Little Tiger

by Kelsang Gyatso

English version by Thubten Jinpa and Jas Elsener
Original Language Tibetan

The honey bee, a little tiger,
is not addicted to the taste of sugar;
his nature is to extract the juice
from the sweet lotus flower!

Dakinis, above, below, and on earth,
unimpeded by closeness and distance,
will surely extract the blissful essence
when the yogins bound by pledges gather.

The sun, the king of illumination,
is not inflated by self-importance;
by the karma of sentient beings,
it shines resplendent in the sky.

When the sun perfect in skill and wisdom
dawns in the sky of the illuminated mind,
without conceit, you beautify
and crown the beings of all three realms.

The smiling faces of the radiant moon
are not addicted to hide and seek;
by its relations with the sun,
the moon takes waning and waxing forms.

Though my gurus, embodiment of all refuge,
are free of all fluctuation and of faults,
through their flux-ridden karma the disciples perceive
that the guru's three secrets display all kinds of effulgence.

Constellations of stars adorning the sky
are not competing in a race of speed;
due to the force of energy's pull,
the twelve planets move clockwise with ease.

Guru, deity, and dakini -- my refuge --
though not partial toward the faithful,
unfailingly you appear to guard
those with fortunate karma blessed.

The white clouds hovering above on high
are not so light that they arise from nowhere;
it is the meeting of moisture and heat
that makes the patches of mist in the sky.

Those striving for good karma
are not greedy in self-interest;
by the meeting of good conditions
they become unrivaled as they rise higher.

The clear expanse of the autumn sky
is not engaged in the act of cleansing;
yet being devoid of all obscuration,
its pure vision bejewels the eyes.

The groundless sphere of all phenomena
is not created fresh by a discursive mind;
yet when the face of ever-presence is known,
all concreteness spontaneously fades away.

Rainbows radiating colors freely
are not obsessed by attractive costumes;
by the force of dependent conditions,
they appear distinct and clearly.

This vivid appearance of the external world,
though not a self-projected image,
through the play of fluctuating thought and mind,
appears as paintings of real things.

-- from Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening, Translated by Thupten Jinpa / Translated by Jas Elsner

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

...when the face of ever-presence is known,
all concreteness spontaneously fades away.


Love that line!

There is a lot being explored in this wisdom poem...

In so many ways the "vivid appearance of the external world" can become a trap for the distracted mind. Through the intensity of contact we get caught in constant reaction, running after pleasure, running from pain.

But this poem reminds us that such experiences are not inherently 'real.' It is not so much that things are unreal; rather, we tend not to see reality directly and, instead, see our own mental reproduction of reality. It is like looking at "paintings of real things" without realizing it.

This vivid appearance of the external world,
though not a self-projected image,
through the play of fluctuating thought and mind,
appears as paintings of real things.


What we call "experience" is really a story we tell ourselves, a story reflexively created by "fluctuating thought and mind" when it reaches out and touches an object that it perceives to be outside of itself. "Experience" is a mental overlay, and not the thing or event itself.

In the truly natural state, the awareness is at rest, perceiving without tension, encountering reality without an overlay of stories, without attraction or repulsion. In that pure awareness, life becomes a flow of events and interaction, not pushed by the self-will of likes and dislikes. We no longer imagine, "I have done this" or "I have experienced that." We are simply as we are, in our pure state. Actions are done, but we do not do them. Events still occur, but they don't happen to us, they simply unfold. We are no longer addicted to the "hide and seek" of life experience; its "waning and waxing" is simply its natural flow.

Then we become like the sun, illuminating and beautifying "without conceit." We are rainbows, not obsessed by our "attractive costumes," yet beautiful nonetheless. And like the honey bee, the "little tiger", we are fiercely true to our nature, gathering nectar, not because we are addicted to its sweetness, but because that is what is in our nature to do.

The honey bee, a little tiger,
is not addicted to the taste of sugar;
his nature is to extract the juice
from the sweet lotus flower!



Recommended Books: Kelsang Gyatso

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening





Little Tiger