Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Mar 24 2017

Matsuo Basho – Crow’s abandoned nest

Published by under Poetry

Crow’s
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Crow’s
abandoned nest,
a plum tree.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto


/ Image by Nicki Verkevisser /

Death has been on my mind. I found out yesterday that a relative of mine, an aunt I was close to when I was a teenager, just passed away. Truthfully, I had been out of touch with her in recent years, but I still found myself experiencing the entire range of responses at the news of her passing– mild shock, slowly welling grief, replaying of past memories.

When someone we feel a connection to dies, we often enter a shadow realm ourselves. It is as if we walk with that loved one to the threshold. That sense of the world’s structure that seemed so solid and unquestioned becomes suddenly fluid. When death ceases to be a distant concept and, instead, shows itself to be a present reality, everything starts to shift and slide. Any thing, any person can move in and out of the world. A loved one can step beyond our embrace. In a world of such disappearances, reality itself becomes disconcertingly intangible.

And yet there is life. Even in the presence of death and loss there is life. Sometimes because of death there is life. One without the other doesn’t fully make sense. Life and death highlight each other, strengthen each other, each giving meaning to the other.

Thinking these thoughts, I came across this haiku by Basho…

It’s usually a mistake to simplistically explain a haiku’s meaning. Its primary impact is not really comprehended by the logical mind at all. Most haiku aren’t composed with intentioned metaphors; rather, the moment naturally resonates with nature’s implied truths.

But, for the sake of play, let’s explore this one anyway…

We see an abandoned nest seated in a plum tree. The nest is an image of emptiness, perhaps even desolation or death. But the plum tree suggests life. Here at the beginning of spring, I instinctively imagine the first pink and white blossoms to be appearing on its branches. Life and death at ease with each other. Sorrow and hope emphasizing each other through contrast.

That’s my first read, what I feel as I first glimpse these images in my mind’s eye.

But we can back up, clear our minds, and read Basho’s lines on a very different level.

In this haiku, each line gives us a distinct element: a crow, an abandoned nest, and a plum tree. Basho ordered his lines so first we have the awareness of a crow, which might be understood as representing the busy mind, a bird that proclaims its presence by croaking in the winter sky. Like the mind, the crow is a carrion feeder, ungainly in its movements but somehow suggestive of a mysterious hidden reality.

Next, Basho shows us that this crow has abandoned its nest. With the coming of spring, the crow has left. With the blossoming results of winter’s discipline, the mind has emptied itself, grown quiet, still.

An empty nest may be a curiosity for a moment, but its animating principle, the part that normally holds our attention has vanished, and so the vision widens and we finally notice the plum tree that supports it. Watching the empty mind, we finally expand our perception and recognize the full awareness in flower. We witness the natural, unmodified awareness of the Buddha mind that upholds mind and all creation.

Crow — empty nest — plum tree.
Mind — no mind — Buddha mind.

To those of us who have felt the loss of a loved one, perhaps we will allow some grieving part of ourselves to open and expand. And may we celebrate the life flowering all around us amidst this fluid, ever changing universe!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>


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Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Mar 22 2017

Kahlil Gibran – Self-Knowledge

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Self-Knowledge
by Kahlil Gibran

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by jin.thai /

Isn’t this wonderful? Each time I return to this poem and reread its lines, I feel as if I am greeting old friends in the phrases. They continue to stay with me.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

Especially that middle section…

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea…

Gibran is giving us a tangible image of self as a sea of infinite depths. And it is our very nature to seek self-knowledge, ultimately to pour ourselves into it, to discover treasure within its depths.

I like his assertion that we should not attempt to weigh or measure what we discover.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

It is as if when we measure, we think we have comprehended and possessed it, but we have in some way externalized it and defined artificial boundaries. By quantifying, we have limited what is, by nature, limitless.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

And his final lines–

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
More Books >>


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Lebanon/US (1883 – 1931) Timeline
Christian
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 22 2017

New Interview with Ivan through Sacred Healing Telesummit

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had recorded an extended interview Susanne Steinel on the healing and transformative qualities of poetry. In that conversation, I discuss how poetry, especially sacred poetry, can be deeply healing to the psyche and help us to restore our connection to life, the world, and to spirit. I read a few of my favorite poems and discuss the healing responses we have to them simply by hearing them, speaking them. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you might too.

The interview will be available next week through a free telesummit called “Sacred Wounds – Sacred Shifts – Sacred Healing.” In addition to my talk, the summit will include discussions with Robert Moss, Normandi Ellis, Lynn V. Andrews, and several other fascinating teachers, healers, and shamans.

The telesummit is free. To register, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my talk or any of the conversations that are part of the summit.

Ivan

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Mar 17 2017

Wendell Berry – A Spiritual Journey

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A Spiritual Journey
by Wendell Berry

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

— from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by LittleLottexo /

I keep returning to the poetry of Wendell Berry. Few writers these days are truly willing to be still and to befriend the world of growing things outside the city limits. In the modern world, that’s practically blasphemy. Writers like that get labeled “poet” and “crank” so they can be safely ignored — unless their writing is unavoidably good. Wendell Berry’s words are like that.

Unfortunately for the hyperactive world, Wendell Berry’s poetry is filled with the presence and heart secretly craved by us all, making it difficult to ignore.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long…

Have a beautiful, restful weekend. Me, I will be wrapped in blankets recovering from the flu. (Sniffle. Cough.)


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Given: Poems Selected Poems of Wendell Berry A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
More Books >>


Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 10 2017

Li-Young Lee – One Heart

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One Heart
by Li-Young Lee

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

— from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee


/ Image by hashmil /

We are in the midst of Lent, a time for prayer and purification as we approach Easter. For many, this is a time of fasting. That started me thinking about the question of emptiness, and what that has to do with spiritual opening.

And then I was reminded of the wondrous opening lines of Li-Young Lee’s poem:

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing.

To take flight, birds launch themselves into apparent emptiness. Of course, successful flight requires an awareness that the sky is not truly empty, but a realm of subtle substance that can support us.

One must cultivate an inner emptiness and lightness in order to let go of the comforting certainty of the earth, to confidently leave it behind and meet that intangible space of open sky, and there dance among its secret currents.

The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.

This, I think, is an important reason why practices such as fasting and other expressions of moderate asceticism are encouraged on occasion by most spiritual traditions. Forget the tormented dogmas of self-denial that tend to lead to hatred of the body — which should automatically be seen as a spiritual dead end. The real purpose of these sorts of practices is not disdain for the body but, rather, to awaken in our awareness that sense of openness, spaciousness, and inner quiet… while allowing the body to rest and regenerate and become more finely attuned to our higher purposes in life.

If we don’t cultivate awareness of the inner sky, the “first sky,” we fail to recognize that taking flight in the world around us is our natural expression. Instead, we fear that we will fall.

