. It’s a heart-song. That makes it very precious. It is a way to pry open your heart chakra so that there is no longer any barrier between yourself and the minds of all gurus in the eight practice lineages. Address them directly. Imagine that they are present, right before you, alive with kind, wise eyes, looking directly at you, and shining with resplendent light. You can also imagine these masters above the crown of your head, or in your heart chakra. Whichever is most easy for you, do that. It’s perfectly alright.

In the first part, we address each of the enlightened masters and ask them to bestow their particular blessings: the realization of the practices that they went through to unfold complete enlightenment. The second part lists all the hindrances we meditators face, from now on and until complete enlightenment. Sometimes it’s hard to practice. Sometimes it’s difficult to be authentic, and totally lay down our obscurations, in a second. So what is the obstacle? Jamgon Kongtrul kindly lists them one by one in this song, so that we can know for sure what those obstacles are. To call out from the heart to those who represent the awakened state, is like holding an enlarging glass to focus the sun’s rays into a single point. When totally open from the core of your heart, any obstacle can be overcome. 

After chanting, simply remain in an atmosphere that is suffused with blessing and inspiration. The word for blessing, adhiṣṭhāna in Sanskrit, or jinlab in Tibetan, means to be suffused with the spirit of enlightenment. That is the real meaning of blessing. Does it come from outside or from inside? In the beginning we make ourselves believe that it comes from somebody else. But in actuality it is not a concrete thing handed over from one to another. It is more something that happens when we open up, totally and completely, because then the awakened state that has been realized by all masters of the lineage and our basic being are seen to never have been different, not even in the slightest. In that opening, we can experience how this indivisible unity of the awakened state is in actuality. 

Calling the Guru from Afar, A Supplication to Pierce Your Heart with Devotion.

Guru, hear us. Guru, hear us.
Please, root guru, kindly hear us.

Essence of the buddhas in the triple times,
Sacred Dharma’s source of statements and insight,
Supreme among all groups, the noble sangha,
Please, root guru, would you hear us.

Greatest treasure of the kindest blessings,
Wellsprings of the two accomplishments,
Activity that fulfills the aims of everyone,
Please, root guru, would you hear us.

Guru Buddha Amitabha, please hear us.
Look here from dharmakaya’s sphere beyond concepts.
Lead us with bad karma, who roam in samsara,
To Sukhavati’s realm of pure perfection.

Guru Avalokiteshvara, please hear us.
Look from sambhogakaya’s realm, lucid knowing.
Calm from their root the pains of the six beings,
Churn from their depths the three realms of samsara.

Guru Padmasambhava, please hear us.
Look here from Chamara’s Lotus Light palace,
On us who are helpless, your Dark Age disciples,
Please rescue us right now with your compassion.

Guru Yeshe Tsogyal, please hear us.
Look from your realm, the divine Mahasukha.
Save us, the wretched, from samsara’s ocean,
To the great citadel of liberation.

Kahma and Terma lineage masters, please hear us.
Look from the realm of the unified wisdom.
Break down the dark house of our mind’s delusion
With the sunrise of the true realization.

All-knowing Drimey Özer, please hear us.
Look from your fivefold light-sphere of self-presence.
Fulfill insight’s great strength, pure and primordial.
And let us reach to the end of four visions.

Peerless Atisha and heart-sons, please hear us.
Look from Tushita’s one hundred devas.
Help to make dawn in our minds, bodhichitta,
Emptiness filled with the heart of compassion.

Marpa, Mila, Gampopa, please hear us.
Look from the vajra realms of Mahasukha.
Help in our heart dharmakaya to waken,
Great Seal’s bliss-void, the sublime of all siddhis.

Karmapa, lord of all worlds, please hear us.
Look from the sphere where you tame endless beings.
Help to see all things as unreal illusions
And to accept the perceiver’s three kayas.

Kagyus, four great and eight small, please hear us.
Look from your personal knowing, the pure realms.
Help to make vanish the four states of blindness
So practice-moods and the insights are perfected.

Five forefathers of the Sakyapas, please hear us.
Gaze from samsara-nirvana in union.
Combining the true view, with training and conduct,
Lead us onto the true path of all secrets.

Shangpa Kagyu masters, the matchless, please hear us.
Look from your buddha-realm, pure and primordial.
Help us train truly in means and in freedom
And to achieve unity beyond learning.

Tangtong Gyalpo, great siddha, please hear us.
Gaze from your effortless sphere of compassion.
Help reach the training, insight in illusion
So that we master the winds and the thought-flow.

Padampa Sangye, only father, please hear us.
Look from the realm of sublime, perfect action.
Suffuse our hearts with the lineage of blessings
To see beyond limits auspicious connections.

Machik Labdron, only mother, please hear us.
Gaze from the sphere of the transcendent knowledge.
Help cut at the root proud beliefs in an ego
To see beyond ego the absence of concepts.

