Immaculate Radiance

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Longchen Rabjam

Longchen Rabjam

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Immaculate Radiance

A Testament

by Longchen Rabjam

Homage to all the noble ones who possess great compassion!

I pay homage to the sun of excellence, so wondrously bright,
Who displays, by compassion’s might, an array of emanations,
Caring for all beings through extended and focused activity,
And then settles into the basic space of the primordial ground.

I pay homage to the one who completed every deed,
And then, to train those who cling to permanence,
Travelled to Kuśinagara, 'Town of Finest Grass',
The most sublime and wondrous of settlements.

I have long understood the nature of saṃsāra,
And since worldly things have no real essence,
Now I must forsake this transient, illusory body,
So listen as I impart this solely beneficial advice.

We have taken this life to be real, as if deceived.
Understand with certainty how unreliable it is,
How impermanent, how lacking in substance,
And practise sacred Dharma from this very day.

Friends do not remain forever but are like guests,
Assembled for a while and then swiftly parting.
Give up attachment toward illusory companions,
And practise sacred Dharma for lasting benefit.

Wealth, gathered and hoarded, is like honey,
Amassed by you, then enjoyed by others.
Now that you are free, therefore, prepare
With stores of merit for the journey hereafter.

Houses, built yet destructible, are as if on loan.
You’re powerless to stay when it’s time to go.
Give up your hankering after bustling places,
And turn to havens of solitude right away.

Friendship and enmity are like a children’s game,
Trifling attachments and aversions, a blazing fire.
Entirely forsake any quarrelling and resentment,
And bring your mind under control from now on.

Inessential tasks are just like magical illusions.
Even a stint of effort fails to bring a final result.
Give up worldly dharmas, affairs of this life,
And seek the path of liberation from now on.

The free, advantaged form you have is like a precious ship
With the power to deliver you across the ocean of misery.
So put aside laziness, idleness and self-discouragement,
And develop the strength of diligence from this moment on.

The sublime guru is like an escort in a dangerous land.
Toward the guides who guard from the enemy, saṃsāra,
Show sincere reverence—with body, speech and mind—
As you honour and rely on them from this moment on.

The profound instructions are like medicinal nectar,
Supreme for curing the malady of mental afflictions.
Apply them, then, to the mind and learn them well,
So that they are perfectly internalized from now on.

Pure threefold training is like a wish-fulfilling jewel,
A path to ultimate good and joy now and hereafter.
Since it will bring the sublime peace of awakening,
Apply it to your mindstream from this moment on.

Diverse, wide-ranging study is like a precious torch,
Clearing confusion’s darkness, lighting freedom’s way.
It opens wisdom’s eyes and sparks wellbeing’s glow,
So strive to be free from bias from this moment on.

Thorough contemplation is like an expert goldsmith,
Eliminating doubts and misconceptions about what is.
So with insight from reflecting on what’s been heard,
Gain thorough comprehension from this moment on.

Meditation, by nature, is like tasting a healing elixir.
Integrating points you have learned and contemplated
Serves to pacify all the maladies of the mental afflictions,
Traverse the sea of concepts, and reach the essence beyond.
So apply yourself to meditation in the forest from now on.

The view, by nature, resembles immaculate space,
Without any position or limitation of high or low,
With no dimension, and beyond speech and thought.
Apply the methods for realizing this from now on.

Meditation, by nature, is like a mountain or ocean.
Without transition or change, clear and unsullied,
It pacifies all signs of distraction and elaboration.
Meditate on how things are from this moment on.

Conduct, by nature, is like a person who is tactful,
Knowing what is timely or helpful in any situation.
Recognizing the illusoriness of allure and repulsion,
Adoption and avoidance, rejection and cultivation,
Free yourself from dualistic fixations from now on.

Fruition, by nature, is like a seafarer made rich:
One’s own wealth spontaneously benefits others.
Without hope or fear, one is naturally content.
Make every effort to achieve this from now on.

