Clearing Wood at Sravasti and Coenobitic Apologetics:

For the Sisters of Sravasti

By Tan Po

Tan Po is a Theravadin monk and friend of the Abbey who attended our Exploring Monastic Life program several years ago before he ordained in Thailand. His parents regularly visit the Abbey. This poem was written after his father worked in the forest during a recent Offering Service Day at the Abbey.


When your father says he only feels unconflicted
When dragging wood from the forest,
You immediately understand.
Didn’t you take robes because you saw the necessity
Of the heartwood,
And of carrying a core of condensed light
Through darkness?

Work in silence
So you might hear the sign of silver
grass whispering at your knees,
And a hunger singing in your arms.
The best lives in this world do not parade
Like the turkey suitor in front of the hall,
But walk with the quiet dignity of the woman in brown.

Give freely
So you might be empty enough to receive
The bounty of gold
Pollen burnishing your hands and
The spirit of dust rising from the saw’s hoarse prayer.

Do your work without thinking
Of the result. The flame the wood will become is not
The important fire.

It is no accident your robes are the crimson of dawn.
These are your fumbling hands
and this your imperfect heart.
But this also,
Is yours- a love,
A love
and life’s discipline that will dissolve all heaviness