Professor Charles Hallisey Lecture

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Professor Charles Hallisey Lecture

[AUDIO OUT] HAROLD ROTH: –for Humanities people So it’s nice to be able to be back in this room My name’s Hal Roth I direct the Contemplative Studies program here at Brown I’d like to welcome you on behalf of our program To tell you a little bit about what we do, we look at contemplative experience across cultures and across time from scientific, humanistic, and artistic approaches And we’ve developed critical first-person methods of studying contemplative practices, so we actually teach contemplative practices in the classroom We teach what the practice is We teach the cognitive framework in which that practice is embedded But unlike what might happen in a contemplative practice center, we don’t expect, we don’t ask, we don’t tell people to believe in the veridicality of that cognitive framework We also temper that with third-person information from scientific sources and from humanistic research and scholarship on the culture and philosophy and history of those contemplative practice traditions We have a very active program We have an undergraduate concentration and a very active series of lectures And we will have other events If you’d like to learn more about what we have done in the past, we have videos If you’d like to learn more about who we are and what doing right now, please go to our website And at the website, you’ll see lots of information about us We will have an open house coming up during– we haven’t decided exactly which day, but it will be during the week that you’re signing up for classes for second semester, which is about around October 20, when Banner opens its secret doorway to the mysteries of registration It gives me great pleasure, tonight, to introduce our speaker, Professor Charles Hallisey He is the Numata Senior Lecturer in Buddhism at Harvard Divinity School He did his undergraduate work at Colgate, did graduate work at Harvard Div School, at University of Chicago, where he received with PhD He’s become one of the leading scholars in this country of the Theravada Buddhist tradition And I want to commend to you this wonderful translation of the poems of the first Buddhist women that came out a couple of years ago, published by Harvard in their particular publication series devoted to classics from South Asia It’s only available in hard cover in North America, but if you go to India, you can find it in train stations, apparently And in– not only in in stations, but in book stores and maybe even in grocery stores So it’s a real honor to be able to ask you to join me in welcoming Professor Charles Hallisey [APPLAUSE] CHARLES HALLISEY: So first let me welcome– or thank everyone for coming on what is actually a very beautiful day And when it was hard to leave the outside, and then also hard to come inside I also want to thank Hal Roth for inviting me to speak about Buddhist poetry within the framework of contemplative studies and not within the framework of either religious studies or comparative literature But instead, to say somehow paying attention to the practices of poetry that Buddhists have developed over the years is relevant for how we think about not only Buddhism, but how we think about the contemplative studies and the study of contemplation as well For me, I didn’t know that this talk would be in this biomedical building But in some ways, it’s really quite fortuitous, perhaps You’ll see, later on, that I refer to one of the great theorists of literature from South Asia, a man named Dandin who lived in around the seventh century His book is extremely important across the Asia It’s known in Tibet, China, as far as Japan, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka,

across South Asia as well At one point, he says, oh, scientists make descriptions of the world of nature And so do we in poetry What’s the difference? And so he is theorizing that, oh, what might go on in a scientist describing the world is legitimate and proper, but there is a key difference that I’ll introduce later So it’s to say, oh, in the building in which people are used to scientific descriptions of the world, it seems appropriate in Dandin’s spirit that a lecture on poetry should occur here What I wanted to try to do, taking seriously that this is part of the Contemplative Studies Initiative, this lecture, is to see poetry in a framework of the history of the Buddhist practices of mental cultivation, of meditation, and so on, rather than part of the literary history of the Buddhist world In a particular language Or rather that as part of Buddhist doctrinal history The general point that I’m going to make is what’s suggested in literature in general, and poetry in particular, have a constituitive relation, some kind of key affinity, to what we call Buddhism So by paying attention to poetry as something of a contemplative practice, we will learn something about both Buddhism and about contemplation That’s the general point Now, in the great epic of India, the Mahabharata, there was a narrative device that when people are traveling in the forest, they know that they’re coming close to a place where Brahmins live because they can hear it before they can see them Brahmins reciting the vedas One was called stepwise and wordwise Certain ways of memorizing That little detail is a sign of a larger world When you could hear the Brahmins chanting, you know you’re coming close to a place of Hindu practice In Buddhist narrative literature, a similar device is there People traveling through the forest, when they start to see the instruments used for it writing– styluses for making manuscripts, book stands, other things that are– bookcases– other things that are associated with writing– that they know they’re coming to a place where Buddhist monks are There’s a place in which you would say, that small detail of the physical evidence of using writing actually tells us a lot about the history of Buddhism One of the things that it shows, we know in the history of South Asia, that people who are using writing first were merchants, for accounting and so on It shows that the origins of Buddhism are very close to this kind of economic world where people are crossing cultural boundaries and using the technology of writing for a variety of purposes It also teaches us a lot about how Buddhist thought about textuality That they saw their texts that they were receiving from the past as something that was something of a physical object that they could interact with and hand down to other people But most interesting for me is the way that Buddhist began to use the kind of imagery of writing for understanding other kinds of practices So when they asked, what did it mean when the Buddha said that he could remember his previous lives? What was he doing? Did he remember what he had for lunch every single day in all those previous lives? And what they compared it to is the way that someone is a speed reader of a book They’re not looking at every word They’re looking at every letter They’re skimming the pages and jumping over things, in which they see only the essential things The ability to use that analogy shows a deep comfort with what writing represents, the way that it interacts with our minds and allows us to access information that, say, the recitation of the text would never allow for Recitation of a text, it has to be that you go word by word That they could use– that the imagery– the Buddha remembering previous lives the way a speed reader skims over the page shows that they are very, very comfortable with what writing represents And then, for me, one of the most beautiful images of monks studying– and I just have to you explain that in lots of the alphabets used in the Theravada Buddhist world in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, the scripts that are used are very curvy They’re rounded There’s a technical or practical reason for this You’re writing on palm leaves that if you had straight lines through, the manuscripts would crack The stylus would cut through the leaves By making a curve, you’re in some ways of preserving the leaves But they are all very round And then, so it’s like, oh, what monks

