The Great Bliss Queen's Mansion of Flaming Bliss

Back-dated a post of the The Great Bliss Queen's Mansion of Flaming Bliss as the first entry of this blog in 2003 (when I wrote the poem). It's a birthday gift, I suppose.

It's also a celebration of finally being able to copy everything from my old 2003 iMac - OSX 10.2.8 - (which still runs like a charm) onto a storage hard drive successfully. I found the poem and its image among the documents from the old iMac and was able to post it along with an embedded link to a reading of the poem (my first poetry recording).

Which feels good.

While I should have sent "Bliss Queen" out to literary journals (I have read it at a few university conferences, and at various poetry readings and received postitive feedback from the academic crowd -being taken aside for private commendations afterwards), my blog is my journal and having it here starting this writerly enterprise seems right.

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Fate of the Lhapa

In my four and a half years in the jungle in Zambia as a young child there was a Witch Doctor who I remember clearly. He has been with me all my life - though I had a strong feeling he passed on in 1997 - I went to my cottage alone and fasted (only water) for 3 days and helped him, his spirit on the journey to the Great Oneness.

My memories of him and his power and his work are entirely different to the New Age posturing of so called "Shamans." From my own tribal African vantage, I understand the difference between the pose and the reality. "Shaman" seems to me to be about power, and is sold as such in workshops and books and New Age CDs et al; whereas, the traditional Witch Doctor or Medicine Man or Woman is about healing, and it is a most difficult path of great responsibility for the chosen practitioner.

Last week, as part of a Planet Earth film festival, I saw the film this trailer advertises of three Tibetan Lhapa who are in their elder years living in a permanent refugee camp in Nepal who do this difficult work with illness and Spirit. They may not have heirs to their calling since the signs of Lhapa have not appeared in any of the younger generations in any of their families, which is why they requested a documentary to remember them and their work.

It is a beautiful little film, shot in natural light. The Lhapa are disarmingly open about the traditional Tibetan Medicine they are doctors of. The Lhapa hold nothing back in their sharing of their understanding of what they do, the processes involved. Perhaps to us it may seem superstitious, though we also in our Western medicine use a set of metaphors to explain bodily and psychic processes in terms of illness and cure and we should understand that they are only sets of metaphors and are no more or less valid than the ones the Tibetan Lhasa use to describe their treatments.

The Lhasa give themselves fully to the work they do; more than this, they give themselves over to the spiritual calling of the healing processes. It takes its toll on them; it is not an easy calling. That they live hard lives is quite evident, though they do not see themselves this way.

The Lhapa become gods while they heal, the deities enter them, this is an incredible sight to see. It's not about 'power' either. The Lhapa take no personal credit for the healings.

It is a difficult calling, to be a Medicine Man or Woman, and nothing at all like what New Age therapist types propose. There's no glamour in the true Medicine Way. You don't become more powerful and able to command life and those around you with your psychic force; rather than a display of special powers, the real Medicine man carries the heavy mantle of a healer who heals by exorcising disease, who takes on the ailment to expel it. Who continually works to understand the ways of the spirits in their interaction with the human and animal and plant worlds.

This is in striking contradistinction to advertisements I've seen for workshops and whatnot with New Age healers that appear perfunctory and rather imperious.

The sentences in these ads have a 'feel' of business talk and of someone who is an 'expert.' Yet I well know from exploring some of these offerings that an (often not very thorough or self-reflective) intellectual knowledge of various traditions doesn't thereby accord the moral and emotional wisdom that should accompany the teachings. Their aim is to convince others to spend money on their modes of healing, their workshops, their retreats. Healing is a game being sold.

Compare this to a Lhapa, whose kindness and compassion radiates, you can see that in the trailer, yet there is a humbleness that surely comes from not identifying with the healing forces. And for whom healing is a very real and difficult path that must take great moral courage to stay on.

But you, my gentle reader, know this better than I do.

When we read, we should be intensely alive: the writing "a ball of light in one's hand."
Ezra Pound

The Great Bliss Queen's Mansion of Flaming Bliss

This is a love poem. Listen to 'The Great Bliss Queen's Mansion of Flaming Bliss'.

Great Bliss Queen, acrylic on canvas, 29.5"x35.25", & India Ink drawing on parchment paper, Brenda Clews 2003  

