One shrine to the next, the hermit can't stop for breath

by Lalla

English version by Ranjit Hoskote
Original Language Kashmiri

One shrine to the next, the hermit can't stop for breath.
Soul, get this! You should have looked in the mirror.
Going on a pilgrimage is like falling in love
with the greenness of faraway grass.

-- from I Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded, Translated by Ranjit Hoskote

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

A critique of pilgrimage, when practiced in a superficial way. The pilgrim, rushing from one shrine to the next, is simply tallying up destinations, and in the process running out of breath / spirit.

But, the way I read this poem, it isn't just about pilgrimage, but about how one journeys through life in the world. Do we hasten through life experiences without attention? Do we accumulate possessions without purpose? Are we endlessly "in love with the greenness of faraway grass"? In all this breathless hurry, what is it we are really looking for?

That spark, that life, that sense of wholeness, it is never "out there," found in some place or special object or experience. At best, when we are really paying attention, the outer reflects back to us what was within all along.

We can spend a lifetime looking, traveling, and acquiring. Or we can look in the mirror.



Recommended Books: Lalla

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty I Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded Naked Song The Ascent of Self: A Reinterpretation of the Mystical Poetry of Lalla-Ded
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