Friday, 18 October 2013

Prabuddha XIII

This is the thirteenth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI , VII, VIII,  IX, X , XI  and XII were published in

‘The graveyard is solemn,
nade for meditation,
so must we enter
must we wander
in wilderness solitude
to obtain the immutable truth?

A meditation too is music
a sense of rhythm
the discerning power
to see most subtle tone
and non-intrusive hue,
separate and together,
that too is a vessel
carrying you to enlightening bliss
leading to union with the brahman principle.’

Cannot music deliver nirvanic bliss?

To hear music and tone beyond the diatonic scale
To see colors unnamed and beyond spectrum
To discern the truth resident in the dismal and foreboding caves
of myth, illusion and delusion,
May the Goddess of the Arts my faculties hone.

Budu Samindune,
Enlightened One!
For what reason didst thou abandon world?

Art is myth, it is truth;
reality is truth;
no human can ever conspire
something more enchanting to create.
Art is for the poverty-stricken
the blinded among us
eluded by that beauty,
the enchantment that empowers
the reflective, the yogi who embraces meditation.

‘In the resplendent wilderness
upon a singular rock
bedecked with rain’s sparkling necklaces
if there wandered a spotted deer,
then that hillock will rise before you,
will capture the mind,
and the mind will be bested
of this let there be no doubt.
In that wilderness
bathed by the new rains
where wild boar and other creatures
gambol in their natural commerce
turning cave into home
a compelling force
will urge meditation.

With deep blue necks
vividly plumed
chirping the songs
reserved to call and welcome the rains
there will be birds
of myriad color
pleasing the mind
deep in the residence of reflection.
And upon the forest floor
carpeted with petalled tenderness
I will lay down
as I would upon a bed
of the softest cotton made. [1]

Is it only the forest that enchants
is the city not enchanting?
I will not flee into wilderness:  
for in bus and train
university and factory
even the tallest mansions obliterating
there are thick jungles
growing and growing,
thick in the dark of delusion
watered by the springs of lust
bristling with the thorns
of envy and ego,
overgrown with the weeds of the kleshas
those defilements that cloud
where hardened minds
turn stone into missile
fling in anger
where all secret weapons are drawn
and beasts ill-willed and intemperate
take on one another
seek to subdue,
seek to own,
seek to extract from.

And yet,
it is also here
that is resident
the lofty and incomparable
the bodhisattva gunaya,
the essential quality
the mark of one who can
and will stop sansaric journey
at the border village of comprehension,
right here,
in the midst of delusion
amidst the surging waves of
of defilement-debris.

‘There is a cost in attaining human form.’ 
Frail humanity beds with human form
in inextricable embrace,
rising now, subsiding now
causing tremor
battering heart,
like moon-streams
flowing from heated lunar lamp
enveloping earth with love.
And so,
however vile,
man stands above tree,
above rock and creature.
If true bliss has a name and heart
it is man,
for there is nothing sweeter
than human heart.

He knows she will die
decaying in terminal cancers
but the husband will not share prognosis
for fear of hurting.

She knows too
very well
but does not share knowledge
fearing that sorrow will overwhelm.

They protect their mutual muteness
and their hearts
with love and sorrow
are full.

It was not for reasons of compassion alone
that Dayavati, made of kindness and love,
decided to leave.

Swept the floors and the garden
cooked and cleaned
took care of the children
was everyone’s favorite,
‘We thought we were blessed
but she stayed but two months.’

‘I am the eldest
Amma leaves at dawn
to pluck leaves
it is dark when she returns,
in those intermediate hours
it is I who stays
who takes care of the little ones,
my brothers, my sisters.
A quarter pound of flour
from retail store,
finely chopped cassava leaves
just a handful,
that’s a mix enough for a roti
cut into seven or eight pieces
that’s lunch.’

One day around midnight
there were sobs in the kitchen.

‘Madam, I must go home!’

Is the work too hard?
Don’t we pay you enough?
Did we do you wrong?
We shared with what we ate
when we went out, we took you along too,
we treated you as one of us, Dayavati.’

‘All this is true.
But when I have my fill,
when I go out
I remember Amma,
my brothers and sisters I remember too,
and then I can’t eat;
to pick leaves with Amma
to be with them, share their hardships,
let me go home!’

