Literary Genres › Advice
Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
A series of texts of advice and practical instructions on the path in general as well as more specific topics such as the intermediate states (bar do), Dzogchen, Mahāmudrā and retreat:
A simple song of advice addressed to yogins and yoginīs in abecedarian form, meaning that each line begins with the successive letters of the Tibetan alphabet—an effect that is (inadequately) reproduced in the translation.
In this profound instruction on the process of dying and the intermediate state, or bardo, the great Longchen Rabjam explains how to see death from a Dzogchen perspective and how to attain liberation either at the moment of death or thereafter in the bardos of dharmatā or becoming.
This brief instruction on using death as an opportunity to recognize luminosity and attain the dharmakāya is part of a collection of instructions known as the five nails that dispel hindrances (gegs sel gzer lnga), a teaching that derives from Nāropa.
A letter containing supporting instructions (rgyab yig) or the quintessence of crucial points (gnad kyi bcud phur) for the Chöd practice known as the Whispered Transmission of Secret Conduct (gsang spyod snyan brgyud).
This short text from Jigme Tenpe Nyima's Dzogchen corpus explains the distinction between the ordinary mind (sem) and pure awareness (rigpa), as well as the ways in which the Great Perfection is superior to other approaches.
Written at the request of Lhasé Sogyal, the king of Yönru in Lithang, this short text covers the key points of Trekchö, from the foundational prerequisites to the unique Dzogchen preliminary of 'demolishing the house of the ordinary mind' and the main meditation practice of Dzogchen itself.
In this short instruction in verse, Khenpo Pema Vajra explains the key points of the path in general and of the Great Perfection in particular. His practical advice includes what to do in the intermediate state, or bardo.
Taken from his collected songs (mgur 'bum) this spontaneous poem offers advice on the practice and its fruition, with Nyala Pema Dündul explaining that his view corresponds to Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, his meditation to Mahāmudrā, and his action to the Vinaya.
One of the better known instructions from the collection known as Responses to Questions, Advice from the Guru's Direct Instructions (bla ma dmar khrid kyi zhal gdams zhus lan skor), which is included in the Precious Treasury of Revelations (rin chen gter mdzod). The text contains simple advice from Guru Padmasambhava for his elderly disciple, Ngok Sherab Gyalpo.
Definitions of the five wisdoms (ye shes lnga), i.e., the wisdom of dharmadhātu, mirror-like wisdom, wisdom of equality, wisdom of discernment and all-accomplishing wisdom, according to the oral tradition of Khenpo Ngawang Palzang, aka Khenpo Ngakchung.
This short work in verse offers advice on the natural self-liberation (rang grol) of thoughts and emotions, which Patrul Rinpoche repeatedly identifies as the key to the view, meditation and conduct of the Great Perfection.
- Self-Liberating Meditation: A Profound Method for Attaining Enlightenment According to the Ultimate Great Perfection by Patrul Rinpoche
Sometimes known by its first four syllables as Eko Eko (translated as "Have you heard? Have you heard?") and sometimes as Self-Liberated Wisdom-Mind, this is a comprehensive and popular instruction on Dzogchen meditation. Although the emphasis is on remaining natural and unaltered (machöpa), the text also offers advice on how to integrate and adapt to the various experiences and circumstances a practitioner might face. The style is direct, eloquent and moving.
- Notes from the Oral Tradition on Ālaya, Ālaya Consciousness, etc. by Yukhok Chatralwa Chöying Rangdrol
These notes discuss the ālaya, or 'ground of all', as well as the ālaya-consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna) and other forms of consciousness from a practical, experiential perspective, rather than a scholastic or theoretical point of view. They drew upon the sayings and explanations of such masters as Adzom Drukpa, Tertön Sogyal and Dudjom Lingpa.
In this appeal to Hindu worshippers who practise animal sacrifice, Jamyang Khyentse explains the karmic consequences of taking life and questions how compassionate deities could ever sanction such a rite.
Following a Teacher
This warning of the dangers of criticising a guru from whom one has received empowerment—and to whom one therefore has samaya commitments—was written in the wake of opposition to Jamyang Khyentse's decision to take a consort.
