Sep 12 2016

Mary Oliver – The Journey

Published by under Poetry

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

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

— from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by along mekong /

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

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

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


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

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


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

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Sep 12 2016

Wild, living places

Wild, living places —
cherish them, fight for them;

they whisper to us of our true home.

No responses yet

Sep 09 2016

Sri Chinmoy – The Absolute

Published by under Poetry

The Absolute
by Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose)

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

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

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

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

— from My Flute, by Sri Chinmoy


/ Image by MaximeDaviron /

For today, a meditation on the Absolute.

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


Recommended Books: Sri Chinmoy (Chinmoy Kumar Ghose)

My Flute


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

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

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Sep 09 2016

heavenly nature

One day all effort will cease
and the Earth shall recognize
its inherent heavenly nature.

No responses yet

Sep 02 2016

Rasakhan – Enchanted

Published by under Poetry

Enchanted
by Rasakhan

English version by Shyamdas

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

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

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

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

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


/ Image by vishalmisra /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recommended Books: Rasakhan

Treasure House of Love: Poems of Rasakhan


Rasakhan

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

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Sep 02 2016

psychic stillness

Psychic stillness is so difficult because it makes us naked
to ourselves.
This is why self-acceptance is essential.
Otherwise, we never give ourselves permission to be still.

No responses yet

Aug 29 2016

John O’Donohue – For a New Beginning

Published by under Poetry

For a New Beginning
by John O’Donohue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


/ Image by Shermeee /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending love, courage, and new rhythms…


Recommended Books: John O’Donohue

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


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

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

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Aug 29 2016

The pathway in life

The pathway in life
runs along the seam
between the heart and the world.

No responses yet

Aug 24 2016

Yoka Genkaku – There is the leisurely one

Published by under Poetry

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

English version by Robert Aitken

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


/ Image by ahermin /

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

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

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

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

An enlightenment for sleepy mornings.

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

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

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

=

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


Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

Buddhism and Zen


Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

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

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Aug 24 2016

continuously ask

Continuously ask: What is right here?
What is this sensation? This emotion?
This thought? This experience?
Then ask: Who is experiencing it?

No responses yet

Aug 22 2016

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

Published by under Poetry,Videos

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

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

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

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Aug 19 2016

Mansur al-Hallaj – Kill me, my faithful friends

Published by under Poetry

Kill me, my faithful friends
by Mansur al-Hallaj

English version by Andrew Harvey

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

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

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

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


/ Image by detail24 /

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

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


Mansur al- Hallaj

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

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Aug 19 2016

the solution

The solution
is in the present.

No responses yet

Aug 17 2016

Vidyapati – All my inhibition left me in a flash

Published by under Poetry

All my inhibition left me in a flash
by Vidyapati

English version by Azfar Hussain

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

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


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

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

=

All my inhibition left me in a flash…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali


Vidyapati, Vidyapati poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Vidyapati

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

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Aug 17 2016

retrain our eyes

We need to retrain our eyes to see
the spaces between and the secrets behind.

No responses yet

Aug 05 2016

Dame Catherine Gascoigne – One thing alone I crave

Published by under Poetry

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

English version by Stanbrook Abbey


One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

This One
I seek
the only One
do I desire

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

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

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

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

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

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

* Reprinted by permission, Copyright Stanbrook Abbey 1999


/ Image by NotBalckEnough /

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

One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

… and …

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

I particularly like the lines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

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

England (1600 – 1676) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Aug 05 2016

escape

Freedom is not escape,
but deep presence.

No responses yet

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