Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Oct 21 2016

Ivan M. Granger – Every Shaped Thing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Every Shaped Thing
by Ivan M. Granger

Sighing,
every shaped thing
turns
heavenward.

Your altar
cannot seat
the thousand thousand
idols.

Holding them,
what do you have?

Each gilded god
says:

“I am
impoverished
by the sun.

I can only
point
up.”

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


/ Image by maxpower /

it has been quite a while since I featured one of my own poems. This morning I heard this one running through my thoughts…

I wrote this poem when I lived on Maui years ago. I had just finished a meditation and stepped outside to gaze at the forest of eucalyptus trees. Slowly looking around, I saw how everything is reaching, turning, pointing heavenward. The material world, when objectified can become a confusing tangle of solidity, separation, and objects of desire, but in that moment, with my mind at rest and my eyes clear, the world danced before me, filled with a golden light. And I saw that while the world hides the Eternal, at the same time it ardently reveals it.

In that pure moment it was clear to me that everything is giddy with its own inner light. Consciously or unconsciously, everything is always orienting itself toward the light from which it draws its own life. All of creation — every person, every thing, even every idea, “every shaped thing” — is just a reflection of the divine radiance present everywhere.

That beauty, that luminosity is both the snare and the key for us as souls active within the material world.

Whenever we desire a thing… or person or experience, we artificially deify it. The desire and mental fixation becomes a form of worship. We may tell ourselves, “I want this, I want that,” but what we unknowingly crave is not the thing itself, it is that spark of the Eternal glimpsed within it. The desired object becomes a “gilded god” — false in the sense that it is not truly the wholeness we seek; but also, like an “idol” or icon, when approached sincerely and openly, it embodies something essential for us: it points to the Divine which it reflects.

The frustrating truth is that no individual can ever gather enough objects of desire to satisfy desire. Every time we acquire that desired object or experience — a new job, a new lover, money, an ice cream sundae — there is a fleeting sense of satisfaction… and then it is gone. Within minutes we are once again feeling desire and looking for the next object to hang that desire on. We’re looking for the next thing that sparkles. But it is not the object we actually seek, it is that shine. And that shine is the spark of the Divine.

When we learn to see in gold the glimmer of the sun, then we see that everything shines — everything! — ourselves included. It is not possessing that object or experience that we desire, it is that we ache to recognize and participate in that glow. And everything glows. Recognizing this is when the heart is truly satisfied and comes to rest.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
More Books >>


Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Oct 19 2016

Fakhruddin Iraqi – These perfumes

Published by under Poetry

These perfumes
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

These perfumes:
      musk, clove…
all from the hyacinthine shadows
      of those tresses.
You think you hear
      a nightingale’s song…
No. It is the voice
      of the Rose.

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


/ Image by Zwoing /

I wanted to bring you a hint of perfume today…

This brief poem has that delightfully ambiguous Sufi tendency of using erotic language when describing the heart’s yearning for the Eternal.

Iraqi starts with several sensuous evocations of perfume: musk, clove, hyacinth. Can you smell them?

Many mystics experience a scent that can be rapturously overwhelming or tantalizingly subtle. This blissful scent can also be understood as the perfume worn by the Beloved (“of those tresses”) that awakens sacred ardor upon the spiritual journey.

And, of course, perfume is scented oil, oil being the substance used to anoint and initiate.

To suggest the almost erotic sense of divine union, sometimes the earthier scent of musk is described. Musk is the aphrodisiac oil of the musk deer. Deer, being creatures of profound silence and shyness, are themselves symbols of the elusive Beloved.

The scent of flowers is often evoked, as well. Blossoms and flowers are natural symbols of enlightenment, the unfolding of awareness and the opening of the heart.

And, of course, the flower precedes the fruit, whose juice ultimately yields wine…

Iraqi then shifts from perfume to song. He speaks of the nightingale and the rose.

The nightingale is said to sing such an enchanting, mournful song because it is hopelessly in love with the rose. The rose is the Beloved, the Heart of hearts, and the nightingale is the lover, the seeker, the Sufi. So the nightingale’s song is the crying out of creation for the Beloved.

But here Iraqi turns the imagery around and asserts that what is heard is not the nightingale, but the “voice of the Rose.” He seems to be saying that when we call out to God, we are actually hearing God calling to us. Said in an even more all-encompassing way, all of creation is a part of God, and its every song, when heard with an open ear, is really the song of God to God. Every song is the voice of the Rose. Your own song is the Rose’s song within you.


