Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Aug 09 2019

Lalla – Learning the scriptures is easy

Published by under Poetry

Learning the scriptures is easy
by Lalla

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Learning the scriptures is easy;
but living them, that’s hard.
Far easier to read words on a page
than to seek the living heart of things.


Fumbling through the fog of study,
stumbling, I lost my last words.
      — And my vision cleared.
      Oh the sight that met me then!

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

It has been a heartrending week if you follow the news. Here in the US, we had two mass shootings in a row last weekend perpetrated by racist right-wing extremists. The governmental response has been one of dogged inaction, despite huge support among the population for reinstating the assault weapons ban.

To heighten the sense of cruelty this week, there have also been a series of brutal raids on immigrant families by ICE in several US states.

I tend to feel these public traumas in very personal, physical ways. More than once I have woken up in the middle of the night flooded with a nameless agitated energy just hours before one of these events. It happened to me on the morning of 9/11. It has happened with several previous mass shootings. Needless to say, it has been a restless week.

I tend to see public violence like these events as dark rituals. They evoke darkness in the cultural consciousness, summoning fear in most and vicious exhilaration in a few. Each of these public rituals of violence and cruelty makes similar actions more conceivable, as if a doorway is being forced opened. The way to respond is not through fear but through engaged compassion. Feeling compassion in the midst of trauma, feeling anything in the midst of trauma, can be excruciating at first and requires immense courage — but it is the way of life, to keep life flowing within us and within the world. Preventing the heart from shutting down is just the first step. Our compassion must be engaged. It must be active. The energy of compassion naturally wants to act, to move through us and reach out into the world in order to help, to heal, and to protect the vulnerable. As more and more people light up with this compassion and offer their hands in genuine service, that doorway to violence and cruelty is again closed.

I have been talking about American events, but let’s not overlook the ratchetting up of tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which is perhaps the most concerning on the global stage. While the two nations have been skirmishing over the region since Partition, a genuine war between the two would be catastrophic, not just for them but for the planet.

I thought some words of clarity and wisdom from the great Kashmiri poet-saint Lalla might help–

Learning the scriptures is easy;
but living them, that’s hard.

Too often people slip into the bad habit of fundamentalism, confusing the ability to quote scripture and rules with actually embodying that truth in their daily lives. Memorization and carefully controlled behavior doesn’t do the job. It keeps things safely in the intellect and then we never have to truly confront the heart’s urge to open.

But Lalla reminds us:

Far easier to read words on a page
than to seek the living heart of things.

Not only is it not easy to seek the deep reality, it’s messy. We are confronted by aspects of ourselves that are frightening and frightened, hidden even from our own awareness. History, hopes, angers, ambitions…

Each human life is far too rich and multi-layered to be truncated into the safe, neat, predefined stories we are told to live out. The human soul is not a cartoon, without depth or detail. No, a full spirituality incorporates all that we are. To be holy is to be whole — nothing left out. The map of the human soul is a topographical map, with mountains and valleys, and rivers of life everywhere. Until we’ve acknowledged that entire landscape, we only have an incomplete sense of all that we are, and all that humanity is — that’s when compassion collapses, the world appears fragmented, and the vision of the the living heart of things is lost in the cracks.

Fumbling through the fog of study,
stumbling, I lost my last words.

After learning the scriptures, Lalla has swept her mental space clean. Now that’s real work! Instead of just memorizing the words of scripture, she has become the blank page that effortlessly displays them.

— And my vision cleared.
Oh the sight that met me then!

Sending love out into the world in the form of awakening empathy and compassion and self-awareness… and the will to act in their service.


Recommended Books: Lalla

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Naked Song
More Books >>


Lalla, Lalla poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla

Kashmir (India/Pakistan) (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Aug 02 2019

Hsu Yun – Searching for the Dharma

Published by under Poetry

Searching for the Dharma
by Hsu Yun

You’ve traveled up ten thousand steps in search of the Dharma.
So many long days in the archives, copying, copying.
The gravity of the Tang and the profundity of the Sung
make heavy baggage.
Here! I’ve picked you a bunch of wildflowers.
Their meaning is the same
but they’re much easier to carry.


/ Image by Riki-Tiki-Myu /

Something I wrote a few years back, in the springtime…

Walking yesterday, the trees are shyly showing their green buds, returning color to the world. I turned a corner and was bathed in the honey scent of new plum blossoms. These are the true books of the Dharma.

The great masters don’t wear an academic scowl; a silly grin sits easy on their faces. Must be from so much study on such a Spring day…


Recommended Books: Hsu Yun

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry A Pictoral Biography of the Venerable Master Hsu Yun Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of Chinese Zen Master, Hsu Yun


Hsu Yun, Hsu Yun poetry, Buddhist poetry Hsu Yun

China (1839 – 1959) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Jul 27 2019

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Every word of every tongue

Published by under Poetry

Every word of every tongue
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by Unknown

Every word of every tongue is
Love telling a story to her own ears.
Every thought in every mind,
She whispers a secret to her own Self.
Every vision in every eye,
She shows her beauty to her own sight.
Every smile on every face,
She reveals her own joy for herself to enjoy.


Love courses through everything,
No, Love is everything.
How can you say, there is no love,
when nothing but Love exists?
All that you see has appeared because of Love.
All shines from Love,
All pulses with Love,
All flows from Love–
No, once again, all IS Love!


