Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Mar 13 2015

Wendell Berry – The Real Work

Published by under Poetry

The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

— from Standing by Words: Essays, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by myINQI /

Ooh, I just like this, don’t you? As I get older and encounter more of the world and more of myself, I grow increasingly wary of answers. It’s the questions that awaken the soul.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Berry is reminding us that struggle and confusion — and wonder! — are signs that we are on a good path, that we are paying attention, that we are still seeking and discovering, that we are alive. The scariest people are those who’ve grown tired of questions and so brutalize the world with simple answers.

Okay, a poetic confession: This was not originally a poem in verse. I did a bit of research and found that this is actually an excerpt from one of Wendell Berry’s essays that someone later versified. It’s been circulating as a poem ever since. I guess you can’t trap a good poet in prose for long. My apologies to the poetry purists out there.

Now, let’s discover a new path through this magical, unknown day…


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Selected Poems of Wendell Berry Given: Poems 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

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Mar 10 2015

Ko Un – A Smile

Published by under Poetry

A Smile
by Ko Un

English version by Brother Anthony of Taize

Shakyamuni held up a lotus
so Kashyapa smiled.
Not at all.
The lotus smiled
so Kashyapa smiled.

Nowhere was Shakyamuni!

— from What?: 108 Zen Poems, by Ko Un


/ Image by GaryKo /

This poem recalls for us a famous story about the Buddha’s “Flower Sermon.” The Buddha (sometimes referred to by his clan name “Shakyamuni”) gave a sermon in which all he did was to hold up a lotus flower. All of the Buddha’s disciples were confused, except for his disciple Kashyapa, who smiled in understanding and enlightenment.

But, no, Ko Un says that’s not how it happened. “Not at all.” Here’s what really happened: The lotus smiled, so Kashyapa smiled back. The Buddha, being utterly free from the limits of self and identity, was not there at all.

The other disciples saw a man holding up a flower. Only Kashyapa saw an open field of spaciousness upholding the glow of enlightenment. And the enlightenment within himself reached out in self-recognition.

Instead of grasping at nowhere present Buddhas, like clutching at the continuously flowing river, perhaps we can, like Kashyapa, recognize the smile in all things until we feel it reflected back from within ourselves. Then, who knows, maybe we cease to be there too and, instead, we are wherever the smile goes.


Recommended Books: Ko Un

What?: 108 Zen Poems Ten Thousand Lives The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems Little Pilgrim: A Novel Flowers of a Moment


Ko Un, Ko Un poetry, Buddhist poetry Ko Un

Korea (1933 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Mar 04 2015

R. S. Thomas – Via Negativa

Published by under Poetry

Via Negativa
by R. S. Thomas

Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection.

— from Through Corridors of Light: Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness, Edited by John Andrew Denny


/ Image by tanakawho /

This is a haunting poem, yet lovely and uplifting at the same time. God is a kind of a ghost in this poem, a tangible absence.

…God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within…

And that is really the poet’s point. So often we struggle to imagine what God is, the qualities and awareness associated with that immense… Something. But this poem is a meditation on the Via Negativa, that is, the recognition that the Eternal is not a “thing” at all. Every definition or description or quality we attach to the Divine is necessarily a limitation on the Divine Nature and, therefore, incomplete. To turn God into an object that can be described is to make God a subset of Existence, when the Eternal is the Whole of Existence and beyond. The idea behind the Via Negativa is that God cannot be adequately conceptualized by the limited human intellect with attributes of a limited physical reality, and so God is best discovered through negation. In other words, God is all-encompassing, and therefore perceived as a sort of vibrant Absence, a sort of haunting Presence within the empty spaces of our perception…

…He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow…

That ache we universally feel, that absence can feel to the soul like an existential betrayal inherent within reality. Most of us reflexively turn from that feeling and run from it, endlessly distracting our awareness so we don’t feel it so painfully. But, ultimately, that’s not very effective, and it is never satisfying.

We put our hands in
[the empty space that is the wound in Christ’s] side hoping to find
It warm.”