‘When I take the rare vacation
or partake now and then
of the wholesome and delicious,
it is the same for me
I remember a remote village
I remember a humble little hut
I remember my mother too.
She too worked hard
dawn to dusk
all her life,
went without food
never had new clothes
never asked for help
and there was help offered
and she toiled without complaint
not knowing that sorrow was sorrow.

I was not a prince
 unlike you,
I did not have splendid palaces,
one for each season
did not enjoy royal comforts;
you left home and hearth,
wife and child,
with utmost ease,
that privileged ease I do not enjoy.

If I left
my wife and children
will have rent for roof,
my children are not children,
but infants still crawling stage;
they need milk
and it is I who has to find it,
when they are ill
it is I who have to pick them up
carry them to the doctor,
they gaze and gaze upon me
with hope and future clenched in hand.

Niranjala wakes the dawn
and bids night goodnight,
hands manicured by callous
cheeks cleansed by soot,
accessoried with bone
clothed in skin,
she pounds rice into flour,
she gets the milk ready,
she prepares porridge,
washes clothes
irons shirts.

Like a mother,
like an older sister,
she broke open life’s earth
and called forth springs,
in a poverty furnished house
riddled with hunger
I cannot leave them alone.

As I wandered in sansaric dejection
she stood by a bylane of a slum
lost and abandoned
was she and her infant,
husband gone the way the over-worked go
and so I gathered his unburdened burden,
in utmost compassion.

The soft breeze caresses the golden grain
but to kiss and draw away hurt from calloused hand
and pearl-like beads of sweat turn
turn into flower
into full ripened grain.

From the silent skies
that the half-moon rides
there’s milk that flows
into infant heart,
Punchi Putha sleeps and sleeps
delights in the new world
that must come up on the morrow,
and smiles and smiles.

Those giants who envisioned
blended strength and heart into vision
and built a thousand internal seas,
they are reborn now in this earth,
this Motherland,
and the new freedoms decked in color and finery
have their creases smoothed
with the little boy’s smile.
I wipe the tears
upon an era free of debt and fear
and as the sun rises
his consecration I behold.

Little ones who open rivulets
to quell the throbbing pain
of a wearied body,
know this:
that expending is bliss enough
when upon you my gaze tarries. 
It is a long dream, little ones,
twenty five hundred years long
and so I cannot and will not leave
until that world I create. 

Therefore, on this day
grant me the sacred license
the irrevocable word,
the niyatha vivarana granted to thee
and all the Buddhas who came before,
by all the Enlightened Ones
from the first to the last
one birth to the next
along the long sansaric tract.

By this table upon which pen moves on paper,
sitting on this very chair
among these manuscripts
on a field of ploughing, sowing and reaping,
in slogans and placards
boycotts and strikes
the teeth of a factory wheel
on a commuter train
where men and women
are packed together in the daily to and fro,
the diurnality of occupation,
in the midst of the multitude,
to attain Buddhahood
enlightenment supreme,
not for me,
not alone,
but with the masses,
for all
in communal comprehension
a togetherness of knowing,
of enlightenment.

[1] Thera Gatha


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Prabuddha XII

This is the twelfth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI , VII, VIII,  IX, X and XI were published in


You of noble birth
lay unconscious
for three nights
and four days
and when you came to your senses
this is perhaps what you thought:

‘What happened?’

Try to comprehend
this is your transitional moment,

You will now see
every sansaric moment
and things and people therein
in their transience
as confusion and chaos,
and your most noble feelings
will take sculptured form
and appear before you
like so many deities,
and you will see
brilliant beams of light
fanning out golden warmth.

issuing from the Central Realm
in the purest white
and seated upon a lion-throne
an eight-spoked wheel in hand,
clothed by the wondrous mother
of endless skies,
will manifest before you
the incomparable Bhagavan Vairochana,
the Celestial Buddha;
it is the aggregate of matter
dissolved into the blue light
of primordial state.

Shining and transparent
glorious and dazzling
cast forth as Father-Mother
from the heart of Vairochana
the wisdom of the dharmic essence
will shoot and strike thee
with light radiant beyond known radiance
and thou wilt scarce forbear to look upon it.

