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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 82 I sat down with my harmonium. I saw his itinerary of talks and wondered, “Don’t you get tired of that?” I was on the road, and I was getting a little bored and fatigued traveling. He said, “ That’s because you don’t like your poetry.” I said, “What do you know about poetry?” He said, “Why don’t you do like the great poets do, like Milarepa? You’re bored with reading the same poems over and over. Why don’t you make poems up on the stage? Why do you need a piece of paper? Don’t you trust your own mind?” Actually, that was some very good advice, the same advice giv- en me by Kerouac many years before. It was right in the groove of everything I had been learning but coming from another direc- tion entirely—the insight or mind- consciousness of a well-trained med- itator and specialist, a kind of genius meditator. Then I showed him mantras I had been chanting and playing, and he put his paw, drunk, on the harmonium keys and said, “Remember, the silence is just as important as the sound.” We went out to supper and got more drunk, and he said, “Why are you hiding your face? I’d like to see your face. Why do you have that big beard?” I had a big sixties beard, hung over into the seventies, and I said, “If you’ll stop drinking, I’ll shave my beard right this minute.” I went into the drugstore, bought a razor, and shaved my beard. I came back and said, “Now you’ve got to stop drinking.” And he said, “That’s another matter. You didn’t shave your beard completely.” Because it was still in rough tufts. We went off to his lecture, and I remember he was sitting very sadly in a chair, talking to this group of San Francisco hippies, saying, “No more trips, please, no more trips, no more trips.” Meaning whatever, acid, but also spiritual materialist trips, the accumulation of Blakean experiences for the purpose of im- pressing other people as credentials of one’s own sanctity or ac- complishment. It was probably the series of lectures called “Bud- dhadharma Without Credentials.” At this lecture I continued shaving and I came back out again, and he asked me to improvise. “This is Allen Ginsberg, the great poet. Now we are going to have him improvise.” I couldn’t think of anything: “Here we are in the middle of June/I just ate with you and I had a spoon/and we were talking about the moon.” Actually, walking on the way over he’d said, “America is not ready for the full moon,” meaning full doctrine, I think, full dharma. And I said, “That shouldn’t dismay the moon.” I tried improvising but I didn’t do very well, and he said, “You are too smart.” But the next day I had a regular poetry reading at the Berkeley Community Theater as a benefit for Tarthang Tulku, and I resolved that I would go on stage without any paper at all, but I did bring the harmonium and improvised something like: “How sweet to be born in America where we have like a de- valoka where the god world is here and we have all the water- melons we want to eat and everybody else is starving around the world, but how sweet to be here in the heaven world which may last for a little bit of time but how sweet to be born.” It was a bittersweet song, it was still at the height of the war. So it’s “how sweet to be born in America where we’re dropping bombs on somebody else but not on ourselves.” I’ve forgotten because it was improvised, but it actually did me a lot of good, his prompting, because from then on I was never scared to get up on stage even if I’d left my poetry back on the train or something. It was always a workable situation from then on. A YEAR LATER I WAS invited to Boulder to do a poetry reading to raise money for the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center. Trung- pa, Robert Bly, Gary Snyder—whom Trungpa had not met—and I were all going to read at a big auditorium, the first big reading in Boulder for dharma. We were lined on stage and we had been joined by a sort of desert rat-Japanese-Zen-lunatic-poet-meditator Nanao Sakaki, a great character and good meditator and a really great Japanese poet, an old friend of Gary’s and mine from the sixties in Kyoto. I was going to do some singing GATE GATE, and we each chanted our own version of Prajnaparamita: Gary, the regular Japanese, “Kanji Zai Bo Satsu Gyogin Han Nya Ha Ra Mi Ta Ji...” and then Nanao a long KAAANNJJII using an extended breath, a beau- tiful hollow voice, and Trungpa Rinpoche almost in pedestrian Ginsberg with poet Anne Waldman and novelist William Burroughs at the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, Colorado, 1982 PHOTOBYMYLESARONOWITZ