The Thirty-seven Verses on the Practices of Spiritual Heroes
Gyalse Ngulchu Tokme Zangpo (1297-1371)
Though He sees that in all phenomena there is no coming and going,
He strives solely for the sake of beings.
To the Sublime Teacher inseparable from the Lord of Compassion, the Protector of Beings, I pay constant homage with respectful body, speech, and mind.
The perfect Buddhas —source of happiness and ultimate peace—
Exist through having accomplished the sacred Dharma,
And that, in turn, depends on knowing how to practice it.
I shall therefore explain the practice of the Spiritual Heroes.
1: Now that I have this great ship, a precious human life, so hard to obtain,
I must carry myself and others across the ocean of suffering.
To that end, to listen, reflect, and meditate
Day and night, without distraction, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
2: In my native land waves of attachment to friends and kin surge,
Hatred for enemies rages like fire,
The darkness of indifference, not caring what to adopt or avoid, thickens.
To abandon my native land is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
3: When unfavorable places are abandoned, disturbing emotions gradually fade.
When there are no distractions, positive activities naturally increase.
As awareness becomes clearer, confidence in the Dharma grows.
To rely on solitude is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
4: Close friends who have long been together will separate.
Wealth and possessions gained with much effort will be left behind.
Consciousness, a guest, will leave the lodge of the body.
To give up the concerns of this life is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
5: In bad company, the three poisons grow stronger,
Listening, reflection, and meditation decline,
And loving-kindness and compassion vanish.
To avoid unsuitable friends is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
6: Through reliance on a true Spiritual Friend my faults will fade
And good qualities will grow like a waxing moon
To consider him even more precious
Than my own body is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
7: Whom can worldly gods protect
Themselves imprisoned in cyclic suffering?
To take refuge in the Three Jewels
Who never fail those They protect is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
8: The Buddha taught that the unendurable suffering of the lower realms
Is the fruit of unvirtuous actions.
Therefore, to never act unvirtuously,
Even at the cost of my life, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
9: Like dew on grass, the delights of the three worlds
By their very nature evaporate in an instant.
To strive for the supreme level of liberation
That never changes, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
10: If all the mothers who have loved me since beginningless time are suffering,
What is the use of my own happiness?
So, with the aim of liberating limitless sentient beings,
To set my mind on enlightenment is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
11: All suffering without exception arises from desiring happiness for myself,
While perfect Buddhahood is born from the thought of benefiting others.
Therefore, to really exchange my own happiness For the suffering of others is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
12: If someone driven by great desire
Seizes all my wealth, or induces others to do so,
To dedicate to him my body, possessions,
And past, present, and future merit is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
13: If, in return for not the slightest wrong of mine,
Someone were to cut off even my very head,
Through the power of compassion to take all his negative actions
Upon myself is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
14: Even if someone makes derogatory statements about me
And proclaims them throughout the universe,
In return, out of loving-kindness,
To extol that person’s qualities is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
15: Even if in the midst of a large gathering
Someone exposes my hidden faults with insulting language,
To bow to him respectfully,
Regarding him as a spiritual friend, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
16: Even if one I’ve lovingly cared for like my own child
Regards me as an enemy,
To love him even more,
As a mother loves a sick child, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
17: Even if my peers or my inferiors
Out of pride do all they can to debase me,
To respectfully consider them like my teachers
On the crown of my head, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
18: Even when utterly destitute and constantly maligned by others,
Afflicted by terrible illness and prey to unwholesome forces,
To still draw upon myself the suffering and wrongdoing of all beings
And not lose heart is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
19: Though I may be famous, and revered by many,
And as rich as the God of Wealth himself,
To see that the riches and glory of the world are without essence,
And to be free of arrogance, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
20: If I do not conquer my own hatred,
The more I fight outer enemies, the more they will increase.
Therefore, with the armies of loving-kindness and compassion,
To tame my own mind is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
21: Sense pleasures and desirable things are like saltwater;
The more I taste them, the more my thirst increases.
To abandon promptly
All objects which arouse attachment is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
22: All that appears is the work of my own mind;
The nature of mind is primordially free from conceptual limitations.
To recognize this nature and not to entertain concepts Of subject and object is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
23: When encountering objects which please me,
To view them like rainbows in summer
—Not ultimately real, however beautiful they appear—
And to relinquish craving and attachment, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
24: The various forms of suffering are like the death of a dream child:
By clinging to deluded perceptions as real I exhaust myself. Therefore, when encountering unfavorable circumstances,
To view them as illusions is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
25: If those who wish for enlightenment must give away even their own bodies,
How much more should it be true of material objects?
Therefore, without expectation of result or reward,
To give with generosity is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
26: If, lacking discipline, I cannot accomplish my own good,
It is laughable to think of accomplishing the good of others.
Therefore, to observe discipline
Without samsaric motives is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
27: For a Spiritual Hero who desires the joys of virtue,
All who harm him are like a precious treasure.
Therefore, to cultivate patience toward all,
Without resentment, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
28: Merely for their own sake, even those who long for liberation
Make efforts like one whose turban is on fire.
Seeing this, for the sake of all beings,
To practice diligence, the source of excellent qualities, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
29: Knowing that through profound insight thoroughly grounded in sustained calm
The disturbing emotions are completely conquered,
To practice the concentration which utterly transcends
The four formless states is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
30: In the absence of wisdom, perfect enlightenment cannot be attained
Through the other five perfections alone.
Therefore, to cultivate wisdom combined with skillful means
And free from the three concepts is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
31: If I do not examine my own defects,
Though outwardly a Dharma practitioner, I may act against the Dharma.
Therefore, continuously to examine my own faults
And give them up is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
32: If, impelled by negative emotions, I relate the faults
Of other Spiritual Heros, I will myself degenerate.
Therefore, to not talk about the faults of anyone
Who has entered the Great Vehicle is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
33: Offerings and respect may bring discord
And cause listening, reflection, and meditation to decline.
Therefore, to avoid attachment
To the homes of friends and benefactors is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
34: Harsh words disturb the minds of others
And spoil my own practice.
Therefore, to give up harsh speech,
Which others find unpleasant, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
35: When emotions become habitual, they are hard to get rid of with antidotes.
Therefore, with mindfulness and vigilance,
To crush attachment and other negative emotions
The moment they arise is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
36: In short, wherever I am, whatever I do,
To be continually mindful and alert,
Asking, “What is the state of my mind?”
And accomplishing the good of others is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
37: Dedicating to enlightenment
Through wisdom purified of the three concepts
All merit achieved by such endeavor,
To remove the suffering of numberless beings, is the practice of a Spiritual Hero.
Following the teachings of the Holy Beings,
I have arranged the points taught in the sutras, tantras, and shastras
As the Thirty-seven Verses on the Practice of a Spiritual Hero
For the benefit of those who wish to train on the Path.
Since my understanding is poor, and I have little education,
This is no composition to delight the learned;
But as it is based on the sutras and teachings of Holy Beings
I think it is genuinely the practice of the Spiritual Heros.
However, it is hard for someone unintelligent like me
To fathom the great waves of the Spiritual Heros’ activities, So I beg the forgiveness of the Holy Ones
For my contradictions, irrelevances, and other mistakes.
Through the merit arising from this
And through the power of the sublime Great Purpose, relative and absolute,
May all beings become like the Lord of Compassion,
Who is beyond the extremes of suffering and liberation.