Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Prabuddha Part XXVII

This is the final part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha'.  Please note that it is a draft and although the immediate family of the poet is aware of the exercise it is by no means an authorized translation.  



‘You’ve wept enough now Niranjala
yes, he died
our son is no more,
this is true.
He left
did not tarry to witness
the sorrows of sansara.
Death is common to us all
his met his fate before we did.
Now let us console ourselves:
‘Every being that suffers in sansara
they are all our children.’
sava-munisa me paja
“All people are my children,”
as said the Emperor Asoka.

There were young men
at the thunman handiya
there where three roads met
there were young men
who saw Prabuddha approach
unkempt hair
ragged clothes
shirt and trousers torn,
with angered eyes
they glanced around
in harsh tones spouting:
‘Pick up club and sword!
Tarry not but strike, kill!’

One of them assailed him thus:
Where are you going?’

Prabuddha stopped.
For a moment.

‘Uncle!  Answer this!
Did you not strive
a long time ago
strive to find a way out
a pathway to freedom,
a way for all sorrows to quell?
Even you failed did you not?’

On Prabuddha’s lips
a half-smile did play.

That’s our quest too,
a pathway to emancipation
a way out of immiserization
we too suffer
you know?
Food for the stomach
for the waist a cloth
a roof for the head
these we lack
we starve
and suffer in poverty
unemployed are we.
Join us
let us to the death fight
until we free ourselves
from this monumental frustration
until we see the end
of all this suffering.
May victory be ours!’

Prabuddha spoke
soft and calm:

Food and garment, a house and a roof
do the acquisition of such yield freedom?
Do they cure all frustrations?
Does the sorrow
splashed all over sansara
end then and there?’

There was unease among the youth.

‘We do not understand this sermon
we do not need this sermon
deep philosophy, the abhidharma
such sermons will not our hunger satisfy
such sermons will not our nudities conceal.’

It’s not a sermon,
but listen!
As long as there’s greed for power
whilst there reigns competition
could we defeat sorrow,
could frustration be banished?
Struggle is power-greed
Struggle is hatred, it is competition.’

‘This is all we ask:
Do we not have a right to live?
Answer that!’

Then came the boos
from all direction
then came the taunts
and other missiles.

A sharp pain he left
from his forehead
up went his hand
down it came with blood
and reddened fingertips.

He was like a statue
from granite hewn
he stood still just there
his was an unwavering gaze
there was no fear
hatred there was none
and why?
His entire mind was saturated
with pity birthed just for them. 

And yet forget he could not
that troublesome query
it bother him:
‘Do we not have a right to live?’

Then he remembered
from a long time ago
the way the mice were slain!
To harden the mind
softened by the arts
and to progress an obstacle.
The weak are subdued
and the strong arise.
If life’s race is to be won
slay one must from mind
that thing called pity,
for the fight must one prepare
and even a friend must be put at risk
if and where necessary.

The kitchen was duly sealed
windows and doors all shut
all mice holes with rags plugged
and when all vessels
pots, pans and containers
were lifted, were shaken
there were mice everywhere
of the kos-eta kind, the harvest mice
running hither and thither
there was nowhere to go
nowhere to hide
all escape routes cut off
entrance to homes plugged.

‘Wait!  I will let you have it!’

Prabuddha the broom in both hands held
with all his strength and all his insanity
he smote them down, one by one
till none were left alive.

And the dead harvest mice
those of the kos-eta kind
were in the corner of the kitchen
blood at their mouths
so much like a veli-kos-eta pile
those Jak-seed delicacies
delicate-made by burial in sand.
The war having ended
and insanity gone
he looked upon the dead.
There arose regret
disgust and disillusionment too
about himself:
‘What on earth did you do?’
And that day he could not eat
not one morsel of food did he suffer. 

Plucked he did
a snail from a tree trunk
turned it on its back
and dropped a crystal of salt
into the visible flesh
and it melted by and by
and in the shell
was now but a thick blob of slime
and yet his mind
to harden refused. 

Subdued the reptile did he
with club and rock
tossed into the fire
to twist and turn,
he shuddered
when death arrived
but the love in his mind
refused to die.

Into the gums the needle went
into the mouth the cold white extractor
a massive tooth was drawn
with a terrible grating noise
making him want to flee. 

The lower jaw
with a lancer cut
a ball of cotton-wool
held with scissor
to dab and clean
out the pus that filled
the crater thus created –
is wasn’t something to look upon

But society has been poisoned
a patient no less it has become
a harsh cut into soft flesh
is advocated
and is it wrong thereafter
with a ball of cotton-wool
the wound to dab and clean?

Explain your distance
what reason for this absence
in terrible times
in the pride of the pernicious
the poor doth burn!

In the villages they prowl
in desolate places
the innocents they slaughter.

Like the lion in its den
in secret places they watch and wait
they waylay the poor
cast their nets and draw them in,
Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Break the teeth of the wicked
forget not the poor!

There came a moment
when one such being of the light
inhabiting the Abbhasaras exclaimed,
“What substance is this!’
Stuck a finger into the savory earth
and fingertip licked.
Thus did his greed begin to grow
from curiosity to greed
and greed to intense greed
did he move.

And Vasettha!
Then did they share among themselves
grains of rice
parcel out the land.

