This book is a translation of a short collection of the songs and teachings of the First Traleg Kyabgön Rinpoche, Nyima Tashi. Principal lineage holders of Thrangu Monastery in Eastern Tibet since the sixteenth century, the Traleg Kyabgön Rinpoches, of whom Nyima Tashi was the first, are the recognized rebirths of Saltong Shogom, one of the three most renowned disciples of Lord Gampopa. This book tells us about several of these prior incarnations. In essence, the Traleg Kyabgön is the bodhisattva Vajrapani, the personification of the power of all buddhas. The title Kyabgön, “Refuge and Protector,” is no exaggeration.
The book first introduces us to the peerless holy guru Nyima Tashi late in life, finding that he himself had already filled many volumes with the inconceivable recounts of his previous lifetimes, only to then suddenly cast them all into a blazing fire when an attendant makes a rude remark. When he then declares that he is soon to depart to Sukhavati, a gathering of his disciples and nephews beseech him to stay and give final instructions.
In Nyima Tashi’s vajra songs of realization, or dohas, he sings in a spontaneous and distinctive self-duplicating style, warning of death’s inevitability and the dangers of attachment to samsara and the illusory appearances of this life. With a bold voice as succinctly eloquent as it is disarming, he elucidates the authentic view of Mahamudra and the Great Perfection in profound contrast to direct practical instructions and advice on how to live meaningfully, exhorting all to practice virtue and abandon wrongdoing, and delivering stern criticism to those who fall prey to common pretensions and hypocrisy. The lyrical repetition that echoes throughout his verses is beautifully reflected in the text layout and design itself. Contrasting typefaces serve to underscore how the particular timelessness of these pure and ancient teachings, as they were traditionally presented in Tibet, now speak with exceptionally pointed candor to the needs of contemporary Western Buddhist practitioners.
Nyima Tashi then relates an account of his visionary encounter with Padmasambhava, who bestows a prophecy of the Traleg Kyabgön’s former lives and future destiny as a treasure-revealer of great importance. In stark and foreboding detail, Guru Rinpoche prophesies the coming of demonic emanations and evil spirits who will bring about the future degeneration of the buddhadharma in Tibet and the dawning of sickness, famine, corruption, and war, as well as the means by which to avert such disasters.
In a former incarnation as Saltong Shogom, one of the three most accomplished disciples of Lord Gampopa, miraculous powers, or siddhi are demonstrated in a vivid recollection. Nyima Tashi reveals another prophecy—foretold by Guru Rinpoche—of his own future emanations and forthcoming relics in astonishing detail, with a final warning to his audience against the pitfalls of sycophancy and sectarianism.
Finally, a prayer to the successive incarnations of the Birth-Recollector Nyima Tashi closes the book, which includes both English and Tibetan versions of the text in its entirety.