Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Nodding off

When I'm drifting off to sleep (which I do much better here in quiet Oxford than I did in crazily noisy Cambridge) I have a series of rituals which take the mind over the threshold from waking to dreaming. Often at this point a lot of creative images start pinging up, or phrases from unwritten poems, or snatches of music, but I usually end up in some random fantasy. A favourite one is that I am a 17th century Jesuit converted to Tibetan Buddhism, sitting with some butter tea in Kham and trying to write an account of Buddhist doctrine in Latin to send back to Europe. I set myself a little task---'explain the nature of a meditation deity'---and convert it into Latin prose.* I usually get a couple of paragraphs in before I start zedding away merrily.

I did Latin from eight and Greek from twelve (and then read Classics and English), you see, so effectively I did thirteen years of intense Roman stuff. It's surprising how much of it has stuck and how it doesn't take me long to start chatting away to myself. Just to reassure you, I do realise this is the absolute definition of being a) absurd, and b) over-educated. I started translating verses in honour of Tara the other night into hexameters, but I was always rubbish at Latin verse composition (I can't scan very well).

| - - | -     - | -  - |     -  u u | -    u   u | - - |
Tara te Autumni accumulentem et lunas

|- u  u | - - | -    - | -   u    u | -  u u | -   u |
dea saluto sic stellarum et millia sancta...

'O Goddess Tara, you I greet, who gather the moons of Autumn thus, as well as holy thousands of stars...'

Except there'd be bloody, BLOODY elision between the -i of Autumni and the a- of accumulentem. Drat.

Still, I was quite pleased with IO TARA TUTARE TURE SOTERA, 'Oh! Tara Saviouress, preserve [us] with [the] incense [of your compassion]', which is actually quite close to the Tara mantra in Sanskrit.

* * *

* '...diuinitates, ut uidentur, non sunt numina superiores mundos remotos incolentes qui homines e periculis retrahunt, quamquam manifestationes eorum ad hunc modum apparent in specie; si modo naturam ueram mentis intellegeremus, di uel diuinitates sese patefaciant non alteros esse quam mente nostrum. Nobis uiuentibus in dualitate et inopibus intellectus, diuinitates dualitatis theatrum intrabunt sic propinquitatem instituentes inter cultorem deosque. Propone tibi deum in somnio occursum: et diuinitas et somniens (ille est, tu ipse) existere uidetur. Sed uero diuinitatis perceptor et diuinitas manifestationes ex essentia inexpressabili una ambo sunt, scilicet mens ipsa. Natura uera mentis est mentis natura in se, ut est, uacua et sine elaborationes uel errores uel rationis imagines. Cur natura mentis diuina appellatur? Propter impassibilitatem eius inopiamque perturbationum, et quia felicitas superior est; haec felicitas non est illa reletiua huius mundi, quae gaudiorum sensus nitens in euanescentibus est, sed felicitas quae in mente ipsa inhaerescet, ultra dualitatem.'

[...deities, as they seem, are not numinous powers inhabiting faraway worlds who rescue humans from danger, although their manifestations appear thus; if we understood the true nature of mind, gods or deities would reveal themselves to be not other than our mind. Given that we live in duality and in a want of understanding, deities will enter the theatre of duality thus establishing a closeness between the worshipper and the gods. Imagine a god whom one has met in a dream: both the deity and the dreamer (that is, yourself) seem to exist. But in truth he who perceives the deity and the deity are both manifestations of a single inexpressible essence, namely mind itself. The true nature of mind is the mind's nature in itself, as it is, empty and free from elaborations or errors or the images of thought. Why is the nature of mind termed 'divine'? On account of its freedom from suffering and its lack of disturbances, and because it is superior bliss; this bliss is not that relative bliss of this world, which is a sense of happiness resting on things which pass away, but a bliss which is inherent in mind itself, beyond duality.]

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