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  #1  
Unread 03-18-2021, 02:11 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva Jizo,
patron deity
of children and lost travellers,
accept these toys and sweets.
Carry them to the souls of those
who have not come into the world,
though the world was ready for them.

I have not thought of them
for years. Their successors
so filled up their place
that little was left for them,
the failed adventurers
who travelled far, but not
quite far enough.

But now I think of them.
I make space for them
in the idle moment,
whether they have their faces to the pane
or not.
Be kind and playful with them,
Bodhisattva Jizo.
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  #2  
Unread 03-18-2021, 03:51 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.

Hi David, I'll start here: the Buddhist element is used with great affect.
The framework and line breaks and stanzas are superb. It positively levitates. I don't know why or where, but there is a spot you've hit with this that stirs something evocative inside me that I, too, haven't felt for years.

The 1st person narrative that kicks in at the start of the second stanza shields the poem from slipping into rote-worthy prayer yet it still retains the contemplative aspect, perhaps to an even greater extent. It is from the heart.

The second stanza does such heavy lifting that it manages to both recognize and embrace a life lived and at the same time arrest that same life, just for for a moment, so that it can pay homage to those who sparked but never flamed. Really, really brilliant.

The last stanza achieves a kind of symmetry that reflects the spirit of kindness that is at the heart of Buddhism.

You mention "them" seven times. I think it's a strength of the poem. It feels a bit like a mantra.

I will have to take more time to think about what it is that I want to say but can't find the words to say. And, of course, comb it for what may be improved. (Can a prayer be improved?)

Anyone who dares to deny that free verse can muster up the lyrical, emotional and contemplative power that formal verse can... well... that's their loss.

Thanks for excavating this from your conscience with such care.

.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-19-2021 at 11:58 AM.
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  #3  
Unread 03-18-2021, 06:22 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi David,

I like this gentle, prayer-like poem.

I take the it to relate to still-born and miscarried children -- wanted children rather than abortions -- given "though the world was ready for them". But I could be wrong: the world could still have been ready even if the mother/parents weren't, plus Jizo is also associated with rituals of mourning for aborted fetuses in Japan.

S2's "I have not thought of them / for years." has me wondering if the 'them' is all these souls -- all that ever existed -- or whether the N has a specific few in mind. Perhaps the N has lost children before or as they were born, and then subsequently had some that survived, and is remembering those that he/she lost.

There are some really nice lines and a lovely gentle tone throughout. I really like, "Their successors / so filled up their place / that little was left for them", and I love the image of them with "their faces to the pane", looking in on our plane of existence.

I wonder a little at the choice of "failed" in "failed adventurers", whether that loses the gentleness, and whether their might be a better choice.

A couple of thoughts/issues that probably won't bother most readers ...

It's maybe a bit odd to combine with the Sanskrit "bodhisattva" and Japanese "Jivo", rather than use the Japanese word for bodhisattva, "bosatsu" -- or the original Sanskrit name for Jivo, "Ksitigharba". That said, googling, I see that it's a common enough practice.

"deity" is perhaps an odd word to use here, since a bodhisattva isn't a god (and nor is a buddha), even though Buddhist cosmology does have gods within it. Then again some of things Jizo do would be done by a god in a western context, like taking the rescuing the souls of the unborn and taking them to a Pure Land. If you want a Western term, "patron saint" might even be closer than "patron deity", but that may well bring with it too many other associations. You could maybe just have "patron" on its own, I guess, or perhaps "protector". Even if the reader is unfamiliar with the word "bodhisattva" I think the prayer-like context and Jizo's role as described in the poem gives enough context without the necessity using the word "deity" (or "god" or "saint" ...)


best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-18-2021 at 07:13 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 03-19-2021, 01:39 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thanks Jim, Matt. I'm glad you both like it. That is a very good sign.

First of all, Jim, full disclosure: I don't really know much about Buddhism, and I apologise to anyone (a) who does and (b) whose sensibilities I have blunderingly offended. I got all I know for the poem from a single chapter of Neil MacGregor's excellent Living with the Gods, which is both sensitive and thoughtful. So far as I can tell, at least.

And I'm glad you like the repetition of "them", because it is repeated a lot. I hadn't realised that until the poem appeared to be finished. It is something I am still fretting about, slightly. But, so far, I can't find a better way of doing it.

You have some typically good points, Matt. I suppose by "the world" I meant their part of the world - their specific part of the world. So yes, it is a personal experience in that sense.

And I see what you mean about "failed". That will cause some soul-searching.

