Monday, April 30, 2007


Allen Ginsberg: The Last Day on Earth

Ten years ago. It is April 1997 and I had just returned from 8 months in India and Thailand. My travels had been partly inspired by poet Allen Ginsberg's 1970 publication of his Indian Journals. In New York Ginsberg lies dying in his apartment surrounded by friends and family. Some Tibetan Buddhist monks are chanting the text of the Bardo Thodol to free Ginsberg's spirit as it begins it 40 days on the after death plain before choosing a rebirth or liberation from the cycle of Maya. Ginsberg died on 5th April 1997 in what appeared to be a model for a peaceful and harmonious death. The image above is taken from Jonas Mekas' film Allen's Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (1997) which is now streamed online at UBUWEB. Watching the film yesterday I was touched by the whole scene played out in Ginsberg apartment as he peacefully approached the end. The group of Tibetans in attendance chant the Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State and friends and family move about as if they were just dropping by to say hello (or is goodbye).
Inspired by this I have posted a special audio recording to the Internet Archive. Part of a recording I made of a three day Yama Durga Puja at Diskit Gompa in the north east of Ladakh (part of India) in the Nubra Valley. Diskit Gompa is a monastery of the Dge-lugs-pa or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The ceremony took place in September 1996. Diskit Gompa was built by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong-kha-pa, the Diskit Gompa dates back to the 14th century. In this recording there are around 70 monks chanting in the main hall of the monastery. Bowls of butter tea and sampa can be heard occasionally sliding along the benches as some monks take a break and others step forward to take their place. The chanting went late into the night from very early in the morning for three days. The first few seconds is audio from one of the many irrigation channels that direct the snow melt from the mountains down to the cultivated valleys in Ladakh.

Diskit Gompa Ladakh

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