Songs of the great Yogi Shabkar: every being is mother; absolute nature is my friend; luminosity is my entertainment; my homeland is the Dharmakaya

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    The great Yogi Shabkar bridges modern times with the ancient masters, the likes of Milarepa, Marpa, Niropa, Tilopa, and the great Mahasiddhis. Shabkar Tsokdruk Randrol (Tib. ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ་, Wyl. zhabs dkar tshogs drug rang grol), who lived 1781-1851, is more than a “relatively” modern reflection of great Milarepa. Shabkar’s life stands as a shining exemplar of the Path, and his autobiography as a jewel of Dharma and practice advice.

    Shabkar, considered an emanation of  Milarepa, also taught in songs and much of his life in solitude in the mountains. He is immediately relatable, as he received teachings and initiations from gurus of all schools of Buddhism, although his principal root guru was Chogyal Ngakgi Wangpo — who was not only a Mongolian king, but also the prized disciple of the First Doprupchen. One of his main Yidams was Hayagriva, a practice given by his root guru. [For a story on great Hayagriva, see>>]

    Shabkar the scholar poet yogi

    Buddha Weekly Tibetan Yogi mystic Poet Shabkar Buddhism
    The great Yogi Shabkar remains as approachable and relevant today as when he taught and wrote in the 1800s.

    The great Shabkar is known as a prolific writer, writing up to a hundred pages a day. Although he is best known for the Flight of the Garuda — a famous teaching on Dzogchen (Tib. མཁའ་ལྡིང་གཤོག་རླབས་, Khading Shoklap; Wyl. mkha’ lding gshog rlabs), this feature focuses on some wonderful excepts from his autobiography.


    Modern, relevant biography and teachings

    The English translation of Shabkar’s Life, with a foreward from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and translated by the Matthieu Ricard, is a wonderful read, and a great learning experience. We learn at the feet of a great Yogi, with teachings given in lyrical songs. His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained Shabkar’s unique appeal:

    “Regarded by many as the greatest yogi after Milarepa to gain enlightenment in one lifetime, he also lived the life of a wandering mendicant teaching by means of spiritual songs. Shabkar is particularly celebrated for the absolute purity of his approach to his lama and his personal practice, which freed him from the snare of sectarianism. He is also affectionately remembered for the kindness of his gently teasing humor.”

    All beings are mother, homeland is Dharmakaya

    Buddha Weekly Life of Shabkar cover Buddhism
    The autobiography of Shabkar. View on>>

    The autobiography is full of wisdom and teachings, but instantly relatable are his interactions with local lay people. For instance, when asked by a local follower if he thought of his family, mother and friends, his answer became a concise view of the Path:

    Listen, wealthy and devoted lady,

    I am a yogin of the luminous awareness that arises of itself.

    My homeland is primordial purity, the dharmakaya.

    My father—Samantabhadra

    My mother—Samantabhadri,

    My paternal uncle—Bodhicitta,

    My priests—the Three Jewels,

    My maternal uncles—deity and guru,

    My wife—the lovely shunyata.

    My children—meditation experiences, realization, and fine qualities.

    My brothers—devotion and pure perception,

    My fields—the ten white virtues,

    My riches—the inexhaustible seven noble qualities,

    My sister—pure samaya,

    My neighbor—firm faith,

    My cousin—great diligence. [3]


    Naturally forgotten

    Buddha Weekly Shabkar yogi Buddhism
    The great Yogi Shabkar.

    Later, another follower asked if he missed his family, mother and friends:

    By the grace of the king of Dharma,

    Since I, the renunciate Tsogdruk Rangdrol,

    Have made my home again and again

    On the safe ground of dharmakaya,

    My homeland has been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have contemplated again and again

    That each being has once been my mother,

    Attachment to only one mother

    Has been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have accumulated again and again

    The seven noble riches,

    Ordinary food and wealth

    Have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have again and again befriended The absolute nature,

    The friends from my childhood

    Have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have again and again guarded

    The samaya oaths,


    Has been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have again and again seen

    The display of luminosity,

    Worldly entertainments

    Have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have again and again tamed

    The enemy, the obscuring emotions,

    My ordinary enemies

    Have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have regarded again and again

    All dharmas as illusory,

    The eight worldly concerns

    Have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have again and again experienced

    The samadhi of simplicity,

    Complexities have been naturally forgotten.

    Since I have wandered in remote places

    And in mountain solitudes,

    This life has been naturally forgotten. [1]


    The metaphor of the thangka

    One time Shabkar met a monk who asked him: “You’re good at drawing. Are you a thangka painter, too?” To which he sang this song:

    I bow down at the feet of the King of Dharma.

    I, the yogin Tsogdruk Rangdrol,

    Picked up a white canvas—noble intention

    I stretched it on the frame of the four boundless thoughts,

    And with pure discipline I primed it.

    I applied gesso—changeless faith—

    Smoothing it over and over

    With an onyx stone—the ten virtues.

    First I made the grid—learning.

    Then I made a sketch—reflection.

    Then I brushed in color—meditation.

    Then I painted in the highlights—meditation experiences and realization.

    E ma!

    Isn’t that good art? [4]



    A teaching on the Life of Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol from Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche at Padma Samye Ling:



    [1] Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol. The Life of Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin (Kindle Locations 5291-5298). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    [2] Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol. The Life of Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin (Kindle Locations 137-139). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    [3] Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol. The Life of Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin (Kindle Locations 5329-5345). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    [4] Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol. The Life of Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin (Kindle Locations 4728-4743). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

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    Lee Kane

    Author | Buddha Weekly

    Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
    Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.

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