Marpa: Song of the Seven Essentials



Song of the Seven Essentials (gces pa bdun gyi mgur) by Marpa the Translator, Sheyrab Yéshey (smar-pa lo-tswa-ba shes-rab ye-shes, 1012–1097)


When the precious human life is attained,
Practicing the precious Transcendent Dharma is essential.
When the precious instructions are obtained,
Staying in hermitage at isolated places is essential.

For persons with few antidotes,
The instruction on mindfulness of ripened effects is essential.
If the mind is not humbled even after getting old,
The instruction on counting numbers of years is essential.

For great fixation on Saṃsāra,
The instruction on cutting off the dynamic energy of Saṃsāra is essential.
For the arising of anger in the mind-stream,
The instruction on mindfulness of generating Awakened Mind (
bodhicitta) is essential.

For attachment to wealth and companions,
The instruction on the powerlessness of friends is essential.
The vagabond priest, Sheyrab Yéshey,
Took up these seven essentials in melody.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, March 2016.
Found in the collection of poems, songs and other writings by Marpa Lotsáwa,
chos-rgyal smar-pa’i mgur-‘bum legs-par bzhugs so, published by the Martsang Kagyu Global Corporation, Taipei/Delhi 2015, page 66)


persons with few antidotes” (gnyen po chung ba): someone who does not employ countermeasures and remedies to their delusions and negative actions

ripened effects” (rnam min): the ripened results of karma

counting numbers of years” (lo grangs brtsis pa): could refer to counting the number of years of one’s age or counting the number of years one has left to live, or possibly both.

cutting off the dynamic energy of Saṃsāra” (khor ba rtsal gcod): must meankhor ba’i rtsal gcod (pa). The word for ‘dynamic energy’, rtsal, can also mean, depending on the context, expressive power, creative power, resourcefulness, display, creativity, agility, manifestation, strength, acrobatics, artistry, craft, external energy, skill, function, existential dynamics, potency, external projection, reflection, dexterity, prowess, adroitness, manifestative power, stunt, exterior manifestation of energy, reflective capacity, objectifying energy of potentiality of manifestation, the capacity of energy to project itself externally (just as a crystal illuminated by a ray of light has the capacity to project infinite rainbow colored rays around itself), etc.

the powerlessness of friends” (grogs dbang med pa): the inability of friends to help one at the time of death