Māhamudrā: Part Eight

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THREE-TIERED LAMA TSONG KHAPA WITH SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA AT HIS HEART, VAJRADHARA AT  BUDDHA’S HEART AND SYLLABLE HUM AT VAJRADHARA’S HEART

 

VENERABLE GESHE DOGA:

Among the many different techniques of guru yoga practice, the one called “combining-all-into-one” was presented in an earlier session (see Mahamudra Part Seven). This involved visualising Lama Tsong Khapa as the main guru.[1] This is similar to the visualisation presented in the Guru Puja where one visualises Tsong Khapa on top of one’s crown, with Buddha Shakyamuni at his heart, and Vajradhara at the heart of Buddha Shakyamuni. As already mentioned, the practice involves the guru dissolving into oneself. This comes at the very end of the practice.

The guru yoga presented in the Lam Rim teachings involves involves visualising the merit field with Tsong Khapa in the centre surrounded by all the buddha and deities.[2] The elaborate technique is to visualise each individual deity and then engage in the practices of accumulating merit and purifying negativities in relation to that visualisation.

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EXTENSIVE LAMA CHOEPA MERIT FIELD

THE HUNDREDS OF DEITIES OF THE LAND OF JOY

In the guru yoga practice of the Hundred of Deities of the Land of Joy (Tib: Ganden Lha Gyäma)[3] the combining-all-into-one jewel visualisation of Lama Tsong Khapa is presented. Lama Tsong Khapa is normally depicted with the mudra of turning the wheel of Dharma.

TSONGKHA WHEEL TURNING MUDRA CROPPED

However, in the merit field visualization, Lama Tsong Khapa is depicted with the right hand in the preaching the Dharma gesture, and the left holding a begging bowl filled with nectar. You may wonder what is the significant of this depiction: it indicates that Lama Tsong Khapa is a wheel-turning king or Buddha. By visualising in this manner as part of the guru yoga practice, a seed is implanted for us to become the foremost disciples of Tsong Khapa when he turns the wheel of Dharma as a buddha in this world. It is good to know this significance.[4]

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DISSOLVING THE GURU INTO ONESELF

In relation to the line in verse fifteen of the mahāmudrā root text that reads “after making fervent requests one hundred times or more with intense faith” you should visualise your guru dissolving into you.[5] But you may wonder how such requests are made. They may be done by either reciting one hundred times the prayer of the lineage gurus from the mahāmudrā text,[6] or requesting in conjunction with relying on reciting the nine line praise to Tsong Khapa which is in accordance to Gyalwa Ensapa’s tradition or lineage.[7]

For those of us unable to visualise elaborately, it is good to understand that there is no fault in doing the visualisation of Lama Tsong Khapa on top of one’s crown with the understanding that all enlightened beings of the merit field are within him. As mentioned, this visualisation is referred to as the “combining-all-into-one jewel [condensed jewel tradition][8] because it combines within the guru the entire merit field. Upon understanding that, its significance becomes very evident.

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THE VENERABLE GESHE DOGA.               Photo: Ross Moore

GESHE DOGA’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Personally I find that making fervent requests and visualising Buddha Shakyamuni as combining all jewel refuges is very effective for my mind. Somehow making strong requests with the understanding that “you are the source of all goodness, the manifestation of all the other deities, and thus I have no other refuge than you”[9] along with visualising the guru in the aspect of Guru Shakyamuni or Lama Tsong Khapa seems to make a stronger impact on my mind. If one has strong faith in the guru in that aspect it seems to really help to shift one’s mind, making it much more receptive to the blessings: it provides impetus to engage in further practices.

As mentioned previously, one visualises the three syllables at the three points: OM at the crown; AH at the throat and HUM at the heart. From these, lights radiate out and invoke all other enlightened beings who dissolve into the guru. One can follow the visualisations and practice described in earlier sessions at this point.

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One can adopt either visualisation (the extensive or condensed) according to one’s capacity. If doing the combining-into-one-jewel, the supplication can be made using either the verse of supplication from the Mahamudra lineage[10] prayer or the nine-line Lama Tsong Khapa Praise [11] as earlier mentioned.