/ Image by Edward Zulawski /

Every word of every tongue is
Love telling a story to her own ears.

I love this opening statement. It reminds me of an insight that completely overtook me during a period of intense spiritual practice several years ago. I summed it up this way–

Don’t take your joys and suffering personally.
We are — all of us — stories
      told by God
      to himself
      to illuminate himself.

We think we are… something. We imagine we exist as solid beings with supremely important events that happen to us. And, on one level, that is perfectly true. But if that’s the entire reality we imagine for ourselves, we’ve missed a deeper — and truer — reality, which is that we are an insubstantial play of awareness that flows through the universe. Not separate awareness-es, but a single flowing awareness that permeates everything. And that awareness expresses itself through movement and interaction that form what we might call stories. These stories contribute to universal self-illumination. Sometimes those stories are celebratory. Sometimes they are heartbreakingly tragic. But, when we stop identifying with the unfolding events, when we stop taking them personally but engage with a sense of presence and an open heart, we witness a surprising throughline of… joy, delight and, as Iraqi states, Love. Utter, all-embracing love.

(Notice that Iraqi refers to this Love as “she,” “her,” feminine language we too often miss out on in our descriptions of the divine — my own quote above, included. It should be obvious to all serious spiritual seekers that the Eternal is not defined by gender, but the limitations of language tend to require genderizing. When we restrict ourselves exclusively to male references to God, however, we have blinded ourselves to half of the divine reality. A part of the spirit becomes starved. On a societal level, suppression of women becomes conceivable, since men are seen as god-like while women are not. Qualities commonly associated with the feminine principle are repressed or regarded as useless, qualities like compassion, empathy, kindness, community, service. Not only do we need more prominent women spiritual leaders, we need to restore the feminine in our language of God. Iraqi’s meditation here is one of many contributions toward restoring that balance.)

Every thought in every mind,
She whispers a secret to her own Self.

Every vision in every eye,
She shows her beauty to her own sight.


Every smile on every face,
She reveals her own joy for herself to enjoy.

To the mystic in communion there is a sense of the universe as being comprised not of individuals engaged in individual actions, but of one Being engaged in internal interplay — but with an countless variety of individual points-of-view.

Love courses through everything,
No, Love is everything.

This, I think, is the heart of Iraqi’s insight. Too often we feel that the universe is loveless or that we ourselves struggle to feel love. But love in the sense that Iraqi uses, divine love, is not a feeling that comes and goes like an emotion. Love is not something we can be bereft of.

How can you say, there is no love,
when nothing but Love exists?

When we look deeply, we find that love is the foundational matter, the stuff we are all made of and exist in.

In our spiritual strivings we may cultivate a vision of a divine love that quietly touches everyone and everything. That is a basically true description, but if we want to be more precise, we can’t say that love touches or runs through everything, because that suggests that this divine essence is something separate and foreign. Everything is an expression of this divine Love presence. This love does not actually surround us or fill us. In the most real sense, it is us. We are it. Everything is.

Everything we think of as existence, all the seemingly separate beings and countless objects, is really a game of appearances upon the surface of this ocean of being that is love.

All that you see has appeared because of Love

Let me emphasize that this is not merely the conceptual theorizing of philosophers or theologians, it is directly perceived in the deepest states of communion. Love is. And it is the fundamental fact of existence. Mystics feel this love as a profound, joyful interconnection with all things. The immense compassion that results is actually a form of self-awareness, for we all exist within the same shared being. Love is perceived in every cell and by all the senses. The tongue tastes it as a heavenly sweetness. The eye sees it as a golden-white ocean of light (“All shines from Love”). And the heart blooms like a summer rose.

All flows from Love–
No, once again, all IS Love!

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition


Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Jul 21 2019

Mechthild of Magdeburg – A fish cannot drown in water

Published by under Poetry

A fish cannot drown in water
by Mechthild of Magdeburg

English version by Jane Hirshfield

A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

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


/ Image by kopita /

I missed sending a poem last week. I have been especially busy with my day job. I am actively editing a new book which Poetry Chaikhana will publish soon (and thinking a lot about haiku and enlightened awareness). And there was even a question for several weeks as to whether we would be moving. Life has been full! But when I go for more than a week without connecting with the Poetry Chaikhana community I feel I am missing something essential. I refer to the Poetry Chaikhana as a community because that’s what you are to me — a community, my community. Collectively, you are my home. Is that an odd thing to say? I have had the most wonderful correspondence with several of you. With others we share the occasional short, friendly note sent back and forth. But it’s not entirely about communication on that level. Even with those of you who quietly receive my poem emails without direct correspondence, I feel a connection, a shared exchange. I find nourishment in my time with all of you. I feel something vital and meaningful, a special energy shared in all directions through these poem emails and blog posts. I hope you feel it too.

I didn’t want to wait until the end of the new week to reconnect, so here’s a Monday poem…

A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.

Variations on this metaphor are used in every culture. It’s simple, but such an important reminder. We are inherently in our element. Notice how some part of our mind instinctively comes to rest and uncoils at this reminder?

In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.

