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Buddhist poem by T. Luis Cox

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written by T. Luis Cox (posted with permission)


Canto Thirteen: A Consort's Arrival


Wherein Yeshe Tsogyal first encounters Padmasambhava, the glorious Lotus-Born One


So vast, how phenomena stretched out before him,

centerless, his own form occupying the radiance

of space like a music taking shape, a tongueless bell-


he'd become what he'd always been, the humming clarion

of atoms breaking into fire, an unborn appearance,

a mist of ice and light veiling the Himalayas.


He took in her long shadow through eyes the width

of space itself, its undulation up snow an avalanche

frosting his eyebrows. His khatvanga, tipped


with icicles, glowed with a forge's iron, each

of its three prongs sporting a dismembered head,

one freshly severed, another desiccated, rotting,


the last a bleaching skull. The shadow of a woman

fell across snow in a lingering sunlight, a cold made of iron.

It had a mountain's countenance, how it obliterated


the moment between her stride and her arrival, a frost-

bitten girl turning blue in a Himalayan gale, warming

in the heat of a khatvanga drenched in steam and blood.


'Are you he?' she asked, remembering the long road

behind her, touching and bowing her forehead to his feet

burning away the snow. 'I'm the queen of Tibet


Trisong Desutsen saw fit to offer to you, great Master.

Will you have me?' Padmasambhava's lungs filled

with a mountain's flanking gust, for a moment his legs


draping over a Hell realm's battlefields, where hell-beings

not quite human yet with legs and arms and faces

pitched with a rage of murderers and tyrants, swung


axes and blades, spinning and hurling themselves,

a blackening foam of lava underfoot, a dream of appendages

scattered across a horizon's infinite event


Yeshe Tsogyal lifted her head from the shale

of a mountainside and saw for the first time the irises

of eyes that boiled with suns, a face that fell away


into caverns and peaks as though there were no sky,

no earth, no night, no grieving, no happiness, no day

to measure with sand. Her body sang with a dakini's luminescence,


in each grain of soil under her feet the very fire of her heart,

an eddying maelstrom opening up under her - and she fell!

fell until she caught against what seemed to be branches,


thorns tearing at her until her clothes were rags, until

she was naked and sprawled across a volcanic landscape.

She was there, among them, in Hell, its sky gleaming


starlessly, as though a sun about to explode filled

its diameter, its light searing into her eyes with a diamond's

perfect hardness, burning up and melting away


the many limbs and torsos and skull-fragments

of those condemned for kalpas heaped upon kalpas

to this groundless furnace, this realm made by anger.


She couldn't stand. She lay in a crumpled fetus, the taste

of carbon staunching her lips and tongue, her knees

sharp against her rib-cage, her nerves like phurbas


into her heart's veins at the stench of an atmosphere

made oxygenless, fetid by the blood sizzling

in every outcropping and molten depression,


alive with an awareness of pain so acute it defied

sentience, reason, life. Even blood suffered here.

Even what raised itself up vanished into fire's edge.


'Revive, revive, revive!" resounded a voice overhead,

and suddenly Yeshe Tsogyal found herself upright,

transfigured, as though she'd been given a new form,


and all around her lumbered ten-feet high hell-beings,

their necks and arms corded with blue veins pulsing

in a network stemming from their hearts, each beat


a curdling tympanic pealing of ten thousand drums

so large any other world would have been dwarfed

by their echoing alone, a percussion of tissue contracting,


expanding, the ground lurching with their reverberations.

They stood momentarily still, taking in their sentiences.

Yeshe Tsogyal looked off across a field rolling away,


no more than ten feet between each of them in a mosaic

of skin swimming with fire, hairless, rippling;

she grew bright, incandescent, where they began


to wield their blades against each other, blood fountaining,

in every direction; and the screaming, the boundless pain,

more sharp than any suffering throughout all six realms,


filled her ears with an agony that broke down

sentience itself, had her grasping where there was

no air. Arms, legs, fingers, hands writhed with a life


of their own, again melting away, again taking shape

around her in multitudes, again a war overtaking

all thought. She stood there for a hundred million kalpas,


all in the instant of her first glance into the motes

of Padmasambhava's eyes, where she saw herself

rising again to her feet to meet his immutable gaze.




And what a height it was. The roof of the world fell

far below, the slight ridges of mountain ranges swelling

along the skin of the earth like an old warrior's scars,


while her feet sank into lava's intemperate corridors,

a hungry ghost's ashen landscape, an animal's suffocating den.

Her breath blew across continents, calming the oceans.


Her eyes were space itself, the breadth of appearance

in each atom's fluctuating retina, dissipating nexus.

Matter melted in her mind like ice, her cloud-lungs


growing heavy with moisture, flocks of geese and duck

migrating across her sternum-horizon, a blizzard

mounting its wings from the rooftop of the world.


She felt for her face and her hands disappeared

into the storm beginning to whip snow around them,

the shapes of snow lions emerging out of drifts,


a wind's voice containing the register of all mantra,

a lattice of dorjes woven together by fire in a canopy

over their heads, a wide-brimmed parasol, ornate


with lotus blossoms and dharma-wheels, spanning

the gulf between mountain ridges. Night was falling

when Padmasambhava opened his cloak and walked out


onto a plateau overlooking Tibet, taking from behind

its folds a golden phurba enclosing them in a sphere

of light, uttering in a voice made of talons and iron forges,


"Om Vajra Kili Kilaya Sarva Bignan Bam Hung, Phet!"

He flung the phurba up in the air, where it broke

into lightening, and there Vajrakilaya, a blue, three-headed,


six-armed, in a mandala of fire, careened and stamped,

a light-body dancing in a blizzard's spiraling snow,

his roar melting the frost along Yeshe Tsogyal's hem.


He turned to her, glowering. His blue cheeks puffed out

and a wind swept up a mountainside, nearly throwing,

her to her knees, and he rose up like a mountain's precipice,


rolling into his lowest pair of hands a phurba cut from ice,

holding aloft a clutch of fire, a scepter, a pair of dorjes,

a garuda arcing overhead in a mandala to seal air


to stone. Padmasambhava held Vajrakilaya in his palm.

His forehead grew smooth with the fire of a wrathful

deity's vanishing descent into Yeshe Tsogyal's crown.





When the air had grown calm again, and the sun had begun

its ascent up a ladder of stars shining with snow, refracting

in each flake a source's vagrant singularity, Padmasambhava


smiled. Here was the vessel he'd been waiting for, a stainless

ivory, a milk's conjugal mingling with its container

as it was about to be poured from one pitcher to another,


a sunlight grown in liqid in its ripening into amrita,

a sun resting on the meniscus of a horizon like an egg

waiting to crack and fill all sentient beings with an endless expanse.


She fell to one knee, clasping her hands at her heart.

'I am a simple girl from Kharchen, whose only wish

is to abide in you, O great Guru! I offer you the coure


of my body, speech and mind, until all beings have passed

from all the realms into your groundless Light!'

Padmasambhava looked out over Tibet, a conch held


to his lips with the slenderest of gravitas, the stem

of a lotus trailing through its coiling spirals, petals

emerging out of its mouth into morning light suffused


with Om Ah Hung, thickets of orchids and kusha grass,

galaxies in thistle seed securing the breath of the wind

that blew and blew a pure note, a sun's deliverance.

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