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Dampa Sangye

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Padampa Sangye (Tib. ཕ་དམ་པ་སངས་རྒྱས་, Wyl. pha dam pa sangs rgyas; Skt. Paramabuddha) (d.1117) — the great Indian siddha visited Tibet and Bhutan several times. His main disciple was Machik Labdrön (1055-1149) who founded the lineage of Chö in Tibet and Bhutan.

Both he and Machik Labdrön meditated in caves near Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan.

A great Indian siddha who visited Tibet five times, the last time in 1098, where he taught the Shije system. His chief Tibetan disciple was the yogini Machik Labdron.


Dampa Sangye (Wylie: dam pa sangs rgyas "Excellent Buddhahood", d.1117, also called "Father Excellent Buddhahood", Wylie: pha dam pa sangs rgyas was a Buddhist mahasiddha of the Indian Tantra movement who transmitted many teachings based on both Sutrayana and Tantrayana to Buddhist practitioners


Padampa Sangye was one of the greatest scholars of classical India. Just before the end of his very long life, in 1117 CE, in Dingri, Tibet, his close disciple Dampa Charchen said to him, “You are about to pass away. When you do, you will go from happiness to happiness, and there will be no difference for you. But all of us who are left behind in Dingri need something to protect us. We need something that we can pray to, something we can have faith and devotion in. Please leave us some testament, some final instructions.” In response, Padampa Sangye taught these verses.

The following eight verses have been selected by the Tricycle editors from Advice from a Yogi (Shambhala Publications, 2015), a collection of the entire one hundred verses. Each verse is followed by commentary from Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, a tulku in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

If you waste this life and leave it empty-handed, you won’t easily find a human birth again, people of Dingri.

It is wonderful to have the motivation to enter the gate of the dharma and to study and practice. This is an unmistaken motivation. But even if the initial motivation that brings you to the dharma is very good, the contemporaneous motivation— the motivation of an ordinary individual at the actual time of study or practice—might not be so good. You might come under the power of the afflictions, or you might have a neutral motivation.

When practicing and studying, it’s important to have a motivation that is free from affliction. Among the various pure motivations, the most important is the wish to help ourselves and others, the vast motivation of the Mahayana, which means acting for the sake of all sentient beings, who are as limitless as space. You may already have faith, respect, and excitement about the dharma, and the pure motivation of bodhicitta, the spirit of awakening. Still, it is good to recall and reinforce that motivation from time to time. It helps your mind to go toward the dharma, the dharma to become the path, and the path to dispel confusion.

We need to be extremely careful in this life. We need to practice the dharma; we need to use our life for the dharma. We don’t want to leave this life empty-handed. What does “empty-handed” mean? Well, when we are born, do we come into the world fully clothed, with all the knowledge, wealth, and possessions we need? We don’t. We come into this world as newborn babes naked, with nothing, and we have to acquire it all.

All the things we’ve done for the purpose of this life won’t help us at the moment of death. In order to make sure that we don’t leave this life with empty hands, we need to accomplish the dharma properly. If we can have some signs of practice, if we can say to ourselves at the time of death, “I practiced well and I achieved this result,” that is first-rate. But even if we can’t do that, at the very least we need to be able to say, “I entered the gate of the dharma and did some dharma practice.” If at least we can say that, we won’t be leaving this life empty-handed.

Now we have this human body, and with it we can do something meaningful. But if we don’t accomplish anything with this life, we will come to the end of it and have nothing. This is why we need to make sure that we do our dharma practice now, while we are full of life, healthy, and able to practice, so that we do not leave this life empty-handed.

The second line of this verse reads “You won’t easily find a human birth again, people of Dingri.” Attaining a human life is not said to be impossible, but it is difficult for those who waste this life. This is why we need to keep these instructions in mind and tell ourselves, “I am not going to leave this life empty-handed.” It is important not to waste this life but to practice the dharma.

To attain a human life is extremely fortunate, and since we have this good fortune, we need to use it.

Give up this life—focus on the next. There is not a higher aim than that, people of Dingri.

Death and impermanence are not very pleasant topics. We find it rather uncomfortable, even depressing, to think about death and impermanence, but in fact it is extremely helpful, because thinking about impermanence encourages us. If we contemplate impermanence, we can accomplish something of meaning and purpose.

As the great yogi Milarepa said,

First I went to the mountains from the fear of death, But now I’ve seized the stronghold of deathlessness.

Out of fear of death and impermanence, Milarepa went to the mountains; then he meditated there, and the result was that he no longer needed to fear death. This is how meditation on impermanence helped him.

Likewise, in one sutra it says, “The best of all meditations is the meditation on impermanence.” The reason is that in the beginning, it is the condition that leads us to practice the dharma. In the middle, it is the rod that spurs us on to practice, and in the end, it is the companion to attaining the result.

