The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunday, The Lord's Day

I promised my friend Andrea that Sunday being “the Lord's day” I would ascend to a high place, rend in two the Veil of the Temple and penetrate a Secret Female Place.

 I did ascend to the high place, Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, which is why I was unable to find net access and post on Sunday. Yesterday (Monday) it rained and I hung out in a dry spot across from the Mark Twain Hotel on Taylor and did prostrations and didn't get to typing then either.

As we shall see, I did also rend the Veil of the Temple. But that Secret Female is playing hard-to-get. I am told there needs to be more romance and foreplay first. (I try to act nonchalant, like this is not news to me.)

Tonight, Tuesday, is the Full Moon and I have high hopes. (I am slacking a bit today and writing more, because I plan to bow and bum my way through this Full Moon downtown tonight.)

But let's go back to Sunday, the Lord's Day.

My biggest concern as I packed yesterday was whether my cardboard prostration mat would be where I stashed it by the dumpster at UN Plaza. I thought about leaving my donations box unpacked, the one with the schizophrenic's candy offering in it, since I only got about thirty-five cents in donations at UN Plaza.. (“This will help,” the schizo said, and it did save me from the Rastafarian's temptation.)

I couldn't do it. In went the donation box and the precious candies. As you will read later, they saved me again.

I walked downtown from the outer Mission by way of Valencia Street. It was there at the corner of 15th Street across from the Valencia Garden's projects that I met my Guru under unusual circumstances.

I was living near there in the eighties separated from my fiancee while we figured out if we really wanted to get married. After living together for years, we were experimenting with an “open relationship,” which in the way of things was going better for her than for me. She was seeing another fine man who was in love with her, while I was pursuing a young woman who wasn't with me. I was fragile and it hurt, so I did what I always did in those days when things got tough: I got in half lotus, faced a white wall and tried to “just be there” with all the complicated fireworks inside me for hours at a time.

I had just formally taken refuge at Kagyu Droden Kunchab after about ten years of sitting practice, including some fairly intense long retreats in solitude. I was more than intrigued by Lama Lodro's presence, but the formal tradition was confusing me and one of the things I was confused by was my relationship to the Christian tradition.

Like most modern Western dharma practitioners I had an aversion to much of the theology and the moral codes of Christianity, but as a poet I was steeped in Christian symbolism and was trying to work it all out. So I took out my Tarot cards and looked for guidance..

I won't go into the details, but the reading was powerful and I came away feeling like I had made a break-through in understanding. Buddhadharma would be the tradition I practiced in the outer “solar world,” but in the inner “lunar world,” I would study and write poetry as a heretical Christian, like my hero William Blake.

Excited, I left my room to walk and there one block away, on the corner of 15th and Valencia, was Lama Lodro!

To really appreciate this you must know that at that time this was one of the biggest crack dealing corners in San Francisco, crawling with buyers, dealers and gang bangers; guns, drugs and money. (It has been rebuilt and cleaned up since.) To see this Lama, who had practiced in caves in Tibet, studied with the 16th Karmapa personally , whose picture touching foreheads with Trungpa Rinpoche was prominently displayed at the center, to see him standing on this corner smiling at me was uncanny. I was speechless, but bowed and said, “Lama.” He clearly would have talked to me, but seeing that I was too shy, he nodded and we passed.

He married me and my fiancee, and I went on retreats with him and had personal interviews and conversations, but I was his worst student ever. I admired some of the people who studied Tibetan and “joined up” so to speak, but it was clear that for me this was not to be.

I never asked him what he was doing there on the crack corner. In the prosaic world of ordinary experience he was just this chubby guy who had a son out of wedlock and a string of girlfriends some of whom were probably ticked off at him and a marriage or two, but he conducted extraordinary meditation retreats and had a combination of fierce pride and disarming humility I had never seen before. His every move seemed to have meaning even when it seemed casual or even “wrong.” Tiny things he said and did have lived in my imagination and answered numerous questions of the mind and heart ever since.

In my world of poetry and magic, I knew why he was there and I have never forgotten. He gave me the Tara Mantra and the Mani and inspired me to practice mantra and prostration right here in this crazy crack head world. There was also something in his presence that had nothing to do with any practice or experience at all. He might not even remember me, and he certainly would not approve of many of the things I have done but he was extraordinarily unbearably and relentlessly kind to me and never judged me either. For me he is mysteriously inseparable from the rest of my life and our social relationship had little to do with it. Some may say that invoking him in devotion is purely a matter of my mind, and has nothing to do with him. Maybe this is so. Who cares?

I bowed at the corner of 15th and Valencia and chanted the Vajra Guru mantra and recited my poem to him:

Let every thought of you be a million bows
and every bow be a million more
Kind Teacher think of me
These six senses I gather up for you
Please use them to make others happy
In every lifetime may I be your worst disciple
cut off and alone, lost and confused
taking suffering, spreading joy
calling only on the Love and Kindness in your Heart
let me sing your Mani among the forgotten people
till the War stops

This poem never fails to make me weep. I decide that today as I bow, instead of my refuge prayer, I will sing the Mani in a way I learned from Lama Lodro. On I went to the Tenderloin to bow.

Next, I will steal Fire and rend the Veil.

Love to All,

John O.

1 comment:

  1. Last year on my birthday I saw a shooting star amongst millions of others, in a sky so deep and dark, untouched by light pollution.
    This year for my birthday I saw (wrapped up in cardboard box) a very kind and wise man bow-wowing by the light of the sun and the full moon, on city streets walked by millions of people, yet untouched by the others passing by all around them.
    Brother John, you are the human equivalent of a shooting star.
    Thank you for the best birthday gift ever.