Kundalini Splendor

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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Lake of Awareness (poem by Yeshe Tsogyel) 

When I read this poem this morning, from Ivan Granger's Poetry Chaikhana, I could not resist putting up both the poem and Ivan's insightful comment here on this site. Both moved me profoundly.

The Supreme Being is the Dakini Queen of the Lake of Awareness!

By Yeshe Tsogyel
(8th Century)

English version by Keith Dowman

The Supreme Being is the Dakini Queen of the Lake of Awareness!
I have vanished into fields of lotus-light, the plenum of dynamic space,
To be born in the inner sanctum of an immaculate lotus;
Do not despair, have faith!
When you have withdrawn attachment to this rocky defile,
This barbaric Tibet, full of war and strife,
Abandon unnecessary activity and rely on solitude.
Practice energy control, purify your psychic nerves and seed-essence,
And cultivate mahamudra and Dsokchen.

The Supreme Being is the Dakini Queen of the Lake of Awareness!
Attaining humility, through Guru Pema Jungne’s compassion I followed him,
And now I have finally gone into his presence;
Do not despair, but pray!
When you see your karmic body as vulnerable as a bubble,
Realising the truth of impermanence, and that in death you are helpless,
Disabuse yourself of fantasies of eternity,
Make your life a practice of sadhana,
And cultivate the experience that takes you to the place where Ati ends.

-- from The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Aliki Barnstone

Here is Ivan's insightful commentary:

Yeshe Tsogyel (or Yeshe Tsogyal) is traditionally said to have been a princess in pre-Buddhist Tibet. She was married to a king at the age of twelve, but ran away to study meditation for three years with a Buddhist master and traveled to Nepal. She later returned to Tibet to help establish Buddhism in Tibet.

A few words in this poem might need a little explanation. My notes here don't do justice to the depth of the concepts they represent, but they should help to give you an idea of what's being said.

A "dakini" is represented as a female figure that embodies an awakening aspect of consciousness. Like the mercurial mind itself, a dakini can be mischievous, even wrathful, but also an essential aid in the journey of awakening. The notion also suggests the importance of female as well as male energies in the process of enlightenment.

Mahamudra literally means "the great seal." It is the full realization of radiant emptiness or spaciousness. It is a seal in that it is the confirmation of enlightenment and the resolution of the nature of reality.

Dzokchen or Dzogchen can be translated as "the great perfection." It is a practice built on the nondual truth that perfection or the Buddha-nature is already everywhere present -- it just needs to be realized. And "Ati" means "extraordinary," here used as another reference to the practice of Dzokchen.

Sadhana is an all-encompassing term for spiritual practice. It can refer to meditation, mantra, austerities, etc.

But these concepts aside, there are several powerful images that grab hold of me.

The "Lake of Awareness"... That's an image that keeps drawing me back to it.

And that line, "I have vanished into fields of lotus-light..." That's such a shimmering line evoking the notion of the disappearance of the ego into the light of realization. Mmm.

(copyright, Ivan Granger)

After I posted the above entry, I was for some reason moved to recast the poem in a more modern form, for I feel that its message is totally relevant to us today. I changed not only the wording but some of its message, to be more in accord with our current needs.

Here is the version I came up with:

She Who is Above All Others
(by Dorothy Walters)

She, who is above all others,
has taken me to her bosom,
and there I am held
in endless fields of love.
All around me
is light purified and endless,
like lotus blossoms radiant and
shimmering, lit from within.

This world, obsessed
with warfare and struggle,
has lost its way
as in ancient times.
Reject its hopeless pursuits,
become a being of devotion,
spend time in solitude,
and find the reality within
which will restore
rightness to the world.

Know that you
and who you are
will not remain always on this
plane of matter we call earth.
You too are ephemeral,
like the leaves that drift away,
the drops of water
that fall into the sea
and disappear.

Let your life
be constant sadhana.
Only your practice will save you,
your awakening
bring you to the presence of truth.
Your dedication, your inner knowing
and outer service,
is the vehicle
to carry you and all around you to God.

Dorothy Walters
January 29, 2004

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