In a recent teaching (2nd October 2021) on the OM AH HUM recitation, HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche refers to a song by Jetsun Milarepa on the ten pāramitās, contained in his One Hundred Thousand Songs and recommends ‘we look at it’. For ease of reference, as well as for the benefit of Dharma brothers and sisters, I have done a new translation of this song, with Tibetan and phonetics, that can also be freely downloaded as a pdf file, here. It is also published in full below.
Unfortunately (for me at least), neither of the two published translations of Milarepa’s One Hundred Thousand Songs contain full, sourced references to the Tibetan text editions they used, nor to the page numbers of those texts etc. So I had to trawl through the Tibetan text to find the song. I have used a 2006 Tibetan edition of the Songs (rje btsun mi la ras pa’i rnam thar dang mgur ‘bum) published in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Debate with jealous scholars
The Song arose in the context of a debate with jealous scholars and logicians, (phrag dog gi rtsod pa rdzu ‘phrul dang nus pas bzlog pa’i skor) including one called Darlo (ra ston dar ma blo gros). In the song, when Darlo challenges Milarepa to teach about the ten pāramitās, Milarepa sings about being ‘at the other side’ (pāramitā) in terms of the ten pāramitās and how the pāramitās are nothing other than certain kinds of activities or mental states. Milarepa concludes by advising Darlo to stop wasting time and to practice as much as possible:
I have also included here a short introduction to the ten pāramitās, including how they are referred to by Jetsun Tāranātha as being connected to and accomplished in the mandala offering of the Kālacakra practice.
May it be of benefit and may we all attain the fully awakened state by practicing and reaching the ‘other side’ of the ten perfections!
Music? Milarepa singing to Darlo: ‘Misstra Know-it-All’ by Stevie Wonder (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF_GYMfBy5s).
Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, 6th October 2021. Copyright.
The ten pāramitās
In the song, Milarepa refers to the ten pāramitās ((Skt. daśapāramitā; pha rol tu phyin pa bcu). Pharolpa iterally means ‘at the other side’ and is often translated as ‘perfections’.
The pāramitās appear in Buddhist literature as a group in varying lists, but the lists are notoriously unfixed, with six and ten pāramitās being the most common. The Theravāda tradition recognizes ten, although only eight are listed in the Buddhāpadāna and seven in the Cariyāpiṭaka. The ten pāramitās in the Theravāda tradition are (1) generosity (dāna), (2) morality (sīla), (3) renunciation (nekhamma), (4) insight (pañña), (5) energy (viriya), (6) patience (khanti), (7) truthfulness (sacca), (8) resolution (adhiṭṭhāna), (9) loving-kindness (metta), and (10) equanimity (upekkhā). This list differs from the list of ten perfections found in Buddhist Sanskrit literature.
A set of six pāramitās became common among some genres of mainstream Buddhist literature and developed into a standard list in a number of Mahāyāna sūtras. However, other lists of four, five, or seven pāramitās also occurred. In time, a set of six pāramitās became standard in Mahāyāna sūtras. The six are:
(1) generosity (dāna),
(2) morality/discipline (śīla),
(3) patience (kṣānti),
(4) vigor/diligence (vīrya),
(5) concentration (dhyāna), and
(6) wisdom (prajñā).
This list was expanded to complement the ten stages (bhūmi) traversed by a bodhisattva in the course leading to full buddhahood. The additional pāramitās were:
(7) method (upāya-kauśalya),
(8) resolution (praṇidhāna),
(9) strength/power (bala), and
(10) primordial awareness (jñāna).
These last four pāramitās are aspects of the sixth pāramitā—the pāramitā of wisdom—and are not added to the first six. The way of dividing the pāramitās into ten is particularly related to the teachings on the bhumis which describe the progression of a bodhisattva where each of the pāramitās are successively perfected on each of the ten bhumis.
The Three Accumulations and Ten Pāramitās in the Kālacakra Tradition
Garchen Rinpoche refers to the Kālacakra practice in his teaching on OM AH HUM (I also received the Kālacakra empowerment from him in 2018). Jetsun Tāranātha also speaks about the ten pāramitās in relation to the mandala offering as part of the Kālacakra practice, in his masterpiece text on Kālacakra, One Hundred Blazing Lights :
In the Glorious Kālacakra [Tantra] and the Trilogy of Commentaries by Bodhisattvas, the uncommon and distinctive features asserted are the three accumulations.