We have a tendency to be overwhelmed by the intensity of life… the “fire of creation.” In that overwhelm we often have a self-protective psychic reflex to wall out the things and experiences we label as painful. We create a mental separation and tell ourselves, “This is me. And that out there is the pain.” That’s natural, right? In extreme cases, maybe it’s even necessary — in the moment.

The problem with that in the long term is that, over time, as we live and experience more, we wall off more and more until we inhabit a fragmented psychic landscape. And, in that fragmentation, we lose the vision of unity. This is how God seems to “vanish” in the fire of creation. This is how we lose our connection with the fundamental ground of being and forget our true nature.

BUT- through spiritual practice, through profound self-acceptance, through fearless observation, those psychic walls come tumbling down. And then, all at once, the vision comes, and we are filled with its light!

Like a fish in water and a bird in the air, the Eternal lives and moves through all of creation. Material reality is the medium of expression for the Immaterial. It is That, and nothing less, which is the all-pervading animating warmth and life of all things. When we rediscover it, all of creation shines.

How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

So often spiritual seekers struggle with the question of how to find God, how to get to heaven, how to attain salvation, or enlightenment, or union… What are they really? Do they even have value in ‘real life’? But Mechthild reminds us that it is our very nature to seek that unity. The real key is to simply stop resisting our nature. Seekers strive, but saints get out of the way.


Recommended Books: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women 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 The Mystic in Love: A Treasury of Mystical Poetry
More Books >>


Mechthild of Magdeburg, Mechthild of Magdeburg poetry, Christian poetry Mechthild of Magdeburg

Germany (1207 – 1297) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Jul 12 2019

Thomas Merton – Song for Nobody

Published by under Poetry

Song for Nobody
by Thomas Merton

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)


A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

— from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by Jonathan Thorne /

Let us sing a song… for nobody.

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

I imagine Thomas Merton on a morning walk through a dawn-lit field where nothing much is happening. Just some damp grasses and a few bright flowers waking to the sun. Those flowers stand there unnoticed, unseen until now, yet they carry such bold life, bright yellow petals radiant in the morning sun. They are an embodiment of light and spirit.

All of life, all of existence sings — but for whom?

The world dances with a golden light. Who is the real audience for this performance?

Perhaps the intended audience is God. Perhaps the flowers array themselves for their own private delight. But Merton says this song of light and spirit is for nobody because it is clearly not for him. He is utterly inconsequential to the scene. The flowers don’t care about him. They don’t adjust themselves to his presence. In fact, he is the one who is unnoticed, not the flowers.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)

Enraptured by this moment of beauty, to which he is a non-entity, Merton disappears. Thought ceases, the mind quiets and brings to a halt its endless naming and categorizing. There is just stillness and the moment witnessed. That is when the ecstatic moment of awakening occurs — O, wide awake!

A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

In this state of no-mind and no-self, we, along with Merton, are somehow profoundly alive! Awake, we see the world, perhaps for the first time, as it truly is — a golden heaven. And that heaven sings all around us, all the time! For whom? For no one in particular. Life sings to life. Spirit sings because it is spirit. The nature of being is song and light and life. When we quiet the busy mind and drop our own self-importance, we too join in that living symphony.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study


Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Jul 03 2019

Kahlil Gibran – Giving

Published by under Poetry

Giving
by Kahlil Gibran

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their wealth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life — while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by Cristian Bernal /

This week I have been thinking about the suffering and cruelty embodied by the immigrant detention camps along the southern US border. I found myself turning to this poem by Gibran, himself an immigrant to the the US…

Whom do we help? To whom do we give? Which people do we choose to care for and consider part of our community?

It seems a reasonable response to say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The problem with such a reasonable approach is that reason, for all its usefulness, is stuck in the head. The questions of giving and connection are questions for the heart, not the head. And the heart knows what the head does not:

They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

We don’t give to help the deserving. Everyone is deserving. And, ultimately, we don’t give to help those in need. We give to help ourselves, because giving is essential to our nature, while non-giving is a form of death.

When we work deeply with service and giving as part of our spiritual path, we begin to understand that the alleviation of want and the sharing of resources is not enough. That surface approach is usually a sign of ego’s touch, a way to crown oneself as the giver. We haven’t yet discovered what it means to be worthy to give. Seen clearly, there is no personal merit in giving. It is not about “karma points” or buying our way into heaven. Giving is our nature. Giving is who we are. It is what we do when we are true to ourselves. Giving and caring and help are the natural flow of life, and we are part of that life. When we give we have simply ceased to constrict our own spirit… and then our hearts untighten and we can witness life flowing through us all.

For in truth it is life that gives unto life — while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

We should daily ask ourselves, “What gift can I give?”


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 >>


Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

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

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Jun 28 2019

Rumi – No One Here but Him

Published by under Poetry

No One Here but Him
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Andrew Harvey

Watching my hand; He is moving it.
Hearing my voice; He is speaking…
Walking from room to room —
No one here but Him.

— from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom, by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut


/ Image by Ricardo Molina Peña /

Isn’t this a lovely snippet of a poem by the great Jelaluddin Rumi? But he’s not just making a pretty, pious statement about God being the motivating force behind things.

Watching my hand; He is moving it.
Hearing my voice; He is speaking…

Mystics often say odd things like this. It makes one ask: Do they refuse to take responsibility for their actions? Do they take no action at all?

