PERSEVERE (supported by an NEA ArtWorks grant)

March 23rd, 2014
World premiere March 23, 2017 at the Scripps Performing Arts Centre, and University of New Mexico–Albuquerque, May 2017.
European premiere, Salzburg Mozartem, May 2018.
Supported with an ArtWorks grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Recorded for Volume 3, Voices of the Pearl,  forthcoming summer 2018.
Text/libretto: early Buddhist Pali texts from female disciples of the historical Buddha collected in the Therīgāthā  (circa 500 B.C.), poetry from the 9th-century Tibetan Yeshe Tsogyel,  and contemporary Tibetan Khandro Tāre Lhamo, both in the original Tibetan; Composer: Karola Obermüller (University of New Mexico)Music for soprano, harp, voice, and live electronics.
Written for Anne Harley and Barbara Pöschl-Edrich
Poetic translation, pronunciation and word-for-word translation: Jim Anderson, Holly Gayley, Bryan Levman, and Dolma Kyab.
Texts and translation

1)         pabbata (mountain)

kiñ cāpi kho ‘mhi kisikā gilānā bāḷhadubbalā |
daṇḍam olubbha gacchāmi pabbataṃ abhirūhiya ||  (Cittātherīgāthā, 27)

Although I am feebly, sick and extremely weak
Leaving on a stick I go, having climbed the mountain.

 

saṃghāṭiṃ nikkhipitvāna pattakaṃ ca nikujjiya |
sele khambhesiṃ attānaṃ tamokhandhaṃ padāliyā ||  (Cittātherīgāthā, 28)

Having put down my upper robe and turned over my bowl,
I supported myself on a rock; the dark mass of confusion was pierced.

 

2)         udaka (water)

pāde pakkhālayitvāna, udakesu karomahaṃ |
pādodakañca disvāna, thalato ninnamāgataṃ ||  (Paṭācārātherīgāthā, 114)

After washing my feet I looked at the waters
I saw the water from my feet going to the low-lying ground from the higher

 

tato cittaṃ samādhemi assaṃ bhadraṃ va jāniyaṃ |
tatodīpaṃ gahetvāna, vihāraṃ pāvisiṃ ahaṃ |
seyyaṃ olokayitvāna mañcakamhi upāvisiṃ ||  (Paṭācārātherīgāthā, 115)

Because of that I concentrated my mind, like a horse of good breed.
Then, taking a lamp I entered my abode
Examining the bed, I took a seat on the couch.

 

tato sūciṃ gahetvāna vaṭṭiṃ okassayām’ ahaṃ |
padīpasseva nibbānaṃ vimokkho ahu cetaso ||  (Paṭācārātherīgāthā, 116)

Then, taking a needle, I pulled out the wick,
My mind was released like the quenching of a lamp.

 

3)         esā antaradhāyāmi (I disappear)

esā antaradhāyāmi, kucchiṃ vā pavisāmi te |
bhamukantare tiṭṭhāmi tiṭṭhantiṃ maṃ na dakkhasi ||  (Uppalavaṇṇātherīgāthā, 232)

I will disappear or enter into your belly;

I stand in between your eyebrows and you do not see where I am standing.

 

4)         gom (thirst)

བུ་མོ་                 ཁྱོད་      གྲངས་མེད་          ལུས་བླངས་          འཁོར་བ་རུ་         འཁྱམས་ནས།

Bu-mo              kyod     chang-med       lus-lang           kor-wa-ri          chum-nei

སྐྱེས་      ཤིའི་      ཁ་         འཁོར་    ངན་སོང་གི་                     སྡུག་བསྔལ།

Kyi       shii       ka        kor       ngan-song-gi               dud-nged

ཚ་         གྲང་      དང་      བཀྲེས་    སྐོམ་      བཀོལ་སྤྱོད་          ཚོ་         བཟོད་བསྲན་དུ་     འདུག་    ནམི་ལུས་

Tsa       drang   dang    gre       gom     gol-jod             tsho      zo-san-du         ‘du       na

མི་ལུས་  དོན་ལྡན་     གྱི་       སྙིང་བོ།

Milee    Dondan     Kyi        Nying wo

 

