POETICS AND THE PYRAMID
We had mistaken then our vague understanding of time and space and direction. We had flown some twenty hours to reach Mexico, but it was also about twenty hours earlier according to the clock. We had thought Mexico to be in the west, but our plane had flown out over the islands of Japan, heading ever eastwards over the Pacific Ocean. Thus we arrived and came in over the northwest of Mexico. For our own singular type of civilisation, this was a consequence to which our minds had become accustomed. From the highlands of Central Asia, our ancestors, the great Mongol horde, had crossed northwards over the dry landbridge into Alaska, carrying their desert rock culture, and had thus reached the continent of America. At that time, no problems ensued from unclear directions, nor from uncertainty. This was because they carried their very lives, their experience, their customs and their culture, moving and developing through birth and death, at a leisurely pace. Over the course of time, what they created and brought to life they renewed as the years took their toll. Ten thousand years ago, then, these Mongol people from Eastern Asia had opened up the continent of America, and had begun there to establish their culture.
Mexico, where we were headed, had been one of the centers of the Mayan culture which the Mongols had created, and today a powerful sign of this great civilisation remains the Mexican pyramid.
The world files along and gazes in wonder at the Egyptian pyramids, but nobody imagines that Mexico has pyramids. In the 1960s, a young boy was herding goats in the mountains and came upon a stone doll-like figure. The boy showed it to his father, who showed it to some historians. This “doll,” which had a connection with the offering rituals of early peoples, came to the attention of archeologists. As soon as they began digging on the conical mountain where the stone figure had been found, their shovels unearthed a decorated square stone plinth. As they dug, the levels of the plinth went up the mountain. Over the years, as they dug it out, they saw that the mountain was a pyraamid. These ancient people, in constructing this pyramid, had at the peak tamped down earth and planted grasses and trees. The archeologists looked around from the top of the pyramid, there were similar light blue mountains all around. It seemed as though the pyramid was a mountain. They dug again. Another pyramid. In northern Mexico, there are forty thousand pyramids. Almost all these mountains have triangular peaks. Are these mountains or pyramids? Since the 1980s, Mexico has been known as the motherland of the pyramid.
Close to Mexico City, they dug up the vast infrastructure of the ancient city of Teotihuakan, at the center of which stands the so-called Pyramid of the Sun. They placed cubes of volcanic basalt to form the mountain like an ascending staircase, and created this pyramid, about the size of a sixty-storey building, for offerings to the sun. From the peak of this offering to the sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of Fire can be seen. Five Mongolian poets (Dan Nyamaa, Ts Bavuudorj, B Zolbayar, B Dashzeveg and myself), together with our translator G Injbadar, stood upon the peak of this extraordinary sun-pyramid of five thousand years of history, and soared far away to awaken the windhorses, just as we might upon the stone ovoo, adorned with offering scarves, on the mountains of our motherland. The pyramids, imitating skyblue mountains, continue into the distance towards the horizon and the ocean. Beyond them, the ocean and the edge of the sky. A distance of thought. In the distance of thought, the noble mountains and steppes of my own motherland and, upon those peaceful hills I see stone ovoo. The stones of Mongolia’s lonely steppe remain there, carved images of veneration, and the ancient nomads who made offerings to the sky, and to the stars and the moon, and to them they entrusted their fate and their journey and they built a great fire and sang praises to the sound of the horsehead fiddle. They came bringing their culture, extending further and wider, and they raised up the great pyramid and offered up to the sun the struggle of their hearts.
It occurred to me that our well-known intellectual Ch Erdene had once mentioned the Mongolian custom of building ovoo, the Sumerian’s ziggurats, the stupa of the Gupta lineage in India, the great stupa of our teacher the Buddha and the pyramids of the Maya, which all follow the tracks of tranditional culture.
The nomads on the lonely steppe at first worshipped the blue sky above the stone ovoo on the pyramid-shaped mountains. The Maya, who built their own pyramids, worshipped the red disc of the sun from the top of their mountain-shaped pyramids. The family connection should be clear now.