Mystics encourage us to look deeper, to sit with that ache, to embrace it. Eventually we discover to our surprise that that terrible void is, in truth, filled with immense life and bliss, and that our very being flows from its spacious no-thing-ness. This is the truth of the Via Negativa.

==

Apologies about the unexpected hiatus in the poem emails. I have been recovering from an injury. Those of you who have been receiving the Poetry Chaikhana emails for a while may remember that several years ago I broke my ribs in a martial arts class. (One reader quipped that I should be “more artsy, less martial.”) Well, a couple of weeks ago I reinjured my ribs. Nothing martial about it this time, however. I was playing with my dog, chasing him among some trees, when I took a bad step and tripped, falling hard on my side. I am fine, and the worst of the discomfort has passed, though I still notice it when I turn or bend at certain angles. The price paid for inhabiting an active body in a bumpy world.

Sending love to everyone! Take care.


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

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Feb 18 2015

Paramahansa Yogananda – Samadhi

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Samadhi
by Paramahansa Yogananda

Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turiya sleep,
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without willful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond the limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.
All space like an iceberg floats within my mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon the vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Lift aright.
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

— from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramahansa Yogananda


/ Image by spisharam /

Yesterday was Mahashivaratri for Hindus, “the great night of Shiva,” a time to celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the balanced union of Male and Female within the universe. This is a time of year considered auspicious to elevate and focus one’s spiritual practice. It is fitting then that, for Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, the time of prayer, penance, and purification in preparation for Easter.

I thought this poem on the rarified state of samadhi by Paramahansa Yogananda might be a good choice for today…

Something of my journey from childhood through adolescence: My early fascination with comic book superheroes was transformed in 1977 into an obsession with all things Star Wars. Jedi, lightsabers, the Force, Yoda. There was a unifying thread in these stories of mystic warriors, heroic figures with supernatural abilities standing up to protect the vulnerable. These heroes, by the very nature of their unique abilities and view of reality, were necessarily outsiders.

To a painfully shy young boy, these were powerful archetypes that leapt and fought and strutted through my youthful fantasies.

With the 80s and early adolescence came Dungeons & Dragons. (I know, I was a nerd.) I could imagine in ever more detail that I was a knight or a wizard. I quickly noticed something… as cool as swords were, the role I really wanted to play over and over again was the wizard. I mean, knights were just muscular guys wielding stylized meat cleavers, but wizards, well, wizards had mastered and transcended the very nature of reality itself. Wizards were the real superheroes.

But D&D was ultimately frustrating. Those long afternoons spent with friends rolling dice and casting imaginary spells in made up worlds began to feel as if, on some deep level, I was giving up on reality. I didn’t want to play at being a wizard; I wanted to be a wizard.

That’s when, at age 13, I discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda. These were wild, mind-blowing stories of sorcery and alternate realities in the Sonoran desert. For the next several years I carried a beat up Castaneda paperback with me everywhere I went, reading and rereading those bizarre adventures. I so wanted to break into that world where I imagined that wizardry might just be real.

Those stories awakened a fierce determination within me to seek living truths behind what most people assumed to be immutable reality. They gave me permission to be odd, that is, wholly myself, and to see the world through my own eyes.

But– I finally came to the conclusion that those shadowy tales of desert sorcery were unbalancing. The philosophy was stark, at times cold-hearted. The universe of this semi-fictional reality was described in predatory terms, in which Indian sorcerers and astral beings preyed on one another while seeking greater power. To the uncritical glance of a 13 year old, that world was magical, dangerous, fascinating; but to a 17 year old stumbling his way into adulthood, it became a dead end.

It was at this time, in my late teens, when I first read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. With it’s adventure, philosophy, descriptions of mystical states, respect for the universality of all religions… and its compassionate outlook, that book reopened my spiritual horizon. It restored my breath to me when so much seemed stripped of purpose. It gave me the courage to hold a gentle heart, and begin to imagine a viable and inclusive path of spirit.

Yogananda’s Autobiography was also my first introduction to the yogic term ‘samadhi’ — the mystic’s total blissful absorption in the Divine.

Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.

‘Samadhi’ is one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s most loved poems describing the ecstatic, elevated spiritual state. There is so much to say here, but I think I’ll step back and let Yogananda’s words ring in the silence.

Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.

A poem is built of rhythm and words upon a foundation of breath. And breath guides the awareness. A poem like this can lead the reader into lands of sacred experience…

Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.

Those moments of pure insight, the recognition of one’s true being as it expands and melts into the vastness of Being, and discovering how that realization can be poured out into the mind of the world, that’s real wizardry. Striving for that truth, discovering it, sharing it with a desperately thirsty world, that’s real heroism.


Recommended Books: Paramahansa Yogananda

Whispers from Eternity Autobiography of a Yogi The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained


Paramahansa Yogananda, Paramahansa Yogananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Paramahansa Yogananda

India (1893 – 1952) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Paramahansa Yogananda

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Feb 13 2015

Jayadeva – When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)

Published by under Poetry

When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)
by Jayadeva

English version by Barbara Stoler Miller

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love
And beautiful cowherd girls wildly
Wind him in their bodies.
Friend, in spring young Hari plays
Like erotic mood incarnate.

— from Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller


/ Image by secret79998 /

Saturday is Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers. But, you know, there is more than one way to be a lover.

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love…

This excerpt from Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda strikes a surprisingly erotic note. Is it “spiritual” at all? Is it really just love poetry? The answer is that it is both.

The Gitagovinda is quite passionately erotic, but it is also considered a highly spiritual work, sung daily in many Indian temples dedicated to Krishna.

For many in the Krishna bhakti tradition, the Gitagovinda is read with a reverence similar to the Song of Songs in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Through song, it tells of the love play, separation, and union between Krishna (Hari) and the cowherdess Radha.

On an esoteric level, Radha is understood to be the individual soul that feels abandoned by God (Krishna/Hari) who, in turn, loves all souls (and is therefore accused of infidelity by Radha). But Radha finally overcomes her hurt and rejoins her lover in passionate union.

Using the hugely magnetic power of desire, this bhakti classic describes a pathway to return to Oneness with the Divine.

As a result, we can read this work as both an earthy, erotically charged song of love, and just as honestly it speaks deep truths about the journey of the soul through longing and integration to union and enlightenment. And it reminds us of the importance of intense passion, that it is meant to be fuel for awakening.

Whether or not your Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, I hope you find time for a passionate tryst with the Eternal! It can be your secret.


Recommended Books: Jayadeva

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda


Jayadeva, Jayadeva poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Jayadeva

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
Sikh

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Feb 11 2015

Hakim Sanai – Streaming

Published by under Poetry

Streaming
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Coleman Barks

When the path ignites a soul,
there’s no remaining in place.

The foot touches ground,
but not for long.

The way where love tells its secret
stays always in motion,
and there is no you there, and no reason.

The rider urges his horse to gallop,
and so doing, throws himself
under the flying hooves.

In love-unity there’s no old or new.
Everything is nothing.
God alone is.

For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.

Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.

But cloud-water can be obscuring,
as well as useful.

There is an affection that covers the glory,
rather than dissolving into it.

It’s a subtle difference,
like the change in Persian
from the word “friendship”
to the word “work.”

That happens with just a dot
above or below the third letter.

There is a seeing of the beauty
of union that doesn’t actively work
for the inner conversation.

Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there’s no more mention
of the search.

Being famous, or being a disgrace,
who’s ahead or behind, these considerations
are rocks and clogged places
that slow you. Be as naked as a wheat grain
out of its husk and sleek as Adam.

Don’t ask for anything other
than the presence.

Don’t speak of a “you”
apart from That.

A full container cannot be more full.
Be whole, and nothing.

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


/ Image by morrbyte /

What a wonderful poem on the spiritual path.

For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.

Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.

There is so much to contemplate in this poem, but one of my favorite verses is: “The rider urges his horse to gallop, / and so doing, throws himself / under the flying hooves.”

That’s a striking image, but disturbing. What does Sanai mean by this?

