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Introduction by Tenzin of the Air Nomads
This remarkable manuscript details all of the chants and wisdom left to the world by one Guru Laghima, an Air Nomad from the Northern Air Temple four thousand years before the present day, as first transcribed by his disciple, Varvara.
There is little doubt that Laghima was a real person; records of his birth, life, and death were transcribed by the Keepers of Names in the Temple Records, and in recent decades were moved to the library on Air Temple Island. What these records state is that Laghima was born, in terms of modern dates, on the 21st Day of the Third Month in the year 3861 Before the Genocide. He was raised in the Northern Air Temple, mastered Airbending at the age of fourteen with the creation of his signature move (the spinning of small objects, such as stones or marbles, at high speeds, later becoming part of the Airbending Canon Moves). He briefly wandered the world, feeling, according to the records, a sense of longing that he wished to quell in himself. It is possible, even probable, that he settled down briefly and had a family of sorts in the Western Earth Kingdom, but there is no evidence to support that argument, with the majority of works relating to Airbenders in that area being destroyed in the Hundred Year War by the Fire Nation colonial government.
What caused the transformation and unlocking of his abilities, we may never know, although it is suggested that the death of his family at the hands of the Returning Sun Tribe played a major part in his seeking complete detachment from the world. The ability to fly unaided by air currents, gliders, airships, or aeroplanes has only been unlocked twice in history; both of those times required a dedication to something more, and the realization that one's own grief must be overcome for harmony. It seems that Laghima travelled the world for three years before finally, on a small peak near the site of the Northern Air Temple now called Laghima's Peak, he unlocked the secret of flight, pushing himself off the mountain and into the air unaided by his already powerful Bending.
His life after the discovery of flight was surprisingly mundane by the standards of the epics, as it often appears. He was given food in donations by the monks of the temple, brought by students who wished to learn from the guru. While many attended him and listened to his words of wisdom, however, the student who attended him nearly constantly was a young man known as Varvara, not yet granted his tattoos when he took up his post recording the words of the guru for posterity. It should be noted that Varvara, aside from being a capable listener, was also a qualified poet. The style of the poems in this translation, far from the long chants of previous gurus, are in the earliest usage of haiku that one can find in a philosophical text; it is a tribute to this Varvara's unique gift, then, that Laghima's words are told easily yet to the point, like a gust of wind blown this way and that.
The volume here, while heavily abridged, still captures, in my belief, the essential qualities that made Laghima's words of wisdom so accessible to such a wide range of people, even outside of the Air Nomads. Copies of the Abandhanena are found in such places as the Imperial Libraries of the Fire Palace, where they remained relatively well-read even during the Hundred Year War. Notably, however, the text does not simply include the wisdom of Laghima in poetic form, something which most modern translations are prone to; it also contains, interspersed between chapters, interesting tidbits about the history and culture of the nations at the time, as befits a traveller, seen from the eyes of two revered men who were nonetheless outcasts from their own society.
It is with great pleasure, then, that I welcome this chance for his words to be brought to a new audience, translated by one Otaku of the Northern Air Temple. Even and especially in this age, when technology seems to be master of our fates and the old ways are slipping off to the sidelines, it is important that we are able to draw wisdom from those who came before us.
Tenzin of Air Temple Island
- Guru Laghima
For the collective works of the author, go here.