[Translator’s note: This loose translation was made in 1978, with extensive material in parentheses added from Gyaltsab Je’s commentary and from explanations by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey and Geshe Sonam Rinchen in order to make the terse verses more readable and intelligible. Consequently, the translation is neither completely literal nor totally precise. Most of the technical terminology has been updated in June 2007 to accord with that which I have used on this website and a few further changes have been made in accord with the explanation given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Hamburg in July 2007. A full retranslation of the text, however, awaits a future date. Until then, however, perhaps this early, loose version alone will be of some benefit.]
I prostrate to the Arya Manjushri.
One: Indicating Methods for Ridding Yourself of Grasping (at the Body as) Permanent
(1) As the master over the three planes of perishable existence, the Lord of Death, by self-nature, is without a creator, what could be more improper than to fall asleep while the real situation is that he will definitely come.
(2) Having been born for the sake of coming to die and, under the power of other (things), having the situation of going (ever closer to your end), it would appear as though you were going to die, not as though you were going to live.
(3) You may see as short your time already spent, and the future as otherwise, but (whether) you think of these as equal or unequal, it would seem as though you should cry out in fear at the obvious.
(4) If death is not fearsome to you because it is something general, shared with all others as well, does it make you suffer with jealousy when it ravages someone (else)?
(5) Although (you might feel that) since sickness can be cured and old age can be treated, you need have no fear when they (come); nevertheless, as there is no cure for your future demise, you should fear what is grossly obvious.
(6) Death is common to everyone: (we’re) like cattle about to be slaughtered. As you have seen death come in fact to others, how can you not fear the Lord of Death?
(7) Because the time (of your death) is uncertain, you might feel, “I am permanent.” Yet nevertheless, at some time, the Lord of Death is going to ravage you.
(8) If you sell yourself, looking for gain in the future (of this life), but not at the fact that your life is depleting, would any kind person say you were smart (and knew) your own nature?
(9) You have (simply) pawned yourself (for a future karmic debt). To commit a destructive act for any reason you certainly need to be totally free of clinging to a “self,” as are the wise (arhats).
(10) This thing called “life,” no matter whose, is nothing but (a phenomenon that passes from) moment to moment of the mind. But beings have not ascertained this and are thus unaware. To be certain of this and know your own nature is rare.
(11) If you take pleasure in (the continuity of your life) lasting a long time and yet you do not delight in the signs of old age – oh dear, such action as yours would appear as correct only to ordinary folk like yourself.
(12) When you should be grieving about your own death, why do you (grieve) about (the death of) your children? You yourself are going to be snatched, but if you (only) carry on (about others), why should you not be ridiculed (by the wise)?
(13) When it is so that certain beings, without requesting, become your own children, then it is not at all improper that they should depart as well, without asking (permission).
(14) Because of naivety, you completely refuse to be without biased thought toward your child, but his desire to depart is demonstrated by his old age.
(15) To a father, his son is adorable, but (to his son) he does not generate similar (feelings). Such a worldly one (because of attachment to his children) goes to a worse (rebirth). For this reason, birth in a higher status is difficult to find.
(16) When (a son) is disobedient, no one would call him adorable. And when (he is obedient), your attachment is merely generated (in exchange for) a certain cause, as in a business transaction.
(17) The suffering that swells at parting quickly wanes from people’s hearts. This example of losing the suffering (that comes) even in connection with attachment demonstrates (attachment’s) infirmity.
(18) (To conform with convention at another’s death) even if you decide to inflict harm on yourself (in a show of mock grief,) while realizing it has no advantage, you’ve become an outward hypocrite to your nature, and this, in addition, is unjust to yourself.
(19) These worldly beings, as if brimming over with suffering, wander about (from one birth to the next). So what is the use of filling yourself up with (further) suffering (by currying friendship) with (some other) person who will (only) bring you suffering (when you have to part)?
(20) Whatever (happiness) there may be at gathering with someone, why isn’t there (the same) happiness at parting? Don’t gathering and parting come one with the other?
