New Translation: ‘Eight Swirling Spears’ by Gotsangpa, with commentary by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

As an offering to the gurus on this Dakini Day, I publish for the first time, a new translation of a ‘song’ by Tibetan master, Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje ( rgod tshang pa mgon po rdo rje) (1189-1258), a series of short verses that he calls ‘Eight Swirling Spears’ (mdung skor brgyad); together with a compiled commentary on the text by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. The small booklet, with introduction and footnotes, can be downloaded for free, here: The Eight Swirling Spears in Space.

Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje

Gotsangpa was a mahasiddha of the Drukpa Kagyu school, well known for his songs of realisation and said to have been an emanation of Milarepa. He founded the branch of the Drukpa Kagyu school known as the Upper Drukpa (stod ‘brug). His students included Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal[i], who is considered to also be a great Kalacakra lineage master. According to the Nyingma master, Patrul Rinpoche when he was asked who were the two greatest practitioners in Tibet, of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, he said one was Gotsangpa[ii].

Gotsangpa states this ‘song’ was composed at a place called ‘White Garuda’ (khyung dkar) [iii] between the years 1233-1236.  These ‘eight spears’ he refers to in the text, represent the view, meditation, conduct, fruition, samaya, compassion, dependent origination, and enlightened activity.   Gotsangpa sings about how each ‘spear’ has three aspects. When these three aspects are all present, then the spear swirls freely in space, without obstruction. Meaning that particular ‘spear’ is accomplished, complete and free. In English, we might say ‘flying free like a kite’.

This commentary on the text here by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche is an edited compilation of two public teachings Rinpoche gave on this text. The first was a teaching he gave in English in three sessions in Germany in 2011. I have transcribed and edited that teaching and included it here. The second teaching is from the pre-Kagyu Monlam teachings Rinpoche gave in Bodh Gaya in January, 2019. The teaching in Bodh Gaya was in Tibetan and the translation of that produced here is largely based on the English oral translation by David Karma Chophel, a transcript produced by Michele Martin and my own notes and additions, where the Tibetan had not been translated and so on.

The only English translation I have seen of the root text verses was by Jim Scott[iv], a student and translator of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist yogi master who regularly taught this text. HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche told me that he also received teachings on this text from Khenpo Rinpoche, when he was a student at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India. I have done a new translation of the text, which is closer to the Tibetan original. I have also included the Tibetan script and phonetics for those who like to chant such songs in the Tibetan.

Out of respect for these two great masters who taught this text I have also included in this publication, two new translations of long-life prayers written by HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. The first prayer is for 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and the second for Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.

Any errors are all mine, a simple woman. May it be of benefit!

[i] Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel (o rgyan pa rin chen dpal) (1229 -1309) also known as Orgyen Nyendrub, was also a teacher of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. According to his biography: ‘For twelve years Orgyenpa studied Kālacakra, mainly in the traditions of Dro Lotsāwa (‘bro lo tsA ba) and Chak Lotsāwa (chag lo tsA ba), and the major Kagyu doctrines with Gotsangpa.’ Orgyenpa, who was also a disciple of Karma Pakshi, 2nd Karmapa Lama, became a great siddha who traveled to Bodhgaya, Jalandhar, Oddiyana and China. In Oddiyana he received teachings related to the Six Branch Yoga of the Kalachakra system known as the “Approach and Attainment of the Three Adamantine States” (rdo rje gsum gyi bsnyen sgrub) and, after returning to Tibet, founded the Orgyen Nyendrup tradition and wrote many works including a famous guide to the land of Oddiyana.  See https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Orgyenpa-Rinchen-Pel/2733

[ii] This story was told by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche in some mind-training teachings he gave in Nepal in April, 2014. He became known as Gotsangpa after meditating for several years at a cave near the border of Nepal called Gotsangpa cave. See also Gotsangpa’s biography translated by Dan Martin at https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Gotsangpa-Gonpo-Dorje/3759.

[iii] This place name where Gotsangpa states he composed this text is called khyung dkar. I asked Dan Martin, who translated Gotsangpa’s biography, when Gotsangpa was there and he helpfully sent me chronologies from the following source:  Rare Tibetan texts from Lahul: Narrative Accounts of Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, Chos rgyal G.yu sna Legs pa’i don grub & Sras Gu ru Chos kyi dbang phyug. LMpj 015,893. SB 5097. Set X.  The biography contained here, on pp. 1-325, has no specific title, but the colophon title is as follows (318.2):  Chos rje rgod tshang ba’i stod pa nyi shu rtsa lnga’i sgo gnas stod pa rnam par thar pa yon tan kun bsal zhes bya ba. It states that he was at that place for three years until age 38: de nas khyung dkar dang spang dkar gnyis su lo gsum te so brgyad / 1233-1236.

There is also a similar passage in Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, 1189-1258, The Collected Works of Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, the founder of the Upper Tradition (Stod) of the ‘Brug pa Dkar brgyud pa, Tango Monastic Community (Thimphu 1981).  5 vols.   LMpj 014,572.  Set VIII.  This also states that Gotsangpa was there for three years (1233-1236), de nas shri ri khyung dkar du lo gsum.

[iv] http://www.ktgrinpoche.org/songs/eight-flashing-lances.

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