Mar 07 2018

Hakim Sanai – There is no place for place!

Published by at 7:15 am under Poetry

There is no place for place!
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Ivan M. Granger

There is no place for place!
How can a place
house the maker of all space,
or the vast sky enclose
      the maker of heaven?

He told me:
“I am a homeless treasure.
The world was made
to give you a place to stand
      and see me.”

Tell me, if the one you seek
is placeless,
why put your shoes on?
The real road
is found by polishing, polishing
      the mirror of your heart.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by RobertoBertero /

I’ve always loved these verses, but this morning it’s the middle verse that especially stands out to me–

He told me:
“I am a homeless treasure.
The world was made
to give you a place to stand
      and see me.”

Mystics, through direct perception, often declare that there is a fundamental unity in existence. There is no real separation between beings. There is no separation between the individual and the Eternal.

But this raises a dilemma in the minds of some philosophers: In a reality where all is One, why then does the perception of separation and multiplicity emerge? Is that simply a false vision, a delusion, or does it serve a divine purpose, even if temporary? In other words, why does that externalized reality (“the world”) come into being?

One way this question is answered is to look at the journey of the individual human consciousness from birth, through individuation, to mature adulthood and, finally, hopefully, to wisdom and enlightenment. As newborn infants we don’t imagine ourselves to be separate from our mothers. There is hardly any self at all. Or, rather, self is so open that it is not a “self” in the normal sense. There is only Mother. And the wider reality is only the perception of sensation. This is a form of unity, but it is immature. This initial unity does not yet allow us to effectively interact with the wider, complex reality and embody our full potential.

Next, separation and individuation begins to occur. The toddler discovers a powerful word: “No!” A sense of self emerges. This is also when “the world” emerges. Wider reality becomes something outside ourselves, outside the self, separate. We get the dynamic of self and object, self and other.

That self-object dynamic is essential. It allows for interaction. It allows for experimentation and experience and growing comprehension. We gain a vantage point through which to perceive and understand reality. We gain a place to stand and to see.

As profound and necessary as this relationship with reality is, it is ultimately limited. It works well for the basic need of all beings to figure out how to survive and socially connect. But it is an incomplete picture, and it leaves us incomplete in ourselves. Even when, as mature adults, we learn the skills of the world, there is more. And we know it.

The wise woman or man is dedicated to continuing the maturation of the awareness, rediscovering that primal unity while integrating it with the hard-learned lessons of the world. This leads to true spiritual maturity, with vision and a place to stand, yet consciously connected to all things.

We need the world. We need a place to stand, so we can look and see. Eventually we once more see the One in the patterns of the many.

Then the idea of place falls away. Place only has meaning amidst the many, when seeking some segment of reality. But, when, in our full maturity, we seek the blissful vision of the Whole Reality, what meaning does place have anymore?

There is no place for place!
How can a place
house the maker of all space…?

Enough running about from place to place; we are on a journey to the placeless. Let’s kick off our shoes, sit down, and begin the quiet work of polishing that most secret center until we truly see, and know, and are lost in the vision…

Recommended Books: Hakim Sanai

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
More Books >>

Hakim Sanai, Hakim Sanai poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Hakim Sanai

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

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. 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. 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 as the 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

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Hakim Sanai – There is no place for place!”

  1. Amardeep Singhon 07 Mar 2018 at 8:55 am

    Nice commentary, Ivan!

  2. Gerry Milleron 07 Mar 2018 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for this powerful poem and the introduction to this outstanding poet. Your translation is very powerful, too. I’m printing this for my journal.

  3. julieon 07 Mar 2018 at 11:26 am

    Ivan, what a perfect poem to read today – Polishing the Mirror of the Heart, Himmah!

    I just purchased three of your books to give to friends, with this special poem as the prompting.

    Thank you for your work and offerings,

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