LONGCHENPA’S SONG OF THE ENCHANTING WILDWOODS

In TRUE BOOKS by Timothy Hinkle7 Comments

The title in Sanskrit: sāna-ānantavāti; in Tibetan: nags tshal kun tu dga’ ba’i gtam

I prostrate to my guru and the Three Jewels!

Her form, a peaceful grove of fresh blossoms,
Pleasingly dappled with the soothing moonlight of compassion—
The sole restful tonic for those long exhausted—
I honor the miraculous wildwoods,
Which I see now as if for the first time.

Since I am broken hearted here in the city of existence,
My mind sends these tidings its own way—
A story about resorting to the peaceful forest
For someone who will apply their heart to the Dharma path.

I see the truth that this life won’t last and is swiftly heading toward ruin,
That even this body which I’ve so lavishly cared for will be lost,
And I’ll have to head off alone to parts unknown.
So now, I’m off to the wildwoods.

When I get distracted, I lose sight of the path to freedom—
Which is solely responsible for prolonging my saṃsāric suffering.
Now that I’ve seen the plague of conceptual thinking,
I’m off to live in the unborn peace of the wildwoods.

The busy cities are bonfires of desire.
I see now that if I catch the terrible plague of existence,
I’ll just keep wandering in the canyons of saṃsāra.
So, I’m off right now to the wildwoods.

Every being in existence is threatened by affliction
And totally bound by terrifying chains of duality.
Because each one has at some point or another been my mother or father,
To free them, I must go to the wildwoods.

All these outer things we keep looking to
Are impermanent and completely unreliable—
Seeing how they change like autumn clouds,
My heart knows I must go to the peaceful wildwoods.

The sun of the good times of yore has set
And the moon of mean people is on the rise;
The darkness of evildoing māras closes in on all sides.
I see it, so I must go to the wildwoods right now.

People are so difficult to be with—
The good ones won’t lead the way, and the bad ones never stop.
At the slightest provocation, their mood can shift unpredictably.
No matter what I do, they’re never satisfied.
So, I can’t stay here—I’m going to the wildwoods.

If I don’t take charge of my own mind,
No one else is going to steer the course for me.
If I’m really going to give the best counsel to my own mind, it’s this:
Don’t stay here—you must go to the wildwoods.

Spending time with the spiritually immature diminishes my virtue
And certainly makes me more negative.
To make sure I’m totally engaged in the positive,
From today on, I must go to the wildwoods.

These days, when you spend time with somebody,
You might make a quick friend,
But at a moment’s notice,
They can become as unbearable as an enemy.
Therefore, I can’t stay—I’m going to the wildwoods.

Alas, even the light of the Sage’s teachings
Is drawing down upon the peaks of the western mountains.
Once it has set, the lion’s roar of the true Dharma
Will not be heard again.
So, I’m off to the wildwoods.

When explained well, nobody pays attention.
Poor explanations contradict the true Dharma.
Since beings prefer to believe that the buddhas have taught only
That they should do what they like, and nothing else,
When I teach the real Dharma way, everyone reviles me like an enemy.
For whatever reason, when they teach non-Dharma these days,
People love it, even though it sends them off to the lower realms.
I simply can’t understand what they’re up to.
Seeing all this, since I aim to accomplish the benefit of beings,
I can’t stay. I won’t stay. I’m going to the wildwoods.

Even though your body is beautiful with discipline,
You soar on the wings of the three trainings,
And you’ve plunged into the the lotus lake of study and contemplation,
If you aren’t also wealthy, everyone just reviles and ignores you.
The evil-acting irreligious rich are treated like gods.
This is an age when fools are marketed better than the holy ones.
Seeing these signs of the times, I’m off to the wildwoods.

Wherever I look,
Apart from people putting their energy into the material world,
Those practicing the Dharma path are as rare as a supernova.
Having seen this to be true,
If I’m going to accomplish the true Dharma,
I can’t stay any longer—I’m going to the wildwoods.

Compared to those who seek distraction with every thought,
People who care for themselves according to the Dharma are altogether rare.
Those who actually practice it are bullied and disregarded.
Thus, I can’t stay—I’m going to the wildwoods.

Even if you spend this life in introspection,
It passes so quickly, without pausing day or night.
Having seen that laziness always gets the better of my virtue
And that this mind won’t settle even a little,
I’m off to the wildwoods right now.

Because I’m distracted by the eight worldly concerns
Such as preferring praise to blame,
Even though I live spiritually, its all for this one life.
So, I can’t stay—I’m going to the wildwoods.

