Nov 21 2012

Hakim Sanai – Naked in the Bee-House

Published by at 9:43 am under Poetry

Naked in the Bee-House
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Coleman Barks

Being humble is right for you now.
Don’t thrash around showing your strength.

You’re naked in the bee-house!
It doesn’t matter how powerful
your arms and legs are.

To God, that is more of a lie
than your weakness is.

In his doorway your prestige
and your physical energy are just dust
on your face. Be helpless
and completely poor.

And don’t try to meet his eye!
That’s like signing a paper
that honors yourself.

If you can take care of things, do so!
But when you’re living at home with God,
you neither sew the world together
with desires nor tear it apart
with disappointments.

In that place existence itself
is illusion. All that is, is one.

Lost in that, your personal form
becomes a vast, empty mosque.

When you hold on to yourself,
you’re a fire-worshipping temple.
Dissolve, and let everything get done.
When you don’t, you’re an untrained colt,
full of erratic loving and biting.
Loyal sometimes, then treacherous.

Be more like the servant who owns nothing
and is neither hungry nor satisfied,
who has no hopes for anything,
and no fear of anyone.

An owl living near the king’s palace
is considered a bird of misfortune,
ragged and ominous. But off in the woods,
sitting alone, its feathers grow splendid
and sleek like the Phoenix restored.

Musk should not be kept near water or heat.
The dampness and the dryness spoil
its fragrance. But when the musk is at home
in the musk bladder, fire and wetness
mean nothing. In God’s doorway your guilt
and your virtue don’t count.

Whether you’re Muslim, or Christian, or
fire-worshipper, the categories disappear.

You’re seeking, and God is what is
sought, the essence beyond any cause.

External theological learning moves like a moon
and fades when the sun of experience rises.

We are here for a week, or less.
We arrive and leave almost simultaneously.

To be is not to be.

The Qur’an says, “They go hastening,
with the Light running on before them.”

Clear the way! Muhammed says, “How fine!”
A sigh goes out, and there is union.

Forget how you came to this gate, your history.
Let that be as if it had not been.

Do you think the day plans its course
by what the rooster says?

God does not depend on any of his creatures.
Your existence or non-existence is insignificant.
Many like you have come here before.

When the fountain of light is pouring,
there’s no need to urge it on!
That’s like a handful of straw
trying to help the sun. “This way!
Please, let this light through!”

The sun doesn’t need an announcer.
The lamp you carry is your self-reliance.
The sun is something else!

Half a sneeze might extinguish your langern,
whereas all a winter’s windiness
cannot put That out.

The road you must take has no particular name.
It’s the one composed of your own sighing
and giving up. What you’ve been doing
is not devotion. Your hoping and worrying
are like donkeys wandering loose,
sometimes docile, or suddenly mean.

Your face looks wise at times,
and ashamed at others.

There is another way, a pure blankness
where those are one expression.

Omar once saw a group of boys on the road
challenging each other to wrestle.
They were all claiming to be champions,
but when Omar, the fierce and accomplished
warrior, came near, they scattered.

All but one, Abdullah Zubair.
Omar asked, “Why didn’t you run?”

“Why should I? You are not a tyrant,
and I am not guilty.”

When someone knows his own inner value,
he doesn’t care about being accepted
or rejected by anyone else.

The prince here is strong and just.
Stand wondering in his presence.
There is nothing but That.

— from The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, with Lectures by Inayat Khan, Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Photo by ewan traveler /

Ivan re-emerges…

It is fascinating to me how my worst bouts of fatigue and illness seem to coincide with world trauma and political upheaval. Since Sunday I’ve been essentially bedridden. I’ve only started to come out of it as of last night.

Then I turn on the news and discover how the terrible wound in Gaza has been re-opened with so much suffering. The repercussions of these events are worse than the immediate devastation and personal tragedies being shown (or not being shown) on the news.

A good time to send healing prayers to the region — along with a firm application of political and social pressure to insist on restraint.

The cruelties of the world can make one feel naked in the bee-house, entirely vulnerable, revealing the illusions of our “strength.”