Sufis speak of an aspect of the personality called the nafs. In yoga, it is called the ahamkara. In modern English, we tend to translate this as the ego. This is the little self, the self-focused self, the self that endlessly proclaims, “I, me, mine.”

Typically we pass all action through the nafs. When I am moving my hand, the “I” moving it is the nafs. In doing so, every action subtly proclaims the doer as the center of existence. Every action great and small becomes a sort of self-hypnosis, returning us back to the chant of the nafs: “I-me-mine.”

The heart of mysticism and true spiritual communion — whatever your tradition — is to overcome this petty ruler of the awareness. When we can let go of the nafs, our sense of self expands immensely. And the heart too glows and opens. As the old fences of the self fall, everyone and everything becomes a part of us in a very real way. Or, rather, we recognize that we have always been so, and it is as if our eyes have finally opened.

Now, imagine taking action from this state. Your hand still moves, but it is no longer moved by “I-me-mine.” There is an elegant stillness and spaciousness behind that movement, with a surprising capacity to affect transformation.

But who is doing this action if not the nafs? It is the larger Self, that aspect of us that does not separate itself from the Whole Reality. And despite the once constant protests of the nafs, was there ever anything other than that Wholeness anyway? Best check to be sure…

Walking from room to room —
No one here but Him.


Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
More Books >>


Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Jun 20 2019

Gabriel Rosenstock – inch by inch

Published by under Poetry

inch by inch
by Gabriel Rosenstock

inch by inch
through the trees
— the rising moon



orlach ar orlach
trí na crainn
— an ghealach ag éirí


/ Image by Gautam & Chitrabhanu Chakrabarti /

A haiku today in honor of the recent full moon.

Notice the way this poem unfolds, each short line shifting the frame of our mind’s perception…

inch by inch…

Something is moving oh so slowly, we might even say that it is creeping up. And the phrase, “inch by inch” is so minute that the initial frame of our mental image is minuscule.

But with the next line…

through the trees…

…we suddenly have trees in our minds eye. Our inner vision has widened. It is as if we went from a peering crouch to having to stand back in order to take in the picture.

Then we get that unexpected shift — what we call the kireii or cutting word in a haiku — where the focus of the haiku leaps in an unanticipated direction:

— the rising moon

We’re not really looking at trees at all, but the rising moon behind them.

The frame in our mind’s eye has just slammed wide open to include the moon and the entire night sky. We went from our crouch to standing back to being knocked flat on our backs.

Now that’s a rising moon!

Are you wondering which language the second version is in? This poem is by the great Irish haikuist Gabriel Rosenstock, and he usually writes his haiku in both English and Irish. I’m assuming that most of you, like myself, don’t speak Irish, but try to sound it out anyway. What does the shape and rhythm of the language say to you? Perhaps you will witness a second rising moon in its lines.

==

New Book on Haiku – Coming Soon

There is another reason I selected this poem today. This is a sort of pre-announcement to the Poetry Chaikhana community that I am currently preparing a new book for publication. The new book — yet to be titled — is an exploration of haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock, a master of the art meditating on his art.

Unlike other similar books that might tend to be scholarly or focused on the technicalities of craft, this is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as a personal practice and a spiritual path — for both the reader and the writer of haiku. Through the eyes of Gabriel Rosenstock, haiku becomes a practice of attention and awareness. It is a way of stepping out of ordinary mind and encountering each moment with openness. Noticing what is overlooked. Walking in the natural world. Recognizing how the minute and the mundane reveals immensities. Ultimately, haiku is the art of presence.

From the book…

What will be the next haiku moment? Anticipation is foolish. Each moment is as unique as your fingerprints, your iris, each second as fleeting as your breath. And a haiku moment can happen at any time. But it will not happen without you. You must be there for it to happen. You must be there, before you disappear. It takes two to haiku, you and the witnessed phenomenon in a unifying embrace.

It can occur in such an intense, pure form that it appears to have happened without you. That brief, piercing insight, that moment of haiku enlightenment, strips you of the thousand and one items that are the jigsaw of your ego, the patchwork of your identity. Then we’re simply jumbled back again into the duality of the world, its conflicts, routines and distractions. But we know that another pure surprise waits around the corner, whatever it may be. The wellsprings of the haiku moment are infinite, bottomless, inexhaustible.

***

Haiku can be pursued by atheist, sceptic and believer alike. It can adapt to any language, any culture. Someone once asked the former Zen teacher, Toni Packer, ‘Can a leaf swirling to the ground be my teacher?’ Her answer is what every haikuist should know. ‘Yes! Of course! This instant of seeing is the timeless teacher, the leaves are just what they are …’

summer drought —
the dazzling stars
all become pale
~ Marijan Cekolj

I am so pleased that I will soon be able to make this book available. As you can see, its pages are filled with illuminated moments of creativity and awareness. This is a book that should be read in classrooms and meditation halls and coffee shops, as well as all of you wise, wild folks within the Poetry Chaikhana community.

Look for it in late summer or early autumn. I will let you know more as we get closer to the publication date.


Recommended Books: Gabriel Rosenstock

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Bliain an Bhandé – Year of the Goddess Uttering Her Name Haiku Enlightenment Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


Gabriel Rosenstock, Gabriel Rosenstock poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gabriel Rosenstock

Ireland (1949 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jun 07 2019

Hafiz – Spring and all its flowers

Published by under Poetry

Spring and all its flowers
by Hafiz

English version by Homayun Taba & Marguerite Theophil

Spring and all its flowers
      now joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for celebration, not for lying low;
You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.

