Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Poems on the Theme of Friendship

by Sangharakshita

307 ­ Poems Ancient & Modern on the Theme of Friendship

Friendship of the theme of central impotence in Buddhism especially in the form of spiritual friendship. And the theme which therefore is essential important and interest in the life and the work of the friends of the western buddhist order. I thing you probably will not come along to a FWBO centre more then two/ three times at the most before hearing the magic words spiritual friendship. And if you go alone to a retreat then you will really likely to find it will be very surprising if you don't find the spiritual friendship is very much in the air. Now this evening I am not going to give a talk or friendship even I am just going to read some poems. Now four reasons which I don't altogether understand myself I have rather gone off giving lectures. I must given several tens or thousands of lectures already in the course of my life. but I have not really quite gone off reading poetry so have been thinking over last few months. Well friendship is a theme that does need to be emphasised. Perhaps even more than we actually do emphasised but I won't give lecture on it. As I might have done ten/ fifteen years ago. I will read some poems on subject on the theme of friendship. And I started looking through English poetry and translation from other languages. I gradually assemble a little collection of poems on the subject of friendship. And it's that collection that I am going to read this evening. I thought it would also a good idea to arranged them in sections so that the readings were not to miscellaneous so after quote a bit a thoughts a arrived at five sections so that the poems are grouped under this five headings.

1) Friendship in the heroic age we then have 2) Rejoicing in friend & friendship 3) Remembering friends 4) Friendship in war and finely 5) Higher dimensions.

Now there were other aspect of friendship which I would have live to have more poems on but unfortunately I could not find them. I would like to have had a few more poems on the subject of friendship and death. That we may remember was the theme of the last poetry reading I gave here or a least one of the theme. I also have had like to had have more poems on the subject of friendship between women. But I am afraid I could find very very few poems on that particular topic so in this connection I would like to say if you personally know of any poems on friendship which are good poems which I have not included in my reading this evening please sent them to me and I would be happy to incorporate them in future reading. Which I may well be giving so lets start before the first section we have just as a sort of prelude or prologue and it come from very known work cold the profit by Kalhil Gilbrain, Kalhil Gilbrain was a Lebanese. He was a poet and a mystic he lived during this century and profit is his most famous work. And in this work there is a sort of imaginary profit figure that to whom all sort of people put all sort of questions very familiar sort of set up they say speak to us about this and speak to us about that and eventually some one asked him to speak about friendship which he does. So it is this particular chapter of the profit which I am going to start of with this evening I think that strikes the sort of note that we will be sounding through out the reading.

First poem :- Section one : Friendship in the heroic age and we going back to a very heroic age indeed. We go back to the epic of Gilgemesh and the ethic of Gilgamesh goes back some four thousand five hundred years. Gilgamesh was a king of Uruk in Mesopertamia which is now part of Iraq and Gilgamesh had a very great friend colled Enkidu. And fefore they actually mate both Gilgamesh and Enkidu had sort of intuation about a coming great friendship. And the text says Enkidu longed comrade one who would understand his hearts becouse that just what a friend is. The friend is one who understand your heart and likewise Gilgamesh himself had a dream in fact he had several dream about his friend he was about to meet. The actual meeting was rather dramatic in fact the text tells is the Enkidu when he heard about Gilgamesh wanted to challenge him and this is what he see in first extract which I am now going to read from the ethic of Gilgamesh.

Second poem :- That what we called now a days fears friendship so Gilgamesh and Enkidu have all sort of adventures together as we encounter them in the epic but unfortunately Gilgamesh looses Enkidu.

Enkidu dies and after his death Gilgameah goes in quest for everlasting life. You might say a rather Buddhistic idea, I am rather remanded of the Buddha seeing the four sights the old man, the sick man, the dead man and then the Saddhu the monk and then going in quest in Nirvana. but before Gilgemesh goes in quest for everlasting life he laments the loss of Enkidu. And he remains the loss in his elegy four housed five hundred years ago.

