English Translation Fellows
"This book, a collection of the songs of realization of the Shangpa masters, constitutes a major source of the lineage’s spiritual nourishment. Kalu Rinpoché told those of us in retreat under his guidance to read this collection if we wanted to read something apart from the texts of our program’s meditations. During retreat or after, in Western meditation centers or in Asian monasteries, we sometimes gather to sing these songs in unison. They guide us, nourish us, remind us, and take on new meaning as the years go by. We return to them, as to trusted friends, for the support and encouragement we need to keep on giving our best to this precious life. We have always enjoyed them in Tibetan; they appear here in translation for the first time.
Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé compiled these songs in the nineteenth century, mainly from the autobiographies of the lineage’s masters. What is clear from the first song is that this collection mainly gathers songs of spiritual teachings. Western readers have fallen in love, just as Tibetans do, with the songs of Milarepa and of Shabkar. Those realized masters were wandering yogis, who sometimes sang of profound teachings they’d received and practiced but often imparted down-to-earth advice to the good people they met. They would also sing of their surroundings, for these men often lived in the wilds, and their songs allow us to share their awe in the presence of enlightenment, reflected in the spiritual master who appears in symbolic form in nature, in all appearances. As Kalu Rinpoché sings:
Thus the whole universe—visible, audible, and
Pointing out to myself and others the direct
apprehension of the underlying reality,
Is nothing but the gesture of my lama."
—Ngawang Zangpo, from the Preface to Timeless Rapture, compiled by Jamgön Kongtrul
Completed two three-year retreats at Kagyu Ling, France, 1976–1980 and 1980–1983; individual retreat in Sonada, India; served as translator for Kalu Rinpoche, 1985–1989; founding resident lama of Buddhist center in Taipei, Taiwan, 1985; founding member of Kalu Rinpoche’s International Translation Group, 1987. Tsadra Foundation Fellow since 2000.
Inclined to consider himself “an accidental translator,” Ngawang Zangpo has spent most of his adult life living in or in proximity to three-year retreat centers and studying with masters who establish and direct such institutions. His work as a translator has grown from his “wish to serve the lamas and practitioners” in those contexts. For meditators, “I hope my translations facilitate the three confidences of faith, ... faith in the lama, faith in the lineage and teachings, and faith in themselves.” As for himself, “One advantage of living close to groups of dedicated meditators is a constant reminder that I have made my work my practice: translation as guru yoga.”
He would like to see more biographies of realized beings translated and published, since they contain valuable life examples for practitioners. He also believes that major commentaries to all higher tantras, including the Kalachakra cycle, represent another scriptural area of great significance that calls for more extensive translation.
As far as Buddhism taking hold in the West, Ngawang is “delighted with the deep and far-ranging progress” he has seen since he took refuge in 1972, but notes that “more three-year retreat centers” are a vital necessity.
Previously Published Translations
• Jamgön Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual, Jamgön Kongrul
• Enthronement: Recognition of the Reincarnate Masters of Tibet, Jamgön Kongtrul
Completed Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• Sacred Ground: Jamgön Kongtrul on Pilgrimage and Sacred Geography, Jamgön Kongtrul
• Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Taranatha, Jamgön Kongtrul, and Sera Khandro
• Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters, compiled by Jamgön Kongtrul
• The Treasury of Knowledge: Books II, III, and IV; Buddhism’s Journey to Tibet, Jamgön Kongtrul
• A History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet, Butön Rinchen Drup
• Refining Our Perception of Reality, Sera Khandro
• The Complete Nyingma Tradition from Sutra to Tantra, Books 1 to 10, Foundations of the Buddhist Path, Choying Tobden Dorje
Current Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• The Complete Nyingma Tradition from Sutra to Tantra, Books ? to ?, Foundations of Buddhist Tantra, Choying Tobden Dorje
• The Treasury of Instructions: Essential Teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. 11 and 12, Shangpa Tradition, Jamgön Kongtrul
English Translation Program