A Verse for Guan Yin

The Encounter  |  The University   |   James Roberts  |   March 23, 2013, 4:07 pm

Cultivate and walk the Way, and never seek outside,
The hidden cause is just the wisdom-nature of the mind.
White billows soar to heaven and the black breakers subside,
Now to the other shore, Nirvana, effortlessly climb.
Don’t miss another chance, return, return, time after time,
Take care, take care, attentive to this innocence divine,
The news arrives in shadows, shadows hazy through the blind,
In fleeting, fleeting glances, the inherently sublime.

–Master Hsuan Hua, Verses on the Heart Sutra

How does a verse communicate all of its meanings to us?

With midterm break just beginning, I’ll be spending the week contemplating and reciting Guan Yin’s name. In some sense I feel that for every session I have to reorient myself to practice, and of course, exactly what this means is different every time. Luckily, my recent classes have been providing a lot of food for thought. In our Avatamsaka Sutra class, we spent the last several weeks translating verses about spiritual practices. There has been quite a bit of discussion about their meaning, as well as about literary style and accuracy. How does a verse communicate all of its meanings to us? What is the experiential difference between reading prose and chanting verse, and how does this affect our consciousness?

Translation for me, like spiritual cultivation, has become a constant balancing act between strict discipline, focus, creativity, learning, and of course humility, as the ego tends to always show its face. In our Heart Sutra class this semester, we focused on commentary by Master Hua, also written in verse. On of my favorite verses is the exhortation for practice above—and seeing that the Sutra was spoken by Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I thought it might be an appropriate verse to inspire aspirations for the spring Guan Yin Session.

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