An Untitled Poem Written By Baba Phuntsog Wangyal While Imprisoned

2015 09 14 Phunwang Prison Poem
High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a poem by the late Baba Phuntsog Wangyal (1922 – 2014) that was written while he was in prison.
The Tibetan language poem has been circulating on Tibetan blogs and social media ever since last year. Baba Phuntsog Wangyal, one of the most important figures in modern Tibetan history, spent eighteen years in prison and towards the end of his imprisonment, in 1978, wrote this poem. 
In his autobiography, “A Tibetan Revolutionary”, Phuntsog Wangyal mentions composing poetry to convey feelings of sadness or defiance.

An Untitled Poem Written By Baba Phuntsog Wangyal While Imprisoned


The rays of the youthful sun shine through the corner of the window,

The western sunlight illuminates the surface of the iron door,

The lock of this torturous prison oppresses interior and exterior,

Alone I’ve lived eighteen mortal years.

Summer, winter, autumn and spring arrive again through the curtains,

This summer flower, that autumn moon,

To but live outside these high walls.

In this world there are many ways of administering judgement,

From early on great saints have been hurt and dealt injury,

One’s position in life owes to unsatisfactory past deeds,

Understanding what it takes to arouse earnest study and reflection,

For oneself and others, as well as

Realising the ever changing natural state of the world.

Amidst the suffering I search for bliss,

A blissful mind breaks suffering in two,

These onerous yet fulfilling fruits I take in hand.

I lost my freedom for freedom’s sake,

Imprisoned – I am free.

One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for publishing this translation. When I met this great man,I had recently completed a traditional 3 yr retreat in a western country. All practices were recited in Tibetan, but all but our lamas were western women. Sometimes I experienced the retreat as the most extraordinary opportunity to learn and practice in the Vajrayana tradition. Other times it felt like prison. Meeting Baba Phuwang and having the opportunity to exchange, I formulated a question mind : what determines the outcome of incarceration, voluntary and involuntary? Which is more significant, holy instruction or simply living in one building for more than one year? Facing the facts of lack of external freedom changes one’s outlook. Wisely or unwisely, I had chosen this and feel that I learned quite a bit from the experience. Baba Phuwang did not choose it and experienced much more severe conditions than I did, but he was able to make use of the situation to advance his own understanding of his potential as a human being. For me he was a Lama in spite of his wry irreverence. I will never forget his brilliance and kindness. Om Mani Padme Hung

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