by Gary Snyder
d.a.levy - Darryl Levy - I try out his names, reaching to know the man; his poems, his polemics. I feel brother to Levy not only as poet but as fellow-worker in the Buddha-fields. Levy had a remarkable karma: he saw who he was, where he was, what his field of activity was, and what his tools were to be.
"if in the past
i was of the black
and sat at night
In Indian thought the truth/law/absolute is called the Dharma. The Buddhadharma ("Buddhism") is the Dharma as transmitted by a line of enlightened men and women. Gods exist, but even the Gods are subject to the laws of karma; and because of their tiresomely long omnipotent lives they are somewhat handicapped in the achievement of liberation. Gods have been known to gain insight by attending little talks given by poor wretched mendicant human wise men. There are religious-minded people who strive for purity and solitary illumination, to be "God" like-but the Dharma is without dualism. Great Buddhist yogins of the past often sat through the night in graveyards, meditating while seated on corpses. Some of these yogins in their exhaustive search through all the components of mind and transformations of thought-energy became "of the black" - showing no dualistic distaste for "impurity" - and hoping to reach the depths where there is the basest lead, the raw material for the alchemical transformation into "gold."
The "right-handed" yogins and mystics have been an integral part of the conspiracy of civilization to degrade women and mis-use nature. They have become "established religion" living off of money provided by the state, or the pious gifts of workers and peasants.
- "it was feb. 63 when i had enough money to buy a 6X9 letterhead hand press & type. Spent al most a year at my aunt and uncles printing sometimes 8 to 16 hours a day for days and days. . ."
The yogins of the left-hand, both women and men, have lived in the world doing their work and supporting themselves by crafts or labor. The Tantric siddha ("powerman") Saraha was an arrow-maker. Naropa's teacher Tilopa was a pounder of til seeds. Many were poets. Long apprentice ships were spent, in the mastery of a craft.
"i have a city to cover with lines"
His hometown, Cleveland, that he wouldn't move from. Like the Sioux warriors who tied themselves to a spear and stuck it in the ground, never to retreat. Why? An almost irrational act of love-to give a measure of self- awareness to the people of Cleveland through poesy.
"you will not confront yourself
so you leap to the aid of others"
-Levy's self-criticism also. But the Bodhisattva view does not imply that first, you perfect your selfrealization and second, enter the world to "cure illnesses and loosen bonds." The waterwheel swings deep into the water and spills it off the top in the same turning.
"in the background i sense
masonic mafia rites"
You'd think a hard-working young printer and poet would incur no particular wrath and blame. Or would you. The problem goes deeper than the celebrated American anti-intellectualism or guilt-filled prurient repressive over-permissive sexual attitudes or the compulsive accumulation of X
the police try to protect
the banks - and everything else
(Luther's outhouse a national institution.) The problem goes back to when the powers, beauties, and deep knowledges of the age-old women's traditions were supplanted by military-caste mystiques & the accumulation of heavy metals. The poet/yogin still speaks for that other, saner, consciousness. The Occidental poet, with his "Muse."
"lady you have to be realistic
sending all your poets to the looney bin
ain't helping the profession very much
your blue hair in the wind
& yr eyes full of diamonds."
Not an easy row to hoe. Nature a network of de-pendent transformations and the Muse can be Maya, mistress of the ecosystem of delusion; who will perpetually keep tricking, or be the means of seeing through (herself) - a challenge, Levy's Cleveland is not, exactly, his adversary: but his witch-Muse he needs must convert to the Path (more paying-back for spooky experiments in previous lives - that muse -)
"What form of energy is used to
create the original thoughts?
Try to become THAT!"
This takes us to the heart of Levy's strength. All manipulations of politics or magic - things, images, from inner or outer worlds; reduce down to this mustard seed that blows away when you try to look at it.
"Cherokee, Deleware, Huron [sic]
We will return your land to you"
It is curious how even a glimpse of the Mind-essence creates such primal respect for the land and for the dignity of men who live lovingly in the web of life - the primitives-
"it is not a Cathouse of the rising sun
or the deathwagon of the beat
generation, but a bridge of clouds
to a new culture."
Traditional orthodox Buddhists are not concerned with building new cultures any more than they are interested in nature religion or girls. Poets must try to get them together - playing a funny kind of role, today, as pivot-man, between the upheavals of culture-change and the persistence of the Single Eye of knowledge. d. a. levy finished up his karma early - "reborn as a poet in an industrial society" but he did his job well.
"the traditions we follow
make the gods look young"
Thus the name of Padma Sambhava's line of Tibetan Buddhism, Ning-ma, means "Ancient Ones." The sophistications of Mahayana metaphysics harmonized with archaic and primitive systems ... Goddesses; sexual yoga. Too rich to manage without the bitter tea of Zen as well - and here in North America, Turtle Island, we begin now to look for the next switchback in the path: something drawing on the wisdom traditions of Asia, incorporating the profound lore of our Semitic, Celtic, African, & Germanic roots - something that walks with the land and animals of Turtle Island in "a sacred manner" as the Indians do.
Levy gone up ahead, with that tinkle of bells (which is also how you hear the dakini approaching)
"when riding the winter pony
a trail of bells
deep in the mind
& if one listens
perhaps this sound
the young rider through the
4.V I 11.40071
(Reckoning roughly from
the earliest cave paintings)
Books by d.a.levy - find them where you can -
ukanhavyrfukncitibak. Cleveland, Ghost Press 1970.
Suburban Monastery Death Poem. Madison, Wis., Quixote Press, Vajrayana Reprint Series #1.
The Tibetan Stroboscope. Cleveland, Ayizan Press, 1968.
and, issues of The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle.
Go to d.a. levy home page
Go to d.a.levy essays and commentery index
Go to Light and Dust Poets. | Go to Kaldron On-Line
Previously published in The Old Ways, City Lights Books
Copyright © 1977 by Gary Snyder
Reprinted by permission of the author
This is a cooperative presentation of
Ghost Pony, Kaldron On-Line, and
Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.