The Chinese poet Du Fu (杜甫) (712-770) is well-known and well-loved among Chinese-speakers around the world. He aspired to be a civil servant, but his poetry made a much greater impact.
I have mentioned that it took about six hundred years for the poetry of Rumi to reach the west. It took a much longer time for the poetry of Du Fu to arrive on western shores. British diplomat Herbert Giles (1845-1935) was the first English translator of Du Fu in 1898. Since then, the importance of Du Fu has been recognized by western scholars. Stephen Owen translated the complete works of Du Fu in 2016.
Facing my fears and griefs
The Du Fu poem I am sharing with you is from a troubled season of Chinese history known as the An Lushan Rebellion. I’m told that Du Fu is hiding in a Buddhist monastery to avoid being conscripted by rebel forces. Here is the poem in Chinese:
Du Fu wrote four poems in this setting. This is the third of them. Earlier translators rendered the title as “In Abbot Zan’s Room at Dayun Temple.” I am sharing a translation by David Young.
In the Abbot’s Cell
I lie awake and watch the flicker of the lamp
delicate odor of incense helps to clear my thoughts
mostly filled with darkness the central hall looms large
sound of a wind chime tinkling below the eaves
The flowers just outside are all invisible
but I can smell their fragrance here in the quiet dark
one of the constellations is setting behind the roof
passing the iron phoenix fixed at the temple’s peak
Pretty soon the monks will start to chant their sutras
the bell calls them to prayer I stay in bed
before very long I’ll have to rise and walk across plowed fields
facing the dust and wind facing my fears and griefs.
I take pleasure in Du Fu’s enjoyment of the environment and the present moment. To me, it is as if he takes strength to face the coming trials from these things. This poem can be found in the book “Du Fu: A Life in Poetry” translated by David Young.
The world is facing a pandemic. Strategies have proven ineffective. Du Fu enjoyed the odor of the incense and the movement of the constellations. I am enjoying offering a poem of Du Fu in the hope of giving strength to face difficulties. I lift up the hands of the helpers. In my own way, I am facing the dust and wind, facing my fears and griefs.
I have written a numberofposts about national anthems and the future world anthem. Sometimes a national anthem is written a good time before the birth/rebirth of a sovereign nation (Israel, India). Sometimes a national anthem is written a good time after the birth of a sovereign nation (United States). But they all have a stirring of the soul of hope for that nation’s best destiny. I now write about a song that seems to stir that stirring.
I dream a song that brings to us this joy
I dream a song that brings to us this joy. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in 1945, as part of the Broadway musical “Carousel.” In the second act of the musical, Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the protagonist Julie Jordan, sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead, falls on his knife and dies after a failed robbery attempt.
When you walk through a storm Hold your head up high And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm There’s a golden sky And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind Walk on through the rain Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on With hope in your heart And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on With hope in your heart And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
It is reprised in the final scene to encourage a graduation class of which Louise (Billy and Julie’s daughter) is a member. The now invisible Billy, who has been granted the chance to return to Earth for one day in order to redeem himself, watches the ceremony and is able to silently motivate the unhappy Louise to join in the song. The song is thus the resounding exclamation point of the musical for me.
I dream a song that brings to us this joy. It would be one thing if it was just a Liverpool thing. But it seems to be more than that. Celtic in Glasgow adopted the song in 1966. It has since spread to Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga in 1996, Feyenoord in Rotterdam, and FC Tokyo in Japan.
I dream a song that sings the greatest truth
I dream a song that brings to us this joy. I freely admit that when I first heard this song in a production of Carousel, I didn’t believe it. I considered this song to be a sentimental anesthetic to dull the pain of fundamental futility. A band-aid to put on the cancer of everyone I know going away in the end. But I reconsider when I see how people respond to this song. I reconsider as I study of Steps to Knowledge, the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God.
Should “You’ll Never Walk Alone” be the future anthem of the world? I don’t know. All I know is that people respond to this song, both in times of joy and times of trial. All I know is this brief song contains an essential truth of the human experience. I find that something of a miracle.
Very few people in my world are familiar with Mansur Al-Hallaj (858-922). I consider that a misfortune, a lowdown dirty shame. I therefore seek to remedy this. Al-Hallaj was born around 858 in Fars province of Persia to a cotton-carder. Hallaj means “cotton-carder” in Arabic. People know him as Mansur Al-Hallaj, or “Mansur the cotton-carder.”
