The Instruction on Parting from the Four Attachments, by Sachen Künga Nyingpo

The Instruction on Parting from the Four Attachments

༈ ཞེན་པ་བཞི་བྲལ་གྱི་གདམས་པ་བཞུགས།

(zhen pa bzhi bral gyi gdams pa bzhugs)


by Sachen Künga Nyingpo (sa chen kun dga’ snying po, 1092-1158)

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos




བླ་མ་ས་སྐྱ་པ་ཆེན་པོ་དགུང་ལོ་བཅུ་གཉིས་བཞེས་པའི་ཚེ། འཕགས་པ་འཇམ་པའི་དབྱངས་ཀྱི་སྒྲུབ་པ་ཟླ་བ་དྲུག་མཛད་པས། དུས་གཅིག་གི་ཚེ་འོད་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་དབུས་ན་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་ཁྲི་གཅིག་གི་སྟེང་ན་རྗེ་བཙུན་འཇམ་དབྱངས་དམར་སེར་ཆོས་འཆད་ཀྱི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཅན། བཟང་པོའི་སྟབས་ཀྱིས་བཞུགས་པ། འཁོར་བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའ་གཉིས་གཡས་གཡོན་དུ་གནས་པ་མངོན་སུམ་གཟིགས་ཏེ། གཙོ་བོའི་ཞལ་ནས།

When the Great Lama Sakyapa (Sachen Künga Nyingpo) had reached the age of twelve years old1, he undertook a six-month practice retreat on the Noble Mañjuśrī. On a certain day during this period, he directly beheld the Venerable Lord Mañjughoṣa (Mañjuśrī): Dwelling in the center of a mass of light atop a bejeweled throne, orange2 [in bodily color], with [his hand in] the Mudrā3 of Expounding the Dharma, sitting in the Posture of Excellence [with his feet flat on the ground4]; and as his attendants, to the left and right, stood two Bodhisattvas. Thereupon, from the mouth of the Chief Figure (Mañjuśrī) came the following:

ཚེ་འདི་ལ་ཞེན་ན་ཆོས་པ་མིན། །

If you are attached to this life5, you are not a Dharma practitioner6

ཁམས་གསུམ་ལ་ཞེན་ན་ངེས་འབྱུང་མིན། །

If you are attached to the Three Realms7 [of Saṃsāra8], you do not have renunciation9.

བདག་དོན་ལ་ཞེན་ན་བྱང་སེམས་མིན། །

If you are attached to your own self-interest10, you do not have Enlightenment Mind (bodhicitta11). 

འཛིན་པ་བྱུང་ན་ལྟ་བ་མིན། །

If you engage12 in grasping13, you do not have the View14.

ཞེས་གསུངས་པའི་དོན་ལ་དཔྱད་པས། ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་པའི་ལམ་གྱི་ཉམས་ལེན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཞེན་པ་བཞི་དང་བྲལ་བའི་བློ་སྦྱོང་དུ་འདུ་བར་དགོངས་ཏེ། ཆོས་ཐམས་ཅད་ལ་ངེས་ཤེས་ཁྱད་པར་ཅན་ཐོབ་པ་ཡིན་ནོ།

Analyzing the meaning of those words which had been thus spoken [by Mañjuśrī], he [Sachen Künga Nyingpo] came to comprehend that all the practices of the Path of Transcendental Perfections (pāramitā-s15) were condensed within this Mind Training16 on Parting from the Four Attachments. And through this, he gained a special certainty of insight regarding all Dharmas17.

། །ས་མཱཔྟ་མི་ཐི།། །།



Appendix: Root verses of the Parting from the Four Attachments‘, without footnote numbers and with Tibetan phonetic pronunciation

ཚེ་འདི་ལ་ཞེན་ན་ཆོས་པ་མིན། །


(1.) If you are attached to this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner. 

ཁམས་གསུམ་ལ་ཞེན་ན་ངེས་འབྱུང་མིན། །

(2.) If you are attached to the Three Realms [of Saṃsāra], you do not have renunciation.

བདག་དོན་ལ་ཞེན་ན་བྱང་སེམས་མིན། །


(3.) If you are attached to your own self-interest, you do not have Enlightenment Mind (bodhicitta).

འཛིན་པ་བྱུང་ན་ལྟ་བ་མིན། །


(4.) If you engage in grasping, you do not have the View.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, October 23rd-24th, 2018.)

