Apr 19 2019

endurance

Don’t rush.
The spiritual path is an endurance sport.

No responses yet

Apr 17 2019

Ivan M. Granger – in love with the new sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

in love with the new sun
by Ivan M. Granger

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

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


/ Image by A-Daly /

I wrote this poem several years ago in my Maui days, on a spring morning after emerging from a meditation. It was a time of opening for me, a time of surprising bliss, a time of settling into myself. I had gone through such terrible internal struggles up to that point, but what had kept be balanced and focused through it all had been my fierce determination to seek meaning and insight, a sense of a greater love and truth. And then one day, whoosh!, it was like I had come through the storm and found myself at rest in a wide peaceful sea.

That struggle I went through to get there, it wasn’t even that I thought it had been “worth it;” it was is if even the struggle itself had been subsumed by that expansive bliss until it no longer existed, except as a story I had told myself.

I had the image of spring after a hard winter. Bright, blossoming with new life. And I wrote this haiku.


in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

A few years back I was contacted by a young woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to use this haiku in a tattoo she planned to get. I was flattered and surprised. I mean, to have these words, which popped into my mind in a moment of inspiration, tattooed onto your body, to carry them with you for the rest of your days, that is humbling indeed. More than that, it was a responsibility after the fact. I really had to sit with the haiku for a bit and decide if I thought it was worthy of such an honor.

In her email, she said that the poem spoke to her, that the cherry blossoms suggested to her that, because life is short, you need to live to the fullest and seize opportunities, and that any difficulties or sorrows are temporary. She mentioned that she had been through many hardships in her life but that she recognized the importance of not holding grudges or dwelling in the past “because every day is special… like cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time.” Clearly a wise woman, wisdom that has been hard-earned.

I gladly gave her my permission to use the poem in her tattoo. But I still had a bit of a dilemma: With this haiku being utilized in such a special way, I wanted to ask for a photograph, but, you know, I wasn’t sure exactly where the tattoo would be placed on her body. I tried to find the most diplomatic language possible to ask for a photo “if appropriate.” A few weeks later she sent back a snapshot of the lines of the haiku tattooed in an elegant script running along her lower ribs on one side

(Whew.)

Have a beautiful day! Don’t forget to feel the new sun on your face.

=

First PS– Notre Dame
We are all stunned and shocked by the burning of Notre Dame in Paris. This is more than the destruction of a great landmark. Whether or not one is a Catholic or a Christian, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the great sacred spots on the planet. Notre Dame, of course, means Our Lady, a reference to Mother Mary. Notre Dame is a focal point for the Divine Feminine. What aspect of the Divine Mother is in flames? The natural world? The treatment of women in culture? Nurturing and compassion in society? But I also find myself asking, How does fire change from destruction to renewal?

PPS– Rabbits!
Yesterday my wife and I were surprised to see a rabbit sitting on our front lawn. We occasionally see rabbits on our walks, but this rabbit seemed contentedly camped out right in front of our house. Then we saw a second rabbit, and eventually a third. As we watched them, we noticed they were scurrying in and out from under our front porch. One rabbit in particular would pop out, grab several fallen pine needles and other leaves, then dart back under the porch. We think they are building a new warren under there. We’ve been blessed by a family of rabbits just a few days before Easter.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
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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Apr 17 2019

sapling

Seeking sunlight the sapling
reaches out for that golden touch.
In time the tree
becomes the pathway of its own seeking.

No responses yet

Apr 11 2019

Goethe – Something Like the Sun

Published by under Poetry

Something Like the Sun
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

English version by John White

The eye must be something like the sun,
Otherwise no sunlight could be seen;
God’s own power must be inside us,
How else could Godly things delight us?

— from Art & Wonder: An Illustrated Anthology of Visionary Poetry, Edited by Kate Farrell


/ Image by CasheeFoo /

We might react to a casual reading of this selection by Goethe with the thought that it’s poetically inspiring, but is the poet doing anything more that just playing with pretty ideas? The answer, when we really contemplate these lines is, yes, there is something of deep insight being conveyed in these lines.