look like when they’re studying, they look like a Garuda attacking a Naga A Naga looks like a snake And a Garuda, we could say, looks like an eagle And they’re natural enemies The image of the monks, that they’re hunched over with their arms spread out, facing down, and they’re looking for the place in the text to attack, to pull out the point, is an image of, oh, what we could say, an active reader, someone who is describing– is looking for key And the phrase that they use, technically, is for the knots in the text that you have to jump on and to pull out I want to make a similar kind of claim, that there’s other things that don’t actually occur in narratives, but would be just symbolic of the presence of a whole Buddhist world as these instruments of writing are in Buddhist narratives For American Buddhists today, when they meet someone who might be a Buddhist, they say, do you practice? In Sri Lanka, when I lived there, if someone asked me, do you practice, what they would be asking me would be, are you a good person? This is very hard to answer It’s embarrassing to answer Try I don’t succeed I try again I’m not sure Americans– the language of American Buddhists is when someone says, do you practice, they’re asking, do you have a contemplative tech– you know, practice that you’re doing? And then if you say yes, they’ll ask you, what kind are you doing? There’s a way for American Buddhists today that the sign of a Buddhist world is some kind of contemplation technique And one of the things is that when you go to Buddhist communities in Asia, you find out it’s relatively unusual So my own teacher in Sri Lanka was a great scholar of Buddhist literature, widely admired as a good Buddhist, famous as a scholar One time, he was invited to meet a group of American academics to talk about Buddhism there When he came back and I saw him, he was laughing He said, and he said to me, “All they wanted to talk about was meditation And I haven’t meditated since I was seven years old.” At that point, he was 65 And he said, “And I only did it because I was made to go with my grandmother to the temple.” And so this idea that to be a good Buddhist, you have to meditate was foreign to him You could say that there’s something, though, that there’s an affinity between Buddhism and practices of mental cultivation That we can’t find any historical level or any place in Buddhist history where practices of mental cultivation are not there They’re not– they’re just not essential You can’t say that wherever Buddhism is, everyone is writing That’s not true either I want to make a claim that just like with writing, just like with meditation, that Buddhist– poetry is part of what we can say the contours of a Buddhist life And that we can’t find any place in history, or any geographical space that we can get to, that poetry and literature is not part of Buddhist life So we can’t do– the basic claim historically here is there’s no place where we can point to– oh, Buddhism was there, and then later on poetry or something was added on as an addition Now, we also know, is that throughout Buddhist history, great Buddhist thinkers are remembered as also being poets Some of the greatest Buddhist thinkers are remembered, that in addition to whatever else they did, they were excellent poets Among the Dalai Lamas, the Fifth Dalai Lama, who was generally referred to only as the Great Fifth, was an excellent poet One of the greatest philosophers of Buddhism in South Asia, Dharmakirti, who was a logician, who worked on, how do we establish what are the grounds for valid– that we know that we have valid knowledge from our perception– he was also a great poet And then what we have is lots of the poems attributed to him Let me just read one short one that will illustrate something of his skill as a poet But also, the kind of curiosity that such a careful logician, someone very difficult to read, also was very skilled in writing poetry So he says, Valmiki who was the author of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, and in South Asia is remembered as the first poet So Valmiki dammed the sea with rocks putting place with monkeys So this is part of the story of the Ramayana

An army of monkeys helps the god Rama, and builds what we now call the Adam’s Bridge between Sri Lanka and India And the Ramayana says, oh, that natural phenomena was built by this army helping Rama to go from India to Sri Lanka So he says, Valmiki dammed the sea with rocks put in place with monkeys And Vyasa, the author of the other great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, filled with arrows shot by Partha Yet, neither is suspected of hyperbole On the other hand I weigh both word and sense And yet, the public’s sneers and scorns my work Oh reputation, I salute you Now, one of the things about– we can learn from this is that Buddhist poets were comfortable being in the world with non-Buddhist poems He saw himself in a lineage with people who wrote the great Hindu epics He was it– he knew about, that in literature, people who use hyperbole for certain effect Right, and we translate it To say, well, why do people use hyperbole in poetry? We say false things to get at true things We say exaggerating things so we can see what is there Then that last line, oh reputation, I salute you There’s a name for this in Buddhist literary theory It is blame through praise He says, I salute you We understand what he means is, I curse you And even though he says, I salute you, he’s saying, I curse you This is one of the things that they say, oh, Buddhists, other people thinking about how poetry and literature works How is it that we understand a meaning that is not said? And you could say, oh, this is the topic of watching the mind work And then you can, we see the movements of mind, just like we see in contemplation, in which we start to change what we see, what we hear, into something else by watching how the mind is processing what is in front of us Now, but we can say, also, is that in terms of what we have received through history, of what the Buddha said, much of it is in verse, in poetry Some of you say, not very good poetry by later standards Theorists of poetry, Buddhist theorists of poetry said– would say that, oh, that shows how good a poet he was because he made these mistakes Because only a really skilled poet can make a mistake Only a really skilled musician can play the wrong hole and still create something beautiful A hack can do something perfect, but only someone really good can make mistakes But aside from that praise, we could say there’s something if the elements of literature, where we have to see something that is not said, understand something that is not said, is key to the messages that are being transmitted One of the most famous verses in Buddhist literature that echoes across the Buddhist world is that the religious life is divided into three parts One part is about morality Another part is on meditation And the third part is wisdom There’s a sequence You have to practice morality Then you have to practice meditation And then finally, there’ll be achievement of wisdom That verse is the answer of a Buddha– of the Buddha to a question that is put to him in a verse Oftentimes, the division into three is separated from the context But the verse, that is the origin of it is actually, I think, very, very moving The story is a god come to the Buddha in the middle of the night And he says to him, there’s a tangle inside, a tangle outside Everyone is entangled by a tangle I ask you, Gautama, who can untangle this tangle? Now, what’s interesting, and Buddhist commentators on this verse understand that the Buddha understands when the god says to him, there’s a tangle inside, there’s a title outside, that he’s not talking about some literal tangle They explain, what is a tangle like?

