Vangisa the poet

39a Aloka_LBC_painting-747601

Aloka working on his triptych of the Buddha and his disciples


A story of the poet-monk Vangisa, from the Kindred Sayings, i, 192.

Once, the Abundant Man was staying near Savatthi, in Anathapindika’s park, the Jeta Wood, with over a thousand Bhikkhus. He gave a talk about Enlightenment, which was instructive, eye-opening, exciting and inspiring. They all listened to the Dharma enraptured, attending closely with their whole minds.

Afterwards, Vangisa the poet came up and saluted the Buddha, saying ‘It’s come to me, Abundant One, it’s come to me, Happy One.’ The Buddha said ‘Let it come to you, then, Vangisa!’, and Vangisa praised him in a fitting poem.

A thousand comrades and more
Are gathered round the Buddha here
And here he teaches Dharma pure,
A want-less state, Nirvana sure,
Suffused with utter confidence.

To words of spotless Dharma
Taught by the peerless Buddha
They listen without distraction.

So beautiful, the Awakened shines
As noblest in this noble band.
O dragon of abundant treasure,
Seventh sage in the line of seers,
Summer thunder-cloud of timely rain,
Pouring Dharma on your listeners!

And I, a listener, left my dreams,
Sleeping in the teatime sun,
So eager to see my teacher here.
Mighty hero, I Vangisa will ever follow,
And let my words flow in devotion.

The Buddha said ‘Tell me, Vangisa, had you already composed these verses?’ ‘No, my teacher, they came to me as I spoke them.’ ‘Then please, Vangisa, let us hear some more.’ ‘Then I shall contnue,’ said Vangisa.

The devious ways of death you master,
And take your plough to crumble
The fallow fields of our hearts.
Look at him! Sowing freedom,
Reaping harvest of the Path-grains.

He shows the bridges over the flood,
He shows the deathless shore,
And we that have seen that Dharma
Are moored immoveable.

A bearer of the light, he burst
Beyond all viewpoints dark and fixed.
First knowing, then surmounting
The highest peak, he guides us to that vantage.

Now! With the truth so well explained,
What place is there for sleeping,
For we who’ve heard the Dharma?
Thus within the Buddha’s system,
Train well, practise intensely without pausing,
And always keep your reverence alive.

Adapted freely by Ratnaprabha from Catherine Rhys Davids’ translation (Pali Text Society), with help from the Theragata version (verses 1238-1245) translated by Prof. Norman.

Ruchiraketu’s verses praising the Buddha, from the Sutra of Golden Light


Illustration by Andy Gammon

O chief of the wise, your body is shining
With great deeds of the past
And fine qualities countless.
Your face is a prince’s, your gaze here inclining
Brings peace unsurpassed.
With a thousand sun’s brightness,
A blazing corona of sunbeams surrounds you:
Like a rainbow of gemstones,
Your precious form draws one.
Facets of crystal, snow-white, beryl, azure,
And the gold beams and coppertones
That flame o’er the dawn sun.
Like dawn sun, you light up the soaring snow ranges.
For all worlds, you’re the morning
Driving mist from the hilltops.
Your dawn calms the storms of despair and quenches
Hell’s fires; light transforming
Each tear to a dewdrop.
Your skin is unblemished and perfect your senses.
There’s no draining the draught
Of the dew of your presence:
A rose for the world, a foil for all fancies.

Your locks are as soft
Have that same iridescence
As the neck of the peacock, the down of the bee.
And like bees in a flower,
The curls of your tresses
Cluster, caressing your brow lovingly.
Your appearance the power
Of compassion expresses.
Through unstinting practice of deep meditation
And great loving-kindness,
Your merits are matchless.
The enlightenment-factors your ornamentation;
Purveyor of gladness,
Ideal of uprightness,
A bringer of blessings – a beacon of blessings!
A beacon whose fuel
Is profoundest nobility.
A beacon whose beams, without limit impressing
Each celestial jewel
In the crown of infinity
Ignite every seeker; as the halcyon’s plumage
Was fired by the sun’s fire.
Your face is the sun’s face
Rising, emerging behind Meru’s vantage.
Your body a great pyre,
Blazing mountain in dark space,
Visible clearly from cosmos to cosmos!