We only ever perceive what is already inside of us.

The eye must be something like the sun,
Otherwise no sunlight could be seen

In a literal, material sense, we don’t have a massive stellar object burning within each of us. (Or, well… I’ll avoid the many tangents I could go off on here…) Anyone with biologically functional eyes can see the sun and sunlight on a spring day. But we see that brilliant object in the sky as “sun” because we carry an idea of the sun within ourselves. The physical object is just a brightness in the sky that we could be indifferent to, but we have an intensely personal relationship with the sun. In the light and warmth and daily rhythms of the sun, we see our own potential for clarity, hope, comfort, love, life, strength, and steadiness. The object may be physically outside of our bodies, but the “sun” is really inside ourselves.

Ultimately, whatever we perceive outside of ourselves is actually an archetypal presence within us reflecting back to us.

Every relationship and interaction, everything we perceive, when we really pay attention, is actually mirroring back to us something we are trying to see within ourselves. Every person we love, every thing we desire, is really telling us about something we want to bring forth within ourselves. And everything we hate or reject also tells us about something within ourselves we fear or are afraid to discover.

Every perception and every aspiration is a conversation between spirit and material existence to deepen self-awareness and inspire greater wholeness. It’s not really the experiences “out there” we want. They just tell us what we are uncovering and integrating within ourselves. One way to understand the complexity of material existence is as a dialog of self-awareness within consciousness.

This is true even of God, or our ideas about God.

God’s own power must be inside us,
How else could Godly things delight us?

God is not some person or thing out there to be found. Divinity is found within, as well. The fact that we seek something eternal and true, the fact that we are elevated by kindness, compassion, creativity, beauty, purity, truth, these tell us not only that they already exist, but that they reside within ourselves. We don’t need to tenuously hope to one day uncover them. Whatever we feel and perceive or even imagine already has full existence within us. We just need to recognize and embrace them, then allow them to lead us deeper within to their brilliant source at our own core.


Recommended Books: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Faust News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Germany (1749 – 1832) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 11 2019

arc of movement

Each step, each arc of movement
and point of rest,
is another instance of delicious touch
in the divine love affair that is life’s journey.

No responses yet

Apr 02 2019

Ivan M. Granger – To goslings

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

To goslings
by Ivan M. Granger

To goslings
just hatched, all the world
is a spring day


/ Image by Jlhopgood /

Today is my birthday. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, it is my fiftieth year to heaven. Or, as I said on Facebook, I am now halfway to my first century.

I thought I’d celebrate by sharing this poem of new life and fresh vision with you today. (And thank you to Kris H. for suggesting it!)

I wrote this poem a few years back while on a walk by a local lake during a golden spring day. The Canadian geese were out, gliding through the water or on shore cropping at the grasses. Several paraded their new families of goslings. I watched these little ones, new arrivals to the world, with their fuzzy yellow feathers halloed by the sun. Such a pure moment of new life. I was reminded that that same life is in me too, and in everyone.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
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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Apr 02 2019

thoughts are a dialog

Thoughts are a dialog
with God, the Eternal Self.
When we remember we are the Self,
thoughts stop.

One response so far

Mar 29 2019

Yunus Emre – One Who Is Real Is Humble

Published by under Poetry

One Who Is Real Is Humble
by Yunus Emre

English version by Jennifer Ferraro & Latif Bolat

To be real on this path you must be humble —
If you look down at others you’ll get pushed down the stairs.

If your heart goes around on high, you fly far from this path.
There’s no use hiding it —
What’s inside always leaks outside.

Even the one with the long white beard, the one who looks so wise —
If he breaks a single heart, why bother going to Mecca?
If he has no compassion, what’s the point?

