In a Temple's Main Hall

by Ko Un

English version by Brother Anthony of Taize
Original Language Korean

Down with Buddha!
Down with handsome, well-fed Buddha!
What's he doing up there with that oh so casually
     elegant wispy beard?
Next, break down that painted whore of a crossbeam!
A dragon's head? What use is that, a dragon's head?
Tear down that temple, drive out the monks,
turn it all into dust and maggots!
Phaw!

Buddha with nothing, that's real Buddha!
Our foul-mouthed Seoul street-market mother,
     she's real Buddha!
We're all of us Buddhabuddhabuddha real!
Living Buddha? One single cigarette, now
there's real cool Holy buddha!

No, not that either.
For even supposing this world were a piece of cake,
with everyone living it up and living well,
in gorgeous high-class gear, with lots of goods produced
thanks to Korean-American technological collaboration,
each one able to live freely, with no robbing of rights,
Paradise, even!
Paradise, even!
utter Eden unequalled, plastered with jewels, still even then,
day after day people would have to change the world.
Why, of course, in any case,
day after day this world must all be overturned
and renewed to become a newly blooming lotus flower.
And that is Buddha.

Down for sure with those fifteen hundred years
rolling on foolish, rumbling along:
time fast asleep like stagnant water that stinks and stinks.

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In a Temple's Main