It’s like a bamboo thicket growing underground, growing above ground, all tangled up like a fence So they are saying, oh, this is something metaphorical They also realized that this god is not asking, what is that thing out there? It’s a question of anguish, in which he is asking, what’s happening to me? He’s coming to him, and when he says, there’s an angle inside, there’s a tangle outside, everyone is entangled by a tangle Who can untie it? It’s a question of anguish We might say it’s like the rabbit in Alice In Wonderland that says, the hurrier I go, the behinder I get I’m so behind How can I catch up? Who can help me? And then they say, oh, this tangle is something that actually is jumping on him, possessing him And when he says there’s a– they say, oh, when the Buddha hears him say there’s a tangle inside, there’s a tangle outside, the Buddha understands he’s asking, what’s happening to me? I don’t understand what’s happening to me And then he gives the answer Anyone who is practicing morality, anyone who’s practicing meditation, anyone who’s practicing wisdom is untangling it It’s a very, very striking answer He doesn’t say, I can untangle it He doesn’t say, the person who finishes my religious life can untangle it It’s a present participle Anyone doing this can do it How did– the readers aren’t just understanding This is, to understand why the Buddha is speaking the way he is, you have to hear the despair, the desperation of this god who is coming to him saying, what’s happening to me? The way they get all of that out of it is just over– the Buddha understands that the word tangle is something that’s actively happening to him, Now, in a kind of curious way, what we saw about poetry in Dharmakirti’s verse where he started with Valmiki– I mean, all poets, Buddhist, and non-Buddhist and South Asian agree– Valmiki is the first poet He’s not one we know historically And there’s a kind of interesting feature about the history literature, the history Buddhism, and South Asia Sanskrit is a language that is used in South Asia before Buddhism It is a liturgical language It’s used in rituals It is turned into a literary language, a language used for literature, for poetry by Buddhists They create it So then, this idea of Buddhism is at ground zero of the making of the history of literature in South Asia And we can say literature is at ground zero of the making of Buddhism, itself And so this, we have a historical question We can’t see anything that– about literature– that Buddhism doesn’t seem to be close to In terms of the great biography of the Buddha by Asvaghosa, the Buddhacharita, we have an explanation of why Buddhists are using poetry Which he says, poetry is a vehicle for teaching It’s like mixing medicine into honey It makes something bitter go down the throat We take that explanation, which is there We say, oh, what this really it is, it’s a vehicle for doctrine, that that’s its purpose When we look at the history of how Buddhists were creating Sanskrit as a literary language, a language for poetry, what we see– we are paying attention to is a sociological process of how people who are outside of a social system are making a claim to be people of prestige Of having some kind of skills that other people could admire We could say that what poetry creates is a possibility of Buddhism as being part of a civilization that is produced by elites That creates prestige And so this helps us in a very important way, in which we could say that what literature is about is a skilled and difficult use of language that most people don’t have the ability to do

The you say, oh, why are people using the language in a literary way? It has to do with the sociological reasons I’d want to suggest to us, this afternoon is that we should see literature and poetry as part of Buddhist mental culture Not as part of some kind of sociological process alone Not as a vehicle for transmitting doctrine that is otherwise known But instead, to see it as just one among the, we might say, almost innumerable techniques of mental culture that Buddhists across the centuries and across the cultures have been using We know in meditation manuals that there are many techniques So in the greatest one in Pali of the Theravada world, one by the fifth-century Buddhist thinker, Buddhaghosa, he names 41 different techniques of how to do meditation What we also know, though, is that listed in that handbook is far from the sum total of what people were doing And what we also know from the list is that some of those things were absorbed into the Buddhist practice from outside People saw it and said, oh, let’s try that too, see what affects that would have, and that they were inventing new ones And so new inventions of mental cultivation continue to this day When a skilled meditator is always a source of new knowledge and a source of new practices So that idea that there’s a limited set of contemplative practices in Buddhism, we can just say is just historically not correct We have an idea, though, when we look at, say, non-Buddhist practices of mental cultivation being absorbed into Buddhism that they’re accretions in some ways, something that comes in, that we have a sense of, oh, change in the Buddhist world comes from the outside That that’s how the Buddhist tradition changes– it bumps into something else You say India bumps into China and gets changed It bumps into things and [INAUDIBLE] And so change always comes from outside But when we actually look more closely at the history, we can see how people are inventing new things all of the time And seeing things that are being done, and saying, we can use this as a practice of mental cultivation tool So we should say that the words that would probably be the most natural word for what we call meditation or contemplation in Buddhist vocabulary is bhavana, which would just be becoming Anything that is our current idiom in universities, the [INAUDIBLE] idiom, anything that’s a technology of the self, that is something that you’re doing to change who you will be tomorrow, it is within the category of [INAUDIBLE] Now, what that means is that what, in English, we would distinguish between meditation and ritual, two different kinds of things In this world, not at all Ritual is just another way of paying attention to what the body, the mind, and is the mouth is doing It is a way of focusing attention It is a way of creating different kinds of perceptions We can also say that the ubiquity, the centrally visible presence of the arts in the Buddhist world is connected to these practices of becoming, so that the practices of calligraphy, painting, the tea ceremony in Japan, and gardening, are all techniques of mental cultivation When you go to a Japanese temple and you see a sand garden with some rocks and some artificial moss-covered hill or clumps around the sand, and you are taught to look at it and see that what is in front of you– learn how to perceive that what’s in front of you is not sand and rocks or moss, but oceans, mountains, as forests What you’re seeing is that on looking at something that’s not there, you tended to how I, how is it that I perceive what is in front of me? It’s that all of these practical actions of gardening, the tea ceremony, calligraphy, painting, all of these are part of a broad spectrum of the practices of contemplation, the practices of mental cultivation What we can say is what defines Buddhist practices of mental culture is anything that is conducive to a self-reflexive practice of seeing

Learning something about, how is it that I see and then cognize the world? Then, experimenting with what happens when I alter the habits of seeing? What do I learn? It’s a very handy one that you can experiment for yourself If you’re right-handed and you sign your signature with your right hand, to try to sign your signature with your left hand And what you realize is just how difficult the motions of the hand are to make, when you change the habit of it I don’t know about anyone else, when I walk home from work, I walk exactly the same route Cross at the– when I get to an intersection– I cross at exactly the same corner And I don’t say anything on the way home I am lost in what I’m thinking You say, if I vary the route, all of the sudden, I started to have to notice the kinds of things And so these techniques are varying what you seeing by varying your habits So it’s central practice or a fundamental practice of practices of mental cultivation We can say there’s, then, lot’s of mental cultivation in the Buddhist world It has another element to it, another contour that is somehow limiting the proliferating tendencies of thought Somehow, shutting off the ways that our mind starts to run with whatever it is in front of us We might say that in order to see– to deal with suffering, we need to understand the nature of perception, that our suffering comes from something about how we perceive things And ways of understanding the nature of perception is what our practices of mental cultivation are about So the way we might begin, I think, in terms of students here as part of the Contemplative Studies Initiative, of experimenting with different techniques of mental cultivation is that you almost begin arbitrarily with any technique And then you just watch what comes up in perception And through your eyes, through your ears, the other senses, and the mind, and then you watch it without suppressing or indulging or expanding And you don’t look for something to hang onto, to give it significance or to be stuck in or for anything fixed We could say, or the imperative is, just see But then the question is, what is not simply to see? What is it– what is not just seeing? And so what is not seeing is to be indulged in or swamped by the underlying tendencies of proliferating thought As they arise, the proliferating tendency of thought as it takes hold of our minds in the form of opinions, dogmas, beliefs which we are just watching how thoughts come up I like this I don’t like this Now, what we can say is that it is within this spaces of practices of mental cultivation that poetry in the Buddhist world takes its place As well as being part of literary culture As well as being part of religious culture But it has a central place in the practices of mental cultivation And here is where the figure I mentioned at the beginning, Dandin, comes in Dandin’s work, the mirror of poetry, say historically, the only thing that comes close to it in its cultural significance is Aristotle’s Poetics It has just jumped across language boundaries, cultural boundaries, religious boundaries And with people who are reading it, in which they said, we can use this, too One of the big insights of Dandin is what I referred to before, when he said, oh, in science, people give factual descriptions And in poetry, we do too What’s the difference? And so he gave examples in poetry, in literature When I say poetry and literature, I’m using them almost interchangeably The poetry is not [INAUDIBLE] It’s just a certain way of using language He says, oh, there’s four ways of making factual discourses The first, he says, when describing the kind of thing that is in front of us And the example that he gives is of– where he says, oh, its feathers are green, its beak is red

