Saraha's treasury of songs
translated by David Snellgrove
The Brahmins who do not know the truth,
Vainly recite the Vedas four.
With earth and water and kusha-grass they make preparations,
And seated at home they kindle fire,
And from the senseless offerings that they make,
They burn their eyes with the pungent smoke.
In lordly garb with one staff or three,
They think themselves wise with their brahmanical lore.
Vainly is the world enslaved by their vanity.
They do not know that dharma's the same as non-dharma.
With ashes these masters smear their bodies,
And on their heads they wear matted hair.
Seated within the house they kindle lamps.
Seated in a corner they tinkle bells.
They adopt a posture and fix their eyes,
Whispering in ears and deceiving folk,
Teaching widows and bald-headed nuns and such like,
Initiating them as they take their fee.
The Jain monnks mock the Way with their appearance,
With their long nails and their filthy clothes,
Or else naked and with dishevelled hair,
Enslaving themselves with their doctrine of release.
If by nakedness one is released,
Then dogs and jackals must be so.
If from absence of hair there comes perfection,
Then the hips of maidens must be so.
If from having a tail there comes release,
Then for the peacock and yak it must be so.
If wisdom consists in eating just what one finds,
Then for elephant and horse it must be so.
For these Jain monks there is no release, Saraha says.
Deprived of the truth of happiness, they do but afflict their own bodies.
Then there are the novices and bhikshus with the teaching of the Old School,
Who renounce the world to be monks.
Some are seen sitting and reading the scriptures,
Some wither away in their concentration on thought.
Others have recourse to the Great Vehicle.
This is the doctrine which expounds the original texts, (they say).
Others just meditate on mandala-circles.
Others strive to define the fourth stage of bliss.
With such investigating they fall from the Way;
Some would envisage it as space,
Others endow it with the nature of voidness,
And thus they are generally in disagreement.
Whoever deprived of the Innate, seeks nirvana,
Can in no wise acquire the absolute truth.
Whoever is intent on anything else, how may he gain release?
Will one gain release, abiding in meditation?
What's the use of lamps? What's the use of offerings?
What's to be done by reliance on mantras?
What is the use of austerities?
What is the use of going on pilgrimage?
Is release achieved by bathing in water?
Abandon such false attachments and renounce such illusion!
Than knowledge of This there is nothing else.
Other than This no one can know.
It is This that's read and This that's meditated,
It's This that's discussed in treatises and old legends.
There is no school of thought that does not have This as its aim,
But one sees it only at the feet of one's master.
If the world of one's master but enter the heart,
It seems like a treasure in the palm of one's hand.
The world is enslaved by falsehood, says Saraha,
And the fool does not perceive his true nature.
Without meditating, without renouncing the world,
One may stay at home in the company of one's wife.
Can that be called perfect knowledge, Saraha says,
If one is not released while enjoying the pleasures of sense?
If it's already manifest, what's the use of meditation?
And if it is hidden, one is just measuring darkness.
Saraha cries: The nature of the Innate is neither existent nor non-existent.
By means of that same essence by which one is born and lives and dies,
By means of that one gains the highest bliss.
But although Saraha speaks these profound and mysterious words,
This stupid world seems not to understand.
If it exists apart from meditation, how may one meditate upon it?
If it is ineffable, how may it be discussed?
The whole world is enslaved by the appearance of things,
And no one apprehends his true nature
Mantras and tantras, meditation and concentration,
They are all a cause of self-deception.
Do not defile in contemplation thought that is pure in its own nature,
But abide in the bliss of yourself and cease those torments.
Eat and drink, indulge the senses,
Fill the mandala (with offerings) again and again,
By things like these you'll gain the world beyond.
Tread upon the head of the foolish worldling and proceed!
Where vital breath and mind no longer roam about,
Where Sun and Moon do not appear,
There, O man, put thy thought to rest,
This is the precept taught by Saraha.
Do not discriminate, but see things as one,
Making no distinction of families.
Let the whole of the threefold world become one in the state of Great Passion.