The Maya, creators of this Pyramid culture, created a solar and lunar calendar, and printed books of complexity and precision, using both words and images. Artistic representations and ceramic models in extraordinary pyramidal forms were also developed.
The Mexican calendar used by the Mayan culture dates from 613BCE. The Mayapan culture, with its many cities, its artwork of gold and silver, its fine buildings and books, was established, and lasted for about a century. The Mayapan soon crumbled into ashes, however, and their country overrun in war by the Aztec nation. They established the rite of human sacrifice on the great pyramids, and rivers of blood coursed down, over the lower levels of the structure. The Aztec’s power flourished for about two hundred years, and then the Spaniard Hernan Cortéz invaded the surrounding area and subdued the Aztec empire with a detachment of strange oppressors, swift horses and weapons of fire. The great cities of the Mayan culture and the various fine forms of their buildings were burned to ashes, turned to dust, and upon that land the Spanish built houses and cities according to their own style.
The dusty earth of time has covered up the pyramids, and the customs and culture of earlier eras have been forgotten. Last year’s grasses and the wormwood are hidden away and soon the trees will be covered up. Before we know it, the blue blue mountains all will be changed.
Just as the Spanish built cities and houses according to their own style upon the earth of the pyramid cities, so the Maya have revived their ancient art of poetry and story-telling, bringing the spirit back into their oral culture. In this place, latterly the Hispanic people of Latin America have created important stupas of their own language and literature. Within this, Indian myths and, in particular, Mexican stories are well known. Early Mexican stories, translated into French by the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, were last year featured in an anthology, and the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, with his high, expressive voice, was greatly admired among the Spanish-langaueg poets. When he came to Mongolia, he wrote a poem for the Mongolian people entitled, ”There my family makes its home.” Center stage at the twenty-eighth World Congress of Poets was a picture of the 1990 Nobel Laureate, the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, surrounded by pictures of all the poets gathered at the congress. The most influential person in the world of Spanish literature, the 1985 Nobel Peace laureate Ernesto Kahan was one if the central figures at the congress. This Argentinian-born poet of Israeli descent had made amazing discoveries in the field of atomic power: he was not only a man of poetry and verse, but also he was helping to put an end to nuclear power. Ernesto Kahan had made his own connection with the Mongolian people.
“My name, Kahan,” he liked to tell us, “is kagan or han in your Mongolian language.” In a poem he had written about the great achievements of Chinggis Haan, he had written:
Ancient centuries he exchanged for the new era,
and this is the state of freedom.
“Reading of Chinggis Haan as a killer and a plunderer,” he said in his lecture, “a thought came to me, and I wrote this poem, without realising that I could see nothing. Chinggis Haan awakened the middle ages and set them flourishing.”
Octavio Paz, for whom the Mexicans feel great pride as a poet, writer and scholar, is well-known throughout the world for having absorbed into his own work the traces of ancient Indian creation stories. It is significant that he consistently mentioned another Mexican poet, his fellow-countryman Jaime Sabines.0
With their verses written in calligraphy, we can see that the Japanese poets placed much store in beauty. The most important contemporary Mexican poet is Manuel S Leyva Martinez. Our own poet, B Yavuuhulan, is one of the few who have worn upon their head the Golden Crown of world poetry. Leyva’s sons and daughters, his grandchildren are all poets, the majority of today’s Mexican writers are graduates of the Manuel S Leyva Literature University, and almost everyone in Mexican letters in recent years are his students. Manuel Leyva comes in, wearing around his neck the two seals of Mongolia and India, he says to me, “Since you didn’t come to the congress in India, this will call it to mind for you, ane he pins on my lapel the seal of India, emblazoned with peacocks. He has established a network of literature schools throughout Mexico, and he made his own personal contribution to the cost of this congress. In one verse of his two sonnets dedicated to Mongolia, he writes:
I offer a mandala to the ancestors, they are the destiny
of poetry on Mongolia’s lovely steppe, and.
I offer it to you, you nation of horsemen,
from my Mexico, from my mind of clear topaz.