The Sabaa wind arrives;
      and in deep resonance, the flower
      passionately rips open its garments,
      thrusting itself from itself.

The Way of Truth, learn from the clarity of water,
Learn freedom from the spreading grass.

Pay close attention to the artistry of the Sabaa wind,
that wafts in pollen from afar,
And ripples the beautiful tresses
      of the fields of hyacinth flowers.

From the privacy of the harem, the virgin bud slips out,
      revealing herself under the morning star,
branding your heart and your faith
      with beauty.

And frenzied bulbul flies madly out of the House of Sadness
      to unite with the flowers;
its love-crazed cry like a thousand-trumpet blast.

Hafez says, and the experienced old ones concur:

All you really need
      is to tell those Stories
      of the Fair Ones and the Goblet of Wine.


/ Image by Ignacio Ferre Pérez /

I know it is a few days late, but I want to wish Eid Mubarak to all of my Muslim friends. I hope your Ramadan brought inspiration and renewal…

Spring and all its flowers
      now joyously break their vow of silence.

Something by the great Sufi poet Hafez in honor of spring and Norooz, the Persian New Year.

You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.

Spring has something to teach us about living with selfless exuberance.

The Sabaa wind arrives;
      and in deep resonance, the flower
      passionately rips open its garments,
      thrusting itself from itself.

The Sabaa is a wind at sunrise coming from the East. Traditionally, lovers confide their secrets to the Sabaa. Spiritual poets associate the Sabaa with the breath of the Beloved; coming from the East, it is the first whisper of daylight, of spiritual enlightenment. It carries the perfumed promise of the new day. It is a messenger of awakening, subtle, playful, revealing new beauty.

I have also been told that sabaa means seven, so the Sabaa is the seventh wind, the wind of paradise. It is the seventh and final wind that causes the flower to shed its petals, its material garments in order to release its inner glory.

Pay close attention to the artistry of the Sabaa wind,
that wafts in pollen from afar,
And ripples the beautiful tresses
      of the fields of hyacinth flowers.

A reference to “beautiful tresses” of hair is often used in Sufi poetry to suggest the enticing beauty of the Beloved. The beauty of God is embodied in the field of hyacinth flowers, in the flowering earth.

The bulbul is a songbird, a nightingale.

And frenzied bulbul flies madly out of the House of Sadness
      to unite with the flowers;
its love-crazed cry like a thousand-trumpet blast.

The bulbul’s song in the garden aches with love for the flower’s beauty. But, to the spiritually minded, to the lover, this “House of Sadness” is sought, not avoided, for yearning becomes union. Then the House of Sadness becomes the House of Revelry, where the wine of bliss flows and stories find their fulfillment.

And a note about that final reference to wine. Why do so many Sufi poets write in praise of wine?

Sacred poetry traditions from all over the world compare ecstatic union with drunkenness. The wine described is real, but not the wine most people think of. In states of deep spiritual communion, a subtle flowing substance is sensed upon the palette. Its a taste of ethereal sweetness can be compared with wine or honey. There is a sensation of drinking and a warming of the heart. The attention blissfully turns inward, the eyelids grow pleasantly heavy and the gaze may become unfocused. A giddy smile naturally blooms for no apparent reason. When the ecstasy comes on strongly, the body can tremble, sometimes the consciousness even leaves the body.

With these experiences, it not only makes sense for mystics to use the language of wine, observers sometimes mistake this state for actual drunkenness.

The Way of Truth, learn from the clarity of water,
Learn freedom from the spreading grass.

I hope you have a beautiful spring weekend!


Recommended Books: Hafiz

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, with Lectures by Inayat Khan
More Books >>


Hafiz

Iran/Persia (1320 – 1389) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

If you are looking for versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky, click here.

More poetry by Hafiz

2 responses so far

May 31 2019

Leza Lowitz – Waiting

Published by under Poetry

Waiting
by Leza Lowitz

You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you’ve put off
the great things you’re meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes the job —
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty…

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom —

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die —

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it’s because the thing is too small, too small,

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like —
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

— from Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Betsy Small


/ Image by geekounet /

It is part of my morning ritual, I shuffle to the sink and wash last night’s dishes by hand. I like the tactile quality of it, the warm soapy water on my hands, slowly watching the order of clean, neatly arranged dishes emerging from the mess. This is spiritual practice at midlife: a fifty year old man, hair sleep mussed, still in his bed clothes, doing the dishes.

I like the poet’s suggestion that the wisdom of midlife is not raging against the chaos and mess of life, but the interaction with it until we ourselves emerge transformed.

We stop expecting the mess to go away or somehow be made right. When I do the dishes in the morning, a whole new stack of dirty dishes have reappear with the next meal. Sometimes I’m convinced that my wife and I couldn’t possibly have created so many dirty dishes in such a short time, that hungry house hobbs have been secretly adding to the stack.