The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Perhaps we can think of flight as intentionally falling without ever hitting the ground. We leap into space, letting that inner emptiness lift us up. And perhaps what we thought was fear was in reality the exhilaration of the heart encountering the openness of the living moment while we soar upon nothing.


Recommended Books: Li-Young Lee

Book of My Nights Rose The City in Which I Love You Behind My Eyes: Poems


Li-Young Lee, Li-Young Lee poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Li-Young Lee

US (1957 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 08 2017

Anna Akhmatova – A land not mine

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A land not mine, still
by Anna Akhmatova

English version by Jane Kenyon

A land not mine, still
forever memorable,
the waters of its ocean
chill and fresh.

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine,
late sun lays bare
the rosy limbs of the pinetrees.

Sunset in the ethereal waves:
I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.

— from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield


/ Image by GregoriusSuhartoyo /

I was thinking about which poem to select in honor of International Women’s Day. My first thought was to select a poem in honor of the Goddess, the feminine face of the Divine, a poem to the primal Woman. Perhaps a poem addressed to Kali or Durga or maybe one of the pre-Christian goddesses of Europe. But I also wanted something written by a woman poet, and most of the poems in adoration of the Goddess that came to mind are by men. I started scanning through the women poets on the Poetry Chaikhana, and I realized that it has been far too long since I last highlighted a poem by the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Her writing and her life embody so much of the strength of women in a complex and often harsh world, while courageously retaining a vision of the inner life and the aspirations of the human spirit.

This is a favorite poem of mine from Anna Akhmatova. Though she wrote during some of the bleakest times of Soviet Russia, there are moments of radiant — one might even say, transcendent — joy that emerges in her poems.

A land not mine, still
forever memorable…

There is something of the mystic’s experience in these lines. An ocean. Light. Deep rest and the sense of life. A brilliant white. Wine…

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine…

Soon, you find yourself asking, Is the day ending, or the world? Ultimately, it is you who are ending. The train of mental chatter has come to a halt. The world and what you called yourself are not as you thought at all, and both are new and alive and too vast to be called your own.

Then you know that the secret of secrets is within you. And it is so deeply familiar you must have known it before, and it is there again.

I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.


Recommended Books: Anna Akhmatova

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova Poems of Akhmatova Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems


Anna Akhmatova, Anna Akhmatova poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Anna Akhmatova

Russia (1889 – 1966) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 03 2017

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

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Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by lil-Mickey /

I have the sense that it has been a rough week for many people, so I wanted to pick a gentle poem, something uplifting, something that invites us to pause, take a deep breath, and catch a new glimpse of ourselves and the world…

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

To me this poem is a healing balm, the way it invites us to forgive our own struggles and look beyond them to a larger, living grandeur, of which we are a part.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes…

Late winter here in Colorado…

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

Look up and see “the wild geese, high in the clean blue air…” Ancient purpose, animal and magnetic, lined up in chevrons across the winter sky. That eternal determination that marks our direction through the world, to be always “heading home again.”

The geese continuously call out one to another, as we all do, “over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 01 2017

Milarepa – The Song of Food and Dwelling

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The Song of Food and Dwelling
by Milarepa

English version by Garma C. C. Chang

I bow down at the feet of the wish-fulfilling Guru.
Pray vouchsafe me your grace in bestowing beneficial food,
Pray make me realize my own body as the house of Buddha,
Pray grant me this knowledge.

I built the house through fear,
The house of Sunyata, the void nature of being;
Now I have no fear of its collapsing.
I, the Yogi with the wish-fulfilling gem,
Feel happiness and joy where’er I stay.

Because of the fear of cold, I sought for clothes;
The clothing I found is the Ah Shea Vital Heat.
Now I have no fear of coldness.

Because of the fear of poverty, I sought for riches;
The riches I found are the inexhaustible Seven Holy Jewels.
Now I have no fear of poverty.

Because of the fear of hunger, I sought for food;
The food I found is the Samadhi of Suchness.
Now I have no fear of hunger.

Because of the fear of thirst, I sought for drink;
The heavenly drink I found is the wine of mindfulness.
Now I have no fear of thirst.

Because of the fear of loneliness, I searched for a friend;
The friend I found is the bliss of perpetual Sunyata.
Now I have no fear of loneliness.

Because of the fear of going astray,
I sought for the right path to follow.
The wide path I found is the Path of Two-in-One.
Now I do not fear to lose my way.

I am a yogi with all desirable possessions,
A man always happy where’er he stays.

Here at Yolmo Tagpu Senge Tson,
The tigress howling with a pathetic, trembling cry,
Reminds me that her helpless cubs are innocently playing.
I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

The touching cry of the monkey,
So impressive and so moving,
Cannot help but raise in me deep pity.
The little monkey’s chattering is amusing and pathetic;
As I hear it, I cannot but think of it with compassion.

The voice of the cuckoo is so moving,
And so tuneful is the lark’s sweet singing,
That when I hear them I cannot help but listen —
When I listen to them,
I cannot help but shed tears.

The varied cries and cawings of the crow,
Are a good and helpful friend unto the yogi.
Even without a single friend,
To remain here is a pleasure.
With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song;
May the dark shadow of all men’s sorrows
Be dispelled by my joyful singing.

— from The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, Translated by Garma C. C. Chang


/ Image by worldpilgrim /

We are in the midst of Losar, the Tibetan New Year festival. It is a multi-day festival that began on Monday, February 27. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a poem by the Tibetan folk hero, saint, and poet Milarepa.

This poem gives us several very specific esoteric references to vital heat, the “Seven Holy Jewels,” samadhi, sunyata, even the wild animals referred to are symbols. But rather than focus on those yogic details, let’s look more broadly at what Milarepa is doing with this song of enlightenment…

He worries about cold, and finds through spiritual practice inner heat. He worries about poverty, and discovers through spiritual practice the inexhaustible wealth of seven jewels. He worries about hunger, and he finds fulness in the perfect meditation of samadhi. He worries about thirst, and he discovers the wine of mindfulness. He worries about loneliness, and he finds in the bliss of sunyata (emptiness) a perpetual companion. He worries about losing his way, but then in the realization of the nondual truth of “Two-in-One” he recognizes the Path everywhere.

Milarepa is showing how, through deep spiritual practice, one’s basic desires are satisfied and all lack is filled… But notice that he is not talking about material providence. He is not saying, ‘I want food so I am given food.’ He is showing how, instead, the awakened energetic body satisfies the desire for psychic fulness which is the root of hunger. The process is not necessarily providing for him in a material sense; instead it is going right to the root of the desire, satisfying the spiritual seed of the desire. It is an acknowledgment that all desires, even for the basic necessities of life, ultimately are a spiritual hunger.

