How I Live The Practice
Translations | Life

From Tsulak Trengwa’s biography

This excerpt from Tsulak Trengwa’s biography describes how a vajrayana practitioner approaches and experiences his life.

Always I worked hard at pure actions
So as not to waste the pith instructions.

Although I haven’t visited frightening burial grounds,
I haven’t seen any place more frightening than
Attitudes based on the poisons of the five reactive emotions1
And the eight concerns2 about conventional success.

To these, I applied practice the way rock meets bone:
The eight concerns dissolved like a rainbow,
The poisons of reactive emotions became a friend, and
Thinking that attached to reactive emotions released itself into its own nature.

Wherever I am, I engage secret actions.
Free from distraction, I practice and mix
The secret points of the Kagyu teachings
With everything that arises through the gates of the six sensory consciousnesses.3
I know that everything, good and bad, is a friend of the natural.
Everything I do completes a short or medium power assembly.4

In the burial grounds of terrifying pattern-based existence,
The cities of enchanting sensory pleasures,
The seclusion of transcending misery in the lesser ways,
The forests of appearances that have no independent existence,

The practitioner who knows the nature of things
Wears the topknot of respect and devotion for the teacher,
The wheel of stable awakening mind,
The earrings of knowing sound as empty,

The necklace of the vajra recitation of spells,5
The bracelets of the three vows,6
The ashes of self-arising understanding, and
The belt of compassion and modesty.

I hold the staff that is the union of method and understanding,
And sound the hand drum of indestructible original sound.

From the skull cup that preserves the bliss of retention
I eat the ambrosia of whatever arises in the six sensory consciousnesses,
Quench my thirst with the poison of attachment to duality,
And extract nourishment from the aconite of reactive emotions.

I wander in the state of no coming or going.
The zombies of appearances of the eight concerns,
The cannibal demons of compliance with social convention,
The sirens of meaningful projects to undertake,
The whole crowd of emotional reactions to anything that arises,
All become my servants and are swept away in the vast ocean of pure being.

The inner heat7 of the single stroke8 that arises spontaneously
I rely on as the self-arising seal9 of commitment.
The freshness of any appearance that arises
I rely on without clinging as the seal of experience.

The sense of sight, Kshitagharba,10
Meets Vajra Form, whatever appears as form.
This meeting in which form and emptiness are inseparable
I rely on as the supreme seal of activity.

The sense of hearing, Vajrapani,
Plays with Vajra Sound, sounds of every kind.
The faculty of smell, originally pure, Akasagharba,
Embraces Vajra Aroma.

The sense of taste, Avalokiteshvara,
Joyfully embraces Vajra Flavor.
The sense of thought, Manjushri, joins with Vajra Experience.
The sense of touch, Samanthabhadra, is one with Vajra Touch.

Pride is Buddha Locana,11 angry thinking is Mamaki,
Desire is Pandaravasini, jealousy is original Tara, and
Instinct is Dhatvishvari. All these
I enjoy without taking or pushing them away:
This, I think, is the highest seal of activity.

In non-referential great compassion,
Emptiness supreme in all aspects
Is naturally present, arising on its own, neither joined nor separate.
I rely on the totality of experience as the supreme seal, mahamudra.

I tired of conventional thinking and activities and restrained them.
I entered the way of the secret spells.12
Ordinary forms and sounds are no longer present.
I don’t make a distinction between private and public behavior.

I don’t wander in the boat of external forms.
The exercise of awareness, this internal activity, is best.
Reactive actions and emotions have been thoroughly overpowered.
Everything I do in body, speech and mind serves others.

Not contaminated by holding to other and self,
Natural presence arises on its own.
This is the great power assembly that benefits others.
All samsara and nirvana are pure in this single mandala.
Holding to ground, path and result subsides.

Knowing that deities and mantras are not separate and have one taste
I come to the place where all buddhas are not separate,
The presence of the head of all the buddha families, Akshobya:
I experience directly the presence of naturally arising co-emergence.

All experience is originally fully awake.
This finding of seeing the unseeable,
Whatever you may call it, is the point.

  1. Anger, instinct, desire, jealousy and pride.
  2. Happiness and unhappiness, gain and loss, fame and obscurity, respect and disdain.
  3. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking.
  4. Skt. Ganacakra. Literally, wheel assembly where the wheel is a symbol of the power of a universal ruler and assembly refers to the gathering of different kinds of power and putting together the conditions in which power can manifest.
  5. Vajra recitation is a form of practice in which one breathes in while saying OM, holds the breath while saying AH, and breathes out while saying HUNG. Some practice texts describe vajra recitation in terms of specific mantras, but this is the generic form.
  6. The vows of individual liberation (which govern actions), the bodhisattva vow (which governs intention), and the vajrayana vows (which govern experience).
  7. The practice of tumo (Tib.) or inner heat through the transformation of energy in the body.
  8. The down-stroke of the letter AH in Tibetan calligraphy is often used as a focus for attention in the practice of inner heat.
  9. The four seals are the seal of commitment, the seal of teaching, the seal of activity and the great seal. Seal is usually translated as mudra, so these are the four mudras, culminating in mahamudra.
  10. The six bodhisattvas are symbols of the sensory consciousnesses. The corresponding sense objects are symbolized by their consorts, Vajra Form, Vajra Sound, etc. Instead of transforming sexual energy with a consort, Tsulak Trengwa is describing how all sensory experience can be transformed in the experience of the union of sense consciousness with sense object.
  11. These are the five female buddhas. Where the five male buddhas symbolize the transformation of the five skandas, the five female buddhas represent the transformation of the five reactive emotions.
  12. Another name for vajrayana.