May 08 2015

Rabindranath Tagore – I am like a remnant of a cloud

Published by under Poetry

I am like a remnant of a cloud (from Gitanjali)
by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Rabindranath Tagore

I am like a remnant of a cloud of autumn uselessly roaming in the sky, O my sun ever-glorious! Thy touch has not yet melted my vapour, making me one with thy light, and thus I count months and years separated from thee.
      If this be thy wish and if this be thy play, then take this fleeting emptiness of mine, paint it with colours, gild it with gold, float it on the wanton wind and spread it in varied wonders.
      And again when it shall be thy wish to end this play at night, I shall melt and vanish away in the dark, or it may be in a smile of the white morning, in a coolness of purity transparent.

— from Gitanjali, by Rabindranath Tagore


/ Image by timparkinson /

Today is Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday, so I thought we should commemorate that with one of his poems…

You know, what I especially like about this selection is its sweet tension. It speaks with a terrible spiritual yearning–

Thy touch has not yet melted my vapour, making me one with thy light, and thus I count months and years separated from thee.

Yet there is also a profound patience–

And again when it shall be thy wish to end this play …

That balance is essential, yet so difficult to cultivate. With passion, we want immediate satisfaction. The fire tends to flame up and all too quickly burn out. We cultivate patience only when all brash attempts to storm heaven have failed. But that is not so much true patience as benumbed acquiescence. And, in the process, the passion has been lost.

But the spiritual seeker needs passion! The seeker needs the intensity, the energetic boldness of that passion. The art of spiritual success is learning how to tend the coals of that fire, to find a steady fuel, to feed it, to grow comfortable in its heat, to delight in it, to dance in its glow.

This hot hunger isn’t satisfied with fast food. It is a lifelong love affair.

The speaker recognizes that apparent separation from God is part of the divine play — that there is a rightness to that. And even a beauty.

If this be thy wish and if this be thy play, then take this fleeting emptiness of mine, paint it with colours…

These lines give the seeker permission to feel in harmony with the divine will even though lasting communion has not yet been attained.

And a final secret: This recognition eases the psychic muscles, allowing that communion to come upon us even more swiftly and naturally.

Look up at the spring sky (or, more appropriately, autumn sky, for those of you south of the equator). Is that wisp of a cloud fading into the white morning?


Recommended Books: Rabindranath Tagore

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Gitanjali The Lover of God The Fugitive Lover’s Gift and Crossing
More Books >>


Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Rabindranath Tagore

India (1861 – 1941) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

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May 08 2015

liberation and theft

What the heart recognizes
as liberation,
the ego sees
as theft.

No responses yet

May 06 2015

Kabir – the mind has put up a swing

Published by under Poetry

Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing
by Kabir

English version by Robert Bly

Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing:
all earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway between these two trees,
and it never winds down.

Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also the wheeling sun and moon;
ages go by, and it goes on.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.
Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.

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


/ Image by Johnny Jet /

Monday’s poem by Ikkyu inspired a few notes from people who really responded positively to it… and lots of cancellations. Every time I send out a poem email, a few people cancel their email subscription; that’s just the normal rhythm. But every once in a while I send out something that triggers a few dozen cancellations, and it always leaves me amused and scratching my head. Did people dislike the poem or my commentary? Were they offended by the poet’s biography? Or maybe it was just the full moon stirring the pot.

I certainly didn’t intend to upset anyone. Well, I do occasionally like to shake things up a bit, but hopefully in a healthy and ultimately uplifting way.

Today’s poem probably won’t cause upset, but it may leave us just a bit dizzy… in a good way, I hope!

This is a rather loose translation, but I like it.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.

There is a continuous flowing between the subtle and the manifest, between spirit and matter. Spirit pours through matter, giving it life and awareness. Matter, in turn, gives form to spirit, striving to embody the limitless amidst limitation.

And so the swing goes back and forth, patiently, playfully, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening.

It isn’t a process where we find that perfect spot and then it all stops. “It never winds down.” It is an interplay that continues, and we find our rightful place by seeing the entire dance…

Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.


Recommended Books: Kabir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Songs of the Saints of India
More Books >>


Kabir, Kabir poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Kabir

India (15th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi
Yoga / Hindu

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May 06 2015

Self experiencing Self

What is there
but Self
experiencing Self?

