A Poetic Letter Sent to the Mahāsiddha Tangtong Gyelpo with the Spiritual Support of a Rosary of Fifty Corals, by Shākya Chokden

Featured image above: The Golden Mahāpaṇḍita, Shākya Chokden (gser-mdog pan-chen shaa+kya mchog-ldan)

Image below: The Mahāsiddha T’angtong Gyëlpo (grub-chen thang-stong rgyal-po, 1385-1509)


‘Sent to the Mahāsiddha T’angtong Gyëlpo with the Spiritual Support of a Rosary of Fifty Corals’ (grub chen thang stong rgyal po la byu ru lnga bcu ‘phreng gi rten dang bcas gnang ba)

by the Golden Mahāpaṇḍita, Shākya Chokden (gser-mdog pan-chen shaa+kya mchog-ldan, 1428-1507)
Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos


By the manifest display of the Seal which sees whatever appears to be the manifest display of mind,
Yet which does not grasp at mind,
May the feet of the Supreme Siddha who brings appearance and existence under his power,
Tangtong Gyelpo, long remain firm.

An expression of auspicious interdependent connection,
So that You might be sustained for fifty [more] years, this rosary,
In particular is offered with utterly pure faith;
By a monk who upholds the Scriptural Canon.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.)
Found in the complete works of Shākya Chokden, ‘dzam gling sangs rgyas bstan pa’i rgyan mchog yongs rdzogs gnas lngar mkhyen pa’i pandi+ta chen po gser mdog pan chen shaa+kya mchog ldan gyi gsung ‘bum legs bshad gser gyi bdud rtsi bzhugs so, Volume Tsa, page 104


  • “By the manifest display of the Seal which sees whatever appears to be the manifold display of mind” (cir snang sems kyi rnam rol tu gzigs nas/ sems kyang ‘dzin med phyag rgya rnam rol gyis): Here rnam rol (manifold/manifest/miraculous display/manifestation) is used twice; arguably the meaning is somewhat different and could be translated differently for each instance.
  • “Seal” (phyag rgya): mudrā, as in mahāmudrā (Tib. phyag rgya chen po)
  • “scriptural canon” (sde snod): Generally, the three ‘baskets’ (Skt. piṭaka) of the canonical Buddhist teachings, that is, the Sūtra Piṭaka, Vinaya Piṭaka and Abhidharma Piṭaka. 
  • “fifty years” (lnga bcu’i lor): On the same subject, the dates of T’angtong Gyëlpo’s life and death appear to be highly disputed. His birth date is listed variously as 1361 or 1385, and his death date as 1464, 1485 and 1509. Assuming they are all equally valid, that means that he could have lived to be anywhere between 79 and 147 years old! Since his contemporary Shākya Ch’okden’s own lifespan from 1428-1507 is a far more settled issue, 1385-1509, or perhaps 1385-1485, seems the most probable for the dates of T’angtong Gyëlpo’s lifespan. RigpaWiki’s entry on T’angtong Gyëlpo, probably a more reliable resource than Wikipedia’s entry, lists it as 1385-1509. It thus appears likely that T’angtong Gyëlpo did outlive Shākya Ch’okden by about two years, which is remarkable given that the former was the latter’s elder by at least 43 years.


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