It has a soft voice It has stripes on his body This is a parrot Then he has another one where he says, oh, what we’re paying attention to is not that type of thing that is there But what we’re actually there seeing is something about that action, the movement of something in the world And so then, a– sorry, just one second It gives an example It says, with a throat that produces soft cooing, and eyes that keep rolling, the dove, eager for love, twirls around, and kisses its mate now, you can see something is too– coming into this that’s really quite important The difference between a scientific description and a description in literature is that twist That when you see that the dove rolling its eyes and turning, and the description, eager for a kiss, we can say, oh, doves don’t kiss their mates [INAUDIBLE] isn’t, but if we’re careful, we say, he doesn’t say they kiss They just say, eager for a kiss And that there’s something in what he’s seeing that the scientific description doesn’t see The third, which I would say is my favorite because it’s so striking, he says, the hair on my body stands on end My heart stops My eyes shut That’s how it feels when my love touches me Now, that beginning when he says, the hair on my body stands on end My heart stops My eyes shut Up to that point, it could be fright and horror Then when he says, I can translate what I put, that’s how it feels when my love touches me I can translate it This must be my beloved So when I look at the species of something, my beloved looks like everyone else When I look at her moving, other people may move like her too But what I know in my body about her, she’s the only one that could do that to me And just her I can’t do that by my will I can’t make my hair stand on end I can’t make my heart stop And what you have in this, it’s that he’s adding, oh, there are certain things, certain facts in the world that we know So what happens to us inside? The movements of the mind, the processes of knowing, then you say, oh, we’re very definitely in the realm of mental practices Pay attention I know something of my species I know something about my actions I know something by this other kind of quality I know a quality that other people don’t know I’m assuming that many of you will have had the experience, I have, of trying to tell a friend about someone that you’ve fallen in love with And they meet the friend and they say to you, I just can’t see it [LAUGHTER] And one of the things that you’ll say is, Dandin understands that But what you see in your body is a fact They can only see the species or the action, but not what is known to the body The last type is particularly interesting The example is mythological, but the general point is larger Throat is black, skull in hand, the moon his crown, and the tawny touch on those matted locks Shiva is here with a bull on his banner So he’s describing the god Shiva It’s very standard in a certain way You said, oh, what kind of description is this? It’s a description of something that is singular, singularity How do we describe something that has no peer? And we say, oh, we need to have a description of those things that exist in the world that are singularities In academic discourse today, singularity is a major concept Well, how do we know that? So in Buddhist contemplative techniques, people were interested in, what is the singularity of certain beacons? Now, so Dandin introduces into the world of poetry this idea that you can give a factual description that’s somehow different than scientific description That is because of a certain twist

that’s in the perception, that sees something that is not there And then wondering, how do we know about it? And the explorational, sometimes you change what you’re paying attention to You’re looking at how does a species– a kind of thing you’re looking at– what is it at this moment in the action that is capable of? You’re looking at what you know as through the body In relationship, you’re looking at what makes this thing singular, without peer So they had something that other people understood really quite well It’s that one of the definitions of literary language in South Asia is what it is is crooked speech It’s not saying things directly Dharmakirti, when he said, I thought [INAUDIBLE] got away with hyperbole Well, Vyasa in the Mahabharata got away with hyperbole Why won’t people let me use hyperbole? And they say, oh, hyperbole is crooked speech You’re saying something that you know is not true to get at something that is true And then you say, oh, this is a practice of looking at how language works And how we perceive the world in which the language is not a mirror representing what’s in the world, but it’s actually creating something, a way of seeing what is in the world so we can contemplate what that is [INAUDIBLE] example of hyperbole that Dharmakirti felt charged– you know, people have accused me of hyperbole For me, it’s a beautiful one, what he’s describing is women who are going out to meet their beloved on a summer night So they’re dressed in white saris, white garments They’ve woven white flowers into their hair And because it’s summer, they’ve put sandalwood paste on their faces That is, pale, making them white The twist is in the final line in which he says, and when they stepped out into the moonlight, they disappear That image, I’ve never seen that in the world, but my mind’s eye can see it This ability of the world to be bathed in moonlight that things, individual things, disappear in some transformation that’s there So that, what you have is the extension of, well, what is perception about and how does language not get it only in the way of perception, but to contemplate on how language actually creates certain possibilities, that we don’t want to give up what we know once we have seen them? Now, then we come to what, say, oh, will be an example of what I’m talking about And it will be limited to just one verse from one medieval singular poem written by a particular Buddhist monk that I am more or less very confident that no one else in the room has heard of except for me Even though he, well, he has a great poem And was well-known at this time His name is Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula He was what was known as Sangharaja, the King of the Sangha, of his day So he was a most important monk in the country of Sri Lanka, at his time And part of his prestige, his prominence, was that he was a great poet One of the poems that he wrote is what’s known as a messenger poem What these are is that they take as a model a poem by the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa who wrote a poem that’s called the Meghaduta, or the cloud message The premise of poem is unusual one There’s a certain kind of meaning, a yaksha who has been sent in exile And he asked the cloud to take a message to his wife, and to tell her, I still love you and I’m thinking of you But he has to tell the cloud how to get there So the whole poem, really, is about the instructions on how to get there

