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Words of Manjushri

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Fifth Dalai Lama, 17th Century Art Institute of Chicago

Fifth Dalai Lama, 17th Century
Art Institute of Chicago

The Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682) is one of the most fascinating figures in Tibetan history. He was a great statesman who unified Tibet under the Gelukpa order and the Ganden Podrang for several centuries. He was no less great as a literary figure, whose collected works include some of the masterpieces of Tibetan religious writing and a marvelously shrewd autobiography. One day I’ll write more about his extraordinary life and death.

This short piece, drawn from “Words of Manjushri,” shows him in a poetic and contemplative mood. He presents the basic stance of Tibetan Buddhist psychology in an unusual, intensely-personal voice, to moving effect.

Some of the striking images are drawn from Tibetan philosophy, such as the spinning torch, which evokes an illusion whereby a spinning torch appears to be a circle of fire. That image is linked to the concept of samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death, which is likewise fueled by a misidentification of the nature of reality. – m

What happened before?
Someone has been in my mind for time with no beginning.

When was that?
There has never been a moment when they were gone.

Who are they?
I live, and live again; the mental afflictions.

And in the end?
They will leave me alone to rot in the ocean of suffering life, without an end in sight.

And the karma?
It comes like the wind, with all the things I never wanted.

How far?
It whips around me everywhere and stirs great waves – the three forms of suffering.

How long?
I could wander around this sea forever – the torch would spin and the circle of light would blaze.

What should I see?
Think on this, and see that the afflictions of the mind are the one true enemy.

What must be done?
The enemy of living for this life must die.

Who shall do it?
You must pretend that you are warrior enough to be the one.

When will it come?
Your foes, the afflictions in your mind, have always been waiting, ready for the battle.

Now, then?
The time has surely come – go forth now and defeat them.

Written by Mesocosm

August 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Dig it. Curious: your translation, or someone else’s?


    August 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    • Nope, I’m but a messenger. This is in my notes from long ago, when I was studying in Dharamsala, and I don’t remember who did the translation.


      October 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

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