Then Milarepa shifts to a discussion of how the sounds of wild animals awaken profound compassion in his awareness. It must be understood that these animals are representations of forces within his own mind. Their “pathetic” cries, their yearning, their calling out is evidence that the mind is not yet absolutely settled. But you’ll notice that Milarepa has reached a state in which he no longer thinks of those mental forces as being himself, his true nature. Instead, they are lost animals that cannot help their hunger. And he feels compassion for those forces within his mind. And that compassion strengthens his determination to deepen his practice, to bring the mind to complete resolution:

I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

Here, alone, in the wilds (of his own awareness), with his fears calmed, his desires satisfied, he is utterly content. “With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song…” And it is through this song itself that he offers compassionate action to the world, for the vibrations of enlightenment the poem embodies have the potential to dispel “all men’s sorrows.” Milarepa knows this because he has just described how his own sorrows have been dispelled.

And may you feel a sense of awakening and renewal. Happy Losar!


Recommended Books: Milarepa

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism Songs of Milarepa: (Dover Thrift Edition) Drinking the Mountain Stream: Songs of Tibet’s Beloved Saint, Milarepa The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan
More Books >>


Milarepa, Milarepa poetry, Buddhist poetry Milarepa

Tibet (1052 – 1135) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Feb 24 2017

Shankara – Nirvana Shatakam

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Nirvana Shatakam
by Shankara

English version by Ivan M. Granger

I am not mind, not intellect, not ego, not thought.
I am not the ears, the tongue, the nose or the eyes, or what they witness,
I am neither earth nor sky, not air nor light.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I am not the breath of prana, nor its five currents.
I am not the seven elements, nor the five organs,
Nor am I the voice or hands or anything that acts.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I have no hatred or preference, neither greed nor desire nor delusion.
Pride, conflict, jealousy — these have no part of me.
Nothing do I own, nothing do I seek, not even liberation itself.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I know neither virtue nor vice, neither pleasure nor pain.
I know no sacred chants, no holy places, no scriptures, no rituals.
I know neither the taste nor the taster.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I fear not death. I doubt neither my being nor my place.
I have no father or mother; I am unborn.
I have no relatives, no friends. I have no guru and no devotees.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Free from doubt, I am formless.
With knowledge, in knowledge, I am everywhere, beyond perception.
I am always the same. Not free, not trapped — I am.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Truly, I am Shiva, pure awareness.
Shivo Ham! Shivo Ham!

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


/ Image by Ernesto /

In the Hindu calendar, this is Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, honoring the god Shiva and the awakening of life and light and enlightenment in the world. So I thought we should honor this special night with one of the great poems in the Shiva tradition by one of the most important philosopher-saints of Hinduism, Adi Shankara.

These lines are a distillation of Advaita Vedanta, the vision of non-dual reality. Advaita is the realization that underlying the complex diversity of creation is a single Unity. And within that Unity, even the individual is in no way separate or different from that vast Divine. This is why Shankara keeps returning to his refrain:

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

You might ask, why Shiva? If all is One, why then identify with just one god from among the many gods in the Hindu pantheon?

Some schools of Advaita Vedanta do, in fact, avoid the theistic language of gods and, instead, speak only of the Self — the immense Self that is at once the heart of every individual and also the heart of all Being.

But when adherents of Advaita do speak of gods, they often speak of Shiva. Shiva is the favored god of meditators, yogis, ascetics, those on the path of gnosis. Shiva is seen as pure Being, the fountain of all being. When Shankara repeats, “I am Shiva!” he is declaring that he finds no separation between his individual self and the center of all selves.

I am…

Shankara asserts, “I am,” throughout. By reading this poem, we repeat with him, “I am… I am…” Doing so, we enter into his realization. We take on his awareness. His declaration of what he is and is not becomes our own.

I am not mind, not intellect, not ego, not thought…

Much of this poem is a list of what Shankara realizes we are not.

This is an expression of the ancient practice of neti neti — not this, not that. It is a spiritual examination of everything, while slowly recognizing that no single thing contains the full Reality we seek.

We are not the mind or intellect. We are not the senses or the organs through which we perceive the world. We are not the elemental building blocks of the body or thought.

He also states we are not the qualities or preferences of the personality. The things that tug at us or repel us, they are not what we are, and they are not fundamentally real. Relationships, family, even life and death—none of these things define us or truly tell us who we are.

Shankara has basically negated everything: the body, the mind, desires and fears, relationships, even the hope for liberation itself. What then is left? That’s the question that resonates throughout. Superficial ideas of identity would tell us that nothing remains and one has hit a dead end. Not so. Something remains. When all the rest has been swept aside, something remains. All the things we thought we were can be lost, yet what we are fundamentally remains. Beneath it all there has always been that glowing Self, steady, aware, at rest, blissful, invulnerable. And it says simply, “I am.”

Free from doubt, I am formless.
With knowledge, in knowledge, I am everywhere, beyond perception.
I am always the same. Not free, not trapped—I am.

In celebration, we can sing with Shankara—

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Truly, I am Shiva, pure awareness.
Shivo Ham! Shivo Ham!


Recommended Books: Shankara

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination Upadesa Sahasri: A Thousand Teachings Shankara and Indian Philosophy Ramana, Shankara and the Forty Verses: The Essential Teachings of Advaita
More Books >>


Shankara, Shankara poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Shankara

India (788 – 820) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Feb 22 2017

Angelus Silesius – So many droplets in the sea

Published by under Poetry

So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains
by Angelus Silesius

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock

So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains;
So too of our multiplicity, nothing but God remains.

— from Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing, by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Image by alexandre-deschaumes /

Short poem, short commentary: Many < -> One


Recommended Books: Angelus Silesius

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


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Poland/Germany (1624 – 1677) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Feb 17 2017

Hakuin – Hakuin’s Song of Zazen

Published by under Poetry

Hakuin’s Song of Zazen
by Hakuin

English version by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

All beings are primarily Buddhas.
It is like water and ice:
There is no ice apart from water;
There are no Buddhas apart from beings.

Not knowing how close the truth is to them,
Beings seek for it afar — what a pity!
They are like those who, being in the midst of water,
Cry out for water, feeling thirst.

They are like the son of the rich man,
Who, wandering away from his father,
Goes astray amongst the poor.
It is all due to their ignorance
That beings transmigrate in the darkness
Of the Six Paths of existence.

When they wander from darkness to darkness,
How can they ever be free from birth-and-death?

As for the Dhyana practice as taught in the Mahayana,
No amount of praise can exhaust its merits.
The Six Paramitas–beginning with the Giving, Observing the Precepts,
And other good deeds, variously enumerated,
Such as Nembutsu, Repentance, Moral Training, and so on —
All are finally reducible to the practice of Dhyana.

The merit of Dhyana practice, even during a single sitting,
Erases the countless sins accumulated in the past.
Where then are the Evil Paths to misguide us?
The Pure Land cannot be far away.

Those who, for once, listening to the Dharma
In all humility,
Praise it and faithfully follow it,
Will be endowed with innumerable merits.

But how much more so when you turn your eyes within yourselves
And have a glimpse into your self-nature!
You find that the self-nature is no-nature –
The truth permitting no idle sophistry.
For you, then, open the gate leading to the oneness of cause and effect;
Before you, then, lies a straight road of non-duality and non-trinity.

