The Fate of Heaven

Fear of the humans is the beginning of wisdom — The Wise God’s Handbook


I meditated in in the shell of Asanga’s house in Ayodhya, the Red Monk said, near the monastery where he taught the view called Consciousness Only. It’s said that at night he ascended to the Tushita Heaven where he consulted with his teacher the Buddha of the future. You’re from the future he noted: how did that work out? Has she arrived yet?
 I don’t know, I said.

 Anyway, I didn’t think anything would happen, he said, but my legs crossed themselves, my head rose, pulling my back up from its usual slouch and my attention turned to my breath, following each out-breath into the gloomy space around me. The interior of the small house was all one room, the space between four crumbling walls illumined by moonlight that shone thru the roof where winds had taken several tiles, allowing weeds to grow from the rotting poles beneath. There was a tiny hearth with a clay chimney at one end, for cooking tea and rotis, a rusty iron pot and pan. The walls were lined with shelves, mostly empty except for a few sagging scrolls and butterfly books, notebooks bound with butterfly binding that itinerant scholars like me carry in their robes to capture the butterflies of insight and epiphany.

My attention returned to its body just in time to follow another breath into the room and the silence of the night beyond. Then I must have dozed because a sound lifted my head and I heard the sound again, a sound like Who? Who? Who what? I wondered, then realized it was simply the call of an owl, perhaps alerting any nearby tigers that there was a vagrant monk to be had in this abandoned house. Then a cloud blocked the moonlight, plunging me into blindness and my ears strained to hear the faint pads of tiger paws, their claws retracted for a stealthy approach. My heart skipped a pulse then the moonly contours of the room reassembled and I saw that someone who was probably not a tiger had entered the room and now sat as close to me as you are now, on a cushion that seemed to hover a few inches above the floor.

 Asanga? I croaked.

 The stranger’s shadowed face smiled. No, she said, tho I sometimes met him here, to discuss his curious thoughts about something he called Reality. What is your name? she asked.

 Some call me Daena the Persian, I said. Some call me Bodhidharma.

 A fine name, the stranger said. I hope you don’t find it too hard to live up to.

 I try, I said. And who are you?

 You sound like that owl, she laughed. Some call me the Tathagata which means Thus Come, or Thus Gone, because they find my comings and goings hard to explain.

 I heard that Asanga came here to consult with the Buddha of the future, I said. Do you live in the future too?

 The room darkened again and the Tathagata became invisible but I heard her whisper, We don’t know yet. If future children imagine and embody me I will live but many seem no longer able to imagine a future in which any children can live, much less imagine and embody the full meaning of Awake.

 There is a crisis in Heaven, she said. Western scripture says that Heaven is God’s throne and Earth his footstool but we know that all gods, buddhas and their heavens will only endure so long as they are sustained by the hopes, dreams and beliefs of physical sentient beings.

 At this point she produced two small cups, brimming with a clear liquid and offered one to me. I downed the cup with a single swallow and she did the same. I’m glad to see, I said, that in heaven you can still get sake.

 She smiled and said, as fewer and fewer humans believe in the gods they go the way of Asgard, home of the northern gods, whose names now signify nothing more, to their former believers, than the days of the week. They were broken by a god of West Asians who was in turn brought low by his submission to technicians and mechanistic thinkers who have become little more than servants of the oldest god of all, raw greed.

 Ah yes, I said, god of bankers and warlords, glittering embodiments of primitive ego with its central focus on making itself great and secure by making all others small and fearful. But ego will probably survive the collapse of heaven and its children may one day wake to the dream of something better.

 Given time, said the Tathagata, but humanity is running out of time.

 The proliferation of atomic weapons– i said.

 Yes, she said, but the ultimate threat to all our futures is not plutonium but petroleum, and other fossil slimes which are destroying the basis of earthly and heavenly life. And even if a remnant of humanity survives, their suffering may erase their belief in anything beyond brute survival.

 If we cease to believe in a heaven of wisdom and love then you will cease to exist, I said.

 Yes, she said, but you will also cease to exist as fully human beings.

the long road to the angels

 

My dad used to say it’s a long road
that has no turning

some nights I dream I am still
in a dark city
hunting for a job or a squat
in a dark building
where floors with rotting timbers
invite me to fall into depths
of dead darkness
 
once sitting in a park I heard kids shouting
with budding summer joy
and thought when I am about to die
I would come to a place like this
where I could hear the voices
of new humans
who never guess when they sing and call
who sings and calls with them
 
as I never guessed I would end up
working around my sister poet
in a house where small ones come
to sometimes wonder at and tangle
the white moss on my chin
 
no poet or prophet has ever known
more potent angels of light and hope
than these I meet every day

a window of time

 
A window of time should never be ignored
because sometimes it’s a door
to the hard road that waits
for those who are hungry to climb
in the high wild country of awake.
 
Old dog zen says
death often comes without warning
you may never find this road again.
Will you gnaw that same old bone
 
or will you now attend
to the great matter?

begin

 
Begin at the very beginning which
as Walt said was never more an inception
than this local now which
extrapolating from Albert’s amazing theory
begins and is begun by
an infinity of other local nows
one of which was ye olde big bang
which was actually tinier than anything
i can think of
 
almost as tiny as zero
which i can only think of as
that which comes just before
the b
in bee butterfly and become.
 
Fittingly zero is marked by a circle
like a poem that ends
at the end of all things
which is also where all things begin.

inconceivable fire

 
Back in my ink and paper days
while waiting for the first or next black word
the white page sometimes seemed
a seething texture of possible forms.
 
Now i think this light is the womb of all poems
dreams, gods and the notions we attach
to nouns and names we use to
divide the Inconceivable
into seemingly separate things.
 
In June the kids run round the play room
shaking tambourines and singing Jingle Bells
not yet knowing
what all the word sounds mean.
We learn the names that name the parts and learn
that they are parts of larger parts
from hand to body to humanity to biosphere to universe
to wondering
 
what is the ultimate part and
what it might be part of.
 
At that point adrift in emptiness
most draw a circle around the parts that matter
and seldom trouble their sleep with the thought
that what is everywhere is also right here
in each local and supposedly ordinary thing.
 
Like a yellow snail on the stem of a dandelion clock
bristling with parachutes awaiting the breeze
that will send them sailing thru blue light
bearing their seeds of inconceivable fire.
 

success

 
I consider a photo in The Guardian of
a migrant father and his tiny daughter
Angie Valeria Ramirez
bound by a shared black T shirt
floating at the edge of the shore their
bodies successfully reached
after they drowned
 
thank you Mr Trump
you have succeeded in reaching us all
with wave after wave of ugly images and words
and your luminous example of how easy it is to succeed
if one is born in a mansion of gilded shit
 
made with the blood of the prostitutes
your grandpa employed in muddy shack towns
where the gobs moiled for gold of which
profiteers like Herr Trump relieved them
for picks, hardtack and copulation

brutish and desolate
like your success