Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Below, more extracts from In the Forest of Faded Wisdom: 104 Poems by Gendun Chopel, edited and translated by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Although the anthology is arranged thematically, there is a chronological element in the arranging too. These I take to be later poems. This is supplementary material for my review of that book in The Rover. I also added some notes that didn't make it into the review.

The talents of a humble scholar, seeking only knowledge
Are crushed by the tyranny of a fool, bent by the weight of his wealth.
The proper order is upside down.
How sad, the lion made servant to the dog.


The wealth of the world is a mist on the mountain pass.

...Empty talk that leaves fools amazed.


Although the dress of a monk has long disappeared
And the practice of monastic discipline has left no trace,
This meeting with the assembly of elder monks
Must be the fruit of a deed of a former life.

(Note: Final two lines echo Nichiren Diashonin, and since he had probably never read or even heard of him, very likely other Buddhist sages)

In my youth, I did not take a delightful bride;
In old age, I did not amass the needed wealth.
That the life of this beggar ends with his pen,
This is what makes me so sad.

from #62

For those who seek intelligence and clarity of mind,
Who wish to understand the setting for wondrous speech,
How could the elements of subtle and eloquent expression,
Not be a festival of delight

Note: Sensual enjoyment in the “flavors of meaning/from the learnied treatises of ancient times.”

from #64: a real process of suffering.

Through this roaming to the ends of the earth for nine years
In the illusion of seeing many realms and lands
And the dream of feeling physical pleasure and pain
I feel as if I’ve been reborn.


The old sayings that contain the seeds of truth
The footprint of the rabbit that jumped to the wondrous mountain,
When one enters the forest of faded wisdom,
Who can distinguish right from wrong.


Unalterable and unchanging,
The mistaken crowd is diamond-hard.
Who can possibly argue
With iron-faced fools?

from #88

This most enchanting face of truth
Is covered with a veil of unclear words.


The sequence of the opening and closing words of a fool (translated)
Are expressed amidst the assembly of the eloquent.
Please bestow a small smile inspired by compassion:
I dare not invite a guest who would be pleased.

Images: mountains, drizzles, flowers, temples, trees, plain, sands, sky, moon, sun. The bee, the dog, the snake. Diamonds, jewels, robes, the veil.
Sanscrit described as “most useful”; English as “useless language of the foreigners” (p. 117)

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