When you understand that form is the form of the formless,
Your coming-and-going takes place nowhere else but where you are.
When you understand that thought is the thought of the thought-less.
Your singing-and-dancing is no other than the voice of the Dharma.
How boundless is the sky of Samadhi!
How refreshingly bright is the moon of the Fourfold Wisdom!
Being so is there anything you lack?
As the Absolute presents itself before you
The place where you stand is the Land of the Lotus,
And your person — the body of the Buddha.

— from Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series, by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki


/ Image by Ed Schipul /

After Wednesday’s epic rambling Zen-Beat “scripture”-poem by Kerouac, I thought it might fit to follow up today with a more traditional, highly revered poem by the great Zen master Hakuin Zenji.

You will see that several of the ideas Kerouac was exploring are expressed here, as well, though in a much more contained and elegant manner. The essence of the two poems might be summed up as everything is already That, or, as Hakuin starts us off–

All beings are primarily Buddhas.

It is simply ignorance about one’s own nature that keeps us blind to our inherent enlightenment.

Not knowing how close the truth is to them,
Beings seek for it afar — what a pity!

It is not that we acquire enlightenment. Anything that can be gained, that has a beginning, necessarily has an end and is, therefore, not lasting. It is not that we are unenlightened and, at some point, become enlightened. The point here is that we — and all beings — are enlightened all along. What is necessary is not to become enlightened, but to stop clinging to the idea that we are not enlightened.

They are like those who, being in the midst of water,
Cry out for water, feeling thirst.

We can see this insight as absurd, even offensive to all of our struggles — or it can be the key that brings us immediately into the awareness of our own enlightened nature, right now.

A few terms that might help to appreciate this poem more fully:

Dhyana – Meditation. Read this not simply as the act of sitting still, but as the inner state of deeply collected awareness.

Dharma – Can be translated as the Way, the Path, the Law, Righteousness. We might think of it as the directional flow of universal consciousness and how we, through our focus and actions, enter into that flow.

Samadhi – The blissful union of the individual awareness with the Eternal, often considered the mark of enlightenment.

The Six Paramitas – These are six qualities or “perfections” that naturally appear along the spiritual path: generosity, morality, patience, joyful action, concentration, and wisdom.

Nembutsu – The practice of chanting the names of the Buddha.

As the Absolute presents itself before you
The place where you stand is the Land of the Lotus,
And your person — the body of the Buddha.


Recommended Books: Hakuin

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record: Zen Comments by Hakuin and Tenkei The Zen Koan


Hakuin, Hakuin poetry, Buddhist poetry Hakuin

Japan (1686 – 1768) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Feb 15 2017

Jack Kerouac – The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

Published by under Poetry

The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
by Jack Kerouac

1
Did I create that sky? Yes, for, if it was anything other than a conception in my mind I wouldnt have said “Sky”-That is why I am the golden eternity. There are not two of us here, reader and writer, but one, one golden eternity, One-Which-It-Is, That-Which- Everything-Is.

2
The awakened Buddha to show the way, the chosen Messiah to die in the degradation of sentience, is the golden eternity. One that is what is, the golden eternity, or, God, or, Tathagata-the name. The Named One. The human God. Sentient Godhood. Animate Divine. The Deified One. The Verified One. The Free One. The Liberator. The Still One. The settled One. The Established One. Golden Eternity. All is Well. The Empty One. The Ready One. The Quitter. The Sitter. The Justified One. The Happy One.

3
That sky, if it was anything other than an illusion of my mortal mind I wouldnt have said “that sky.” Thus I made that sky, I am the golden eternity. I am Mortal Golden Eternity.

4
I was awakened to show the way, chosen to die in the degradation of life, because I am Mortal Golden Eternity.

5
I am the golden eternity in mortal animate form.

6
Strictly speaking, there is no me, because all is emptiness. I am empty, I am non-existent. All is bliss.

7
This truth law has no more reality than the world.

8
You are the golden eternity because there is no me and no you, only one golden eternity.

9
The Realizer. Entertain no imaginations whatever, for the thing is a no-thing. Knowing this then is Human Godhood.

10
This world is the movie of what everything is, it is one movie, made of the same stuff throughout, belonging to nobody, which is what everything is.

11
If we were not all the golden eternity we wouldnt be here. Because we are here we cant help being pure. To tell man to be pure on account of the punishing angel that punishes the bad and the rewarding angel that rewards the good would be like telling the water “Be Wet”-Never the less, all things depend on supreme reality, which is already established as the record of Karma earned-fate.

12
God is not outside us but is just us, the living and the dead, the never-lived and never-died. That we should learn it only now, is supreme reality, it was written a long time ago in the archives of universal mind, it is already done, there’s no more to do.

13
This is the knowledge that sees the golden eternity in all things, which is us, you, me, and which is no longer us, you, me.

14
What name shall we give it which hath no name, the common eternal matter of the mind? If we were to call it essence, some might think it meant perfume, or gold, or honey. It is not even mind. It is not even discussible, groupable into words; it is not even endless, in fact it is not even mysterious or inscrutably inexplicable; it is what is; it is that; it is this. We could easily call the golden eternity “This.” But “what’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare. The golden eternity by another name would be as sweet. A Tathagata, a God, a Buddha by another name, an Allah, a Sri Krishna, a Coyote, a Brahma, a Mazda, a Messiah, an Amida, an Aremedeia, a Maitreya, a Palalakonuh, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 would be as sweet. The golden eternity is X, the golden eternity is A, the golden eternity is /\, the golden eternity is O, the golden eternity is [ ], the golden eternity is t-h-e-g-o-l-d-e-n-e-t-e-r- n-i-t-y. In the beginning was the word; before the beginning, in the beginningless infinite neverendingness, was the essence. Both the word “god” and the essence of the word, are emptiness. The form of emptiness which is emptiness having taken the form of form, is what you see and hear and feel right now, and what you taste and smell and think as you read this. Wait awhile, close your eyes, let your breathing stop three seconds or so, listen to the inside silence in the womb of the world, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, re-recognize the bliss you forgot, the emptiness and essence and ecstasy of ever having been and ever to be the golden eternity. This is the lesson you forgot.

15
The lesson was taught long ago in the other world systems that have naturally changed into the empty and awake, and are here now smiling in our smile and scowling in our scowl. It is only like the golden eternity pretending to be smiling and scowling to itself; like a ripple on the smooth ocean of knowing. The fate of humanity is to vanish into the golden eternity, return pouring into its hands which are not hands. The navel shall receive, invert, and take back what’d issued forth; the ring of flesh shall close; the personalities of long dead heroes are blank dirt.

16
The point is we’re waiting, not how comfortable we are while waiting. Paleolithic man waited by caves for the realization of why he was there, and hunted; modern men wait in beautified homes and try to forget death and birth. We’re waiting for the realization that this is the golden eternity.