All the good times I had until yesterday
Are now as real as last night’s dream,
Though sometimes they do become objects of pleasant nostalgia.
Seeing how meaningless this is, I’m going to the wildwoods.

Even savoring my desires, I never feel content.
All the pleasures that I’ve experienced
From birth till now
Would not satisfy me, even if they returned.
This mind is addicted to desire.
If I’m not even securing this life’s happiness in this way,
How will I ever achieve the nirvāṇa I seek
Which ensures benefit that lasts through all lives?
So, I’m done following the desire highway.
O dear heart, we can do it:
Let’s abandon these desires and get to the wildwoods.

Since all this thinking hasn’t done me much good,
In order to grow accustomed to observing my own mind,
I’m going today to the wildwoods,
Where you, dear mind, will realize lasting happiness.

Once I’m lying on my deathbed,
I’ll have to leave everything behind and travel on—alone.
This time is certain to arrive before long.
So, right now, I’m going to the wildwoods.

Because this time is incredibly degenerate,
Even if someone like me were to teach,
It wouldn’t really benefit others.
Because I aspire to be of benefit to future ages,
I can’t stay here—I’m going to meditate in the wildwoods.

O mind, dismiss these preoccupations
That are of no help to yourself, and no help to others.
You must, from today forth,
Go to the wildwoods to meditate on the nature of mind
In order to accomplish what will definitely bring us benefit.

But absolutely, I make the noble heartfelt aspiration
That a time may come when I receive
The opportunity to be of benefit to others,
Accomplishing their needs on a vast scale
Without thinking of myself for even a moment.
Now though, if I have one thought in my heart,
It’s this: don’t wait—go meditate in the wildwoods right now.

In order to encourage those below me to listen
And especially uphold the buddhadharma,
My primary concern will be the exchange of the essential teachings.
This will spread the Sage’s doctrine
And increase the intelligence of my own mind.

Whatever I conceive of is impermanent and meaningless.
Even the best conditioned things are bound to fall apart.
Having seen this to be true,
I will seek the sacred undeceptive mind—
The essential and indestructible truth.

All the Dharma collections that the Sage has taught,
Come down to giving up desires
And settling evenly in the peaceful truth—nothing else.
O mind, consider your mortality,
And be intent to go to the wildwoods.

The wildwoods have been universally praised by the victors.
So, they encourage anyone who has few desires and is rich in contentment
To go live in the wildwoods.

Now when there’s all this unstable thinking,
The primary task is to settle mind inwardly.
For it projects itself toward objects in the midst of many distractions,
Unable to rest for even a moment.
Even if well-guarded, it follows compulsively after emotions.
Therefore, I can’t stay here. I’m going to meditate in the wildwoods.

Intellectually understanding phenomena’s nature
And leaving them as mere objects of mindfulness is no help.
So, if I’m going to become intimate with the true nature of phenomena,
I can’t wait—I must go to the wildwoods.

The wilds naturally entail few distractions and obligations
And are free from the suffering of anxiety and adversity.
So today, be happy go to the peaceful wildwoods
Which far surpass the joys of the cities of the higher realms.

Well, my dear mind, listen now to the charms of the wildwoods:

Precious trees fit to offer to the victors,
Abound there, branches laden with fruit—
Their leaves and flowers fragrant and blossoming,
Graced with the scent of incense and mist on the breeze.

Cascades of water descend with the gentle rumble of bass drums.
The hills above are bathed in the coolness of the moon
And covered with a thick robe of clouds,
Above which shine the stars and constellations in their perfect beauty.

Flocks of geese glide above fresh smelling ponds and
Birds and deer roam freely about.
Bees buzz melodiously everywhere among the
Lotus and utpala flowers, among the wish-fulfilling trees.

The trees sway, dancing back and forth, back and forth,
And the tips of their branches bow,
As if lovingly welcoming guests,
Saying, “We’re glad you’ve come!”

The cool, pure ponds are covered with lotus flowers
Whose faces are bright as if smiling upon us.
Surrounding are groves of flowers and trees
And grassy meadows holding the robes of the sky.
All of this shining like the stars on a clear night
Or gods playing in pleasure groves.

While the cuckoo sings his intoxicating, piercing song,
And the flowers sway in the cool seasonal breeze,
Cloud-elephants trumpet their joy
And the appearance of rain heralds cooling goodness.

In all four seasons,
Guiltless subsistence can be had
From readily available fruit, leaves, and roots.