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

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Oct 12 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke – I believe in all that has never yet been spoken

Published by under Poetry

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

— from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy


/ Image by Lel4nd /

What can I say to this poem — but Yes!

I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

May we all find the key that unlocks within ourselves creativity, capability, compassion…. that our lives may become a more perfect song to the Eternal.

May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back…

So what waits within you?


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

More poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

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Oct 07 2016

Lisel Mueller – Why I Need the Birds

Published by under Poetry

Why I Need the Birds
by Lisel Mueller

When I hear them call
in the morning, before
I am quite awake,
my bed is already traveling
the daily rainbow,
the arc toward evening;
and the birds, leading
their own discreet lives
of hunger and watchfulness,
are with me all the way,
always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.

By the time I arrive at evening,
they have just settled down to rest;
already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees;
and all of us together —
myself and the purple finches,
the rusty blackbirds,
the ruby cardinals,
and the white-throated sparrows
with their liquid voices —
ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.

— from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems, by Lisel Mueller


/ Image by MariaWillhelm /

This poem makes me think of my wife. She is always noticing the small encounters of the day and how they seem to draw our attention out of its patterns in order to whisper to us of what is coming up on our path.

…always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.

Birds are a particular favorite of hers. Their song, sometimes sharp, sometimes melodic, calls out for attention. With their gift of flight, the way they perch high on treetops and lampposts, they are messengers, watchers, sentinels. And among their own kind, they are gossips too.

My wife is always listening to what birds have to tell her.

Lisel Mueller’s poem especially evokes birdsong at those two liminal periods, dawn and dusk, when everything is changing, our reality is shifting, when the world is handed off between day and night.

There is a tree outside our bedroom window. When we leave the windows open, we can hear the birds’ first tentative calls in the gray light before dawn. But I especially like the communal, nestling chucks and soft chirps as they are settling themselves down among the branches in the early evening. At home within the descending dark, they become part of the fading branches and leaves until they are purely the voice of the slumbering tree itself–

already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees

And the world quietly turns, carrying us all. From their high place, the birds see the coming dawn first. They call out to it, and call out to us to wake and witness and celebrate with them.

.myself and the purple finches…

ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Lisel Mueller

Alive Together: New and Selected Poems Second Language: Poems The Need to Hold Still: Poems Dependencies: Poems


Lisel Mueller, Lisel Mueller poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Lisel Mueller

US & Germany (1924 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Lisel Mueller

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Oct 05 2016

Mary Oliver – Mysteries, Yes

Published by under Poetry

Mysteries, Yes
by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

— from Evidence: Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by OlivierAccart /

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

It is so easy to go about our lives and our world, relegating every encounter to the realm of the familiar. Everything can feel mundane, known, uninteresting. In our minds, we name each object or person or experience, we label and categorize, and so we move on, numb, thinking we know our lives. Yet, doing so, we have missed something essential.

Though we may have known a person for a lifetime, each new encounter, each new moment, is an entirely new world. A familiar walk presents itself anew to us each day. Every square foot of ground, each new breath, the passing moment itself is a universe of marvels just waiting for us to pay attention once again. The way to drop that inured exterior is to hush the jaded mind, to simplify the purposes of the heart, and to open the eyes.

That’s when we discover the mysteries once again.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Nice to have answers. They give us a sense of certainty, solid ground, landmarks.

But answers should be grasped loosely and occasionally allowed to slip away as we journey. Answers imply a certain vantage point. Every answer has a geometry to it. The individual stands at a point looking at some aspect of truth along a certain line of arc. Here’s the thing: As we journey and grow, we ourselves change, the landscape changes, the view changes. This doesn’t mean that the truth itself changes, but the angle has changed and perhaps the aspect of truth we are viewing has changed or expanded.

The old answer is not less true from the original point-of-view, but it no longer accommodates the new position and view.

This is why we should be cautious with people claiming THE answer. It implies stasis, rigidity. Such people are often stuck. Worse, their certainty is too often threatened by our movement and life.

Does this mean no answers? Of course not. But true answers, answers that hold up from many positions and angles, must necessarily be open-ended, adaptable, and inclusive. Real answers must welcome new questions. And, when they cannot adapt, they must allow themselves to fall away in favor of more complete representations of truth.

