The Peacock Canopy: An Acrostic Poem Offered to All Those from the Snowlands

Sangngak Tenzin Rinpoche

(Translated from Tibetan by Lowell Cook)


An ancient alphabet is our heart and soul,

Brothers and sisters born in the Land of Snows,

Come from wherever you may be and listen—

Detailed within is an inspiring heart instruction.


Everyone may be distracted and busy, but nevertheless

Forget not our traditional clothes, language, and customs.

Great are the ways in which drinking and worldly pleasure may deceive you.

Have skillful control in your behavior like a fish swimming through water. 


It is incredible how all the Buddha’s teachings are simply

Just taught for the sake of taming our confused minds.

Kindly recognize how, young Tibetan boys and girls,

Letters and language are our ancestral heritage.


Maintain your independence, don’t sit still like a cow.

Not falling under the sway of the various types of deceit, 

Opponents may come to defeat you, but to no avail.

Please live in a way that you may bring “the all” to “the one.”


Quit your quarreling over petty odds and ends. 

Remain firm in your studies as you undergo hardship.

Skilled you must be with your thoughts, no matter how intense,

Try to not to be tricked by their fox-like deception and tricks!


Unimportant things, like the color of a hat, need not be criticized.

Venture not to do shameless things for the sake of a single bite of food.

Without letting your life go to waste in a blurry, foggy haze,

Excite yourself on upholding the wholesome ways of our Tibet!


Yet, if you think yourself not a cow with horns on your head,

Zero in on treating your people with loyalty and honesty.

Engage in the Dharma with sympathy, courage, and altruism,

Everyone on this earth of ours should be treated equally.


Without entertaining extreme hopes and doubts,

Get to the heart of the matter—how amazing indeed!


(This was composed on February 23rd, 2014, at Rigdzin Thrinley Lhundrup Dharma center by a vagabond with the name of Sangngak Tenzin whose family lineage hails from the snowlands of Golok, Tibet. Virtue!)



The Heart Jewel of the Himalayas


Ah! Listen here, intelligent companions!

By not training the mind, at all times and places

Combined with genuinely beneficial view and conduct

Do you think you’ll realize the value of life?


Every object out there is simply to make a buck

Forget about any point to any “enjoyments” like tea and beer

Gathered on the dance floor of questionable plans

Hopelessly caught, like a fish on a hook, suffering increases.


If ordinary beings cannot begin to comprehend

Just what it is that the Thus-gone One has said

Keep on searching for the happiness you so desire.

Learn and contemplate, study and reflect, during your youth.


Much like a wonderful grove of the paramitas

Never forget to benefit others as much as you can.

On top of a turret, the view is far and wide.

Performing the benefit of mother beings brings about awakening.


Quickly deceiving yourself in petty affairs

Results in the unrelenting torment of heat and cold

Since you have acted out of negativity and bad habits—

This was elucidated in the Dharma Wheel of Varanasi.


Utterly beautiful are the bhumis and paths, like the tip of a crown,

Very easily are they taken up whilst eating, sleeping, going, or sitting for

Whoever among us knows how to apply themselves in practice

Exalted up high is the tradition of the Great Perfection.


Yet if you do not train your mind which is as rough as a horn

Zealous you may be, it’s but a lofty peak, a rainbow in the sky.

Though you may exhaust yourself, it will not be meaningful.

Though you may be on top of the world, it will all be empty.


There is nothing particularly extraordinary going on here.

This is simply something to be examined by like-minded friends.

So, if you wish to realize the unborn truth of the syllable A,

Take up the practice and cultivate the pith instruction of Atiyoga.


(Spontaneously composed by Sangngak Tenzin on the 12th day of the first month of the Earth Dog year. Virtue!)




