Stillness behind the words

The Buddha

Buddha – a poem by Rainer M. Rilke
for J.D.

As if he listened. Quiet…something far…
We hold our breath, hearing it no longer.
And he is star. And other giant stars,
unseen by us, orbit him out yonder.

He is all. Would we in fact be pleased
it he took note? What need has he for us?
And though we fell before him in the dust,
he’d still be deep and idle as a beast.

That energy before which we’re abased
has circled through him for a million years.
He has forgotten everything we share
and drinks existence that we cannot taste.

Paris, 1907

This is the first of the three poems Rainer M. Rilke wrote about his experience contemplating in front of a tall Buddha Amithaba statue in the garden of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rilke admired Rodin, who was 35 years his senior. Rodin became a mentor to the young artist and taught him the art of seeing beauty in everyday things.

Rilke was fascinated by the Buddha statue, that he first encountered in the moonlight. In a letter he wrote of the ancient eqanimity that the statue emanated.

Please find below the German original.

Buddha (Neue Gedichte, 1907)

Als ob er horchte. Stille: eine Ferne…
Wir halten ein und hören sie nicht mehr.
Und er ist Stern. Und andre grosse Sterne,
die wir nicht sehen, stehen um ihn her.

O er is Alles. Wirklich, warten wir,
dass er uns sähe? Sollte er bedürfen?
Und wenn wir hier uns vor ihm niederwürfen,
er bliebe tief und träge wie ein Tier.

Denn das, was uns zu seinen Füssen reisst,
das kreist in ihm seit Millionen Jahren.
Er, der vergisst was wir erfahren
und der erfährt was uns verweist.

About Michaela

I am a wanderer and a wonderer, like you are. I love our journey and to walk in the company of friends – to learn, experience, share, laugh, cry and above all I simply love this marvelous, magical, mysterious life. I have no plan (cannot believe I am saying this) and my only intention is to be truthful to myself and others.
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