The Tibetan Book of Everyday Wisdom

1. A Garland of Essential Advice on Societal Values

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1. A Garland of Essential Advice on Societal Values36

Dromtön Gyalwai Jungné [1]

I PAY HOMAGE TO the exalted Lord Avalokiteśvara. This text is a garland of essential points regarding religious and secular ethics made by Atiśa and his two close disciples in question and answer format.

Dromtön Gyalwai Jungné imparted A Garland of Essential Advice on Societal Values as travel advice for the very kind translator Naktso Tsultrim Gyalwa, who was born in Gungthang in the region of Tö. To see him off, Drom escorted Naktso twenty-five leagues beyond the village of Or in Nyethang and offered him a meal. Holding hands with each other, unable to bear the impending separation for a moment, they discussed heartfelt matters.

The man from Gungthang said, “You are never apart from the very center of my heart. From the perspective of ordinary Tibetans, we have indeed been extremely close. Nevertheless, I have no regrets because our actions together in complete accord were good karma done well. Today as I set out on my travels to the distant valley of Nepal, please give me a bit of travel advice to benefit my mind. I understand something about actions to be done for future lives, but please drive into my heart societal values that will put me in harmony with the ordinary people I associate with in this life that can’t be despised by critical people.”

Drom Jé’s face lit up with a smile, and throwing back his head to toss his braided hair behind him, he said:

1     I am a cherished child from the lands of the north;

I have met many people in my travel to distant places.

I’ve understood their many exchanges, so my explanations are apt.

I’ve discerned the way things are, so I’m known for perspicacity.


2     Wherever you travel, in whatever direction,

wherever you make camp or find a place to stay,

whoever you seek to befriend or associate with,

being considerate of others is the root of human values.

3     Based on that I’ll explain ordinary goals for this life, so listen.

I’ll differentiate the nature of everything, so listen.

I’ll elucidate instructions about pacifying gods and nāgas, so listen.

As for values, these are the most profound societal values. [2]

4     Know what you’re doing when you take on helping someone;

minimize your frustration and exaggerating the credit due you.

Whatever you do and however you do it,

let everything you do conform to the people in question.

5     No matter how many good qualities you have,

minimize your contempt and disdain for others.

No matter how much you desire riches for yourself,

minimize covetousness for others’ wealth.

6     You may be skilled in achieving your goals,

but minimize transgressing the common laws of the land.

You may have some wealth saved up,

but minimize flaunting it when among many others.

7     Even if everyone holds you up as an authority,

minimize your prideful egotistic thoughts.

Even if you are better than everyone else,

eliminate the slightest pride in your superiority.

8     Even if others beg you to be their spiritual teacher,

minimize looking down on anyone, be they learned or lowly.

Even if there is no one higher or more important than you,

be happy to mix with those beneath you.

9     No matter how bad another group’s leader is,

greet him and respond to his salutations respectfully.


Although someone may be your equal,

respectfully honor him as your superior.

10   No matter who requests the Dharma, even lepers and beggars,

go among them and generously give instruction.

Even if someone looks to vie with what you say,

with the highest degree of perfection, expound even more.

11   Someone may be worthy of being offered feasts, reverence, and so on,

but disregard that and treat everyone equitably.

If something is definitely worth keeping secret,

stay silent in a quiet place as if you were a mute.

12   This is just a rough and general presentation.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

Check whether your associates are hostile; that is being careful.

Be honest giving advice to children; that is being reliable.

13   Do your daily recitations quietly; that is being dignified.

Be honest when discussing faults; that is being skillful.

Dig out your faults yourself; that is being wise.

Be unconcerned about the faults of others; that is being virtuous.

14   Sincerely nurture your trust; that is most wonderful.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

Sharing confidences with someone as soon as you meet is a mistake.

Trusting someone you haven’t checked out is a mistake. [3]

15   If on checking you know he’s dishonest, continuing to trust is a mistake.

Pursuing activities with careless people is a mistake.