And in 2006, he came with ten students to Mongolia and offered this mandala of poetry.
Contemporary Mexican poetry gathers the seeds of Spanish language culture and develops the particular qualities of Latin American civilisation upon the earth of the early pyramid culture of the Maya. The declaration of this congress, that through poetry we shall make humanity more beautiful, is the central axis of Manuel Leyva’s poetry.
The right-angle triangles. which rise from the perfectly square base of the pyramid as its faces reflect the four cardinal directions of the world, come to a tapering point which zeroes in on the sky, away from the lapiz blue ocean and the green of the land. And it attracts to its tip the shining vigor which comes from the sky, from the sun and the stars and the moon, and it slides out along the inclines of the pyramid in all directions towards the great ocean and towards the great earth. But although the base of the pyramid is a square, it is reckoned that the gift of the ancient nomads from the high plains of Central Asia was probably the four paths of the swastika. The rock inscriptions with swastikas left by the ancient Mongolian nomads who journeyed to the continent of America, and the inscriptions whose writing is similar to the Hünnü runes show that they share one root with the rock images on the American continent. How might such an idea, concerning the relationship between the pyramids and the hills upon which offerings were made, be given birth? We might say that the creation of the world, the formation of what exists, was fashioned from the square, the triangle and the circle, which extend beyond the skies above the tips of the pyramids. And using this approach, we can see that that which remains of the fixed and the motile in the world are gathered together.
Now this earth, by inviting the vigor of eternal Heaven, is the conduit which stores the energy. The Buddhist stupas and the Sumerian ziggurats, built after the pyramids, were structures with conical tips, and have a consequential connection with the ger of the Mongolian nomads, as founts of this vigor and power.
The ancient Maya, in establishing the culture of the pyramids, drank from the wisdom of Indian vedic philosophy. We have still to determine whether the Vedas were poetic forms created by people or whether they came from the gods. If we look at the period when the pyramids were built as being the natural progression of humanity, it is obvious from their form that there is a family link. From the focus of the single divine wisdom of philosophy and poetry, the downward slope of the triangular faces of the pyramids have become the four-line verse. The simple poetic tetraform has been established in human culture and has worn away many millennia. And, although poetry has with the pen expressed mind and language in many different forms, it is interesting that it manifests itself using similar constructions. Even without being created with the pen, Mongolian folksong and religious song, in bringing dialect into oral literature, is revealed to be of such a type. This is the way it is. To my mind, not having a specific idea about the simple forms by which pyramids and poems are created, the one basic pattern is at the tip of the Mexican pyramids. At the top of the pyramid, a silver nail is thrust deep into the very central point. Placing my finger on the top of this nail, I charge myself with power, and that this line will not break is the secret at its core.
When struggle came forth within the world, according to later Indian scholars, that was the time that the Vedas came forth. The same idea can be used regarding the origin of the pyramids. The Vedas consist of about one thousand poems and incantations and, since around four thousand years before our present era, and for the last two thousand years, scholars have continued to pass them down. The pyramids are said to be of a similar age. Nothing is known about the people who created the Vedas, but it is said that, among those wise hermits who have understood the truth, the language of the gods is revealed with the written word through the experience of education.
The power in the pure words of the Vedas are believed to balance the power which formed the world. When the world’s poets came together, the Vedas were an object of ancestral veneration which brought forth pride in the Indian poets. In the Vedas’ whispered poems, the world, the gods and paradise have a special place, and these make manifest physical reality, the activities of the gods and sensate understanding. The poems of the vedic scholars drink from the wisdom which understands the truth, which in turn is shown by auguries, and these poems have the force of revealing what is inevitable. The spirits of the vedic poets travel through the divine realms and place their secret words of incantation amid the boundlessness of eternal time. It was the eternal wisdom of the Vedas which supported the writing of “Songs of Offering”, by the Nobel laureate, scholar and genius of Indian poetry, Rabindranath Tagore. Moreover, the Vedas are the base of the great pyramid of poetics, from whose vigor the great cart of later Indian books, the words of the Buddha in the Kanjur, the great poetry of Kalidāsa, all developed. Poetry is a pyramid formed from words in the world of one tradition of wisdom.