There are so many delightful lines and images in this poem, but today I thought I’d focus on a short section that is not the most transfixing on a poetic level, but one that I keep returning to…

If you can take care of things, do so!
But when you’re living at home with God,
you neither sew the world together
with desires nor tear it apart
with disappointments.

That first statement — “If you can take care of things, do so!” — immediately negates the temptation to interpret the poet’s words as a justification for passivity. We are given bodies for one purpose: to interact in a world of action. We are not disconnected spectators. As body dwellers, we are inherently beings of action, and being interconnected we act with each other and for each other.

But the intensity of action and the world perceived by the senses can confuse us, leading us to imagine that reality is somehow held together by our actions and injured by our failures. This belief leads to inflation of ego in success, and a crippling psychic burden when success evades us.

And then we get caught in the cycle of taking only actions we think will succeed and avoiding all others. Our actions grow smaller, safer, more predictable. We all feel this gravitational pressure to some extent.

But– when we remember that we are first and foremost beings with vast interior spaces, beings of awareness and intention, we break that ever tightening cycle. We step free from the idea of a mechanical world of action and reaction, action graded with a pass or fail. Instead, we understand action as a form of ritual. We begin to see action as enaction. Action flows outward from those great interior halls of the heart. Action becomes expression.

Yes, we still strive to take effective action, we measure the results and improve future actions, but we are not enthralled by those results. We take action simply because it is our nature to act. And we act because the awakening heart prompts us to act. The results are left to that greater Reality. Freed from “results” and “success,” we can then act in ways that are right for the simple reason that it is right.

Right action heals in ways that even “success” cannot always match.

In Hinduism, this might be called Karma Yoga. I prefer not to call it anything. It is simply the nature of being in the world.

This is where we stand wondering…

Have a beautiful day, inside and out.

And if you celebrate Thanksgiving, may it be a special day.

Hakim Sanai

Afghanistan (1044? – 1150?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Not much is known about Hakim Sanai, often just called Sanai or Sanai of Ghazna. Sanai is one of the earlier Sufi poets. He was born in the province of Ghazna in southern Afghanistan in the middle of the 11th century and probably died around 1150.

Rumi acknowledged Sanai and Attar as his two primary inspirations, saying, “Attar is the soul and Sanai its two eyes, I came after Sanai and Attar.”

Sanai was originally a court poet who was engaged in writing praises for the Sultan of Ghazna.

The story is told of how the Sultan decided to lead a military attack against neighboring India and Sanai, as a court poet, was summoned to join the expedition to record the Sultan’s exploits. As Sanai was making his way to the court, he passed an enclosed garden frequented by a notorious drunk named Lai Khur.

As Sanai was passing by, he heard Lai Khur loudly proclaim a toast to the blindness of the Sultan for greedily choosing to attack India, when there was so much beauty in Ghazna. Sanai was shocked and stopped. Lai Khur then proposed a toast to the blindness of the famous young poet Sanai who, with his gifts of insight and expression, couldn’t see the pointlessness of his existence as a poet praising such a foolish Sultan.

These words were like an earthquake to Hakim Sanai, because he knew they were true. He abandoned his life as a pampered court poet, even declining marriage to the Sultan’s own sister, and began to study with a Sufi master named Yusef Hamdani.

Sanai soon went on pilgrimage to Mecca. When he returned, he composed his poetic masterpiece, Hadiqatu’l Haqiqat or The Walled Garden of Truth. There was a double meaning in this title for, in Persian, the word for a garden is the same word for paradise, but it was also from within a walled garden that Lai Khur uttered the harsh truths that set Hakim Sanai on the path of wisdom.

More poetry by Hakim Sanai

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Hakim Sanai – Naked in the Bee-House”

  1. Sylviaon 21 Nov 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Sorry you’ve been laid low Ivan. But what a stunning poem you have re-emerged with! I so enjoyed it. Is it the poem or this morning’s mood? I wonder – but every line carried such clarity. And there were a lot of lines!, but all of them worth saying. Thank you!