Go to the end of College Street, turn left Go down [INAUDIBLE] Street, turn right And so, and he said, how’s the cloud going to know where he is? So he says, oh, when you see this, and he starts to just give factual descriptions of what is there He said, you’ll know you’re there when you see this One of the most striking things is that Kalidasa is very aware of what he’s doing And which the yaksha, the person sending the message, says at one point, what doe a cloud have to do with a message? It’s like, how can a cloud take a message? All a cloud is is some vapor and some fog, some noise, some lightning And then he says, when you’re desperate, you try anything [LAUGHTER] But that image, when he says, what does a cloud have to do with a message? It’s just some vapor, some noise, some fog, some lightning It’s a pretty good description of what’s coming out of our mouth when we speak That air that’s coming out, it’s just some vapor And that we’re talking to each other, telling really important things through vapor, through noise, and something else that is happening there So one of the striking things is that this very strange and very beautiful poem, it has touches that you– just are astounding One of those kind of sweetest things for me is that the yaksha says, you know, when you get there, the first thing you should say is, I’m alive! And one of the things that you say, oh, in a pre-modern world where people would be away for years, there was no iPhones, no internet No one knew if you were still alive That– what you want to know is, is the person I love still alive? And that kind of human touch is really the dramatic factual description That’s what our world is, I’m worried And, you see, before you tell her that I’m thinking of her, and that, tell her I’m alive Then he anticipates it How’s she going to know that the message is from me? You could be making it up And so he says, all right, tell her this And what happened is, he says it, because you know, he’s actually, then tell her You remember that time when you had that dream that I was flirting with someone else? And you woke up, and you punched me, and said, you louse And you say oh, how, human this is that things that we imagine, things that are in our dreams [INAUDIBLE] And but it was something that only the two of them could share No one else was present And this idea of the false thing, where she dreamed he was flirting with someone, revealed that she loved him Couldn’t stand it Punches him, and that punch was a sign of her love for him And they both laughed Someone else punches me, I’ll be really angry But if my beloved punches me in a certain way, not every way, but at certain way, I’ll be happy Now, this is, they could do it to the first– whatever reason, historical, because it’s a great, great poem, became a model for a genre that we could say is the most important genre in South Asian poetry, by far There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of someone asking an animal to take a message They’re still being written up into the 20th century One in the– right around the time of independence of India, where an untouchable, a dullard, asked a bat which is a very pure animal, it’s in [INAUDIBLE],, that, so a leathery animal, that is impure, to take a message to Nehru, the new Prime Minister of India, and say we want to be part of a free India, too We want to be free too And so that, he goes, what does a bat have to do with human freedom? But you sound very powerful, genre There are about 200 versions of this, or instances of this genre in Buddhist Sri Lanka And which the difference between Kalidasa’s

where the directions are kind of imagined The ones in Sinhala are all describing real places They are historical documents They describe him as something that look like, at the time And there’s a kind of interesting thing You can go there and say, oh, this is what it looks like So the verse I want to read to you is something for us from the Salalihini Sandeshaya What the Salalihini is, you know, in terms of biology, it could be either a starling or a grackle Well, it was two names, sound worse than Salalihini Salalihini sounds beautiful Grackle sounds ugly So Anglo-Saxon words with Ka in them tend to have vulgar meanings to them And so, a lot of this, they, oh, Salalihini sounds sweeter and nicer What it is, is that for the poet, and it’s an interesting thing, this Buddhist monk has a sister who is a princess, and he wants her to become pregnant But he’s kind of prohibited as a monk from voicing those kinds of things out in public But he still has this human yearning and he asks this Salalihini, this grackle, to take a message to a god and ask that it, let her conceive a child That’s the message All of these messenger poems, the message is really dull and unimportant It’s the description of how to get there that’s interesting The verse I’m going to read you is a description of a place where a river meets the ocean And it’s also a place where a ferry is So this is the description, and much, lots of times, in Kalidasa’s Meghaduta and all of these message poems, the person asking for the message to be carries says, make sure you notice this You know, ’cause not only you’ll know where you are, but take a while to enjoy it It’s like really pretty there, or something’s happening It would be a good place to rest So what it says, and I regret, it’s not a great translation it’s not so poetic as, but it will convey what’s going on Over the sheet of water, where the white Kumudu flowers lie wrapped in moonlight all around Where fallen petals red lotus float From here, the [INAUDIBLE] take flight With vigilance to reach the further shore Now, these messenger poems, poems in Sinhala, are part of the high school curriculum today in Sri Lanka Excitement At least when I was in high school, you had to be Julius Caesar in ninth grade You had to read Hamlet in 10th grade You had to read MacBeth in 11th grade, and Romeo and Juliet in 12th grade And it was a recipe for hating Shakespeare It took me decades to get to get over it So these are required works that people, in order to get to university, they had to pass an exam in what’s known one as A-Levels, Advanced Levels So it would be like Advanced Placement in high school I just want to share with you what a young Buddhist monk wrote to me last spring about his memories of reading this verse I’d singled out this verse because of what he wrote to me, about what it meant to him So he said, we were supposed to read the Salalihini Sandeshaya for our advanced level examination in 2007 I still cannot forget about the beauty of the poetry when it comes to where Thotagamuwe Sri you Rahula describes some natural events and objects of nature Because I was always captivated by the way he was dealing with exaggerating them I just want to emphasize, before we go on, this is a very disciplined serious monk who was remembering studying this poetry And then he gives an extraordinarily interesting reading of it This verse is an example that was– where it was fascinating to me This verse presents a very beautiful natural incident happening that night nearby in the place called [INAUDIBLE] We know that it is naturally very beautiful to watch the sky being on the bank of a river where the river meets the ocean and the sky can directly be seen So we have to see this with our mind’s eye It’s a place where a river– fresh water, the ocean are meeting,

