I escaped the worldly home,
As if it were a pit of live coals,
And inherited the cool pavilion
of homelessness.

Shabkar, born in Tibet in 1781, began his monastic studies at a young age and was fully ordained at twenty-one. At age twenty-five, he became a wandering pilgrim and traveled for the next thirty years visiting sacred sites and mountain retreats. He has been compared to Milarepa because of his songs and similar lifestyle and he has been compared to St. Francis because of his love of nature and animals. Shabkar was a prolific writer and one of his most widely read works is an essay of vegetarianism. He departed this life in 1851.

the Poetry of Shabkar

Translated from Tibetan

Sky empty and luminous beyond all attachments, Remains. Me, the setting sun resplendent with light, Will not remain at all. One must remain in the vastness, alert and lucid, Letting one's gaze encompass the infinity of the sky, As though seated on the summit of a mountain open to all the horizons. My native land is all lands, In no particular direction. My monastery is the solitary mountains, In no particular place. My family is all the beings of the six realms. My name is "Hermit Protected by the Three Jewels." In the retreat hut that is my own body I sweep away the dirt ... My retreat helper is emptiness. Free indeed is the yogi who lives everywhere with abandon: in cave houses atop mountains, in the shade of blossoming trees, in a hut amid the open fields, in a small white cotton tent. I will sing from afar a song of joy and peace: Because of you, O guru, most sublime and wise, whose kindness surpasses even the Buddha's, I understand the truth: that all events and happenings - the union of form and emptiness - are nothing but the play of the mind. Mysterious, incomprehensible, I realize, is my mind - the root of prison and freedom, ungraspable, without substance. Living in solitude I place my mind with natural ease upon suchness - this mind, as light as a wisp of cotton fluff. The darkness of unknowing recedes at its own pace, and the vast sky of the infinite real wakes with the light of dawn. "Whether it is or it is not" - doubts engendered by skepticism - are qualms with no significance, questions the Buddhas wouldn't answer. Oh, the great congregation: yogis of the mahamudra, famed and wise, who see the naked face of the real, while residing atop Tsari Mountain, a heavenly realm, true abode of dakinis, where all mystic events flow spontaneous. Oh, enter the four features of dharmakaya -- the Reality Essence: empty as space, brilliant as sun, transparent as mirror, sharp as eyes. Let us then travel together to the realm of the real itself. As the discourse of philosophers, conducted by all-knowing scholars in the debating courtyards, is a melodious tune to the ear, so too are songs of experience sung in solitude by yogis who have entered the Great Oneness - mahamudra and Zokpa Chenpo.

[Translation: Thupten Jinpa and Jas Elsner]

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