The horse we ride might be understood as our love for the Divine. Urging that horse to a gallop is to raise that love to a high passion through spiritual practice. The “self” that we must throw under the “flying hooves” of divine love is the nafs, the ego-self that misperceives reality by slices it up and sorting the pieces into likes and dislikes, proclaiming, “I like this, this is mine. I dislike that, that has nothing to do with me.”

When that petty self is courageously thrown beneath the driving of divine love, we are surprised to find that our true Self lives. That self is actually the one riding the horse, it is the horse, it is the path the horse streams along. That greater self is not separate from anything; it is a part of the Divine Beloved. This is what Sanai refers to when, at the end he tells us, “Don’t speak of a ‘you’ / apart from That.”

Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there’s no more mention
of the search.


Recommended Books: Hakim Sanai

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


Hakim Sanai

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

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Feb 08 2015

Video: Ivan M. Granger – Nonduality & Sacred Poetry pt 2

Part 2 of my conversation with Jerry Katz on sacred poetry and nonduality. Tasty stuff!

Nonduality Talk Radio – Host Jerry Katz in conversation with Ivan M. Granger, founder of Poetry Chaikhana (www.poetry-chaikhana.com) and author of The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World.
– Part 2: The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey. Sacred poetry lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Poetry as the natural language of mystic insight. Poems by: Gabriel Rosenstock, Elizabeth Reninger, Lalla, and Ivan M. Granger.

Originally aired 1/7/2015
http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

More about Ivan M. Granger and Poetry Chaikhana:
http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

…Part 1 http://youtu.be/z0-2WzycE2o includes a discussion of what defines “sacred poetry.” The alchemical nature of poetry. Metaphor as the language of sacred poetry. Poetry selections by Mahmud Shabistari (Persia, 14th century) and Kobayashi Issa (Japan, 19th century), with an exploration of the insight they can evoke in us.

…Part 2:

00:00 – 7:01 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed. His haiku read and contemplated. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey. Mysticism as “the science of longing.”

7:01 – 13:28 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath. Assent and ascent.

13:28 – 14:20 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

14:20 – 18:17 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Two types of longing: Longing that pulls us out of ourselves, and longing that “leads you right into your own feet.”

18:17 – 21:15 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

21:15 – 28:33 Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Poetry as the natural language of mystic insight.

28:33 – 30:05 Closing words and music.

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Feb 05 2015

Video: Gabriel Rosenstock – Haiku, Art, and Wonder

An excellent discussion by Gabriel Rosenstock on how haiku helps to tame that monkey mind and opens us to wonder of life… all in Irish (with English subtitles).

Oh, and we get paper airplanes delivering kamikaze poetry too!

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Feb 04 2015

Shiwu (Stonehouse) – To glorify the Way what should people turn to

Published by under Poetry

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
by Shiwu (Stonehouse)

English version by Red Pine

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
to words and deeds that agree
but oceans of greed never fill up
and sprouts of delusion keep growing
a plum tree in bloom purifies a recluse
a patch of potatoes cheers a lone monk
but those who follow rules in their huts
never see the Way or get past the mountain

— from The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit, Translated by Red Pine


/ Image by JeanFrancois /

I had to read this poem a few times and let it grow in my mind before I finally recognized just how much I actually liked it. If you didn’t have a strong reaction to this poem, try reading it again, savoring and contemplating the lines, and see if it grows on you…

To glorify the Way what should people turn to
to words and deeds that agree
but oceans of greed never fill up
and sprouts of delusion keep growing

These opening lines touch on one of the great challenges of the spiritual path: We all hunger for something… or many things — experiences, accomplishments, loves, money, stuff… Pursuing a certain amount of these aspects of life is normal, perhaps even healthy, but at some point the pursuit of these desires becomes a compulsion that distracts us from the deeper, more important goals of life. When do we have enough of those experiences and things we crave that we give ourselves to simply open? When are we satisfied?

There’s the rub! They aren’t satisfying, not in any lasting way. A great life goal is met, and a day, week, a month later, there is something new we hunger for. Ultimately, these sorts of psychological hungers are never fed through acquisition or experience. Craving is self-perpetuating and never satisfied though the experiences we feed it.

