Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

May 28 2021

Niffari – Stand at the Throne

Published by under Poetry

Stand at the throne (from The Standing Of the Presence Chamber and the Letter)
by Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

English version by Michael A. Sells

He said to me:
      Stand at the throne.
      I saw the sanctuary.
      No gaze attained it.
      No cares entered it.
      In it I saw the doors of every reality.
      I saw the doors on fire.
      In the fire was a sanctuary.
      Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.
      When it entered, it came to the door.
      When it came to the door, it stood for the reckoning
      I saw the reckoning
            single out what was for the face of God
            from what was for the other-than-him.
      I saw the reward was other-than-him.
      I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
            raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
      When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
      “It has passed the reckoning.”

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

If you do not obey me on my account,
      You will not be equal to my worship.

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.

— from Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Michael A. Sells


/ Image by red twolips /

There is so much to explore in this “standing” that I leave it with you to contemplate. Just a few of my own thoughts…

Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.

I love that.

I saw the reckoning
single out what was for the face of God
from what was for the other-than-him.

The day of reckoning, Judgment Day, is when we are sifted to discover what in us is a pure reflection of the face of God from that which is “other-than-him.” But Niffari sees that even the “reward” is “other-than-him.” He seems to be reminding us that to truly pass the “reckoning,” we must seek the Eternal not for the sake of a promised heavenly reward, but for the Eternal alone.

I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
“It has passed the reckoning.”

A sacred puzzle: The reward is not the reward; God is the reward.

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

This is a statement of inner mystical initiation. Depth here to explore…

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

I love these lines too. A reminder to us that obsessing on faults, imperfections, or sins keeps us cut off from the Divine. The proper approach is not to linger on one’s personal or spiritual failures; that simply strengthens the illusory walls between the individual awareness and the Eternal. No, one must see those “faults” clearly, and seeing them clearly no longer cling to them, allowing them to simply fall away without self-condemnation.

We define ourselves by our faults, and create spiritual separation through self-condemnation. When we let them simply fall, the walls we imagined separating ourselves from the Eternal show themselves to have never been. “Ignorance” finally disappears and we we have all along been standing in the presence of the Divine.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.


Recommended Books: Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) The Mawaqif and Mukhatabat of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdi ‘L-Jabbar Al-Niffari With Other Fragments


Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

Iraq (? – 965) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

May 21 2021

Tukaram – All men to me are god-like Gods!

Published by under Poetry

All men to me are god-like Gods!
by Tukaram

English version by Ivan M. Granger

All men to me are god-like Gods!
      My eyes no longer see
      vice or fault.

Life on this suffering earth
      is now endless delight;
      the heart at rest and full,
                              overflowing.

In the mirror, the face and its reflection
      watch each other;
      different, but one.

And, when the stream pours into the ocean…
      no more stream!

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


/ Image by Swami Stream /

A meditation on the fundamental unity and wholeness underlying the surface appearance of separation. Every pain, every broken heart, every human yearning is ultimately found to be an expression of that one psychic need — for wholeness. Satisfy that one need at its root, and what is there left to want? The heart in endless pursuit finally attains rest and contentment. Even the world that imagines itself in fragments is seen to be whole, one fluid unity. People are are not people but divine immensities, and the perception of suffering is replaced by timeless bliss.

And, when the stream pours into the ocean…
      no more stream!

(…but endless ocean.)

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Tukaram

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West Says Tuka: Selected Poetry of Tukaram Wild Poets of Ecstasy: An Anthology of Ecstatic Verse
More Books >>


Tukaram, Tukaram poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Tukaram

India (1608 – 1649) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

Continue Reading »

One response so far

May 16 2021

Daniel Berrigan – Credentials

Published by under Poetry

Credentials
by Daniel Berrigan

I would it were possible to state in so
few words my errand in the world: quite simply
forestalling all inquiry, the oak offers his leaves
largehandedly. And in winter his integral magnificent order
decrees, says solemnly who he is
in the great thrusting limbs that are all finally
one: a return, a permanent riverandsea.

So the rose is its own credential, a certain
unattainable effortless form: wearing its heart
visibly, it gives us heart too: bud, fullness and fall.

