"Listen, my dear, inquisitive patron!
Do you know who I am?
I am the Yogi, Milarepa,
Who follows the ascetic way;
I am a yogi, great in strength and perseverance,
Who has no limitations.
The staff in my hand
Grew on a huge rock.
It was cut by a sickle and became
A companion of wild stags.
It came from Nepal, in the South;
From it I hung the Mahayana Sutras;
I take it with me to the marketplace;
It was offered to me by a faithful follower.
This is the story of my walking staff.
If you do not understand my meaning,
Listen then with great care:
The stout end, cut from near the root,
Symbolizes being "cut off" from Samsara.
The thin end, cut from near the top,
Symbolizes the "cutting off of all doubts and confusions.
It is two cubits long and represents
The twin qualities of a Buddhist.
Of good quality and pliant, it is like
The original Mind-Essence - good and sound.
The varnish, of a pleasant brown, is like
The great harmony of the "Original Mind Nature."
Straight and supple, it symbolizes
Unmistaken practice and devotion.
The tiny grooves you see, represent
the Perfection of the Bodhi-Path,
The four joints in the cane
Are the For Infinite Wishes,
The three knots symbolize
the Three Bodies of the Buddha.
It never changes color. This represents
The immutable reality of the Root Principle.
Its head, curved and covered, displays
The "beyond-playwords" nature of reality'
Its white glittering appearance shows
The Dharmakaya - immaculate and pure.
The hollows symbolize the void nature of all beings,
The spots are a symbol of the sole Tig Le.
The scattered black marks indicate
that Tibetan yogis and Repas
Have few disturbing thoughts.
This cane most excellent represents
My devotion and practice in compliance with the Dharma.
Its elegance and loveliness displays
My disciples' sincerity and faith.
The iron ferrrule on the tip conveys
The perseverance of yogis in the hermitage.
The handle, wrapped with copper, represents
the mastery and attraction of Dakinis.
The nail attached to the tip displays
The bravery and diligence of yogis;
The hanging brass ring represents
The increase of inner merits.
The ornament of Sha Bran hanging down
Is the flexible understanding of the yogi.
The thong of two twisted ropes represents
The entering of the Two-in-One Path;
The Mother-and-Son thongs intermingling,
The meeting with the Mother of the Three Bodies.
The bone-ornaments hanging on the staff
Mean many travels for the yogi.
The flint and bellow signify
That all he sees and meets
Are the yogi's friends.
The white shell hanging on the staff
Means that I shall turn the Wheel of Dharma.
The rag of leather symbolizes
The yogi's attitude, without fear or shame.
The mirror hanging on the staff
Is the Enlightenment that shines within.
The sharp knife indicates
That the pain of passions will be cut.
The stone-crystal symbolizes
The purifying of defiled habitual thoughts.
The ivory chain hanging on the staff
Is the Chain-of-Regard between Guru and disciple.
The set of bells symbolizes
My widespread reputation;
The woolen cords of read and white,
That my disciples will be numerous.
The handsome staff that now I hold
Is the means and symbol of the conquest over evil beings.
Patron, you ask me for the meaning of this staff;
This proves you have sincerity and faith.
This present meeting witnesses
Our pure wishes in a former life.
For mankind and Devas, conceivers of all symbols,
I have sung this "Song of the White Staff."
Revere then and appreciate its Dharma teaching.
Dear patron, I hope your practice Dharma
And win happiness supreme."
- Milarepa, "The Song of the Staff" from
The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa.
Translated by C. C. Chang, (Shambhala: 1962, 1989), Volume One, p. 190-199