17
It came on time.

18
There is a blessedness surely to be believed, and that is that everything abides in eternal ecstasy, now and forever.

19
Mother Kali eats herself back. All things but come to go. All these holy forms, unmanifest, not even forms, truebodies of blank bright ecstasy, abiding in a trance, “in emptiness and silence’ as it is pointed out in the Diamond-cutter, asked to be only what they are: GLAD.

20
The secret God-grin in the trees and in the teapot, in ashes and fronds, fire and brick, flesh and mental human hope. All things, far from yearning to be re-united with God, had never left themselves and here they are, Dharmakaya, the body of the truth law, the universal Thisness.

21
“Beyond the reach of change and fear, beyond all praise and blame,” the Lankavatara Scripture knows to say, is he who is what he is in time and time-less-ness, in ego and in ego-less-ness, in self and in self-less-ness.

22
Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.

23
Things dont tire of going and coming. The flies end up with the delicate viands.

24
The cause of the world’s woe is birth, The cure of the world’s woe is a bent stick.

25
Though it is everything, strictly speaking there is no golden eternity because everything is nothing: there are no things and no goings and comings: for all is emptiness, and emptiness is these forms, emptiness is this one formhood.

26
All these selfnesses have already vanished. Einstein measured that this present universe is an expanding bubble, and you know what that means.

27
Discard such definite imaginations of phenomena as your own self, thou human being, thou’rt a numberless mass of sun-motes: each mote a shrine. The same as to your shyness of other selves, selfness as divided into infinite numbers of beings, or selfness as identified as one self existing eternally. Be obliging and noble, be generous with your time and help and possessions, and be kind, because the emptiness of this little place of flesh you carry around and call your soul, your entity, is the same emptiness in every direction of space unmeasurable emptiness, the same, one, and holy emptiness everywhere: why be selfy and unfree, Man God, in your dream? Wake up, thou’rt selfless and free. “Even and upright your mind abides nowhere,” states Hui Neng of China. We’re all in heaven now.

28
Roaring dreams take place in a perfectly silent mind. Now that we know this, throw the raft away.

29
Are you tightwad and are you mean, those are the true sins, and sin is only a conception of ours, due to long habit. Are you generous and are you kind, those are the true virtues, and they’re only conceptions. The golden eternity rests beyond sin and virtue, is attached to neither, is attached to nothing, is unattached, because the golden eternity is Alone. The mold has rills but it is one mold. The field has curves but it is one field. All things are different forms of the same thing. I call it the golden eternity-what do you call it, brother? for the blessing and merit of virtue, and the punishment and bad fate of sin, are alike just so many words.

30
Sociability is a big smile, and a big smile is nothing but teeth. Rest and be kind.

31
There’s no need to deny that evil thing called GOOGOO, which doesnt exist, just as there’s no need to deny that evil thing called Sex and Rebirth, which also doesn’t exist, as it is only a form of emptiness. The bead of semen comes from a long line of awakened natures that were your parent, a holy flow, a succession of saviors pouring from the womb of the dark void and back into it, fantastic magic imagination of the lightning, flash, plays, dreams, not even plays, dreams.

32
“The womb of exuberant fertility,” Ashvhaghosha called it, radiating forms out of its womb of exuberant emptiness. In emptiness there is no Why, no knowledge of Why, no ignorance of Why, no asking and no answering of Why, and no significance attached to this.

33
A disturbed and frightened man is like the golden eternity experimentally pretending at feeling the disturbed-and-frightened mood; a calm and joyous man, is like the golden eternity pretending at experimenting with that experience; a man experiencing his Sentient Being, is like the golden eternity pretending at trying that out too; a man who has no thoughts, is like the golden eternity pretending at being itself; because the emptiness of everything has no beginning and no end and at present is infinite.

34
“Love is all in all,” said Sainte Therese, choosing Love for her vocation and pouring out her happiness, from her garden by the gate, with a gentle smile, pouring roses on the earth, so that the beggar in the thunderbolt received of the endless offering of her dark void. Man goes a-beggaring into nothingness. “Ignorance is the father, Habit-Energy is the Mother.” Opposites are not the same for the same reason they are the same.

35
The words “atoms of dust” and “the great universes” are only words. The idea that they imply is only an idea. The belief that we live here in this existence, divided into various beings, passing food in and out of ourselves, and casting off husks of bodies one after another with no cessation and no definite or particular discrimination, is only an idea. The seat of our Immortal Intelligence can be seen in that beating light between the eyes the Wisdom Eye of the ancients: we know what we’re doing: we’re not disturbed: because we’re like the golden eternity pretending at playing the magic cardgame and making believe it’s real, it’s a big dream, a joyous ecstasy of words and ideas and flesh, an ethereal flower unfolding a folding back, a movie, an exuberant bunch of lines bounding emptiness, the womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void, happy young gods talking and drinking on a cloud. Our 32,000 chillicosms bear all the marks of excellence. Blind milky light fills our night; and the morning is crystal.

36
Give a gift to your brother, but there’s no gift to compare with the giving of assurance that he is the golden eternity. The true understanding of this would bring tears to your eyes. The other shore is right here, forgive and forget, protect and reassure. Your tormenters will be purified. Raise thy diamond hand. Have faith and wait. The course of your days is a river rumbling over your rocky back. You’re sitting at the bottom of the world with a head of iron. Religion is thy sad heart. You’re the golden eternity and it must be done by you. And means one thing: Nothing-Ever-Happened. This is the golden eternity.

37
When the Prince of the Kalinga severed the flesh from the limbs and body of Buddha, even then the Buddha was free from any such ideas as his own self, other self, living beings divided into many selves, or living beings united and identified into one eternal self. The golden eternity isnt “me.” Before you can know that you’re dreaming you’ll wake up, Atman. Had the Buddha, the Awakened One, cherished any of these imaginary judgments of and about things, he would have fallen into impatience and hatred in his suffering. Instead, like Jesus on the Cross he saw the light and died kind, loving all living things.

38
The world was spun out of a blade of grass: the world was spun out of a mind. Heaven was spun out of a blade of grass: heaven was spun out of a mind. Neither will do you much good, neither will do you much harm. The Oriental imperturbed, is the golden eternity.

39
He is called a Yogi, his is called a Priest, a Minister, a Brahmin, a Parson, a Chaplain, a Roshi, a Laoshih, a Master, a Patriarch, a Pope, a Spiritual Commissar, a Counselor, and Adviser, a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, an Old Man, a Saint, a Shaman, a Leader, who thinks nothing of himself as separate from another self, not higher nor lower, no stages and no definite attainments, no mysterious stigmata or secret holyhood, no wild dark knowledge and no venerable authoritativeness, nay a giggling sage sweeping out of the kitchen with a broom. After supper, a silent smoke. Because there is no definite teaching: the world is undisciplined. Nature endlessly in every direction inward to your body and outward into space.

