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Eh ma! supreme jewel, protector of beings—Lotus-Born One,

Please bless me to sever my fixed attachment to saṃsāra!





How sad it is to see a brahmin[3] dissipated on drink,

Having failed to imbibe the innate nature’s self-luminosity.

When you don’t appreciate the supreme jewel of your primordially pure makeup,

When you hang on to the counterfeit jewel of consuming fixation—this pains my soul.[4]





The inescapable, harrowing heat and cold of hell below,[5]

My dear,[6] are rooted in your mind’s hostility.

The ghost’s overwhelming, burning hunger and thirst,

My dear, are rooted in your mind’s rapacity.





The benighted brainlessness of a beast,

My dear, is rooted in your mind’s vacuity.

The asuras’ acidic quarrels,[7]

My dear, are rooted in your mind’s envy.





The nightmarish chute of your fall from grace,[8]

My dear, [241/242] is rooted in your mind’s indulgences.

Likewise, my dear, the pauper’s pain

Shares its root with the two kinds of giving.[9]





The conventions known as saṃsāra and nirvāṇa,

My dear, are rooted in your hopes and fears.

My dear, what’s called “exalted, perfect awakening,”

Is there, my dear, in the unborn expanse of your self-knowing awareness.





This little song about the struggles of dignity—[10]

For those like me who are hooked and think things last forever—

Was sung with sincerity

In isolated retreat where sublime Healing Waters flow.[11]

[1] The title is literally “The Drawbacks of Alcohol.” In classical Tibetan literature, and even today, alcohol (chang) is used as a catch-all term for addictive substances. This is no doubt largely because, until recently, there was little access to other addictive substances on the Tibetan plateau, with the exception of tobacco and occasional opioid abuse among the economic elite (See McKay, “Indifference, Cultural Difference, and a Porous Frontier: Some Remarks on the History of Recreational Drugs in the Tibetan Cultural World”). We choose to render the title more openly as “addiction” since it does not focus on alcohol but on the mind afflicted by addictions to its own poisons.  

[2] The only edition we find of this text has rather curious punctuation. Each line ends with Sanskrit visarga marks (ཿ ), which are very commonly conflated with Tibetan terma marks (༔) that indicate a text is a revealed treasure. Since Dudul Dorje was a treasure revealer, his works are full of terma marks, however, the present poem shows virtually none of the characteristics of a treasure text and seems to be a personal composition intended for his student. Thus, the use of the visarga/terma marks may just be an editorial quirk.

[3] Brahmin (bram ze): the highest caste in traditional Indian social strata. Brahmins are distinguished by their access to the sacred Vedic scriptures, which are the source of all knowledge. As a seventeenth-century Tibetan, Dudul Dorje likely uses the term figuratively as something like the English “gentleman,” as in someone whose nature is essentially good. Thus, the line might be read in contemporary English as “One hates to see a good man in the throes of addiction.”

[4] “Soul” here is in the figurative sense of one’s innermost being (zhe), not, of course, in the non-Buddhist metaphysical sense of a permanent self. There are synonymic resonances in this stanza between “soul” (zhe), “innate nature” (gnyug ma), and “makeup” (gshis lugs), which is more commonly translated as “disposition,” “character,” or the extremely long “fundamentally unconditioned nature.” 

[5] This and the following stanzas have a repeating structure in which lines 1 and 3 repeat the word “suffering” (sdug bsngal) + an intensifier like “inescapable” (thar med) or “unbearable" (bzod med). Since the meaning of the lines is unambiguous, rather than render a stiff word-for-word translation of the repeated phrases, we prefer to use evocative synonyms for each in accord with English stylistic conventions. 

[6] The word here is literally “son,” which is a common term of affection that a lama uses to address a close male student. We believe that in the present context, the term’s affectionateness is more important than its gender, and that using “son” might create needless confusion about whether he’s referring to his literal son or not. A good alternative is sometimes “dear student,” but we reluctantly choose “my dear” because it is slightly lighter in the meter.  

[7] Asuras (lha min) can be translated as “demi-gods”—powerful and privileged beings tormented by competitiveness with the gods who are even more powerful and privileged.

[8] This line uses a phrase associated with the experience of gods when their positive karma runs out, and they traumatically descend back into lower realms.

[9] Two kinds of giving (sbyin gtong gnyis po) is synonymous with two kinds of generosity (sbyin pa gnyis), which are the giving of things (zang zing gi sbyin pa) and the giving of Dharma (chos kyi sbyin pa). This line seems to emphasize that suffering and wholesome categories like generosity both have their root in the mind. 

[10] This interesting line deserves unpacking. It is literally “is and is not” (yin min) + “making effort” (’bung ba) + of + “little song” (glu chung). The phrase “is and is not” usually concerns moral questions of what is and is not good or right, so the line could be read as “this little poem about right and wrong.” Here, we prefer to handle it slightly more delicately since Dudul Dorje does not emphasize ethics in the poem but rather the epistemology of a mind addicted to its poisons. This is how we arrived at “the struggles of dignity (i.e., self-respect).”   

[11] sman chu dben khrod. This is almost certainly a place name, as in the sublime “Healing Waters Hermitage.” However, since we cannot confirm its location, we prefer to translate the terms, which have some poetic value.

[12] Again, here “Healing Waters” (sman chu) is likely the name of the hermitage where he stayed. Dudul Dorje spent many years in retreat and revealing treasures in remote places, especially in the southern Tibetan regions of Powo (spo bo), Kongpo (kong po), and Pemakö (pad+ma bkod).

Published: September 2023

Thanks to Lowell Cook for this editorial feedback. 



Dudul Dorje (bdud ’dul rdo rje). chang gi nyes dmigs. In gter chos bdud ʼdul rdo rje, 3:249–50. Edited by Zhichen Bairo (gzhi chen bai ro 03 padma rgyal mtshan). Darjeeling: Kargyud Sungrab Nyamso Khang, 1997. BDRC MW22123_D2C055.


McKay, Alex, Alex. “Indifference, Cultural Difference, and a Porous Frontier: Some Remarks on the History of Recreational Drugs in the Tibetan Cultural World.” The Tibet Journal 39, no. 1, Special Issue: Trade, Travel and the Tibetan Border Worlds: Essays in Honour of Wim van Spengen (1943–2013) (Spring-Summer 2014): 57–73.







Ha ha! By the good of this, may all beings quickly attain buddhahood.

This little poem was written in the Healing Waters of total solitude.[12]

By Rigzin Dudul Dorje.


༄༅། ། ཆང་གི་ཉེས་དམིགས་བཞུགས།



Using poetic verses, this work delves into the theme of addiction, whilst emphasizing the destructive nature of clinging to worldly attachments. Dudul Dorje draws parallels between various forms of suffering and the importance of recognizing that they are rooted in the mind.

༄༅། ། ཆང་གི་ཉེས་དམིགས་བཞུགས།


Alongside our own publications, Tib Shelf peer reviews and publishes the works of aspiring and established Tibetologists. If you would like to publish with us or request our translation services, please get in touch, our team would be pleased to help. Tib Shelf has been accredited by the British Library with the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN):  2754–1495



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