Apr 14 2017

Race Does Not Exist

Looking at me, most Americans would call me white. Ethnically, I’m a typical American mutt, with ancestry from numerous countries, not all of them European. I have always had a diverse group of friends, from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

My closest friend in early childhood was a Nigerian boy, the son of students who had moved to the United States to attend the local university. Though I certainly don’t claim to understand race from his perspective, our friendship alerted me to questions of race and racism early on.

More recently, my friendship with a Pawnee man has led to several fascinating conversations on race and identity. He said something that startled me: There is no such thing as race. There is culture, there is appearance, but there is no race. My initial reaction was that it’s a nice idea to espouse as a countermeasure to the ongoing problems of racism, but race itself is a simple fact, isn’t it? It took a bit of deeper thought on my part before the truth of what he was saying struck me — the actual, biological truth of the statement, not simply the ethical rightness behind it.


/ Image by Wonder woman0731 /

Let’s see if we can dismantle the underlying presumption of race itself…

There is no such thing as race. Yes, there are noticeable physical characteristics, and we can loosely identify some characteristics with populations from specific geographical areas, but there is no such thing as a white race, a black race, or any other race we want to name.

A white person may be someone with fair skin and blue eyes and we may be accurate in saying that he has some ancestry that goes back to northern Europe, but it is false to say he is a member of the white race, as distinct from other races.

The fact is that there is no central characteristic of a white race or black race or any race. How can that be, you ask? We could mention several details like hair or eyes, but the most obvious distinction is skin color.

Think about skin color for a moment. That northern European may have very pale skin, but if we travel south through Europe to the Mediterranean, the common skin tone is much darker. Are they still “white”? Are we still talking about the same “race”? (The 19th century was uncertain on this point, by the way.)

Let’s go further south, down the boot of Italy, through Sicily, and hop the Mediterranean to northern Africa. Continue Reading »

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Apr 14 2017

Jay Ramsay – In the End: The Beginning

Published by under Poetry

In the End: The Beginning
by Jay Ramsay

There is something in the end there is no avoiding
That is more present than breath, than self, than distraction
More present than this moment? Yes, even that —

Even than all those birds perched high in the Tree of Heaven
That broke into all your wondering — even than
That huge exotic shrine at the centre of your heart,
Your voice, your whole face turned inward…
Or mine now — as I cut it back, back
From my thoughts: to my being; then my breath
And then, not even that

And across the gulf of silence from before
Names, images — before whiteness was even born —
And now, at the heart of emptiness
Where there is no I, nor breathing even
Or only this suspended pause

‘There is only Love that made us, only Love’
And you in the vast silence like an ocean without water,
Like rain before rain —
like an unbroken mirror

You in the Womb of Love.


/ Image by Hidden-target /

I thought perhaps this poem today in anticipation of Easter.

And across the gulf of silence from before
Names, images — before whiteness was even born —

A contemplation of endings, of death, and how, within that void, is a nameless something…

And now, at the heart of emptiness
Where there is no I, nor breathing even
Or only this suspended pause

A core essence that remains that is whole and unwounded.

‘There is only Love that made us, only Love’
And you in the vast silence like an ocean without water,
Like rain before rain —
like an unbroken mirror

It gathers itself, ready to be reborn.

You in the Womb of Love.

Have a beautiful weekend. And if you celebrate Easter, may it be a time of rebirth and renewal, allowing what you have outgrown to fall away while welcoming new life, new possibility, new purpose, and new spirit.


Recommended Books: Jay Ramsay

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Places of Truth: Journeys into Sacred Wilderness Out of Time Kingdom of the Edge: Poems for the Spirit
More Books >>


Jay Ramsay, Jay Ramsay poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Jay Ramsay

England (Contemporary)
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Apr 14 2017

Innocence & naiveté

Innocence is not naiveté.
Naivete must be carefully removed.
Innocence is our true nature.

