Thursday, August 23, 2012

A poem about Milarepa and the little goat


i am a little goat high up on a howling mountain side.
i can hear the demons in the howling,
and i can feel them snufflig and shuffling behind me,
but i am not afraid,
because when i turn around they will have vanished.

But i make my goat eyes into slits
as narrow as the track i walk on,
and i know they are still there.

Milerepa knows how to deal with demons.
i can see him, far below, in the valley,
his little cook fire ablaze, and the demons drinking his wine, and their laughter
making them holy.

Mine are too afraid to come near me.
i walk step by step, high up on the howling mountin side.
It's OK, little goat.
It's the wind.

It's the wind.

Explanatory note:
Milarepa was the great saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet. It is usual that the gods of the previous religion become the demons of its successor. Christianity has some good examples as any of this. Christian missionaries in Britain were advised to incorporate pagan themes into their new Christian worship. Churches were built on the old holy sites, for example. This was a kind of hegemony, for sure, but also an acknowledgment that change needed to happen incrementally and that the old ways still had some credibility. Milarepa went a step further and he is famous for inviting the demons from the warry old Tibetan religion of Bon to dinner, and negotiating through rational argument their submission to the new spiritual regime.
Nowadays we take a wholly psychological approach to demonology.
i wanted to combine the literal and psychological approaches, and to express something of the subline perils of the spiritual journey.

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