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  • Lama Jigme Gyatso

“Dark Side” and Ten other Spiritual Poems

Updated: Mar 1





While attending university

I found myself

in an authoritative, fundamentalist,

religious organization.


And, like most facets of patriarchy,

they demanded that I relinquish my personal power

promising that in return they would make me

a fisher of men.


Years passed, and a time came

when I explained that their schedule was so demanding

that it did not give me the opportunities

I required to study


and that when I finally did find the time to do so

I would promptly nod off into my texts.


Their solution

was not to adjust my schedule

but to send me outside to study

in the dead of winter


assuring me that the shivering

would keep my “whiney ass” awake.


I was already disabled when I first encountered

that authoritarian organization

and after years under their thumb

all my disabilities worsened;


like the corruption of a Jedi’s flesh

when traversing the path of the dark side.

If your teacher does not help you thrive

find a new one!



Today’s second poem:

“Trick Question”


What are the four

bases of mindfulness

from the Theravadan perspective?


FIRST – form or body,

SECOND – sensations, both physical and emotional


THIRD – mind, both coarse and subtle as well as

FOURTH – phenomena, our conventional circumstances

as well as their subtle attributes of: sometimes being stressful,

and changing, and not being the identity that we should cling to.


What then is the identity

that we should embrace?

That is a trick question


for the Buddha invites us

to let-go of all,

and simply flow from a place

of centered spontaneity.


Today’s third poem

“In this Universe”


When performing the Met-ta

or loving-kindness meditations

why do we begin by wishing good things

for ourselves?


Because, evolutionarily speaking,

the oldest parts

of the three pounds of meat

we call a brain


are utterly

self serving.


By starting with the oldest

and deepest parts of our brains

we could create a kind of momentum


that makes it easer to cultivate the ability

to give a flying fuck

about our neighbors,

the denizens of this planet


(whether they walk, or crawl, or swim, or fly

{so please stop exploiting them})

and the real or imagined beings

of all the worlds in this universe.


For just as little kids

first learn to share


by aping their parents behavior

and feeding the food on their plate

to their table companions


likewise the more we wish good things for ourselves

the easier it could become

to wish good things for others.



Today’s fourth poem:

“Know”


The test of a technique

may be how effective it is,

but you will never know

until you apply it consistently;


once every morning,

and once every evening,

for six and a half consecutive days.


Today’s fifth poem:

“Self-pity”


He invited me to come visit

his palatial home

come Malibu way.


I thanked him and tried to explain

that this body

like a soufflé

does not travel well.


He asked me how I could bear to live

as a prisoner in a disabled shell.


I explained, “My neighborhood is beautiful

my neighbors are lovely

and my Dharma work

is interesting and fulfilling.”


Few things are as effective

at squandering a life

as resentment, self-pity

and despair.


Let us forsake self-pity

and choose to be easy going

like Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth

in “Once upon a Time in Hollywood.”


Today’s sixth poem:

“Returned”


I was in junior high

and when mother and father went on vacation

they left sister and myself behind

and hired a woman to stay with us,


an employee of the private school

we attended.


Her boyfriend had a motorcycle

and mother explicitly told me and her

that I was not to ride it.


Parents left

and baby sitter arrived

with her boyfriend in tow.


The night came

when she ordered pizza

and asked her boyfriend and myself

to pick it up,


as she handed him

the keys to her car.


I walked through the cold evening air

to babysitter’s sedan

and noticed that her boyfriend

was walking toward his motorcycle.


He told me to climb on.

When I explained I was not allowed to

he asked me if I was scared.


Clearly that question

was manipulative,

and inappropriate…

and rather quite effective.


For I obediently got on the back

of his motorcycle.


If I was honest with myself

no less him

I would have explained

that I was terrified of my parents disapproval.


But I had neither the self-knowledge

nor the self-possession

for such insight

no less confession.


When we returned home

the pizza’s toppings had sloshed to one side

and it soon became clear to the house sitter


that I had ridden on the back

of her boyfriend’s motorcycle.


In her world view,

clearly her boyfriend, an adult,

was not to blame,

for coercing me.


So she wasted no time

the following day


to gossip about me at school

and tell my step-father

as soon as he returned.


Today’s seventh- poem:

“Edgar Allan Poe”


In his novel:

“Fall of the House of Usher,”

Edgar Allan Poe explored the horror


of waking up in one’s coffin,

six feet underground,

to realize one had been buried alive

with NO means of escape.


How many of our talents

are buried alive,

by circumstances, or society,

or work?


And to what degree

could the exploration

of our talents and interests,

or lack thereof,


effect our happiness, and fulfillment,

and resilience, and wellbeing?


Today’s eighth- poem:

“Pollen


It is a bright and beautiful winter’s morn

and the pollen is inundating my sinuses

like X-wing fighters converging upon the death star

at the battle of Yavin.


Today’s ninth poem:

“The Efficacy of Complexity”


One of patriarchy’s many lies

is that the more complex something is

the more beneficial it is.


But that is just a false bill of goods,

expensive, and ineffective.


Leonardo de Vinci taught

that simplicity

was the height of elegance.


One of the many gifts of matriarchy

is the commitment to finding and teaching

the easiest and most effective ways of doing things.


More than the quickest path to enlightenment

it is the only path.


For it is never

machinations, or manipulations, or power

that redeem a force user from the dark side


but rather the simplicity and ease

of wisdom and love.


Today’s tenth poem:

“Full Accomplishment”


Accumulating a million recitations

of the twelve syllable mantra of Padmasambhava

over the course of a seven year retreat

does NOT a fully accomplished teacher make.


Collecting ten thousand hours

spent in formal meditation

over the course of a seven year retreat

does NOT a meditation master make.


Collecting an additional ten thousand hours

of formal study

over the course of a seven year retreat

does NOT a dharma master make.


But applying these recitations

and meditations, and study

toward the mastery of one’s heart and mind…

that is the path to full accomplishment.


Let us not make the mistake of Anakin

who in thirst for power and recognition

forgot to train his heart upon the path

of wisdom, and love, and peace.


Today’s eleventh and final poem:

“Mother’s quips”


On picture day

at my elementary school

a younger kid asked me for help

with his tie.


I did a dreadful job of tying it

and thought it a lark

until my mother quipped,

“That was not very nice.”


As a child of the seventies

I would gather with my family

in the darkened living room

around our glowing television


and watch crime shows

produced by Quin Martin.


We would watch Manix, and Cannon,

and the Streets of San Francisco


and whenever a fictional villain

would derail his own life

with a tragic choice


mother would mutter

“I feel so bad for him!”


Mother had feet of clay;

and a great saint

she was not


but her occasional quips

watered the seeds of compassion

sleeping in my midbrain


like cicadas laying dormant

or holocrons waiting to be found.


Let us conclude

with a simple

call to action


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These spiritual poems are also available on

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