THE GURU ACCEPTS OUR REQUEST

After doing the supplication and making the request, one visualizes that the guru accepts the request. There is the acceptance of the guru in dharmakaya aspect and acceptance in the nirmanakaya (or emanation) form of the guru.[12] The main significance of dissolving the guru into oneself is that the ultimate state of non-dual bliss and wisdom of the guru’s mind becomes inseparable from one’s own mind. Having dissolved the guru into oneself, one tries to really invoke that feeling of being inseparable from the guru’s mind. As will be presented later in the text, one maintains the blissful feeling and awareness of being in the state of inseparability from the guru’s mind. If you do this practice to the best of your ability it will actually induce a special mental feeling. As will be mentioned later, one then remains for some time in the state of one’s mind merging with the guru.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS PRACTICE

This practice is really significant for enhancing the positive energy of our mind. For those who already have some familiarity with this practice, it is worthwhile to take some actual time in which to do it. This is particularly the case when one feels unsettled or disturbed. Spending some time doing guru yoga practice (in relation to whatever deity practice one does) is much more worthwhile than running around and getting more and more confused. For those with a strong affinity with Tara then the guru is in the aspect of Tara; for those with a strong affinity to the practice of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, the guru is Alalokiteshvara. The techniques in these practices are exactly the same and can be applied to any deity practice.

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In relation to Tara practice, one does the visualisation of Tara and recites praises (such as the Twenty-One Praises).[13] After this one can do the short Tara mantra[14] and at the point of dissolving Tara into oneself, visualize the inseparable non-dual bliss and wisdom in the mind of the guru or Tara merging with oneself, becoming inseparable and blessing one’s mind. For those who do the Cittamani Tara practice,[15] as the sadhana explains, the main visualization is one’s own guru with Tara at his heart. At Tara’s heart is the syllable TAM surrounded by Tara’s six syllable mantra.

CHITTAMAN I TARA HEART MANTRAS

When one practices the dissolution in accordance to the Cittamani Tara practice, one takes the four initiations.[16]

If one is familiar with one particular practice, then one can relate that to every other practice in which one engages.

In fact if one does this practice [of guru yoga] quite sincerely, one will definitely feel a real shift in one’s mind, especially when anxious or troubled. Even by doing this practice for just a short time, particularly the part involving the dissolution of the guru (whether the aspect is Tara, Avalokiteśvara, Buddha Shakyamuni, or Lama Tsong Khapa) one can actually feel one’s mind becoming very soothed; one experiences relief from one’s troubles.

THE ESSENTIALITY OF THE PRELIMINARIES

We may be keen to meditate, but without having first done the preliminaries there won’t be much progress. Even if one sits in the right posture not much feeling will arise from that. However, if one has done the preliminaries mentioned here (adopting the seven or eight point posture of Vairochana; generating refuge and bodhichitta and performing a guru yoga practice), a tremendous difference will occur.

This point does not relate to just those interested in calm-abiding meditation because these preliminaries are of importance for whatever practice we might wish to do.

The significance of generating refuge and bodhichitta and reflecting on the main points of the path is that when one does actually engage in meditative concentration practice, one will then develop a single-pointed concentration imbued with renunciation and bodhichitta. But, if devoid of these preliminaries, one will generate a single-pointed concentration lacking such qualities in which case one’s practice will prove of no great purpose.

Relating to the main topic of the Māhamudrā text–which is the technique for developing calm-abiding–we have now completed the discussion of the prerequisites. The text now goes on to present different objects for meditation followed by instruction for the specific object to adopt: the mind itself.

This will be the subject of future Māhamudrā posts. Other posts may intercede. My intention: to keep the blog open for those with varying tastes and interests. I will keep you, well, posted!