Of course, even the best “answer” is still but a description of truth, and not truth itself. When we want truth and not answers, we must go naked, free from artificial definitions, and encounter the entirety with mute astonishment.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

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


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

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Sep 30 2016

Hsu Yun – Heart of the Buddha

Published by under Poetry

Heart of the Buddha
by Hsu Yun

No need to chase back and forth like the waves.
The same water which ebbs is the same water that flows.
No point turning back to get water
When it’s flowing around you in all directions
The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world…
Where is there any difference?


/ Image by mckaysavage /

No need to chase back and forth like the waves.
The same water which ebbs is the same water that flows.

I love Hsu Yun’s realization here. It’s so… restful. No need to rush after this or that. No Herculean efforts required.

No point turning back to get water
When it’s flowing around you in all directions

All that is asked of us is to become quiet, still, and at last recognize the oceanic eternal principle that already flows around us and through us and fills everything.

The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world…
Where is there any difference?

All the world is already at rest in the heart of the Buddha. The only work is to see this.


Recommended Books: Hsu Yun

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


Hsu Yun, Hsu Yun poetry, Buddhist poetry Hsu Yun

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

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Sep 28 2016

Fakhruddin Iraqi – The world but seems to be

Published by under Poetry

The world but seems to be
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

The world but seems to be
      yet is nothing more
than a line drawn
      between light and shadow.
Decipher the message
      of this dream-script
and learn to distinguish time
      from Eternity.

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


/ Image by tanakawho /

There is actually quite a bit being said in this brief poem that gets into both the mystical experience of reality and also certain aspects of Muslim theology.

First, consider the picture Iraqi has drawn for us: We have light and shadow — together making a whole or a circle — and a line drawn between them. The line divides the circle, the wholeness, into two semi-circles with a black half and a white half. Those semi-circles each has the shape of a bow. Thus the light and shadow together, as a wholeness, form… two bows.

The image of two bows is important in Islam. In the Quran, the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven where he drew near to God, “two bows’ lengths away.” The significance of the distance of two bows has been endlessly debated and contemplated in the Muslim world. Why two bows’ lengths away from God? What does this mean?

In this poem, Iraqi expands on the mystical explanation given by the Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi that the two bows represent the two aspects of reality: light and shadow, the Bow of Necessary Being (light, that which is) and the Bow of Possible Existence (void, potential, that which may be). When these two “bows” are joined, reality is seen in its wholeness, and that is when one witnesses the face of God.

Isn’t that a wonderful way to understand this image?

Iraqi’s poem also suggests that the world itself is not a stable, fixed reality. “The world but seems to be…” It does not truly exist in its own sense. It is simply a meeting point between what has already come into being and what remains obscured in possibility, just as the present moment is the meeting point between the past and the future. But, when we steady the mind and expand our vision, we can truly discern that line of meeting — and then it no longer divides the two halves; it joins them. It is then that the whole vision comes upon us and we “learn to distinguish time [the separated pieces] / from Eternity [the wholeness].”

In the text of his “Divine Flashes,” Iraqi follows this poem with a note and another brief poem:

Break the code of this line and know beyond all doubt that

All is nothing,
      nothing.
All is He,
      all is HE.


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

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Sep 23 2016

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Only Breath

Published by under Poetry

Only Breath
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Image by FredG /

First, let me say how much I appreciate the warm response to my message on Wednesday. I have already received several donations, which are a huge help in covering my expenses necessary to keep the Poetry Chaikhana running smoothly, especially through this bumpy period when my personal income is down due to illness. More support is needed, but we have a good start. Thank you to everyone!

Also, thank you for the many kind notes wishing me renewed health, often with good suggestions and advice. In the last 24 hours I have finally begun to feel some noticeable improvement, a trend that I hope to nurture and continue. So much adventure and drama to be had without even having to step out the front door… 🙂

=

Now, on to today’s poem.

I was surprised to realize that I have never featured this poem by Rumi on the Poetry Chaikhana, especially given how well known and loved it is. Actually, I did feature this poem years ago, but in a different, less known translation by Bernard Lewis.

This morning I read the two versions side-by-side, the one above by Coleman Barks, and the version below by Lewis. It occurred to me that this might a good opportunity to invite some discussion about the nature of poetry and translation.

