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The Berzin Archives

The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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A Prayer for Constructive (Actions)
in the Beginning, Middle, and End

(1969 Loose Poetic Translation)

(Thog-ma dang bar dang tha-mar dge-ba'i smon-lam; Thog-mtha'-ma)
Tsongkhapa (Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang grags-pa)

translated by Alexander Berzin
with Sharpa Rinpoche, Khamlung Rinpoche, and Jonathan Landaw, 1969

First published as The Prayer of the Virtuous Beginning, Middle and End by rJe Delhi: Statesman Press, 1969.

I pay heartfelt homage to all of you Buddhas
And sons of the Buddhas in all ten directions.

(1) May the powerful Three Jewels of Refuge in Buddha,
His assembly and teachings, all lacking deceit,
And the might of the masters who teach what is true
Fulfill boundless prayers of my pure selfless wish
To be able to free from this round of existence
Limitless beings who suffer no end.

(2) May I never fall back, in all future lives,
To rebirth in one of the three lower states;
May I rather obtain a sound human body
Fully endowed with favored conditions
And freedom to study the teachings of Buddha,
(So that I may be able to liberate all).

(3) From the time of my birth may I shun strong attachment
To all worldly pleasures – they bring no relief;
But rather by thinking about the true meaning
Of giving up suffering and causes for grief,
May I never shrink back from exerting full effort
To live with pure morals and banish all pain.

(4) In order that I might be fully ordained
May I never be thwarted by hindrances coming
From clinging to family, to friends or to wealth;
But rather may all the conditions which favor
Becoming a monk come about as I’ve wished.

(5) Then once I’m a monk, for the rest of my life,
May I never be stained by committing a breach
Of the conduct prescribed in the codes of the Buddha
Or common-sense guide-lines of moral control;
Instead may I keep all the vows I have taken
In front of the eyes of my abbot and guru.

(6) With pure moral conduct in all of my lives
May I put Mahayana’s profound and vast teachings
As much into practice and use as I can.
And may I be able for eons past number
To do all the difficult labor required
To benefit fully the numberless beings
Who’ve all been my mother in lifetimes gone by.

(7) May I always remain in the care of a guru
Whose nature’s enriched by the benefits coming
From study and practice of what Buddha taught,
Who possesses in full self-control and compassion,
Whose senses are calmed and who always is dauntless
In helping all others without a regret.

(8) Just as Sada-prarudita showed pure devotion –
To serve Dharmod-gata, he cut off his flesh –
May I too please my guru, not being pretentious,
With all of my body, my life and my wealth.
May I never displease him for even a moment,
Nor cause him to be disappointed in me.

(9) May the deep profound sense of perfection of wisdom
The insight which penetrates clear to the void,
Be shown to me always as Sada-prarudita
Learned from his guru, devoid of mistakes,
Not warped by the waters of wrong understanding,
Not cluttered with guesses as what it might mean.

(10) May I always be free of the influence coming
From misleading friends or injurious gurus
Propounding false nihilist views of denial
Or claiming eternal existence for all.
Which are both antithetical views running counter
To what Buddha meant by the teachings of voidness:
(A path of the middle, devoid of extremes).

(11) May all sentient beings cross over the ocean
Of worldly existence and gain freedom’s shore,
By restraining and lashing non-virtuous drives
To the boat of acquaintance with teachings of Dharma,
Intensive deep thinking and strict meditation,
While flying the sail of the pure selfless wish
To be able to free everyone from his suffering,
Propelled by the strong never-slackening wind
Of continuous effort and joyous hard work.

(12) To whatever degree I might tame my own mind-stream
By hearing the teachings, by selflessly giving,
By keeping the morals of pure self-control,
And by always according my thoughts, words and actions
With wisdom which knows what is right and what’s wrong,
May I gain even greater attainments of freedom
From pride and conceit and from arrogant ways.

(13) Without being quenched may I hear endless teachings
At the feet of a master who does not rely
On any support but the force of pure logic
To make the true meaning of scriptures come clear.

(14) By examining fully with four kinds of logic
The meaning of what I have heard, day and night,
May I cut off all doubts with the critical mind
Which I’ve gained from clear thinking on what should be thought.

(15) When convinced in this way that the teachings are valid,
Through having explored their deep basis, the void,
Then remaining alone, may I put into practice
The strict meditations in classical form
With concerted hard effort to sever all ties.