No responses yet

Apr 12 2017

Hawaiian – Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)

Published by under Poetry

Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)
by Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Ho’opuka e ka la ma ka hikina
Me ka huaka`i hele no Kumukahi

Ha’a mai na ‘iwa me Hi’iaka
Me Kapo-Laka i ka uluwehiwehi

Ne’e mai na ‘iwa ma ku’u alo
Me ke alo kapu o ka aiwaiwa

Ho’i no e ke kapu me na ali’i
E ola makou apau loa la

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

He inoa no Hi’iaka I Ka Poli ‘O Pele

==

Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

Let the sacred ways return to the chiefs
Let us all give everlasting praise

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

In the name of Hi’iaka-in-the-bosom-of Pele


/ Image by Smiling-Llama /

I lived for a few years in Hawaii when I was in my early 30s. I spent a lot of time in fasting and meditation among the eucalyptus trees growing on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano on Maui. I also became fascinated by the Hawaiian culture and language. I didn’t live there long enough to explore deeply, but I was certainly moved by what I found. So why don’t we all let our thoughts drift today with the currents to the Hawaiian islands…

As with all sacred chant, the meaning is compact and layered and only fully reveals itself through the resonance of the human voice. Because the names mentioned here may not be familiar, let’s explore these lines step-by-step.

Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Kumukahi is the place of the “first beginning,” the easternmost point of Hawaii where the rays of the sun are first seen. These lines can be understood as a greeting to the rising sun, the welcoming of the day, but also for the initiate, it is a poem of enlightenment.

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

This chant particularly honors Hi’iaka, beloved sister of the primal Hawaiian god Pele. She is often associated with the hula and with light. And Kapo-Laka together are the hula god-goddess.

I should pause for a second and talk about hula. We often imagine hula to be just a pretty island style of dance with flower-bedecked girls in grass skirts, and certainly it’s often presented that way to tourists passing through. But real hula is much more. Each movement is considered to be sacred, energetically powerful, and encoded with meaning. And the accompanying chant is poetry, cultural story, and secret wisdom. Hula, in other words, is a living, moving book of sacred knowledge within Hawaiian culture.

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

So when the gods and goddesses of hula are invoked, we are summoning within ourselves art and power and wisdom — which lead us to the divine.

The dancers are moving toward the point of the rising sun. It is a procession toward enlightenment.

By the way, the word being translated variously as the “beautiful ones” and the “dancers” is ‘iwa. The ‘iwa is actually an ocean-going bird, also called the frigate bird. But in the layered meanings of the Hawaiian language, it can also mean lover, dancer, and beautiful person. The gliding, far traveling bird seems to suggest an elegance of movement, someone ethereal and lovely, emerging from unknown realms. The ‘iwa brings an angelic quality.

Rather than try to intellectually comprehend every aspect of this chant, try holding onto its images and then chant it out loud. (I won’t tell anyone if you stumble over the sounds. Hawaiian words are too much fun not to try to sound them out at least once!)

ALOHA!


Recommended Books: Hawaiian (Anonymous)

The Unwritten Literature of Hawaii: The Sacred Songs of the Hula


Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Hawaii (17th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Apr 12 2017

Where you are

Where you are,
worship.

No responses yet

Apr 07 2017

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – The Word Most Precious

Published by under Poetry

The Word Most Precious
by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

English version by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi

Each single moment greets my life,
A message clear from timelessness.
All names and words recall to me
The word most precious: God!

Pebbles twinkle up like stars,
Silent raindrops echo true,
What all creation echoes too,
My Father, Teacher, word from You.

My All, Your Name is my safe refuge.
Without Your nearness I am naught,
So lonely, saddening, is that thought.

All I possess, is just this word —
If forgetfulness would snatch a name from me
Let it be mine not Thine,
So screams in dread that heart of mine.

With every word I nickname You,
I call you ‘Woods’ and ‘Night’ and ‘Ah’ and ‘Yes,’
With all my instants weaving sacred time
A bit of ever-always is my gift to You.

Would that for Eternity
I could celebrate a holiday for You.
Not just a day — a lifetime. Please!
How insignificant my thrift and gift

Of offerings and adoration.
What can my efforts do for You
But this: to wander everywhere and bear
a living witness that shows I care.

– from “Human, God’s Ineffable Name,” by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, freely rendered by Rabbi Zalman M. Schacter-Shalomi. Available from the Reb Zalman Legacy Project


/ Image by skylovekiss /

Each single moment greets my life

It has been too long since we’ve had a poem from the Jewish tradition, so I thought this poem by Rabbi Heschel would set a nice tone as we enter the spring holiday season.