Mind, by nature, is the dharmadhātu, like space,
The nature of space is the genuine mind itself,
Non-dual in reality, supremely perfect equality.
Realize this with certainty from this moment on.

Phenomena in their variety are like reflections in a mirror:
Appearing yet empty—and there's no emptiness but this.
Naively unexamined, things seem singular or distinct.
Understand this with certainty from this moment on.

The subjective apprehension of objects is like a dream:
Non-dual in reality but perceived as dual through habit.
This is a mental designation, empty of its own essence.
Understand this absence of duality from this moment on.

Saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are, by nature, like a magical game,
Appearing as either good or bad but essentially the same.
Everything is unborn and has the nature of space.
Understand this with certainty from this moment on.

Delusive appearances, pleasant and painful, are like apparitions.
When individual causes and effects of virtue and misdeeds arise,
They are by nature unborn, in essence beyond transition and change.
Understand this with certainty from this moment on.

Mentally imputed phenomena are like children’s games—
Unreal, but since they involve distinctions based on thought,
There is attachment to individual positions as good or bad.
Understand the nature of equality from this moment on.

Generosity, moreover, is like a hoard of precious jewels,
Inexhaustible and a cause of ever-increasing prosperity.
Towards fields of merit—lesser, middling and supreme—
Practise generosity as appropriate from this moment on.

Ethical discipline is like an excellent and flawless chariot,
Transporting to cities of higher rebirth and definite good.
Adopt measures to avoid negativity, to amass virtue,
And to benefit sentient beings from this moment on.

Patience is like a vast lake, supremely undisturbed,
To be impervious to harm is the best of austerities.
Embracing pain, reflecting on compassion, and so on—[1]
Train yourself to become familiar with these from now on.

Diligence is like a mass of fire, which burns away
Discordant factors and kindles a delight in virtue.
Without self-discouragement, idleness or laziness,
Practise the path of liberation from this moment on.

Unwavering concentration is like the king of mountains,
Unswayed by conceptual reference, undistracted by objects,
Evenly settling on a given focus, not caught by anything else—
Familiarize your mind with this from this moment on.

Wisdom insight, vast in scale, is like the circle of the sun,
Dispelling delusion’s darkness and illuminating Dharma,
Expanding liberation’s isle as it dries up the sea of faults—
Let it expand further and further from this moment on.

Skill in means is like a seafaring merchant who finds jewels.
Crossing the ocean of suffering to reach the island of great bliss,
Gaining the three kāyas, spontaneously achieving twofold aims.[2]
Employ the methods to benefit others from this moment on.

Great strength is like a brave hero who defeats opponents,
Conquering kleśa forces and setting on the bodhi path.
It brings the complete gathering of virtue without obstacle,
So apply it within your mindstream from this moment on.

Aspiration is like a magnificent wish-fulfilling jewel.
It spontaneously grants all wishes and increases bliss;
It leads the mind to peace and fulfils our inner hopes.
Pray, therefore, on a vast scale from this moment on.

Pristine wisdom is like rain-bearing clouds amassing in the sky.
Beneficial showers fall from the clouds of samādhi and dhāraṇī
To produce an excellent crop of accumulated virtue in all beings.
Exert yourself to discover such wisdom from this moment on.

Skilful means and discerning insight are like a magnificent mount,
For preventing a fall into existence or peace, fulfilling the two aims,
Completing the five paths and finding the spontaneous three kāyas.
Make an effort to accomplish them both from this moment on.

The factors leading to awakening are like a great highway,
Which is travelled by all the noble ones of the three times.
Diligently apply yourself to cultivate all thirty-seven—
The four mindful applications and the rest—from now on.

Loving kindness, moreover, is just like excellent parents,
Constantly caring for the six child-like classes of beings,
Fondly serving them and acting always for their benefit.
Cultivate this love within your mindstream from now on.

Compassion is like a bodhisattva, heir to the victorious,
Who regards beings’ suffering as his or her very own,
And, in a bid to remove it, dons the armour of diligence.
Adopt compassion in your mindstream from now on.