Third Poem :- So remaining in the heroic age going forward quite a few thousand years we come to China we come to the Chi king or classical poetry. This one of the five Confucian classic. Originally we are told there work some three thousand and more ancient poems. And great Confucius made a selection from this poems. He selected just over three hundred. And this three hundred poems selected by Confucius in the 6 century BCE have came down to us as the chi king or the classic of the poetry. The poems goes back it's seems to the period ruffle one thousand to seven hundred fifty BCE. So even though they are not ancient as a ethics of Gilgamesh they are still very ancient indeed. I am going to read two of this songs. The first is in titled by the translator Bravely affection. And there is footnote which says sung fists given by king to those of his own clan or surname. Clansman might perhafh be substituted for brothers. Through out I shall also mention the brother that brother the word brother as used in the song seems to mean something rather more like what we called friendship and word friend seems to corresponds to more what we called a acquaintance so brotherly affection.

Forth poem :- That's its if it were a slightly a collechue poem but this one is more as it were individual its intitled, Comrades in war time in deals with the friendship between just two people and it goes like this.

Poem Five :- Well we can take that literally or metaphorically ( laughter ).

Now to the heroic age in Greece Homes Iliad. an extract. I better just place the story for you the great hero of the allied is of course Achilles. and Achilles has a great friend. Profoculas and when this aspired begins protocols Achilles great friend has just been killed by Bector the Trojan chief and in revenge Achilles has killed hector and Achilles has dragged the corpse of hector to his camp and there he gives instructions to his men. The melodeons to prepare a pine for protocols . So that he can cremated with full honour's I shall also mention that in this extract Achilles is revered to as Pelious.

Plaids means son of Pelious, Pelious means Achilles. So Achilles has just given his elder's to his men. ahoot the construction of this magnificent funeral pine.

Sixth Poem :- Now to section two, rejoicing in friends and friendship and we are going to start off will a great favourite at least a great favourite of mine some of you must of heard. It already before the other also I must say is a great favourite of mine none other man. Doctor Samuel Johnson and its an ode on friendship. and this poem was written . It seems when Johnson was very young man. It would seem it was written in his teens he may have been only 17 or 18 when he wrote it. In a very enthusiastic mood. So an ad on friendship.

Poem Seven :- So from the 18th century and Samuel Johnson to the 19th century and Walt Whitman I saw in lousanna a live oak growing.

Eight Poem :- Now back in time a little back to the 16th century back to Shakespeare and his sonnet number 30.

Poem Nine :- Now comes a more modern poem, a poem from 20th century and a poem by Edward Thomas and being a modern poem of course his going to he a little difficult ( laughter ) lot any way will do our best its called the sun to shine.

Poem Tenth :- Now we go all the way to China and a poem by Wang Wy who was one of the great at the Tring Dynastyroughly the 8th century AD So its entitled a farewell to Chi Wu Chi who has failed in his examinations and is Neturen home to the county, don't forget in returning home to the country, don't forget in ancient China examinations were the key the passport to official life.

Poem Eleventh :- Then to close this section, rejoicing in friends and friendship, another poem by Samuel Johnson.

This time on the death of doctor Robert levitt. Its a poem occasioned by the death of a great friend of Johnson. Not it is a poem that rejoice in his merit, Which does not lament his death. Robert Levitt had been a lumate of Johnson's house for about twenty years. Outwardly he was a quite unprepossessing a quite unattractive sort of person. he was sort of doctor, we would call him a quack and he and he worked on the poorest of poor and they were so poor. They usvely couldn't pay him and the most common form of payment seems to have been a glass of Gin. Which he readily accepted. Not though he was not at all unattractive character it's seems Johnson really appreciated him and missed him . When he died. so this is thus very moving occasion which he hi myself was quite old man on the death of doctor Robert Levitt.

Twelfth Poem :- Now to our third section a rather short one, remembering friends and again a poem from China by one great poem about another great poet Tu Foo also of the Tang dynasty writing about Li Po again of the Tang Dynasty the poem is called dreaming of Li Po.

Thirteen Poem :- Now back to the England ...

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