Passover begins this Monday evening. Regardless of spiritual tradition, it’s a good time of year to recognize slavery in its many different forms, both external and internal, and to remember the ways each of us conducts our own personal Exodus toward freedom.

All names and words recall to me
The word most precious: God!

This poem is a beautiful meditation on how the specific — each moment, each word and each object — when approached with attention and presence, is really an echo of the eternal.

With every word I nickname You,
I call you ‘Woods’ and ‘Night’ and ‘Ah’ and ‘Yes,’

Continuously recalling this truth to our awareness, we then can experience the world, not as exiles from the divine, but turning each moment into an encounter with the divine.

Rabbi Heschel’s poem focuses on remembrance of God’s name, so central to Kabbalah, as it is in Muslim zikr, Hindu japa, even echoing in Christian practices of saying the rosary or the Jesus Prayer.

What I really respond to here is the depth of Rabbi Heschel’s understanding what the name of God is. “The word most precious” or the name of God is more than a name we have draped upon the Divine. It is not confined to any single word or combination of words. The true name of God is whatever directs our awareness Godward. Understood this way, anything, any single moment, approached with open awareness can become the name of God, re-introducing us into the Divine Presence.

Pebbles twinkle up like stars,
Silent raindrops echo true,
What all creation echoes too,
My Father, Teacher, word from You.

Recalling this truth becomes a “safe refuge,” maintaining our “nearness” to the eternal.

With all my instants weaving sacred time…


Recommended Books: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism The Prophets ABC News Classics: Rabbi Heschel (DVD) Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America
More Books >>


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel poetry, Jewish poetry Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Poland & US (1907 – 1972) Timeline
Jewish

Continue Reading »

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Apr 07 2017

purest philosophy

Follow the purest philosophy
in your heart.
Let the world adjust
to you.

One response so far

Apr 03 2017

e. e. cummings – i thank You God for most this amazing

Published by under Poetry

i thank You God for most this amazing
by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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


/ Image by Shahram Sharif /

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

I first read this more than thirty years ago, and I still get shivers reading those opening lines.

The delightfully anarchic poetry of e. e. cummings is more than poetic art, there is something of the mystic experience in it, as well. This poem is a good example.

The two parenthetical verses hint that he is describing much more than simply the natural joy of a beautiful day. There is something truly magical going on here…

He uses Biblical, ecstatic phrasing when he proclaims “(now the ears of my ears are awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened).” He isn’t just saying this, he seems to breathlessly shout it out to the “great happening illimitably earth.” This is seeing the inner nature of things, as they are in their true essence. This is not just seeing; he is seeing, not with the eyes, but with the “eyes of my eyes.” Perceiving in this way, we invite the outside in, as if we are ingesting it, integrating it into ourselves. Every experience becomes vivifying nutrition for the soul.

In this new awareness, we perceive not only the living day all around us, we also recognize ourselves for the first time. It is a radical awakening, a new life, a birth of Self —

i who have died and am alive again today.

Have an amazing day!


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
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by e. e. cummings

3 responses so far

Apr 03 2017

Poetry, Politics, and Personal Transformation

I want to send a sincere thank you out to the several people who have sent in a donation in the last few days in response to my request for help. And also for the many sweet messages – including birthday wishes. The generosity and warm-heartedness of the Poetry Chaikhana community continues move me and inspire me. Thank you, all.

With the donations that have come in so far, the most immediate bills and expenses are now covered. The internet service provider is paid and happy, and I can continue to send out this large mailing of poem emails. But Poetry Chaikhana finances are still tight and more donations are needed.


If you have been thinking about sending in your own donation to the Poetry Chaikhana, now would be a wonderful time to help out.

And, once again, to everyone who has recently sent in a donation, and to everyone who makes a regular donation, your support is so appreciated. You keep the Poetry Chaikhana going in the world.