  2. Lailakaon 21 Nov 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Hello Ivan! Wishing you much nurturing and gentleness. Sometimes we are reminded that when there is so much pain and upheaval on the planet that in order to continue to be the Light we must recharge our own batteries. Sending you a warm blanket of healing. Lailaka

  3. Nancion 21 Nov 2012 at 5:37 pm

    The good news today that a cease fire has been called in Gaza. This time of year is for some reason heavy and dark, and our bodies and Spirits sometimes succumb to that. I’m not surprised you have felt that energy with the world in chaos and the elction seemingly bringing out the worst in everyone. Spring will come, and God is still in charge. We can pray in our own way for healing for the world and thus ourselves.
    May you be well.

  4. Chanderon 21 Nov 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Dear Ivan,
    Thank you for introducing me to the most beautiful poetry of the world.
    Chander Malhotra

  5. Madathil Nairon 21 Nov 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for this great thanksgiving gift, Ivan. This poem is an ageless Sufi upanishad that demands unending interpretations. Prayers for your good health.

  6. Samir Singhon 21 Nov 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Ivan,

    Absolutely fascinating poem. It is always a great pleasure to behold the nuggets you present us. Your introductory write up on the poets and your comments are very enlightening. However, sometimes the translations (not yours) seem to fall a bit short. This is perhaps, the price of our not knowing Persian, Arabic and Turkish.

    Today’s poem is very relevant to the current situation, in my country and internationally.
    All our seers, saints and teachers have sacrificed their lives trying to lead us (humans) to the right path, to the true way of love and human compassion; simplicity and humility. They have shown us that the path lies right in front of us – straight as an arrow! Yet, we have strayed again and again, always fearing and doubting straightness and simplicity; always priding ourselves in our worldly might. We have failed to surrender ourselves to the truth. This beautiful poem should remind us of our vulnerability, our smallness which we seek to overcome, with missiles and tanks. The conflict in West Asia is just one example of this haughtiness, this inability to heed the words of our great teachers.

  7. janet bradleyon 22 Nov 2012 at 2:50 am

    Dear Ivan,

    I hope that you are feeling much better. All of us out here send the loving and powerful light that you emit through this site – back to you! Let’s keep it flowing!!

    xx Janet

  8. Pegon 23 Nov 2012 at 8:10 am

    I am enjoying this poem. I do understand what Sanai is saying in the beginning. Our ego is so prominent in this 3D world that this is not the time to “look at God.” Once ego is transformed to the divine and working in balance with the rest of the body, then it is important to experience the divine, to then look. It is interesting to note that looking does not become necessary, because you or I as individual then “be,” not being or beingness, simple you are “be,” the micro and macro, the alpha and omega.

    This “be” allows me to not have to push my agenda on a situation, because I have no agenda, even the bombings. I am wise enough to know that I do not know ones path, what they must experience first in order to transform themselves as I have done and will always reach for the next higher understanding of who I am “be” ing. I see all parties involved in this conflict as whole and perfect and I stand in this stable energy of love and sacred detachment. The moment I begin to interact in this conflict, my energy immediately becomes polarized and adds to the entrenchment of duality, who is right and who is wrong.

    If one feels drawn to involve themselves within this situation or any other, then there is healing that needs to take place within the individual. One’s focus is always to turn to the inside first, then there is no reason to attach to outside sources for stealing others light/energy.

    Ivan, I honor your transformation and the physical transformations that your body is making at this time. I stand in love and see you as whole and perfect and easily making the physical changes in your body so you can hold more light. There is a wonderful source to help with what nutrients and herbs are helpful when a person is transmuting, it is “Biology of Kundalini” by Jana Dixon. This is a very detailed book and much of it is posted on her web site so you do not have to guy the book.

  9. Beckyon 23 Nov 2012 at 11:22 am


    Thank you for sharing “Naked in the Bee House.” A copy is now in my pocket or purse to be carried about and read every day.



  10. shirinon 24 Nov 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing poem. I really enjoyed it so much.
    I wish you get better soon.

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