Dolpo Sangye, all-knowing, please hear us.
Look from the realm, the supreme of all aspects.
Help us to cease shifting winds in the dhuti
And gain vajrakaya beyond all transition.

Taranatha, most noble, please hear us.
Gaze from the sphere of the triple companions.
Lead us unhindered through vajra path’s secrets,
And help us gain the divine rainbow body.

Chokgyur Lingpa, great tertön, please hear us.
Look from dharmakaya’s expanse, all-pervading.
Help dual thoughts melt away, beyond rising,
And to attain our seat of self-knowing.

Orgyen Dechen Lingpa, please hear us.
Gaze from sambhogakaya’s realm, natural knowing.
Let us make real the five kaya’s self-presence,
The vastness transcending objects and attainments.

Shikpo Lingpa, all-pervasive, please hear us.
Look from compassionate states taming beings.
Please help us find the mind-gem within us
So that fruition matures in the basis.

Padma Nyugu, bodhisattva, please hear us.
Gaze from your magical net of illusions.
Let us be one with you, lord of four kayas,
Most sublime wakefulness of all the buddhas.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, please hear us.
Look from your sphere, the two knowing wisdoms.
Clear up our mind’s darkness of unknowing.
Help us to spread the light of great knowledge.

Ösel Trulpey Dorje, please hear us.
Gaze from your realm of five-colored rainbows.
Help rinse the stains of thoughts, winds and bindus,
And to awaken the youthful vase body.

Padma Do-ngak Lingpa, please hear us.
Look from your sphere, empty bliss beyond changing.
Help us be able to fulfill completely
All conquerors’ and their offsprings’ intentions.

Ngawang Yonten Gyamtso, please hear us.
Gaze from the space and wisdom united.
Help so belief in real things is dismantled
And we can use all events as the training.

Lodrö Taye, son of buddhas, please hear us.
Look from your realm of compassionate kindness.
Help us accept everyone as kind parents
So we can help every being sincerely.

Padma Gargyi Wangchuk, please hear us.
Gaze from your lucid sphere of mahasukha.
Help us in wakefulness to melt the five poisons
And to cut loss and gain’s twofold attachment.

Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa, please hear us.
Look from samsara and nirvana in sameness.
Help us feel an authentic devotion,
The vast, simultaneous insight and freedom.

Child of the siddhas, Karma Urgyen, please hear us.
Gaze from your wakeful space, empty knowing.
Transmit the mind-lineage to your destined disciples,
Help us retake our kingdom, realization.

Kindest root guru, the gracious, please hear us.
Look from the crown of our head’s blissful mansion.
Help us to face dharmakaya’s self-knowing
And to reach buddhahood within this lifetime.

Kyema.
Sentient beings like ourselves with heavy dreadful karma
Drift since time without beginning through samsara’s realms.
While we still will have to go through torment that is endless,
Not a moment’s real remorse has ever filled our hearts.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to let the wish for freedom grow within.

This precious life is found, but our time completely wasted,
Meaningless pursuits always diverting our lives.
Laziness abducting the most meaningful, our freedom,
We leave empty-handed from this land of precious gems.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to make this life be truly meaningful.

Everyone upon this earth will die, without exception.
People pass away right now, like standing in a line.
Since we also have to die, and this can happen shortly,
It is surely foolish to make plans for many years.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to not waste time but keep to shorter plans.

Loving spouse and friends continue, each their separate journeys.
Others will enjoy the wealth we piled up stingily.
Also left behind will be this fondly treasured body,
While our mind will roam the bardo with no place or aim.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us so we can see: for these we have no need.

Confronted with a terrifying darkness right before us,
Chased at our rear by karma’s cruel, ferocious storm,
Lord of Death’s repulsive thugs will batter us and force us
To endure the painful rebirths in the wretched states.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to flee the abyss of the lower realms.

Though our faults are mountains we maintain them veiled from others.
Though another’s fault is slight we tell it far and wide.
Without the least of virtues we pretend to be outstanding.
While using dharma names we act exactly contrary.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to pacify conceited selfishness.

The self-belief, our nemesis, we keep concealed within us.
All our thoughts cause nothing but emotions to increase.
All our deeds will only bear a fruit that is unwholesome,
Not a single step forward on liberation’s path.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to cut self-clinging from its very root.

The slightest praise or blame can cause us so much joy or sorrow.
A single hurtful word destroys our shield of tolerance.
When we see a destitute we feel no wish to help him,
Every chance for charity held back by stinginess.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to bring the truest Dharma to our hearts.

Samsara is just pointless but we think it has some purpose.
Just for food and clothing we discard the lasting good.
Having all we need we are consumed by further craving,
Letting magical illusions mislead our minds.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to shed the interest living on like this.

Bearing not the slightest pain, not physical or mental,
While our stone-hearts feel no fear of taking dreadful births.
Though we see directly: what you sow is what you’re reaping.
Rather than the wholesome it is harm we carry on.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to feel conviction in causation’s law.