My heart is the throne of the Beloved,
the Beloved the heart’s destiny:
Whoever breaks another’s heart will find no homecoming
in this world or any other.

The ones who know say very little
while the beasts are always speaking volumes;
One word is enough for one who knows.

If there is any meaning in the holy books, it is this:
Whatever is good for you, grant it to others too —

Whoever comes to this earth migrates back;
Whoever drinks the wine of love
understands what I say —

Yunus, don’t look down at the world in scorn —

Keep your eyes fixed on your Beloved’s face,
then you will not see the bridge
on Judgment Day.

— from Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey, Translated by Jennifer Ferraro / Translated by Latif Bolat


/ Image by Hossein Ghodsi /

Yunus Emre gives us several wonderful lines in this poem…

There’s no use hiding it —
What’s inside always leaks outside.

That just about sums up the spiritual perspective of everything, doesn’t it? One way or another, the inner world always reveals itself. Whatever masks we wear eventually fall away or slowly take the shape of what lies beneath. Why hide what’s inside? We should cultivate and celebrate that inner self. It will show itself anyway.

This poem in general seems to be a critique of religious hypocrisy, and specifically it deflates the idea of religious superiority. Those first lines give us a strong image:

To be real on this path you must be humble —
If you look down at others you’ll get pushed down the stairs.

I imagine a stern imam (or bishop or preacher or rabbi) who has spent his life carefully studying the minutia of religious law and has come to see everyone as falling short. He casts a cold eye on flawed and worldly humanity and judges them all to be far beneath him. It’s as if he is looking down a long staircase at the world.

That figure is in far greater spiritual danger than most of the people he looks down upon. The thing he hasn’t recognized is how unstable those stairs are. Any distance of spiritual perfectionism we construct in our minds is inherently rigid and brittle, yet it must stand on a living, shifting ground. Those stairs will always collapse in the end.

The more people “look down on the world in scorn,” the further they fall. This is simple gravity.

Even the one with the long white beard, the one who looks so wise —
If he breaks a single heart, why bother going to Mecca?
If he has no compassion, what’s the point?

Yunus Emre gives us the essential keys: humility and compassion. Everything else leads to pretense, which disjoints the soul. False superiority enforces the illusion of separation and leads to collapse.

Yunus, don’t look down at the world in scorn —
Keep your eyes fixed on your Beloved’s face,
then you will not see the bridge
on Judgment Day.

We shouldn’t miss the logic of the first two lines: When we cast scornful eyes on the world, we can’t possibly see the Beloved’s face. The opposite is true, as well; when we are transfixed by the beauty of the Beloved, we see nothing but beauty. This is a clue… any religious figure who speaks with scorn, is not engulfed by the vision of the Divine and should be avoided.

The final couple of lines are also worth understanding. What does he mean about not seeing a bridge on Judgment Day? According Muslim tradition, in order to enter Paradise, one must cross as-Sirat, a bridge that is as thin as a hair and as sharp as a blade. But the purest never have to encounter the bridge. Yunus Emre is saying that it is only when we are not already lost in the vision of the Beloved that we must face the bridge. It is only when we cling to separation and duality that we encounter that cutting bridge. With that hair-thin bridge waiting, wasting focus on scorn is a dangerous thing, indeed.

To me, this is a powerful poem on the importance of compassion, humility, and proper spiritual focus. And it is a good reminder to us all that everything returns to the Golden Rule:

If there is any meaning in the holy books, it is this:
Whatever is good for you, grant it to others too —


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

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 The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Mar 29 2019

simple answers

Don’t ask questions
with simple answers.
Ask the questions
that bring you face-to-face with the Mystery.

No responses yet

Mar 22 2019

Izumi Shikibu – Watching the moon

Published by under Poetry

Watching the moon
by Izumi Shikibu

English version by Jane Hirshfield

Watching the moon
at midnight,
solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.