=

Poetry and Personal Transformation

We forget how fundamental poetry is, not only to culture, but to consciousness. Poetry is meditation in the form of words. I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana website years ago, and it’s just as true today:

“Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drumbeats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”


/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

The Politics of Poetry

In addition to the spiritual importance of this sacred poetry, there is also a cultural, even a political motivation behind the Poetry Chaikhana. Here’s how I described it in a interview a few years ago:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma. In the United States, for example, there is an increasing prejudice and fear about the Muslim world. But who can read Jelaluddin Rumi without immediately recognizing the deep truth that Islam can express? The same is true for a non-Hindu reading Lal Ded or a non-Christian reading St. John of the Cross. Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level.

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

The next time a poem touches that warm ember deep in your chest, and your thoughts stop, and your mind clears, and a quiet smile spreads across your face… reach out and feel who else on this planet is feeling exactly the same thing. Could be someone who wears different clothes or different colored skin, someone who speaks with a different accent or an entirely different language, someone who sits or kneels or bows to worship. Reach out and recognize that person as a brother or sister who, like us all, is walking through the human journey, pausing occasionally to sing songs of the Divine.

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Apr 03 2017

point-of-view

Just the slightest shift in point-of-view,
and everything around us is made new.

No responses yet

Mar 30 2017

Springtime and Support for the Poetry Chaikhana

Spring and all its flowers
      now joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for celebration, not for lying low;
You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.

The Sabaa wind arrives;
      and in deep resonance, the flower
      passionately rips open its garments,
      thrusting itself from itself.

The Way of Truth, learn from the clarity of water,
Learn freedom from the spreading grass.

~ Hafiz
tr. Homayun Taba & Marguerite Theophil


/ Image by rkramer62 /

Spring has come! Daffodils are popping up in forgotten corners of neighbors’ yards. White blossoms spangle once bare branches. Winter brown grasses have found their green again. Light rainfall in the morning, followed by impossibly blue skies. The world is once again waking up…

=

I don’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for the many wonderful, wise, touching, playful emails and blog comments I receive from you all each week. Although I can’t respond to them all individually, I read every one, and they make up an important part of my day. Your notes remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

Over the past year many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help. Your contributions help me to cover my regular expenses as I dedicate much of my week to the Poetry Chaikhana.

I want to let you know that your donations mean more to me than their strictly financial value. Beyond the money you have sent in, I know that each donation came from a moment when you decided to change the path of your day, when you stopped whatever you might have been doing to create an online payment account or to sit down and write out and mail in a check. And, of course, access to the Poetry Chaikhana is free. You didn’t have to make a donation at all. You could have chosen to go on with your day instead, but instead you went to the effort to send a donation and possibly even write a personal note of thanks.

spring rain–
all things on earth
become beautiful

~ Fukuda Chiyo-ni

What your donation tells me is that the Poetry Chaikhana means something to you, that it has touched you or inspired you or helped you through a particularly difficult day, so much so that you wanted to reach out personally. It’s not just that you want the Poetry Chaikhana to continue, it is that you want to share your own personal, direct support, that you want to be a part of the Poetry Chaikhana’s support.

I don’t take that for granted. I am humbled and honored by every single donation, whether it is $2 or $200, because I know what it represents to you. I feel the message of support behind it.

spring rain–
pond and river
are one

~ Buson

Even with that wonderful support from several of you, I have to admit that I am struggling to make ends meet right now…

I like the ideal of the Poetry Chaikhana as a free offering, and I have no intention of changing that. But the truth is that the Poetry Chaikhana is not free. I put significant amounts of my time and energy into gathering the poems and translations, writing up commentary, maintaining the website, and now editing and publishing books.

I try, through sheer love for the work, to accomplish all of that in the mornings and on weekends without disrupting my regular job, but because of my chronic fatigue/ME I can’t maintain that pace for long periods without health consequences. Increasingly I am having to choose between paid work hours and the Poetry Chaikhana, and that balance doesn’t always work perfectly.

I need your help, the help of the Poetry Chaikhana community, to create a more sustainable balance over the long term.


If the Poetry Chaikhana is important to you, please consider making a donation.
Now is an especially helpful time to do so.

With several thousand people receiving this email, and many more who regularly visit the Poetry Chaikhana website and Facebook page, we should be able to collectively support my work.

Behind the Scenes

You may wonder what I’m actually doing here on the other end of these poetry emails. Here is a sketch of what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like each morning. Continue Reading »

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Mar 27 2017

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 Journeyby 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 open 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. 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.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

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


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

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

Continue Reading »

8 responses so far

Mar 27 2017

in the palm of your hand

It’s amazing what you find
in the palm of your hand
when you finally
release your grip.