— from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters), by Daniel Berrigan / Edited by John Dear


/ Image by Proseuche /

Since the last few poems I’ve sent out have been little morsels, I thought I would send out a bonus poem today…

In this poem we are given a couple of images to illustrate how we should understand ourselves and be in the world. In other words, what are our credentials? By what authority and quality do we come into the world and act in the world?

Like the oak tree, we should offer our leaves “largehandedly,” giving fully of ourselves and our very nature to the world. And, in winter, in bareness, the essential form that we are comes through. By not holding back our true nature, by being fully ourselves, even when when the world demands all of us, that is when we “return” and recognize that we are part of a grand, harmonious unity, “a permanent riverandsea.”

We are our own credentials. Our credentials, our spiritual stamp of approval, is there within us, in our most natural form. Like the rose, we must unfold, be as we are, allowing our innermost heart to become visible, to be seen, to let its beauty be present in the world, bringing healing to the world and to ourselves.

So the rose is its own credential, a certain
unattainable effortless form: wearing its heart
visibly, it gives us heart too: bud, fullness and fall.

Have a beautiful day, with a blossoming heart.


Recommended Books: Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters) Prayer for the Morning Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death And the Risen Bread: Selected and New Poems 1957-1997 Tulips in the Prison Yard: Selected Poems of Daniel Berrigan Prison Poems: Selected Poems of Daniel Berrigan


Daniel Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan poetry, Christian poetry Daniel Berrigan

US (1921 – 2016) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

May 14 2021

Amir Khusrow Dehlawi – The River of Love

Published by under Poetry

The River of Love
by Amir Khusrow Dehlawi

Khusro! the river of love has a reverse flow
He who enters will drown, he who drowns will get across.


/ Image by Maria /

This brief couplet is as much a riddle as the lines of a poem. Reading it, the first response may be that it is beautiful and somehow uplifting, but it doesn’t really make sense… until we dive in ourselves.

Khusro! the river of love has a reverse flow

We all have a flow of consciousness and life energy. That energy tends to flow outward and dissipate, especially when we keep our attention hooked without letup on outward experiences and the pull of the senses. The more we learn to quiet the mind and gather in the awareness through meditation and deep prayer, we can experience how that outward flow reverses, turning inward, tapping into a deep reservoir within. Reversing that flow, we discover the most amazing all-encompassing love and joy.

He who enters will drown, he who drowns will get across.

So much of our lives is spent in resisting the pull of that natural current drawing us in. When we allow ourselves to be swept away, to be engulfed by that joyful love, all of our old notions of self and reality are washed clean. The long held idea of who we are, the ego-self, disappears beneath the waves of that blissful stream. This is how one “drowns.”

But in drowning, we are stunned to find a new self. Something essential and vast awakens within us. We feel we have come home, we are finally ourselves for the first time. Knowing ourselves, we are surprised to be inherently whole and complete. Regardless of the movement and challenges around us, we stand on solid ground for the first time. This is how one drowns to get across to the other shore.

Maybe Khusrow’s riddle is not so much of a riddle as a map, an invitation. It’s a beautiful day — time to take a running leap and jump in.

To my many Muslim friends — Eid Mubarak! I hope you had a blessed and restorative Ramadan.

I am sending special blessings out to the region of Palestine/Israel. It is a fraught situation with wider repercussions. May sanity prevail and healing be sent to the situation with the least possible suffering. May we see clearly with open minds and compassionate hearts so we can help where we can.


Recommended Books: Amir Khusrow Dehlawi

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi


Amir Khusrow Dehlawi, Amir Khusrow Dehlawi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Amir Khusrow Dehlawi

India (1253 – 1325) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

May 07 2021

Fakhruddin Iraqi – My eyes so fix

Published by under Poetry

My eyes so fix
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

My eyes so fix
      upon your image
that whatever I gaze at
      I imagine you.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein


/ Image by Khashayar Elyassi /

It has been a strange week. I lost access to the Poetry Chaikhana website for a few days when my web host changed my access info without notifying me. In trying to fix that issue, I then could not receive Poetry Chaikhana emails for a couple of days. We finally resolved those issues and the Poetry Chaikhana is back.

A new spring day. The birds celebrate the morning in song. And I have a short poem for you from the great Fakhruddin Iraqi…

That’s the way, isn’t it?

When we turn our full focus to the Divine, when our entire being hungrily reaches for the Eternal, the world around us conspires to reveal glimpses. The smallest thing, properly gazed upon with the whole self, unmasks itself as the Beloved.