And from within thee
by karmic decree of the negatives
there will arise fear
there will arise terror
and thou wilt look to flee.

Do not be startled
have no fear
for this is the Thathagatha Light!
Look upon it with utmost fervor
place thy faith in it
be unwavering,
it is the light of ultimate compassion
wrought in the heart
of the Bhagavan Vairochana
a grace that comes forth
to receive thee
entangled as thou art
in the dangerous ambuscade
of thy transit,
look upon it
consider it therefore
with untrammeled devotion!

And repeat after me these words:

May the Bhagavan Vairochana
draw me into the orbit of the Dharmic Essence
and its wisdom,
deluded and wandering as I am in Sansara.

Repeat after me:
May I be led safely across
the fearful  ambush of transience
and placed in the state
of All-Perfect Buddhahood![1]

A familiar voice,
whose is it?
To identify correctly
he pondered long.

He was standing,
as though in a trance
at that dismal place
where fifteen years before
his mother they buried.

Nothing has changed,
sloping down
clothed in the blue of clover,
the same hillock
as it was before,
and between slope and paddy field
a brook gurgled over and around
interrupting rock,
and he heard that voice again:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.[2]

Spread across the open field
the dew-laden white cloth
danced in breeze-driven undulation,
and in time to that quiet and tender music
rose the cry of a mother-seeking calf
from the village
at cemetery’s end.

‘Allah is Most Great!
I testify that there is no god except Allah!
I pray to thee seeking succor
I pray to thee to show the true path,
the path of those who receive thy compassion
the path of those who thou dost not spurn
the path of those who will not stray
the clear and direct path
of those who are not led astray.’

And the cow responded to calf
the wafting voice
decked with the tinkle of bell
strung across her neck. 

The tinkling sound
merged with brook and breeze
and in that overwhelming symphony
he could identify a voice,
his mother
who passed on
fifteen (or was it twenty?) years before. 

‘Of all thoughts
that delight and plague
there is nothing more compelling
than “I”;
and “I” is the most ancient thought
birthed in the minds of all.

If you followed the “I”-thread
all the way to where it began
in that ancient place will be scripted
these interminable line:
Just as it was the first thought to enter mind,
until the end will remain “I”.

And yet,
if one asked
for the very first time,
“Who am I?”
within him in that very instant
will arise something else
that will entice, that will capture.
It lies beyond mind,
is eternal, endless
and heavenly. 

And that is the Kingdom of God,
that is the Heaven of Heavens,
that is Nirvana,
enlightenment, you could call it;
and it is about the discovery of man by man,
the encounter of self and self. ‘[3]
The voice,
unmistakably his mother’s voice
was none other than his,
he realized. 

He sank his knees
deep in the blue of clover and dew,
clasped his hands in veneration
worshipped that earth-piece
which held his long-dead mother.
There was a flower,
white it was this solitary bloom;
he bent low and kissed it soft.

‘It was you, my mother,
you who for 10 long months
held me in womb,
who suffered endless sorrows
and bequeathed me to this world.’

When I cried
when I whimpered
in infantile hunger
it was you
who gathered sweet potato leaves
sprinkled salt
mixed with shredded coconut
and satiated with food and love.

It was also you,
mother of the early awakening
who cooked and delivered
and from the small change
that wayside boutique offered
clothed me in the sparse ways possible.

It was you who walked
In grasslands and shrub
gathered rush and reed
applied pigment red and green
wove a myriad mats
many colored, many patterened
and taught without teaching, without word
that the universe was but pattern,
a design, a configuration.

I did not know then,  
that your face was a mirror
reflecting the mind
that resides in me now,
that is mine, that is me,
I did not see in those sunken eyes
not one sign of joy, indistinct or faint,
did not see sorrow either.
Having suffered with equanimity
all joys and all sorrows
did you find peace of mind,
I wonder. 

As for me,
I earned wealth
was showered with accolade and reward,
acquired mansion and vehicles,
obtained not any peace,
Did you understand,
did you know
did you envisage
these truths
in your wise extrapolations,
without nothing
of my endowments? 


[1] The Tibetan Book of the Dead
[2] The Holy Bible
[3] Maharishi Ramana