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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
93 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The Translation This is an excerpt of a song in which the future Gesar, known at this point as the divine child Thopa Gawa (Joyful to Hear), responds to Padmasambhava, who has commanded him to incarnate in the land of Tibet to protect Buddhists from attacks of demon kings and barbarians. The song begins with Ala; Thala shows the way the words are sung. From the unborn dharmadh̄atu pure land, Unceasing five families of the Victorious Ones, know me! As the ignorance of the five poisons is pacified in its place, May I know the wisdom of self-awareness. Supremely kind unrivaled Lord of Dharma, Glorious Buddha Lotus Born, Do not lose your watchful eye of compassion But listen with your ear of great loving-kindness. I will work for the benefit of beings in the land of Tibet And tame the difficult to tame in the borderlands. No doubt there will be great hardship, But I, the Powerful Blossoming Vidȳadhara Who Suppresses Through Splendor, Will stir sa .ms̄ara from its quiver for the benefit of others. Nevertheless, if this single arrow of compassion Does not rely on the bow of skillful means, The target of the difficult to tame will be hard to hit. If the waves do not crest from the ocean below, Then pleasant rains will not fall from the azure firmament above, Nor wet the deep soil of the solid earth, And the six grains of the vast plain will not mature. If the flesh and blood of one’s kind mother and father does not coincide, Then the divine child will never be transferred to a human body. And if the good fortune of the black-haired Tibetans does not coincide, Then I will not be able to benefit beings. Commentary All songs in this epic begin by saying, “The song begins with Ala; Thala shows the way the words are sung.” Saying “ala” is similar to the sound of “doremi” that is hummed in order to get the correct pitch. Saying “thala” indicates that the words and meaning of the song are ready to be joined with the melody. The next four lines praise the view of Vajrayana, which identifies the wisdom of selfawareness that is inseparable from the three kayas. Most of the songs that are offered by the heroes and heroines of this epic begin with at least one verse that pays homage to the genuine nature of mind . It is also the traditional way of paying homage to the object of one’s refuge. Following the homage, Gesar addresses Padmasambhava as Guru Lotus Born and acknowledges the great hardships that he (as Gesar) will be obliged to face. He also expresses his per sonal confidence by stating one of the names he is known by— Powerful Blossoming Vidyadhara Who Suppresses Through Splendor—and says that he will stir samsara from its quiver for the benefit of others, meaning that he vows to bring all beings in the realms of samsara to liberation. Gesar then reminds Padmasambhava that certain condi tions will be necessary in order for his enlightened deeds to manifest. Here he uses a metaphor of a target and bow and arrow. The target represents the field of disciples or those destined to be tamed by him, and the bow and arrow repre sent the skillful means of wisdom and compassion needed to strike the target. His next metaphor, about the ocean and the rains, reflects the knowledge that the rains are a result of the ocean’s moisture and that rain is necessary to reap any crops. Once again he is making the point that without the appropri ate root causes and contributing circumstances, there will be no corresponding result. In this proverb we see the old style of writing and speak ing found throughout this text. For example, when the word “ocean” is mentioned, the location of the ocean is also included and is therefore translated as “the ocean below.” This is how the older generation of Tibetans from the Golog region refers to the ocean. Similarly, as in “the azure firmament above,” the sky is referred to in terms of its color and location. Parting Words There are many subtle challenges in the Tibetan language and I encourage translators who are not native Tibetan speakers to always work with a qualified Tibetan teacher, whether one is translating Buddhism or any form of Tibetan literature. On Translation