(21) As the past has no beginning and the future has no end, why do you look (only at the short time of) being together and not at that of when being apart, even though it’s for so much longer?
(22) Periods of time, such as instants and so forth, (by robbing your life) act as an enemy. Therefore, by no means should you have longing desire for these things that act as an enemy.
(23) O base-minded one, if due to your fear of separation, you do not renounce and leave your home, then that which wise ones would definitely do will be enacted to you as your sentence (by the Lord of Death).
(24) If you think that after attending to these (homely affairs) then for sure you’ll go (into retreat) in the forest, well, no matter what you’ve attended to, you’ll have to give it up (when you die), so what advantage is there in having attended to it?
(25) Anyone who has gained conviction, thinking, “I shall die,” has fully abandoned attachment, and because of this, what fear has he even for the Lord of Death?
Two: Indicating Methods for Ridding Yourself of Grasping (at the Body as) Pleasurable
(1) Although your body is like an enemy, yet, you need to take care of it. Living a long life with ethical discipline, you can do many positive (deeds).
(2) People receive suffering from their very bodies, but happiness from other (external sources). Why are you so devoted to your body, which acts as a container for all your sufferings?
(3) When it’s a fact that happiness does not come to people in as great a proportion as suffering (does), how can you think that this greater (amount of) suffering is less (than your happiness)?
(4) Although worldly beings rush after happiness, those who become happy are indeed rare to find. Therefore, it seems as though suffering is running (behind) after these beings, who disintegrate (from moment to moment).
(5) Although suffering can be found by wishing (for it), where is there happiness for (merely) the wish? How is it that you’re so devoted to what’s rare? Why don’t you fear what is plentiful?
(6) The body that can become (a little) happy acts as a container for (much more) suffering. Therefore, being devoted to your body and being devoted to your enemy – these two seem to be the same.
(7) The body cannot change into having a nature of happiness, even if (you try) for a very long time (to make it change). It’s illogical to say that through other (circumstances) its nature (of suffering) can be overruled.
(8) To those in privileged (positions comes) mental suffering, while to common folks physical (suffering) arises. By these two sufferings this world is tormented, day after day, every day.
(9) Happiness is dictated by your thoughts, and your thoughts can be dictated by your suffering. Because of that, nowhere is there anything more powerful than suffering.
(10) As much as time passes, so does your suffering increase. Because of that, it appears as though happiness is but like an incongruous (guest) of the body.
(11) Many causes of suffering appear, (such as) sicknesses and others, but the causes for people to be happy do not appear to the same (extent).
(12) You can see how happiness, while increasing, (easily) reverses, but while suffering is increasing, it doesn’t (easily) reverse like that.
(13) You see causes for happiness simultaneously (producing) the reverse, but not causes for suffering themselves simultaneously (producing) the reverse.
(14) During the course of dying (throughout your lifetime), you’ve traveled, are now traveling, and will (continue) to travel (ever closer to your death). In no way is it proper to regard (life’s) course of dying as bringing happiness.
(15) Beings with bodies are constantly tormented by hunger and the like. In no way is it proper to regard as happiness (life’s) course of being tormented.
(16) What’s known as (your body) is produced when there’s gathered together all its (four) elements, which (individually) lack the ability (to produce it). As these (elements by nature mutually) clash, in no way is it proper to regard them as happiness.
(17) Because there’s cold and such things, there’s no permanent cure (for suffering). In no way is it proper to regard as happiness (this body that’s always) breaking down.
(18) As there are no (seemingly pleasurable) activities on earth that can be said to come about without toil and effort, in no way is it proper to regard as happiness (that which requires) the doing of (miserable) work.
(19) (Those who are wise) would always guard against accumulating (at the expense of some small and ephemeral pleasure) negative karmic debts for this or other (lives). In no way is it proper to regard as happiness that which will have (you reborn) in one of the worse states.