40
Meditate outdoors. The dark trees at night are not really the dark trees at night, it’s only the golden eternity.

41
A mosquito as big as Mount Everest is much bigger than you think: a horse’s hoof is more delicate than it looks. An altar consecrated to the golden eternity, filled with roses and lotuses and diamonds, is the cell of the humble prisoner, the cell so cold and dreary. Boethius kissed the Robe of the Mother Truth in a Roman dungeon.

42
Do you think the emptiness of the sky will ever crumble away? Every little child knows that everybody will go to heaven. Knowing that nothing ever happened is not really knowing that nothing ever happened, it’s the golden eternity. In other words, nothing can compare with telling your brother and your sister that what happened, what is happening, and what will happen, never really happened, is not really happening and never will happen, it is only the golden eternity. Nothing was ever born, nothing will ever die. Indeed, it didnt even happen that you heard about golden eternity through the accidental reading of this scripture. The thing is easily false. There are no warnings whatever issuing from the golden eternity: do what you want.

43
Even in dreams be kind, because anyway there is no time, no space, no mind. “It’s all not-born,” said Bankei of Japan, whose mother heard this from her son did what we call “died happy.” And even if she had died unhappy, dying unhappy is not really dying unhappy, it’s the golden eternity. It’s impossible to exist, it’s impossible to be persecuted, it’s impossible to miss your reward.

44
Eight hundred and four thousand myriads of Awakened Ones throughout numberless swirls of epochs appeared to work hard to save a grain of sand, and it was only the golden eternity. And their combined reward will be no greater and no lesser than what will be won by a piece of dried turd. It’s a reward beyond thought.

45
When you’ve understood this scripture, throw it away. If you cant understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.

46
O everlasting Eternity, all things and all truth laws are no- things, in three ways, which is the same way: AS THINGS OF TIME they dont exist because there is no furthest atom than can be found or weighed or grasped, it is emptiness through and through, matter and empty space too. AS THINGS OF MIND they dont exist, because the mind that conceives and makes them out does so by seeing, hearing touching, smelling, tasting, and mentally-noticing and without this mind they would not be seen or heard or felt or smelled or tasted or mentally-noticed, they are discriminated that which they’re not necessarily by imaginary judgments of the mind, they are actually dependent on the mind that makes them out, by themselves they are no-things, they are really mental, seen only of the mind, they are really empty visions of the mind, heaven is a vision, everything is a vision. What does it mean that I am in this endless universe thinking I’m a man sitting under the stars on the terrace of earth, but actually empty and awake throughout the emptiness and awakedness of everything? It means that I am empty and awake, knowing that I am empty and awake, and that there’s no difference between me and anything else. It means that I have attained to that which everything is.

47
The-Attainer-To-That-Which-Everything-Is, the Sanskrit Tathagata, has no ideas whatever but abides in essence identically with the essence of all things, which is what it is, in emptiness and silence. Imaginary meaning stretched to make mountains and as far as the germ is concerned it stretched even further to make molehills. A million souls dropped through hell but nobody saw them or counted them. A lot of large people isnt really a lot of large people, it’s only the golden eternity. When St. Francis went to heaven he did not add to heaven nor detract from earth. Locate silence, possess space, spot me the ego. “From the beginning,” said the Sixth Patriarch of the China School, “not a thing is.”

48
He who loves all life with his pity and intelligence isnt really he who loves all life with his pity and intelligence, it’s only natural. The universe is fully known because it is ignored. Enlightenment comes when you dont care. This is a good tree stump I’m sitting on. You cant even grasp your own pain let alone your eternal reward. I love you because you’re me. I love you because there’s nothing else to do. It’s just the natural golden eternity.

49
What does it mean that those trees and mountains are magic and unreal?- It means that those trees and mountains are magic and unreal. What does it mean that those trees and mountains are not magic but real?- it means that those trees and mountains are not magic but real. Men are just making imaginary judgments both ways, and all the time it’s just the same natural golden eternity.

50
If the golden eternity was anything other than mere words, you could not have said “golden eternity.” This means that the words are used to point at the endless nothingness of reality. If the endless nothingness of reality was anything other than mere words, you could not have said “endless nothingness of reality,” you could not have said it. This means that the golden eternity is out of our word-reach, it refuses steadfastly to be described, it runs away from us and leads us in. The name is not really the name. The same way, you could not have said “this world” if this world was anything other than mere words. There’s nothing there but just that. They’ve long known that there’s nothing to life but just the living of it. It Is What It Is and That’s All It Is.

51
There’s no system of teaching and no reward for teaching the golden eternity, because nothing has happened. In the golden eternity teaching and reward havent even vanished let alone appeared. The golden eternity doesnt even have to be perfect. It is very silly of me to talk about it. I talk about it simply because here I am dreaming that I talk about it in a dream already ended, ages ago, from which I’m already awake, and it was only an empty dreaming, in fact nothing whatever, in fact nothing ever happened at all. The beauty of attaining the golden eternity is that nothing will be acquired, at last.

52
Kindness and sympathy, understanding and encouragement, these give: they are better than just presents and gifts: no reason in the world why not. Anyhow, be nice. Remember the golden eternity is yourself. “If someone will simply practice kindness,” said Gotama to Subhuti, “he will soon attain highest perfect wisdom.” Then he added: “Kindness after all is only a word and it should be done on the spot without thought of kindness.” By practicing kindness all over with everyone you will soon come into the holy trance, infinite distinctions of personalities will become what they really mysteriously are, our common and eternal blissstuff, the pureness of everything forever, the great bright essence of mind, even and one thing everywhere the holy eternal milky love, the white light everywhere everything, emptybliss, svaha, shining, ready, and awake, the compassion in the sound of silence, the swarming myriad trillionaire you are.

53
Everything’s alright, form is emptiness and emptiness is form, and we’re here forever, in one form or another, which is empty. Everything’s alright, we’re not here, there, or anywhere. Everything’s alright, cats sleep.

54
The everlasting and tranquil essence, look around and see the smiling essence everywhere. How wily was the world made, Maya, not-even-made.

55
There’s the world in the daylight. If it was completely dark you wouldnt see it but it would still be there. If you close your eyes you really see what it’s like: mysterious particle-swarming emptiness. On the moon big mosquitos of straw know this in the kindness of their hearts. Truly speaking, unrecognizably sweet it all is. Don’t worry about nothing.

56
Imaginary judgments about things, in the Nothing-Ever-Happened wonderful void, you dont even have to reject them, let alone accept them. “That looks like a tree, let’s call it a tree,” said Coyote to Earthmaker at the beginning, and they walked around the rootdrinker patting their bellies.

57
Perfectly selfless, the beauty of it, the butterfly doesnt take it as a personal achievement, he just disappears through the trees. You too, kind and humble and not-even-here, it wasnt in a greedy mood that you saw the light that belongs to everybody.

