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  • The Blue Sky
  • Gary Snyder (bio)

If someone asked for a description of “The Blue Sky,” I would have to say that it is a poem dealing with the lore of healing from Asian and Native American cultures, which pivots around the figure of the cosmological “Healing Buddha” of Mahayana Buddhism. Shamanism, Buddhism, the lore and psychology of healing, and some of the historical figures of Buddhism are invoked here. It is a part of a larger work called Mountains and Rivers without End.

—Gary Snyder [End Page 88]

The Blue Sky

“Eastward from here,

beyond Buddha-worlds ten times as numerous as the sands of the Ganges there is a world called   PURE AS LAPIS LAZULI its Buddha is called Master of Healing,   AZURE RADIANCE TATHAGATA”

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It would take you twelve thousand summer vacations driving a car due east all day every day to reach the edge of the lapis lazuli realm of Medicine Old Man Buddha; East. Old Man Realm, East across the sea, yellow sand land Coyote Old Man land Silver, and stone blue.

Blue. belo, “bright colors of the flames”   flamen / brahman.   beltane, “blue fire”— Sky.   [the dappled cloud zone—   Sanskrit sku “covered”   skewed (pied) skewbald (.....”Stewball”)   skybald / piebald]—

Horse with lightning feet! a mane like distant rain, [End Page 89] the turquoise horse, a black star for an eye white shell teeth.

Pony that feeds on the pollen of flowers may he make thee whole.   Heal, hale, whole.

The Spell of the Master of Healing

Namo bhagavate bhaishajyaguru-vaidurya- prabharajaya tathagata arhate samyak sambuddhaya tadyatha om bhaishajye bhaishajye bhaishajya samudgate svåhå

“I honour the Lord, the Master of Healing, shining like lapis lazuli, the king, the Tathagata, the Saint, the perfectly enlightened one, saying OM TO THE HEALING TO THE HEALING TO THE HEALER HAIL! svâhâ.”

Shades of blue through the day. T’u chüeh a border tribe near China Türc Turquoise: a hydrous phosphate of aluminum   a little copper   a little iron—

In the reign of the Emperor Nimmyo when Ono-no-Komachi the strange girl poet was seventeen, she set out looking for her father who had become a buddhist wanderer. She took ill on her journey, and sick in bed one night saw [End Page 90]

Azure Radiance Thus-Come Medicine Master

in a dream. He told her she would find a hotsprings on the bank of the Azuma river in the Bandai mountains that would cure her; and she’d meet her father there.

“Enchantment as strange as the Blue up above” my rose of San Antone

Tibetans say that goddesses have lapis lazuli hair.

Azure Old French azur.   Persian lazhward, “lapis lazuli” —blue bead charms against the evil eye—

(Tim and Kim and Don and I were talking about what an awful authoritarian garb Doctors and Nurses wear, really, how spooky it is. “What should they wear?”   —“masks and feathers!”)

Ramana Maharshi Dream I was working as a wood cutter by a crossroads—Ko-san was working with me—we were sawing and splitting the firewood. An old man came up the lane alongside a mud wall—he shouted a little scolding at some Zen monks who were piling slash by the edge of the woods. He came over and chatted with us, a grizzled face—neither eastern or western; or both. He had a glass of buttermilk in his hand. I asked him “Where’d you get that buttermilk?” I’d been looking all over for buttermilk. He said, “At the O K Dairy, right where you leave town.” [End Page 91]

Medicine, measure, “Maya”— Goddess of this vast play.

Celestial. arched cover. . . . kam. Comrade: sharing the same tent or sky, a bent curved bow.

Kama, God of Love, Son of Maya,   bow of flowers.

Shakyamuni would then be the lord of the present world of sorrow; Bhaishajyaguru Yao-Shih Fo Yakushi Nyorai, “Old Man Medicine Buddha”

The lord of the lost paradise.   (Glory of morning, pearly gates,   tlitliltzin, the heavenly blue.)

Thinking on Amitabha in the setting sun, his western paradise— impurities flow out away, to east, behind us, rolling,

planet ball forward turns into the “east...

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