No responses yet

Mar 24 2017

Matsuo Basho – Crow’s abandoned nest

Published by under Poetry

Crow’s
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Crow’s
abandoned nest,
a plum tree.

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


/ Image by Nicki Verkevisser /

Death has been on my mind. I found out yesterday that a relative of mine, an aunt I was close to when I was a teenager, just passed away. Truthfully, I had been out of touch with her in recent years, but I still found myself experiencing the entire range of responses at the news of her passing– mild shock, slowly welling grief, replaying of past memories.

When someone we feel a connection to dies, we often enter a shadow realm ourselves. It is as if we walk with that loved one to the threshold. That sense of the world’s structure that seemed so solid and unquestioned becomes suddenly fluid. When death ceases to be a distant concept and, instead, shows itself to be a present reality, everything starts to shift and slide. Any thing, any person can move in and out of the world. A loved one can step beyond our embrace. In a world of such disappearances, reality itself becomes disconcertingly intangible.

And yet there is life. Even in the presence of death and loss there is life. Sometimes because of death there is life. One without the other doesn’t fully make sense. Life and death highlight each other, strengthen each other, each giving meaning to the other.

Thinking these thoughts, I came across this haiku by Basho…

It’s usually a mistake to simplistically explain a haiku’s meaning. Its primary impact is not really comprehended by the logical mind at all. Most haiku aren’t composed with intentioned metaphors; rather, the moment naturally resonates with nature’s implied truths.

But, for the sake of play, let’s explore this one anyway…

We see an abandoned nest seated in a plum tree. The nest is an image of emptiness, perhaps even desolation or death. But the plum tree suggests life. Here at the beginning of spring, I instinctively imagine the first pink and white blossoms to be appearing on its branches. Life and death at ease with each other. Sorrow and hope emphasizing each other through contrast.

That’s my first read, what I feel as I first glimpse these images in my mind’s eye.

But we can back up, clear our minds, and read Basho’s lines on a very different level.

In this haiku, each line gives us a distinct element: a crow, an abandoned nest, and a plum tree. Basho ordered his lines so first we have the awareness of a crow, which might be understood as representing the busy mind, a bird that proclaims its presence by croaking in the winter sky. Like the mind, the crow is a carrion feeder, ungainly in its movements but somehow suggestive of a mysterious hidden reality.

Next, Basho shows us that this crow has abandoned its nest. With the coming of spring, the crow has left. With the blossoming results of winter’s discipline, the mind has emptied itself, grown quiet, still.

An empty nest may be a curiosity for a moment, but its animating principle, the part that normally holds our attention has vanished, and so the vision widens and we finally notice the plum tree that supports it. Watching the empty mind, we finally expand our perception and recognize the full awareness in flower. We witness the natural, unmodified awareness of the Buddha mind that upholds mind and all creation.

Crow — empty nest — plum tree.
Mind — no mind — Buddha mind.

To those of us who have felt the loss of a loved one, perhaps we will allow some grieving part of ourselves to open and expand. And may we celebrate the life flowering all around us amidst this fluid, ever changing universe!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>


Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Mar 24 2017

stumble

Stunned, we stumble
into deeper awareness.

No responses yet

Mar 22 2017

Kahlil Gibran – Self-Knowledge

Published by under Poetry

Self-Knowledge
by Kahlil Gibran

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by jin.thai /

Isn’t this wonderful? Each time I return to this poem and reread its lines, I feel as if I am greeting old friends in the phrases. They continue to stay with me.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

Especially that middle section…

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea…

Gibran is giving us a tangible image of self as a sea of infinite depths. And it is our very nature to seek self-knowledge, ultimately to pour ourselves into it, to discover treasure within its depths.

I like his assertion that we should not attempt to weigh or measure what we discover.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

It is as if when we measure, we think we have comprehended and possessed it, but we have in some way externalized it and defined artificial boundaries. By quantifying, we have limited what is, by nature, limitless.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

And his final lines–

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
More Books >>


Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

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One response so far

Mar 22 2017

All exploration

All exploration
is self-discovery.

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