Teaching by Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche and Lama Dawa Rinpoche.
Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche often gave instruction and teaching in the form of song, and often used songs from his native Tibetan village of Dam to give examples of essential truths. They are teachings in themselves, even though they can be regarded as just simple village songs. To Rinpoche, even the mundane, or relative truth activities can carry great meaning, if you know how to listen.
These songs, sung by Rinpoche and his consort, were very special and very moving. Although Rinpoche did not consider them as formal teachings – giving empowerment (wang), verbal transmission (lung), and instruction (tri) – he gave them great importance as a way to give advice and meaning to the teachings.
In this song, Rinpoche emphasizes the importance of the union of Method and Wisdom, in opening one’s heart and mind, and not letting pride create barriers.
Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche explained, “I don’t have much experience in worldly affairs, but I know a little about guiding in the spiritual way. What I have found is that in every existing thing, there must be method and wisdom. Wisdom itself is emptiness, and to point to that we refer to the female. For the Method, we point to the male. Every living being needs method and wisdom together.”
“In my village we have four different kinds of songs. The first song is called ‘layu’, romantic songs of courtship. The woman must have a male partner and a man must have a woman. To cross the border of liberation, we need Wisdom and Method. The way to engage this is called ‘layu’.”
“My song has meaning. It is beyond conventional ideas and is symbolic. In the relative sense, it is just a secular song of romance; but in the absolute truth it is a song of the meaning of union. We have no way to understand the absolute truth without depending on the relative truth. So you can either hear this as an ordinary love song, or you can hear this as an instruction on how to relate to the absolute nature of the Lama. If you hear this old Tibetan man singing his village song from his mouth and voice, and drinking some alcohol to clear his throat, then you will hear just an ordinary love song. But on the absolute level, there is great meaning in my song. You must depend on the relative to get to the absolute. This is called ‘emptiness is the form and form is emptiness.”
The song is sung as a call and response. Rinpoche leads, and his consort answers in kind. The lyrics to the song go something like this (you can listen to the song below):
In the darkened clouds up in the sky we two proud dragons fly. I wish to open my feelings for you. Up to now I am just showing my fierce fangs and magnificent body. But I am showing this all to impress you. Won’t you accept me?
Don’t think that we are snow lions who owns these high snowy mountains. Now that we see each other, please open your heart so we can be together. If you remain proud, showing off your turquoise mane, thinking that this is my side of the snow mountain, and that is your side of the mountain, then we can never join as one.
If you think you are a wild yak (dong) standing on on the rocky hillside and believe that this is your side of the rocky mountain, and the other side is my mountain, then we are just showing our horns and pride. But inside we long to have each others company. Why are we not opening our hearts? If you open your heart, then I will open mine too.
In the turquoise fields you are a deer standing on the far side of the valley, and I am a deer standing on this side of the valley. Up to now we have never opened our true feelings. We are just showing our horns with many branches, and standing in our place. But now is the time – open your feelings to me, and I will open my feelings to you.
You think you are the wild ass (khyang) of that side of the plains, while I own the opposite side. Up to now we are only showing our stripes and pride and standing on our own spot. But deep inside we both want to join together. If we show our inner feelings – that what I wish is the same as you wish – then we can become united and it will bring us peace and joy. But if you just maintain your position, being proud of your stripes, and I maintain my position, showing off my stripes, then it can’t work. Let us break down this barrier and come together as one.
Lama Dawa Rinpoche explains the meaning, “This song is about how to bring the relationship of Method and Wisdom together. In order to do this, we must not have dualistic ideas. We must not hold on to our pride. Instead we establish a stage of equanimity – when you open and I open, then we become the same.
First is the example of the two dragons in the sky. The lesson is to not hold on to pride. Instead, be open on both sides because both sides want the same thing – to have a relationship. But their pride stands in the way. The second example is the snow lions who are proud of their own grandeur and snow mountains, yet they want to come together. Next is the wild yak which depends on the rocky mountains. But this side of the rocky mountain is mine and the other side is yours. So there is dualism – something opposite oneself. That is ignorance, and will make it difficult to walk in union. So we both have to open. Then there is the deer, both standing in opposite sides of the plains, just standing and showing off their magnificent horns. But that is nothing. Then there is the example of the wild ass.
The lesson here is don’t be proud and withhold your true feelings. That creates separation. Pride is empty, like the dragon showing his fangs and making a big sound. But that is not the dragon. And the snow lion is proud of his turquoise mane. But that is not real. The wild yak shows their horns and great size, but that is not real. The wild ass shows their pride on the outside, but it is not true. What is real? If you show what is real, then I will also show what is real. Then we can truly come together. The outside is just the grasping body. What is real is inside, and who is feeling that. That is true. Don’t show dualism mind. That can’t work. But if you open the real one, then I am also open. If you are going to hold on to the outside only, the relative truth, then I will also sit opposite in the relative truth. Then the wisdom will never come. To engage the wisdom, you must open into the absolute nature. If you are proud of the relative truth, then it cannot work. There will always be the wall of division.”
Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche explained, “I am singing these songs to you because I don’t want you to depend on the relative truth. It will make you proud and it will never bring what you are looking for. Actually, what you wish for is what all beings wish for – peace and happiness. But when we depend on the relative truth, then it will make more suffering and will engage karma. Then there will be no happiness in the present or in the future. But if you open your mind and heart, and open what is inside you without pride or shame, and step into the absolute truth of that, then every moment is peaceful, and without the stain of karma. That is the real truth.
I sing this song to guide you to not depend on the relative truth. On the relative truth you are hanging onto the pride of your identity, “I am American, I have this body, I have these belongings.” But that is not truth. The American person’s mind, the Indian person’s mind, the Tibetan person’s mind – every living being wants to have peace and happiness. Therefore they pursue spiritual practices. But even then we will feel there is some difference. “I am a Kagyu, I am Nyingmapa,” like this we still hang onto our pride and make separation. Then instead of your spiritual practice bringing you peace, you will just get anger and suffering.
So don’t miss the chance of the absolute truth. It is in you. You should open than in front of your Refuge objects – your Guru, the Buddha, the Dharma , the Sangha. Then you will taste the ultimate happiness and bliss. If you close up, if you hide your true mind and feelings, then it means you are hanging in the relative truth. Relative truth’s pride is not sweet and it will never take you to the blissful Dewachen, the Peaceful Paradise.”
This precious interaction was recorded with my little micro cassette recorder in 1999. I share an excerpt of their song with you here, even though the recording quality has degenerated over the years. May you too receive their blessings.
– Khandro Kunzang