Here there is no beginning, no middle, no end,
Neither samsara nor nirvana.
In this state of highest bliss
There is neither self nor other.
Whatever you see, that is it,
In front, behind, in all the ten directions.
Even today let your master make an end of delusion!
There is no need to ask of anyone else.
The faculties of sense subside,
And the notion of self is destroyed.
O friend, such is the Body Innate.
Ask for it clearly of your master.
Where thought is held and breath passes hence,
That is the highest bliss.
Elsewhere one goes nowhere.
Now it is a matter of self-experience,
So do not err with regard to it.
To call it existence or non-existence or even stage of bliss would impose a limitation.
Know your own thought completely, O yogin!
Like water meeting with water.
How by meditation should one fondly gain release?
And why accept such falsehood?
Have confidence in the word of your good master.
This is the advice that I Saraha give.
The nature of the sky is originally clear,
But by gazing and gazing the sight becomes obscured.
Then when the sky appears deformed in this way,
The fool does not know that the fault's in his own mind.
Through fault of pride he does not see truth,
And therefore like a demon he maligns all ways.
The whole world is confused by schools of thought,
And no one perceives his true nature.
They do not perceive the true basis of mind,
For upon the Innate they impose a threefold falsification.
Where thought arises and where it dissolves,
There you should abide, O my son.
For one who thus ponders the truth without its true basis,
A master's instruction would make everything clear.
Saraha says, O fool, surely know,
The diversity of existence is but a form of thought.
One's own true nature cannot be explained by another,
But it is revealed by one's master's instruction.
There exists in it not an atom of evil,
Both dharma and non-dharma are cleansed and consumed.
When one's own mind is cleansed,
Then one's master's good qualities may enter the heart.
It is in knowledge of this that Saraha sings,
Paying no regard to tantra or mantra.
Men are bound by karma and by release from karma the mind is released.
And by this release of the mind they gain for a certainty this highest Nirvana.
Mind is the universal seed.
Both Samsara and Nirvana spring forth from it.
Pay honour to this that like a wish-granting gem
Gives all desirable things.
Thought bound brings bondage, and released brings release,
Of that there is no doubt.
By that with which fools are bound, the wise are quickly released.
When so bound it dashes in all directions,
But released, it stays still.
Just consider the camel, my friend.
I see there a similar paradox.
Don't concentrate on yourself, restricting your breath.
Fie, yogin, don't squint at the end of your nose.
O fool, hold fast to the Innate,
And abandon the clinging bonds of existence.
Bring together in thought the restless waves of breath.
Then know the true nature of the Innate,
And this becomes still of itself.
When the mind goes to rest
And the bonds of the body are destroyed,
Then the one flavour of the Innate pours forth
And there is neither outcast nor brahmin.
Here is the sacred Humna and here the River Ganges,
Here are Prayaga and Benares, here are Sun and Moon.
I have visited in my wanderings shrines and other places of pilgrimage,
But I have not seen another shrine blissful like my own body.
Lotuses in clusters with leaves and blossoms and fragrance and petals and tendrils
Abandon this discrimination, O Fool, do not torment yourself and cling to such fondness.
As objects of desire mantras and treatises go to destruction.
Ask, O thou of no family,
For Brahama and Vishnu and all the three worlds return here to their source.
Know the taste of this flavour which consists in absence of knowledge.
Those who recite commentaries do not know how to cleanse the world.
Listen, my son; this taste cannot be told by its various parts.
For it is free from conceits, a state of perfect bliss, in which existence has its origin.
It is the very last segment that remains of the creation of illusion,
Where intellect is destroyed, where mind dies and self-cenredness is lost.
Why encumber yourself there with meditation?
A thing appears in the world and then goes to destruction.
If it has no true existence, how may it appear again?
If it is free from both manifestation and destruction, what then arises?
Stay! Your master has spoken.
Look and listen, touch and eat,
Smell, wander, sit and stand,
Renounce the vanity of discussion,
Abandon thought and be not moved from singleness.
Those who do not readily drink the ambrosia of their master's instruction,
Die of thirst in the desert of multitudinous treatises.