That’s the thing, life is about mess. The act of living and interacting with the world, with other people creates a certain amount of disorder. We don’t want to be utterly free of mess and chaos or even problems. They are the signs of life being lived. We make a mess. We clean up the mess. This is the natural rhythm of life.

until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

I love the way she contrasts the embrace of the dawn while also embracing the “dusk of the body.” Embracing dawn suggests to me that we recognize in ourselves something filled with new life, something vast and glowing. But there is also the increasingly sense of the fading of the body. Even if we remain healthy and strong as we grow older, maturity requires us to recognize that this body is limited and has a looming expiration date. And this is wisdom, the integration of these two truths.

Seeing both, at peace with both, we step into the present moment and come to know ourselves– “glistening, beautiful / just as you are.”

Have a beautiful day! Enjoy the mess. And enjoy cleaning it up again.


Recommended Books: Leza Lowitz

Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By


Leza Lowitz, Leza Lowitz poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Leza Lowitz

US (1962 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Leza Lowitz

4 responses so far

May 29 2019

Radio Interview – The Val Leventhal Show

Published by under Poetry

Over the Memorial Day weekend I did an extended radio interview on The Val Leventhal Show, which airs in Chicago. We had a fascinating conversation about how poetry, music, and the visual arts become expressions of spirituality and social activism.

If you’re interested in listening, you can find a recording of the full show online through SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-389699281

Val Leventhal begins her show with her own commentary — or as she calls it, her “righteous rant” about The Golden Rule found in all the world’s great religions and philosophical traditions — followed by a few songs and a discussion of some news stories.

She introduces me at about 26:00 minutes into the show.

I hope you enjoy it…

No responses yet

May 29 2019

Mahmud Shabistari – One Light

Published by under Poetry

One Light
by Mahmud Shabistari

English version by Andrew Harvey

What are “I” and “You”?
Just lattices
In the niches of a lamp
Through which the One Light radiates.

“I” and “You” are the veil
Between heaven and earth;
Lift this veil and you will see
How all sects and religions are one.

Lift this veil and you will ask —
When “I” and “You” do not exist
What is mosque?
What is synagogue?
What is fire temple?

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


/ Image by Pieroc /

With the recent ratcheting up of tensions between the US and Iran, I thought it would be worthwhile to be reminded of the cultural and spiritual richness has come to us from Iran/Persia. Mahmud Shabistari is one of my favorite poets from the golden age of Persian Sufism…

“I” and “You” — What is Shabistari talking about here? “I” and “You” is the normal perception of existence. Here “I” stand, and “You” are a separate entity over there. It is the perception of duality in which we see the entire universe as a fragmented space of disconnected beings and objects. On the one hand, that perception allows us to feel supremely important in contrast to all else, but it also isolates us and imprisons us in a physicalized notion of reality. Even when we touch, we never quite make contact. The heart ever yearns for real unity.

To show us the way out of this perceptual trap, Shabistari has given us an image to contemplate: a lamp surrounded by latticework. The lamp shines with a single light, but the lattices divide up the radiance into several individual shafts of light. He tells us the world of separation between “I” and “You” is like that — one light divided into many rays.

Think about this image for a moment. So long as we look outward, we only see separated beams of light reaching through the air and patterning the wall. But the moment it occurs to us to look at the lamp itself, we turn around and discover the single light that is its source within. Finally seeing that one light, we then know that there has only ever been that one light. Does the lattice somehow create many lights of the one light? No. It is still the one light, but expressing itself through the many beams. To prove this to ourselves, all we need do is remove the latticework, and then the light shines everywhere, undivided. And the whole time the light itself has never changed its action or nature.

Shabistari makes an interesting shift in the second part of this verse. The separation of “I” and “You” expands to encompass the realm of the world’s religious divisions. And the metaphor of the lamp’s lattice has become a veil (which, of course, covers the face of the Beloved). Even the many sects and religions are one—when we finally look inward toward the light that shines at the heart of each tradition. To one who has lifted the veil and witnessed the underlying Beauty, the distinctions of each tradition and theology no longer separate them. Instead, we can say that the best of each religious tradition adorns the Face differently—but it is the same Face.

Lift this veil…
…and separation is lost, the soul’s isolation ends. And every place becomes a place of worship.


Recommended Books: Mahmud Shabistari

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari Beyond Faith and Infidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmud Shabistari


Mahmud Shabistari, Mahmud Shabistari poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mahmud Shabistari

Iran/Persia (1250? – 1340) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

May 17 2019

Wendell Berry – The Peace of Wild Things

Published by under Poetry

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— from Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by DeingeL /

Rereading my comments from a few years ago, I smile at the memory. A special moment, a special day…

My wife and I have been going for walks recently in an area called Roger’s Grove. The park has a small lake with a couple of islands at its center. It is a favorite spot for Canadian geese this time of year. As we stroll around the lake we sometimes see a gray heron standing in meditative stillness among the reeds along the banks. Most recently we noticed some new visitors: one and then two bright white pelicans, looking a bit awkward in form but moving with the grace of swans upon the lake’s surface.

Yesterday, we had an unexpected sight: Those two pelicans had become thirty pelicans! The lake was filled with the bright white beings! We walked around the lake in an awed daze. We watched as the birds paddled around the lake in groups, tacking together in their movements, like a synchronized drifting dance, all gliding to the left and then, with some unseen signal, all turning right again. They even dipped their heads beneath the water all at once, sometimes several times in a row, down and up and down and up, a quiet undulation rippling through the group. They seemed to revel in this sleepy synchronicity of movement beneath the warming sun.

