verses

Vangisa the poet

39a Aloka_LBC_painting-747601

Aloka working on his triptych of the Buddha and his disciples

A THOUSAND AND MORE

A story of the poet-monk Vangisa, from the Kindred Sayings, i, 192.

Once, the Abundant Man was staying near Savatthi, in Anathapindika’s park, the Jeta Wood, with over a thousand Bhikkhus. He gave a talk about Enlightenment, which was instructive, eye-opening, exciting and inspiring. They all listened to the Dharma enraptured, attending closely with their whole minds.

Afterwards, Vangisa the poet came up and saluted the Buddha, saying ‘It’s come to me, Abundant One, it’s come to me, Happy One.’ The Buddha said ‘Let it come to you, then, Vangisa!’, and Vangisa praised him in a fitting poem.

A thousand comrades and more
Are gathered round the Buddha here
And here he teaches Dharma pure,
A want-less state, Nirvana sure,
Suffused with utter confidence.

To words of spotless Dharma
Taught by the peerless Buddha
They listen without distraction.

So beautiful, the Awakened shines
As noblest in this noble band.
O dragon of abundant treasure,
Seventh sage in the line of seers,
Summer thunder-cloud of timely rain,
Pouring Dharma on your listeners!

And I, a listener, left my dreams,
Sleeping in the teatime sun,
So eager to see my teacher here.
Mighty hero, I Vangisa will ever follow,
And let my words flow in devotion.

The Buddha said ‘Tell me, Vangisa, had you already composed these verses?’ ‘No, my teacher, they came to me as I spoke them.’ ‘Then please, Vangisa, let us hear some more.’ ‘Then I shall contnue,’ said Vangisa.

The devious ways of death you master,
And take your plough to crumble
The fallow fields of our hearts.
Look at him! Sowing freedom,
Reaping harvest of the Path-grains.

He shows the bridges over the flood,
He shows the deathless shore,
And we that have seen that Dharma
Are moored immoveable.

A bearer of the light, he burst
Beyond all viewpoints dark and fixed.
First knowing, then surmounting
The highest peak, he guides us to that vantage.

Now! With the truth so well explained,
What place is there for sleeping,
For we who’ve heard the Dharma?
Thus within the Buddha’s system,
Train well, practise intensely without pausing,
And always keep your reverence alive.

Adapted freely by Ratnaprabha from Catherine Rhys Davids’ translation (Pali Text Society), with help from the Theragata version (verses 1238-1245) translated by Prof. Norman.

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Ruchiraketu’s verses praising the Buddha, from the Sutra of Golden Light

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Illustration by Andy Gammon

O chief of the wise, your body is shining
With great deeds of the past
And fine qualities countless.
Your face is a prince’s, your gaze here inclining
Brings peace unsurpassed.
With a thousand sun’s brightness,
A blazing corona of sunbeams surrounds you:
Like a rainbow of gemstones,
Your precious form draws one.
Facets of crystal, snow-white, beryl, azure,
And the gold beams and coppertones
That flame o’er the dawn sun.
Like dawn sun, you light up the soaring snow ranges.
For all worlds, you’re the morning
Driving mist from the hilltops.
Your dawn calms the storms of despair and quenches
Hell’s fires; light transforming
Each tear to a dewdrop.
Your skin is unblemished and perfect your senses.
There’s no draining the draught
Of the dew of your presence:
A rose for the world, a foil for all fancies.

Your locks are as soft
Have that same iridescence
As the neck of the peacock, the down of the bee.
And like bees in a flower,
The curls of your tresses
Cluster, caressing your brow lovingly.
Your appearance the power
Of compassion expresses.
Through unstinting practice of deep meditation
And great loving-kindness,
Your merits are matchless.
The enlightenment-factors your ornamentation;
Purveyor of gladness,
Ideal of uprightness,
A bringer of blessings – a beacon of blessings!
A beacon whose fuel
Is profoundest nobility.
A beacon whose beams, without limit impressing
Each celestial jewel
In the crown of infinity
Ignite every seeker; as the halcyon’s plumage
Was fired by the sun’s fire.
Your face is the sun’s face
Rising, emerging behind Meru’s vantage.
Your body a great pyre,
Blazing mountain in dark space,
Visible clearly from cosmos to cosmos!

And your face is the sun’s face.
And a bright skein of snow geese
Traversing the sunrise – your smile.

Strung across
A seashell, a necklace
Of pearls. mouth of cerise,
Teeth milk-white — together, the rose-coloured dream
Of your smile.
White lilies by moonlight in a bend of the stream
Whose ocean is truth, is the Orphean theme
Is the echoing pledge
Of your smile.
A free rendering of