Tsangyang Gyatso the sixth Dalai Lama. He composed poems and lyrics, still popular today, in which he refers to himself as The Turquoise Bee. Tsangyang Gyatso enjoyed a colorful life and loved writing poems and songs. His chief legacy is his poems, which are considered to be among the loveliest in Tibetan literature. Many are about love, longing and heartbreak. Some are erotic and some reveal his feelings about his position and his life. One of his more famous lyrics perhaps predicted his reincarnation:
Lend me your wings
I will not fly far
From Lithang, I shall return”
The poem that resonates most deeply with me is one in which it is speculated he refers to himself as a Turquoise Bee
"Spring flowers fade in the fall;
It is not for the turquoise bees to mourn.
I and my sweetheart are fated to part;
It is not for us to cry”
The 6th Dalai Lama had no qualms writing about his love of women. He is the only Dalai Lama who never took his monastic vows but kept the temporal prerogatives of the Dalai Lama. He led a playboy lifestyle, wore layman clothing and enjoyed women, song and drink. Surely he was referring to a female love in the poem. For me the poem captures the feeling of parting with the bees in the fall, knowing we are fated to part but without sadness, holding on to the hope that we will reunite in the spring. The poem goes on:
"Frost gathers on the glistering flowers
And then the cold north wind blows.
The frost and the wind must have come
To drive the bees away from the flowers”
The image of the Turquoise Bee captivated me immediately and became the name of our little apiary. There isn’t any coincidence that in the scriptures and practices of all world religions bees and honey are symbolic.
For Christians the references are found in both the New and Old Testament. In Matthew 3:4 we read about John the Baptist living a long time in the wilderness on a diet of honey and locusts. In the Book of Exodus we read about the description of the Promised Land as flowing with milk and honey.
The Talmud has numerous references to honey and in Jewish tradition honey is a symbol for the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. During their celebratory feast Jews will dip apples into honey to bring a sweet year.
In Islam the Qu’ran is full of references to the honeybee and honey with significant recommendation to use honey for its healing properties. I only learned this recently from a family I was caring for in the hospital. When they learned I was a beekeeper they shared numerous reference about the bee and honey from the their holy book, the Qu’ran. In return I gave them a little jar of my honey and you would have thought I had moved the earth. I was overwhelmed by their gratitude.
Buddhists also have a feast, Madhu Pumima, a day commemorating Buddha’s making peace among his disciples by retreating into the wilderness. While there, a monkey and an elephant fed him, the elephant bringing fruit and the monkey-bringing honeycomb. The money was so excited when the Buddha accepted his gift that he began leaping from tree to tree and fell to his death. However, he was immediately reborn as a result of his generosity. This important feast is celebrated on the first day of the full moon in the month of Bhadro, which falls in August and September, by bringing honey to Monks. It is interesting that this coincides with the annual honey harvest! While I am not a Buddhist I am deeply connected to our Tibetan American community and deliver honey to our local Tibetan Monks for this feast day. In return the Monks bless the honey and the blessing extends to the bees, the hives and any product from the hive. This year I am working on having these Monks come to the Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary to conduct a Puja, a ritual offering/blessing. I would love the Monks to ask for healthy bees and access to healthy nectar, pollen water. I would also a blessing for Paula and I, for our safety and that any obstacles between the bees and us be removed. Most importantly we will ask for a pardon from the bee, forgiveness if you may, in the fall when we rob them of their honey.
I am a lucky beekeeper to be surrounded by a community of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims with whom I can share my annual crop for such important feasts and celebrations. I take great joy in sharing the honey with all my friends for such important religious purposes, celebrations and health. Finally in his infinate wisdom the Sixth Dalai Lama writes:
"In the short walk of this life
We have had our share of joy.
Let us hope to meet again
In the youth of our next life."