- Advice for Sangye Drönma, a Nun from Tsering Jong in Yoru, Central Tibet by Adzom Gyalse Gyurme Dorje
Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna imparted this advice to his disciples at the request of Lha Changchub Ö as he was preparing to return to India. In it, he offers basic guidance on how to lead a spiritual life, escape "the swamp of saṃsāra" and reach "the dry shores of liberation."
This short text (Bodhisattvamaṇyāvalī in Sanskrit), which is included in the Middle Way section of the Tengyur (Toh 3951), is regarded as a classic work of the Mind Training (blo sbyong) tradition. With its direct and pithy language, it is not so much a poem as a series of maxims on the bodhisattva path.
In this song of yearning devotion, or prayer of 'calling the guru from afar' (bla ma rgyang 'bod), the late Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche offers his followers some profound advice related to "the swift path of the luminous Great Perfection."
In these four short lines, written in 1989, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche encapsulates the entire Buddhist path, which includes the cultivation of devotion, non-distraction, the recollection of death and impermanence, and compassion.
One of Jigme Tenpe Nyima's best known works—and indeed one the most famous Tibetan texts of recent times—this is a pithy and practical guide to integrating all experiences, good and bad, happy and sad, into the path to enlightenment. As the text itself puts it, this is “indispensable for leading a spiritual life, a most needed tool of the Noble Ones, and quite the most priceless teaching in the world.”
The author offers a concise yet complete overview of the entire path according to the Longchen Nyingtik, applicable to monastics and lay tantrikas alike. Using the structure of virtuous beginning, middle and end, he covers the common and uncommon preliminary practices, the generation and perfection phases, and the practices of Trekchö and Tögal.
In this short text, Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche explains some important points of conduct to be observed by the saṅgha of monastic practitioners and the saṅgha of vidyādhara yogins. It was written with a view to preserving aspects of tradition in danger of being lost forever.
This general advice from the great Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé covers every level of the spiritual path. Drawing upon famous statements by Atiśa and Śāntideva, he offers ethical guidance and practical instructions for watching the mind, cultivating renunciation, compassion and devotion, and realising the nature of all phenomena.
This letter to Damchö Gyaltsen of Tsechu (tshes bcu) includes four verses of extraordinarily pithy advice covering every stage of the path from the recollection of impermanence through to Dzogchen meditation.
This general advice, written for a student called Karma Chöchok (karma chos mchog), includes the Tibetan syllable ang — indicating insistence or encouragement and translated here as "hey!" — in each of its first four verses.
Written for a disciple named Osam (Orgyen Samdrup? Orgyen Samten?), this short text in verse covers the whole path from the most basic contemplations of the outer preliminaries through to the highest form of meditation.
A simple instruction based on the so-called Four Dharmas of Gampopa: 1) turning the mind toward the Dharma, 2) making progress along the path, 3) clarifying confusion, and 4) allowing confusion to dawn as wisdom.
In response to a question from his spiritual consort, Khandro Tsering Chödrön, Jamyang Khyentse explains the essence of the path in just a few lines. (Khandro's question is in the form of an acrostic poem, the opening syllables of its four lines being the first four syllables of the Tibetan alphabet).
- Sweet Nectar of the Supreme Vehicle: A Synopsis of the Stages of the Mahāyāna Path by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
- The Blissful Path to Awakening: A Song on the Essence of Definitive Meaning by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Verses of general advice on how to practise the path, from the preliminary contemplations through to the more advanced practices of the generation and completion phases, written for an unnamed student.
- A Few Words of Commentary to Clarify The Essence of Nectar: Graduated Stages of the Path—Advice for Renunciant Meditators by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Khyentse Wangpo composed this commentary to The Essence of Nectar: Graduated Stages of the Path (lam rim bdud rtsi'i snying po) at the request of Chöying Palden, who had also requested the original root verses. The text covers every stage of the paths according to the vehicles of the transcendent perfections (pāramitā) and secret mantra.
- The Essence of Nectar: Graduated Stages of the Path — Advice for Renunciant Meditators by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
These verses of advice for renunciant meditators (spong ba bsam gtan pa) cover the entire Buddhist path, from instructions on following a spiritual friend through to the most advanced generation and perfection phase practices.
Essential advice on every stage of the path from beginning to end. As Longchenpa puts it in the text itself: "Even if we were to meet in person, I would have no greater instruction to give you than this. So take it to heart, all the time, and in any situation."