 

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NOTES

Full publication details of cited texts are found in the bibliography

[1] See note four. This is also known as the “condensed jewel method.” Gyumed Khensur Lobsang Jampa: “The condensed-jewel method entails visualizing just one figure atop your head embodying all your gurus, meditational deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, heroes, heroines, and protectors. It’s very effective to visualize one figure embodying all. If you find elaborate visualization difficult, you can apply that condensed-jewel method here, doing the remaining preliminary practices in relation to your guru in that form atop your crown. The condensed-jewel method is a profound visualization that comes from Gyalwa Ensapa. Shakyamuni Buddha’s form is the commitment being, and in his heart is Vajradhara as the wisdom being. In Vajradhara’s heart is a syllable HUM that serves as the concentration being or samadhisattva. This is a tantric approach to visualization for guru yoga. This same visualisation of the guru as the three-tiered being comes in the Guru Puja, all visualized inside the outer form of Tsongkhapa.” See The Easy Path, 46.

[2] As His Holiness on this occasion is teaching from the perspective of the Gelug tradition (in accordance with the origins and lineage of the text) he details the visualisation as follows:

For us as followers of Tsongkhapa, although the root gurus we each visualize are by nature our respective root gurus, in appearance they should be visualized in the aspect of Lama Tsongkhapa. He is in the mudra of preaching, the posture he will adopt as the future buddha Senge Ngaro. This is auspicious for ourselves to become his disciples when he returns as the buddha to this world. He wears bikkshu robes, has one face and two arms, and is smiling. It is said that there are two causes for him to be smiling: One is that at this point we are making the most effort to engage in a virtuous practice so he is pleased. The other is that, although our faith is very weak and we are always influenced by negativities and our actions consist mainly of negative actions, the guru is like kind parents acting as if they are pleased, even though they are not, in order to delight their naughty children. in the same way, although there s hardly any cause for him to think favorably of our actions, because we are like the children of the guru we imagine that he appears with a pleased expression.

His right hand is in the mudra of expounding the dharma Generally speaking, the activity of preaching is an activity of the post-meditative period. His left hand is in the meditative equipoise position. This signifies that although he is engaged in the activity of helping sentient beings, he is in meditative equipoise at the same time, an indication he has achieved the enlightened state. In his left hand he is holding an alms bowl filled with a white nectar slightly raised in the center as Lake Manasvara is said to be…Each of the Guru’s hands holds a flower by the stem; on the right flower is a sword and on the left a scripture. The sword, blazing with flames, represents the wisdom discriminating the nature of all phenomena. The scripture on the left flower, according to some explanations, is called “The Emanated Scripture of the Ear-Whispered Transmission”.

See The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, 67-8.

In regards to the visualisation at the heart of Lama Lozang Thubwang Dorje Change (pertaining to verse 11 of the Guru Puja):

At the heart of Guru Lozang who is your own guru in the aspect of Lama Tsongkhapa, visualize Guru Shakyamuni, who is the master of the doctrine. he should be visualized as thumb-sized or four finger-widths high. The small size helps to overcome mental sinking and scattering, thus allowing you to have stronger concentration. If that is not within your ability he should be visualized slightly larger. Lord Buddha is showing his normal hand-gestures, left hand in meditative posture and right hand touchIng the ground. At his heart, visualize Vajradhara, the master of tantra, with consort, about one finger width high. At his heart visualize the concentration being, the syllable HUM, which is the source of all phenomena included in samsara and nirvana.

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It is by nature the very subtle wind and mind and is radiating light rays of five colors. The HUM, being blue, represents immutability and Ashobhya. Although it is of blue color it radiates five different colors; from the nada blue, from the drop white, from the crescent yellow, from the HA red, from the U green.

As found in the commentary on the generation stage, visualize Vajradhara as being heavy, and the concentration being, the syllable HUM, as very small and just like the filament in a light bulb–very, very thin, bluish, but very bright. This will help you have clarity of mind and prevent sinking. If you visualize Vajradhara as though he were heavy, it will help you prevent mental distraction.

The consort Vajra Ishvari is also holding a bell and vajra and embracing Vajradhara. Both are adorned with precious jewel ornaments and are absorbed in the ecstasy of great bliss. The bodies of Vajradhara and consort are adorned with the major and minor noble marks, and the light rays are radiating from them. Imagine that, at the tips of all these light rays, many different emanations are being created, emitting out and returning and so forth.