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 »

2 responses so far

Apr 23 2021

Matsuo Basho – Skylark

Published by under Poetry

Skylark
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Skylark
sings all day,
and day not long enough.

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


/ Image by Chad Horwedel /

A haiku for us today, one that brings me a smile every time I read it.

This is one of those poems where any attempt at commentary feels absurd. What it says is simple and direct, yet it resonates in the mind and the heart. Reading it, I find myself questioning the importance of busy daily activities. On those weary days when I am just ready for the day to be over, have I misspent my day? Have I held back my song?

=

After a year of pretty good energies, I seem to be dealing with chronic fatigue patterns coming up again. I am always reminded of the need for balance and a clarity of purpose. The more scattered I get and try to accomplish everything at once, the more my system insists that I pause. Our struggles are often our best and most determined teachers…

=

Today might just be a day to burst forth in song!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

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


Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

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

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Apr 12 2021

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden


/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

A rare Monday poem email. Since it has been nearly a month since I last sent a Poetry Chaikhana email out, I decided not to wait until the end of the week. There are several reasons for the unannounced pause in the emails.

I live outside of Boulder, Colorado and, as many of you are probably aware, there was a terrible shooting in Boulder a few weeks ago at a local grocery store. When my wife and I first moved to the area years ago, we lived within a few blocks of that store and often shopped for groceries there. We now live several miles away and were not in immediate danger during the shooting. But, of course, we still felt the trauma of the community, magnified by our own personal history with the scene of so much bloodshed.

In the aftermath, I didn’t want to immediately send out a poem. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about the event, and it would have felt wrong to ignore it.

Soon after, I had a birthday and Easter came up. And through it all, my day job has been especially busy.

For all of those reasons I felt it was best to wait.

But with spring blossoming in our area, it feels like it is now time to return to poetry and the reawakening of life. So I have a beautiful poem of silences for us today…

=

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are small things with barely any substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but as an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers along with as many other elements of modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

…within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)


Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>


R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline
Christian

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Mar 12 2021

Lalla – Coursing in emptiness

Published by under Poetry

Coursing in emptiness
by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks

Coursing in emptiness,
I, Lalla,
dropped off body and mind,

and stepped into the Secret Self.

Look: Lalla the sedgeflower
blossomed a lotus.

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


/ Image by Crystalline Radical /

Yesterday was Maha Shivaratri, a celebration in honor of the Hindu god Shiva. So I thought we should have a poem dedicated to Lord Shiva…

I love the opening phrase in this poem’s translation: “Coursing in emptiness…” Reality is recognized as being vast and empty — but a living emptiness! — like a great formless sea. And the point of awareness, though supremely at rest, covers the entire spaciousness like one reclined on a coursing clipper ship carried along by a gentle, steady wind.

And in this pure state of awareness, the agitated ego-mind that constantly chants “I, me, mine!” — that part of the mind that we normally think of as ourselves — it grows thin and ghost-like until it disappears. Even the physical body becomes unreal to us and the awareness of it can completely fade away.

…Yet we remain. The collection of mental processes and agitations that we thought was our identity has ceased. The body has become at most an idea, a form of expression. It is a tool for interacting with an idea world. The body has dropped off, yet we remain. Completely stilled and settled, we are returned to the natural experience of bliss and wholeness. In the deepest way possible, we are at home, at one. We finally know who and what we really are. This is the return to the Secret Self. This is the way to step into the Secret Self.

Lalla’s final pair of lines — “Look: Lalla the sedgeflower / blossomed a lotus” — expresses the utter surprise and delight of this first recognition. A sedgeflower grows low among the grasses, close to the ground, hardly noticed. How can something so humble, something so lost among the weeds and dust of earthly existence come to such vibrant life? How could this little thing I call “me” have stepped into the radiant enlightenment that blossoms like a lotus in the crown? The sedgeflower — the little self — discovers within it the scintillating lotus of the True Self!

=

A personal note about Shiva–

I have always felt a special appreciation for the imagery of Shiva. When I was younger and more of an ascetic myself, I loved the iconography of Shiva as the bone-thin yogi with long matted hair meditating in bliss in the Himalayas. Austere, pure, the embodiment of what is essential and meaningful in existence.