Seeking a long-term relationship with someone unkind is a mistake.

Taking someone without faith as a disciple is a mistake.


16   Taking someone without compassion as a guru is a mistake.

Relying on someone with no conscience as a friend is a mistake.

Giving instructions to those who don’t listen is a mistake.

Having important consultations with the ignorant is a mistake.

17   Now that you’ve recognized these to be errors,

if you don’t give them up, you should know you are crazy.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

When you eat and drink together, everything may seem fine,

18   but after associating for a few days, their many flaws are evident.

Things will go wrong quickly if you assign a task

to anyone, friend or stranger, whom you haven’t known a year.

Talking about the faults of those who rely on you is bad.

19   If it draws the attention of one person, worry about it spreading.

If two people know the gossip, it becomes a source of trouble.

If three know it, your disrepute spreads on the wind.

If you can let it evaporate into thin air, you are skillful.37

20   If you recognize your own errors of speech, you can laugh at yourself.

If you attract mockery with your demands, it delights the demons.

If you befriend destructive people, it is a huge mistake.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

21   Don’t be too gluttonous; share your food with people.

Don’t be too stingy; make religious offerings with your wealth.

Don’t change your expression too much; meet everyone with a smile.

Don’t be too biased; be evenhanded to friends and enemies.

22   Don’t praise those around you too much; hold it in your mind.

Don’t be too quick to criticize others; use skill to get them to stop.

Don’t make too many promises to anyone; keep your agreements.

Don’t assign blame indiscriminately; figure it out together.


23   If you err, don’t feel guilty afterward but prevent it recurring.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

Unpleasant speech beckons enemies; completely cut it out.

Undertaking too much leads to misfortune; completely cut it out.

24   Indecision mixes up important goals; completely cut it out.

A bad disposition is the way to accrue enemies; completely cut it out.

Fantasies are a host of evil ghosts; completely cut them out.

Bad servants are the basis for gossip; completely cut them out. [4]

25   Evil companions are a source of regret; completely cut them off.

Wicked places are encircled by misery; completely cut yourself free.

Worldly customs are ankle restraints; completely cut them off.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

26   The five degenerations are rampant in this evil time:38

desire and hatred, the obstructive demons of all religious people, cause harm.

Wherever you go, minimize your attachment and hatred.

Whatever you do, please adopt a humble attitude.

27   The distant valley of Nepal is extremely hot;

please be careful about what you drink to slake your thirst.

There are very fearsome enemies south of the high pass;

please be careful of their animosity and evil spells.

28   To the north of Nyangshap there are many disputatious people;

please be careful of their vague and idle words.

In Purgyal, the land of Tibet, there are evil, shameless men;

please be careful of those with agitated angry minds.

29   Nowadays many people are very friendly when first met;

please be careful of these deceptive, seductive acquaintances.

I have still more essential advice, so listen!

Do not lose faith in your chosen deity.

Place little faith in men of this degenerate time.


30   Without diminishing your concern for how others perceive you,

minimize discussing the qualities and faults of others.

Do not plan to procrastinate positive activities;

be someone who applies himself to the holy Dharma.

31   Without exaggerating your desire for success in all your endeavors,

respect your guru with your body, speech, and mind.

In brief, bear all those superior to you above you like a crown;

protect yourself from inferiors as if they are sharp blade’s edge.

32   Gladly befriend your equals as if you were yoked oxen.

Whatever you do, minimize your personal desires

and in all your endeavors make the general welfare paramount.

Thus this is the advice I’m offering to you.

33   Like a bird that doesn’t lose her focus on her eggs,

I set the words of this advice in lañca script.39

In a hermitage look at these words as great entertainment;40

if you familiarize yourself with them for a long time, it will be very helpful.

34   From now on, throughout all our lives

may we act together to guide living beings.

Just as it says in Samantabhadra’s prayer,41

I single-pointedly set forth joyful wishes.

This is what was said by Dromtön Gyalwai Jungné. [5]

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