An Adamantine Song on the Ever-Present

by Longchen Rabjampa

English version by Thubten Jinpa and Jas Elsner
Original Language Tibetan

To experience the ocean of essence,
resembling the sphere of unchanging space:
free of center and perimeter,
pervading the expanse.
Enlightened mind transcends cognitions!

Rootless and baseless are appearance
and void, in the self-arisen rikpa
of every perception.
Vivid is the sense of noncessation:
luminous, the absence of object perception.

Within the voidness free of class distinction
all appearances dissolve, for their ground is lost;
The rikpa of liberation is spread evenly.
Subject and object are both void,
for their roots are lost.

The essence of self-arisen wisdom
and all duality are cleansed like the sky;
subjects and objects arise as free from bounds,
as naked dharmakaya!
This is the Great Perfection, free of cognition!

The self-arisen ground primordially pure,
the ultraversed path supremely swift,
the unsought fruit spontaneously savored,
such is the Great Perfection,
in the radiant dharmakaya.

This primordial sphere of pervasive essence
is the Great Perfection of samsara
and nirvana; this song of transcending --
beyond cause and effect, beyond all endeaver,
was sung by Longchen Rabjam Zangpo.

-- 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

I love the radiant opening lines of this great poem of the Dzogchen tradition:

To experience the ocean of essence,
resembling the sphere of unchanging space:
free of center and perimeter,
pervading the expanse.
Enlightened mind transcends cognitions!


"Free of center and perimeter, / pervading the expanse..." This is how the deep mystic perceives reality -- an all-pervading presence that is not limited by the boundaries of form, space, or time. Reality is seen to be a wholeness that is in no way broken or separated by the apparent diversity and disconnection of objects. Reality also has no center in the sense that objects and beings don't have a tangible and coherent substance of their own. There is a vast, blissful Being-ness, but no real thing-ness to any of it. The idea of objects, boundaries, separation, reveals itself to be just that -- an idea and nothing more. This idea is the result of the mind's "cognitions," the habitual way the limited mind breaks down and organizes perception so it can pretend it has grasped a small portion of reality and mastered it. But, in doing so, the mind blinds itself the true nature of reality all around it. As Longchen Rabjampa reminds us, "Enlightened mind transcends cognitions!" -- it transcends the limited mind's reflexive instinct to objectify and dominate; when the mind finally yields to what really is, it witnesses the unbroken expanse.

Longchen Rabjampa uses the term "rikpa" a few times. In Tibetan Buddhism, rikpa means literally "to know," and more specifically it is used by Dzogchen practitioners to mean "pure awareness." So when Lonchen Rabjampa speaks of "the self-arisen rikpa / of every perception," he is talking of the true and natural perception that arises when it is free of the limited mind's attempts to box reality into its preconceived notions. This awareness is self-arisen because it is naturally so; it is not a "cognition" but an ego-less recognition of the way things are. There is perception, but without a 'perceiver,' without an ego that inserts itself into the middle of the action, muddying the resulting awareness.

Another term that may need a brief explanation is his use of "dharmakaya." Dharmakaya is the "truth body," the ultimate state of the enlightened mind. Longchen Rabjampa gives us the beautiful statement that "subjects and objects arise as free from bounds, / as naked dharmakaya!" The dichotomy of subject and object implies a separation between the two that does not truly exist. There is no perceiver and perceived, only perception. When we recognize this, subject and object are "free from bounds." Everything we habitually thought of as an object of perception stands naked before us; the clothing of concepts that the mind has artificially projected onto everything falls away. Things are simply as they are. They are not even 'things.' They are not even 'they.' There is just fluid Being that ripples and plays with the fleeting appearance of form -- the "ocean of essence." The awareness capable of witnessing this essential nature of reality is dharmakaya, the truth body.

Have a beautiful day, enveloped in "radiant dharmakaya!"



Recommended Books: Longchen Rabjampa

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





An Adamantine Song