ཀ་ཁ་ག་ང་གངས་ཅན་བླ་སྲོག་ཡིན། །

ཁ་བ་ཅན་ནས་མཆེད་པའི་སྤུན་རྣམས་ཀྱིས། །

གང་དུ་བཞུགས་ཀྱང་འདི་ལ་དོ་སྣང་མཛོད། །

ང་ཡིས་ཁྱེད་ལ་བསྐུལ་བའི་སྙིང་གཏམ་ཡིན། །


ཅ་ཅོ་འདུ་འཛིའི་རྣམ་གཡེང་མང་ན་ཡང་། །

ཆ་ལུགས་སྐད་དང་གོམས་གཤིས་ཡུལ་སྲོལ་སྐྱོངས། །

ཇ་ཆང་འདོད་ཡོན་བསླུ་བྲིད་ཆེ་ན་ཡང་། །

ཉ་མོ་ཆུ་ལ་འཁྱུག་བཞིན་འགྲོ་མཁས་ཀྱིས། །


ཏ་ཐ་ག་ཏའི་ཆོས་ཚུལ་མང་གསུངས་ཀྱང་། །

ཐ་མལ་འགྲོ་བའི་རང་སེམས་འདུལ་ཕྱིར་ཡིན། །

ད་ལྟ་རང་རེའི་སྐད་དང་ཡི་གེ་ཡང་། །

ན་གཞོན་གངས་ཅན་ཕོ་མོའི་ཕུགས་ནོར་ཡིན། །


པ་ཏྲ་ལྟ་བུའི་གཡོ་སྒྱུ་སྣ་ཚོགས་ཀྱིས། །

ཕ་རོལ་རྩ་མེད་བཟོ་བའི་ལངས་ཕྱོགས་ལ། །

བ་བཞིན་མ་སྡོད་རང་ཚུགས་རང་གིས་ཟུངས། །

མ་ལུས་དོན་གྱིས་རྡོག་རྩ་གཅིག་ཏུ་སྒྲིལ། །


ཙ་གེ་ཙིག་གེའི་དོན་ལ་རྩོད་མ་རྒྱག །

ཚ་གྲང་དཀའ་སྤྱད་རིག་པའི་གནས་ལ་འབུངས། །

ཛ་དྲག་ཆེ་ཡང་བསམ་བློ་བསྟུན་མཁས་ཀྱིས། །

ཝ་མོ་བཞིན་དུ་གཡོ་སྒྱུས་མགོ་མ་སྐོར། །


ཞྭ་མོའི་ཁ་དོག་ཙམ་ལ་སྐྱོན་མ་བརྗོད། །

ཟ་མ་ཁ་གང་ཙམ་གྱིས་ངོ་མ་ལྟ། །

འ་རེ་འུར་རེའི་མི་ཚེ་རླག་མ་འཇུག །

ཡ་རབས་གངས་ཅན་བརྒྱུད་འཛིན་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ཡིན། །


