Guru-Disciple Poetry in the West

Guru-Disciple Poetry in the West

The art of communicating something that cannot be communicated between a student and a teacher is challenging.
— "The Guru Drinks Bourbon," Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

In Vajrayana, development is primarily based on the teacher-disciple relationship. Hence volumes and volumes on choosing a teacher, becoming a disciple and growing the relationship beyond its incarnated dimension.

In the West, despite an established tradition of poetry in Dharma literature, few Tibetan teachers have used original poetry or poetry in translation as a way of communicating with their students and their audience. This has not been the case with Asian teachers in other Buddhist traditions.

Now, a poetry dialogue has started!

Vajrayana teacher, Anam Thubten Rinpoche, recently published his poetry in Big Sky. (Please see our blog on Big Sky.) Readers are responding with their own poems.

Enjoyment and delight in Dharma poetry is one thing but poetry as a means of vital communication between teachers and students in the West, getting straight to the point...coming now to a theater new you (I hope).

Given the nature of Vajrayana and the cultural gulf between East and West, we need this!

Much gratitude to Rinchen Tsogyal for publishing her poetry response to Big Sky on Vajrayana World. And in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Prose or poetry is fine! —Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo, editor.


Your poems open my heart

Your poetry opened my heart this morning.
I confess I’ve been a little dry and serious lately
thinking I could just do this path, this life, as if it’s something to do.

I needed your reminder, 
the power of a brave yet gentle heart,
allow myself to feel,
valuing this capacity to open to life.

Just a simple verse, 
‘The Magic of Gratitude,’
reminds me of how the sublime one gently strokes my tired feet,
encourages me on the path.
As if to feel was something to be avoided.
When all of it is needed, all of it purity.                                          

Admittedly I’ve been a little dry and serious.
I hear my Guru’s voice in my mind saying,
“you need more juiciness!’
So thank you for this blessing.

When I forget to smile or ignore others’ 
simple kindness
When I see hearts are bursting with love,
I fool myself to call what I do renunciation.

Really inside I hide so many sorrows in this life.
How adrift at sea I can feel.
Sure… the joys peek playful heads at me all the time,
like dolphins dancing next to my thin rubber raft,
as I mumble mutely,
“You do not last either.’

But your poems show me,
that to break this heart open,
I have to open to it all.                                                            

Thank you so much Rinpoche!
for your sweet words
watered my heart,
this beautiful aloha morning.

With clouds pushing gently in front of the ever present sun,
I am softened by such beauty and wisdom!


Lauren Phillips (Rinchen Tsogyal) began her journey in Vajrayana in 1999. She has traveled to Tibet twice.  She loves poetry, art, dance, music, rice wine, cats and all of nature, with a special love for trees. She is in private practice as a body-worker in Berkeley, CA.

If You Seek Realization, Be A Practical Practitioner

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