Songs and Poems Series
Literary Genres › Songs and Poems
Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
A selection of spiritual songs (mgur; glu) or poems:
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.
Longchenpa composed this famous abecedarian poem to express his disgust at the conduct of his classmates from Kham, Eastern Tibet, which had prompted his decision to leave the college of Sangpu Neuthog.
Written for a disciple who was about to travel from Sikkim to Tibet, this brief song encapsulates the message of the intermediate and final turnings of the Wheel of Dharma and explains how to practise the indivisibility of emptiness and compassion.
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).
- The Blissful Path to Awakening: A Song on the Essence of Definitive Meaning by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
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.
Said to have been composed some time around 1909 or 1910, this poem expresses the author's appreciation for the Sakya teachings and is intended as an encouragement to fellow disciples (of Loter Wangpo) to pursue their study and practice.
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.
This song of amazement originates in a vision that Sera Khandro had while staying in retreat at Nyimalung in Amdo at the age of twenty-nine. The text is her response to the spirits and demons who appeared to her, asking what she was doing.
- 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 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.
- A Song to Aid the Recollection of Parental Kindness and Encourage the Recitation of the Maṇi Mantra by Könchok Tenpe Drönme
The great yogi Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol is, like Milarepa, famous for the songs of realization through which he communicated the teachings. In this song, inspired by the repeated appearance of some beggars at his door, he expresses his compassion for all beings—his very own mothers from previous lives—who are now suffering in saṃsāra's various realms.
- The Song of Devotion: Verses of Aspiration for the Fulfilment of the Enlightened Vision of Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok, the Reincarnation of Terton Lerab Lingpa by Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Shortly after Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok's passing in 2004, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote this prayer "so that the enlightened intentions of this great being may be fulfilled completely and to help dispel the anguish of his disciples."
Composed in 1949, this song of lament is addressed to Jamyang Khyentse's principal guru, Jamyang Loter Wangpo (1847–1914). The song expresses the author's grief and sadness at his own misfortune for having failed to encounter his master in visions or dreams.
- Lightning Bands of Compassion: A Song of Lament for Khenchen Kunzang Palden Tupten Chökyi Drakpa by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
This song of devotion, composed on the master's anniversary in 1950, emphasizes the ultimate nature of Longchen Rabjam, according to which he does not exist externally but in the nature of one's own mind.
- The Sweet Call of the Kalaviṅka: A Song Evoking the Omniscient King of Dharma by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Jamyang Khyentse composed these verses in November 1925 upon learning of the passing of his teacher Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso (1880–1925). The text makes it clear that Katok Situ's death occurred in the ninth month of the Wood Ox year.
- The Spontaneous Sound of Uncontrived Song: A Lament Recalling the Great Guru of Oḍḍiyāna by Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok
This famous vajra song (rdo rje’i glu), named after its initial syllables "ema kiri", appears in the Tantra of the Union of the Sun and Moon (nyi zla kha sbyor). It consists of a series of arranged syllables which a practitioner should intone melodiously. The individual syllables and their arrangement as a mantra are considered particularly sacred since they are said to have been revealed by the primordial buddha Samantabhadra.
Gangshar Wangpo tells us that he based these verses—which explain how to eliminate obstacles to practice and sustain realization of mind's essential nature—on scripture, the oral instructions of his guru, and his own experience.
- Harmonious Clouds of Sublime and Lasting Bliss: A Vajra Song for the Tsok Feast Offering to Venerable and Exalted Vajrayoginī by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
- Song and Dance to Delight the Ḍākas and Ḍākinīs: An Aspiration for the Sixfold Satisfaction of the Maṇḍala of the Feast-Gathering by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo composed this short aspiration prayer to be recited during the gaṇacakra. The prayer invokes the goal of the gaṇacakra, a sixfold satisfaction (tshim pa drug) of those assembled, i.e., the deities, teacher and vajra-brothers and sisters. Khyentse Wangpo dedicates one verse to each of these six satisfactions and concludes the prayer with an additional seventh verse of dedication.
Sacred song and dance are important elements of the gaṇacakra, and this song by Jigme Lingpa, which is now widely-known and recited, was composed specifically for the gaṇacakra feast. The song concludes with the aspiration that all those gathered together may attain the rainbow body as a result of the feast offering.
- Upon Hearing the Fluted Speech of Kunzang Dechen Tsomo, Queen Mother of Sikkim by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Inspired by the speech of Kunzang Dechen Tsomo (1906–1987), Queen Mother of Sikkim, these verses acknowledge the kindness of past dharma patrons and masters and appeal for nonsectarianism and the flourishing of the teachings.
- Nectar of the Heart: An Experiential Song of Parting from the Four Attachments by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
This experiential song (nyams dbyangs) based on 'Parting from the Four Attachments' (zhen pa bzhi bral) was composed in the cave of Rangjung Dorje, where Mañjuśrī is said to have delivered the original teaching to the Sakya patriarch Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158).
- Four Qualities of Path Integration: A Song by Longsal Nyingpo Expressing His Realization by Longsal Nyingpo
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.
- A Yogi’s Song of Happiness: The Melody that Brings Universal Auspiciousness and Fulfilment by Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok
- The Excellent Path of Definitive Meaning: An Unmistaken Expression of the Definitive Mahāmudrā by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
In this song promoting a nonsectarian approach to the teachings, Shabkar compares the major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism to various mountain paths, all of which lead to the summit that is Buddhahood. Although approaches might vary in their speed, difficulty and so on, all are valid, just as any path leading to a mountaintop is valid.
- Auspicious Dance of Longevity: A Song for Touring the Sacred Sites of Nepal by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Composed at the cave of Yangleshö in Nepal, this spontaneous song praises the power of this sacred site, a place where Guru Padmasambhava once meditated and gained accomplishment, while also attesting to Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok's own poetic mastery and realization.
In this spiritual song (mgur), the great yogi Milarepa praises the qualities of Kyangpen Namkha Dzong or Jangphen Namkha Dzong (rkyang phan nam mkha' rdzong), which he likens to a palace, and explains why it is so conducive to meditative retreat. The place is listed among the six well-known outer 'fortresses' associated with Milarepa.
In this short song, composed in 1942, Jamyang Khyentse expresses sadness for his own situation in the age of degeneration and calls out to those he regards as his six main teachers: Jamyang Loter Wangpo (1847–1914), Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso (1880–1925), Shechen Gyaltsab Gyurme Pema Namgyal (1871–1926), Adzom Drukpa (1842–1924), Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpai Nyima (1865–1926) and Gatön Ngawang Lekpa (1867–1941).