First, meditating on impermanence is the condition that leads us to practice the dharma. Generally, we are involved with both dharma practice and worldly affairs. Normally, if we have to choose between these two, we choose worldly activity. We get distracted by all kinds of worldly affairs and are not able to really engage in dharma practice. But if we meditate on impermanence and truly see how we are impermanent, we’ll develop world-weariness and renunciation that will lead us to think, “I really have to practice dharma.” Meditating on impermanence is the condition that encourages us to practice the dharma.

Once I met someone, and when I told him that I was a Buddhist, he said, “Buddhists are no good. Religion is something that should inspire people and give them strength, but Buddhists only talk about impermanence, emptiness, selflessness, and suffering. You always talk about negative things and never give people any encouragement.” Maybe he’s right. We do always talk about impermanence and suffering and selflessness, but there’s a good reason: it encourages us to practice the dharma.

The second reason for meditating on impermanence is that it is the rod that spurs us to diligence. Sometimes we lose our diligence and get a bit lazy; we don’t feel the wish to practice dharma. At that point, if we think about suffering and contemplate impermanence, it will spur us to practice. If we lack diligence or faith, we can gain diligence and faith.

People often ask, “I really like the dharma; I really want to practice dharma, but I just can’t seem to do it. What should I do?” The answer is to meditate on the four thoughts (the advantages of precious human birth, death and impermanence, karma, and the sufferings of samsara) that turn the mind to the dharma and in particular to meditate on death and impermanence, because this is the rod that spurs us to diligence.

Finally, meditating on impermanence is the companion to obtaining the result. First it encourages us to enter the gate of the dharma, then it encourages us to be diligent, and through our diligence the good results of the dharma come right into our hands. How do we meditate on impermanence? As Padampa Sangye says, give up this life and focus on the next. When you have a choice between dharma activities and the affairs of this world, you should forget about the worldly concerns. Put them aside. Concentrate on dharma practice instead. Give up this life.

If you think the affairs of this life are more important, you will put most of your effort into them and end up setting dharma activity aside. You’ll concentrate so much on this life that you cannot put the dharma into practice at all. You’ll forget the dharma entirely.

How does it help you to give up this life and focus on the next? It helps because it brings you the highest aim. In other words, you come to attain a result. Then you can say to yourself, “I did something that was really meaningful. I truly accomplished something with this life.”

Like the children of the gods while living, fearsome as a mob of demons dead— your illusory bodies have you tricked, people of Dingri.

We have a strong attachment to our own body. We cherish it, but this does not actually help us. One day something will go wrong with our body. No matter how beautiful our body is while we are alive, the day we die, it becomes a corpse. As a corpse, it’s completely horrifying, and no one wants it. So we see that there is no essence to the body. Our illusory body has us tricked.

In order not to be fooled by our body, we need to put it to use for the dharma, as Shantideva said. This benefits us and others. For example, the Buddha appeared in the world, attained perfect buddhahood, and turned the wheel of dharma; through this he helped countless sentient beings by bringing them to the ultimate state of liberation and omniscience. Likewise, many extraordinary masters have appeared and taught the dharma; they helped many others and also freed themselves from samsara’s vast ocean of suffering. They did this by using their body well to practice generosity, discipline, patience, and the other paramitas[[[perfections]]]. In particular, there have been many masters of the Vajrayana who have used their body in this way and attained a good result.

As Shantideva said, “Use the body as a boat to cross to the other side of the ocean of samsara. And when you come to the other side, leave the boat behind.” We are on the shores of the great ocean of samsara, the ocean of suffering. In order to free ourselves from these waters, we need something to bring us across. We need a boat, and that boat is our body. We need to use our body well, and if we do, we can free ourselves from samsara. But if we are tricked by our attachment to this illusory body, we’ll forget to do so.

While you are distracted, death will seize you. Practice from this very moment on, people of Dingri.

Padampa Sangye gave this advice to encourage us to practice the dharma with diligence and to counteract distractedness. Why do we get distracted? We get distracted because of clinging to permanence. Thinking our lives will last for a long time, we become attached to worldly activities, our mind gets distracted, and we don’t practice the dharma. Yet there is the danger that in the interim impermanence will strike and we will die. In order to urge us to practice the dharma now, Padampa Sangye talks a lot about impermanence. This is easy to understand.

We become attached to our wealth and possessions, to food and clothing, to our home—all the good things in life. Through clinging to these things, we get distracted. We might have faith in the dharma and understand that we need to practice it, but we are so distracted that we don’t get around to it. Even though we understand death and impermanence, and we know that death is going to happen to us, distractedness makes us lazy. This is a difficult situation. The verse is an exhortation to practice the dharma now—from this very moment onward. Don’t take your time getting around to dharma practice. Do it right now.