This discussion of hunger and greed inspires me to go off on a tangent… When I am out shopping at the supermarket, sometimes I will turn down the cereal aisle just to stare agog at the row upon row of brightly colored boxes of sugary cereals we market to our children. I can’t imagine eating a single bite of that stuff without shuddering at the intense sugar they contain. Yet, when I was a child, I was obsessed with sugary cereals. Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Crispies. (I know.) To keep my voracious hunger for sugar in check, my mother had a rule that I could only eat one bowl of cereal a day. I clearly remember one afternoon, when I was perhaps eight, desperately trying to convince my mother that she should let me eat all the sugary cereal I wanted. I reasoned that I would eat so much that I would get sick and never want to eat it again. My supremely reasonable logic of addiction did not move my mother, for which I am now thankful. She well knew that, to a child fixated on sugar, “oceans of greed never fill up.”

Whether we’re talking about addictive patterns or general desires in life, at some point we have to recognize that real fulfillment does not come in that way. We decide the amount of energy that is appropriate to the pursuit of surface goals and satisfactions, and beyond that we begin to learn new ways of inhabiting reality that awaken real fulfillment–

a plum tree in bloom purifies a recluse
a patch of potatoes cheers a lone monk

But, to make sure we haven’t missed the point, Stonehouse gives us one final twist:

but those who follow rules in their huts
never see the Way or get past the mountain

What is important is not that we construct the “right” rules for ourselves and then follow them perfectly. Guiding our behavior through rules and rituals may be helpful at certain stages of our growth, but simply adhering to rules alone cannot lead to either fulfillment or enlightenment. What is truly necessary is that we come to rest in the present moment, that we become present with awareness. The truly necessary element is ourselves. That is when a plum tree in bloom or a patch of potatoes reveals to us the full and blissful reality that is alive all around us.

Have a beautiful day. (And watch out for brightly colored boxes of sugary cereals.)


Recommended Books: Shiwu (Stonehouse)

The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit


Shiwu (Stonehouse)

China (1272 – 1352) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Feb 03 2015

Video: Ivan M. Granger – Nonduality & Sacred Poetry pt 1

The video version of my recent interview on Nonduality Talk Radio. I hope you enjoy it!

Nonduality Talk Radio – Host Jerry Katz in conversation with Ivan M. Granger, founder of Poetry Chaikhana (www.poetry-chaikhana.com) and author of The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World.

Part 1 topics: Is all poetry sacred poetry? The alchemical nature of poetry. Metaphor as the language of sacred poetry. Poetry selections by Mahmud Shabistari (Persia, 14th century) and Kobayashi Issa (Japan, 19th century), with an exploration of the insight they can evoke in us.

Originally aired 1/7/2015
http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

More about Ivan M. Granger and Poetry Chaikhana:
http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 12:33 What is sacred poetry?

12:33 – 16:52 Ivan reads a poem by Shabistari and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku by Issa.

…Part 2 includes a discussion of the importance of sacred poetry during periods of religious conflict, along with several poems by modern poet-mystics.

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Feb 01 2015

Collage: The Sum of Perfection

SumofPerfection_sm

I was going through some old files on my computer, and I found this art project I worked on several years ago. I thought I’d share it with you…

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Jan 23 2015

Robinson Jeffers – Carmel Point

Published by under Poetry

Carmel Point
by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses–
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads–
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. –As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.


/ Image by LilyFlowerr /

This poem by Robinson Jeffers has always affected me on several levels. First, the poet paints for us a serene, one might say timeless, image of the cliffs overlooking Carmel Point: fields and rock outcrops, a few horses and cows. But then time, and humanity, do begin to impose themselves in the form of houses whose presence “deface” the perfect scene.

Then an insight: The land in its pristine beauty will last; the intruding houses will not.

“…It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve…”

This could be a disturbing thought, the fleeting nature of human presence; but, no,observing the world through the poet’s eyes, it is an immense relief! Because the natural world possesses a patience beyond the time frames understood by humans, that natural harmony waits and rests, safe from the unthinking disruptions of people.