Would they callously erase
the boundaries thus marked?

If the human mind
is ready to bend
and fight tyranny
could it not also be bent
to prevent tyranny?

If war was first birthed in the mind
cannot the mind also yield peace?

A pristine society
can war and hatred create?
Should not a holy war
a dhrama yuddhaya
be launched
such a society to create
like a surgery cures the sick?
Could this be done without war?
This is a question.

For the grand church feast they came
the multitudes from afar
on either side of the street
there had sprouted of a sudden
a row of shops
cheap accessories and trinkets
sweets there were in abundance
dosi and aluva
along with the gram, the peas, the kadala.

There were flags
fluttering in colors gay
around the main flag post.

The blood of a holy man
that bled for those who suffered
colors still
the cross in the church.

‘And before it
kneeling with a child
who art thou,
with sunken eyes
and premature gray
moving lips in soft murmur
a calm countenance too?
Tell me,
who thou art?
Enter through the narrow gate
for wide is the gate and broad the road
that to destruction leads;
and many through it move
for the gate to is small and the way narrow
that leads to life
and those who find it


‘Yes! Prabuddha!
I was right
I though
one day our paths would cross.
I sinned, yes,
while with you
and thereafter too,
from one club to the next
hotel to hotel
I danced, I sang
gambled away my wealth
drank myself to unconsciousness
with tourists
from around the world
nights I spent
until I was gone
wasted to the absolute bone.
Look! This is my son
this is all I got from them
this is all that remains
a victim of STDs
he’s blind
and yet in these eyes
the softest light
of love
I see.

You’ve changed.
Unshaken are you
unmoved, still
I feel, I see
the calmness of your mind
flows from your eyes
there’s pity too
that from your eyes flow.

I would like to learn
once more from you;
would like to be a student true.

Tell me
did you the Truth discover
did you freedom secure?

‘There was a time I searched
searched in many lands
across many ages
from teachers that I sought out;
I learnt from them
but the first lessons
they were taught by you,
now I search no longer
those who seek shall not find.

is like an empty sky
devoid of boundaries
it is right here
at all times clear
an anti-thesis of comprehension perhaps
eludes when its capture is sought;
neither can it be cast aside
and in unattainability
is it obtained;
when you are silent, it speak
it is silent when voice you awaken;
the wide door is open for alms
no one stands in your way.’

I do not understand these words
and yet it resonates as trace
could you not teach me
in degrees of greater clarity?’

‘It cannot with word be taught
it is to be with heart understood
knowledge it is not
not something to be taught
it is a comprehension
something that one must obtain
as one will.

‘And yet Yashoda!
I know now
that you too
through the narrow gate
has entered.
And so
there’s no return
not for you
banished from the world
it’s as though a door
shut behind you
pushing you onto the true path,
you are not helpless
as you were before
unlike these children
who still are blind,
born to a diseased society
victim of society’s dreadful diseases
blind and orphaned
lost are they on this earth
not knowing where to turn.

There’s another truth
that came to me:
where famine reigns
the dharma cannot take root
those who starve
cannot the dharma comprehend.
Beauty – nirvana – truth.
Sabbe sattha aaharattithika!
He is hungry
and to listen to a serom
therefore unsuited –
feed him before all else.”

‘There was a time I had wealth
when comforts I possessed
and you were wealthier than I
but did it yield contentment?
And was it not for that very reason
it eluded?
Having had your fill
of food and feast
splendid garments and comfortable houses
with much wealth endowed
was it not after all that
that it dawned
that true contentment was something ele,
that it all with sorrow ends?

‘That is the first step
in the journey of discovery,
the discovery of true contentment,
the discovery of inalienable truths;
it is this step that I took
it is the very step
that Siddhartha too
once took.

Once that step is taken
man no longer sins
does not hate
does not compete
and the entire world
turns into a vessel
for his compassion:
having triumphed over the world
after taking that step
he does not let go
of the world. 
With compassion for the suffering
he too readily suffers.

Is there any purpose
in the attainment of Enlightenment
in becoming Buddha
if there were none
to comprehend the dharma,
if there were none
to comprehend the truth,
if there were none
to comprehend the incomparable beauty?

Such an audience you will not find;
not in a society that shoves and heaves
to get into a bus
to buy a loaf of bread.

To creating an exalted society
one that can the dharma comprehend
that can the beauty of truth perceive
there is a necessary first step:
the creation of a world
in food, clothing and shelter

For this reason do I stop.
Stopping itself is journey
sansara itself is nirvana.

Outside the church
the late sun was weak
a drip-dripping rain
bathed in that soft light

Yashoda watched 
with unblinking eyes
as through the soft sunlight
through the soft drops of rain
Prabuddha slowly made his way.

At the far end of the garden
glistened a small rainbow.

‘Never before
have I seen
a rainbow this small
a rainbow this close,
this is a miracle!’
she thought.

Yashoda watched
Prabuddha’s figure
receding through the soft sunlight
through the softly falling rain
through the seven color bands of the rainbow
with unblinking eyes
until his tall frame
disappeared into the crowd
 in the teeming street.

At the edge of her eye 
there appeared then
a single un-agitated tear 

of singular contentment.



  1. So beautifully done. So proud.

  2. his (he?) met his fate before we did.