རྭ་ཅོ་ལྡན་པའི་ཕྱུགས་འདྲ་མ་ཡིན་ན། །

ལ་རྒྱ་རང་གི་རིགས་ལ་དཀར་བར་གྱིས། །

ཤ་ཚའི་སྙིང་སྟོབས་ལྷག་བསམ་ཆོས་དང་བསྟུན། །       

ས་སྟེང་འདི་ནས་ཀུན་ལ་འདྲ་མཉམ་མཁོ། །


ཧ་ཅང་རེ་དོགས་དབང་གིས་མ་ཡིན་པར། །

ཨ་ལ་ངོ་མཚར་དོན་གྱི་སྙིང་པོ་ལོངས། །



ཉིན་རིག་འཛིན་ཕྲིན་ལས་ལྷུན་གྲུབ་གླིང་ཆོས་ཚོགས་ནས་བྲིས་པ་དགེའོ། །




ཀ་ཡེ་གསོན་དང་རིགས་མཐུན་བློ་ལྡན་རྣམས། །

ཁ་ཞེ་གཉིས་མེད་ཕན་པའི་ལྟ་སྤྱོད་ཅིག །

ག་ས་གང་ནས་བློ་སྦྱོང་མ་བྱས་ན། །

ང་ཚོའི་མི་ཚེའི་རིན་ཐང་ཇི་ལྟར་རྟོགས། །


ཅ་དངོས་སྣ་ཚོགས་སྒོར་མོ་བསྐྲུན་ཆེད་དུ། །

ཆ་བཞག་ཡོད་མེད་གར་གྱི་དོ་ར་ན། །

ཇ་ཆང་ལོངས་སྤྱོད་སྣང་བ་དོན་སྙིང་ཅི། །

ཉ་མོ་ལྕགས་ཀྱུས་ཟིན་འདྲའི་སྡུག་བསྔལ་མཆེད། །


ཏ་ཐ་ག་ཏའི་གསུང་གི་བདེན་དོན་དེ། །

ཐ་མལ་འགྲོ་བས་ཤེས་རྟོགས་མ་ཐུབ་ན། །

ད་དུང་བདེ་སྐྱིད་འདོད་པ་འཚོལ་སྙེག་ཙམ། །

ན་གཞོན་དུས་སུ་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཐོས་བསམ་མཛོད། །


པ་ར་མི་ཏའི་ལྗོན་པ་བཟང་པོ་ལྟར། །

ཕ་རོལ་གཞན་ལ་ཕན་པའི་དོན་ཆེན་སྒྲུབས། །

བ་གམ་བརྩེགས་པའི་རྩེ་ནས་མཐོང་རྒྱ་ཡངས། །

མ་གྱུར་འགྲོ་དོན་བྱས་ན་སངས་རྒྱས་རྒྱུ། །


ཙ་གེ་ཙིག་གེའི་དོན་ལ་མགོ་འཁོར་ནས། །

ཚ་གདུང་སྡུག་བསྔལ་རྒྱུན་ཆད་མེད་པ་འདི། །

ཛ་ལང་ངན་གོམས་སྤྱོད་པས་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་དོན། །

ཝ་ར་ན་སིའི་ཆོས་འཁོར་ནང་དུ་གསལ། །


ཞྭ་མོའི་ཏོག་ལྟར་མཛེས་པའི་ས་ལམ་དང་། །

ཟ་ཉལ་འགྲོ་འདུག་ཀུན་ལ་འཁྱེར་བདེ་ཞིག །

འ་ཅག་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་ལག་ལེན་སུས་ཤེས་ན། །

ཡ་གི་རྫོགས་ཆེན་ལུགས་སུ་ཡོད་མོད་ཀྱང་། །


རྭ་ལྟར་གྱོང་བའི་རང་བློ་མ་སྦྱང་ན། །

ལ་མོ་མཐོ་སྙེག་དགུང་གི་འཇའ་ཚོན་འདྲ། །

ཤ་ཐང་ཆད་རུང་དོན་ལ་སྙིང་པོ་ཅི། །

ས་ཆེན་ཁ་ལ་ཡོད་ཀྱང་ཁོག་ན་དབེན། །


ཧ་ཅང་ཁྱད་དུ་འཕགས་པའི་དོན་ཆེན་མེད། །

ཧ་ལམ་རིགས་མཐུན་འགའ་ལ་དཔྱད་གཞི་ཙམ། །

ཨ་དོན་སྐྱེ་མེད་ཚེ་འདིར་རྟོགས་འདོད་ན། །

ཨ་ཏིའི་མན་ངག་སྒོམ་པའི་ལག་ལེན་མཛོད། །


ཅེས་པ་འདི་ཡང་གསང་སྔགས་བསྟན་འཛིན་ནས་རབ་གནས་ས་ཁྱི་ལོ་བོད་ཟླ་དང་པོའི་ཚེས་བཅུ་གཉིས་ཉིན་ཤར་མར་བྲིས་པ་དགེའོ། །


Translator’s Note:

Abecedarian is a form of acrostic poetry in which each line of the poem begins with a letter of the alphabet. In Tibet, this poetic form is known as ka rtsom, ka bshad, and, less often, ka phreng. Below are two abecedarian poems by the contemporary author and yogi, Sangngak Tenzin Rinpoche from his book A White Conch Spiraling Toward Happiness: Poems of a Tibetan Master (Vajra Books, 2019). Rinpoche’s writings are characterized by his effortless style of composition in which he does not force or contrive his words but rather lets them arise naturally from the expanse of the view. This gives his compositions a sense of ease and spaciousness. It is also what allows him to write so prolifically in the midst of his long practice sessions, Dharma teachings, and other activities. This seemingly spontaneous approach to poetry writing is able to occur, almost paradoxically, thanks to his countless years—if not lifetimes—of internalizing the Dharma through study and practice.