I'm sure your reservations about my use of the Buddhist terms are well-founded. I can only point to my source, in my response to Jim above. I'm inclined to regard Neil MacGregor as a reliable authority, but he's probably not an expert, as such. And neither, but even less so, am I.

Thanks to you both, as ever.

Cheers

David
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  #5  
Unread 03-19-2021, 01:53 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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David, I think Matt's point about the word "deity" is very sound. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, and Buddha is not a God, he was a man like you or I. In colonial times past it was this fact that got the 'heathen' Buddhists into hot water with western missionaries. While there are 'gods' in Buddhist iconography, they are simply one more stage of passing through: men, gods, beasts, hungry ghosts, etc. I think Matt's suggestion to simply use patron is a good one. It would not alter the beauty of the poem, and when one can keep from sustaining widespread misunderstandings about matters foreign to one, well, that's a good thing.

I especially like this bit . . .

the failed adventurers
who travelled far, but not
quite far enough.


But the whole poem has a marvelously light touch, a merciful restraint that I associate with true charity of heart.

Nemo
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  #6  
Unread 03-19-2021, 01:59 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thanks Nemo. That's good advice, I think. (And thanks, Matt, for giving it to me in the first place.) I can't put my hand on my copy of the book at the moment - I was looking, before - so I can't check whether the mistake is Neil MacGregor's or - more likely - mine.

I thought you might something to add here, Nemo, as you have (I think) travelled quite a bit in the East. (If not, where did I get that idea from?) I'm glad I didn't put too big a foot in this.

Cheers

David
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  #7  
Unread 03-19-2021, 02:28 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I don't have time to write much but I want to piggyback on what Matt and Nemo said. The thing that jumped out to me is "Carry them to the souls of those." There are no souls in Buddhism. The notion we are all containers for another entity called a soul is counter to the core idea of the Buddha. At least based on my understanding. We are not separated into the spiritual and the material as in Western religion. The material is spiritual. So the word "soul" catches me a bit when someone uses it in a Buddhist context. They are different recipes.

Best
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  #8  
Unread 03-19-2021, 03:08 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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It's true, there is no doctrine of the soul in Buddhism. It's always been one of the deepest mysteries of Buddhism to me: how one can cycle through lives without soul. There's a whole arcane treatise written on it which some one turned me on to at my request, but it was a bit above my present intellectual station.

Nemo
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  #9  
Unread 03-19-2021, 03:48 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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It is my understanding that the distinctions we make about being are mental constructs. It's easier to break things down into parts and when faced with the ultimate we start breaking existence into parts. But there are no parts. There is only one. There are no distinctions between humans. No tribe that was selected by a raging god to be the selected people. Just as there are no distinctions between humans, there is no distinction between what we think of as our immaterial selves and what we think of as our material selves. We continue on not as souls but as givers of life. Energy can't be destroyed and neither will we.

This is what I was trying to say about some poems just today. It's the same thing, isn't it? Good poems don't separate the spirit from the flesh or the flower from the dirt. I know he isn't popular to lots of people here but William Carlos Williams' poem "Queen-Anne's Lace" states this reality better than any poem I know.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...een-annes-lace
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  #10  
Unread 03-20-2021, 06:54 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Yay. I found the book and have been doing some serious transcribing.

This doesn't seem to be classical Buddhism at all ...

"There is, however, one aspect of the treatment of mother and child in which traditional Japanese religion diverges sharply from the global norm, and seems - to the Western observer, at least - to have moved with great originality: abortion. Aya Homei talks about the evolution over the last few decades of a particular, and particularly Japanese, ceremonial ritual:

"It is a form of memorial service performed at Buddhist temples which is intended to mitigate the pain and suffering inflicted on the large number of infants who could not come into this world, who were not born because of stillbirth, miscarriage or abortion. Interestingly it is a relatively recent invention, devised by doctors and midwives co-operating with Buddhist priests. It became prevalent only in the 1970s, when abortion started being so widely practised that it was effectively used as a form of birth control.

"Those who have made the choice to have an abortion bring offerings to the temple, in the belief and hope that the Bodhisattva Jizo, patron deity of children and lost travellers, will look after the child who will not now be born. After the service, the parents place stones and sweets around a stone statue of the Bodhisattva in a cemetery within the temple precinct - making them powerfully poignant places. This new memorial service is a Buddhist phenomenon, and it appears to reflect a view now widely held in Japanese society: that although a potential human life is being denied, the decision is to abort is neither a legal issue nor a matter for the public realm, but essentially a private and spiritual one."

And Amen to that.

David
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