དམ་ཆོས་       གསང་སྔགས་     ཀྱི་            ཉེ་ལམ།

Dam choe     sang nga     kyi                 Nye lam
མྱུར་མ་ཕྱོགས་                   དཀའ་སྤྱད་          དེ་ཅི་ཕྱིར།
Nyur-ma-chog              ga-jie               de-ji-shur

ཅི་ལྟར་   ཡིན་ཀྱང་             མི་         བཟོད།

ji-dar   yin-jiang          mi        zod

བྱ་བ་                 གཞན་    ཅི་ཕྱིར་               ཡོད་དོ།

Qia-wa             xian     ji-phyir             yod-do

འཆི་བ་               ལས་      དེ་མིན་               ཅི་         མཐའ།

Chi-wa             las        de-min             ji          tha

ད་དུང་               དཀའ་བ་             རང་སྤྱོད་             ཅིག་      སྙིང་རུས་             མ་མཚོ་རྒྱལ།

Da-dung          ga-wa              rang-jio           jig        nyang-rus        ma-tsho-gyal

 

In the circle of existence, Wandering through countless forms,
Turning in the round of birth and death, Tortured by the sorrows and states of misery,

Oh woman! if you bore that heat and cold, That hunger, thirst, and servitude!–
Can you not sustain this hardship now,

What else is there to do?
The worst that can befall is death!
Do not retreat from your austerity, O Tsogyal, courage, persevere!

(Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady of the Lotus-Born)
5)         krul-ba (illusion)

ད་ནི་                 རེ་ཞིག་               གཉིས་བློ་             མ་         ཞིག་      པར། །

Da-ni               re-shig             nyis-lo              ma       shig      bar

ང་         དང་      འབྲལ་འབྲལ་        འདྲ་བས་             བདེ་བར་             བྱོས། །

Nga      dang    dral-dral          dra-wei            de-war             chi

གཉིས་བློ་             ཞིག་     ནས་      ང་         དང་      གཉིས་མེད་          འགྱུར། །

Nyi-lo               shig      ni         nga      dang    nyi-med                        ‘gyur

བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་                       ནམ་མཁའི་          མཐའ་ཁྱབ་          ཤོག།

Ta-shi-de-lek                nam-ki             ta-chab                        shok

For a time now, while your dualistic minds persist,

It will seem that I have left you, but take heart.

When your dualistic minds subside, you will see that we were never parted.

May health and happiness embrace the very limits of the sky!

(Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady of the Lotus-Born)

ཡུལ་      སྣང་བ་               ཡིན་      པས་      གྲུབ་པ་               མེད། །

Yul       nang-wa          yin       be        drub-ba                       mai

ལམ་      འཁྲུལ་པ་             ཡིན་      པས་      བདེན་པ་             མེད། །

lam      krul-ba             yin       be        dhan-ba           mai

The objects of our senses, mere perception, Have no being in themselves.

The path, too, is illusion; It is not the truth.

(Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady of the Lotus-Born)

 

6)         ngang-der shok (There remain.)

ཆོས་      ཟད་       གདོད་མའི་          ཀློང་དུ་               ཐིམ། །

Cho      sai        dod-mi             lun-du              tam

ང་         དང་      འབྲལ་    མེད་      འགྲོགས་  ཐབས་    ཡིན། །

Nga      dang    drul      med      druk     thab     yin

All dissolves, exhausted, in the primal space,

And thus it is that you will never stray from me.

(Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady of the Lotus-Born)

ཕར་      བསྲེ་      ཚུར་      བསྟིམ་    གཉིས་མེད་          ཀློང་། །

Par      se         tshur    dom     nyi-med                        klong

ཉམས་མྱོང་                      སྐྱེས་ན་               ངང་དེར་             ཞོག

Nyam-myong                kyi-na              ngang-der        shok

When you melt and mingle mutually together, Taste that vast expanse of nonduality.

There remain.

(Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady of the Lotus-Born)

 

7)         tha-tshig (oath)

ཁ་ལྟོ་རྒྱབ་མ་སོས་འོང་བ་མིན། །

kha lto rgyab ma sos ‘ong ba min

གནས་འཁོར་མ་ཟིན་འཁྱམས་པ་མིན། །

gnas ‘khor ma zin ‘khyams pa min

འབངས་ཡུལ་མིས་མ་གཅེས་ཕུད་པ་མིན། །

‘bangs yul mis ma gces phud pa min

གཟའ་ཐབས་གྲོགས་མ་འགྲིགས་འཐོར་བ་མིན། །

gza’ thabs grogs ma ‘grigs ‘thor ba min

ང་ཆོས་བརྒྱད་ལས་ལ་གཡེང་བ་མིན།

nga chos brgyad las la g.yeng ba min

 

ཕྱིར་དགྲ་འདུལ་གཉེན་སྐྱོང་བསམ་པ་མིན། །

phyir dgra ‘dul gnyen skyong bsam pa min

སྲིད་འཁོར་བའི་ལས་ལ་འཆིང་བ་མིན།

srid ‘khor ba’i las la chags pa min

ནང་ཉོན་མོངས་འཁྲུལ་བས་བསླུས་པ་མིན། །

nang nyon mongs ‘khrul bas bslus pa min

དཔལ་པད་མའི་ཞལ་གཟིགས་ལུང་བསྟན་ཡིན། །

dpal pad ma’i zhal gzigs lung bstan yin

མ་མཁའ་འགྲོའི་ཐ་ཚིག་དུས་ལ་བབ། །

ma mkha’ ‘gro’i tha tshig dus la bab

Not leaving out of lack of food and clothes,
Not roaming because I failed as a householder,
Not cast aside for lack of affection from kin,
Not tossed away because a relationship didn’t work out,

Not distracted by [everyday] concerns and deeds,
Not thinking of destroying enemies and protecting friends,

Not attached to worldly activities in cyclic existence,

Not deceived due to the confusion of inner emotions,
I am [bound by] the visionary prophecy of glorious Padma!

The time for the oath of the mother ḍākinīs has come!

(Khandro Tāre Lhamo, Pad ma’i phreng ba 103.3–6, translated by Holly Gayley)

 

8)         dwangs-ma (radiance)

ཚེ་མཉམ་སྐྱེལ་བྱེད་པ་ལག་པའི་མཐིལ།

tshe mnyam skyel byed pa lag pa’i mthil

གྲོགས་བརྩེ་གདུང་སྙིང་གི་དྭངས་མ་ལགས། །

grogs brtse gdung snying gi dwangs ma lags

ཉིད་ལན་སྟོང་དྲན་པ་སྨོས་ཅི་དགོས། །

nyid lan stong dran pa smos ci dgos

Of course, we will spend our lives together.
Darling beloved, radiance of my heart,
Recalling you a thousand times a day, what need I say.

(Khandro Tāre Lhamo, Pad ma’i phreng ba 98.4, translated by Holly Gayley)

 

9)         gzugs thon (forms emerge)

ནང་སེམས་ཉིད་རིག་པ་རང་གསལ་འགྲོ༔

nang sems nyid rig pa rang gsal ‘gro

གཞི་རྩོལ་བྲལ་རིག་པའི་རང་ཞལ་མཇལ༔

gzhi rtsol bral rig pa’i rang zhal mjal

མགོན་པད་མའི་སྨོན་ལམ་གཏད་རྒྱ་སད༔

mgon pad ma’i smon lam gtad rgya sad

ལུས་རྩ་རླུང་གཏུམ་མོའི་བདེ་དྲོད་འབར༔

lus rtsa rlung gtum mo’i bde drod ‘bar

 

གནས་འཁོར་ལོ་ལྔ་ཡི་རྩ་མདུད་གྲོལ༔

gnas ‘khor lo lnga yi rtsa mdud grol

བརྡ་ནམ་མཁའི་སྒོ་འབྱེད་དབྱིངས་ཡིད་བཀྲ༔

brda nam mkha’i sgo ‘byed dbyings yid bkra

སྲོག་འཆི་མེད་དཔལ་སྟེར་བུམ་བཅུད་འཁིལ༔

srog ‘chi med dpal ster bum bcud ‘khil

གཟུགས་ལུས་ཀྱི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་མཁའ་ནས་ཐོན༔

gzugs lus kyi phyag rgya mkha’ nas thon

 

Within, the mind itself becomes naturally radiant awareness.