These days I am fascinated by the image of Shiva Nataraj, the Lord of the Dance. Shiva, ecstatically dancing, creating and dissolving the universe with each step, his long hair flying about his shoulders as he spins in his perfect balance. To me this is an image of the way the Eternal expresses both stillness and movement, how the Divine moves masterfully through existence, how all life is an expression of the underlying joyful impulse to move and express.

Shiva Nataraj teaches us how to dance through life!

Have a beautiful day!


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 »

8 responses so far

Mar 05 2021

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Everywhere veiled

Published by under Poetry

Everywhere veiled
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

Everywhere veiled
      by Your own Face
You are hidden from the world
      in Your very manifestation.
Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone;
in all these idols
      I see only You.
Jealous lest You be recognized
      at every instant
You dress Your Beauty
      in a different cloak.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein


/ Image by nasrul ekram /

Even amidst terrible suffering and devastation, we have the opportunity to glimpse the face of God. Sometimes it is in a helping hand or a healing voice. A kind gaze that doesn’t turn away is often the most powerful thing of all. A heart that breaks, yet remains engaged, that is what the world is always yearning for. To see, to feel, to care– these require courage and the willingness to face pain rather than run from it. But, when we do that, and breathe through it, we discover our deep humanity… and perhaps something of our shared divinity.

A broken heart, a willing hand, and a clear seeing eye, these are the pathways to God.

==

Iraqi suggests to us that all of life, all of reality is a game of divine hide-and-seek.

Reading this poem raises a question– As we walk daily through the world, do we merely look, or do we see? And when we truly see, how can we not occasionally pause in mute wonder and melt?

Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone


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 »

3 responses so far

Feb 26 2021

Mary Oliver – Spring

Published by under Poetry

Spring
by Mary Oliver

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her —
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by Marie Hale /

We have snow on the ground here in Colorado, but spring is coming. You can see it in the brilliant morning sunlight, in the first tentative buds on branches. We are, all of us, beginning to shake off the long hibernation of winter to encounter the world once again, like Mary Oliver’s bear.

The poem evokes for us the image of this black bear, this huge being, “like a black and leafy ledge,” waking from its slumbers and rather roughly encountering the world once again. But that renewed interaction between bear and gravel, grass, and tree is a form a sacrament. It is the embodiment of a questions: how to love this world.

The poem circles back to the poet, her human life filled with creativity and cities…

Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities…

But we sense that the list is incomplete. Something fundamental has been left out of the first part of that list. That connection with nature. No… deeper even than that. Something archetypal. The great primal being within as it awakens and encounters the world.

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

Despite its massive presence, it is silent. Without words. Beyond words.

(The phrase “dazzling darkness” is of particular significance within Western esoteric traditions, tracing back to a poem by the important early Christian mystic Dionysius the Areopagite. I suspect Ms. Oliver used it intentionally to suggest the same mysterious, vast, silent presence.)

all day I think of her -–
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

I have always felt a special connection with the animal world. As a child, for a time I planned to become a veterinarian. I remember often meditating as a boy on the wordlessness of animals. What sort of world do they inhabit without words, without names for things or places or people… or even for themselves? I tried to imagine that world, to enter it with my own wordlessness. Like Mary Oliver’s bear. In our wordlessness, when we stop naming things, we find that we encounter everything more immediately, more fully. When we name a thing or person or experience, we have labeled it, categorized it and, as a result, moved it outside of the realm of direct experience and shunted it safely into a mental idea of the moment, rather than the living moment itself. When we name things through incessant thought, we then encounter our thoughts about the experience and not the actual experience. We end up seeing only reflections of the mind and forget how to see the world as it is.

Mary Oliver’s bear reminds us to let that great black bear rise from its sleep and encounter the world in its wordlessness. This is how we can begin to answer the “only one question: how to love this world.” We embody perfect love when we are truly present in our dazzling silence and not elsewhere in our words and thoughts. Love is connection, contact, encountering a person or place as it is, as we are. Love is being right here.

Have a beautiful day, one of wordless spring awakening!


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 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Feb 12 2021

Patrul Rinpoche – Use the time of your life

Published by under Poetry

Use the time of your life
by Patrul Rinpoche

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.
Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.
Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.
Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.

