Renowned poet and Tricycle contributor Allen Ginsberg passed away 16 years ago today. He used to sing this song he’d written called “Gospel Noble Truths” in this wobbly but painfully sincere voice. His delivery was earnest but freeing. Only Ginsberg could convey such devastating truths imbued with a freeing quality that gives you immeasurable courage.

When Ginsberg described himself as a “flaky Buddhist” who doesn’t meditate that much, he might have been being honest but he surely wasn’t giving himself much credit. By my own estimation, Ginsberg led a life and death more aligned with the bodhisattva vows than most, who end up all tangled up in their malas. He himself recognized that he had a mind so refined that no idea—I would say Buddhist or otherwise—could violate it.

“Allen was a wonderful person—kind, caring, open, and straightforward,” Gelek Rinpoche said of his student in a Tricycle interview from 2003. “He had no hidden agenda whatsoever. Not selfish at all.” After Ginsberg got news of his incurable cancer, Gelek Rinpoche said, “he began the celebration of his death. Compassion was the principle of his life, without his using the word compassion, and all of his life was totally dedicated to positive causes.”

To close I’ll leave you with Ginsberg’s poem that he wrote for his own funeral, spoken to Gelek Rinpoche over the phone and recited by Bob Rosenthal at the funeral.

Gone Gone Gone

The wan moon is sinking under the white wave and time is sinking with me, O!
—Robert Burns

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone gone away

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone gone away

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone gone away

yes it’s gone gone gone

it’s all gone away

gone gone gone

won’t be back today

gone gone gone

just like yesterday

gone gone gone

isn’t any more

gone to the other shore

gone gone gone

it wasn’t here to stay

yes it’s gone gone gone

all gone out to play

yes it’s gone gone gone

until another day

no one here to pray

gone gone gone

yak your life away

no promise to betray

gone gone gone

somebody else will pay

the national debt no way

gone gone gone

your furniture layaway

plan gone astray

gone gone gone

made hay

gone gone gone

Sunk in Baiae’s Bay

yes it’s gone gone gone

wallet and all you say

gone gone gone

so you can waive your pay

yes it’s gone gone gone

tomorrow’s another day

gone last Saturday

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone gone gone

turned old and gray

yes it’s gone gone gone

bald & old & gay

gone gone gone

whitebeard & cold

yes it’s gone gone gone

cashmere scarf & gold

yes it’s gone gone gone

warp & woof & wold

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone far far away

to the home of the brave

down into the grave

yes it’s gone gone gone

moon beneath the wave

yes it’s gone gone gone

so I end this song

yes this song is gone

gone to kick the gong

yes it’s gone gone gone

No more right & wrong

yes it’s gone gone gone

gone gone away

Temple
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