When we raise the spirits of poets, the wisdom which brings to life the stories of antiquity, which moves the mighty stars forth, which celebrates the forms and melodies of nature, transforms from a far distant point in the universe into a square-based sloping form like a pyramid and births poetry. In the east, this is what is called poetics.
It is as though, suddenly, from the powerful peaks of the Mexican pyramids we can see the mountains of Otgontenger, Altan Ovoo in Dariganga and Bogd Dünjingarav. The nomadic families who journeyed over the rivers and the great valleys of Altai, Hangai and Hentii in the distant times of the pyramids come together like phantoms, created by memory in the mouths of Hoid Tsenheriin Agui, Rashaan Had, Yamaan Us and Ih Tenger, and certainly they created the harmonious long song with the extended powerful melody of the wild steppe. The notes of this melody and these poetics are what we today call stone phantoms. They placed ovoo upon the mighty highlands, they lit fires, they made offerings to the sun and the moon and to the stars, and it was as though their voices could be heard singing out of the stones, as they defied the cold of the land, as they dropped away from the land.
As the great Mongol scholar H Nyambuu has pointed out, “Although in a thousand years, the swastika has been scattered across the world, still in Mongolia there remain these bad shapes, poured in molten bronze and copper from the bronze age, and even earlier carved in stone. The swastikas, finely carved images at Hoid Tsenheriin Agui, are gold.” Research physicists say that they have even made a new discovery in cosmology using the swastikas. It’s true. The form of the swastika, while akin to the square shape of poetry, is the form of the eternal momentum which constitutes the four lines of verse, and the triangles between its center and the omega point turn and bow with pyramidal thoughts. The swastika is the aggregate of two pairs, and from those two pairs are produced verses in four feet, and this is the intital formula which illustrates Mongolian poetic form. From this point comes the base of the Mongol pyramid and we can sketch out the later transformation of these thoughts as the historical pyramid.
From the top of a Mexican pyramid, I followed the slide of its surface down to the earth. Thus it was that I touched down on the Mexican homeland which turned beneath the spherical incline of the world. Mexico and its pyramids remained in my dreams for a good hundred days. And I kept my ears pricked, listening for interesting news from Mexico.
Near the ruins of the city around Mexico’s pyramid, they found a crystal human skull. The man who found this crystal skull dreamed that he saw what was happening a thousand years ago, as though in a movie. This skull produced unending amazement in anthropological circles and he explained what ancient peoples of our earth had done, and answered the scholars’ questions about how the ancients had used the skull and with what implements they had made it. There were noisy rumors that such crystal skulls had been found, not only in Mexico and America, but in Mongolia too.
It was possible for most of our poets, writers and publishers to view it. B Zolbayar, one of the most important Mongolian journalists of his generation was one of three mentioned in 2008 by the Baldorj Foundation for his article “The Broad Crystalline Waves,” which also won the Mongolian Writers’ Union prize. The fine contemporary poets Ts Bavuudorj and Dan Nyamaa wore at their lapel the golden nail, given in recognition of their work. At this time, too, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences honored me with the title of Professor. All of this constituted one light upon the adamantine path of Mongolian poetry.
When the great congress of poets gathered in Mexico, those who had come frm every continent celebrated with a wine-like vodka calledTakila. It was said that this vodka came from hundred-year-old plants, but it was distilled from huge succulent plants which had been planted a century before the ancestors, and it was given to us chilled with ice. According to a popular saying, if you drink water then the custom will follow on, and when we decided to taste Mexico we gained access to not a little of their fierce kindness. The news reached the papers. When they saw us, they saw that the scholars had discovered a diamond in the Mexican vodka called Takla. It was a diamond. And when we look at it now, it’s just fine!
It is lovely to think how, through the kindness of poetry, we experienced the precious diamond, from a land in the far distance, from a broad expanse of water. Shall I then dream of pyramids?
Acapulco, August 2008
Ulaanbaatar, February 2009