and you’re on the bank looking out into the ocean And where you see river, ocean, and sky all meet together And it’s a night sky The river’s dark, the ocean’s dark, and the sky is dark The boundaries between them are not so clear Without any of– oh, without any interruption created by– oh, I’m just sorry I should have gone on– where the sky can directly be seen without any interruption created by plants and animals Just on the shore There’s nothing blocking the view And you can spend some time there, at night, when the moon shines and flowers are blossoming The poet’s description of this scene adds far more beauty to it A particular flower called Kumudu blossoms only at night This simile– not sure that the technical term simile is accurate here, but the vision is very important The simile about the moonlight on flowers is fascinating here Let me just go back to it Over the sheet of water, where the white Kumudu flowers lie wrapped in moonlight all around The simile about the moonlight on flowers, it’s fascinating here It is not just– it is not said that the flowers are just getting moonlight It is as if the flowers are putting on a blanket on them, cover themselves So just to say, oh, what you’ve done here, the technical word is– it is a perceptual mistake, and which he is attributing agency to the flowers When plants don’t have agency The name is [INAUDIBLE],, see something wrong, but seeing something accurate And the images that the flowers are not just being illuminated by the moonlight, they are wrapping themselves in white blankets Oh that, that’s what the moonlight is And then he goes on It’s as if the flowers are putting on a blanket, and then covering themselves So the moonlight is compared to what they put on, the blanket And the withered red [INAUDIBLE] petals have dropped on the water, and they are sinking in the water The petals are, of course, withered, but they are still colorful and thousands of them on the surface of the water of the river is a very attractive sight to watch at night when the whole area is being illuminated by moonlight The gorgeous picture of this incident drawn by my mind, by this amazing description by the poet, I should say, could not be experienced Even having been to that exact place in person, but only by descriptions of this kind of peerlessly skilled poets I just want to emphasize this kind of incredible action, in reading perception that he has, that the white flowers– their whiteness is they’re wrapping themselves in a blanket They’re not white because of the moonlight, or the flowers, but something that they’re doing that is connected to the moonlight itself The red flowers that have fallen that are floating are also being illuminated by the moonlight But if we visualize with our mind’s eye, what we would start to see those red petals floating in the water and disappearing underneath the surface, probably will would be indistinguishable between the reddish golden stars that are reflected in water itself So what we have in this is a constant interaction of what’s out there and what is here And we can’t see the boundaries between things I’m going to add, then, to go further on it, poetry might encourage us to do, to start– and which to this young Buddhist monk does not do, but [INAUDIBLE] is not ready at hand You can interpret the different parts of the poem symbolically, which we said that we know that the image of the moon is a standard conventional image on the Buddha’s mind The coolness of his mind, the purity of it And then, what you have is that the Buddha’s gaze on the world, like moonlight, lights it up And some people wrap themselves in garments, in actions, that are reflecting something of the qualities of what he is like Other things, the red petals that are floating, that are signs of our impermanence, are not appearing white, but they, too, are illuminated by this white light, this cooling light that

is there And then the interesting thing that you have of the last line of the poem, where it said, The monk says to the Salalihini, to the grackle, from here, take off Fly, just the way that the fairy dust, with vigilance, to reach the further shore And so, in that image, with this language– with vigilance to reach the further shore, this is charged Buddhist language that what the religious life is about is reaching the further shore It’s happening on the shores of the ocean, where rivers and our lives flow into the ocean on [INAUDIBLE] And he says, don’t be distracted by the beauty of it It’s there, but go on And then that language of, with vigilance that’s there Now, I just want to say that– about that young monk, he’s not a student of literature He’s remembering something that he learned in high school He’s a skilled contemplator And there is a way in which that he is reading the poem and connection– and recognize, the poem creates a perception that it’s not possible to make with my eye, physical eye, but my mind’s eye sees and I can’t forget it It’s tied to language, that he said, oh, it’s not only that language lights up the world Language creates things that I see in the world that I can’t forget And really, kind of a striking kind of when he was going through other things that, verses in the same poem that he remembered, a lot of them are highly erotic, and which he doesn’t– said, oh, this is a beautiful erotic scene Which, in one way, you’re saying, is beyond the pale what a monk should be talking about, but the literature allows him to talk about Now, in that one verse, I’m just emphasizing it, he said there’s nothing about doctrine that is a guide to what it means It is just an exercise in learning how to see what the language helps you see, in which the world begins to look different, in which the world starts to shine with this moonlight, and becomes extraordinarily beautiful There’s nothing in this verse about renouncing the world, be repulsed by the ugliness of the world that’s filled with suffering It is about a world that is determinedly beautiful and waiting for us to appreciate what is there Because, I didn’t, if we say doctrine is not a guide, well, what is this? So it’s a very ordinary form of what– we can use the distinction between spirituality and religion I’d say it’s a very ordinary form of Buddhist spirituality In American English, we’re quite used to hearing people say I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious And what they mean by that, I have no truck with, I’m not interested in doctrines, institutions, this tradition I just have certain feelings When I speak to young people who are reading these messenger poems in high school, probably under terrible conditions for appreciation, they’re just trying to pass exams, I’ve been struck again and again, for they say that these poems give me a spiritual feeling There’s something about it that you could say is outside of Buddhist doctrine, outside of the mainstream of Buddhist religious culture, but someplace where we’re going We might say that what we have is a kind of Buddhist spirituality that speaks against Buddhist religion in which Buddhists themselves embrace both of them They raise a vision of the world in which they are repulsed by the suffering that intrinsic in it And they are intent on getting to the other shore, eventually But they are also entranced by out world, that is just so unbelievably beautiful And that the danger is always to be held in front of it, fascinated by how the world is bathed in moonlight And that’s just the way that the Buddha’s gaze looks on the world, with adding beauty to what the world is about With that, I’ll stop Thank you [APPLAUSE] I don’t know what the practice is Do they have questions? AUDIENCE: Yes CHARLES HALLISEY: Please

AUDIENCE: So I’m, I don’t know if the premise of this question will reflect my own ignorance of Buddhist poetry, more particularly, but, as you see sort of common development in salvation, you know, one of the major trends is this move toward just playing with, like, what seems to be going on in the material here, you’re looking at as these kinds of playing with imagery But you see also this trend of playing with the language itself in things like, [INAUDIBLE] and in things like [INAUDIBLE] And I’m, you know, I know that Hindu poets were very deeply invested in this Jain poets were very deeply invested in this I’m not aware of that kind of investment amongst Buddhist poets So– CHARLES HALLISEY: It’s in it AUDIENCE: My question is, am I just oblivious to a body of literature? Or do you think that there’s a reason for a different set emphases? CHARLES HALLISEY: I think it’s not a different set of emphases The emphases are the same And it’s not that you’re oblivious to a lot of the literature, it’s that people like me have been taught not to kind of share it with people, because you say Buddhism is not about that Buddhism is about all this is suffering But [INAUDIBLE],, all over the place And Dandin gives a reason, where he says that this stuff is pretty hard And not everyone likes it, but when good poets are together, it is fun to do And so we entertain each other by showing off And they really show off a lot So for those who don’t realize some of the things that they can do, So you can have a poem that if you read forward it tells a story of the Ramayana If you read it backwards it tells the story the Mahabharata And it’s long, you know, it’ll, it’s like really long And you say, these are people that have way too much time on their hands [INTERPOSING VOICES] No, But it– you also just think, they’re really good Now, to put it within a Buddhist context, you say, why would they do that? Are they just imitating what other people are doing in secular poetry, in Hindu poetry? You’d say, no, no, not at all All this kind of control of language is in disciplined use of language, to see everything that is there And if you say, then why do monks, the ideal monk should be, is a Vinayadata a supporter of the Vinaya, which means that he holds his body in a certain way And Vinaya manuals are about which foot goes through the door first How do you make your body beautiful that other people feel it’s worthwhile giving gifts to you And when you’re in the presence of someone, you’re commanding the, and it’s really disconcerting when the monk is 10 years old And you know, you say, I’m 15 years older than you, in you’re in charge And we just by that way he holds his body So you say, oh, well he, there’s a discipline of the body What we think of as meditation is a discipline of the mind But there’s three kinds of action- body, speech, mind And literature is where there’s a discipline, a discipline of language, and both with meditation and with the body, to see what it produces And it produces all sorts of things And the [INAUDIBLE],, you know, is– not everyone likes it But it is, I’m good The [INAUDIBLE] is a picture, so there’s ways in which you can arrange a poem in the shape of a wheel, in the shape of a flag, all kinds of things And then you read the letters in different ways Now, so that when you read it, originally, you say this makes no sense But when you put it into a picture, like very complicated messages start to come out It’s really a pleasurable You feel really good when you figure it out AUDIENCE: I’ll want some recommendations from you, then CHARLES HALLISEY: Sure AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] and were they doing this in– was this in Sanskrit? Or was it in Sinhalese? CHARLES HALLISEY: In Sinhala AUDIENCE: All right CHARLES HALLISEY: In Sinhala And the thing is– and these things are very hard to translate So there’s one with a kind of picture, [INAUDIBLE] has a poem that’s called Cow’s Ear Yeah And so what it is, is that you’re reading the letters in like zig-zags, so you’re not reading in a linear way You’re reading this letter and this letter and this letter and this letter, this letter And you say, unless you know how to do that, you really don’t– you can’t beat it So Please AUDIENCE: Question, thinking about the roles of meditation and words in Buddhism, and coming to realization and how, you know, typically, to be [INAUDIBLE] someone’s, if decades of dedicated meditation practice, but then thinking back to the Buddha’s day,

