Meditation As A Strategy Of Uniting/Identifying With A Holistic Environment As A Symbiotic Partner


The Lama sat
in bed
with bamboo
his false teeth
in a big
glass of water
on the sunny

By Allen Ginsberg (Aug/’92)

Lama is a title for teacher in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term “guru”.

According to the logic of the poem’s images there are at least three kinds of distancing by spiritual effort from the illusory/fallen world for a human being who is lama. The first is signified in the poem by using the “bed” for a sitting (the decaying body can envelop itself with the bed as a consolation and protection from and at the same time preparation for mortality). The second is signified by the use of “bamboo backscratcher” (when the body itching with desires can pacify itself without violating the taboos). And the third is signified by “glass of water” with “the sunny windowsill” at its disposal. The problem here is that these three or four layers strategies of distancing between Lama and his physical death are at the same time the wall between Lama’s spiritual dedication and his spiritual self-realization.

Death (and preparation for it) seems to be the magic key for reaching the spiritual alternative to earthly misery. But how much this alternative is really alternative to the symbiosis with the tools for reaching alienation from everyday life?

According to the poem, it seems that it is not only death ahead what separates us from the kingdom of spirituality. It is deadness incarnated into (dead) artifacts and our dead need to use them. It is, first of all, the dentures which meditate under the sun while experiencing it through double or even triple mediation – of the window, of the glass and of the water inside it. It is not even Lama himself who is meditating. Technology does the meditation instead of him.

Well, what is the Lama doing every morning besides that he is awakening and taking the sitting position in the bed? He is alienating-through-appropriating the “fallen/illusory” world through using its artifacts (the bamboo backscratcher in his rhythmically moving hand and dentures taking a sun bath in a big glass of water) in order to connect himself with transcendent spirituality, even if only by eliminating the obstacles for achieving it (the itch of the back or the need to chew). By doing this he will eventually join the transcendent symbiotically, by identification, by uniting with/melting into it.

The “False teeth in a big glass of water on the sunny windowsill” is it seems the model of a dedicated meditation for Ginsberg’s poetic Lama. But isn’t becoming a part of non-being as an alternative to being just changing the symbiotic environment without transcending symbiotic relations? From “immanent transcendence” from the itch into scratch and from hunger into chewing in the nimbus of the taste inside the mouth we are moving to “transcendent transcendence” where we will settle out as we settled in during our life time. Is Spirituality for Lama a symbiotic partner as it is the case in our earthly existence with almost everything we come to assemble our togetherness – with our cell-phones and chat-partners, our cars, clothes, our spouses, our referent group, things we buy, our dreams, beliefs and ideals? Don’t we settle in the spirit as we do in life, as Ginsberg’s lama does in the bed, as Ginsberg’s lama’s dentures do in glass on the windowsill?

Is then the Ginsberg’s image of the meditating dentures simultaneously sublime and ironic image of our after-death future in spirit? May be, the “false teeth in a big glass of water on the sunny windowsill” is an ultimate parody on our idea of post-mortal spirituality even when it means “meditation” somewhere between incarnations.

Allen Ginsberg in his youth
Allen Ginsberg in his youth

Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)
Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)