In TANTRIC POETRY by Erik Pema Kunsang8 Comments

How often haven’t you heard that we only live once, that everything ends at death, “now he has found peace, his trouble is over”? The culture we live in is dominated by these ideas, that we are just this human body, and when it ends we are no more. There is however an entirely different perspective, presented by the buddhas in the tantric texts: This present mind that knows and feels lives in the body, but is not of the body. It is unlike any other thing we know in life, because mind is neither something nor nothing. Think about it! How can mind disappear, when it’s not a thing?

The song presented here comes from an extraordinary master, who lived in the Himalayas and his name was Longchenpa, Vast Expanse. Not only was he an expert in the tantric teachings, that cover everything, from the timeless past through conception into the present life, how the pristine nature is present within us, whether we know it or not, and especially how to be liberated while dying or in the period that follows death. Longchenpa was also enlightened about these topics, life and death, from within his own experience. His song has been chanted for centuries by meditators as a reminder for awakening to total freedom during the experiences we go through at the end of this life.

My guru Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, was very fond of this particular poetry and often added it into a ceremony, performed for the living and the dead. Some of the words may be unfamiliar or even impossible to understand at present; they need to be unpacked like a present by a tantric teacher. Over the years, I have noticed how deeper and deeper levels of meaning come to life and I’m sure that you will notice the same. Longchenpa’s mind lives on, also through these words.

Om ah hung
Please pay heed, o conquerors of all directions and all times.
By the goodness gathered in the threefold times, and what I now possess,
From the time without beginning up until this very day,
May enlightenment be reached by me and everyone without exception.

In every incarnation, while this is not attained,
May we see the basic essence, Great Perfection’s deepest path,
Dharmata directly, the increase of visions, and the culmination,
May the body made of matter then dissolve into a mass of light.

May we not be faced with anguish at the interrupted life,
May the gurus and the yidams, all the dakas and dakinis,
Appear in actuality, right before our very eyes,
Grant empowerment, predictions and then guide us to the realms divine.

Since everything conditioned does not last, our death will surely come,
The breathing stops, the mind and body go their separate ways.
May we not become bewildered, start to cling, or be attached,
But remain in dharmakaya’s natural and continuous state.

When the time has come to shed this body, this material illusion,
The perceptions and the skandhas, gross and subtle thoughts, all cease.
Just when mind and body part, may we all be liberated,
Unbewildered, into all-pervasive vastness, timeless space.

Then, one into another, untrue elements dissolve,
A lucid state, unmixed and pure, with lights of the five colors,
Without creating concepts, may the vajra chains in colors five,
Be undivided, unified, perfected in dharmata’s realm.

When wrathful demons as enormous hungs and other forms,
When billion universes fill with roaring sounds of hung,
May we recognize the vital point: the hung sound is an empty knowing
And realize that every empty sound is like an echo.

When hordes of Yama’s executioners surround us,
Attack, slay, kill, escape, give chase—may all this panic naturally dissolve.
Freed from illusory displays of being struck with fear and terror,
May we know them to be forms of yidams, both the peaceful and the wild.

When the hordes of wrathful herukas come swarming forth
From the Blazing Blissful Palace in the mansion of the skull,
May we not behold them as the forms of dreadful demons,
But instead gain insight of the heart essence’s pithy meaning.

When the multitude of peaceful buddhas dissolve back in basic space
From the Palace of the Jewel Dome that is within the heart,
The moment the displays transpose and manifest as forms of light,
May awareness then dissolve into the brilliant expanse.

When the wheel of channels at the throat becomes unfastened
With thousand roaring thunder claps of terrifying laughter,
May we recognize the peaceful-wrathful song of ah and hung
And free it as the nonarising sound of empty knowing.

When red and white, the means and knowledge, are converging at the heart
From Bliss Sustaining Palace in the secret center,
Untainted, may this natural state of blissful emptiness
Cause winds and mind to be absorbed within the central channel.

Then as we remain within dharmata’s bardo state,
May consciousness not stray into oblivion,
But realizing vast and timeless purity, the natural liberation,
May we settle in the ‘other-empty’ state where phenomena dissolve.

When seeing the reality of dharmata directly,
May conceptual remedies, fixated mindfulness, be freed,
And realizing timeless purity, the nature of phenomena exhausted,
May we stay in nonconceptual states devoid of constructs.

When the dome of fivefold wisdoms opens up its doors
From the palace of five-colored, interwoven rainbows,
And the realm is filled with deities and spheres,
May we meet the fivefold kayas and five wisdoms.

When we meet the fivefold kayas and five wisdoms
In the incandescent palace that is the empty bindu’s lamp,
May we, freed from doubt, that vacillating dualistic feeling,
Fully merge into Samantabhadra’s timeless state.

Having met the fourfold lamps, mind’s essence, face to face,
In the incandescent palace that is the empty bindu’s lamp,
May we reach spontaneous presence with a perfect steadiness
And transpose to space and rigpa’s sphere of vastness.

May the luminous and empty lamp of dharmakaya shine.
May the dharmakaya emptiness of knowing be attained.
May sambhogakaya’s ceaseless dual vision be attained.
May nirmanakaya’s perfect natural knowing be attained.
Having reached the triple kayas, may we work for others’ good.

This completes the aspiration for the bardo of dying and dharmata that
liberates through hearing, written by Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam.

Source: Longchenpa’s Bardo Aspiration that is a Pointing-out Instruction (bar do’i smon lam ngo sprod bzhugs so), from Longchen Rabjam’s Collected Writings. Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang.

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.

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  1. Avatar

    Thank you for yet another gem,

  2. martha boyden

    thank you once again and again and again for your many many many translations
    may all beings be free

  3. Avatar

    Hi, Erik
    Thank you, as always.
    A technical note:
    May enlightenment be reached by I and everyone without exception.
    should be
    May enlightenment be reached by me and everyone without exception.
    objective case
    love and bows

  4. Joe Lamport

    Tendons stretched
    Legs tucked belly flat
    Life engine idling
    Equipoised on the mat

    Bardo glow
    Nimbus of light
    From apex
    Into a mudra
    Held tight

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