Wikipedia says he was a poet, a mystic and a teacher of Sufism. But there is so much more to say. His most well-known books are the Diwan and the Tawasin. Some of his poems can be found here. His poetry dives deeply into the pleasures and predicaments of devotion to the divine. I believe that anyone who enjoys the poetry of Mirabai would also enjoy Mansur’s poetry.
Mansur traveled far and wide in his spiritual journey. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca on multiple occasions. He traveled to India and Turkestan and learned of spiritual teachers there. I believe that when he famously declared “I am the truth!” he was speaking of his detachment from his individuality. He might have been making his own formulation of the words of the apostle Paul. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:” (Galatians 2:20, King James Version)
He lived during a turbulent season of the Abbasid Caliphate. There were powerful religious leaders who disapproved of his revealing of mysteries to ordinary people. He was condemned to death on trumped-up charges, and executed in 922. Details of his death can be found here.
We enter the abode of decay
I am introducing Mansur Al-Hallaj to you because there is a particular story I wish to share. There are many Mansur stories, but this one gets me. I am taking this story from the book “A Literary History of Persia” by British orientalist Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926).
On one occasion Ibn Nasr al-Qushuri was sick, and desired to eat an apple, but none were to be obtained, till al-Hallaj stretched forth his hand and drew it back with an apple which he claimed to have gathered from the gardens of Paradise. “But,” objected a bystander, “the fruit of Paradise is incorruptible, and in this apple there is a maggot.” “This,” answered al-Hallaj, “is because it hath come forth from the Mansion of Eternity to the Abode of Decay: therefore to its heart hath corruption found its way!”
“All the great Messengers have come from the [Angelic] Assembly, so they are intrinsically united, you see. They have all been sent by the Source, your Source and the Source of all the world’s religions.
But living in Separation, people have separated the religions from one another and even internally—separating everything that was meant to be united, misunderstanding the meaning and the value of the Messengers and what they were really presenting.”
I surmise that the abode of decay in which Mansur al-Hallaj lived found him intolerable, and put him to death. I will most likely write of Mansur again before too long.
Today is the day the United States of America celebrates the birthday of my fellow American Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) I consider him to be an American prophet, a man calling America to live according to its noble ideals.
Today I learned that Martin Luther King recited a poem by my fellow American Langston Hughes (1902-1967). I am a greatadmirer of Langston Hughes, and thus I take multiple satisfactions from sharing this recitation.
What is this stair that we must climb?
The poem “Mother to Son” was first published in 1922 in The Crisis, a magazine dedicated to promoting civil rights in the United States , and was later collected in Hughes’s first book The Weary Blues (1926).
Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
What must we strive to overcome?
What is this stair that we must climb?As I contemplate this poem, I think of some tasks human beings must accomplish:
It is necessary for people to develop the ability to reduce their attachment to their ethnicity. Instead, people need to think more about the success of the human family. If any ethnicity suffers, humanity suffers.
It is necessary for people to develop the ability to reframe crimes and offenses. I consider crimes and offenses as demonstrations of the absence of Knowledge. Knowledge, that deeper spiritual intelligence that God has placed in every person. I realize that some people did some awful things, but I might have done the same thing in that situation. You might have done the same thing.
It is necessary for people to develop an immunity to persuasion and manipulation. Anyone who can persuade me can enslave me. Anyone who can manipulate you can exploit you. I realize this will take some work, but Knowledge is immune to persuasion and manipulation.
I’m ok with there being some climbing ahead of me. I’m ok with difficulty. I’m working on being prepared to climb these stairs.
Eight years ago, I mentioned in passing that my paternal grandfather attended a lecture by Rabindranath Tagore at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Between that time and now, I have discovered an account of that evening. I don’t know who wrote it, but it appeared in “The Megaphone,” the student newspaper.
From time to time I have thought of sharing it, but it didn’t seem quite pertinent. I believe Tagore scholars are already aware of the events of this time. But this account is only available as an image, instead of text. I therefore think I am adding something.
Musing mystic chords of memory
This lecture was the fourth stop in a tour of five cities in five days. The previous day’s lecture was in Denton, Texas, 210 miles away. The final lecture in the tour would be in Shreveport, Louisiana, 310 miles away.
Southwestern University isn’t very well known, but it is the oldest university in the state of Texas. The Ray and Lillie Cullen Building was built in 1900, so it would have been there when Tagore came to speak. Both my grandfather, Frank M. Bass, Sr., and my father, Frank M. Bass, Jr., were Southwestern alumni.
