Updated: Jul 19
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Café is honored to feature the work of poets from around the globe. This week we are proud to present the poetry of Indunil Madhusankha.
Indunil Madhusankha is currently a doctoral student and teaching assistant from the Washington State University Department of Mathematics. Even though he is academically involved with the subjects of Mathematics and Statistics, he also pursues a successful career in the field of English language and literature as a budding young researcher, reviewer, poet, and content writer. Basically, he explores the miscellaneous complications of the human existence through his poetry by focusing on the burning issues in contemporary society. Moreover, Indunil’s works have been featured in many international anthologies, magazines, and journals.
We reached out to Indunil Madhusankha to ask him about his influences and inspirations.
How and when did you come to poetry?
IM: At the age of around thirteen, I was mesmerized by the convincing power of poetry and became quite fond of reading different types of poems written in both English and Sinhala (which is my mother tongue) languages. As I grew up being exposed to more and more literature, I understood that poetry is perhaps the strongest form of art for expressing the deepest emotions in the core of one’s heart, and no other medium of art can touch the reader as profoundly as poetry does. With this enlightenment, and thanks to the inspiration that I derived from the works of many local and English poets, I also started out penning my thoughts in the form of poetry, which, I think, has gone well, allowing me to intensely reflect on my own feelings as well as my perspectives on various phenomena.
What do you hope a poet will take away from your poems?
IM: I hope that a reader will be able to catch a glimpse of the contemporary society in Sri Lanka and some interesting facts about the doctrine of Buddhism and Buddhist culture reading my poems. Moreover, a fair share of my poetry also explores the universal themes of love, hatred, poverty, injustice, war, etc.
Retelling the Story of Yasodharā
(Previously published in the 2016 October issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly)
In the nightly cold of the Esala full moon day,
perhaps she felt an abrupt rush of the bizarre wind
in her usual entanglements – the cozy and pacifying dreams
as He looked at her on the sly,
for a one last moment
to bid silent farewells
He saw the huggable baby in its gentle cradle
feathered with downy pillows
The candles lit beside the bedstead melted away
with the milky tears trickling down hastily
Then He crossed the border of Anomā Nadee
and left behind on the other side,
the beloveds in the elegant edifices
to embrace the Renunciation
in search of the perpetual Truth
She threw the glinting jewelry away
and also the silky garments of splendid embellishments
Swathed in a yellow robe,
she confined herself to the barren cell upstairs
No longer did she taste the luscious royal dishes
She even dared rebuff the love suit of many eminent lords
Sans answers, she is saturated in acute melancholia
“Are you sleeping on a flower-laden divan in the Himālayas?
Does it ache your sweet feet when you stroll barefoot?
Are the divine gods sentineling you with no deficiency?
As majestic as a regal tusker, my dearest, where have you disappeared?”
Immersed in reminiscence,
she would do nothing, but utter incessant prayers
“May all the wild berries and drupes be delicious!
May the disciples abound as a swarm of bees for a flower!
May the scorching rays of the blinding sun shine diminish!
May celestial palaces emerge from league to league!”
Note: The ideas for the stanzas in the italic form have been derived respectively from the verses 98 and 100 of the Sri Lankan Sinhala folk poem, Yasodharāvata (The Story of Yasodharā), the author of which is unknown.
Yasodharā – The princess Yasodharā was the wife of prince Siddhārtha, who later attained the Great Emancipation (Nirvāna) and became known as Lord Buddha in the name of Gautama.
Esala – The full moon day of the month of July. It was on such a day that the prince Siddhārtha relinquished the worldly life in order to practice as an ascetic with the great expectation of attaining Nirvāna.
Anomā Nadee – A river in the vicinity of Kapilavastu of the Southern Nepal.
Himālayas – The northern face of Mount Everest, and it has a profound influence on Buddhist culture.
She was Yasodharā …
(Previously published in PoetryExpressed Magazine)
Having granted the Aniyata Vivarana by the Dīpankara Buddha,
the Bodhisattva had her by his side in all his innumerable births,
aiding him quite enormously as he fulfilled the Pāramitā
Born as a Kinnari in the silvery Mountain of the Moon,
she wailed unceasingly with a splintered heart
So phenomenal was her plea,
that the dead Kinnarā, the Bodhisattva regained the lost breath
She bore inimitable virtues, so vast to the extent
that she eased his tireless journey toward emancipation
She was the wife of the Shākya prince, Siddhārtha
who later attained enlightenment,
illustrious as the Gautama Buddha
suppressing all earthly evils of interminable nature,
and flourishing into the efflorescence of perennial truth
She was so virtuous to become an Arahant
She was thus capable of trouncing the specter of death
She was the Bimbādevi; she was the Rāhulamāthā
She was the proud bearer of unmatched feminine splendor
She was the quintessence of untainted love and altruism
She was the greatest pillar behind the utmost Buddhahood
She was the noblest woman to have treaded the soils of earth
She was, indeed, Yasodharā, the meritorious Yasodharā of Kapilavastu …
Aniyata Vivarana – A statement made by a Buddha that some person is likely to become a Buddha in the future, because the latter possesses the meritorious features of a Buddha and has been endowed with an innate drive for seeking the truth since his past lives.
Arahant – A person who has attained the Great Emancipation (Nirvāna) by conforming to the doctrine of Buddhism.
Bimbādevi – An alternative name used to refer to the Princess Yasodharā.
Bodhisattva – A person who has developed a spontaneous wish to attain the Buddhahood, and immensely attempts this prime goal for the betterment of all living beings.
Dīpankara Buddha – One of the Buddhas of the past who is said to have lived on Earth approximately one hundred thousand years ago. It is from the Dīpankara Buddha that the Gautama Buddha obtained the Aniyata Vivarana in one of his former incarnations when the latter was born as the ascetic Sumedha.
Kinnarā (male), Kinnari (female) – A mythological clan of paradigmatic lovers, celestial musicians, half-human and half-horse (India) or half-bird (Southeast Asia).
Pāramitā – The conditions that need to be fulfilled during one’s attempts to achieve the Buddhahood.
Rāhulamāthā – An alternate name used to refer to the Princess Yasodharā for being the mother of Prince Rāhula, the son of Prince Siddhārtha.
Siddhārtha – The son of the king Suddhodana, who reigned in the ancient city of Kapilavastu on the Indian subcontinent, which was the capital of Shākya. Prince Siddhārtha later attained Nirvana and became a Lord Buddha in the name of Gautama.
Yasodharā – The wife of prince Siddhārtha; the mother of Prince Rāhula.