Friday, June 11, 2010


Gendün Chöpel
(Wyl. dge 'dun chos 'phel)

was a marvel in Tibetan history ~ philosopher, historian, traveller, artist, translator ~ he is also praised as Tibet's greatest modern poet. He gave up his vows as a monk at age 31 and set off to India, where he would wander and study, often broke and solo. He translated theDhammapada from Pali into Tibetan. When he returned to Tibet — this one who at a very early age was seen as an incarnation of a famous lama — would hit heads with the government under the leadership of a young Dalai Lama and was arrested on mysterious charges of treason. Three hardship years were served in prison where Chopel came out a broken man...dying in 1951 as the People's Liberation Army marched into Lhasa.

from, In the Forest of Faded Wisdom

. 16 .

Homage to the Lady of Speech.

This supreme intellect Sarasvati

Illuminator of speech;

May you adorn my throat

With words to clarify the world.

An ocean bears her, leading followers

To the supreme path

Of sacred diligence and reflection

Upon the auspicious puranas.

The expanse of her intelligence

Is a sky free of stars;

This is no place for a ldder

Leading to the shining sun.

. 52 .

In my youth, I did not take a delightful bride;

In old age, I did not amass the needed wealth.

That the life of this beggar ends with his pen,

This is what makes me feel so sad.

. 54 .

Calcutta, Nepal, Beijing,

The city of Lhasa in the Snowy Realm,

When I look at people wherever they are,

I see they have the same nature.

Even those who don't like chatter and hubbub

And are restrained in their ways,

When they see butter, tea, silk, or money,

Are no different from an old fisherman.

Officials and nobility like flattering talk.

Common people like cunning and deceit.

Today most like cigarettes and beer.

The young like to be pretty and flirtatious.

They keep to their father and mother's side

And hate anyone who is different.

The natural state of mind in humans and cattle

Is seen to be the same.

They go on the Tsari pilgrimmage for the sake of their name.

They practice asceticism of heat and cold for the sake of food.

They read the scriptures of the Victor for the sake of offerings.

If we consider it calmly, it's all for the sake of wealth.

Ceremonial hats, monks' robes, banners, canopies,

Ritual offerings of food and drink,

Whatever we do,

I see nothing more than a wondrous spectacle.

Like arriving at a goat shed or a doghouse,

In all mountain passes and valleys, there is no happiness.

Yet until this illusory body of flesh and blood perishes

We have no choice but to remain on this earth.

A statement like this, so honest,

Alas, may irritate others.

. 94 .

First kiss the arms and under the arms

Then slowly kiss the belly.

Becoming more intoxicated, kiss the thighs and vulva;

Draw the streams of the channels into the sea.

translated by Donald S. Lopez Jr.