An Excerpt from Dreaming at the Sage’s Abode

Kelsang Lhamo

(Translated from Tibetan by Miranda Smith)


On top of the pollen bed of a full lotus,

on the light-suffused full moon disk seat,

is the beautiful, mesmerizing girl, in full bloom of youth.

Great Mother, goddess of activities, please protect me at all times!


If your face maintains the glorious quality of the moon, what need is there for utpala earrings?

If your breasts are fully developed, why wear a jewel necklace? 

If you can guard all sentient beings through an entire night, what’s the use of mudras of protection and generosity? 

If you’re adorned with the splendor of youth, why hold onto the lotus moon seat?


I confess, permanent teacher of all times and this time of degeneration, 

I have fallen into the fire pit of desire—

choking and distraught, I bow to your feet.

Though half my life has been consumed in a moment,


sinking repeatedly due to the pain of depression,

then raising myself back up again with effort, 

if your soft hand drew me up to Tara’s Buddha field, I would be satisfied

to travel to that paradise arrayed with turquoise petals. 


Until I reach that place, I am wailing—

one’s own speech about oneself is like an echo in solitude,

a wailing jackal on the steppes, accompanied by cold winter wind,

or even a grieving traveler forging a path through empty night.


Mother, tell me if there exists some undeceiving, perfect object

in this world rooted in trivial causes of happiness!

When splendid autumn is withering and leaves are falling, they seem to compete with my life.

The primordial snow-capped mountains are like a drawing of my thoughts.


Falling tears inside me are like shooting stars at dusk.

Although all this suffering tastes like bitter chirata herb,

it is the medicine for the strength of my happiness—

the only reason for having faith in you, Noble Tara.


The satisfied practitioner wanders the valley, adhering to whatever they think.

As I sing a song regarding past experiences of the mad yogini Kelsang Lhamo,

though these inner feelings are full of the anguish of thousands of thorns,

it’s the taste of both the sweetness and bitterness of human beings—

to the unfamiliar, yet trustworthy writers, I wish to raise a goodbye toast of chang!


Long ago when the British colonized India, the East India Company built a summer house for leisure and relaxation near the Dalai Lama’s encampment, in the upper woods of this medicinal land of Dharamsala. It is now damaged and useless; before it was ornate but has since fallen into disrepair and is now privately owned by an Indian. It is said that generations ago it was known as the Sage’s Abode. Inside its main walls are many fruitless trees; these pine trees grow straight, with very old trunks and several leaves hanging. Also, many different species of trees and flowers offer their beauty on the surrounding grassland, cattle trampling the flowers.

The site is old now, but still imbued with power and potency; inside a thicket of dense-limbed creeping plants, various-colored birds sing melodies throughout all seasons, and even during the yogin’s meditation sessions: now is the time to meditate, they remind. Looking to the southwest, I can see the Dalai Lama’s palace very clearly; one supplicates spontaneously. Looking behind me to the north is a large, resplendent snow mountain, and I’m reminded of the mountains, environment, animals and other beings of Tibet. To the right is a rock quarry, shaped like a mandala offering; on its opposite face is a rippling waterfall. Immediately, I remember impermanence. The quarry reminds us to exert ourselves and work hard, for one day we will die. To my left is an aboriginal forest, with wild, carnivorous animals who eat meat and wander freely; there, a renunciant knows true silence.

From here, I can see some monks in tattered, ash-colored robes under the shade of a tree’s canopy, exerting themselves in meditative stabilization. I can also see people at a distance filling containers with water, and afterwards, returning to their abode for meditation. I can hear the melodies of thigh-bone trumpets, sonorous and beautiful, from several houses; they make the listener happy and relaxed and purify the mind. This place is called the House of the Sage’s Abode. However, during autumn and spring there are many monkeys, and in summer, food and clothes grow moldy easily. In wintertime, persons meditating in the mountain or cave must go back down to the village, and the retreat place empties.

I note some foreign drifters wandering by the three upper-most meditation huts; they live there only one person at a time and come and go repeatedly. Below the summer house is a building used previously by the British for cattle, chicken, hens, and other livestock. Now, a group of renunciants resides there, dedicating their lives to the practice of bodhicitta. This is what I observe:


The forest is very silent as renunciants burn their fire offerings, producing smoke that naturally forms clouds, and the environment is very beautiful.


Those persons in retreat in the mountains find everything they need without begging, and without any need to save for security; they find clean food and clothes easily, and remain elegant and dignified, full of contentment and the experience of happiness.


Behaving peacefully, they stay under the trees meditating and joyfully practice true religion with rested bodies; learning of all skills comes easily.


In this forest, wild animals change from enemies to hospitable friends, and so this is called the supreme place of the Sage’s Abode.


By abandoning the perception of apparent beings, one earnestly sustains divine perception.

If the worldly domain is like poison, renunciants naturally find that the best antidote is control over mind.


Although one has escaped society, since the mind is devoted to the welfare of beings in aspiration and application,

it is delightful to experience carefree well-being, free of regret and faults, in this and future lives.


