About the Poetry Opening the Philadelphia Lecture

A Practitioner

PureInsight | March 3, 2003

[PureInsight.org] In "In Reference to a Prophecy" and "Deciphering the Last Three Stanzas of the Plum Blossom Poem," Master Li has pointed towards significant poems of human history that have something to say to us about the current situation. Master has provided the explanations for what various lines in the poems mean with regard to the past, the present, and the future.

When Master began his recent lecture in Philadelphia with lines of poetry, many practitioners wondered about the deeper meanings. The lines were the second half of a short poem by the famous Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai (also called Li Po).

We may consider that Master has often used images of a boat as a metaphor for cultivation and movement through history, such as in "The Knowing Heart." In this particular quotation in the Philadelphia lecture from Li Bai, the boat is moving at great speed. Perhaps "gibbons' chatter" refers to demons who relentlessly talk (like the incessant propaganda in China) and try to impede Master, but have no effect as Fa-rectification flows powerfully. The "crags" may symbolize danger and difficulty, which are also passing by quickly.

These are some thoughts that come from reading the lines of poetry themselves. One of the characteristics of poetry that makes it so rich and so useful as a way of teaching is that good poems are packed with multiple meanings at different levels, and they are thus open to individual interpretation. There can be many "correct" interpretations. I hope to see others sharing their interpretations.

An additional characteristic of many poems is that they are set in a particular historical context, or are written for a specific occasion. I discovered a short explanation of this poem. It outlines the circumstances in the life of the poet at the time that he wrote this poem. Those practitioners who already knew about Li Bai's life and what this poem refers to may have experienced when they first heard the lines, as I did later upon reading the explanation, a jolt of electricity, that is, the clarity of a sudden realization.

The commentary on this poem, which the translator calls "Setting Out Early from White Emperor City," says this: "There is good reason for the joyful feeling of this poem: it is the song of Li Bai's return from exile." The scene described in the poem takes place after Li Bai has received the news that he can return home, toward which he is swiftly sailing downstream. Return from exile is imminent.

A practitioner can infer that Master, by quoting this line, is placing himself in a position that is similar to the historical position of the poet. By listening to several points that Master later makes in the body of the lecture, a practitioner can likewise conclude what the poem indirectly and compactly says: the current situation has improved and things are moving quickly.

However, by quoting the poem, Master can say quite a lot with just a few words. Human culture and history were created for the sole purpose of teaching the Fa at this time. By making use of a poem, a small piece of human culture, I understand that it is Master showing us his grand mercy by using any available means to teach us the Fa thoroughly and at different levels.

If one wishes, one could delve further into the symbolism and meaning of the entire poem, but that is not necessary here. Master quoted only the last part. Learning a little about the historical context illuminates this bit of poetry well. In essence, those few lines of poetry are a message of hope and encouragement, telling practitioners that good things will soon come.

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