The Bodhisattva's Reply

What will you say to those
Whose lives spring up between
Custom and circumstance
As weeds between wet stones,
Whose lives corruptly flower
Warped from the beautiful,
Refuse and sediment
Their means of sustenance –
What will you say to them?

That woman, night after night,
Must sell her body for bread;
This boy with the well-oiled hair
And the innocence dead in his face
Must lubricate the obscene
Bodies of gross old men;
And both must be merry all day,
For thinking would make them mad –
What will you say to them?

Those dull-eyed men must tend
Machines till they become
Machines, or till they are
Cogs in the giant wheel
Of industry, producing
The clothes that they cannot wear
And the cellophaned luxury goods
They can never hope to buy –
What will you say to them?

Or these dim shadows which
Through the pale gold tropic dawn
From the outcaste village flit
Balancing on their heads
Baskets to bear away
Garbage and excrement,
Hugging the wall for fear
Of the scorn of their fellow-men –
What will you say to them?

Sangharakshita on “The Bodhisattva’s Reply”

Listen to the whole interview. Or to individual tracks below.

The eighth in a series of ten intimate interviews between Sangharakshita and Saddhanandi, reflecting on Sangharakshita’s own selections from his extensive body of poetry. In this segment they discuss the poem “The Bodhisattva’s Reply”.

Track 1: Reading of The Bodhisattva’s Reply

Track 2: What Are We to Do?

Track 3: The origins of The Bodhisattva’s Reply

Track 4: The Spiritual Necessity of Helping Others

Track 5: Verse 1 – Constraint, Evil, and Distortion

Track 6: Verse 2 – Prostitution and the Loss of Innocence

Track 7: Verse 3 – The Victims of Industrialisation

Track 8: Verse 4 – Bodhisattva Action and Dr. Ambedkar

Track 9: Verse 5 – The Suffering of City Life

Track 10: Verse 6 – The Bodhisattva’s Answers to Suffering

Track 11: Final Thoughts on The Bodhisattva’s Reply