people would fear [INAUDIBLE] servant of this sudden awakening So what do you– the power of, like speech and words, and maybe that– just referencing of that happening, is that like his hyperbole? But that power then, as opposed to now, what do you think about? Oh, great question In one way, it takes us into the Buddhist philosophy of language, and what language does in the world And this is a very complicated thing What they said, they’re very sophisticated [INAUDIBLE] They’re also very self-reflective and sometimes, they’re funny One of my favorite stories is, there’s a monk in a cave in Southern Sri Lanka and he’s residing in text And he hears this voice that’s says, oh, monk, you say that very well And then he, like, stops It goes on, and then he hears the voice again Oh, monk, you say that very well And he says, who said that? And then there’s a little tree god says, I did And then the monk says, oh, now do you know how the monk said? And the tree god says, I was there Which is like one of the great dreams of Buddhist life, so to kind of see the Buddha again So he says, you were there? What did he look like? And he says, well, you know, I mean the Buddha’s, oh, every god in the universe came to hear him He was in Northern India And I was not such a big god, so I sat at the back of the crowd I was also close to the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka, up to my neck in the water I said, he said, I couldn’t see anything So then the monk says to him, ah, well, you were there And when people heard the Buddha speak, they were enlightened What happened to you? Then the rood god says to him, well, monk, there’s some questions that should be asked [LAUGHTER] So one other thing is that he would say, oh, I wasn’t paying attention But that what it is One of the things that you have in this is that, yes, there is a certain kind of philosophy of language that comes to certain conclusions There’s another, you could say, in the literature There’s another philosophy of language that comes to different conclusions One is a question, can the language accurately represent what you is there in reality? And they disagree Some people say yes, some people say no In a, and you could have this whole distinction between conventional truths, that is just what we use by convention And then, ultimate truths, ways of describing reality, what it is Sometimes, as taking that for the conventional truth is not really true And the schools of Theravada, they take seriously the statement that truth is one, there is no second They’re both true And so then what you have is an idea that the world is kind of– underdetermined in its appearances And that, the statements, the exaggerations, the hyperbole, all the things the mistakes, the misperceptions that poetry rejoices in, gets at something that is really there And then the contemplation paths, how is it that truth and false last right next to each other? Like the river and the ocean That the river is a falseness of hyperbole, and it flows into the ocean of truth And it gets lost in truth So that it brings us to the truth And so you say, in the literary cultures, there’s a different philosophy on religion That when we just look at kind of logic that is [INAUDIBLE] that validates the perception So In Buddhist studies, we don’t want to know about the literary cultures We just like the logicians and the philosophy, and the philosophy of language AUDIENCE: I was struck– oh, go ahead AUDIENCE: Does it help? Oh, I’ll go ahead of you, Ben [LAUGHTER] I was really struck by the poem, one of them, about the tangles And how we’re tangled and tangled, who can untangle me? And the use of repetition And one of the things that struck me is, in my understanding, as Indian and [INAUDIBLE] literature’s translated into Chinese and into East Asia, although there is repetition in literature before that, that the Chinese begin to associate repetition with Buddhism, o Buddhist something And there’s some way in which repeating words and then alluding to slightly different meanings, does something Buddhist for them So I’m wondering if– just out of ignorance, in terms of how repetition is used in poetics more generally, non-Buddhist poetics, is there some way that Buddhists use these non-Buddhist things in Buddhist

ways? AUDIENCE: Like [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: Like in duplex repetition CHARLES HALLISEY: Well, one thing is that Buddhist scriptures and Buddhist texts– authoritative texts, lots of them are very, very repetitive Academic explanation on this is that this is about the mechanism of how they were transmitted in the oral culture So I don’t believe the whole thing all the writing as doing it, I don’t think that was where it for relying on oral recitation for the transmission of the texts They were using things written down And then when you look at Buddhist readers on those texts, they don’t see the repetitions function like They see that each repetition has a different meaning in it And then they are exploring how like the changing all We can do vocally Which we can change the meaning of the word by how we voice it And that we can say the same word three times in a row, in which you could add some kind of intonation or something that a different meaning will come out And then what you have it’s a really interesting question for readers How do we return, what is mute on the page of the text of a manuscript or poem to speech? That it would– it is what speech was That it’s being preserved on this new page Then it has to be returned to speech And what they’re doing in this is trying to kind of see something in the repetitions If something that’s in the speech itself And so what’s interesting is that I would say when Buddhist text jumped across linguistic boundaries from South Asia to China, in which the Chinese are getting just like a tsunami of stuff all at once, and they’re from all kinds of different sources And they’re trying to make sense of it all, that one of the things that they picked up was the repetition is significant And that, somehow, they learned that, and they were trying to– they didn’t know what– how it was significant They just said let’s not clean it up As three times– says the same thing three times, that’s not just they’re all, that’s just for ease of memorizing He said it for three times There’s something in that What can we say about that? But you’re right There’s a future of a lot of the text of a kind of repetition And this is one of the things that people can play with, that, you know, you can have a game in which four verses are written out of words that only have three syllables The same three syllables that are used in different kinds of repetitive things in which you say, it’s saying only one simple thing We say, no, no, no Actually, when it says it here, means this When he says these here, it’s a different meaning And so then, there’s this gap between the vehicle of the word, and the word itself And what you’re saying, oh, the vehicle could be the same, but there’s radically different words there And there’s a skill, again, a perception But you have to say, let me look at it again and not hang on to what I first saw And see what else is here And you say, well, that’s like part of the literary culture of showing all of them AUDIENCE: What you were saying about the contrast between the kind of a scientific prescription and a poetic or literary prescription, [INAUDIBLE] about the number of kind of parallel structures in the worlds that I inhabit The contrast between the descriptive language and evocative language, the contrast between them, the kind of third-person, we’re looking at something from the outside as opposed and trying to discredit that, as opposed to the first-person word, you’re going to have the experience of trying to communicate that experience, and evoke the sympathetic resonance, or the appreciation of that to get the subjective experience of the listener And there’s a range of possible ways that you can express subjective experiences, some of which is so subjective, it evokes nothing in other people and some of which is so wonderfully suggestive of their own experience That it evokes a readiness in the listener And the parallel, to me, is actually from data also and in [INAUDIBLE] Zen practice