Abandon thought and thinking and be just as a child.
Be devoted to your master's teaching, and the Innate will become manifest.
It is devoid of names and other qualities;
I have said it cannot be known by discussion.
So how may the Supreme Lord be described?
It is like a maiden's experiencing of bliss.
Completely devoid of the notions of being and non-being,
It is there that the whole world is absorbed.
For when the mind abides motionless,
One is released from the toils of existence.
So long as you do not recognize the Supreme One in yourself
How should you gain this incomparable form?
I have taught that when error ceases,
You know yourself for what you are.
One should not think of molecules or atoms;
It is this supreme bliss that pours forth unceasingly as existence.
Error such as that is madness, says Saraha.
Know but the pure and perfect state!
He is at home, but she goes outside and looks.
She sees her husband, but still asks the neighbours.
Saraha says, O fool, know yourself.
It is not a matter of meditation, or concentration or the reciting of mantras.
"If one's master just speaks, would one know everything?
And without knowing everything would one gain release?"
So they wander about gaining experience,
But they know not the Innate. They just amass evil.
Enjoying the world of sense, one is undefiled by the world of sense.
One plucks the lotus without touching the water.
So the yogin who has gone to the root of things,
Is not enslaved by the senses although he enjoys them.
One may worship a divinity, and (in trance) even his form may be seen.
But one is still oneself subject to death, for what can he do?
All this does not destroy the Samsara,
"Without perseverance," they say, "there is no escape."
"One fixes the eyes, obstructs the thought, restrains the breath.
This is the teaching of our lord and master."
But when the flow of his breath is quite motionless
And the yogin is dead, what then?
So long as one is in the sphere of the senses,
Desire pours forth of itself.
Who can deal with this awkward problem?
In so far as one is within something, one cannot see it (from without).
All these pandits expound the treatises,
But the Buddha who resides within the body is not known.
Comings and goings are not destroyed in that way.
But they shamelessly say: "We are pandits."
He who among living men never grew old,
Such a one would be free from old age and death. (This is their impossible aim.)
But at one's master's word the mind is cleared.
What treasure is there other than this?
He who does not enjoy the senses purified,
And practices only the Void,
Is like a bird that flies up from a ship
And then wheels round and lands back there again.
But do not be caught by attachment to the senses, Saraha says.
Consider the fish, the butterfly, the elephant, the bee and the deer.
Whatever pours forth from the mind,
Possesses the nature of the owner.
Are waves different from the water?
Their nature like that of space is one and the same.
Who speaks, who listens, and what is confided?
Like the dust in a dusty tunnel,
That which arises in the heart goes to rest in the heart.
Even as water entering water
Has an identical savour,
So faults and virtues are accounted the same
As there's no opposition between them.
Do not cling to the notion of voidness,
But consider all things alike.
Indeed even the husk of a sesame-seed
Causes pain like that of an arrow.
One thing is so, another is not so.
The action is like that of a wish-granting gem.
Strange how these pandits go to grief through their own errors,
For in self-experience consists this great bliss.
In it all forms are endowed with the sameness of space,
And the mind is held steady with the nature of this same sameness.
When the mind ceases thus to be mind,
The true nature of the Innate shines forth.
In this house and that the matter is discussed,
But the basis of the great bliss is unknown.
The world is enslaved by thought, Saraha says,
And no one has known this non-thought.
There is one Lord revealed in many scriptures,
Who becomes clearly manifest at your wish.
Oneself is the Lord, and another is the enemy.
This is the notion they have in their houses.
In eating the one, he consumes all the other,
But she goes outside and looks for her master.
He is not seen to come,
Nor known to stay or go;
As signless and motionless the supreme Lord is known.
If you do not abandon coming and going,
How may you gain this rare one, this splendour?
Thought is pure when consigned to the forehead.
Do not then conceive differences in yourself.
When there is no distinction between Body, Speech and Mind,
Then the true nature of the Innate shines forth.
There how should another arise,
Where the wife without hesitation consumes the householder?