Mind’s propensities are like old friends who keep on coming back; don’t chase the past, people of Dingri.

Sometimes we can be extremely diligent about subduing ignorance and the afflictions, but sometimes they keep coming back and we cannot be diligent. We have become accustomed to these bad propensities since beginningless samsara, and so sometimes we can only partially eliminate them. We want to develop the qualities of realization, and sometimes they come, but sometimes they don’t. This is just how things are. Our habitual tendencies are old acquaintances; we go way back with them. We need to try to get rid of our old bad habits and create new good habits. When we create good habits, sometimes they take hold and sometimes they don’t. We need to be continually diligent about this. Our old habits are harmful. Don’t chase the past.

When afflictions come, apply the antidote. Concepts will be naturally freed, people of Dingri.

Sometimes afflictions arise. Do they arise because we are poor, miserable, and unfortunate? No, they arise because we have imprints of the afflictions from beginningless time. When the afflictions occur, we address this in dharma practice by suppressing them with an antidote. For example, if hatred arises, we apply an antidote and meditate on patience.

Sometimes we think, “I want to get rid of these afflictions, but I just can’t do it.” But that is not the way it is, because actually the afflictions are fleeting; they are adventitious. They are like clouds that hide the sun. The light of the sun is always naturally present. Clouds are just temporary; eventually the wind will come along and blow them away. In the same way, the nature of the mind is naturally present, and the obscurations and the afflictions are just adventitious. When we use an antidote against the afflictions, sometimes we will be able to suppress the afflictions, but sometimes we won’t. Even though we sometimes can’t, if we gradually keep trying, eventually we accustom ourselves to doing it. Because the afflictions are not present in the real nature, we can suppress and decrease them. They are not established as anything, and therefore we can eliminate them. They will just naturally disappear.

Lust and hate arise but leave no trace, like birds in flight; don’t cling to passing moods, people of Dingri.

Even though the mind is the root of everything, our afflicted thoughts of greed, lust, and hatred appear, strong and powerful, and we engage in the greed and hatred. We think of something, and we think of it again and again, and it gets stronger and stronger. How do we get rid of these thoughts?

We experience the afflictions of desire and hatred, but their appearance is like the flight of a bird through the sky, leaving no tracks. They just dissolve into emptiness without leaving any trace. There is no reason to be attached or to fixate on them. They arise, and then they’re the past, and they can’t do anything to us.

Since everything comes down to the mind, we can attain the ultimate result. We are able to give up all of samsara because samsara is just the mind. We are able to achieve nirvana because nirvana is just the mind. The afflictions of desire and hatred sometimes seem like solid things that we can’t get rid of. But if we look at their ultimate nature, how they actually are, we see that we can get rid of them. Since we have the instructions, we should have confidence that we can eliminate the afflictions of desire and hatred.


Like the empty sky above, the mind,

indivisible emptiness-appearance,

has no center or periphery, people of Dingri.


This verse is about the indivisibility of appearances and emptiness. Various external appearances occur—visual forms, sounds, scents, tastes, and sensations—but their essence is naturally empty. Where do they occur? They occur in our mind. They appear in the nature of the mind. They seem to be external, but they cannot actually be established outside the mind in any way. All appearances are actually the mind.

There is what is called the reason of clear awareness, proof that everything is the mind. There are external appearances, and the reason there are is that they appear to the mind. There is no other thing that we can point to that does not appear to the mind. For that reason, appearances are mind. The nature of the mind is empty. Therefore appearances and emptiness are indivisible. Appearances occur, but while occurring, their essence is empty; while they are empty, they appear as anything. These two are inseparable. This inseparability is like the empty sky.

Appearances occur in the mind, and mind has no limits. You cannot say that the mind has a center or periphery that is either large or small. The nature of the mind is that it permeates everything.


in Tibet in the late 11th century. He travelled to Tibet more than five times. On his third trip from India to Tibet he met Machig Labdrön. Dampa Sangye appears in many of the lineages of Chöd and so in Tibet he is known as the Father of Chod, however perhaps his best known teaching is "the Pacification" (Tibetan: ཞི་བྱེད།, Wylie: zhi byed, THL: Zhijé). This teaching became an element of the Mahamudra Chöd lineages founded by Machig Labdrön.