Here is the Lewis translation of the poem. Take a moment to read it, while the Barks version is fresh in your mind, and think about the differences, why they are different, how those differences affect our reading of the poem…

What can I do, Muslims? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Magian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being.
I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan.
I am not from the world, not from beyond,
not from heaven and not from hell.
I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.
I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one.
One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call.
He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner.
Beyond “He” and “He is” I know no other.
I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me.
I have no concern but carouse and rapture.
If one day in my life I spend a moment without you
from that hour and that time I would repent my life.
If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you
I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever.
O Sun of Tabriz, I am so tipsy here in this world,
I have no tale to tell but tipsiness and rapture.

(version by Bernard Lewis)

So, what do you think? Do you prefer one version over the other?

The Barks version is much leaner. It’s easier on the eyes, especially when grouped together into couplets with line breaks. The language arguably flows a bit more easily. But the biggest difference to me is that Barks is obviously taking huge liberties with the language, trimming out entire phrases and ideas, while significantly reformulating others.

The Lewis version is generally using modern English, as well, but my impression is that he is sticking much closer to a literal translation of Rumi’s original. He doesn’t do as much to try to replicate the poetic flow that the original undoubtedly has, but the more literal the translation, the more difficult it becomes to also reproduce rhythm and rhyme. Still, there are some juicy bits that Lewis manages to keep which I miss in the Barks translation.

There are always imperfect compromises in translation, especially so in poetry:

– How literally should the poem be translated?

– Should it be so literal that the poetry is lost?

– When the original poem has meter and rhyme or alliteration, as most classic poetry does, should the translation attempt to reproduce it or create a new pattern suggestive of the original or completely abandon meter and rhyme?

– How free should the translator be with introducing line breaks to make the poem flow more naturally to the modern eye or to emphasize specific words and ideas?

– What should the translator do when even a strictly literal translation looses the poem’s inner meaning? Metaphor and word play are culturally specific. A word-for-word translation often doesn’t carry the same meaning in another culture or time. How much liberty should the translator take in order to convey the intended meaning by introducing new phrases and metaphors?

– At what point does a translation become so loose that it is more the work of the translator than the original poet?

– Barks or Lewis? (Or both?)

I have my own answers to these questions, but I am particularly interested in your thoughts. Post a comment on the blog or send me an email. These are issues I find myself weighing in my work with the Poetry Chaikhana. What do you think?

=

Once again, thank you for all of the heartfelt messages you have been sending me lately. I’m sending all of you love in return.

And… Have a beautiful day!

Ivan


Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

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


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

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

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Sep 12 2016

Mary Oliver – The Journey

Published by under Poetry

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

— from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by along mekong /

Saturday was Mary Oliver’s birthday. I posted this poem on the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page and people really responded to it. I thought I should share it with the wider Poetry Chaikhana email list today.

I hope this inspires some courage for the journey — your own journey.

(And Happy Birthday, Mary Oliver. Thank you for all of your wonderful, quietly transformative poetry through the years.)


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

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


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

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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One response so far

Sep 09 2016

Sri Chinmoy – The Absolute

Published by under Poetry

The Absolute
by Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose)

No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought;
The final end of Nature’s dance,
I am it whom I have sought.

A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate;
Beyond both knower and known;
A rest immense I enjoy at last;
I face the One alone.

I have crossed the secret ways of life,
I have become the Goal.
The Truth immutable is revealed;
I am the way, the God Soul.

My spirit aware of all the heights,
I am mute in the core of the Sun.
I barter nothing with time and deeds;
My cosmic play is done.

— from My Flute, by Sri Chinmoy


/ Image by MaximeDaviron /

For today, a meditation on the Absolute.

I won’t say much about this poem because, when contemplating the Absolute, the fewer words the better. But I will just say that these few rhyming verses say a lot. Worth reading a few times… and then falling silent.


Recommended Books: Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose)

My Flute


Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose), Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose) poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose)

India / Bangladesh / US (1931 – 2007) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

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Sep 02 2016

Rasakhan – Enchanted

Published by under Poetry

Enchanted
by Rasakhan

English version by Shyamdas

I put my fingers in my ears
      to block the sound
            whenever Krishna gently plays His flute!

Declares Raskhan,
      “It happens when enchanter Mohan
            climbs to the rooftop
                  to call His cows.