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


/ Image by Gautam & Chitrabhanu Chakrabarti /

We just had an equinox full moon. Did you see it? I watched the luminous orange moon rise through the bare branches of the trees and climb with maternal majesty into the night sky. The full moon, it seems to me, embodies something both earthly and otherworldly, both at the same time. When the world around us takes on a luminosity and reveals new realities interwoven within the neighborhood we walk daily, that’s a good time to encounter ourselves for the first time….

Whenever the moon appears in a poem, we can read it as a reference to illuminated awareness — whether intended or not by the poet — and the meaning of the poem unwraps itself in fascinating ways…

The blissful state reveals itself as a shining light, as a luminescence permeating the still field of the mind. There is a sense of light from an undefined ‘above,’ silence, a fullness of vitality, and deep rest. In sacred poetry, particularly in Zen poetry, this is often expressed as the full moon in the night sky.

The moon is the individual consciousness that shines only by reflecting the constant light of the sun, which is unbounded awareness. Individual consciousness, like the moon, waxes and wanes, sometimes bright and clear, sometimes dark.

When the moon, consciousness, is full, it is round, whole, complete, perfectly reflecting the light of divine awareness. The full moon is enlightenment. It is Buddha-mind. It is the soft light that illumines the land below when all is at rest.

With this understanding, reread Shikibu’s poem. Do you feel the power of the statement beneath its beautiful words?

When she says she is “Watching the moon,” she can be describing the deep meditation practice of witnessing the radiance of opened awareness. To do so “at midnight” carries the double meaning of a late night meditation (which is often the best time for deep contemplation), but midnight also suggests the depth of the great Void. We perceive the enlightened mind shining quietly within a pregnant emptiness. There is only awareness. (I have read alternate translations of this poem that say “at dawn” rather than midnight, which carry their own meanings.)

The poet specifically describes the moon as “solitary” and “mid-sky.” In this profound communion, the awareness is recognized as being absolutely alone in the sense that there is no ‘other,’ nothing outside of its sphere; it is “solitary.” And it is the center point of being; it is the heart, it is the core; the moon is “mid-sky.”

When we stand silently bathed by the light of the moonlight, we finally experience our true nature. We know ourselves “completely” — all of the seemingly disjointed and conflicting parts of ourselves are seen to be parts of a unified whole, “no part left out.” We are the wholeness.


Recommended Books: Izumi Shikibu

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry


Izumi Shikibu

Japan (974? – 1034?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Mar 22 2019

claim them

When you pray,
don’t ask for enlightenment or wisdom or divine love.
Claim them!
They are yours by right!

One response so far

Mar 15 2019

John of the Cross – Dark Night

Published by under Poetry

Dark Night
by John of the Cross

English version by Ivan M. Granger

(Songs of the soul delighted at having reached the high state of perfection, the union with God, by way of spiritual negation.)

On a darkened night,
Anxious, by love inflamed,
— O happy chance! —
Unnoticed, I took flight,
My house at last at peace and quiet.

Safe, disguised by the night,
By the secret ladder I took flight,
— O happy chance! —
Cloaked by darkness, I scaled the height,
My house at last at peace and quiet.

On that blessed night,
In secret, and seen by none,
None in sight,
I saw with no other guide or light,
But the one burning in my heart bright.

This guide, this light,
Brighter than the midday sun,
Led me to the waiting One
I knew so well — my delight!
To a place with none in sight.

O night! O guide!
O night more loving than the dawn!
O night that joined
The lover with the Beloved;
Transformed, the lover into the Beloved drawn!

Upon my flowered breast,
For him alone kept fair,
There he slept,
There I caressed,
There the cedars gave us air.

I drank the turret’s cool air,
Spreading playfully his hair.
And his hand, so serene,
Cut my throat. Drained
Of senses, I dropped unaware.

Lost to myself and yet remaining,
Inclined so only the Beloved I spy.
All has ceased, all rests,
Even my cares, even I;
Lost among the lilies, there I die.