See The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, 77-8.

Reference to the body mandala deities is given in verse 12. See ibid., 77-8.

[3] For links to extensive commentary on this practice see

https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/ganden-lha-gyäma-guru-yoga-tushita’s-deva-host.

For a free downloadable version of the practice text:

http://gadenforthewest.org/prayers/LamaTsongKhapaSadhana_1_5.pdf.

This practice follows the same basic seven-limb structure of the more extensive Lama Choepa and is often proposed as an excellent shorter alternative for daily practice. Geshe Doga is not covering the content here as he has given extensive commentary elsewhere. This will be a forthcoming publication of Tara Institute Publications.

[4] His Holiness the Dalai Lama makes the same point. See note 15.

[5] The full verse reads:

Sorting out your dull states of mind from the clear, you should begin by taking refuge and developing an enlightened attitude of bodhichitta with a pure and virtuous motivation. You should then perform the profound meditation of guru yoga. After making fervent requests a hundred times or more with intense faith, you should visualise your guru as dissolving into you.

See also Mahāmudrā: Part Six.

[6] See “Praises and Supplication to the Gelukpa Mahamudra Lineage.”  This English translation includes Tibetan and Tibetan phonetics. Another translation can be found in Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, Manjushri’s Innermost Secret, 445-54. The specific verse to which Geshe Doga is referring is the supplication refrain:

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GYÜ DAG DZIN THRI WAS CHHÖ PA DANG
May I be blessed to completely sever the continuum that is clinging of self-grasping,

JAM NYING JE JANG SEM JONG PA DANG
To generate loving-kindness, compassion and the pure mind of enlightenment,

LAM ZUN JUG CHHAG GYA CHHEN PO YI/CHHOG NYUR TU THOB PAR JIN GYI LOB
And to quickly attain the path of unification, the highest state of Mahamudra.

[7] NINE-LINE PRAYER TO LAMA TSONGKHAPA:

NGÖ DRUB KÜN JUNG THUB WANG DOR JE CHHANG
Vajradhara, lord of sages, source of all realizations,

MIG ME TSE WÄI TER CHHEN CHÄN RÄ ZIG
Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of objectless compassion,

DRI ME KHYEN PÄI WANG PO JAM PÄI YANG
Manjushri, master of stainless wisdom,

DÜ PUNG MA LÜ JOM DZÄ SANG WÄI DAG
Vajrapani, destroyer of the entire host of maras,

GANG CHÄN KHÄ PÄI TSUG GYÄN LO ZANG DRAG
Losang Dragpa, crown jewel of sages of the land of snow,

KYAB SUM KÜN DÜ LA MA SANG GYÄ LA
To you Guru-Deity, embodying the three refuges,

GO SUM GÜ PÄI GO NÄ SÖL WA DEB
I make requests respectfully with my three doors.

RANG ZHÄN MIN CHING DRÖL WAR JIN GYI LOB
Please grant your blessings to liberate myself and others.

CHHOG DANG THÜN MONG NGÖ DRUB TSÄL DU SÖL (3x)
Please bestow the supreme and common realizations. (3x)

See  Lama Tsong Khapa Guru Yoga

[8] Thupten Jinpa translates Kuntu Norbu Lug as “Jewel Embodiment” His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

This simpler practice is known as the Jewel Embodiment (Kuntu Norbu Lug). For some people, the visualization of many different figures in the merit field is more beneficial and effective, but for others the visualization of a single figure alone, such as the Buddha Shakyamuni or your own spiritual master in the Buddha’s form, may prove more effective. Whether to undertake a very extensive visualization or to use a short and condensed visualisation is a matter that you yourself decide on the basis of your own mental attitude and disposition.

See The Dalai Lama, The Path to Bliss, 42.