One response so far

May 04 2015

Ikkyu – A Fisherman

Published by under Poetry

A Fisherman
by Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun)

English version by John Stevens

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.

— from Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, Translated by John Stevens


/ Image by Untitled blue /

I like Ikkyu’s gentle mocking here.

The deeply committed spiritual path can so often become all consuming — scholarship, meditation and other practices — that we either become attached to the path, or engrossed in our own efforts, and in the midst of it all we forget our true goal… what is sometimes called in the Zen tradition, Original Mind.

In true Zen style, Ikkyu cuts through all impediments, even those within his own spiritual tradition, in order to bring us back to the realization that our goal is immediate, right here, and utterly simple. It is not hidden behind arcane texts. It is not attained through uninspired, dogged effort.

When we have readied ourselves, it is simply there. Sometimes all we need is the simplest reminder of fundamental truth — a solitary fisherman singing his timeless chant on the river at night.


Recommended Books: Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun)

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Crow With No Mouth: Fifteenth Century Zen Master Ikkyu Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology: A Zen Poet of Medieval Japan


Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun), Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun) poetry, Buddhist poetry Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun)

Japan (1394 – 1481) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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4 responses so far

May 04 2015

present through perception

We are present through perception,
not action.

No responses yet

May 01 2015

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Whether they know Thee or not

Published by under Poetry

Whether they know Thee or not
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

Whether they know Thee or not
      all creatures of the world
now and forever-without-end
      bend but toward Thee.
All love for someone else
      is but a whiff
of Thy perfume:
      none else can be loved.

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


/ Image by vanillapearl /

Why not a second poem by Iraqi this week?

all creatures of the world
now and forever-without-end
bend but toward Thee.

Love those lines. And we forget that this is true. Not just all people, but all beings, consciously or unconsciously constantly turn toward the Eternal. Everything desired, everything loved, every hope, every goal, everything we seek we seek because on some level it reflects back to us an image of the Divine.

All love for someone else
      is but a whiff
of Thy perfume

When something catches our eye or our heart, beneath the love or the lust, when we really look, we find we have witnessed a glimpse the transcendent light. That light, that entrancing luster, is what we seek so passionately.

Understanding this leads to the deeper question: Why seek the countless objects of desire that only reflect the glistening light of the Beloved? Why grasp at glinting shards of a mirror when we can bathe in full sunlight?

In every love, we love the Beloved.

none else can be loved.


Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition


Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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May 01 2015

maintain our pretenses

Too tired to maintain our pretenses,
we rest in awe.

No responses yet

May 01 2015

Cauldron of Inspiration recording unavailable

Some disappointing news about my recent talk: Several of you have said that you are eager to watch the video of my recent talk on “The Cauldron of Inspiration.” It turns out, however, that there were technical difficulties with the video recording. I was told that there may be short sections that are useable, but as a whole the recording did not work. I’ll have to think of some other way to share that talk with everyone.

One possibility is to make an audio recording of the talk, like a podcast, I can make a video of it by incorporating photographs. The drawback to that, in my mind, is that speaking into a microphone can lack the dynamism of speaking before an audience. And there is no opportunity for a Q&A session afterward.

I may at some point expand the material into a written form, and publish it as a book or an ebook. But that’s another project for a later time.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, send me an email. And, in the meantime, I hope you find your own cauldron of inspiration…

No responses yet

Apr 29 2015

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Everywhere veiled

Published by under Poetry

Everywhere veiled
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

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

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


/ Image by nasrul ekram /

I think we are all reeling. The terrible earthquake in Nepal, where the death toll keeps mounting in a region of the world that is a beacon of spirituality for so many. And then, here in the US, the turmoil in Baltimore in reaction to continuing patterns of racialized police violence across the country.

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

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

==

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

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

Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone


Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition


Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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2 responses so far

Apr 29 2015

elegantly

All the gods
and creeds and practices…
when what it all really comes down to
is elegantly yielding.

No responses yet

Apr 29 2015

The Cauldron of Inspiration update


/ Image by Roger Echo-Hawk /

I took last week off to preserve my energies in preparation for my talk over the weekend at the Real Myth and Mithril Symposium. My speech was on “The Cauldron of Inspiration: Bards, Wizards, and the Elixir of Poetry,” exploring of the connections between poetry, enlightenment, and magic.

