Jun 01 2018

Karma Trinley – A Song on the View of Voidness

Published by at 9:51 am under Poetry

A Song on the View of Voidness
by Karma Trinley

English version by Thupten Jinpa & Jas Elsner

Homage to the Adamantine Mind!

Dharma king, you who have realized
the essence; you who expound
the way of being, out of compassion:
king Buddha Samdrup,
I bow to you in my heart,
pray listen to me.

Through your kind and skillful means,
by a habit long formed, and as a fruit
of long practice in this life,
I have realized the nature of ever-presence.

When the secret of appearance is revealed,
everything arises in a tone of voidness,
undefined by the marks of identity.
Like a sky that is nothing but an image.

When the secret of thoughts is revealed,
though active, they are but mind’s sport,
naked reflections of transcendent mind
unsullied by deliberation and correction.

When the secret of recollection is revealed,
every memory is but an illumination
of self-knowledge in the ever-present state,
untainted by ego consciousness.

When the secret of illusions is revealed,
they seem nothing but the primordial state,
appearing in the visual field of rikpa,
untouched by the dualism of mind and things.

When the secret of abiding is revealed,
you are in the state of self-cognition,
however long you remain, free of elaboration,
the expanse unstained by laxity and torpor.

When the secret of mobility is revealed,
however much you move, you remain
within clear light, unstained by distraction,
excitement, and so on, a true self-recognizer.

When the secret of samsara is revealed,
however often one may circle, the cycles
are illusion unaffected by joy and pain.
This is the realization of Buddha’s four bodies.

When the secret of peace is revealed,
however tranquil one’s attainments,
they are but an image; this is the natural pure space,
free of the signs of being and nonbeing.

When the secret of birth is revealed,
however one’s reborn, it’s but an emanation;
meditation’s vision of pure self-generation
free of clinging and apprehensions.

When the secret of death is revealed,
however often one may die, it’s but the vision
of the ultimate, the stages of completion
perfect, free of any karmic deeds.

When the secret of bliss is revealed,
its intensity cannot be bettered;
this is the state of spontaneous bliss,
free of all traces of contamination.

When the secret of luminosity is revealed,
however bright, it’s but an empty form —
mother image of the void in space,
free of every multiplicity.

When the secret of emptiness is revealed,
though empty, it is the unsurpassed,
devoid of every contingent stain,
and free from every deception.

When the secret of the view is revealed,
however much one looks and sees,
the world remains beyond thought and word —
the expanse beyond dichotomies.

When the secret of meditation is revealed,
however much one meditates, it’s but a state —
undistracted, and in natural restfulness,
free of exertion and constraint.

When the secret of action is revealed,
whatever one does are the six perfections —
spontaneous, free, and to the point,
uncolored by strictures and moral codes.

When the secret of fruition is revealed,
achievements are but the cognition
of mind as dharmakaya,
the mind itself free of hope and fear.

This is the profound innermost secret;
guru’s blessings have entered my heart;
naked nonduality dawns within;
the secret of samsara and nirvana is revealed!

I have beheld the face of the ordinary mind;
I have arrived at the view that is free of extremes;
even if the Buddha came in person now,
I have no queries that require his advice!

This song on the view of voidness
expounding the nature of the being of all,
spoken in words inspired by conviction,
was sung in a voice echoing itself,
unobstructed, in between meditation sessions.

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


/ Image by ahermin /

Like many of the great poems emerging out of the Tibetan traditions, this poem combines ah ecstatic visionary element with a discourse on the nature of reality.

This is like mystic’s graduation thesis, a declaration of realization:

I have realized the nature of ever-presence.

He enumerates for us a list of secrets that, when understood, reveal the true nature of reality.

I will drop in a few of my comments on some of these, but I invite you to spend some time with each statement yourself and see what insights you gain…

When the secret of appearance is revealed,
everything arises in a tone of voidness,
undefined by the marks of identity.
Like a sky that is nothing but an image.

The language of the last line of this verse is a bit confusing, but I think what he is saying is that reality is like the wide open and empty nature of the sky. We may see images form in the clouds that float through the sky, but they are temporary and intangible. Things take form and appear to be real, but when we gain a wider perspective, the only lasting reality is that open space of blue, the canvas on which images appear and fade again.

When the secret of thoughts is revealed,
though active, they are but mind’s sport,
naked reflections of transcendent mind
unsullied by deliberation and correction.

The poetry of this verse stands out to me. We become so entranced by the content and movement of our own thoughts, but they are ultimately revealed to be “the mind’s sport.” Thoughts dance and dazzle, but they are like the glimmering light upon the surface of the transcendent mind, which remains pure and unaffected by that surface movement and all our attempts to control it.

When the secret of abiding is revealed,
you are in the state of self-cognition,
however long you remain, free of elaboration,
the expanse unstained by laxity and torpor.

