He drank wine, cavorted with women and wrote poetry that spoke of life’s earthly pleasures… He would sneak out of the Potala Palace in the heart of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, for midnight trysts. He renounced his monastic vows in the middle of his stewardship of Tibet.

He was the Sixth Dalai Lama and is today the subject of a New York Times column—a fun read.

Some years back, Tricycle ran a section called “The Riddle of Desire,” which contained this poem by the unorthodox monk:

That girl who’s stolen my mind—
If we could be together forever—
Like the joy of finding a jewel
Deep in the depths of the sea.

White teeth smiling.
Brightness of skin.
On my seat in the high lama’s row
At the quick edge of my glance
I caught her looking at me.

Doing what my lover wishes
I lose my chance for dharma.
But wandering in lonely mountain retreats
Opposes my lover’s wishes.
By drawing diagrams on the ground
The stars of space can be measured.
Though familiar with the soft flesh
Of my lover’s body
I cannot measure her depths.

When I held the jewel in hand
I didn’t know its worth.
When I lost it to another
The wind of loss howled in my chest.

If young girls never died
There would be no need to brew beer.
At such a time
This is a young man’s surest
Source of refuge.

The arrow of fortune is shot.
It strikes the target
Or buries its tip in the ground.
Since I’ve met my new lover
My heart flies after her all on its own.

Meditating, my lama’s face
Does not shine in mind.
Unbidden, my lover’s face
Again and again appears.

First, best not to see.
Then mind won’t be captivated.
Next, best not to become intimate.
Then mind won’t be trapped.

(From The Turquoise Bee: The Lovesongs of the Sixth Dalai Lama, © 1998 by Rick Fields, Brian Cutillo, and Mayumi Oda. Reprinted with permission of HarperSanFrancisco)

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