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[9] These words resonate those from verse 53 of Lama Choepa:

You are our Gurus; you are our Yidams; you are our Dākinis and Dharma Protectors.
From this moment until our Enlightenment, we need seek
no refuge other than you.
In this life, the bardo, and all future lives,
Hold us with your hook of compassion.
Free us from samsara and Nirvana’s fears,
grant all attainments,
Be our unfailing friend and guard us from interferences. (3x)

Recited three times, it comes (in terms of practice) just before a “smiling emanation of the Guru dissolves into us/And we are blessed with inspiration.” (Verse 54). It therefore accords with our current context.

For a brief practice involving the all-into-one jewel featuring Guru Shakyamuni (as Geshe Doga is describing), see Gyumed Khensur Lobsang Jampa, The Easy Path, “An extremely Brief Preliminary Practice according to the Condensed Jewel Tradition,” Appendix 1, 265-6. In that practice, you first “imagine your guru in his or her ordinary form atop your head.” Then you visualize in the space before oneself that “all your teachers are arrayed along with the lineage teachers, deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, solitary realizers, arhats, dakas, dakinis and Dharma protectors.” They then dissolve “into Shakyamuni with Vajradhara at his heart, who in turn has a HUM syllable at his heart. He dissolves into the root teacher on your crown and they become inseparable. You guru takes on the form of the three-tiered being: Shakyamuni Buddha with Vajradhara at his heart, who in turn has a HUM syllable at his heart. He embodies all objects of refuge” (ibid.)

[10] See note six.

[11] See note seven.

LZR IN BERN 1993 UELI MINDER

LAMA ZOPA RINPOCHE. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY EULI MINDER 1993

[12] The guru in dharmakaya aspect refers to the absolute guru; the guru in nirmanakaya or emanation form refers to the relative guru. Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche:

As the great yogi Buddhajnana said, “Before what is called ‘guru” there was not even the name “buddha.” All the buddhas are manifestations of the guru.”

If we don’t relate this quotation to the absolute guru it doesn’t make sense, and neither will many of the prayers in the Guru Puja. In other words, buddha doesn’t exist before the guru. All the buddhas, as well as the Dharma and the Sangha comes from the guru.

The essence of all our gurus, even though they appear in ordinary aspects, is one, the absolute guru. Their aspect is called kun dzob kyi lama in Tibetan; the translation with which you are familiar is probably “relative guru or “conventional guru.” In guru yoga practice, the relative guru, whose essence is the absolute guru, is visualized as Shakyamuni Buddha, Majushri, Tara, Vajradhara, Lam Tsong-khapa or another enlightened being.

Because we have impure karma, the absolute guru manifests to us in a form with faults. With our present capacity we don’t have the pure karma to see the guru in pure form; we can only see the guru in a form with faults. We don’t have the pure karma to see the buddhas in the pure aspect of buddha: we have only the impure karma to see buddhas in impure aspects. A buddha’s power and sentient beings’ karma are equal. Therefore the buddhas manifest to us in ordinary forms with faults, which accord to our own karma, our own level of mind, then guide us through various means that also accord with the level of our minds to the happiness of future lives, liberation and enlightenment.” See Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Heart of the Path, 339.

Regarding the real meaning of “guru” Lama Zopa elaborates:

When we think about what guru really means, we have to think about the absolute guru. We have to go beyond the conventional guru to the absolute guru, the realm meaning of guru. And what is the absolute guru? In tantric terms, it is the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness. It is eternal, with no beginning and no end. (This absolute guru is a little similar to the eternal God of Christianity but Christianity has no explanation of how god is eternal.) This dharmakaya pervades all existence; there’s no place that the dharmakaya, the holy mind of the buddhas, does not cover.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche gives an analogy: “Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo gives the example of rivers entering the ocean and mixing together. When we then take one tiny drop from the ocean, it embodies every single river that has gone into it from various places. Before entering the ocean, all the various rivers appear different, but after entering the ocean, they all become one. Like this, all the buddhas are of one taste in the dharma. The dharmakaya, the absolute guru, the holy mind of all the buddhas is like the ocean. Just as all the rivers are mixed in the ocean, all the buddhas are mixed in this dharmakaya, this absolute guru. Like drops from the ocean, all the many different aspects of buddha–the One Thousand Buddhas, the eight Medicine Buddhas–are manifestations of the absolute guru (ibid., 333-4).

