Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Dec 02 2015

Czeslaw Milosz – On Angels

Published by under Poetry

On Angels
by Czeslaw Milosz

All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe in you,
messengers.

There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.

Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.

They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.

The voice — no doubt it is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged (after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightening.

I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:

day draw near
another one
do what you can.

— from Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, Edited by Carolyn Forche


/ Image by pareeerica /

This poem raises some interesting questions about the “modern” worldview as it wrestles with angels, and spiritual realities in general.

In the opening verse, although Milosz asserts that he believes in the “messengers” or angels, it’s also speaks from a thoroughly modern viewpoint. First, he points out the process of demythologizing, the stripping away of tangibility from the notion of angels in modern consciousness: “All was taken away from you: white dresses, / wings, even existence.”

When Milosz proclaims “Yet I believe in you, messengers,” he knows he is making a bold statement. Because of modern sensibilities, it is assumed that one does not believe in angels, at least not publicly among intellectuals. What would have been, in past centuries, a bland statement of belief, reads as startlingly sincere, maybe even intentionally naive in a modern poem.

The following verse is clearly influenced by 20th century notions of psychology and contemporary self-awareness:

They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.

In the modern worldview, angels have been relegated to neurotic Freudian projections. Or, more generously, they might be thought of as universal Jungian archetypes. But they are no longer allowed to live and breathe outside the human psyche.

And the line–

weightless and winged (after all, why not?)

–that’s modern too. Questioning the literalness of wings on angels, playfully accepting the notion with the obvious assumption that most modern people would not. Even the parenthetic construction, the way it causes us as readers to stumble for a moment and pick our way through the line more carefully, that also reflects modern sensibility.

Yet, he offers us a subtler and, I think, more profound understanding of angels: not winged, robed titans of the sky and history who appear with trumpets blaring, but instead something ephemeral, delicate, all too easily missed. For him, they are the presence that rides in upon living moments and touch a hidden part of ourselves…

Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird…

Although Czeslaw Milosz is a modern poet writing for a modern audience, what isn’t modern is his internal quiet. The modern mind is too often caught in staccato details, yet gently filling this entire poem is a sense of rest, self-acceptance, wholeness, even timelessness. This poem quietly glows.

When we adopt Milosz’s stillness and learn to truly pay attention, we might just feel the brush of angel wings “in the smell of apples at close of day / when the light makes the orchards magic.”


Recommended Books: Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected Poems 1931 – 2001 The Collected Poems Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness To Begin Where I Am: The Selected Prose of Czeslaw Milosz A Treatise on Poetry
More Books >>


Czeslaw Milosz, Czeslaw Milosz poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Czeslaw Milosz

Poland (1911 – 2004) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Nov 25 2015

Han-shan (Cold Mountain) – Above Cold Mountain

Published by under Poetry

Above Cold Mountain the moon shines alone
by Han-shan (Cold Mountain)

English version by Red Pine

Above Cold Mountain the moon shines alone
in a clear sky it illuminates nothing at all
precious heavenly priceless jewel
buried in the skandhas submerged in the body

— from The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Translated by Red Pine


/ Image by Temporalvisions /

Something to celebrate this Thanksgiving full moon…

As a young man, Han-shan was apparently part of the privileged civil servant class, but he left his family and wealth at about age thirty to take up the life of a hermit poet, settling in a remote cave beneath a rocky overhang. It was from this natural retreat that Han-shan took his name, which means Cold Mountain or Cold Cliff.

Since Cold Mountain is Han-Shan’s name translated into English as well as the place where he lived, when he says “Above Cold Mountain the moon shines alone” it has a double meaning: He could be describing a moment in nature being observed, but he is also saying that the moon is shining above himself.

The moon, especially the full moon, has a specific metaphoric meaning in the sacred poetry of Asia. It is often used to represent the fully awakened awareness, Buddha-mind. So this poem can be read as a declaration of enlightenment. This is made doubly clear in the final lines where he says that this “heavenly… jewel” is “submerged in the body.” That is, his real subject is the “moon” of enlightenment found within.

To say that the moon “shines alone” might suggest the recognition that there is nothing other than that enlightenment. This is a nondualist statement, understood to be saying there is only Buddha-mind, only enlightenment, and nothing else truly exists.

I especially like the second line:

in a clear sky it illuminates nothing at all.

We might think of the sky is the mind, the canvas of awareness. When it is clear, the mind is free from thoughts, free from fluctuations and distracting movement. The mind is no longer agitated or trying to force reality into mental forms. Instead it finally sees reality unfiltered.

But, in that clear sky, the moon, the light of enlightenment, “illuminates nothing at all.” The moon that shines down on Han-Shan shines on nothing. In that moment of pure illumination, he recognizes the nonexistence of the objects of the mind. The only reality is the illumination itself. There is only the moon, quietly, blissfully shining…

He shifts the imagery and begins to use more technical language in the next two lines. The moon shining in the sky is now described as a “heavenly priceless jewel” that is hidden or buried in the body and something called the “skandhas.”

This might need a little extra explanation. The five skandhas, according to Buddhist thought, are the five aspects that make up a sentient being. They are material form, sensation, perception, mental tendencies, and cognition. While these allow for basic perception, understanding, and interaction with the world, they also limit the full and open awareness. They tend to reinforce the illusion of tangibility, a false idea of self, and they create attachment to an ephemeral and continuously changing phenomenal reality. All of this, in turn, leads to confusion and suffering.