Sympathetic joy is like the noble elder of a family,
Who takes delight in the virtuous deeds of others
And rejoices as if they had arranged it themselves.
Train intensely in such joy from this moment on.

Equanimity, by nature, is like uniformly even ground,
Without the thorniness of bias, attachment or aversion.
The experience of perpetual equality yields great bliss.
Become accustomed to its nature from this moment on.

The two types of bodhicitta are like a masterful guide,
Steering every virtue towards the island of liberation,
Not dismayed by existence, perfectly benefitting others.
Generate them both repeatedly from this moment on.

Appreciation is like the vast repository of the ocean,
Full of virtue and retaining the same taste over time.
It surges with the waves of a faith that never recedes.
Apply this in your mindstream from this moment on.

Dedication is like the inexhaustible treasury of space:
Shared dharmadhātu undiminished, growing further,
One with dharmakāya, rūpakāya there spontaneously.
Practise the purity of the three spheres from now on.

Rejoicing in others’ good is like the element of space,
Limitless in merit, free of objective and presumption.
It has the character of immovability and utter clarity.
Apply it repeatedly in your mindstream from now on.

Mindfulness, moreover, is like a well-made iron goad,
Restraining the wild, untamed elephant of the mind.
It prevents wrongdoing and naturally induces virtue.
Apply it within your mindstream from this moment on.

Unwavering vigilance is like an excellent watchman,
Who denies the thief of non-virtue any opportunity
And serves to guard the abundant riches of virtue.
Be sure to apply it in your mindstream from now on.

Conscientiousness is like an effective perimeter moat,
Preventing incursions from the robber-like afflictions
And securing the forces that vanquish hostile karma.
Endeavour to guard the mind from this moment on.

Faith, moreover, is like an excellent field of fertile soil,
Producing a crop of all that is desired and awakening.
It brings joy here and hereafter and perpetual benefit.
Do all that you can to increase it from this moment on.

Giving gifts is like a beautiful pool of lotuses,
Attracting the sublime and bringing people joy.
Property is fruitful; possessions gain a purpose.
Gladden others in this way from this moment on.

Pleasant speech is like the sound of a divine drum.
Captivating beings’ attention without disharmony.
Since it generates delight in followers to be guided,
Practise singing their praises from this moment on.

Calm and collected conduct is like a perfect sage,
Preventing non-virtue and boosting beings’ faith.
Avoiding pretentiousness, but naturally restrained,
Adopt perfect forms of action from this moment on.

Noble Dharma itself is like a powerful sugata—
Agreeable to all, yet universally pre-eminent,
In harmony with all, yet unlike anything else.
Apply it within your mindstream from now on.

This free, advantaged form is like a conjured house,
Apparent for a while, but how long we cannot say.
There’s no time to waste; the gathered will disperse.
Call this to mind repeatedly from this moment on.

Ephemeral possessions are like clouds in autumn.
Any form of prosperity naturally invites decline.
Things are by nature insubstantial to their very core.
Realize this with certainty from this moment on.

All beings are transitory like guests who come and go.
Older generations have gone, as younger ones must too.
Of those alive right now none will last a hundred years.
Understand this too with certainty from this moment on.

The appearances of this life are like the daytime;
Bardo experiences are akin to this night’s dreams;
And the next life will come as swiftly as tomorrow.
Practise the sacred Dharma from this moment on.

Having set out through metaphor all aspects of the Dharma,
I have one further exhortation to offer those with faith.
Since it is a law that all meetings must end in separation,
I shall not linger but shall proceed to liberation’s isle.

There is nothing reliable about saṃsāric phenomena,
So capture the stronghold of the unborn dharmakāya.

Mundane appearances are deceptive, a magical illusion.
They are by nature false, like a lady of beguiling charm.
They lead the mind from virtue and increase affliction,
So leave them far behind as you practise noble Dharma.

Lack of contentment brings poverty even to the rich,
As there can be no satisfaction in an avaricious mind.
To have contentment is to reach the pinnacle of wealth,
As even modest funds cause the heart to fill with cheer.