In the woods, the afflictions naturally subside
For there is no one to say unpleasant things.
Having gone far from busy cities,
In the woods, peaceful meditation naturally grows.
In the woods, the mind is tamed as it conforms to the true Dharma,
And one can find the bliss of inner peace.

In short, the charms of the wildwoods are endless—
Even if I had eons, I could not conclusively extol them.
The attainment of awakening by all the victors of the three times
Only occurs when staying in the wildwoods—
Never in stressful cities and countries.

Offering flowers and incense to all the buddhas
For eons as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges
Would bring but a fraction of the merit gained
From taking seven steps in the direction of retreat,
With the qualities of the wildwoods in one’s mind.
I encourage you thus to contemplate the qualities of the woods
As detailed in the Moon Lamp Sūtra.
Once you’ve gone there, you’ll live near caves and cliffs,
In areas rich with medicinal herbs, amidst flowers and trees,
Or in a simple thatched hut made of grass and leaves.
You’ll sustain yourself with the bare necessities
Such as water, kindling, and fruit
And have the space to apply yourself day and night to what is wholesome.

There, inspired by the turning of the leaves,
You’ll realize with certainty that
Beauty, health, and various abilities
All gradually change—that they lack solidity:
What is called “the diminishing of one’s assets.”

There, inspired by the falling of the leaves,
You’ll realize with certainty that
Friends, strangers, and even your own body
Are such that they separate,
Even if they are together now, for the moment:
What is called “the reality of loss.”
There, inspired by the pond losing its lotus flowers,
You’ll realize with certainty that
All wealth, assets, and sensual objects
Are in the end changeable, lacking solidity:
What is called “the exhaustion of what is amassed.”

There, inspired by the passing of the months and seasons,
You’ll realize with certainty that
Even this body, like the blooming flowers of late spring,
Changes with time, its youth passing:
What is called “the arrival of the Lord of Death.”

There, inspired by the ripening and falling of fruit
You’ll realize with certainty that
Youth, the prime of life, and old age are just so,
That there’s no certainty of when death will occur:
What is called “what is born is bound to die.”

There, inspired by reflections appearing in ponds,
You’ll realize with certainty that
As the diverse range of phenomena appear,
They lack inherent nature,
Just like illusions, mirages,
Or reflections of the moon in water:
What is called “empty of true existence.”

Having thus internalized the nature of all that is,
Sit upright on a comfortable seat, with the body at ease,
And cultivate bodhichitta, concerned with the needs of beings.

Don’t dwell on the past or fantasize about the future,
Don’t engineer this natural ongoing presence.
Don’t direct the mind, or draw it within,
Just let it settle without distraction,
Resting without grasping or conceptually structuring this open clarity
That is vivid, quiet, lucid, illuminating.
This is the wisdom intent of the buddhas of the three times.

Other than settling, easily relaxed
In the innate experience of the way your mind abides—
There’s nothing you need to contemplate.
So, you can release the effort it takes to engineer it,
For it is not an object of conceptual elaboration—
It can’t be conceived of or investigated.
Yet, it is the wisdom intent of all the buddhas.

Therefore, to quiet the tangled mess of thought,
All you need to do is look into the intimately peaceful nature of mind.

At the end of the session, dedicate without reifying the three spheres.

In between sessions,
Cultivate your appreciation of impermanence and death.
Conditioned things have no attainable essence and are rife with problems.
Consider how saṃsāra’s nature is also like this.
Once you have realized how the play of all external appearance
Are like dream or illusion,
Let everything be within the equality of the experiential dimension of space.

Don’t affirm or reject anything.
Give up attempting to engineer experience.
By living in this fashion, anything that happens
Will help reveal the unborn and unceasing nature of mind,
Your innate nature, just as it is.

Also at night, when it is time to sleep,
Release your mind into a conceptually unstructured experience
Within the reality of its unborn nature.

When you wake and appearances dawn,
Repeatedly relate to them as being ineffable by nature like illusions.

Once you have seen this precious treasury of your mind’s nature
To be such that nothing need be added or removed,
You will cross the painful ocean of existence
To the simple experience of that which is eternally peaceful
And entails no suffering,
Arriving at the boundless state of buddhahood.

In the meantime, consider the magical play of concepts that occur
As the natural arising of your essence, to which you need not grasp.
Thoughts arise as the display of dharmakāya’s essence.

When appearances occur as you are up and about,
Think, “I will guide these beings.
May I be their protector, refuge, and friend.”
Once you have entrusted your mind to bodhichitta,
Bear in mind that your conduct should ideally be pure.
You needn’t think about anything other than the needs of beings.
This is the miraculous tree of compassion,
Which nourishes the shoots of the omniscient victors.

