It was autumn 2003. When I opened the door of the great morin huur player Ts.Batchuluun, there inside with him were Ambassador S.Hürelbaatar, the urtin duu singer Lhamzav, an old Japanese man and two young morin huur players. Certainly there would be music here. My old friend Hürelbaatar said,
“We invited you to introduce you to this man,” and he indicated the old Japanese man, “and to listen to his flute playing.”
“Mr Itai is past eighty now, he honored in Japan for his music, and he’s come to see how the melodies of the flute he plays can make friends with the Mongolian morin huur and urtin duu.” Mr Itai, who seemed a bright and lively man, said,
“In my country, we have songs with melodies similar to those of the Mongolian urtin duu.. In fact,” he said with a smile, “through music we consider the cultural links and relationships between us.”
Mr Itai took out a fine, dense flute and played a melody. Warm melodies…one of these melodies very much affected me.
Hürelbaatar translated for us: “It’s a folktune, ’The Moon on an Ancient Wall’.”
“Could I hear it again?”
The tune awoke for me an incident in my childhood. Many many memories from a person’s youth, in fact, are somewhere slumbering, but as soon as they have an excuse to wake up, like ancient reels of film, they come to life and start rolling….
It was probably the year I entered fifth grade. My family were preparing to herd the sheep. Mother and father had gone to Choibalsan for medical treatment, and I took my elder brother’s place with the sheep. That summer our region was very dry. The harsh sun burnt like a magnifying glass on the bare earth where the crickets sang and hopped about. I spent days and nights at the well pulling up buckets of water. The thirsty livestock never strayed far from the well. Soon we would lead them to new pastures.
It was probably the year when my elder brother was driving the livestock, his wife was leading the caravan, and I was chasing the sheep across the pasture, and we were heading for the area of Asgat sum. We traveled for a few days, and as we came to some hillocks where the grass was rippling, a gentle drizzle began to fall. The grass was thick, the wind blew fresh, it was lovely. Herders’ children like moving to new pastures. Everything is new – an unseen land, with different nature, different vegetation and different rocks.
When evening came, we saw what could be an enclosure for the livestock nearby, we drove the sheep towards it, and it turned out to be an old temple. There was a stone wall surrounding it, and three meditation halls. These meditation halls were almost entirely occupied by birds’ nests. Scraps of texts in Tibetan script lay scattered in the corners and on the floors of the temples. Taking the stairs which were placed against the stone wall of the temple, I came out onto the stage, where there were books, a clay Buddha and a little clay stupa.
In Mongolia, monasteries and temples such as this had been destroyed during the 1930s, and I hadn’t even dreamt of temples and meditation halls, and this opened up an extraordinary world to me, I was happy to spend my time with a few young goats exploring the stone foundations. There might have been some rain. A few clouds moved in, and then thinned out, and in the space between the clouds the full moon of the fifteenth day appeared bright, it was night when shadow and light crossed in secret.  I sat in a corner, acting as the shepherd, protected by father’s old goatskin, the evening was exceptionally finely wrought, and I looked at the shapes of every kind of animal, led by serpents, passing overhead, one moment indistinct, another moment quite clear. From time to time a drizzle fell, but the drops only balled up on the hairs of the goatskin. It was as though right over the temple there was something glistening, and as I carefully watched, when the moon touched that rust-colored sphere, rays of gold were reflected back. The moon disappeared behind the clouds….
The flute tune which Mr Itai, the old Japanese man, now played awakened these memories of a day in my childhood when I spent days watching the sheep by the walls of an old temple. I said to my friend Hurelbaatar.
“I have a poem starting in my heart,” and he laid his hand on my shoulder.
“So go home now and write it down,” he said. “I will wait for news.”
I went home and sat at my writing desk, and wrote the first two lines.
When the moon rises over an old temple, 
its fleeting rays gild the ancient finials.

As I thought about these lines, the melody of Mr Itai’s flute melody stuck in my ears.
Beyond the sadness of the bamboo flute, there is comfort, 
calling from the distance the light of the Buddhas.