Place of surrender, of the softness of the lotus and the heat of its flames, the way everything dissolves, the way I am aroused and caressed, barely remembering who I am, this way of falling into what is receiving us. That first time, I see you on the other side, across the dance floor, dancing... The sensual dance of the liquid fire of flaming bliss. A tantrayana. In the Tibetan texts, she, the place of the coming to be, the arising of all existents, of the coming and going, the Great Bliss Queen a matrix,1 the essence of the great expanse.2 She rises from the water, a vision, Jigmay Lingpa, an 18th c Tibetan visionary, "From the mouth of the lotus was born The swift goddess, heroic liberator Who went forth in human form Amid the snowy mountains of Tibet."3 Aren't we all born from lotuses? Aren't all lotuses bliss? The secret history of the life of the Queen of Tibet, her Lute Song of the Gandharvas,4 an epic map to enlightenment, her namthar,5 way of liberation, balancing love and compassion, a limitless ability to help others... The Great Bliss Queen Dakini's mandala of flowing awareness, flaming mansion of bliss, an entryway into the expanse of reality. Imagining into, that space, its mindfulness, this tantra, becoming one with the generative force, this secret path That evening with you... disappearing into the empty vastness of love. Is Buddhism an extended meditation on the self? And mindfulness consciousness of the self in its unfolding? This complex construction of self, nexus of who I am, you are, watching the process of ourselves unfold... ...if I had a stable and solid 'self' that is, instead of this mutable, floating, ever-changing and constantly renewed consciousness... Yeshe Tsogyal, Great Bliss Divine Queen, in her Lute Song, embedded as icon, transparent and luminous as the water, heroine, a founder of Tibetan Buddhism, enlightened girl, woman, Queen, a Buddha, back there, in the 8th century, when she comes out of the caves with her consort/lover, where she has disappeared for months, blissing out, from her swollen, love-bitten lips, red as flames, says, and after the ordeals in the mountains of Tibet meditating alone through the Winters, without food or clothing or warmth, where she has learnt to generate heat from within, to draw nectar from the air, where she has learnt not to dissolve into passion but to allow passion to dissolve her, Yeshe Tsogyal says, "If there is no mingling of bliss with voidness All is useless... Taste rather bliss and voidness, as they rise, united!"6 The bliss and the void... this primal purity. Yeshe Tsogyal does not represent awareness, but the gift of awareness. Do we sometimes have visions which define our lives? Which define how we understand the way our consciousness exists in the continuum we float in? I am dancing with my eyes closed, can I witness your light? ...a vision, years ago, between dream and waking, in the black, black night, of the nothingness on which all matter rests... the void, the great emptiness, non-being... the way all form, all energy collected into form, are waves flowing on nothing, a nothingness so deep as to be without depth, pervasive, everywhere, what each molecule rests on, each vibrating cell of life, the nothingness all consuming... That night with you, your large body enveloping mine, your intensity, hunger, in the passion for each other, its fire, we undress peeling layers until we, tongue, touch, wet, skin sliding on skin, hot, electric then my body disappearing into emptiness... cheek, lip, tongue, breast, dissolving like the dark side of the moon, where there is no light, no air, only the vast and open cosmos, and can I call it terrifying, this loss, of me, me spinning into, crumbling into moondust under your hot breath... Consumed into emptiness... blissful waves of orgasms... our bodies performing a music of light our essence, shining, shining through each other making each other appear, your touch, the serenity of you, your breath, your body, your energy flowing, you an anchor of light I come back to in the ocean flowing, and then dipping back into the extinguishing... My being is fragile, arbitrary. I disappear into you, past you I am floating on the other side of the cosmos my body of bliss, waves of bliss until only the waves of bliss remain... a wake of bliss spreading, the clear light, like lightning The Queen and the King cause the thunder to roll over the mountains of Tibet. The Queen and her consort practice the secret tantra. The Bliss Queen is a passionately happy deity. In her rainbow body, the heavens bright with thousands of spirits, she departs, wise and profound Mother, leaving a trail of miracles like lotus petals... ...and when I meditate... that energy, vital energy, percolating, ever-renewing, subtle energies, delicate winds, from the unmanifest to the manifest, creating, maintaining, dissolving, everything, what we see, think, feel, whispering the intention of non-being to be, and in being dissolving again into nothingness... vast, complex, intricate, this febrile field of life with all its appearings and disappearings, its passion and its cessation, its constant, eternal flow recreating itself every moment, anew... © 2003 Brenda Clews Notes ---- 1 "Matrix" refers to the womb of Yeshe Tsogyal (777-837), the Great Bliss Queen, ""a womb that is reality." To know this reality, which Buddhists also call emptiness, is to give birth to enlightenment.” Anne Carolyn Klein, Meeting the Great Bliss Queen (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), p. 156. Similarly, in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, Prajnaparamittra means ‘emptiness,’ which is synonymous with ‘great mother wisdom.’ 2 Line taken from the title of the liturgy of Yeshe Tsogyal by Jigmay Lingpa (1729-98), “famous scholar-practitioner,”Long chen sNying thig rza pod (The Very Essence of the Great Expanse), quoted in Great Bliss Queen, ftn.3, p.263. 3 Jigmay Lingpa, quoted in Great Bliss Queen, p.15. 4 Lady of the Lotus-Born, The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, A Translation of The Lute Song of the Gandharvas, A Revelation in Eight Chapters of the Secret History of the Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, Queen of Tibet, trans. The Padmakara Translation Group (Boston: Shambhala, 1999). 5 A namthar is a “tale of liberation,” Lady of the Lotus-Born, p.xiii. 6 Lady of the Lotus-Born, p. 173. Works Cited Klein, Anne Carolyn. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. The Padmakara Translation Group. Lady of the Lotus-Born, The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, A Translation of The Lute Song of the Gandharvas, A Revelation in Eight Chapters of the Secret History of the Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, Queen of Tibet. Boston: Shambhala, 1999. Extended Bibliography Anand, Margo. The Art of Sexual Magic. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. Arguelles, Jose and Miriam. Mandala. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala, 1972. Chopel, Gedun. Trans. Jeffrey Hopkins. Tibetan Arts of Love: Sex, Orgasm & Spiritual Healing. Ithica, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1992. Danielou, Alain, Trans. The Complete Kama Sutra. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 1994. Feuerstein, Georg. Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy. Boston: Shambhala, 1998. Khanna, Madhu. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979. King, Francis. Tantra: The Way of Action. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1990. Lacroix, Nitya. The Art of Tantric Sex. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1977. Mann, A.T., and Lyle, Jane. Sacred Sexuality. Rockport, Massachusetts: Element Books, 1995. Rawson, Philip. The Art of Tantra. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, 1973. Rawson, Philip. The Art of Tantra. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism. Princeton: New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994. This poem was originally presented at, Mothering, Religion and Spirituality, October 24-26, 2003, York University, Toronto. It's been read at a number of venues, York University, the University of Toronto, and the Victory Cafe in Toronto, since then.
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