“I issue a warning to all the people of Braja.
      Tomorrow, I will not be able to console them.

“O, friend! Having glimpsed His smile,
      I cannot…
            I cannot…
                  I will not
                        control my love.”

— from Treasure House of Love: Poems of Rasakhan, Translated by Shyamdas


/ Image by vishalmisra /

Krishna is often depicted standing in a relaxed posture holding a flute to his lips. Think of Krishna as the pied piper of India, but it is lost souls he calls to himself.

I put my fingers in my ears
      to block the sound
            whenever Krishna gently plays His flute!

When you think about it, this opening line can be read in two different ways. On the surface, Rasakhan (speaking as Radha, the cowherd girl who loves Krishna) seems to be petulantly blocking out the music of Krishna’s flute, not wanting to come when called. Of course, even this implies that the Lord’s music is so enchanting that the only way not to be drawn by it is to try to block it out. This hints that we are already hooked by the call of God, that union is inevitable, and we can only temporarily put it off.

But there is another, esoteric way to read this, as well. The flute of Krishna is the quiet tone heard deep within the base of the skull when we sit in silent, devoted meditation and prayer. It is this whisper in the inner ear that draws us to deepest union with the Eternal. So, understood this way, Rasakhan could actually be describing a yogic technique of blocking out sound and quieting the external senses in order to better hear Krishna’s call within.

Declares Raskhan,
      “It happens when enchanter Mohan
            climbs to the rooftop
                  to call His cows.

We hear the flute when Mohan, another name for Krishna, climbs to the rooftop. Again, in the language of yoga, this can be understood as a reference to the skull in general or, more specifically, the crown chakra.

“O, friend! Having glimpsed His smile,
      I cannot…
            I cannot…
                  I will not
                        control my love.”

I love those lines! That’s the passion felt by a true lover of God! “I cannot… I cannot… I will not control my love.”


Recommended Books: Rasakhan

Treasure House of Love: Poems of Rasakhan


Rasakhan

India (1534? – 1619?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
Muslim / Sufi

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Aug 29 2016

John O’Donohue – For a New Beginning

Published by under Poetry

For a New Beginning
by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue


/ Image by Shermeee /

I haven’t been doing many Monday poems recently, but since I didn’t send one out on Friday, I decided to start the week off with a poem…

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening

Isn’t this a wonderful blessing of hope and new pathways?

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

I like that this poem is kind to the phases of our lives when we feel stuck or reluctant to change and explore. Yet, at the same time, it recognizes that the safety of familiar routine can be a seductive illusion.

When I was young I actively undermined any routines I found in myself, convinced that they led to a sort of psychic numbness and lack of deep fulfillment. I think there was truth in that perspective, but there was also self-cruelty in that approach that led to instability. Once I came to see that, I worked very hard, sometimes painfully, at the cultivation of routine, and began to find unexpected life nourishment there. The crucial element, I think, is that those routines should be consciously selected rather than imposed on us by societal expectation or unexamined habit.

And we can’t fall into the seductive idea that we are those routines or that our happiness depends on them. Routine creates essential structure, but endless stasis is death. Life and growth require change. Regular encounters with the new and the unknown reinvigorate the soul.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk

New avenues can sometimes be frightening, occasionally bringing genuine peril, so one shouldn’t be brash or blind to the situation. But a certain boldness is natural to our nature when we come to know ourselves. We need awareness, dynamism, creativity, a diversity of life skills — all wrapped in a vital joy. Then even the perils themselves serve to accentuate the magic and wonder of each stage of the journey.

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Sending love, courage, and new rhythms…


Recommended Books: John O’Donohue

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong Conamara Blues Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom Echoes of Memory
More Books >>


John O'Donohue, John O'Donohue poetry, Christian poetry John O’Donohue

Ireland (1956 – 2008) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Secular or Eclectic

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Aug 24 2016

Yoka Genkaku – There is the leisurely one

Published by under Poetry

[1] The re is the leisurely one (from The Shodoka)
by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

English version by Robert Aitken

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.


/ Image by ahermin /

It’s a sleepy morning here, overcast after many long days of summer heat and sun. And this poem appealed to me. It suggests to me the drowsy way of enlightenment.

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.

Not through effort, but through quiet being and quietly seeing.