These are: 1) Accumulation of merit, 2) Accumulation of ethical discipline and 3) Accumulation of primordial awareness.
- Accumulation of Merit
This is mainly accomplishing benefit for others with great compassion, such as conduct like generosity and so on. In terms of the strongest [accumulations], these are the special features of the Mantrayana tradition, such as the generation stage and the four activities and the accomplishment of the ordinary siddhis.
- Accumulation of Ethical Discipline
This is the arisal of unchanging melting bliss in both the generation and completion stages.
- Accumulation of Primordial Awareness
Apart from that which are similar to those above, [this accumulation] is the ultimate, distinctive feature of the union of unchanging [bliss] and [the emptiness] endowed with all supreme aspects.
Thus [these three]themselves are also the ten paramitas.
Generosity, Skilful Means, Aspiration are accumulation of merit. Discipline, Patience and Effort are the accumulation of discipline. Meditative Concentration, Wisdom and Primordial Awareness are the accumulation of primordial awareness.
By the accomplishment of the ten pāramitās and the three accumulations one will become the highest, unsurpassed Buddha. From the root tantra [of Kālacakra, it states:
Perfectly complete the accumulation of discipline. Perfectly possess merit and primordial awareness. By attaining the ten pāramitās, one accomplishes the perfect Buddhahood of the three times.
(excerpt from Chapter Five, One Hundred Blazing Lights, tr. Adele Tomlin (2017).
Milarepa’s Song on the Ten Pāramitās
དར་བློ་ན་རེ། ཨོ་ཀྱིས་ཀྱང་ཕར་ཕྱིན་དྲུག་གི་མིང་ཐོས་འདུག །ཕར་ཕྱིན་བཅུ་ཉམས་སུ་ལེན་ན་ཇི་ལྟར་བྱེད་ཟེར་བའི་ལན་དུ་མགུར་འདི་གསུངས་སོ། །
Then the teacher Darlo said, “It seems you have indeed heard the name of the six paramitas. Well, how then should one practice the ten pāramitās?” In reply, Milarepa sang this song of realization:
jé dra drur marpa kudrin chen
dünyik mé semchen kyab tu sol
chö trakdok zhiwar jingyi lob
khyö lo apar kyi tönpa dar dro nyön
Great Kind, Lord Marpa Translator,
Please be a refuge for sentient beings of degenerate times.
May your dharma blessing pacify jealousy.
Listen, Darlo, you teacher:
mi chi nyampé ngang nyi la
gal drel tsik la sem sem né
tsé sum nyi zepa ma tsor da
da ni nyamlen jé na lek
Thinking one is immortal,
Obsessing over words that connect or contradict,
Thirty-two years wasted without sensing it,
If you practice now, that would be best.
dünyik mé semchen nyon mong rak
mi dikchen khala zö lakmé
The afflictions of degenerate age beings are gross,
Unbearably intolerable for negative ones.
- Generosity (Jinpa)
nga dakdzin pangpé pharol na
jinpa jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘abandoning self-grasping’,
There is nothing other than ‘generosity’
2) Discipline (Tsultrim)
yo gya pangpé pharol na
tsultrim jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘abandoning deception’;
There is nothing other than ‘discipline’.
3) Patience (Zopa)
dön la mi trak pharol na
zöpa jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘fearlessness of purpose’;
There is nothing other than ‘patience’.
4) Diligent effort (Tsondru)
nyamlen dralmé pharol na
tsöndrü jawa log na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘ practicing continually’;
There is nothing other than ‘diligence’.
5) Meditative Concentration (Samten)
ngang la nepé pharol na
samten jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘abiding within’;
There is nothing other than ‘meditative concentration’.
6) Prajña wisdom (Sherab)
neluk tokpé pharol na
khé rab jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘realizing abiding reality’;
There is nothing other than ‘wisdom’.
7) Method (Thab)
jé tsé tsok kyi pharol na
tab zh ejawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘measuring actions accumulated’;
There is nothing other than ‘method’.
8) Power (Tob)
dü shyi chompé pharol na
tob shyejawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘conquering the four maras’;
There is nothing other than ‘power’.
