Song of Sadness About Others

Literary Genres › Songs and Poems | Tibetan MastersKhenchen Ngawang Palzang

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Khenchen Ngawang Palzang

Khenchen Ngawang Palzang

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A Song of Sadness About Others[1]

by Khenchen Ngawang Palzang

Eh ma eh ma! In these degenerate times,
Though you speak the truth, they twist your words.
They who consider the right path to be a sham,
When I think of these degenerate people, it breaks my heart!
When I think of all the ways to suffer, it crushes me!
When I see hypocrisy’s grinding gears, it depresses me!
But, friends, when I think of the methods for a swift liberation, I stand in awe!

Don’t be fooled by the fictions of fortune-tellers.[2]
Things are not as they appear; see them as the dance of illusion.
Persevering on the path to freedom, you should give it your all.
However you frame it, saṃsāra is pointless.
However much you've accomplished, will you ever be finished?
Imagine journeying back through your bygone lives;[3]
All that you acquired in earlier existences—check, is anything left of it now?
It’s time to be honest with yourself.
Rather, it’s way past time.

Ha ha! In the illusory magic of this unreal and illusory city,
This song on coming to know that all yogas are fictions,
Burst forth in this old master of fictions,[4] who sees the illusory nature.[5]
No matter how many fictive words I write, there is no end to them.
But, astounded by this vision of fictive structures collapsing in basic space,
I could not help but toss some little seeds of fictive words.
I’ll linger no more; off to the island of freedom I go!
If there are any friends who share my goal, please come along quickly!

In the sound ship of the Great Secret Essence,[6]
I have raised the sails of passion for my guru’s intimate instructions;
The path of abundance has furnished me with all I desire;
And I sail to the secret kingdom of the spontaneously present nature!

Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!

| Translated by Joseph McClellan with editorial assistance from Nyinjed N.T., 2024.


Tibetan Editions

mKhan po ngag dga'. gSung 'bum ngag dbang dpal bzang vol. 2, pp. 41–42. Khreng tuʼu, n.d. BDRC W22946.

mKhan po ngag dgaʼ. gSung ʼbum kun mkhyen ngag gi dbang po, vol. 1, pp. 183–184. sNga ʼgyur kaḥ thog bcu phrag rig mdzod chen moʼi dpe tshogs. Khreng tuʼu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2017. BDRC W4CZ364088.

Version: 1.1-20240412

  1. This title is based on the catalog title in the 2017 edition. In the older (n.d.) version, the piece is cataloged as gdams pa deng song snyigs ma (“A Counsel for These Degenerate Times” derived from the first four syllables of the text). It is probably more appropriately classified as a “song” (glu) because, in a later passage, the author describes how it arose to him in a moment of meditative inspiration.  ↩

  2. "Fortune-tellers" for mo pra, a variant of mo phywa: "fortune-telling" or "divination." Khenpo Ngaga is suggesting that divinations are no way to arrive at the ultimate truth.  ↩

  3. This line renders the more figurative sngar song shi ba'i mgron po'i ngang tshul can, which is more literally something like, "In the manner of a traveler through previous deaths."  ↩

  4. "Old master of fictions" for rdzun rgan—more literally, "old conman" or "old liar."  ↩

  5. In this passage, there is some grammatical confusion about the instrumental particle gyis in the second line, which is the particle found in both editions. This particle is often mixed up with the homophonous genitive particle gyi. Taken as an instrumental particle, it turns "old master of fictions" into the subject of the next transitive verb, which would be bris "to write," in which case it is clearer to split the passage into shorter sentences instead of an awkwardly long one. This construction also requires the term yoga (rnal 'byor) to enjamb with "all" (thams cad) in the next line, resulting in "all yogas…" Alternatively, if we take it as an orthographical error that should be the genitive particle, it would give us a slightly simpler stanza that would read, "This song on coming to know that everything is false/ Burst forth in this yogi, an old master of fictions, who sees the illusory nature.”  ↩

  6. A synonym for the Vajrayāna.  ↩

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