His Tibetan name translates into Sanskrit as Buddha Paramapitā "Buddha Excellent Father". He often was identified by the descriptive name Nakpopa, "Black One".[


Some texts report that Padmasambhava was reborn as Dampa Sangye during the life of Machig Labdrön. Another text says:

Padampa Sangye (known in India as Paramabuddha) was from southern India, and traveled widely in India, Tibet and China, until his death around 1117 AD. It is widely believed that Padampa Sangye was a mindstream 'emanation' (tulku) of the 8th century monk Kamalaśīla, one of the early teachers of the Dharma in Tibet. He spent much time teaching in the Tingri valley, located between Tibet and Nepal, where he founded a monastery.,

. Drum khar Nagpopa: Khampa yogi who meditated in dark retreat for 18 years was -according to Keith Dowman- considered to have been the twelfth of Dudjom/Jiktrel Yeshe Dorje's seventeen previous incarnations.


According to Dilgo Khyentse (1910–1991), considered an emanation of Dampa Sangye, the story goes that the great pandit Śāntarakṣita, who was instrumental in transplanting Buddhism from India to Tibet, promised that one of his students would come one day to complete his work. Kamalaśīla (Tib., Padampa Sangye) fulfilled this prophecy. Khyentse Rinpoche in a 1987 gathering of students at Shechen Monastery, his seat in Nepal, offered a commentary on the Hundred Verses of Padampa Sangye.

In the esoteric oral tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a version of Dampa Sangye's life-story has him traveling to China and teaching there for 12 years, where he was known as Bodhidharma the founder of Zen.[8] Dampa Sangye is associated with the Tingri area of Tibet, where he lived for many years.

Bardok Chusang Rinpoche is recognized as the incarnation Dampa Sangye. He is a married yogi, living in Kathmandu.

There is a morality tale, allegory and teaching story inherent within the transmission of Chöd to Tibet that has been culturally remembered as a Cham dance. In this sacred dance, Moheyan is generally depicted as of ample girth goaded by children. Chöd is a product of both the Indian and Chinese transmissions of Buddhism into the Himalaya.[citation needed] For a discussion of the Dunhuang fulcrum of the entwined relationship of Chinese and Indian Buddhism refer van Schaik and Dalton (2004).

For simplicity, the Indian tantric transmission may be characterized as "gradualist", Tibetan: རིམ་གྱིས་འཇུག་པ་, THL: rim gyi jukpa (Chinese: 漸悟; pinyin: jiànwù[13]) and the Chan Buddhism transmission may be characterized as "direct", Tibetan: ཅིག་ཅར་གྱི་གྱི་འཇུག་པ་, THL: chikchar gyi jukpa (Chinese: 頓悟; pinyin: dùnwù[14]). It needs to be emphasized that this neat dichotomy in characterization of these two approaches to the Dharma is only valid for the historical context of the great debate

between Kamalaśīla and Moheyan arranged by Trisong Detsen and even then it is still open to dialectic. This debate has been named the "Council of Samye" by Giuseppe Tucci and also as the "Bsam yas Debate" or "Council of Lhasa" in English. According to the general Tibetan tradition, the two years of the debate transpired at Samye (Tibetan Bsam yas), a significant distance from Lhasa.

According to the lore of the orthodox, prevailing Tibetan cultural tradition, Kamalaśīla, a mahapandita and scholar educated at Nalanda, advocated the "gradual" process to enlightenment; whereas Moheyan, as a trance and meditation master advocated the "direct" awakening of original mind through the nirodha of discursive thought, the cessation of the mind of ideation. The historicity of this debate has been drawn into question by Gomez (1983)[15] and Ruegg (1992)[16] though this does not lessen its importance in defining the religious and cultural traditions of Tibet. Kamalaśīla was very handsome and a great orator and historically "won" the debate: Though there are conflicting primary sources and secondary accounts.

One hagiography asserts that directly after this debate with Moheyan, as Kamalaśīla was making his way down from the Himalaya to the Indian lowlands, he was incited to enact phowa through compassionate duress, transferring his mindstream to animate a corpse polluted with contagion; and thereby, safely moving the hazard it presented. As the mindstream of Kamalaśīla was otherwise engaged, mahāsidda Dampa Sangye came across the vacant kuten or "physical basis" of

Kamalaśīla. Dampa Sangye was not karmically blessed with an aesthetic corporeal form, and upon finding the very handsome and healthy empty body of Kamalaśīla, which he perceived as a newly dead fresh corpse, Dampa Sangye transferred his mindstream into Kamalaśīla's body and left with his new beautiful body. When Kamalaśīla returned to where he had left his body he only found the dark ugly body of Dampa Sangye, which he had no choice but to inhabit. Kamalaśīla's mindstream in Dampa Sangye's body continued the ascent to the Himalaya and thereby transmitted Chöd.


Tingri Hundred (Wylie: ding ri brgya rtsa)

Padampa Sangye's last testament to the people of Tingri is known by various names in English 'The Tingri Hundred' or the 'Hundred Verses'. The roman-letter transcription (Wylie) of the Tibetan, along with an English translation, is available on the Internet.





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