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Burning Heart

April 19, 2011

In the wilds of the Deer Park in Sarnath
There are the monasteries and shrines, relics of Buddhism.
A stray dog finds a wounded deer lying in a shed
And licks it in an attempt to try and heal the wound,
But the interior damage is impossible to reach with this automatic act of the tongue.

Look! Look! There is a burning heart;
The flames like sunset or an eclipse of the sun,
The dark red of the end of an eclipse.
Some kind-hearted person runs to the nearest telephone
But there is no rescue, no doctor who can extinguish this fire without body,
Though it is courageous at least to try to hold on to the heart.
Yet it is deeply sad that he had to let it go this far.

What is compassion? What is love?
When the lover and the love become one in the simplicity of the present.
Still pain and pleasure lie in the midst of a bundle of steel wool
And light and dark live in the midst of lamentation.
Who helps—because the saviour and the victim both need help.

The dog patiently tries to heal the wound of the deer of Sarnath.
The burning sun dries up not only the trees, plants and streams, but a whole continent.

Who will make the rain?
Who will invoke the clouds?
Where is the formless form of Compassion,
The Compassion of Avalokiteshvara?

Written March 12, 1969.

From Mudra, pages 43-44.


Several readers of Ocean of Dharma have requested quotes that help us to relate to the devastating tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan. Over the next few months, there will be several quotes that reflect, indirectly, on these events. This poem is the first of those.

Sarnath is the location where Buddha gave his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the first of which is the Noble Truth of suffering.

Avalokiteshvara is the great bodhisattva and buddha of compassion, whose head split into 1,000 pieces when he saw the immense suffering of beings.

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