Posted by: MHPerry | 2010/01/04

Advice for the New Year from the 2nd Dalai Lama

This poem is from The Second Dalai Lama, His Life and Teachings, edited and translated by Glenn Mullin and used by his kind permission.  It reminds all of us “irreligious beggars” of how far we manage to stray from the path in the course of a year, but it also offers us hope that, with our teachers’ help, we’ll find our way again.

Learn more about the Second Dalai Lama here. Then read this brief biography of Lama Tsong Khapa.

A Vision of Lama Tsong Khapa

Homage to the holy gurus, embodiments of the
Knowledge and compassion of all Buddhas.

O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Whose mind is inseparable from that of all the Buddhas,
Whose body manifests in countless forms,
And whose speech releases a constant rain of teachings,
Enter the heart of this faint-hearted monk;
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

Kind master, look on me with compassion;
Treasury of kindness, I place my hopes in you.
Not knowing that you are the very source
Of all spiritual progress for me here and hereafter,
In the past I searched elsewhere, but in vain.
I could not put my trust in your teachings;
But now I see the foolishness of my doubts.
Looking back, I realize this was a sign
That my mind was far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

When the mind is distracted by strong attraction
To the things of this short and ephemeral life,
Then although outwardly one may be skilled
At going through the motions of a spiritual practice,
The mind makes no real link to truth;
A glance inside is rather disappointing.
This non-awareness of impermanence is a sign
That the mind is far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

With attachment to wealth and respect we become
Constantly absorbed in mindless activities
And thus let our precious human life slip away.
This external posturing is just a pretense,
Our clever talk an instrument of deceit;
We are so smart that we fool ourselves,
And our spiritual training becomes mere imitation.
This is a sign of a mind far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

While fully aware of the laws of karma
And the unbearable suffering of the lower realms,
We make no effort to gain control over our lives
And instead allow ourselves to lie back in ease.
We are like sheep standing in the slaughterhouse,
Watching our friends die all around us,
Yet not waking up to the reality of the situation
Until our own turn for the axe has come.
You who think you are so cunning and clever,
Are you not as though possessed by a demon?
Not being aware of this, our predicament, is a sign
That the mind is far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

Even the gods in the highest heavens,
Endowed with every pleasure and wealth,
Must one day leave everything behind
And go alone through the gates of death.
O greedy one, not thinking of death, you spend
All your time entertaining relatives and friends
And in pursuit of wealth, possessions and power,
Regardless of whether you need them or not.
Never content, our attachment to worldly success
Becomes a chain binding us to frustration.
This is a sign of a mind far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

For those of us who have spent our life unwisely
And did not cultivate spiritual maturity within,
When the lord of death finally comes to devour us,
The howling winds of our negative karma
Will arise with strength and forcefully pull us
Over the cliff falling to terrible realms;
The negative karma that we carry on our back,
Gathered in rebirths since time without beginning,
Is as heavy as the enormous King of Mountains;
Thus we cannot have a sesame seed of confidence
That lower rebirth will not be our fate.
We may cling to our wealth and possessions,
And call out to a hundred loved ones and friends;
But we will have to go on empty-handed and alone
Into the tunnel of the great hereafter.
Not living every moment in this awareness
Is a sign of a mind far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.

Every living being wandering in the three worlds
Has been a kind mother to me in some past life;
Yet the suffering that constantly oppresses them
Hardly seems to concern me at all.
This is a sign of a mind far from the path.
O Lama Tsongkhapa, guru of incomparable kindness,
Inspire thoughts of truth in this irreligious beggar.
Holy spiritual master, whatever fate befalls
This irreligious, mad beggar monk,
I place all my hopes in you.
Do not drop me from your compassion;
Infuse my spirit with powers mundane and supreme.

Peerless spiritual guide, your only task now
Is to lead living beings to enlightenment;
And I have no doubt that eventually
You will guide me too to that highest of state.
But until I arrive there, watch over me closely,
For should I fall into places of misery,
I am not sure I have the strength to prevail.
So show me your radiant countenance now
And point this irreligious mad beggar monk the way
Leading to Tushita, the Pure Land of Joy.
Release a shower of vast and profound Dharma;
Cut the root of ego-grasping from within me;
Inspire me to achieve your enlightened state.

It is through your kindness, O master,
That I am moved to sing these verses;
Emotions surge within me when I think of you,
And I cannot help but call out in song–
I, an irreligious hermit from Upper Tsang,
The mad beggar monk Gendun Gyatso.

Through your compassionate work, O holy Master,
May knowledge of all realities be achieved;
And may a thousand sunbeams of enlightened activity
Shine forth now to inspire wisdom’s light.



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