Patrul Rinpoche

Chase Them Away!

Dpal-sprul Rin-po-che

 

Dpal-sprul Rin-po-che [Patrul Rinpoche](1808-1887), one of the most revered masters of the rNying-ma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, was a great exemplar of the “over-the-hill” style of Ati masters.  He liked to refer to himself as a “raggedy old man” or an “old dog.”  In this poem, apparently written when he was indeed an old man, he looks back on his life and inner development and “tells it like it is.”  Clearly in a mind such as Patrul's, great humor and utter matter-of-factness are completely inseparable.

 

When this old dog was living in solitude

After hearing the words of the trusty World-Protector,

He had the desire to speak likewise.

 

When first I met my teacher supreme,

I had the feeing of having found what I wanted

Like a merchant having reached the golden isle:

That's what is meant by engaging oneself in the many topics and their investigation.

When later I met my teacher supreme, I had the feeling of there being danger for me

Like a criminal facing the judge:

That's what is meant by getting a sound scolding.

If now I meet my teacher supreme,

I have the feeling of meeting with an equal

Like pigeons sleeping in a temple:

That's what is meant by keeping one's distance.

 

When first I heard instructions,

I had the feeling of wanting to turn them immediately into action

Like a hungry person pouncing on food:

That's what is meant by making an experience  of it.

When later I heard instructions,

I had the feeling of great uncertainty

Like words spoken far away:

That's what is meant by not having got rid of notions.

When now I hear instructions,

I have the feeling of disgust

Like someone being made to eat his vomit again:

That's what is meant by having no desire to ask questions.

 

When first I went into solitude,

I had the feeling of my mind being at ease

Like a traveler having reached his own house:

That's what is meant by enjoying one's stay.

When later I went into solitude,

I had the feeling of not being able to stay

Like a beautiful girl living alone:

That's what is meant by frequently coming and going.
When now I go into solitude,

I have the feeling of it being a nice place to stay

Like an old dog about to die under some shelter:

That's what is meant by tying up a corpse for disposal.

 

When first I thought about vision,

I had the feeling of becoming overjoyed the loftier it grew

Like a wild bird searching for its nest:

That's what is meant by giving good advice.

When later I thought about vision,

I had the feeling of being lost

Like someone who has reached a crossroad:

That's what is meant by remaining silent.

When now I think about vision,

I have the feeling of my head spinning

Like an old man telling stories to children:

That's what is meant by not believing it.

 

When first I thought about meditation,

I had the feeling of delight in the joy and happiness it brought

Like the meeting of a man and woman of similar temperament:

That's what is meant by tasting the very essence of meditation.

When later I thought about meditation,

I had the feeling of being exhausted and tired

Like a weak person crushed by a heavy burden:

That's what is meant by short-lived meditation.

When now I think of meditation,

I have the feeling of it not lasting for a moment

Like a needle being balanced on a stone:

that's what is meant by having no desire for meditation.

 

When first I thought about conduct,

I had the feeling of being constrained by constraints

Like a wild horse put into harness:

That's what is meant by showing off.

When later I thought about conduct,

I  had the feeling of being free to do what I liked

Like an old dog that has broken loose from the stake it was tied to:

That's what is meant by constraints having slipped.

When now I think about conduct,

I have the feeling of it not being important

Like a harlot with no shame:

That's what is meant by there being neither happiness nor misery.

 

When first I thought about the goal,

I had the feeling of its attainment being something valuable

Like a cheat praising his merchandise:

That's what is meant by having great expectations and desires.

When later I thought about the goal,

I had the feeling of it being something far away

Like the ocean extending from here to there:

That's what is meant by having little dedication.

When now I think about the goal,

I have the feeling of being without means

Like a thief when the night is over:

That's what is meant by having cut off all expectations.

 

When first I gave a talk,

I had the feeling of being clever and important

Like beautiful girls parading in the marketplace:

That's what is meant by desiring to give talks.

When later I gave a talk,

I had the feeling of being quite familiar with any topic

Like an old man telling worn stories over and again:

That's what is meant by being loquacious.

When now I give a talk,

I have the feeling of overstepping my limits

Like an evil spirit harassed by spells:

That's what is meant by being embarrassed.

 

When first I partook in debates,

I had the feeling of making a reputation for myself

Like someone instituting legal action against an obnoxious adversary:

That's what is meant by giving vent to righteous indignation.

When later I partook in debates,

I had the feeling of searching for the definite meaning

Like an unpright judge looking for an honest witness:

That's what is meant by concentrating one's capacity.

When now I partake in debates,

I have the feeling that whatever is said will do

Like a liar roaming about the countryside:

That's what is meant by everything just being fine.

 

When first I wrote treatises,

I had the feeling of the words arising immediately

Like the siddha composing the Dohas:

That what is meant by naturalness.

When later I wrote treatises,

I had the feeling of forcing the words together

Like a skilled person fashioning his poems:

That's what is meant by expressing things beautifully.

When now I write treatises,

I have the feeling of futility

Like an inexperienced person drawing a road map:

That's what is meant by not wasting ink and paper.

 

When first I gathered with intimate friends,

I had the feeling of competitiveness

Like young men having met for an archery contest:

That's what is meant by loving and hating.

When later I gathered with intimate friends,

I had the feeling of being in accord with all

Like whores having come to a fair:

That's what is meant by having many friends.

When now I gather with intimate friends,

I have the feeling of not fitting into the human herd

Like a leper having ventured into a crowd:

That's what is meant by staying alone.

 

When first I saw wealth,

I had the feeling of momentary joy

Like a child gathering flowers:

That's what is meant by not hoarding riches and wealth.

When later I saw wealth,

I had the feeling of there never being enough

Like water being poured into a pot with a broken bottom:

That's what is meant by making small efforts to gain something.

When now I see wealth,

I have the feeling of its being a heavy burden

Like an old beggar with too many children:

That's what is meant by rejoicing in having nothing.

 

When first I hired attendants and servants,

I had the feeling of having to give them lots of work

Like hired workmen gathering in a row:

That's what is meant by having good intentions.

When later I haired attendants and servants,

I had the feeling of losing my independence

Like child monks serving their superiors:

That's what is meant by severing all ties.

When now I hire attendants and servants,

I have the feeling that whatever I have is lost

Like a thievish dog having been let into one's house:

That's what is meant by doing things by yourself alone.

 

When first disciples came,

I had the feeling of self-importance

Like a servant having occupied the master's seat:

That's what is meant by a job well done.

When later disciples came,

I had the feeling of my mind and thoughts having some purpose

Like a guest having been accorded the seat of honor:

That's what is meant by doing what is advantageous.

When now disciples come,

I have the feeling of having to scowl at them

Like demons rising form the wilderness:

That's what is meant by chasing them away with stones.