After Lalon & Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

This weekend we present the first of what we hope will be many many more posts – a look into the extraordinary collection (now digitalized and made available on line) via the Stanford University archives. Though there’s a breath-taking two-thousand plus audios, we’re starting with some of the video materials, and thought to start with this one – a 1993 recording of  Allen reading his poem “After Lalon”, (followed by a discourse by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, in the company of Allen and Gelek Rimpoche)

Lalon-Sha (c.1772-1890) – the only portrait sketched during his lifetime – Indian National Museum

AG: … (Lalon was a)  crazy wisdom, Baul (B-A-U-L) nineteenth-century poet from Northern Bengal, who wrote paradoxical poems and in those poems, as with Indian saint poetry, usually you give your name at the end of each verse. So someone sent me a book of his poems ad I got turned on and kept waking up in the middle of the night and writing more thoughts down, after Lalon’s style.    “One. It’s true, I got caught….” (I begin it as “After Lalon” ). –  (“It’s true I got caught in/the world/When I was young Blake/tipped me off/Other teachers followed/Better prepare for Death..”……”Allen Ginsberg warns you/don’t follow my path to extinction”)

For contrast two other readings of the poem can be found here – and here

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Allen Ginsberg, and Gelek Rimpoche

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. takes over with two stories (parables) , approximately four minutes in –

I say, “Where is the rebbe?,  and they say, “He’s in heaven” (he goes up to heaven).  So this Litvak from Missouri came to Nemirov, (so Peretz tells the story), to hear and see the rebbe, and he asks in schul, ‘Where is the rebbe now?’, and they’re all saying the rebbe is in heaven.  So he sneaks out and hides out to see what the rebbe is doing. About an hour after midnight, two hours, the rebbe wakes up, stirs, gets dressed, and puts on the coat of a.. like a Polish shepherd, takes an axe and takes a string and goes into the wood and chops some fallen branches, puts them into a bundle (and the Litvak is still behind them, seeing where he’s going) and comes with the axe and with the bundle, goes to the other edge of the village, goes to a house, a shack, a broken-down house at the end of the village, knocks on the door. A hoarse voice of an old woman shouts, “Who is there?”,  and he shouts back and says, “Ivan”  (Ivan is there – “Ivan”, a Polish name).  She says, “What do you want, Ivan?” – He says,  “I’ve come to sell you some wood” – She says,  “I haven’t got any money”. He says, “I’ll trust you”. (You’ve got a good God, I’ll trust you) . So she says, “I can’t make a fire”.  He says, “I’ll go and make a fire for you”,  and goes in, chops the wood, sets the fire. And while he is making the fire, he’s reciting the prayers of Selichos that the people were reciting at the time in the synagogue. Here comes the Litvak and hangs around in schul. Next time somebody says, “Where’s the rabbi, where’s the rabbi?” and.the Chasidism say“The rabbi went up to heaven” . And the Litvak said. “if not higher” – if not higher!

Now this story, I found a Zen (Chan) story like that, about the Fourth Patriarch who had wanted to print the sutras, and it was a time in those days when in order to print them you had to.. it was before moveable type and, you know, all the ideograms that are in Japanese and the Chinese language, and you had to cut,,, you had to cut the woodblock in mirror-writing so it would come out in the print. You needed a lot of money to be able to do that, and he went around and collected money, and finally he had the money to be able to print the sutras, and there was an earthquake, and there were victims of the earthquake, and so he took that money and gave it to the victims of the earthquake, and then went to collect some more money, knocked on doors to get some money together, And next there was a flood, And this time he takes the money and gives it to the victims of the flood. Finally, the third. time, he manages to get the money together, and gets the sutras printed. And those who know say that the first two editions of the sutras  surpass the third. – surpass the third!.

See how these stories.. When you were saying these stories sound so much the same. Kinderlach,  I  have a feeling that we are at the end of our koyach tonight, and so I want to say we can go to sleep. If  you want to hang out a little bit more, share with each other and have  rachmunes from us and we’ll see you tomorrow at ten

If the guests could just pay Chaim when you leave, Chaim is in the tan coat at the door,  Thank you all for coming.  7.30 is the meditation….And the gift shop – books are for sale in the main hall if you want to shop tonight. And if people could take back the cushions..


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