1 In 1104 or 1005 CE

2 Or ‘reddish-yellow’ (dmar ser)

3 hand gesture

4 Like the way that Maitreya Bodhisattva sits seated upon his throne with his feet flat on the ground.

5 That is, this present or current lifetime

6 chos pa, or ‘spiritual practitioner’, ‘religious practitioner’, but the implication here is specifically Buddhist (chos=Dharma), especially with regard to the aims of Buddhist spiritual practice, namely liberation and enlightenment

7 khams gsum, Skt. Tri-dhatu: The form realm (rūpa-dhātu), the formless realm (arūpa-dhūtu), and the desire realm (kāma-dhātu)

8 And conditioned existence (srid pa), synonymous with Saṃsāra, ‘cyclic existence’

9 Or ‘the determination for emancipation/liberation’ (nges ‘byung)

10 Or ‘your own personal purpose/aim/goals’ (bdag don)

11 On the conventional level of Relative Bodhicitta, bodhicitta is the altruistic wish to attain the state of complete Enlightenment or Awakening, Buddhahood, for the sake of all sentient beings, in order to benefit them generally, and also to bring them to the state of Enlightenment in particular; as well as the determination to practice the Bodhisattva Path of love, compassion, the Six Transcendental Perfections (pāramitā-s), etc., which are necessary for achieving that goal of Buddhahood. On the absolute level of Ultimate Bodhicitta, bodhicitta is the practice of direct insight into the ultimate nature of phenomena and the true nature of mind. Here the discussion mainly concerns Relative Bodhicitta, especially in its altruistic aspirations for the benefit of others. Notoriously difficult to translate into English and thus often simply left in its original Sanskrit, bodhicitta has been rendered numerous ways, some more accurate that others, including “awakened mind” (inaccurate), “awakened heart” (inaccurate), “enlightened mind” (inaccurate), “enlightened heart” (inaccurate), “thought of enlightenment/awakening” (somewhat accurate), “altruistic aspiration to enlightenment/awakening” (accurate), “awakening mind” (accurate), “will to enlightenment/awakening” (accurate), “bodhi mind” (accurate), “bodhi heart” (accurate), and “spirit of enlightenment/awakening” (accurate). “Enlightenment/Awakening Mind” (or “Mind of Enlightenment/Awakening”), is the most literal standard translation of the term, and in many contexts may also be the most appropriate for capturing the nuances of the term bodhicitta in English. Care must be made when rendering this term not to wrongly indicate that this ‘mind’ is one which has already attained Enlightenment; which is why “enlightened/awakened mind” is inaccurate. It should be noted, however, that bodhicitta often has different meanings in Tantric or Vajrayāna contexts.

12 Or “if grasping arising/occurs”. For various reasons I have opted for a more active form here (‘engage’), rather than the passive form used by other translators, although the verb here (byung) is generally of the more passive and indeed involuntary variety, and usually means “to occur, emerge, happen, to come to pass, to get”. Using a more active form here also fits in with the previous pattern set in the foregoing first three lines, namely “If you…”, wherein the instrumentality of an agent is implied in all three cases (albeit less directly in the original Tibetan text). Some have also translated this fourth line as “if there is grasping”. I submit that here a more active verb form is generally more appropriate in English, because it is the agent who is ‘engaging’ in grasping, and that this selfsame grasping does not come from some outside source nor from elsewhere than the grasping mind of the implied agent. In other words, we would not tell someone to “not let grasping happen”, we would tell them to “not engage in grasping”.

13 Or ‘clinging’ (‘dzin pa)

14 That is, the Right View or the appropriate view of discerning insight (prajñā) which realizes Emptiness and Non-Self, wherein there is no grasping, clinging or fixation on the conceptual elaborations of existence, non-existence, both existence and non-existence, and neither existence nor non-existence, with regard to all phenomena. ‘Grasping’ here is thus attachment to a ‘self’ and to true or inherent existence with regard to oneself, others, and all things, including thoughts and concepts.

15 Or ‘Transcendental Practices’ (pha rol tu phyin pa). ‘The Path of Transcendental Perfections (pāramitā-s)’ (pha rol tu phyin pa’i lam) is another way of referring to the Mahāyāna or Bodhisattvayāna systems or ‘vehicles’ of Buddhism, which are also sometimes called the Pāramitāyāna.

16 blo sbyong, methods of training the mind in important topics of contemplation using short instructions

17 The meaning of “all Dharmas” (chos thams cad) here is specifically “all Dharma teachings”, but the grammar is perhaps intentionally ambivalent, and could also mean “all phenomena” or “all things”.

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