Literary Genres › Advice | Tibetan MastersTulku Arik

English | བོད་ཡིག

Tulku Arik

Tromge Tulku Arik

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by Tromge Tulku Arik

Kye ma! You born at the end of the degenerate age,
Who are lost like me,[1]
Reflect inward,
And take control of your thoughts.

Don't procrastinate.[2] Once you've arrived
At death's door, it's too late.
Think of your kind guru,
And with waves of tears swelling,
With intense yearning cry,
"Please lend me your loving hand and save me from my abyss!"

Laden with bad karma, a lion lacking qualities[3]
Falls under the iron hammer of corrupting gifts.[4]
After examining yourself well,
You don't have peace of mind, do you?
You have time only for distraction.

Years and months we've spent in wickedness
Killing those connected to us for things like food and clothing.[5]
From our lonely place in hell
We will not find freedom for many eons.

Having heaped up a massive mountain
Of such toxic deeds,
We should be thinking,
"What if I died this very moment?"

The results of our own actions,
Heavy karma bearing down on us—[6]
If we can't bear to touch even the smallest spark,
Will we be able to handle hell?

Without the path of the holy Dharma,
The teachings and your mind
Will clash like fire and water.
Having gone astray in this way,
When you lose some of your illusory possessions,
You'll cry, "Oh, what a tragedy!"
But is there anything more tragic
Than cutting the root of your liberation?

If, soulless and phony,
You show no concern for your future lives,
Then, in this life and those to come,
You will only suffer more and more.

If your approach to dharma practice
Is shallow and pretentious,
You will only deceive yourself.
Could anything be worse?

You might go around declaring,
"I have the noble wish to benefit others,"
But with your gentle words belying your harsh mind,
It will be hard for bodhicitta to come about.

You might go around waving the banner
Of the so-called high view,
But what good is that view of yours
Mixed with multiplying mental poisons?

When you're happy, well-fed, and basking in the sun,
It seems like you're quite a practitioner.
But when the going gets tough,
What's the difference between you and someone quite ordinary?

Your view shrouded in mist,
Your meditation a flag fluttering in the wind,
And your good deeds mixed with bad—
The results of these anchor you to unhappy existences.

Therefore, give yourself some
Helping love and compassion
As a way to not tear at your chest in despair
On the morning of your passing.[7]

As you enter a new life, there on the sunset horizon,
Are the deities and gurus themselves.[8]
With your threefold commitment to not be ashamed,[9]
And your heart filled with goodness,
If you are diligent in practicing the teachings on death,
What a kindness that will be to yourself.

I, dharmaless Arik, unrefined as I am,
Had this conversation with myself.
If there is anyone else like me,
I pray that they will accomplish the teachings on death.

| Translated by Joseph McClellan, 2024.


rGyal rtse arya de ba. Ya chen o rgyan bsam gtan gling gi chos ʼbyung, pp. 222–224. Par gzhi dang po. [S.l.]: [S.n.]. BDRC W3CN5423.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ('jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po). lo rgyus shel gyi phreng ba.

Version: 1.0-20240528

  1. Here, "lost" renders mdo med, which can connote, "lost," "directionless," etc. Here we use the more personal pronoun "you" instead of the third person plural in the Tibetan "these [who]" ('di tsho).  ↩

  2. "Don't procrastinate" renders ha'o mi byed, which is not found in lexicons, but can be inferred to mean some form of "don't take it easy." Ha is often onomatopoeic and relates to laughing or the sound of exhalation.  ↩

  3. "A lion…who lacks qualities" renders gnyis med seng ge—lit. "lion without both (learning and accomplishment or worldly and spiritual qualities)." This seems to be an expression for a practitioner who has not developed deep and authentic knowledge, meditation, and conduct. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo uses the same phrase in his lo rgyus shel gyi phreng ba, where he says, bshad sgrub gnyis med seng ge'i gzugs brnyan gyis ("The [false] appearance of a lion who is without either study or practice…"). The point seems to be that a lion's lifestyle looks a bit like that of a yogi since it stays alone in the mountains; however, it does not have the qualities of learning and meditation that a yogi should have.  ↩

  4. Corrupting gifts" (dkor) is an important term for money and wealth offered to a lama with the expectation of spiritual services in return. Such exchanges can be extremely insidious, trapping the lama in karmically heavy responsibilities. Tulku Arik famously stayed in strict retreat for most of his life to avoid such entanglements.  ↩

  5. The Tibetan says more literally but awkwardly in English "connected by food and clothing and the like," presumably referring to the animals one harms by eating meat and wearing animal products. These two lines seem to be generally related to the teaching of Right Livelihood—the attention a Buddhist owes to their economic behavior.  ↩

  6. The poem's terse six-syllable meter make the grammar of this passage opaque, as no clear relation between lines one and two is signaled by a particle. In such cases, usually apposition must be supposed, suggesting the two lines are restatements of the same idea. In line two,"heavy karma bearing down…" renders rang ltag 'ong las che ba—lit., own+neck+come+karma/action+big. This has the sense of karmic consequence breathing down one's neck or nipping at one's heels in ominous pursuit.  ↩

  7. The Tibetan says most literally "the morning after the time of death." In context, this seems to suggest the period after the bardo of the moment of death ('chi kha'i bar do) in which the elements of one's body go through stages of dissolution, and the stage is set for consciousness to enter to bardo of dharmatā (chos nyid kyi bar do), which is referred to in the following lines. The expression "tear at your chest in despair" has the elements chest+fingernails+not+put, which should be understood figuratively here since it is referring to the disembodied or partially disembodied consciousness about to transition from the bardo of the moment of death to the bardo of dharmatā and then the bardo of becoming (srid pa'i bar do).  ↩

  8. A reference to the bardo of dharmatā in which the three kāyas appear to the disembodied consciousness and provide an opportunity for liberation through their recognition.  ↩

  9. The "three ways of not being ashamed of oneself" (ma khrel gsum) are associated with Yoga Tantra samaya commitments and are here related to the meditative confidence a practitioner should have when entering the bardo of dharmatā. They are: (1) to not be ashamed in the presence of the yidam deity, (2) to not be ashamed in the presence of one’s master and spiritual companions, and (3) to not be ashamed in the presence of one’s own mind. [TC 247]  ↩

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