Search you a spiritual master,
who knows the goal of enlightenment.
Change your world into a place of grace,
by understanding all the phenomena as spiritual exercises.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.


/ Image by Hartwig HKD /

Today, February 12, is the beginning of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, a good time to release the old and welcome in the new.

I don’t often feature poetry from the Tibetan tradition, even though I love this rich heritage. The reason is that much of the sacred poetry that comes to us from Tibetan practitioners can seem to the casual reader to be rather technical and philosophically didactic. It is rarely the fluid and ecstatic outpouring of the heart, like Rumi’s poetry, for example. But, once you have explored Tibetan expressions of Buddhism a bit and understand some of the sacred terminology, then Tibetan poetry reveals itself to be a treasure trove of wisdom and beauty.

For today, I thought I’d choose a relatively simple and direct poem by Patrul Rinpoche.

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.

This poem is a direct appeal to seize the opportunity of our being. We have the blessing of life and awareness, so let’s joyfully use them for what they were really made for — awakening.

The outer satisfaction of pleasures and acquisitions, while they may have their place in our lives too, are always limited and, because of their exterior nature, never provide us with lasting fulfillment.

Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

When we are wise, we cultivate our inner happiness, our wellspring of inherent bliss, which does not fluctuate with outer experiences.

We can find parallels in the Christian tradition when Jesus advises his followers to store one’s treasures in heaven where they are not vulnerable to decay or theft.

Patrul Rinpoche gives us simple, clear guidance for a life of spiritual fruition:

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.

He reminds us to remain engaged in the practices and activities that return our focus, again and again, to our higher purposes in life. Yes, we have our daily roles and responsibilities, but we must always return to the deeper meaning of our lives and find ways to infuse even our most mundane tasks with that extra spiritual magnetic charge so that increasingly every activity becomes a spiritual practice filled with inner purpose.

Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

A Bodhisattva is one who has taken vows to work for the healing and spiritual awakening of all beings. In other words, he advises us to live in service and act with kindness, healing the world as we move through it.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.

An Amitabha is a Buddha of light, a radiant and loving expression of pure awakening. The spiritual path is not one of drudgery or rigid progress. We blossom with love and light.

Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.
…Change your world into a place of grace.

As we discover our inner bliss, we unleash it into the world, letting it do its transformative work. Allowing that energy to move through us, we naturally strive to build outer manifestations of that inner joy, trying to awaken that awareness of paradise in others and in the social fabric we collectively weave.

The well-lived spiritual life becomes a dance of inner and outer, in which kindness and joy are both natural and logical as we more fully recognize the interrelationship of being we all share.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.

May this be a time of cleansing endings and joyful new beginnings. Happy Losar!



[BOOK LIST REPEATING]

Patrul Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche poetry, Buddhist poetry Patrul Rinpoche

Tibet (1808 – 1887) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Feb 05 2021

Rainer Maria Rilke – Want the change

Published by under Poetry

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

— from In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy


/ Image by Lulu Lovering /

This poem is a lovely meditation on change and transitoriness — as signs of life. It is only those relationships and experiences which move, and evolve, and eventually disappear that are fully alive.

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.

We so want the opposite to be true. We reflexively want to grasp the world, to hold it fixed, so we can trust reality, know its rules, and feel secure every day. But Rilke invites us to see with the poet’s keen eye the truth of the matter: that which doesn’t change lacks life and loses beauty–

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

We can’t hold our lives fixed, and we can’t hold ourselves fixed within our lives. The only thing to do is to step fully into each mysterious unknown day.

I love the line–

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

This statement so powerfully evokes the courage each day requires and the generosity of self that we can bring to each encounter.

We give of ourselves not to secure our lives but to live our lives in fullness. And, in doing so, we discover more life in our lives.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

If you’re not a mythology nerd, you may not have picked up on Rilke’s reference to Daphne and the laurel…

And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

In Greek mythology, Daphne was a stunningly beautiful nymph who lived and hunted in the woods. Because of her beauty men constantly sought her favors, but she refused everyone. Then the god Apollo fell in love with her, but she refused him as well. Daphne fled from Apollo, who continued to pursue her. When Apollo was about to grasp Daphne, she called upon her father’s magical power, and she was instantly transformed into a laurel tree. The god Apollo, still in love with Daphne, but unable to embrace her, plucked a branch of the laurel and wore it as a wreath upon his head.