Not trying to control the mind or force silence or a specific way of seeing. Simply observing. The movement of the world, the movement of thoughts, they come, they go. Watching these flickering phenomena though drowsy eyes, they tell us more about the spacious depths than their jostling surfaces. We yawn behind a hand as we watch the show.

An enlightenment for sleepy mornings.

The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.

To clarify what is meant here by “ignorance” and the “delusory body” it may be helpful to mentally substitute the concept of Maya, which is the world of seeming and illusion. It is the world of apparent thingness and separation, when underlying it is the real world of unity and interbeing. Our ideas about the world, confused as they usually are by the illusions of Maya, lead us into a state of ignorance as to the true nature of reality. But as we quiet and honestly see, then that ignorance itself is seen not so much as a barrier to truth but an invitation to look deeper. Ignorance is itself of the Buddha-nature.

Likewise, all of our ideas about who we are within a separate physical body amidst a world of separated bodies, that “delusory” point-of-view surprisingly relaxes into the recognition that there is only the presence of Dharma, the outpouring “way” of the Eternal.

=

A confession: I sat down this morning thinking I would pick a short poem and not try to add many of my own words by way of commentary. I feel like I’ve been a bit long-winded lately. And here I am writing another longish commentary. Someday soon I may recover the virtue of succinctness. But not today, apparently.


Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

Buddhism and Zen


Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

China (665 – 713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan
Taoist

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Aug 22 2016

Video: Ducks in Search of the Moon – Ekphrastic Haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock

Published by under Poetry,Videos

A reading of ekphrastic haiku in both Irish and English by Gabriel Rosenstock. “Ekphrastic” poetry is poetry inspired by art. Each haiku is accompanied by a painting that inspired it.

These will make you pause and think… and chuckle, some of them.

Ducks in Search of the Moon from Jim Swift on Vimeo.

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Aug 19 2016

Mansur al-Hallaj – Kill me, my faithful friends

Published by under Poetry

Kill me, my faithful friends
by Mansur al-Hallaj

English version by Andrew Harvey

Kill me, my faithful friends,
For in my being killed is my life.

Love is that you remain standing
In front of your Beloved
When you are stripped of all your attributes;
Then His attributes become your qualities.

Between me and You, there is only me.
Take away the me, so only You remain.

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


/ Image by detail24 /

Nothing like a death wish in the opening lines of a poem to startle us to attention–

At first reading, this poem by Hallaj is really rather disturbing. Why is he begging his “faithful friends” to kill him? Even the language of being “stripped” has an element of violence to it. Yet, with all of that, why does the poem seem to emanate such bliss?

When Hallaj asks to be killed, he follows by saying that “in my being killed is my life.” He is not talking about physical death, he is talking about the mystic’s death, the death of the ego-self, ecstatic annihilation in God. And in that annihilation, true life is found. This is what he implores his faithful friends to grant him.

Such a radical loss of the ego is like standing naked, “stripped of all your attributes” before God, the Beloved. When that occurs, we recognize the divine qualities are actually our own qualities and have been all along.

Hallaj’s final lines are especially rich in meaning. When there is “me and You,” that is, a sense of duality or separation between you and God, “there is only me.” The ego-self, the “me,” shades all perception so everything, even the idea of God, only reflects the ego back to itself.

This is why we must “take away the me.” When we do that, when we drop the ego-sense, then no “me” remains and the Divine is found to be present everywhere.


Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
More Books >>


Mansur al- Hallaj

Iran/Persia (9th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Aug 17 2016

Vidyapati – All my inhibition left me in a flash

Published by under Poetry

All my inhibition left me in a flash
by Vidyapati

English version by Azfar Hussain

All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me of my clothes,
But his body became my new dress.
Like a bee hovering on a lotus leaf
He was there in my night, on me!

True, the god of love never hesitates!
He is free and determined like a bird
Winging toward the clouds it loves.
Yet I remember the mad tricks he played,
My heart restlessly burning with desire
Was yet filled with fear!


/ Image by http://vishnu108.deviantart.com/ /

I’m back. I took time last week to make some good progress on the next Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I’ll let you know as it is closer to being ready for publication. Soon!

=

All my inhibition left me in a flash…

Whew! Don’t these verses raise a little color to your cheeks?

This excerpt is such a beautiful example of how the soul, the individual self can yearn for God with such a passion that it can be described in erotic terms. Much like Jayadeva’s sacred-erotic classic Gitagovinda, Vidyapati also sings of the passionate love between Radha and Krishna.