This is an interesting one. The “secret of abiding” reveals itself as “self-cognition.” In other words, we come to rest, we discover stability and stillness, when we truly know ourselves. Words don’t express this truth easily. These ideas may seem to be disconnected, but there is an intimate connection we discover. The only place of rest is the true Self. It is only when we know the self that we can settle and abide.

Followed by a statement of movement…

When the secret of mobility is revealed,
however much you move, you remain
within clear light, unstained by distraction,
excitement, and so on, a true self-recognizer.

When we are a “true self-recognizer,” even in movement there is a clarity and inner stillness. We normally accompany action with psychic agitation. This is because we typically identify with the body and surface mind so, when there is movement, there is also disturbance. But identifying with the deep Self, movement is just the outer expression of that still spaciousness.

When the secret of samsara is revealed,
however often one may circle, the cycles
are illusion unaffected by joy and pain.
This is the realization of Buddha’s four bodies.

Samsara is the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth as understood within Buddhism. When the poet states that seeing through the secret of samsara, the cycles are revealed as illusion not affected by joy and pain, we can read that as a rather flat and disengaged insight, but that is not what is meant. He is not saying that there is no joy or pain or that life and death are meaningless; rather, the appearance of life and death along with the fluctuations of joy and pain are not truly part of the fundamental nature of being. Like the clouds forming and fading against the sky, those are all passing phenomena that have their own beauty and meaning, but the blissful expanse is the only lasting reality.

The mention of the Buddha’s “four bodies” is a reference to the four bodies (or kayas) a buddha recognizes upon enlightenment: the truth body, the form body, the enjoyment body, and the emanation body. Our true body or nature is of these eternal forms, and the rest is the dance of appearance.

When the secret of bliss is revealed,
its intensity cannot be bettered;
this is the state of spontaneous bliss,
free of all traces of contamination.

Sometimes we imagine the spiritual path to be one of self-denial and worldly disdain. We conjure up grim visions of enlightenment, and either embrace that or run from it. But the real experiences of mystics and visionaries and saints, as they constantly tell us, is one of bubbling delight and peace. When one’s nature is revealed, we dwell in bliss. No surface pleasure or joy can compare. “It’s intensity cannot be bettered.”

When the secret of emptiness is revealed,
though empty, it is the unsurpassed,
devoid of every contingent stain,
and free from every deception.

This was something that tripped me up for a long time. The constant refrain in Buddhism about emptiness, nirvana, the void can sound bleak. As a younger seeker I had a love-hate relationship with the teachings of Buddhism. There was clearly something uplifting, insightful, and compassionate there, an expression of profound truth. But it could also sound rather depressing.

It took my own sense of opening to finally see beyond my own mental block and recognize that that “emptiness” is actually filled with life and delight amidst vast spaciousness. It is not empty as in a suffocating vacuum, but rather it is free from the idea of separate and distinct things and beings. Within this blissful nondual space of being, there is only a living wholeness and, therefore, nothing (no objectified thing) exist there. It is empty, yet it is the unsurpassed.

naked nonduality dawns within;
the secret of samsara and nirvana is revealed!

I like that signature verse at the end. It brings us back to earth. Signed this day between meditation sessions, yours truly…

This song on the view of voidness
expounding the nature of the being of all,
spoken in words inspired by conviction,
was sung in a voice echoing itself,
unobstructed, in between meditation sessions.


Recommended Books: Karma Trinley

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


Karma Trinley

Tibet (1456 – 1539) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

Karma Trinley became a Tibetan Buddhist monk at age 17 and began to study within the Kagyu lineage.

At around age 30, he began to have powerful visions and spiritual experiences in his meditations. On a pilgrimage to a holy mountain, he is said to have encountered a protective spirit that profoundly influenced him.

Karma Trinley later became a master of the Vajrayogini tradition, which emphasizes the feminine energies of realization.

He founded a monastery and spent the last years of his life in retreat, meditating and writing.

More poetry by Karma Trinley

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Karma Trinley – A Song on the View of Voidness”

  1. Colleenon 01 Jun 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you again Ivan. I love that phrase:the feminine energies of Realisation. There is something powerful in it for me. I hope your day is blessed in many ways.
    Colleen

  2. Jessicaon 02 Jun 2018 at 12:30 am

    This was a profound teaching for me, yet so easily accessible like a
    good teaching should be. I am an admirer of Thupten Jinpa, thanks
    for introducing me to this book.

  3. Carol Burnson 02 Jun 2018 at 4:22 am

    Thank you Ivan for this poem. When I read it yesterday, I was drawn to it but did
    not understand. . .Will continue to read and learn. It is powerful and at the same
    time practical to our daily lives. Carol

  4. Elizabeth Reningeron 02 Jun 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Loved this teaching-poem, Ivan ~ many thanks!

    And, mostly but not entirely off-topic …. If anyone reading this happens to live in or around Boulder, Colorado ~ and would like to meet occasionally to read and revel in sacred poetry, please feel free to connect via FaceBook message 🙂

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