Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mani Kabum: The Translation Reviewed

It did not exactly drop from the sky, unless you count air parcel post.

The previously remarked and long anticipated 2007 English language translation of the Mani Kabum arrived here the other day. To order this book from anywhere besides Singapore takes effort. You have to arrange a wire transfer in Singapore currency, and then you must wait, and wait, and wait.

I strongly encourage you to invest the effort and endure the wait.

When the Mani Kabum arrived here, I placed it on the highest altar and presented it with a scarf and other offerings. I also did a brief puja in honor of its arrival.

Then, for the next several days, I read it over and over again, and I struggled with the question of how it should be reviewed, or even whether it should be reviewed.

I find it difficult to write without emotion, about something which requires no emotion.

In my heart, the Mani Kabum always has been, and always will be, beyond the concept of literary review.

In general, we say that statues, images, and so forth are representative of the Buddha's body; dharma books and such-like are representative of the Buddha's speech; stupas are representative of the Buddha's mind.

It is strictly my idea -- this is not written anywhere, and I do not think it is taught anywhere -- that the inconceivable treasure revealed as the Mani Kabum transcends this categorization; that it defies frame of reference to shimmer as the divine play of original wisdom. We perceive it in the form of a book because of habitual tendency. I believe it is equally possible to cease perceiving it and instead, let it perceive us.

Should you be fortunate enough in this lifetime, that the Mani Kabum perceived as a form having the name book would find its way into your hours, please consider being guided by the following comments. All I ask is consideration, for these are strictly my own ideas. I do not think that they agree with the ideas of others, nor are they part of any identifiable tradition, or teaching. However, from experience, I have learned that they are agreeable to one's self, and beneficial to others, so what is the harm to keep an open mind?

Thus, while I cannot say that I have heard this, or been taught this, I nevertheless believe in my heart that if you address offerings to the Mani Kabum, it is as if you have addressed offerings to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, of all times, and all places, and all directions. So, too, could you make prostrations. So, too, could you provide a special throne. So, too, could you commission a residence, into which it might be placed, and to which prayers might be addressed.

Equally, you could take it with you into the ravines and forests, or to the middle of the desert, or to stony fields, where it would be your protector and your guide. In such cases, it would sustain you, and provide you with everything you might need.

In all truth, I cannot say that I have heard this, or been taught this, nor is it part of any school or tradition, but I nevertheless believe in my heart that the benefits of the Mani Kabum exist apart from its perceived utility as a book-which-contains-words, and that you will derive benefit from the mere existence of the Mani Kabum, even if you cannot or do not read so much as one word. Perhaps, you would even violate that which it may be said to express by regarding it as a book-to-be-read.

Many of you are familiar and even comfortable with the concepts of liberation on sight, liberation by wearing, liberation by hearing, and so forth. To you, who have an open mind, I would suggest that the Mani Kabum encompasses and then transcends all of these.

Maybe you will laugh, and think me a crazy old man, but I bathe before I touch it. I make three prostrations, and complete offerings before I read it. Then I think that I have not touched it; that I have not read it; that it has touched me; that it has read me. I think if someone is very ill, or very disturbed, or even just ordinarily bewildered and suffering, if you bring them into close proximity with the Mani Kabum, it should be enough to relieve illness, confer ease, bring clarity, and ensure that they will never fall to lower rebirth.

When I received the Mani Kabum, after a time, I spoke for just under an hour on the benefits, and then I forgot what I said. Maybe, somebody who was there will remember in time. I have a vague notion that I said the Mani Kabum was a direct, living manifestation of Buddha, as large as space; that it is one of Avalokitesvara's hands; that it manifests from a single pore at the tip of one of Avalokitesvara's fingers. Maybe I said that you can live inside the Mani Kabum just as well as it can live inside of you. That is not a device, you know? That is a descriptive statement based on direct observation.

What I say is rabbit mutterings: it really isn't important at all.

What you will come to realize by yourself is of better stuff, and what you will come to realize is that this is not a book that was composed; rather, this is a continuous heart-stream that composed itself as an echo from a treasure house, taking the form of a book for some, and a buddha for others. So, while it is that to a scholar, this is a book, that is only because scholars see books. To examine this through the lens of technical criticism, saying the translation is this way or that way, acceptable or unacceptable, quirky or precise, is to lose entirely. To say so-and-so did this-and-that, and I want to thank the Academy, is a waste of time.

Say instead that the Mani Kabum has manifested itself as it wishes, so that it may express itself as it will.

For the benefit of all sentient beings.

[Order the Mani Kabum by clicking here.]

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1 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Rinpoche this made me cry.