Sunday, 16 November 2014

Prabuddha XXII*

A red T-shirt
un-tucked into new white pants
polished shoes
and combed hair
thus did he step out
‘on a day next week’
one evening
to meet her
filled with thought numerous
feelings are vivid
and as he reached the bus stand
a woman with a child
extended a hand
in impoverished request.

‘Who are you sister?
Whose child is this?
Leave you, did your husband?
Sought other men did you
as did Yashoda?’

Right or not right
is this journey of mine?

So he waited
and waited long
at the bus stand
oblivious to the passing hours
and arrival of night
in the indecision,
‘should I or should I not?’

And then a hand
a friendly hand on shoulder
and thus from reverie
he awoke.

It was her husband,
drunk was he.

what are you doing here?
I am drunk, you see?
I am drunk
we drink, so what?
We don’t harm anyone now
do we?
The woman will scream
but scream though she will
she’s my woman
A good woman too!
She spoke of you
even yesterday
spoke well of you.
Come with me tonight,
you must.

A small drink
at my place.
Oh I know:
you are a good man
quite unlike any other.
Come, let’s go,
let’s go with a bottle
come, friend
let’s go home!’

Greatly perturbed was Prabuddha.

You are divine,
an intoxicated god
come to deliver me from evil! 

So he took his arm,
helped him onto a bus
with much affection,
sat him down
and told the conductor
‘Drop him off at the 6th mile post.’

I came back Niranjala
I battled as the Ascetic Siddhartha
battled Mara
for a week I fought Niranjala
for a week a daughter
of Mara
danced in my head

Yes I suffered for a week this                  is true
Yes I sinned for a week this also             is true

But in the end I triumphed
I won
I won.

A sharp sword is the mind
but it cannot cut itself;
an eye that sees is the mind
but one that will not look upon itself.

A man reached out
asked for Prabuddha’s cigarette
he lit his own.

A ‘Thank you,’
did Prabuddha expect
but there was none
not even a faint smile,
stuck the fag
at the corner
of his mouth
left like a Lord.

Prabuddha was displeased.

Is it necessary to thank?
Must he offer a glance of gratitude?
“Do your duty
do not reflect
on consequence.’[i]
He remembered
and silently thanked
‘Thank you sir!’

And he that took
was not him
but a deity
larger than himself,
Prabuddha felt.

When picking up the small change
in post-tea, post-payment moment
noticed he an extra rupee.
A new, shiny rupee!
‘Should I take it
should I give it back?’
Once again indecision.  

‘Take it man!
A toy for your son
you could with it buy.’

So he clutched tight the coins
the new shiny rupee included
and left
in a brisk walk.

He was not at peace though
for the theft
a god within had witnessed
and admonished with disappointment:

‘A lowly thief
who even a rupee would rob
that’s what you are
and what I did not think
you could become.’

When he could not flee
From admonishment and charge
returned he to the canteen
several hours later,
kept coin on counter
and explained thus
to the cashier:

‘This was a mistake
you’ve miscalculated.’

And the cashier looked back
eyes keen with suspicion:

‘He is a fool
or else a trickster.’

He turned and left
as though from a serpent fleeing
but with a mind uncluttered
calm and feeling good.

‘That’s better,’ the god then said. 

The easy path to godliness
is to think
‘I myself am a god.’
The path to enlightenment
‘A Buddha am I.’
To think thus
and live.

And then the gods of the mind
come forth when called
the gods without
come to one’s aid,
they walk unnoticed
the paths to be walked
waylay evil
move obstacle
show correct path
if lost or led astray,
as would a fellow traveler
point out error
and show direction
to a pilgrim that erred. 

Life is a pilgrimage
where pilgrims come
from all corners
but seek same destination.

*This is the twenty second part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's classic narrative 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, XII, XIII,XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIXXX and XXI can be found in

[i] Bhagavad Gita


  1. Not nice, very mediocre, nothing like what Mahagama wrote.

    1. Anonymous,
      haha seriously? can you translate just 4 lines better than this and show us please? just curious to see.

      So beautifully done Malinda.

  2. Exactly!
    If what Malinda has written is nothing like what Sekara wrote, why don't you produce your ideal sample???
    Excellent Malinda!