(A corollary: If we want the products human activity and culture to last longer, then they must be in harmony with the larger reality of the natural world that is always, unavoidably their underlying foundation.)

…Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff…

The lesson for us? We are passing phenomena upon an immense canvas of interbeing. Far better to dwell in that larger reality, that patient and lasting reality. But to do so we must take a heroic step outside of ourselves and our obsessive self-fixation as humans and, instead, see the larger community of being we inhabit. That’s when we can see the world around us clearly and be at home.

–As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

A good day for a leisurely walk… Who knows what patient marvels await recognition right beneath our feet?


Recommended Books: Robinson Jeffers

The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers Cawdor and Medea Excesses of God: Robinson Jeffers As a Religious Figure The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers: Vol. 3, 1939-1962


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Jan 21 2015

Emily Dickinson – Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church

Published by under Poetry

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

— from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson


/ Image by doug88888 /

Here Emily Dickinson seems to suggest that true worship occurs at home — or within oneself — rather than in the public domain of church. She celebrates a worship that is simple, essential, direct.

For her, trees form the roof of her church (“an Orchard, for a Dome”). The living world near-at-hand is her place of worship. Local songbirds form her choir. It is in her solitary moments and her private communions with nearby nature that Dickinson encounters the sacred.

She finds within this interior world that God preaches to her directly — “a noted Clergyman” indeed!

I especially love the closing lines:

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

The journey to heaven has become a part of her, it fills her entire world. It is not relegated to the future, after death or at some end time, but a continuous unfolding in the present.


Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich
More Books >>


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Christian : Protestant

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Jan 16 2015

Jiddu Krishnamurti – I have no name

Published by under Poetry

I have no name (from The Song of Life)
by Jiddu Krishnamurti

I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

— from From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables, by J. Krishnamurti


/ Image by blue-a /

I have no name…
I have no shelter…

Whoever this “I” is that is speaking, is formless, fluid, impossible to define.

I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains…
I am as the wandering waters…

Very quickly Krishnamurti contrasts this “I” against the trappings of religion:

I have no sacred books…
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars…

It seems obvious that the speaker is God or, perhaps, one’s own true Being. Krishnamurti is reminding us God in the truest sense is the living, flowing, unbound Reality that underpins all existence. When the deep mystic has a direct experience of the Divine, religion, in its superficial aspects, crumbles. The reality of God is far too immense to be contained in our ideas of God. Our ceremonies and writings about God at best can point us in the right direction, but they cannot contain or absolutely define the Reality they describe any more than a printed map of a country can actually contain the living reality of that nation.

Does that sound impious? Well, let’s be bold and explore a few steps further…

I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies…

I don’t read this as a condemnation of religion or belief; rather, it is telling us something about the greater Reality.

I understand it this way: A great soul comes along, someone with keen eyes and a pure heart. Through this individual the human consciousness has opened itself to Great Reality that we may call God. Compassionate, and a member of the human community, he or she naturally seeks to communicate what has been witnessed in ways that may be understood that the experience of truth may spread.

But there is an unavoidable dilemma here: Even the most honest, heartful, and pure description of reality falls short of the actual experience, always. To make it even more problematic, we humans have a very bad habit of confusing our descriptions of reality for the reality itself. We confuse our thoughts about reality for actuality. We confuse other people’s descriptions of reality for reality. Far too easily, we mistake religion for God. In its best expressions, religion may be profound, deeply meaningful, inspiring, and, hopefully, enlightening — but what we call God is a fluid, living Reality that is much too big to be contained by any one religion or philosophy, or even all of them together.