This path surpasses the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.
For it is a great lake of innumerable qualities from which
The light of immeasurable compassion spreads—
The incredible source of the precious state of perfect buddhahood.

Nothing could be more incredible than this.
Thus, anyone who is wise
Should definitely go meditate in the wildwoods
To accomplish sublime and peaceful awakening.

If in this way I do not accomplish the Dharma now,
Later, who knows what direction I’ll head in
And how difficult it will be to reconnect with the path at that point.
Then, there will be nothing I can do.
So now, while I have the chance, I must apply myself to the Dharma.

Nobody knows for sure whether they will die today or tomorrow.
Nothing is totally reliable,
The Lord of Death is drawing ever nearer—
And I have no power to send him back.
So, quickly, quickly, I’m off to meditate in the wildwoods.

When death comes,
None of our wealth, friends, or relatives
Will be of any help to us.
A real practitioner will have nothing to fear of death.
So, let death come quickly here—I’m going to the wildwoods.

It won’t be long before everyone, everything, and I will all be gone.
This is certain to come to pass.
So I can accomplish a bit of the Dharma now,
I’m definitely going to live in the wildwoods.

Those who live an ethically impeccable life with
Abundant study,
Good meditation,
Life in the wildwoods,
And training in what is virtuous
Shall fearlessly discover great joy in the face of death.
The cause of their joy is exactly life in the wilds.
Thus, I am leaving to meditate there.
Nobody could know for certain
If the time when I shall be no more will come tomorrow or not.
On the morning of my death,
Nothing will protect me other than the Dharma.
For the Dharma is my protector, my home, and my friend.
It points me to the fine manor of the higher realms.

Thus, mind, remember that death is coming!
I must go to live in the wildwoods for the love of Dharma.

My mind sent this letter to itself.
Mind, if you’re listening, you are fortunate in the Dharma.
This message, spoken for your benefit, came straight from the heart.
Mind, take it, and head to the wildwoods.

This song of the enchanting wildwoods
Was penned by the man from Samyé
Whose mind was turned to liberation by renunciation,
On the highest mountain peak of Being at Ease in the Nature of Mind,
So he would wholeheartedly head to the wildwoods.

Through any virtue arisen from this,
May all beings extract their minds from the city of saṃsāra
And find freedom all together
In the enchanting wildwoods of omniscient liberation.

This Song of the Enchanting Wildwoods was written by Ngagi Wangpo (Longchen Rabjam), the well-educated poet from glorious Samyé Monastery, on the highest peak of the mountain when renunciation surged in him for our saṃsāric home. This translation is offered freely to inspire wildwood yogins everywhere. May it delight those who love awakening amidst nature’s simplicity.

About the Author
Timothy Hinkle

Timothy Hinkle

Timothy spent three years studying at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu before serving as an oral interpreter and a written translator, presently for 84000 and Light of Berotsana. Though he now studies somatic psychology in the busy Bay Area metropolis, he is most at home in the dappled light of a Douglas Fir forest, in the deep quiet of the Oregon Cascades.

Featured image by Andy Bay. Karzakhstan.

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Comments

  1. Every step is magical and sacred. Everything speaks now with beauty

  2. I thank you for this wonderful translation, it does fit in nicely to forest surrounding Tharpa Ling. May you bring more of Longchenpa into the light.

  3. Time changes nothing. The path of liberation demands exitting the false conceptual world and enterring into the flow of natural order. I’m selling my home after 12 years in LA. Going back to the woods, oh yes, back to the woods. Thanks so much for such an accessible translation. Couldn’t help but laugh and laugh. So true

  4. Beatiful Song, and thanks for your translation!
    Greeting from chile

  5. Timothy Hinkle

    Lowell, actually according to his biography, Longchenpa was from central Tibet, in the Dra Valley of Yoru. I haven’t stepped out of the Lhasa airport, but my sense of Central Tibet is that it is fairly treeless, including Gangri Thökar where he spent much of his time. Incidentally, I just travelled to Bhutan and visited Longchenpa’s seat-in-exile at Tharpa Ling, which is a richly forested area. So I’m speculating that given the overall tone in “Wildwoods” of disenchantment with the social (and I would assume) political realities of his time, and his love for forested solitude, that the piece was inspired by his time in Bhutan, during his exile from Tibet.

  6. Lowell Cook

    Excellent translation! Do you have a guess where these actual woods might have been? I’m guessing Longchenpa was from Eastern Tibet?

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