Relating back to guru yoga the implication:

Each of the buddhas is the embodiment of all the buddhas and each of the buddhas is the embodiment of the guru. If the guru is the embodiment of one buddha, he has to be the embodiment of all the buddhas. There is no buddha who is not an embodiment of the guru; there is no guru who is not an embodiment of a buddha. There are different aspects but just one being, the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness. And when we become enlightened we become one with all the buddhas (ibid, 334).

Debates concerning the meaning of becoming “one with all the buddhas” arise: do the enlightened minds remain distinct yet co-extensive, or perfectly blend into an indivisible “one”? Are the very terms of the debate supportable/coherent when we are dealing with that extraordinary state: “nondual bliss and voidness”? Such investigations lead back to the meaning and viability of the Two Truths: how are they established and particularly, how are they merely nominally “established” in mutual interdependency.

In relation to the issue of what it means to say that a guru-deity “accepts” our request (in this case, to dissolve into us), Geshe Doga, in a Vajrasattva Commentary described how, when we make a request of the deity, the “significance is more in relation to the practitioner’s needs” than from the deity’s perspective:

By requesting the actual Vajrasattva deity to cleanse and remove any defilements or pre-existing stains one creates the cause to leave imprints of the Vajrasattva deity on the practitioner’s mind. By visualizing in this way an auspicious connection is made.”

Geshe Doga, Vajrasattva Commentary, Transcript,Tara Institute Easter Course, 28th March 2016, morning session.

This explanation can be extended to our current topic where we are requesting the Guru to dissolve into us and visualize accordingly. However, this is not to say that such visualization can’t enable actual experience as Geshe Doga clearly indicates. Likewise, when we offer a bath to the Holy Body of the Buddha (and it is not that a Buddha [ever] requires washing!) we can undergo a real purification, an effective cleansing of stains. See Geshe Doga, Vajrasattva Commentary, ibid.

Note: the guru-deity, such as Vajrasattva, Tara, etc. is referred to as a sambhogakāya or primordial enjoyment body. See Dalai Lama, The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, 134. This relates also to self-generation practice (ibid).

[13] http://www.lamrim.org.uk/bristol/download/tara_puja_a4.pdf. The puja contains both the 21 Praises and the one verse abbreviated form that may be substituted when time-poor.

[14] Green Tara’s mantra: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

White Tara’s mantra: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUR PUNYE JÑANA PUSHTIM KURU [YE] SVAHA

white tara 16-17 C patan museum

WHITE TARA, BRONZE 16-TH CENTURY PATAN MUSEUM INDIA

[15] This is a Highest Yoga Tantra practice. For those with suitable prerequisites, a valuable resource: Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo, Secret Revelations of Chittamani Tara: A Profound Commentary on the Two Stages, translated by David Gonsalez (Dechen Ling Press: 2013).

[16] This refers to the vase, secret, wisdom and word empowerments that are integral to Highest Yoga Tantras. Their conferral also serves as a doorway to engaging in the sadhana. A verse from The Jeweled Rosary by Lodro Gyatso reads:

Grant your blessings that I may then enter the profound and
Uncommon path of the Vajrayana–the quick path,
And receive the four empowerments purely
From a holy spiritual friend endowed with all the characteristics.

See Secret Revelations, 201. For an account of taking the four initiations in the form of blessing within the context of Lama Choepa (and specifically in relation to the absorption of the guru pertaining, this time, to verse 54) see Dalai Lama, The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, 132-7.

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Photo: Ross Moore. View from my window with that “certain slant of light”

                                          EMILY DICKINSON
There’s a certain Slant of light, 
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft 
Of Cathedral Tunes – 
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar, 
But internal difference – 
Where the Meanings, are – 
None may teach it – Any – 
‘Tis the seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction 
Sent us of the Air – 
When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance 
On the look of Death –
Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON: READING EDITION, edited by Ralph W. Franklin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998, 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

 

 

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