Longchen Rabjam tells us that he composed these thirty verses of heartfelt advice for himself and others like him, out of a sense of renunciation. In what has become one of his most famous and popular teachings, he advocates simplicity, ethical discipline, humility, and, above all, diligent practice.
Mipham Rinpoche gave this text in thirty-seven verses to the Third Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima as a sealed scroll while they were both at Dzongsar Monastery. Although the precise date is unclear, it seems likely that this was in or around 1886. The text is a mixture of personal, often cryptic advice and prophecy.
This short advice in verse explains the perfect equality (mnyam pa nyid) of the dharmadhātu (chos kyi dbyings), the space-like nature of phenomena, which, Mipham says, is a crucial point to understand in both sūtra and tantra. Mipham wrote this text in 1901.
In this brief song Nyala Pema Dündul advises his audience how to give up the eight ordinary concerns, or 'worldly dharmas' ('jig rten chos brgyad), i.e., hope for happiness and fear of suffering; hope for fame and fear of insignificance; hope for praise and fear of blame; hope for gain and fear of loss.
- Advice to Lama Rigdzin Gyatso on Understanding the Influence of Companions and Avoiding and Adopting Them Accordingly by Patrul Rinpoche
- The Joyous Entrance to the Path to Liberation: How to Practise the Six Transcendent Perfections by Rongtön Sheja Künrig
The Viśuddhadarśanacaryopadeśa (lta spyod rnam dag gi man ngag) is a very brief work included in the Tengyur (Toh 2464). It discusses the empty, illusory nature of reality and recommends meditation on 'emptiness with compassion as its core' (stong nyid snying rje'i snying po can).
A letter to a fellow disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö offering essential advice on how to practise the celebrated Nyingtik Saldrön guru yoga, which focuses on Jamyang Khyentse in heruka form.
Composed spontaneously at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai Shan, this is one of the late Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok's most famous works. In 23 verses, which were written down in just 23 minutes, it encapsulates the entire Buddhist path from basic instructions on how to follow a spiritual teacher through to the advanced meditations of the generation and perfection phases and the pinnacle of all forms of practice, the Great Perfection.
Properly titled Wondrous Talk Brought About by Conversing with a Friend (Grogs dang gtam gleng ba'i rkyen las mtshar gtam), this playful text pokes fun at followers of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü and Gelug (or Gendenpa) schools, in order to highlight potential pitfalls associated with each tradition, while also pointing out the absurdity of sectarian prejudice in general.
A brief outline of the fivefold practice of Mahāmudrā that is unique to the Drikung Kagyü school: train in bodhicitta, visualize one's body as the deity, visualize the guru as the deity, train in the non-conceptual view, and seal with prayers of dedication and aspiration.
Khenpo Gangshar describes this pithy advice on how to be truly happy by settling into realization of mind's essential nature as "insane ramblings", but it will surely be of great benefit to practitioners.
This concise commentary draws from the tradition of Fivefold Mahāmudrā teachings passed down from Pakmodrupa to Jikten Sumgön, and thus especially emphasized within the Drikung Kagyü lineage. When included in a single session of practice, these five points—bodhicitta, guru yoga, yidam practice, Mahāmudrā, and dedication—are held to provide a complete path to awakening. Chokyi Jungné’s instruction expands upon traditional presentations by concluding with specific instructions on how to practice during all periods of the day, as well as at the time of death.
This is a classic work on 'bringing difficult circumstances onto the path' (lam khyer), a subgenre of mind training. Tokme Zangpo reveals what it is like to live beyond hopes and fears, and how to face sickness, poverty and death (as well as good health, prosperity and long-life) with joy.
One of the most famous native Tibetan texts on mind training, this classic by Tokme Zangpo summarises the teachings of Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra and other sources, in order to present the path of the bodhisattva in just thirty-seven four-line verses.
- The Instructions on Parting from the Four Attachments spoken by Mañjuśrī to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
This famous four-line teaching was spoken by Mañjuśrī, who appeared in a vision to the young Sachen Kunga Nyingpo during a six-month retreat. It is said to encapsulate the entire bodhisattva path of the pāramitās.