The speaker here is Radha, recalling her love-play with Krishna. Radha represents the individual soul who has fallen in love with God, Krishna. It is her intense love that draws Krishna to her. This “burning” desire purifies the soul, elevating it into a finer and more subtle state, becoming like the heavenly “cloud” that draws the divine “bird.”

The soul is “restless” with desire for union with the Divine, but also “filled with fear” — for union means we lose ourself and become God’s own.

I especially like the first few lines, the way Vidyapati plays with double meanings. Radha breathlessly says “…he robbed me of my clothes,” while the soul is saying that God removed all superficial identity. Just as we cover the nakedness of our bodies with clothes, we also try to hide our natural state in order to present a socially acceptable facade. We craft a whole new identity with the clothing we wear. The way a person dresses tells us his or her work, wealth, age, social connections, etc. But they are not who we truly are. Our vestments become masks reflecting the ego. In divine union, we are not the business executive, the struggling artist, the son of so-and-so, the wife, the mother, the spiritual seeker. No, divine union makes us naked; we are simply as we are. We can bring nothing but our bare selves to that sacred meeting.

But in this naked state, we are surprised — stunned — by our very wholeness. We suddenly recognize that we have been using the clothing of ego to hide from a false sense of shame. We have spent our entire lives feeling somehow broken, incomplete, disappointed. We’ve labored under the false notion that there was something wrong with being who we were, so we cover our true nature with social roles, with accomplishments, trying to so impress people (mostly ourselves) hoping that no notice will be taken of who we really are underneath all those layers. But when we truly get naked, when we finally strip down and see ourselves as we are, we are transfixed by a vision of wholeness and immensity and joy. Though no rational explanation can be offered, this vision of reality is recognized as our true nature, our true Self. This is how Radha, the soul, can truthfully proclaim in ecstasy that “his body became my new dress.” In divine union, the identity shifts from the ego to the vast Being we call God. That is the only real identity.

“He was there in my night, on me!” In truth, “he” has claimed us in all ways. And, in the resulting joy, all inhibition — that is, all false shame and fear — leaves “in a flash.”

Still feeling that flush? You should! That flush is the flush of life, the flush of life force, the flush of anticipated union…


Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali


Vidyapati, Vidyapati poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Vidyapati

India (1340? – 1430) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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Aug 05 2016

Dame Catherine Gascoigne – One thing alone I crave

Published by under Poetry

One thing alone I crave / Unum sit mihi totum
by Dame Catherine Gascoigne

English version by Stanbrook Abbey


One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

This One
I seek
the only One
do I desire

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

This is the very One
I seek
will have
only then
be filled

Unless I drink
this Spring
I thirst
for nowhere else sup I to be fulfilled

What or Who this One is
I may not say
can never feel
Nothing
more or less
is there to say

For the One is not simply in all
the One Being is over all

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

* Reprinted by permission, Copyright Stanbrook Abbey 1999


/ Image by NotBalckEnough /

Such striking, evocative phrases of the mystic’s quest for the unified One…

One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

… and …

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

I particularly like the lines:

What or Who this One is
I may not say
can never feel
Nothing
more or less
is there to say

For the One is not simply in all
the One Being is over all

This touches on a dilemma mystics all over the world encounter. Why is it that Dame Catherine asserts that, “Nothing more or less is there to say”? The problem is that there is no language for the all-encompassing Reality (“the One”) encountered by mystics.

The reasoning mind understands reality by dissecting it. The intellect slices reality into manageable pieces that it can comprehend and manipulate. We use a limited language to describe a limited, fragmented notion of reality. But the Divine Presence witnessed by mystics in deep communion is the Wholeness of reality.

But the One permeates everything and has no boundaries. “For the One is not simply in all / the One Being is over all.” How then can the poor intellect hope to describe that which is “All in everything”?

This doesn’t mean the intellect can’t try, by resorting to metaphor (and poetry), but the communication of this divine Truth ultimately comes not through words but through participation. We silently take people by the hand and lead them to the fountain, inviting them to drink for themselves.

And, another secret– the encounter with the Divine is inexplicably linked with the discovery of one’s true self…

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

Dame Catherine Gascoigne, Dame Catherine Gascoigne poetry, Christian poetry Dame Catherine Gascoigne

England (1600 – 1676) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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