TAGORE DELIGHTS LARGE AUDIENCE
Noted Philosopher and Poet of India Speaks in University Auditorium
Rabindranath Tagore, the distinguished Hindu singer, read to a large audience in the University auditorium Wednesday evening, February 17th.
This was by far the most notable lyceum number that has been given at Southwestern University and those present were indeed fortunate in having before them such a rare and charming personality.
Tagore is India’s greatest lyric poet and spiritual and patriotic leader. He is a distinguished writer and philosopher. His songs are sung in his native country — and have been for years — even by the smallest children.
The poet caught the attention of the audience the minute he appeared on the platform. His personal appearance was unique and characteristic, although not exactly what the audience had anticipated.
Tagore wore an oriental robe of dark gray, which blended with his flowing hair and beard of the same color. His broad forehead, which verified his intelligence; his dark eyes, full of magnetism; and above all, his pleasant smile, gave him the appearance of an artist, possessing a touch of the divine.
Nor did the attention of the audience waver when Tagore spoke his first word. There was a tone of sweetness in his voice. This sweetness gave it strength, and enabled the poet to carry the audience with him to the very end.
Only fragments of Tagore’s poetry have been translated into the English language. The poet explained that he could not give his English translations the music and melody of the original poems. It was impossible to change the music of them in English meter. This was shown when the poet read several songs in his native tongue. They were full of melody and music which were not quite as outstanding in the English translations.
The national anthem, “Thou Dispenser of India’s Destiny,” was one of the most impressive selections rendered. Tagore read it with great depth of patriotism and feeling. The anthem was full of sincere expressions of the poet’s own heart.
The poem about the caged bird and the free bird was full of tenderness and beauty. In these poems could be interpreted Tagore’s own philosophy.
Tagore proved his ability to get the child’s attitude and viewpoint in the sweet and simple poems about the children. They were expressions of his own heart and he read them in a charming manner. An occasional gesture made the poems more effective for they were brought in during the reading so unexpectedly, yet with an artisticness which produced a pleasing and lasting effect.
Tagore brought the evening’s entertainment to a close by reading a story about Hindu life which proved a very strong conclusion.
One could see the greatness of Tagore through his own songs. Indeed, the poems seemed more like prayers and invocations. They were read in that soft, appealing way which made them even more impressive.
Tagore caused the audience to realize perhaps as never before the greatness of India, for in this Hindu poet was manifested the spiritual resources of India.
To whom do I owe this obligation?
Musing mystic chords of memory. The article unintentionally prophesied that “Thou Dispenser of India’s Destiny” would become the national anthem of India. India would not gain independence for another 26 years. But when the Indian Constituent Assembly convened for the first time in August of 1947, the session closed with a unanimous performance of this song. The poem about the caged bird must have been “The tame bird was in a cage“, appearing in The Gardener.
I recall my grandfather sharing on more than one occasion how he was impressed by the magnanimity of Tagore. My grandfather grew up in small towns in Texas. I believe he may have been the first person from India my grandfather had ever seen. I am pleased to have but one degree of separation between myself and Rabindranath Tagore.
The final lines of “Thou Dispenser of India’s Destiny” are:
Thou dispenser of India’s destiny. Victory, victory, victory to thee.
When I think of these lines, I recall these lines from the fourth and final verse of the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner:”
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just, And this be our motto–“In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
For both India and the United States, it took a little time between the time the national anthem was written, and the time it became the national anthem. All I know is one day there will be an anthem for a unified humanity.
Musing mystic chords of memory. I feel as if I am discharging some obligation by sharing this account, paying some unpaid debt. But what? And to whom? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I am following my deepest inclinations, and it never hurts to offer gratitude.
What is religion? Why is it necessary? I take joy and encouragement that the teachings of the New Message from God are becoming available to the public. A large project is underway of making the entire New Message from God available to the public. I have written about this project here and here. Five years ago this was only a dream. Now it only seems to be a lot of work.
What do you mean “as revealed to?”
What is religion? Why is it necessary? Some people will notice the words on the cover, “As Revealed To Marshall Vian Summers.” Each chapter is a revelation that was received at a certain time and place, sometime between 2007 and 2014. Marshall writes of his experience of receiving a revelation here. Some of the revelations in this book were already available to the public, such as “Religious Fundamentalism” and “Religious Violence.” The chapters in this book are:
What is religion? Why is it necessary? I consider the publication of this book to be another step forward in the progress of the New Message from God in the world. It is currently only available in English. I believe it will one day be available in the languages of the world.
