From the original 1897 New York Sun editorial, “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.” Read it; it’s magic.
This is me learning Tibetan. Slowly, but learning. They say that Tibetan grammar developed to carry the teachings. This phrase, it’s poetry and philosophy together. That second character, the horizontal one with the squiggle underneath…it does this: “shows that an object and action are of the same nature.” Water, of the same nature, being whirled.
Movement and matter are no different. There is no subject in this phrase, but if there were, it would be transformed by this unimposing little preposition. They call it a ladeun, and it’s grammar for impermanence.
Butter, fire, of the same nature, being burned. There is no difference between the action of burning and the nature of fire. The nature of this fire is that it is burning. Combusting, incinerating, transforming, changing. Butter is not burning into some other object that is static and fixed. Butter is burning into fire and fire itself is burning–again: combusting, incinerating, transforming, changing. There’s no god damn thing to hold on to.
I think of the Buddha of Infinite Light. The qualities of discriminating awareness and understanding of phenomena. The Shamarpas are the physical manifestation of all this. And though all physical things are ladeuned into other things, the qualities of mind remain. Change comes and forms go and wisdom abides. It’s a kind of wisdom that you can’t hold on to, but it’s there all the same.
**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.
God help us. It’s a poem. I don’t write them often, but sometimes they come on their own. When they do, I let them be. Often poetry is awful; I hope that this is not, but if it is, I can only say, oh well. I had the best of intentions.
Also, blog formatting seriously messes with the spacing of stanzas, but I’m not versed (oy, no pun intended) enough to fix it. Do your best.
Poem for a German Lover
You could sing me eighties songs while straddled on my bed.
You could boast the curling lashes that I have always wanted,
Gaze up from under them and say, yes please,
In askance of my thoughts.
You could speak of this, the place that I might hold for you –
Ask if I had made my decision.
When I wondered what you meant, you could rejoinder,
Whether or not to come to Germany, learn German, and to marry me.
You could tell me you would leave me for three months of the year
To seek wisdom on your own terms, in retreat,
While I am free to paint my pictures, sow my stories,
And fill the floorboards with my silence.
But when night falls and morning comes
I will be found alone,
For solitude is not a timeshare.
Love means letting someone lease time in your thoughts.
My thoughts are happy homeless;
My hours unaccounted.
My mother’s people name our nature from the Zodiac
And scientists call it psychology.
Take counsel where you will –
I am a snake and still an introvert.
The sun will rise on me
Coiled nose to tail inside my burrow,
Roots of dreams dangling overhead,
The soil of self-sufficiency below.