58
Look at your little finger, the emptiness of it is no different than the emptiness of infinity.

59
Cats yawn because they realize that there’s nothing to do.

60
Up in heaven you wont remember all these tricks of yours. You wont even sigh “Why?” Whether as atomic dust or as great cities, what’s the difference in all this stuff. A tree is still only a rootdrinker. The puma’s twisted face continues to look at the blue sky with sightless eyes, Ah sweet divine and indescribable verdurous paradise planted in mid-air! Caitanya, it’s only consciousness. Not with thoughts of your mind, but in the believing sweetness of your heart, you snap the link and open the golden door and disappear into the bright room, the everlasting ecstasy, eternal Now. Soldier, follow me! – there never was a war. Arjuna, dont fight! – why fight over nothing? Bless and sit down.

61
I remember that I’m supposed to be a man and consciousness and I focus my eyes and the print reappears and the words of the poor book are saying, “The world, as God has made it” and there are no words in my pitying heart to express the knowless loveliness of the trance there was before I read those words, I had no such idea that there was a world.

62
This world has no marks, signs, or evidence of existence, nor the noises in it, like accident of wind or voices or heehawing animals, yet listen closely the eternal hush of silence goes on and on throughout all this, and has been gong on, and will go on and on. This is because the world is nothing but a dream and is just thought of and the everlasting eternity pays no attention to it. At night under the moon, or in a quiet room, hush now, the secret music of the Unborn goes on and on, beyond conception, awake beyond existence. Properly speaking, awake is not really awake because the golden eternity never went to sleep; you can tell by the constant sound of Silence which cuts through this world like a magic diamond through the trick of your not realizing that your mind caused the world.

63
The God of the American Plateau Indian was Coyote. He says: “Earth! those beings living on your surface, none of them disappearing, will all be transformed. When I have spoken to them, when they have spoken to me, from that moment on, their words and their bodies which they usually use to move about with, will all change. I will not have heard them.”

64
I was smelling flowers in the yard, and when I stood up I took a deep breath and the blood all rushed to my brain and I woke up dead on my back in the grass. I had apparently fainted, or died, for about sixty seconds. My neighbor saw me but he thought I had just suddenly thrown myself on the grass to enjoy the sun. During that timeless moment of unconsciousness I saw the golden eternity. I saw heaven. In it nothing had ever happened, the events of a million years ago were just as phantom and ungraspable as the events of now, or the events of the next ten minutes. It was perfect, the golden solitude, the golden emptiness, Something-Or- Other, something surely humble. There was a rapturous ring of silence abiding perfectly. There was no question of being alive or not being alive, of likes and dislikes, of near or far, no question of giving or gratitude, no question of mercy or judgment, or of suffering or its opposite or anything. It was the womb itself, aloneness, alaya vijnana the universal store, the Great Free Treasure, the Great Victory, infinite completion, the joyful mysterious essence of Arrangement. It seemed like one smiling smile, one adorable adoration, one gracious and adorable charity, everlasting safety, refreshing afternoon, roses, infinite brilliant immaterial gold ash, the Golden Age. The “golden” came from the sun in my eyelids, and the “eternity” from my sudden instant realization as I woke up that I had just been where it all came from and where it was all returning, the everlasting So, and so never coming or going; therefore I call it the golden eternity but you can call it anything you want. As I regained consciousness I felt so sorry I had a body and a mind suddenly realizing I didn’t even have a body and a mind and nothing had ever happened and everything is alright forever and forever and forever, O thank you thank you thank you.

65
This is the first teaching from the golden eternity.

66
The second teaching from the golden eternity is that there never was a first teaching from the golden eternity. So be sure.

— from The Scripture of the Golden Eternity: (City Lights Pocket Poets Series), by Jack Kerouac


/ Image by Cyron /

I am the golden eternity in mortal animate form.

It’s sometimes difficult to recognize the revolutionary spiritual vision of the Beats from this side of the 20th century. In the aftermath of the hippie generation and the subsequent explosion of spiritual questing and art, we sometimes forget how much is owed to the Beat poets and seekers of the 50s and early 60s. In the midst of the post-WW II Eisenhower era of suburbs and the company man (“modern men wait in beautified homes and try to forget death and birth”), these noncomformists were seeking the marrow of life in city streets, jazz clubs, and along the open road (“Because we are here we cant help being pure”). We also forget that they were intensely interested in Eastern spirituality, reading books on Zen and sitting in meditation. We can thank the Beats for much of the Western spiritual renaissance still taking place today (“It came on time”).

Just read Kerouac’s “Scripture of the Golden Eternity.”

There is a blessedness surely to be believed, and that is that everything abides in eternal ecstasy, now and forever.

It certainly has his typical manic genius of words, but there is real wisdom here too (“Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling”). These lines are not simply amphetamine inspired word dance. Golden nuggets of genuine spiritual insight are scattered throughout. Read it. See for yourself…

It is not even discussible, groupable into words; it is not even endless, in fact it is not even mysterious or inscrutably inexplicable; it is what is; it is that; it is this.


Recommended Books: Jack Kerouac

The Scripture of the Golden Eternity: (City Lights Pocket Poets Series) Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Jack Kerouac in the Cascades Kerouak Angelheaded Hipster: A life of Jack Kerouac
More Books >>


Jack Kerouac, Jack Kerouac poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Jack Kerouac

US (1922 – 1969) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Jack Kerouac

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Feb 10 2017

Mirabai – No one knows my invisible life

Published by under Poetry

No one knows my invisible life
by Mirabai

English version by Willis Barnstone

No one knows my invisible life.
Pain
and madness for Rama.
Our wedding bed is high up
in the gallows.
Meet him?
If the dark healer comes,
we’ll negotiate the hurt.
I love the man who takes care
of cows. The cowherd.
Cowherd and dancer.
My eyes are drunk,
worn out from making love
with him. We are one.
I am now his dark color.
People notice me, point fingers at me.
They see my desire,
since I’m walking about like a lunatic.
I’m wiped out, gone.
Yet no one knows I live with my prince,
the cowherd.
The palace can’t contain me.
I leave it behind.
I couldn’t care less about gossip
or my royal name.
I’ll be with him
in all his gardens.

— from To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light, Translated by Willis Barnstone


/ Image by Cia de Foto /

Tonight is the full moon. And an eclipse. And a comet will be seen in the sky, as well. It should be power packed, a time for transformation.

I couldn’t pick just any old pleasant poem. We need something intense, passionate, with a hint of danger, and the determination that leads us into new awareness…

If the dark healer comes,
we’ll negotiate the hurt.

Isn’t that a great line?

This is a stunning love poem by Mirabai, erotic and dangerous in its passion for God.

I love the man who takes care
of cows. The cowherd.
Cowherd and dancer.

The cowherd and “dark healer” mentioned here is, of course, Krishna (often equated with the other great Vaishnava figure of Rama).

Our wedding bed is high up
in the gallows.

When Mirabai says their wedding bed is “high up in the gallows,” Mirabai is referring to the mystic’s marriage bed or bridal chamber — the point of union between the individual awareness and the Divine, which takes place “high up” within the chamber of the crown.

