Thursday, July 31, 2014

'A Conversation Between Life and Death' by Tobden

གཞས། ཤི་གསོན་བར་གྱི་སྐད་ཆ།།

Song: A Conversation Between Life and Death

ལེན་མཁན། སྟོབས་ལྡན།།

Singer: Tobden

Chung beu dang gor mö kyil gyi
Ngay tsen rok beu dri chung
Ri go gö yar shik drey kyi
Ngay mir ben yar da ngo wo

The little calf in the midst of the herd,
Is my playmate, the little yak calf
It is the wild kind from the mountain tops;
Dead and mangled above, it catches my eye

Chi gya dey throm chen kyil gyi
Ngay shön yak sar dri li
Dra chi jak kün may lak gi
Ngay tshey sey yak gen dri lo

In the midst of a great encampment,
Is my young riding yak,
By the hand of a wicked bandit,
My dear old yak's life was taken

Nang nga mö nyi tsey shar dü
Khyö nyi dro chok chik rung
Dü nyin kyil der kha drik dü
Khyö u nyi chen kha ma chik

When the sun rises in the morning,
Even though our destination is the same,
Mid-day, when we prepare the food,
What we eat is not the same

Gong chi drö drib chen yok dü
Khyö u nyi khor chok chig rung
Mel drön mö nyel ten khuk gi
Khyö u nyi nyel sa ma chik

When the darkness of evening approaches,
Even though we go about the same place,
As I lay on a warm bed,
Where we rest is not the same

Sha nyel way bar dö kha na
Ngey bö pay key dra eh khyil
Sön jig ten drang nga kham na
Nga kyo way mig chu eh thong

As you die, at the gate of the bardo[1] of the infernal realm,
Do the sounds of my cries resound?
In the frigid world of the living,
Can you see my tears of sadness?

Sha shin jey me long nang na
Nga thön ong shey pa eh duk
Ma kye ring nyel sang kha na
Nga tso say sang lhak eh duk

In the mirror of the lord of death,
Is my destiny being foretold?
At the mouth of the distant cauldron of hell below,
Do you see any remaining cauldron there in which I may burn?

ཨྃ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧྰུྃ།། ཨྃ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧྰུྃ།། ཨྃ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧྰུྃ།།
Om mani Pedme Hung Om mani Pedme Hung Om mani Pedme Hung

Khyö tshey chik mi dön drub par
Shi nyel war ngo so eh duk
Jam nying jey tshey tha khyöl war
Khyö de chen lag khyer eh thob

While accomplishing the aims of a single human life,
Is there anything that would result in [going to] the hell realm [after] death?
When you arrive at life's end, through love and compassion
Would you obtain the ticket for great bliss as a human?

Khyö rang wang dam ka yö na
Chir jig ten mi yul shok dang
Khyö dak may phö chik gyi dang
Nang sem kyi dey kyi dir nyong

If you have the freedom or choice,
Come to the world of humans in your next life
In the purity of Tibet
Here you will experience mental well-being and happiness

Khyö dak may phö chik gyi dang
Nang sem kyi dey kyi dir nyong

In the purity of Tibet
Here you will experience mental well-being and happiness

Note:  This is simply an incredible song, exceptionally composed, original, well-performed, and the video production values are amazing as well, especially considering that it stars a young nomad from Amdo. I have been working on this song for months (though not consistently), and it is at best an imperfect translation or rather an interpretation based on a lot of intuition and educated guesses. The reason for this is that this song contains a lot of colloquial Amdo dialect, which is very esoteric for someone like me who only speaks the Central Tibetan dialect, and a lot of which cannot be found in any dictionary I have. After finally resolving some uncertainties (based mostly on guesses) in a manner I am fairly satisfied with, I have decided to release it now because it truly is an amazing piece of music that I hope others can enjoy. Just the fact of feeling this much love for a beast of burden, contemplating so deeply about its death steeped in spiritual sentiments, and then composing something as poetic as this is so astounding and deeply touching. I only hope that I have done the song justice with my interpretation of the Tibetan.

[1] "Bardo" is a Tibetan term which can be translated as the "In-between state" (similar to the bar in the title which means "between", which could also be a reference to the bardo state), which usually refers to the life-after-death experience discuss in Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Here in this song, a lot of imagery depicts the different frightening experiences that a being might have seeing images of hell-realms and so forth. The song also demonstrates the Tibetan Buddhist belief that those in the Bardo state can be directed towards higher-rebirth, such as toward the ideal state of human as alluded to in the last verses.

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