But, here is their secret: Hidden within these problematic aspects of mundane consciousness is the glowing nugget, the heavenly jewel of radiant pure awareness.

Notice also the balance Han-shan gives us with these two images of enlightenment: On the one hand, enlightenment is like looking out at the full moon in the clear night sky — expansive, intangible, outward focused; on the other hand, it is discovering a jewel buried within the body and mind — contractive, internal, earthy. It is as if he has painted for us in words an image of Yin and Yang. Enlightenment is really the two recognized as one.


Recommended Books: Han-shan (Cold Mountain)

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry
More Books >>


Han-shan (Cold Mountain), Han-shan (Cold Mountain) poetry, Buddhist poetry Han-shan (Cold Mountain)

China (730? – 850?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan
Taoist

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Nov 15 2015

Sachal Sarmast – Friend, this is the only way

Published by under Poetry

Friend, this is the only way
by Sachal Sarmast

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Friend, this is the only way
to learn the secret way:

      Ignore the paths of others,
      even the saints’ steep trails.

            Don’t follow.
            Don’t journey at all.

Rip the veil from your face.

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


/ Image by TRAILSOURCE.COM /

I know the terrible bombings in Paris and Beirut are weighing heavily on all of our hearts right now.

Here is something I wrote in 2010 in response to another religiously motivated terrorist attack that killed several dozen people at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan. I thought it would be meaningful to share again at this moment.

Islamic extremists have certainly grabbed headlines in recent years, but the world also has its Christian extremists, Jewish extremists, Hindu extremists… as well as plenty of atheist and non-religious extremist groups. Extremism is not a problem of a particular religion; it is a disruption in the human psyche in general.

Religious extremism has very little to do with religion, if you think about it. It is partly a reflexive response to the intensely fragmenting nature of the modern world. And it is partly a reaction against unavoidable, sometimes unsettling encounters with different peoples and cultures and beliefs in our ever more integrated and multi-layered world. But mostly—mostly it is an act of desperation when the heart of true religion has been lost. People become violently obsessed with rules and traditions and texts only when they have lost the sense of what they really point to.

If you know where the Beloved lives, you are content, no need to argue with others over street names. Conflict only arises when you aren’t so certain you know the way; that’s when another person’s map threatens your certainty. Fundamentalism and extremism are an admission of that spiritual uncertainty. Absolutism is not an expression of faith; it is a symptom of the lack of faith. It is a symptom of the lack of true spiritual experience and knowledge.

The real long-term solution to the problem of violent religious extremism in the world is to reawaken that sweet, secret, sacred bliss within ourselves, to gently and generously share it with others, and to create environments nurturing to that continuing quest. The more we fill the world’s dry troughs with fresh water, the less likely it is that people will go insane with blind thirst.


Recommended Books: Sachal Sarmast

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Sachal Sarmast: Sindhi Poet Yaar di Gharoli / Kaafi – Sachal Sarmast: From Songs of the Mystics (mp3 song) The Story of Melting: Sachal Sarmast’s Persian Masnavi Gudaz-nama


Sachal Sarmast, Sachal Sarmast poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Sachal Sarmast

Pakistan/India (1739 – 1829) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Nov 11 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke – For your sake poets sequester themselves

Published by under Poetry

For your sake poets sequester themselves
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripening with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone…
And painters paint their pictures only
that the world, so transient as you made it,
can be given back to you,
to last forever.

All becomes eternal. See: In the Mona Lisa
some woman has long since ripened like wine,
and the enduring feminine is held there
through all the ages.

Those who create are like you.
They long for the eternal.
They say, Stone, be forever!
And that means: be yours.

And lovers also gather your inheritance.
They are the poets of one brief hour.
They kiss an expressionless mouth into a smile
as if creating it anew, more beautiful.

Awakening desire, they make a place
where pain can enter;
that’s how growing happens.
They bring suffering along with their laughter,
and longings that had slept and now awaken
to weep in a stranger’s arms.

They let the riddles pile up and then they die
the way animals die, without making sense of it.
But maybe in those who come after,
their green life will ripen;
it’s then that you will inherit the love
to which they gave themselves so blindly, as in a sleep.

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain’s higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

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


/ Image by Kathleen Maher /

I thought this poem by Rilke would be a good follow-up to Friday’s poem by Wendell Berry.

For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripening with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone…

Poets and painters, each in their way are devotees, hermits, bringing what is within to birth in the world, always seeking something of the Eternal.

Those who create are like you.
They long for the eternal.

Even artists who reject classic ideas of beauty, form, structure, or balance are still seeking to express something resonant, a deeper truth, a forgotten honesty, a new awareness. Art is always concerned with the eternal. It is a holy endeavor.

And Rilke says that lovers are themselves artists, passionate seekers, creators…

And lovers also gather your inheritance.
They are the poets of one brief hour…

It is as if the romantic lover catches a glimpse of the eternal in the smile of that cherished one. It is a fleeting sort of seeking, mixed with suffering, with unclear ends to the young lovers themselves, but with an evolving potential of new life and generationally expanding awareness.

But maybe in those who come after,
their green life will ripen…

Rilke seems to say that each work of art, each moment of uncovered beauty, is inherently a mystical act.

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.

The outer form and shape suggests something eternal and ideal behind it, yet, at the same time, is unable to contain it. The more we contemplate that elegant verse, that framed image, the blossoming smile on the lover’s mouth, we witness the luminous fulness that inspired it.