It was a magical moment. A healing moment. An encounter with the peace of wild things.

That’s just it– these, like all living beings, experience struggle, trauma, death, yet they continue to reside in the present moment and celebrate the bliss of a sweet afternoon when it is upon them. And in this way wild things are teachers to us all.

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


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

More poetry by Wendell Berry

8 responses so far

May 10 2019

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – There is some kiss we want

Published by under Poetry

There is some kiss we want
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.


/ Image by Unionhoney /

Isn’t this a wonderful selection?

I haven’t identified the original verses, so I don’t know how closely Barks’s version reflects the original lines. Barks tends to do rather loose renditions of Rumi, but with a sense of the poem’s heart and passionate abandon.

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives…

Whatever we spend our lives doing, whatever we desperately seek or crave through the decades, underlying it all, that’s what we really want– that secret kiss, that feeling of being touched by Spirit. Not is some intellectual or philosophical sense, but in our embodied lives, not as a feeling or a thought or a belief, but as a sort of recognition. A self-recognition. We want to know in the deepest sense. Everything else we seek on a more surface level is either in pursuit of that, or sometimes in denial of that, but always an outgrowth of it, that kiss we want with our whole lives.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

Try as we might, we can’t think our way into heaven. No matter how skillfully we conceptualize and elaborate even the most elevated ideas, that isn’t the way in.

The open heart is the way. It is the open window. Best for the verbalizing mind to fall silent or, when it is active, to work in service to the awakening heart.

Because, after all…

The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.

PS- Website Adventures

I have been a bit distracted this week trying to sort out multiple technical problems with the Poetry Chaikhana’s website and Internet service provider. Hopefully, this is nothing you have bumped into trying to visit the site. We should have everything resolved soon. It’s all behind the scenes stuff that you don’t need to be especially concerned with, but since it has been a major focus for my week, I thought I would mention it.

At some point I should probably do a major redesign of the Poetry Chaikhana site. I have had the site up for 15 years now. Quite an accomplishment on the peripatetic web! While the content has expanded and changed, much of the basic design and structure is the same as when I started. Since I run the Poetry Chaikhana in my spare time, and balanced with chronic fatigue issues, I have only done basic maintenance since that initial creation. It might be getting time to bring the site into the modern era of web design before long. It’s a matter of being able to organize my schedule and finances to dedicate the time necessary.

Maybe I should ask you, the Poetry Chaikhana community: Would you appreciate an updated Poetry Chaikhana site? Not only the look and feel, which feels a bit static by modern sensibilities, but with a more dynamic and searchable structure. While I don’t know exactly when I will get to changes, I do welcome your feedback.


Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
More Books >>


Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

8 responses so far

May 08 2019

Omar Khayyam – AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Published by under Poetry

[1] AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
by Omar Khayyam

English version by Edward FitzGerald

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
      And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

— from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam / Translated by Edward FitzGerald


/ Image by John Spooner /

I thought I would select the opening quatrain from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam today in honor of the month of Ramadan for all of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Reading this, we immediately notice the delightful sense of rhyme and meter in FitzGerald’s translation. It invites us to say it out loud. We almost want to sing it.

But beyond the sheer poetic pleasure, is there anything of significance being said here? The poet is saying something about night and light and telling us to wake up, but we have to puzzle it out a bit before a clear image forms in our minds.

He describes the Bowl of Night, the night sky. Morning has flung a Stone into the Bowl of Night. If we imagine a large dark clay bowl, and a stone has been thrown into it, that stone will break through, creating a hole, allowing a sharp point of light to appear. He is describing the burst of light that is the suddenly rising sun.

The light of the sunrise puts the Stars to Flight by outshining the stars. In the sunrise, the night stars recede and all we see is the sun.

The next two lines might seem especially obscure. Who or what is the Hunter of the East? This is a way of referring to the constellation Orion, with his distinctive belt of three stars. Late in the year in the Northern Hemisphere, Orion ascends above the horizon in the east just before dawn.

Orion is traditionally seen as a hunter. But he is also associated with the east and the rising sun. It is as if the rising sun in the east is hunting, but hunting what?

He has caught the Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light. The Sultan’s Turret might be understood to be a minaret, the tower that calls the faithful to prayer. Or the turret might suggest the head or the crown, the rim of the earth itself encircled with a ring of light in that first flash of dawn.

As we unlock the language, it becomes a vibrant scene of waking up to the dawn.

But there is more going on here. Have you noticed how this imagery also resolves itself into the Muslim imagery of the Star and Crescent? Orion’s Noose of Light encircles the darkened world. The stone has created a single point of light in the night sky in the east.

This is not simply an image of religious or national pride, it has profound meaning for the individual. The Star and the Crescent are themselves representations of enlightenment. We have the bowl of night, the skull, encircled by light. But that circle, as a crescent, is incomplete on one side to allow the star to rise in the east — enlightenment. This small break in the circle of the individual identity, allows the spiritual light to flood in. This has been deeply understood and commented on by Muslim mystics over the centuries.

When we see the Star and Crescent, we should be thinking not of flags or nations, but the wali’s enlightenment. Whenever we witness the rising sun, it too paints for us a picture of enlightenment.

Of course we start off with that command of the spirit: Awake! Enlightenment is ready to dawn in the soul, do not miss it! Awake! Awake!


