The Melody That Accomplishes Deathlessness
This chant, written by Jamgön Mipham Gyatso (1846-1912), is a supplication for the longevity of all teachers. If needed, it could serve as a supplication for a single teacher, just by changing plural terms to the singular. In the title, “accomplishes deathlessness” refers to the purpose of the chant: accomplishing the longevity of the teachers.
The first three verses contain various levels of meaning. In general, the first two lines of each verse illustrate how the teacher helps students to progress along the path. More specifically, they can be correlated with the stages of an empowerment. In this case, the first verse is connected with the vase abhisheka, the second verse with the speech abhisheka, and the third verse with the fourth abhisheka.
The first three verses can also be correlated with body, speech, and mind, respectively. The third line of each verse brings out this connection. “Sovereigns of all the families, teachers of the tantras” is related to body, “great holders of the vajra teachings” to speech, and “keepers of the profound key instructions of perfection” to mind. This connection is also brought out in the fourth line of each verse: “vajra monarchs” emphasizes the physical qualities of the teachers, “vajra masters” highlights their speech, and “glorious gurus” emphasizes their mind.
These verses can also be connected with the nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya forms of teachers. For example, “teachers” in the first verse points more to the nirmanakaya form of teachers. In the second verse, “indestructible great bliss mandala” points to their sambhogakaya form and to prana, nadi, and bindu. In the third verse, “innate awareness” suggests their dharmakaya form.
In the first verse, “In the mandala of deities, the complete purity of the phenomenal world,” asserts that the basic nature of the phenomenal world is complete purity, which is also the nature of the mandala of deities. “In” establishes this as the location where the teacher performs the activities that follow. “Phenomenal world” is a translation of the term nangsi, which can be broken down as nangwa indicating the world, and sipa indicating sentient beings, the inhabitants of the world. This term parallels the phrase “mandala of deities” where the mandala is the world and the deities are the inhabitants of that world“The three gates” are the students’ ordinary body, speech, and mind. These are ripened into “vajra nature”: vajra body, vajra speech, and vajra mind. The terms “ripen and free” refer to two essential aspects of the vajrayana path: the abhisheka bestowed by the vajra master ripens, or matures, the students; the teacher’s instructions free, or liberate, the students when put into practice.
In the second verse, “three secrets” refers to enlightened body, speech, and mind.
In the third verse, “innate awareness” (Tib. rang rik) is equated with the “space of unchanging great bliss.” This reflects the view that emptiness is inseparable from luminosity. “Key instructions” is a translation of the Tibetan men ngak, which is found in the term men ngak de, one of the three principal divisions of ati.
In the fourth verse, we supplicate the teacher as the embodiment of all three lineages of masters. “Three lineages” refer to the mind lineage, sign lineage, and hearing lineage of the ati tradition. More elaborately, these are called “mind lineage of the victorious ones,” “sign lineage of the vidyadharas,” and “hearing lineage of ordinary individuals.” “Three times” refers to past, present, and future. “Three worlds” refers to the three levels where beings dwell: below the earth, upon the earth, and above the earth. This set of three is sometimes translated as the “three places” or “three levels of the world.”
As the colophon explains, this text was composed by Jamgön Mipham Gyatso in 1888 during the fifteenth rabjung, or sixty-year cycle, of the Tibetan calendar. We are now living in the seventeenth rabjung, which began in 1987. The last sentence, “By merely making supplication with these words . . . who embody their meaning,” makes the traditional distinction between words and their meaning. Stating that the teachers embody the words’ meaning indicates that this supplication is addressed to those teachers who possess all the qualities described in the text.