Several of you mentioned how disappointed you were that you couldn’t be present at the talk. I have been told that there may have been a video recording of my talk. If there was a recording, I will see about making it available to everyone. Stay tuned.


/ Image by Donna Clement /

No responses yet

Apr 17 2015

Pablo Neruda – Too Many Names

Published by under Poetry

Too Many Names
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

— from Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Image by FastWhale /

I love this poem by Neruda. The tone of the poem stands out to me, first of all. It hints at spiritual exhaustion and world-weariness, and that is an important part of the spiritual journey.

I am Pedro, you are Rosa. This is my nation, that is yours. This is mine, that is yours.

He is tired of the endless naming and categorization that people engage in, comparing it in one line to the “signing of papers.” It is as if all of these definitions amount to a tyrannical bureaucracy of the spirit.

And he is right.

Being the crazy poet that he is, Neruda has discovered something that we are normally too busy to recognize as we endlessly categorize and define. It is a fundamental truth: None of these things are actually separate.

Sure, I can say that today, when I am writing this, is Friday, and yesterday was Thursday. But where are the days actually divided? We may say that Thursday vanished at the stroke of midnight, and Friday magically appeared. Or we might say at sunset. But those are just moments in the mind. Regardless of who is watching and marking such moments, the days just flow, one into the other, in an unbroken continuity.

Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

We can pretend for convenience that one day is separate from another, but no mind and no culture can actually sever them. When we forget that, we fall into a deluded sense of reality.

The same for nations. We talk “of Venezuelas, of Chiles and of Paraguays.” We talk of this nation and that, this nation against that nation. And we forget that they are just fantasies, just ideas. They may serve a social and organizational purpose, but they aren’t actually real.

I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

Those borders that look so definite on our school maps, are just made up lines agreed to by people playing games of power, people most of us have never met.

These divisions are all entirely within our heads, not true expressions of reality. Neruda makes this clear by reminding us that they are meaningless at nighttime when we sleep, for that is the only time most people cease dividing up reality. If these separations and divisions had any actuality, they would continue to exist whether or not we sustained them through mental effort. But, no, fall asleep and all that effortful separation falls away.

We imagine that the constant act of definition-separation-categorization is the same thing as clear seeing. In reality, it hinders us from seeing.

When we learn to stop reflexively naming everything we see, then we actually see it for the first time. When I go for a walk and see a cottonwood at the edge of a creek, the most common reflex is to say to myself, “That’s a tree,” or “That’s a cottonwood,” or perhaps, “That’s pretty,” — and then I ignore it, thinking I have seen it.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

But, if I stop and truly look, and avoid the impulse to immediately label what it is I see as a tree, that is when I recognize the immensity of the encounter. I see a majestic being rising from the creekside, growing from its environment, embodying the land that surrounds it, giving the place presence, while patiently watching me to see if I return its gaze. I no longer see my idea of a tree, I actually see the tree. And I see how everything flows into that tree. And when I look honestly, I see how I too am part of the tree, that we are part of each other.

Those endless “names” we give people and things are a way see without seeing. Increasingly we inhabit a world in our own minds and become strangers to the fluid, undefined living reality all around us.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

When what really exists is “a generous, vast wholeness” that only waits for us to rejoin its fluid oneness.

Have a beautiful day… and make it even more beautiful by mixing it up!


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

The Book of Questions Neruda: Selected Poems On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition
More Books >>


Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

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Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

7 responses so far

Apr 17 2015

real you

The real you
is much too big to be your own.

No responses yet

Apr 15 2015

e. e. cummings – love is a place

Published by under Poetry

love is a place
by e. e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

— from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, by e. e. cummings


/ Image by *_Abhi_* /

A little love and yes for us all today, from the quirky master of word dance e. e. cummings.

Even high school students forced against their will to read poetry for class are instantly drawn into his surreal phrase constructions, which often manage to say so much more than the most elegantly crafted lines of other poets.

I know you’re smiling after having read this short poem. Try reading it again, this time more slowly, letting the meaning peek out from behind the words.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

Love is a realm, and all places exist in love. They don’t just exist in love, they move through love, they are animated and given life by this all-encompassing love. It’s not only that everything is found there and moves there, but everything moves “with brightness of peace,” as if all things are ennobled and move with a remembered inner clarity and sense of self.