9) Aspiration (Monlam)
dön nyi drubpé parol na
mönlam jawa lok na mé
At the pāramitā of ‘accomplishing the two purposes’;
There is nothing other than ‘aspiration’.
10) Primordial Awareness (Yeshe)
nyönmong rang tsang rigpa na
yeshe jawa lok na mé
At the ‘understanding’ of one’s hidden afflictions,
There is nothing other than ‘primordial awareness’.
dön nyam su len na detar yin
tsik tongpé dra la göpa chung
If you practice meaningfully, it is like that
Sounds of empty words are of trivial value.
Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: New Translation. Translated by Christopher Stagg (Shambhala Publications, 2017).
Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. Translated by Garma CC. Chang (Shambhala Publications, 1st edition (1977), 2nd edition (1999)).
Teaching on OM AH HUM meditation (Part 3) by 8th Garchen Rinpoche (2nd October 2021): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skZga2iop1Y
One Hundred Blazing Lights by Jetsun Taranatha. Translated by Adele Tomlin (2018).
 See rje btsun mi la ras pa’i rnam thar dang mgur ‘bum, Khenpo shedup tenzin and lama thinley namgyal (2006) at TBRC W1KG4276.
 See Chapter 34 of both Stagg and Chang’s translations for the story/context of how the debate arose:
“Because he gained full control over his own perceptions, the Jetsun Milarepa could overpower all perceptions of others. Dharmbodhi of India had offered prostrations to Milarepa, so his fame spread, and all of the offerings collected on behalf of the living and the dead of Nyanang were given to the Jetsun. He stayed at the Nyanang Belly Cave with his merit expanding and his practice and benefit for beings flourishing.
At that time, there were some teachers from a monastic college of philosophical studies who were jealous of the Jetsun and derided him heavily, saying he was a heretic, a perverter of the dharma. At one point, there was a small famine that plagued the region of Nyanang and many of the people went to the teachers for loans. The teachers said, “Since we do not know the perverted dharma, we never received any of the offerings collected for the living and dead. All of our wealth and provisions have been used up for our school of the pure, genuine dharma, which is of no use to you. If you need a loan, then you should go ask that one who perverts the dharma to whom you offered when you had something to give.”
Since the teachers would not lend them anything, some of the people said, “From one point of view, what they say is true: we definitely should take the Jetsun as our outer source of refuge. However, in this life we also have needs, so we should make offerings to the scholars as well,” and the local people and the monastery came to an agreement.
At that time, Lotön Gendunbum and Ratön Darma Lodrö, the leaders, along with the other teachers at the monastery, held a council. Some said, “If we do not banish Milarepa from this land, then our teaching and activity for beings will not flourish. Whether the dharma of Milarepa is perverted or not, it is best that we banish him.”
The leaders said to that, “If we banish him, it would bring shame upon us, and rumors would spread among the local people. You three teachers who are most learned in grammar, scripture, and logic should go and have a dharma discussion with him. Nothing will come out of Milarepa’s mouth besides his tongue, and he will not be able to answer correctly. Out of a hundred questions, he may only get a couple correct. By attacking him as a group and not letting up, you will defeat him. He will be disgraced and helpless and will leave on his own accord.”
Those three teachers were sent, and conveyed through Rechungpa that they would like to meet with the Jetsun. Rechungpa, not in favor of this, went to the Jetsun and said, “There are three teachers who say they would like to meet you; should I send them in, or not?” The Jetsun answered, “Lhodrak Marpa said to me, ‘Whatever you can do to benefit sentient beings with your body, speech, or mind, even if it is through joking or casual conversation, you should do.’ Therefore, send them here.” (Stagg)
 Here I have translated the Tibetan ‘pha rol na’ as ‘ at the ‘paramita’. The other translations say ‘at the other side’. There is the sense with the word ‘na’ that Milarepa is using the term in that locative/place sense, so I have kept that too. However, I think ‘the other side’ does not get across the notion that Milarepa is referring to the paramitas here.
 I have translated prajña (shes rab) here as ‘wisdom’. It can be translated as ‘superior insight’ or ‘special insight’.
 I have translated the Tibetan yeshe (ye shes) here as ‘primordial awareness’ and not the more commonly (but incorrectly) used ‘wisdom’. The reason is that prajna (sherab: wisdom) and jnana (yeshe: primordial awareness) need to be distinguished and do not refer to the same thing.