Just as a fountain’s higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

That transcendent ideal, uncontained by line or word, overflows and returns back to the Eternal. If we have learned to pay attention, we too can follow.

The Mona Lisa is not a portrait of a woman who lived and died centuries ago. It is the embodiment of something more lasting than the painting itself. When we truly look, the Mona Lisa’s smile whispers to us secrets of the Eternal.

All becomes eternal.


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

3 responses so far

Nov 06 2015

Video: Hafez, Tongue of the Hidden

Published by under Poetry,Videos

A truly stunning short film from Iran combining poetry of Hafez and animated Persian calligraphy. Watch and enjoy!

No responses yet

Nov 06 2015

Wendell Berry – How to Be a Poet

Published by under Poetry

How to Be a Poet
by Wendell Berry

(To remind myself)

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

— from Given: Poems, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by Louis Vest /

Surprising, but I only discovered this poem by Wendell Berry a few months ago. Oh, I like it, don’t you?

One doesn’t have to be a poet to carried away by it. In fact, it’s not really about writing poetry at all, is it? It’s really about how to perceive and how to inhabit each moment of each day. That is when the best poetry is born.

The first verse invites is to settle down. Reading those first few lines, I feel my own slightly aging bones settling awkwardly into a state of rest and stillness. And there is the slow interior work of reading, cultivating inspiration, the private work on the blank page. I love that he lists “growing older” as one of the necessary tasks of the poet. And patience–

for patience joins time
to eternity.

The second verse seems to be more about our relationship to place, both exterior and interior space. In recent years I haven’t done so well with avoiding electric wire and screens, but there was a time some years ago when I did just that, literally. It does shift one’s sense of reality and connection to the world. The transition feels stressful at first, and then, slowly, the world around us starts to take depth and life, becoming a slow-speaking friend in constant, quiet communication.

What are the ways we have been taught to sever that connection?

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

And he concludes with that wonderful meditation on silence. We think a poem is a collection of words, but the best poetry simply gives shape to silence.

Accept what comes from silence…

make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Have a beautiful weekend, remembering to breathe the unconditional breath!


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

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


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

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Wendell Berry

One response so far

Nov 04 2015

Imadeddin Nasimi – Both worlds within my compass come

Published by under Poetry

Both worlds within my compass come, but this world cannot compass me
by Imadeddin Nasimi

English version by P. Tempest

Both worlds within my compass come, but this world cannot compass me.
An omnipresent pearl I am and both worlds cannot compass me.

Because in me both earth and heaven and Creation’s “BE!” were found,
Be silent! For there is no commentary can encompass me.

Through doubt and surmise no one came to be a friend of God and Truth.
The man who honours God knows doubt and surmise cannot compass me.

Pay due regard to form, acknowledge content in the form, because
Body and soul I am, but soul and body cannot compass me.

I am both shell and pearl, the Doomsday scales, the bridge to Paradise.
With such a wealth of wares, this worldly counter cannot compass me.

I am “the hidden treasure” that is God. I am open eyes.
I am the jewel of the mine. No sea or mine can compass me.

Although I am the boundless sea, my name is Adam, I am man.
I am Mount Sinai and both worlds. This dwelling cannot compass me.

I am both soul and word as well. I am both world and epoch, too.
Mark this particular: this world and epoch cannot compass me.

I am the stars, the sky the angel, revelation come from God.
So hold your tongue and silent be! There is no tongue can compass me.

I am the atom, sun, four elements, five saints, dimensions six.
Go seek my attributes! But explanations cannot compass me.

I am the core and attribute, the flower, sugar and sweetmeat.
I am Assignment Night, the Eve. No tight-shut lips can compass me.

I am the burning bush. I am the rock that rose into the sky.
Observe this tongue of flame. There is no tongue of flame can compass me.

This selection reminds me of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

What a wonderful, swirling, kaleidoscopic sense of the self as being all things until it ultimately resolves into a vision of unified totality. Nasimi gathers everything into his sense of self until he is beyond definition, beyond form. For Nasimi, all things are recognized as being within until all descriptions fail:

Explanations cannot compass me.

In reality, we are all like that — too vast to be corralled into some safe, limited notion of what we are. Whatever we think we are, we are greater still. The limited mind cannot conceive of something so limitless as one’s full being. In our deepest self, we are too big to be a ‘thing’, too big to be anything. Instead, there is something of all things in us. Realizing this, we settle into a state of pure witnessing (“I am open eyes”), free from the faulty effort of endless self-definition.

Silent be! There is no tongue can compass me.

I’ll take some good advice and say no more…


Recommended Books: Imadeddin Nasimi

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey


Imadeddin Nasimi, Imadeddin Nasimi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Imadeddin Nasimi

Azerbaijan (1369? – 1418) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Oct 30 2015

John O’Donohue – In Praise of the Earth

Published by under Poetry

In Praise of the Earth
by John O’Donohue

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

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


/ Image by Katie Tegtmeyer /

There was a time when I lived on Maui, without much money but surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I stayed in a place half-way up Haleakala Volcano, at the edge of a eucalyptus forest. I fasted a lot in those days, and several times a week I would walk barefoot into the woods. Hidden among the trees was a small rock cave, just large enough for me to sit upright in meditation. To sit quietly in the cool, silent embrace of the Earth — a true blessing!

