Courtesy of David Hrbeck, earlier this year, we featured wonderful footage of Allen reading, in 1993, in a high-school gymnasium in Olomouc, in the Czech Republic (along with an actor, Mikuláš Pánek, reading, eloquently, the Czech translations), “Sunflower Sutra”, “Kral Majales”, “Kaddish”, “Return of Kral Majales”. Here’s an additional poem from that reading (first in Czech, and then in the English), the wise, profound and deeply moving “Gospel Noble Truths”.
Here’s another rendition (also from Allen’s 1993 Czech tour, this one recorded at the American Cultural Center in Prague)
and here’s Kirt Markle’s video experimentation on yet another rendition.
Allen’s notes (from the 1975 (released in 1983) “First Blues” version – later released on “Holy Soul Jelly Roll”):
“I had the idea of making a country and western song out of Buddhist Dharma. I’d sung it any number of times already, with (Jon) Sholle, with Arthur Russell, and I’d rehearsed it with David Mansfield on the Dylan “Rolling Thunder” tour bus. It’s an outline of Three Marks of Existence: suffering, change, and no permanent soul; then the Four Noble Truths: that existence contains suffering, suffering is caused by ignorance, there is an end to ignorance, and the medicine for all that – the fourth truth – is the eightfold path. The latter is right views (“Look at the view”, etc), right aspirations, right speech, right action, right labor, right energy, right mindfulness, right meditation, and right samadhi or right state of being. Followed by instructions in sitting, standing, and lying down meditation; followed by a review of the six senses, sight (“Look where you look”, etc), sound, smell, taste, touch, and mind (“Think what you think”), then instructions in dying. The only thing I wonder is “Die when you die”. Some Buddhists believe in reincarnation. But you still have to die to get there. So it’s a short-form summary review of the nut of Buddhism, a little Dharma in pop form.
A very early version is available here (approximately ten minutes in, following an equally early version of “Guru Blues”) in a 1976 Naropa reading with Michael McClure.
The poem/song is also featured on the soundtrack in the concluding moments of Costanzo Allione’s 1978 “Fried Shoes and Cooked Diamonds”.
and here’s Anne Waldman, Steven Taylor and Tyler Burba with a posthumous version recorded in New York, at the Living Theater, in 2008)
“Born in this world/you got to suffer/Everything changes/You got no soul./ Try to be gay/Ignorant happy/You get the blues/You eat jellyroll…”