(16) When I understand fully the Buddha’s true purpose,
From hearing the teachings and thinking about them,
Then practicing strict meditation in turn,
May there never arise in me selfish desires
For pleasure or profit or fame in this life.

(17) Having banished forever tight miserly feelings,
Not being attached to material wealth,
May I gather around me a core of disciples
By offering first the possessions I have;
Then by giving them further the teachings of Buddha,
May I satisfy fully their wishes and needs.

(18) Understanding full well what it means to renounce,
(Having thought about suffering as well as its cause),
May I always uphold, till becoming a Buddha,
The banner of freedom, for which I’d not break
The most minor rules of pure moral behavior,
That I’ve vowed I would keep, though my life be at stake.

(19) Whenever I see or hear someone provoking
Who says things annoying to try to disturb me,
Or strikes out to harm me, or makes me look bad,
Or when I recall any person like this,
May I meditate: “Patience,” without getting angry,
Addressing myself to his good points instead.

(20) Having banished forever the three kinds of laziness,
Blocking attainment of virtues not gained
And preventing improvement of those that I have,
May I work hard with pleasure to practice the teachings,
(Not feeling that I’m an inadequate person,
Not being attached to my mindless diversions,
Not putting till later what I can do now).

(21) Abandoning all types of mental quiescence
Which leave you still wandering through rounds of rebirth,
Because they’re devoid of the moisture of mercy
To wake you from rapture to help others out,
And are lacking the insight to see through to voidness
To cut off the root of repeated rebirth,
May I always develop a joint meditation
(Of mercy, quiescence and insight as well).

(22) Having fully abandoned distorted wrong theories
With limited grasp of what voidness entails
Which I’ve made up in fright of its deep implications,
Mistaking them for its true ultimate sense,
May I realize that everything, from the beginning,
Is void of existence inherently real.

(23) May I yoke to the model of flawless behavior
Especially those monks who without any shame
Ignore the restraints of their pure moral training,
Not shrinking from conduct the holy despise,
And who break the monks’ precepts while being, in fact,
Monks in their outward appearance alone.

(24) May I lead to the path that is praised by the Buddha
Most quickly all those what have wandered astray
And have missed the right path, having followed the guidance
Of wrong-minded gurus and misleading friends.

(25) When I’ve shamed the bold foxes of misinformed speech
With my lion-like roar of correct explanation,
Impeccable logic and clear style of prose,
May I guide and subdue everyone who’s mistaken
By wielding the Buddha’s effective skilled methods,
Upholding the banner of undeclined truth.

(26) No matter where I may be born in the future,
Provided that there I’ve the chance to drink deeply
The nectar of teachings Sage Buddha has brought,
May my rebirth take place in a good honest family,
And may I have wealth, a sound body and wisdom,
Great power and happiness, health and long life
(So that I may be better equipped to help others
Surmount all their sufferings and gain true release).

(27) May I fully develop the love of a mother
Towards all sentient beings, especially towards those
Who verbally thrash me and always have harmful
Intentions against my life, body and wealth.

(28) When the force of sincere meditation on others
As being more dear than myself bears results
In my mind’s cultivation of pure selfless wishes
(That I might be able to liberate all),
And I’ve likewise developed the wish to be Buddha
(To gain skillful means to accomplish this aim),
May I quickly be able to grant those who’d harmed me
Supreme Buddhahood without any delay.

(29) Whoever encounters or hears or recalls
These sincere heartfelt prayers that I offer here now,
May he never lack courage to strive to fulfill
The vast ocean of prayers that sons of the Buddhas
Send out that all beings may suffer no more.

(30) When I’ve mastered in full the perfection of prayer
By the force of vast prayers being properly made,
As I offer them all with the pure selfless wish
To be able myself to make everyone free,
May I grant all the wishes of all sentient beings.

This “Prayer of the Virtuous Beginning, Middle and End” has been composed at the holy Drikhung-thil Monastery in the Zhotö District by the itinerant (monk) Lozang-dragpa who has heard many teachings.

This translation of “Thog-mtha’-ma : The Prayer of the Virtuous Beginning, Middle and End” by rJe Tsong-kha-pa is a revised version of the prayer originally prepared by the same translation team in November, 1969 and published at the Statesman Press, New Delhi.