Though I now live in a small city, in a computer-powered world, I still carry that time with me in my heart. That memory continuously reminds me that, in spite of skyscrapers and the Internet, the world is not man-made. All the works of humanity are small accomplishments compared with the panoramic living miracle of the Earth.

The ground below us, sky above us, breath within us — all is the living Earth.

The Earth is the stage for our dramas.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And hold our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Not only could we not act without the Earth, we could not dream. The images, the objects, the colors that populate the human psyche, they are all of the Earth too. The Earth speaks to us, and gives us a vocabulary to speak back.

The Earth is the place of birth, the stuff of life, and rest in death.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

The Earth is our everything.

While we as individuals live out the span of years alotted to us, the Earth is the full embodiment, the whole multiplicity of Life.

The tangible hints at the intangible. Matter expresses spirit. Earth gives form to heaven. How can we not honor that form? It is sacred. And it is us. You and I emerge to incarnate that form. Our challenge is to awaken and incarnate the secret light it suggests.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Take some time today to sit on the Earth. Run your fingers through the grass. Feel the quiet strength filling your bones. Know you are home.

Have a beautiful day!


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

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Oct 28 2015

Ansari – Give Me

Published by under Poetry

Give Me
by Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

English version by Andrew Harvey

O Lord, give me a heart
I can pour out in thanksgiving.
Give me life
So I can spend it
Working for the salvation of the world.

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


/ Image by Cristian Bernal /

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people and communities affected by the recent earthquake in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. We have several people on this mailing list from those regions. I hope you and your loved ones are safe.

With the region strongly in my mind, I thought I would select a poem by Sheikh Ansari of Herat (in western Afghanistan).

There is something so simple and profound… and universal in this prayer-poem. These words were given to us by a devout Muslim Sufi, but they could as well have been spoken by a Hindu satyagrahi, a Catholic liberation theologian, a Buddhist peace worker, a Protestant homeless advocate, or any sincere soul striving to awaken the Divine within ourselves and our world.

Notice that Sheikh Ansari gives us two parallel statements, and they balance each other.

The first statement–

O Lord, give me a heart
I can pour out in thanksgiving.

–addresses our interior state. It is a prayer to be given a heart, or to recognize our heart, awakening it. It is a prayer of centering, of coming to know the center of one’s being… and allowing that self to flow.

That flow naturally expresses itself through gratitude, thanksgiving. The flow of the heart is a gift we pour out into the world. It is the offering of one’s self.

So, first he asks for self-recognition, centering, and a gratitude which can be shared with the world.

Next–

Give me life
So I can spend it
Working for the salvation of the world.

–the poet turns that awareness outward through action. He requests life, but not to bolster his ego or rack up good stories to tell; he asks for life that he may be of service.

Now, that phrase “working for the salvation of the world,” may make some of us cringe. The term “salvation” has been abducted by rigid religious literalists, equating salvation with subscribing to their specific belief systems. But, despite what is thundered from the pulpits and the minbars, salvation has little to do with belief or which group one joins. It is about healing, the easing of pain, the renewal of hope, and a deepening relationship with truth. On a social level, this is best expressed through selfless, nonjudgmental service. On the spiritual level, working for salvation is about humbly peeling away the obstructions that keep individuals and the world as a whole from recognizing their inherent beauty and heavenly potential.

On a certain level, service in the world is a sort of religious ritual, an outward enactment of an inner process. We may help one person or a hundred or a thousand, but suffering continues in the world. The numbers game leads to discouragement. But with each kind act, small or large, we give away a little more ego, we open our eyes a little more, we feel a little more connected, and more and more we come to discover that serene, heavenly Self at rest within.

Ansari seems to be saying to us, when we discover beauty within, it naturally flows out of us into the world. And when we pour ourselves out for the healing of the world, we find wholeness within.


Recommended Books: Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah the Book of Wisdom/Kwaja Abdullah Ansari Intimate Conversations Munajat: The Intimate Invocations
More Books >>


Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

Afghanistan (1006 – 1088) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Oct 23 2015

Book: A Moonlit Teahouse

A Moonlit Teahouse: Anthology of Sacred Poetry

A Moonlit Teahouse: Anthology of Sacred Poetry
Edited by silent lotus, Dick Holmes, et. al.

A Moonlit Teahouse is a delightful new anthology of sacred poetry by contemporary poets (including a few by yours truly).

I also wrote the introduction. “It is the job of theologians, philosophers, and scientists to precisely describe the human experience of reality. Most of us simply accept those definitions. A rare few catch the glow pouring through the cracks. We call these strange people visionaries, mystics… poets.”

This is not a Poetry Chaikhana publication, but it is published by a group of poets who connected through the Poetry Chaikhana, which makes me a proud grandfather of sorts. All sales of this book go to support the Ninash Foundation which does wonderful work promoting literacy among girls and minority children in rural India.

When you purchase a copy, your money will be a gift to others and the poetry will be a gift to yourself.

Read more at: amoonlitteahouse.wordpress.com/h0me/

No responses yet

Oct 21 2015

Ramakrishna – Is there anyone in the universe

Published by under Poetry

Is there anyone in the universe
by Ramakrishna

English version by Lex Hixon

Is there anyone in the universe,
among heavenly or earthly beings,
who can understand what Kali is?
The systems of all traditions
are powerless to describe Her.
Is Mother a feminine being
or greater than Being itself?

