In a few days I'll be leaving for Tibet. I'm an assistant on the University of St. Thomas Ethics in Tibet program. I'm pretty excited to be able to go back (I lived in Lhasa for two years, but I haven't been back in the last three). I hope I didn't forget all my Tibetan though ... Anyway, since I'll have limited internet access (and since blogger.com is blocked in China) I won't be posting too much in the next month.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Here's another watercolor showing my poor Tibetan brushmanship. The text is also a line from Gyalse Thogme Zangpo's Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. It's the first line from the ninth stanza; here is the stanza with a rough translation:སྲིད་གསུམ་བདེ་བ་རྩྭ་རྩེའི་ཟིལ་པ་བཞིན།།
srid gsum bde ba rtswa rtse'i zil pa bzhin
yud tsam zhig gis 'jig pa'i chos can yin
nam yang mi 'gyur thar pa'i go 'phang mchog
don du gnyer ba rgyal sras lag len yin
Happiness in the Three Worlds is like dew on a blade of grass,
In just an instant it is gone.
The supreme unchanging state of liberation,
Strive for this goal! This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
Here the "Three Worlds" refers to the worlds of gods, humans, and the nāgas (snake-like spirits that live in the water). The point is that for all life that is under, on, or above the Earth, happiness is fragile, temporary, and liable to disappear in an instant. That sounds a little depressing, but the next lines, are more encouraging. The idea being that if you take a good, hard look at what happiness is like for creatures like us, you end up with a kind of freedom. In one sense, you at least quit expecting something that life cannot deliver. But I sometimes find when I think about how the praise or job or novelty I want won't last, I get a better perspective on it and it doesn't seem like such a tragedy if I don't get it. And when it does come along, I'm more likely to appreciate it and try to share it with others rather than hoarding it for myself. One of my favorite bands, Do Make Say Think doesn't often sing but I thought they put it nicely in their song "In Mind":
When you die,
You'll have to leave them behind.
You should keep that in mind.
When you keep that in mind,
A love as big as the sky
So sadly, I don't seem to be getting much better at watercolors. I think I'll go back to ink. That's it for today.