There’s another element to this dynamic that I think is worth mentioning as it relates to religious extremism. Those of us who believe that sincere religion and spirituality must incorporate an open mind, a compassionate heart, and a willingness to be of service in the world, we naturally see religious extremism in all its forms as a terrible corruption. I certainly have my moments when I am deeply offended by the cruelties and foolish beliefs of people who call themselves religious. So many people thump their Bible/Quran/Torah/Gita and shout “God!” yet, clearly, they have only a thin and strangled relationship with the great living Reality that is God. But here’s the thing: No matter how tortured and twisted their ideas about God may be, the basic nature of God remains untainted. We can only corrupt our ideas about God, not the reality that is God. Human ideas about God may blossom or collapse within culture, but even when large portions of the population succumb to very limited and cold ideas about God, the living, shining Reality remains, ready to be discovered anew — and communicated anew — by sincere souls.

I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Jiddu Krishnamurti

From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables


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Jan 14 2015

Yamei – Swallowing the open field

Published by under Poetry

Swallowing
by Yamei

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Swallowing
the open field —
pheasant’s cry

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


/ Image by TheLizardQueen /

I’ll say it now, this poem by Yamei is one of my favorite examples of haiku.

I lived for several years in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. It’s a largely rural island, and I lived “upcountry” where you’ll find lots of hilly fields and cow pastures. I’d drive my car through the winding country roads of Maui, and every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a burst of color — a pheasant startled from its hiding place. It’s ascent was always full of effort, churning earthen wings pushing its sunburst bright head aloft. But then, landing a few yards away, its dignity restored, breast out, watchful eye upon the yellowing sea of grass, the pheasant left no doubt as to who ruled that quiet field. One shrill cry confirmed it.

This haiku reminds me of those island moments.

And something about the way Yamei describes the cry as “swallowing” the field. You can almost hear the sharp sound hanging over the field’s dewy silence, defining the space. It is a wild cry, an assertion of self, an assertion of being and improbable lordship, Whitman’s “barbaric yawp.” It’s as if the pheasant’s cry casts out a net that draws in its whole world, making it his, making it a part of himself. That call creates union.

That pheasant’s call, it wants to burst from your breast too. Let it loose. See what it draws into you.


Recommended Books: Yamei

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics


Yamei

Japan (1662? – 1713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 09 2015

Juan Ramon Jimenez – Oceans

Published by under Poetry

Oceans
by Juan Ramon Jimenez

English version by Robert Bly

      I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                        And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

      –Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

— from News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, Edited by Robert Bly


/ Image by inottawa /

I was introduced to this poem several years ago, and its words are still with me.

The poem is haunting, isn’t it? It speaks to us of depths and a hidden “great thing.”

This is the encounter with the great Mystery. And the truth is that every moment we stand at that threshold. At the beginning of the New Year, more than at any other time of year, we are aware of the threshold of time. The past is laid out behind us, and the future stretches out before us, and here we each stand, eager yet hesitant to take the next step. For here, in this fragile forward tilting moment is an invitation into new territory full of surprising possibilities, beauty, and danger too. Who knows what the next moment truly holds? Every step is a step into mystery. We are everywhere surrounded by depths of being, eager to swallow up our surface perception of reality.

It’s terrifying! And exhilarating. And that is the state of being alive. Certainty and comfort have no part in this equation. Our thoughts about thoughts are a thin sort of armor.

The most momentous encounter with mystery is mute. Silent. As if nothing happens. Or…

Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?


Recommended Books: Juan Ramon Jimenez

The Winged Energy of Delight News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Invisible Reality Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography
More Books >>


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Jan 08 2015

Interview on Nonduality Talk Radio

I recently spoke with Jerry Katz of Nonduality Talk Radio about sacred poetry, The Longing in Between, and the relationship between poetry, language, and nondual awareness. I read a few poems, of course, and share my thoughts on the alchemical nature of sacred poetry, and also explain my personal approach as to why I comment on sacred poetry in the unusual ways that I do. The interview officially aired on January 7.

You can listen to the full one hour interview online at:

http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 16:52 What is sacred poetry? Ivan reads a poem and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku.

30:24 – 38:03 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed and his haiku read and discussed. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey.

38:03 – 44:45 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath.

44:45 – 45:40 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

45:40 – 49:42 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Longing recognizing itself.

49:42 – 52:41 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

52:41 – Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Closing words and music.

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