What a joy to spend time with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s poetry! A student of mine canceled this afternoon, so I had the good fortune of having a few free hours to sit on my balcony–which, incidentally, my girlfriend has recently strewn with flower boxes–and read First Thought Best Thought: 108 Poems, Trungpa’s only collection of poetry (besides of course those gathered together in his mammoth Collected Works). If you haven’t yet stumbled upon this slim volume, and you have any interest in modern poetics, I recommend it.
…an astute analysis of Trungpa’s poetry in his introduction,
“Consider the progression of the poems, from early poems adapted out of
Tibetan formal-classical modes, to the free-wheeling Personism
improvisations of the poems of 1975, which reflect the Guru mind’s wily
means of adapting techniques of Imagism, post-surrealist humor,
modernist slang, subjective frankness & egoism, hip
‘fingerpainting,’ & tenderhearted spontaneities as adornments of
tantric statement.” More simply, in his own introduction, Trungpa
writes, “Some selections are traditional, written in Tibetan…. Others
were composed in English in a stream-of-consciousness style…. Some
were written out of delight.”
Personally, I was drawn to the
way in which two poems in particular so neatly encapsulated Trungpa’s
miraculous life, that is, his complete giving over of himself to the
dharma, his complete dedication to bringing the dharma to the West.
The first poem was written in Bhutan in the 1960s, prior to Trungpa’s
venture to North America.
Chögyam is merely a stray dog.
He wanders around the world,
Ocean or snow-peak mountain pass.
Chögyam will tread along as a stray dog
Without even thinking of his next meal.
He will seek friendship with birds and jackals
And any wild animal.
what it’s worth, that line about the “next meal” reminds me strongly of
a certain famous Dylan song. Then, years later, in 1976, after
Trungpa’s full-immersion in teaching the dharma in America, he ends
“Aurora 7 (#2)” with the following lines,
Here comes Chögyie,
Chögyie’s for all,
Take Chögyie as yours–
Chögyam says: Lots of love!
lines offer a remarkable glimpse into the mind of a guru completely
giving himself over to the dharma. Once a stray dog, now a full-blown
guru. “Whether you hate or love him. / Chögyie’s indestructibility
could be venom as well as longevity-nectar.”
Trungpa’s poetry brings to mind that old parlor-game question, What
person, living or dead, would you want to have dinner with? Ah
Chögyie, I wish I could have met you in the flesh, but it’s joy to have
you in my mind!