06.8 Vijayā (169-174)

Read aloud in “Ayya Anandabodhi & Matty Weingast’s Dharma Talks at Insight Meditation South Bay – Silicon Valley”

Read aloud in “Pamela Weiss Hosts Matty Weingast”


169. Four or five times I went forth from my cell, not having obtained peace of mind, my mind being unsubmissive.

170. I approached a bhikkhuni, honoured her, and questioned [her].She taught me the doctrine, and the elements, and sense-bases,

171. the four noble truths, the faculties, and the powers, the constituents of awakening, and the eightfold way for the attainment of the supreme goal.

172. I heard her utterance, took her advice, and in the first watch of the night I recollected that I had been born before.

I73. In the middle watch of the night I purified the divine eye. In the last watch of the night I tore asunder the mass of darkness [of ignorance].

174. And I then dwelt suffusing the body with joy and happiness. On the seventh day I stretched forth my feet, having torn asunder the mass of darkness [of ignorance].


When everyone else was meditating,

I’d be outside circling the hall.

Finally I went to confess.

I’m hopeless, I said.

The elder nun smiled.

Just keep going, she said.

Nothing stays in orbit forever.

If this circling is all you have,

why not make this circling your home?

I did as she told me,

and went on circling the hall.

If you find yourself partly in

and partly out—

if you find yourself drawn to this Path

and also drawing away—

I can assure you,

you’re in good company.

Just keep going.

Sometimes the most direct path isn’t a straight line.


1 comment

  1. Here the general outline of Weingast’s poem begins similarly to the text, and he preserves the important detail that Vijayā sought advice from another nun. The unnamed nun’s teaching, however, removes the Buddha’s Dhamma and replaces it with a vague metaphor. Vijayā’s achievements of recollecting past lives, seeing the course of kamma, and ending ignorance are all passed over. Vijayā herself was relating the story of her own spiritual accomplishments. Weingast is not interested in these and assumes his audience isn’t either. He would much rather share with his audience yet another dose of his wisdom masquerading as the voice of a woman. Vijayā becomes yet another purveyor of Weingast’s limp metaphors (“If you find yourself partly in and partly out—if you find yourself drawn to this Path and also drawing away …”) and stale cliches (“Just keep going”). As always, the cultural specifics of the nuns’ lives are removed: she is longer in a monastic dwelling but a meditation hall filled with others, reflecting modern American meditation experience, not Vijayā’s. And she no longer bows to her teacher, as the traditional Buddhist and Asian value of respect for teachers must be removed out of deference to the sensibilities of modern Americans. Weingast’s poem is orientalist and racist, erasing the lived experience of Asians and women of color under the assumption that the thoughts of a white American man are far more interesting.

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