Recommended Books: Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained The Sufism of the Rubaiyat or the Secret of the Great Paradox Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Illustrated Edition)
More Books >>


Omar Khayyam, Omar Khayyam poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Omar Khayyam

Iran/Persia (11th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

One response so far

May 03 2019

Theodore Roethke – The Right Thing

Published by under Poetry

The Right Thing
by Theodore Roethke

Let others probe the mystery if they can.
Time-harried prisoners of Shall and Will
The right thing happens to the happy man.

The bird flies out, the bird flies back again:
The hill becomes the valley, and is still;
Let others delve that mystery if they can.

God bless the roots! — Body and soul are one!
The small become the great, the great the small;
The right thing happens to the happy man.

Child of the dark, he can out leap the sun,
His being single, and that being all;
The right thing happens to the happy man.

Or he sits still, a solid figure when
The self-destructive shake the common wall;
Takes to himself what mystery he can.

And, praising change as the slow night comes on,
Wills what he would, surrendering his will
Till mystery is no more: No more he can.
The right thing happens to the happy man.

— from Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty, Edited by Alan Jacobs


/ Image by okokay /

I have been thinking about this issue lately– What is the right balance between actively reaching out for meaning and the experiences of life, compared with resting content and trusting that it will all naturally flow to us?

The right thing happens to the happy man.

As a younger man, I was impatient and headstrong, full of will and a determination to seize hold of a unique life path. That worked wonders in some cases, and it also created a lot of chaos and extremes. At some point I decided I didn’t know what the hell I was doing other than that I was trying to escape wherever I was at the moment, so I finally gave up. That too worked wonders. When we stop trying to assert blind control, life opens up in unimagined ways.

But that too can become a shield, a sort of disengaged contentment.

Does one push or relax? Do we run toward or away or simply stand still?

Child of the dark, he can out leap the sun,
His being single, and that being all;
The right thing happens to the happy man.


Or he sits still, a solid figure when
The self-destructive shake the common wall;
Takes to himself what mystery he can.

Do we make change happen or recognize that change is already occurring and let it play out?

And, praising change as the slow night comes on,
Wills what he would, surrendering his will
Till mystery is no more: No more he can.

The answer, I suspect, is neither to take control and become the “master of one’s fate” nor to be a passive spectator. It is not about will at all or non-will. It is about openness.

When we lower our shields and step out naked into life, life as it is, we see and feel and move in ways that were previously unimaginable. We no longer act out of compulsion, and neither do we stand back out of fear. We are free to choose appropriately, remaining relaxed, feeling the currents of life flowing through our movement and our stillness. And we feel a certain delight along the way.

The right thing happens to the happy man.

…or woman.

A note about the poem: Try reading this poem aloud. You may not notice the striking rhyme pattern if you read it silently in your mind. Not only do the first and third line within each triplet suggest a rhyme, but also the first line of each rhyme together, as do the second and the third.


Recommended Books: Theodore Roethke

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems On Poetry and Craft The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke
More Books >>


Theodore Roethke, Theodore Roethke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Theodore Roethke

US (1908 – 1963) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Theodore Roethke

No responses yet

Apr 26 2019

Muso Soseki – Temple of Eternal Light

Published by under Poetry

Temple of Eternal Light
by Muso Soseki

English version by W. S. Merwin

The mountain range
      the stones in the water
            all are strange and rare
The beautiful landscape
      as we know
            belongs to those who are like it
The upper worlds
      the lower worlds
            originally are one thing
There is not a bit of dust
      there is only this still and full
            perfect enlightenment

— from Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu


/ Image by sagefille20 /

It has been a couple of years since I last featured something by Muso Soseki.

The mountain range
      the stones in the water
            all are strange and rare

Considering Soseki’s role as father of Zen gardening practice, whenever he says anything about the natural world, we should pause and pay special attention.

When he describes the mountain range and river stones as “strange and rare,” he is not shrugging his shoulders at something unusual or interesting. He sees something unique, utterly specific, a now-ness only truly recognized when we ourselves are present and genuinely seeing.

The beautiful landscape
      as we know
            belongs to those who are like it

We only ever perceive what we already are. We may all look and see the same lines and colors of a mountain range, but to actually see it and, on a deep level, recognize what it is, something within ourselves must recognize a shared being with the mountain range.

True seeing is about relationship. It is about inter-being.

This is how we lead into his next statement:

The upper worlds
      the lower worlds
            originally are one thing

When we settle into the original state, we perceive as part of an inherent oneness. We may still see a mountain range or individual stones in a river, but they are not truly separate from us or from each other. There really are not separate objects in the world, there is, in truth, just one thing with a variety of surfaces and vantage points.

From this perspective, there are no objects, nothing that can be separated out as its own self-existing thing, not even something as small as a mote of dust–

There is not a bit of dust
      there is only this still and full
            perfect enlightenment

–just this beautiful moment of living awareness we all are.

Have a beautiful day!

PS- I was devastated to hear about the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. Always more reason to cultivate awareness, understanding, and healing within our hearts and within our societies.


Recommended Books: Muso Soseki

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons East Window: Poems from Asia Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader


Muso Soseki, Muso Soseki poetry, Buddhist poetry Muso Soseki

Japan (1275 – 1351) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Next »