with the use of koans Is the way in which, if you approach a koan as a description, of something, like does the dog [INAUDIBLE] nature No Or what the sound of one hand clapping? If you look at it from the outside in, as descriptive, you can never really unpackage never really manifest your [INAUDIBLE] You can’t really realize what it’s about But if you look at it as evocative or something and find what that experience is your own experience, that’s how you connect, that’s how you do realize it That’s how you can get to the core of it CHARLES HALLISEY: I would say that my understanding of what’s going on here is [INAUDIBLE] And so there, we’ve made the contrast as it– we may be approaching poetry in particular as somehow being an expressive practice What I’m suggesting, here, is that it’s not an expressive practice It’s a contemplative practice, so trying to guide people to have a perception of things that they don’t ordinarily have So it’s not connective automatically to an experience you’ve already had It’s giving you an experience you haven’t had, in which you say, t can see that And then they say, think about how you can And so some of it is saying, the Cloud Messenger, is the Kalidasa’s Meghaduta It’s a very standard kind of thing that– or it becomes standard What it is at the yaksha when we’re speaking to the cloud, and he says, you are still a big cloud You are so firm, so dark We are zooming across the air The women are working in the fields The Sinhala women will look up and they’ll think that the top of a mountain has been blown off and is being blown to the air So this is about a misperception But you immediately can see what the cloud looks like It’s sharp angled at And then a– it’s not that, oh, I’ve seen clouds like that I’ve never seen a cloud like that The you can do is obviously, same with a grackle, for the salalihini, what the poet does, he says to the bird, you gotta be careful when you’re flying over those women in the field because they’re going to look up and they’re going to see just how rosy your legs look They’re going to think it’s Karl, and they’re going to try and grab you and put you on the– make you earrings So we just make sure– AUDIENCE: Five minutes to go CHARLES HALLISEY: All right Now, what do you do? This is a very complicated thing because, again, it’s based on will I see something by misperception? The power to say anything It looks like a mountaintop We say, well, that’s what that cloud looks like And you say, well, how can I see something that I’ve never seen? And then the other is, how I see a cloud that looks like a mountaintop? I say, again, my mind’s eye can see better Now, when the Sinhala poets have– and those Sinhala women are in the fields and the look up, and they see you and they see your legs and how red they are, they’re going to try to grab you, so make sure those stay up What comes into my mind is, Kalidasa, which I say, oh, this is Kalidasa He knows Kalidasa It’s a, I can say it’s an illusion David Shulman and you go, [INAUDIBLE],, and give the name It’s intensifying It’s making that, this Sinhala poem denser because everything I know about Kalidasa, and almost every [INAUDIBLE] poem that I have read has a moment in which the messenger is mis-perceived And always by this Sinhala women And then you just say, oh, all of what I remember from Meghaduta, from Kalidasa, now is in the Sinhala And you say, how did that happen? And you can say, that’s not out of my experience It’s an experience that only exists in poetry And there’s a certain pleasure just to go, that’s so nice that I, I had an illusion there We don’t say, I think this going Elegant and beautiful, and also not limiting to these literary cultures So here’s an example My son is where? University, go on car rides with him And they would try to educate me on the music, that they listen to, which I hate We’re trapped in the car, and they going some I would say, that’s trash They’d say, no, listen So there was a song by the Wu Tang Clan called “I Can’t Sleep at Night.”

Some of you know it [INAUDIBLE] Here’s the basic thing There were some guys wailing I’m like, how on earth what it is to be an African-American in the United States And he’s, all the things that happen He said, I can’t sleep at night So we listened to it, started going, an then my son says to me, listen to what he called the beat Listen to the rhythm So you can do that with your mind You’re only listening [INAUDIBLE] He said, all right, you got it? Now technology means, on his computer radio, he has, I don’t know, 15,000 songs that he’s illegally downloaded I don’t want to know about And he had all these covers of different songs And he starts to play me a song that I know, Dionne Warwick, “Walk On By.” It’s about a breakup, a woman saying, yo, man, if you see me on the street, don’t stop and talk to me Just walk on by Of course, I’ll start crying And the beat is the same And then he usually plays me the cover by Isaac Hayes in which it changes everything When a man’s singing to someone else, then I’m all [INAUDIBLE] very distinctive He’s like, oh, OK Then he goes back to the original Wu Tang Clan with Ghostface Killah, singing And we go on And at a certain point, just listening to it Then all of the sudden, Isaac Hayes comes in, starts singing It was, you immediately know, this is Isaac Hayes And he goes, stop your crying, you man And you say, wow And then this, for other songs, in all those covers of Dionne Warwick, Isaac Hayes enters into this song They’re all present And then we say, ooh, that’s an object of contemplation How did that happen? And it depends on knowing stuff And we say, God, this is a lot more complicated than I ever thought I just thought it was trash you couldn’t hear anything And I then want to listen to it more This technology has made it possible for people to listen to the things that, when I was their age, it was impossible You could never buy so many records And so the technology is connected to the contemplation And it let– it creates different possibilities And poetry is the same kind of thing Depending on the connoisseurs who know stuff and say, oh, that’s really, that’s nice You recognize that? That’s the beat from Meghaduta AUDIENCE: Thank you very much CHARLES HALLISEY: OK [APPLAUSE]