- Advice on Nonsectarianism (from Radiant Sunlight of the Victorious Ones' Teachings: A Brief, First-Hand Account of the Liberating Life-Story of the Great Emanated Treasure Revealer) by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa
In an address to disciples, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa sets out a vision of nonsectarianism, in which he emphasizes the commonality of traditions and decries the divisiveness that periodically plagues Tibet and constitutes an act of forsaking the Dharma.
- Opening the Door of Dharma: A Brief Discourse on the Essence of All Vehicles by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Among the best-known compositions of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, this short text in verse provides an introduction to the history and practice of Tibetan Buddhism and concludes with an appeal for nonsectarianism. It was written at the request of the Indian diplomat and author Apa Pant (1912–1992).
In these six pithy verses, composed in 1896, Mipham explains the relative strengths of each of the four main Tibetan Buddhist Schools—Nyingma (rnying ma), Kagyü (bka' brgyud), Gelug (dge lugs) and Sakya (sa skya)—and appeals to their followers to tolerate and respect one another.
Parting from the Four Attachments
Drakpa Gyaltsen's famous commentary on the four-line instruction that his father, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, received from Mañjuśrī, is so closely associated with the root text that it is often known by the same title, Parting from the Four Attachments.
Little is known about the author, Nubpa Rigdzin Drak, who may have been a student of Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216), but his commentary is among the best known works on Parting from the Four Attachments—partly as a result of its inclusion in the Blo sbyong brgya rtsa compendium. The text explains the antidotes to each of the four attachments and the results that will accrue from applying them.
A brief commentary on Parting From the Attachments (zhen pa bzhi bral), the famous four-line instruction originally revealed by Mañjuśrī to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158), Sakya Paṇḍita's great uncle.
In this teaching, which was originally intended for participants in a three-year retreat in Chanteloube, in the Dordogne region of France, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche discusses the importance of faith, renunciation, compassion, and looking into the nature of mind.
Longchenpa describes this text as a letter sent from his mind to itself, and, as befits such a personal message, it is heartfelt and candid. The core of the message is simple enough: to leave behind the busyness of saṃsāra and set out instead for the peace and tranquility of the forest, where "meditation naturally grows" and "one can find the bliss of inner peace." Yet while Longchenpa makes this point uncompromisingly, his language, particularly in describing the kind of wild woodland sanctuary he recommends, is often beautifully evocative and poetic.
In this poem Nyala Pema Dündul praises the peace of isolated mountain hermitages and retreats, contrasting it not only with the hustle and bustle of towns and villages, but also with the everyday comings and goings of ordinary monasteries.
Written for his close disciple Alak Dongak Gyatso (1824–1902), this text of Patrul Rinpoche offers advice on the purpose and significance of solitude. Brief as it is, the work is of interest not only for its comments on retreat, but also for the clues it holds about Alak Dongak's life, especially as no complete biography has yet come to light and his writings have not survived.
In this short piece of advice, written in verse, Dzogchen Khenpo Yönten Gönpo explores samaya from the definitive or ultimate perspective, according to which all commitments are perfectly maintained by realizing the true nature of phenomena.
Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok sang this dohā spontaneously in 1996 at a time when various outer, inner and secret obstacles had been overcome. It stresses the importance of meditating on Dzogchen, cultivating bodhicitta, maintaining ethical discipline, and having a positive basic character.
- Rain of Accomplishments: A Song that Incorporates the Four Mindfulnesses from an Instruction on the View of the Middle Way by Seventh Dalai Lama
This famous song summarizes four forms of mindfulness, which Mañjuśrī taught to Tsongkhapa: 1) mindfulness of the guru; 2) mindfulness of bodhicitta; 3) mindfulness of the body as a divine body; and 4) mindfulness of the view of emptiness.
In this short song the famous yogi Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol explains the essence of all practices, from the contemplations of the outer preliminaries to the practices of the inner preliminaries, and the main practices of the generation and perfection stages.
In 2006, Khenpo Akhyuk (1927–2011) told Tsultrim Wangmo to record for posterity her experiences of other realms as a delok, or revenant. The following year, a team of women joined her to help record her stories. In the course of their work, as their faith in Tsultrim Wangmo grew, they requested teachings from her. She told them that she did not know how to give formal teachings but offered this song of advice instead.