Within This Body

by Tulsi Sahib

English version by Ivan M. Granger


Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
     so the saints say.

Hermits, ascetics, celibates --
all are lost
seeking Him
     in endless guises.

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
     blinded by knowledge.

     Their pilgrimage,
     and fasting,
     and striving
          but delude.
Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.

Only the saints
who know the body's heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.

Realize this, and you've found your freedom
     (while teachers trapped in tradition
     know only the mirage
          in the mirror).

-- from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I'm feeling feisty today! :-)

This poem really cuts right through the delusion of fundamentalism on the one hand---

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
     blinded by knowledge.


--and being overly enamored with spiritual practices and rituals, on the other--

Their pilgrimage,
     and fasting,
     and striving
          but delude.


This is not to say that one should not study sacred texts or that we should ignore the value of spiritual practices. The problem is that it's easy to forget what their true purpose is. Sacred writing, sacred striving, they are signposts that remind us to turn inward and discover the true heart that shines with the light of the universe.

Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
     so the saints say.


If we just memorize words or pray in the mountains, even if we do it perfectly, we are idolizing the trappings of spirituality, without understanding, without making the real journey. This is one of the reasons why there is so much anger among fundamentalists in all the world's traditions -- they push to fit into an externalized idea of what it means to be perfect, yet they are not transformed, and they secretly know it.

Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.


Unable to face the pain of that failure, they externalize it, and blame the imperfections of the world around them for holding them back. That pain becomes anger at the outer world, and that anger is reflexively attributed to God. Then that angry God is imagined to punish by withholding heaven from the individual until the whole world rigidly falls into order. The more desperate these individuals become for release from spiritual pain, the more violently they try to enforce their vision upon society in the hopes that they will finally appease God and find freedom.

So sad, when all that is necessary is to slip through that pain, let go of the ego's self-importance, and discover the immense joy quietly glowing deep within. No one and nothing else holds us back.

Only the saints
who know the body's heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.


So Tulsidas is reminding us: Study, yes, and strive. But always more important is to yield and open and finally settle into the secret shining heart that only awaits discovery. If you want to be a fundamentalist, those are the true fundamentals.

Realize this, and you've found your freedom


...Okay, Ivan will now step down from his soapbox. Have a wonderful weekend, and remember to take some sweet quiet time to settle within. Oh, and have a good 10/10/10 this Sunday!



Recommended Books: Tulsi Sahib

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Songs of the Saints of India Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras





Within This Body