Alcohol and women are sources of mental afflictions.
Cast aside thoughts of desire, craving and attachment.
Take the conduct of the sages as your ideal paradigm
And meditate in solitude on the significance of calm.

Do not tarry day or night, but be virtuous of mind,
Abandon faults and be of service, as the adage goes.
Do not waver for a moment but apply the noble Dharma.
You’ll have no regrets at death; your future will be bright.

Students, who are connected in Dharma and samaya
Through pure karma and aspirations from long ago,
Are also subject to the law of gathering and separation.
Like visitors to a market, teacher and students must part.

I offer this entirely beneficial counsel from my heart:
Give up all distractions and occupations of this life—
Homeland, possessions, kith and kin, and all the rest—
And cultivate concentration in a sanctuary of calm.

When it is time to depart and nothing at all can prevent it,
You will need the sacred Dharma to be fearless as you pass.
So acquaint yourself with and apply the guru’s instructions,
Profoundest essence of the teachings, from this moment on.

Among all, the teachings of the luminous essence
Are the heart of all, the secret meaning of Nyingtik,
Superior to all, the path of buddhahood in one life—
Strive to accomplish the great bliss of the All Good.

Seek teachings from the line of sublime saints,
Who possess the profoundest essence of nectar.
Practise them with forceful diligence in solitude,
And swiftly attain the level of a victorious one.

This noble Dharma ensures supreme bliss of every form
From this moment on and brings benefit in the future too;
Its great qualities thus include the apparent and invisible.
Strive to apply the essential meaning from this moment on.

In a cloudless sky, the full moon’s hosts are assembled
And the moon itself, lord among stars, is about to rise.
Many hosts of ḍākinīs, with their canopies and parasols,
Banners and music, add yet further beauty to the scene.
As the face of my compassionate lord Padma appears
To bring assurance and to draw me on, into his care.

Now it is time to go, like a traveller upon the way.
The delight I have in death is far, far greater than
The delight of traders who find their fortune at sea,
Or the lords of devas who prove victorious in battle,
Or adepts who find ecstasy in dhyāna concentration.

Now, I, Pema Ledrel Tsal, shall remain no longer,
But go to capture the deathless state of great bliss.

Life is finished, karma complete, prayer has no more power.
All worldly things are done with, this life’s show has ended.
Soon I will recognize in a single instant the extensive visions
Of the bardo realms as manifestations of my awareness
And take my place for evermore in the ground primordial.

Let my own fortune inspire happiness in the minds of others,
And let this illusory life realize the benefit of liberation’s isle.
I pray that then we may meet again, my noble disciples,
And you will be made happy, delighted by the Dharma's joys.

Now we shall have no further connections in this life.
I am an aimless beggar who is going to die as he likes.
Do not mourn my passing, but go on praying always.

This is my heart’s counsel, spoken for your benefit,
Like clouds of lotuses that bring joy to faithful bees.
Through the virtue of these words, may all beings
Of the three realms reach nirvāṇa, the primordial state.

This concludes the advice from Drimé Özer entitled "Immaculate Radiance: A Testament". May it be auspicious!

| Translated by Adam Pearcey with the generous support of the Tsadra Foundation, 2024.


Tibetan Edition

klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer. "zhal chems dri ma med pa’i 'od" In snying thig ya bzhi. 13 vols. Delhi: Sherab Gyaltsen Lama, 1975. Vol. 9: 266–281 (7.5 folios)

Secondary Sources

Longchenpa. Now That I Come to Die: Intimate Guidance from One of Tibet’s Greatest Masters. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 2007.

Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje. A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems. Translated by Richard Barron. Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 2005.

Sogyal Rinpoche. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Revised ed. New York: HarperCollins., 2002 (First published 1992).

Version: 1.1-20240503

  1. This is a reference to the three types of patience as set out in Longchenpa’s Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind (sems nyid ngal gso).  ↩

  2. i.e., one’s own and others’ aims.  ↩

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