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An Evening of Poetry and Music – Traces of Previous Lives and Love Songs for the Homeland, Part 2 of a Multi-part Series

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Ladies and gentlemen, in Vietnamese poetry, people can read quite a lot of poetry about Buddha or Jesus from some spiritual practitioners, but it is rare to find Their love poems. Supreme Master Ching Hai broke this custom by publishing dozens of love poems along with Buddhist poems. For me, reading Buddhist poetry by a monk or nun is a normal thing, but reading romantic love poetry by a female practitioner is a delightful discovery. It is a bit of a curious feeling, both mundane and spiritual.

Now, I invite you to listen to a poem that has all the special features of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s love poetry, “A Lonesome Night.” This song has been set to music by Phạm Duy, and will be recited by artist Kiều Loan. “Lonely like I’ve never been so lonely... Sad like I’ve never been so sad... Like a bird looking for a cozy nest, Lost in the midst of a vast firmament! My love, please come by and visit. Hands extending, longer than the night, Light my soul with your mysterious eyes So life won’t be a gloomy passage. Oh beloved, sing for me lullabies of tender dreaminess, Timeless songs of precious and innocent years. Journey to the realm of legends together. Let sadness ripen and fall into a river of rain. Tonight only the muse and I remain; Tomorrow is far away, the night still lingers. I lie here, hiding my soul behind my flowing hair, And listen as life’s burdens fall upon my lonely shoulders. Tonight only the muse and I remain; Tomorrow is far away, the night still lingers. I lie here, hiding my soul behind my flowing hair, And listen as life’s burdens fall upon my lonely shoulders. Lonely like I’ve never been so lonely... Sad like I’ve never been so sad...”

While wanting to be passionately in love, but also wanting to dedicate Her life to Buddha and trying to reach the shore of enlightenment, She was at the same time being pulled down into the Sahā (mundane) world. “I want to be devout, but it seems beyond my reach, Wanting to be virtuous, yet always deep in blunders and misdeeds.” Those two verses are excerpts from the poem “Like the Clouds High Above.” I no longer see the stereotypical image of ascetic practitioners suffering in austerity due to the eradication of desires. On the contrary, I see a completely new monastic style, radiant, innocent, and dynamic. Thinking of sadness, yet the heart remains untouched by sorrow. Talking of brokenness, yet the soul overflows with hope. This positive disposition, this equanimity, is only possible when the spiritual practitioner has reached the pinnacle of enlightenment. The first thing I noticed is that in most of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s Buddhist poems, I see a very human nature, including the struggle between spiritual and secular life. What moves the reader is the humanity, the human nature in Supreme Master Ching Hai’s poetry.
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