Buddhist Reflections on the Hebrew Psalms: The McLeod Ganj Psalter RSV, Week 2 – Patheos

Posted By on September 6, 2022

Ken Ireland

(Ken was Ivy League and Jesuit trained, and for some years a member of the Society of Jesus. He currently lives in Dharamshala. Kens a long time Zen practitioner and a friend. Hes taken an interest in my current deep dive into the Psalms project, and it inspired a poem cycle. This is the second of the cycle, first published at Kens Buddha SJ blog and shared here by permission.)

Songs 8 10. It was a dark time and we stayed inside, repeating to ourselves as if we couldnt understand.

Song 8, On Being Mauled by a bear, a dirge

Song 9, Psalm 119:105: Thy word is like a heat seeking missile

Song 10, Psalm 84:5: The Highway to Zion was washed away last night

Song 11, Psalm 77: Hath God forgotten to be gracious?

On Being Mauled by a bear

Last winterThe bears came downBelow the snow line.They were hungry.Word got out that they were four,One with cubs.

What went through these womens mindswhen the bear lunged at their face.They also had a right to go about their business.I wonder.Astonished.I ask myself if I would be brave.

One who lived is a friend of my cooks wife.She was up at the well earlyTo pump water for the day.She claimed to have put up a fight.The village was proud.The strong survival reflex of these mountains.

The Tibetan woman on the kora was not so lucky.The Dalai Lama should have sent a representative to her cremation.Her holy work was his.

Psalm 119:105: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Thy word is like a heat seeking missile

Are words paintbrushes or missiles?In the hands of a poet, scientist, warlord or propagandistThe same word can kill or be a lullaby.

Take the word love,Misuse it at your peril.Count bodies on the battlefieldMyriads

Thy words

Hold words with careKnowing that they can be weaponsKnowing that they will be weaponsWhen you cross swordsAs you willIts certain

Cradle wordsThat will flyInto the heart of someoneYou loveSling them

Croon wordsInto a babys earWith your own voiceDont wait for angels

Chant wordsWith your own breath while you canAt least one wordIt will cease

Ponder wordsEven in a nasty wrapping

Leave words aloneTo do their own workWithout you

Rip up words thatProp open a doorOnto some landscapeThat now needs to fade away

Erase wordsSpoken in angerOr remember themUntil they lose their sting

Check words

That have many translationsWhich may very slightlyOr even a lotEven for you

Be generous.

Psalm 84:5

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

The Highway to Zion washed away last night

There are two roads to my house,But only one that people take.In 12 years Ive takenThe road that loops through the army baseOn the other side of the ridge,12 times.

I dont even think about the roadThat winds straight up the hill.Its just there.

Then it wasnt.

I woke up yesterday when Parveen called me to say that it had washed down the hillAll of it.No more buses with kids coming back from schoolNo more taxis packing weekenders from the bus stationNo trips to bank & groceryFor a few western items

We wonder how long before it willBe repaired. Rebuilt actually.A tall retaining wallTo support the weight of concrete against theSteep ravine.

My Tibetan painter friend saysTwo months.His Holiness rides the roadHe is old and cant die while they waitFor the concrete forms to setAnd dryIt is the Road to Zion.

He might die. He knows he will..

I say six monthsEven working through the cold of winter.Even for the Road to Zion.

It was there.Now its not.Hath God forgotten to be gracious?

Sonam Rinchen sprinkledStories of his flight into exileWhen he lectured on ShantidevaFreedom is freedom

Geshe-la told us about his extreme acrophobiaHanging from the cliffs as they crossed the Himalayas.Knowing that the Chinese were close behindThey had to keep goingHe closed his eyesAnd with his fingersFelt for the stoneBeyond the bridge

He said matter of factlyAfter long months in TenzingangSeveral Tibetans took their own livesTibetans never commit suicideBut they did

The High God retires just the moment I need him.It makes no difference that your mother or your lama hasTaught you to smile and be graciousThe favor is not necessarily returned

Ruth didnt want to translate fire and brimstone storiesGeshe-la insistedHed tread a treacherous mountain pathTo the camp in AssamHe felt competent to talk about hellHed tasted freedomPsalms 77:7-10 The Message (MSG)

Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stomped off and left us? Just my luck, I said. The High God retires just the moment I need him.

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Buddhist Reflections on the Hebrew Psalms: The McLeod Ganj Psalter RSV, Week 2 - Patheos

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