And so the next two lines were written.
…When I awoke in the light of dawn, the wind was stronger and the air cracked cold and moist. The rain was far away, and the sky was clear. There was a light in the eastern sky. At that moment, there was a strange sound, as though somewhere in the temple a bell was ringing. I had never heard that kind of sound before.  I shuddered and woke up and looked around, but all was silent. The sound came again on the whistling wind. A strangely tuneless sound. After daybreak, I waded through the grasses and vegetation of the temple and heard, under the roof, the sound of a single, orphaned bell, as though quietly ringing sadness, and then fading to peace, as though collecting sounds.
In the sadness of the shadows of the world, 
there is surely a light, a candle of the mind.

I don’t know whether the memory of the child who sat leaning against the wall of the stone temple had fled, forgotten, into some corner of my mind until it was awoken by the music of the flute. Thirty years later, I went back and found the ruins of the temple at Böör. The temple and the wall were all that was left there on the hillock. The stone wall and the inner walls had been demolished and removed, becoming the eaves of a cattle shed. I galloped down the yellow and white road which stretched away, out of the Böör Gobi like a line of brass into the steppe towards the Ongon Sands, and cast there among the wormwood appeared a stone enclosure for livestock. I dismounted and took some square stones from the road and inserted them among the foundations and the walls of Böör temple. For a while in the spring warmth, among the stones of the temple had been lullabied in the hot breath of the livestock, and although a few years had been worn away, the property of a society which was unable to abandon the customs of the world had been cast aside. But the stones of the old temple had not crumbled. I would carry them to Shar Bürd and there they would somewhere be part of a library in the future. This I decided, and galloped away then, raising the dust.
Ten years after all this, I left two unfinished wooden buildings for a library complex which had been organized at Shar Bürd, I was the one who had had the “big idea”, and I went around the world in order to complete it. In the summer of 2005, I had a poem called “When the Moon Rises Over an old temple” squeezed into a small book and published in English, and this I took to Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States. It’s true that a man’s thought is in the mountains. I had thought my big idea, and that was to train my poem-horse for a world poetry competition, whose theme was “God’s Love.” My friend Hürelbaatar, Mr Itai from Japan, and the morin huur player Batchuluun together had been the first to hear my poem, and this poem which they had enjoyed so much seemed almost to be somehow incarnating. Soon, an Inner Mongol poet named S.Hadaa had translated it into Chinese, and a Hungarian poet named Imre Zsoldos had translated it into English.
In a banquet hall in a four-star hotel in Los Angeles, the Argentinian poet and Nobel laureate Ernesto Kahan announced that, out of about two hundred poems, my poem “When the Moon Rises Over an old temple” had won first prize. My ears were ringing again with the sad bell in the old temple, and this became a joyful melody.
After I had received the prize, my dear friend the poet and essayist Ya.Baatar, and the dramatist H.Jambaljamts came to congratulate me.
“Look at that!,” they said, “the Argentine poet who won second place was almost flying he was so happy, and there you were seeming utterly lethargic…”.
“I’m a poet who flies inside,” I joked. When I went to thank Imre, who had translated my poem into English, he said,
“I just finished reading your poem in English, and I found something which I hadn’t noticed when I was translating it. Congratulations again!” and he hugged me.
“Your old temple has become a new temple…” he said with a smile. How had that happened? Within the bamboo flute’s melody a paradise had formed, bright images of the Buddha had formed in the spaces between the motes of dust in a jar....
When the moon rises over an old temple, 
its fleeting rays gild the ancient finials.
The wind grieves across the holes of the bamboo flute, 
brings the sadness of distance back to the heart.
Brushing the weeds from among the foundation stones, 
the path of the great company Buddhas is yellowed.
I do not know where the bright Buddhas have gone,
the roseate notes of time which attract the light.
When the moon rises over an old temple, 
its fleeting rays illumine the dullness of the mind.
Beyond the sadness of the bamboo flute, there is comfort, 
calling from the distance the light of the Buddhas.
Like the ancient writing, absorbed into the ink, 
in the new sky, the shadows of the temple have meaning.
In the sadness of the shadows of the world, 
there is surely a light, a candle of the mind.
In the spaces between the motes of a dust jar, 
there are formed bright images of the Buddha.
In the melody of the bamboo flute there exists a paradise, 
when the moon rises over an old temple….

This melancholic memory of an old temple, which I saw at the age of ten on the wild steppe of Dariganga had become a golden temple of paradise which I found on the wild steppe of my mind, and in the wild steppe where I had created the temple of poetry I also raised anew this ancient temple.
15 October 2015

*This essay was inlcuded on his latest collectoin of essays titled
"White Mist and Bright Sorrow", which was published in 2020.