13 Jan 21. Sad head. Bright head.

This morning I woke up with a heart full of sorrow and a head full of sad, sad dreams. Dreams about the past. Longings. Things forever out of my reach. Forever missed. I remembered below poem composed by Matty Weingast based on one of the texts from Pali Canon (“The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns”).

After my morning coffee, I went to sit and stare at my thoughts and the back of my eyelids for an hour. I try to meditate more. An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I am working towards 3 hours per day and more. No, I am not flexing. I just want to see what will happen. I want to see what’s behind this tangled mess of useless thoughts. I don’t force myself. I actually enjoy it. And my family have no issue with their dad/husband disappearing like that during the day.

Here is the poem. This is how I meditate.

UTTAMA  – GREAT WOMAN

For years I couldn’t sleep.

Most nights I’d throw off the covers
and take long runs through the dark.

Nothing helped.

My sisters.

When sleepless nights come
to tear you into little pieces,

rise to meet the day as a tree rises to meet the axe—
as a scalp bows to meet the blade—
as sparks from a dying fire
reach out to meet the darkness—
as all of our bones
someday fall softly down
to meet earth.

When you stand,
send your roots down between the stones.

When you walk,
walk like a skeleton walking to its grave.

When you lie down,
lie down like a blown-out candle
being put back in a drawer.

When you sit,
sit very
very
still.

My sisters, sit like you are dead already.

How could this world possibly
give you what you’re looking for
when it’s so busy
falling apart—
just
like
you?

Look closely.
Don’t move until you see it.

7 thoughts on “13 Jan 21. Sad head. Bright head.

  1. Howdy!

    Your readers might enjoy the actual verses of the nun Uttama. She was a real person and she had a real voice. And she really attained enlightenment.

    Four or five times
    I left my dwelling.
    I had failed to find peace of heart,
    or any control over my mind.

    I approached a nun
    in whom I had faith.
    She taught me the Dhamma:
    the aggregates, sense fields, and elements.

    When I had heard her teaching,
    in accordance with her instructions,
    I sat for seven days in the same posture,
    given over to rapture and bliss.
    On the eighth day I stretched out my feet,
    having shattered the mass of darkness.

    In her actual verses, we can see the importance of spiritual friendship and dedication to the instructions our spiritual friends give us.

    No doubt modern readers will find the modern words of Weingast inspiring. Why he chose to put this enlightened nuns name onto his own words is harder to understand.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello! I am very aware that Weingast’s poems are not translations, rather brand new poems inspired by Therigatha. It’s a pity that the publisher decided to sell the book as a “translation”. I think this is misleading. After reading the “The First Free Women” I actually obtained a copy of Therigatha (and Theragatha) translated Thanissaro Bhikkhu and try to read both books side by side (whenever possible as both books contain just a selection of poems). I honestly like Weingast’s poems very much! They really speak to me. At the same time I don’t want to lose sight of the original texts. In general, I try to read more from the actual sutras from Pali Canon than from books about or inspired by the sutras. Thank you very much for posting this comment and the translation of the poem. I have been reading Pali Cannon for the past few years and only discovered Therigatha and Theragatha last year. I wonder how many more gems are hidden in the Pail Cannon. All the best to you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lots of people do love Weingast’s poems. It is a shame that he didn’t just publish them on his own, but they likely wouldn’t have gotten as much spread if people didn’t think they were reading the voices of the ancient nuns. If you like to compare his poems to the originals and see how much they are his own fabrications, you can check out the site firstfreewomen.org. Also, your readers should know about the Therigatha translation on SuttaCentral.net. That’s where I got the translation I posted above.

        There are countless gems in the canon! If you like poetry, then you should definitely check out the first volume of the Samyutta Nikaya. It’s called the Sagathavagga, the section with verses. There’s always a mini story and a verse to go along with it. In fact, there is a whole chapter there with other verses spoken by bhikkhunis.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello. The webpage firstfreewomen.org is really amazing. I will also check Samyutta Nikaya. I will try to purchase the printed version. I prefer to read the sutras this way. I assume you practice anapanasati? In the first tetrad, step 4 – do you actively calm your breath or wait until the breath calms on its own? Also – when I read the sutras, it strikes me how the teachings about past and future lives, about heavenly realms and gods stand out from the other teachings that put emphasis on present moment and not concerning oneself with past and future and gain and loss (teachings about stuff that everyone can verify vs. supernatural claims that we have to take on faith, just like in monoteisitc religions). Do you think it is possible that not everything that can be found in Pali Canon comes from the Buddha? Thank you.

        Like

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