The Instructions on Parting from the Four Attachments


Oṃ Svasti Siddham!


When he reached the age of twelve, the great Sachen Kunga Nyingpo undertook a six-month practice of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. One day he had a vision, in which he actually saw, amidst a brilliant blaze of light, the holy Lord Mañjuśrī, orange in colour and seated on a jewelled throne, his feet placed flat upon the ground, his hands in the mudrā of explaining the Dharma, and with an attendant bodhisattva on either side.


Mañjuśrī spoke to him:


If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner;
If you are attached to saṃsāra, you have no renunciation;
If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhicitta;
If there is grasping, you do not have the view.


When Sachen Kunga Nyingpo examined the truth of these words, he understood that the entire practice of the path of the pāramitās was condensed into training the mind in parting from these four attachments, and he attained a special conviction and insight into all the teachings of the Dharma.




Rigpa Translations

Arapachana Manjushri, Orange (Tibetan: a ra pa cha na jam pal yang, mar ser. English: Orange Arapachana the Splendid Melodious Voiced One). The bodhisattva that represents the wisdom of all the buddhas of the ten directions and three times.

Mañjuśrī is the embodiment of the knowledge and wisdom of all the buddhas.

Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen’s Commentary on Parting from the Four Attachments




O master with all your kindness,
Yidam deity with your compassion,
In you I take refuge from the depths of my heart:
Grant me your blessings, I pray!


Promise to Compose


Behaviour that goes against the Dharma must be stopped,
And so, in order to practise the Dharma correctly,
Here is the instruction on ‘Parting from the Four Attachments’,
Which now I shall offer to your ears:


If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner;
If you are attached to saṃsāra, you have no renunciation;
If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhicitta;
If there is grasping, you do not have the View.


1. Relinquishing Attachment to This Life


The first step is to relinquish attachment to this life:
Discipline, study, reflection and meditation
Undertaken for the sake of just this life—
Give them all up, for they are not the Dharma!
To begin with, to practise discipline is to possess
The cause for reaching higher realms,
The stairway to liberation,
And the remedy that eliminates suffering.
Without discipline, nothing is possible,
But if it is observed out of attachment to this life,
You have the root cause of the eight worldly concerns.
You criticize those with poor conduct,
You are envious of the truly disciplined,
It turns your own discipline into mere hypocrisy,
And it sows the seeds of birth in the lower realms:
So give up this fake and fabricated discipline!
A person who pursues study and reflection,
Possesses the wealth of acquiring all knowledge,
Holds a torch that dispels ignorance,
Knows the path on which to lead living beings,
And has got the seed of the dharmakāya.
Study and reflection, then, are indispensable,
But those who pursue them out of attachment to this life,
Possess instead the riches of pride and arrogance,
Scorn for those of lesser learning and contemplation,
And envy for all who accomplish genuine study and reflection.
Forever seeking disciples and wealth,
They own the root cause for reaching lower realms:
So give up study and reflection motivated by the eight worldly concerns!
All those who train in meditation,
Possess the remedy for negative emotions,
The basis for accomplishing the path to liberation,
The wealth of realizing the natural state
And the seed for attaining buddhahood.
Meditation, then, is indispensable,
But those who meditate with only this life in mind,
Find busyness and entertainment even in seclusion,
Turn their recitation practice into meaningless talk,
Disparage those who truly study and reflect,
And are jealous of other meditators,
While their own practice is pure distraction:
So give up your meditation on the eight worldly concerns!


2. Relinquishing Attachment to Saṃsāra


In order to attain nirvāṇa, beyond all sorrow,
Abandon attachment to the three realms of saṃsāra.
And in order to relinquish attachment to the three realms,
Reflect on the faults of saṃsāric existence:
First, there is suffering upon suffering
Which is the suffering of the three lower realms.
Contemplate this deeply and you will break out in goose pimples;
If it actually befalls you, it will be beyond your power to endure.
But by failing to practise the virtue of restraint,
You keep on tilling the fields of the lower realms,
And there, wherever you find yourself, how dreadful it will be!
Contemplate the suffering of change,
And how you can fall from higher to lower realms,
How Indra, lord of gods, can be reborn as an ordinary mortal,
The sun and moon can turn dark,
And the emperor of the world can be reborn as a humble servant.
Such examples are to be trusted as they come from the scriptures,
Yet they are hard for ordinary beings to comprehend.
So just look then, with your own eyes, at the changes among humans:
The wealthy turn into beggars,
The powerful grow weak,
Out of many people, only one survives…
And so on, beyond our mind’s imagining.
To contemplate the suffering of conditioning,
See how there is never an end of things to do,
And suffering is found among the many and the few,
Among the well-off and the starving alike.
Our whole human life is spent preparing,
And in the midst of our preparing, we are swept away by death;
But not even in death is there any end to preparation,
As once again we begin making ready for the next life.
How perverse they are who keep clinging
To this heap of misery that is samsara!
When free from such attachment, there is nirvāṇa,
And in nirvana, the attainment of lasting bliss.
I sing of my realization—freedom from attachment to this life and saṃsāra.


3. Relinquishing Attachment to Our Own Self-Interest


Yet to liberate myself alone will bring no benefit,
For sentient beings of the three realms are all my fathers and mothers.
How disgusting to leave my parents in the thick of suffering,
While wishing and seeking for just my happiness alone!
So may the suffering of all the three realms ripen on me,
May my merits be taken by sentient beings,
And through the blessings of the merit of this,
May all beings attain buddhahood!


4. Relinquishing Attachment to Self-Existence


Yet no matter how far I have progressed in the Dharma,
As long as there is grasping at self, there is no freedom.
To elaborate in more detail:
If you grasp at existence, there is no liberation;
If you grasp at non-existence, there are no higher rebirths;
If you grasp at both, you are just ignorant,
So do the best you can, to remain in non-duality!
All things and events are the domain of the mind:
So without searching for a creator of the four elements,
Such as mere chance or an almighty god,
Do the best you can, to rest in mind’s innermost nature!
The nature of appearances is like a magical illusion,
And the way they arise is through interdependence:
That’s the way things are, which cannot be expressed in words,
So do the best you can, to dwell in a state which is inexpressible!
By the merit of this virtue—
Explaining the ‘Parting from the Four Attachments’,
May all the seven classes of living beings
Be led to the perfect ground of buddhahood!


This instruction on Parting from the Four Attachments was composed at the glorious Sakya monastery by the yogin Drakpa Gyaltsen.


Rigpa Translations

Jetsün Dragpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216) was the Fifth Throne Holder of Sakya and the third son of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. At the top right is Sanggye Lama. At the middle right is Kyung Nag Shakya Dar. At the lower right is Sab bagton Zhonnu Tsultrim.







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