Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing

by Kabir

English version by Robert Bly
Original Language Hindi

Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing:
all earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway between these two trees,
and it never winds down.

Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also the wheeling sun and moon;
ages go by, and it goes on.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.
Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.

-- from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Monday's poem by Ikkyu inspired a few notes from people who really responded positively to it... and lots of cancellations. Every time I send out a poem email, a few people cancel their email subscription; that's just the normal rhythm. But every once in a while I send out something that triggers a few dozen cancellations, and it always leaves me amused and scratching my head. Did people dislike the poem or my commentary? Were they offended by the poet's biography? Or maybe it was just the full moon stirring the pot.

I certainly didn't intend to upset anyone. Well, I do occasionally like to shake things up a bit, but hopefully in a healthy and ultimately uplifting way.

Today's poem probably won't cause upset, but it may leave us just a bit dizzy... in a good way, I hope!

This is a rather loose translation, but I like it.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.


There is a continuous flowing between the subtle and the manifest, between spirit and matter. Spirit pours through matter, giving it life and awareness. Matter, in turn, gives form to spirit, striving to embody the limitless amidst limitation.

And so the swing goes back and forth, patiently, playfully, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening.

It isn't a process where we find that perfect spot and then it all stops. "It never winds down." It is an interplay that continues, and we find our rightful place by seeing the entire dance...

Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.



Recommended Books: Kabir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)
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The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
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Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
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Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
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Songs of the Saints of India
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Between the conscious