Oṃ Ye Dharma! The Tendrel Verse

WHAT WE DO WHY WE DO: The concept of tendrel (རྟེན་འབྲེལ་) or pratītyasamutpāda is the central philosophy of Buddhism. Teachings on tendrel explain the theory of causation on which the whole Buddhist moral, philosophical and spiritual systems are based. We have already discussed in an earlier issue this theory and the ways to generate auspicious tendrel by bringing together all the right causes and conditions for a project or event. One of the very common things Bhutanese do in order to bring about auspiciousness or consecrate an object is by reciting the formulaic verse on tendrel.

Ye dharmā hetuprabhavā
hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgataḥ hyavadat
teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha
evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇaḥ

This verse is said to have been spoken by one of the Buddha’s earliest disciples Aśvajit. When Śāriputra, who was an ascetic seeking spirituality, saw Aśvajit walking along the streets of Magadha, he was mesmerised by the latter’s tranquility and aura. He asked Aśvajit who his teacher is and what he practiced to attain such tranquility and transcendence, to which Aśvajit is said to have replied that he is a student of the Buddha. Regarding the message of his teacher, he said:

All things originate from causes.
The Tathāgata have taught those causes,
And that which is the cessation of the causes
Is also proclaimed by the Great Sage.

Upon hearing this, Śāriputra is said to have seen the light of wisdom and reached the first level of spiritual attainment. Following this, he met the Buddha and also brought his friend and co-spiritualist Maudgalyāyana to the Buddha. These two later became the Buddha’s two supreme disciples. Meanwhile, Aśvajit’s verse gained great popularity and came to be used like a Buddhist doctrinal slogan. When Buddhism was rendered into Chokey, the verse was translated in the following famous verse:

ཆོས་རྣམས་ཐམས་ཅད་རྒྱུ་ལས་བྱུང་། །
དེ་རྒྱུ་དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པས་གསུངས། །
རྒྱུ་ལ་འགོག་པ་གང་ཡིན་པ། །
དགེ་སྦྱོང་ཆེན་པོས་འདི་སྐད་གསུངས། །

Another less known version of the translation is also found in the Kanjur.

ཆོས་རྣམས་གང་དག་རྒྱུ་ལས་བྱུང་བ་དང་།།
དེ་ཡི་རྒྱུ་དང་དེ་འགོག་གང་ཡིན་པའང་།།
དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པ་ཉིད་ཀྱིས་བཀའ་བསྩལ་ཏེ།།
དེ་སྐད་གསུང་བའི་ཚུལ་ཅན་དགེ་སྦྱོང་ཆེ།།

This Ye dharma verse, as it is known today, is inscribed on temples, stūpas, statues and other religious monuments. It is chanted during prayers for auspiciousness and consecration. As it encapsulates the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising, it is used in most Buddhist rituals and ceremonies by all Buddhist traditions. The verse is often recited as a mantra by adding Oṃ at the beginning and Svāha at the end.

Dr Karma Phuntsho is the President of the Loden Foundation, director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’ Cultural Documentation and author The History of Bhutan.

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