The first of Sangngak Tenzin Rinpoche’s abecedarian poems, “The Peacock Canopy,” is largely secular in its content. The poem’s audience is his people, the Tibetan people, to whom Rinpoche offers encouragement for the preservation of the Tibetan language and culture alongside advice on navigating life in the modern world. Rinpoche’s second abecedarian poem, “The Heart Jewel of the Himalayas,” is a Dharma poem that urges us, its readers, to stop looking for happiness outside but rather train our minds from within. It touches on topics such as love and compassion from the perspective of the Mahayana and alludes to the ultimate realization of the nature of the mind as per Dzokchen.

What readers of these poems in English translation are bound to notice is the translator’s attempt to preserve not only the meaning of the poem’s content but also the abecedarian form itself. To be sure, form and content cannot be so easily disentangled from one another. There is, after all, a reason why an author like Rinpoche would choose to voice his message in the form of an abecedarian poem rather than an essay or free-verse poem. In attempting to recreate the abecedarian form in English, some poetic liberties were necessarily taken, yet always in the spirit of maintaining the essence of the poem. To allow the truth of a poem to be heard with even deeper clarity, not by getting closer to the literalness of the poem, but rather by deviating from it is, perhaps, the fundamental paradox of translation.

The final lines of each poem were not rendered into the Abecedarian form. This is because, while the English alphabet has twenty-six letters, the Tibetan has thirty. Some letters of the English alphabet were naturally more difficult to find appropriate translations for than others, such as the letter x. Instead of forcing a word like “xylophone” to fit in a poem where it does not belong, words like “excite” and “exalted” were used since they also reflected the content accurately. This issue also exists within the Tibetan poetry tradition. The letter with the least amount of options is wa (ཝ) and there is an overabundance of foxes (or wa in Tibetan) in acrostic poems—including “The Peacock Canopy.” We hope you enjoy watching the delicate dance between form and content in this translation experiment as you let Rinpoche’s words of wisdom echo in your ears and circle in your heart.


Sangngak Tenzin Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist yogi from Golok, Tibet. He was raised in a nomadic herding community before being recognized as a reincarnated master by Golok Lama Tumpo (Kusum Lingpa) at the age of thirteen. Since then, he has had the fortune to receive transmissions from Kyabje Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul, Kyabje Yangtang Rinpoche, Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche, and others while studying and practicing the Great Perfection teaching under teachers like Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer and others. Following the request of Kyabje Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, in 1997 he began teaching the Buddhadharma. He has taught at Pelyul Chokhor Ling in Bir, India, at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling in in Nepal, and at Dharma centers in Taiwan, Malaysia, Europe, Russia, the United States, and Vietnam. He has given talks at Harvard, Hamburg, and other universities where there is an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Sangngak Tenzin Rinpoche is an avid writer, and his writings include Rig pa’i dga’ tshalA White Conch Spiraling Toward Happiness: Poems of a Tibetan Master among others.

Lowell Cook is an independent scholar and translator of Tibetan literature. He completed his MA in Translation, Philology, and Textual Interpretation at Kathmandu University’s Centre for Buddhist Studies. He is the author of Tibetan Pure Land Buddhism: Mipham Rinpoche on Self-Power and Other Power and his book-length translations include A White Conch Spiraling Toward Happiness: Poems of a Tibetan MasterA Frostbitten Flower: The Collected Fiction of Dondrup Jyel, and The Sūtra of the Wise and Foolish. His translations have appeared on 84000Translating the Words of the BuddhaThe Journal of Tibetan Literature, High Peaks Pure EarthYeshe: A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities, and elsewhere. His aspiration is to share the richness of Tibetan literature with the world.