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

“Yes is a world,” and in that world all worlds live. Yes is life-giving. Yes is the foundation of all worlds. Perhaps he is saying that yes is the great fiat. Anything that is or is becoming, was born of some essential affirmation.

That phrase about how all worlds live “skillfully curled” in yes — one of my favorites!

Notice too the interesting line breaks in this poem, especially the two pairings of “love move” and “yes live”. Unconsciously we read them as complete statements, suggesting to us that love is somehow about movement and that yes and life are one. Think about that for a bit…

Sending love and yes to you all!


Recommended Books: e. e. cummings

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962 73 Poems 1 x 1 [One Times One] 50 Poems 95 Poems
More Books >>


e. e. cummings, e. e. cummings poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry e. e. cummings

US (1894 – 1962) Timeline
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More poetry by e. e. cummings

2 responses so far

Apr 15 2015

contentment

Contentment

(that’s it)

No responses yet

Apr 08 2015

J. R. R. Tolkien – All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Published by under Poetry

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter (Gandalf’s Song of Aragorn)
by J. R. R. Tolkien

All that is gold does not glitter,
      Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
      Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
      A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
      The crownless again shall be king.

— from The Lord of the Rings: One Vol. Edition, by J.R.R. Tolkien


/ Image by alancleaver_2000 /

This short verse from The Lord of the Rings is pronounced by the wizard Gandalf about the ominous figure called Strider, later known as Aragorn. Where all the world sees a rough, wild forest bandit, Gandalf knows the truth about the inner man, that he is, in fact, the last in a line of ancient kings. Aragorn is the rightful king of the realm.

Not all those who wander are lost

I’ve seen this line quoted on bumper stickers (though I have yet to see it on high status car, like a Mercedes Benz!). Don’t you feel something in yourself responding to this line? Maybe it gives us all, with our sometimes meandering lives, a sense of redemption and an awareness of hidden purpose.

At the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is a ranger, an armed man who travels alone through forests and wild places. The village folk, not knowing who he really is, assume he is untrustworthy, a meandering ruffian with no good purpose — he is a wanderer.

While it is true that he will eventually become king, he is not yet ready to assume the role at the beginning of the story. He does not yet know or perhaps even trust his own character. So he has spent his early years in the wilds, a solitary warrior facing shadowy foes. But it is precisely because of his years of wandering that he is ready to be king when the time comes. His wandering is what has tested his will, strengthened his spirit, broadened his knowledge, and taught him how to find pathways in unknown lands.

Early in life we fix on a goal, dream a dream, hear a calling, but the path to achievement is never without turns and switchbacks. If, day after day, we walk the same straight path, then it is certain we are lost. The direct road is rarely the right one. Here’s a lesson even the wise find troublesome: To reach the goal, we must be willing to lose sight of it in the world, while ever holding it close to the heart. Every hero with a great destiny understands this on some instinctive level. And every good storyteller knows why: The purpose of the journey is never simply to reach the destination; the journey exists to test and strengthen the hero. Without disorientation and hardship along the way, the hero will not be ready to take up the mantle of success when the time comes. The journey makes the hero, not the destination.

A good reminder for all of us as we courageously step out into the day…

===

I thought this poem by J. R. R. Tolkien might offer me a good opportunity to remind everyone that I will be delivering a talk at this year’s Real Myth and Mythril Symposium greyhavensgroup.com/events/realmyth/ on April 26th in Niwot, Colorado (just outside of Boulder). Speakers at this conference discuss myth and fantasy literature, exploring their importance to culture, imagination, and history.

My talk is titled “The Cauldron of Inspiration: Bards, Wizards, and the Elixir of Poetry”

Wizards and magic are mainstays of modern fantasy fiction. But when we search for the real wizards of the ancient world, we find instead poets, musicians, storytellers. Why were the bards revered as seers and sorcerers in their day? Let’s journey through heroic tales and poems of power as we explore the deeper mysteries of magic, enchantment, and inspiration…

If you happen to be in the area, come by and hear my talk, and say hello afterwards. The symposium is popular though and space is running out, so make sure you get a ticket soon.


Recommended Books: J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings: One Vol. Edition


J. R. R. Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien poetry, Christian poetry J. R. R. Tolkien

England (1892 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

More poetry by J. R. R. Tolkien

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