SHABKAR PA - White Footprint
Shabkar received several names such as Jampa Chödar, meaning “Beneficent Propagator of Dharma,” and Tsokdruk Rangdrol, meaning “Spontaneous Liberation of the Six Senses.” However, he became famous as Shabkar Lama, meaning “Lama of the White Footprint.” This name was given to him after years of meditation on the foothills of Mount Kailash in a cave below Milarepa’s Miracle Cave. Shabkar was also called “White Foot” because wherever he walked, it was said that the ground whitened beneath his steps, a metaphor indicating that his teachings inspired everyone he met to practice Dharma.
Shabkar was born in 1781 among the Nyingmapa yogis in the Rebkong region, located in Amdo, the remote northeastern province of Tibet.
From a young age, he showed a deep inclination for contemplative life.
He was a “Bard of Awakening,” much like Milarepa, whom he incarnated. His teachings, advice, and the recounting of his meditative experiences are expressed in the form of poetic songs. In Amdo, Shabkar’s native province, excerpts from his biography were often read to the dying instead of the Bardo Thödol, the famous Tibetan “Book of the Dead.”
Despite the love for his mother and the respect for his family, Shabkar resisted the pressures from his relatives who wanted him to marry. Eventually, he left his family home to dedicate himself entirely to spiritual life. Determined to renounce worldly pursuits, Shabkar took full monastic vows at the age of twenty.
He left his homeland and traveled to the south of Rebkong to meet his main teacher, the Dharma King Ngakyi Wangpo. This master, both a great scholar and a holder of profound spiritual realization, was a revered Mongolian king considered the reincarnation of Marpa the Translator. After receiving all the spiritual instructions from the Dharma King, Shabkar practiced them for five years in the solitary hermitage of Tséshoung. Later, he meditated for three years on Tsonying Island, the “heart of the lake,” located in the center of Lake Kokonor, the blue lake of Amdo.
He led the life of a wandering yogi, imparting his teachings to everyone, from bandits to wild animals. His pilgrimages took him to the distant Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, where he gilded the spire of the Bodanath Stupa with gold offered by his followers. In 1828, at the age of forty-seven, Shabkar returned to Amdo, where he spent the last twenty years of his life teaching, restoring monasteries in the region, and meditating in solitary places.
This information is extracted from the book “Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogi,” translated by Matthieu Ricard.