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


/ Image by lepiaf.geo /

I woke up this morning thinking about the great Spanish mystic, John of the Cross.

This poem is one of my favorites. It has a giddy sense of escape, a secret lover’s tryst, yet it haunts us with its images of darkness and death. Let’s contemplate a few of these themes…

Although mystics often experience the Divine as a radiant, all permeating light, sometimes God is described in terms of night or darkness.

On a darkened night…

Night is the great Mystery, the unknown. Darkness is the place of secrets. It is the time of sleep, rest, peace. We drop all of our activities and turn inward.

Because nighttime is associated with sleep and, by analogy, death, it can also represent the time when the ego sleeps and most easily can “die” or fade away. The ego is less in charge at night, less demanding that its every desire be instantly met. The busy mind is less active, more likely to be at rest.

Night is the time when lovers meet, when the soul meets its Divine Beloved.

Darkness, like God, envelops everything in its embrace. It is in the darkness of night that all things become one, losing their individuality as they disappear into that mystery. Nighttime is the time of nondual awareness, when dichotomies and artificial notions of separation fade.

John of the Cross is particularly known for speaking of “the dark night of the soul.” This is not so much a reference to the experience of the Divine as mentioned above, but a preliminary state. Prior to experiences of union, the soul loses its orientation, where worldly distractions seem pointless, but the blissful fulfillment of divine union hasn’t yet been experienced. This can be a period of confusion, being “anxious,” a period of intense spiritual thirst, and a feeling of blindness that is the equivalent of trying to find one’s way in the dark. But that too can be an important stage of the journey that indicates the nearness of the sacred goal, not its distance.

Yet in this “blessed night,” John of the Cross discovers light. This is not just any light but an overpowering radiance, “Brighter than the midday sun.”

For genuine mystics, light is not a mere concept or metaphor; it is directly experienced. This light is perceived as being a living radiance that permeates everything, everywhere, always. This light is immediately understood to be the true source of all things, the foundation on which the physicality of the material world is built.

The sense of boundaries and separation, long taken for granted by the mind as the fundamental nature of existence, suddenly seems illusory, for this light shines through all people and things. It has no edges, and the light of one is the light of another.

This light is recognized as one’s own Self, while simultaneously being the Self of all others. Since this light is you and, at the same time, it radiates within all, the question arises: How can there be separation? conflict? loss?

This is how John proceeds so boldly from the experience of light to union, the sacred marriage, “Transformed, the lover into the Beloved drawn!”

And what about death? Why does he startle us by shifting from the ecstasy of union to death?

And his hand, so serene,
Cut my throat. Drained
Of senses, I dropped unaware.

Without understanding of this imagery, it can sound as if every mystic and saint has some strange death wish.

In deep ecstasy, the sense of individuality, the sense of “I” thins and can completely disappear. Though you may still walk and breathe and talk, there is no “you” performing these actions. The separate identity, the ego, disappears, to be replaced by a vast, borderless sense of Self. Suddenly, who you have always thought yourself to be vanishes and, in its place, stands a radiant being whose boundaries are no longer perceived in terms of flesh or space.

And why does he become “unaware” in this state? This profound sense of union, while being a state of supreme awareness, is sometimes ironically compared with blindness or non-awareness. The reason is that the mind has become so completely still that it no longer projects a conceptual overlay upon reality. A person is no longer seen as a person, a table is no longer seen as a table. Surfaces and categories — the foundation of mundane perception — become ephemeral, dreamlike, insubstantial. One stops witnessing the surface level of reality in the common sense, and this can be compared to blindness or non-awareness. Yet everything shines! Everything is perceived as a radiance with a living interpenetrating light. And the same light shines in everything.

