Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Unknown Religions – Poems by Tom Sharp

Sep 3, 2021 | Front And Center, Poetry | 0 comments

Order of splendor and happiness

The order of splendor
and happiness teaches
that all people will
eventually accept
the seven unities:
the unity of living creatures
the unity of nature
the unity of faith
the unity of food
the unity of cleaning supplies
the unity of the universe
and the unity of unities.
When all people
accept these unities,
splendor and happiness
will pervade the cosmos.
This faith originated
in the thirteenth century
during the Empire of Trebizond
by the great teacher Früt
at the Sumela Monastery
in the Pontic Mountains of Turkey.
Früt had not accepted orders,
but was a janitor in training
learning the practices of sanitation
and garbage collection.
Nevertheless, one dark February
his duties had occupied him past midnight,
and he was putting his supplies
into a dark closet, when perhaps
ammonia fumes overwhelmed him,
and he heard a voice,
a voice that distinctly said,
“Behold.
Out of darkness comes splendor.
Out of misery comes happiness.
Prepare thyself.”
This began a process
of penance and prayer
that lasted thirteen years
during which Früt
never rose above his position
as janitor, but that culminated
in his writing a book
that described his fears and hopes,
whereupon he died.
Thankfully, this book
was preserved, copied,
and handed down. Even though
Früt titled his book
The Joyous Promise
of Splendor and Happiness
from the Voice in the
Janitor Closet,
it has become known
as the Book of Früt.
According to those who
have read it, if all people
accept the seven unities,
then all good things
will eventually come;
however, on this earth,
when an individual
accepts these unities,
nothing really happens.
The order is perpetuated
by those for whom, as for Früt,
eventual splendor and happiness
is enough to get them
from day to day.

__

Worship of Wen Gon

Ancient history first noticed Wen Gon
as the water carrier
who saved the life of General Jo
during a battle in 1020 BCE
in a rice paddy
near present-day Handan.

*

Almost two-hundred years later
he was the owner of a shop
selling rice wine and sticky rice
in Zhou, present-day Jining,
where he was fined for tax avoidance.
In response he gave to the poor
everything he owned.
Generally, his name was Wen Gon
but several variants were noted,
including Wan Ton, Ten Men,
Hou Won, and Won Tou.

*

Around 666 BCE, Wen Gon
was a tax collector
who refused to collect rice
from farmers who were doing poorly
near Gusu, now Suzhou.

*

At 500 BCE, he became known
as a rice exporter
who was accused of unfair competition
because he overpaid farmers
near Ningbo.

*

300 BCE, he owned horses
and used them for packing rice
from Jinhua to Shangrao,
but refused to pay the levy
at Quzhou,
upon which he forfeited his horses
and became a Confucian monk
taking refuge at a temple
where the Tianning Temple
was later built.

*

Wen Gon continued
to show stubbornness
toward city officials.
As a Confucian monk,
it seems, he was an organizer
of the rice uprising in Quzhou
in 125 BCE.

*

During the Xin period, Wen Gon
sold rice to enemy armies
and was banished from Chang’an.
After this first thousand years
scholars in the capital
noticed a pattern,
and took mention of this
to empress Wang Zhengjun.
Since Wen Gon had been banished,
he could not be found
for questioning.

*

In 201 CE, employed as a bureaucrat
in charge of planning the storage of rice
to be delivered to the provinces
after natural disasters,
Wen Gan lost his post
because he was accused of involvement
with Five-Pecks-of-Rice adherents.
If his involvement were true,
it shows that Wen Gon lacked
a strong ideological commitment,
since the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice
was a Taoist movement.
However, like them, he was committed
to ending official decadence.

*

In 280 CE, Wen Gon was found
in Huipu Town, present-day Taizhou.
There he was described
giving a rice cake
to a hungry boy
who later became a bodyguard
of the emperor Wu
in a poem that everyone
had to memorize
for official examinations.

*

By 375 AD, Wen Gon
had become the owner
of a shop making rice noodles
in Wenzhou. After closing
his shop each evening,
they say he walked along the Qu River
through the shanties
built by people that had been
pushed aside by Guo Pu.
Over his shoulders,
he bore a yoke on which he hung
two pots of warm noodles,
which he would give
to street kids and prostitutes.

*

A shipping industry
was established in Quanzhou,
where Wen Gon
was arrested for smuggling rice
to support the Chen State
before 590.
Although he was arrested,
he wasn’t punished
since he slipped his chains
on route to general Yang Su.
This matter of slipping chains.
As the stories about Wen Gon
continued to be recorded,
he began to accumulate
interesting talents.
In addition to being able
to make money, his generosity
is matched by his ability
to escape punishment.