(20) For people, there’s never any happiness from riding (horses) and so forth. What, at first, it’s not intended for (namely to bring you suffering, only) increases in the end; so what’s the use?
(21) Just as some people become happy when they vomit (if it’s) into a golden pot, likewise, think of your happiness as (petty) relief from suffering.
(22) What you initiate to reverse (suffering) that’s arisen, only brings on (further, new) suffering; so how is there happiness? That’s why the Able Sage (Buddha) has said, “Both when you’re born and fall apart, it’s (only with) suffering.” Think about that!
(23) Ordinary beings do not see their suffering when it’s apparently glossed over with (temporary) happiness. But, if their so-called happiness (were real and everlasting), it couldn’t again be obscured by suffering under any (conditions).
(24) “If you regard your suffering (body as pleasurable), you’ll not become free from attachment” – this has been taught for ordinary beings. Therefore, it’s certain that the Thusly Gone (Buddhas) have said (that such a distorted view of the body as pleasurable) is the lowest (type) of all naivety.
(25) Impermanent things definitely receive harm (in order to pass away), and whatever can be harmed cannot be (a source of) happiness. Therefore, that which is impermanent (such as the body) would be called, by everyone, suffering.
Three: Indicating Methods for Ridding Yourself of Grasping (at the Body as) Clean
(1) Even if you (make use of a pleasurable) object for a very long time, there’s never an end (when you’re totally satisfied). Like a bad doctor, the exhausting (efforts you make) for your body will have no effect.
(2) Just as some (earthworms), who devote themselves (to eating dirt), can never reverse their craving for dirt; likewise, for people who devote themselves (to indulging their cravings), their desires for them only increase.
(3) As all women (are a composite of dirty substances), there is not the slightest difference at all in having intercourse (with any of them). As their bodies will be enjoyed by others as well (for instance, by vultures and worms when they’re dead), what can a woman of superior (beauty) do for you?
(4) Anyone can find anyone else attractive and become infatuated with them and rejoice (in their beauty). But as this is common even among dogs and such (with respect to their mates), O dull-witted one, why are you so attached (to yours)?
(5) Any woman who (seems) gorgeous to you in all her parts has prior (to meeting you) been commonly (relished) by everyone. (So when you) find her, don’t become at all as astonished as you do (and become attached to her as solely your own).
(6) If you see beautiful (women) with good qualities (as attractive) and those who are opposite as the reverse, well, as no one can be categorized (as having only good qualities or only bad), of the former or the other, which one is truly (attractive or repulsive)?
(7) The desire of a fool doesn’t arise only for (women) having good qualities. (Rather, the desire) of those who become involved with (women) who are not (reasonable) causes (for attachment comes) from causes (that would normally produce) the opposite (effect). What’s (the reason) for this?
(8) A woman (who has excessive desire for you) is like a bad (contagious) disease: she’ll remain with you (only) so long as she doesn’t come to know another (man’s taste). As she must always be guarded from such circumstances, (don’t ever feel secure in her love and become attached).
(9) When you’re old, (the promiscuous escapades) you had in your youth will no longer be (so obsessively) desirous. So why should (arhats) who’ve become liberated not be thoroughly disgusted with these (amorous follies of youth).
(10) Those with no attachment (to women) do not (consider) as happiness (being with a woman); while those (who do have attachment) are not unbeguiled. Therefore, what kind of happiness does someone have whose mind is always turned away (from the nature of reality toward attachment to women? It is not supreme).
(11) You’ll not always be able to stay together with the woman to whom you’re so devoted. Therefore, to hold on to the notion that this one is mine and not anyone else’s – what is this for?
(12) If attachment (to women) were happiness, then there would be no purpose for (Buddha to have taught) purifying oneself of (attachment to) women, (since it would eliminate happiness); and no matter how much (you look), you don’t see (in the scriptures), “Happiness is to be given up.”