This is why many mystics assert they no longer see the world and, instead, only see God. It is not that they bump into furniture when they walk across a room; perception on the mundane level doesn’t stop (except in the most ecstatic states), but surfaces take on a thin or unreal quality; it only occupies a minimal level of the awareness. It is as if the world everyone always assumes to be the real world that populates normal awareness, the visible world, is actually a world of shadow, but underlying that is an unseen world of brilliance and indescribably beauty.

This is how one becomes “unaware” while being supremely aware.

Lost to myself and yet remaining,
Inclined so only the Beloved I spy.

It is this experience, this complete shedding of the limited ego and the transcendence of mundane awareness, that is the death so eagerly sought by mystics throughout time.

All has ceased, all rests,
Even my cares, even I;
Lost among the lilies, there I die.


Recommended Books: John of the Cross

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
More Books >>


John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian poetry John of the Cross

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Mar 15 2019

participate

We participate in each other.

No responses yet

Mar 02 2019

Podcast: Jack Kornfield – Beauty and Poetry

I occasionally listen to Jack Kornfield’s uplifting podcast, Heart Wisdom. Highly recommended for the insight, playfulness, and compassion he brings to spiritual practice.

A few weeks ago, he posted this exploration of how poetry can awaken us to life’s beauty:

Jack Kornfield – Ep. 87 – Uncovering Life’s Beauty with Poetry & Art

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Mar 01 2019

Symeon the New Theologian – How is it I can love You

Published by under Poetry

How is it I can love You
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Ivan M. Granger

How is it I can love You
      within me,
      yet see You from afar?

How is it I embrace You
      within myself,
      yet see You spread across the heavens?

You know. You alone.
      You, who made this mystery,
      You who shine
like the sun in my breast,
      You who shine
      in my material heart,
            immaterially.

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


/ Image by JudiLiosatos /

The mystic’s riddle: How can such immensity be found within? How can the Eternal be discovered within such a limited space as the human awareness? And yet, at the same time, the Eternal permeates the vastness of creation, which itself is ultimately limited. How can this be?

How is it I can love You
      within me,
      yet see You from afar?

Symeon is not asking these questions as an intellectual game. This is not a dry theological exercise. His questions arise from the genuine surprise at this paradox as it reveals itself through direct perception: The Divine is both intimate and all-encompassing; within, yet everywhere

How is it I embrace You
      within myself,
      yet see You spread across the heavens?

In blissful states, we look within and see God. We look outside ourselves, and equally we see God. Near and far: God. Above and below: God. The mountain seats God, but so too does the pebble, and also the mote of dust that settles upon it. Friend–God; enemy–God; self–God.

It cannot be. And yet it is. The intellect balks at it, yet the mystic is confronted with it undeniably. This is not just a pleasant idea; when we really learn to look, this is what we see.

You know. You alone.
      You, who made this mystery,
      You who shine
like the sun in my breast,
      You who shine
      in my material heart,
            immaterially.

Let theologies try–and fail–to solve this riddle. Let us, instead, join with the world’s mystics and watch in wonder.


Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

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


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

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

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Mar 01 2019

dive into the present

There is a misconception that Eternity
is somewhere in the future.

If you want to touch Eternity,
dive deep into the present.

One response so far

Feb 27 2019

Yoka Genkaku – The hungry are served a king’s repast (from The Shodoka)

Published by under Poetry

[56] The hungry are served a king’s repast (from The Shodoka)
by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

English version by Robert Aitken

The hungry are served a king’s repast,
And they cannot eat.
The sick meet the king of doctors;
Why don’t they recover?
The practice of Zen in this greedy world —
This is the power of wise vision.
The lotus lives in the midst of the fire;
It is never destroyed.


/ Image by ursrules1 /

I have passed over this verse from The Shodoka before without paying much attention, but reading it this morning it struck me as powerful for the first time. The words aren’t especially poetic, but it unlocks many thoughts as I read it.

The hungry are served a king’s repast,
And they cannot eat.
The sick meet the king of doctors;
Why don’t they recover?

