Notes on this Translation
We have done our best to render these verses in ordinary, easily-intelligible English, trying to translate accurately from meaning to meaning (rather than doing a more literal, word for word version). This has been done in an attempt to bring out the poem's primary teaching function. It is a provisional translation at best, particularly bearing in mind that translation of Dharma texts from Tibetan into Western languages is still in it's infancyat least by comparison to the translation of Dharma texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan, which took several hundred years. In any case, we hope it may be of same benefit.
Verse 1: What is literally "great vessel," a standard metaphor for precious human birth which has the power to carry one across the ocean of samsara, is here translated as the "free, well-favoured human birth" that is "so powerful."
Verse 3: "Nyon mongs" (Skt. klesha) includes in its 6 root and 13 branches a wide variety of obscured ststes of mind. The 6 principal ones are: attachement; hatred; arrogance; and, variously, basic unawareness [ma rig pa] or a dense mental state [thi mug]; doubt [the tsom], for example, doubt as to the truth of karma, cause and effect, and so on; and obscured viewpoints [ita ba nyon mongs can] for example, to regard the ephemeral skandas as comprising a real individual, belief in "me" and "mine", and so on.
We have renderd this term variously as "the obscuring mental states", "the obscuring emotions and beliefs", and in one case have used a long formula (Verse 35), with ma rig pa and thi mug (as well as some branch states) as "dense mental states," and the tson and Ita ba nyon mong can as "primitive beliefs about reality." We hope readers will be kind enough to bear with our difficulties in translating this term.
Verse 4: "At the time of death" is implied but not present in the Tibetan.
Verse 22: Here, the complex term tshan ma would be more lterally rendered "labelling thoughts and subtle preconceptions," but, insofar as these labelling thoughts and subtle preconceptions reflect fundamental dualism, we have chosen, for reason of brevity withing the rhythmic context of the line, to use the phrase "dualistic perception."
The translators wish to express their thanks to Kempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, under whose guidence this translation was completed.
We would also like to thank gelong Konchok Tendzin and gelongma Ngawang Chodron for their kindness in reviewing the manuscript, and for their very valuable suggestions.
Translated by Constance Wilkinson and Kiki Ekselius, members of the Marpa Institute of Translation
English translation copyright © 1998 Constance Wilkinson and Kiki Ekselius.
First published in a booklet by Sahayogi Press, Kathmandu, Nepal 1990
Cover art: Jamyong Gyatso
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