(13) Even when you’re in union with a woman, your happiness comes from other (causes besides the woman, such as your disturbing emotions, fantasies, and so forth). Who but a fool would maintain that its cause was (only) his wife herself?
(14) Like a leper scratching (his sores), being blinded by longing desire (to scratch) and not seeing the faults of his desire, those with attachment (who indulge their desires) appear as having suffering like a leper to those who are free from attachment.
(15) During a famine, whatever acts (of humiliation and abuse) befall those who are protectorless and tormented with hunger, (which they’re willing to endure from a miserly rich man in the hope for some food) – such are what toss about all those with attachment, when they’ve met with a woman (and are willing to endure in the hope for some pleasure).
(16) Some people out of arrogant pride develop attachment even for their latrines (and so never let anyone else make use of them); and some people who are attached to certain women are jealous of some (other men).
(17) If out of ignorance (you soiled yourself) with something unclean, it’s proper that you would become repulsed, whereas in no way would it be proper for you to become desirous and attached.
(18) Except for (half-witted) people, (everyone) would look down upon a vessel of filthy (vomit and excrement). Therefore, why don’t you consider as something to be looked down upon that from which this filth comes?
(19) When you look at the end (result of what happens to) any and every clean object (after it’s come in contact with a woman’s body, such as the food she eats), what intelligent person would say, “This (body of a woman) has (a nature of) cleanliness”?
(20) Anyone who’s resided inside the latrine (of a mother’s womb) where, if there weren’t this (filthy liquid) he couldn’t stay (there), such (a person, who as a foetus is) like a filthy worm, could only develop arrogant pride (that his body is clean) because of his thick-headedness.
(21) No matter what method (you use to wash), you cannot make the innermost parts of your body be clean. If you want to make efforts (to clean) the inside (of your body), it will not (come about by directing your efforts) on its outside like this.
(22) If (some of them) had leprosy, all people covered with urine would not be alike. Just as those (non-lepers) covered with urine (would hold their noses) at the lepers, likewise they themselves would be avoided by everybody else.
(23) Just as some (lepers) with rotted appendages try to make themselves look jolly with an artificial nose, likewise (vain) is your desire to make yourself attractive with added flowers and so forth, because (your body’s) unclean.
(24) Anyone who’s become free from desire and attachment (would consider it) improper to say, “This (body) is clean.” Therefore, there can be no phenomenon whatsoever that can become a cause for definitely making (the body) desirable and attractive.
(25) In short, impermanence, uncleanliness, suffering and lack of an impossible “self” – all four can exist in one (phenomenon, namely your own body).
Four: Indicating Methods for Ridding Yourself of Grasping (at the Body as Having) an Impossible “Self” (about Which to Feel Pride)
(1) What hallowed (arhat) in the world would develop arrogant pride thinking, “I (am king and this land is exclusively) mine”? Why, because all lands are equally (used) by everybody (on them).
(2) As a servant of the masses, having been apportioned one-sixth (as your wage), what is the reason for your arrogant pride? Whatever (is to be done), you have to do that. This comes from your having been (appointed) under their power.
(3) It’s vanity for a masterly (king) to think he’s a (generous) patron when he gives (his people) what ought to be given, just as it would be for a masterly (employer) to think of himself as a patron when he gives his workers (just) their due gain.
(4) Others (who are wise regard your prosperity and power) as a situation of suffering, but you (O King) regard it as the reverse. You who must earn your livelihood by working (to protect) others, how can this cause your happiness to grow?
(5) As protector of the world (if you feel you can be arrogant, well,) to be able to protect (the people, even though you’re) the ruler of the land, you have to be looked after (by those you protect).
Why then for one (petty reason) do you have arrogance? Why aren’t you parted from arrogance because of the other (reason, namely, that you have to be provided for)?
(6) Since among all the castes (everybody) gloats at their own karma and work, it’s difficult to find anyone who makes his livelihood (without pride and attachment). If, since (you share one-sixth of the people’s income), you also receive (one-sixth of their) destructive (karmic debts), then, for you, an excellent rebirth shall be rare.
