Keala’s Poem: The Buddha’s Last Instruction

Another poem from Mary Oliver, “The Buddha’s Last Instruction,” from her book The House of Light.

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I’m not needed
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

~ Mary Oliver


2 thoughts on “Keala’s Poem: The Buddha’s Last Instruction

  1. Thank you, Margaret. I read a book to 1st graders today called “Living Sunlight”. When you think of what a tiny sliver of the sun’s light energizes the Earth: immense. You might especially enjoy “My Life in France” by Julia Child. I did.

  2. Often, when I’m sitting in the sun, I think how incredible it is that its heat reaches me so forcefully over such an unimaginable distance.

    I haven’t read “My Life in France,” though it’s been recommended to me so many times it’s really terrible I haven’t picked up a copy yet. Maybe when I get home it will help me deal with nostalgia for Paris (and by “deal with,” I clearly mean “wallow in”).

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