Chanting Her transforming Name —
OM KALI OM KALI OM KALI,
empowers Lord Shiva,
Who is transcendent Knowledge,
to drink the negativity of all beings,
turning His Throat dark blue.
Without Her protection
such poison would be deadly,
even to the highest Divinity.

More than Creator and creation,
Mother is sheer Creativity
beyond the notion of duality.
Universe and Father-God
are thrilling glances
from Her seductive Eyes.
Always pregnant with ecstasy,
She gives birth to manifest Being
from Her Womb of primal Awareness,
nursing it tenderly at Her Breast,
then playfully consumes Her Child.
The world dissolves instantly
upon touching Her white Teeth,
attaining the realization
of Her brilliant Voidness.

The various Divine Forms
that manifest throughout history
take refuge at Her Lotus Feet.
The Essence of Divinity,
the Great Ground of Being,
lies in ecstatic absorption
beneath Her red-soled Feet.

Is Mother simply a Goddess?
Does She need a male consort
to protect or complete Her?
The cycle of birth and death
bows reverently before Her.
Is She simply naked
or is She naked Truth?
No veil can conceal Her.
Her naked radiance slays demons
not with weapons but with splendor.

If Mother is a conventional wife,
why is She dancing fiercely
on the breast of Shiva?
Her timeless play destroys
conventions and conceptions.
She is primal purity,
Her ecstatic lovers are purity.
Purity merges into purity,
with no remainder.

I am totally inebriated
by Her wine of timeless bliss.
The wine cup is Her Name —
OM KALI OM KALI OM KALI.
Those drunk on ordinary wine
assume I am one of them.

Not everyone will encounter
the dazzling darkness
called Goddess Kali.
Not everyone can consciously receive
the infinite treasure of Her Nature.
The foolish mind refuses
to perceive and accept
that She alone exists.
Even the noble Lord Shiva,
most enlightened of beings,
can barely catch a glimpse
of Her flashing crimson Feet.

The wealth of world-emperors
and the richness of Paradise
are but abject poverty
to those who meditate on Her.
To swim in a single Glance
from Her three Cosmic Eyes
is to be immersed
in an ocean of ecstasy.

Not even Shiva, prince of yogis,
can focus upon Her dancing Feet
without falling into trance.
Yet the worthless lover
who sings this mad song
aspires to conscious union with Her
during waking, dream, and deep sleep.

— from Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna, by Lex Hixon


/ Image by Chobist /

This is the final day of the Hindu festival of Navaratri, the Nine Nights dedicated to the many aspects of the Mother Goddess. I thought it might be appropriate to honor the holiday by featuring a poem by the gentle saint Ramakrishna about the fierce Mother Goddess Kali.

In Hindu tradition and metaphysics, the Goddess represents many aspects of the Divine. The iconography we find in Hinduism gives us a fascinating kaleidoscope of meaning. The Goddess can represent Mother, the Great Source, the Void/Womb from which all are born, Manifestation, Creation, Vibration, Speech, Song, the Arts, Beauty, Darkness, Mystery, all of the World (and all its Illusions). But with birth, also comes death, with manifestation, also comes dissolution; anything with a beginning also has an end. Only the eternal is eternal. So the Goddess, Mother and Manifestor, is also sometimes portrayed as Destroyer. She is Life and Death both. She is the Power that brings all into being, animates and enlivens the universe, and also draws it back into non-being. But even in Her fiercest aspect, the Mother Goddess is loving. For Her, death is merely the death of illusion and the return to Self.

This poem — I call it a poem, but it is more of an ecstatic utterance by the great Ramakrishna — plays with a particular descriptive challenge in the representations of Kali. On the one hand, Kali is a Goddess, often paired with the God Shiva. A popular representation of the two is with Shiva lying prone on the ground, while Kali dances upon his breast, slaying demons. It can be a disturbing image to people not familiar with the iconography of Kali. But what is it saying, and how does it fit in with the philosophy of this gentle, greatly revered Hindu saint, Ramakrishna?

Hinduism often expresses the fundamental polarity of Male and Female in images of the divine couple, the God and Goddess paired together. Within this God-Goddess dichotomy, the masculine aspect of the Divine usually represents transcendent spirit, while the feminine expresses manifestation, power, and action. So prone Shiva, represents the transcendent, which is inactive, but which holds the divine potential. Kali dances upon his breast, representing that potential coming into manifestation. Through Her sheer power, Kali destroys the demons that represent illusion and disharmony.

But, just as this God-Goddess pairing represents different facets of the Divine, any God or Goddess can simultaneously be understood to embody the whole of the Divine. In this way, Kali can both be an aspect and also the Absolute.

And this is what Ramakrishna is teasing us with here. Is Kali the consort of Shiva? Is She the feminine aspect of God, or God entire?

Is Mother a feminine being
or greater than Being itself?…

Is Mother simply a Goddess?
Does She need a male consort
to protect or complete Her?

Even within Hinduism and its rich, varied depictions of the Feminine aspect of the Divine, there is still a tendency to elevate the Male forms, such as Shiva. Ramakrishna seems to delight in overturning convention. To him, one must simply follow the Mother and, as She reveals more and more of Her nature — her manifestation, her play of illusions and revelations — our vision of Her expands to encompass the All. To Ramakrishna, the Goddess is Mother and Consort, but She is equally the Totality itself. He taunts us to untangle that conundrum through our own direct perception.

Whether we are talking about Kali or Saraswati or Cerridwen, Mother Mary or Shekinah, let us not forget to honor the feminine in the Divine — and in our world, and in ourselves.