(7) Anyone who must do (whatever) others demand is known on this earth as a fool, and there is no one else equal to you in being under the control of others’ (wishes).
(8) If thinking, “The protection (of the people) depends on me,” you (forcefully) extract tribute from the world and (in the process) you yourself, in fact, commit negative deeds, (such as by executing those who don’t pay), then who can be equal to this in unkindness?
(9) If it were improper to treat criminals kindly, then you shouldn’t protect any childish ordinary being (either, with kindness, for they’ve all been naughty).
(10) As (treating others badly) can in no way be a cause for enhancing your own happiness, it doesn’t bring this about. Although (you may justify killing animals, for instance,) for reasons such as (it’s permitted according to seemingly correct) scriptural authority, nevertheless, as it’s not something positive, (your negative karmic debts) will have no end.
(11) If it were righteous for a ruler of a land to act (with cruelty), thinking, “I’m doing this (to provide the people with) perfect protection,” then why wouldn’t deluded manufacturers (of weapons) also become righteous?
(12) A ruler of the land, (who thinks that) the world depends on the ruler of the land (for its existence and maintenance), would be looked down upon (for his presumptuous pride). The hallowed (aryas), for instance, see that the mother (producing) the entire world is craving for existence (and not the king).
(13) Unless you are an (unscrupulous, power-crazed) fool, you do not obtain a kingdom. And since (such) fools have no kindness, then an unkind ruler of men, even if he’s their protector, cannot (be said to) abide in the Dharma.
(14) All the activities (permitted for a king in the writings of) the rishi (non-Buddhist sages) haven’t been formulated by the most learned ones. Why? Because among these (rishis) there are inferior, middling and distinguished superior ones.
(15) In ancient times, the virtuous rulers of the land treated the people like (their own) children. But the present-day ones, who rely on wartime philosophies, make (the land as desolate) as a wilderness of animals.
(16) If a king weren’t to have any negative karmic debts from beating (a state enemy) when he had the chance, then neither would any other mugger have had such (karmic debts from his crimes) in the first place.
(17) As it’s not a (proper) offering to give away all your possessions for drinks and the like, how can you think it is a (proper) offering (bringing higher rebirth) to give away your very own (life) in a battle?
(18) O king, as the protector of the world, you yourself are completely protectorless. As the nature of being a protector is (such that with no one to restrain or advise you, you’re reckless and) do not give up (the causes for a lower rebirth), who would be happy (to be a king)?
(19) O king, your fame (of being a severe ruler) will contribute nothing to your advantage, especially when you die. It will be of no advantage at all, (otherwise) why do those who cook dogs (alive) not (enjoy) a great reputation?
(20) As it is a fact that having authority over all (the kingdom) comes from positive karmic force (built up in past lives), you can’t find anyone who would say, “This (ordinary subject) cannot count on having authority (in some future life, if he builds up the karma).”
(21) (After all) it’s related that castes (evolved) in this world for all the methods of livelihood that were. Therefore, for all limited beings, there are no (truly existing and definite) caste divisions (from the beginning).
(22) A long time has passed (since caste divisions were first drawn) and women’s minds are fickle (often bearing the children of men of different castes). Therefore, there isn’t anyone who is from a (definite, pure) caste who can say he’s (totally) of the royal caste.
(23) If activity (determined your caste) then even an outcaste, (by protecting others,) should be called a member of the royal caste, and by the activity (of reading the Vedas) why shouldn’t even an outcaste be considered to have become a brahmin?
(24) A king cannot distribute, as he can (the material fruits of his) authority, his negative karmic debts (incurred in gathering this wealth). Therefore, what wise person would destroy his future for the sake of (some trivial) benefit to others?
(25) Those who generate pride over their authority need to look at others who (also) have power – their equals or especially their superiors. (Pride) doesn’t remain in the hearts of sublime ones (who understand in this way).
Read a summary by Dr. Berzin of this text.