Meeting one’s original face as awareness, the effortless ground,

Awakening the protector Padma’s aspiration and entrustment,

The body’s channels and winds blaze with blissful heat.

 

The knots in the channels at the five cakras release;

The sky-gate of symbols opens; letters manifest in space;

Nectar pools in the vase that grants glory of deathless life;

Visible, gross symbolic forms emerge from the sky.

(Khandro Tāre Lhamo, Pad ma’i phreng ba 145.1–3, translated by Holly Gayley)

 

 

 

Snowflakes, Blossoms: Friends of the Way

March 23rd, 2014

stonesnowflakeTexts:  poems by 17th-century Buddhist Chan/Zen nuns: Two song-lyrics of Shang Jinglan, and Guxu’s “Paying a Visit to Huang Jieling and Not Finding Her In”;

Premiered fall 2015, Scripps College, and recorded fall 2016, at Manhattan School of Music.

Recorded for Volume 2, Voices of the Pearl,  June 2018.

Composer: Marjorie Merryman.

All three texts express the experience of distance and absence between 17th-century Buddhist Chan/Zen nuns. Displaced by war and political upheaval, they have turned to a life of material simplicity, contemplation, scholarship and poetry. Their muted expressions of longing suggest deep emotion, but ultimately they arrive at a heightened acceptance, spirituality and oneness with the natural world.

This is a work for two sopranos (or soprano/mezzo soprano), flute or Chinese flute, harp and percussion (Chinese and or western), with a duration of 12-15 minutes.

Texts and Translations
(translations used with permission by Dr. Beata Grant)

1. Parting from Master Guxu in the Snow (from “Two Song-lyrics of Shang Jinglan” )  • 憶秦娥·雪中別谷虛大師
空留戀
楊柳裊裊隨風戰
隨風戰
彌天道遠
流光如箭
從壺夜月凝光殿
逆風翦碎鵝毛片
鵝毛片
飛翔莫定
何時相見

Vain longing,
The slender twigs of willows tussle in the wind
Tussle in the wind.
Space: the roads are distant;
Time: like an arrow it flies.
Night moon in the inner quarters, frozen light in the hall,
A perverse wind shreds the goose-feather snowflakes,
The goose-feather snowflakes
Swirling ceaselessly about:
When will we meet again?
— Shang Jinglan (1602-1676)

2. Telling of my Sorrows (from “Two Song-lyrics of Shang Jinglan” ) • 訴衷情· 雪夜懷女僧谷虛
無端小立瑣窗前
飛絮影連天
蒲團雪深三尺
參透幾多禪
花欲綻
烏猶寒
孰相憐
歌翻白雪
蓬弄竹花
兩鬢霜添
I stand awhile for no reason by the latticed window;
The shadows of swirling catkins join the sky,
Piled up on the meditation mat, three feet of snow —
How much Chan has she been able to penetrate?
Blossoms about to burst open,
The crows are still cold:
Who feels for them?
Songs flutter in the white snow,
Reeds turn into bamboo flowers,
Frost tinges the hair at one’s temples.
— Shang Jinglan

3. Paying a Visit to Huang Jieling and Not Finding Her In  • 訪黃皆令不遇

遙聞佳客至
雙槳度江風
道侶原相結
禪心孰與通
雲翻寒袖影
花落小池紅
不見孤舟返
愁予暮色中
From afar I hear this distinguished guest has come;
Her boat’s double oars cutting through the river wind.
Friends in the Way are bound together from the start;
Hearts set on the Chan – to whom can one speak of this?
Clouds shift: shadows are cast on chilled sleeves;
Blossoms fall: the little pond is tinged with red.
When I do not see your solitary skiff returning,
Shall I entrust my melancholy to the colors of dusk?
— Guxu (mid 17th century)