I take the king here to refer to the Buddha. The “king’s repast” would be the teachings of the Buddha. The medicine offered by the “king of doctors” would be the relief from suffering as one walks the path of wisdom.

These gifts are available to all, yet most of humanity seems unwilling partake and unable to even recognize that it is what we all hunger for amidst our confusion and suffering. Sadly, this blindness to our basic need is the common state “in this greedy world.”

But, regardless of how few actively walk the path, regardless of how lost and chaotic the world may seem, the way of truth remains:

The lotus lives in the midst of the fire;
It is never destroyed.

But also, reading this selection, do you by any chance think of the story of King Midas? The king’s repast that cannot be eaten and the mention of a greedy world… Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with the Greek myths, and it seems to me that most people don’t quite understand the message of the Midas myth. It depends on how much of the story one knows and how deeply it has been contemplated.

Many just know the phrase that someone “has the Midas touch,” that is, everything they touch turns to gold. If that’s all one knows, then the Midas touch is imagined to be a good thing. Look at the businesses that foolishly incorporate Midas into their business name. The notion that turning everything into gold is a good thing is precisely the opposite meaning of the myth.

For those who know a little more of the story, they see it as a comical tale about the problems of greed. That is closer to the truth, but it still misses the world-threatening horror of uncontrolled greed evoked by this potent Greek myth.

A quick recap of the tale: Midas was a foolish, small-minded king who was granted a wish by one of the gods. He requested the boon that whatever he touched be turned to gold — which he immediately received. Thrilled with this new power, he raced back to his palace, touching trees and animals and everything as he went, turning all to gold. Arriving at his palace, he was famished, so he had food brought to him. But as soon as he put the food in his mouth, it turned to gold and became inedible. In desperation, he grabbed a flagon of wine to drink from it, but he nearly choked when it too immediately turned to gold. In his horror, he cried out, which brought his daughter running to him. Frightened by his obvious distress, she ran into his arms… and, yes, was turned to gold. The gods, in order to prevent the entire world from being being destroyed by being entirely turned into gold, intervened and removed the power from King Midas’s touch, leaving him a broken man in his palace of gold.

If we think about the implications of this story, especially in this modern era of hypercapitalism, it illustrates the terrible world created by commodifying everything and everyone. When people and things and all the natural world are only seen in terms of their quantifiable economic value, we end up turning living beings and the planet itself into dead wealth. When an entire society is built on the Midas model, the only question is, will Midas starve to death before he destroys the entire world?

When we are enthralled by the perspective of the “greedy world” we measure all of life’s pathways and experiences using a crippled calculus. Spiritual truths, deep meaning, living connection– there is no column on our ledger for these things, and so they become unreal to us, valueless, invisible. In the greedy world’s cost-benefit analysis, we become unable to eat the “king’s repast” or receive the medicine from the “king of doctors.” When we assign mere financial value to anything, any person or creature, any experience, we blind ourselves to its inner nature, rendering us unable to imagine genuine connection, starved for spiritual nourishment and healing.

We weaken our capacity to interact with the world or engage with our friends and loved ones in a meaningful way. We become blind to life itself. People end up starved for meaning and purpose, not from a lack of meaning in life, but because that meaning, which is inherent and everywhere, remains unrecognized in the Midas worldview.

What then is the solution? On the personal, most human level, we remember how to see what is commonly overlooked. We remember to feel what the inner heart tells us is worth feeling. And we learn to measure value with the scales of the heart. In this way, slowly, steadily, we recover the full vision of ourselves and the world as an interwoven living panorama rich with endless illumination of meaning and value.

The mindset of the “greedy world” leads to blindness and lack of meaning. The greed of King Midas would have destroyed the world. We must seek instead the touch that connects and enlivens. That is what allows us to awaken and see and finally enjoy the feast laid out before us.

The practice of Zen in this greedy world —
This is the power of wise vision.


Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Buddhism and Zen


Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

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

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