Upon the Tip of a Needle - Theravada Poem





Upon the Tip of a Needle


Translated from the Pali by


Andrew Olendzki



Life, personhood, pleasure and pain
This is all that's bound together

In a single mental event
A moment that quickly takes place.


Even the spirits who endure

For eighty-four thousand aeons—

Even these do not live the same

For any two moments of mind.


What ceases for one who is dead,

Or for one who's still standing here,

Are all just the same aggregates—

Gone, never to connect again.


The states which are vanishing now,

And those which will vanish some day,

Have characteristics no different

Than those which have vanished before.


With no production there's no birth;

With becoming present, one lives.

When grasped with the highest meaning,

The world is dead when the mind stops.


There's no hoarding what has vanished,

No piling up for the future;

Those who have been born are standing

Like a seed upon a needle.


The vanishing of all these states

That have become is not welcome,

Though dissolving phenomena stand

Uncombined from primordial time.


From the unseen, [states] come and go,

Glimpsed only as they're passing by;

Like lightning flashing in the sky—

They arise and then pass away