Write About a Spiritual Awakening



from The Vomit of a Mad Tiger
by Allen Ginsberg

We’ll begin at the beginning, because what I’d like to do is trace what spiritual inklings I had that led to interest in Tibetan Buddhism and guru relationship.

I was in love with a high school fellow who went off to Columbia College when he graduated a half-term before me in Central High School in Patterson, New Jersey. So I decided to go to Columbia College instead of Montclair State Teachers College, where all of my family had gone. Out of some kind of devotion I broke away from the traditional pattern of my family but I didn’t have money, so I had to take a scholarship entrance exam. On the ferry between Hoboken and that if I were admitted to Columbia, I would do everything I could to save mankind. It was a naive bodhisattva’s vow out of fear of not getting into Columbia.

Around the time I got into school, I ran into William Burroughs and Lucian Carr and Jack Kerouac. We became friends. Our conversation between 1945 and 1948 was recollections of our own childhood inklings, including the big question, “How big was the universe?” I think Kerouac and I had a sense of panoramic awareness of the vastness of space. So the question, how big was the “unborn,” arose. Or, how vast was the space we were in, and what was the mystery of the universe?

That led to a lot of conversations and inquiries with marijuana and wandering around the city considering the look of the buildings and the appearance of the facades of Times Square, particularly. Times Square seen as a stage set with a facade that could vanish at any second. That impression of the apparent material of the universe as “real,” but at the same time “unreal” in some way or other, either because we were high, or because time would dissolve the “seen,” or maybe some trick of the eyeball reveals the “facade” as empty... Read more


from Three Poems by Ko Un
By Suji Kwock Kim

A recent article in The Korea Times comments,  If there is a national poet, it may well be Ko Un. The intersection of personal and national history, in his case, is both ordinary and extraordinary. As a boy growing up in North ChOlla province during the Japanese occupation, Ko Un was ordered to change his name to Dakkabayai Doraske, and had to learn Korean in secret from a local farmhand because the language had been outlawed. When he was a teenager, the Korean War broke out. Drafted, but rejected for combat because he was too thin (malnourished), he worked unloading munitions and loading corpses for burial, sometimes carrying them on his back. At one point, he poured acid into both ears, so he would not hear the sounds of killing and dying. (His hearing was further damaged decades later, when he was tortured in prison as a political dissident.) In an interview in The Guardian, he recalls:  Half of my generation died. And I survived. So there was a sense of guilt, of culpability, at being a survivor. They had all died, and here I was, still alive.

In 1952, before the war ended, Ko became a Buddhist monk.  Without Buddhism, he says of that time in his life,  I wouldn t be here today, because I was lost. After a decade of monastic life, he left to become a schoolteacher on Cheju-do, an island south of the mainland. He was deeply affected by a Japanese translation of Mikhail Sholokhov s novel, And Quiet Flows the Don (the encounter across nations and generations is typical)  so deeply, in fact, that he burned all his own work as unworthy. By his own account, he spent the next decade as drunk as possible. (Sixty billion cells, / all drunk! he jokes in a later poem.) On one occasion, he downed drink after drink, intending to drown himself, but he passed out instead. His fourth suicide attempt in 1970, when he swallowed sleeping pills, left him in a coma for thirty hours while the doctors pumped his stomach. Afterward he would say that his hand was a hand from the world beyond... Read more

Taklamakan Desert

Why I’m going to the Taklamakan Desert:
the emptiness there.

Why I’m going to the Taklamakan Desert
at seventy-five, leaving all words behind: the cry
of the emptiness there.

Why I’m going to the Taklamakan Desert:
I can no longer stand
the world’s greed
or mine.

There, in the Taklamakan Desert,
the silence of a thousand-year-old skull.



Someone's coming
from the other world.

Hiss of night rain.

Someone's going there now.
The two are sure to meet.

By Ko Un, trans. by Suji Kwock Kim and Sunja Kim Kwock.


The Himilalayas - see another poem by Ko On

Read 20 Other poems by Ko On


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FORM (of the poem) IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT (sequence of perceptions). Right form in any given poem is the only and exclusively possible extension of the content under hand.

In poetry as with the mind, this process must be used at all times: ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION – get on with it, speed the nerves, the split second decisions you make while scribbling.

MOVE INSTANTER ON ANOTHER! – similar to the dharmic practice of letting go of thoughts and allowing fresh thoughts to arise and be registered rather than hanging onto one exclusive image and forcing Reason to branch it out and extend it into a hung-up metaphor. Let the mind loose. Don’t cling to perceptions, or fixate on impressions, or on visions of William Blake.

Meditation slogan: “Renunciation is a way to avoid conditioned mind.” Meditation practice involves constantly renouncing your mind and your thoughts – letting go of that small part of your mind that’s dependent on linear, logical thinking. (This doesn’t mean renouncing intellect.)

Renunciation is a way of avoiding a conditioned art work, or trite art, or repetition of other people’s ideas.

“Magic is the total delight in chance.” Chögyam Trungpa

That also brings magic to poetry: chance thought, or the unborn thought, or the spontaneous thought, or the “first thought,” or the thought spoken spontaneously with its conception. It requires a certain amount of unselfconsciousness (like singing in the bathtub) which brings a kind of freshness and cleanness to both thought and utterance.

If you allow the active phrase to come to your mind, allow that out, you speak from a ground that can relate your inner perception to external phenomena, and thus join Heaven and Earth.