Recommended Books: Ramakrishna

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna The Condensed Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
More Books >>


Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Ramakrishna

India (1836 – 1886) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Oct 16 2015

Symeon the New Theologian – The Light of Your Way

Published by under Poetry

The Light of Your Way
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Holy are you, O Lord, holy, blessed and One.
Holy are you, and generous

for you have flooded my heart
      with the light of your way,

and you have raised up in me
      the Tree of Life.

You have shown me a new heaven
      upon the earth.
You have shown me a secret Garden,
      unseen within the seen.

Now am I joined soul and spirit
      present in your Presence —

your Presence that has waited long in me,
your Presence, the true Tree of Life,
      planted in whatever this earth is,
      planted in whatever it is that men are,
            planted, and rooted in the heart,

your Presence all at once revealing your Paradise
alive with every good green thing:
      grasses and trees and the fruiting bounty,
      a world of flowers!
            sweet-scented lilies!

Each little flower speaks a truth:
      humility and joy,
      peace, oh peace!
      kindness, compassion,
            the turning of the soul,

and the flood of tears
and the strange ecstasy
      of those bathed in your light.

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


/ Image by indojo /

Notice the imagery of light (a constant theme in Symeon’s poetry)–

for you have flooded my heart
      with the light of your way…

–and the Tree of Life–

and you have raised up in me
      the Tree of Life.

These lead us to recognize God’s Presence within:

Now am I joined soul and spirit
      present in your Presence —

your Presence that has waited long in me…

Knowing the sacred Presence, our blindness is removed and we finally see through the surface of things.

You have shown me a new heaven
      upon the earth.
You have shown me a secret Garden,
      unseen within the seen.

We discover the heaven that has always been hidden within the earth, shining beneath the gauze of the seen.

That leads to a startling realization: All of creation, the living earth itself, is a sacred, living garden, waiting for our eyes to open:

your Presence all at once revealing your Paradise
alive with every good green thing:
      grasses and trees and the fruiting bounty,
      a world of flowers!
            sweet-scented lilies!

People are always looking for their paradise somewhere else, somewhere “out there,” but it is always and ever right here, within, in the present moment, present in the Presence. The problem is in how we see the living planet and our own selves — or, rather, how we don’t see them.

your Presence, the true Tree of Life,
      planted in whatever this earth is,
      planted in whatever it is that men are,
            planted, and rooted in the heart…

The Tree of Life is the center of the Garden, yet it is rooted in the heart. When we finally see it within, we see it everywhere, for it fills our awareness. As we find our hearts and discover the real life within, then we naturally interact with each other and the planet in awe and reverence. And in this way we steadily reveal paradise to one another.

Each little flower speaks a truth:
      humility and joy,
      peace, oh peace!
      kindness, compassion,
            the turning of the soul,

and the flood of tears
and the strange ecstasy
      of those bathed in your light.


Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives Hymns of Divine Love: Songs of praise by one of the great mystics of all church history
More Books >>


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

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Oct 09 2015

Masahide – Barn’s burnt down

Published by under Poetry

Barn’s burnt down
by Masahide

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Barn’s burnt down —
now
I can see the moon.

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


/ Image by Alex37 /

I love this haiku. Using so few words, it still manages to say so much.

The moon, as I have pointed out before, is often used in Zen poetry to represent Buddha-mind, awakened awareness. The burnt barn can suggest worldly calamity and loss which can suddenly open us to the radical, serene truth that surrounds us everywhere. Or the barn can represent our own self-enclosing thoughts, “burned” down by spiritual practice and the ecstatic psychic spaciousness that can result.

So read that haiku again. Line-by-line:

The old structure, the barn has burnt down. It has collapsed, been cleared away.

Now. Now– The shock has brought us, stunned, into the present moment.

The psychic field cleared, finally we can see the luminous moon, the light of enlightenment.


Recommended Books: Masahide

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter Japanese Death Poems


Masahide

Japan (1657? – 1723) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Sep 30 2015

Akka Mahadevi – Like a silkworm weaving

Published by under Poetry

Like a silkworm weaving
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

Like a silkworm weaving
her house with love
from her marrow,
                  and dying
in her body’s threads
winding tight, round
and round,
                  I burn
desiring what the heart desires.

Cut through, O lord,
my heart’s greed,
and show me
your way out,

O lord white as jasmine.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by schmoo15 /

The Pope’s visit to the US. The terrible tragedy in Mecca recently. I’m not sure that my thoughts on these events have settled enough to comment on them. In the background we also had a celestial event of note…

Did you get a chance to watch the moon’s eclipse on Sunday? We had a stunning show where I live in Colorado, a massive orange moon climbing above the horizon at dusk, the first shadow appearing about 7:00 pm as the moon rose higher in the evening sky, and by 8:00 o’clock the full eclipse, then slowly the shadow passed into the night.

An eclipse is a powerful reminder to contemplate the shadows in life.

The thing about the dark parts of life and the dark parts of our own psyches is not so much that we are supposed to disown them or even transcend them. Often the real spiritual growth is when we recognize them and make room for them, finding ways to re-integrate them into a larger, more complete sense of self and world. But what does that really mean?

What we call the shadow is not necessarily harmful or destructive, it is simply what is hidden. It is what we have hidden from our own surface awareness. It is not something that is “bad” or “evil.” Most often what we have pushed into shadows is something painful, frightening. It only becomes destructive when we try to keep it chained in the shadow; then that imprisoned part of ourselves acts out violently, disrupting our polite, carefully crafted exteriors, demanding attention.