What is religion? Why is it necessary? If you read this book, you might find out.
As new religious movements go, the Worldwide Community of the New Message from God is a little flock. It doesn’t happen very often, but from time to time a member of our community leaves this world. I offer gratitude for her life.
She gladly embraced necessity
Let her name be enrolled among the respondents. I first met Mary at the 2012 Encampment of the New Message from God. During one of our small-group sessions, she asked me “What could take you out? [of your relationship with the New Message from God and its Messenger]” Part of me was thinking about my answer, but another part of me was experiencing her dedication and determination.
I didn’t chat with Mary very much in the following years. It’s not like we were avoiding each other. She was working on something, and I was working on something. I am not aware of the details, but I know that Mary invested a lot of time, energy and devotion into the progress of the New Message from God. This investment goes back many years.
She was thoroughly used up
Let her name be enrolled among the respondents. I was informed in December of 2019 that Mary was ill. I had no idea of this, because Mary had been actively participating in our weekly online chats. She seemed to me to be the same dedicated and determined Mary I knew. She died peacefully on December 31, with many friends thinking of her and praying for her.
I believe that Mary fulfilled what George Bernard Shaw hoped for:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Let her name be enrolled among the respondents
In Islam, Aṣ-ṣaḥābah (Arabic: الصحابة, “The Companions”) were the companions of the Prophet Mohammed who had seen or met him, believed in him at the time when he was alive and also died as Muslims. I consider Mary to be one of the Sahabah of the New Message from God. There aren’t enough of them to have a name for them yet. Sometimes the word “respondents” is used to describe people who embrace the New Message from God. All I know is that somewhere, on a golden scroll in a holy place, are the names of the Sahabah of the New Message from God. Mary’s name is on that list.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:11-18, New International Version)
The apostle Paul clearly had little respect for the gods of the Greek pantheon. But I believe he was trying to say, “God has spoken again, and in a different way than He has ever spoken to you before.”
And yet He has not left Himself without witness
I feel that the author of the letter to the Hebrews was trying to say something similar in the opening verses of the letter.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2, New International Version)
God has spoken again in the person and demonstration of Jesus. God has spoken again, and in a different way than he has ever spoken to humanity before.
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (Jeremiah 31:33, New International Version)
God has kept His promise, more than once
And yet He has not left Himself without witness. Sometimes I feel a kinship with Paul at Lystra. Sometimes I experience an affinity with the author of the letter to the Hebrews. I feel this because I too, say “God has spoken again, and in a way He has never spoken to humanity before.” I say this as a student and advocate of the New Message from God. I saw this image in my mind’s eye a little over three years ago. People have asked me what it meant. Here is what I say:
God is watching over the world. God has not left himself without witness. Not just by giving rain and crops in their seasons, but by speaking to the world. God has promised to speak and act again when the time is right. God has fulfilled that promise, more than once, in the teachings and demonstrations of Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. God has spoken again in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The messenger is the man Marshall Vian Summers. In the future he will be known as Vian or the Vian, just as Siddhartha Gautama is now known as Buddha or the Buddha. The word “Vian” means “messenger” in a language that did not originate in this world.
I am not a great fan of New Year’s Resolutions (NYRs). They don’t work for a lot of people. As if the mere act of resolving was enough to make a change. I wrote a blog post on why this is so at the end of 2014. And yet, they work for some people. Taking action in the present seems to help. Inner envisioning of doing the thing one resolved improves the chances of success. Practices and habits consistent with one’s resolution don’t hurt.
I am starting a huge foolish project
I have NYRs for 2020. I would share them with you, but I don’t believe you would find them particularly interesting. They are mostly things to strengthen my position in the areas of relationships, health, work and spiritual development. Building and balancing the Four Pillars of my life.
But I am starting a huge, foolish project. It is more huge and more foolish than the project of making and fulfilling NYRs. In addition to making NYRs, I am also making New Decade’s Resolutions (NDRs).
I build the foundation to live a greater life
I am starting a huge foolish project. I have written from time to time about the New Message from God revelation, “Building the Four Pillars of Your Life.” I would like to think I have taken a step forward in taking this teaching to heart. There are 17 instances of a sentence beginning with the words, “You must.” The first one is “You must build the foundation to live a greater life.” I got the idea of responding to that by saying to myself “I will build the foundation to live a greater life.” I would later change it to present tense by saying “I build the foundation to live a greater life.”