And your face is the sun’s face.
And a bright skein of snow geese
Traversing the sunrise – your smile.

Strung across
A seashell, a necklace
Of pearls. mouth of cerise,
Teeth milk-white — together, the rose-coloured dream
Of your smile.
White lilies by moonlight in a bend of the stream
Whose ocean is truth, is the Orphean theme
Is the echoing pledge
Of your smile.
A free rendering of

Sevenfold Puja from the Bodhicharyavatara — a new metrical version for chanting

Avalokisteshvara FTM1.  Worship

I welcome the foremost of beings
With offerings of garlands of flowers,
Sprays of sky-lilies, jasmine and lotus,
The sweetest and brightest of blossoms.

In a haze of the fragrance of incense,
Sweet, all pervading, enchanting,
Here are nectars distilled by the devas,
Here are dishes sustaining and delicate.

Their lamp is a flame in a diamond
Set in a gold-petalled lotus.
At their feet on a pavement of turquoise
I scatter fresh perfumes and petals.

(Avalokiteshvara mantra and offerings)

2.  Salutation

See the Buddhas past, present and future;
See their Dharma and Sangha.  Saluting,
My prostrations will equal the atoms
In all of the worlds of the Cosmos.

And I bow to the shrines of past Masters,
To all Buddhist pilgrimage places,
To my teachers I bow, and all beings
Who aspire to practise the Dharma.

3.  Going for Refuge

In this moment I go for my Refuge
To the Buddhas, protectors of all,
Striving to care for the living,
The victors who take away fear.

In this moment I go for my Refuge
To the Dharma that they have discovered,
Which rescues from cyclic existence.

In this moment I go for my Refuge
To the Sangha of great Bodhisattvas.

(Refuges and precepts.)

4.  Confession of Faults

I’ve lived heedless and deep in delusion,
And so I’ve been piling up evils,
Unskilful breaking of precepts,
And vows and promises broken.

Full of fear of the painful results,
Confessing I bow to the Buddhas,
Please accept all this as it is,
It was wrong, I shall do it no more.

5.  Rejoicing in Merit

With great joy I extol all good actions,
Only way to relieve states of suffering.
May those suffering all dwell in bliss.
I delight in beings escaping
From the endless round and its pains.

Bodhisattvas and Buddhas awakened,
I delight in their high realisations.
I delight in their mind of awakening,
A resolve which is deep as an ocean,
Bearing a cargo of blessings
And happiness to every being.

6.  Entreaty and Supplication

O you Buddhas in every direction,
Please kindle the light of the Dharma,
For all those who fall into darkness,
Dark of suffering, dark of delusion.

O you Buddhas in every direction,
Though you long for final Nirvana,
Please stay here for infinite aeons,
Not letting this world become blind.


(Heart Sutra)

7.  Transference of Merit and Self Surrender

With the benefits I have acquired
By performing this Sevenfold Puja,
May I clear away the frustrations
Which burden the lives of all creatures.

Without any sense of regretting
I give up my body and pleasures,
All I own, past present and future,
To improve the lives of all beings.

Just as earth, air, fire and water,
Are useful in numerous ways;
May I sustain all throughout space,
Until they gain ultimate freedom.

(Padmasambhava mantra)

(Concluding mantras)

A rendering by Ratnaprabha of the Sevenfold Puja verses, based mainly on these prose translations of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara:

Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton,  The Bodhicaryavatara (Oxford World’s Classics, 1996).
Klaus Klostermaier (unpublished).
Stephen Batchelor, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979).

First section composed about 1985, the rest completed 2001.