The eclipse invites us to really sit in the darkness and see what’s there. It is meant to be uncomfortable. We have the opportunity to become more comfortable with discomfort. We can learn to feel more of ourselves, we learn to recognize the lost, discarded, and scapegoated parts of ourselves. If we are wise, we stop exiling them into darkness and begin to listen to what they have to say, about ourselves, about our world, and it becomes possible to consciously craft healthier expressions of their energies. That all sounds very psychological, but there is an essential spiritual and energetic process occurring here as well: By reclaiming those condemned parts of ourselves, we become more complete, more aware of our whole Self, and our spiritual energies become more fully available to us, enabling more natural and spontaneous spiritual opening.

Despite the religious stories, true saints and sages are rarely brittle ideologues full of condemnation. It takes a nuanced sense of the complexity of the self and a compassionate awareness of the difficult, often traumatic experiences of human life, all integrated with a true artist’s skill — just to free up the spiritual energy necessary for deep spiritual awakening.

The lesson of the eclipse, the lesson of the eclipsed parts of ourselves, is to stop seeking artificial ideas of perfection through severance, but to seek wholeness through wise, compassionate, and careful integration.

Today’s poem by Akka Mahadevi is just haunting enough to contemplate in the aftermath of the eclipse.

Like a silkworm weaving
her house with love
from her marrow…

Akka Mahadevi’s silkworm weaving a cocoon becomes a striking, visceral image of the divine impulse to turn inward, creating an interior space from one’s love and the very marrow of one’s being.

But the process can feel claustrophobic, suffocating. There is inevitably an encounter with death:

…and dying
in her body’s threads
winding tight, round
and round,

Looking inward we come to a confrontation with ourselves, all of our being, the shadow as well as the light. It is painful, frightening. Seeing ourselves so nakedly, we often find our deep wells of shame and self-condemnation. Yet we can no longer turn away.

At this harsh moment, something must die for the silkworm’s transformation to proceed. The immature worm itself must die, the old, limited, divided sense of self realizes it cannot continue. The silkworm must summon every ounce of energy, available only from its whole, undivided self, if it wants to emerge and fly.

The spiritual path is not about navel gazing. It is life and death, and understanding the energies of each.

I burn
desiring what the heart desires.

Why does the rest of the poem shift and talk about desire and greed?

One way to understand the spiritual path is as a confrontation with addiction. Does that sound like a strange statement? Let’s consider the question for a moment…

Spiritual traditions all over the world speak of the problem of desire. I mean, where would institutional religion be without favorite words like “covet” and “lust”? But the real spiritual core of this teaching is not about sexual prudery, it is about the problem of allowing the awareness to become fixated on transient, outward, sensory-fed experiences that distract us from inner growth and wholeness. Another way of saying this is that the real problem is addiction.

Addiction, when we think about it, isn’t really about substance abuse, it is about attachment and the inability to let go. I would go even further and say that it is the unconscious belief that we somehow *are* the things and experiences we are attached to. We associate the feelings of that outer experience with life, but when that experience changes — as things have a tendency to do — we then react with terror and desperation because that feeling of life is about to change or diminish.

Overcoming addiction always, always demands a confrontation with death. It requires the painful recognition that whatever the experience, when it ends, we may experience terror, pain, or grief with shattering intensity… but what we really are continues, surprisingly alive and well.

Cut through, O lord,
my heart’s greed,
and show me
your way out…

The heart’s greed… The heart is the self, one’s center. During the most profound states of self-awareness, the sense of one’s full Self is felt to be without limit or location, but, shifted to the individual level, it is simultaneously felt to be majestically at rest within the center of the breast. This is why so much spiritual language refers to the heart as the spiritual center. And the heart is inherently complete.

When the heart becomes “greedy” and desires something outside of itself, we have falsely externalized ourself — and that is when attachment begins and we start to experience problems on a spiritual level. It isn’t so much that certain activities or desires are evil or unspiritual, it is that we are no longer centered in the true self, and we have become confused as to what that “self” actually is. The result is that we end up feeling fragmented and incomplete. In order to re-experience wholeness we try to regain self though the compulsive pursuit of outer experiences and sensations, but it never quite works because the real self is always found within.

Clearly, I am not talking only about narcotics, alcohol, or other substances we normally associate with the word “addiction.” Looked at this way, virtually anything can be — and often is — addictive. Anything that draws the awareness out from the heart and holds it while compelling action to perpetuate the outward focus can be called addiction.

One can even go so far as to say that the ego is a phenomenon of addiction. When we falsely perceive ourselves as our outer experiences, we find ourselves caught in the tides of compulsive actions and reactions, all serving to strengthen that exteriorized self.

But the more we re-integrate those enshadowed, exiled parts of ourselves with our conscious being, the more inherent fulness we feel, and the less vulnerable we are to such problematic patterns of “greed” and psychic addiction. This does not mean that one necessarily avoids pleasure or pain or any experience, just that one becomes more aware of their hooks, and then chooses healthier ones without clinging to them as they pass, while remaining more fully engaged with the heart’s upwelling joy.

Addiction, death, shadow… too much? Did I mention that the eclipse is also a good time to unleash your inner Goth? Black nail polish anyone?

I hope you have a beautiful day, and a rich night. Sending love.