*

One story has him in Hong Kong
about the year 700, where
the story claims he was responsible
for monthly shipments of rice balls
to Empress Wu Zetian.
The distance from Hong Kong
to her palace in Chang’an
would have taken a month to walk,
so that a package of rice balls
would always be in transit
and they would never arrive fresh.
These shipments were sent
anonymously by third or fourth parties.
As powerful as she was,
Empress Wu was unable
to trace the rice balls to Wen Gon.

*

Later, Wen Gon was credited
with supplying all white rice
for the city of Yougzhou,
present-day Nanning.
He lived near the city center
above a pastry shop.
During the worker protest
of 850, Wen Gon
withheld shipments of rice
until the workers’ demands were met.
It’s not clear whether
city administrators realized
that he was personally responsible
for the absence of rice in the city.
Each morning, he was seen
with a large bag of lotus seed buns
that he would give away
on his way to work.

*

In Tuodong, present-day Kunming,
records show that Wen Gon
became associated with the preservation
of minority Naxi, Dian, and Bai cultures.
In 1050, officials put out a warrant
for Wen Gon, but he could not be found.
The Yunnan cuisine, including pineapple rice,
guoqiao, a rice-noodle soup,
and erkuai, a compressed rice cake,
are still popular there.

*

After Tuodong, Wen Gon appeared in Zhaotong,
an area of poverty on the western frontier
of the areas controlled by the Jin dynasty.
In 1200, he was presumably
the unofficial mayor of Luoshagou,
an agricultural valley
in the south of the province.
When the officials came to discuss taxes,
Wen Gon was gone,
but when they were absent,
letters poured in from him
complaining about the portion
of the rice harvest that farmers
were allowed to keep for themselves.

*

When the Ming dynasty
came into power, Wen Gon
was presumed to be
in Chengdu, Sichuan.
He was said to have been
responsible for letters
to the provincial governor
to argue that rice farmers
should be insured against flooding.

Officials considered it foolish
to attribute these letters
to Wen Gon, but an investigation
did not determine any other
likely author. There was clearly,
however, a widespread belief
that Wen Gon cared about the people
and was secretly working
for their safety and comfort.

*

Poor people throughout the country
were increasingly leaving the land
and moving to the cities,
bringing with them
a belief in Wen Gon.
Small groups would gather
in homes and in temples
and talk about how
their own well-being
was never guaranteed,
but that Wen Gon cared about them.
Taoist and Confucian monks
started competing
for the attention of these groups.
By 1600 in Beijing,
at least one temple
has set up an altar
with a polychrome statue
of Wen Gon holding in his arms
baskets of rice buns.
Bowls of rice were arrayed
about his feet.

__

X-Y

Among the new syncretic religions
in South Korea is Y-X,
“a synthesis,” says Pastor Kim,
“of the best elements
of Buddhism and capitalism.
Both systems want people
to be happy, but people need
to accept that Buddhist ideals
have a real cost, and that
capitalist gains are transitory.”
When asked about conflicts
between these two systems,
parishioner Park said,
“True, think chromosomes.
No household entirely
is free of inherent conflicts.
Mother Buddhism may conflict
with Father Capitalism,
but the children can be OK.”

__
Teachers of Enlightenment

Teachers of Enlightenment
maintain that no one can teach
enlightenment. It must come
from inside, like a dream.
Deception is all about you,
and you are all about deception.
This is what they teach:
that all teaching is an illusion.
But they are strict in this:
that even if you believe
that you’ve been enlightened,
you might be merely deceived.

__

Godx for everything

“There’s a godx that moves
the little finger of your left hand;
you and your pet cat are powered
by hundreds of godx.
We know that every living thing
needs godx to function.
We’re just not in agreement
whether inanimate things
also need godx
the way animate things do.
Think about having godx
for every raindrop
or for every molecule
in a breeze.
That quickly gets ridiculous,
even though it’s serious
because our church
could split up over this.”
We talked with Renee
(who uses only this one name)
at the Third True Pantheistic Temple
in Pocatello, Idaho.
“Many pantheistic religions
have different godx
for human activities
and for things that grow,
move, or flow, but even
for rocks and abstract ideas.
It’s a very fruitful field
for belief systems.”
We asked Renee why she uses
the term “godx,” and she said,
“We believe that godx
are not sexed. That’s where
all the other religions get it wrong
(thinking godx are like us).
If godx were like us,
then they would need
their own godx just to function,
ad infinitum.”

__

 

Tom Sharp is a Native American of Aleut heritage, a member of Seldovia Village Tribe. He is the author of numerous books, including Spectacles: A Sampler of Poems and Prose, SciFi , Things People Do, The book of beliefs, The I Ching, Images, and First Nations

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ongoing Event

Ongoing Event

Upcoming Books

Ongoing Events

Antonym Bookshelf

You have Successfully Subscribed!