Hating enemies we love our family and friendships.
Delusion’s gloomy clouds obscure what’s right and what is wrong.
Training in the Dharma’s ways we’re drowsy, dim or sleepy,
During mundane deeds our senses are both sharp and clear.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us: slay selfish feelings, the true enemy.

Looking from outside we seem the truest Dharma people,
While inside the Dharma has not even touched our hearts.
Just like lethal snakes, emotions are concealed within us,
The practitioner’s faults are all laid bare when put to test.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to try to soften up our rigid hearts.

While we fail to notice even our greatest defects,
We play Dharma people, doing every type of wrong.
Selfish deeds and feelings have become our ingrown habits.
Every time a good thought moves, each time it comes to naught.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to recognize the faults that are our own.

Every day that passes brings our passing that much closer.
Every day that passes our hearts have grown more cold.
Trust in our teachers have now steadily diminished.
Love and true respect for Dharma friends have dropped away.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to tame this savageness within our hearts.

While we chant the refuge, prayers, and form the bodhichitta,
Devotion and compassion are not felt in our hearts.
These activities of Dharma are no more than chanting.
We go through the motions while our hearts remain untouched.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us so Dharma penetrates our every deed.

Misery, it’s said, is caused by wanting selfish pleasure.
Buddhahood is found from wanting every others’ well.
Forming bodhichitta but in secret we stay selfish.
While not helping others, we will bring them only harm.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us that we can put ourselves in others’ place.

Though a buddha in the flesh, we think he’s just a person.
The guru’s gift of kind advice we often don’t recall.
When not getting our way we lose every conviction.
His noble thoughts and deeds get veiled by doubting and distrust.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us so that true devotion may not fade but grow.

Our minds are buddhas, but we do not recognize this.
Though our thoughts are dharmakaya, we don’t realize.
Uncontrived the natural way, but we fail to maintain it.
Naturalness the basic state, but we lack certainty.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to free our natural knowing in itself.

Though our death will clearly come, we lack the guts to face it.
Though the Dharma surely helps, we lack sincerity.
Though the law of karma works, we fail to choose in earnest.
Heedfulness is needed, but forgotten every time.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to keep an undistracted mindfulness.

Born of nasty karma here in Kaliyuga’s ending,
All we’ve done till now results in further painful states.
Veiled by negative companionship like blurring cloudbanks,
Spiritual activities are robbed by pointless talk.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to practice Dharma with more fortitude.

First we thought of nothing but a life with dharmic meaning,
But results are rebirths in samsara’s painful realms.
Fruits of freedom are now wrecked by frost of harmful actions,
The goal of lasting value has been savagely destroyed.
Guru, would you hear us, help us right now with your kindness.
Inspire us to practice Dharma until it’s complete.

Inspire us to disenchantment from our deepest being.
Inspire us to not waste time but keep to shorter plans.
Inspire us to think sincerely we are merely mortals.
Inspire us to feel deep trust in actions’ consequence.

Inspire us so our path is never blocked by hindrance.
Inspire us to practice with a joyous constancy.
Inspire us to see all pain as part of our journey.
Inspire us to use the remedies with steadfastness.

Inspire us to feel devotion that is true, authentic.
Inspire us to recognize our being’s natural state.
Inspire us so natural knowing wakens deep within us.
Inspire us to cut confusion at its very root.
Inspire us so in this life we reach enlightenment.

We call on you, precious guru.
With longing we cry, gracious Dharma Lord.
Have pity for us, we have no hope but you.
Bless us to see our minds are never two.

Although several devoted practitioners have encouraged me to write something like this for a long time, I neglected to do so. Recently, at the request of both Samdrub Drönma, a noble female practioner, and Deva Rakshita, this was written by Lodrö Thaye, someome who merely maintains the image of a dark age lama, at the great practice center Dzongshö Deshek Düpa. May virtuous goodness increase!

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.

This edition is made for chanting in English, by Erik Pema Kunsang, 2013.
Finalized with musical help from Tara Trinley Wangmo, Sascha Alexandra Sellberg and Rodrigo Reijers. Thanks to Ian Saude and Michael Tweed, Nalanda Translation Committee, Ringu Tulku, and Michelle Martin for their earlier versions. 

Featured image by unknown.

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Comments

  1. Lowell Cook

    Beautiful work! I think us translators of the future are going to need the courage to stray from the texts in order to create translation that have music (just like the originals do). While a lot of the translations of Tibetan master’s poems can be said to be quite “precise,” bring them to a poetry reading and you’ll have a hard time reading it!

  2. Thank you very much Erik! This is a blessing to sing this song and have it’s meaning explained as well.

  3. Fantastic! Thank you so so much. This will really inspire me while I’m painting thangka.

  4. Thank you so much for making this available in English.

  5. Beautiful! I’ve been hoping for an English version of this for some time. Thank you, thank you. Is there anywhere to download it so I can listen while offline?

  6. This is wonderful. So deep and true and beautiful. Thank you.

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