By evoking Daphne, Rilke is calling up this rich myth of beauty, and the inability to posses it. Yet that beauty, in transforming itself into something that can no longer be truly held or lusted after, takes on a new life all its own, a life that yet dances in the wind.

Rilke seems to be inviting us to encounter life with full presence and, with the courage of a witness rather than one who grasps, to appreciate beauty both in the coming and goings of life.


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>


Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Jan 29 2021

Edith Kanaka’ole – E ho mai

Published by under Poetry

E ho mai
by Edith Kanaka’ole


E ho mai
Ka ike mai luna mai e

O na mea huna no eau
O na mele e

E ho mai
E ho mai
E ho mai

Grant us
knowledge from above,

All the wisdom
of the songs.

Grant,
Bestow,
Grant us these things.

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


/ Image by Angela Sevin /

Years ago, when I lived in Hawai’i, I took a class in ho’oponopono. (If you sound it out slowly, it’s not the tounge-twister it first looks like.) Ho’oponopono means literally “to make things right, to return things to harmony.” It is a traditional healing method, but its emphasis is not on healing the body as it is on healing relationships, families, communities. If you think about it, what is the purpose of a healthy body except as an instrument to work for a healthier society? The small body serves the larger body.

As part of my training in ho’oponopono, I learned this chant. Hawaiian chant can be compared to Hindu mantra in that to truly say it properly can take a great deal of training. The inflections are important. The breath is important. Most of all, the sense of personal presence is important.

This Hawaiian chant must be said with force and with heart. It is a prayer, but it is not passive. It is a calling forth, a reaching out and a drawing in — of wisdom, of knowledge, of truth. It evokes in us pono, rightness.

Try sounding out the Hawaiian. Slowly at first, until the sounds become familiar. Then louder, with confidence. Say it over and over again. Imagine repeating this chant in a group. Let it ring through your body and your day!

To hear it chanted, click here
Aloha!


Recommended Books: Edith Kanaka’ole

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)


Edith Kanaka'ole, Edith Kanaka'ole poetry, Primal/Tribal/Shamanic poetry Edith Kanaka’ole

US, Hawaii (1913 – 1979) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Jan 22 2021

Civivakkiyar – In bricks and in granite

Published by under Poetry

In bricks and in granite
by Civivakkiyar

English version by Kamil V. Zvelebil

In bricks and in granite,
in the red-rubbed lingam,
in copper and brass
is Siva’s abode —
      that’s what you tell us,
      and you’re wrong.
Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God,
      full of His dance and spell
            and song.

— from The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal, Translated by Kamil V. Zvelebil


/ Image by Natesh Ramasamy /

I have always loved the poetry of Civivakkiyar since I first discovered it years ago. There is a directness that is at times blunt, along with a teasing quality, and underlying it all a radiant realization that rises up through the words. Even his name, Civivakkiyar, feels like poetry on the tongue.

This poem exhibits the Tamil Siddha opposition to orthodoxy and mindless ritualism — which tend to externalize God, separating the individual from the presence of the Divine. Civivakkiyar is proclaiming that God (Siva) is not only found in temples and objects of worship, places and things that have been separated out and defined as sacred. Not “in bricks and in granite,” not in the “lingam” (a common representation of Siva), not in the ritual objects of “copper and brass.”

To say that God is in the temple or the altar or the icon and not elsewhere impoverishes us spiritually. That perspective makes us strangers to the presence of the sacred, which is everywhere, always.

The truth is that God is not ‘out there’ (wherever we imagine ‘there’ to be). The Divine is right here, right now, within us:

Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God…

It is only within ourselves that we find the proper ground to worship and ultimately encounter God, whether we stand in the temple precinct, or the marketplace, the forest grove, or the office space.

When we stop running from sacred place to sacred place and, instead, finally recognize the living sacred presence everywhere — and most especially within ourselves — then we experience such an uninhibited flow of life and delight that we become filled with the eternal “dance and spell / and song.”


Recommended Books: Civivakkiyar

The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal


Civivakkiyar

India (9th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Jan 15 2021

Mary Oliver – In Blackwater Woods

Published by under Poetry

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

— from American Primitive, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by Claudio /

This is one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. It speaks to so many levels of the human experience.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light…

Those opening lines draw me in every time I read them. They remind me that nature, too, is a heavenly realm. But there is also the beginning hint of loss here, something evanescent and fleeting. It is as if these trees, in their glow, are fading from the physical world, receding from us. It is a lovely, melancholy sort of transcendence.