No one forcing you, maintain discipline and allow the three trainings to be constant council.


Just as the Buddha taught that all phenomena are magical illusions, likewise see all impure behavior as mere illusion.


(This prose was first published in Tibetan language and is abstracted from Dreaming at the Sage’s Abode: Biographical Sketches of Four Living Tibetan Nuns, pp 5-7.




































གར་བ་སྒེར་པ་ཞིག་གི་ས་ཆ་ཡིན།    ཁོང་ཚོའི་ཡབ་མེས་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་གནས་འདིར་དྲང་སྲོང་

ཁང་བཟང་ཞེས་བདགས་ནས་མི་རབས་མང་པོ་སོང་སྐད།    འཁོར་ར་ཁོར་ཡུག་དུ་འབྲས་བུ་




སྟེར་ནུས་པ།    འཁྲི་ཤིང་ལྗོན་པའི་ཁོ་ལག་གྲོལ་བའི་ཚང་ཚིང་གསེབ་ན་སྦུ་སྡུག་བྱ་བྱིའུ་སྣ་


ལ་སྐུལ་བ།    ལྷོ་ནུབ་ཏུ་བལྟས་ན་དཔལ་མགོན་༧གོང་ས་མཆོག་གི་ཕོ་བྲང་ཚོགས་ཞིང་ལྟར་

གསལ་བས་གསོལ་འདེབས་མ་བྱས་ངང་གིས་འཕེལ་ཞིང་།    བྱང་ན་རྒྱབ་རི་གངས་ཀྱིས་

བརྗིད་པས་བོད་གངས་ཅན་གྱི་སྣོད་བཅུད་ཡིད་ལ་འདྲེན་པ།    གཡས་ཕྱོགས་ན་ཀཏྲའི་མཎཌལ་


རྟག་མྱུར་དུ་འོང་བའི་སྐུལ་འདེབས་ལ་བརྩོན་པ་འདྲ་བ།    གཡོན་ཕྱོགས་གདོད་མའི་ཚང་ཚིང་

གསེབ་ན་རི་དྭགས་དང་གཅན་གཟན་རང་གར་རྒྱུ་བས་དབེན་གནས་ཀྱི་བྲོ་བ་ལྡན་པ།    སྡོང་


བརྩོན་པ་དང་།    ལ་ལ་ཐག་རིང་ནས་ཆུ་གཅུས་ཏེ་དབེན་གནས་སུ་སྡོག་པ།    སྤྱིལ་བུ་འགའ་ན་


བསྟི་བའི་གནས་ཅིག་ལགས་མོད།    ཡིན་ནའང་སྟོན་དཔྱིད་གཉིས་སུ་པྲ་དང་སྤྲེའུ་ཚང་དུ་གྱུར་


སླ་བ།    དགུན་དུས་གྲང་ངད་ཆེ་བས་བྱ་བྲལ་བ་ཀུན་ཡུལ་དབུས་སུ་བྱོལ་བས་གནས་འདི་ན་

རྒྱང་རོ་ཁོ་ན་ཞིག་ཡིན།    ལྟག་གི་ཁང་པ་གྲུ་གསུམ་ནང་ན་ཕྱི་རྒྱལ་འཁྱམས་པོ་རེས་མོས་སུ་

གནས་འདུག་བྱེད་པ་དང་།    དེའི་གཤམ་ན་སྔ་དུས་དབྱིན་ཇིའི་ཕྱུགས་རྭ་ཞིག་ཡོད་པ་དེའི་ནང་


བཏང་གི་བྱ་བྲལ་བ་ཁྱུ་གཅིག་གི་འདུག་གནས་ཡིན།    དེ་ཡང་འདི་ལྟར་སྣང་།
















Kelsang Lhamo was born in Lhokha, south of Lhasa in Tibet. She received teachings on Tibetan medicine and on the Five Minor Sciences from Sheldrak Khen Rinpoche and Dungkar Losang Trinlé. She traveled to India in 1989, where she received novice vows from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and received Buddhist teachings from Geshe Drubthob Rinpoche and other masters for ten years. She also studied Hindi and the Vedas in Varanasi. Kelsang moved to the US in 1999 and translated Sogyal Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying into Tibetan with Ringu Tulku. In 2003, with the kind support of Alak Zenkar Rinpoche and Tashi Tsering Josayma, Kelsang joined the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC). Under the guidance of Gene Smith, the founder of BDRC, she continued her study of Tibetan literature. Kelsang has taught Tibetan language and literature and currently works as Senior Librarian at BDRC. Her other writings and translations include Dreaming at the Sage’s Abode: Biographical Sketches of Four Living Tibetan NunsBiography of Great Kalayanmitra Geshe Yeshe TopdenCollection of Contemporary Writings of Tibetan Women, and A Maiden’s Wandering Westward.

Miranda Arocha Smith is a Doctoral Candidate in Buddhist Studies at Northwestern University. She holds an MTS in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School (2015), and an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry from University of Texas at El Paso (2012). In 2021-2022, she was awarded a research fellowship by the China-U.S. Scholars Program for the study of Tibetan poetry.