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


Akka Mahadevi, Akka Mahadevi poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Akka Mahadevi

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Sep 23 2015

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – look at love

Published by under Poetry

look at love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Nader Khalili

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don’t get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

— from Rumi: Fountain of Fire, Translated by Nader Khalili


/ Image by Lenny Montana /

It is the equinox, when the length of day and night become equal, when summer gives way to fall (or winter to spring, for you southerners). It is a global transition point. A threshold. A time to release the old and welcome the new.

More than any other time of the year, we are reminded to stand centered on this very moment, neither leaning back nor tipping forward, and feel how memory reweaves itself into new possibility. It is during the equinox that a new dream is formed, a new vision of ourself, a new vision of the world. What new dream waits inside you?

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

As the equinox joins the past with the future, we have a greater opportunity to see how all things that seem separate, distant, in conflict are really a continual union.

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

Even life and death we imagine to be incompatible opposites, when the two flow naturally together, making them one.

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

It is this recognition of unity everywhere that makes the mystic’s journey possible.

the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

A journey within the known is no journey at all. But a journey entirely in the unknown leads to disorientation and confusion. A mystic learns to recognize that indistinct threshold, where the known and the unknown merge. We start from there, take attentive steps, and discover that the borderland moves with us into new territories. The meeting point becomes internalized until we recognize that every hill and hollow of the unknown is secretly bordering the known, allowing the mystic to continually reorient and journey on.

This teaches us two things: When we feel lost in the unknown, all we must do is stop, grow still, and see once again familiar territory nearby. The other lesson is that when we feel stuck in the known, we don’t need an elaborate escape to exotic corners of the world; wherever we are, we just need to take the unexpected step, and a new path opens up before us.

But no path leads from A to B. A path is not an inconvenient distance that allows us to escape from one place and rush to another. Every path is ultimately a reminder that A and B are joined. Properly understood, every journey recalls the awareness of union to the heart.

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be


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

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Sep 18 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke – As once the winged energy of delight

Published by under Poetry

As once the winged energy of delight
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Stephen Mitchell

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions… For the god
wants to know himself in you.

— from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by u07ch /

I get the sense that many people are dealing with intensities in their lives right now, difficulties and fears rising up. And in the headlines there is a heightened sense of tensions ready to snap.

I offer this poem by Rilke as a balm. He seems to be saying something about the power of intangible feeling, imagination, and hope as the surest way to navigate through life’s threats.

And something about the pure beauty of this poem heals as it awakens. Take a moment and reread the lines of this poem. Feel them as they settle upon your mind, line by line.

the winged energy of delight…
childhood’s dark abysses…
unimagined bridges…

Words written with such heart, words of deep kindness and empathy from a poet who witnessed the terrible traumas of the early 20th century. Words of a modern man who keenly felt the psychic schism of the modern era, and sought integration.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…

All leading us to that final line which sums up the real reason for the world and our journey through its dangers and delights:

For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Be kind to yourself and those around you this weekend — and have a beautiful day!


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

3 responses so far

Sep 15 2015

Layman P’ang – When the mind is at peace

Published by under Poetry

When the mind is at peace
by P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

English version by Stephen Mitchell

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

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


/ Image by makani5 /

When the mind is at peace
The world too is at peace.

This is such a lovely statement that seems to feed so naturally into a serene state, but it is also saying something very powerful that overturns our common assumptions.

Most often we imagine that if our lives and society and the world as a whole would just settle down, then perhaps we could experience peace. And so we turn all of our efforts outward, trying to force a sense of peace in the world. That doesn’t usually work so well, does it?

It can get to the point that turning inward, prayer, meditation can feel like a betrayal, as if we are abandoning the outer world to chaos, while we selfishly seek a separate sort of peace.

But the strange truth is that we don’t create a peaceful environment and then experience peace. The reality is the reverse. We discover peace within, and only then can we recognize it without. More surprising still is that we come to see that the “world” outside of ourselves is but a reflection of our own inner state. When we discover peace within, the world comes to rest as well. Does that mean problems in the world disappear? No. But we recognize the peace that underlies even those problems, and we begin to see new ways to coax that peace to the surface. At peace, in peace, we invite peace.

Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void…

Enlightened awareness is not a game of carefully constructed definitions. It is not a feat of the intellect, which tends to separate and categorize perceived reality. Even at its most subtle and incisive, when the intellect tries to separate the real from the non-real, it is setting up a filter upon the awareness.

When the mind is truly at peace, not only have thoughts come to a rest, but more importantly those unconscious mental filters no longer pre-sift the perception of reality.

The poet seems to be describing a trail for us to follow, a path found precisely where existence meets Nirvana, and we must gracefully walk between the two.

With no clinging to either “reality” or “void,” the whole and unfiltered vision comes upon us.

Engulfed by this truth, we are not “wise” or “holy” — those are further categories. No, we just are. We are not this or that, we are.

…an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

We no longer feel the need to do something to validate our existence; we undeniably are. No work remains to be done. One may still be active in the world, but there is no “work” behind it, simply the dance of stillness, presence, and flow. Observers may disagree, but you understand that all that seemed important about your identity has trickled away, and you have become unremarkable, purely as you are — an ordinary fellow, alive in this extraordinary world.


Recommended Books: P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Sayings of Layman P’ang: A Zen Classic


P'ang Yun (Layman P'ang), P'ang Yun (Layman P'ang) poetry, Buddhist poetry P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

China (740? – 808) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

« Prev - Next »