Lines in this poem also suggest to me, at times, formless awareness:

and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.

Notice the intentional ambiguity of that final line break above. She could be saying that the ponds are now nameless, or that they are nameless Now, nameless Presence. Contemplating that double meaning can throw the mind into meditation.

She uses a similar line break immediately preceding that: “name is, is”. The break forces us unconsciously to think of how no matter what a place (or person) is named, it IS. It’s existence is undeniable, not somehow dependent on human definitions or categories or names. The line break tricks the mind into contemplating the relationship between pure being and our mental categorization of existence.

But the part of the poem that touches me most is the courageous willingness to embrace both connection and loss:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


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 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Jan 08 2021

Namdev – The drum with no drumhead beats

Published by under Poetry

The drum with no drumhead beats
by Namdev

English version by Nirmal Dass

The drum with no drumhead beats;
clouds thunder without the monsoon;
rain falls without clouds.
Can anyone guess this riddle?

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

The philosopher’s stone turns lead into gold;
costly rubies I string with my words and thoughts.
I discovered real love; doubts, fears have left me.
I found comfort in what my guru taught me.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water,
so Ram is the One in all.
The guru’s heart and the disciple’s heart are one.
Thus has the slave Namdeva perceived Truth.

— from Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth, Translated by Nirmal Dass


/ Image by Waywuwei /

Namdev starts this song with a riddle: a drum sound “with no drumhead”, and “thunder without the monsoon”… We have the reverberation, but without an initiating event. In deep meditation an inner sound is heard resonating everywhere. In various Indian traditions this primal sound is called shabd or omkara.

And his riddle also tells us that “rain falls without clouds.” The rain that falls is amrita, the bliss-filled drink of divine communion. This is an actual substance, though a subtle one. When the mind is entirely clear and purified (“without clouds”), this “rain” descends from the sky-bowl of the skull, touching the tongue with indescribable sweetness, warming the heart, and filling the awareness with a transcendent joy.

Try rereading the poem with that sense of inner meaning. Read slowly this time, savoring it, feeling what this ecstatic saint is really saying. “The drum with no drumhead beats…” Do you hear it quietly resonating within your own settling awareness? “Clouds thunder without the monsoon…”

Here are my favorite lines:

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

In this state of bliss and profound unity, we recognize that we ourselves, as individual beings, are a pure emptiness, without any substance of our own. Finally seeing this, we recognize ourselves as being of the same nature as the Divine Reality we witness — and that presence is vast, radiant, whole, and “beautiful.” It is beautiful, and we too are that beauty!

It is as if by touching something utterly whole and perfect, all of our imperfections and divisions are dispelled by that total vision.

The philosopher’s stone turns lead into gold

It is that contact that transmutes the “lead” of the fragmented ego identity into the “gold” of unbounded awakened awareness.

I discovered real love; doubts, fears have left me…

In such an immense ocean of “real love” and the wholeness of gnosis, one’s underlying existential doubts and fears dissolve.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water

This is a reference to popular yogic metaphor. The individual ego-self is like a leaky pitcher that requires constant refilling to keep even a small amount of water in it. The only way to fill it up is to toss it into the ocean. The pitcher is for the finally filled with water, surrounded by water. The separating walls of the ego become meaningless, since the water of that divine consciousness is both inside and outside with no difference… Suddenly we see a world of drowned pitchers, the same water filling and surrounding everything.

Ram is the One in all.

=

It is a new year, and that is always a time for hope, yet many problems remain unresolved, accompanied by much anger. It is easy to get caught up in the escalations of outrage. I am focusing my life to meet the uncertain road ahead with a combination of practicality, flexibility, and engaged love. Meditation and poetry are two excellent ways to continuously return to the heart that we may know the way forward.

Blessings to you all in the new year!


Recommended Books: Namdev

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Namdev, His Mind and Art: A linguistic Analysis of Namdev’s Poetry Hindi Padavali of Namdev


Namdev, Namdev poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Namdev

India (1270 – 1350) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
Sikh

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Dec 11 2020

Symeon the New Theologian – We awaken in Christ’s body

Published by under Poetry

We awaken in Christ’s body
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Stephen Mitchell

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

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


/ Image by rpphotos /

Since we are coming into the Christmas season, I thought I would take the opportunity to share one of my favorite poems by Symeon the New Theologian.