I build the foundation to fulfill a greater destiny
I am starting a huge foolish project. I share this because my NDRs are milestones along the path of these 17 declarations.
I build the foundation to live a greater life. I develop the strength to live a greater life. I have the humility to do this work. I break free of other relationships and influences that keep me from attending to these greater matters. I attend to really building the foundation. I take the Steps to Knowledge within myself. I have a great enough Work Pillar to provide for others. I focus on healing my past relationships, and building true alliances with other people. I invest myself in true alliances, to build this kind of deeper trust and connection. I recognize my psychological weaknesses, my unforgiveness of others, and my unresolved conflicts from the past. I explore how these things can be resolved. I assess my strengths and weaknesses regarding my physical health. I exercise every day and find the time to do this. I have the humility to recognize my own vulnerabilities to life. I bring forth the strength from the well of Knowledge within myself to meet life’s great challenges and sudden events. I have the foundation to discover my real higher purpose in life I have the foundation to fulfill a greater destiny.
I feel like you want to know my New Decade Resolutions
I am starting a huge, foolish project. I feel a little trepidation at sharing my NDRs with you. Who knows, maybe the whole idea is non-well-formed. I’m recalling the Bible verse “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1, New International Version) I’m well aware that nothing is guaranteed. And yet, it does seem to be well-formed to declare hopes and plans. Therefore, here are some of my New Decade’s Resolutions.
I hope and plan to have all the members of my health care team declare that I have done or am doing all the things they ask of me. I hope and plan to get through the next ten winters without a fall. (I had three in the past decade, resulting in a concussion and a hospital trip.) I hope and plan to shorten and simplify my supply chain. I hope and plan to sell a lot of these t-shirts and related items. I hope and plan to read and/or listen to the New Message from God in its entirety. (That could take a while). I hope and plan to make and share images for each of the revelations of the New Message from God. (I’m already working on that.)
As the decade of the Teens draws to a close, I feel an inclination to write something about what life was like for me at the beginning of the decade. My third attempt at a successful career failed in 2005 when I was not granted tenure by the University of St. Thomas. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (now just autism) in 2006. The end of my marriage of 13 years was finalized in 2008. Around the same time, I was approved for Social Security Disability. Around that time, one word used to describe autism was “mind-blindness,” an inability to see how other people think and feel. I felt like the man born blind in the Gospel of John, except that I had not received assistance. I wrote a blog post about this season of life in 2014.
A grand night for Shiva
Right around this time, I discovered that a celebration of Maha Shivratri would be observed at a nearby yoga center. I recall reading that any offering of devotion to Shiva would 100 times more potent when offered on this night than on any other night of the year. I wasn’t a worshipper of Shiva at the time. I wanted to be a good Christian with all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed. But it didn’t seem to matter. I felt repudiated. I seemed forsaken. So this observance of Maha Shivatri caught my attention.
I didn’t stay up all night for this observance as a few people did. But I chanted Om Namah Shivaya, “Salutations to the auspicious one.” I bowed down to the little statue of Shiva as my part of the observances. As I left, I asked one of the proprietors of the yoga center if Shiva would cure my autism. I think that on that night, if he had said “Yes,” I might have become a servant of Shiva. But I think he gave a more honest answer, that investigating this path would expand my consciousness and frame of reference. Something like saying “Well, getting out more wouldn’t hurt.”
I cried out to be destroyed
I clearly remember walking home in the bitter midnight cold of Minnesota in February of 2010. I cried out to the God of the Bible, “Didn’t you see what I just did? Didn’t you see me bowing down to Shiva with my behind a half a mile in the air? Aren’t you utterly offended by that? Why didn’t you strike me down right then and there with a bolt of lightning?”
Yes, I admit the whole conversation was rather foolish in retrospect, but it certainly didn’t seem so at the time. My life seemed like an utterly absurd joke, where disaster and catastrophe followed me instead of goodness and mercy.
Yes, I cried out to be destroyed. But I am pleased to report that God had something better in mind than giving me what I wanted. Two months after this event, I cried out “What am I good for?” I didn’t think I was good for anything at the time. But a voice calmly answered “You’re good for finding Knowledge.” I knew what this meant because I had studied Steps to Knowledge shortly after it was received in 1989. I have studied the 365 steps of Steps to Knowledge twice since then. I would like to think this has been a good decade for me.