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An interesting look at Buddhists doing something one might not expect. Well, okay, maybe doing 2 things one might not expect; Protesting and using social media in ways other than teaching Buddhism or reaching followers. But then, perhaps it’s not as unexpected as one might think on first glance. The issues that are presented by the Trump administration are plentiful indeed, depending on your individual politics. The travel ban, or whatever he might wish to call in on any given day, is obviously the most contested so far. I’m sure that his policies and my own philosophies will clash many times.

Do have a read, dear reader. I hope you find it interesting.

Buddhist teachers, on social media, respond to “Muslim travel ban” (Updated)

 

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And the Gods told our fathers

Give us your sons

And we will trade their smiles for death.

Send us their coats of many colours

And we will change those colours to red,

Give us their sandals

And we will exchange them for boots with which

To tread upon the lives of nameless mothers.

Give us their shirts and

We will smother the children in them.

And they will hate us for it.

 

We will lie to them,

We will never set them free.

 

We will take the lives of your sons

In wars over greed and lust.

Our altars of sacrifice will bleed once more

With glorious blood.

The spilled blood of your sons

The sons of the poor, the sons of the illiterate,

The sons without hope, and the foolishly brave.

 

And we will teach you deception,

We will teach you loss

We will teach you sorrow and

We will desert you when you grieve

And you will thank us for it.

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Towards Lhasa

We discussed the smell

Of the monk who set himself on fire,

Shaking our heads in half-disbelief

As our tour guides made dinner.

We camped early along the banks of

The Lhasa River,

The terrain rough-hewed and ragged.

The sunset, intense orange and purple, matching

The orange flames of our campfire matching

Those that ate his flesh.
In Liuwuxiang we waited as our gear dried.

We inquired, with barely a concern,

As to precisely where he burned,

How much further to the spot in Ngawa and

Was the spot worshiped like a shrine?

To forgotten freedom?  Was there

A plaque to commemorate?
No one talked to us about the Why.

Half- hearted questions met with steel eyes.

Such questions are better not asked

Such words carry too much weight

Baggage packed with an official taboo

Burning the tongue before utterance.

 

We discussed the smell of a monk on fire.

His ashes washed away long ago

But the smoke still presents a challenge

The stench of burning flesh

A common pain that may never leave.

 

 

 

Poets note: Most of the self immolation that has occurred in Tibet have been in the Ngawa region, not in Lhasa. Access to Ngawa is forbidden by the Chinese government for most from the west, and internet access has been severely restricted. I chose to use Lhasa in this poem to reinforce these restrictions.

For more information, go to this website; https://www.freetibet.org/about/self-immolation-protests

 

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The hardest part of a poem is always

The start.

The saddest part of a journey is often

The journey itself.
A woman in a hijab waits in the subway

The whoosh of air as a train passes by,

Rustling the edge of her scarf on her soft face.

Posters on the windows of the train mere colors as they pass

Blues and greens and lots of yellow and white, and red

Red, the color she left behind,

Not red like a sunset, but Red.

Red like the lights of an ambulance,

Red like the cheeks of a wailing child.

Red like the blood-streets and sidewalks. Red.
The lights of another passing train flicker by.

Her hijab offers no protection, no barrier is formed between the soft fabric and

Faces lit and then hidden

Eyes shine momentarily and then retreat to dark.

Eyes she’s afraid to meet.

Faces she has learned not to look back at.

The color of her skin disallows contact.

The happiest part of a journey is quite often the arrival.

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He ran from the Cross that chased him,
Afraid of the impending combination
When the wooden slabs mix with the living skin
Burning its way into its own eternity.
The permanence seared into his consciousness
Face white as a ghost, unrecognizable,
His wife would say she “had no idea who he was”

The onlookers hid behind the altar,
The tombstones in the churchyard were
Reminders of their failures.
Too terrified of their own original sins
They had no clue how to react, unable or unwilling,
Stuck to the pews, their skirts barely caused a rustle.

His face pressed against the church windows,
His fear expressed something they don’t dare talk about,
They fell to their knees and whipped themselves
In silent moans that speak of their undying emptiness.
Glad for their sins and their shame,
Their only true feelings,
They prayed in self-effacing earnestness
Gratitude to an invisible God
They marveled at how it can make them feel alive

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