Symeon doesn’t urge us to merely honor or love the Beloved (Christ within the Christian tradition) from a distance. We melt into the Divine, become one with the Divine, share the same body.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

Some of these lines remind me of the poem attributed to Teresa of Avila, You Are Christ’s Hands with it’s lines– “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, / no hands but yours…”

This poem by Symeon is one I just want to drink in — it feels so deeply healing and generous to the soul.

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Thinking of Christmas, I have always felt a particular love for manger scenes, ceramic, porcelain, or carved wooden figurines of the Christ Child laid in a bed of straw, Mary knelt over her new child, Joseph with his lamp, the Three Magi holding their gifts, a shepherd with a few sheep, an ox and an ass at rest. Often the scene has a hut-like manger as background, the roof covered with moss — with the announcing angel and the Christmas star shining above. That iconic scene has always felt magical and alive to me, rich with unspoken meaning.

And it is. We can read the gospel stories of the birth of Christ as simply describing events, or we can read it more deeply as being imbued with spiritual meaning.

In the Nativity, we discover the pure spark of light that is the Christ child — also represented by the star — surrounded by the emptiness of the night. The Nativity is an image of light in the darkness. A small child, vulnerable, humble, poor, a tiny point of existence, surrounded by the immensity of the night… but with the promise that the light will increase until it floods the world with its light. (It is no accident that Christmas is set near the Winter Solstice, when the world is plunged in darkness and awaits the rebirth of the sun.)

Looking at Mary and Joseph, one way to understand Mary in the Nativity story is that she represents the heart or the soul, while Joseph represents the intellect. From this perspective, the gospel story of the virgin birth takes on ever deeper dimensions.

In the mystical tradition, the soul must first stop attempting to take false lovers through every outer experience, and yearn so deeply for the true Beloved within that she (the soul) becomes restored to her natural “untouched” state (Mary’s virginity). That is, the soul must become purified, inward focused, unattached, “untouched” by the experiences of the outer world. Mary’s virginity is a virginity of awareness.

When this happens deeply enough, the divine touch comes, and a new life (the Christ child in Christian tradition) is formed within the soul. The overwhelming sense of joy and spiritual bliss that is felt becomes a new presence in the body and mind.

But the father of this new life is not Joseph. The heart does not conceive by the intellect, but through direct communion with the Eternal. At this stage, the intellect has a choice: Retreat into cold denial, proclaiming, ‘I do not know that child’ and reject the heart and the life it carries; or it can recognize that something deeply sacred is taking place, something not of its own making, and then take responsibility and provide for the growth and maturation of that inner illumination.

In this way, the Christian gospel drama is played out in you and me and in all devout mystics. This isn’t something experienced only by Christians; here, we are simply using Christian language to describe a universal mystical experience…

In the traditional iconography, we see the infant Christ on a bed of straw in a manger surrounded by animals. In the gospel tale, two animals are mentioned specifically: an ox and an ass. Why those two animals? Esoteric Christian teachings sometimes explain it this way: the ox (an ancient symbol of Venus), represents sensuality and passion; the ass can be seen as embodying either the ego or reason. What are they doing in this image of divine birth? Notice that they are not suppressed; the ox and ass are not chained or slaughtered. No, they rest, they are at peace, tamed by the presence of spiritual light. More than that, they are actually protecting the infant, giving him their strength. As one 20th century Christian teacher phrased it, “They are warming the Christ child with their breath.” Viewed this way, the nativity gives us an image not of suppression, but of integration of the energies of life in support of the awakening soul.

There is, of course, much more to explore. The cave or manger of the birth. The three Magian wise men from the east. But I hope I have suggested some good ideas to contemplate and inspire a bit more spiritual connection this Christmas.

he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Wishing each and every one of you a beautiful Christmas, Hanukkah, and Solstice. May this time when the light renews itself amidst the darkness also bring a renewal of the light and life within you and everyone your life touches.


Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
More Books >>


Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian poetry, Christian poetry Symeon the New Theologian

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

« Prev - Next »