This yogini's action is peerless.
She consumes the house-holder and the Innate shines forth.
There is neither passion nor absence of passion.
Seated beside her own, her mind destroyed, thus I have seen the yogini.
One eats and drinks and thinks what occurs to the thought.
It is beyond the mind and inconceivable, this wonder of the yogini.
Here Sun and Moon lose their distinction,
In her the triple world is formed.
O know this yogini, perfecter of thought and unity of Innate.
The whole world is tormented by words
And there is no one who does without words
But in so far as one is free from words
Does one really understand words.
The same without as within.
Firmly established at the 14th stage,
The bodiless form is concealed in the body.
He who knows this is therein released.
I used to recite (the text-book, which begins with the words), "Let there be success."
But I drank the elixir and forgot it.
There is but one word that I know now,
And of that, my friend, I know not the name.
At the moment of the embrace does he then win the great bliss,
Who does not comprehend that everything is of his own nature?
He is like a thirsty deer that runs for water which is but a mirage.
It dies of thirst, and how should he obtain the divine waters?
The five skahdhas, the five material elements, the twelve sense-fields, the six faculties of sense and their spheres, these with their various modifications are the water. In these doha-verses which are altogether new nothing is anywhere concealed.
So pandits, please have patience with me,
For here there is no hesitating.
That which I have heard by the word of my master,
Why should I speak of it secretly?
That blissful delight that consists between lotus and vajra,
Who does not rejoice there?
In the triple world whose hopes does it fail to fulfil?
This moment may be the bliss of Means or of both (Wisdom and Means),
And by the favour of their master and by merit it is known by a few.
It is profound, it is vast.
It is neither self nor other.
O know this self-experience
Of the Innate in the Fourth Moment!
Even as the moon makes light in black darkness,
So in one moment the supreme bliss removes all defilement.
When the sun of suffering has set,
Then arises this bliss, this lord of the stars.
It creates with continuous creativity,
And of this comes the mandala-circle.
See thought as thought, O fool, and leave all false views,
Gain purification in bliss supreme,
For here lies final perfection.
Question not with hesitation.
Release this elephant which is your mind,
That he may drink the river-waters
And stay on the bank at his pleasure.
Held in the trunk of the elephant that now represents the senses,
One may appear as lifeless,
But the yogin like a nimble rider slips away and goes.
As is Nirvana, so is Samsara.
Do not think there is any distinction.
Yet it possesses no single nature,
For I know it as quite pure.
Do not sit at home, do not go to the forest,
But recognize mind wherever you are.
When one abides in complete and perfect enlightenment,
Where is Samsara and where is Nirvana?
O know this truth,
That neither at home nor in the forest does enlightenment dwell.
Be free from prevarication
In the self-nature of immaculate thought!
"This is myself and this is another."
Be free of this bond which encompasses you about,
And your own self is thereby released.
Do not err in this matter of self and other.
Everything is Buddha without exception.
Here is that immaculate and final stage,
Where thought is pure in its true nature.
The fair tree of thought that knows no duality,
Spreads through the triple world.
It bears the flower and fruit of compassion,
And its name is service of others.
The fair tree of the Void abounds with flowers,
Acts of compassion of many kinds,
And fruit for others appearing spontaneously,
For this joy has no actual thought of another.
So the fair tree of the Void also lacks compassion,
Without shoots or flowers or foliage,
And whoever imagines them there, falls down,
For branches there are none.
The two trees spring from one seed,
And for that reason there is but one fruit.
He who thinks of them thus indistinguishable,
Is released from Nirvana and Samsara.
If a man in need approaches and goes away hopes unfulfilled,
It is better he should abandon that house
Than take the bowl that has been thrown from the door.
Not to be helpful to others,
Not to give to those in need,
This is the fruit of Samsara.
Better than this is to renounce the idea of a self.
He who clings to the Void
And neglects Compassion,
Does not reach the highest stage.
But he who practices only Compassion,
Does not gain release from toils of existence.
He, however, who is strong in practice of both,
Remains neither in Samsara nor in