Of course, a gallows is not the same as a marriage bed. It is where people are hanged. It is where one goes to die… It is where you go to utterly lose yourself. In other words, this is both the place where the old ego-self is lost, but where supreme delight and fulfillment is found.

To be “worn out from making love” is a reference to the divine union of mystical ecstasy, when the individual identity completely disappears in the divine embrace. That old identity is “worn out,” replaced by the mystic’s bliss.

…We are one.
I am now his dark color.

Darkness, dark color, is associated with many Hindu gods, representing the vastness of mystery, the Eternal in its mysterious, invisible, undefinable form beyond manifestation. When Mirabai says she is now Krishna’s dark color, she suggests that her individuality has been so intimately and profoundly touched by divine union, that she has utterly become the same, taking on that vast, unfathomable quality.

The palace can’t contain me.
I leave it behind.

The “palace” most obviously suggests her early life among royalty, but it can also be understood as representing her body, her name, her limited identity, which can no longer contain her newly awakened awareness, so she leaves all of those self-limiting definitions behind.

Mirabai doesn’t care what people say about how she may step beyond social norms or how other people want to define her, for she is at rest with the Divine One within the eternal garden that is everywhere present.

Flow with the changes, embrace the unexpected, and have a magical weekend.


Recommended Books: Mirabai

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light Songs of the Saints of India The Winged Energy of Delight
More Books >>


Mirabai, Mirabai poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Mirabai

India (1498 – 1565?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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Feb 03 2017

Wu Men Hui-k’ai – Moon and clouds are the same

Published by under Poetry

Moon and clouds are the same
by Wu Men Hui-k’ai

English version by Stephen Mitchell

Moon and clouds are the same;
mountain and valley are different.
All are blessed; all are blessed.
Is this one? Is this two?

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


/ Image by mikelehen /

The world, all of life, is like one of those games of visual perspective. Do we see mountains and a valley, or do we see mountains-and-valley? It is all one continuity, but with our mind we separate them into distinct objects of perception. Where is the point of separation? We become so convinced by our own mental concepts of distinction that we hardly ever think to search for the borderline that separates things. Put on your hiking boots and go find the exact point at which mountain becomes valley, always asking yourself, “Is this one? Is this two?”

It is both one and two. In two there is identity and capacity, but in one there is unity and rest.

All are blessed; all are blessed.


Recommended Books: Wu Men Hui-k’ai

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Gateless Gate: The Wu-men Kuan The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan The World: A Gateway: Commentaries on the Mumonkan


Wu Men Hui-k’ai

China (1183 – 1260) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Feb 01 2017

Wendell Berry – To Know the Dark

Published by under Poetry

To Know the Dark
by Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

— from Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds, Edited by Neil Astley / Edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce


/ Image by Nelleke /

I have been thinking a lot about the dark recently, staring into the heart of darkness, so to speak.

Many of us who see ourselves as being on a “spiritual” pathway have a real difficulty with this — really looking at darkness, in ourselves and in others. We often want everything to be about light, light. But that can lead to a sort of frailty. To really witness the horror of a cruel heart in action can be devastating. Multiply that many times over when the cruelty is ingrained into a bureaucratic system.

For the kind hearted, that terrible recognition becomes a shattering confrontation with the abysses that humanity is capable of. To see another human heart turn cold and hard in the face of the suffering inflicted on others or, worse, to see a heart revel at that suffering, is a hellish vision that we instinctively seek to deny and unsee. This is partly because it whispers to us that we are capable of such cruelty ourselves. It also nags us with the thought that such cruelties have been taking place all along and we, in our complacency, did not acknowledge it before. It all becomes too much and we want to turn away.

But the job of engaged spirituality is not to paper over the world with flowers and happy faces so that we can breathe a sigh of relief. Real spirituality, deep spirituality requires seeing reality, all of reality, as it is, from its most luminous to its bleakest black and everything in between.

Whether we speak of Christian traditions of “witnessing” or Buddhist practices of holding a steady gaze in the presence of suffering, seeing the fullness of reality, the dark with the light, is essential for one to cultivate a deep, full, and strong spirituality. Though it breaks our hearts and fractures open fissures in our image of the world, it is necessary.

This fierce willingness to see everything is necessary to be fully present within the fulness of reality. It is necessary so that we do not wither in the face of confrontation. We must see suffering if we are to soothe wounds. And we must recognize cruelty that we may protect the vulnerable. To summon strength, we must recognize that conditions require strength. To express kindness and connection, we must see clearly who has been labeled an outsider.

Today I will practice holding an unwavering gaze in the dark so that I may see what I see, whatever changes that may bring in me…

…and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Given: Poems Selected Poems of Wendell Berry A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
More Books >>


Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 23 2017

Gabriela Mistral – Those Who Do Not Dance

Published by under Poetry

Those Who Do Not Dance
by Gabriela Mistral

English version by Helene Masslo Anderson

A crippled child
Said, “How shall I dance?”
Let your heart dance
We said.

Then the invalid said:
“How shall I sing?”
Let your heart sing
We said

Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
“But I, how shall I dance?”
Let your heart fly to the wind
We said.

Then God spoke from above
“How shall I descend from the blue?”
Come dance for us here in the light
We said.

All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.


/ Image by tasiaraye /

I thought this poem might be a good choice in honor of the weekend’s Women’s Marches across the world.

With this poem, the great Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, through simple language, is exploring how we move beyond our assumed limitations and express joy, creativity, life. How do we dance when the body does not respond? When we have grown dry and prickly and lost most of our substance, is it possible we can fly? Even God, at least the God of our imaginations, needs an invitation in which we gather together in the light.

The more we remember, as we see our limitations as new pathways rather than roadblocks, we begin to come alive, reconnect, and dance, until all valley is in movement with us under the sun.


Recommended Books: Gabriela Mistral

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral


Gabriela Mistral, Gabriela Mistral poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gabriela Mistral

Chile (1889 – 1957) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

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Jan 23 2017

The Power of Poetry — and “Nasty Women”

I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana’s Facebook page over the weekend, but I thought I should share it here, as well. This is a video of the actress Ashley Judd reciting a poem by a 19-year-old young woman about “Nasty Women.” As she speaks this poem, she stalks across the stage and channeling the shared experience of outrage combined with a renewed spirit of self-assertion. It is blunt, the language and imagery will be uncomfortable for many. But I share it for this reason: This poem, and the way it is delivered, is undeniably powerful. This poem has become one of the focal points of this massive movement. Refusing to mince words, this poem gives voice to the feelings of so many women who participated in this weekend’s events.

That is the power of poetry. Crystalizing and magnifying the sense of identity and purpose within the collective awareness.

Whether or not you like the poem or the mood it represents, I encourage you to watch in order to see the power of poetry as it operates within society.

Ashley Judd’s “Nasty Woman” Speech

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